Vatican City, 17 March 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the prelates of the Episcopal Conference of East Timor on their “ad limina Apostolorum” visit, and delivered to them the text of the address he had prepared. In the text, the Pope considers some of the concerns the prelates had referred to him: the contribution of the bishops as the critical conscience of the nation; the Church in mission, motivated by mercy; and conveying the good news of salvation in local languages.

“The Church asks of society just one thing: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in full, also when it goes against current values. … Dear brothers, do not be afraid to make this contribution to the Church for the good of all society. But if there is no mercy nowadays, there is little chance of entering into the world of the 'wounded' who are in need of understanding, forgiveness and love. This is why I never tire of calling all the Church to a 'revolution of tenderness'”.

The Holy Father encourages them, “without diminishing the value of the evangelical ideal, to control, with mercy and patience, the potential for growth in the steps taken day by day … and to meet this challenge through the solid formation of priests, religious and lay faithful”. The Pope adds that “this does not require a specialised form of evangelisation”, and that it is necessary to make each Christian an agent of evangelisation since “once a person truly experiences God's saving love, it does not take long for that person to rise and proclaim the Gospel, and they do not require great lessons or instruction. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he encounters God's love in Jesus Christ. … In all baptised persons, it is the Spirit that leads them to evangelise”. In addition, Pope Francis emphasises that “challenge” does not imply a threat.

The Pontiff refers to the triple position the bishop must assume in relation to the faithful: he must be at the head of his flock, in order to show the way; in the centre, to maintain unity and neutralise any stampedes; and behind, to ensure that no-one is left behind or strays. “In any case, be men who are able to support, with love and patience, the steps of God alongside his people, and bring to bear all that may keep them united, taking care of possible dangers but above all enabling hope to grow: may you have sun and light in your hearts!”.

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