Dreams can be powerful from leaders with the capacity to translate them into action. That was the case with Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech, and it seems to be the ambition of Pope Francis' new Apostolic Exhortation, writes John Allen.
- NCR Online
In effect, the 224-page document, titled in Latin Evangelii Gaudium and released by the Vatican on Tuesday, is a vision statement about the kind of community Francis wants Catholicism to be: more missionary, more merciful, and with the courage to change.
Francis opens with a dream. ' I dream of a "missionary option,"' Francis writes, ' 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 evangelization of today's world, rather than for her self-preservation.'
In particular, Francis calls for a church marked by a special passion for the poor and for peace.
The theme of change permeates the document. The pope says rather than being afraid of 'going astray,' what the church ought to fear instead is 'remaining shut up within structures that give us a false sense of security, within rules that make us harsh judges' and 'within habits that make us feel safe.'
Though Francis released an encyclical letter titled Lumen Fidei in June, that text was based largely on a draft prepared by Benedict XVI. 'The Joy of the Gospel,' designed as a reflection on the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on new evangelization, thus represents the new pope's real debut as an author.
Early reaction suggests it's a tour de force. The text comes with Francis' now-familiar flashes of homespun language. Describing an upbeat tone as a defining Christian quality, for instance, he writes that 'an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!'