Pope Francis’s new apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) is creating headlines throughout the world only hours after its release. In the 51,000 word text, Francis lays out a new vision for the Church and its role in today’s society.
He’s done this is a less formal way throughout the first eight months of his papacy, but this document represents the first unified and complete communication of his vision.
Francis says that the primary mission of the Church must be evangelization in the modern world.
But he argues in this radical document that the Church has failed to do that due to complacency and a variety of missteps, including a cumbersome and over-centralized Church bureaucracy, excessive focus on doctrine instead of salvation, poor homilies and clericalism.
In short, Francis argues that the view that the problem “is out there” is the very problem. The outside forces of secularism, relativism and consumerism are hurting the Church, but the bigger problems of the Church are internal.
In fact, Francis argues, conversion must start with the papacy itself. He calls for a “pastoral conversion” in the papal ministry.
He also takes priests to to account. He says that the Church must not have priests who act as self-interested generals. Why? These ‘generals’ are leading defeated armies. A good priest, Francis argues, is a soldier in the trenches, who serves with his people and is present to their lives, their pains and their dreams.
Francis is clearly calling for a new path for the Universal Church, but more than that, he’s calling for a new conversation too. And all of us are expected to be a part of it.
John Thavis has a great summary of the document here. Be sure to check it out.
[UPDATE 9:51 AM]: Catholic News Service has come up with a nice list of quotes summarizing the pope’s words.
[UPDATE 10:37 AM]: Pope Francis on trickle down economics:
“[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.” [CH’s note: Wow!]