On the Waterfront, "On the Outskirts"
The exchange began with one young man whose powerfully-worded question spoke for no shortage of folks not just in Malta, but well beyond in these days:
I wish to speak on behalf of those young people who, like me feel they are on the outskirts of the Church. We are the ones who do not fit comfortably into stereo-typed roles. This is due to various factors among them: either because we have experienced substance abuse; or because we are experiencing the misfortune of broken or dysfunctional families; or because we are of a different sexual orientation; among us are also our immigrant brothers and sisters, all of us in some way or another have encountered experiences that have estranged us from the Church. Other Catholics put us all in one basket. For them we are those “who claim to believe yet do not live up to the commitment of faith.” To us, faith is a confusing reality and this causes us great suffering. We feel that not even the Church herself recognizes our worth. One of our deepest wounds stems from the fact that although the political forces are prepared to realize our desire for integration, the Church community still considers us to be a problem. It seems almost as if we are less readily accepted and treated with dignity by the Christian community than we are by all other members of society. We understand that our way of life puts the Church in an ambiguous position, yet we feel that we should be treated with more compassion – without being judged and with more love.Again, here's the answer... questions fulltext to come.
We are made to feel that we are living in error. This lack of comprehension on the part of other Christians causes us to entertain grave doubts, not only with regards to community life, but also regarding our personal relationship with God. How can we believe that God accepts us unconditionally when his own people reject us?
Your Holiness, we wish to tell you that on a personal level – and some of us, even in our respective communities – are persevering to find ways in which we may remain united in Jesus, who we consider to be our salvation.
However, it is not that easy for us to proclaim God as our Father, a God who responds to all those who love him without prejudice. It is a contradiction in terms when we bless God’s Holy Name, whilst those around us make us feel that we are worth nothing to him.
We feel emarginated, almost as if we had not been invited to the banquet. God has called to him all those who are in the squares and in the towns, those who are on the wayside and in the country side, however we feel he has bypassed our streets. Your Holiness, please tell us what exactly is Jesus’ call for us. We wish you to show to us and the rest of the Church just how valid is our faith, and whether our prayers are also heard. We too wish to give our contribution to the Catholic community.
Your Holiness, what must we do?
...meanwhile, in his words of welcome at the start of this morning's Mass -- during which, according to one witness, a "tired" and "frail"-looking Benedict fell asleep at one point -- Malta's Archbishop Paul Cremona outlined the church's contemporary challenge in these words:
[T]oday we are searching especially for a new evangelisation. Society has changed and it is a challenge for the Catholic Church to examine itself, and its methods of evangelization. We know that now the Church considers itself as a believing Community in the larger Maltese population. It has a mission of love in the name of Christ to witness to its faith and the values inherent in this faith especially those centering around the sanctity of life from the moment of conception; the dignity of every person and the fundamental importance of a stable family based on marriage.As speaking truth to Papa goes, it's pretty unique, potent stuff.
We know that in the light of these changing conditions we cannot just cling to the model of the Church to which we have been accustomed for decades. We have to return to the Church as it unfolds in the Acts of the Apostles: a Church which centres around the listening to and the sharing of the Word and the Eucharist; a Church which thrives on the personal experience of Christ; a Church in which its members are not fazed by persecution but continues to give witness in love to the teachings of the Lord; a Church which passed from the humiliation of having let down the Lord at the moment of his Crucifixion to the humility of the preaching the Word relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit, rather than on the strength of its members; a Church humble enough to recognize the failures and sins in its members but strong enough to count on the presence of the Holy Spirit; a Church which does not seek privileges, but merely strives just to deliver the Good News of the Lord.
PHOTOS: Getty(1); AP(2)