Het is de eerste lange tekst die volledig door hemzelf is geschreven: de apostolische brief Evangelii Gaudium (De vreugde van het Evangelie), vandaag gepubliceerd (hier een samenvatting in het Engels, hier de volledige tekst).
Het is een bevestiging en uitwerking van wat paus Franciscus de afgelopen maanden heeft gezegd in zijn dagelijkse preken, zijn toespraken, en twee interviews. Deze lange tekst is een soort regeringsprogramma – in de Duitse vertaling gebruikt het Vaticaan het woord ‘Schreiben’, in andere talen het woord ‘exhortatie’, dat oproep, aansporing betekent,
De centrale gedachte is dat de kerk ingrijpend moet veranderen. Niet in de leer op het gebied van abortus, waarschuwt paus Franciscus. En ook voor vrouwelijke priesters ziet hij geen plaats. Maar in veel andere opzichten vormt de tekst een manifest waarin wordt opgeroepen tot radicale verandering.
Vrij in het begin schrijft hij:
I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences. I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are. “Mere administration” can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be “permanently in a state of mission”. […] The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself.
Hij stelt nadrukkelijk ook zijn eigen rol en macht ter discussie:
Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization. […] Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world. It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound “decentralization”.
De Europese blik op het geloof is daarbij zeker niet de enige manier van kijken.
We cannot demand that peoples of every continent, in expressing their Christian faith, imitate modes of expression which European nations developed at a particular moment of their history, because the faith cannot be constricted to the limits of understanding and expression of any one culture. It is an indisputable fact that no single culture can exhaust the mystery of our redemption in Christ.
Niet alle leerstelling van de kerk zijn voor eeuwig, schrijft Franciscus:
the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives.
Elders haalt hij uit naar
…those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.
Hij roept andere geestelijken nadrukkelijk op de straat op te gaan, armen te helpen, en o die manier hun geloof uit te dragen.
Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat”
Paus Franciscus heeft vier dagen na zijn uitverkiezingen gezegd dat hij ,,een arme kerk, een kerk voor de armen” wil. In deze brief komt hij hier uitgebreid op terug. Hij hekelt, zonder het neoliberale denken met name te noemen, wat hij eerder ,,de idolatrie van het geld” heeft genoemd.
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.