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Pope to Verbites: ‘Be peacemakers and prophets of hope’

In his address to the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), Pope Francis encourages Verbites to follow “the way of the Spirit” in the footsteps of their founder and to be prophets of hope in a war-torn world.

By Lisa Zengarini

Pope Francis, on Friday, addressed the Missionaries of the Divine Word (SVD), also known as Verbites, gathered for their General Chapter as they prepare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of foundation of the congregation in 2025.

God’s Word generates

In his remarks, the Pope noted the particular significance of the theme chosen for the Chapter: “Your Light Must Shine Before Others (Mt 5:16): Faithful and Creative Disciples in a Wounded World.”

He said the theme highlights the roots of their charism and mission: that of spreading Jesus’ Word of Salvation, living out God’s call to follow in His footsteps, exemplifying His life, as His disciples did.

“God’s Word generates, gives life, inspires, and motivates; it is the focal point of your mission”

Being faithful and creative missionary disciples

Reflecting on the two aspects highlighted by the theme, Pope Francis recalled that “experiencing the love of the Trinity and keeping alive the flame of the Spirit is vital to our growth as missionary disciples and religious.”

“That flame daily renews us; it purifies and transforms us as we make our pilgrim way, ever conscious of our sins, amid the blandishments of this world, but courageous and confident in the mercy of God, who always forgives,” he said.

“We must always forgive. Never deny an absolution: always forgive.”

The Pope went on to note that the source of the Verbites’  “good and healthy” missionary creativity, “comes from the Word and the Spirit, that is, from Christ living within you, who makes you sharers, through the Holy Spirit, in His mission.”

He remarked that their mission of proclaiming the Gospel, in which “the Spirit is the ‘protagonist’,  is carried out  “by spreading joy more than by imposing obligations.”

“Creative missionary activities are born of love for the Word of God; and creativity is born of contemplation and discernment.”

Be peacemakers and prophets of hope for every culture

Pope Francis went on to highlight some pressing current issues facing the Missionaries of the Divine Word today, starting from the need to be peacemakers in a world “scarred by conflicts, wars, the destruction of the environment, violent acts against human life and dignity, fundamentalist ideologies, and many other wounds.”

In this regard, he urged the Verbites to heed the cry for peace rising from the world’s peoples: “Let us listen to this plea and become peacemakers!” he said.

The Pope then pointed at the need to be “prophets of hope for every culture”.

While noting that Verbites, who work in 79 countries around the world, have become “experts in inculturation”, he called for discernment in the the face of the new challenges posed by the internet and social media, which “approached uncritically, are influencing people’s lifestyles and values.”

Be missionaries of synodality

Finally, Pope Francis invited the Verbites to be “missionaries of synodality,” stressing that “today the Church must grow in a synodal approach, listening to everyone, dialoguing with everyone, and discerning in the Spirit what her mission is.” 

He further encouraged them to “be sensitive to the way the Spirit moves: gently, among the simple and in the most distant places.”

Concluding his address, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the example of their founder, Saint Arnold Janssen, who “knew how to discern God’s will and to guide the Society in the way of the Spirit” may guide their communal discernment and help them “to take courageous steps forward.”

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