Tag Archives: Aparecida

Pope Francis’ interview with journalists, Part I

Part I of II of the transcript of the interchange between Pope Francis and the journalists on Sunday’s plane ride to Rome. His Holiness gave journalists an unprecedented, unscripted and and frank responses to their questions. The news people went overboard with the some aspects of the interview, but that’s no surprise for a bunch of people working with churchmen is new. The constant talk about homosexuality is bit much as of now; there is more people want to know of what the Holy Father thinks.

We Catholics follow Jesus Christ, not a bureaucrat, or an organization. Please remember that.

Here’s Part II of the interviewHere’s Zenit’s translation of Part I:

Father Lombardi:

Now, dear friends, we have the joy of having with us on this return trip, the Holy Father Francis. He has been kind enough to give us a good long time to evaluate the trip with us and answer your questions in total liberty. I give him the floor for a brief introduction and then we will begin with the list of those who registered to talk and we will take them from different national and linguistic groups. Now the floor is yours, You Holiness, to begin.

Pope Francis:

Good evening and thank you so much. I am happy. It has been a good trip; it has done me good spiritually. I’m quite tired, but with a joyful heart, and I am well, well: it did me good spiritually. It does one good to meet people, because the Lord works in each one of us; He works in the heart, and the richness of the Lord is such that we can always receive many good things from others. And this does me good. This, as a first evaluation. Then I would say that the kindness, the heart of the Brazilian people is great, is true: its great. They are such kind people, a people that loves celebration, that even in suffering always finds a way to seek the good anywhere. And this is good: they are a happy people, a people who have suffered so much! The joy of Brazilians is contagious, it’s contagious! And these people have a great heart. Then I would say of the organizers, from our part as well as that of the Brazilians – but I felt I was in front of a computer, an incarnated computer … But truly, everything was absolutely punctual, no? But good. Then we had problems with security theories: security here and there; there wasn’t an incident in the whole of Rio de Janeiro in these days, and everything was spontaneous. With less security, I was able to be with the people, to embrace and greet them, without armored cars. It’s the security of trusting people. It’s true that there is always the danger that there is a madman … alas, yes, that there is a madman who does something; but there is also the Lord! But, to make an armored space between the Bishop and the people is madness, and I prefer this madness: [to be] outside and run the risk of the other madness. I prefer this madness: outside. Closeness does good to all.

Then, the organization of the Day, not something specific, but everything: the artistic part, the religious part, the catechetical part, the liturgical part … it was very beautiful! They have a capacity to express themselves in art. Yesterday, for instance, they did very beautiful things, very beautiful! Then, Aparecida. For me Aparecida is an intense religious experience. I recall the Fifth Conference. I was there to pray. I wanted to go alone, somewhat hidden, but there was an impressive crowd! It wasn’t possible [to be hidden], I knew that before arriving. And we prayed, we did. I don’t know … one thing … but also from your part. Your work was, I’m told – I didn’t read the newspapers during these days, I didn’t have the time, I did not watch the TV, nothing –, but I’m told that it was good, good, good work! Thank you, thank you for the collaboration, and thank you for having done this. Then the number, the number of young people. Today – I can’t believe it – but today the Governor spoke of three million. I can’t believe it. But from the altar —  that’s true! – I don’t know if you, some of you were at the altar: from the altar, at the end, the whole beach was full, up to the curve, more than four kilometers. But so many young people. And they say, Monsignor [Archbishop] Tempesta told me, that they were from 178 countries: 178! The Vice-President also gave me this number: that’s certain. It’s important! Intense!

Father Lombardi:

Thank you. Now we give the floor first to Juan de Lara, who is from Efe, a Spaniard, and it’s the last trip he makes with us; so, we are happy to give him this possibility.

Juan de Lara:

Good evening, Holiness. On behalf of all our companions we want to thank you for these days you have given us in Rio de Janeiro, the work you have done, and the effort it implies and also in the name of all Spanish journalists, we want to thank you for the prayers and the praying for the victims of the train accident of Santiago de Compostela. Thank you very much. And the first question, — it doesn’t have much to do with the trip, but we take advantage of the occasion that gives us this possibility and I wanted to ask you: Holiness, in these four months of pontificate, we see that you have created several commissions to reform the Vatican Curia. I would like to ask you: What type of reform do you have in mind? Do you contemplate the possibility of doing away with the IOR, the so-called Vatican Bank? Thank you.

[Repeated in Italian]

Pope Francis:

The steps I have taken in these four and a half months, come from two sources: the content of what had to be done, it all comes from the source of the General Congregations that we Cardinals had. They were things that we Cardinals asked for to the one who’d be the new Pope. I remember that I asked for many things, thinking of someone else. That is, we asked, this has to be done … for instance, the Commission of eight Cardinals, we know that it’s important to have an outside consultation, not the consultations that take place, but from the outside. And this is in line – here I make a sort of abstraction, thinking, however, to explain it – in the line increasingly of the maturation of the relation between the Synodality and the Primacy. That is, these eight Cardinals favor Synodality, they help the different episcopates of the world to express themselves in the government itself of the Church. Many proposals were made, which have not yet been put into practice, such as the reform of the Synod’s Secretariat, the methodology; such as the Post-Synodal Commission which has a permanent character of consultation; such as the Cardinals’ Consistories with topics that aren’t so formal – such as, for instance, canonization –, but also subjects, etc. Well, the source of the contents comes from there. The second source is the opportunity. I’ll tell you, it wasn’t hard for me, at the end of the first month of pontificate, to create the Commission of the eight Cardinals, which is one thing … The financial part I thought I’d address next year, because it’s not the most important thing to address. However, the agenda was changed due to the circumstances that you know, which are of the public domain; problems appeared which had to be addressed. The first, the problem of the IOR, namely, how to direct it, how to delineate it, how to reform it, how to heal what has to be healed, and there is the first Commission of Reference, that’s its name. You know the <chirograph>, what is requested, those who make it up, and everything. Then we had the meeting of the Commission of the fifteen Cardinals who are concerned with the economic aspects of the Holy See. They are from all parts of the world. And there, while preparing that meeting, the need was seen to establish a same Reference Commission for the whole economy of the Holy See. That is, the economic problem was addressed outside the agenda, but these things happen when in the office of government, no? One goes here but a goal is kicked from over there and one must intercept it, isn’t that right? Then, life is like this and that is what is lovely about life also. I repeat the question you asked me about the IOR, sorry, I’m speaking in Spanish. Sorry … the answer came to me in Spanish.

[Repeated in Italian]

With reference to that question you asked me about the IOR, I don’t know how the IOR will end; some say that, perhaps, it’s best if it’s a bank, others that it be an aid fund, others say to close it. Alas! These voices are heard. I don’t know. I trust the work of the people of the IOR, who are working on this, also of the Commission. The President of the IOR remains, the same one who was there before; instead the Director and the Vice-Director have resigned. But this, I cannot tell you how this story will end, and this is good also because one finds, one seeks; we are human, in this; we must find the best. But, this yes; but the characteristics of the IOR – whether a bank, an aid fund, whatever it is – must be transparent and honest. This must be so. Thank you.

Father Lombardi:

Many thanks, Your Holiness. So we now pass to a person of the representatives of the Italian group, and we have one whom you know well: Andrea Tornielli, who comes to ask you a question on behalf of the Italian group.

Andrea Tornielli:

Holy Father, I have a question that is, perhaps, somewhat indiscreet: the photograph has gone around the world of you, when we left, going up the steps of the plane carrying a black bag, and there were articles throughout the world that commented on this novelty: yes, of the Pope going up … it never happened, we said, that the Pope went up with his baggage in hand. So, there were even theories about what the black bag contained. Now, my questions are: one, why did you carry the black bag and why was it not carried by a collaborator, and two, can you tell us what was inside? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

It didn’t have the key of the atomic bomb! Alas! I carried it because I’ve always done so: when I travel, I carry it. What is inside? There is my razor, there is the Breviary, there is the agenda, there is a book to read – I took one on Saint Teresina to whom I am devoted. I have always carried the bag when I travel: it’s normal. But we must be normal … I don’t know .. what you are saying is a bit strange to me, that that photo has gone around the world. But we must get used to being normal, the normality of life. I don’t know, Andrea, if I’ve answered you …

Father Lombardi:

So now we give the floor to a representative of the Portuguese language, Aura Miguel, who is from Radio Renascenca.

Aura Miguel:

Holiness, I want to ask you why you ask so insistently that we pray for you? It’s not normal, usual, to hear a Pope ask so much to pray for him.

Pope Francis:

I’ve always asked for this. When I was a priest I asked for it, but not so frequently. I began to ask for it with a certain frequency in my work as Bishop, because I feel that if the Lord doesn’t help in this work of helping the People of God to go forward, one can’t … I truly feel I have so many limitations, so many problems, also being a sinner – you know it! – and I must ask for this. But it comes from within! I also ask Our Lady to pray for me to the Lord. It’s a habit, but it’s a habit that comes from the heart and also from the need I have for my work. I feel I must ask … I don’t know, it’s like this …

Father Lombardi:

Now we pass to the group of the English language, and we give the floor to our colleague Pullella of Reuters, who is here before you.

Philip Pullella:

Holiness, thank you, on behalf of the English group, for your availability. The colleague from Lara has already asked the question we wanted to ask, so I’ll proceed somewhat on those lines, however: in the search to make these changes, I remember that you said to the group of Latin America that there are so many saints that work in the Vatican, but also persons who are somewhat less saintly, no? Have you met with resistance in your desire to change things in the Vatican? Have you found resistance? The second question is: you live in a very austere world, you have stayed in Saint Martha’s, etc. Do you want your collaborators, also the Cardinals, to follow this example and perhaps live in community, or is it something for you only?

Pope Francis:

The changes … the changes come also from two sources:  what we Cardinals requested, and what comes from my personality. You were speaking of the fact that I have stayed at Saint Martha’s: but I couldn’t live alone in the Palace, and it’s not luxurious. The papal apartment isn’t so luxurious! It’s ample, big, but not luxurious, but I can’t live alone and with a small tiny group! I need people, to meet people, to talk with people … And because of this the boys of the Jesuit school asked me: “Why do you do it? Out of austerity? Poverty? No, no. Simply for psychiatric reasons, because I can’t cope psychologically. Everyone must carry his life forward, his way of living, of being. The Cardinals who work in the Curia do not live richly and magnificently: they live in an apartment, they are austere, they are austere. Those that I know, the apartments that APSA gives the Cardinals. Then it seems to me there is something else I would like to say. Each one must live as the Lord asks him to live. But austerity – a general austerity – I think is necessary for all of us who work in the service of the Church. There are so many shades of austerity … each one must find his way. In regard to the saints, this is true, there are saints: Cardinals, priests, bishops, Sisters, laymen: people who pray, people who work so much, and also who go to the poor, in a hidden way. I know of some who are concerned with feeding the poor and then, in their free time, go to do their ministry in one or another church … They are priests. There are saints in the Curia. And there are also some who aren’t so saintly, and these are those who make more noise. You know that a tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows.  And this grieves me when there are these things. But there are some who give scandal, some. We have this Monsignor in jail, I think he’s still in jail, he is not in jail because he resembled Blessed Imelda in fact, he isn’t a Blessed. These are scandals that cause grief. Something – I have never said this , but I recall – I think the Curia has fallen somewhat from the level that it had some time ago, of those old Curia men … the profile of the old Curia man, faithful, who did his work. We are in need of such persons. I believe … they exist, but they are not so many as there were some time ago. The profile of the old Curia man: I would say this. We need more of these. Do I find resistance? Alas! If there is resistance, I haven’t seen it yet. It’s true that I haven’t done so many things, but I can say yes, I have found help, and I have also found loyal people. For instance, I’m pleased when a person says to me: “I’m not in agreement,” and I have found this. “But I don’t see this, I don’t agree: I say it, you do it.” This is a true collaborator. And I’ve found this in the Curia. And this is good. But when there are those who say: “Ah, how good, how good, how good,” but then say the opposite on the other side … Now I can’t remember. Perhaps there are some, but I can’t remember. Resistance: in four months one can’t find so much ….

Father Lombardi:

Well then, we now go to a Brazilian, it seems right to me. Then there is Patricia Zorzan, perhaps Izoard is coming so then we also have a Frenchman.

Patricia Zorzan:

Speaking on behalf of Brazilians. The society has changed, young people have changed, and we see many young people in Brazil. You have spoken to us about abortion, matrimony between persons of the same sex. In Brazil a law has been approved which extends the right of abortion and has allowed matrimony between persons of the same sex. Why didn’t you speak about this?

[Repeated in Italian]

Pope Francis:

The Church has already expressed herself perfectly on this. It wasn’t necessary to go back to this, nor did I speak about fraud or lies or other things, on which the Church has a clear doctrine.

[Repeated in Italian]

Patricia Zorzan:

But it’s an issue that interests young people …

[Repeated in Italian]

Pope Francis:

Yes, but it wasn’t necessary to talk about that, but about positive things that open the way to youngsters, isn’t that so? Moreover, young people know perfectly well what the position of the Church is.

[Repeated in Italian]

Patricia Zorzan:

What is the position of Your Holiness, can you tell us?

[Repeated in Italian]

Pope Francis:

That of the Church. I’m a child of the Church.

[Repeated in Italian]

Father Lombardi:

Now we return to the Spanish group: Dario Menor Torres … ah, sorry, Izoard, whom we already called, so we have one of the French group … and then, Dario Menor.

Antoine-Marie Izoard:

Good day, Your Holiness. On behalf of colleagues of the French language on the flight – we are nine on this flight. For a Pope who is not keen on interviews, we are truly grateful to you. Since March 13, you have introduced yourself as the Bishop of Rome, with very great and strong insistence. So, we would like to understand what the profound meaning is of this insistence, if perhaps more than collegiality there is talk perhaps of ecumenism, for the case of being primus inter pares in the Church? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

Yes, on this we must not go beyond what is said. The Pope is bishop, Bishop of Rome, because the Bishop of Rome is the Successor of Peter, Vicar of Christ. There are other titles, but the first title is “Bishop of Rome,” and everything stems from there. To speak, to think what this means to be primus inter pares, no, this isn’t a consequence of that. It’s simply the Pope’s first title: Bishop of Rome. But there are also others … I think you said something about ecumenism: I believe this favors ecumenism somewhat. But, this alone …

Pope Francis programmatic AND paradigmatic essay: Pay attention

The Address of Pope Francis to the Coordinating Committee of CELAM
Sumare Study Center
28 July 2013

1. Introduction

Pope Francis and CELAMI 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.

The Suffering Body of Christ includes those living with addictions

Pope Francis’ talk strikes a significant cord with me and he’s forcing me examen my own behavior, my own capacity and willingness “to look upon one another with the loving eyes of Christ.” This is a good thing. And I have to admit, after a series of disappointments and lies, the person living in addiction makes a personal relationship harder and harder to cherish. In this last year I have had to live my faith a lot differently with a person close to me dealing with her addiction to alcohol and depression concomitant wrong healthcare and interpersonal decisions. Many trips to the hospital, many encounters with lying and avoiding, many ugly things said are seeming hallmarks of what is given due to the paralyzation of addiction. Some of you know that addiction of any kind does require what the Pope indicates, an embrace that feels close, affectionate and loving. Addiction destroys; addiction is the work of the devil; it closes off the horizon of hope; it is allows for one to abandon personal freedom and to live a life of isolation.

And while addictions are often thought of as chemical imbalances or problems of the will, I do sometimes think those without such are addicted in other ways: the use of the words, rigidly holding to our opinions, being angry, arrogance, a lack of humility and the like.

The Christian manner of living is about freedom, joy, about truth, about the journey. Christ gives us a new humanity. Addiction is just the opposite.

Read Pope Francis’ address very closely. But use what he says to open a new horizon in yourself: does what the Pope say open a new door to see another way of living? Of being a coherent Christian?

Pope Francis at HospitalGod has willed that my journey, after the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, should take me to a particular shrine of human suffering – the Saint Francis of Assisi Hospital. The conversion of your patron saint is well known: the young Francis abandoned the riches and comfort of the world in order to become a poor man among the poor. He understood that true joy and riches do not come from the idols of this world – material things and the possession of them – but are to be found only in following Christ and serving others. Less well known, perhaps, is the moment when this understanding took concrete form in his own life. It was when Francis embraced a leper. This brother, suffering and an outcast, was the “mediator of light … for Saint Francis of Assisi” (Lumen Fidei, 57), because in every suffering brother and sister that we embrace, we embrace the suffering Body of Christ. Today, in this place where people struggle with drug addiction, I wish to embrace each and every one of you, who are the flesh of Christ, and to ask God to renew your journey, and also mine, with purpose and steadfast hope.

To embrace – we all have to learn to embrace the one in need, as Saint Francis did. There are so many situations in Brazil, and throughout the world, that require attention, care and love, like the fight against chemical dependency. Often, instead, it is selfishness that prevails in our society. How many “dealers of death” there are that follow the logic of power and money at any cost! The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favors violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage. A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America. Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future. We all need to look upon one another with the loving eyes of Christ, and to learn to embrace those in need, in order to show our closeness, affection and love.

To embrace someone is not enough, however. We must hold the hand of the one in need, of the one who has fallen into the darkness of dependency perhaps without even knowing how, and we must say to him or her: You can get up, you can stand up. It is difficult, but it is possible if you want to. Dear friends, I wish to say to each of you, but especially to all those others who have not had the courage to embark on our journey: You have to want to stand up; this is the indispensible condition! You will find an outstretched hand ready to help you, but no one is able to stand up in your place. But you are never alone! The Church and so many people are close to you. Look ahead with confidence. Yours is a long and difficult journey, but look ahead, there is “a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world, yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives” (Lumen Fidei, 57). To all of you, I repeat: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! And not only that, but I say to us all: let us not rob others of hope, let us become bearers of hope!

In the Gospel, we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, that speaks of a man assaulted by robbers and left half dead at the side of the road. People pass by him and look at him. But they do not stop, they just continue on their journey, indifferent to him: it is none of their business! Only a Samaritan, a stranger, sees him, stops, lifts him up, takes him by the hand, and cares for him (cf. Lk 10:29-35). Dear friends, I believe that here, in this hospital, the parable of the Good Samaritan is made tangible. Here there is no indifference, but concern. There is no apathy, but love. The Saint Francis Association and the Network for the Treatment of Drug Addiction show how to reach out to those in difficulty because in them we see the face of Christ, because in these persons, the flesh of Christ suffers. Thanks are due to all the medical professionals and their associates who work here. Your service is precious; undertake it always with love. It is a service given to Christ present in our brothers and sisters. As Jesus says to us: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

And I wish to repeat to all of you who struggle against drug addiction, and to those family members who share in your difficulties: the Church is not distant from your troubles, but accompanies you with affection. The Lord is near you and he takes you by the hand. Look to him in your most difficult moments and he will give you consolation and hope. And trust in the maternal love of his Mother Mary. This morning, in the Shrine of Aparecida, I entrusted each of you to her heart. Where there is a cross to carry, she, our Mother, is always there with us. I leave you in her hands, while with great affection I bless all of you.

Pope Francis
Saint Francis of Assisi Hospital

Eucharistic coherence today when there’s division of communio

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There is an interesting concept introduced in ecclesial document that has caused me to pause to consider: eucharistic coherence. In reflecting upon its meaning and application, it is also connected with the theological concept of communio, said to have derived from Trinitarian theology. Communio is used in all areas of Catholic life: how we know and live in the Church, our sacramental life, our life with each other, and our hope in salvation.

Today, more than ever we need to have an intelligent understanding of eucharistic coherence. One such place for me is looking at the experience when members of the Church are in disagree, privately and publicly with what is revealed in sacred Scripture and taught by and lived in the Church. There are many examples that come to mind. I write this reflection knowing full well that my own conversion is ongoing, that I am not a perfect witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that I need to live more coherently not because of a moralism but because I want to be in a better loving relationship with the Lord.

The reception of Holy Communion to Catholics is a contentious issue in the USA. The communio among Catholics is in weakened state by a lack of coherence in belief and practice when comes to who receives Holy Communion. My own assessment is that there is no uniform approach to the thinking and pastoral practice among the bishops in this country and that some bishops have fuzzy approach which has trickled down to the lower clergy and laity who distribute the Eucharistic Lord (i.e., Holy Communion) at Mass. Cardinal Dolan has his approach to the issue, so does Cardinal Wuerl, as Archbishop Nauman as I am sure that the newly appointed Bishop Barber has an idea what  practice will be followed in his diocese. We saw in the time when Cardinal Burke was the archbishop of St Louis that he tried to teach with a distinct voice on this subject, and we can look also Cardinal George, Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Finn in the way they connect with other bishops in the USA, or not. In some ways all bishops agree; but in others they differ in how deal with the matter. Cardinal Dolan recently gave Communion to Vice President Joe Biden at Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The debates have been unhelpful because the baptized faithful, never mind the distinguishing those who have clerical status, are unclear in personal terms as to what ought to be done. But this can’t be said for all: plenty of Catholics in the USA have voiced their opinion when it comes to those who don’t adhere to the teachings of the Gospel, and the clear and consistent teaching of the Church. There are 64 million Catholics in the USA and not all of them are aware of the need to be coherent in matters of faith and practice. Receiving the Lord in the Eucharist is not a political choice, it is not a policy, it is not merely a nice thing to do because my grandmother would be disappointed and nor is receiving Communion the right thing to do when you are in mortal sin. Recall what Saint Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27).

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A Light from the South illuminating the World?

“…the whole purpose of evangelism is to foster friendship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God who reveals both the face of the merciful Father and the truth about our humanity,”

In a June 13, 2012 column on the First Things website, George Weigel published a few brief reflections on his visit to Argentina and the evangelization work being done that resulted in what is being called the “Aparecida Document” (the full text is below) which is a collation of the documents from the Fifth General Assembly of Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM) of 2007. Weigel is naming the very long Aparecida Document as the master plan of evangelization. We ought to take note.

We in the north need this document; we need to study it and to apply its perspective to our context. But beware: we need to have the same thrust —
+ “everything in the Church must be mission-driven”
+ we need a “permanent catechesis: an ongoing encounter with the Lord Jesus, deepened spiritually through Word and Sacrament, the Bible and the Eucharist.”
+ we need to live the Gospel and the Tradition given to us.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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