Loving service is best evangelization, pope tells Franciscans

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Embracing poverty and modeling a fraternity that accepts everyone as a brother or sister, members of Franciscan orders are called to go out into the world and witness how the Gospel truly is good news for everyone and for the planet, Pope Francis said.

"Love given in service is the greatest mode of proclamation," the pope wrote in a letter to the "Franciscan family" -- orders of priests, brothers and sisters -- celebrating the 800th anniversary of Pope Honorius III approving the rule St. Francis of Assisi wrote for his order.

In the letter released Nov. 29, Pope Francis said the anniversary "is a propitious occasion not only to recall a historical event, but above all to revive in you the same spirit that inspired Francis of Assisi to strip himself of everything and give rise to a unique and fascinating form of life rooted in the Gospel."

He prayed that the anniversary would be marked a renewed commitment to embracing the "missionary mandate of the church that calls you to go out to meet the world where many brothers and sisters are waiting to be consoled, loved and cared for."

The call to Christians to "go out" and share the Gospel is at the heart of the Franciscan rule, the pope said. It is the same call the pope summarized 10 years ago in the exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel" when he wrote, "In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded."

In a world "unfortunately marked by wars and conflicts, by selfishness of all kinds and by exploitation of the environment and of the poor," the pope said, Franciscans are called to share "the blessedness of poverty" and of knowing that all people are brothers and sisters.

The Franciscan witness, he said, can demonstrate how "the Gospel is indeed good news for humanity."

Pope Francis also asked members of the Franciscan family to imitate St. Francis in complete fidelity to the church and to the popes.

"Live the spirit of the Rule in listening and dialogue, as the synodal journey suggests," the pope wrote. "Tenaciously support the Church, repair it by example and witness, even when it seems to cost more!"