Catholics for a Changing Church

Vatican II at 60: time to work together

Pope Francis' homily at the Memorial of St John XXIII on 11 October 2022.  

“Do you love me?” These are the first words that Jesus speaks to Peter in the Gospel that we have just heard (Jn 21:15). His final words are: “Feed my sheep” (v. 17). On the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we can sense that those same words of the Lord are also addressed to us, to us as Church: Do you love me? Feed my sheep.

First: Do you love me? It is a question, for Jesus’ style is not so much to offer answers as to ask questions, questions that challenge our lives. The Lord, who “from the fullness of his love, addresses men and women as his friends and lives among them” (Dei Verbum, 2), continues to ask the Church, his Bride: “Do you love me?” The Second Vatican Council was one great response to this question. To rekindle her love for the Lord, the Church, for the first time in her history, devoted a Council to examining herself and reflecting on her nature and mission. She saw herself once more as a mystery of grace generated by love; she saw herself anew as the People of God, the Body of Christ, the living temple of the Holy Spirit!

This is the first way to look at the Church: from above. Indeed, the Church needs first to be viewed from on high, with God’s eyes, eyes full of love. Let us ask ourselves if we, in the Church, start with God and his loving gaze upon us. We are always tempted to start from ourselves rather than from God, to put our own agendas before the Gospel, to let ourselves be caught up in the winds of worldliness in order to chase after the fashions of the moment or to turn our back on the time that Providence has granted us, in order to retrace our steps. Yet let us be careful: both the “progressivism” that lines up behind the world and the “traditionalism” – or “looking backwards” – that longs for a bygone world are not evidence of love, but of infidelity. They are forms of a Pelagian selfishness that puts our own tastes and plans above the love that pleases God, the simple, humble and faithful love that Jesus asked of Peter.

Do you love me? Let us rediscover the Council in order to restore primacy to God, to what is essential: to a Church madly in love with its Lord and with all the men and women whom he loves; to a Church that is rich in Jesus and poor in assets; to a Church that is free and freeing. This was the path that the Council pointed out to the Church. It led her to return, like Peter in the Gospel, to Galilee, to the sources of her first love; to rediscover God’s holiness in her own poverty (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8c; chapter 5. Each one of us also has his or her own Galilee, the Galilee of our first love, and certainly today we are all called to return to our own Galilee in order to hear the voice of the Lord: “Follow me”. And there, to find once more in the gaze of the crucified and risen Lord a joy that had faded; to focus upon Jesus. To rediscover our joy, for a Church that has lost its joy has lost its love. Towards the end of his life, Pope John wrote: “This life of mine, now nearing its sunset, could find no better end than in the concentration of all my thoughts in Jesus, the Son of Mary… a great and constant friendship with Jesus, contemplated as a Child and upon the Cross, and adored in the Blessed Sacrament” (Journal of a Soul). This is our view from on high; this is our ever-living source: Jesus, the Galilee of love, Jesus who calls us, Jesus who asks us: “Do you love me?”.

Brothers and sisters, let us return to the Council’s pure sources of love. Let us rediscover the Council’s passion and renew our own passion for the Council! Immersed in the mystery of the Church, Mother and Bride, let us also say, with Saint John XXIIIGaudet Mater Ecclesia! (Address at the Opening of the Council, 11 October 1962). May the Church be overcome with joy. If she should fail to rejoice, she would deny her very self, for she would forget the love that begot her. Yet how many of us are unable to live the faith with joy, without grumbling and criticizing? A Church in love with Jesus has no time for quarrels, gossip and disputes. May God free us from being critical and intolerant, harsh and angry! This is not a matter of style but of love. For those who love, as the Apostle Paul teaches, do everything without murmuring (cf. Phil 2:14). Lord, teach us your own lofty gaze; teach us to look at the Church as you see her. And when we are critical and disgruntled, let us remember that to be Church means to bear witness to the beauty of your love, to live our lives as a response to your question: Do you love me? And not to act as if we were at a funeral wake.

Do you love me? Feed my sheep. With that second verb, feed, Jesus expresses the kind of love that he desires from Peter. So let us now reflect on Peter. He was a fisherman whom Jesus made a fisher of men (cf. Lk 5:10). Jesus assigns him a new role, that of a shepherd, something entirely new to him. This was in fact a turning point in Peter’s life, for while fishermen are concerned with hauling a catch to themselves, shepherds are concerned with others, with feeding others. Shepherds live with their flocks; they feed the sheep and come to love them. A shepherd is not “above” the nets – like a fisherman – but “in the midst of” his sheep. A shepherd stands in front of the people to mark the way, in the midst of the people as one of them, and behind the people in order to be close to the stragglers. A shepherd is not above, like a fisherman, but in the midst.

This is the second way of looking at the Church that we learn from the Council: looking around. In other words, being in the world with others without ever feeling superior to others, being servants of that higher realm which is the Kingdom of God (cf. Lumen Gentium, 5); bringing the good news of the Gospel into people’s lives and languages (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36), sharing their joys and hopes (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 1). Being in the midst of the people, not above the people, which is the bad sin of clericalism that kills the sheep rather than guiding them or helping them grow. How timely the Council remains! It helps us reject the temptation to enclose ourselves within the confines of our own comforts and convictions. The Council helps us imitate God’s approach, which the prophet Ezekiel has described to us today: “Seek the lost sheep and lead back to the fold the stray, bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (cf. Ezek 34:16).

Feed: the Church did not hold the Council in order to admire herself, but to give herself to others. Indeed, our holy and hierarchical Mother, springing from the heart of the Trinity, exists for the sake of love. She is a priestly people (cf. Lumen Gentium, 10ff.), meant not to stand out in the eyes of the world, but to serve the world. Let us not forget that the People of God is born “extrovert” and renews its youth by self-giving, for it is a sacrament of love, “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1). Brothers and sisters, let us return to the Council, which rediscovered the living river of Tradition without remaining mired in traditions. The Council rediscovered the source of love, not to remain on mountain heights, but to cascade downwards as a channel of mercy for all.  Let us return to the Council and move beyond ourselves, resisting the temptation to self-absorption, which is a way of being worldly. Once more, the Lord tells his Church: feed! And as she feeds, she leaves behind nostalgia for the past, regret at the passing of former influence, and attachment to power. For you, the holy People of God, are a pastoral people. You are not here to shepherd yourselves, or to be on the climb, but to shepherd others – all others – with love. And if it is fitting to show a particular concern, it should be for those whom God loves most: the poor and the outcast (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8; Gaudium et Spes, 1). The Church is meant to be, as Pope John put it, “the Church of all, and particularly the Church of the poor” (Radio Message to the faithful worldwide a month prior to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 11 September 1962).

Do you love me? The Lord then says: “Feed my sheep”. He does not mean just some of the sheep, but all of them, for he loves them all, affectionately referring to them as “mine”. The Good Shepherd looks out and wants his flock to be united, under the guidance of the Pastors he has given them. He wants us – and this is the third way of looking at the Church – to see the whole, all of us together. The Council reminds us that the Church is a communion in the image of the Trinity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4.13). The devil, on the other hand, wants to sow the darnel of division. Let us not give in to his enticements or to the temptation of polarization. How often, in the wake of the Council, did Christians prefer to choose sides in the Church, not realizing that they were breaking their Mother’s heart! How many times did they prefer to cheer on their own party rather than being servants of all? To be progressive or conservative rather than being brothers and sisters? To be on the “right” or “left”, rather than with Jesus? To present themselves as “guardians of the truth” or “pioneers of innovation” rather than seeing themselves as humble and grateful children of Holy Mother Church. All of us are children of God, all brothers and sisters in the Church, all of us making up the Church, all of us. That is how the Lord wants us to be. We are his sheep, his flock, and we can only be so together and as one. Let us overcome all polarization and preserve our communion. May all of us increasingly “be one”, as Jesus prayed before sacrificing his life for us (cf. Jn 17:21). And may Mary, Mother of the Church, help us in this. May the yearning for unity grow within us, the desire to commit ourselves to full communion among all those who believe in Christ. Let us leave aside the “isms”, for God’s people do not like polarization. The people of God is the holy faithful people of God: this is the Church. It is good that today, as during the Council, representatives of other Christian communities are present with us. Thank you! Thank you for being here, thank you for your presence!

We thank you, Lord, for the gift of the Council. You who love us, free us from the presumption of self-sufficiency and from the spirit of worldly criticism. Prevent us from excluding ourselves from unity. You who lovingly feed us, lead us forth from the shadows of self-absorption. You who desire that we be a united flock, save us from the forms of polarization and the “isms” that are the devil’s handiwork. And we, your Church, with Peter and like Peter, now say to you: “Lord, you know everything; you know that we love you” (cf. Jn 21:17).

See Also

The Tablet

National Catholic Reporter

Religion News Service

The Pope, the Environment Crisis and Frontline Leaders

In 2015, Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si’ (The Letter); an encyclical letter about the environmental crisis to every single person in the world. A few years later, four voices that have gone unheard in global conversations have been invited to an unprecedented dialogue with the Pope. Hailing from Senegal, the Amazon, India, and Hawai’i, they bring perspective and solutions from the poor, the indigenous, the youth, and wildlife into a conversation with Pope Francis himself. This documentary follows their journey to Rome and the extraordinary experiences that took place there, and is packed with powerfully moving personal stories alongside the latest information about the planetary crisis and the toll it’s taking on nature and people.

Because, in the words of the Laudato Si’ Movement chair Lorna Gold, “once you know, you CANNOT look away.” #LaudatoSiFilm

Learn more about the protagonists and how you can take action at

Pope Francis: Care of Creation

Dear brothers and sisters!

“Listen to the voice of creation” is the theme and invitation of this year’s Season of Creation.  The ecumenical phase begins on 1 September with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and concludes on 4 October with the feast of Saint Francis.  It is a special time for all Christians to pray and work together to care for our common home.  Originally inspired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, this Season is an opportunity to cultivate our “ecological conversion”, a conversion encouraged by Saint John Paul II as a response to the “ecological catastrophe” predicted by Saint Paul VI back in 1970. 

If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance.  On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home.

The sweet song of creation invites us to practise an “ecological spirituality” (Laudato Si’, 216), attentive to God’s presence in the natural world.  It is a summons to base our spirituality on the “loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion” (ibid., 220).  For the followers of Christ in particular, this luminous experience reinforces our awareness that “all things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (Jn 1:3).  In this Season of Creation, we pray once more in the great cathedral of creation, and revel in the “grandiose cosmic choir” made up of countless creatures, all singing the praises of God.  Let us join Saint Francis of Assisi in singing: “Praise be to you, my Lord, for all your creatures” (cf. Canticle of Brother Sun).  Let us join the psalmist in singing, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!” (Ps 150:6).

Tragically, that sweet song is accompanied by a cry of anguish.  Or even better: a chorus of cries of anguish.  In the first place, it is our sister, mother earth, who cries out.  Prey to our consumerist excesses, she weeps and implores us to put an end to our abuses and to her destruction.  Then too, there are all those different creatures who cry out.  At the mercy of a “tyrannical anthropocentrism” (Laudato Si’, 68), completely at odds with Christ’s centrality in the work of creation, countless species are dying out and their hymns of praise silenced.  There are also the poorest among us who are crying out.  Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more gravely the impact of the drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves that are becoming ever more intense and frequent.  Likewise, our brothers and sisters of the native peoples are crying out.  As a result of predatory economic interests, their ancestral lands are being invaded and devastated on all sides, “provoking a cry that rises up to heaven” (Querida Amazonia, 9).  Finally, there is the plea of our children.  Feeling menaced by shortsighted and selfish actions, today’s young people are crying out, anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent, or at least limit, the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.

Listening to these anguished cries, we must repent and modify our lifestyles and destructive systems.  From its very first pages, the Gospel calls us to “repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Mt 3:2); it summons us to a new relationship with God, and also entails a different relationship with others and with creation.  The present state of decay of our common home merits the same attention as other global challenges such as grave health crises and wars.  “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (Laudato Si’, 217).

As persons of faith, we feel ourselves even more responsible for acting each day in accordance with the summons to conversion.  Nor is that summons simply individual: “the ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion” (ibid., 219).  In this regard, commitment and action, in a spirit of maximum cooperation, is likewise demanded of the community of nations, especially in the meetings of the United Nations devoted to the environmental question.  

The COP27 conference on climate change, to be held in Egypt in November 2022 represents the next opportunity for all to join in promoting the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.  For this reason too, I recently authorized the Holy See, in the name of and on behalf of the Vatican City State, to accede to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, in the hope that the humanity of the 21st century “will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities” (ibid., 65).  The effort to achieve the Paris goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C is quite demanding; it calls for responsible cooperation between all nations in presenting climate plans or more ambitious nationally determined contributions in order to reduce to zero, as quickly as possible, net greenhouse gas emissions.  This means “converting” models of consumption and production, as well as lifestyles, in a way more respectful of creation and the integral human development of all peoples, present and future, a development grounded in responsibility, prudence/precaution, solidarity, concern for the poor and for future generations.  Underlying all this, there is need for a covenant between human beings and the environment, which, for us believers, is a mirror reflecting “the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying”.  The transition brought about by this conversion cannot neglect the demands of justice, especially for those workers who are most affected by the impact of climate change.

For its part, the COP15 summit on biodiversity, to be held in Canada in December, will offer to the goodwill of governments a significant opportunity to adopt a new multilateral agreement to halt the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species.  According to the ancient wisdom of the Jubilee, we need to “remember, return, rest and restore”.  In order to halt the further collapse of biodiversity, our God-given “network of life”, let us pray and urge nations to reach agreement on four key principles: 1. to construct a clear ethical basis for the changes needed to save biodiversity; 2. to combat the loss of biodiversity, to support conservation and cooperation, and to satisfy people’s needs in a sustainable way; 3. to promote global solidarity in light of the fact that biodiversity is a global common good demanding a shared commitment; and 4. to give priority to people in situations of vulnerability, including those most affected by the loss of biodiversity, such as indigenous peoples, the elderly and the young.

Let me repeat: “In the name of God, I ask the great extractive industries – mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness – to stop destroying forests, wetlands, and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people”.

How can we fail to acknowledge the existence of an “ecological debt” (Laudato Si’, 51) incurred by the economically richer countries, who have polluted most in the last two centuries; this demands that they take more ambitious steps at COP27 and at COP15.  In addition to determined action within their borders, this means keeping their promises of financial and technical support for the economically poorer nations, which are already experiencing most of the burden of the climate crisis.  It would also be fitting to give urgent consideration to further financial support for the conservation of biodiversity.  Even the economically less wealthy countries have significant albeit “diversified” responsibilities (cf. ibid., 52) in this regard; delay on the part of others can never justify our own failure to act.  It is necessary for all of us to act decisively.  For we are reaching “a breaking point” (cf. ibid., 61).

During this Season of Creation, let us pray that COP27 and COP15 can serve to unite the human family (cf. ibid., 13) in effectively confronting the double crisis of climate change and the reduction of biodiversity.  Mindful of the exhortation of Saint Paul to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep (cf. Rom 12:15), let us weep with the anguished plea of creation.  Let us hear that plea and respond to it with deeds, so that we and future generations can continue to rejoice in creation’s sweet song of life and hope.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 16 July 2022,  Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Visit Season of Creation website

For Small Businesses

Everyone knows that the crisis, which we have not left behind us yet, has very serious socio-economic consequences. Not only for large companies, but above all for small and medium-sized businesses, craftsmen, “stores, workshops, cleaning businesses, transportation businesses, and so many others.” Their sacrifice to find a way out of this crisis, to save their business and their employees, has been huge. “With courage, with effort, with sacrifice, they invest in life creating wellbeing, opportunities, and work.” Pope Francis has chosen to thank them for their work in his prayer intention for the month of August. Let us join his expression of gratitude by sharing this video.

“As a consequence of the pandemic and the wars, the world is facing a grave socio-economic crisis. We still don’t realize it! And among those most affected are small and medium-sized businesses. Stores, workshops, cleaning businesses, transportation businesses, and so many others. The ones that don’t appear on the lists of the richest and most powerful, and despite the difficulties, they create jobs, fulfilling their social responsibility. The ones that invest in the common good instead of hiding their money in tax havens. They all dedicate an immense creative capacity to changing things from the bottom up, from where the best creativity always comes. With courage, with effort, with sacrifice, they invest in life creating wellbeing, opportunities, and work.

Let us pray for small and medium sized businesses; in the midst of economic and social crisis, may they find ways to continue operating, and serving their communities.”

July 2022 - For the Elderly

For the elderly
We pray for the elderly, who represent the roots and memory of a people; may their experience and
wisdom help young people to look towards the future with hope and responsibility.