Pope Francis’ 36th Apostolic Journey abroad saw him visit the Mediterranean island of Malta from 2 – 3 April. The two-day trip, themed “They showed us unusual kindness” drew attention to the plight of migrants who cross the Mediterranean, and promoted evangelization in the country.
Among the activities on the Holy Father’s schedule during the trip was a meeting with the members of the Society of Jesus in the country, who assembled at the Nunciature on the morning of 3 April. Pope Francis engaged the 38 Jesuits present in spontaneous conversation, responding to their questions about the Church and the world.
The Church of the future
The Holy Father responded to a question about the future of the Church and the synodal journey.
Saying that his predecessor Benedict XVI was a “prophet of this Church of the future”, Pope Francis pointed toward a Church that will become smaller and may lose many privileges, but become humbler, more spiritual and more authentic.
He noted the challenge of vocations, especially in light of reducing numbers of young people in Europe, which also presents the risk of wanting to seek vocations without adequate discernment. In the face of this, he pointed out that the Church has to get used to an aging Europe and do so creatively, assuring the qualities of humility, service and authenticity.
As regards the synodal journey, the Pope highlighted the importance of reflecting on the theology of synodality in order to advance as a synodal Church, noting also that the Church is learning to speak and write “in synod”. He also stressed that the vocation of the Church is not it its numbers but rather, joy of the Church is to evangelize.
Spiritual directors and priests for the third millennium
The Pope encouraged seminarians to strive to be “normal people” capable of making decisions about their lives.
He also insisted on the importance of normal superiors who are not hypocrites, as hypocrisy as an instrument of government does not help to deal with restlessness, problems and hidden sins.
He further stressed the need for trust and clarity in accompanying each other, noting that superiors must work towards being trusted themselves, and must trust the grace of their status. In addition, superiors should be prepared to have some “enfant terribles”, or “unruly children”, and be open to correcting them patiently.
Malta, because of its geographical location, is a major stop for many migrants traveling across the Mediterranean. Pope Francis was asked about the challenge of migration in Europe and also as it concerns the reception of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war in their country.
The Pope acknowledged the European migration problem, noting particularly the efforts of countries like Italy, Cyprus, Malta, Greece and Spain.
He also pointed at the dangers and challenges faced by migrants who make the dangerous journey across the sea. In the face of this, he stresses that Europe has to make efforts to protect human rights in order to eliminate the throwaway culture and avoid giving legitimacy to the complicity of competent authorities.
Climate change and evangelism
Responding to another question about the connection between evangelism and climate change, Pope Francis underlined that not taking care of the climate is a sin against God’s gift of creation. Not taking care of creation is like reducing it to an idol, detaching it from the gift of creation, the Pope added.
In this sense, taking care of our common home is already evangelizing it. The Pope stressed the urgency of steps in this regard for the sake of future generations.