ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN – Pope Francis to Catholics: there is a hidden grace in being a “little flock”
Nur-Sultan (Agenzia Fides) – In the Church “no one is a stranger”, because the mystery of God has been revealed to “all peoples”, and “not only to the chosen people or to a religious elite”. The faith and salvation promised by Christ are not transmitted from generation to generation “like a set of ideas to be understood and followed, like a fixed and timeless code”. They are the gift that the risen Christ can work today in the lives of those who follow him. And those who can most easily see this and take advantage of it are the little ones, the poor in spirit, because “littleness humbly delivers us to the power of God, who teaches us not to base our ecclesial activity on our own abilities”. Thus Pope Francis addressed the small Catholic community in Kazakhstan, also reminding them that “there is a hidden grace in being a small Church, a small flock”. He did so on the third and final day of his apostolic journey to Kazakhstan, meeting in the Catholic Cathedral of Nur-Sultan bishops, priests, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers, mostly from distant countries.
Once again, Pope Francis took the opportunity to shed light on his own mysterious dynamic with which the salvation of Christ spreads in the world, always from a “little remnant”.
The Church of Christ, and any authentic Christian adventure – remarked the Pope drawing inspiration from a few key words of the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians – evolves in the world between memory and expectation, between “heirs” and “promise”.
Not all genuine apostolic work is self-produced. Every Church – recalled the Bishop of Rome – “is heir to a previous history, is always born from an initial proclamation of the Gospel, from a previous event, from the apostles and evangelizers who established it on the living word of Jesus. Even in Kazakhstan, a multicultural and multireligious country, the living present of Christian communities is linked to the rich history that preceded it, and which draws on the spread of the proclamation of the Gospel in Central Asia, which began from the first centuries of Christianity. Many evangelizers and missionaries reminded the Pope – spent their lives spreading the light of the Gospel, founding communities, shrines, monasteries and places of worship. A legacy that must be honored and preserved. “On the spiritual and ecclesial path,” insisted the Pontiff, “we must always remember those who first announced the faith to us.” In the Christian experience, “this act of remembrance inspires us to contemplate the marvels that God has wrought in history, even in the midst of life’s difficulties and our own personal and community limitations”. Christian memory – Pope Francis insisted – is not “looking back with nostalgia”. The memory of the past “does not close us in on ourselves; it opens us to the promise of the Gospel. Jesus assured us that he would always stay with us, so it’s not just a promise about the future. called today to embrace the renewal that the risen Jesus brings into our lives”. For this reason, faith is not “a beautiful display of artifacts from the distant past, but an ever-present event, an encounter with Christ that takes place in the here and now of our lives.” It is this “living and formidable memory of Jesus, from which we draw above all in the Eucharist, i the power of a love which urges us. It is our treasure”. For this reason, “without memory, we lack wonder. When we lose this living memory, our faith, our devotions and our pastoral activities risk slowly dying, disappearing like a flash in the pan.” Thus, gratitude to God and to the brethren also fails. And we fall “into the temptation to think that everything depends on us”. While Christians and all who participate in the apostolic work of the Church are called to confess and bear witness to the real work of Christ himself, “to bear witness to the very heart of salvation, to the newness of Jesus , of the newness which is Jesus”.
In this work of testimony – continued the Sovereign Pontiff, referring to the numerical scarcity of the Catholic community in Kazakhstan and the immensity of this immense country – one could feel “small” and inadequate. But the Gospel itself – Pope Francis recalled – “says that to be ‘little’, poor in spirit, is a blessing, a beatitude”. Far from all complaints about the condition of “minority” experienced by Christians in large parts of the world, the Successor of Peter recalled that “there is a hidden grace in being a small Church, a small flock, because at the instead of showing our strengths, our number, our structures and other things that are humanly important, we can allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord and humbly draw closer to others. Rich in nothing and poor in everything, let us walk with simplicity alongside our brothers and sisters”, beginning with those who belong to other Christian communities.
Concluding his speech, the Bishop of Rome asked the small Kazakh Catholic community “not to be a group stuck in the same old way of doing things, or withdrawn into its shell because it feels small, but a community open to future of God, set ablaze a living community, full of hope, open to the novelty of the Spirit and to the signs of the times, inspired by the Gospel example of the little seed that grows and bears fruit in humble and creative love “. The Pope also asked to make room for the laity, so that “our communities do not become rigid or clerical”. The Sovereign Pontiff also urged bishops and priests “not to be administrators of the sacred or executors of religious rules, but pastors close to our people”, inviting everyone to take comfort from the great witnesses who marked the recent history of Catholicism in Kazakh land, such as Blessed Wladislaw Bukowiński (1904-1974), a priest who spent his life caring for the sick, the needy and the marginalized, and lived through the experience of prison and forced labor . “Even before his beatification,” the Pope recalled, “there were always fresh flowers and a lighted candle on his grave. It is a confirmation that the People of God can recognize holiness, and a pastor in love with Gospel”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 09/15/2022)