07/27/2013, 00.00
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WYD: For pope, societies must stand for a culture of encounter or everyone loses

Francis met today with Brazil's political leaders and then had lunch with the country's bishops. Ethical values must inform politics, economics, and social life. Pope also speaks on the separation of state and religion. "Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people's side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a Church that accompanies them on their journey; a Church able to make sense of the 'night' contained in the flight of so many of our brothers and sisters".

Rio de Janeiro (AsiaNews) - This morning, his penultimate day in Brazil, Pope Francis made two major speeches in Rio de Janeiro, one to the country's political leaders, and one to its bishops. In the them, he offered guidelines and suggestions that transcend the borders of this vast nation, stressing the need for society to be centred on a "culture of encounter", a society whose components are open to dialogue, in search of an economy and a political system informed by a "humanist vision" based on ethical values, whose Church has room for "Mystery", aware of the limits of its human resources but conscious of the strength of its message.

The Holy Father spoke first at the city's Municipal Theatre (Teatro Municipal) before an audience made up political leaders, diplomats, representatives of civil society, business, culture as well as representatives of the country's main major religious communities. This was followed by lunch with Brazil's bishops at the John Paul II Building (Edifício João Paulo II), near the residence of the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro.

Every seat in the theatre had an occupant. Short musical intermezzos filled the air before and after the speeches. On stage, where the pope sat, a group of girls came out from backstage at one point, unannounced. The youngest gave the Holy Father a bouquet of flowers, and like her friends she sat on the floor in a circle Francis. When it was time to go, the pope said goodbye to each of thrilled and smiling girls.

An indigenous family, wearing a traditional dress with feathers on their head, met the pope who, for a brief moment, wore a traditional Indian headdress (pictured), thus capping off his tour of Brazil's many groups.

National leaders, the pope said, "those in positions of responsibility are called to face the future [. . .] with the calm gaze of one who knows how to see the truth."

In view of this, "I would like to consider three aspects of this calm, serene and wise "gaze": first, the distinctiveness of your cultural tradition; second, joint responsibility for building the future; and third, constructive dialogue in facing the present moment."

Cultural traditions, "The common "feeling" of a people, the foundations of its thought and creativity, the basic principles of its life, the criteria with which it assesses priorities and ways of acting, all rest on an integral vision of the human person."

"To promote an integral humanism and the culture of encounter and relationship: this is the Christian way of promoting the common good, the joy of living. Here, faith and reason unite, the religious dimension and the various aspects of human culture: art, science, labour, literature . . . . Christianity combines transcendence and incarnation; it brings ever new vitality to thought and life, in contrast to the dissatisfaction and disillusionment which creep into hearts and spread in the streets."

The second element is responsibility for society. "This calls for a certain kind of cultural, and hence political, paradigm. We are the ones responsible for training new generations knowledgeable in economic and political affairs, and solidly grounded in ethical values. The future demands of us a humanistic vision of the economy and a politics capable of ensuring greater and more effective participation on the part of all, eliminating forms of elitism and eradicating poverty. This is the road that we are called to travel: to see that basic needs are met and that human dignity, brotherhood and solidarity are guaranteed on every level."

It is a question of choosing, embracing "all of reality, observing, pondering, evaluating, in order to make decisions in the present but with an eye to the future, reflecting on the consequences of our decisions. To act responsibly is to see one's own actions in the light of other people's rights and God's judgement. To preserve this ethical sense appears today as an unprecedented historic challenge. Beyond scientific and technical competence, the present situation also demands a sense of moral obligation expressed in a social and deeply fraternal exercise of responsibility."

In his last point, the pope stressed the importance of "constructive dialogue". In his view, "A country grows when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components: popular culture, university culture, youth culture, artistic and technological culture, economic culture, family culture and media culture. It is impossible to imagine a future for society without a significant contribution of moral energies within a democratic order that will always be tempted to remain caught up in the interplay of vested interests. A basic contribution in this regard is made by the great religious traditions, which play a fruitful role as a leaven of society and a life-giving force for democracy. Peaceful coexistence between different religions is favoured by the separation of state and religion, which, without appropriating any one confessional stance, respects and esteems the presence of the religious factor in society, while fostering its concrete expressions."

"When leaders in various fields ask me for advice, my response is always the same: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. It is the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress, along with the culture of encounter, a culture in which all have something good to give and all can receive something good in return. Others always have something to give me, if we know how to approach them in a spirit of openness and without prejudice. Only in this way can understanding grow between cultures and religions, mutual esteem without needless preconceptions, respectful of the rights of everyone. Today, either we stand together with the culture of encounter, or we all fall; taking the right road makes the journey fruitful and secure."

For the Church, the starting point is the "Mystery" because "the results of our pastoral work do not depend on a wealth of resources, but on the creativity of love. To be sure, perseverance, effort, hard work, planning and organization all have their place, but first and foremost we need to realize that the Church's power does not reside in herself; it is hidden in the deep waters of God, into which she is called to cast her nets."

"Another lesson which the Church must constantly recall is that she cannot leave simplicity behind; otherwise she forgets how to speak the language of Mystery. Not only does she herself remain outside the door of the mystery, but also she proves incapable of approaching those who look to the Church for something that they themselves cannot provide, namely, God himself. At times, we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people. Without the grammar of simplicity, the Church loses the very conditions which make it possible "to fish" for God in the deep waters of his Mystery."

Nowadays, "A relentless process of globalization, an often uncontrolled process of urbanization, have promised great things. Many people have been captivated by the potential of globalization, which of course does contain positive elements. But many also completely overlook its darker side: the loss of a sense of life's meaning, personal dissolution, a loss of the experience of belonging to any "nest" whatsoever, subtle but relentless violence, the inner fragmentation and breakup of families, loneliness and abandonment, divisions, and the inability to love, to forgive, to understand, the inner poison which makes life a hell, the need for affection because of feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness, the failed attempt to find an answer in drugs, alcohol, and sex, which only become further prisons."

For this reason, "Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people's side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a Church which accompanies them on their journey; a Church able to make sense of the "night" contained in the flight of so many of our brothers and sisters from Jerusalem; a Church which realizes that the reasons why people leave also contain reasons why they can eventually return. But we need to know how to interpret, with courage, the larger picture."

"We need a Church capable of restoring citizenship to her many children who are journeying, as it were, in an exodus."

Finally, "In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide. In so doing, she defends treasures of which she is merely the custodian, and values which she does not create but rather receives, to which she must remain faithful."

"The Church claims the right to serve man in his wholeness, and to speak of what God has revealed about human beings and their fulfilment. The Church wants to make present that spiritual patrimony without which society falls apart and cities are overwhelmed by their own walls, pits, barriers. The Church has the right and the duty to keep alive the flame of human freedom and unity."

"Education, health, social harmony are pressing concerns in Brazil. The Church has a word to say on these issues, because any adequate response to these challenges calls for more than merely technical solutions; there has to be an underlying view of man, his freedom, his value, his openness to the transcendent. Dear brother Bishops, do not be afraid to offer this contribution of the Church, which benefits society as a whole."

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