Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said the Holy Father’s recent lengthy interview calls attention to the modern world as a “missionary field” that needs witnesses to Christ’s saving power.
“Among the many vital things the Pope reminds us of in his interview is the new and drastically different condition of the modern world that God seeks to save,” the archbishop said in a Sept. 25 column.
What Catholics need to realize is that the world we live is “morally fractured,” the archbishop explained, meaning that many people “no longer have that common vocabulary” that would allow for a fruitful discussion about issues such as abortion and sexuality.
“The modern heart can only be won back by a radical witness of Christian discipleship – a renewed kind of shared community life obedient to God’s Commandments, but also on fire with the Beatitudes lived more personally and joyfully by all of us,” he said.
When the Pope’s 12,000-word interview published in English last week, Archbishop Chaput said he was unable to read it immediately due to travel, but he was greeted by an inbox full of emails – ranging from concerned to gloating to grateful – when he returned to Philadelphia.
While some people “grasped at the interview like a lifeline – or a vindication,” the majority of emails were from concerned Catholics who “felt confused by the media headlines suggesting that the Church had somehow changed her teaching on a variety of moral issues.”
Archbishop Chaput rejected the idea that Pope Francis was somehow turning away from Catholic teaching and said that his flock’s response can be a “useful lesson” for Catholics.
“The Holy Father asks none of us to abandon the task of bringing the world to Jesus Christ. Our witness matters. Every unborn child saved, every marriage strengthened, every immigrant helped, every poor person served, matters,” he said.
He said that when a priest in his archdiocese asked the congregation at Sunday Mass how many had “heard about” the Pope’s interview, nearly everyone raised their hands. However, when the priest asked how many had “actually read” the interview only five people raised their hands.
Rather than “taking the mass media coverage of the Catholic Church at face value,” Archbishop Chaput wrote, Catholics need to “actually read the Holy Father’s interview for ourselves, and pray over it, and then read it again, especially in light of the Year of Faith.”
If the Church is, as the Holy Father said in his interview, “a field hospital,” then the goal of evangelization should be “to create a space of beauty and mercy; to accompany those who suffer; to understand the nature of their lives; to care for and heal even those who reject us,” the archbishop said.
Nothing we do, he added, will be fruitful “unless we give ourselves to the whole Gospel with our whole heart.”
The full text of Archbishop Chaput’s column may be read here. The interview with Pope Francis can be found here.