Pope Francis’ missionary invitation to the Church


I think in this new missionary context which Francis is constantly referring to, the role of a small flexible mobile dynamic lay community is absolutely key in the world today.

It’s key because we’re not encumbered by the need to maintain a particular kind of institutional relationship or indeed any institution at all.

We can go where we’re called, where God is calling us.

Dynamic lay community

So, first of all to have a dynamic lay community in the world in the spaces where the institutional church simply can’t reach is fundamental.

Secondly that it’s an Ignatian community means it’s a discerning community that it’s asking

  • Where does God want us to be?
  • What are the needs of the world right now that we are called to address?

So I think it’s that combination of being

  • discerning,
  • genuinely apostolic,
  • genuinely lay,
  • genuinely missionary

is exactly what we need now in the church in this difficult transition that we’re in, between one model of church and another.

And you know what we’re being called to is what the Second Vatican Council was calling on the church to embrace.

But I think only now with Pope Francis are we really realising that we have to do this.

And I think an Ignatian lay community like the Christian Life Community is a gift to the world and a gift to the church that can show us the way it can show us how to do it.

Pope Francis in his many documents and speeches is constantly saying the church needs to realise that

  • we’re in a new place
  • we need a new mentality
  • a new attitude to understand that we are now a missionary church in a missionary context.

We are a church that goes out.

And to go out we have to get away from the idea that we need to try and defend particular spaces in culture and law.

Of course we must witness to the truth, but our efforts need not to be on trying to maintain spaces, which we’re going to lose, but rather on building a new culture from the people of God.

This is the change in mindset that we need now in the church; that’s what Francis is calling for.

It’s what the Latin American church in the great meeting in 2007 called a missionary and pastoral conversion which starts with the encounter with Jesus Christ.

We have to be able to facilitate that encounter because that encounter is the element, the basic founding element of our faith.

It is what creates us missionary disciples who are then capable of witness, and action in the name of Jesus.

Unless we have that in the future, the church will gradually disappear because it will not be able to survive in the kind of modernity that we have now.

Exciting opportunity

On the other hand we need to see this not as a tragedy but as an opportunity.

An opportunity that God is calling us to now.

It is essential and the is the encounter with Jesus Christ we are called to and are searching for.

When we created Catholic voices in 2010 it was a very different context to today.

We had a media that was very very against the papacy, very against the church.

Now to some extent that hasn’t changed but what has changed is Pope Francis. And in many ways he has been doing in his communication what we were calling for, which was essentially to include mercy as the primary message that we want to communicate.

In other words Catholicism is not an idea it’s not a moral code it’s not a philosophy.

Above all, being a Catholic is about being in a relationship, a relationship with God.

And it’s a relationship not just with any God but with the God of mercy and of love.

And that in the encounter with that God of mercy and love we are transformed in every way including ethically and morally.

So how can you communicate the truth while also communicating the essential part of that truth which is that the truth is a person and that the truth is a relationship?

That’s the task.

It’s not easy because we are tempted all the time into an intellectual ethical defence of what we believe to be true.

And we all want to do that, we all want to explain why we’re right.

We all want to explain why Catholicism is true, why it’s clever, why it has the answers, why the attacks on Catholicism are wrong.

I totally understand that, I’m like that myself.

But we have to learn that when we communicate the truth we have to communicate the beauty and the mercy of God at the same time. Otherwise we’re not evangelizing.

We must not be tempted into a kind of response by the attacks.

We must know the truth but we must make sure that we don’t end up communicating truth without mercy or indeed mercy without truth.

Truth mercy together that’s the answer Francis shows us the way.

– Austin Ivereigh

  • This is a transcript of an address to the Christian Life Community Assembly in Buenos Aires on 28 July 2018.
  • Image: Catholics Pure and Simple
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