On Saturday 19 March, the Solemnity of St Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis released an Apostolic Constitution, long expected, that reforms the Roman Curia. It is a project nine years in the making, a task that Pope Francis has seen as central to his entire papacy. It should not go unremarked that this particular Solemnity of St Joseph, one of the universal patrons of the Church, marks the anniversary of the formal inauguration of Francis’ Petrine ministry.
The Constitution is entitled Praedicate Evngelium, “Proclaim the Gospel”, a title that gives a sense of the overall thrust of the reform as being necessary and predicated upon a return of the Roman Curia being at the service of missionary evangelisation. It is a direct reminder from Pope Francis of the primary need to be about the task of becoming and being missionary disciples he first enunciated in his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.
Although I have only read a Google-translated Italian version of the document, there can be little doubt that Pope Francis is once again seeking to reframe the entire life and raison d’etre of the Church in a missionary key, from the very centre of the Church’s life in the Roman Curia to the very fringes of the Church’s presence. It will be hard to deny that a focus on the mission of proclaiming the Gospel is now key to understanding who the Church is and called to be, and, more importantly, what we are called to be about.
And that might come as a shock to some people who have taken me to task for reminding them of that during my preaching!
There will be more commentary from me once I’ve had a chance to read the entire document from the official English translation when it becomes available.