Pope calls Church to mission, witness, charity and listening in cities
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Missionary in all things" going out to meet, to listen to, bless and walk with the people" and "being there" in "a concrete witness of mercy and tenderness that seeks to be present in the poor and existential peripheries, directly intervening in the collective imagination to generating direction and meaning to the life of the city". These are the "operational proposals" that Pope Francis gave today to people who carry out Pastoral Ministry in Big Cities in the awareness that the Church is no longer the only representative of culture, that cities are multicultural and we must find out, in the religiosity of our peoples , "authentic religious substrata, which in many cases is Christian and Catholic".
The Pope's articulated address was given this morning to participants at the second phase of the International Congress of the Pastoral care in Big cities (Barcelona, 24 to 26 November 2014).
In his analysis and proposals, aimed to "open new roads", but also "help to explore the possible fears that many times all in one way or another we suffer and which confuse and paralyze us," the Pope's spoke of his personal experience as archbishop of a city, Buenos Aires, with its 13 million inhabitants, the 13th largest in the world in terms of population.
The first requirement, "perhaps the most difficult" is "to implement a change in our pastoral mentality. It has to change." "We come from a centuries old pastoral practice, in which the Church was the only representative of culture. It's true, it is our inheritance. As an authentic Master, she has felt the responsibility to define and impose, not only cultural forms, but also the values, and more deeply to trace the personal and collectiveimagination, ie the stories, the hinges to which people rely to find the ultimate meanings and answers to their questions in life. But we are no longer in that 'era. That's the past. We are not in Christianity, not anymore. Today we are no longer the only ones that produce culture, neither the first, nor the most listened to. We therefore need a change in pastoral mentality, but not a 'pastoral relativism '- no, not that -a pastoral care that loses sight of the Gospel in order to be part of the cultural milieu, leaving the man entrusted to himself and emancipated from the hand of God. No, not that. That is the path of relativism. We could not call it pastoral care! Those who do this have no real interest in the man, but leaves him at the mercy of two equally serious dangers: this hides the truth about Jesus and about man himself. Hiding the truth about Jesus is a serious dangers! It is the road that leads man to the solitude of death". "We must have the courage to be daring and fearless in our pastoral care, because this is what the men, women, families and groups who inhabit the city expect from us, and need for their lives, the good news of Jesus and His Gospel. So often I hear of people who feel ashamed to expose themselves. We must work to have no shame or reluctance in announcing Jesus Christ; find out how to ... This is a priority".
Second is a "dialogue with multiculturalism." "In Strasbourg I spoke to a multi-cultural Europe. But even the big cities are multicultural. And we have to talk to this reality, without fear. It is time to acquire a pastoral dialogue without relativism, which does not negotiate our Christian identity, but one which reaches the heart of others, other than us, and there sow the Gospel. We need a contemplative attitude, that without rejecting the contribution of the various sciences to learn about the urban phenomenon - these contributions are important - seek to discover the foundation of cultures, that in their deepest core are always open towards and thirsty for God. It would help us to discover the imaginary and invisible cities: the groups or the human territories who find identity in symbols, idioms, rites and forms to tell the stories of life".
The third aspect is "the religiosity of the people. God lives in cities. We must go and look for him and remain where He is operating. I know that is not the same thing in different continents, but we have to find out, in the religiosity of our peoples, the 'authentic religious substrata, which in many cases is Christian and Catholic. Not in all: there are non-Christian religions. But we need to go there, to the core. We do not deny nor despise this experience of God which, although sometimes dispersed or mixed, asks to be discovered and not constructed. There, there are the seeds of the Word sown by the Spirit of the Lord. We cannot make hasty or generic judgments like: 'this is just an expression of natural religiosity'. No, this cannot be said ! Right from there we can begin an evangelizing dialogue, as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman and certainly with many more beyond Galilee. In order to carry out an evangelizing dialogue we must be conscience of our Christian identity, even to empathize with the other person. I think I said this to the bishops of Asia, no? Empathy in order to find religiosity in this substrata".
"God continues to speak to us today, as it always
has, by means of the poor, the 'least'. In general, large cities today are
inhabited by many immigrants and poor people, who come from rural areas, or
from other continents, with other cultures".
Fourth, the "urban poor". "The city, along with the multitude of valuable offers for life, has another side that you cannot hide and that in many cities is becoming increasingly clear: the poor, the excluded, the discarded. Today we can talk about discarded. The Church cannot ignore their cry, nor enter the game of unjust small-minded and interested systems, in trying to make them invisible". "In the city, the future of the poor is more poverty. Go there!".
In his analysis the Pope proposed two "pastoral nuclei, which are not just actions" because "ministry is more than action, it is also the presence, content, attitudes, gestures".
The first is "go out and help." "This involves a real ecclesial transformation, where everything is done in the light of mission. A change in mentality: from receiving to going out, from waiting for them to come to going out in search of them. And for me this is key! Go out to meet God who lives in the city and in the poor. Go out to meet, to listen, to bless, to walk with people. To help them meet the Lord. Make the Sacrament of Baptism accessible. Open up the churches. Parish offices with opening hours for people who work . Catechesis suitable in content and times of city life. It is easier to nourish the faith that help give birth to it. I think we need to continue to deepen the changes needed in our various catechesis, substantially in our pedagogical forms, so that the content is better understood but at the same time we must learn to reawaken curiosity and interest in Jesus Christ in our interlocutors. This curiosity has a patron saint in Zacchaeus. We ask him to help us awaken it in others. And then invite them to join Him and to follow Him. We must learn to arouse faith. Arouse faith! And then do not go here, there ... No! Sow! If faith begins to grow the Spirit will cause this person come back to me or come back to ask to take one more step, one more step ... But arouse faith.
The Pope's second proposal is to "be there. To be a Samaritan Church". "This involves a change in the way we witness. A quality pastoral care in urban areas lies in the Churches ability to witness and that of every Christian. Pope Benedict, when he said that the Church does not grow through proselytism but attraction, was speaking of this. The witness that attracts, that intrigues people. Here is the key. Through witness we can be incisive in the deepest nuclei where culture is born. Through witness the Church sows the mustard seed, but does so in the very heart of the cultures that are being generated in the cities. The concrete witness to mercy and tenderness that tries to be present in the poor and existential peripheries, acts directly on the social imaginary, generating direction and meaning to the life of the city. As Christians we help to build cities in justice, solidarity and peace".
"With the social ministry, with Caritas, with different organizations, as the Church always did over the centuries, we can take care of the poor with significant actions, actions that make present the Kingdom of God manifesting and expanding it. Even learning to work with all those who are already doing very effective things in favor of the poor. This space is very conducive to ecumenical pastoral charity, in which we assume the commitments of service to the poor along with brothers of other Churches and ecclesial communities. In all of this the promotion of the laity and of the poor themselves is very important. And even the freedom of the lay person, so that our inability to open doors - the disease of clericalism - does not imprison us. This is one of the most serious problems".