Conversion is not easy, because it means changing one’s life, changing one’s ways, changing so many things, even changing the soul. But this path of conversion will give us the identity of a people who knows how to bear children, not a sterile people! If we, like the Church, do not know how to bear children, something is not working! The great challenge for the Church today is to become mother
: mother! Not a perfectly organized non-profit, with so many pastoral plans…. We need them, sure… But that is not essential, it is just a help. A help to what? To the motherhood of the Church. If the Church is not mother, it is sad to say that she becomes a spinster, but she does become a spinster! That’s how it is: she bears no fruit. The Church not only makes children, but it is part of her identity to make children, that is, to evangelize, as Paul VI says in Evangelii nuntiandi. The Church’s identity is this: to evangelize, that is, to make children. I think of our mother Sarah, who grew old without children; I think of Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharius, old without children; I think of Noemi, another old woman without descendents… And these barren women did bear children, they were given descendents: the Lord is capable of doing that! That is why the Church must do something, must change, must convert in order to become mother
. She must be fruitfull! Fruitfulness is a grace that we today need to ask from the Holy Spirit, so that we can go forward in our pastoral and missionary conversion. This is not a question of seeking to proselytize, no, no!
To go ring the bell: “Would you like to come to this association called the Catholic Church?…”. We need to make a card, another member… The Church — Benedict XVI told us — does not grow through proselytism, she grows through attraction, maternal attraction, offering her motherhood: she grows through tenderness, her maternity
, the witness that generates ever more and more children. She is a little aged, our Mother Church
… We shouldn’t call her “Grandma Church”, but still she is a little older… We must rejuvenate her! We must rejuvenate her, but not by taking her to the plastic surgeon, no! This is not the true rejuvenation of the Church, it doesn’t work. The Church grows younger when she is capable of generating more children
; she grows younger the more she becomes mother.
(Address to participants in Rome’s Diocesan conference, June 16, 2014