Pope To Conference On Evangelizing The Americas… Dare To Reach The Fringes That Need To Feel God’s Closeness
VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) — Here is a translation of the video message sent by Pope Francis to participants in a conference on evangelizing the Americas, sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Knights of Columbus. The conference was at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City from November 16 to 19. ZENIT translated and published the message; all rights reserved.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I greet you very cordially, who are participating in this pilgrimage-meeting, organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In addition to transmitting to you my affection, my closeness, and the desire I have to be with you, I want to share briefly some reflections, as a help to these days of meeting.
[The 2007 meeting of the Latin American bishops at] Aparecida intended to put the Church in a permanent state of mission, to carry out activities of a missionary nature, yes, but in the widest context of a generalized missionary undertaking: that all the usual activities of the particular Churches have a missionary character and this in the certainty that the missionary endeavor more than an activity among others is a paradigm; that is, it is the paradigm of all pastoral action.
The Church’s intimacy with Jesus is an itinerant intimacy: It implies going out of oneself, walking and sowing always again, always further on. Let’s go elsewhere to preach to the neighboring villages because I have come for that, the Lord said. It is vital that the Church not be shut-in on herself, not feel herself satisfied and sure of what she has achieved.
If this were to happen, the Church would get sick, sick with imaginary abundance, with superfluous abundance and she would weaken. One must go out of one’s own community and dare to reach the existential fringes that need to feel God’s closeness. He does not abandon anyone and always shows His inexhaustible tenderness and mercy, so this is what must be taken to all people.
A second point: The objective of all pastoral activity is always directed by the missionary impulse to reach everyone, without excluding anyone and taking into account the circumstances of each one. All must be reached and share the joy of having encountered Christ. It is not about going as one who imposes a new obligation, as one who remains in reproach or compliant in the face of what is considered imperfect or insufficient.
The evangelizing task implies much patience, much patience, looks after the wheat and does not lose peace over the darnel. And it is also able to present the Christian message in a serene and gradual way, with the scent of the Gospel as the Lord did. It is able to privilege in the first place what is most essential and most necessary, namely, the beauty of the love of God who speaks to us in the dead and risen Christ.
Moreover, it must make an effort to be creative in its methods; we cannot remain enclosed in the topic “it was always done this way.”
The True Shepherd
Third: The one who leads the pastoral action in the particular Church is the bishop and he does so as shepherd who knows his sheep by name, leads them with closeness, with tenderness, with patience, manifesting effectively the Church’s maternity and God’s mercy.
The attitude of the true shepherd is not that of a prince or mere functionary who pays attention primarily to discipline, regulation, organizational mechanisms. This always leads to a pastoral [approach] that is distant from the people, incapable of fostering and achieving the encounter with Jesus Christ and the encounter with brothers.
The People of God entrusted to him need the bishop to watch over them, looking after especially all that keeps them united and promotes hope in hearts. It needs the bishop to be able to discern, without silencing it, the breath of the Holy Spirit that comes where it wills, for the good of the Church and her mission in the world.
Fourth: These attitudes of the bishop must make a deep impression also in the other agents of the pastoral life, very especially in the presbyters. The temptation of clericalism, which does so much damage to the Church in Latin America, is an obstacle for the development of maturity and the Christian responsibility of a good part of the laity.
Clericalism implies a self-referential posture, a group posture, which impoverishes the projection toward the encounter with the Lord, which makes us disciples, and toward the encounter with the men who await the proclamation. Because of this I think it is important, urgent, to form ministers capable of solidarity, of encounter, able to enkindle people’s hearts, to walk with them, to enter into dialogue with their hopes and fears.
Bishops cannot delegate this work. They must assume it as something essential for the life of the Church without sparing efforts, attention, and support. Moreover, a formation of quality requires solid and lasting structures, which prepare to address the challenges of our days and is able to take the light of the Gospel to the different situations that the presbyters, the consecrated men and women, and the laity will meet in their pastoral action.
Today’s culture calls for serious, well-organized formation, and I wonder if we have the self-criticism sufficient to evaluate the results of very small seminaries that lack sufficient formative personnel.
I want to dedicate a few words to consecrated life. Consecrated life in the Church is a leaven. A leaven of what the Lord wants, a leaven that makes the Church grow toward the ultimate manifestation of Jesus Christ. I ask the consecrated men and women to be faithful to the charism received, that in their service to the hierarchical Holy Mother Church they not blur that grace which the Holy Spirit gave to their founders and that they must transmit in all its integrity. And that is the great prophecy of the consecrated, that charism given for the good of the Church.
Continue to go forward in that creative fidelity to the charism received to serve the Church.
Dear brothers and sisters, thank you very much for what you do for this continental mission. Remember that you have received Baptism which has made you disciples of the Lord. But every disciple is, at the same time, a missionary. Benedict XVI said that they are the two sides of the same medal.
I beg you, as father and brother in Jesus Christ, to take charge of the faith you received in Baptism. And, as Timothy’s mother and grandmother did, transmit the faith to your children and grandchildren, and not only to them. This treasure of the faith is not for personal use. It is to be given, to be transmitted, and in this way it will grow. Make Jesus’ name known. And if you do this, do not be surprised if at the height of winter, roses of Castile flower. Because, you know, both Jesus [and] we have the same Mother.