Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In LA, The "Premiere"

Here, from the seat of the largest diocese American Catholicism has ever known – LA's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels – the on-demand fullvid of this morning's presser introducing the three auxiliaries named today for the 5 million-member mega-fold: Bishops-elect Joseph Brennan, David O'Connell and Robert Barron... all conspicuously wearing replicas of Pope Francis' pectoral cross.

En respuesta a una pregunta en español, Don José dijo que la ordenación sería "en los primeros de septiembre," su fecha no ya elegido. El Arzobispo también dijo que los encargados de sus nuevos auxiliares serán determinados durante las semanas próximas.


Bishop Barron Goes to Hollywood – Pope Names Mundelein Mogul One of 3 LA Auxiliaries

For some years now, Fr Robert Barron’s champions have lionized the Chicago-based New Evangelization guru as this age’s answer to Fulton Sheen.

Suffice it to say, the prophecy’s panned out.

In a stunning move, at Roman Noon this Tuesday, the Pope named the 55 year-old rector/president of the Windy City's Mundelein Seminary as one of three auxiliary bishops for the nation’s largest local church — the 5 million-member archdiocese of Los Angeles — alongside two of its most well-regarded lifers: Msgr Joseph Brennan, 61, the career pastor turned lead vicar-general to Archbishop José Gomez, and the Irish-born Msgr David O’Connell, 61, whose decades of ministry in LA’s violence-torn South Central corridor arguably comprise the Stateside bench’s most potent example yet of the “peripheries” Francis insistently wants present at the church’s center.

While each bishop-elect brings a compelling story, to use one op’s term, the appointment of Barron is likely to “suck the air out of the room” far beyond the three-county SoCal juggernaut, now the largest diocese in American Catholicism’s five centuries of existence. A protege of the late Cardinal Francis George (whose own successor in Chicago some leading prelates hoped Barron would be), the nominee's Word on Fire ministry of films, widely circulated, conservative-leaning columns and YouTube commentaries have made him a household name in church circles as well as one of the US fold's most popular speakers, and now, the highest-profile Stateside priest to enter the episcopacy since one Timothy Michael Dolan became an auxiliary of his native St Louis in 2001 after seven years of taking Rome by storm as rector of the Pontifical North American College.

Along these lines, Barron is one of the few incoming US bishops who's already appeared before his new confreres as a speaker, having served as spiritual director for the bench's 2013 summer retreat. Yet even as the calculus behind his Western move remains a mystery, its seismic impact on two of the nation's three largest dioceses is immediate: in LA, the bishop-elect heads to the most influential seat of pop culture on earth, his "rock star" talents for communication (and, indeed, fund-raising) on-hand to shore up a sometimes restive Anglo minority in the trenches, while in the 2.3 million-member Chicago church, the leadership of Mundelein – long regarded as the "crown jewel" of American seminaries, currently the US' third-largest formation house – now falls vacant for Archbishop Blase Cupich to fill just nine months into his tenure, a pick with implications across the Midwest.

All that said, now comes the interesting part. With Brennan likely to remain at the helm of the Chancery – which was recently reconfigured into nine core departments reporting to him – Barron and O'Connell are expected to take up duties as regional bishops each overseeing one of the LA behemoth's five pastoral areas. On their own, four of the regions have at least a million Catholics – a figure which would place each region among the US church's 15 largest outposts – and given the massive scope of the larger local fold, the regions essentially function as five mini-dioceses. How that ministry will mesh with Barron's wider purview remains to be seen, but in a statement released this morning by Word on Fire, the bishop-elect said "the short answer is that" his media work "will certainly continue" as the apostolate's staff "will keep bringing you my regular articles, sermons, videos, and media resources."

On the local front, meanwhile, it might seem unusual for a diocese that's now no less than 70 percent Hispanic to receive three Anglo appointees, and as the first round chosen by a Mexican-born archbishop at that. Beyond further evidence of a pressing national demand for Latino candidates that far outstrips its supply, however, the nods for Brennan and O'Connell – both fluent in Spanish and with broad experience in Hispanic communities – manifest the almost unique degree to which LA's Anglo clergy has proven fully effective at ministering to what's become the archdiocese's ethnic supermajority, the lead force behind its doubling in size over the last 25 years.

Said effectiveness is especially apparent in O'Connell's case. Having done double duty in South Central pastoring an African-American parish alongside a Hispanic one, the Irish emigré has won wide acclaim for his work on fronts ranging from immigration to unemployment and South LA's notorious history of gang violence. Hailed as an exemplar of the priesthood in a 2002 LATimes profile as the clergy sex-abuse crisis made national headlines, the candid cleric likewise made a wave of a different sort in the piece with an indirectly cited statement that "women should be ordained and clergy should be able to marry."

"If there had been some parents in there running things," O'Connell said then in reference to abuse and its cover-up, "none of this would have ever happened."

For his part, having served at the now-decommissioned St Vibiana's on Skid Row, Brennan – who's kept his home in an inner-city parish, shirking a space in the archbishop's Cathedral residence – enjoys a reputation as not just a committed pastor and engaging preacher, but a fairly accomplished tenor, even logging some YouTube cameos of his own....

The trio will be presented by Gomez at a 10am Pacific presser in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (on-demand video). While the ordination date remains in the works, the rites are expected to take place before the Pope's late September visit to the East Coast, during which Francis will address the US bishops in Washington's St Matthew's Cathedral.

In preliminary comments this morning, Gomez said he "could not be happier" over the appointments.

"They are good priests. Each one is a man of prayer and a man of service. Each one has a heart for the poor and a passion to share the good news of God’s mercy and love with everyone in the world today. So I am delighted and grateful that the Pope has called them to be auxiliary bishops."

SVILUPPO: With the diocesan Angelus News portal running a full package on the picks, here below are the prepared statements from the bishops-elect, in the order of their appointments as announced by Rome.

First, from Bishop-elect Joe Brennan....

Overwhelmed and even a bit perplexed by this appointment, I am humbled and deeply indebted to Pope Francis and Archbishop Jose Gomez.

This moment has somehow led me to reminisce about many things, including my seminary days. The first ‘seminary’ I attended, however, was not St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo but the family home in Van Nuys. My ‘professors’ were incredible. Mom and Dad had ‘Doctorates’ in the school of love, devotion and ‘hard knocks’. My Uncle, Msgr. John L. Brennan (“Fr. John”), merits special mention here too as a model of sanctity and service, incredible priest and loving shepherd of the flock. Like you, I have had some great teachers and whether those among them who have died are smiling or wondering about this turn of events, I know that I am on the receiving end of their loving care from heaven. For that I am beyond grateful. Their prayers, care and support will sustain me. I’m counting on it. I’m counting on yours too!

We are certainly in this together. As St. John Paul wrote in chapter 5 of his Apostolic Exhortation entitled, “Pastores Dabo Vobis” (I Will Give You Shepherds), “The spiritual life is, indeed, an interior life, a life of intimacy with God, a life of prayer and contemplation, but this very meeting with God and with his fatherly love for everyone, brings us face to face with the need to meet our neighbor, to give ourselves to others, to serve in a humble and disinterested fashion, following the example which Jesus has proposed to everyone as a program of life when he washed the feet of the Apostles.”

God bless you, always and all ways.
From Bishop-elect Dave O'Connell....
I read that sometime last year that Pope Francis told some newly named bishops not to take their appointment as an honor or a title or even as a reward for good work, but as a call to follow Jesus more closely and to serve His people with more fervor.

So I am very moved that the Holy Father has named me as an auxiliary bishop in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, and I must admit, I am a bit nervous about it.

I have had the privilege of being a priest of this Archdiocese for 36 years since I was ordained in 1979 in All Hallows' college in Dublin, Ireland. I regard it as a great blessing in my life to have had the opportunity to serve here. I thank God that as the years go on I have more and more love for my priesthood and for the people in the parishes I have served. The parishioners of St. Raymond's, St. Maria Goretti and St. Hilary's where I was an associate have taught me how to be a priest. The parishioners of St. Frances X. Cabrini, Ascension, St. Eugene's and St. Michael’s have taught me how to be a good pastor. The people from these parishes have also given me a great gift; the gift of a living relationship with Jesus which is the most precious gift of all.

I want to thank Cardinal Manning who ordained me a deacon in 1979 and Cardinal Mahony who has been my Archbishop for most of my priesthood here, and I also want to thank Archbishop Gomez for his support of me and for accepting this nomination of me as auxiliary bishop. (I am not sure if he had a choice or not, but I thank him anyway). I think there is no Archdiocese in the country where the Catholic faith is more alive in parishes from the poorest area of the Archdiocese to the most wealthy and everyplace in between. I think this is because of the great leadership of Cardinal Manning, Cardinal Mahony and of course Archbishop Gomez and our auxiliary bishops. I am excited about joining them in this great work of Jesus among the people.

The greatest joy of my life is being a pastor. It is a privilege to be part of people's lives especially in their time of suffering and need. I think our parishes and schools are powerful instruments of transformation of people's lives and of neighborhoods. I hope that as an auxiliary bishop I can continue to be a good pastor for the people. In this we all have a great example in Pope Francis who, even though he has the cares of the whole Catholic Church on his shoulders, continues to reach out to the poor and the rejected in a very loving and compassionate way. It's a great time to be Catholic since we are entering into the Synod on the Family and on a Holy Year of Mercy. The Pope is calling all of us to show the face of the compassionate and merciful Jesus to the world. I am proud to be part of this great ministry in the years ahead.
And, of course, Bishop-elect Bob Barron....
It was with enormous surprise that I heard the word of my appointment last week, but it is with a humble and joyful heart that I have accepted it. I am grateful to Pope Francis for his confidence in me and to Archbishop Gomez for his willingness to allow me to minister in this beautiful, richly diverse, and spiritually vibrant Church. I have visited the Los Angeles area many times, including seven or eight journeys to speak at the legendary Religious Education Congress in Anaheim. Over the years, I have also spoken here at the Cathedral, at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, at Act One in Hollywood, and at Thomas Aquinas College. So although I cannot say that I know this Archdiocese well, I have indeed been able to taste and see some of its goodness.

The late Cardinal Francis George, who was a mentor to me, taught me the central importance of evangelizing the culture, bringing the power of Christ to the arenas of politics, law, the arts, higher education, the media, and entertainment. This has been my preoccupation over the years, informing my work as teacher, writer, and evangelist. I cannot imagine a more exciting field for this sort of endeavor than Los Angeles, one of the great cultural capitals of the world. I believe that the most significant challenge facing the Catholic Church today is the attrition of our own people. That upwards of 75% of Catholics do not regularly practice their faith is directly repugnant to the stated desire of the fathers of Vatican II and constitutes a serious threat to the future of the Church. And if the Church loses its voice, then who will speak to an increasingly secularized culture of God, of Jesus, of salvation, of eternal life? Therefore, if I can use the words of St. Paul, “woe to me if I do not evangelize!”

I will confess to some trepidation in my heart as I leave behind friends, family, and familiar surroundings, but I trust very much in the providence of God and in the kindness of the people of the great Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Please pray for me and teach me how to be a good bishop. God bless you.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Quote of the Day

Jesus knows that in this world filled with competition, envy and aggressiveness, true happiness comes from learning to be patient, from respecting others, from refusing to condemn or judge others. As the saying goes: 'When you get angry, you lose.'

Don’t let your heart give in to anger and resentment. Happy are the merciful. Happy are those who know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, those who are able to embrace, to forgive.

We have all experienced this at one time or another. And how beautiful it is! It is like getting our lives back, getting a new chance. Nothing is more beautiful than to have a new chance. It is as if life can start all over again....
...and for a prodigal Pope who began this homecoming trek with a prayer for the "best wine" at the end of the banquet, given his last published word before hitting the plane, he might've just gotten his wish.

Suffice it to say, those who've missed these days lost out on experiencing an extraordinary week. Full wrap to come – and with the PopeFlight touching down in Rome shortly before 2pm local (8am ET), only then will the usual in-flight presser emerge.

SVILUPPO: Lasting an hour and covering 18 questions – ranging from October's Synod to US critiques of Laudato Si', his sweeping social manifesto in Bolivia and its president's controversial gift of a hammer-and-sickle crucifix – a full English transcript of Francis' plane presser's been released by America magazine.


Time for "Pictures" – In Greensburg, Ordination Eve

With this most resonant and evocative of PopeTrips now wrapping up – and even as the next term's hurdles are already well before us (and Texas is owed a delayed "field-trip") – it finally feels like the "end of school" is nearing 'round these parts.

Still, there's business to finish – tomorrow, the Stateside church's transition docket winds up for the summer with the ord/installation of Greensburg's long-awaited fifth bishop: the Harrisburg pastor now-formerly known, chainsaw and all, as "Father Ed."

Already lauded by the new crowd, his "humility" blared in headlines – and a powerful testimony of finding faith on the record – Ed Malesic inherits an American Catholic outpost as devout as Western Pennsylvania's coal mines run deep... yet with it, a place now feeling just as blasted through amid tough times over recent years; all around, a church hurting to a degree it arguably never needed nor deserved.

Lest anyone forgot, in all things history is the greatest teacher. And so it was that some 11 years ago, Bishop Anthony Bosco proved eerily prophetic in opening his successor's ordination by quoting his own mentor's adage that "it's dangerous to travel through a diocese on the day of a new bishop's arrival," as "one risks the danger of being hit by the pictures of his predecessor being thrown from rectory windows."

Even for the warning in this instance, alas, Bosco isn't here to repeat the line – once USCCB communications chair on the wider scene and a beloved shepherd at home, the bishop died suddenly at 85 two years ago last week, the Pirates game on TV and his constant companion, Joshua II (read: "2," not "the second") at his side.

Maybe especially given his absence, that the chair Bosco left – a seat since remade in grand form by the now-retiring Bishop Lawrence Brandt – now falls to a figure whose quiet yet palpable goodness, love of people and sense of humor so clearly echo that of our lost friend is a cause of joy and hope for Greensburg's good folks and their future. But even as Bosco's number still holds a place in this scribe's phone, we'd be remiss if this vigil weren't led by the legacy he so dearly loved, the people whose voices he formed and sent forward.

Ergo, given the third bishop'
s famous last word in Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, tonight our stage belongs to his proteges: the wild child of the Greensburg clergy – Fr Bob Lubic, the celebrated "Punk Priest" now pastoring three parishes there – and Bosco's spiritual daughter, our very own Nicki Sbaffoni, to bring their home-church back to the start....


Friday, July 10, 2015

"Let's Not Be Afraid To Say It – We Need Change, We Want Change": To Poor and Powerful Alike, Pope's Watershed Call for "Justice"

While much of yesterday's PopeTrip news-cycle fixated on what Francis did or didn't say to the Bolivian President Evo Morales on receiving a crucifix in the shape of a Communist hammer and sickle – and/or his reported use of a Burger King as a makeshift sacristy before yesterday's mega-Mass – yet again, the big story in reality lay elsewhere: his unleashing of a bombshell text that immediately takes its place among the handful of truly landmark addresses of this pontificate.

Before a summit of social movements representing workers, the poor and marginalized, the Pope delivered one of the longest and strongest speeches of his 28 months as Bishop of Rome – a loaded call for social justice born from "the barrio, the land, the office, the labor union" and its demand for "real change, structural change" from the "tyranny of mammon" through a revolution of an "intolerable" economic system that, he said, "runs counter to the plan of Jesus" as it "kills," "excludes" and "destroys Mother Earth."

The address was the second Papa Bergoglio's given to the World Meeting of Popular Movements – a joint venture of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Vatican's Academy for Social Sciences – following his appearance at an initial gathering in Rome last October.

In a rarity for a speech from the usually free-wheeling Pope, the heavily programmatic product was laid out in numbered paragraphs with footnote citations – a clear signal of Francis' intent for the text to be received less as fleeting remarks able to be discounted than an enduring, consequential teaching document.

The centerpiece talk of this eight-day trek – which, later today, enters its home-stretch in Paraguay – the sweeping speech indeed doubles as the prime curtain-raiser for the most intensely awaited moment of Francis' September US trip: an unprecedented papal address to a joint meeting of Congress (for which, it emerged this week, an inauguration-style staging area is being planned on the Capitol's West Front so the Pope can greet the general public, who'll be able to watch the speech's simulcast on outdoor screens).

In the meantime, a manifesto of this magnitude has already seen no shortage of attempts at summary and will birth a flood of commentary for weeks. Even for that, just do your intelligence the favor of reading the actual text first.

*   *   *
Good afternoon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] JOHN XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra (15 May 1961), 3: AAS 53 (1961), 402.
[2] PAUL VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 14: AAS 59 (1967), 264.
[3] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 157.
[5] JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (14 September 1995), 52: AAS 88 (1996), 32-22; ID., Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 22: AAS 80 (1988), 539.
[6] Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 Incarnationis Mysterium (29 November 1998),11: AAS 91 (1999), 139-141.


Tuesday, July 07, 2015

"We Can No Longer Turn Our Backs On Mother Earth" – To Educators, Francis Teaches His Eco-cyclical

Nineteen days after his Eco-cyclical was published to no shortage of spin, hype and polarized contention, in his speech tonight to Ecuador's community of teachers at the country's pontifical university, the Pope made his first extensive remarks on Laudato Si', becoming his definitive statement to date on the text.

With Francis set to head to Bolivia before noon tomorrow – and concerns well in evidence over the 12,000-foot altitude of its capital and first stop, La Paz – the last full day of this visit's opening leg wrapped with the educators' meeting, followed by a talk to the country's political and business leaders on the building up of a society in which "no one is excluded," urging the dignitaries to avoid a civic discourse "based on confrontation and the attempt to eliminate our opponents."

Given the focus on the encyclical in the former meeting, however, here's the Vatican translation of the education address:

My Brother Bishops,
Father Rector,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Professors and Students,
Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

Our world is a gift given to us by God so that, with him, we can make it our own. God did not will creation for himself, so he could see himself reflected in it. On the contrary: creation is a gift to be shared. It is the space that God gives us to build up with one another, to build a “we”. The world, history, all of time – this is the setting in which we build this “we” with God, with others, with the earth. This invitation is always present, more or less consciously in our life; it is always there. 
But there is something else which is special. As Genesis recounts, after the word “cultivate”, another word immediately follows: “care”. Each explains the other. They go hand in hand. Those who do not cultivate do not care; those who do not care do not cultivate.

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

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

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

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

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

Our academic institutions are seedbeds, places full of possibility, fertile soil which we must care for, cultivate and protect. Fertile soil thirsting for life.

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

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

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

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

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

Personal initiatives are always necessary and good. But we are asked to go one step further: to start viewing reality in an organic and not fragmented way, to ask about where we stand in relation to others, inasmuch as “everything is interconnected” (Laudato Si’, 138).

As a university, as educational institutions, as teachers and students, life itself challenges us to answer this question: What does this world need us for? Where is your brother?

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

"Our Faith Is Always Revolution" – In Quito, Francis' "Mission" In Black and White

Another day... another crowd of a million....

...and yet again on this Latin American homecoming tour, another powerful message from the Pope to reiterate one of his core priorities.

In the second homily of a papal trek whose messages are quickly shaping up as a crash course in "Francis 101," yesterday's Synod salvo in Guayaquil was followed up this morning by an emphasis on a missionary church in the Ecuadorean capital, Quito. And with it, amid the ongoing "fantasies of [his] many supposed 'defenders' who've sought to portray Francis less as Simon Peter than Simón Bolívar" – the 19th century leader of Latin America's liberation from colonial rule – the man himself aimed right at the difference between the two, then reaching beyond to the very "cry" of Jesus.

As context goes, today's focus – couched in a votive Mass for the Evangelization of Peoples (fullvid) – springs directly from the twin foundational texts of Jorge Bergoglio's ecclesiology: Evangelii gaudium, Francis' sweeping governing manifesto whose "dream" of a church driven to live "a missionary option" provides the sole roadmap through which this pontificate can genuinely be understood, and its predecessor, the 2007 Aparecida Charter of the Latin American bishops (its drafting led by the then cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires), which presented a vision of a church engaged in "permanent mission" and, with it, the foreshadowing of what the newly-elected Pope would famously term "a church which is poor and for the poor!"

Here, an additional note: for someone who recently admitted to not having watched television in nearly 25 years and previously said he couldn't operate a device that "has more than two buttons on it" – in the cited instance, a CD player (when his cherished opera recordings stopped being pressed on vinyl) – Francis' sense of effective settings and optics in a multimedia age is uncannily well-targeted. In that light, with today's second reading in the indigenous language of Quechua and the Pope clad in a striking black-on-white patterned chasuble of native origin, the pontiff served to viscerally underscore what's arguably the most consequential ad intra push in Evangelii gaudium (a point most Anglophone "experts" completely missed): namely, its cited "imperative... to inculturate the Gospel" – a work through which, once achieved, "the diversity of peoples who experience the gift of God, each in accordance with its own culture... expresses [the church's] genuine catholicity and shows forth the 'beauty of her varied face.'"

After decades of wrangling between Rome and the bishops of Asia and Africa over the latter's incorporation of evocative local understandings into their churches' witness, like too much else that watershed call remains largely ignored... and as his first US trek draws ever nearer, seemingly no less than Francis himself grasps that simply being heard – let alone heeded – might just take a miracle all its own.

Against said backdrop – his chosen Gospel the John 17 account of the Last Supper – here's the Vatican translation of today's preach:

The word of God calls us to live in unity, that the world may believe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How beautiful it would be if all could admire how much we care for one another, how we encourage and help each other. Giving of ourselves establishes an interpersonal relationship; we do not give “things” but our very selves. In any act of giving, we give ourselves. “Giving of oneself” means letting all the power of that love which is God’s Holy Spirit take root in our lives, opening our hearts to his creative power.

When we give of ourselves, we discover our true identity as children of God in the image of the Father and, like him, givers of life; we discover that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, to whom we bear witness. This is what it means to evangelize; this is the new revolution – for our faith is always revolutionary – this is our deepest and most enduring cry.
After a morning meeting with – but unusually, no speech to – the country's bishops, today's schedule wraps up with an address to representatives of Ecuador's education community, then another to its political and economic leaders. (SVILUPPO: Texts of both.)


Monday, July 06, 2015

"Let No One Be Thrown Away!" – In Quito, Francis' "Moonlight Blessing"

More than any other night since he departed Buenos Aires for the Conclave that, to the shock of the world, made him Pope, tonight, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is home – back on his native continent, the language that surrounded him daily for 76 years again spoken all around.... 

And late on this Ecuadorean evening, all of it showed.

In a striking echo of his first post-election appearance some 28 months ago – and reiterating the loaded message he unleashed earlier today not just for a million in a Guayaquil park, but the entire church – within the hour the 266th Bishop of Rome, far more confident than he was at the start, emerged from Quito Cathedral to offer the following blessing to the throngs assembled outside....

I'm going to give you a blessing – a blessing to each of you, to your families, to all your loved ones, and to all the great and noble Ecuadorean people: that there may not be differences, that there may not be anyone excluded – that there won't be anyone thrown-away! That all may be brothers and sisters, that you might include everyone, that no one will be left out of this great Ecuadorean nation.

To each one of you and your families, I give my blessing, but first let us pray the Ave Maria – Hail Mary....

And the blessing of Almighty God....

And, please, I ask you to pray for me! Goodnight and see you tomorrow!

"In the Family, No One Is Rejected" – Seeking the "Best Wine" For the Masses, Pope Prays For Synod "Miracle"

Before a crowd projected in excess of a million, the longest trip to date of this pontificate – and the first Latin American Pope's maiden tour of his home-region's Spanish-speaking turf – began with a bang today in Ecuador....

That is, one besides the rapturous Guayaquil welcome.

At the first of five open-air Masses (fullvid) scheduled over the eight-day trek – which'll likewise wend through the continent's "peripheries" of Bolivia and Paraguay before wrapping up on Sunday – Francis chose
 the family as his focus in the Pacific coast city, with both the challenges the "domestic church" faces on the ground and October's climactic Synod on the church's pastoral response to them explicitly in his sights in a potent, impassioned homily. (Speaking of the latter backdrop, meanwhile, a full English translation of the Synod's all-important "baseline" text was quietly released last week.

For the full context and impact of Francis' words today to be understood, it is necessary to recall the Pope's "blockbuster" preach at the closing of February's Consistory, when – at their last en masse gathering before the Synod – he urged the entire College of Cardinals to be mindful of how "compassion leads Jesus to concrete action," seen in the way the Lord "reinstates the marginalized!" As today's preach again overflowed with Papa Bergoglio's ever-intense Marian piety, the Guayaquil call comes as a direct echo of the earlier text, albeit this one attuned to the broad body of the faithful instead of senior prelates.

In the context of a votive Mass of the Holy Family, the Gospel taken from the John 2 account of Jesus' first miracle – his transformation of water to wine in the wedding at Cana – below is the Pope's fulltext, here in its Vatican translation:
The Gospel passage which we have just heard is the first momentous sign in the Gospel according to John. Mary’s maternal concern is seen in her plea to Jesus: “They have no wine”, and Jesus’ reference to “his hour” will be more fully understood later, in the story of his Passion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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