Yáñez Reflects on Pope Francis’s Ideas at Gasson Chair Lecture

Humberto Miguel Yáñez, S.J., a professor at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, spoke at the Gasson Chair Lecture on Thursday, a twice-a-year lecture hosted by a visiting Jesuit professor. 

Yáñez joined the Society of Jesus when he was about 19 years old, and his provincial was Pope Francis, then Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he said. In the lecture, Yáñez analyzed Francis’ tenets regarding the direction of the Church and its impact on Christian ethics. 

“The five main principles of the reform of the Church have five points—pastoral principle, conversion, synodality, Christology of the people of God, [and] relationship between the Church and society,” he said. 

Yáñez discussed Pope Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi, an apostolic exhortation written in 1975 that discusses evangelization and the effect it had on Francis. 

“Paul VI, in Evangelii Nuntiandi, speaks about the necessity to rediscover popular piety, from the faith of the people and the enculturated theology,” he said.

Francis understood that evangelization is the duty of the whole Church and needs to be in touch with reality, Yáñez said. 

“Francis took this purpose in a more radical way,” he said. “All the church, all the structures of it … all the people have to evangelize. In a more practical sense, Christian ethics has to be at the service of the evangelization.”

Yáñez said Francis values conversion and its indispensability to the reform of the Church.

“Francis encourages the Church to focus on the pastoral conversion rooted in evangelical conversion,” he said. “In fact, he wants to transport the Church to be permanently in a state of mission.”

Yáñez explained how Francis sees a need for a shift in the attitude the Church has toward sinners. The Church should become less legalistic and more merciful, he said. 

“The viewpoint of mercy has to be the main key point of Christian ethics too,” he said. “The Church has to convert herself from a legalistic mentality to a merciful attitude.”

Francis uses the ideal of the inverted pyramid to show that the pastor should act inclusively as a father and brother for parishioners, Yáñez said. 

“Francis’ ideal of an inverted pyramid is linked with pastoral principle, and the ideal of a pastor who sometimes goes before the people, and other times he will have to walk after them,” he said.

In discussing the people of God, Yáñez said Francis identifies a particular connection the poor have with the Church. Francis intends for followers to learn from the poor, he said. 

“They are not only recipients of evangelization, but they are also subjects of it,” he said. “Their experience of poverty [is] synced with experience of faith.”

Yáñez said Francis prefers an approach of realism when integrating the Church into the world, particularly in regard to those disadvantaged and the environment. Francis prioritizes the unfortunate, and he wants the Church to offer mercy and integrate anyone into the Church, Yáñez said. 

“What divides society are the ideologies constructed without contact with reality, mostly to defend a need in contrast with the majority,” Yáñez said. “Pope Francis has [positioned] against these ideologies in the church and in the society, instead he proposes a culture of encounter.”

Featured Image by Molly Bruns / Heights Staff

November 14, 2021

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