VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Religious men and women need to be setting people’s faith on fire, not stamping it out, Pope Francis said.

“It makes me sad when I see religious who seem more like firefighters” than men and women who are ardently filled with the flame of faith and ready to share it with others, he told representatives of congregations founded by St. Magdalene of Canossa during an audience at the Vatican April 29.

Pope Francis speaks with representatives of congregations founded by St. Magdalene of Canossa and members of the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel during an audience at the Vatican April 29, 2024. The congregations were holding their general chapter meetings in Rome. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Members of the Canossian Sons of Charity, also known as the Canossian Fathers, and the Canossian Daughters of Charity were holding their general chapters in Rome with the theme, “The one who does not burn does not set on fire!”

Reflecting on their theme, the pope encouraged them to set people’s faith ablaze and, “please, no firefighters! We already have too many.”

The pope encouraged the Canossian family’s collaboration with each other and with laypeople, “who are increasingly active and involved.”

“This is important: to have laypeople involved in the spirituality of an institute and who collaborate with its apostolic work,” the pope said.

Their legacy also brings about challenges, he said, “but St. Magdalene showed you how to overcome difficulties.”

He encouraged them to emulate her “when the path becomes difficult.” Look at the crucified Jesus and “look into the eyes and wounds of the poor, and you will see that slowly the answers will make their way into your hearts with ever greater clarity.”

During the same audience, the pope also greeted members of the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel, who were attending their general chapter in Rome April 3-May 1.

He praised their great international diversity, calling it a “richness” given to them by God.

This treasure “will do so much good for your growth and your apostolate if you know how to live by welcoming and constructively sharing diversity, among yourselves and with everyone,” the pope said.

“Uniformity in a religious institute, in a diocese, in a lay group, kills,” he said. “Diversity in harmony makes one grow.”

“This is an important message, especially in our world, often divided by selfishness” and divisive distinctions, he said.

Diversity is a precious gift to be shared, he said, encouraging them to “be prophets of this with your lives.”