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Sacrofano (Rome), 25 April 2024

18th National Assembly of Italian Catholic Action. Opening address

Eva Fernández Mateo, National President Acción Católica General Spain and Coordinator of the Secretariat of the International Forum of Catholic Action

Last update: 3 May 2024


The National Presidency of Italian Catholic Action has invited Eva Fernández Mate to participate in the 18th National Assembly as Honorary President in the opening sessions on 25 April afternoon and 26 morning.
We publish her speech.

Thank you very much for the invitation to participate in your XVIII General Assembly and to share these days that are so important for the life not only of Catholic Action, but also of the Italian Church and society, thanks to your commitment in the social tissue.

At the beginning of this Assembly, I would like to bring to everyone’s heart the request that Pope Francis made to the new secretariat of the International Forum of Catholic Action in November 2022. Those words still resonate within me and inspire me each day. He told us:

Firstly, listen to the real men, women, elderly, young people and children, in their contexts, in the silent cries expressed in their gazes and in their profound lamentations. (…) Listen with open ears to newness with a Samaritan heart.
Second, listen to the beats of the signs of the times (…) to make history — with its complexities and contradictions — a history of salvation. We need a vitally prophetic Church, starting from signs and gestures that show that there is another possibility for coexistence, human relations, work, love, power and service.
And lastly, to make this possible, we need to listen to the voice of the Spirit (that…) invites us to walk ancient and ever-new paths: those of witness, poverty and mission, to free us from ourselves and send us into the world. [1].

The Pope asks us: Listen to everyone, listen to the signs of the times and listen to the Spirit.

During the celebration of the Synodal Assembly last October, the need and fundamental value of listening and deep dialogue came to the forefront in order to be able to respond to the many challenges we are facing today. Many of these challenges are highlighted in the draft document prepared for this Assembly.

I am convinced that, in the Synodal Church, we Catholic Action members have much to offer through our experience of walking together, our formation, discernment, decision-making and involvement in public life. With humility and also recognising our weaknesses, we offer our experience of faith to continue to take steps to realise the Church and the world that the Lord dreams of.

All this way undertaken with the Synod is a constant invitation to recuperate the centrality of our mission: to proclaim Jesus Christ. “As disciples of Jesus, we cannot shirk the task of manifesting and transmitting to wounded humanity the love and tenderness of God”,[2] favouring, with our witness, “paths of reconciliation, hope, justice and peace”.

It is a favourable time for a personal and communitarian conversion that helps us to be a Church with open doors that welcomes, listens and accompanies all people in their concrete reality, without prejudice or labels; a Church in which we promote a culture of encounter and of care; a Church in which we feel at home, in a family. A Church in which the preferential option for the poorest and most vulnerable is clearly reflected, integrating them into our communities, giving them a voice and denouncing all situations of injustice and abuse.

The motto of your meeting with the Pope “With Open Arms” expresses your desire to move forward in this synodal way.

This is also demonstrated by the title of the National Assembly ‘Witnesses of all things done by Him’.

Looking at our communities today, deepening our understanding of the lay vocation and helping, as Catholic Action, many other lay people to live it in their daily lives is a great responsibility. May we find ways to make co-responsibility a reality in each of our parishes and dioceses, working in complementarity and reciprocity between men and women, valuing the charisms and gifts of each one. In the Instrumentum Laboris for the Synodal Assembly it is told us that “the contribution of each baptised person is unique and indispensable.”[4] Do we really believe this affirmation? Do I feel that my contribution is unique and indispensable? And that of others? In our Church, there is an urgent need to give voice and value, especially to the YOUTH, those who feel excluded and marginalised, those on the periphery, those whom no one takes into account.

And in this experience of co-responsibility, you know that the Pope often says that clericalism is “the worst evil that the Church can have today.”[5] As Catholic Action, working together with our pastors, we collaborate so that, step by step, we can put an end to this bad exercise of authority and above all so that we ourselves do not fall into the temptation of lay clericalism. Let our reference and model always be Jesus, who exercised authority through service, and let us always imitate him in every task or responsibility that is asked of us.

This Assembly can also be a propitious moment to discern how to live our own task each day.

During these days, all Catholic Action in the world is keeping you present and praying for you, and in particular General Catholic Action in Spain, since all the persons responsible in each diocese will meet this weekend. We will be united in prayer and discernment so that the Spirit will show you the way to follow, ready to respond to the needs of the Church pilgrim in Italy[6] and, as Pope Francis told us on the 30th anniversary of IFCA, I am sure you will experience that, “with the strength of the Spirit, we must give an answer here and now to the cries of the world” … Church en salida that approaches like the Samaritan to every man and woman who suffers in their flesh or in their spirit the pain of this time.[7]

I wish you a fruitful Assembly and may you continue to journey together, experiencing “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelising”[8].


[1] Message of the Holy Father Francis to the International Forum of Catholic Action, 27 November 2022.
[2] Synthesis Report of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Introduction. October 2023.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Instrumentum Laboris for the first session of the XVI General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, n. 53.
[5] Interview of Pope Francis with El País in January 2017.
[6] Cf. Letter of the Holy Father on the 30th anniversary of the International Forum of Catholic Action. November 2021.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Speech by Pope Francis to the participants at the Congress of the International Forum of Catholic Action. April 2017.

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