Key points from the Pontiff's apostolic exhortation
1. Pope Francis does not think the Vatican, Curia or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the beating heart of Catholicism. Parishes are the new point of reference for the life of the Church: “The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if it proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”.
2. The focus of the faithful should not be nostalgic self-preservation but enthusiastic sanctification of self and others: “I dream of a ‘missionary option, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”
3. Francis thinks the papacy needs some changes: “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 evangelisation.”
4. Methods of evangelising need to be re-examined: “In her ongoing discernment, 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.”
5. In summary: Dumbly staring at the Vatican is no longer acceptable. Get cracking on sharing the richness of the Faith and do not fuss about the methods if they are virtuous and effective. Oh, and maybe prepare for some curial changes as well.