Pope Francis spoke to members of Italy’s National Catechetical Office today, and offered some words of encouragement and gratitude to catechists, who do such an important job of forming us in the faith. Earlier this evening, I took part in a pre-confirmation program with my son and his sponsor, via Zoom, and I was deeply impressed by the work they did to put the program together and to do the best they could, given the circumstances of the pandemic. Pope Francis spoke of the commitment and contribution that catechists do for our Church, even mentioning one of his own catechists from his childhood:

“Catechesis is a special space for fostering a personal encounter with Him. Therefore it must be interwoven with personal relationships. There is no true catechesis without the testimony of men and women in flesh and blood. Who among us does not remember at least one of his catechists? I do: I remember the nun who prepared me for my First Communion and was so good to me. They are the first protagonists of catechesis, messengers of the Gospel, often lay people, who commit themselves with generosity to share the beauty of having met Jesus.”

He also emphasized the point that we’ve tried to make at this site so many times, regarding accepting the Magisterium in its entirety, including the Second Vatican Council. Vatican News reports (emphasis mine):

Pope Francis insisted: “This is the Magisterium. The Council is the Magisterium of the Church. Either you are with the Church and therefore you follow the Council, and if you don’t follow the Council or you interpret it in your own away, as you desire, you do not stand with the Church.” He asked that there be “no concessions to those who seek to present a catechesis that does not agree with the Magisterium of the Church.”

As in the post-conciliar period, so also today the Church is called to read “the signs of the times,” “to offer a renewed catechesis that inspires every sphere of pastoral care.” Catechesis “is thus an extraordinary adventure,” the “vanguard of the Church,” which calls for “intelligence and courage to develop up-to-date tools that can transmit the richness and joy of the kerygma to people today.”

Our friend Christopher Lamb offered his own analysis of the address in The Tablet:

In his speech on 30 January, the Pope said the council “must not be negotiated” and that on this point “we must be demanding, strict”.

Warning against a mentality which says “we are the true Catholics”, he cited those believers who split from the Roman Church following the First Vatican Council (1869-70) over the teaching on papal infallibility, and are part of the “Old Catholic Church”. Francis said that today this group ordains women, which runs contrary to official Catholic teaching.

Lamb correctly points out that “the challenge that the teaching of Vatican II faces in the Francis era is not from ‘liberal dissenters’ trying to push it further than the council fathers had in mind, but from those who question the wisdom of the Council at all, or want to so re-interpret it that it would lose its impetus.”

This is a challenge that we will likely continue to face for quite some time.

Updated 2/2/2021 with quote and link from official English translation.

Image: Vatican News

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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