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Without Christ, Church’s mission is just ‘social activism’ pope says

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If one’s work as a Catholic is not united to Christ Jesus, it is no longer the “mission” to which the Church is called, Pope Francis told a group of religious brothers Monday.

“Let us not forget that the condition of every mission in the Church is that we are united to the Risen Christ as branches to the vine. Otherwise what we do is social activism,” the pope said Oct. 29.

“This is why I repeat to you the exhortation to remain in [Christ],” he continued. “First of all, we need to let ourselves be renewed in faith and hope by Jesus alive in the Word and in the Eucharist, but also in sacramental forgiveness. We need to be with him in silent adoration, in lectio divina, in the Rosary of the Virgin Mary.”

Pope Francis addressed around 45 members of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, commonly called “Scalabrinians” after their founder Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, during their 15th general chapter meeting in Rome.

In spontaneous remarks before the start of his prepared speech, the pope spoke about the Old Testament passage that says to receive the stranger, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

He condemned what he characterized as a “wave of closure” toward foreigners, and attacks carried out on foreign people, recalling that he himself is the son of a migrant who came to Argentina.

He also criticized the word “wellbeing,” which he said leads people to close their doors against immigrants, “that they do not disturb you,” so that “only those people who serve my wellbeing can enter” the country.

During his prepared remarks, Francis spoke to the religious order about their mission, which he said, “today as yesterday” takes place in difficult contexts “sometimes characterized by attitudes of suspicion and prejudice, or even rejection towards the foreign person.”

These contexts should motivate people to have courage and perseverance in bringing the love of Christ to those who are far from their families and homeland, and “are in danger of feeling far from God,” he said.

As illustrated in the New Testament episode of Jesus’ walk with his disciples along the road to Emmaus, evangelization takes place by walking with people, he said, listening to people, to their histories, their disappointed hopes, their expectations, their trials of faith.

“First of all listen, and do it in an attitude of compassion, of sincere closeness,” he said.

There is a risk, he continued, that the stories of immigrants, both the beautiful and ugly, will be erased. He added that this is a serious loss which can be combated by listening and by walking with people and with communities.

He explained that this listening must be followed by sharing the Eucharist and the Word of God: “Tell them about [Christ’s] mystery of love: incarnation, passion, death and resurrection.”

“The Risen Christ sends you today, in the Church, to walk together with many brothers and sisters who travel their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus as migrants. An ancient and always new mission; tiring, and sometimes painful, but also able to make you cry with joy.”

Do this with the charism of your founder, Bl. Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, he urged: pay attention to the “dignity of the human person, especially where it is most wounded and threatened.”

Francis concluded the audience by encouraging the religious brothers to continue to share their journey and to face present challenges together with lay people.

“I warmly bless you and all the Scalabrinian Missionaries. And also, you, please do not forget to pray for me,” he said.