The Pope announced that 2015 will be dedicated to consecrated life at the end of the 82nd General Assembly of the Union of Superiors General which took place over three days at the Salesianum in Rome. 120 leaders of religious communities and congregations attended the meeting. The Pope did not deliver a prepared speech but held a long fraternal and cordial question and answer session with the assembly’s participants.
The “aim is to form religious persons with a tender heart, not acid, not like vinegar. We are all sinners, but not corrupt. Sinners are to be accepted, but not the corrupt,” Francis said.
A statement released by the Holy See Press Office said that the questions on consecrated life also addressed points relating to identity and the mission: “A radical approach is required of all Christians, the Pope stated, but religious persons are called upon to follow the Lord in a special way: They are men and woman who can awaken the world.”
“Consecrated life is prophecy. God asks us to fly the nest and to be sent to the frontiers of the world, avoiding the temptation to 'domesticate' them. This is the most concrete way of imitating the Lord,” Francis went on to say.
When asked about the vocation situation the Pope underlined that there are young Churches which are bearing new fruits. “The Church must follow the example of Matteo Ricci in asking forgiveness for and looking with shame upon apostolic failures caused by misunderstandings in this field. Intercultural dialogue must press for the introduction persons of various cultures.”
The Pope placed strong emphasis on the importance of education. “It is indispensable to avoid every form of hypocrisy and clericalism by means of a frank and open dialogue on all aspects of life: “formation is an artisanal craft, not a form of policing,” he commented; “its aim is to form religious persons with a tender heart, not acid, not like vinegar. We are all sinners, but not corrupt. Sinners are to be accepted, but not the corrupt.”
When asked about brotherhood, the Pope said it has a “great force of attraction.” It involves accepting differences and clashes. Sometimes it is hard to live in the spirit of brotherhood but if we do not, “no fruit may be borne.” In any case, “we must never act like managers when faced with a brother's conflict: conflict instead must be caressed,” the Pope said.
Before taking his leave, the Pope thanked members of religious institutes, monks, nuns and consecrated lay persons “for what you do and for your spirit of faith and your service. Thank you for your witness and also for the humiliations through which you have had to pass.”