The Magisterium of Francis takes up and reproposes the vision of Vatican Council II on the Church and her relationship with the world. He insists much on a fraternal Church, outgoing to be with the last, the excluded; a disciple-missionary Church that puts itself at the service of the needy. In two words, a “ministerial Church”. We are invited to rediscover the authentic meaning of ministry: the meaning of ministry to which we are referring, in fact, is that of “service”. But it is not taken for granted: etymologically it can also mean “office”, therefore it can assume an administrative and power reference. Thus, before Vatican II, a decidedly clerical perspective prevailed, in which the real ministers are the priests and bishops, on whom coadjutors depend. The minister had to be different, put aside, separate. The ministry was first of all service to a religion centered on the rite, the laws and the rubrics. All this led to emphasize external aspects, such as external garments and symbols, while holiness was often associated with the observance of tradition. It was a service of the religious structure rather than of people and was unilaterally focused on individual sin and individual conversion. The community is the object of the minister’s zeal, therefore fundamentally passive and dependent on the minister.
A “new” ecclesiology
The ecclesiology of the Council clearly goes beyond this perspective. It sees that every baptized person is called to a ministerial service, inasmuch as the subject is the Church as the “people of God”, which as a Christian community confers on each one a mandate by virtue of baptism and confirmation. As a participation in the ministry of Christ, every ministry and every minister have the same dignity. The ministry presupposes closeness and insertion among the people, sharing, collaboration. At the center is not so much the ecclesiastical structure, but the people with their “joys and hopes, sorrows and anxieties” (Gaudium et spes 1), with their human and social needs and aspirations. It therefore requires an “outgoing church”, as Pope Francis insists, capable of reaching the existential peripheries of our time.
This passage is the natural consequence of the fact that the Church “is, in Christ, in some way the sacrament, that is, the sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race” (Lumen gentium 1) . The Church is therefore a “mystery”, that is, a reality permeated by the presence of God. The union with God and the unity of the whole human race are two sides of the same coin: it is because of her union with God that the Church participates in God’s initiative to bring about the Kingdom of God for all mankind. In the ministerial vision, the minister is the facilitator of the activity of the community which must be a sacrament of salvation for all people, Christians and non-Christians, for the cosmos and the environment.
The Christian community is a sacrament of social transformation in view of the Kingdom, subject of transformation and in transformation. Passiveness for the community is a state of mortal sin, in the sense that it endorses the processes that are leading to the destruction of peoples and the environment. Today social conversion and social sin are forcefully entering into the new ministerial vision. Therefore, ministers are at the service of making the community active and dynamic in order to transform today’s world according to God’s plan, helping themselves with the indications of the Church’s social teaching for human rights, the common good, social justice, and the safeguarding of creation.