BALTIMORE — In his Nov. 15 address to the U.S. bishops at their annual fall assembly in Baltimore, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, emphasized the need to remain focused on the church’s missionary role of spreading the Gospel message.
This is particularly important “as we live through a time of accelerated change,” he said.
The archbishop said one way to determine if the church is following its missionary role is to look at how local churches are functioning as evangelizing communities, something he said is especially evident in the current eucharistic revival in the United States.
The nuncio also reminded the bishops of the need for the church to reflect the image of a field hospital, a description used by Pope Francis who said the church must be about the work of healing those who are wounded. The archbishop said the church lives this work out in its outreach to immigrants and to young mothers in the “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative.
He said Pope Francis is calling the Catholic Church to be “a missionary church that encourages everyone to be an evangelist.” A key part of that work involves encouraging Catholic lay faithful to “accept responsibility for the church,” the nuncio said.
For this to happen though, he noted that the spiritual and liturgical formation of the laity can’t be ignored.
“If we accompany our people more closely, then we can more easily trust them and encourage their spiritual growth,” he said. He also asked the bishops how they are “promoting that ordinary holiness in our local churches” and if there are sufficient spiritual resources for priests and laity within their dioceses.
Archbishop Pierre also noted that the recent synod report makes clear that many young people in the church have difficulty accepting church teachings on a variety of issues. In response to this, bishops must articulate the faith clearly, he said, but they should also “accompany them along the path so that they live their faith in a way that offers them peace of heart, experiencing the true, the good and the beautiful.”
He also urged the bishops not to be “paralyzed by the challenges that we face” but instead to confidently follow their path forward in a synodal way that involves listening, showing patience and having respectful dialogue in the midst of a culture that is experiencing so much division.
“We can sometimes get locked into crisis thinking and crisis talk,” he said, but he also noted that if one looks at church history, times of crisis can “permit us to discern the presence of the Lord and to refocus on the mission and where we are going together.”
He urged the bishops to view these challenging times in a way that would ultimately lead them to give a “faith-filled answer” to the question: “‘Where are we?’ And more importantly, to the question, ‘Where are we going?'”