CAFOD welcomes Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation - Evangelii Gaudium

27 November 2013

This week saw the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, a first in-depth insight into the thinking of Pope Francis. “Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast,” writes the pope, “is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members.”

Year of Faith

Evangelii Gaudium marks the end of the Year of Faith, announced by Pope Benedict XVI, and its subject is evangelisation. Pope Francis asks us to consider deeply what is meant by evangelisation, and how the joy of the Gospel can be transmitted in today’s world. This is not just a task for priests, he reminds us, but for lay people, “Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the People of God. The minority – ordained ministers – are at their service.” And, he goes on, “There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church.” 

A challenge to our priorities

Pope Francis challenges us to join together in prayer and action, and to re-think our priorities as a society, focusing our attention on the poorest and most excluded. “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? ...Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.” And he points to the situation of women, who, he points out face extremes of poverty. “Doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence, since they are frequently less able to defend their rights.”

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Economic systems and the excluded

The excluded, he says, are still waiting, while we continue to put our faith in economic systems that have not delivered even the basics of a healthy flourishing life to the poorest, “Some people continue to 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. This 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 sacralised workings of the prevailing economic system.” He reminds us again that money must serve people, not rule them.

The place of religion

Religion, the pope says, is not something private, or indeed only a personal relationship with God. “An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here... The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters.”

Protection of the environment

The pope is extremely challenging here on the role of the free market. “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market,” he says. And he speaks poetically of the need to protect the environment. “We human beings are not only the beneficiaries but also the stewards of other creatures. Thanks to our bodies, God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations.”

What have we done? Read CAFOD’s new report on climate change here>>

The Gospel message

His task in this document, he says, has been “to make explicit once again the inescapable social dimension of the Gospel message and to encourage all Christians to demonstrate it by their words, attitudes and deeds.”

At CAFOD, our mission is to work alongside the world’s poorest people. We believe our Catholic values are best shown through working for justice and an end to poverty. Find out more about CAFOD and Catholicism and use our unique prayer resources to pray and reflect on poverty and injustice.

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