Pope Francis' Visit to Latin America July 2015

 

Angelus address: On the Verbs of the Shepherd

"His gaze is not the gaze of a sociologist or of a photojournalist, because He always sees with the 'eyes of the heart.'"

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, July 19, 2015

Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address today before and after the recitation of the Angelus to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

I see that you are very brave with this heat in the Square. Good for you!

Today's Gospel tells us that the Apostles, after their experience of the mission, are happy but also tired. And Jesus, full of understanding, wants to give them a bit of comfort; he then takes them aside, to a secluded place so that they may rest a bit (cfr. Mc 6,31). "People saw them leaving and many came to know about it… They hastened there" (v.32). At this point, the Evangelist offers us an image of Jesus of singular intensity; "photographing", so to speak, his eyes and grasping the feelings of his heart. And the evangelist says: "When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things" (v.34).

Let us take the three verbs of this evocative frame: to see, to have compassion, to teach. We may call them the verbs of the Shepherd: to see, to have compassion, to teach. The first and the second, to see and to have compassion, are always associated with Jesus' attitude: in fact his gaze is not the gaze of a sociologist or of a photojournalist, because he always sees with the "eyes of the heart." These two verbs, to see and to have compassion, configure Jesus as the Good Shepherd. His compassion, is not only a human feeling, but is the emotion of Messiah in which the tenderness of God was made flesh. And from this compassion is born Jesus' desire to nourish the crowds with the bread of his Word, that is, to teach the Word of God to the People. Jesus sees, Jesus has compassion, and Jesus teaches us. This is beautiful.

I asked the Lord that the Spirit of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, would guide me during the Apostolic Visit I made in recent days to Latin America and that allowed me to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. I thank God with all my heart for this gift. I thank the people of the three countries for their affectionate and warm welcome and enthusiasm. And I renew my recognition of the governments of these countries for their welcome and collaboration. With great affection, I thank my brother Bishops, the priests, the consecrated people and the all the people for the warmth with which they participated. With these brothers and sisters, I praised the Lord for the wonders He has done in the People of God on the path in that land, for their faith that has animated and encourages their lives and their culture. And we also praised Him for the natural beauty which he has enriched those countries. The Latin American continent has great human and spiritual potential, they guard deeply rooted Christian values, but also live through grave social and economic problems. To contribute to their solution, the Church is committed in mobilizing the spiritual and moral forces of their communities, collaborating with the all the healthy components of society. In front of the great challenge that the announcement of the Gospel must confront, I invited them to draw from Christ the Lord the grace that saves and gives strength to the commitment of Christian witness, to develop the spread of the Word of God, so that the strong religiosity of that people can always be a faithful witness of the Gospel.

To the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who is venerated by all of Latin America with the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I entrust the fruits of this unforgettable Apostolic Visit.

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Analysis of the Pope's trip to Latin America: The Gospel as a Key to Problems

Some Ideas From Pope Francis

By Father John Flynn

Rome, July 19, 2015

Many reports and commentaries on the recent trip by Pope Francis to South America were eager to interpret his words from a political perspective. While the Pope did make reference to some political and economic issues it was in the context of a spiritual message which was by far the key theme.

Pope Francis made this clear right from the start, during his address on arriving at the airport in Ecuador last Sunday.

We find in the Gospel, he said, “a key to meeting contemporary challenges, respecting differences, fostering dialogue and full participation, so that the growth in progress and development already registered will be strengthened and ensure a better future for everyone, with particular concern for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.”

The family was another recurring theme in the Pope’s addresses. In his homily at Samanes Park in Ecuador he mentioned the synod on the family to be held later this year and asked for prayers, both for this event and for families in general.

Pope Francis returned to the family during his address at the San Francisco church in Quito, Ecuador. He highlighted the importance of each member in a family working for the common good of all. He also commented that the values of family life could do a lot to help society in general.

Basic values

“In the family, we find the basic values of love, fraternity and mutual respect, which translate into essential values for society as a whole: gratuitousness, solidarity and subsidiarity.”

If only we could view our neighbors and society in the same way we consider members of our family, and then reflect that in our actions society would greatly benefit.

“In an age when basic values are often neglected or distorted, the family merits special attention on the part of those responsible for the common good, since it is the basic cell of society,” the Pope added on arriving at the airport in La Paz, Bolivia.

In striving to apply to society the lessons learnt in the family we can learn a lot from the example of Mary. The Pope’s homily at Samanes Park was a reflection on the Gospel text of the wedding feast at Cana and he pointed out how Mary was attentive to the needs of the newlyweds at Cana, and not closed in on herself.

Rather than criticizing the poor planning of the feast to the other wedding guests Mary acts to resolve the problem. She tells the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” This, the Pope said, is an invitation to open our hearts to Jesus, who came to serve others. “Those who love know how to serve others,” Pope Francis concluded.

Jesus showed his willingness to serve others many times Pope Francis observed in speaking to clergy, religious and seminarians in Bolivia.

“One day Jesus saw us on the side of the road, wallowing in our own pain and misery, our indifference. Each one knows his or her past. He did not close his ear to our cries. He stopped, drew near and asked what he could do for us. And thanks to many witnesses, who told us, “Take heart; get up”, gradually we experienced this merciful love, this transforming love, which enabled us to see the light.”

When Pope Francis spoke about politics or economics he frequently judged them from a spiritual point of view. Thus, speaking about wars and violence in his homily at the Parque Bicentenario in Quito, Ecuador, he said that they are a manifestation of individualism and sin.

A new revolution

Jesus sends us into this world with its various forms of egoism not to be indifferent to it but to accept the challenge of being builders of unity. This task of evangelization, of bearing witness as brothers and sisters of Jesus, is the new revolution, he said.

It is the opposite of what Pope Francis described during a mass celebrated at Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, as “a mentality in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable.”

Reflecting on the multiplication of the fishes and loaves the Pope said that Jesus shows us how to change from a mentality that discards others to a mindset of communion and community.

This need to include everyone was also brought up by the Pontiff in his address to a meeting of representatives of popular movements during his stay in Bolivia. We have a moral obligation, he said, to ensure a just distribution of material goods and to safeguard personal dignity.

Every country needs economic growth, he affirmed at a meeting with representatives of civil society in Paraguay. Nevertheless, in economics, business, and politics the human person should come first.

“In days to come, I would like to encourage the vocation of Christ’s disciples to share the joy of the Gospel, to be salt for the earth and light to the world,” Pope Francis said on arriving in Bolivia. This aspiration is a good key to understanding his recent trip.

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Pope to Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay: 'I Want to Bring You Tenderness, Caress of God'

Ahead of Trip to Latin America Next Week, Francis Sends Video Message 

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Vatican City State, June 30, 2015

Just one week before Pope Francis' apostolic visit to Latin America, July 5-13, he has expressed his affection and closeness to the people of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.

In a video-message to the three South American nations he will visit during the trip, the Holy Father said, “I want to be a witness of this joy of the Gospel and bring to you the tenderness and caress of God, our Father, especially to the children most in need, to the elderly, the sick, the imprisoned, the poor, to those who are victims of this throwaway culture.”

In these days before our meeting, the Pope said, "I give thanks to God for you, and I ask that you be steadfast in the faith, that you may have the fire of love, of charity and that you hold fast to the hope that never disappoints."

Reflecting on the how the Catholic faith is not only a source of solidarity among people, the Pope also reminded Latin American faithful how it builds peace and fosters harmony.

The Pope also exhorted them to unite their prayers with his "so that the announcement of the Gospel can reach to the farthest outskirts and continue to make the values of the Kingdom of God a leaven of the earth in our days as well.”

Pope Francis concluded, praying that the Blessed Virgin Mary take care of them, saying, "See you soon," and requesting them to pray for him.

Below is the Vatican Radio-provided translation of the full text of the Pope's video-message.

***

Dear brothers and sisters of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay,

There is little time before my trip. With this preliminary greeting, I would like to express my closeness, my sympathy and my good will. My wish is to be with you, to share your concerns, to express my affections and closeness, as well as rejoice with you too.

I want to be a witness of this joy of the Gospel and bring to you the tenderness and caress of God, our Father, especially to your children most in need, to the elderly, the sick, the imprisoned, the poor, to those who are victims of this throwaway culture. The love of the merciful Father allows us beyond measure to discover the face of his Son Jesus in each brother, in each sister of ours, in the neighbor. One only needs to come close, to be a neighbor. As Jesus said to that young doctor of the law when he asked: Who is my neighbor?  Go and do what the Good Samaritan did, go and do the same, be close, do not pass by.

In this trip I will visit three sister nations in the lands of the American continent. The faith that we all share is a source of brotherhood and solidarity, it builds villages, it forms family of families, it fosters harmony and encourages the desire and commitment to peace.

In these days before our meeting, I give thanks to God for you, and I ask that you be steadfast in the faith, that you may have the fire of love, of charity and that you hold fast to the hope that never disappoints. I urge you to unite your prayers to mine so that the announcement of the Gospel can reach to the farthest outskirts and continue to make the values of the Kingdom of God a leaven of the earth in our days as well.

May the Blessed Virgin take care of you, as Mother of America and may the Lord bless you. Thank you, see you soon and please, do not forget to pray for me.

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Pope Francis' Address Upon Arriving in Ecuador

"I have come as a witness of God’s mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ"

By Staff Reporter

Ecuador, July 05, 2015

Here is a translation of the prepared text of the Pope's address upon his arrival this afternoon in Ecuador. The Holy Father largely followed the text.

* * *

Mr President, 

Distinguished Government Authorities, 

My Brother Bishops, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends, 

I thank God for having allowed me to return to Latin America and to be here with you today in this beautiful land of Ecuador. I feel joy and gratitude as I see the warm welcome you have offered me. It is a sign of the hospitality which so well defines the people of this noble nation. 

I thank you, Mr President, for your kind words, and I express my cordial good wishes for the exercise of your office. I greet the distinguished government authorities, my brother bishops, the faithful of the Church in this country, and all those who today have opened to me their hearts, their homes, their nation. To all of you, I express my affection and sincere appreciation. 

I have visited Ecuador on a number of occasions for pastoral reasons. Today too I have come as a witness of God’s mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ. For centuries that faith has shaped the identity of this people and borne much good fruit, including the outstanding figures of Saint Mariana de Jesus, Saint Miguel Febres, Saint Narcisa de Jesús and Blessed Mercedes de Jesús Molina, beatified in Guayaquil thirty years ago, during the visit of Pope Saint John Paul II. These, and others like them, lived their faith with intensity and enthusiasm, and by their works of mercy they contributed in a variety of ways to improving the Ecuadorian society of their day. 

In our own time too, we can find in the Gospel a key to meeting contemporary challenges, respecting differences, fostering dialogue and full participation, so that the growth in progress and development already registered will ensure a better future for everyone, with particular concern for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. In these efforts, Mr President, you can always count on the commitment and cooperation of the Church. 

Dear friends, I begin my visit filled with excitement and hope for the days ahead. In Ecuador is the point closest to outer space: it is the peak of Chimborazo, which for that reason is called the place “closest to the sun”, the moon and the stars. We Christians identify Christ with the sun, and the moon with the Church, the community of the faithful. No one, save Jesus Christ, possesses his or her own light. May the coming days make all of us ever more clearly aware of how close is the sun which “dawns upon us from on high”. May each of us be a true reflection of his light and his love. 

From this place, I wish to embrace all of Ecuador. From the peak of Chimborazo to the Pacific coast; from the Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos Islands, may you never lose the ability to thank God for what he has done and is doing for you. May you never lose the ability to protect what is small and simple, to care for your children and your elderly, to have confidence in the young, and to be constantly struck by the nobility of your people and the singular beauty of your country.

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to which Ecuador has been consecrated, grant you every grace and blessing. Thank you.

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Complete text of the Pope's Homily in Guayaquil    2015-07-06

 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. 

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Pope Francis' Homily at Mass in Semanes Park, Guayaquil

"In the heart of the family, no one is rejected, everyone is worth the same."

By Staff Reporter

Ecuador, July 06, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the Pope's homily during the celebration of Mass at Guayaquil's Semanes Park during his first full day in Ecuador.

* * *

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 enduring, 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 adolescents 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” mothera mother-in-law who revels in our lack of experience, our mistakes and the things we forget to do. Mary is simply a Mother! She is there, attentive and concerned. It is beautiful to hear this: Mary is a mother. Would you all be able to say this along with me: Mary is a mother!  Again! Mary is a mother! Once again! Mary is a mother!

But Mary approaches Jesus with confidence. This means that Mary prays. She goes to Jesus, She 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 Son's 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 neighbor close at hand: he or she is living under the same roof, is a part of our life, and is in need.

Finally, Mary 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. He who loves, serves. He places himself at the service of others. This is learned especially in the family, where we become servants out of love for one another. In the heart of the family, no one is rejected, everyone is worth the same. I remember one time, my mother was asked: Which one of her five children – we are five brothers and sisters [in our family] – which one of her five children did she love most. And she answered: Like my fingers. If you pinch [my thumb] it will hurt the same if you pinch [my pinky finger]. A mother loves her children as they are. And in a family, brothers and sisters love each other as they are. No one is cast aside!

There in the family, "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 aggressiveness and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm", when we fight because in every family, there are fights. The problem is to seek forgiveness. "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, when one is sick, they go to feel better.  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, and of this we are all witnesses, 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, that good wine as the steward said, 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). And in our own families and in the greater family to which we all belong, nothing is thrown away, nothing is thrown away. Shortly before the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Church will celebrate the Ordinary Synod devoted to the family, to deepen a  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 God can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous or frightening, and turn it – by making it part of his “hour” – into a miracle. The family today, needs this miracle. 

And this story because 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 something else: everyone went on to enjoy the finest of wines. And this is the good news: the finest wines are yet to be tasted, the most wonderful, the most beautiful; 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. Say it in your hearts. Whisper it to the hopeless and the loveless. God always seeks 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 invites 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, the joy of living within a family.

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Text of Pope's Prepared Text for Greeting at Quito Cathedral

"God grant that, just as the stones of this cathedral were carried by those who went before us, we may carry one another’s burdens, and thus help to build up or heal the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters incapable of doing it by themselves."

By Staff Reporter

Ecuador, July 06, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the text the Pope had prepared for a greeting this evening at the Quito cathedral. Instead of giving this address, he gave a very brief greeting and blessed the crowds before bidding them good night.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I have come to Quito as a pilgrim, to share with you the joy of spreading the Gospel. When I left the Vatican, I passed the statue of Saint Mariana de Jesús, who from the apse of Saint Peter’s Basilica keeps watch over the little street which the Pope travels so often. I entrusted to her the fruits of this visit, and I prayed that all of us might learn from her example. Her sacrifice and her heroic virtue are usually represented by a flower, a lily. Yet, at Saint Peter’s she holds a whole bouquet of flowers. Along with her own flower, she offers the Lord, in the heart of the Church, your flowers, and the flowers of all the people of Ecuador.

The Saints call us to imitate them and to learn from them. This was the case with Saint Narcisa de Jesús and Blessed Mercedes de Jesús Molina, who were challenged by Saint Mariana’s example. How many of you here today have known what it is to be orphaned? How many of you have had to assume the responsibility of looking after younger brothers or sisters, despite being young yourselves? How many of you care daily with great patience for the sick or the elderly? Mariana did just this, and Narcisa and Mercedes followed her example. It is not difficult if God is with us. They accomplished no great feats in the eyes of the world. They simply loved much, and they showed this love in their daily lives, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others, in his people (cf. Evangelii Gaudium 24). Nor did they do this alone, they did it “side by side” with others. All the work that went into the building of this Cathedral was done that same way, our way, the way of the native peoples, quietly and unassumingly working alongside one another for the good of the community, without seeking credit or applause. God grant that, just as the stones of this cathedral were carried by those who went before us, we may carry one another’s burdens, and thus help to build up or heal the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters incapable of doing it by themselves.

Today I am here with you, and you have shared with me the joy which fills your hearts: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings” (Is 52:7). This is the beauty we are called to spread, like an aroma of Christ: our prayer, our good works, and our sacrifices for those most in need. This is the joy of evangelizing and “blessed are you if you do these things” (Jn 13:17).

God bless you all!

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Pope Francis' Homily at Mass in Quito's Bicentennial Park

"Becoming a missionary Church requires constantly fostering communion, since mission does not have to do with outreach alone."

By Staff Reporter

Quito, July 07, 2015

Here is the Vatican provided translation of Pope Francis' homily during Mass at Quito's Bicentennial Park.

* * *

The word of God calls us to live in unity so 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. Let us imagine it together. 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 superficial to think that division and hatred only concern struggles between countries or groups in society. In reality, 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, with its selfishness, 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 the duty 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 fight for inclusion at all levels. Avoiding forms of selfishness, to build communication and dialogue, to encourage collaboration. We need to entrust our hearts to our companions along the way, without suspicion or distrust. “Trusting others is an art, because 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. And this effects the poorest, the most excluded, the indefenseless, of those who…do not lose their dignity but those who strike them everyday.

Such unity is already an act of mission, so “that the world may believe”. Evangelization does not consist in proselytizing -  proselytism is a caricature of the evangelization – rather evangelization is 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). And He does it with great respect and love because our God respects us, even in our baseness and in our sin. This calling of the Lord – with such humility and with such respect is described in the reading of Revelations: "Look, I am at the door and knock." If you want to open, he doesn't force you, He doesn't break the lock, He simply rings the doorbell, He gently knocks, and He waits. This is our God!

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’ dream 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. Jesus' proposal is concrete, it is not an idea. Go and do the same, he says to the one who asked "who is my neighbor" after recounting the parable of the Good Samaritan. "Go and do the same."

Nor is this unity something we can fashion as we will, setting conditions, choosing who can belong and who cannot. This religiosity of the elite is not what Jesus proposes. Jesus prays so that we will all become part of a great family in which God is our Father and all of us are brothers and sisters. No one is excluded. 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. Brothers and sisters, may you have the same feelings of Jesus. 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 the Spirit of God take root in our lives, opening our hearts to his creative power. And to give oneself in the most difficult moments, like on that Holy Thursday, where Jesus knew how the betrayals and machinations would unfold, but he kept going and He gave Himself. He gave Himself to us with his plan of salvation. 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 our revolution – because our faith is always revolutionary –, this is our deepest and most enduring cry.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Prepared Address to Leaders of Civil Society in Ecuador

"The walls, patios and cloisters of this city eloquently make this point: rooted in elements of Incan and Caranqui culture, beautiful in their proportions and shapes, boldly and strikingly combining different styles, the works of art produced by the “Quito school” sum up that great dialogue, with its successes and failures, which is Ecuador’s history. Today we see how beautiful it is."

By Staff Reporter

Ecuador, July 07, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis prepared for his meeting this afternoon in Ecuador with representatives of civil society. The Holy Father added comments to the address in several moments.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to be with you, men and women who represent and advance the social, political and economic life of this country.

As I entered this church, the Mayor of Quito gave me the keys to the city. So I can say that here, in Saint Francis of Quito, I feel at home. His expression of affectionate closeness, opening your doors to me, allows me to speak, in turn, about a few other keys: keys to our life in society, beginning with family life.

Our society benefits when each person and social group feels truly at home. In a family, parents, grandparents and children feel at home; no one is excluded. If someone has a problem, even a serious one, even if he brought it upon himself, the rest of the family comes to his assistance; they support him. His problems are theirs. Should it not be the same in society? Our relationships in society and political life, though, are often based on confrontation and the attempt to eliminate our opponents. My position, my ideas and my plans will move forward if I can prevail over others and impose my will. Is this the way a family should be? In families, everyone contributes to the common purpose, everyone works for the common good, not denying each person’s individuality but encouraging and supporting it. The joys and sorrows of each are felt by all. That is what it means to be a family! If only we could view our political opponents or neighbors in the same way we view our children or our spouse, mother or father! Do we love our society? Do we love our country, the community which we are trying to build? Do we love it in the abstract, in theory? Let us love it by our actions more than by our words! In every person, in concrete situations, in our life together, love always leads to communication, never to isolation.

This feeling can give rise to small gestures which strengthen personal bonds. I have often spoken the importance of the family as the primary cell of society. In the family, we find the basic values of love, fraternity and mutual respect, which translate into essential values for society as a whole: gratitude, solidarity and subsidiarity.

Parents know that all their children are equally loved, even though each has his or her own character. But when children refuse to share what they have freely received, this relationship breaks down. The love of their parents helps children to overcome their selfishness, to learn to live with others, to yield and be patient. In the wider life of society we come to see that “gratuitousness” is not something extra, but rather a necessary condition of justice. Who we are, and what we have, has been given to us so that we can place it at the service of others. Our task is to make it bear fruit in good works. The goods of the earth are meant for everyone, and however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. In this way we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, towards social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life. The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits. As stewards of these riches which we have received, we have an obligation toward society as a whole and towards future generations. We cannot bequeath this heritage to them without proper care for the environment, without a sense of gratuitousness born of our contemplation of the created world. Among us today are some of our brothers and sisters representing the indigenous peoples of the Equatorial Amazon. That region is one of the “richest areas both in the number of species and in endemic, rare or less protected species… it requires greater protection because of its immense importance for the global ecosystem… it possesses an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when [such woodlands] are burned down or leveled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands” (cf. Laudato Si’, 37-38). Ecuador – together with other countries bordering the Amazon – has an opportunity to become a teacher of integral ecology. We received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it!

Out of the family’s experience of fraternity is born solidarity in society, which does not only consist in giving to those in need, but in feeling responsible for one another. If we see others as our brothers and sisters, then no one can be left out or set aside. Ecuador, like many Latin American nations, is now experiencing profound social and cultural changes, new challenges which need to be faced by every sector of society. Migration, overcrowded cities, consumerism, crises in the family, unemployment and pockets of poverty: all these factors create uncertainty and tensions which threaten social harmony. Laws and regulations, as well as social planning, need to aim at inclusion, create opportunities for dialogue and encounter, while leaving behind all forms of repression, excessive control or loss of freedom as painful past memories. Hoping in a better future calls for offering real opportunities to people, especially young people, creating employment, and ensuring an economic growth which is shared by all (rather than simply existing on paper, in macroeconomic statistics), and promoting a sustainable development capable of generating a solid and cohesive social fabric.

Finally, the respect for others which we learn in the family finds social expression in subsidiarity. To recognize that our choices are not necessarily the only legitimate ones is a healthy exercise in humility. In acknowledging the goodness inherent in others, even with their limitations, we see the richness present in diversity and the value of complementarity. Individuals and groups have the right to go their own way, even though they may sometimes make mistakes. In full respect for that freedom, civil society is called to help each person and social organization to take up its specific role and thus contribute to the common good. Dialogue is needed and is fundamental for arriving at the truth, which cannot be imposed, but sought with a sincere and critical spirit. In a participatory democracy, each social group, indigenous peoples, Afro-Ecuadorians, women, civic associations and those engaged in public service are all indispensable participants in this dialogue. 

The walls, patios and cloisters of this city eloquently make this point: rooted in elements of Incan and Caranqui culture, beautiful in their proportions and shapes, boldly and strikingly combining different styles, the works of art produced by the “Quito school” sum up that great dialogue, with its successes and failures, which is Ecuador’s history. Today we see how beautiful it is. If the past was marked by errors and abuses – how can we deny it! – we can say that the amalgamation which resulted radiates such exuberance that we can look to the future with great hope. 

The Church wishes for her part to cooperate in the pursuit of the common good, through her social and educational works, promoting ethical and spiritual values, and serving as a prophetic sign which brings a ray of light and hope to all, especially those most in need. Thank you for being here, for listening to me. I ask you please to carry my words of encouragement to the different communities and groups which you represent. May the Lord grant that the civil society which you represent will always be a fitting setting for experiencing and practicing these values of which I have spoken.

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Pope Francis' Prepared Address for Representatives of Schools, Universities

"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?"

By Staff Reporter

Ecuador, July 07, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this afternoon in Ecuador to representatives of schools and universities. He largely followed the text, adding a few comments at certain moments.

* * *

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. 

[Original text: Spanish]

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Pope's Address to Clergy, Men and Women Religious, Seminarians of Ecuador

"Do not fall into spiritual Alzheimer's, do not lose your memory, above all, the memory of where you were taken from."

By Staff Reporter

Quito, July 08, 2015

Here is a translation of the Pope's improvised address to the clergy, men and women religious and seminarians of Ecuador today at the Shrine of Our Lady of El Quinche.

* * *

Good morning brothers and sisters:

In these two days, these 48 hours that I have been in contact with you, I've noticed something odd – forgive me – something odd in the Ecuadorian people. In all the places I go, the welcome is always joyful, happy, cordial, religious, pious. Everywhere. But here, there was something in the piety, in the way of acting, for example, in asking for the blessing, from the oldest person to even the baby! That the first thing they learn is to be like this (gestures with his hands folded in prayer).

There was something different. I also had the temptation, like the bishop of Sucumbíos, of asking: what's the secret of this people? And I was thinking in my mind and prayed. And I asked Jesus several times in prayer: "What do these people have that is different?" And praying this morning it came to me: that consecration to the Sacred Heart. I think I should say it as a message from Jesus. All this richness that you have, the spiritual richness of piety, of depth, comes from having had the courage – even though there were very difficult times – of consecrating the nation to the heart of Christ, that divine and human heart that loves us so much. And I notice it with a little bit of that, divine and human [nature]. Of course, you are sinners, so am I, but the Lord forgives all. And you guard this. Then, several years later, there was the consecration to the heart of Mary. Do not forget that consecration is a milestone in the history of the people of Ecuador. And from that consecration I feel how that grace that you have comes, that piety, that thing that makes you different.

Today I have to speak to the priests, to the seminarians, men and women religious and tell you something. I have an address prepared. But I do not feel like reading it. So, I'll give it to the president of the Conference of Religious Men and Women so that he can publish it later.

I thought of the Virgin, of Mary, two words of Mary. My memory is failing me, but I don't know if she said anything else. "Be it done to me [according to Your Word]". Well, yes, she asked the angel for an explanation as to why She was chosen. "Be it done to me." And the other word is: "Do what He tells you."

Mary did not star in anything. She "discipled" Her whole life. The first disciple of her Son. She was aware that everything that came through Her was by God's pure gratuitousness. She was aware of [that] gratuity. Therefore, make manifest the gratuitousness of God. Men and women religious, priests, seminarians, every day, return, make this journey back towards the gratuitousness with which God has chosen you. You did not pay an entrance fee to enter the seminary, to enter religious life. You did not deserve it. If any religious, priest, seminarian or nun here believes that they deserve it, raise your hand. Everything [was given] freely. And the life of a man or woman religious, a priest, a seminarian that goes on that path – and now that we're talking, bishops as well – must go on this path of gratuitousness, to return every day [and pray]: "Lord, today I did this, this was good, I had this difficulty, all this, but everything comes from you." Everything is free. That gratuitousness, we are objects of gratuity of God. If we forget this, slowly we start feeling important. "Look at what that one is doing, or look at that one they made a bishop in that place, how important. Or this one was made a Monsignor. Or that one" … And there slowly we depart from the foundation from which Mary never departed: the gratuity of God. [Here is] some brotherly advice: every day, maybe in the evening, before going to sleep, look to Jesus and tell Him: "Everything you gave me freely" and situate yourself once again. Then, when I am relocated or when there is a difficulty, I do not kick and scream because everything is given freely. I do not deserve anything; that is what Mary did.

Saint John Paul II, in Redemptoris Mater – I recommend that you read it; get it, read it. It is true, Saint John Paul II had circular way of thinking; he was a professor and a man of God.  So it must be read several times to extract all its juice. And it says that maybe Mary – I don't remember the phrase too well – I want to cite the gist of it. In the moment of the Cross in her faithfulness, She may have had the desire to say: "And they told me that this one would be a King? I was tricked!" She didn't allow Herself to say that, because she was the woman who knew that she received everything freely. Some brotherly and fatherly advice: every night re-situate yourselves in this gratuity. And say: "Be it done to me, thank you because You gave me everything."

A second thing that I wanted to say is to take care of your health but above all, be careful not to fall into a sickness: a sickness that is somewhat dangerous, or rather very dangerous to those who the Lord has called freely to follow him or to serve him.

Do not fall into spiritual Alzheimer's, do not lose your memory, above all, the memory of where you were taken from. That scene of the prophet Samuel when he is sent to anoint the King of Israel. He goes to Bethlehem, to the house of a man called Jesse, who has seven or eight sons. And God tells him that among those sons is the king. Of course, he sees them and says, "it must be this one," this is the oldest one: tall, big, handsome, he looked courageous. God tells him: "No, not that one." God's gaze is different from that of man. And he sees all the sons and God tells him, "No, not that one." And the prophet doesn't know what to do. And he asks the father: "Do you not have another one?" And he tells him: "Yes, the youngest one there taking care of sheep." "Call him over." And this little guy comes, he must be 17, 18 years old. And God says: "That's the one." They take him from the back of the flock.

And another prophet, when God says to do certain things, he says: "And who am I if I was taken from the back of the flock." They did not forget where they were taken from, they do not deny their roots.

Saint Paul sensed the danger of losing this memory, and to his beloved child, the bishop Timothy who he ordained, he gives pastoral advice. But there is one that touches the heart. "Do not forget the faith that your grandmother and mother had," that is, do not forget where you were taken from, do not forget your roots, do not feel promoted.

Gratuity is a grace that cannot coexist with promotion. And when a priest, a seminarian, a man or woman religious, enters into a career, not evil, but a human career, they begin to be sick with spiritual Alzheimer's. And they begin to lose the memory of where they were taken from. Two principles for you priests, consecrated men and women: every day renew the feeling that everything is given freely. The feeling of gratuitousness in each of your elections. None of us deserved it. And ask for the grace of not losing the memory, of not feeling more important [than others].

It is very sad when one sees a priest or a consecrated man or woman who in their home spoke a dialect, another language, one of those noble ancient languages that the people of Ecuador have. It is very sad when you forget the language. It is very sad when you do not want to speak it. That means that you forget where you were taken from. Do not forget that. Ask for that grace.

Those are the two principles that I wish to highlight. And those two principles if you live them every day, it is a work of every day, of every night to remember those two principles and to ask for the grace. Those two principles, if they are lived, will give in life, make one live with two attitudes.

The first is service. God chose me, he took me out. For what? To serve and that service that is peculiar to me: "I have my time, I have my things, I have this, no, I am going to close the office. Yes, I should go to bless the houses but I am too tired." Today, there is a good soap opera on the television – for the nuns.

And so service, to serve, to serve and not do anything else. And to serve when we are tired. And serve when we are fed up with people.

An old priest once told me, who was a professor his whole life, in colleges and universities, he taught literature, he was a genius. When he retired he asked the provincial to send him to a poor neighborhood, one of those neighborhoods that are formed by outsiders, who migrate looking for work, very simple people. And this religious man would go once a week to his community and speak, he was very intelligent; it was a community of the faculty of theology. He would speak to the other priests on theology at the same level, and one day he says to one: "Who here teaches ecclesiology?" One professor [stood up]. He then says: "You are missing two theses." Which ones? "The holy faithful people of God is essentially Olympian, because they do what they want, and ontologically tiresome." And that is full of wisdom, because he who goes on the path of service has to let themselves be fed up without losing patience because they are at the service of others. No moment belongs to them. No moment belongs to them. I am here to serve, to serve in what I must do, to serve in front of the Tabernacle, praying for my people, praying for my work, for the people God has entrusted to me. Service mixed with gratuitousness and then that of Jesus: "what you have received freely, give freely."

Please, please, do not charge for grace. Please. May our pastoral [ministry] be free; it is awful when one begins to lose this sense of gratuity, it's transformed. Yes, they do good things but they have lost that.

And the second attitude that is seen in a consecrated man or woman, a priest that lives this gratuity and memory, these two principles, gratuity and memory, is joy and happiness. That is gift from Jesus. It is a gift that is given if we ask for it and if we do not forget those two pillars of our priestly or religious life; that is the sense of gratuity, renewed every day, and to not lose the memory of where we were taken from.

I wish this for you, "Yes Father, you spoke to us that the secret of our people was because of the Sacred Heart." Yes, that is true. I propose to you another secret that is in the same line of Jesus' heart:  a sense of gratuitousness. He made Himself nothing, He lowered Himself, He humbled Himself, He made Himself poor to enrich us with his poverty. Pure gratuitousness. The sense of memory: let us remember the wonders that the Lord did in our life.

May the Lord give you this grace to all of  you; may he give it to all of us who are here, and that He continue to – I was going to say awarding -  that he continues blessing this Ecuadorian people whom you must serve and are called to serve, may He continue to bless you with that peculiarity that I noticed in the beginning when I arrived here.

May Jesus bless and the Virgin Mary care for you.

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Pope's Address Upon Arrival in Bolivia

"We cannot believe in God the Father without seeing a brother or sister in every person, and we cannot follow Jesus without giving our lives for those for whom he died on the cross"

By Staff Reporter

Bolivia, July 08, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the greeting Pope Francis gave this afternoon upon his arrival in Bolivia. The Pope largely followed this text.

* * *

Mr President, 

Distinguished Authorities, 

Brother Bishops, 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

As I begin my Pastoral Visit, I invoke peace and prosperity upon all the people of this country. I thank the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia for his warm reception and his kind words of welcome. I also thank the government ministers and the authorities of the state, the armed forces and the national police, for their presence. I greet my brother bishops, the priests, men and women religious, lay faithful, and the whole pilgrim Church in Bolivia, in a spirit of fraternal communion in the Lord. I think in a special way of the sons and daughters of this land who for a variety of reasons have had to seek “another land” to shelter them; another place where this earth can allow them to be fruitful and find possibilities in life. 

I am pleased to be here, in this country of singular beauty, blessed by God in its various regions: its altiplano and valleys, its Amazon region, its deserts and the incomparable lakes. The preamble of your Constitution gives poetic expression to this natural beauty: “In ancient times the mountains arose, rivers changed course and lakes were formed. Our Amazonia, our wetlands and our highlands, and our plains and valleys were decked with greenery and flowers”. It makes me realize once again that “rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise” (Laudato Si’, 12). But above all, Bolivia is a land blessed in its people. It is home to a great cultural and ethnic variety, which is at once a great source of enrichment and a constant summons to mutual respect and dialogue. There are the ancient aboriginal peoples and the more recent native peoples. The Spanish language brought to this land now happily exists with thirty-six native languages, which come together – like the red and yellow in the national flowers of Kantuta and Patujú – to create beauty and unity in diversity. In this land and people the proclamation of the Gospel took deep root, and through the years it has continued to shed its light upon society, contributing to the development of the nation and shaping its culture. 

As a guest and a pilgrim, I have come to confirm the faith of those who believe in the Risen Christ, so that, during our pilgrimage on earth, we believers may be witnesses of his love, leaven for a better world and co-operators in the building of a more just and fraternal society. 

Bolivia is making important steps towards including broad sectors in the country’s economic, social and political life. Your constitution recognizes the rights of individuals, minorities and the natural environment, and provides for institutions to promote them. To achieve these goals a spirit of civic cooperation and dialogue is required, as well as the participation of individuals and social groups in issues of interest to everyone. The integral advancement of a nation demands an ever greater appreciation of values by individuals and their growing convergence with regard to common ideals to which all can work together, no one being excluded or overlooked. A growth which is merely material will always run the risk of creating new divisions, of the wealth of some being built on the poverty of others. Hence, in addition to institutional transparency, social unity requires efforts to promote the education of citizens. 

In days to come, I would like to encourage the vocation of Christ’s disciples to share the joy of the Gospel, to be salt for the earth and light to the world. The voice of the bishops, which must be prophetic, speaks to society in the name of the Church, our Mother, from her preferential, evangelical option for the poor. Fraternal charity, the living expression of the new commandment of Jesus, is expressed in programs, works and institutions which work for the integral development of the person, as well as for the care and protection of those who are most vulnerable. We cannot believe in God the Father without seeing a brother or sister in every person, and we cannot follow Jesus without giving our lives for those for whom he died on the cross. 

In an age when basic values are often neglected or distorted, the family merits special attention on the part of those responsible for the common good, since it is the basic cell of society. Families foster the solid bonds of unity on which human coexistence is based, and, through the bearing and education of children, they ensure the renewal of society. 

The Church also feels a special concern for young people who, committed to their faith and cherishing great ideals, are the promise of the future, “watchmen to proclaim the light of dawn and the new springtime of the Gospel” (John Paul II, Message for the 18th World Youth Day, 6). To care for children, and to help young people to embrace noble ideals, is a guarantee of the future of society. A society discovers renewed strength when it values, respects and cares for its elderly, when it chooses to foster a “culture of remembrance” capable of ensuring that the elderly not only enjoy quality of life in their final years but also affection, as your Constitution puts it so well. 

Mr President, dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for your presence. In these days we can look forward to moments of encounter, dialogue and the celebration of faith. I am pleased to be here, in a country which calls itself pacifist, a country which promotes the culture of peace and the right to peace

I entrust this visit to the protection of the Blessed Virgin of Copacabana, Queen of Bolivia, and I ask her to protect all her children. Thank you. May the Lord bless you! Jallalla Bolivia. 

[Original text: Spanish]

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Pope's Address to Civil Society in Bolivia

"Without even being conscious of it, we confuse the 'common good' with 'prosperity,' especially when we are the ones who enjoy that prosperity"

By Staff Reporter

Bolivia, July 08, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this evening to civil society in Bolivia. He largely followed the text.

* * *

Mr President, 
Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to meet you, the political and civil authorities of Bolivia, the members of the Diplomatic Corps and representatives of the nation’s cultural institutions and volunteer organizations. I am grateful to Archbishop Edmundo Abastoflor of La Paz for his kind welcome. With your permission, I would like to offer a few words of encouragement in support of your work.

Each of us here shares a calling to work for the common good. Fifty years ago, the Second Vatican Council defined the common good as “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment”. I thank you for striving – in your work and your mission – to enable individuals and society to develop and find fulfillment. I am certain that you seek what is beautiful, true and good in your service of the common good. May your efforts contribute to the growth of greater respect for the human person, endowed with basic and inalienable rights or­dered to his or her integral development, and social peace, namely, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice (cf. Laudato Si’, 157).

On the way to this Cathedral I was able to admire the peaks of Hayna Potosí, the “young mountain”, and Illimani, the mountain which shows “the place where the sun rises”. I also saw the ingenious way in which many houses and neighborhoods blend with the hillsides, and was struck by the architecture of some of these structures. The natural environment is closely related to the social, political and economic environment. It is urgent for all of us to lay the foundations of an integral ecology, one capable of respecting all these human dimensions in resolving the grave social and environmental issues of our time. Otherwise, the glaciers of those mountains will continue to recede, and our sense of gratitude and responsibility with regard to these gifts, our concern for the world we want to leave to future generations, for its meaning and values, will melt just like those glaciers (cf. Laudato Si’159-160).

Because everything is related, we need one another. If politics is dominated by financial speculation, or if the economy is ruled solely by a technocratic and utilitarian paradigm concerned with maximum production, we will not grasp, much less resolve, the great problems of humanity. Cultural life has an important role to play in this regard, for it has to do not only with the development of the mind through the sciences and the creation of beauty through the arts, but also esteem for the local traditions of a people, which are so expressive of the milieu in which they arose and to which they give meaning. There is also need for an ethical and moral education which can cultivate solidarity and shared responsibility between individuals. We should acknowledge the specific role of the religions in the development of culture and the benefits which can they can bring to society. Christians in particular, as disciples of the Good News, are bearers of a message of salvation which has the ability to ennoble and to inspire great ideals. In this way it leads to ways of acting which transcend individual interest, readiness to make sacrifices for the sake of others, sobriety and other virtues which develop in us the ability to live as one.

It is so easy for us to become accustomed to the atmosphere of inequality all around us, with the result that we take it for granted. Without even being conscious of it, we confuse the “common good” with “prosperity”, especially when we are the ones who enjoy that prosperity. Prosperity understood only in terms of material wealth has a tendency to become selfish, to defend private interests, to be unconcerned about others, and to give free rein to consumerism. Understood in this way, prosperity, instead of helping, breeds conflict and social disintegration; as it becomes more prevalent, it opens the door to the evil of corruption, which brings so much discouragement and damage in its wake. The common good, on the other hand, is much more than the sum of individual interests. It moves from “what is best for me” to “what is best for everyone”. It embraces everything which brings a people together: common purpose, shared values, ideas which help us to look beyond our limited individual horizons.

Different social groups have a responsibility to work for unity and the development of society. Freedom is always the best environment for thinkers, civic associations and the communications media to carry our their activities with passion and creativity in service of the common good. Christians too, are called to be a leaven within society, to bring it their message. The light of Christ’s Gospel is not the property of the Church; the Church is at the service of the Gospel, so that it can reach the ends of the earth. Faith is a light which does not blind or confuse, but one which illuminates and respectfully guides the consciences and history of every person and society. Christianity has played an important role in shaping the identity of the Bolivian people. Religious freedom – a phrase we often encounter in civil discourse – also reminds us that faith cannot be restricted to a purely subjective experience. It also challenges us to help foster the growth of spirituality and Christian commitment in social projects.

Among the various social groups, I would like to mention in particular the family, which is everywhere threatened by domestic violence, alcoholism, sexism, drug addiction, unemployment, urban unrest, the abandonment of the elderly, and children left to the streets. These problems often meet with pseudo-solutions which show the clear effects of an ideological colonization... So many social problems are quietly resolved in the family; the failure to assist families would leave those who are most vulnerable without protection.

A nation which seeks the common good cannot be closed in on itself; societies are strengthened by networks of relationships. The current problem of immigration makes this clear. These days it is essential to improve diplomatic relations between the countries of the region, in order to avoid conflicts between sister peoples and to advance frank and open dialogue about their problems. Instead of raising walls, we need to be building bridges. All these issues, thorny as they may be, can find solutions which are shared, reasonable, equitable and lasting. And in any event, they should never be a cause for aggressivity, resentment or enmity; these only worsen situations and stand in the way of their resolution.

Bolivia is at an historic crossroads: politics, the world of culture, the religions are all part of this beautiful challenge to grow in unity. In this land whose history has been marred by exploitation, greed and so many forms of selfishness and sectarianism, now is the time for integration. Today Bolivia can “create new forms of cultural synthesis”. How beautiful are those cities which overcome paralyzing mistrust, integrate those who are different and make this very integration a new factor of development! How attractive it is when those cities are full of spaces which connect, relate and favor the recognition of others!” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 210). Bolivia in its process of integration and its search for unity, is called to be an example of such “multifaceted and inviting harmony” (ibid., 117).

I thank you for your attention. I pray to the Lord that Bolivia, “this innocent and beautiful land”, may make ever greater progress towards being “the happy homeland whose people enjoy the blessings of good fortune and peace.” May the Blessed Virgin watch over you, and the Lord bless you abundantly. Please remember me in your prayers; I need them.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope Francis' Homily at Mass in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

"The Eucharist is a sacrament of communion, which draws us out of our individualism in order to live together as disciples."

By Staff Reporter

Santa Cruz, July 09, 2015

Here is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis' homily at Cristo Redentor Square in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

* * *

We have come from a variety of places, areas and villages, to celebrate the living presence of God among us. We have travelled from our homes and communities to be together as God’s holy People. The cross and the mission image remind us of all those communities which were born of the name of Jesus in these lands. We are their heirs.

The Gospel which we just heard speaks of a situation much like our own. Like those four thousand people who gathered to hear Jesus, we too want to listen to his words and to receive his life. Like them, we are in the presence of the Master, the Bread of Life.

Back then, many mothers could be seen carrying their children on their shoulders. Like so many of you here! Carrying them, you bring your lives, the future of your people. You bring all your joys and hopes. You bring the blessing of the earth and all its fruits. You bring the work of your hands, hands which work today in order to weave tomorrow’s hopes and dreams. But those people’s shoulders were also weighed down by bitter disappointments and sorrows, scarred by experiences of injustice and of justice denied. They bore on their shoulders all the joy and pain of their land. You too bear the memory of your own people. Because every people has a memory, a memory which is passed on from generation to generation, a memory which continues to move forward.

Frequently we tire of this journey. Frequently we lack the strength to keep hope alive. How often have we experienced situations which dull our memory, weaken our hope and make us lose our reason for rejoicing! And then a kind of sadness takes over. We think only of ourselves, we forget that we are a people which is loved, a chosen people. And the loss of that memory disorients us, it closes our heart to others, and especially to the poor.

We may feel the way the disciples did, when they saw the crowds of people gathered there. They begged Jesus to send them away, since it was impossible to provide food for so many people. Faced with so many kinds of hunger in our world, we can say to ourselves: “Things don’t add up; we will never manage, there is nothing to be done”. And so our hearts yield to despair.

A despairing heart finds it easy to succumb to a way of thinking which is becoming ever more widespread in our world. It is a mentality in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable. This way of thinking has room only for a select few, while it discards all those who are “unproductive”, unsuitable or unworthy, since clearly those people don’t “add up”. But Jesus once more turns to us and says: “They don’t need to go away; you yourselves, give them something to eat”.

Those words of Jesus have a particular resonance for us today: No one needs to go away, no one has to be discarded; you yourselves, give them something to eat. Jesus speaks these words to us, here in this square. Yes, no one has to be discarded; you, give them something to eat. Jesus’ way of seeing things leaves no room for the mentality which would cut bait on the weak and those most in need. Taking the lead, he gives us his own example, he shows us the way forward. What he does can be summed up in three words. He takes a little bread and some fish, he blesses them and then gives them to his disciples to share with the crowd. This is how the miracle takes place. It is not magic or sorcery. With these three gestures, Jesus is able to turn a mentality which discards others into a mindset of communion and community. I would like briefly to look at each of these actions.

Taking. This is the starting-point: Jesus takes his own and their lives very seriously. He looks at them in the eye, and he knows what they are experiencing, what they are feeling. He sees in those eyes all that is present in the memory and the hearts of his people. He looks at it, he ponders it. He thinks of all the good which they can do, all the good upon which they can build. But he is not so much concerned about material objects, cultural treasures or lofty ideas. He is concerned with people. The greatest wealth of a society is measured by the lives of its people, it is gauged by its elderly, who pass on their knowledge and the memory of their people to the young. Jesus never detracts from the dignity of anyone, no matter how little they possess or seem capable of contributing.

Blessing. Jesus takes what is given him and blesses his heavenly Father. He knows that everything is God’s gift. So he does not treat things as “objects”, but as part of a life which is the fruit of God’s merciful love. He values them. He goes beyond mere appearances, and in this gesture of blessing and praise he asks the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Blessing has this double aspect: thanksgiving and transformative power. It is a recognition that life is always a gift which, when placed in the hands of God, starts to multiply. Our Father never abandons us; he makes everything multiply.

Giving. With Jesus, there can be no “taking” which is not a “blessing”, and no blessing which is not also a “giving”. Blessing is always mission, its purpose is to share what we ourselves have received. For it is only in giving, in sharing, that we find the source of our joy and come to experience salvation. Giving makes it possible to refresh the memory of God’s holy people, called and sent forth to bring the joy of salvation to others. The hands which Jesus lifts to bless God in heaven are the same hands which gave bread to the hungry crowd. We can imagine how those people passed the loaves of bread and the fish from hand to hand, until they came to those farthest away. Jesus generated a kind of electrical current among his followers, as they shared what they had, made it a gift for others, and so ate their fill. Unbelievably, there were even leftovers: enough to fill seven baskets. A memory which is taken, blessed and given always satisfies people’s hunger.

The Eucharist is “bread broken for the life of the world”. That is the theme of the Fifth Eucharistic Congress to be held in Tarija, which today we inaugurate. The Eucharist is a sacrament of communion, which draws us out of our individualism in order to live together as disciples. It gives us the certainty that all that we have, all that we are, if it is taken, blessed and given, can, by God’s power, by the power of his love, become bread of life for all.

The Church is a community of remembrance. Hence, in fidelity to the Lord’s command, she never ceases to say: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19). Generation after generation, throughout the world, she celebrates the mystery of the Bread of Life. She makes it present and she gives it to us. Jesus asks us to share in his life, and through us he allows this gift to multiply in our world. We are not isolated individuals, separated from one another, but rather a people of remembrance, a remembrance ever renewed and ever shared with others.

A life of remembrance needs others. It demands exchange, encounter and a genuine solidarity capable of entering into the mindset of taking, blessing and giving. It demands the logic of love.

Mary, like many of you, bore in her heart the memory of her people. She pondered the life of her Son. She personally experienced God’s grandeur and joyfully proclaimed that he “fills the hungry with good things” (Lk 1:53). Today may Mary be our model. Like her, may we trust in the goodness of the Lord, who does great things with the lowliness of his servants.

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Pope's Prepared Address to Clergy, Religious in Bolivia

"One day Jesus saw us on the side of the road, wallowing in our own pain and misery. He did not close his ear to our cries. He stopped, drew near and asked what he could do for us"

By Staff Reporter

Bolivia, July 09, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this afternoon to clergy, seminarians and religious in Bolivia. The Holy Father followed this text, but added in several further comments.

* * *

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to be able to meet you and to share the joy which fills the heart and the entire life of the missionary disciples of Jesus. This joy was expressed in the words of welcome offered by Bishop Roberto Bordi, and by the testimonies of Father Miguel, Sister Gabriela, and by Damián, our seminarian. I thank each of you for sharing your own experience of vocation.

In the Gospel of Mark we also heard the experience of Bartimaeus, who joined the group of Jesus’ followers. He became a disciple at the last minute. This happened during the Lord’s final journey, from Jericho to Jerusalem, where he was about to be handed over. A blind beggar, Bartimaeus sat on the roadside, pushed aside. When he heard Jesus passing by, he began to cry out.

Walking with Jesus were his apostles, the disciples and the women who were his followers. They were at his side as he journeyed through Palestine, proclaiming the Kingdom of God. There was also a great crowd.

Two things about this story jump out at us and make an impression. On the one hand, there is the cry of a beggar, and on the other, the different reactions of the disciples. It is as if the Evangelist wanted to show us the effect which Bartimaeus’ cry had on people’s lives, on the lives of Jesus’ followers. How did they react when faced with the suffering of that man on the side of the road, wallowing in his misery.

There were three responses to the cry of the blind man. We can describe them with three phrases taken from the Gospel: They passed by, they told him to be quiet, and they told him to take heart and get up.

1. They passed by. Perhaps some of those who passed by did not even hear his shouting. Passing by is the response of indifference, of avoiding other people’s problems because they do not affect us. We do not hear them, we do not recognize them. Here we have the temptation to see suffering as something natural, to take injustice for granted. We say to ourselves, “This is nothing unusual; this is the way things are”. It is the response born of a blind, closed heart, a heart which has lost the ability to be touched and hence the possibility to change. A heart used to passing by without letting itself be touched; a life which passes from one thing to the next, without ever sinking roots in the lives of the people around us.

We could call this “the spirituality of zapping”. It is always on the move, but it has nothing to show for it. There are people who keep up with the latest news, the most recent best sellers, but they never manage to connect with others, to strike up a relationship, to get involved.

You may say to me, “But Father, those people in the Gospel were busy listening to the words of the Master. They were intent on him.” I think that this is one of the most challenging things about Christian spirituality. The Evangelist John tells us, “How can you love God, whom you do not see, if you do not love your brother whom you do see?” (1 Jn 4:20). One of the great temptations we encounter along the way is to separate these two things, which belong together. We need to be aware of this. The way we listen to God the Father is how we should listen to his faithful people.

To pass by, without hearing the pain of our people, without sinking roots in their lives and in their world, is like listening to the word of God without letting it take root and bear fruit in our hearts. Like a tree, a life without roots is a one which withers and dies.

2. They told him to be quiet. This is the second response to Bartimaeus’ cry: keep quiet, don’t bother us, leave us alone. Unlike the first response, this one hears, acknowledges, and makes contact with the cry of another person. It recognizes that he or she is there, but reacts simply by scolding. It is the attitude of some leaders of God’s people; they continually scold others, hurl reproaches at them, tell them to be quiet.

This is the drama of the isolated consciousness, of those who think that the life of Jesus is only for those deserve it. They seem to believe there is only room for the “worthy”, for the “better people”, and little by little they separate themselves from the others. They have made their identity a badge of superiority.

They hear, but they don’t listen. The need to show that they are different has closed their heart. Their need to tell themselves, “I am not like that person, like those people”, not only cuts them off from the cry of their people, from their tears, but most of all from their reasons for rejoicing. Laughing with those who laugh, weeping with those who weep; all this is part of the mystery of a priestly heart.

3. They told him to take heart and get up. Lastly, we come upon the third response. It is not so much a direct response to the cry of Bartimaeus as an echo, or a reflection, of the way Jesus himself responded to the pleading of the blind beggar. In those who told him to take heart and get up, the beggar’s cry issued in a word, an invitation, a new and changed way of responding to God’s holy People.

Unlike those who simply passed by, the Gospel says that Jesus stopped and asked what was happening. He stopped when someone cried out to him. Jesus singled him out from the nameless crowd and got involved in his life. And far from ordering him to keep quiet, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He didn’t have to show that he was different, somehow apart; he didn’t decide whether Bartimaeus was worthy or not before speaking to him. He simply asked him a question, looked at him and sought to come into his life, to share his lot. And by doing this he gradually restored the man’s lost dignity; he included him. Far from looking down on him, Jesus was moved to identify with the man’s problems and thus to show the transforming power of mercy. There can be no compassion without stopping, hearing and showing solidarity with the other. Compassion is not about zapping, it is not about silencing pain, it is about the logic of love. A logic, a way of thinking and feeling, which is not grounded in fear but in the freedom born of love and of desire to put the good of others before all else. A logic born of not being afraid to draw near to the pain of our people. Even if often this means no more than standing at their side and praying with them.

This is the logic of discipleship, it is what the Holy Spirit does with us and in us. We are witnesses of this. One day Jesus saw us on the side of the road, wallowing in our own pain and misery. He did not close his ear to our cries. He stopped, drew near and asked what he could do for us. And thanks to many witnesses, who told us, “Take heart; get up”, gradually we experienced this merciful love, this transforming love, which enabled us to see the light. We are witnesses not of an ideology, of a recipe, of a particular theology. We are witnesses to the healing and merciful love of Jesus. We are witnesses of his working in the lives of our communities.

This is the pedagogy of the Master, this is the pedagogy which God uses with his people. It leads us to passing from distracted zapping to the point where we can say to others: “Take heart; get up. The Master is calling you” (Mk 10:49). Not so that we can be special, not so that we can be better than others, not so that we can be God’s functionaries, but only because we are grateful witnesses to the mercy which changed us.

On this journey we are not alone. We help one another by our example and by our prayers. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (cf. Heb 12:1). Let us think of Blessed Nazaria Ignacia de Santa Teresa de Jesús, who dedicated her life to the proclamation of God’s Kingdom through her care for the aged, her “kettle of the poor” for the hungry, her homes for orphaned children, her hospitals for wounded soldiers and her creation of a women’s trade union to promote the welfare of women. Let us also think of Venerable Virginia Blanco Tardío, who was completely dedicated to the evangelization and care of the poor and the sick. These women, and so many other persons like them, are an encouragement to us along our way. May we press forward with the help and cooperation of all. For the Lord wants to use us to make his light reach to every corner of our world.

I ask you please to pray for me, and I bless all of you from my heart.

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Pope's Address to 'Popular Movements'

"Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation"

By Staff Reporter

Bolivia, July 09, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this afternoon in Boliva at the 2nd World Meeting of Popular Movements. He followed the text nearly word for word; a ZENIT translation of his few off-the-cuff comments is found in brackets.

* * *

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 [one of the first theologians of the Church,] Basil of Caesarea, called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. [This is the dung of the devil.] 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. [Sister and mother earth.]

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? [They can do] 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. [The option is for generating processes and not for occupying positions.] 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” [with dignity, in this sense.] 

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, [already in Buenos Aires] 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 [because there are troubles, we have them] 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 need to establish this culture of encounter.] We do not love concepts or ideas;  [No one loves a concept. No one loves an idea.] 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. [This priest talks for a long time, it seems, no?] 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 phrase was said by John XXIII 50 years ago. Jesus says in the Gospel that one who spontaneously gives a glass of water to someone who is thirsty will be remembered in the kingdom of heaven. So...] 

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” [vivir bien -- which is not the same as 'pasarla bien' -- having a good time].

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. [Against the good news that Jesus brought.]

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. [That is, our healthy 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. [And that, brothers] 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. 

[And with this request for forgiveness, and to be just, I also would like us to recognize the priests and bishops who strongly opposed the logic of the sword with the strength of the cross. There was sin. There was sin, and in abundance, and for this we ask forgiveness. But there as well where there was sin, where there was abundant sin, grace abounded, through these men who defended the justice of the native peoples.]

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; [I said bishops, priests and laity; I don't want to forget the nuns who anonymously cross through our poor neighborhoods bringing a message of peace and justice] 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, [and something important] the hope which does not disappoint. Thank you and I ask you, please, to pray for me. And if one or another of you cannot pray, I respect that, and ask that you think well of me, that you send me good vibes.]

____________________ 

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. 

4 FIFTH GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN BISHOPS, Aparecida Document (29 June 2007), 66. 

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. 

[Original text: Spanish]

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Pope Francis' Address at Reform Center of Santa Cruz-Palmasola

"The man standing before you is a man who has experienced forgiveness. A man who was, and is, saved from his many sins."

By Staff Reporter

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, July 10, 2015

Here is the Vatican translation of the Holy Father's address to inmates of the Reform Center of Santa Cruz-Palmasola (Bolivia).

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning:

I could not leave Bolivia without seeing you, without sharing that faith and hope which are the fruit of the love revealed on the cross of Christ. Thank you for welcoming me; I know that you have prepared yourselves for this moment and that you have been praying for me. I am deeply grateful for this.

In the words of Archbishop Jesús Juárez and in the testimonies (at this moment the Pope's zucchetto is blown away by the wind to which he says: "As long my head doesn't fly away there is no problem") of those who have spoken, I have seen how pain does not stifle the hope deep within the human heart, and how life goes on, finding new strength even in the midst of difficulties.

You may be asking yourselves: “Who is this man standing before us?” I would like to reply to that question with something absolutely certain about my own life. The man standing before you is a man who has experienced forgiveness. A man who was, and is, saved from his many sins. That is who I am. I don’t have much more to give you or to offer you, but I want to share with you what I do have and what I love: it is Jesus. It is Jesus Christ, the mercy of the Father.

Jesus came to show the love which God has for us. For you, for you, for you, for me. It is a love which is powerful and real. It is a love which takes seriously the plight of those he loves. It is a love which heals, forgives, raises up and shows concern. It is a love which draws near and restores dignity. We can lose this dignity in so many ways. But Jesus is stubborn: he gave his very life to restore the identity we had lost, to clothe us with all his strength of dignity. 

Here is something which can help us to understand this. Peter and Paul, disciples of Jesus, were prisoners too. They too lost their freedom. But there was something that sustained them, something that did not let them yield to despair, that experience of darkness and meaninglessness. That something was prayer, both individually and with others. They prayed, and they prayed for one another. These two forms of prayer became a network to maintain life and hope. And that network keeps us from yielding to despair. It encourages us to keep moving forward. It is a network which supports life, your own lives and those of your families.You spoke about your mother. The prayer of mothers, the prayers of wives, the prayers of the children, that is a network, and your prayers are what bring you forward.

When Jesus becomes part of our lives, we can no longer remain imprisoned by our past. Instead, we begin look to the present, and we see it differently, with a different kind of hope. We begin to see ourselves and our lives in a different light. We are no longer stuck in the past, but capable of shedding tears and finding in them the strength to make a new start. If there are times when you experience sadness, depression, negative feelings, I would ask you to look at Christ crucified. Look at his face. He sees us; in his eyes there is a place for us. We can all bring to Christ our wounds, our pain, our sins, as well as our mistakes, our sins. So many things in which we have been mistaken. In the wounds of Jesus, there is a place for our own wounds. We are all wounded one way or another.To place our wounds to the wounds of Jesus. For what? So they can be soothed, washed clean, changed and healed. He died for us, for me, so that he could stretch out us his hand and lift us up. Talk to the priests who come here, talk to them, talk with the brothers and sisters who come. Talk, talk to them with anything that comes to you to talk about Jesus! Jesus wants to help you get up, always.

This certainty makes us work hard to preserve our dignity. Being imprisoned, “shut in”, is not the same thing as being “shut out”, that must be clear. Detention is part of a process of reintegration into society. I know that there are many things here that make it hard - I know it very well and you mentioned it: overcrowding, justice delayed, a lack of training opportunities and rehabilitation policies, violence, the lack of university study facilities. All these things point to the need for a speedy and efficient cooperation between institutions in order to come up with solutions.

And yet, while working for this, we should not think that everything is lost. There are things that we can do even today.

Here, in this rehabilitation center, the way you live together depends to some extent on yourselves. Suffering and deprivation can make us selfish of heart and lead to confrontation, but we also have the capacity to make these things an opportunity for genuine fraternity. Help one another. Do not be afraid to help one another. The devil is looking for fights, rivalry, division, gangs. Do not give in to him. Keep working to make progress.

I would ask you to take my greetings to your families, some are here. Their presence and support are so important! Grandparents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, couples, children: all of them remind us that life is worth living and that we should keep fighting for a better world.

Finally, I offer a word of encouragement to all who work at this center: to the administrators, the police officials and all the personnel. They carry out a vital public service. They have an important responsibility for facilitating the process of reintegration. It is their responsibility to raise up, not to put down, to restore dignity and not to humiliate; to encourage and not to inflict hardship. This means putting aside a mentality which sees people as “good” or “bad”, but instead tries to focus on helping others. And this mentality of helping people will save you from all types of corruption and will help to create better conditions for everyone. It will give dignity, provide motivation, and make us all better people.

Before giving each of you my blessing, I would like for us to pray for a few moments in silence, in heartfelt silence. Each of you, in whatever way you can...

I ask you, please, to keep praying for me, because I too have my mistakes and I too must do penance. Thank you. And may God our Father, look into our hearts, may God our Father who loves us, give us his strength, his patience, his fatherly tenderness and bless us. And do not for forget to pray for me.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope Places Presidential Honors at Feet of Our Lady of Copacabana

Expresses Gratitude to Virgin Mary During Private Mass in Santa Cruz

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Rome, July 10, 2015

Earlier this morning, Pope Francis celebrated a private Mass at the residence of the Archbishop Emeritus of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia.

According to the Holy See Press Office, the Holy Father presented two decorative honors that were conferred onto him by Bolivian president Evo Morales, to a statue of the Our Lady of Copacabana, patroness of Bolivia.

The gifts, the Press Office stated, were presented by the Pope to the Blessed Mother “so that on looking at them she will take care of this beloved people with great maternal tenderness and protect them with Him.”

Before placing the two honors on the statue, the Pope expressed his gratitude to the Bolivian people and their president, as well as explaining why he chose to leave them with Our Lady of Copacabana.

“May she always remember her people and also that from Bolivia, from her Shrine, where I would like them to be, may she remember the Successor of Peter and the whole Church, and look after her from Bolivia,” he said.

The following is a ZENIT translation of the Holy Father’s prayer to the Blessed Mother:

Mother of the Savior and our Mother, You, Queen of Bolivia, who from the height of your Shrine in Copacabana attend to the prayers and needs of your children, especially the most poor and abandoned, and protect them:

Receive as a gift from the heart of Bolivia and my filial affection the symbols of affection and closeness that – in the name of the Bolivian people – Mr. President Evo Morales Ayma has bestowed on me with cordial and generous affection, on the occasion of this Apostolic Journey, which I entrusted to your solicitous intercession.

I beg that these honors, which I leave here in Bolivia at your feet, and which recall the nobility of the flight of the Condor in the skies of the Andes and the commemorated sacrifice of Father Luis Espinal, S.J., may be emblems of the everlasting love and persevering gratitude of the Bolivian people for your solicitous and intense tenderness.

At this moment, Mother, I place in your heart my prayers for all the many petitions of your children, which I have received in these days: I beg you to hear them; give them your encouragement and protection, and manifest to the whole of Bolivia your tenderness as woman and Mother of God, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

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Pope's Address to Officials of Paraguay

"Let us always build peace! A peace which grows stronger day by day, a peace which makes itself felt in everyday life, a peace to which each person contributes by seeking to avoid signs of arrogance, hurtful words, contemptuousness, and instead by working to foster understanding, dialogue and cooperation"

By Staff Reporter

Paraguay, July 10, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this evening in Paraguay, addressing civil authorities. He largely followed the text, adding only a few brief comments off-the-cuff.

* * *

Mr President, 

Distinguished Government Authorities, 

Members of the Diplomatic Corps, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I offer cordial greetings to you, Mr President, and I thank you for your respectful and affectionate words of welcome in the name of the government, the civil authorities and the beloved Paraguayan people. I also greet the distinguished members of the diplomatic corps, and through them, I express my respect and esteem to the countries they represent. 

A particular word of thanks is due to all those individuals and institutions which worked so hard to prepare this visit and to make me feel at home. It is not hard to feel at home in so welcoming a land. Paraguay is known as the heart of America, not only because of its geographic location, but also because of the warmth of its hospitality and the friendliness of her people. 

From the first days of the country’s independence to recent times, Paraguay has known the terrible sufferings brought on by war, fratricidal conflict, lack of freedom and contempt for human rights. How much suffering and death! Yet the Paraguayan people have also shown an admirable spirit of perseverance in surmounting adversities and in working to build a prosperous and peaceful nation. Here, in the garden of this palace which has witnessed so much of the country’s history – from the time when it was no more than a riverbank used by the Guaraní, until the present day – I wish to pay tribute to the many ordinary Paraguayan people, whose names are not written in history books but who have been, and continue to be, the real protagonists in the life of your nation. I would also like to acknowledge with profound admiration the role played by the women of Paraguay in those dramatic historical moments. As mothers, wives and widows, they shouldered the heaviest burdens; they found a way to move their families and their country forward, instilling in new generations the hope of a better tomorrow. 

A people which forgets its own past, its history and its roots, has no future. Memory, if it is firmly based on justice and rejects hatred and all desire for revenge, makes the past a source of inspiration for the building of a future of serene coexistence. It also makes us realize the tragedy and pointlessness of war. Let there be an end to wars between brothers! Let us always build peace! A peace which grows stronger day by day, a peace which makes itself felt in everyday life, a peace to which each person contributes by seeking to avoid signs of arrogance, hurtful words, contemptuousness, and instead by working to foster understanding, dialogue and cooperation. 

For some years now, Paraguay has sought to build a solid and stable democracy. It is proper to recognize with satisfaction progress made in this direction, thanks to the efforts of everyone, even amid great difficulties and uncertainties. I encourage you to continue working to strengthen the democratic structures and institutions, so that they can respond to the legitimate aspirations of the nation’s people. The form of government adopted by your Constitution, a “representative, participative and pluralistic democracy” based on the promotion of and respect for human rights, must banish the temptation to be satisfied with a purely formal democracy, one which, as Aparecida put it, is content with being “founded on fair election procedures” (Aparecida Document, 74). 

In every sector of society, but above all in public service, there is a need to reaffirm that dialogue is the best means of promoting the common good, on the basis of a culture of encounter, respect and acknowledgment of the legitimate differences and opinions of others. In the effort to overcome a spirit of constant conflict, convictions born of ideology or partisan interest should blend advantageously with love of the country and its people. That love must be the incentive to increased administrative transparency and unceasing efforts to combat corruption. 

Dear friends, in the desire to serve and promote the common good, the poor and needy have to be given priority of place. Paraguay has done much to advance along the path of economic growth. Important steps have been taken in the areas of education and health care. May all social groups work to ensure that there will never again be children without access to schooling, families without homes, workers without dignified employment, small farmers without land to cultivate, or campesinos forced to leave their lands for an uncertain future. May there be an end to violence, corruption and drug trafficking. An economic development which fails to take into account the weakest and underprivileged is not an authentic development. Economic progress must be measured by the integral dignity of the human person, especially the most vulnerable and helpless. 

Mr President, dear friends, in the name of my brothers, the bishops of Paraguay, I also wish to assure you of the commitment and cooperation of the Catholic Church in the common effort to build a just and inclusive society where each person can live in peace and harmony. All of us, including the Church’s pastors, are called to be concerned with building a better world (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 183). Our sure faith in God, who willed to become man, to live among us and to share our lot, urges us to press forward. Christ opens up to us the path of mercy, which, founded on justice, goes beyond it to inspire works of charity, so that no one will remain on the fringes of this great family which is Paraguay, a land you love and which you wish to serve. 

With great joy that I have come to this country consecrated to the Virgin of Caacupé, I invoke the Lord’s blessings on each of you, your families and all the beloved people of Paraguay. May this country be fruitful, as symbolized by the pasiflora flower on Our Lady’s mantle, and may the national colors which decorate her image draw all the Paraguayan people to embrace the Mother of Caacupé. 

Thank you very much. 

[Original text: Spanish]

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope Praises Women of Paraguay for Bringing Their Nation Forward

Encourages Continued Effort to End Corruption

By Kathleen Naab

Paraguay, July 10, 2015

Pope Francis’ welcome to Paraguay today was extraordinarily festive and colorful, even with the rainy skies. A production of music and choreography — including performers dressed as statues of Our Lady and Jesus carried high in procession — welcomed the Pope to the third and final leg of his South America tour. For his part, the 78-year-old Pontiff seemed full of energy, despite being on the sixth day of his apostolic visit.

The Pope only had one address scheduled for this afternoon: to the civil authorities and diplomatic corps of his host country, following a courtesy visit to President Horacio Cartes.

The Holy Father admitted, "It is not hard to feel at home in so welcoming a land."

The Pope went on to speak of the history of the country that is at the geographical heart of South America and shares a border with his native Argentina. 

"From the first days of the country’s independence to recent times, Paraguay has known the terrible sufferings brought on by war, fratricidal conflict, lack of freedom and contempt for human rights. How much suffering and death!" he said. "Yet the Paraguayan people have also shown an admirable spirit of perseverance in surmounting adversities and in working to build a prosperous and peaceful nation."

He mentioned specifically the Paraguayan women, saying that "as mothers, wives and widows, they shouldered the heaviest burdens; they found a way to move their families and their country forward, instilling in new generations the hope of a better tomorrow."

Pope Francis said it was important for a people to remember its history, because it "makes us realize the tragedy and pointlessness of war. Let there be an end to wars between brothers! Let us always build peace! A peace which grows stronger day by day, a peace which makes itself felt in everyday life, a peace to which each person contributes by seeking to avoid signs of arrogance, hurtful words, contemptuousness, and instead by working to foster understanding, dialogue and cooperation."

Dialogue

As he did in Ecuador and Bolivia, the Pontiff promoted dialogue, saying it is the "best means of promoting the common good, on the basis of a culture of encounter, respect and acknowledgment of the legitimate differences and opinions of others."

"In the effort to overcome a spirit of constant conflict, convictions born of ideology or partisan interest should blend advantageously with love of the country and its people," he continued. "That love must be the incentive to increased administrative transparency and unceasing efforts to combat corruption."

The Holy Father mostly followed his prepared address, but did depart briefly from the text to affirm that Paraguayans are firmly resolved to fight corruption.

"May all social groups work to ensure that there will never again be children without access to schooling, families without homes, workers without dignified employment, small farmers without land to cultivate, or campesinos forced to leave their lands for an uncertain future," he said. "May there be an end to violence, corruption and drug trafficking."

The Pope concluded speaking of his "great joy" at having come to the country "consecrated to the Virgin of Caacupé, I invoke the Lord’s blessings on each of you, your families and all the beloved people of Paraguay," he said. 

At this point, he departed from his text again to remember Paraguayans who lived in Buenos Aires, where he was archbishop before his election to the See of Peter, and the parish there devoted to this representation of Our Lady.

"May this country be fruitful, as symbolized by the pasiflora flower on Our Lady’s mantle, and may the national colors which decorate her image draw all the Paraguayan people to embrace the Mother of Caacupé," he concluded.

The Pope then greeted some members of the crowds individually and, with President Cartes, listened to a musical presentation.

Tomorrow, he will visit a children’s hospital and celebrate Mass at Caacupé. Then he will address civil society in the afternoon and pray vespers with the nation’s clergy and religious.

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Pope's Prepared Address at Pediatric Hospital in Asuncion

"We need to learn from you. We need to learn from your trust, your joy, and your tenderness. We need to learn from your ability to fight, from your strength, from your remarkable endurance."

By Staff Reporter

Asuncion, July 11, 2015

Pope Francis visited the “Niños de Acosta Ñú” Pediatric Hospital of Asuncion (Paraguay) this morning. Following his visit, the Holy Father departed from his prepared speech and addressed the doctors, patients and crowds of people outside. The following is a Vatican translation of the Pope's prepared speech:

Mr Director, 
Dear Children, 
Members of the Staff, 
Dear Friends,

I thank you for your warm welcome. Thank you too for giving me this time to spend with you.

Dear children, I want to ask you a question; maybe you can help me. They tell me that you are all very intelligent, and so I want to ask you: Did Jesus ever get annoyed? … Do you remember when?

If this seems like a difficult question, let me help you. It was when they wouldn’t let the children come to him. That is the only time in the entire Gospel of Mark when we hear that he was “annoyed” (cf. Mk 10:13-15). We would say that he was really “ticked off”.

Do you get annoyed every now and then? Jesus felt that way when they wouldn’t let the children come to him. He was really mad. He loved children. Not that he didn’t like adults, but he was really happy to be with children. He enjoyed their company, he enjoyed being friends with them. But not only. He didn’t just want to have them around, he wanted something else: he wanted them to be an example. He told his disciples that “unless you become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 18:3).

The children kept coming to Jesus, and the adults kept trying to keep them away, but Jesus called them, embraced them and brought them forward, so that people us could learn to be like them. Today, he wants to tell us the same thing. He looks at us and he says: “Learn from the children”.

We need to learn from you. We need to learn from your trust, your joy, and your tenderness. We need to learn from your ability to fight, from your strength, from your remarkable endurance. Some of you are fighters. And when we look at young “warriors” like you, we feel very proud. Isn’t that right, moms? Isn’t that right, dads and grandparents? Looking at you gives us strength, it gives us the courage to trust, to keep moving forward.

Dear mothers, fathers, grandparents: I know that it is not easy to be here. There are moments of great suffering and uncertainty. There are times of heartrending anguish but also moments of immense happiness. These two feelings often collide deep within us. However, there is no better relief than your tender compassion, your closeness to one another. It makes me happy to know that as families you help, encourage and support each other, so that you can keep going in these difficult moments.

You count on the support of the doctors, nurses and the entire staff of this home. I thank them for their vocation of service, for helping not only to care for, but also to be there, for these young brothers and sisters of ours who suffer.

Let us never forget that Jesus is close to his children. He is very near, in our hearts. Never hesitate to pray to him, to talk to him, to share with him your questions and your pain. He is always with us, he is ever near and he will not let us fall.

There is another thing we can be sure of, and I would say it once again. Wherever there is a son or daughter, there is always a mother. Wherever Jesus is, there is Mary, the Virgin of Caacupé. Let us ask her to wrap us in her mantle, to protect and intercede for you and for your families.

And also, please don’t forget to pray for me. I am certain that your prayers are heard in heaven.

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Pope's Homily in Paraguay's Marian Sanctuary of Caacupe

"Under the sign of the rosary, we know that we are never alone."

By Staff Reporter

Paraguay, July 11, 2015

Below is the Vatican-provided text of Pope Francis' homily during the Mass he celebrated this morning in Paraguay's Marian Sanctuary of Caacupe, during his Apostolic Visit to Latin America, July 5-13:

***

Being here with you makes me feel at home, at the feet of our Mother, the Virgin of Miracles of Caacupé. In every shrine we, her children, encounter our Mother and are reminded that we are brothers and sisters. Shrines are places of festival, of encounter, of family. We come to present our needs. We come to give thanks, to ask forgiveness and to begin again. How many baptisms, priestly and religious vocations, engagements and marriages, have been born at the feet of our Mother! How many tearful farewells! We come bringing our lives, because here we are at home and it is wonderful to know there is someone waiting for us.

As so often in the past, we now come because we want to renew our desire to live the joy of the Gospel.

How can we forget that this shrine is a vital part of the Paraguayan people, of yourselves? You feel it, it shapes your prayers, and you sing: “Here, in your Eden of Caacupé, are your people, Virgin most pure, who offer you their love and their faith”. Today we gather as the People of God, at the feet of our Mother, to offer her our love and our faith.

In the Gospel, we have just heard the greeting of the angel to Mary: Rejoice, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Rejoice, Mary, rejoice. Upon hearing this greeting, Mary was confused and asked herself what it could mean. She did not fully understand what was happening. But she knew that the angel came from God and so she said yes. Mary is the Mother of Yes. Yes to God’s dream, yes to God’s care, yes to God’s will.

It was a yes that, as we know, was not easy to live. A yes that bestowed no privileges or distinctions. Simeon told her in his prophecy: “a sword will pierce your heart” (Lk 2:35), and indeed it did. That is why we love her so much. We find in her a true Mother, one who helps us to keep faith and hope alive in the midst of complicated situations. Pondering Simeon’s prophecy, we would do well to reflect briefly on three difficult moments in Mary’s life.

1. The birth of Jesus. There was no room for them. They had no house, no dwelling to receive her Son. There was no place where she could give birth. They had no family close by; they were alone. The only place available was a stall of animals. Surely she remembered the words of the angel: “Rejoice, Mary, the Lord is with you”. She might well have asked herself: “Where is he now?”.

2. The flight to Egypt. They had to leave, to go into exile. Not only was there no room for them, no family nearby, but their lives were also in danger. They had to depart and go to a foreign land. They were migrants, on account of the envy and greed of the King. There too she might well have asked: “What happened to all those things promised by the angel?

3. Jesus’ death on the cross. There can be no more difficult experience for a mother than to witness the death of her child. It is heartrending. We see Mary there, at the foot of the cross, like every mother, strong, faithful, staying with her child even to his death, death on the cross. Then she encourages and supports the disciples.

We look at her life, and we feel understood, we feel heard. We can sit down to pray with her and use a common language in the face of the countless situations we encounter each day. We can identify with many situations in her own life. We can tell her what is happening in our lives, because she understands.

Mary is the woman of faith; she is the Mother of the Church; she believed. Her life testifies that God does not deceive us, or abandon his people, even in moments or situations when it might seem that he is not there. Mary was the first of her Son’s disciples and in moments of difficulty she kept alive the hope of the apostles. A woman attentive to the needs of others, she could say – when it seemed like the feast and joy were at an end – “they have no wine” (Jn 2:3). She was the woman who went to stay with her cousin Elizabeth “about three months” (Lk 1:56), so that Elizabeth would not be alone as she prepared to give birth.

We know all this from the Gospel, but we also know that in this land she is the Mother who has stood beside us in so many difficult situations. This shrine preserves and treasures the memory of a people who know that Mary is their Mother, and that she has always been at the side of her children.

Mary has always been in our hospitals, our schools and our homes. She has always sat at table in every home. She has always been part of the history of this country, making it a nation. Hers has been a discreet and silent presence, making itself felt through a statue, a holy card or a medal. Under the sign of the rosary, we know that we are never alone.

Why? Because Mary wanted to be in the midst of her people, with her children, with her family. She followed Jesus always, from within the crowd. As a good Mother, she did not want to abandon her children, rather, she would always show up wherever one of her children was in need. For the simple reason that she is our Mother.

A Mother who learned, amid so many hardships, the meaning of the words: “Do not be afraid, the Lord is with you”. A Mother who keeps saying to us: “Do whatever he tells you”. This is what she constantly says to us: “Do whatever he tells you”. She doesn’t have a plan of her own; she doesn’t come to tell us something new. She simply accompanies our faith with her own.

You know this from experience. All of you, all Paraguayans, share in the living memory of a people who have made incarnate these words of the Gospel. Here I would like especially to mention you, the women, wives and mothers of Paraguay, who at great cost and sacrifice were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated and laid low by war. You are keepers of the memory, the lifeblood of those who rebuilt the life, faith and dignity of your people. Like Mary, you lived through many difficult situations which, in the eyes of the world, would seem to discredit all faith. Yet, like Mary, inspired and sustained by her example, you continued to believe, even “hoping against all hope” (Rom 4:18). When all seemed to be falling apart, with Mary you said: “Let us not be afraid, the Lord is with us; he is with our people, with our families; let us do what he tells us”. Then and now, you found the strength not to let this land lose its bearings. God bless your perseverance, God bless and encourage your faith, God bless the women of Paraguay, the most glorious women of America.

As a people, we have come home, to this house of all Paraguayans, to hear once more those words which are so comforting: “Rejoice, the Lord is with you”. They are a summons to cherish your memory, your roots, and the many signs which you have received as a people of believers tested by trials and struggles. Yours is a faith which has become life, a life which has become hope, and a hope which leads to eminent charity. Yes, like Jesus, may you be outstanding in love. May you be bearers of this faith, this life and this hope. May you continue to build these up in Paraguay’s present and for its future.

Gazing once more on Mary’s image, I invite you to join me in saying: “Here, in your Eden of Caacupé, are your people, Virgin most pure, who offer you their love and their faith”. Pray for us, Holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises and graces of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

[Original text: Spanish]

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Pope's Prepared Address to Representatives of Civil Society in Paraguay

"Where there is love of people and a willingness to serve them, it is possible to create the conditions necessary for everyone to have access to basic goods, so that no one goes without"

By Staff Reporter

Paraguay, July 11, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of Pope Francis' prepared address this afternoon to representatives of civil society in Paraguay. Though he followed this text, he added several comments off-the-cuff.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to be with you, the representatives of civil society, and to share our hopes and dreams for a better future. I thank Bishop Adalberto Martínez Flores, Secretary of the Paraguay Bishops’ Conference, for his words of welcome in your name.

Seeing all of you together, each coming from his or her own sector or organization within Paraguayan society, each bringing his or her own joys, concerns, struggles and hopes, makes me grateful to God. A people unengaged and listless, passively accepting things as they are, is a dead people. In you, however, I see great vitality and promise. God always blesses this. God is always on the side of those who help to uplift and improve the lives of his children. To be sure, problems and situations of injustice exist. But seeing you and listening to you helps to renew my hope in the Lord who continues to work in the midst of his people. You represent many different backgrounds, situations and aspirations; all together, you make up Paraguayan culture. All of you have a part to play in the pursuit of the common good. “In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable” (Laudato Si’, 158), to see you before me is a real gift.

I also want to thank those of you who prepared the questions. These have enabled me to see above all your commitment to keep working together for the good of the nation.

1. In the first question, I was pleased to hear a young person express concern that society be a place of fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for everyone. Youth is a time of high ideals. It is important that you, the young, realize that genuine happiness comes from working to make a more fraternal world! It comes from realizing that happiness and pleasure are not synonymous. Happiness is demanding, it requires commitment and effort. You are too important to be satisfied with living life under a kind of anasthesia! Paraguay has a large population of young people and this is a great source of enrichment for the nation. So I think that the first thing to do is to make sure that all that energy, that light, does not grow dim in your hearts, and to resist the growing mentality which considers it useless and absurd to aspire to things that demand effort. Be committed to something, be committed to someone. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Don’t be afraid to give the best of yourselves!

But don’t do this alone. Try to talk about these things among yourselves, profit from the lives, the stories and the wisdom of your elders, of your grandparents. “Waste” lots of time listening to all the good things they have to teach you. They are the guardians of that spiritual legacy of faith and values which define a people and illumine its path. Find comfort, too, in the power of prayer, in Jesus. Keep praying to to him daily. He will not disappoint you. Jesus, in the memory of your people, is the secret to keeping a joyful heart in your quest for fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for everyone.

I liked the poem of Carlos Miguel Giménez which Bishop Martínez quoted. I think it sums up very nicely what I have been trying to say, “[I dream of] a paradise free of war between brothers and sisters, rich in men and women healthy in heart and soul… and a God who blesses its dawn”. Yes, God is the guarantee of the dignity of man.

2. The second question spoke about dialogue as a means to advance the project of a fully inclusive nation. Dialogue, we know, is not easy. There are many difficulties to be overcome, and sometimes it seems as if our efforts only make things even harder. Dialogue must be built on something. It presupposes and demands a culture of encounter. An encounter which acknowledges that diversity is not only good, it is necessary. So we cannot start off by thinking that the other person is wrong. The common good is sought by starting from our differences, constantly leaving room for new alternatives. In other words, look for something new. Don’t just take “your own slice of the cake”, but discuss, think, and discover together a better solution for everybody. Many times this culture of encounter can involve conflict. This is logical and even desirable. It is not something we should be afraid of or ignore. Rather, we are called to resolve it. This means that we have to “face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process” (Evangelii Gaudium 227), because “unity is greater than conflict” (ibid., 228). A unity which does not cancel differences, but experiences them in communion through solidarity and understanding. By trying to understand the thinking of others, their experiences, their hopes, we will be able to see more clearly our shared aspirations. This is the basis of encounter: all of us are brothers and sisters, children of the same heavenly Father, and each of us, with our respective cultures, languages and traditions, has much to contribute to the community. True cultures are not closed in on themselves, but called to meet other cultures and to create new realities. Without this essential presupposition, without this basis of fraternity, it will be very difficult to arrive at dialogue. If someone thinks that there are persons, cultures, or situations which are second, third or fourth class… surely things will go badly, because the bare minimum, a recognition of the dignity of the other, is lacking.

3. All this can serve as a way of approaching the concern expressed in the third question. How do we hear the cry of the poor in order to build a more inclusive society? A fundamental part of helping the poor involves the way we see them. An ideological approach is useless: it ends up using the poor in the service of other political or personal interests (Evangelii Gaudium, 199). To really help them, the first thing is for us to be truly concerned for their persons, valuing them for their goodness. Valuing them, however, also means being ready to learn from them. The poor have much to teach us about humanity, goodness and sacrifice. As Christians, we have an additional reason to love and serve the poor; for in them we see the face and the flesh of Christ, who made himself poor so to enrich us with his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).

Certainly every country needs economic growth and the creation of wealth, and the extension of these to each citizen, without exclusion. But the creation of this wealth must always be at the service of the common good, and not only for the benefit of a few. On this point we must be clear. For “the worship of the ancient golden calf (cf.Ex32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Those charged with promoting economic development have the responsibility of ensuring that it always has a human face. They have in their hands the possibility of providing employment for many persons and in this way of giving hope to many families. Work is a right and it bestows dignity. Putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one’s children, giving them health and an education – these are essential for human dignity, and business men and women, politicians, economists, must feel challenged in this regard. I ask them not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit. In economics, in business and in politics, what counts first and foremost is the human person and the environment in which he or she lives.

Paraguay is rightly known throughout the world for being the place where the Reductions began. These were among the most significant experiences of evangelization and social organization in history. There the Gospel was the soul and the life of communities which did not know hunger, unemployment, illiteracy or oppression. This historical experience shows us that, today too, a more humane society is possible. Where there is love of people and a willingness to serve them, it is possible to create the conditions necessary for everyone to have access to basic goods, so that no one goes without.

Dear friends, it is a great pleasure to see the number and variety of associations sharing in the creation of an ever more prosperous Paraguay. I see you as a great symphony, each one with his or her own specificity and richness, yet all working together towards a harmonious end. That is what counts.

Love your country, your fellow citizens, and, above all, love the poor. In this way, you will bear witness before the world that another model of development is possible. I am convinced that you possess the greatest strength of all: your humanity, your faith, your love.

I ask Our Lady of Caacupé, our Mother, to watch over you and protect you, and to encourage you in all your efforts. God bless you.

[01180-EN.01] [Original text: Spanish]

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Pope's Homily at Vespers With Clergy and Religious in Paraguay

"We are those who fight, speak up and defend the dignity of every human life, from conception to old age, when our years are many and our strength fails. Prayer is the reflection of our love for God, for others and for all creation"

By Staff Reporter

Paraguay, July 11, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Pope Francis gave this evening in Paraguay at a celebration of vespers with clergy and religious. 

* * *

How good it is for all of us to pray Vespers together! How can we not dream of of a Church which reflects and echoes the harmony of voices and song in her daily life! That is what we are doing in this Cathedral, rebuilt so many times over the years. This Cathedral symbolizes the Church and each one of us. At times, storms from without and within force us to tear down what had been built and to begin again, but always with the hope given us by God. When we look at this building, we can surely say that it has not disappointed the hopes of the Paraguayan people… because God never disappoints! For this we give thankful praise.

Liturgical prayer, in its unhurried structure, is meant to be an expression of the whole Church, the Spouse of Christ, as she strives to be ever more conformed to her Lord. Each one of us, in prayer, wants to become more like Jesus.

Prayer expresses what we experience and what we ought to experience in our daily lives. At least that is true of prayer that is not self-centered or merely for show. Prayer makes us put into practice, or examine our consciences about, what we have prayed for in the Psalms. We are the hands of the God who “lifts up the poor from the dust”. We work to turn what is dry and barren into the joy of fertile ground. We cry out that “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the life of his faithful ones”. We are those who fight, speak up and defend the dignity of every human life, from conception to old age, when our years are many and our strength fails. Prayer is the reflection of our love for God, for others and for all creation. The commandment of love is the greatest way for the missionary disciple to be conformed to Jesus. Union with Jesus deepens our Christian vocation, which is concerned with what Jesus “does” – which is something much greater than mere “activities” – with becoming more like him in all that we do. The beauty of the ecclesial community is born of this union of each of her members to the person of Jesus, creating an “ensemble of vocations” in the richness of harmonic diversity.

The antiphons of the Gospel canticles for this weekend evoke for us the sending of the Twelve by Jesus. It is always good to grow in this awareness that apostolic work is carried out in communion! It is admirable to see you cooperating pastorally, with respect for the nature and ecclesial role of each of the vocations and charisms. I want to encourage all of you, priests, men and women religious, laity and seminarians, and bishops to be committed to this ecclesial collaboration, especially with regard to diocesan pastoral plans and the continental mission, and to work together with complete availability in the service of the common good. If our divisions lead to barrenness (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 98-101), then there is no doubt that communion and harmony lead to fruitfulness, because they are deeply attuned to the Holy Spirit.

Each of us has his or her limitations, and no one is able to reproduce Jesus in all his fullness. Although all vocations are associated with certain aspects of the life and work of Jesus, some are more general and essential. Just now we praised the Lord for “he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited”. This is the case with every Christian vocation. He did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. A person called by God does not show off; he or she does not seek recognition or applause; he or she does claim to be better than others, standing apart as if on a pedestal.

Christ’s supremacy is clearly described in the liturgy of the Letter to the Hebrews. As we just read from the final part of that Letter, we are to become perfect like “the great Shepherd of the sheep”. This means that all consecrated persons are to be conformed to Jesus, who in his earthly life, “with prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” achieved perfection when, through suffering, he learned the meaning of obedience. This too is part of our calling.

Let us conclude our celebration of Vespers. The bell tower of this Cathedral was rebuilt a number of times. The sound of its bells anticipates and accompanies our liturgical prayer on so many occasione. Rebuilt for God whenever we pray, steadfast like a bell tower, joyful in ringing out the wonders of God, let us share the Magnificat and, through our consecrated life, allow the Lord to accomplish, that he accomplish great things in Paraguay.

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Pope Francis' Homily in Asuncion's Nu Guazu Field

"God never closes off horizons; He is never unconcerned about the lives and sufferings of his children."

By Staff Reporter

Paraguay, July 12, 2015

Below is the Vatican-provided text of Pope Francis' homily during the Mass he celebrated this morning in Paraguay's Nu Guazu field in Asuncion, during his Apostolic Visit to Latin America, July 5-13:

***

“The Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. These are the words of the Psalm. We are invited to celebrate this mysterious communion between God and his People, between God and us. The rain is a sign of his presence, in the earth tilled by our hands. It reminds us that our communion with God always brings forth fruit, always gives life. This confidence is born of faith, from knowing that we depend on grace, which will always transform and nourish our land.

It is a confidence which is learned, which is taught. A confidence nurtured within a community, in the life of a family. A confidence which radiates from the faces of all those people who encourage us to follow Jesus, to be disciples of the One who can never deceive. A disciple knows that he or she is called to have this confidence; we feel Jesus’s invitation to be his friend, to share his lot, his very life. “No longer do I call you servants... but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”. The disciples are those who learn how to dwell in the confidence born of friendship.

The Gospel speaks to us of this kind of discipleship. It shows us the identity card of the Christian. Our calling card, our credentials.

Jesus calls his disciples and sends them out, giving them clear and precise instructions. He challenges them to take on a whole range of attitudes and ways of acting. Sometimes these can strike us as exaggerated or even absurd. It would be easier to interpret these attitudes symbolically or “spiritually”. But Jesus is quite precise, very clear. He doesn’t tell them simply to do whatever they think they can.

Let us think about some of these attitudes: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money...” “When you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place”. All this might seem quite unrealistic.

We could concentrate on the words, “bread”, “money”, “bag”, “staff”, “sandals” and “tunic”. And this would be fine. But it strikes me that one key word can easily pass unnoticed. It is a word at the heart of Christian spirituality, of our experience of discipleship: “welcome”. Jesus as the good master, the good teacher, sends them out to be welcomed, to experience hospitality. He says to them: “Where you enter a house, stay there”. He sends them out to learn one of the hallmarks of the community of believers. We might say that a Christian is someone who has learned to welcome others, to show hospitality.

Jesus does not send them out as men of influence, landlords, officials armed with rules and regulations. Instead, he makes them see that the Christian journey is about changing hearts. It is about learning to live differently, under a different law, with different rules. It is about turning from the path of selfishness, conflict, division and superiority, and taking instead the path of life, generosity and love. It is about passing from a mentality which domineers, stifles and manipulates to a mentality which welcomes, accepts and cares.

These are two contrasting mentalities, two ways of approaching our life and our mission.

How many times do we see mission in terms of plans and programs. How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, maneuvers, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments. Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by learning how to welcome them.

The Church is a mother with an open heart. She knows how to welcome and accept, especially those in need of greater care, those in greater difficulty. The Church is the home of hospitality. How much good we can do, if only we try to speak the language of hospitality, of welcome! How much pain can be soothed, how much despair can be allayed in a place where we feel at home! Welcoming the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner (Mt 25:34-37), the leper and the paralytic. Welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it. Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed. Welcoming the different cultures, of which our earth is so richly blessed. Welcoming sinners.

So often we forget that there is an evil underlying our sins. There is a bitter root which causes damage, great damage, and silently destroys so many lives. There is an evil which, bit by bit, finds a place in our hearts and eats away at our life: it is isolation. Isolation which can have many roots, many causes. How much it destroys our life and how much harm it does us. It makes us turn our back on others, God, the community. It makes us closed in on ourselves. That is why the real work of the Church, our mother, is not mainly to manage works and projects, but to learn how to live in fraternity with others. A welcome-filled fraternity is the best witness that God is our Father, for “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

In this way, Jesus teaches us a new way of thinking. He opens before us a horizon brimming with life, beauty, truth and fulfillment.

God never closes off horizons; he is never unconcerned about the lives and sufferings of his children. God never allows himself to be outdone in generosity. So he sends us his Son, he gives him to us, he hands him over, he shares him... so that we can learn the way of fraternity, of self-giving. He opens up a new horizon; he is the new and definitive Word which sheds light on so many situations of exclusion, disintegration, loneliness and isolation. He is the Word which breaks the silence of loneliness.

And when we are weary or worn down by our efforts to evangelize, it is good to remember that the life which Jesus holds out to us responds to the deepest needs of people. “We were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters” (Evangelii Gaudium, 265).

One thing is sure: we cannot force anyone to receive us, to welcome us; this is itself part of our poverty and freedom. But neither can anyone force us not to be welcoming, hospitable in the lives of our people. No one can tell us us not to accept and embrace the lives of our brothers and sisters, especially those who have lost hope and zest for life. How good it would be to think of our parishes, communities, chapels, wherever there are Christians, as true centers of encounter between ourselves and God.

The Church is a mother, like Mary. In her, we have a model. We too must provide a home, like Mary, who did not lord it over the word of God, but rather welcomed that word, bore it in her womb and gave it to others.

We too must provide a home, like the earth, which does not choke the seed, but receives it, nourishes it and makes it grow.

That is how we want to be Christians, that is how we want to live the faith on this Paraguayan soil, like Mary, accepting and welcoming God’s life in our brothers and sisters, in confidence and with the certainty that “the Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”.

[Original text: Spanish]

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Address to People of Bañado Norte

"Be neighbors above all to the young and the elderly. Be a support for young families and all families which are experiencing difficulty."

By Staff Reporter

Paraguay, July 12, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the Holy Father's address outside the chapel of St. John the Baptist in the neighborhood of Bañado Norte (Paraguay).

* * *

Dear Friends,

I have looked forward to being with you today. I could not come to Paraguay without spending some time with you, here on your land.

We are meeting in this Parish named after the Holy Family, and I confess that as I arrived, everything reminded me of the Holy Family. To see your faces, your children, your elderly, and to hear about your experiences and everything you went through to be here, to have a dignified life and a roof over your heads, to endure the bad weather and the flooding of these last few weeks… All this makes me think of the little family of Bethlehem. Your struggles have not taken away your laughter, your joy and your hope. Struggles which have not lessened your sense of solidarity but if anything, have made it grow.

I would like to think for a moment about Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem. They were forced to leave home, families and friends. They had to leave all that they had and to go somewhere else, to a place where they knew no one, a place where they had no house or family. That was when that young couple had Jesus. That was how they gave us Jesus. They were alone, in a strange land, just the three of them. Then, all of a sudden, shepherds began to arrive. People just like them who had to leave their homes to find better opportunities for their families. Their lives were affected by harsh weather but by other kinds of hardship too.

When they heard that Jesus had been born, they went to see him. They became neighbors. In an instant, they became a family to Mary and Joseph. The family of Jesus.

That is what happens when Jesus comes into our lives. It is what happens with faith. Faith brings us closer. It makes us neighbors. It draws us closer to the lives of others. Faith awakens our commitment, our solidarity. The birth of Jesus changes our lives. A faith which does not draw us into solidarity is a faith which is dead. It is a faith without Christ, a faith without God, a faith without brothers and sisters. The first to show this solidarity was our Lord, who chose to live in our midst.

I come to you like those shepherds. I want to be your neighbor. I want to bless your faith, your hands and your community. I come to join you in giving thanks, because faith has become hope, and hope in turn kindles love. The faith which Jesus awakens in us is a faith which makes us able to dream of the future, and to work for it here and now. That is why I want to urge you to continue to be missionaries, to keep spreading the faith in these streets and alleys. Be neighbors above all to the young and the elderly. Be a support for young families and all families which are experiencing difficulty.

Perhaps the strongest message you can give to those outside is that solidary faith. The devil wants you to fight amongst yourselves because he can divide you, defeat you, and rob your faith. Solidarity of brothers to defend the faith! Solidarity of brothers to defend the faith! And also, may that solidary faith be a message for the whole city. 

I want to pray for your families and to pray to the Holy Family so that their model and witness may continue to be a light for your path, an encouragement in times of trouble. And that they give us the grace of that gift. Let us ask them together. May gives us “shepherds”, priests, bishops who can accompany, support and encourage the lives off your families. Able to make grow that solidary faith that is never defeated.

Let us together pray to them. I ask you to remember to pray for me and we pray together a prayer to our Father who makes us brothers, who sent us our older brother, His Son Jesus,  and gave us Mother who accompanies us:

Our Father…

Blessing

'Go forward, and do not let the devil divide you!"

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Pope's Angelus Address in Asuncion's Nu Guazu Field

"With Mary’s help, may the Church be a home for all, a welcoming home, a mother for all peoples."

By Staff Reporter

Paraguay, July 12, 2015  

Below is the Vatican-provided text of Pope Francis' address before the Angelus after the Mass he celebrated this morning in Nu Guazu field of the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion, during his Apostolic Visit to Latin America, July 5-13:

***

I thank the Archbishop of Asuncion, the Most Reverend Edmundo Ponziano Valenzuela Mellid, for his kind words.

At the end of this celebration we look with trust to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. She is the gift that Jesus gives to his people. He gave her to us as our Mother at the hour of his cross and suffering. She is the fruit of Christ’s sacrifice for us. And from that moment, Mary has always been, and will always be, with her children, especially the poor and those most in need.

Mary has become part of the tapestry of human history, of our lands and peoples. As in so many other countries of Latin America, the faith of the Paraguayan people is imbued with love of the Virgin Mary. They approach their mother with confidence, they open their hearts and entrust to her their joys and sorrows, their aspirations and sufferings. Our Lady consoles them and with tender love fills them with hope. They never cease to turn with trust to Mary, mother of mercy for each and every one of her children.

I also ask the Blessed Mother, who persevered in prayer with the Apostles as they waited for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1,13-14), to watch over the Church and strengthen her members in fraternal love. With Mary’s help, may the Church be a home for all, a welcoming home, a mother for all peoples.

Dear brothers and sisters: I ask you please to pray also for me. I know how much the Pope is loved in Paraguay. I also keep you in my heart and I pray for you and your country.

Let us now join in praying the Angelus.

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Pope's Prepared Address for Young People in Paraguay

Final Event of Francis' Apostolic Visit to South America

By Staff Reporter

Paraguay, July 12, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis had prepared for his meeting with young people this evening in Paraguay. He did not deliver this address and instead spoke briefly off-the-cuff, asking that this address be published later.

* * *

Dear Young People, 

I am happy to be with you in this atmosphere of celebration. Happy to listen to your witness and to share your enthusiasm and love for Jesus. 

I thank Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela, who is charge of the youth apostolate, for his kind words. I also thank Manuel and Liz for their courage in sharing their lives and their testimony at this meeting. It is not easy to speak about personal things, and even less so in front of so many people. You have shared the greatest treasure which you have: your stories, your lives and how Jesus became a part of them. 

To answer your questions, I would like to speak about some of the things you shared. 

Manuel, you told us something like this: “Today I really want to serve others, I want to be more generous”. You experienced hard times, and very painful situations, but today you really want to help others, to go out and share your love with others. 

Liz, it is not easy to be a mother to your own parents, all the more when you are young, but what great wisdom and maturity your words showed, when you said: “Today I play with her, I change her diapers. These are all things I hand over to God today, but I am barely making up for everything my mother did for me”. 

You, young Paraguayans, you certainly show great goodness and courage. 

You also shared how you have tried to move forward. Where you found strength. Both of you said it was in your parish. In your friends from the parish and the spiritual retreats organized there. These two things are key: friends and spiritual retreats. 

Friends: Friendship is one of the greatest gifts which a person, a young person, can have and can offer. It really is. How hard it is to live without friends! Think about it: isn’t that one of the most beautiful things that Jesus tells us? He says: “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15). One of the most precious things about our being Christians is that we are friends, friends of Jesus. When you love someone, you spend time with them, you watch out for them and you help them, you tell them what you are thinking, but also you never abandon them. That’s how Jesus is with us; he never abandons us. Friends stand by one another, they help one another, they protect another. The Lord is like that with us. He is patient with us. 

Spiritual retreats: Saint Ignatius has a famous meditation on the two standards. He describes the standard of the devil and then the standard of Christ. It would be like the football jerseys of two different teams. And he asks us which team we want to play for. 

In this meditation, he has us imagine: What it would be like to belong to one or the other team. As if he was saying to us: “In this life, which team do you want to play for?” 

Saint Ignatius says that the devil, in order to recruit players, promises that those who play on his side will receive riches, honor, glory and power. They will be famous. Everyone will worship them. 

Then, Ignatius tells us the way Jesus plays. His game is not something fantastic. Jesus doesn’t tell us that we will be stars, celebrities, in this life. Instead, he tells us that playing with him is about humility, love, service to others. Jesus does not lie to us; he takes us seriously. 

In the Bible, the devil is called the father of lies. What he promises, or better, what he makes you think, is that, if you do certain things, you will be happy. And later, when you think about it, you realize that you weren’t happy at all. That you were up against something which, far from giving you happiness, made you feel more empty, even sad. Friends: the devil is a con artist. He makes promises after promise, but he never delivers. He’ll never really do anything he says. He doesn’t make good on his promises. He makes you want things which he can’t give, whether you get them or not. He makes you put your hopes in things which will never make you happy. That’s his game, his strategy. He talks a lot, he offers a lot, but he doesn’t deliver. He is a con artist because everything he promises us is divisive, it is about comparing ourselve to others, about stepping over them in order to get what we want. He is a con artist because he tells us that we have to abandon our friends, and never to stand by anyone. Everything is based on appearances. He makes you think that your worth depends on how much you possess. 

Then we have Jesus, who asks us to play on his team. He doesn’t con us, nor does he promise us the world. He doesn’t tell us that we will find happiness in wealth, power and pride. Just the opposite. He shows us a different way. This coach tells his players: “Blessed, happy are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”. And he ends up by telling them: “Rejoice on account of all this!”. 

Why? Because Jesus doesn’t lie to us. He shows us a path which is life and truth. He is the great proof of this. His style, his way of living, is friendship, relationship with his Father. And that is what he offers us. He makes us realize that we are sons and daughters. Beloved children. 

He does not trick you. Because he knows that happiness, true happiness, the happiness which can fill our hearts, is not found in designer clothing, or expensive brand-name shoes. He knows that real happiness is found in drawing near to others, learning how to weep with those who weep, being close to those who are feeling low or in trouble, giving them a shoulder to cry on, a hug. If we don’t know how to weep, we don’t know how to laugh either, we don’t know how to live. 

Jesus knows that in this world filled with competition, envy and aggressivity, 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. 

Happy too are those who bring new life and new opportunities. Happy those who work and sacrifice to do this. All of us have made mistakes and been caught up in misunderstandings, a thousand of them. Happy, then, are those who can help others when they make mistakes, when they experience misunderstandings. They are true friends, they do not give up on anyone. They are the pure of heart, the ones who can look beyond the little things and overcome difficulties. Happy above all are the ones who can see the good in other people. 

Liz, you mentioned Chikitunga, this Paraguayan servant of God. You told us how she was your sister, your friend, your model. Like so many others, she shows us that the way of the Beatitudes is a way of fulfilment, a path we can really follow, a path which can make our hearts brim over. The saints are our friends and models. They no longer play on our field, but we continue to look to them in our efforts to play our best game. They show us that Jesus is no con artist; he offers us genuine fulfillment. But above all, he offers us friendship, true friendship, the friendship we all need. 

So we need to be friends the way Jesus is. Not to be closed in on ourselves, but to join his team and play his game, to go out and make more and more friends. To bring the excitement of Jesus’ friendship to the world, wherever you find yourselves: at work, at school, on WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter. When you go out dancing, or for a drink of tereré, when you meet in the town square or play a little match on the neighborhood field. That is where Jesus’ friends can be found. Not by conning others, but by standing beside them and being patient with them. With the patience which comes from knowing that we are happy, because we have a Father who is in heaven. 

[Original text: Spanish]

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope Urges Paraguayan Youth to Pray for a Free Heart

Tells Them They Will Have to Go Against the Current, Depend on Jesus Who Gives Strength and Hope

By Kathleen Naab

Paraguay, July 12, 2015

Pope Francis wrapped up his nine-day, three-nation apostolic trip to South America this evening amid the exuberant enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of Paraguayan young people.

The Holy Father spoke to them entirely off-the-cuff, joking that "discourses are boring," and asking that his prepared text be made available for later reflection.

He spoke briefly, drawing largely from the testimonies of two young people who shared their stories. The first, a young woman named Liz, explained that she is 25 years old and is caring for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s, and her grandmother. Her mother, she said, thinks that their roles are reversed and that she (the mother) is the child of her daughter. She explained how she has to help her to shower, to change her diapers and care for her.

The second person who spoke, a young man named Manuel, explained how when he was a child, he had to leave his parent’s home and go to the capital city to work, because his parents could not support him. There in the capital, he was mistreated and exploited. Now at the age of 18, after meeting God through a youth ministry, he says he is ready to serve others.

When the Pope began speaking, he explained that the young man who read the Gospel after the testimonies, a youth named Orlando, when he came to greet the Pope after the reading, asked him to pray for the grace of liberty for each person present.

"Liberty is a gift that God gives but we have to know how to receive it," the Holy Father said. He explained that we have to learn how to have a free heart, since in the world, there are so many ties that bind the heart: Exploitation, a lack of things needed to survive, drug addiction, sadness. "All these things take away our liberty."

He led the youth in a prayer: "Lord Jesus, give me a free heart," he prayed, "that I might not be a slave to all the traps of the world, that I might not be a slave to comfort, to deception, that I might not be a slave of the good life, … a slave of vice … a slave of a false liberty, which is doing what I like in every moment."

Francis told the young people to ask for this grace every day.

Solidarity

Then drawing from the testimony of the young woman, he said that she gives the lesson of not being like Pontius Pilate. He noted how easy it would be to put her mom in one care home, her grandma in another, and to live her young life carefree.

Instead, she became as a servant, he said, and serves with affection. "And this is called solidarity. when we take up the burdens of others," he said.

She has the grace that Orlando asked for, the Pontiff said, the grace of a free heart. She has a very high level of solidarity, he said, a very high level of love. "There is someone who teaches us to love."

Turning then to Manuel’s testimony, he led the crowd in a prayer of gratitude, reminding them that so many youth do not have the opportunity to study, to have their meals provided by their family, to have what they need.

"As you see, life is not easy for many youth. I want you to understand this. I want you to get this in your head," he said. If for me, life has been relatively easy, there are many youth for whom it hasn’t been easy.

Francis continued, noting how both of those who spoke mentioned knowing Jesus.

"I began to get to know Jesus. To know Jesus. And this is to open the door to hope. I got to know Jesus, my strength," he said, citing the youths. "To know Jesus is fortitude. To know Jesus is hope and fortitude. And this is what we need of young people today."

He urged the youth to flee from being young people of "neither yes nor no," who live tired, with a face of boredom. We need young people who are strong, with hope and strength. Who have hope and strength because they know Jesus and know God. Because they have a free heart.

"But for this," the Pope cautioned, "you need sacrifice. You have to go against the current. The Beatitudes that we read a bit ago are Jesus’ plan for us. And it is a plan against the current."

He told the young people to go home and read the Beatitudes. "They are in the fifth chapter of Matthew," he said, and then tested the youth to see if they were listening: "What chapter?" and they responded, "fifth." "Of which Gospel?" "Of Matthew."

In this last event of the Pope’s apostolic trip in Paraguay, the Holy Father told the young people, "I have to go."

"No!" they shouted back.

But the Pontiff brought them to silence as he led them again in prayer: "Everyone now in silence, we are going to lift up our hearts, each one," he said. Lord Jesus, I thank you because I am here. Thank you because you gave me brothers such as Liz and Manuel. … Jesus I pray for the young people who don’t know that you are their strength and are afraid of living, of being happy, who are afraid of dreaming."

"Jesus teaches us to dream," he said, "to dream big, to dream of wonderful things. … Jesus gives us strength, gives us a free heart, gives us hope, gives us love."

"Pray for me," he concluded, "and for so many people who don’t have the grace that you have, of having known Jesus."

Several minutes later, after a farewell ceremony with the president at the airport, just before 7:30 local time, the Pope boarded the plane that takes him back to Rome.

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Pope's Address to Young People in Paraguay

"Jesus, I pray for the young men and women who do not know that you are their strength and who are afraid to live, afraid to be happy, afraid to dream. Jesus, teach them to dream"

By Staff Reporter

Paraguay, July 12, 2015

Here is a transcription and translation of the address Pope Francis gave off-the-cuff this evening during his meeting with youth in Paraguay. It was the last event in his nine-day apostolic visit to South America. Shortly after giving this address, he departed for Rome.

At various moments in the talk, he asked the young people to repeat what he was saying or to respond to his questions.

* * *

Dear young people, good afternoon.

After having read the Gospel, Orlando approached to greet me and he said to me, I ask you to pray for the liberty of each one of us, of everyone. That’s the blessing that Orlando requested for each one of us. That is the blessing that we ask now all together. Liberty, because liberty is a gift that God gives us, but we must know how to receive it, we must know how to have a free heart, because all of us know that in the world, there are so many ties that bind the heart. And they don’t allow the heart to be free. Exploitation, a lack of what’s necessary to survive, drug addiction, sadness — all of these things take our liberty from us. So, everyone together, thanking Orlando for having asked for this blessing, to have a free heart, a heart that can say what it thinks, that can say what it feels, and can do what it thinks and what it feels. This is a free heart. And that is what we are going to ask, all together. This blessing that Orlando asked for everyone. 

Repeat with me.

Lord Jesus, give me a free heart, that I might not be a slave to all of the traps of the world, that I might not be a slave of comfort, of deception, that I might not be a slave of the good life, that I might not be a slave of vice, that I might not be a slave of a false liberty, which is doing what I want in every moment.

Thank you, Orlando, for making us realize that we have to ask for a free heart. Ask for it every day.

And we have listened to two testimonies, that of Liz and that of Manuel. Liz teaches us something, just as Orlando taught us to pray to have a free heart. Liz, with her life, teaches us that we can't be like Pontius Pilate, to wash our hands of things. Liz could have easily put her mom in one care home and her grandmother in another care home and lived her life as a young person, having fun, studying what she wanted. And Liz said no. Grandmother. Mother. And Liz became a helper, a servant, or if you want to say it yet more powerfully, a help maid of the mom and the grandmother, and she did this with affection.

To such a degree, she said, that even the roles are changed and she now feels like the mother of her mother, in the way in which she cares for her, her mother with this cruel sickness that confuses things. And she burned her life up to now, 25 years, serving her mother and her grandmother. Alone? No. Liz wasn’t alone. She said two things that have to help us. She spoke of an angel, an aunt who was like an angel. And she spoke of her meetings with her friends on the weekends, with the young evangelizers, with the youth group that nourished her faith.

And these two angels, the aunt who cared for her and this youth group, gave her more strength to keep going. And that’s called solidarity. What’s it called? When we take on others’ problems. And she found there a haven for her heart, tired. But there’s something that doesn’t get away from us. She didn’t say, "fine, I’ll do this and that’s it." She studied and she's a nurse. Doing all of this, the help, the solidarity that she received from you, from the group of you, that she received from this aunt who was like an angel, helped her to keep going. And today, at age 25, she has the grace that Orlando had us ask for. She has a free heart.

Liz follows the Fourth Commandment, honor your father and your mother. Liz shows her life, she burns it, in the service of her mother. This is a most high degree of solidarity. This is a most high degree of love. A testimony. Father, is it possible to love? There we have someone who teaches us to love. First liberty, a free heart. Then, everyone together, [having the crowd repeat] first a free heart. Second, solidarity to accompany. Solidarity. That is what this second testimony teaches us.

And for Manuel, life wasn’t made easy for him. Manuel is not a boy, wasn’t a boy, a youth, a young man, for whom life was easy. He said hard words. He was exploited. He was mistreated. At risk of falling into an addiction. He was alone. Exploited, mistreated and alone. And instead of going out and doing evil things, instead of going out to steal, he went to work. Instead of going out to take revenge on life, he looked ahead.

Manuel used a nice phrase. I was able to keep going, because in the situations where I was, it was difficult to speak about a future. How many young people, you today, have the opportunity to study, to sit down to table with your family every day, you have the opportunity of not lacking the essential? How many of you have this? All together, those who have this, say, "Thank you, Lord." Thank you because here we had the testimony of a young man who from the time he was a boy knew what sorrow was, what sadness was, who was exploited, mistreated, who didn’t have anything to eat and who was alone. Lord, save these boys and girls who are in this situation. And for us, Lord, thank you. Thank you, Lord. Everyone. Thank you, Lord.

Freedom of heart. Do you remember? Freedom of heart, as Orlando said. Service and solidarity, what Liz told us. Hope, work, fighting for life, moving forward, as Manuel told us. As you see, life isn’t easy for many young people and I want you to understand this, I want you to put it into your heads. If for me, life is relatively easy, there are other boys and girls for whom life is not relatively easy. Moreover, that desperation pushes them toward delinquency, pushes them to crime, pushes them to collaborate with corruption. We have to tell these boys and girls that we’re close to them, that we want to give them a hand, that we want to help them with solidarity, with love, with hope.

There were two phrases that both of those who spoke said, Liz and Manuel. Two phrases that are beautiful. Listen to them. Liz said she began to know Jesus. To know Jesus. And this is to open the door to hope. And Manuel said, "I met God, my strength." To know God is strength. To know God, to grow close to Jesus is hope and strength. 

And that’s what we need of the young people today. Youth with hope and youth with strength. We don’t want weakling youth, young people who are "up to here, no more," neither yes nor no. We don’t want youth who tire easily and who live tired, with a face of boredom. We want strong young people, young people with hope and with strength. Why? Because they know Jesus, because they know God. Because they have a free heart. Free heart. Repeat it. Solidarity. Work. Hope. Strength. Know Jesus. Know God, my strength. Does a young person who lives like this have a face of boredom? Does he have a sad heart? This is the path.

For this, you need sacrifice. You have to go against the current. The Beatitudes that we read a bit ago are the plan of Jesus for us. The plan, this against-the-current plan. Jesus tells you, "happy are the poor in spirit." He doesn't say, happy are the rich, those who collect money. No. The poor in spirit, those who are capable of approaching and understanding what a poor person is. Jesus doesn't say happy are those who have a good time, but happy are those who are capable of feeling afflicted with the sorrow of others. I recommend to you that later on at home you read the Beatitudes, which are in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew. In which chapter? And of which Gospel? Read them and meditate on them, because they will do you good.

I thank you, Liz, who is around here somewhere, I suppose. There you are. I thank you Manuel, where are you at? And I thank you Orlando.

A free heart is what I wish for you. 

And I have to go. 

The other day, the other day, a priest jokingly said to me, "Yes, you keep telling the young people to stir things up. You keep on, and keep on, but then with the agitation that the young people make, we are the ones that have to get it in line." Stir things up, but also, help to order and organize the agitation that you make. Ok? Both things. Stir things up and organize it well. A 'stirring up of things' that will give us a free heart, that will give us solidarity, that will give us hope, that is born from having known Jesus and knowing that God, whom I got to know, is my strength. This is the agitation that you should bring about.

Since I knew the questions [that you were going to ask] because they had been given to me beforehand, I had written a discourse for you, to give it to you. But discourses are boring, so I leave it here with the bishop, the one in charge of youth, so that he publishes it.

And now, before going, I ask you, first that you keep praying for me. Second that you keep stirring things up. Third that you help to organize the agitation that you make so that it doesn't destroy anything. And all together now in silence we are going to elevate our hearts to God, each one.

Lord Jesus, each one from his heart, in silence, repeat the words. Lord Jesus I thank you for having me here. I thank you because you gave me brothers like Liz, Manuel and Orlando. I thank you because you gave us many brothers who are like them, who have encountered you, Jesus, who know you, Jesus, who know that you, their God, are their strength. Jesus I pray for the young men and women who do not know that you are their strength and who are afraid to live, afraid to be happy, afraid to dream. Jesus, teach them to dream. To dream great things, beautiful things, things that, although they seem day-to-day, are things that stretch the heart. Lord Jesus, give us strength. Give us a free heart. Give us hope. Give us love. And teach us to serve. Amen.

Now I’m going to give you the blessing and I ask you please, that you pray for me and that you pray for so many young men and women who do not have the grace that you have, of having known Jesus who gives you hope, who gives you a free heart, and who makes you strong. 

May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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Summary of Pope's Q-and-A on Return From South America

Vatican Information Service releases lengthy summary of press conference

By Staff Reporter

Rome, July 14, 2015

Vatican Information Service released this lengthy transcript and translation of the Pope's in-flight press conference during the return flight from South America.

* * *

During the return flight from Paraguay to Rome, the Pope answered questions from the journalists who accompanied him on his apostolic trip to Latin America, as summarised below.

Question: Why does Paraguay not have a cardinal? What sin has Paraguay committed, so as not to have a cardinal?

Answer: Well, not having a cardinal isn’t a sin. The majority of countries in the world do not have a cardinal. The nationalities of the cardinals … are a minority compared to the whole. … At times, for the election of cardinals, an evaluation is made, the files are studied one by one, you see the person, the charism especially, of the cardinal who will have to advise and assist the Pope in the universal government of the Church. The cardinal, though he belongs to a particular Church, is incardinated in the Church of Rome, and needs to have a universal vision. This does not mean that there is not a bishop in Paraguay who has it, but you always have to elect up to a number, there is a limit of 120 cardinal electors. … I ask another question: Does Paraguay deserve a cardinal, if we look at the Church of Paraguay? I’d say that yes, they deserve two, but it has nothing to do with merits. It is a lively Church, a joyful Church, a fighting Church with a glorious history.

Question: We would like to know whether you consider just the Bolivians wish to have sovereign access to the sea, to return to having a sovereign access to the Pacific, and by what criteria. And, Holy Father, should Chile and Bolivia ask for your mediation, would you accept?

Answer: The issue of mediation is very delicate, and it would be a last step. That is, Argentina experienced this with Chile, and it was truly to stop a war. It was a very extreme situation, and dealt with very well by those appointed by the Holy See, always backed by John Paul II who was very interested. … At the moment, I have to be very respectful about this because Bolivia has made an appeal to an international court. So at present if I make a comment, as a head of State, it could be interpreted as involvement or pressure on my part. It is necessary to be very respectful of the decision of the Bolivian people who made this appeal. … There is another thing I want to make very clear. In the Cathedral of Bolivia, I touched on this issue in a very delicate way, taking into account the situation of the appeal to the international court. I remember the context perfectly – brothers have to engage in dialogue, the Latin American peoples need to engage in dialogue. I stopped, I was silent a moment, and then said, “I’m thinking of the sea”. I continued, “dialogue and dialogue.” I think it was clear that my comment referred to this problem, with respect for the situation as it is at present. It is in an international tribunal, so it is not possible to speak about mediation or facilitation. We have to wait.

Follow-up question: Is the Bolivians' wish just or not?

Answer: There is always a base of justice when there is a change in the territorial borders, particularly after a war. So this is under continuous revision. I would say that it is not unfair to present something like this, this wish. I remember that in the year 1961, during my first year of philosophy, we were given a documentary about Bolivia … called “The Ten Stars”. And it presented each one of the nine provinces and then, at the end, for the tenth, there was the sea, without a word. That stayed in my mind. It was the year 1961. In other words, it is clear that there is a desire.

Question: Ecuador was in a state of unrest before your visit, and after you left the country those who oppose the government returned to the streets. It seems that they would like to use your presence in Ecuador for political ends, especially because of the phrase you used, “the people of Ecuador have stood up with dignity”. I would like to ask you, if possible, what did you mean by this phrase?

Answer: Evidently there were some political problems and strikes. I don’t know the details of politics in Ecuador and it would be foolish of me to give an opinion. Afterwards I was told that there was a type of hiatus during my visit, which I am grateful for, as it is the gesture of a people on their feet, of respect for the visit of a Pope. … But if these problems resume, clearly, the problems and political debates continue. With regard to the phrase you mentioned: I refer to the greater awareness of their courage that the people of Ecuador have been gaining. There was a border war with Peru not long ago. There is a history of war. Then, there’s been a greater awareness of Ecuador’s ethnic diversity and dignity. Ecuador is not a throwaway country. Or rather, it refers to the people as a whole and to all of the dignity of the people who, after the border war, stood up with ever greater awareness of its dignity and the wealth it has in its diversity and variety. In other words, it cannot be attributed to one concrete political situation. That phrase – I was told, I did not see it myself - was manipulated to suggest that the government had put Ecuador on her feet, or that she had been raised to her feet by those opposing the government. One comment can be manipulated, and I believe that in this we must be very careful.

Question: In your address to popular movements in Bolivia you spoke about the new colonialism and the idolatry of money that subjugates the economy, and the imposition of austerity measures that continually “tighten the belt” of the poor. For some weeks now in Europe there is the situation in Greece, which risks leaving the Euro zone. What do you think about what is happening in Greece, and which also affects all of Europe?

Answer: I am near to this situation, as it is a phenomenon present throughout the world, all over the world. Also in the East, in the Philippines, in India, in Thailand. There are movements that are organised among themselves not as a form of protest but in order to keep going and to be able to live. And they are movements that have momentum, and these people – there are many of them – do not feel represented by union, as they say that the unions are now corporations and do not fight – I am simplifying somewhat – for the rights of the poor. And the Church cannot be indifferent to this. The Church has a social doctrine and is in dialogue with this movement, and does so well. You have seen the enthusiasm of feeling that the Church – they say – is not distant from us, the Church has a doctrine that helps us to fight for this. It is a dialogue. The Church does not choose an anarchic path. No, we are not anarchists. These people work, they try to work hard even with waste, with what is left over; they are real workers.

Then, regarding Greece and the international system, I do not understand it well … but it would certainly be all too simple to say that the blame lies only on one side. If the Greek government has advanced this situation of international debt, it too bears responsibility. With the new Greek government, there have been steps in the right direction, towards revision. I hope, and it is the only thing I can say to you, as I do not know the situation well, that a way will be found to solve the Greek problem, and also a path of supervision so that other countries do not experience the same problem, and that this may help us to go ahead, as the path of loans and debts never ends. I was told, about a year or so ago, that there was a United Nations project … whereby a Country can declare itself bankrupt – which is not the same as being in default – but it is a project I heard about and I do not know how it ended or whether or not it was true. If a company can declare bankruptcy why can’t a country do it, so that we can then go to the aid of others?

Then, with regard to the new colonialisms, evidently these are a question of values. The colonialism of consumerism, for example. The habit of consumerism is the result of a process of colonisation, as it leads to a habit that is not one's own and causes a personality imbalance. Consumerism also upsets the balance of the domestic economy and of social justice, as well as physical and mental health, for instance.

Question: Holy Father, what did you think when you received the hammer and sickle with Christ on it, offered by President Morales? And what became of the object?

Answer: I didn't know about it, and I was not aware that Fr. Espinal was a sculptor and also a poet. I found out in these days. I saw it and it was a surprise to me. It can be qualified as belonging to the genre of protest art. For example, in Buenos Aires a few years ago there was an exhibition of protest art by a good, creative Argentine sculptor – he is dead now – and I remember a work which was a crucified Christ on a bomber that was falling down. It was a critique of Christianity allied with imperialism, in the form of the bomber. Firstly, then, I did not know about it and secondly, I would qualify it as protest art that can in some cases be offensive; in some cases. Thirdly, in this specific case: Fr. Espinal was killed in the year 1980. It was a time in which liberation theology had many different threads, one of which was the Marxist analysis of reality, and Fr. Espinal subscribed to this. … In the same year, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arrupe, sent a letter to the whole Society regarding the Marxist analysis of reality in theology, stopping this to some extent, saying no, this doesn't work, they are different things, it is not right. And four years later, in 1984, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith published its first short volume, its first declaration on liberation theology, which it criticised. Then there was the second, that opens up more Christian perspectives. … Let us consider the hermeneutics of that period. Espinal was an enthusiast of the Marxist analysis of reality, but also of theology. That work came from this. Espinal's poetry also belongs to the protest genre: it was his life, his thought. He was a special man, with great human geniality, who fought in good faith. Through a hermeneutics of this type I understand the work. To me it was not offensive. But I had to apply this hermeneutics and I say this to you, so that there are not any mistaken opinions. I now carry the object with me, it is coming with me. You perhaps heard that President Morales wished to bestow two honours on me: one is the most important in Bolivia and the other is of the Order of Fr. Espinal, a new Order. I have never accepted honours, but he did this with such good will and with the wish to please. And I thought that this comes from the people of Bolivia – I prayed about this and thought about it – and if I take them to the Vatican they will end up in a museum where nobody will see them. So, I decided to leave them to Our Lady of Copacabana, the Mother of Bolivia, and these two honours will go to the Shrine of Copacabana, to Our Lady. However, I am taking the the sculpture of Christ with me.

Question: During the Mass in Guayaquil, you said that the Synod will have to develop true discernment to find concrete solutions to the difficulties faced by families. And then you asked the people to pray because even that which may seem impure to us, which may seem scandalous or frightening, can be transformed into a miracle by God. Can you clarify what “impure”, “scandalous” or “frightening” situations you were referring to?

Answer: Here again there is a need for a hermeneutics of the text. I was talking about the miracle of the wine during the wedding at Cana and I said that the jars of water were full, but they were intended for purification. Or rather, every person who entered the feast carried out a rite of cleansing, leaving behind their spiritual impurities. It is a purification rite performed before entering a house or a temple. A rite that we have in holy water, which is what remains to us of the Jewish ritual. I said that Jesus made good wine with the impure water, the worst water. In general, I thought about making this comment: the family is in crisis, we all know this. … I was referring to all of this, in general: that the Lord may purify us of these crises, of the many things that are described in the Instrumentum laboris. It is a general issue, not referring to any particular point.

Question: Seeing how well the mediation went between Cuba and the U.S., do you think it would it be possible to do something similar between other delicate situations in other countries on the Latin American continent? I’m thinking of Venezuela and Colombia.

Answer: The process between Cuba and the United States was not mediation. It did not have the character of mediation. There was a wish that came … And then, to tell you the truth, three months went by, and I only prayed about the matter … what could I do with these two who had been like this for more than 50 years. Then the Lord made me think of a cardinal. He went there and talked; then knew nothing more and months went by. One day the secretary of State, who is here, told me, “Tomorrow we will have the second meeting with the two teams.” … “Yes, yes, they are talking, the two groups are talking …”. It happened by itself. It was not a mediation. It was the goodwill of the two countries, and the merit is theirs, the merit is theirs for doing this. We did hardly anything, only small things. And in mid-December, it was announced. … Now, I am concerned that the peace process in Colombia must not come to a halt. I have to say this, and I hope that the process goes ahead. In this sense, we are always willing to help, in many ways. It would be a bad thing if it did not go ahead. In Venezuela, the Episcopal Conference is working to make peace there, too. But there too, there is no mediation.

Question: One thing we have heard very little of is a message for the middle class, that is, people who work, who pay their taxes, normal people. My questions is: why are there so few messages for the middle class in the Holy Father's teaching?

Answer: Thank you, it is a good correction? You are right, it is an error on my part. The world is polarised. The middle class is becoming smaller. The polarisation between rich and poor is great, this is true, and perhaps this has led me not to take account of it. Some nations are doing very well, but in the world in general polarisation is very evident. And the number of poor is large. And why do I speak of the poor? Because they are at the heart of the Gospel. … Then with regard to the middle class, I have said a few words, but somewhat “in passing”. But the common people, the simple people, the worker, that is a great value. But I think you are telling me about something I need to do: I need to deepen the magisterium on this.

Question: Now that Cuba will have a greater role in the international community, do you think that Havana will have to improve its reputation with regard to human rights and religious freedom? And do you think that Cuba risks losing something in its new relationship with the most powerful country in the world?

Answer: Human rights are for all, and are not to be respected only in one or two countries. I would say that in many countries throughout the world human rights are not respected. … What will Cuba or the U.S. lose? Both will gain something and lose something, because this happens in negotiations. Both will gain, this is sure: peace, encounter, friendship, collaboration. These they will gain … but what will they lose, I cannot imagine. They may be concrete things. But in negotiations one always [both] wins and loses. But returning to human rights, and religious freedom: just think that in the world there are some countries, even in Europe, where you cannot make a religious sign, for different reasons. The same applies to other continents. Religious freedom is not respected in all the world: there are many places where it is not respected.

Question: Holy Father, in summary, what message did you want to give to the Latin American Church in these days? And what role can the Latin American Church have, also as a sign to the world?

Answer: The Latin American Church has a great asset: it is a young Church … with a certain freshness, also some informalities, it is not very formal. In addition it has a rich body of theological research. I wanted to encourage this young Church and I believe that this Church can offer us much. One thing that really struck me was that in all three countries, in the streets, there were many fathers and mothers with their children. … I have never seen so many children! It is a people – and also a Church – that has a lesson for us, for Europe, where the declining birthrate is worrying, and there are few policies for helping large families. France has a good policy for helping large families and it has achieved a birthrate of more than two per cent, but in others it remains at zero percent. … The greatest asset of this people and of this Church is that it is a living Church. I believe we can learn from this and correct it as otherwise, if we no longer have children … It is what touches me most about this tendency to cast aside: children are discarded, the elderly are discarded, and through the lack of work, the young too are discarded. These new nations of young people give us greater strength. For the Church, I would say that a young Church – with many problems, because it has problems – I think that this is the message I find: do not be afraid of this youth and this freshness of the Church. It can also be a somewhat undisciplined Church, but with time it will become disciplined, and it offers us much that is good.

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