Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, reminded the U.S. bishops Tuesday at their semi-annual meeting of Pope Francis’ “closeness,” while giving them encouragement in a post-Roe world and exhorting them to a life of evangelization.
“I greet you in the name of Pope Francis, assuring you of his closeness, fraternal support, and prayers as you gather for this Plenary Assembly of the Episcopal Conference,” Pierre said at the U.S. bishops’ conference in Baltimore at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel.
Citing an address of Pope Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Pierre said: “When the Church does not go out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential, and then she gets sick.”
Pierre then cited a passage from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and noted that “Pope Francis encouraged us to be a missionary Church that goes forth to announce the joyful message, more deeply committed to her mission than to maintenance of structures that may no longer adequately serve the mission.”
Pierre said that the Holy Father desires the image of “a poor Church for the poor” and an “evangelical Church.”
Pierre continued his speech with the theme of evangelization, citing a 2013 interview that Pope Francis gave in which the Holy Father said: “Evangelizing, in fact, is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists to evangelize.”
Pierre said that the synodal process should be “understood in a missionary key.”
Pierre asked the bishops: “Does the Church in the United States understand herself in this way, especially as we live through a time of accelerated change?”
A way to answer this question is by examining the evangelical character of local parishes, he said.
“Do we go forth and take the initiative? Do we get involved? Do we accompany others, showing patience? What are the fruits that we are seeing from our evangelizing efforts? Finally, do our local churches demonstrate the joy, which flows from the Eucharist?” he said.
Pierre said that the U.S. bishops' Eucharistic Revival is an opportunity for the Church to celebrate the “nuptial joy of a community that is loved by the Lord, of a community that evangelizes and that is herself evangelized.”
He added: “Let the Eucharistic Revival be lived in this light — as an evangelizing moment!”
Pierre noted Pope Francis’ warning that there are “barriers” that limit the experience of joy and that limit evangelization. One barrier is “our own internal structures which are always in need of pastoral and missionary conversion for evangelization, rather than for the Church’s self-preservation,” he said.
Another barrier is sin, he added.
Pierre said that the U.S. Church has been “prophetic in its openness toward those suffering from a humanitarian crisis at the border” and added that “it has been passionate in its defense of the unborn.”
Pierre said that, now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, the U.S. bishops’ pro-life initiative Walking with Moms in Need “takes on new importance in showing forth the maternal tenderness of the Church for all her children, demonstrating that the priority is mercy rather than cold judgment.”
He continued: “Pope Francis, then, is calling us to be a missionary Church that encourages everyone to be an evangelist.”
Pierre noted that in his latest apostolic letter, Desiderio desideravi, Pope Francis calls for “greater liturgical formation, not only of the clergy, but of the laity.”
Pierre added that there is a “brokenness of the human family.”
“The recent synodal report indicates that many of our own people — for varied reasons — have difficulties accepting Church teaching,” he said.
It’s important to teach “in a more attractive and comprehensible way” while also accompanying those in their faith journey, he said. Pierre said that people must be respected, “not by abolishing objective standards of morality” but by helping others recognize the call to holiness.
Pierre said that “the path forward … ultimately requires an adequate anthropological vision. Pope Francis rightly laments the throwaway culture, offering in its place the broader vision of the Gospel, which is truly good news about man and woman, about marriage and family life, and about the human person in relationship to all of creation.”
“We cannot be silent about these fundamental and saving truths,” he said.
“Without imposing a homogeneity, the Church in the United States can integrate the gifts of the People of God through dialogue and with patience, thus living in a creative tension,” he said.