Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" (1) - Paths to Ecclesial Renewal

By Olga Consuelo Vélez Caro (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Biblioteca Amerindia
March 2014

One year after the beginning of Francis' pontificate 2, we are facing expectations of ecclesial renewal. From the expression "ecclesial winter" 3 which had been coined in recent decades, we moved unexpectedly, quickly, and defiantly to speaking of an "ecclesial spring", basing that expression on the gestures and words of the pope since his election 4 and, even more, with his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium 5 which has stimulated the most positive and hopeful allusions.

There have been quite a lot of commentaries -- mostly brief ones -- written about the Exhortation, some of which we will repeat here. 6 We hope that these perspectives can enrich our vision and help us to understand "the advance of the Church that Francis wants to undertake in the next few years," signaling it as "a new evangelization stage marked by the joy of the Gospel." (1) 7

Next we propose to give a brief presentation of the document to then linger on a few keys to its interpretation which we think mark the ways to ecclesial renewal that the pope is aiming for. These keys are: One perspective: divine mercy, The poor as center of the new evangelization, The social dimension of evangelization, A necessary ecclesial conversion to the evangelizing mission, A word on women. We will end with a brief conclusion.

1. A brief presentation of the document

The exhortation Evangelii Gaudium consists of 288 paragraphs distributed in an Introduction and five chapters. In the Introduction (1-18), it points out joy as the source and fruit of the faith experience and from that perspective it proposes a pathway to ecclesial renewal for the following years. In the first chapter, "The Church's Missionary Transformation" (19-49), it puts forward the urgent need for ecclesial renewal but not as the result of a human plan, of ecclesial organization, but as the consequence of a decisive conversion of the Church towards mission. 8 In the second chapter, "Amid the Crisis of Communal Commitment" (50-109), it presents a prophetic discernment of the signs of the times, pointing out the economic aspect as determining a reality that produces exclusion, idolatry, and inequality. It also refers to religious diversity and the need to strengthen popular piety as well as the task of pastoral agents, greater participation of the laity and, among them, women, all with a view to ecclesial renewal. The third chapter, "The Proclamation of the Gospel" (110-175), focuses on specific aspects of evangelization: The entire People of God as object of evangelization, the means of evangelization (here it dwells on the homily), the relationship with science and cultural diversity. It emphasizes the centrality of the Word of God in the task of evangelization -- a task that includes "turning an ear to the people", and the importance of spiritual accompaniment. The fourth chapter, "The Social Dimension of Evangelization" (176-258), is perhaps the exhortation's most challenging one because it points to the poor as the center and privileged recipients of the gospel and emphasizes the social inclusion they are due. It also deals with the ecclesial challenges in face of the common good,social dialogue and peace building. Finally, the fifth chapter, "Spirit-Filled Evangelizers" (259-288), tries to indicate the basic motivation of all missionary ardor -- the personal encounter with Jesus, the strength of his call, the experience of being a people, and it puts forward Mary as star of the new evangelization. This final chapter and the second part of the second one, are like a compendium of pastoral spirituality that should go with the evangelizing task of the Church.

It is a long document but with pastoral, exhortative, simple and colloquial language. In some parts, it speaks in the first person and shows not only theoretical reflection but existential implications. It is a pastoral document, written by a pastoral worker.9 Just to give us an idea of the words most used by the Pope, we can look at how often he uses certain terms: Life (295), God (249), Church (209), People(s) (167), Jesus (132), Gospel (116), Spirit (108), Faith (108), Christ (103), Missionary (75), Evangelization (75), Poor (74), Joy(s) (72), Social (59), Peace (46), Mission (43), Mercy (30), Man (Men) (29), Justice (27), Woman (Women) (23), Kingdom (21), Bishop(s) (21), Prayer(s) (19), Law(s) (14), Layperson (Laypeople) (8), Priesthood (5), Injustice(s) (3) Magisterium (3), Catechism (3), Natural Law (1), Abortion (1). [Translator's Note: The numbers in the author's word count refer to the incidence of the terms in the Spanish version of the apostolic exhortation. They may be different for the English version.]

The input of this exhortation, as the pope himself has indicated, are the conclusions of the Synod on "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith" 10, consultations he has had with other people, and his own concerns. (16) The scope and limits of the exhortation are well indicated -- faced with innumerable subjects related to evangelization in today's world, the pope will only deal with some of them because he's aware that many themes involve study and careful delving and because the papal magisterium doesn't have the complete and definitive word on every issue affecting the Church and the world. Moreover, consistent with his desire for ecclesial decentralization, he points out that "it is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. " (16) Further down, he points out again that "neither the Pope nor the Church has a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems" and he invokes Paul VI's words in Octogesima adveniens (1971): "In the face of such widely varying situations, it is difficult for us to utter a unified message and to put forward a solution which has universal validity (...)It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country." (184)

In short, it is a true missionary letter with imperatives, invitations and methodological and pedagogical suggestions aiming to advance the new evangelization.

2. One perspective: Divine mercy

Mercy is the key or the starting point guiding the Pope's pastoral proposal. Behind that perspective is surely his own personal experience. His episcopal motto is based on the text of Matthew's calling (Mt 9:9), mentioned by the Venerable Bede, who in referring to this call says, "He looked at him with mercy and chose him." 11 That's why in the introduction he begins by inviting all Christians to an encounter with Jesus Christ and recalling that "God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy." (3) When he begins to talk about the necessary transformation of the Church, he puts the mission in "the endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father's infinite mercy." (24) He states, quoting Saint Thomas, that "mercy is the greatest of all the virtues" (37) and acknowledges that the church precepts that had been very effective in other eras, might make life a burden for the faithful which would lead to turning religion into a form of slavery, whereas God's mercy wants it to be free." This must be one of the criteria when thinking about Church reform and its preaching reaching everyone." (43) The Pope doesn't pretend to diminish the gospel ideal but rather to "accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth" and he reminds priests that "the confessional is not a torture chamber but rather the place of the Lord’s mercy." (44)

The Pope goes on to point out that the salvation God offers is the work of His mercy (112) and the Church's task is to joyfully proclaim that that salvation is for all. (113) Moreover, the Church must be "a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel." (114) The Beatitudes push us towards that merciful love. "Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful" because our brothers and sisters are the extension of Jesus' Incarnation for us (179). Mercy towards others allows us to emerge triumphant in the divine judgment because the one who was merciful, will obtain mercy. (193) Precisely because the gospel is a gospel of mercy, the Church hears the cry for justice and wants to respond to it with all its might. (188) This attitude leads to keeping continuity with Sacred Scripture which deems mercy towards the poor a source of holiness and faithfulness to the God who proclaimed it. (193)

For the Pope, the gospel of mercy towards the poor is "so clear and direct, so simple and eloquent" that he asks us "not to complicate something that is so simple" or "cloud what is so clear" and he warns of the risks run by those who are only concerned with orthodoxy without realizing that they often become accomplices in intolerable situations of injustice and the political regimes which prolong them, because of losing that "light-filled path of life and wisdom." (194) In effect, "God granted His mercy first to the poor" and that's why "the preferential option for the poor" (198) is part of the Christian experience.

3. The poor as center of the new evangelization 12

Speaking of the poor takes us back immediately to Latin American theology which put the poor at the center of its reflection. The Pope is not a liberation theologian but his words have stirred real enthusiasm among those who follow that theological current because, in some sense, they have found papal backing after so many years of persecution, questioning, and suspicion against their theological work. It must be noted that this turnaround had been coming in some ways since 2007 when Benedict XVI in his inaugural address at the Aparecida Conference reaffirmed the "preferential option for the poor", indicating that this option is implicit in Christological faith. 13

The Pope indicates in the Exhortation that "the option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one" and this is because "God shows them his first mercy." (198) The poor have a preferential place in God's heart (197) and that preference has consequences for the life of believers. They have a lot to teach us -- they evangelize us, they know the suffering Christ through their own pain and the new evangelization must put them at the center of its journey, recognizing the salvific power of their lives. (198)

For Pope Francis, the poor are the real poor, not the poor "in spirit" as one so often hears from those who seem to be fleeing the radicality of the gospel. The poor are those in whom we are to discover Christ and lend them our voices for their causes, as well as be their friends, listen to them, interpret them, and gather the mysterious wisdom God wants to communicate to us through them. (198). The authentic option for the poor doesn't use the poor but really loves them and accompanies them properly on their road to liberation. (199) Moreover, no one can feel exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice, nor can they remain distant from the poor arguing that their life choices involve paying attention to other matters. But the Pope is not naive. He knows these words might not lead to practice and so he calls upon the good will of Christians to look for new ways to carry out this proposal. (201)

For the Pope, "there can be no room for doubt or for explanations which weaken so clear a message. Today and always, the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel, and the fact that it is freely preached to them is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish." (48) The poor are also "a people" and in that sense one must listen to the cry of whole peoples. It's the task of all to grow in solidarity so that all peoples might come to be artisans of their destiny." (190)

All of these proposals underlie the Pope's wish for the Church -- "I want a Church which is poor and for the poor" (198) and not just because it's his own wish but because of the radicality of the incarnation of Jesus who made himself poor and chose a road of salvation from them, expressed in the programmatic text of Lk. 4:18: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me. He has sent me to proclaim the Gospel to the poor." (197)

4. The social dimension of evangelization

In a social context where the most conservative religious movements are growing, those more concerned with orthodoxy than orthopraxis, the Exhortation continues to surprise by devoting so much space to the social dimension of Evangelization. We aren't claiming that this dimension has been absent from the Church's concern. We simply have to go back to the Social Doctrine of the Church and various statements the Church has made throughout its history on these aspects. But we do want to highlight that perhaps the papal authorities have never spoken so bluntly about the economic system in force. In this sense, criticism was swift on this point as soon as the document came out. 14 To refer to this social dimension, the Pope addresses four points: the social impact of the kerygma, the inclusion of the poor, the common good, and dialogue for peace building.

4.1 The social impact of the Kerygma

The Church's missionary work begins with the proclamation of the kerygma. And that proclamation inevitably has a social dimension because "community life and commitment to others" is at the heart of the Gospel. (177) Now, these statements are not a new requirement. They take us back to Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi 15, a document that spells out this intrinsic relationship between human advancement and evangelization. Specifically, this document shows that concern for the liberation that millions of human beings need comes particularly from the "Bishops of the Third World." (EN 30) Today, curiously, it's a Pope born on the Latin American continent who is stressing again the explicitness of the social dimension of evangelization because not doing so "runs the risk of distorting the authentic and integral meaning of the mission of evangelization." (176)

The Trinitarian God in whom we believe invites us necessarily to salvation in community and that reinforces the "intimate connection between evangelization and human advancement, which must necessarily find expression and develop in every work of evangelization." (178) The words of Sacred Scripture confirm it: "What you have done to the least of these my brothers, you have done unto Me." (Mt 25:40) (179). The Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus consists above all in "loving God who reigns in our world. To the extent that he reigns among us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity." (180). As the Aparecida Document says (380), this proclamation of the Good News must encompass "all existence, all individuals, every dimension of coexistence, and all peoples. Nothing human can be alien to it." (181)

Delving deeper into this social dimension of the kerygma, the Pope, quoting Benedict XVI, points out that although the just order of society and the State is the main job of politics, "the Church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines of the fight for justice" 16 and he urges all Christians, but also all pastors, to concern themselves with building a better world. (183) Now, he makes two things clear: (1) The Church has to say something about social issues -- the Social Doctrine of the Church, and (2) The Church "doesn't have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems." (184) The human task belongs to everyone and the Church must work with others, offering its words boldly and courageously, but also with humility and the ability to learn from others.

4.2 The social inclusion of the poor

The Pope states that the current economic system worships success, is privatist, and prevents the slow, the weak, and the less talented from making their way in life. (209). The structural causes of poverty are not solved without "rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and attacking the structural causes of inequality." (202) "The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies." (203) Words like ethics, solidarity, distribution of goods, etc., disturb the prevailing system. We can no longer trust in "the invisible hand of the market" which only aims to seek economic growth without taking into consideration that something more than free competition is required to create programs and projects that defend the weakest (204). The Pope, perhaps anticipating criticism, says he doesn't meant to offend anyone with his words, nor does he view the people who manage these economies as enemies, but he wants "those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centred mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking which is more humane, noble and fruitful, and which will bring dignity to their presence on this earth." (208)

Because of all this, the Pope affirms that today we have to "say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality" because "such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?" (53) We cannot 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.his 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." (54) Much like the liberation theologians' recourse to the social doctrine of the Fathers of the Church, the Pope recalls St. John Chrysostom who said "Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs." (57) He asks that there be "more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!" (205)

The criticism expressed in the document is not only pointed at the market as such but at the dichotomy between the latter and political systems that do not limit the excesses of some over others. The culture of consumerism and individualistic greed is growing and there is no concern for cooperation and inclusion of the weak in society. Hence the "inclusion of the poor" is one of the current challenges and the ecclesial community cannot ignore this. "Any Church community, if it thinks it can comfortably go its own way without creative concern and effective cooperation in helping the poor to live with dignity and reaching out to everyone, will also risk breaking down, however much it may talk about social issues or criticize governments. It will easily drift into a spiritual worldliness camouflaged by religious practices, unproductive meetings and empty talk." (207)

4.3 On social peace

For Pope Francis, talking about peace is not maintaining the status quo, but ensuring a dignified life for all. Peace goes hand in hand with a prophetic voice that looks out for the rights of the dispossessed. Nor is peace reduced to the absence of war. It involves the creation of nations where citizenship with the free exercise of rights and duties is possible. (218-220) Along these lines, the Pope proposes four principles that "derive from the pillars of the Church's social doctrine" to advance the construction of a people in peace, justice and brotherhood: (1) Time is greater than space, (2) Unity prevails conflict, (3) Realities are more important than ideas, and (4) The whole is greater than the part. (221-237)

4.4 The need for fruitful dialogue for peace building (with nations, science, other religions)

The Pope sees dialogue as an indisputable means for peace building and the Church is called to a sincere dialogue in pursuit of the common good. It is necessary to establish dialogue with nations, with society -- including dialogue with cultures and science -- and with other believers who are not part of the Catholic Church. (238) In these dialogues, the Church is to promote seeking and finding consensus and agreement but without ceasing to be concerned about a just, responsive and inclusive society. (239) The Church knows that it doesn't have the solution to every particular issue but must support those proposals that best respond to the dignity of each person and the common good. The Church proposes fundamental values that can be translated into policy actions. (241)

In its dialogue with other sciences, the Church does not fear reason but seeks and trusts her "because the light of reason and the light of faith both come from God." 17 There is no reason to leave scientific advances aside without examining them, showing that a true scientific theory does not contradict the choice of faith. (243)

Ecumenical dialogue is one of the edges where the credibility of the denominations is most at stake today. But it has to be a sincere dialogue, trusting in the companion on the journey "without suspicion, without distrust," seeking peace in the face of the one God. (244) We can not add more divisions to countries already torn apart by violence. Rather, this unity will be an indispensable path of evangelization to the extent that what the Spirit has inspired in each denomination is accepted.

Interfaith dialogue is no less important in this unity task. This dialogue is not merely tolerance or relativism but openness from one's own identity, able to stand firm in the deepest convictions but willing to understand and appreciate other religious confessions. (250-254)

This dialogue with Christians and non-Christians invites us to work for religious freedom, considered a fundamental right. A freedom that guarantees the public presence of religion in healthy diversity. At the same time, those who do not consider themselves part of any religious tradition, must be our allies "in defending human dignity, in building peaceful coexistence between peoples and in protecting creation." (257)

5. A necessary ecclesial conversion to the evangelizing mission

As was noted at the beginning, the Exhortation aims to chart the route for a new evangelization stage, allowing much-needed church renewal. This can not be done without deep pastoral and missionary conversion18 (25) that starts from rediscovering the Gospel as a source of joy and the encounter with Jesus as a call to to mission which is the purpose and meaning of the Church. (1) It is clear that the Pope is going back to the spirit of the 5th Conference at Aparecida, "being a Church in a permanent state of mission." (25) Therefore, the transformation that is needed comes from a conversion to the missionary dream of reaching all, the ultimate reason for the church community. (31)

Primacy in the ecclesial transformation proposed by the Pope is given to the dynamism of the Spirit that "is able to make all things new." (Rev 21:5) And that Spirit calls us to be "a Church which goes forth." In fact, that's the title of the first part of the first chapter of the Exhortation. There, the Pope turns to the history of salvation with Abraham, Moses, and Jeremiah to show how in God's Word that dynamism of "going forth" appears permanently. So the mission to which Jesus calls us implies "going forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the 'peripheries' in need of the light of the Gospel." (20) Not being afraid of being bruised, wounded or dirty by going outside because this is preferable to being a Church that is "unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security." (49) "The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking." (22) "Let us dare a little more to 'take the initiative!'" And one could conclude from the whole paragraph, "get involved", "accompany", "bear fruit", "smell like sheep", "celebrate." (24)

To be able to change into a Church that goes forth, on mission, aware of its need for perennial reform (26), a transformation of everything is required -- "customs, styles, schedules, languages and every ecclesial structure" -- to be put at the service of evangelizing today's world rather than self-preservation. (27) You have to leave the comfortable pastoral criterion of "that's how it's always been done" and dare to be creative and bold to rethink the whole ministry. (33)

And the Pope says explicitly that if all structures need conversion and renewal, the Papacy must also come within this dynamic. The term "Bishop of Rome" instead of "Pope" or "Supreme Pontiff" that the Pope has been using since the beginning of his pontificate, is also used here, recognizing that the Bishop of Rome also must "be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of his ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization." In line with reviewing the role of the Bishop of Rome, he goes back to what was said at Vatican II and wasn't able to be implemented in ecclesial practice to some extent. He refers to the active role which the bishops' conferences must have, being recognized as "subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority." Actually the Pope is indicating the decentralization that is needed for a more agile missionary experience committed to each situation.(32) It should be noted that in the same text the Pope begins to treasure the contribution of the Conferences by using them as bibliographical references in the Exhortation.19

In this same sense of participation, he speaks of the People of God as "agents of evangelization" and so by referring to each member of the Church, he claims their existential role and involvement. He invites the bishops to go "before, with, and after the people" to pay attention to what the "flock" is saying because it "has a nose for finding new ways." (31) With respect to the laity, who are the vast majority of the People of God, they have grown in identity and commitment. However, they fail to take on their evangelizing mission more not just at the church level but in the social, political, and economic world. He acknowledges that one of the reasons for little lay protagonism is the excessive clericalism that still persists. (102) About women, the Pope is aware of the need to "create broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church... and in the various settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures." (103)

The importance of the Church as "People of God" is also central and that means recovering this very decisive expression from Vatican II 20 that had been obscured for years by verticalist ecclesiologies. The importance of the "People" is one of the great contributions of the text, and is crucial to Latin American ecclesiology. God has chosen "call us together as a people and not as isolated individuals." (113) "Being Church is being the People of God." (114) "The People of God is incarnate in the peoples of the earth, each of which has its own culture." (115). And in this sense, one should also celebrate the emphasis given throughout the document to popular piety -- " true expression of the spontaneous missionary activity of the people of God. This is an ongoing and developing process, of which the Holy Spirit is the principal agent." (122)

Ecclesial renewal also involves looking at the contents of a missionary pastoral ministry. The latter "is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed...concentrates on the essentials...becomes all the more forceful and radiant.(35) We also have to remember the order or hierarchy of truths -- true for all dogmas and doctrine, including moral teaching (36) -- which helps to distinguish the essential from the secondary and find new ways to proclaim those truths that are certain but no longer speak to contemporary people. We must remember that "the expression of truth can take different forms. The renewal of these forms of expression becomes necessary for the sake of transmitting to the people of today the Gospel message in its unchanging meaning." (41) You can not lose sight of the proper proportion of what is being proclaimed -- "you can't speak more about law than about grace, more about the Church than about Christ, more about the Pope than about God’s word." (38)

The inculturation of the gospel is a felt need, because "does not have simply one cultural expression, but rather, remaining completely true to will also reflect the different faces of the cultures and peoples in which it is received and takes root." (116). Cultural diversity does not threaten the unity of the Church (117); on the contrary, the multiplicity of cultures enriches the Church like the "bride adorned with her jewels." (cf. Is. 61:10) (116)

And in this ecclesial renewal, the Pope is explicit in naming some specific attitudes and methodological proposals that ought to be adopted. Regarding attitudes, pastoral agents have to be open to the challenge of missionary spirituality (78-80), leaving all selfish acedia and all sterile pessimism (81-86). The encounter with Jesus must lead them to commitment to their brothers and sisters (87-92), freeing them from spiritual worldliness (93-97) and jealousies that arise among the evangelists themselves. (98-101) Recognizing the pending challenges with regard to women, the laity, youth and the emergence of vocations, joy and hope must prevail, above all. The realities of the situation cannot take away missionary strength from the pastoral agents. (102-109) On methodological proposals, the Pope dwells on missionary strategies ranging from person to person dialogue to the radical novelty with which catechesis, preaching and, of course, homilies, should be prepared. In everything, the proclamation of the Kerygma, the centrality of the Word of God and personal accompaniment in all processes of evangelization, should prevail. Definitely, the part about the homily is paramount for clergy who are not sufficiently prepared, are not renewed in their ministry, and don't keep themselves constantly up-to-date to meet the needs of their hearers. (127-175)

6. A word about women

As the Pope himself said, the Spirit of the Exhortation is not to talk about every issue or address all the aspects. However it's important here to raise a subject which at least in some women's circles, remains pending. The Pope talks about women and says their presence is necessary, in the decision-making bodies as well. (103) He acknowledges that "demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded." But he makes it clear that the priesthood is reserved for men, noting that this statement becomes divisive when sacramental power is identified with power in general. And he adds that it's the responsibility of pastors and theologians "to recognize what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church's life." (104) In the Exhortation, he doesn't talk about the theology of women that, according to his words in other contexts, is needed to understand how women can find a more prominent place in the Church. All this leaves questions: Doesn't the Pope know about the theology from women's perspective that has been done in the Church? And ultimately, how will ordained ministry be renewed so that it isn't the only power and decision-making body in the Church? How will the clergy work for this change?


It would be very difficult to draw a conclusion from what is laid out here because what the programmatic nature of the Exhortation produces is an invitation to put ourselves on the road and translate what is laid out here into life. But questions remain which can initiate this journey: Will there be time? Will the Church today and in the future take it on when Francis is not there? Will the Pope be able to imprint this "spirit" on Rome and on the local churches? Will many people in the Church who have very different, not to say opposing, pastoral and social notions stand aside? Are many of us Christians in a position to flex our minds and habits to these calls? Will we focus on this ecclesial renewal from a missionary awakening? Will our apostolic works and ecclesial commitments effectively work for the inclusion of the poor? Will we become a poor church and for the poor? As is beautifully expressed in the Song of Songs, the Spirit through this Exhortation seems to be saying to its Church: "Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance. Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!" (Song 2:10-13) This ecclesial spring that seems to be coming and that we hopefully wish would stay, depends largely on our faithfulness to the blowing of the Spirit.


1. This title make an immediate reference to Evangelii Nuntiandi and Gaudete in Domino, both by Paul VI (1975) and to the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes (1965) of Vatican II.

2. His election was on March 13, 2013, and the solemn Mass of inauguration of his pontificate was on the 19th.

3. Expression attributed to Karl Rahner.

4. On March 13, during his first appearance in St. Peter's Square, he greeted the crowd in the most normal way -- "Good evening" -- and before blessing the people, he asked them to pray for him. Moreover, the austerity of his wardrobe was notorious -- he didn't use the red velvet mozzetta trimmed with ermine that had been used by his predecessors, but a sober white cassock and a silver cross on his chest.

5. We know that his first document was the encyclical Lumen Fidei (June 29, 2013) but, as he himself pointed out, it was written with Benedict XVI. As such, the exhortation may be rightly considered his first papal document.

6. We are not going to cite the authors throughout the text because we aren't taking textual references but rather, some of them have inspired the organization and/or emphasis in this work. We will summarize the name and the title of the article, sufficient data to find them on the Internet and thus streamline the references here: Antonio Spadaro, "Las cuatro tensiones internas de la ‘Evangelii Gaudium’" (free registration required); Monseñor Fabián Marulanda, Obispo emérito de Florencia, "Evangelii Gaudium: carta de navegación”; Pablo Richard, “Otra Iglesia es posible. El Papa Francisco nos abre nuevos caminos”; Hans Küng, “Francisco e o vento contrario a Curia”; J. Ignacio Calleja, Jorge Costadoat, S.J. y José Ignacio González Faus, S.J. “La primavera eclesial de Evangelii Gaudium”; José Arregi, “Evangelii Gaudium. Una lectura”; José Manuel Vidal, “Evanagelii Gaudium: una Iglesia casa, no aduana. Apuesta por una Iglesia a la intemperie, que se arriesga y que sale”; Josep M. Roviera Belloso, “La renovación eclesial pasa por el Evangelio”, José Ignacio González Faus, “Lo mejor de la alegría del Evangelio”, Luis González-Carvajal Santabárbara, “El programa del Papa Francisco”; José Luis Gutiérrez, “La economía que mata”; Paulo Suess, “Vinho e vinagre na alegría do Evangelho”; Eduardo de la Serna, “Una lectura esperanzada de la nueva Exhortación Apostólica”; Consuelo Vélez, “La alegría del evangelio: Nuevos caminos de renovación eclesial”.

7. Henceforth the paragraphs of the exhortation Evangelii Gaudium will be cited in parentheses.

8. Here we can echo the 5th General Conference of the Latin American and Carribbean Bishops (CELAM) in Aparecida, a conference in which the pope actively participated, particularly in drafting the final document. That Conference proposed a "Church permanently in a state of mission" (DA 551).

9. The Pope was professor of Pastoral Theology at the Colegio Máximo in San Miguel (Buenos Aires).

10. Synod of Bishops XIII Ordinary General Assembly, October 7 to 28, 2012. It avoids the term "post-synodal" which is used to include the conclusions of the synods, possibly because he adds that he will include his own concerns and the thoughts of other people he has consulted. The footnotes on page 217 talk about the references that have inspired him.

11. You can read the text in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Feast of St. Matthew, September 21st. Cf.

12. According to the Argentine theologian Carlos María Galli, the theme of the poor in this Exhortation is one of the best documents that the magisterium has written on the poor. Cf. Address given at the Universidad Católica de Buenos Aires, March 13, 2014.

13. Opening Address of the Aparecida Conference, No. 3, and Aparecida Document, no. 392.

14. Rush Limbaugh, a conservative talk show host in the United States, criticized the pontiff's statement about economic inequality in the Church, accusing him of preaching "pure Marxism." See

15. Published on December 8, 1975. It will be cited as (EN).

16. Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas est, 28.

17. John Paul II, 1998, Fides et ratio, 43.

18. As the Aparecida Conference already delineated it, DA 366.

19. Ecclesia in Africa (notes 57, 92); Ecclesia in Asia (notes 58, 77, 78, 95, 99, 134); Ecclesia in America (note 149), Ecclesia in Oceania (notes 91, 94); Ecclesia in Medio Oriente (note 203); Bishops' Conference of Brazil (note 158); Congo Conference of Catholic Bishops (note 184); Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (note 176); Bishops' Conference of France (notes 60, 174); Bishops' Conference of India (note 194); United States Catholic Bishops' Conference (notes 59, 180); II Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops (note 211).

20. Specifically, the category "People of God" was decisive in the structure of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium (Chapter 2).

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