Everyone! Pope Francis got the young people shouting, over and over. Everyone! There were more than a half million young people at one of the talks he gave at World Youth Day, and he was talking about the Church.
“That is the church, the mother of all; there is room for all. There is space for everyone, and when there isn’t let’s please work so there is,” he said as the shouts rang out around him.
So how do we do what he’s asking us to do? How do we work so that there is a place for everyone in our parishes? And not just so there is a physical place. There are obviously open spaces in our pews. How do we work to be known and accepted by the wider community as a place where there is a place for everyone. Where everyone’s stories are truly listened to. Where the community accepts everyone where they are and as they are, just as our God accepts us.
Let’s face it, the Church has a reputation for being judgmental and unwelcoming. And it is a deserved reputation. How do we work to overcome that at the parish level? The pope is saying very publicly that the Church should be something different and calling us to make that a reality. How do we actually DO that in our parishes and not just sit around waiting for people to come to us?
There’s a reason that hundreds of thousands of young people were cheering the pope. The main reason young people are leaving the church is because they see it as a place that is unwelcoming for certain groups of people. Here was the leader of that organization calling for a new era of welcome. But it won’t truly be a new era of welcome unless each and every Christian community takes on that call and becomes a community of welcome. How WE become communities of welcome in our own parishes needs to be the major task of our time.