Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Us Jesuits" – On Ignatius' Day, The Pope Comes "Home"

To mark this feast of his community's founder, St Ignatius of Loyola, earlier today the first Jesuit Pope joined some 200 of his confreres for a celebratory Mass at Rome's Gesu Church, following which Francis prayed at the tombs of Ignatius, his co-founder St Francis Xavier and Father Pedro Arrupe, the legendary General (1965-83) whose vision of faith and justice created the Company's modern understanding of itself.

Here in his usual "three words," Vatican Radio's English translation of the Pope's historic preach:

In this Eucharist in which we celebrate our Father Ignatius of Loyola, in light of the Readings we have heard, I would like to propose three simple thoughts guided by three expressions: to put Christ and the Church in the centre; to allow ourselves to be conquered by Him in order to serve; to feel the shame of our limitations and our sins, in order to be humble before Him and before the brothers.

1. The emblem of us Jesuits is a monogram, the acronym of “Jesus, the Saviour of Mankind” (IHS). Every one of you can tell me: we know that very well! But this crest continually reminds us of a reality that we must never forget: the centrality of Christ for each one of us and for the whole Company, the Company that Saint Ignatius wanted to name “of Jesus” to indicate the point of reference. Moreover, even at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises he places our Lord Jesus Christ, our Creator and Saviour (Spiritual Exercises, 6) in front of us. And this leads all of us Jesuits, and the whole Company, to be “decentred,” to have “Christ more and more” before us, the “Deus semper maior”, the “intimior intimo meo”, that leads us continually outside ourselves, that brings us to a certain kenosis, a “going beyond our own loves, desires, and interests” (Sp. Ex., 189). Isn’t it obvious, the question for us? For all of us? “Is Christ the centre of my life? Do I really put Christ at the centre of my life?” Because there is always the temptation to want to put ourselves in the centre. And when a Jesuit puts himself and not Christ in the centre, he goes astray. In the first Reading, Moses forcefully calls upon the people to love the Lord, to walk in His ways, “because He is your life” (cf. Deut. 30, 16-20). Christ is our life! The centrality of Christ corresponds also to the centrality of the Church: they are two flames that cannot be separated: I cannot follow Christ except in and with the Church. And even in this case we Jesuits and the whole Company, are not at the centre, we are, so to speak, “displaced”, we are at the service of Christ and of the Church, the Bride of Christ our Lord, who is our Holy Mother Hierarchical Church (cf. Sp. Ex. 353). To be men routed and grounded in the Church: that is what Jesus desires of us. There cannot be parallel or isolated paths for us. Yes, paths of searching, creative paths, yes, this is important: to go to the peripheries, so many peripheries. This takes creativity, but always in community, in the Church, with this membership that give us the courage to go forward. To serve Christ is to love this concrete Church, and to serve her with generosity and with the spirit of obedience.

2. What is the way to live this double centrality? Let us look at the experience of Saint Paul, which was also the experience of Saint Ignatius. The Apostle, in the Second Reading that we heard, writes: I press on towards the perfection of Christ, “because I have indeed been conquered by Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:12). For Paul it came along the road to Damascus, for Ignatius in his house at Loyola, but the fundamental point is the same: to allow oneself to be conquered by Christ. I seek Jesus, I serve Jesus, because He sought me first, because I was conquered by Him: and this is the heart of our experience. But He is first, always. In Spanish there is a word that is very graphic, that explains this well: He “primerea” first ahead of us, “El nos primerea”. He is always first. When we arrive, He has already arrived and is expecting us. And here I want to recall the meditation on the Kingdom in the Second Week. Christ our Lord, the eternal King, calls each one of us, saying to us: “He who wants to come with Me must work with Me, because following Me in suffering, he will follow after Me likewise in glory” (Sp. Ex. 95): Being conquered by Christ in order to offer to this King our whole person and all our hard work (cf. Sp. Ex. 96); to say to the Lord that he would do anything for His greater service and praise, to imitate Him in bearing even injury, contempt, poverty (Sp. Ex. 98). But I think of our brother in Syria in this moment. To allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ means to be always directed towards what is in front of me, toward the goal of Christ (cf. Phil. 3:14), and to ask oneself with truth and sincerity: “What have I done for Christ? What am doing for Christ? What must I do for Christ?” (cf. Sp. Ex. 53).

3. And I come to the final point. In the Gospel, Jesus says to us: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it . . . If anyone is ashamed of me . . .” (Lk 9:23). And so on. The shame of the Jesuit. The invitation that Jesus makes is for us to never be ashamed of Him, but to always follow Him with total dedication, trusting Him and entrusting ourselves to Him. But looking at Jesus, as Saint Ignatius teaches us in the First Week, above all looking at Christ crucified, we have that very human and noble feeling that is the shame of not reaching the highest point; we look at the wisdom of Christ and at our ignorance; at His omnipotence and our weakness; at His justice and our iniquity; at His goodness and our wickedness (cf. Sp. Ex. 59). Ask for the grace of shame; the shame that comes from the constant dialogue of mercy with Him; the shame that makes us blush before Jesus Christ; the shame that puts us in tune with the heart of Christ who is made sin for me; the shame that harmonises our heart in tears and accompanies us in the daily following of “my Lord”. And this always brings us, as individuals and as a Company, to humility, to living this great virtue. Humility that makes us understand, each day, that it is not for us to build the Kingdom of God, but it is always the grace of God working within us; humility that pushes us to put our whole being not at the service of ourselves and our own ideas, but at the service of Christ and of the Church, like clay pots, fragile, inadequate, insufficient, but having within them an immense treasure that we carry and that we communicate (2 Cor. 4:7). It is always pleasant for me to think of the sunset of the Jesuit, when a Jesuit finishes his life, when the sun goes down. And two icons of the sunset of the Jesuit always come to me: one classical, that of Saint Francis Xavier, looking at China. Art has painted this sunset so many times, this ‘end’ of Xavier. Even in literature, in that beautiful peace by Pemàn. At the end, having nothing, but in the sight of the Lord; it does me good to thing about this. The other sunset, the other icon that comes to me as an example, is that of Padre Arrupe in the last interview in the refugee camp, when he told us – something he himself said – “I say this as if it were my swan song: pray.” Prayer, the union with Jesus. And, after having said this, he caught the plane, and arrived at Rome with the stroke that was the beginning of so long and so exemplary a sunset. Two sunsets, two icons that all of us would do well to look at, and to go back to these two. And to ask for the grace that our sunset will be like theirs.

Dear brothers, let us turn again to Our Lady, to her who bore Christ in her womb and accompanied the first steps of the Church. May she help us to always put Christ and His Church at the centre of our lives and of our ministry. May she, who was the first and most perfect disciple of her Son help us to allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ in order to follow Him and to serve Him in every situation. May she that answered the announcement of the Angel with the most profound humility: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38), make us feel the shame for our inadequacy before the treasure that has been entrusted to us, in order to live the virtue of humility before God. May our journey be accompanied by the paternal intercession of Saint Ignatius and of all the Jesuit saints, who continue to teach us to do all things “ad majorem Dei gloriam” ["to the greater glory of God"].
*   *   *
Asked during his in-flight remarks on the way home from Rio how his 55 years in the Society of Jesus impacted his new ministry as bishop of Rome, Francis – shown above embracing Ignatius' 28th successor, Father-General Adolfo Nicolás, on departing today's rites – said in reply that "It's a theological question, because Jesuits make [the fourth vow] of obedience to the Pope [for the service of the missions]. But if the Pope is a Jesuit, maybe he should make his vow of obedience to the General of the Jesuits.

"I don't know how to resolve this," the Pope continued. "I feel myself a Jesuit in my spirituality; in the spirituality of The Exercises, the spirituality I have in my heart. But I especially feel this going into the feast of St Ignatius with the Jesuits.

"I haven't changed my spirituality, no. Francis, Franciscan: no. I feel myself [as] a Jesuit and I think as a Jesuit."

*   *   *
Lastly, given the rounding out of Papa Bergoglio's tributes with a visit to Arrupe's tomb, especially today, a favorite quote of Don Pedro's comes easily to mind....

“Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.”
...and with that, buona festa to all the Jebbies out there, and everyone celebrating along.

PHOTOS: Borgo Santo Spirito


"The Czar's" Gift to Connecticut – Brooklyn's Caggiano to Roiled Bridgeport

Resolving the longest-standing vacancy on these shores – and one that's had the natives even more on edge than usual – at Roman Noon the Pope named Bishop Frank Caggiano, the 54 year-old auxiliary and lead vicar-general of the 1.7 million-member Brooklyn church, as bishop of Bridgeport.

At the helm of the 430,000-member diocese comprising Connecticut's Fairfield County, the nominee succeeds now-Archbishop William Lori, who was transferred to the Premier See of Baltimore in March 2012.

While some have come to take the 16-month wait as an indication of the Bridgeport file being "lost in the shuffle," in reality, the wait can be chalked up more to finding the right pick for an extraordinarily difficult situation.

Already tarred before the opening by several high-profile cases of sexual and financial misconduct among the presbyterate, the sede vacante saw the arrest and indictment of Msgr Kevin Wallin, a former bishop's secretary and rector of St Augustine Cathedral, on Federal meth-production charges. The counts dating to a leave of absence Wallin took from 2011 – during which time he likewise ran a pornography and sex-toy shop – the fallen cleric pled guilty to the charges in April, and was sentenced to 11 to 14 years in jail.

Along the way, the steady drip of the case made for a headline as memorable as it was unsavory when, in January, a Connecticut Post lede blared "Sources: Cross-dressing meth priest liked sex in rectory" atop fresh disclosures. Another Bridgeport priest, Michael Jude Fay, died in Federal prison in 2009 while serving a 37-month sentence for embezzling $1.3 million from his monied Darien parish, the stolen funds – first discovered by the rectory bookkeeper – found to have been spent fueling a hidden life of decadence.

Were the vacancy and the scandals not enough to test the diocese's nerves, an even more brutal blow came last December with the massacre of 20 young students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the quiet village of Newtown. Amid the horror of the second-largest mass shooting in the nation's history, the dedication of the local pastor, Msgr Bob Weiss, amid the strain of the moment became a widely-cited rallying point for the shaken community. Even more recently, the diocese offered early-retirement buyouts to some 60 of its 130-person chancery staff in late spring in an effort to cut costs.

All that in mind, a challenging scene requiring a solid mix of toughness and tenderness will have its share of both. 

Named an auxiliary of Brooklyn at 47 in 2006, Caggiano – the son of Italian immigrants and a Gregorian-trained theologian who became a popular teacher at home – has garnered a reputation as a formidable second-in-command to (the now-tweeting) Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the ever-colorful figure whose preferred governing style has inspired the widely-used moniker of "The Czar." Yet even if recent years in the outer boroughs have required tackling a mega-diocese's share of hard calls, it's not to say the nominee is all iron; while juggling an auxiliary's schedule and running the shop on Prospect Park West, Caggiano moved back into his boyhood home for several years to care for his ailing mother before her death in 2011. Bottom line: while dropping a Brooklynite into a bucolic environment is bound to yield some unpredictable results under any circumstances, the unique mix of factors here only increase the odds.

Lastly, the appointment comes quickly on the heels of Caggiano's well-received turn as one of the eight US catechists at last week's World Youth Day in Rio. The team lead by two cardinals, the then-auxiliary – who likewise led sessions at WYD 2011 in Madrid – was the lone prelate of the group who wasn't a diocesan bishop. (Summaries of the talks are available for download.)

Scheduled for 10.30 today, the Appointment Day presser in Bridgeport will be livestreamed by Brooklyn Chancery. Per the norms of the canons, the installation must take place within two months. (SVILUPPO: The rites have been scheduled for 19 September – the feast of San Gennaro, the patron of Naples; according to Caggiano, the choice was made "for obvious reasons.")

With today's move, the longest vacancy now becomes that of Maine's statewide diocese of Portland, which came open on Bishop Richard Malone's May 2012 transfer to Buffalo; Malone has since remained as apostolic administrator. All told, seven US Latin-church sees remain without an ordinary, with another seven led by (arch)bishops serving past the retirement age of 75. 

Given the normal shutdown of the Curia through August, the Bridgeport nod is likely the last we'll see for the summer. That said, while some speculation has recently perked up claiming an excessive "slowdown" of the appointment process, the change of Popes cited as the supposed explanation, it bears reminding that several US diocesan openings in the first days of B16's reign skirted, or even exceeded, the two-year mark.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Pope On Film

Given the demographics of Stateside Catholicism's present and future, it'd seem that the bulk of this readership will easily understand the Pope's comprehensive responses to an exclusive interview Francis gave over the weekend on Brazilian television.

Entonces, pues... go:


"Our Authority Is Exercised In Our Ability To Serve" – To the Bishops, Francis' "Enola Gay"

Shortly before the Volo Papale left Rio last night, word quietly circulated that the Pope would hold an in-flight presser. On hearing it, it didn't take a rocket-scientist for the first thought to be, "Here comes 'gay lobby'...."

Like clockwork, then, while some quick bytes from the 21-question, 80-minute extravaganza that ensued have unsurprisingly set off this Monday's news-cycle elsewhere and launched a thousand sudden exegetes clamoring to be heard, back in the reality of this beat, it's more advisable to wait for a complete transcript so the full context of what the Pope actually said is sufficiently on-hand. (So far, the closest thing we've reliably got on that front is 16 of the exchanges transcribed in Spanish by Elisabetta Piqué, the veteran Bergoglio-watcher of La Nación, Argentina's daily of record – a figure close enough to Francis to swap the customary besos with the Pope before her turn at the Q&A.)

Even if it's needless to say for the more savvy of this crowd, much as any inference of a Pope's talking the "culture wars" of the secular West is sure to get tongues wagging in the wider (well, mostly English-speaking) space, it apparently bears reminding for some that Francis is infinitely more focused on and invested in the cultural war he's taken to marshaling within the church's own walls – another uphill struggle 
by any standard, yet a fight which he finds considerably more necessary and worthwhile, even beyond his better odds of success.

Along those lines – and drawing yet again from his "baby" born at Aparecida in 2007 – the Argentine pontiff met yesterday with the executive of the CELAM, the regional mega-conference of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, to lay down his emphases and priorities for the church's life on his home continent... and – because he's The Pope – now, indeed, beyond.

Along with his visits to Brazil's patronal shrine and a hospital for drug addicts last Wednesday and Thursday's moving journey to a Rio slum, the post-Mass encounter at Francis' roadhouse was the last of the events Papa Bergoglio added to his first overseas trip at his own expressed insistence.

Together with Saturday's "keystone" address to the Brazilian bench – and both the weekend's messages rooted in the Aparecida Document itself – the following text rounds out the most substantive programmatic guide yet to this brave new pontificate. 

Accordingly, echoing the assessment of others, as one friend said on having read yesterday's talk, "it may cause heart failure" in certain quarters...

...and with all that in mind, have at it.

*   *   *
28 JULY 2013

1. Introduction

I thank the Lord for this opportunity to speak with you, my brother bishops, the leadership of CELAM for the four-year period from 2011 to 2015. For 57 years CELAM has served the 22 Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, working in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity to promote, encourage and improve collegiality among the bishops and communion between the region’s Churches and their pastors.

Like yourselves, I too witnessed the powerful working of the Spirit in the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate in Aparecida, in May 2007, which continues to inspire the efforts of CELAM for the desired renewal of the Particular Churches. In many of them, this renewal is clearly taking place. I would like to focus this conversation on the legacy of that fraternal encounter, which all of us have chosen to call a Continental Mission.

2. Particular characteristics of Aparecida

There are four hallmarks of the Fifth Conference. They are like four pillars for the implementation of Aparecida, and they are what make it distinctive.

1) Starting without a document

Medellín, Puebla and Santo Domingo began their work with a process of preparation which culminated in a sort of Instrumentum Laboris which then served as a basis for discussion, reflection and the approval of the final document. Aparecida, on the other hand, encouraged the participation of the Particular Churches as a process of preparation culminating in a document of synthesis. This document, while serving as a point of reference throughout the Fifth General Conference, was not taken as a starting point. The initial work consisted in pooling the concerns expressed by the bishops as they considered the new period of history we are living and the need to recover the life of discipleship and mission with which Christ founded the Church.

2) A setting of prayer with the people of God

It is important to remember the prayerful setting created by the daily sharing of the Eucharist and other liturgical moments, in which we were always accompanied by the People of God. On the other hand, since the deliberations took place in the undercroft of the Shrine, the music which accompanied them were the songs and the prayers of the faithful.

3) A document which continues in commitment, with the Continental Mission

This context of prayer and the life of faith gave rise to a desire for a new Pentecost for the Church and the commitment to undertake a Continental Mission. Aparecida did not end with a document; it continues in the Continental Mission.

4) The presence of Our Lady, Mother of America

It was the first conference of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean to be held in a Marian shrine.

3. Dimensions of the Continental Mission

The Continental Mission is planned along two lines: the programmatic and the paradigmatic. The programmatic mission, as its name indicates, consists in a series of missionary activities. The paradigmatic mission, on the other hand, involves setting in a missionary key all the day-to-day activities of the Particular Churches. Clearly this entails a whole process of reforming ecclesial structures. The “change of structures” (from obsolete ones to new ones) will not be the result of reviewing an organizational flow chart, which would lead to a static reorganization; rather it will result from the very dynamics of mission. What makes obsolete structures pass away, what leads to a change of heart in Christians, is precisely missionary spirit. Hence the importance of the paradigmatic mission.

The Continental Mission, both programmatic and paradigmatic, calls for creating a sense of a Church which is organized to serve all the baptized, and men and women of goodwill. Christ’s followers are not individuals caught up in a privatized spirituality, but persons in community, devoting themselves to others. The Continental Mission thus implies membership in the Church.

An approach like this, which begins with missionary discipleship and involves understanding Christian identity as membership in the Church, demands that we clearly articulate the real challenges facing missionary discipleship. Here I will mention only two: the Church’s inner renewal and dialogue with the world around us.

The Church’s inner renewal

Aparecida considered Pastoral Conversion to be a necessity. This conversion involves believing in the Good News, believing in Jesus Christ as the bearer of God’s Kingdom as it breaks into the world and in his victorious presence over evil, believing in the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, believing in the Church, the Body of Christ and the prolonging of the dynamism of the incarnation.

Consequently, we, as pastors, need to ask questions about the actual state of the Churches which we lead. These questions can serve as a guide in examining where the dioceses stand in taking up the spirit of Aparecida; they are questions which we need to keep asking as an examination of conscience.

1. Do we see to it that our work, and that of our priests, is more pastoral than administrative? Who primarily benefits from our efforts, the Church as an organization or the People of God as a whole?

2. Do we fight the temptation simply to react to complex problems as they arise? Are we creating a proactive mindset? Do we promote opportunities and possibilities to manifest God's mercy? Are we conscious of our responsibility for refocusing pastoral approaches and the functioning of Church structures for the benefit of the faithful and society?

3. In practice, do we make the lay faithful sharers in the Mission? Do we offer them the word of God and the sacraments with a clear awareness and conviction that the Holy Spirit makes himself manifest in them?

4. Is pastoral discernment a habitual criterion, through the use of Diocesan Councils? Do such Councils and Parish Councils, whether pastoral or financial, provide real opportunities for lay people to participate in pastoral consultation, organization and planning? The good functioning of these Councils is critical. I believe that on this score, we are far behind.

5. As pastors, bishops and priests, are we conscious and convinced of the mission of the lay faithful and do we give them the freedom to continue discerning, in a way befitting their growth as disciples, the mission which the Lord has entrusted to them? Do we support them and accompany them, overcoming the temptation to manipulate them or infantilize them? Are we constantly open to letting ourselves be challenged in our efforts to advance the good of the Church and her mission in the world?

6. Do pastoral agents and the faithful in general feel part of the Church, do they identify with her and bring her closer to the baptized who are distant and alienated?

As can be appreciated, what is at stake here are attitudes. Pastoral Conversion is chiefly concerned with attitudes and reforming our lives. A change of attitudes is necessarily something ongoing: “it is a process”, and it can only be kept on track with the help of guidance and discernment. It is important always to keep in mind that the compass preventing us from going astray is that of Catholic identity, understood as membership in the Church.

Dialogue with the world around us

We do well to recall the words of the Second Vatican Council: “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (Gaudium et Spes, 1). Here we find the basis for our dialogue with the contemporary world.

Responding to the existential issues of people today, especially the young, listening to the language they speak, can lead to a fruitful change, which must take place with the help of the Gospel, the magisterium, and the Church’s social doctrine. The scenarios and the areopagi involved are quite varied. For example, a single city can contain various collective imaginations which create “different cities”. If we remain within the parameters of our “traditional culture”, which was essentially rural, we will end up nullifying the power of the Holy Spirit. God is everywhere: we have to know how to find him in order to be able to proclaim him in the language of each and every culture; every reality, every language, has its own rhythm.

4. Some temptations against missionary discipleship

The decision for missionary discipleship will encounter temptation. It is important to know where the evil spirit is afoot in order to aid our discernment. It is not a matter of chasing after demons, but simply one of clear-sightedness and evangelical astuteness. I will mention only a few attitudes which are evidence of a Church which is “tempted”. It has to do with recognizing certain contemporary proposals which can parody the process of missionary discipleship and hold back, even bring to a halt, the process of Pastoral Conversion.

1. Making the Gospel message an ideology. This is a temptation which has been present in the Church from the beginning: the attempt to interpret the Gospel apart from the Gospel itself and apart from the Church. An example: Aparecida, at one particular moment, felt this temptation. It employed, and rightly so, the method of “see, judge and act” (cf. No. 19). The temptation, though, was to opt for a way of “seeing” which was completely “antiseptic”, detached and unengaged, which is impossible. The way we “see” is always affected by the way we direct our gaze. There is no such thing as an “antiseptic” hermeneutics. The question was, rather: How are we going to look at reality in order to see it? Aparecida replied: With the eyes of discipleship. This is the way Nos. 20-32 are to be understood. There are other ways of making the message an ideology, and at present proposals of this sort are appearing in Latin America and the Caribbean. I mention only a few:

a) Sociological reductionism. This is the most readily available means of making the message an ideology. At certain times it has proved extremely influential. It involves an interpretative claim based on a hermeneutics drawn from the social sciences. It extends to the most varied fields, from market liberalism to Marxist categorization.

b) Psychologizing. Here we have to do with an elitist hermeneutics which ultimately reduces the “encounter with Jesus Christ” and its development to a process of growing self- awareness. It is ordinarily to be found in spirituality courses, spiritual retreats, etc. It ends up being an immanent, self-centred approach. It has nothing to do with transcendence and consequently, with missionary spirit.

c) The Gnostic solution. Closely linked to the previous temptation, it is ordinarily found in elite groups offering a higher spirituality, generally disembodied, which ends up in a preoccupation with certain pastoral “quaestiones disputatae”. It was the first deviation in the early community and it reappears throughout the Church’s history in ever new and revised versions. Generally its adherents are known as “enlightened Catholics” (since they are in fact rooted in the culture of the Enlightenment).

d) The Pelagian solution. This basically appears as a form of restorationism. In dealing with the Church’s problems, a purely disciplinary solution is sought, through the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful. In Latin America it is usually to be found in small groups, in some new religious congregations, in tendencies to doctrinal or disciplinary “safety”. Basically it is static, although it is capable of inversion, in a process of regression. It seeks to “recover” the lost past.

2. Functionalism. Its effect on the Church is paralyzing. More than being interested in the road itself, it is concerned with fixing holes in the road. A functionalist approach has no room for mystery; it aims at efficiency. It reduces the reality of the Church to the structure of an NGO. What counts are quantifiable results and statistics. The Church ends up being run like any other business organization. It applies a sort of “theology of prosperity” to the organization of pastoral work.

3. Clericalism is also a temptation very present in Latin America. Curiously, in the majority of cases, it has to do with a sinful complicity: the priest clericalizes the lay person and the lay person kindly asks to be clericalized, because deep down it is easier. The phenomenon of clericalism explains, in great part, the lack of maturity and Christian freedom in a good part of the Latin American laity. Either they simply do not grow (the majority), or else they take refuge in forms of ideology like those we have just seen, or in partial and limited ways of belonging. Yet in our countries there does exist a form of freedom of the laity which finds expression in communal experiences: Catholic as community. Here one sees a greater autonomy, which on the whole is a healthy thing, basically expressed through popular piety. The chapter of the Aparecida document on popular piety describes this dimension in detail. The spread of bible study groups, of ecclesial basic communities and of Pastoral Councils is in fact helping to overcome clericalism and to increase lay responsibility.

We could continue by describing other temptations against missionary discipleship, but I consider these to be the most important and influential at present for Latin America and the Caribbean.

5. Some ecclesiological guidelines

1. The missionary discipleship which Aparecida proposed to the Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean is the journey which God desires for the present “today”. Every utopian (future-oriented) or restorationist (past-oriented) impulse is spiritually unhealthy. God is real and he shows himself in the “today”. With regard to the past, his presence is given to us as “memory” of his saving work, both in his people and in each of us as individuals; with regard to the future, he gives himself to us as “promise” and hope. In the past God was present and left his mark: memory helps us to encounter him; in the future is promise alone… he is not in the thousand and one “futuribles”. The “today” is closest to eternity; even more: the “today” is a flash of eternity. In the “today”, eternal life is in play.

Missionary discipleship is a vocation: a call and an invitation. It is given in the “today”, but also “in tension”. There is no such thing as static missionary discipleship. A missionary disciple cannot be his own master, his immanence is in tension towards the transcendence of discipleship and towards the transcendence of mission. It does not allow for self-absorption: either it points to Jesus Christ or it points to the people to whom he must be proclaimed. The missionary disciple is a self-transcending subject, a subject projected towards encounter: an encounter with the Master (who anoints us as his disciples) and an encounter with men and women who await the message.

That is why I like saying that the position of missionary disciples is not in the centre but at the periphery: they live poised towards the peripheries… including the peripheries of eternity, in the encounter with Jesus Christ. In the preaching of the Gospel, to speak of “existential peripheries” decentralizes things; as a rule, we are afraid to leave the centre. The missionary disciple is someone “off centre”: the centre is Jesus Christ, who calls us and sends us forth. The disciple is sent to the existential peripheries.

2. The Church is an institution, but when she makes herself a “centre”, she becomes merely functional, and slowly but surely turns into a kind of NGO. The Church then claims to have a light of her own, and she stops being that “mysterium lunae” of which the Church Fathers spoke. She becomes increasingly self-referential and loses her need to be missionary. From an “institution” she becomes a “enterprise”. She stops being a bride and ends up being an administrator; from being a servant, she becomes an “inspector”. Aparecida wanted a Church which is bride, mother and servant, a facilitator of faith and not an inspector of faith.

3. In Aparecida, two pastoral categories stand out; they arise from the uniqueness of the Gospel, and we can employ them as guidelines for assessing how we are living missionary discipleship in the Church: nearness and encounter. Neither of these two categories is new; rather, they are the way God has revealed himself to us in history. He is the “God who is near” to his people, a nearness which culminates in the incarnation. He is the God who goes forth to meet his people. In Latin America and the Caribbean there are pastoral plans which are “distant”, disciplinary pastoral plans which give priority to principles, forms of conduct, organizational procedures… and clearly lack nearness, tenderness, a warm touch. They do not take into account the “revolution of tenderness” brought by the incarnation of the Word. There are pastoral plans designed with such a dose of distance that they are incapable of sparking an encounter: an encounter with Jesus Christ, an encounter with our brothers and sisters. Such pastoral plans can at best provide a dimension of proselytism, but they can never inspire people to feel part of or belong to the Church. Nearness creates communion and belonging; it makes room for encounter. Nearness takes the form of dialogue and creates a culture of encounter. One touchstone for measuring whether a pastoral plan embodies nearness and a capacity for encounter is the homily. What are our homilies like? Do we imitate the example of our Lord, who spoke “as one with authority”, or are they simply moralizing, detached, abstract?

4. Those who direct pastoral work, the Continental Mission (both programmatic and paradigmatic) are the bishops. Bishops must lead, which is not the same thing as being authoritarian. As well as pointing to the great figures of the Latin American episcopate, which we all know, I would like to add a few things about the profile of the bishop, which I already presented to the Nuncios at our meeting in Rome. Bishops must be pastors, close to people, fathers and brothers, and gentle, patient and merciful. Men who love poverty, both interior poverty, as freedom before the Lord, and exterior poverty, as simplicity and austerity of life. Men who do not think and behave like “princes”. Men who are not ambitious, who are married to one church without having their eyes on another. Men capable of watching over the flock entrusted to them and protecting everything that keeps it together: guarding their people out of concern for the dangers which could threaten them, but above all instilling hope: so that light will shine in people’s hearts. Men capable of supporting with love and patience God’s dealings with his people. The Bishop has to be among his people in three ways: in front of them, pointing the way; among them, keeping them together and preventing them from being scattered; and behind them, ensuring that no one is left behind, but also, and primarily, so that the flock itself can sniff out new paths.

I do not wish to go into further detail about the person of the Bishop, but simply to add, including myself in this statement, that we are lagging somewhat as far as Pastoral Conversion is concerned. We need to help one another a bit more in taking the steps that the Lord asks of us in the “today” of Latin America and the Caribbean. And this is a good place to start.

I thank you for your patience in listening to me. Pardon me if my remarks have been somewhat disjointed and please, I beg that we take seriously our calling as servants of the holy and faithful people of God, for this is where authority is exercised and demonstrated: in the ability to serve. Many thanks.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Go. Don't Fear. Serve" – On "Popacabana," The Grand Finale

Four and a half months in, we've just seen the most significant day of the new Franciscan Rule – yesterday, the Pope gave what's been termed the "most important" message of his Petrine ministry to date and presided over the largest crowd a Roman pontiff has seen since the Jubilee Year on his home-turf.

On the last day of his first overseas trip, then, how's he gonna top it? 

Well, let's find out together – live from Rio, here's the vid-feed of the climactic Sunday Mass of what's already been an epic World Youth Day, the rites set to start at 10am local time (9 Eastern, 1500 Rome):

Again, English translations of the liturgical texts can be found in the WYD Prayerbook... and, of course, the Vatican's official rendering of the final PopePreach:

Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Young Friends,

“Go and make disciples of all nations.” With these words, Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.

1. Go. During these days here in Rio, you have been able to enjoy the wonderfulexperience of meeting Jesus, meeting him together with others, and you have sensed the joy of faith. But the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community. That would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly. Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history (cf. Rom 10:9).

Careful, though! Jesus did not say: “if you would like to, if you have the time”, but: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination or power but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and gave us, not a part of himself, but the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as free men, as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.

Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.

In particular, I would like Christ’s command: “Go” to resonate in you young people from the Church in Latin America, engaged in the continental mission promoted by the Bishops. Brazil, Latin America, the whole world needs Christ! Saint Paul says: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). This continent has received the proclamation of the Gospel which has marked its history and borne much fruit. Now this proclamation is entrusted also to you, that it may resound with fresh power. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you. A great Apostle of Brazil, Blessed José de Anchieta, set off on the mission whenhe was only nineteen years old. Do you know what the best tool is for evangelizing the young? Another young person. This is the path to follow!

2. Do not be afraid. Some people might think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” My dear friend, your fear is not so very different from that of Jeremiah, a young man like you, when he was called by God to be a prophet. We have just heard his words: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth”. God says the same thing to you as he said to Jeremiah: “Be not afraid… for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7,8). He is with us! “Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus does not leave us alone, he never leaves you alone! He always accompanies you.

And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go,” but “All ofyou go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community. I would like to address you, dear priests concelebrating with me at this Eucharist: you have come to accompany your young people, and this is wonderful, to share this experience of faith with them! But it is a stage on the journey. Continue to accompany them with generosity and joy, help them to become actively engaged in the Church; never let them feel alone!

3. The final word: serve. The opening words of the psalm that we proclaimed are: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 95:1). What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service. In our Second Reading today, Saint Paul says: “I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more” (1 Cor 9:19). In order to proclaim Jesus, Paul made himself “a slave to all”. Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving bybending down to wash the feetof our brethren, as Jesus did. Go, do not be afraid, and serve. If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives joy. Dear young friends, as you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel. In the first Reading, when God sends the prophet Jeremiah, he gives him the power to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). It is the same for you. Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world.

Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you withher tenderness: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Amen.
* * * 
Following a lunch with and freshly-slated address to the executive of the CELAM – the South's regional mega-conference of bishops – then the customary thank-you meeting with the volunteers who've pulled off the week's events, Francis is slated to depart for Rome just after 6pm Rio time, the most dramatic and successful papal journey in nearly two decades securely under his still-unarmed sash.

All that said, bom domingo a todos... and, well, whatta week.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Come To Papa – On Copacabana, Francis Draws 3 Million

Even if we've already seen more than our share of incredible moments lately, well, here goes another one.

All of five months ago, Jorge Bergoglio was unassumingly riding the buses and subways of his hometown while, at 76, preparing for his retirement as cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires. Tonight, as the first Latin American Pope, Francis drew the biggest crowd in the history of Rio de Janiero as city officials confirmed a turnout of over 3 million people on Copacabana Beach for the climactic Saturday vigil of this World Youth Day.

The second-biggest attendance in the 25-year history of Catholicism's "Olympic event," in the annals of WYD, tonight's epic throng was surpassed only by the 5 million who converged for the closing Mass at Manila in 1995. Until now, the runner-up had been the 2 million who trekked to the Tor Vergata field outside Rome to close out WYD's Jubilee Year "homecoming" in 2000. 

While it's notable that what've become the two largest WYDs have now taken place outside of Europe – indeed, anywhere in the global north – perhaps the even more ironic commentary is that Manila and Rio likewise drew the lowest two turnouts of US pilgrims since the triennial "Catholic Woodstock" was revolutionized at Denver in 1993.

For purposes of context, 3 million was the high-bound estimate for tomorrow's final Mass as this week began, and that was even before the venue for the final events was moved to the city center after the long-planned weekend site at Rio's outskirts was rendered unusable by days of rain. Accordingly, expectations on the ground are that the crowd will grow even more through the night.

As ever, beginning with the Popemobile spin around the throng, here's the on-demand video of the entire Vigil event... 

...and even though Francis reworked his text with several unscripted asides, until an updated version comes through, here's the Vatican's English translation of the Pope's Vigil homily as prepared for delivery – a reflection on the evening's theme of "Rebuilding the church," the call of the Cross given to St Francis of Assisi:

Dear Young Friends,

We have just recalled the story of Saint Francis of Assisi. In front of the crucifix he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him: “Francis, go, rebuild my house.” The young Francis responded readily and generously to the Lord’s call to rebuild his house. But which house? Slowly but surely, Francis came to realize that it was not a question of repairing a stone building, but about doing his part for the life of the Church. It was a matter of being at the service of the Church, loving her and working to make the countenance of Christ shine ever more brightly in her.

Today too, as always, the Lord needs you, young people, for his Church. Today too, he is calling each of you to follow him in his Church and to be missionaries. How? In what way? Well, I think we are able to learn something from what has happened these days: how we had to move this vigil from Campus Fidei in Guaratiba because of the bad weather. Would not the Lord be willing to say to us that the real area of faith, the true campus fidei, is not a geographical place but are we that very place? Yes! Each of us, each one of you. And missionary discipleship means to recognize that we are the Campus Fidei of God! Starting with the name of the place where we are, Campus Fidei, the field of faith, I have thought of three images that can help us understand better what it means to be a disciple and a missionary. First, a field is a place for sowing seeds; second, a field is a training ground; and third, a field is a construction site.

A field is a place for sowing seeds. We all know the parable where Jesus speaks of a sower who went out to sow seeds in the field; some seed fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and could not grow; other seed fell on good soil and brought forth much fruit (cf. Mt 13:1-9). Jesus himself explains the meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God sown in our hearts (cf. Mt 13:18-23). This, dear young people, means that the real Campus Fidei, the field of faith, is your own heart, it is your life. It is your life that Jesus wants to enter with his word, with his presence. Please, let Christ and his word enter your life, blossom and grow.

Jesus tells us that the seed which fell on the path or on the rocky ground or among the thorns bore no fruit. What kind of ground are we? What kind of terrain do we want to be? Maybe sometimes we are like the path: we hear the Lord’s word but it changes nothing in our lives because we let ourselves be numbed by all the superficial voices competing for our attention; or we are like the rocky ground: we receive Jesus with enthusiasm, but we falter and, faced with difficulties, we don’t have the courage to swim against the tide; or we are like the thorny ground: negativity, negative feelings choke the Lord’s word in us (cf. Mt 13:18-22). But today I am sure that the seed is falling on good soil, that you want to be good soil, not part-time Christians, not “starchy” and superficial, but real. I am sure that you don’t want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads. I know that you are aiming high, at long-lasting decisions which will make your lives meaningful. Jesus is capable of letting you do this: he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Let’s trust in him. Let’s make him our guide!

A field is a training ground. Jesus asks us to follow him for life, he asks us to be his disciples, to “play on his team.” I think that most of you love sports! Here in Brazil, as in other countries, football is a national passion. Now, what do players do when they are asked to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot! The same is true of our lives as the Lord’s disciples. Saint Paul tells us: “athletes deny themselves all sorts of things; they do this to win a crown of leaves that withers, but we a crown that is imperishable” (1 Cor 9:25). Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup! He offers us the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, eternal life. But he asks us to train, “to get in shape,” so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith. How do we get in shape? By talking with him: by prayer, which is our daily conversation with God, who always listens to us. By the sacraments, which make his life grow within us and conform us to Christ. By loving one another, learning to listen, to understand, to forgive, to be accepting and to help others, everybody, with no one excluded or ostracized. Dear young people, be true “athletes of Christ!”

A field is a construction site. When our heart is good soil which receives the word of God, when “we build up a sweat” in trying to live as Christians, we experience something tremendous: we are never alone, we are part of a family of brothers and sisters, all journeying on the same path: we are part of the Church; indeed, we are building up the Church and we are making history. Saint Peter tells us that we are living stones, which form a spiritual edifice (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). Looking at this platform, we see that it is in the shape of a church, built up with stones and bricks. In the Church of Jesus, we ourselves are the living stones. Jesus is asking us to build up his Church, but not as a little chapel which holds only a small group of persons. He asks us to make his living Church so large that it can hold all of humanity, that it can be a home for everyone! To me, to you, to each of us he says: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Tonight, let us answer him: Yes, I too want to be a living stone; together we want to build up the Church of Jesus! Let us all say together: I want to go forth and build up the Church of Christ!

In your young hearts, you have a desire to build a better world. I have been closely following the news reports of the many young people who throughout the world and also here in Brazil who have taken to the streets in order to express their desire for a more just and fraternal society. They are young people who what to be protagonists of change. I encourage them, in an orderly, peaceful and responsible way, motivated by the values of the Gospel, to continue overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to the social and political concerns present in their countries.

But the question remains: Where do we start? What are the criteria for building a more just society? Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked what needed to change in the Church. Her answer was: you and I!

Dear friends, never forget that you are the field of faith! You are Christ’s athletes! You are called to build a more beautiful Church and a better world. Let us lift our gaze to Our Lady. Mary helps us to follow Jesus, she gives us the example by her own “yes” to God: “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me as you say” (Lk 1:38). All together, let us join Mary in saying to God: let it be done to me as you say. Let it be so!

"Let There Be Noise": Post-WYD, The Pope's "Action Plan"

As we await the beginning of this World Youth Day's climactic Vigil on a jammed "Popacabana" beach, while much has been made of Francis' unscripted remarks to his fellow Argentine pilgrims in Rio's cathedral on Thursday, the idioyncracies of Papa Bergoglio's native tongue have made it advisable to wait until an official English rendering of the talk's appeared... 

...and luckily, now it has.

Keeping with the boom-lowering of today's major programmatic address to the Brazilian bishops, the pontiff spoke to his home-crowd – numbering some 30,000, WYD Rio's largest foreign delegation – as follows....

Let me tell you what I hope will be the outcome of World Youth Day: I hope there will be noise. Here there will be noise, I’m quite sure. Here in Rio there will be plenty of noise, no doubt about that. But I want you to make yourselves heard in your dioceses, I want the noise to go out, I want the Church to go out onto the streets, I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves. The parishes, the schools, the institutions are made for going out ... if they don’t, they become an NGO, and the Church cannot be an NGO. May the bishops and priests forgive me if some of you create a bit of confusion afterwards. That’s my advice. Thanks for whatever you can do.

Look, at this moment, I think our world civilization has gone beyond its limits, it has gone beyond its limits because it has made money into such a god that we are now faced with a philosophy and a practice which exclude the two ends of life that are most full of promise for peoples. They exclude the elderly, obviously. You could easily think there is a kind of hidden euthanasia, that is, we don’t take care of the elderly; but there is also a cultural euthanasia, because we don’t allow them to speak, we don’t allow them to act. And there is the exclusion of the young. The percentage of our young people without work, without employment, is very high and we have a generation with no experience of the dignity gained through work. This civilization, in other words, has led us to exclude the two peaks that make up our future. As for the young, they must emerge, they must assert themselves, the young must go out to fight for values, to fight for these values; and the elderly must open their mouths, the elderly must open their mouths and teach us! Pass on to us the wisdom of the peoples!

Among the Argentine people, I ask the elderly, from my heart: do not cease to be the cultural storehouse of our people, a storehouse that hands on justice, hands on history, hands on values, hands on the memory of the people. And the rest of you, please, do not oppose the elderly: let them speak, listen to them and go forward. But know this, know that at this moment, you young people and you elderly people are condemned to the same destiny: exclusion. Don’t allow yourselves to be excluded. It’s obvious! That’s why I think you must work. Faith in Jesus Christ is not a joke, it is something very serious. It is a scandal that God came to be one of us. It is a scandal that he died on a cross. It is a scandal: the scandal of the Cross. The Cross continues to provoke scandal. But it is the one sure path, the path of the Cross, the path of Jesus, the path of the Incarnation of Jesus. 
Please do not water down your faith in Jesus Christ. We dilute fruit drinks – orange, apple, or banana juice, but please do not drink a diluted form of faith. Faith is whole and entire, not something that you water down. It is faith in Jesus. It is faith in the Son of God made man, who loved me and who died for me. So then: make yourselves heard; take care of the two ends of the population: the elderly and the young; do not allow yourselves to be excluded and do not allow the elderly to be excluded. Secondly: do not “water down” your faith in Jesus Christ. The Beatitudes: What must we do, Father? Look, read the Beatitudes: that will do you good. If you want to know what you actually have to do, read Matthew Chapter 25, which is the standard by which we will be judged. With these two things you have the action plan: the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. You do not need to read anything else. I ask you this with all my heart. 
Very well, I thank you for coming so close. I am sorry that you are all penned in, but let me tell you something. I experience that myself now and then. What an awful thing it is to be penned in. I openly admit it, but we’ll see. I understand you. I would have liked to come closer to you, but I understand that for security reasons, it just isn’t possible. Thank you for coming, thank you for praying for me; I ask you from my heart, I need it. I need your prayers, I need them very much. Thank you for that. 
Well then, I want to give you my blessing, and afterwards, we will bless the image of the Virgin that is to travel all over the Republic. And also the Cross of Saint Francis, which will travel on that same missionary journey. But do not forget: make yourselves heard; take care of the two ends of life, the two ends of the history of peoples: the elderly and the young; and do not water down the faith. 
And now let us pray, so as to bless the image of the Virgin, and then I will give you the Blessing.

Pope to Bishops: "Are We Still A Church Capable of Warming Hearts? Do We Walk With People in Their Night?"

(Ed. Note: It's long been the case that papal remarks to bishops tend to find a Pope speaking in his strongest terms. Accordingly, the following doesn't merely do that – it's the most extensive word Francis has offered since his election... and is already being spoken of as one of, if not the, most important messages of his pontificate.)

27 JULY 2013
Dear Brothers,

How good it is to be here with you, the Bishops of Brazil!

Thank you for coming, and please allow me to speak with you as one among friends. That’s why I prefer to speak to you in Spanish, so as to express better what I carry in my heart. I ask you to forgive me.

We are meeting somewhat apart, in this place prepared by our brother, Archbishop Orani Tempesta, so that we can be alone and speak to one another from the heart, as pastors to whom God has entrusted his flock. On the streets of Rio, young people from all over the world and countless others await us, needing to be reached by the merciful gaze of Christ the Good Shepherd, whom we are called to make present. So let us enjoy this moment of repose, exchange of ideas and authentic fraternity.

Beginning with the President of the Episcopal Conference and the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, I want to embrace each and every one of you, and in a particular way the Emeritus Bishops.

More than a formal address, I would like to share some reflections with you.

The first came to mind when I visited the shrine of Aparecida. There, at the foot of the statue of the Immaculate Conception, I prayed for you, your Churches, your priests, men and women religious, seminarians, laity and their families and, in a particular way, the young people and the elderly: these last are the hope of a nation; the young, because they bring strength, idealism and hope for the future; the elderly because they represent the memory, the wisdom of the people.

In Aparecida God gave Brazil his own Mother. But in Aparecida God also offered a lesson about himself, about his way of being and acting. A lesson about the humility which is one of God’s essential features, part of God’s DNA. Aparecida offers us a perennial teaching about God and about the Church; a teaching which neither the Church in Brazil nor the nation itself must forget.

At the beginning of the Aparecida event, there were poor fishermen looking for food. So much hunger and so few resources. People always need bread. People always start with their needs, even today. 

They have a dilapidated, ill-fitted boat; their nets are old and perhaps torn, insufficient. 

First comes the effort, perhaps the weariness, of the catch, yet the results are negligible: a failure, time wasted. For all their work, the nets are empty. Then, when God wills it, he mysteriously enters the scene. The waters are deep and yet they always conceal the possibility of a revelation of God. He appeared out of the blue, perhaps when he was no longer expected. The patience of those who await him is always tested. And God arrived in a novel fashion, since he can always reinvent himself: as a fragile clay statue, darkened by the waters of the river and aged by the passage of time. God always enters clothed in poverty, littleness.

Then there is the statue itself of the Immaculate Conception. First, the body appeared, then the head, then the head was joined to the body: unity. What had been broken is restored and becomes one. Colonial Brazil had been divided by the shameful wall of slavery. Our Lady of Aparecida appears with a black face, first separated, and then united in the hands of the fishermen.

Here there is an enduring message which God wants to teach us. His own beauty, reflected in his Mother conceived without original sin, emerges from the darkness of the river. In Aparecida, from the beginning, God’s message was one of restoring what was broken, reuniting what had been divided. Walls, chasms, differences which still exist today are destined to disappear. The Church cannot neglect this lesson: she is called to be a means of reconciliation.

Fishermen do not dismiss the mystery encountered in the river, even if it is a mystery which seems incomplete. They do not throw away the pieces of the mystery. They await its completion. And this does not take long to come. There is a wisdom here that we need to learn. There are pieces of the mystery, like the stones of a mosaic, which we encounter,
which we see. We are impatient, anxious to see the whole picture, but God lets us see things slowly, quietly. The Church also has to learn how to wait.

Then the fishermen bring the mystery home. Ordinary people always have room to take in the mystery. Perhaps we have reduced our way of speaking about mystery to rational explanations; but for ordinary people the mystery enters through the heart. In the homes of the poor, God always finds a place.

The fishermen “bundle up” the mystery, they clothe the Virgin drawn from the waters as if she were cold and needed to be warmed. God asks for shelter in the warmest part of ourselves: our heart. God himself releases the heat we need, but first he enters like a shrewd beggar. The fishermen wrap the mystery of the Virgin with the lowly mantle of their faith. They call their neighbours to see its rediscovered beauty; they all gather around and relate their troubles in its presence and they entrust their causes to it. In this way they enable God’s plan to be accomplished: first comes one grace, then another; one grace leads to another; one grace prepares for another. God gradually unfolds the mysterious humility of his power.

There is much we can learn from the approach of the fishermen. About a Church which makes room for God’s mystery; a Church which harbours that mystery in such a way that it can entice people, attract them. Only the beauty of God can attract. God’s way is through enticement, allure. God lets himself be brought home. He awakens in us a desire to keep him and his life in our homes, in our hearts. He reawakens in us a desire to call our neighbours in order to make known his beauty. Mission is born precisely from this divine allure, by this amazement born of encounter. We speak about mission, about a missionary Church. I think of those fishermen calling their neighbours to see the mystery of the Virgin. Without the simplicity of their approach, our mission is doomed to failure.

The Church needs constantly to relearn the lesson of Aparecida; she must not lose sight of it. The Church’s nets are weak, perhaps patched; the Church’s barque is not as powerful as the great transatlantic liners which cross the ocean. And yet God wants to be seen precisely through our resources, scanty resources, because he is always the one who acts.

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

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

A final thought: Aparecida took place at a crossroads. The road which linked Rio, the capital, with São Paulo, the resourceful province then being born, and Minas Gerais, the mines coveted by the courts of Europe, was a major intersection in colonial Brazil. God appears at the crossroads. The Church in Brazil cannot forget this calling which was present from the moment of her birth: to be a beating heart, to gather and to spread.

The Bishops of Rome have always had a special place in their heart for Brazil and its Church. A marvellous journey has been accomplished. From twelve dioceses during the First Vatican Council, it now numbers 275 circumscriptions. This was not the expansion of an organization or a business enterprise, but rather the dynamism of the Gospel story of the “five loaves and two fish” which, through the bounty of the Father and through tireless labour, bore abundant fruit.

Today I would like to acknowledge your unsparing work as pastors in your local Churches. I think of Bishops in the forests, travelling up and down rivers, in semiarid places, in the Pantanal, in the pampas, in the urban jungles of your sprawling cities. Always love your flock with complete devotion! I also think of all those names and faces which have indelibly marked the journey of the Church in Brazil, making palpable the Lord’s immense bounty towards this Church.

The Bishops of Rome were never distant; they followed, encouraged and supported this journey. In recent decades, Blessed John XXIII urged the Brazilian Bishops to draw up their first pastoral plan and, from that beginning a genuine pastoral tradition arose in Brazil, one which prevented the Church from drifting and provided it with a sure compass.

The Servant of God Paul VI encouraged the reception of the Second Vatican Council not only in fidelity but also in creativity (cf. the CELAM General Assembly in Medellin), and decisively influenced the self-identity of the Church in Brazil through the Synod on evangelization and that basic point of reference which is the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi. Blessed John Paul II visited Brazil three times, going up and down the country, from north to south, emphasizing the Church’s pastoral mission, communion and participation, preparation for the Great Jubilee and the new evangelization. Benedict XVI chose Aparecida as the site of the Fifth CELAM General Assembly and this left a profound mark on the Church of the whole continent.

The Church in Brazil welcomed and creatively applied the Second Vatican Council, and the course it has taken, though needing to overcome some teething problems, has led to a Church gradually more mature, open, generous and missionary.

Today, times have changed. As the Aparecida document nicely put it: ours is not an age of change, but a change of age. So today we urgently need to keep putting the question: what is it that God is asking of us? I would now like to sketch a few ideas by way of a response.

The icon of Emmaus as a key for interpreting the present and the future
Before all else, we must not yield to the fear once expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman: “… the Christian world is gradually becoming barren and effete, as land which has been worked out and is become sand”. We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint. We have laboured greatly and, at times, we see what appear to be failures. We feel like those who must tally up a losing season as we consider those who have left us or no longer consider us credible or relevant.

Let us read once again, in this light, the story of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-15). The two disciples have left Jerusalem. They are leaving behind the “nakedness” of God. They are scandalized by the failure of the Messiah in whom they had hoped and who now appeared utterly vanquished, humiliated, even after the third day (vv. 17-21). Here we have to face the difficult mystery of those people who leave the Church, who, under the illusion of alternative ideas, now think that the Church – their Jerusalem – can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important. So they set off on the road alone, with their disappointment. Perhaps the Church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas, perhaps the world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions; perhaps the Church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age. It is a fact that nowadays there are many people like the two disciples of Emmaus; not only those looking for answers in the new religious groups that are sprouting up, but also those who already seem godless, both in theory and in practice.

Faced with this situation, what are we to do?

We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning.

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

Many, too, have sought shortcuts, for the standards set by Mother Church seem to be asking too much. Many people think: “the Church’s idea of man is too lofty for me, the ideal of life which she proposes is beyond my abilities, the goal she sets is unattainable, beyond my reach. Nonetheless – they continue – I cannot live without having at least something, even a poor imitation, of what is too lofty for me, what I cannot afford. With disappointed hearts, they then go off in search of someone who will lead them even further astray.

The great sense of abandonment and solitude, of not even belonging to oneself, which often results from this situation, is too painful to hide. Some kind of release is necessary. There is always the option of complaining: however did we get to this point? But even complaint acts like a boomerang; it comes back and ends up increasing one’s unhappiness. Few people are still capable of hearing the voice of pain; the best we can do is to anaesthetize it.

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

I would like all of us to ask ourselves today: are we still a Church capable of warming hearts? A Church capable of leading people back to Jerusalem? Of bringing them home? Jerusalem is where our roots are: Scripture, catechesis, sacraments, community, friendship with the Lord, Mary and the apostles… Are we still able to speak of these roots in a way that will revive a sense of wonder at their beauty?

Many people have left because they were promised something more lofty, more powerful, and faster. But what is more lofty than the love revealed in Jerusalem? Nothing is more lofty than the abasement of the Cross, since there we truly approach the height of love! Are we still capable of demonstrating this truth to those who think that the apex of life is to be found elsewhere? Do we know anything more powerful than the strength hidden within the weakness of love, goodness, truth and beauty?

People today are attracted by things that are faster and faster: rapid Internet connections, speedy cars and planes, instant relationships. But at the same time we see a desperate need for calmness, I would even say slowness. Is the Church still able to move slowly: to take the time to listen, to have the patience to mend and reassemble? Or is the Church herself caught up in the frantic pursuit of efficiency? Dear brothers, let us recover the calm to be able to walk at the same pace as our pilgrims, keeping alongside them, remaining close to them, enabling them to speak of the disappointments present in their hearts and to let us address them. They want to forget Jerusalem, where they have their sources, but eventually they will experience thirst. We need a Church capable of accompanying them on the road back to Jerusalem! A Church capable of helping them to rediscover the glorious and joyful things that are spoken of Jerusalem, and to understand that she is my Mother, our Mother, and that we are not orphans! We were born in her.

Where is our Jerusalem, where were we born? In Baptism, in the first encounter of love, in our calling, in vocation.

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

In the light of what I have said above, I would like to emphasize several challenges facing the beloved Church in Brazil.

Dear brothers, unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey? It isn’t true that God’s presence has been dimmed in them. Let us learn to look at things more deeply. What is missing is someone to warm their heart, as was the case with the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:32).

That is why it is important to devise and ensure a suitable formation, one which will provide persons able to step into the night without being overcome by the darkness and losing their bearings; able to listen to people’s dreams without being seduced and to share their disappointments without losing hope and becoming bitter; able to sympathize with the brokenness of others without losing their own strength and identity. What is needed is a solid human, cultural, effective, spiritual and doctrinal formation.

Dear brother Bishops, courage is needed to undertake a profound review of the structures in place for the formation and preparation of the clergy and the laity of the Church in Brazil. It is not enough that formation be considered a vague priority, either in documents or at meetings. What is needed is the practical wisdom to set up lasting educational structures on the local, regional and national levels and to take them to heart as Bishops, without sparing energy, concern and personal interest. The present situation calls for quality formation at every level. Bishops may not delegate this task. You cannot delegate this task, but must embrace it as something fundamental for the journey of your Churches.

The Church in Brazil needs more than a national leader; it needs a network of regional “testimonies” which speak the same language and in every place ensure not unanimity, but true unity in the richness of diversity.

Communion is a fabric to be woven with patience and perseverance, one which gradually “draws together the stitches” to make a more extensive and thick cover. A threadbare cover will not provide warmth.

It is important to remember Aparecida, the method of gathering diversity together. Not so much a diversity of ideas in order to produce a document, but a variety of experiences of God, in order to set a vital process in motion.

The disciples of Emmaus returned to Jerusalem, recounting their experience of meeting the risen Christ. There they came to know other manifestations of the Lord and the experiences of their brothers and sisters. The Episcopal Conference is precisely a vital space for enabling such an exchange of testimonies about encounters with the Risen One, in the north, in the south, in the west… There is need, then, for a greater appreciation of local and regional elements. Central bureaucracy is not sufficient; there is also a need for increased collegiality and solidarity. This will be a source of true
enrichment for all.

Aparecida spoke about a permanent state of mission and of the need for pastoral conversion. These are two important results of that Assembly for the entire Church in the area, and the progress made in Brazil on these two points has been significant.

Concerning mission, we need to remember that its urgency derives from its inner motivation; in other words, it is about handing on a legacy. As for method, it is essential to realize that a legacy is about witness, it is like the baton in a relay race: you don’t throw it up in the air for whoever is able to catch it, so that anyone who doesn’t catch it has to manage without. In order to transmit a legacy, one needs to hand it over personally, to touch the one to whom one wants to give, to relay, this inheritance.

Concerning pastoral conversion, I would like to recall that “pastoral care” is nothing other than the exercise of the Church’s motherhood. She gives birth, suckles, gives growth, corrects, nourishes and leads by the hand … So we need a Church capable of rediscovering the maternal womb of mercy. Without mercy we have little chance nowadays of becoming part of a world of “wounded” persons in need of understanding, forgiveness, love.

In mission, also on a continental level, it is very important to reaffirm the family, which remains the essential cell of society and the Church; young people, who are the face of the Church’s future; women, who play a fundamental role in passing on the faith. Let us not reduce the involvement of women in the Church, but instead promote their active role in the ecclesial community. By losing women, the Church risks becoming sterile.

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

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

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

There is one final point on which I would like to dwell, which I consider relevant for the present and future journey not only of the Brazilian Church but of the whole society, namely, the Amazon Basin. The Church’s presence in the Amazon Basin is not that of someone with bags packed and ready to leave after having exploited everything possible. The Church has been present in the Amazon Basin from the beginning, in her missionaries and religious congregations, and she is still present and critical to the area’s future. I think of the welcome which the Church in the Amazon Basin is offering even today to Haitian immigrants following the terrible earthquake which shook their country.

I would like to invite everyone to reflect on what Aparecida said about the Amazon Basin, its forceful appeal for respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it be indiscriminately exploited, but rather made into a garden. In considering the pastoral challenge represented by the Amazon Basin, I have to express my thanks for all that the Church in Brazil is doing: the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon Basin established in 1997 has already proved its effectiveness and many dioceses have responded readily and generously to the appeal for solidarity by sending lay and priestly missionaries. I think Archbishop Jaime Chemelo, a pioneer in this effort, and Cardinal Hummes, the current President of the Commission. But I would add that the Church’s work needs to be further encouraged and launched afresh. There is a need for quality formators, especially professors of theology, for consolidating the results achieved in the area of training a native clergy and providing priests suited to local conditions and committed to consolidating, as it were, the Church’s “Amazonian face”.

Dear brother Bishops, I have attempted to offer you in a fraternal spirit some reflections and approaches for a Church like that of Brazil, which is a great mosaic made up of different pieces, images, forms, problems and challenges, but which for this very reason is an enormous treasure. The Church is never uniformity, but diversities harmonized in unity, and this is true for every ecclesial reality.

May the Virgin of Aparecida be the star which illumines your task and your journey of bringing Christ, as she did, to all the men and women of your immense country. Just as he did for the two lost and disillusioned disciples of Emmaus, he will warm your hearts and give you new and certain hope.