Church needs religious orders’ courage, witness, pope tells superiors

Pope Francis looks on during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 7. - CNS photo | Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholic religious orders must have the courage to start new forms of outreach, knowing that the only people who “never make mistakes are those who never do anything,” Pope Francis said.
“We will get things wrong sometimes, yes, but there is always the mercy of God on our side,” Pope Francis told 140 superiors general of men’s religious orders.

A transcript of questions and answers from the pope’s three-hour meeting with members of the Union of Superiors General last November was published Feb. 9 by the Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica.
Running through Pope Francis’ responses to the questions on youth ministry, religious life, his personal approach to the papacy and evangelization was an emphasis on prayer, courage and, especially, discernment.

A lack of expertise in discernment, he said, “is one of the greatest problems that we have in priestly formation,” which focuses too much on “black and white” answers rather than on “the gray areas of life.”

“You look for the will of God following the true doctrine of the Gospel and not in the fixations of an abstract doctrine,” the pope told the superiors.

By choosing “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” as the theme for the Synod of Bishops in 2018, the pope said he hopes to draw universal attention to the importance of helping young people discover God’s call.

The decreasing number of priests and religious in the West, he said, is worrying, but some of the newer religious communities that are attracting many youths are also a concern.

Some small, new religious orders “are really good and do things seriously,” usually with close support and guidance from a bishop, he said. “But there are others that are born not from a charism of the Holy Spirt, but human charisma, from charismatic people who attract others by their alluring human skills.