“Today’s world, ravaged as it is by a throwaway culture, needs you!” Pope Francis tells indigenous people in Chiapas
Perhaps a million indigenous people from different ethnic groups attend Mass in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. The service included incensation, decorations, readings, prayers, as well as religious and indigenous singing. In his address, the pontiff mentions the memory of oppression and God who frees by offering his Son, who “becomes the Way, he becomes the Truth, he becomes the Life, so that darkness may not have the last word and the dawn may not cease to rise on the lives of his sons and daughters.” Indigenous people have many things to teach the rest of the world about how to deal with the environmental crisis.
San Cristobal de Las Casa (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis on Monday morning (local time) celebrated Mass at a sports centre in San Cristóbal de las Casas, in Chiapas, a state in southern Mexico that is home to 13 indigenous peoples, almost all represented at the service. Dominican Bartolomé de las Casas, the apostle of the "Indians" and defender of their rights, was the first bishop of the Diocese of San Cristóbal, established in the 16th century.
In his address, the pontiff said, “Today’s world, ravaged as it is by a throwaway culture, needs you!” For him, indigenous people "know how to interact harmoniously with nature, which they respect as a ‘source of food, a common home and an altar of human sharing’ (Aparecida, 472).” For this reason, they can serve as a model to help today's world find new respect for Mother Earth and mankind. Indeed, “The environmental challenge that we are experiencing and its human causes, affects us all (cf. Laudato Si’, 14) and demands our response. We can no longer remain silent before one of the greatest environmental crises in world history.”
Hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million people came: many from faraway and by rough means. Old and young, in traditional clothes or shirt and tie, the human mass extended far and wide in front of the altar decorated with huge flower paintings. Egged on by a vocal guide, they shouted “litanies” for Pope Francis, "the pope of the people, peace, struggle, justice, indigenous peoples, Maya people, and respect for Mother Earth."
The service was rich in indigenous symbols. A deacon performed the incensation, but so did two women who carried a vase with hot coals, from which a thick incense smoke rose.
The readings were in the local languages and the Pope's Spanish homily was translated into two local languages. An indigenous priest read out a special prayer he wrote in his language, remembering all the oppression, violence, and marginalisation his people endured.
In his homily, the pope emphasised indigenous culture, unlike what is happening today. “Some have considered your values, culture and traditions to be inferior. Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your lands or contaminated them.” Citing local languages, stories and myths, especially one from the Popol Vuh, he said, “The dawn rises on all of the tribes together. The face of the earth was immediately healed by the sun” (33).
“In this expression, one hears the yearning to live in freedom, there is a longing which contemplates a promised land where oppression, mistreatment and humiliation are not the currency of the day. In the heart of man and in the memory of many of our peoples is imprinted this yearning for a land, for a time when human corruption will be overcome by fraternity, when injustice will be conquered by solidarity and when violence will be silenced by peace.”
At the same time, “Our Father not only shares this longing,” but he “becomes the Way, he becomes the Truth, he becomes the Life, so that darkness may not have the last word and the dawn may not cease to rise on the lives of his sons and daughters.”
With the style of liberation theology, Francis noted “In many ways there have been attempts to silence and dull this yearning, and in many ways there have been efforts to anaesthetize our soul, and in many ways there have been endeavours to subdue and lull our children and young people into a kind of lassitude by suggesting that nothing can change, that their dreams can never come true.
“Exposed to a culture that seeks to suppress all cultural heritage and features in pursuit of a homogenized world, the youth of today need to cling to the wisdom of their elders!
“Today’s world, overcome by convenience, needs to learn anew the value of doing things for free!
“We rejoice in the certainty that “The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us” (Laudato Si’, 13). We rejoice that Jesus continues to die and rise again in each gesture that we offer to the least of our brothers and sisters. Let us be resolved to be witnesses to his Passion and his Resurrection, by giving flesh to these words: Li smantal Kajvaltike toj lek – the law of the Lord is perfect and comforts the soul.
At the end of the service, before the final prayer, people swayed at the rhythm of music, as in a “prayer performed with the body."
A group of priests gave the pontiff a Bible in one of the local languages. Ecstatic, the crowd continued to shout slogans to the pope of "los pobres", of the poor.