Cardinal Pell backs Laudato Si’ (but you may not guess it from the headlines)

Cardinal Pell (CNS)

Cardinal Pell (CNS)

[Austen Ivereigh] Because financial reports are not, generally, newsworthy, it was inevitable that Cardinal George Pell’s brief remarks on Pope Francis’s ecology encyclical last week in an interview on Vatican finances should have dominated headlines, many of which are claiming that he has “attacked” Laudato Si’.

The interview (behind a paywall) with the Financial Times, ‘Reformer tries to bring light to closed world of Vatican finance’ was a profile of the 74-year Australian cardinal’s efforts to overhaul a tradition of closely-guarded autonomy in Roman dicasteries, opening them to international standards of transparency.

Cardinal Pell speaks about the progress made in another interview with John Allen at Crux, on the occasion of the release of the first ever audited statement of Vatican accounts based on recognised International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) last Thursday (see press release here.)

The statement shows the Vatican still running a deficit of 25.6m euros, though smaller than in 2013, and making progress towards far greater accountability and transparency, although with some way still to go. Cardinal Pell makes clear in both the FT and Allen interviews that his aim is to make the Vatican profitable through spending squeezes and sweating the Vatican assets, while implementing International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), something that normally takes three to five years. “Our model is the Swiss government, which puts out an extremely comprehensive annual financial report”, Danny Casey, Pell’s chief of staff, tells Crux.

In both interviews, Pell acknowledges pushback from some Vatican departments, while claiming that there is far more cooperation because of the involvement of the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

vatican_finances_openerBut what has created the headlines were his remarks in the FT about Laudato Si’. The FT describes Cardinal Pell as “distancing himself” from Pope Francis’s groundbreaking encyclical by making clear that “the Church has no particular expertise in science . . . the church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters. We believe in the autonomy of science.”

But the FT also quotes him as saying that the encyclical has many interesting elements and beautiful parts, that it was “very well received” and “beautifully set out our obligations to future generations and our obligations to the environment”.

This is hardly criticism of the encyclical. Cardinal Pell merely expresses caution about the idea of canonizing a scientific opinion. The cardinal has in the past expressed scepticism about the scientific evidence of climate change, and is doing so again.

But it is quite absurd to claim that these remarks constitute some kind of challenge to Pope Francis, as Damian Thompson attempts to do so in a Spectator blog.

Vatican-financesSounding curiously like a liberal Catholic praising a dissident theologian in favour of female ordination under Pope St John Paul II, Thompson claims that Pope Francis has attempted to impose the scientific consensus of climate change as a kind of dogmatic truth, demanding that “errant faithful should fall into line”. Later he tries again, asserting that Francis has sought to incorporate “a temporary scientific consensus and a grandiose political project into the teaching of the Church.” Having set up this absurd premise, he then tries to portray Cardinal Pell as  bravely stepping out of line in a conscience-driven protest.

But of course Laudato Si’ makes no attempt whatsoever to confuse the Magisterium of the Church with the science of climate change. It simply acknowledges the consensus, while citing its own observation of destruction to the planet — an observation underlined by reports from bishops in poor countries.

Laudato Si’ makes a moral and biblical case for caring for the planet, not a scientific one (in which, as Cardinal Pell points out, the Church has no expertise). The prophetic urgency of the encyclical is drawn from the Pope’s own discernment of the impact of the current consumerist model on the poor and on the planet. That impact is supported by the science — a fact which is not just significant in itself, but important when addressing the whole of humanity, not just those who read the Bible and see God filling the universe.

laudato-siCardinal Pell is a climate change sceptic. He has looked at the science, and is not convinced — or rather, he prefers the evidence of a minority of scientists who question the data. Is he in disagreement, implicitly or explicitly, with Laudato Si’? Of course not: the encyclical sets out our obligations to the planet, and Cardinal Pell salutes them. Thompson’s attempt to turn Cardinal Pell into a martyr for free speech collapses at the first furlong.

Is any Catholic free to disagree with the scientific consensus supporting climate change, which is acknowledged in the encyclical? Of course. The encyclical recognizes that consensus; it does not canonize it. What a Catholic cannot do — at least without putting him or herself in disagreement with the authority of papal teaching — is be indifferent to the call for conversion called for by Pope Francis, using climate change skepticism as an excuse. Laudato Si’ is critical of those who use science to justify inaction, not those who disagree with some of the interpretations of the data.

To use an analogy from history, there were many Catholics who in 1891 did not recognize Leo XIII’s shocking diagnosis of the state of the working class, and its exploitation by a small capitalist class. They accused him of communism, just as now Pope Francis’s US critics accuse him of socialism. But in both cases the popes were pointing to a situation of injustice and wrong and calling for it to be put right. Rerum Novarum no more implied a socialist state than does Laudato Si’.

Vat bank cardStill, Cardinal Pell’s substantial concern is that some might say it does. He is worried that Pope Francis’s critiques of the idolatry of the market and of money will be exploited — as, say, Evo Morales did in Bolivia — to support a socialist or interventionist alternative. He tells Crux:

The market is far from perfect … it’s an imperfect instrument. All you have to do is look at debt levels in many countries to see that. By the same token, however, we’ve also seen historically unprecedented levels of prosperity achieved because of the global spread of capitalism and freer markets. Growth in China and India, for instance, is real and wonderful. Also, we shouldn’t take our prosperity in the “First World” for granted. Right now Greece and Portugal may be in trouble, but overall we have a good standard of living, and we shouldn’t forget that.

Cardinal Pell is not disagreeing with the economic diagnosis of Laudato Si’. He is pointing to the fruits of the market, warning against throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and suggesting that Pope Francis’s view of the market has been conditioned by the South American experience of capitalism, and that it’s not the whole story.

Who has the truer view of the market and its effects, and whether Cardinal Pell needed to point that out, is a matter for debate. What is not in doubt is the call of Laudato Si’ to conversion to care for the environment — something the Vatican’s chief money man clearly backs, whatever the spin some have tried to put on his remarks.

 

 

Posted in human ecology, Laudato Si, Uncategorized

From Paraguay Pope Francis charts bold new future for Latin Americans

Children welcoming Pope Francis to Paraguay

Children welcoming Pope Francis to Paraguay

(Austen Ivereigh) Basking in the warmth of Paraguay’s deeply Catholic Guaraní people, Pope Francis has used the final leg of his extraordinary eight-day, three-nation South American visit to show the bond between the Church and poor, proposing the historic Jesuit missions of the region as a model of how an economy and society can work for the good of all.

Francis flew to Paraguay on Friday afternoon, following a moving meeting that morning in a prison in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz (see report in America and CNS). Following joyous scenes of dancing and music at the airport of the Paraguayan capital, Asunción, Pope Francis was received by the country’s president, Horacio Cartes, at the presidential palace.

“Paraguay is known as the heart of America, not only because of her geographic location, but also because of the warmth of her hospitality and the friendliness of her people,” Francis said in his address.

WITH CARTESReferring to Paraguay’s history, he paid tribute to “the many ordinary Paraguayan people, whose names are not written in history books but who have been, and continue to be, the real protagonists in the life of your nation.”

Paraguay, which was more than twice its current size in the early nineteenth century, was laid waste after a devastating war with its neighbours Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in the mid nineteenth century. As result of the War of the Triple Alliance, the Paraguayan male population was reduced by more than 90 per cent, and the state was all but destroyed. The country survived and was rebuilt as a result above all of the women.

Paraguay-mapFrancis told President Cartes of his “profound admiration [for]the role played by the women of Paraguay in those dramatic historical moments.  As mothers, wives and widows, they shouldered the heaviest burdens; they found a way to move their families and their country forward, instilling in new generations the hope of a better tomorrow.”

There was, however, no mention of the war as genocide, which the Paraguayan ambassador to London told a Catholic Voices meeting a week ago that the government had been hoping for.

Francis went on to give his vision of authentic development:

May all social groups work to ensure that there will never again be children without access to schooling, families without homes, workers without dignified employment, small farmers without land to cultivate, or campesinos forced to leave their lands for an uncertain future.  May there be an end to violence, corruption and drug trafficking.  An economic development which fails to take into account the weakest and underprivileged is not an authentic development.  Economic progress must be measured by the integral dignity of the human person, especially the most vulnerable and helpless.

After the speeches there was a concert that featured a selection of baroque music from the era of the Jesuit missions in Paraguay in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as pieces from the The Mission, the Ennio Morricone-scored dramatization of their tragic suppression.

At the Acosta Ñu pediatric home

At the Acosta Ñu pediatric home

Saturday

The following morning, Saturday, Francis visited the Niños de Acosta Ñú pediatric hospital in San Lorenzo, about 19 miles from the capital, home to children with cancer and cardiovascular problems (see address) before celebrating Mass at the national shrine of the Virgin of Caacupé.

As Cardinal Archbishop, Jorge Bergoglio was close to the hundreds of thousands of Paraguayans living in the shanty towns of Buenos Aires, and has a strong personal devotion to the Virgin, celebrating her feast each year. Before the Mass began, the local bishop later told reporters, Francis was so overcome with emotion that the start of the celebration had to be delayed for a few minutes.

During the Mass, which was rich in languages from Paraguay’s 17 different ethnic groups. Pope Francis prayed the Our Father in Guaraní, beginning, “Ore Ru, yvagape reimeva. …”

caacupeIn his homily — a homage to Mary — Francis began with a favorite theme of the Aparecida document: the vital place of shrines and sanctuaries in the faith of the ordinary faithful.

Being here with you makes me feel at home, at the feet of our Mother, the Virgin of Miracles of Caacupé.  In every shrine we, her children, encounter our Mother and are reminded that we are brothers and sisters.  Shrines are places of festival, of encounter, of family.  We come to present our needs.  We come to give thanks, to ask forgiveness and to begin again.  How many baptisms, priestly and religious vocations, engagements and marriages, have been born at the feet of our Mother!  How many tearful farewells!  We come bringing our lives, because here we are at home and it is wonderful to know there is someone waiting for us.

caacupe-basilic

The Shrine of Caacupé, which has now been declared a Basilica

Francis returned to the theme of the women who had saved Paraguay (see Crux), describing them as the “most glorious women of America”.

Here I would like especially to mention you, the women, wives and mothers of Paraguay, who at great cost and sacrifice were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated and laid low by war.  You are keepers of the memory, the lifeblood of those who rebuilt the life, faith and dignity of your people.  Like Mary, you lived through many difficult situations which, in the eyes of the world, would seem to discredit all faith.  Yet, like Mary, inspired and sustained by her example, you continued to believe, even “hoping against all hope” (Rom 4:18).  When all seemed to be falling apart, with Mary you said: “Let us not be afraid, the Lord is with us; he is with our people, with our families; let us do what he tells us”.  Then and now, you found the strength not to let this land lose its bearings.  God bless your perseverance, God bless and encourage your faith, God bless the women of Paraguay, the most glorious women of America.

Argentines

Argentines flocked to Paraguay to see Francis

Hundreds of thousands of the Pope’s fellow Argentines — including Paraguayans who have made Argentina their home, and who knew Cardinal Bergoglio — boosted the crowds at Caacupé, which is only 25 miles from the border with Argentina. Immigration officials have reported the biggest ever cross-frontier crowds in the two countries’ history.

In the afternoon, at a lively meeting with civil society leaders (see The Tablet), Pope Francis gave a significant address to civil society leaders, developing his idea of a “culture of encounter”. Urging passion and honesty and not to be afraid of differences and conflict, he said “true cultures are not closed in on themselves, but called to meet other cultures and to create new realities.”  Without this “essential presupposition”, he said, “it will be very difficult to arrive at dialogue.  If someone thinks that there are persons, cultures, or situations which are second, third or fourth class…  surely things will go badly, because the bare minimum, a recognition of the dignity of the other, is lacking.”

Simon Cazal

Simon Cazal of Somos Gay

Among the teachers, artists, business leaders, communications professionals, indigenous leaders and farmers — Pope Francis said he was impressed by the variety of groups and their commitment to working for the common good — was Simon Cazal, co-founder of the LGBT rights group Somos Gay (see Guardian interview and Crux backgrounder), who said afterwards he was delighted with the Pope’s message of inclusion.

In response to a question, Pope Francis lambasted extortion. “One method which does not give people the freedom to take on their responsibilities in society, is extortion: you need to do this in order to obtain that. Extortion is still corruption. And corruption is the gangrene of a people.”

Francis repeated his message that helping the poor meant getting close to those in need, not using them as a political category. Observing that “a fundamental part of helping the poor involves the way we see them”, Francis said “an ideological approach” sought to instrumentalize the poor in the service of political or personal interests.

To really help them, the first thing is for us to be truly concerned for their persons, valuing them for their goodness.  Valuing them, however, also means being ready to learn from them.  The poor have much to teach us about humanity, goodness and sacrifice.  As Christians, we have an additional reason to love and serve the poor; for in them we see the face and the flesh of Christ, who made himself poor so to enrich us with his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).

Pope Francis is surrounded by people taking pictures as he arrives for a meeting with representatives of civil society at the San Jose school stadium in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, July 11, 2015. The pontiff is in Paraguay for three days, the last stop of his South American tour. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis is surrounded by people taking pictures as he arrives for a meeting with representatives of civil society at the San Jose school stadium in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, July 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

He then turned to his theme of a more human economy, noting that “every country needs economic growth and the creation of wealth, and the extension of these to each citizen, without exclusion” but wealth creation “must always be at the service of the common good, and not only for the benefit of a few.”

Those charged with promoting economic development, he said, should ensure that “it always has a human face”.

Work is a right and it bestows dignity.  Putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one’s children, giving them health and an education – these are essential for human dignity, and business men and women, politicians, economists, must feel challenged in this regard.  I ask them not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit.  In economics, in business and in politics, what counts first and foremost is the human person and the environment in which he or she lives.

reductions mapHe then alluded to the Jesuit missions of Paraguay in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as offering a model of a socioeconomic organization that met peoples’ core needs.

In their heyday between 1640 and 1720 — before being suppressed by the Spanish Crown jealous of the Jesuits’ independence — there were around 150,000 Guaraní Indians in at least 30 Reductions (villages with farms, based around a central plaza and church) in what is today northern Argentina and Paraguay. Each Reduction was nurtured by just a handful of Jesuits, who not only protected the Indians from Portuguese slave-traders and Spanish colonists, but created prosperous, self-sufficient communities that provoked amazement and admiration in those who visited them.

The Mission

The Mission

Pope Francis said:

Paraguay is rightly known throughout the world for being the place where the Reductions began.  These were among the most significant experiences of evangelization and social organization in history.  There the Gospel was the soul and the life of communities which did not know hunger, unemployment, illiteracy or oppression.  This historical experience shows us that, today too, a more humane society is possible.  Where there is love of people and a willingness to serve them, it is possible to create the conditions necessary for everyone to have access to basic goods, so that no one goes without.

At Banado Norte

At Banado Norte

 

Sunday

This morning (Sunday), Pope Francis visited a riverside slum in Asunción known as Bañado Norte (See AP) where people live in shacks of plywood and corrugated metal in an area notorious for flooding. Francis told the dwellers that he wanted “to see your faces, your children, your elderly, and to hear about your experiences and everything you went through to be here, to have a dignified life and a roof over your heads, to endure the bad weather and the flooding of these last few weeks.”

Pope Francis wrapped up his visit with a huge Mass this morning in the Ñu Guazú field outside Asunción, which was attended by well over a million people.

MAIZE ALTARThe altar was in the shape of the characteristic façades of the Jesuit missions, and included huge images of St Francis of Assisi and St Ignatius of Loyola. Remarkably, it was made out of foodstuffs of the Guaraní people — using 40,000 ears of corn, 200,000 coconuts and 1,000 squash gourds.

Preaching on this morning’s Gospel from Matthew, Pope Francis spoke of evangelization as the capacity to offer hospitality. Noting that Jesus’ instructions to his disciples were above all that they would learn a new hospitality of the heart, he said:

Jesus does not send them out as men of influence, landlords, officials armed with rules and regulations.  Instead, he makes them see that the Christian journey is about changing hearts.  It is about learning to live differently, under a different law, with different rules.  It is about turning from the path of selfishness, conflict, division and superiority, and taking instead the path of life, generosity and love.  It is about passing from a mentality which domineers, stifles and manipulates to a mentality which welcomes, accepts and cares.

These, he said, were “two contrasting mentalities, two ways of approaching our life and our mission.”

NU GUAZU2He said too often Christians thought in terms of converting others with sophisticated strategies or fine arguments, yet Jesus was clear that this was not how to evangelize.

How many times do we see mission in terms of plans and programs.  How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, maneuvers, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments.  Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics.  You convince them by learning how to welcome them.

Nu GuazuDescribing solitude as an evil destroying peoples’ lives, he said “the real work of the Church” was not to manage works and projects “but to learn how to live in fraternity with others.” God’s Word, he said, “breaks the silence of loneliness”.

One thing is sure: we cannot force anyone to receive us, to welcome us; this is itself part of our poverty and freedom.  But neither can anyone force us not to be welcoming, hospitable in the lives of our people.  No one can tell us us not to accept and embrace the lives of our brothers and sisters, especially those who have lost hope and zest for life.  How good it would be to think of our parishes, communities, chapels, wherever there are Christians, as true centers of encounter between ourselves and God.

And he urged that all Christians “provide a home, like Mary, who did not lord it over the word of God, but rather welcomed that word, bore it in her womb and gave it to others.”

(Two texts follow: the address to civil society leaders, and this morning’s homily.)

July 11, Asunción (Paraguay): Pope Francis’ Meeting with representatives of the civil society at León Condou stadium of San José School

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to be with you, the representatives of civil society, and to share our hopes and dreams for a better future.  I thank Bishop Adalberto Martínez Flores, Secretary of the Paraguay Bishops’ Conference, for his words of welcome in your name.

People line the street where Pope Francis passes in his popemobile as he makes his way to the Leon Condu stadium for an event in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, July 11, 2015. Pope Francis lauded the strength and religious fervor of Paraguayan women on Saturday while visiting the country's most important pilgrimage site, where thousands of his fellow Argentines joined with hundreds of thousands of local faithful to welcome Latin America's first pope. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

People line the street where Pope Francis passes in his popemobile as he makes his way to the Leon Condu stadium for an event in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, July 11, 2015.  (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

Seeing all of you together, each coming from his or her own sector or organization within Paraguayan society, each bringing his or her own joys, concerns, struggles and hopes, makes me grateful to God.  A people unengaged and listless, passively accepting things as they are, is a dead people.  In you, however, I see great vitality and promise.  God always blesses this.  God is always on the side of those who help to uplift and improve the lives of his children.  To be sure, problems and situations of injustice exist.  But seeing you and listening to you helps to renew my hope in the Lord who continues to work in the midst of his people.  You represent many different backgrounds, situations and aspirations; all together, you make up Paraguayan culture.  All of you have a part to play in the pursuit of the common good.  “In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable” (Laudato Si’, 158), to see you before me is a real gift.

I also want to thank those of you who prepared the questions.  These have enabled me to see above all your commitment to keep working together for the good of the nation.

1. In the first question, I was pleased to hear a young person express concern that society be a place of fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for everyone.  Youth is a time of high ideals.  It is important that you, the young, realize that genuine happiness comes from working to make a more fraternal world!  It comes from realizing that happiness and pleasure are not synonymous.  Happiness is demanding, it requires commitment and effort.  You are too important to be satisfied with living life under a kind of anasthesia!  Paraguay has a large population of young people and this is a great source of enrichment for the nation.  So I think that the first thing to do is to make sure that all that energy, that light, does not grow dim in your hearts, and to resist the growing mentality which considers it useless and absurd to aspire to things that demand effort.  Be committed to something, be committed to someone.  Don’t be afraid to take a risk.  Don’t be afraid to give the best of yourselves!

But don’t do this alone.  Try to talk about these things among yourselves, profit from the lives, the stories and the wisdom of your elders, of your grandparents.  “Waste” lots of time listening to all the good things they have to teach you.  They are the guardians of that spiritual legacy of faith and values which define a people and illumine its path.  Find comfort, too, in the power of prayer, in Jesus.  Keep praying to to him daily.  He will not disappoint you.  Jesus, in the memory of your people, is the secret to keeping a joyful heart in your quest for fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for everyone.

I liked the poem of Carlos Miguel Giménez which Bishop Martínez quoted.  I think it sums up very nicely what I have been trying to say, “[I dream of] a paradise free of war between brothers and sisters, rich in men and women healthy in heart and soul… and a God who blesses its dawn”.  Yes, God is the guarantee of the dignity of man.

2. The second question spoke about dialogue as a means to advance the project of a fully inclusive nation.  Dialogue, we know, is not easy.  There are many difficulties to be overcome, and sometimes it seems as if our efforts only make things even harder.  Dialogue must be built on something.  It presupposes and demands a culture of encounter.  An encounter which acknowledges that diversity is not only good, it is necessary.  So we cannot start off by thinking that the other person is wrong.  The common good is sought by starting from our differences, constantly leaving room for new alternatives.  In other words, look for something new.  Don’t just take “your own slice of the cake”, but discuss, think, and discover together a better solution for everybody.

Many times this culture of encounter can involve conflict.  This is logical and even desirable.  It is not something we should be afraid of or ignore.  Rather, we are called to resolve it.  This means that we have to “face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process” (Evangelii Gaudium 227), because “unity is greater than conflict” (ibid., 228).  A unity which does not cancel differences, but experiences them in communion through solidarity and understanding.  By trying to understand the thinking of others, their experiences, their hopes, we will be able to see more clearly our shared aspirations.  This is the basis of encounter: all of us are brothers and sisters, children of the same heavenly Father, and each of us, with our respective cultures, languages and traditions, has much to contribute to the community.  True cultures are not closed in on themselves, but called to meet other cultures and to create new realities.  Without this essential presupposition, without this basis of fraternity, it will be very difficult to arrive at dialogue.  If someone thinks that there are persons, cultures, or situations which are second, third or fourth class…  surely things will go badly, because the bare minimum, a recognition of the dignity of the other, is lacking.

3. All this can serve as a way of approaching the concern expressed in the third question.  How do we hear the cry of the poor in order to build a more inclusive society?  A fundamental part of helping the poor involves the way we see them.  An ideological approach is useless: it ends up using the poor in the service of other political or personal interests (Evangelii Gaudium, 199).  To really help them, the first thing is for us to be truly concerned for their persons, valuing them for their goodness.  Valuing them, however, also means being ready to learn from them.  The poor have much to teach us about humanity, goodness and sacrifice.  As Christians, we have an additional reason to love and serve the poor; for in them we see the face and the flesh of Christ, who made himself poor so to enrich us with his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).

Certainly every country needs economic growth and the creation of wealth, and the extension of these to each citizen, without exclusion.  But the creation of this wealth must always be at the service of the common good, and not only for the benefit of a few.  On this point we must be clear.  For “the worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii Gaudium, 55).  Those charged with promoting economic development have the responsibility of ensuring that it always has a human face.  They have in their hands the possibility of providing employment for many persons and in this way of giving hope to many families.  Work is a right and it bestows dignity.  Putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one’s children, giving them health and an education – these are essential for human dignity, and business men and women, politicians, economists, must feel challenged in this regard.  I ask them not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit.  In economics, in business and in politics, what counts first and foremost is the human person and the environment in which he or she lives.

Paraguay is rightly known throughout the world for being the place where the Reductions began.  These were among the most significant experiences of evangelization and social organization in history.  There the Gospel was the soul and the life of communities which did not know hunger, unemployment, illiteracy or oppression.  This historical experience shows us that, today too, a more humane society is possible.  Where there is love of people and a willingness to serve them, it is possible to create the conditions necessary for everyone to have access to basic goods, so that no one goes without.

Dear friends, it is a great pleasure to see the number and variety of associations sharing in the creation of an ever more prosperous Paraguay.  I see you as a great symphony, each one with his or her own specificity and richness, yet all working together towards a harmonious end.  That is what counts.

Love your country, your fellow citizens, and, above all, love the poor.  In this way, you will bear witness before the world that another model of development is possible.  I am convinced that you possess the greatest strength of all: your humanity, your faith, your love.

I ask Our Lady of Caacupé, our Mother, to watch over you and protect you, and to encourage you in all your efforts.  God bless you.

12 July, Asunción (Paraguay): Homily at Ñu Guazú field 

“The Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”.  These are the words of the Psalm.  We are invited to celebrate this mysterious communion between God and his People, between God and us.  The rain is a sign of his presence, in the earth tilled by our hands.  It reminds us that our communion with God always brings forth fruit, always gives life.  This confidence is born of faith, from knowing that we depend on grace, which will always transform and nourish our land.

It is a confidence which is learned, which is taught.  A confidence nurtured within a community, in the life of a family.  A confidence which radiates from the faces of all those people who encourage us to follow Jesus, to be disciples of the One who can never deceive.  A disciple knows that he or she is called to have this confidence; we feel Jesus’s invitation to be his friend, to share his lot, his very life.  “No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”.  The disciples are those who learn how to dwell in the confidence born of friendship.

The Gospel speaks to us of this kind of discipleship.  It shows us the identity card of the Christian.  Our calling card, our credentials.

Jesus calls his disciples and sends them out, giving them clear and precise instructions.  He challenges them to take on a whole range of attitudes and ways of acting.  Sometimes these can strike us as exaggerated or even absurd.  It would be easier to interpret these attitudes symbolically or “spiritually”.  But Jesus is quite precise, very clear.  He doesn’t tell them simply to do whatever they think they can.

Let us think about some of these attitudes: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money…”  “When you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place”.  All this might seem quite unrealistic.

We could concentrate on the words, “bread”, “money”, “bag”, “staff”, “sandals” and “tunic”.  And this would be fine.  But it strikes me that one key word can easily pass unnoticed.  It is a word at the heart of Christian spirituality, of our experience of discipleship: “welcome”.  Jesus as the good master, the good teacher, sends them out to be welcomed, to experience hospitality.  He says to them: “Where you enter a house, stay there”.  He sends them out to learn one of the hallmarks of the community of believers.  We might say that a Christian is someone who has learned to welcome others, to show hospitality.

Jesus does not send them out as men of influence, landlords, officials armed with rules and regulations.  Instead, he makes them see that the Christian journey is about changing hearts.  It is about learning to live differently, under a different law, with different rules.  It is about turning from the path of selfishness, conflict, division and superiority, and taking instead the path of life, generosity and love.  It is about passing from a mentality which domineers, stifles and manipulates to a mentality which welcomes, accepts and cares

These are two contrasting mentalities, two ways of approaching our life and our mission.

How many times do we see mission in terms of plans and programs.  How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, maneuvers, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments.  Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics.  You convince them by learning how to welcome them.

The Church is a mother with an open heart.  She knows how to welcome and accept, especially those in need of greater care, those in greater difficulty.  The Church is the home of hospitality.  How much good we can do, if only we try to speak the language of hospitality, of welcome!  How much pain can be soothed, how much despair can be allayed in a place where we feel at home!  Welcoming the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner (Mt 25:34-37), the leper and the paralytic.  Welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it.  Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed.  Welcoming the different cultures, of which our earth is so richly blessed.  Welcoming sinners.

So often we forget that there is an evil underlying our sins.  There is a bitter root which causes damage, great damage, and silently destroys so many lives.  There is an evil which, bit by bit, finds a place in our hearts and eats away at our life: it is isolation.  Isolation which can have many roots, many causes.  How much it destroys our life and how much harm it does us.  It makes us turn our back on others, God, the community.  It makes us closed in on ourselves.  That is why the real work of the Church, our mother, is not mainly to manage works and projects, but to learn how to live in fraternity with others.  A welcome-filled fraternity is the best witness that God is our Father, for “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

In this way, Jesus teaches us a new way of thinking.  He opens before us a horizon brimming with life, beauty, truth and fulfillment.

God never closes off horizons; he is never unconcerned about the lives and sufferings of his children.  God never allows himself to be outdone in generosity.  So he sends us his Son, he gives him to us, he hands him over, he shares him… so that we can learn the way of fraternity, of self-giving.  He opens up a new horizon; he is the new and definitive Word which sheds light on so many situations of exclusion, disintegration, loneliness and isolation.  He is the Word which breaks the silence of loneliness.

And when we are weary or worn down by our efforts to evangelize, it is good to remember that the life which Jesus holds out to us responds to the deepest needs of people.  “We were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters” (Evangelii Gaudium, 265).

One thing is sure: we cannot force anyone to receive us, to welcome us; this is itself part of our poverty and freedom.  But neither can anyone force us not to be welcoming, hospitable in the lives of our people.  No one can tell us us not to accept and embrace the lives of our brothers and sisters, especially those who have lost hope and zest for life.  How good it would be to think of our parishes, communities, chapels, wherever there are Christians, as true centers of encounter between ourselves and God.

The Church is a mother, like Mary.  In her, we have a model.  We too must provide a home, like Mary, who did not lord it over the word of God, but rather welcomed that word, bore it in her womb and gave it to others.

We too must provide a home, like the earth, which does not choke the seed, but receives it, nourishes it and makes it grow.

That is how we want to be Christians, that is how we want to live the faith on this Paraguayan soil, like Mary, accepting and welcoming God’s life in our brothers and sisters, in confidence and with the certainty that “the Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”.

[ends]

Posted in Pope Francis, South America

Francis in Bolivia spells out vision of true revolution

welcome at airport[Austen Ivereigh] Pope Francis travelled from Ecuador to Bolivia on Wednesday afternoon, where he both connected with and challenged one of the continent’s most radical governments, before flying to Santa Cruz, ending yesterday with one of the most powerful and radical speeches of his pontificate.

He arrived at El Alto airport (the world’s highest) in La Paz at 5pm on Wednesday, having drunk mate de coca — a brew made with coca leaves — on the flight to stave off altitude sickness. As soon as he stepped off the plane, a chulpa — a handmade wool bag containing coca leaves — was placed around his neck.

Bolivia’s president Evo Morales, the country’s fiery left-wing president and the first member of the country’s indigenous peoples to rule, welcomed Francis, “the pope of the poor,” as one who identifies with the plight of those who have nothing, just like his own “revolutionary process.”

Pope Francis arrives at the international airport in La Paz, Bolivia, July 8, 2015.  REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis arrives at the international airport in La Paz, Bolivia, July 8, 2015.
REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

“Whoever betrays a poor person, betrays Pope Francis,” Morales said, adding: “Brother pope: in many historic moments the Church was used for domination, subjugation and oppression. Now, the Bolivian people receive you with hope and joy and welcome you as the maximum representative of the Catholic Church, who came to Bolivia to help with the liberation of our peoples.”

In his welcoming ceremony address, Pope Francis said he had come to strengthen believers, so that they might become “leaven for a better world and co-operators in the building of a more just and fraternal society”.

He congratulated Bolivia for “making important steps towards including broad sectors in the country’s economic, social and political life” — Bolivia describes itself as “plurinational” — while warning against the exclusion of transcendent values and materialist ideologies. “A growth which is merely material will always run the risk of creating new divisions, of the wealth of some being built on the poverty of others,” he said.

Padre Espinal

Padre Espinal

The Morales government, which came to power following the collapse of military dictatorship in 2005, has been actively secularist, accusing the Church of being neocolonial and a lackey of foreign interests. Church leaders say Morales’s Movement Toward Socialism party has been trying to marginalize Catholicism, while the government accuses the Church of complaining about losing its privileged status in the constitution.
Pope Francis made clear that the Church must be allowed its voice.

The voice of the bishops, which must be prophetic, speaks to society in the name of the Church, our Mother, from her preferential, evangelical option for the poor. Fraternal charity, the living expression of the new commandment of Jesus, is expressed in programs, works and institutions which work for the integral development of the person, as well as for the care and protection of those who are most vulnerable. We cannot believe in God the Father without seeing a brother or sister in every person, and we cannot follow Jesus without giving our lives for those for whom he died on the cross.

In La Paz

Esp[inal2On his way from the airport to La Paz — the country’s capital, nearly 12,000 feet above sea level — the Pope stopped en route to bless the spot where on 21 March 1980 the Spanish Jesuit Luis Espinal Camps was killed by paramilitaries under the bloody dictatorship of Luis Garcia Meza. The murder of Fr Espinal, a well known poet, journalist and filmmaker, who lived alongside the families of miners, caused deep shock at the time (see CNS profile here).

sickleIn La Paz he had a long private meeting with Morales, following which — in front of the cameras — the President gave the Pope a crucifix atop a hammer and sickle, a replica of the one fashioned from wood scraps by Fr Espinal and kept by his bedside. The gesture provoked accusations that the Pope was being manipulated. Francis however only briefly examined it before handing it back, saying, apparently, “that is not right”, although Fr Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said it was more likely he said, “I did not know that”, adding that whatever the government meant by presenting it, Fr Espinal intended it to be “about an open dialogue, not about a specific ideology.” (See CNS and comment by John Allen).

In his prepared remarks at La Paz cathedral to Bolivian civil authorities and representatives of culture and civil society, the Pope returned to the themes of Laudato Si’, urging an integral ecology that assumed the interrelatedness of the socioeconomic and the environmental. But many of the comments were directed at the narrowly materialistic narrative of official Bolivian political discourse, pointing out the importance of culture and religion’s contribution to it. He also made a clear appeal for religious freedom:

Different social groups have a responsibility to work for unity and the development of society.  Freedom is always the best environment for thinkers, civic associations and the communications media to carry out their activities with passion and creativity in service of the common good.  Christians too, are called to be a leaven within society, to bring it their message.  The light of Christ’s Gospel is not the property of the Church; the Church is at the service of the Gospel, so that it can reach the ends of the earth.  Faith is a light which does not blind or confuse, but one which illuminates and respectfully guides the consciences and history of every person and society.  Christianity has played an important role in shaping the identity of the Bolivian people.  Religious freedom – a phrase we often encounter in civil discourse – also reminds us that faith cannot be restricted to a purely subjective experience.  It also challenges us to help foster the growth of spirituality and Christian commitment in social projects.

That night, having been in La Paz for just a few hours because of the threat of altitude sickness, Pope Francis flew to Santa Cruz, a big city in the subtropical Bolivian lowlands, where he was greeted by crowds.

Mass in Santa Cruz

abc_pope_burger_king_02_jc_150709_16x9_992Yesterday (Thursday) morning, Francis celebrated Mass before, in the afternoon, meeting with priests and religious, and then going onto the World Meeting of Popular Movements.

The Pope and the other celebrants used a nearby Burger King to put on their vestments before the Mass in the square of Christ the Redeemer in Santa Cruz, which was attended by not just people from across Bolivia but from neighboring nations also. The liturgy included prayers in Aymara, Quechua and Guaraní.

In his third big Eucharistic celebration of his 8-day trip, Francis preached on the multiplication of the loaves in an impassioned plea to end the exclusion of the poor and hunger in the world.

Pope Francis greets people as he leaves after celebrating a Mass at the Cristo Redentor square in Santa Cruz, Bolivia July 9, 2015.  REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Pope Francis greets people as he leaves after celebrating a Mass at the Cristo Redentor square in Santa Cruz, Bolivia July 9, 2015. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

When Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes it was not magic or sorcery, the Pope said, but “turning a mentality which discards others into a mindset of communion and community.” He said the miracle involved three gestures: “He takes a little bread and some fish, he blesses them and then gives them to his disciples to share with the crowd. This is how the miracle takes place.” Francis then preached on each of these gestures, noting that in measuring a country’s wealth by the lives of its people, by recognizing that  life is a gift, and by sharing, “Jesus generated a kind of electrical current among his followers, as they shared what they had, made it a gift for others, and so ate their fill.”

The World Meeting of Popular Movements

Morales pop movementsYesterday afternoon, after meeting with priests and religious, Pope Francis went onto the convention centre, the Expo Feria, to address the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements. It was one of his most comprehensive and significant addresses to date, a lengthy and visionary challenge both to the existing world order and to ideological revolutions that bring about only superficial change.

The first World Meeting of Popular Movements was held, at the Pope’s instigation, in Rome in October last year, where he gave a speech which paved the way to Laudato Si’. With Francis as their inspiration, the Meeting of Popular Movements is an attempt to drive social change from below.

Before his speech, however, Francis had to sit through a lengthy and tedious half-hour self-congratulatory diatribe by Morales (sporting a Che Guevara motif) against the USA, the United Nations, among many targets, which the audience — representing disenfranchised workers and peasants from across the world — listened to dutifully, impatient to hear the Pope. More than 1,500 delegations of street sellers, fishermen, laborers, farmers, garbage sifters and ragpickers  from 40 countries took part in the meeting.

popemovements4The Pope then spoke for close to an hour, using many rhetorical devices to galvanize his audience and fill them with a sense of urgency. He repeated a number of times his call for what he called the “sacred rights” to the three “Ts” — tierra, techo y trabajo — or in English, the three “Ls” of land, lodging and labour — while offering a sober diagnosis of the failures of the current world economy to provide for the poorest. “Let’s not be afraid to say it,” he told the crowd to loud applause. “We need change; we want change.”

In my different meetings, in my different travels, I have sensed an expectation, a longing, a yearning for change, in people throughout the world. Even within that ever smaller minority which believes that the present system is beneficial, there is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction and even despondency. Many people are hoping for a change capable of releasing them from the bondage of individualism and the despondency it spawns.

address pop movesIn similar stark terms to the first part of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis deplored the “unfettered pursuit of money” that undermined the common good and resulted in the exclusion of the weak.

Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem. The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.

He quickly passed onto the question of what can be done, affirming the hundreds of disenfranchised before him as the key agents of future change. “You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three “L’s” (labor, lodging, land) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels,” he told them, adding: “Don’t lose heart!”

addres spop moves 2But Pope Francis warned them against seeking superficial change through a mere change in government or a populist revolution. In an implicit reference to the kinds of movements headed by Evo Morales in Bolivia or the former Hugo Chávez in Venezuela — populist radicals who galvanized the poor through simplistic ideologies and authoritarian states — he said: “We know from painful experience that changes of structure which are not accompanied by a sincere conversion of mind and heart sooner or later end up in bureaucratization, corruption and failure.” True change must come from making people, not concepts, the ends:

We do not love concepts or ideas; we love people… Commitment, true commitment, is born of the love of men and women, of children and the elderly, of peoples and communities… of names and faces which fill our hearts. From those seeds of hope patiently sown in the forgotten fringes of our planet, from those seedlings of a tenderness which struggles to grow amid the shadows of exclusion, great trees will spring up, great groves of hope to give oxygen to our world.

pop movements2This meant concentrating not on abstract ideals, but concrete human needs:

Of the leadership I ask this: be creative and never stop being rooted in local realities, since the father of lies is able to usurp noble words, to promote intellectual fads and to adopt ideological stances. But if you build on solid foundations, on real needs and on the lived experience of your brothers and sisters, of campesinos and natives, of excluded workers and marginalized families, you will surely be on the right path.

The Church, he said, was a key partner:

The Church cannot and must not remain aloof from this process in her proclamation of the Gospel. Many priests and pastoral workers carry out an enormous work of accompanying and promoting the excluded throughout the world, alongside cooperatives, favouring businesses, providing housing, working generously in the fields of health, sports and education. I am convinced that respectful cooperation with the popular movements can revitalize these efforts and strengthen processes of change.

The Pope said he did not have a concrete programme. “Neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social reality or the proposal of solutions to contemporary issues. I dare say that no recipe exists.” But he suggested three “great tasks” for the popular movements to take on.

The first was to create a human economy, one at the service of people rather than money. Such an economy would not only ensure that all had access to jobs, land and housing, but would “create the conditions for everyone to be able to enjoy a childhood without want, to develop their talents when young, to work with full rights during their active years and to enjoy a dignified retirement as they grow older. It is an economy where human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life.”

pope movementsSuch an economy was a practical, realistic goal, not a utopia, Pope Francis said; it would come about by realizing that the poor had a right to the fruits of the earth.

Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment. It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right. The universal destination of goods is not a figure of speech found in the Church’s social teaching. It is a reality prior to private property. Property, especially when it affects natural resources, must always serve the needs of peoples. And those needs are not restricted to consumption. It is not enough to let a few drops fall whenever the poor shake a cup which never runs over by itself. Welfare programs geared to certain emergencies can only be considered temporary responses. They will never be able to replace true inclusion, an inclusion which provides worthy, free, creative, participatory and solidary work.

The second task, he said, was to create unity, the historic ambition of the Patria Grande, as the forefathers of Latin-American independence described the “greater fatherland” of a united continent. That meant resisting modern forms of colonialism.

Colonialism, both old and new, which reduces poor countries to mere providers of raw material and cheap labor, engenders violence, poverty, forced migrations and all the evils which go hand in hand with these, precisely because, by placing the periphery at the service of the center, it denies those countries the right to an integral development. That is inequality, and inequality generates a violence which no police, military, or intelligence resources can control.

pop movementsHe then issued an historic apology — as have previous popes, and the Latin-American bishops in their documents — for the crimes committed against the indigenous people by the colonial Church. But in a riposte to the Morales narrative of a colonial Church on the side of the powerful against the people, he also reminded his listeners of the many priests and religious who stood up to powerful interests under the colonial system in defense of the native peoples, and warned that ideologically-driven attempts to erase the Church from society was an attack on the Latin-American people itself.

Here I wish to bring up an important issue. Some may rightly say, “When the Pope speaks of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the Church”. I say this to you with regret: many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God. My predecessors acknowledged this, CELAM has said it, and I too wish to say it. Like Saint John Paul II, I ask that the Church “kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters”.[6] I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.

I also ask everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike, to think of those many bishops, priests and laity who preached and continue to preach the Good News of Jesus with courage and meekness, respectfully and pacifically; who left behind them impressive works of human promotion and of love, often standing alongside the native peoples or accompanying their popular movements even to the point of martyrdom. The Church, her sons and daughters, are part of the identity of the peoples of Latin America. An identity which here, as in other countries, some powers are committed to erasing, at times because our faith is revolutionary, because our faith challenges the tyranny of mammon.

The third task, he said, was “to defend Mother Earth”, the issue he had addressed in Laudato Si’.

Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin. We see with growing disappointment how one international summit after another takes place without any significant result. There exists a clear, definite and pressing ethical imperative to implement what has not yet been done. We cannot allow certain interests – interests which are global but not universal – to take over, to dominate states and international organizations, and to continue destroying creation. People and their movements are called to cry out, to mobilize and to demand – peacefully, but firmly – that appropriate and urgently-needed measures be taken. I ask you, in the name of God, to defend Mother Earth.

The full text follows.

Today pope Francis visits a huge Bolivian prison before flying onto Paraguay, the last nation in his three-country South American visit

Address at Expo Fair
Santa Cruz de la Sierra

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Good afternoon!

Several months ago, we met in Rome, and I remember that first meeting. In the meantime I have kept you in my thoughts and prayers. I am happy to see you again, here, as you discuss the best ways to overcome the grave situations of injustice experienced by the excluded throughout our world. Thank you, President Evo Morales, for your efforts to make this meeting possible.

During our first meeting in Rome, I sensed something very beautiful: fraternity, determination, commitment, a thirst for justice. Today, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, I sense it once again. I thank you for that. I also know, from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace headed by Cardinal Turkson, that many people in the Church feel very close to the popular movements. That makes me very happy! I am pleased to see the Church opening her doors to all of you, embracing you, accompanying you and establishing in each diocese, in every justice and peace commission, a genuine, ongoing and serious cooperation with popular movements. I ask everyone, bishops, priests and laity, as well as the social organizations of the urban and rural peripheries, to deepen this encounter.

Today God has granted that we meet again. The Bible tells us that God hears the cry of his people, and I wish to join my voice to yours in calling for land, lodging and labor for all our brothers and sisters. I said it and I repeat it: these are sacred rights. It is important, it is well worth fighting for them. May the cry of the excluded be heard in Latin America and throughout the world.

1.

Let us begin by acknowledging that change is needed. Here I would clarify, lest there be any misunderstanding, that I am speaking about problems common to all Latin Americans and, more generally, to humanity as a whole. They are global problems which today no one state can resolve on its own. With this clarification, I now propose that we ask the following questions:

Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farmworkers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected?

Do we realize that something is wrong where so many senseless wars are being fought and acts of fratricidal violence are taking place on our very doorstep? Do we realize something is wrong when the soil, water, air and living creatures of our world are under constant threat?

So let’s not be afraid to say it: we need change; we want change.

In your letters and in our meetings, you have mentioned the many forms of exclusion and injustice which you experience in the workplace, in neighborhoods and throughout the land. They are many and diverse, just as many and diverse are the ways in which you confront them. Yet there is an invisible thread joining every one of those forms of exclusion: can we recognize it? These are not isolated issues. I wonder whether we can see that these destructive realities are part of a system which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?

If such is the case, I would insist, let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change. This system is by now intolerable: farmworkers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable … The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable.

We want change in our lives, in our neighborhoods, in our everyday reality. We want a change which can affect the entire world, since global interdependence calls for global answers to local problems. The globalization of hope, a hope which springs up from peoples and takes root among the poor, must replace the globalization of exclusion and indifference!

Today I wish to reflect with you on the change we want and need. You know that recently I wrote about the problems of climate change. But now I would like to speak of change in another sense. Positive change, a change which is good for us, a change – we can say – which is redemptive. Because we need it. I know that you are looking for change, and not just you alone: in my different meetings, in my different travels, I have sensed an expectation, a longing, a yearning for change, in people throughout the world. Even within that ever smaller minority which believes that the present system is beneficial, there is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction and even despondency. Many people are hoping for a change capable of releasing them from the bondage of individualism and the despondency it spawns.

Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home. Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem. The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.

I do not need to go on describing the evil effects of this subtle dictatorship: you are well aware of them. Nor is it enough to point to the structural causes of today’s social and environmental crisis. We are suffering from an excess of diagnosis, which at times leads us to multiply words and to revel in pessimism and negativity. Looking at the daily news we think that there is nothing to be done, except to take care of ourselves and the little circle of our family and friends.

What can I do, as collector of paper, old clothes or used metal, a recycler, about all these problems if I barely make enough money to put food on the table? What can I do as a craftsman, a street vendor, a trucker, a downtrodden worker, if I don’t even enjoy workers’ rights? What can I do, a farmwife, a native woman, a fisher who can hardly fight the domination of the big corporations? What can I do from my little home, my shanty, my hamlet, my settlement, when I daily meet with discrimination and marginalization? What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with their hearts full of hopes and dreams, but without any real solution for my problems? A lot! They can do a lot. You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three “L’s” (labor, lodging, land) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels. Don’t lose heart!

2.

You are sowers of change. Here in Bolivia I have heard a phrase which I like: “process of change”. Change seen not as something which will one day result from any one political decision or change in social structure. We know from painful experience that changes of structure which are not accompanied by a sincere conversion of mind and heart sooner or later end up in bureaucratization, corruption and failure. That is why I like the image of a “process”, where the drive to sow, to water seeds which others will see sprout, replaces the ambition to occupy every available position of power and to see immediate results. Each of us is just one part of a complex and differentiated whole, interacting in time: peoples who struggle to find meaning, a destiny, and to live with dignity, to “live well”.

As members of popular movements, you carry out your work inspired by fraternal love, which you show in opposing social injustice. When we look into the eyes of the suffering, when we see the faces of the endangered campesino, the poor laborer, the downtrodden native, the homeless family, the persecuted migrant, the unemployed young person, the exploited child, the mother who lost her child in a shootout because the barrio was occupied by drugdealers, the father who lost his daughter to enslavement…. when we think of all those names and faces, our hearts break because of so much sorrow and pain.  And we are deeply moved…. We are moved because “we have seen and heard” not a cold statistic but the pain of a suffering humanity, our own pain, our own flesh. This is something quite different than abstract theorizing or eloquent indignation. It moves us; it makes us attentive to others in an effort to move forward together. That emotion which turns into community action is not something which can be understood by reason alone: it has a surplus of meaning which only peoples understand, and it gives a special feel to genuine popular movements.

Each day you are caught up in the storms of people’s lives. You have told me about their causes, you have shared your own struggles with me, and I thank you for that. You, dear brothers and sisters, often work on little things, in local situations, amid forms of injustice which you do not simply accept but actively resist, standing up to an idolatrous system which excludes, debases and kills. I have seen you work tirelessly for the soil and crops of campesinos, for their lands and communities, for a more dignified local economy, for the urbanization of their homes and settlements; you have helped them build their own homes and develop neighborhood infrastructures. You have also promoted any number of community activities aimed at reaffirming so elementary and undeniably necessary a right as that of the three “L’s”: land, lodging and labor.

This rootedness in the barrio, the land, the office, the labor union, this ability to see yourselves in the faces of others, this daily proximity to their share of troubles and their little acts of heroism: this is what enables you to practice the commandment of love, not on the basis of ideas or concepts, but rather on the basis of genuine interpersonal encounter. We do not love concepts or ideas; we love people… Commitment, true commitment, is born of the love of men and women, of children and the elderly, of peoples and communities… of names and faces which fill our hearts. From those seeds of hope patiently sown in the forgotten fringes of our planet, from those seedlings of a tenderness which struggles to grow amid the shadows of exclusion, great trees will spring up, great groves of hope to give oxygen to our world.

So I am pleased to see that you are working at close hand to care for those seedlings, but at the same time, with a broader perspective, to protect the entire forest. Your work is carried out against a horizon which, while concentrating on your own specific area, also aims to resolve at their root the more general problems of poverty, inequality and exclusion.

I congratulate you on this. It is essential that, along with the defense of their legitimate rights, peoples and their social organizations be able to construct a humane alternative to a globalization which excludes. You are sowers of change. May God grant you the courage, joy, perseverance and passion to continue sowing. Be assured that sooner or later we will see its fruits. Of the leadership I ask this: be creative and never stop being rooted in local realities, since the father of lies is able to usurp noble words, to promote intellectual fads and to adopt ideological stances. But if you build on solid foundations, on real needs and on the lived experience of your brothers and sisters, of campesinos and natives, of excluded workers and marginalized families, you will surely be on the right path.

The Church cannot and must not remain aloof from this process in her proclamation of the Gospel. Many priests and pastoral workers carry out an enormous work of accompanying and promoting the excluded throughout the world, alongside cooperatives, favouring businesses, providing housing, working generously in the fields of health, sports and education. I am convinced that respectful cooperation with the popular movements can revitalize these efforts and strengthen processes of change.

Let us always have at heart the Virgin Mary, a humble girl from small people lost on the fringes of a great empire, a homeless mother who could turn a stable for beasts into a home for Jesus with just a few swaddling clothes and much tenderness. Mary is a sign of hope for peoples suffering the birth pangs of justice. I pray that Our Lady of Mount Carmel, patroness of Bolivia, will allow this meeting of ours to be a leaven of change.

3.

Lastly, I would like us all to consider some important tasks for the present historical moment, since we desire a positive change for the benefit of all our brothers and sisters. We know this. We desire change enriched by the collaboration of governments, popular movements and other social forces. This too we know. But it is not so easy to define the content of change – in other words, a social program which can embody this project of fraternity and justice which we are seeking. So don’t expect a recipe from this Pope. Neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social reality or the proposal of solutions to contemporary issues. I dare say that no recipe exists. History is made by each generation as it follows in the footsteps of those preceding it, as it seeks its own path and respects the values which God has placed in the human heart.

I would like, all the same, to propose three great tasks which demand a decisive and shared contribution from popular movements:

3.1       The first task is to put the economy at the service of peoples. Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money. Let us say NO to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth.

The economy should not be a mechanism for accumulating goods, but rather the proper administration of our common home. This entails a commitment to care for that home and to the fitting distribution of its goods among all. It is not only about ensuring a supply of food or “decent sustenance”. Nor, although this is already a great step forward, is it to guarantee the three “L’s” of land, lodging and labor for which you are working. A truly communitarian economy, one might say an economy of Christian inspiration, must ensure peoples’ dignity and their “general, temporal welfare and prosperity”.[1] This includes the three “L’s”, but also access to education, health care, new technologies, artistic and cultural manifestations, communications, sports and recreation. A just economy must create the conditions for everyone to be able to enjoy a childhood without want, to develop their talents when young, to work with full rights during their active years and to enjoy a dignified retirement as they grow older. It is an economy where human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life. You, and other peoples as well, sum up this desire in a simple and beautiful expression: “to live well”.

Such an economy is not only desirable and necessary, but also possible. It is no utopia or chimera. It is an extremely realistic prospect. We can achieve it. The available resources in our world, the fruit of the intergenerational labors of peoples and the gifts of creation, more than suffice for the integral development of “each man and the whole man”.[2] The problem is of another kind. There exists a system with different aims. A system which, while irresponsibly accelerating the pace of production, while using industrial and agricultural methods which damage Mother Earth in the name of “productivity”, continues to deny many millions of our brothers and sisters their most elementary economic, social and cultural rights. This system runs counter to the plan of Jesus.

Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment. It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right. The universal destination of goods is not a figure of speech found in the Church’s social teaching. It is a reality prior to private property. Property, especially when it affects natural resources, must always serve the needs of peoples. And those needs are not restricted to consumption. It is not enough to let a few drops fall whenever the poor shake a cup which never runs over by itself. Welfare programs geared to certain emergencies can only be considered temporary responses. They will never be able to replace true inclusion, an inclusion which provides worthy, free, creative, participatory and solidary work.

Along this path, popular movements play an essential role, not only by making demands and lodging protests, but even more basically by being creative. You are social poets: creators of work, builders of housing, producers of food, above all for people left behind by the world market.

I have seen at first hand a variety of experiences where workers united in cooperatives and other forms of community organization were able to create work where there were only crumbs of an idolatrous economy. Recuperated businesses, local fairs and cooperatives of paper collectors are examples of that popular economy which is born of exclusion and which, slowly, patiently and resolutely adopts solidary forms which dignify it. How different this is than the situation which results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!

Governments which make it their responsibility to put the economy at the service of peoples must promote the strengthening, improvement, coordination and expansion of these forms of popular economy and communitarian production. This entails bettering the processes of work, providing adequate infrastructures and guaranteeing workers their full rights in this alternative sector. When the state and social organizations join in working for the three “L’s”, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity come into play; and these allow the common good to be achieved in a full and participatory democracy.

3.2.      The second task is to unite our peoples on the path of peace and justice.

The world’s peoples want to be artisans of their own destiny. They want to advance peacefully towards justice. They do not want forms of tutelage or interference by which those with greater power subordinate those with less. They want their culture, their language, their social processes and their religious traditions to be respected. No actual or established power has the right to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty. Whenever they do so, we see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice. For “peace is founded not only on respect for human rights but also on respect for the rights of peoples, in particular the right to independence”.[3]

The peoples of Latin America fought to gain their political independence and for almost two centuries their history has been dramatic and filled with contradictions, as they have striven to achieve full independence.

In recent years, after any number of misunderstandings, many Latin American countries have seen the growth of fraternity between their peoples. The governments of the region have pooled forces in order to ensure respect for the sovereignty of their own countries and the entire region, which our forebears so beautifully called the “greater country”. I ask you, my brothers and sisters of the popular movements, to foster and increase this unity. It is necessary to maintain unity in the face of every effort to divide, if the region is to grow in peace and justice.

Despite the progress made, there are factors which still threaten this equitable human development and restrict the sovereignty of the countries of the “greater country” and other areas of our planet. The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain “free trade” treaties, and the imposition of measures of “austerity” which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor. The bishops of Latin America denounce this with utter clarity in the Aparecida Document, stating that “financial institutions and transnational companies are becoming stronger to the point that local economies are subordinated, especially weakening the local states, which seem ever more powerless to carry out development projects in the service of their populations”.[4]  At other times, under the noble guise of battling corruption, the narcotics trade and terrorism – grave evils of our time which call for coordinated international action – we see states being saddled with measures which have little to do with the resolution of these problems and which not infrequently worsen matters.

Similarly, the monopolizing of the communications media, which would impose alienating examples of consumerism and a certain cultural uniformity, is another one of the forms taken by the new colonialism. It is ideological colonialism. As the African bishops have observed, poor countries are often treated like “parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel”.[5]

It must be acknowledged that none of the grave problems of humanity can be resolved without interaction between states and peoples at the international level. Every significant action carried out in one part of the planet has universal, ecological, social and cultural repercussions. Even crime and violence have become globalized. Consequently, no government can act independently of a common responsibility. If we truly desire positive change, we have to humbly accept our interdependence. Interaction, however, is not the same as imposition; it is not the subordination of some to serve the interests of others. Colonialism, both old and new, which reduces poor countries to mere providers of raw material and cheap labor, engenders violence, poverty, forced migrations and all the evils which go hand in hand with these, precisely because, by placing the periphery at the service of the center, it denies those countries the right to an integral development. That is inequality, and inequality generates a violence which no police, military, or intelligence resources can control.

Let us say NO to forms of colonialism old and new. Let us say YES to the encounter between peoples and cultures. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Here I wish to bring up an important issue. Some may rightly say, “When the Pope speaks of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the Church”. I say this to you with regret: many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God. My predecessors acknowledged this, CELAM has said it, and I too wish to say it. Like Saint John Paul II, I ask that the Church “kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters”.[6] I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.

I also ask everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike, to think of those many bishops, priests and laity who preached and continue to preach the Good News of Jesus with courage and meekness, respectfully and pacifically; who left behind them impressive works of human promotion and of love, often standing alongside the native peoples or accompanying their popular movements even to the point of martyrdom. The Church, her sons and daughters, are part of the identity of the peoples of Latin America. An identity which here, as in other countries, some powers are committed to erasing, at times because our faith is revolutionary, because our faith challenges the tyranny of mammon. Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. This too needs to be denounced: in this third world war, waged peacemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.

To our brothers and sisters in the Latin American indigenous movement, allow me to express my deep affection and appreciation of their efforts to bring peoples and cultures together in a form of coexistence which I would call polyhedric, where each group preserves its own identity by building together a plurality which does not threaten but rather reinforces unity. Your quest for an interculturalism, which combines the defense of the rights of the native peoples with respect for the territorial integrity of states, is for all of us a source of enrichment and encouragement.

3.3.      The third task, perhaps the most important facing us today, is to defend Mother Earth.

Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin. We see with growing disappointment how one international summit after another takes place without any significant result. There exists a clear, definite and pressing ethical imperative to implement what has not yet been done. We cannot allow certain interests – interests which are global but not universal – to take over, to dominate states and international organizations, and to continue destroying creation. People and their movements are called to cry out, to mobilize and to demand – peacefully, but firmly – that appropriate and urgently-needed measures be taken. I ask you, in the name of God, to defend Mother Earth. I have duly addressed this issue in my Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’.

4.

In conclusion, I would like to repeat: the future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change. I am with you. Let us together say from the heart: no family without lodging, no rural worker without land, no laborer without rights, no people without sovereignty, no individual without dignity, no child without childhood, no young person without a future, no elderly person without a venerable old age. Keep up your struggle and, please, take great care of Mother Earth. I pray for you and with you, and I ask God our Father to accompany you and to bless you, to fill you with his love and defend you on your way by granting you in abundance that strength which keeps us on our feet: that strength is hope, the hope which does not disappoint. Thank you and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

FOOTNOTES

[1] JOHN XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra (15 May 1961), 3: AAS 53 (1961), 402.

[2] PAUL VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 14: AAS 59 (1967), 264.

[3] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 157.

[4] FIFTH GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN BISHOPS, Aparecida Document (29 June 2007), 66.

[5] JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (14 September 1995), 52: AAS 88 (1996), 32-22; ID., Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 22: AAS 80 (1988), 539.

[6] Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 Incarnationis Mysterium (29 November 1998),11: AAS 91 (1999), 139-141.

(from Vatican Radio)

 

 

Posted in Pope Francis address, religious freedom, South America

Francis in Ecuador gives key lessons on mission, unity and ecology

Pope Francis waves as he recognizes someone while using incense during Mass in Bicentennial Park in Quito, Ecuador, July 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-UNITY July 7, 2015.

Pope Francis waves as he recognizes someone while using incense during Mass in Bicentennial Park in Quito, Ecuador, July 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

[Austen Ivereigh] Pope Francis’s second and final day in Ecuador offered a chance to outline a new future for Latin America and a better world order as he linked mission to unity and called for a new awareness of the planet and the poor.

His teaching began with a million-strong Mass at Quito’s Bicentennial Park, and ended with meetings with thousands of educators and civil society leaders at the city’s Catholic university and one of its most important churches. The three main addresses were underpinned by his ecology encyclical, Laudato Si’, which calls for the restoration of the bonds between people and God and the planet.

The Bicentennial Park Mass, on the theme of evangelization and mission, put on a spectacular display of Ecuador’s ethnic diversity, with each of its 14 nationalities represented in the offertory. The Pope’s own vestments were hand-made of wool, with native patterns. The second reading was in Quichua, a local variant of the language of the Inca empire, Quechua.

The massive attendance at both Masses, on Monday and Tuesday, together with the large crowds lining the roads where he has traveled, means that about a quarter of Ecuador’s population has had the chance to see the Pope directly.

Pope massFrancis, who is well read in the history of Latin-American emancipation from Spain in the early nineteenth century, linked the continent’s struggle for independence – born of “a lack of freedom, of exploitation and despoliation” – to Jesus’s cry for unity. Noting that the independence movement “only made headway once personal differences were set aside, together with the desire for power and the inability to appreciate other movements of liberation which were different yet not thereby opposed”, he warned that evangelization must build unity, focussing on the Gospel. “Our unity can hardly shine forth if spiritual worldliness makes us feud among ourselves in a futile quest for power, prestige, pleasure or economic security,” he said.

Ecuador mapIn what was inevitably taken as an allusion to Latin America’s doctrinaire governments in Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina as well as Bolivia and Ecuador,  Pope Francis said true unity was not the result of the imposition of ideologies or authoritarian states, but the recognition of peoples’ innate dignity as children of God:

 The wealth of our differences, our diversity which becomes unity whenever we commemorate Holy Thursday, makes us wary of all totalitarian, ideological or sectarian schemes. Nor is this unity something we can fashion as we will, setting conditions, choosing who can belong and who cannot. Jesus prays that we will all become part of a great family in which God is our Father and all of us are brothers and sisters. This is not about having the same tastes, the same concerns, the same gifts. We are brothers and sisters because God created us out of love and destined us, purely of his own initiative, to be his sons and daughters (cf. Eph 1:5).

He ended with an invitation to Latin America to become an example to the world of fraternal unity and communion.

How beautiful it would be if all could admire how much we care for one another, how we encourage and help each other. Giving of ourselves establishes an interpersonal relationship; we do not give “things” but our very selves. In any act of giving, we give ourselves. “Giving of oneself” means letting all the power of that love which is God’s Holy Spirit take root in our lives, opening our hearts to his creative power. When we give of ourselves, we discover our true identity as children of God in the image of the Father and, like him, givers of life; we discover that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, to whom we bear witness. This is what it means to evangelize; this is the new revolution – for our faith is always revolutionary –, this is our deepest and most enduring cry.

Pope Francis (C) arrives to celebrate mass at the Bicentenario Park in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015. Thousands of pilgrims braved wind and rain to camp out overnight for a mass to be given by Pope Francis in Ecuador's highland capital Quito for an expected million people.  REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis (C) arrives to celebrate mass at the Bicentenario Park in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015. Thousands of pilgrims braved wind and rain to camp out overnight for a mass to be given by Pope Francis in Ecuador’s highland capital Quito for an expected million people.
REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

In the afternoon, Pope Francis addressed 2,000 educators and some 3,000 students at Quito’s Jesuit-run Pontifical Catholic University, telling them that care for the environment is now a “requirement”. Linking together ‘human ecology’ and care for the world, he said humanity was faced with a stark choice:

There is a relationship between our life and that of mother earth, between the way we live and the gift we have received from God. “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation” (Laudato Si’, 48).  Yet just as both can “deteriorate”, we can also say that they can “support one another and can be changed for the better”.  This reciprocal relationship can lead to openness, transformation, and life, or to destruction and death.

One thing is certain: we can no longer turn our backs on reality, on our brothers and sisters, on mother earth. It is wrong to turn aside from what is happening all around us, as if certain situations did not exist or have nothing to do with our life.

At the PUCE

At the PUCE

Using the same urgent language and concepts as Laudato Si’, Pope Francis urged educators to abandon abstraction and focus their efforts on reflecting on present realities and how to transform them.

Educational communities play an essential role in the enrichment of civic and cultural life.  It is not enough to analyze and describe reality: there is a need to shape environments of creative thinking, discussions which develop alternatives to current problems, especially today.

Faced with the globalization of a technocratic paradigm which tends to believe “that every increase in power means an increase of progress itself, an advance in security, usefulness, welfare and vigor; …an assimilation of new values into the stream of culture, as if reality, goodness and truth automatically flow from technological and economic power as such” (Laudato Si’, 105), it is urgent that we keep reflecting on and talking about our current situation.  We need to ask ourselves about the kind of culture we want not only for ourselves, but for our children and our grandchildren.  We have received this earth as an inheritance, as a gift, in trust.  We would do well to ask ourselves: “What kind of world do we want to leave behind?  What meaning or direction do we want to give to our lives?  Why have we been put here?  What is the purpose of our work and all our efforts?” (cf. Laudato Si’, 160).

san_franHe then went to the St Francis church in Quito to meet civic, business and political leaders in an invitation-only meeting watched on video screens outside by a crowd of 6,000. There he heard speeches by businesspeople and indigenous leaders, and listened to music played by an orchestra of children with Downs Syndrome. A catechist of the Motubio people told the Pope of the challenges facing farmers in her area.

FranciscoNotaDiscursoQuito_CapturaYoutube_070715In his short and direct speech, Francis developed his “culture of encounter” vision of a new world order in which “the goods of the earth are meant for everyone, and however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage.  In this way we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, towards social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life.” Outlining the challenges facing contemporary Latin America — “Migration, overcrowded cities, consumerism, crises in the family, unemployment and pockets of poverty” — he called for politics and laws to create the conditions for inclusion, dialogue and encounter. He pointed to a better future, which meant creating jobs for young people and ensuring an economic growth which is shared by all. And he stressed the importance of what he called “a participatory democracy” in which “each social group, indigenous peoples, Afro-Ecuadorians, women, civic associations and those engaged in public service are all indispensable participants in this dialogue.”

San Francisco church

San Francisco church

He also called for Ecuadorians to be at the forefront of “integral ecology”, the vision he outlined in Laudato Si’ of a new awareness and concern for humanity and the planet.

The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits.  As stewards of these riches which we have received, we have an obligation toward society as a whole and towards future generations.  We cannot bequeath this heritage to them without proper care for the environment, without a sense of gratuitousness born of our contemplation of the created world.

Among us today are some of our brothers and sisters representing the indigenous peoples of the Equatorial Amazon.  That region is one of the “richest areas both in the number of species and in endemic, rare or less protected species…  it requires greater protection because of its immense importance for the global ecosystem… it possesses an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when [such woodlands] are burned down or leveled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands” (cf. Laudato Si’, 37-38).   Ecuador – together with other countries bordering the Amazon – has an opportunity to become a teacher of integral ecology.  We received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it!

Following a private visit to the Jesuit church in Quito, Pope Francis retired to the Nunciature. This morning he will visit the Missionaries of Charity’s nursing home and meet with clergy at the Marian shrine of El Quinche before traveling to La Paz, Bolivia.

The full texts from yesterday follow.

TEXT 1, 7 July: Pope Francis’ Homily at Mass for the Evangelization of Peoples, at the Bicentennial Park, Quito

The word of God calls us to live in unity, that the world may believe. I think of those hushed words of Jesus during the Last Supper as more of a shout, a cry rising up from this Mass which we are celebrating in Bicentennial Park. The bicentennial which this Park commemorates was that of Latin America’s cry for independence. It was a cry which arose from being conscious of a lack of freedom, of exploitation and despoliation, of being “subject to the passing whims of the powers that be” (Evangelii Gaudium, 213).

I would like to see these two cries joined together, under the beautiful challenge of evangelization. We evangelize not with grand words, or complicated concepts, but with “the joy of the Gospel”, which “fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. For those who ac­cept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness” (ibid., 1). We who are gathered here at table with Jesus are ourselves a cry, a shout born of the conviction that his presence leads us to unity, “pointing to a horizon of beauty and inviting others to a delicious banquet” (ibid., 15).

“Father, may they be one… so that the world may believe”. This was Jesus’ prayer as he raised his eyes to heaven. This petition arose in a context of mission: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. At that moment, the Lord was experiencing in his own flesh the worst of this world, a world he nonetheless loved dearly. Knowing full well its intrigues, its falsity and its betrayals, he did not turn away, he did not complain. We too encounter daily a world torn apart by wars and violence. It would be facile to think that division and hatred only concern struggles between countries or groups in society. Rather, they are a manifestation of that “widespread individualism” which divides us and sets us against one another (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 99), that legacy of sin lurking in the heart of human beings, which causes so much suffering in society and all of creation. But is it precisely this troubled world into which Jesus sends us. We must not respond with nonchalance, or complain we do not have the resources to do the job, or that the problems are too big. Instead, we must respond by taking up the cry of Jesus and accepting the grace and challenge of being builders of unity.

There was no shortage of conviction or strength in that cry for freedom which arose a little more than two hundred years ago. But history tells us that it only made headway once personal differences were set aside, together with the desire for power and the inability to appreciate other movements of liberation which were different yet not thereby opposed.

Evangelization can be a way to unite our hopes, concerns, ideals and even utopian visions. We believe this and we make it our cry. I have already said that, “in our world, especially in some countries, different forms of war and conflict are re-emerging, yet we Christians remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to ‘bear one an­other’s burdens’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 67). The desire for unity involves the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, the conviction that we have an immense treasure to share, one which grows stronger from being shared, and becomes ever more sensitive to the needs of others (cf. ibid., 9). Hence the need to work for inclusivity at every level, to avoid forms of selfishness, to build communication and dialogue, to encourage collaboration. We need to give our hearts to our companions along the way, without suspicion or distrust. “Trusting others is an art, and peace is an art” (ibid., 244). Our unity can hardly shine forth if spiritual worldliness makes us feud among ourselves in a futile quest for power, prestige, pleasure or economic security.

Such unity is already an act of mission, “that the world may believe”. Evangelization does not consist in proselytizing, but in attracting by our witness those who are far off, in humbly drawing near to those who feel distant from God and the Church, those who are fearful or indifferent, and saying to them: “The Lord, with great respect and love, is also calling you to be a part of his people” (Evangelii Gaudium, 113).

The Church’s mission as sacrament of salvation also has to do with her identity as a pilgrim people called to embrace all the nations of the earth. The more intense the communion between us, the more effective our mission becomes (cf. John Paul II, Pastores Gregis, 22). Becoming a missionary Church requires constantly fostering communion, since mission does not have to do with outreach alone… We also need to be missionaries within the Church, showing that she is “a mother who reaches out, a welcoming home, a constant school of missionary communion” (Aparecida Document, 370).

Jesus’ prayer can be realized because he has consecrated us. “For their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth”. The spiritual life of an evangelizer is born of this profound truth, which should not be confused with a few comforting religious exercises. Jesus consecrates us so that we can encounter him personally. And this encounter leads us in turn to encounter others, to become involved with our world and to develop a passion for evangelization (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 78).

Intimacy with God, in itself incomprehensible, is revealed by images which speak to us of communion, communication, self-giving and love. For that reason, the unity to which Jesus calls us is not uniformity, but rather a “multifaceted and inviting harmony” (Evangelii Gaudium, 117). The wealth of our differences, our diversity which becomes unity whenever we commemorate Holy Thursday, makes us wary of all totalitarian, ideological or sectarian schemes. Nor is this unity something we can fashion as we will, setting conditions, choosing who can belong and who cannot. Jesus prays that we will all become part of a great family in which God is our Father and all of us are brothers and sisters. This is not about having the same tastes, the same concerns, the same gifts. We are brothers and sisters because God created us out of love and destined us, purely of his own initiative, to be his sons and daughters (cf. Eph 1:5). We are brothers and sisters because “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6). We are brothers and sisters because, justified by the blood of Christ Jesus (cf. Rom 5:9), we have passed from death to life and been made “coheirs” of the promise (cf. Gal 3:26-29; Rom 8:17). That is the salvation which God makes possible for us, and which the Church proclaims with joy: to be part of the divine “we”.

Our cry, in this place linked to the original cry for freedom in this country, echoes that of Saint Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). It is a cry every bit as urgent and pressing as was the cry for independence. It is similarly thrilling in its ardor. May each of you be a witness to a fraternal communion which shines forth in our world!

How beautiful it would be if all could admire how much we care for one another, how we encourage and help each other. Giving of ourselves establishes an interpersonal relationship; we do not give “things” but our very selves. In any act of giving, we give ourselves. “Giving of oneself” means letting all the power of that love which is God’s Holy Spirit take root in our lives, opening our hearts to his creative power. When we give of ourselves, we discover our true identity as children of God in the image of the Father and, like him, givers of life; we discover that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, to whom we bear witness. This is what it means to evangelize; this is the new revolution – for our faith is always revolutionary –, this is our deepest and most enduring cry.

TEXT 2, 7 July:  Pope Francis’ Meeting with Educators at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, Quito

I am very happy to be here with you this afternoon at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, which for almost sixty years has helped to further the Church’s educational mission in service to the men and women of this country.  I am grateful for your kind words of welcome, which expressed your profound hopes and concerns in the face of the challenges, both personal and social, of your work as educators.

In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus, the Master, teaches the crowds and the small group of his disciples by accommodating himself to their ability to understand.  He does this with parables, like that of the sower (cf. Lk 8:4-15).  He does it in a way that everyone can understand.  Jesus does not seek to “play the professor”.  Instead, he seeks to reach people’s hearts, their understanding and their lives, so that they may bear fruit.

The parable of the sower speaks to us of “cultivating”.  It speaks of various kinds of soil, ways of sowing and bearing fruit, and how they are all related.  Ever since the time of Genesis, God has quietly urged us to “cultivate and care for the earth”.

God does not only give us life: he gives us the earth, he gives us all of creation.  He does not only give man a partner and endless possibilities: he also gives human beings a task, he gives them a mission.  He invites them to be a part of his creative work and he says: “Cultivate it!  I am giving you seeds, soil, water and sun.  I am giving you your hands and those of your brothers and sisters.  There it is, it is yours.  It is a gift, a present, an offering.  It is not something that can be bought or acquired.  It precedes us and it will be there long after us.

Our world is a gift given to us by God so that, with him, we can make it our own.  God did not will creation for himself, so he could see himself reflected in it.  On the contrary: creation is a gift to be shared.  It is the space that God gives us to build up with one another, to build a “we”.  The world, history, all of time – this is the setting in which we build this “we” with God, with others, with the earth.  This invitation is always present, more or less consciously in our life; it is always there.

But there is something else which is special.  As Genesis recounts, after the word “cultivate”, another word immediately follows: “care”.  Each explains the other.  They go hand in hand.  Those who do not cultivate do not care; those who do not care do not cultivate.

We are not only invited to share in the work of creation and to cultivate it, to make it grow and to develop it.  We are also invited to care for it, to protect it, to be its guardians.  Nowadays we are increasingly aware of how important this is.  It is no longer a mere recommendation, but rather a requirement, “because of the harm we have inflicted on [the earth] by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed it.  We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder it at will…  This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor” (Laudato Si’, 2).

There is a relationship between our life and that of mother earth, between the way we live and the gift we have received from God. “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation” (Laudato Si’, 48).  Yet just as both can “deteriorate”, we can also say that they can “support one another and can be changed for the better”.  This reciprocal relationship can lead to openness, transformation, and life, or to destruction and death.

One thing is certain: we can no longer turn our backs on reality, on our brothers and sisters, on mother earth.  It is wrong to turn aside from what is happening all around us, as if certain situations did not exist or have nothing to do with our life.

Again and again we sense the urgency of the question which God put to Cain, “Where is your brother?”  But I wonder if our answer continues to be: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

Here, in this university setting, it would be worthwhile reflecting on the way we educate about this earth of ours, which cries out to heaven.

Our academic institutions are seedbeds, places full of possibility, fertile soil which we must care for, cultivate and protect.  Fertile soil thirsting for life. My question to you, as educators, is this: Do you watch over your students, helping them to develop a critical sense, an open mind capable of caring for today’s world?  A spirit capable of seeking new answers to the varied challenges that society sets before us?  Are you able to encourage them not to disregard the world around them?  Does our life, with its uncertainties, mysteries and questions, find a place in the university curriculum or different academic activities?  Do we enable and support a constructive debate which fosters dialogue in the pursuit of a more humane world?

One avenue of reflection involves all of us, family, schools and teachers.  How do we help our young people not to see a university degree as synonymous with higher status, money and social prestige.  How can we help make their education a mark of greater responsibility in the face of today’s problems, the needs of the poor, concern for the environment?

I also have a question for you, dear students.  You are Ecuador’s present and future, the seedbed of your society’s future growth.  Do you realize that this time of study is not only a right, but a privilege?  How many of your friends, known or unknown, would like to have a place in this house but, for various reasons, do not?  To what extent do our studies help us feel solidarity with them?

Educational communities play an essential role in the enrichment of civic and cultural life.  It is not enough to analyze and describe reality: there is a need to shape environments of creative thinking, discussions which develop alternatives to current problems, especially today.

Faced with the globalization of a technocratic paradigm which tends to believe “that every increase in power means an increase of progress itself, an advance in security, usefulness, welfare and vigor; …an assimilation of new values into the stream of culture, as if reality, goodness and truth automatically flow from technological and economic power as such” (Laudato Si’, 105), it is urgent that we keep reflecting on and talking about our current situation.  We need to ask ourselves about the kind of culture we want not only for ourselves, but for our children and our grandchildren.  We have received this earth as an inheritance, as a gift, in trust.  We would do well to ask ourselves: “What kind of world do we want to leave behind?  What meaning or direction do we want to give to our lives?  Why have we been put here?  What is the purpose of our work and all our efforts?” (cf. Laudato Si’, 160).

Personal initiatives are always necessary and good.  But we are asked to go one step further: to start viewing reality in an organic and not fragmented way, to ask about where we stand in relation to others, inasmuch as “everything is interconnected” (Laudato Si’, 138). As a university, as educational institutions, as teachers and students, life itself challenges us to answer this question: What does this world need us for?  Where is your brother?

May the Holy Spirit inspire and accompany us, for he has summoned us, invited us, given us the opportunity and the duty to offer the best of ourselves.  He is the same Spirit who on the first day of creation moved over the waters, ready to transform them, ready to bestow life.  He is the same Spirit who gave the disciples the power of Pentecost.   The Spirit does not abandon us.  He becomes one with us, so that we can encounter paths of new life.  May he, the Spirit, always be our teacher and our companion along the way.

Text 3, 7 July: Pope Francis address to civic leaders at Saint Francis Church in Quito

I am pleased to be with you, men and women who represent and advance the social, political and economic life of this country.

As I entered this church, the Mayor of Quito gave me the keys to the city.  So I can say that here, in Saint Francis of Quito, I feel at home.  His expression of affectionate closeness, opening your doors to me, allows me to speak, in turn, about a few other keys: keys to our life in society, beginning with family life.

Our society benefits when each person and social group feels truly at home.  In a family, parents, grandparents and children feel at home; no one is excluded.  If someone has a problem, even a serious one, even if he brought it upon himself, the rest of the family comes to his assistance; they support him.  His problems are theirs.  Should it not be the same in society?  Our relationships in society and political life, though, are often based on confrontation and the attempt to eliminate our opponents.  My position, my ideas and my plans will move forward if I can prevail over others and impose my will.  Is this the way a family should be?

In families, everyone contributes to the common purpose, everyone works for the common good, not denying each person’s individuality but encouraging and supporting it.  The joys and sorrows of each are felt by all.  That is what it means to be a family!  If only we could view our political opponents or neighbors in the same way we view our children or our spouse, mother or father!  Do we love our society?  Do we love our country, the community which we are trying to build?  Do we love it in the abstract, in theory?  Let us love it by our actions more than by our words!  In every person, in concrete situations, in our life together, love always leads to communication, never to isolation.

This feeling can give rise to small gestures which strengthen personal bonds.  I have often spoken the importance of the family as the primary cell of society.  In the family, we find the basic values of love, fraternity and mutual respect, which translate into essential values for society as a whole: gratitude, solidarity and subsidiarity.

Parents know that all their children are equally loved, even though each has his or her own character.  But when children refuse to share what they have freely received, this relationship breaks down.  The love of their parents helps children to overcome their selfishness, to learn to live with others, to yield and be patient.  In the wider life of society we come to see that “gratuitousness” is not something extra, but rather a necessary condition of justice.  Who we are, and what we have, has been given to us so that we can place it at the service of others.  Our task is to make it bear fruit in good works.  The goods of the earth are meant for everyone, and however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage.  In this way we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, towards social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life.

The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits.  As stewards of these riches which we have received, we have an obligation toward society as a whole and towards future generations.  We cannot bequeath this heritage to them without proper care for the environment, without a sense of gratuitousness born of our contemplation of the created world.

Among us today are some of our brothers and sisters representing the indigenous peoples of the Equatorial Amazon.  That region is one of the “richest areas both in the number of species and in endemic, rare or less protected species…  it requires greater protection because of its immense importance for the global ecosystem… it possesses an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when [such woodlands] are burned down or leveled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands” (cf. Laudato Si’, 37-38).   Ecuador – together with other countries bordering the Amazon – has an opportunity to become a teacher of integral ecology.  We received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it!

Out of the family’s experience of fraternity is born solidarity in society, which does not only consist in giving to those in need, but in feeling responsible for one another.  If we see others as our brothers and sisters, then no one can be left out or set aside.

Ecuador, like many Latin American nations, is now experiencing profound social and cultural changes, new challenges which need to be faced by every sector of society.  Migration, overcrowded cities, consumerism, crises in the family, unemployment and pockets of poverty: all these factors create uncertainty and tensions which threaten social harmony.  Laws and regulations, as well as social planning, need to aim at inclusion, create opportunities for dialogue and encounter, while leaving behind all forms of repression, excessive control or loss of freedom as painful past memories.  Hoping in a better future calls for offering real opportunities to people, especially young people, creating employment, and ensuring an economic growth which is shared by all (rather than simply existing on paper, in macroeconomic statistics), and promoting a sustainable development capable of generating a solid and cohesive social fabric.

Finally, the respect for others which we learn in the family finds social expression in subsidiarity.  To recognize that our choices are not necessarily the only legitimate ones is a healthy exercise in humility.  In acknowledging the goodness inherent in others, even with their limitations, we see the richness present in diversity and the value of complementarity.  Individuals and groups have the right to go their own way, even though they may sometimes make mistakes.  In full respect for that freedom, civil society is called to help each person and social organization to take up its specific role and thus contribute to the common good.  Dialogue is needed and is fundamental for arriving at the truth, which cannot be imposed, but sought with a sincere and critical spirit.  In a participatory democracy, each social group, indigenous peoples, Afro-Ecuadorians, women, civic associations and those engaged in public service are all indispensable participants in this dialogue.  The walls, patios and cloisters of this city eloquently make this point: rooted in elements of Incan and Caranqui culture, beautiful in their proportions and shapes, boldly and strikingly combining different styles, the works of art produced by the “Quito school” sum up that great dialogue, with its successes and failures, which is Ecuador’s history.  Today we see how beautiful it is.  If the past was marked by errors and abuses – how can we deny it! – we can say that the amalgamation which resulted radiates such exuberance that we can look to the future with great hope.

The Church wishes for her part to cooperate in the pursuit of the common good, through her social and educational works, promoting ethical and spiritual values, and serving as a prophetic sign which brings a ray of light and hope to all, especially those most in need.

Thank you for being here, for listening to me.  I ask you please to carry my words of encouragement to the different communities and groups which you represent.  May the Lord grant that the civil society which you represent will always be a fitting setting for experiencing and practicing these values of which I have spoken.

Posted in human ecology, Pope Francis, South America

Francis begins South America tour with homage to family

Pope mass[Austen Ivereigh] Pope Francis’s first homily of his three-nation, eight-day South American trip focussed on the family, describing it as the “the nearest hospital, the first school for the young, and the best home for the elderly” in a Mass in Samanes Park in the coastal city of Guayaquil in Ecuador, attended by 600,000 people under baking sun.

Francis was driven into the city in a customary small silver Fiat marked for the occasion with Vatican City number plates, as tens of thousands lined the streets to welcome him.

The homily, a reflection on the Miracle at the Wedding of Cana, praised the family as  the best “social capital” available to any society, one that cannot be replaced by other institutions and which needs to be helped and strengthened; a healthy society, he said, has a debt to families for supplying the values and virtues on which the common good depends. He went on to describe the family as a school of service, where faith is transmitted: “When we experience the love of our parents, we feel the closeness of God’s love.”

genThe Pope lamented the effects of family breakdown in contemporary society. “How many of our adolescents and young people sense that these are no longer found in their homes?  How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives?  How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love?”

Turning to October’s synod, he said:

Shortly before the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Church will celebrate the Ordinary Synod devoted to the family, deepen her spiritual discernment and consider concrete solutions to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families in our time.  I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous or threatening, and turn it – by making it part of his “hour” – into a miracle.

popemobileThis was reported as urging a more flexible attitude towards divorced and gay people, although Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said later that Francis was not referring to specific controversies but that he wanted the synod to find ways “to help people move from a situation of sin to a situation of grace”. The Pope is keen to bring back into the Church’s fold those who feel like outcasts.

At the end of the homily, Francis returned to the theme of mercy, when he spoke beautifully of the way God seeks out those who are lost and on the margins, whose faith allows them to be touched by His Grace:

The finest of wines will come for every person who stakes everything on love.  And it will come in spite of all the variables and statistics which say otherwise; the best wine is yet to come for those who today feel hopelessly lost.  Say it until you are convinced of it: the best wine is yet to come.  Whisper it to the hopeless and the loveless.  God always seek out the peripheries, those who have run out of wine, those who drink only of discouragement.  Jesus feels their weakness, in order to pour out the best wines for those who, for whatever reason, feel that all their jars have been broken.

Padre Paquito

Padre Paquito

After the Mass, Pope Francis went to lunch at the Jesuits’ Javier College, where he sought ought an old friend, 91-year-old Fr Fernando Cortés, known affectionately as “Padre Paquito”. The Wall St Journal interviewed the cigar-smoking Spanish Jesuit prior to the visit, observing a copy of The Great Reformer on his desk.

When he was Jesuit provincial and later rector of the Colegio Máximo, the vast formation house for Jesuits in the Southern Cone, Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio was sceptical about many Jesuit formation houses in the region, and tended to keep the Jesuit students in Argentina. But he made an exception for the Colegio Javier in Guayaquil, where he sent a number of his students as part of their formation. Hence his bond with the then rector of the college, Padre Paquito, whom he first met in the early 1980s when on a trip there. Padre Paquito later went to the Colegio Máximo for the ordination of Argentine scholastics who had studied in Guayaquil. They became friends, but haven’t seen each other for 30 years.

Following lunch at the college, Pope Francis departed for the capital, Quito, where he paid a courtesy visit to the president, Rafael Correa, who had received him at the airport on Sunday evening.

with Correa

with Correa

In his welcome speech at the airport, Correa, a populist leftist who describes himself as a practising Catholic, deftly focussed on the environment and social justice, liberally quoting both Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’, as well as the Latin-American bishops’ documents of Medellín, Puebla and Aparecida. Describing Ecuador — which sits on the equator, and has astonishingly diverse countryside and wildlife — as “the planet’s eco-centre”, he said it was also the “capital of South America” which had generated “thinking and revolutonary actions on the part of those of us who, like you, are exasperated by injustice and exclusion”. Jesting that if the Pope is Argentine and God is probably Brazilian (as Francis himself joked while in Rio de Janeiro in 2013), then surely “heaven is in Ecuador”.

Ecuador_map2In his speech in response, Pope Francis said he had come “as a witness of God’s mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ”, noting that “we can find in the Gospel a key to meeting contemporary challenges, respecting differences, fostering dialogue and full participation, so that the growth in progress and development already registered will ensure a better future for everyone, with particular concern for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.  In these efforts, Mr President, you can always count on the commitment and cooperation of the Church.”

Ecuador mapReturning to a favourite theme of his — articulated in his speech to the cardinals prior to the conclave that elected him in March 2013 — Francis described the Church as like the moon and Christ like the sun in that the Church did not possess the light but reflected that of Christ. Noting how Ecuador, in Mount Chimborazo, was the place on earth closest to the sun, he said: “May the coming days make all of us ever more clearly aware of how close is the sun which ‘dawns upon us from on high’.  May each of us be a true reflection of his light and his love.” (For the origins of this idea in St Ambrose via Karl Rahner, see Gianni Valente here).

In a packed agenda today, Pope Francis will meet the bishops of Ecuador before celebrating Mass at 10:30 at the Bicentennial Park in Quito, in which his homily will deal with the theme of mission. This afternoon he will meet with educators at the Pontifical Catholic University, where he will address 5,000 invited guests and 3,000 students. Then he will give another speech to civil society leaders at San Francisco church before paying a private visit to the Jesuit church, the Iglesia de la Compañía, which contains the miraculous image of Our Lady of Sorrows (see CNS here).

Pope Francis’s homily at Samanes Park yesterday follows in full:

Samanes Park, Guayaquil, Monday, 6 July 2015

The Gospel passage which we have just heard is the first momentous sign in the Gospel according to John.  Mary’s maternal concern is seen in her plea to Jesus: “They have no wine”, and Jesus’ reference to “his hour” will be more fully understood later, in the story of his Passion.

This is good, because it allows us to see Jesus’ eagerness to teach, to accompany, to heal and to give joy, thanks to the words of his Mother: “They have no wine”.

The wedding at Cana is repeated in every generation, in every family, in every one of us and our efforts to let our hearts find rest in strong, fruitful and joyful love.  Let us make room for Mary, “the Mother” as the evangelist calls her.  Let us journey with her to Cana.

Mary is attentive in the course of this wedding feast, she is concerned for the needs of the newlyweds.  She is not closed in on herself, worried only about her little world.  Her love makes her “outgoing” towards others.  So she notices that the wine has run out.  Wine is a sign of happiness, love and plenty.  How many of our adolescents and young people sense that these are no longer found in their homes?   How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives?  How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love?  This lack of “wine” can also be due to unemployment, illness and difficult situations which our families may experience.  Mary is not a “demanding” mother, a mother-in-law who revels in our lack of experience, our mistakes and the things we forget to do.  Mary is a Mother!  She is there, attentive and concerned.

But Mary approaches Jesus with confidence, Mary prays.  She does not go to the steward, she immediately tells her Son of the newlyweds’ problem.  The response she receives seems disheartening: “What does it have to do with you and me?  My hour has not yet come” (v. 4).  But she nonetheless places the problem in God’s hands.  Her concern to meet the needs of others hastens Jesus’ hour.  Mary was a part of that hour, from the cradle to the cross.  She was able “to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286).  She accepted us as her sons and daughters when the sword pierced her heart.  She teaches us to put our families in God’s hands, to pray, to kindle the hope which shows us that our concerns are also God’s concerns.

Praying always lifts us out of our worries and concerns.  It makes us rise above everything that hurts, upsets or disappoints us, and it puts us in the place of others, in their shoes.  The family is a school where prayer also reminds us that we are not isolated individuals; we are one and we have a neighbour close at hand: he or she is living under the same roof, is a part of our life, and is in need.

Mary finally acts.  Her words, “Do whatever he tells you” (v. 5), addressed to the attendants, are also an invitation to us to open our hearts to Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served.  Service is the sign of true love.  We learn this especially in the family, where we become servants out of love for one another.  In the heart of the family, no one is rejected.  “In the family we learn how to ask without demanding, to say ‘thank you’ as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm.  These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings” (Laudato Si’, 213).  The family is the nearest hospital, the first school for the young, the best home for the elderly.  The family constitutes the best “social capital”.  It cannot be replaced by other institutions.  It needs to be helped and strengthened, lest we lose our proper sense of the services which society as a whole provides.  Those services are not a type of alms, but rather a genuine “social debt” with respect to the institution of the family, which contributes so greatly to the common good.

The family is also a small Church, a “domestic Church” which, along with life, also mediates God’s tenderness and mercy.  In the family, we imbibe faith with our mother’s milk.  When we experience the love of our parents, we feel the closeness of God’s love.

In the family, miracles are performed with what little we have, with what we are, with what is at hand… many times, it is not ideal, it is not what we dreamt of, nor what “should have been”.  The new wine of the wedding feast of Cana came from the water jars, the jars used for ablutions, we might even say from the place where everyone had left their sins… “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20).  In our own families and in the greater family to which we all belong, nothing is thrown away, nothing is useless.  Shortly before the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Church will celebrate the Ordinary Synod devoted to the family, deepen her spiritual discernment and consider concrete solutions to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families in our time.  I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous or threatening, and turn it – by making it part of his “hour” – into a miracle.

It all began because “they had no wine”.  It could all be done because a woman – the Virgin Mary – was attentive, left her concerns in God’s hands and acted sensibly and courageously.  But there was more to come: everyone went on to enjoy the finest of wines.  And this is the good news: the finest wines are yet to be tasted; for families, the richest, deepest and most beautiful things are yet to come.  The time is coming when we will taste love daily, when our children will come to appreciate the home we share, and our elderly will be present each day in the joys of life.  The finest of wines will come for every person who stakes everything on love.  And it will come in spite of all the variables and statistics which say otherwise; the best wine is yet to come for those who today feel hopelessly lost.  Say it until you are convinced of it: the best wine is yet to come.  Whisper it to the hopeless and the loveless.  God always seek out the peripheries, those who have run out of wine, those who drink only of discouragement.  Jesus feels their weakness, in order to pour out the best wines for those who, for whatever reason, feel that all their jars have been broken.

As Mary bids us, let us “do what he tells us” and be thankful that in this, our time and our hour, the new wine, the finest wine, will make us recover the joy of being a family.

Posted in Pope Francis, South America

Francis in South America: building a culture of encounter from the periphery

Andean[Austen Ivereigh] Pope Francis’s intense 8-day apostolic journey to three poor South-American countries, which begins this Sunday, will be one of his most significant yet — a chance to evangelize from the peripheries in his own continent.

Although not the first visit to Latin America as pope — he travelled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2013 for World Youth Day — it is his first to Spanish-speaking South America. Just as he went to Turkey, Albania and Bosnia before visiting large countries in Europe, he has chosen Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay before the wealthier nations of South America — Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay — which he is expected to visit next year, as well as, at some point, Peru, Venezuela and Colombia.

Info-papa-Francisco_LRZIMA20150410_0005_14The trip (itinerary here) will involve two days in each country, and in each country visiting two places: the capital and one other. He will arrive in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, on Sunday, before going to Guayaquil, on the ocean, on Monday morning, before returning to the capital. On Wednesday he will fly to La Paz, the Bolivian capital, before going in the afternoon to Santa Cruz, in the Bolivian lowlands, where he will stay. On Friday he will go to Asunción, the Paraguayan capital, and the next day say Mass at the shrine of the Virgin of Caacupé, about 40 kilometres away.

The agenda is packed with liturgies, meetings with civil society leaders, visits to “places of pain” — an elderly home, prison, and paediatric hospital — as well as meetings with authorities, time spent in a slum, and hosting a huge world meeting of popular movements. He is expected to give 22 speeches and homilies, and will speak in Spanish throughout — with smatterings of indigenous languages. Given his propensity for spontaneity, however, no one is betting on Francis either giving the text he has been prepared, or limiting himself to that number.

Three nations

logo BoliviaWhat Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay have in common is that they are poor, geopolitically unimportant, yet are rich in geography and culture. His journey next week will take him from sea level (Guayaquil, in Ecuador) to the world’s highest airport (El Alto in Bolivia, which is at 4,100m) as well as to the subtropical lowlands of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and Asunción, Paraguay. All three countries have large indigenous and mestizo populations: in Ecuador and Bolivia are millions of Quechua and Aymara speakers who lived under the Inca empire before the arrival of the Spanish in the sixteenth century, while Paraguay is the homeland of the Guaraní-speaking people, famously organized by the Jesuits in the great ‘Reductions’ of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

354D30BC-2B46-4A8C-B3A8-B61AAE82FED4Pope Francis knows all three countries from his time as a Jesuit provincial in Argentina. Bolivia and Paraguay were at one point part of the same Jesuit province as Argentina, and he used to send students to the Jesuit ‘Javier’ college in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he will be having lunch on Monday. As cardinal archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was very close to the Paraguayan, Bolivian and Ecuadorian migrants who make up the majority of the slum dwellers in the Buenos Aires villas miseria.

A legacy of conflict

All three countries are coping with the legacy of wars and border conflicts. Paraguay, which was a relatively important country in the early nineteenth century, was dismembered and shrunk to a third of its size after neighboring Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay united to crush it in the so-called War of the Triple Alliance of the 1860s. Pope Francis has spoken in the past of the way the country lost nine-tenths of its male population, and only survived because of its women. Paraguay later went to war with Bolivia in the 1930s over the Chaco, while Bolivia, for its part, lost access to the sea following the War of the Pacific with Chile. Both of these last two border conflicts remain, as does Ecuador’s longstanding frontier dispute with Peru. Pope Francis is likely to use this visit as an opportunity to give messages about Latin-American continental unity — a theme close to his heart.

logo EcuadorAll three nations are deeply Catholic, with overwhelming Catholic majorities, and are also highly practising — Paraguay, for example, has a Massgoing population of over 70 per cent. Yet pre-Columbian beliefs are also strong, especially in Ecuador and Bolivia, where attempts to re-evaluate Inca cultural and religious legacies are often accompanied by a left-wing, anti-colonial discourse. Evo Morales, who is serving  a third term as Bolivia’s president, has said in the past that he is only a Roman Catholic in order “to go to weddings”, and when asked if he believed in God, responded that “I believe in the land. In my father and my mother. And in Cuchi-Cuchi”. Yet he has built a relationship with Pope Francis in their shared efforts to secure better conditions for landless workers, just as Rafael Correa — Ecuador’s Quechua-speaking socialist president — has given speeches at the Vatican on the moral dimension of climate change.

Mission builds culture

logo ParaguagOne of the Pope’s concerns in this visit will be to show that the Gospel — whatever the mistakes of Spanish missionaries in the past — builds and protects cultures, as the Jesuits did among the Guaraní, rather than displacing them. The theme of mission will be strong on this visit, especially at the big Mass at the Bicentennial Park in Quito, Ecuador, on Tuesday, where crowds of over a million are expected. The Mass will involve many different ethnic groups, who will be represented in the Offertory, and the liturgy will be strong on Aymara and Quechua, even including music composed for the funeral of the last Inca emperor, Atahualpa, who was tricked by the conquistadors into surrendering Cuzco. In Paraguay, the liturgies will have plenty of Guaraní, and music from the age of the Jesuit Reductions will be played at the meeting at the López palace on Friday.

Two documents will underpin the trip. The visit is being framed, above all, by Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation of November 2013, in which the theme of joy and mission and evangelization are paramount — as reflected in the mottos for the visits chosen by each country. The other key document is the one that came out of the Latin-American bishops’ meeting in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007, in which evangelizing through charity, missionary discipleship and concern for the poor and the environment are key concerns. Another recurrent theme of the visit will be mercy, which Pope Francis has chosen for next year’s Jubilee. In his video message to the three countries, Pope Francis spoke of wishing to “bring to you the tenderness and caress of God, our Father, especially to your children most in need, the elderly, the sick, the imprisoned, the poor, to those who are victims of this throwaway culture.”

One of the most significant themes of the Aparecida document — as result especially of the contribution of Argentine theologians coordinated by Cardinal Bergoglio — was popular religiosity, which Francis (unlike many liberation theologians in the 1970s) sees as the place where Christ encounters the poor, often through traditional Marian devotions. He will make a private visit to the image of the Sorrowful Mother in Quito, and will address clergy and religious at the shrine of El Quinche.  In each of the countries, Francis will be meeting “God’s holy faithful people” – the ordinary poor — at the shrines, the week framed by huge Masses at the Divine Mercy sanctuary in Guayaquil on Monday and the Virgin of Caacupé in Paraguay on Saturday. (The latter is close to Argentina, and therefore will attract many of the Pope’s compatriots). The combination of Francis’s extraordinary popularity, his connectedness with the poor, and the bright colours and costumes of the indigenous peoples in all three countries, means that the Pope’s “people time” will be must-watch TV — especially at the vast Mass ending his visit on Sunday in Paraguay.

Building bridges

Another theme will be the “culture of encounter”, the phrase connected with Pope Francis’s attempts to build a pluralistic politics of inclusion in countries where corruption and populism often drive out policies geared to the common good. In the meetings with civil society leaders — at the San Francisco church in Quito, in the cathedral in La Paz, and in the San José school in Asunción — Francis is likely to focus on the foundations of a renewed Latin-American politics. He is also likely to use these meetings — as well as the speeches to the dignitaries — to remind his audiences of Latin America’s joint continental destiny, the dream of the patria grande, or greater fatherland.

With the the suffering, the young, and the disenfranchised

The visits to the places of pain and poverty will also form an essential backdrop to some of the Pope’s key messages. The nursing home of the Missionaries of Charity in Quito, the notoriously large and violent prison of Palmasola (with 5,000 inmates, one of the largest in the world) in Santa Cruz, and the visit to sick children at the Niños de Acosta Nu in Asunción will be opportunities for allowing the suffering to speak — and Francis to listen to the experience of pain. His visit to the large riverside slum of El Bañado in Asunción will also be a significant moment, in which he will draw attention to some of the themes in Laudato Si’ about the fragility of the poor and the planet.

These are young populations for whom education is a vital commodity, and the Church is a key player. Expect important messages, therefore, at the Pontifical Catholic university in Quito, the Don Bosco school in Santa Cruz, and the meeting with young people at the Costanera in Paraguay.

With the popular movements

with MoralesOne of the most significant and unusual moments of the trip will be on Thursday afternoon in Santa Cruz, when Pope Francis will lead the Second World Meeting of the Popular Movements at the Expo Feria. The first was in October 2014, when Francis gave one of his most challenging speeches. Among those attending will be the cartoneros, the garbage workers whom Francis was close to in Buenos Aires, as well as ragpickers from the slums of India, workers from South American cooperatives, even indigent can-and-bottle collectors from New York. There, along with Evo Morales — attending in his role as leader of a social movement, rather than as president — Francis will likely repeat his call for the poor and powerless to organize to secure what he has called the “sacred rights” of land, housing and work.

“He believes in the organization of the poor by their own kind and struggling for social justice,” said Juan Grabois, an Argentine human rights activist who is organizing the meeting. “He wants to hear what they want to say, instead of listening only to political leaders.”

cartoneroSThe Meeting of Popular Movements will almost certainly provide an opportunity for Pope Francis to bring home his Laudato Si’ messages, applauded by crowds of the very people his encyclical describes as impacted by the consumerism of the wealthy world.

Here we will see Pope Francis as modern popes have never been seen: as community organizer, leader of the disenfranchised, and slum prophet.

Briefing press on the visit, Vatican spokesman Fr Lombardi said the meeting would likely produce a document that Francis will take with him to the United States, and which he will no doubt refer to in his addresses to the UN and to Congress.

Pope Francis’s visit to the margins, in other words, will produce challenging messages for the powerful and privileged, as well as hope to the poor.

Posted in Pope Francis, South America