09/08/2017, 09.47
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Pope to CELAM: Hope in the face of youth, women, lay people

In his encounter with the bishops of the entire Latin American continent, Pope Francis invites us not to dwell on past memories, but to "concretize" the hope that comes from the faith. "Encountering the living Christ", "going out", enhancing the "religiousness of the people", through "passion for evangelization". Accompanying young people; to valorize women; pushing lay people to social commitment.

Bogotà (AsiaNews) - Latin America, the "continent of hope," needs bishops to help "concretize this hope" by underscoring the signs of this hope in the faces of youth, women and lay people of this continent. "Meticcio [mixed race]: not just indigenous, neither Hispanic nor Latin, nor African American, but Meticcio, Latin American! " Pope Francis said this afternoon as he addressed the bishops of CELAM (Latin American Council of Episcopal Conferences), gathering pastors from Latin America and the Caribbean.

From the late 60's to the late twentieth centuries, CELAM's reflections - at Medellin, Puebla, Santo Domingo, and Aparecida - were nearly all the words of the whole Church: liberation, community base, option for and poor, indigenous ...

Meeting with the bishops at Bogota's nunciature, Francis warned them of a sterile celebration of the past: " The essential things in life and in the Church are never written in stone, but remain a living legacy. It is all too easy to turn them into memories and anniversaries to be celebrated: fifty years since Medellín, twenty since Ecclesia in America, ten since Aparecida! Something more is required: by cherishing the richness of this patrimony (pater/munus) and allowing it to flourish, we exercise the munus of our episcopal paternity towards the Church in our continent."

He also listed "temptations" to reduce the Gospel " o a programme at the service of a trendy gnosticism, a project of social improvement or the Church conceived as a comfortable bureaucracy, any more than she can be reduced to an organization run according to modern business models by a clerical caste ". In addition, in the contemporary world it is easy to "become lost", "fragment".

The antidote of all this is "the encounter with the living Christ", which also establishes the unity of life: " Where do we find unity?  Always in Jesus.  What makes the mission last is not the generosity and enthusiasm that burn in the heart of the missionary, even though these are always necessary.  It is rather the companionship of Jesus in his Spirit.  If we do not we set out with him on our mission, we quickly become lost and risk confusing our vain needs with his cause.  If our reason for setting out is not Jesus, it becomes easy to grow discouraged by the fatigue of the journey, or the resistance we meet, by constantly changing scenarios or by the weariness brought on by subtle but persistent ploys of the enemy'".


Against "sterile speculations" and "Byzantinisms of doctors of the law," Francis proposes to "set out with Jesus."

"The Gospel speaks of Jesus who, proceeding from the Father, journeys with his disciples through the fields and the towns of Galilee.  His journeying is not meaningless.  As Jesus walks, he encounters people.  When he meets people, he draws near to them.  When he draws near to them, he talks to them.  When he talks to them, he touches them with his power.  When he touches them, he brings them healing and salvation.  His aim in constantly setting out is to lead the people he meets to the Father.  We must never stop reflecting on this.  The Church has to re-appropriate the verbs that the Word of God conjugates as he carries out his divine mission.  To go forth to meet without keeping a safe distance; to take rest without being idle; to touch others without fear.  It is a matter of working by day in the fields, where God’s people, entrusted to your care, live their lives.  We cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by our air-conditioned offices, our statistics and our strategies.  We have to speak to men and women in their concrete situations; we cannot avert our gaze from them.  The mission is carried out by one to one contact ".

Against the "strong utopias" that " have promised magic solutions, instant answers, immediate effects. ," and against a vision of life that serves to "colonize" the Latin American soul, the pontiff returns to valorise popular religiosity, the spiritual soul of the peoples of the continent: "which is part of its anthropological uniqueness and a gift by which God wants our people to come to know him.  The most luminous pages of our Church’s history were written precisely when she knew how to be nourished by this richness and to speak to this hidden heart.  For it guards, like a spark beneath a coat of ashes, the sense of God and of his transcendence, a recognition of the sacredness of life, respect for creation, bonds of human solidarity, the sheer joy of living, the ability to find happiness without conditions."

Faced with a certain "complacent shadow", due to a "deficit of hope in Latin America today", he traces some paths for the "concretization of hope" on the continent. These paths are both signs of novelty and of challenges to be pursued.

First of all, the world of young people: " We often speak of young people and we often hear statistics about ours being the continent of the future.  Some point to supposed shortcomings and a lack of motivation on the part of the young, while others eye their value as potential consumers.  Others would enlist them in trafficking and violence.  Pay no attention to these caricatures of young people.  Look them in the eye and seek in them the courage of hope.  It is not true that they want to return to the past.  Make real room for them in your local Churches, invest time and resources in training them.  Offer them incisive and practical educational programmes, and demand of them, as fathers demand of their children, that they use their gifts well.  Teach them the joy born of living life to the full, and not superficially.  Do not be content with the palaver and the proposals found in pastoral plans that never get put into practice. " The pope explains that following this track he decided that the 2019 World Youth Day will be celebrated in Panama.

Another track is that of the female world, restrained in the Church by a " ingrained clericalism". " I think of indigenous or black mothers, I think of mothers in our cities working three jobs, I think of elderly women who serve as catechists, and I think of consecrated woman and those who quietly go about doing so much good.  Without women, the Church of this continent would lose its power to be continually reborn.  It is women who keep patiently kindling the flame of faith.  We have a grave obligation to understand, respect, appreciate and promote the ecclesial and social impact of all that they do.  They accompanied Jesus on his mission; they did not abandon him at the foot of the cross; they alone awaited for the night of death to give back the Lord of life; they flooded the world with his risen presence.  If we hope for a new and living chapter of faith in this continent, we will not get it without women.  Please, do not let them be reduced to servants of our ingrained clericalism.  For they are on the front lines of the Latin American Church, in their setting out with Jesus, in their persevering amid the sufferings of their people, in their clinging to the hope that conquers death, and in their joyful way of proclaiming to the world that Christ is alive and risen. "

The third recommended route is the promotion of laity, whose mission is expressed not in a clerical way, but in the social commitment: " Men and women believers, who are prepared to contribute to the spread of an authentic human development, the strengthening of political and social democracy, the overturning of structures of endemic poverty and the creation of an inclusive prosperity based on lasting reforms capable of preserving the common good.  So too, the overcoming of inequality and the preservation of stability, the shaping of models of sustainable economic development that respect nature and the genuine future of mankind, which unfettered consumerism cannot ensure, and the rejection of violence and the defence of peace. "

Linked to the world of lay people, there is attention to the poor. It is necessary, the Pope says, "to see the world with the eyes of the poor" to find solutions to social life: "  Wealth, and the sense of self-sufficiency it brings, frequently blind us to … the solutions to the complex problems we face in that Christian simplicity hidden to the powerful yet revealed to the lowly. "

Finally, Francis invited all the bishops to "passionately" live their pastoral ministry: "Today there is a need for passion. Put your heart in everything you do ... Brothers, please, I ask for passion, evangelizing passion. " And he proposed Saint Toribius of Mogrovejo, who was never really installed in his see: of the twenty-four years of his episcopacy in Lima [Peru], eighteen were passed visiting the towns of his diocese."

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