Here is a summary of the the main features of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), which was released at the Vatican today…

– With a mix of conversational style and formal papal magisterial language, Pope Francis sets forth a vision for giving the entire Church, at every level, a missionary thrust; he anticipates some objections and confusion, but asks everyone to give it a try.

– He calls for renewal and rethinking the way every person and every institution – from the Pope and the Roman Curia down to the parish and its parishioners – live their faith and focus their energies.

– The Pope recognises the Church must be realistic about the challenges individuals and the world pose to belief today, but – as a Jesuit – he encourages an Ignatian reading of the situation, looking for the people, places and trends where God is present. The practice should lead to greater consolation, joy and courage in sharing the Gospel.

– Pope Francis sees the Christian life as being based on knowing and experiencing God’s love, mercy and salvation offered to all through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Evangelisation programmes and catechesis must be designed to help people return to that basic knowledge and experience and help them understand church teaching in light of God having revealing himself as loving and merciful.

– He apologetically spends a long section of the document talking about the importance of homilies as the one opportunity each week most priests have to encourage Catholics to live the faith. He provides detailed suggestions on reading the biblical texts for the Mass, writing the homily and delivering it.

– The Pope recognises that some church teachings and positions on modern issues are confusing to many people, especially outside the church. He affirms Church teaching that women cannot be priests since Jesus chose only men as his apostles, but he also says women must be involved more in Church decision making. He also insists that the defense of the life of the unborn flows from the conviction that every life is sacred, and is a position that will not change.

– Pope Francis says that the heart of the Christian moral message is love for one another, which must motivate Christians to share the Gospel, help the poor and work for social justice. – He warns of “spiritual worldliness” which leads apparently good Catholics to be concerned almost exclusively with power or appearances or judging others rather than recognizing their own sin and reaching out to others with the same mercy God offers them.

– The Pope highlights Mary not only as a model of faith and fidelity, but as a strong woman and mother who shared many of the joys and sorrows facing people today and, therefore, understands the challenges they face.