This morning in the Consistory Hall the Pope received in audience 120 participants in the General Chapter of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Dehonians), based on the theme “Merciful, in community, with the poor”. Francis took the opportunity to express his best wishes to the new Superior General, Fr. Heiner Wilmer, and to greet all the Dehonians who work “often in difficult conditions in various parts of the world”.
“Religious life is indicated as a fully evangelical life, in which the beatitudes are fully realised”, remarked the Pope. “Therefore, as consecrated persons, you are required to be merciful. This means, first and foremost, living in profound communion with God in prayer, in meditation on the Sacred Scripture, in the celebration of the Eucharist, so that all our life may be a path of growth in God's mercy. To the extent to which we make ourselves aware of the freely-given love of the Lord and welcome it in ourselves, our tenderness, understanding and goodness towards the people around us will also grow”.
Religious life is also “the cohabitation of believers who feel they are loved by God and who seek to love Him. … In the experience of God's mercy and His love you will also find the point of the harmonization of your communities. This necessitates the commitment to increasingly savour the mercy that your brethren show to you and to offer them the wealth of your mercy”, said the bishop of Rome to the Dehonians, recalling in this regard the example of their founder, Fr. Leon Dehon (1843-1925).
“Mercy is the word that summarizes the Gospel; we might say that it is the 'face' of Christ, that face that He showed when he went towards everyone, when he healed the sick, when he shared a table with the sinners, and especially when, nailed to the cross, he forgave: there we find the face of divine mercy. And the Lord calls upon us to be 'channels' of this love firstly towards the least among us, the poorest, who are privileged in His eyes. Let yourselves be continually challenged by the situations of fragility and poverty with which you come into contact, and endeavor to offer in the appropriate ways the witness of charity that the Spirit infuses in your hearts”. The Holy Father concluded, “Mercy will allow you to open up promptly to current needs and to be industriously present in the new areopagus of evangelization, prioritizing – even if this may involve sacrifices – openness towards those situations of extreme need, symptomatic of the maladies of today's society”.