09/07/2019, 21.02
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Pope in Madagascar: no one can expect faith to have no social influence

Francis said that pastors have the right to “offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives”. For him, “Christian conversion demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life ‘related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good’.”


Antananarivo (AsiaNews) – "No one" can expect to restrict religion only to the "private sphere", without influence on social life, said Pope Francis in Africa where personal and social rights are often limited and in Madagascar, which is perhaps the poorest country in the world.

The country tonight gave Francis an incredible show of vitality thanks to 200,000 young people who took part in a prayer vigil in Antanarivo.

In his first meeting in the afternoon with the Bishops of Madagascar, in Andohalo Cathedral, which is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, the Pope said that the “Church’s pastors” have “the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives”.

“[T]he task of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being. It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven. We know that God wants his children to be happy in this world too, even though they are called to fulfilment in eternity, for he has created all things ‘for our enjoyment’ (1 Tim 6:17), the enjoyment of everyone. It follows that Christian conversion demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life ‘related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good’. Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society” (Evangelii Gaudium, 182-183).

“I know,” he added, “that you have many reasons for concern and that among these you are conscious of your responsibility to protect the dignity of your brothers and sisters who strive to build a nation of greater solidarity and prosperity, endowed with solid and stable institutions.”

“The prophetic dimension of the Church’s mission calls, always and everywhere, for discernment that, in general, is not easy. In this regard, prudent and independent cooperation between the Church and the state remains a constant challenge, for there is always a danger of collusion, especially if we end up losing the ‘zest of the Gospel’.”

Francis highlighted “concern for all forms of poverty, not only “ensuring nourishment or a ‘dignified sustenance’ for all people, but also their ‘general temporal welfare and prosperity’. This means education, access to healthcare, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use” (Evangelii Gaudium, 192), and which secure the “defense of the human person”, especially the poor.

Inspired by the testimony of two young people, Francis recommended to the young people who performed traditional dances and songs, to become involved in both the Church and society.

“We all know, also from personal experience, that people can ‘go astray’ and run after enticing illusions that promise what seems to be quick, easy and instantaneous joy, but that end up leaving our hearts, our dreams and our soul stranded along the way. When we are young, these illusions seduce us with promises that ultimately deaden us; they take away our vitality and joy; they leave us dependent and bitter, trapped in a dead end.

“About becoming bitter. . . Perhaps it is not the case, but there is a risk that you can start thinking: ‘That’s the way things are. . . nothing will change and no one can alter a single thing’. Especially when you lack the bare necessities to make it from day to day or to pursue your studies, or when you realize that without a job, stability and social injustice, your future is blocked. . . and are then tempted to give up.

“The Lord is the first to tell you no! This is not the way to go. He is alive and he also wants you to be alive. He wants you to share all your gifts and charisms, all your dreams and your talents (cf. ibid., 1). The Lord calls each of us by name and says: Follow me! He does not call us to run after mirages, but to become missionary disciples here and now. He is the first to reject all those voices that would lull you to sleep, make you passive, numb and apathetic, and thus prevent you from seeking new horizons. With Jesus, there are always new horizons to be sought. He wants to change us and to make our lives a mission. But he tells us not to be afraid to get our hands dirty.

“Through you, the future is coming to Madagascar and to the Church. The Lord is the first to trust in you, but he also asks you to trust in yourselves and your own skills and abilities, which are many. He asks you to encourage one another and join him in writing the most beautiful page of your lives, rejecting apathy and, like Rova, offering a Christian answer to the many problems that you face. The Lord calls us to be builders of the future (cf. ibid., 174). He calls you to contribute as only you can, by the joy and freshness of your faith.”

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