During the three-hour assembly, which took place in the Vatican’s Synod Hall on November 29, the Pope took questions from the gathering of 120 leaders of men’s religious orders.
He called on consecrated women and men to “wake up the world” and went into detail on subjects pertinent to religious orders including their relationships with bishops, formation and corruption.
“Religious life ought to promote growth in the Church by way of attraction. The Church must be attractive. Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world,” he said.
Pope Francis went on to discuss formation and how best to engage with young people.
“Those who work with youth cannot be content with simply saying things that are too tidy and structured, as in a tract; these things go in one ear and out the other of young people. We need a new language, a new way of saying things. Today God asks this of us: to leave the nest which encloses us in order to be sent,” he said.
“It is important to recall that the language of young people in formation today is different from that in the past: we are living through an epochal change. Formation is a work of art, not a police action. We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mold the People of God. This really gives me goose bumps.”
The Pontiff also shared his thoughts on how the relationships between religious orders and bishops should be “rescued”.
“We bishops need to understand that consecrated persons are not functionaries but gifts that enrich dioceses. The involvement of religious communities in dioceses is important,” he said.
“Dialogue between the bishop and religious must be rescued so that, due to a lack of understanding of their charisms, bishops do not view religious simply as useful instruments.”
Francis revealed that he ordered a revision of what he described as outdated Vatican directives on the relations between religious orders and local bishops. He referred to Mutuae Relationes, a set of directives issued jointly by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Religious in 1978. The document said that religious orders are part of the local church, though with their own internal organisation, and that their “right to autonomy” should never be considered as independence from the local church.
“That document was useful at the time but is now outdated. The charisms of the various institutes need to be respected and fostered because they are needed in dioceses,” he said.
At the end of the assembly Pope Francis announced that 2015 will be a year dedicated to consecrated life, an announcement that was met with applause.
The Union’s president is currently Spaniard Fr Adolfo Nicolas, the leader of the Jesuit order to which Francis also belongs.
Key quotes from the assembly can be read here.
A full transcript of the Pope’s remarks can be downloaded here.