“Lazarus, come out! Jesus cried out (John 11, 43)”. However, what does it mean “to be outside”?

Summary of Mgr. Bruno-Marie DUFFÉ speech during the FHA International Conference (November 28, 2018)


To be outside, explains Bishop Duffé (Secretary of the Dicastery for the Integral Human Development Department), during the FHA International Conference, is to be in the nude in front of others, to be crucified on the cross of our failures and disillusions and to experience the great wind of mistrust…

To be outside is to be in the high winds of uncertainty, in the cold facing its own limits, at the mercy of the rain, the wind and the hunger… it is the anxiety of not knowing if it is possible to find, in this world, a little confidence.


To be outside is to be on the street, a place of anonymity and ignorance.

Nevertheless, this “outside” space can be also, and “paradoxically”, a space for an “unexpected and luminous encounter”,  space where a spiritual experience can be lived: A “spiritual conversion to the welcoming each other”.

This “spirituality of encounter with our homeless brothers and sisters” is built, according to Mgr. Duffé, on three major pillars: the look, the presence, and the Word.

This experience of the Way begins with the look, a “calm and shared look”. The look is a door between the physical, the spiritual, and the community life in which everyone is called by his name. To be looked at is to be recognized, to be named, to be considered; it is a re-knowledge, it is “to be for someone in the crowd of humans”. It is an experience of an exodus that will allow us to live an encounter in the truth.

In the encounter, we discover ourselves poor and rich at the same time, we discover that the one who is outside has a beautiful face and that the only richness is that of the exchange.

This exchange, this dia-logos, this exodus of ourselves, begins with the Word because the spiritual life – in the footsteps of Christ, the Servant and the Messenger – expresses itself with the words of our human condition, with the eyes that meet and with the lives that are revealed in their needs of humanity.

But for most homeless people, the street is often silent. These people lose the Word, which means the ability to participate in a dialogue. To give them “the word” is to give them the “dignity” that makes each of us a subject capable of receiving and giving.

Indeed, it is about a presence: it is about being there, present for the other, sometimes in a shared silence where one is close to others to listen to it. To speak is to be there, it is a presence.

This exchange, in the street, with the homeless people, commits us “further than where we had planned to go … The charitable approach “to the other” becomes the fraternal approach “with you”.

Referring to the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Gaudete and Exsultate (2018), on the call to holiness in today’s world, Bishop Duffé evokes three ingredients of any “encounter in truth”:

  • Humility or gentleness: a style “proposed by Jesus” and that “goes through humility”. In the Bible, gentle and poor are referred to by the same phrase. So the most humble are for us masters. The spirituality of the presence to the poorest is a spirituality of proximity in humility and gentleness.
  • Fervor (or daring), that is “to live what we believe deeply, in a great availability to the inspiration of the Spirit and in a great listening of the other”.
  • Attention to details, and that means paying attention to the simple things of everyday life. It is Jesus who exhorts all of us to pay attention to the details, the little things that concern others and their happiness. It is “the contemplation of the face of Christ in the presence of the homeless brother or sister” that “leads us to receive Christ in this other that we can never reduce to what he is or what he became”.

And this is how we evangelize and let ourselves be evangelized by the other: he and she who pose on us a look that raises us; he and she who, in the moment of gratitude, pronounce for us, the Word that calls us out (of our certainties and our comfort), to pass from fear to love, from death to life.

So, let us go outside to live the adventure of an encounter!




  • Mgr. Bruno-Marie DUFFÉ speech on YouTube.
  • Click here to get the article in “pdf” format.