This website is inspired by the leadership of Pope Francis and by his vision of change in the Church to meet the requirements for the new era which is emerging. Some elements of that leadership are noted below.
Reports and commentaries on Pope Francis’ statements, letters and actions are most welcome.
The role of the parish in the Church
Pope Francis in his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), paragraph 28, offers the following commentary on the need for parish self-renewal and constant adaptability.
The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. ... if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be "the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters". This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few.
The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God's word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelisers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented.
The need for reform
Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph 26, quotes Pope Paul VI Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam (6 August 1964, p 611-612) .
The Church must look with penetrating eyes within herself, ponder the mystery of her own being. This vivid and lively self-awareness inevitably leads to a comparison between the ideal image of the Church as Christ envisaged her and loved her as his holy and spotless bride (cf. Eph 5:27), and the actual image which the Church presents to the world today … This is the source of the Church's heroic and impatient struggle for renewal: the struggle to correct those flaws introduced by her members which her own self-examination, mirroring her exemplar, Christ, points out to her and condemns.
Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism, paragraph 6, quoted in Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph 26:
Every renewal of the Church essentially consists in an increase of fidelity to her own calling. Christ summons the Church as she goes her pilgrim way. to that continual reformation of which she always has need, in so far as she is a human institution here on earth.
Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph 26:
... yet even good [ecclesial] structures are only helpful when there is a life constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them.
Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph 41. The quotes are from Popes John XXIII and John Paul II:
At the same time, today's vast and rapid cultural changes demand that we constantly seek ways of expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out their abiding newness. "The deposit of the faith is one thing … the way it is expressed is another". Let us never forget 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".
Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph 43:
In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people's lives.
Saint Thomas Aquinas pointed out that the precepts which Christ and the apostles gave to the people of God "are very few". Citing Saint Augustine, he noted that the precepts subsequently enjoined by the Church should be insisted upon with moderation "so as not to burden the lives of the faithful" and make our religion a form of servitude, whereas "God's mercy has willed that we should be free". This warning, issued many centuries ago, is most timely today. It ought to be one of the criteria to be taken into account in considering a reform of the Church and her preaching which would enable it to reach everyone.
In a homily at the opening of the synod on the Amazon in October 2019, quoted in The New York Times, 26 October 2019, Pope Francis said:
“If everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that ‘this is the way things have always been done,’ then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo.”