VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The world doesn’t need a lesson in “theoretical poverty” from Catholic priests, brothers and nuns, but it needs a living example of how to be careful with money, live simply and share with others, Pope Francis said.
Every Christian is called to be a wise steward of resources and generous in helping others, but with their vow of poverty and their pledge to put God and their brothers and sisters first, members of religious orders must be especially attentive to what they do with money, the pope said in a message to the treasurers of religious orders.
The goods of a religious order must be “administered with care and transparency,” and religious “cannot tolerate waste,” he said in the message to religious attending a symposium organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life March 8-9.
Religious orders “always have been a prophetic voice and a vivacious witness of the newness found in Christ and of conformity to him who made himself poor to enrich us with his poverty,” the pope said.
“This loving poverty is solidarity, sharing and charity,” Pope Francis told the religious. The vow of poverty must be “expressed in simplicity, in the search for justice” and in being happy with just the essentials in order “to guard against the material idols that obscure the authentic meaning of life.”
“There is no need for a theoretical poverty, but for the poverty one learns from touching the flesh of the poor Christ in the humble, the poor, the sick and children,” he said.
Opening the conference in Rome, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the congregation, said, “for the church, the correct administration of temporal goods is not simply an obligation of propriety or style, but a human obligation.”
Material goods, he said, are needed for building and maintaining churches, ensuring the space and the dignity of liturgical celebrations; supporting clergy and other church workers, including by offering them spiritual and doctrinal formation and education; and carrying out various ministries, especially those that help the poor, the sick and the needy.
In all that they do — including how they raise, spend and save money — religious orders and their members must reflect Gospel values, living “with the simplicity and the prudence appropriate to disciples of the Lord,” the cardinal said.
Where possible and appropriate, he said, religious orders should share resources; they always must respect any conditions they agreed to when they accepted a donation; they must follow the highest standards of financial transparency; and they must respect the civil laws of the countries where they operate.