Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pope Francis to Brazilian Bishops: Are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?

The following comes from

Pope Francis had a joyful but challenging message for the Bishops of Brazil today.

As part of World Youth Day festivities, the Holy Father took the opportunity to meet with the world’s largest episcopate. Pope Francis thanked the Bishops for allowing him to speak as “one among friends”. For that reason, he said
, he spoke in his native Spanish, in order “to better express what I carry in my heart.”

Pope Francis spoke first about the miracle of Aparecida, the miracle at the heart of Brazil’s religious history. “Aparecida offers us a perennial teaching about God and about the Church.” Recalling the events of the miraculous discovery of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary by a group of poor fisherman, he noted that God always enters clothed in poverty, in littleness.”

He noted, too, that, from the beginning, “God’s message was one of restoring what was broken, reuniting what had been divided.”

But Aparecida also reminds us about the need to embrace mystery. Too often, he said, we reduce mystery to rational explanations; we must wait for God to reveal the mystery for us.

There is much we can learn from Aparecida, the Pope said, “about a Church which makes room for God’s mystery; a Church which harbours that mystery in such a way that it can entice people, attract them.”

“Dear Brothers,” he reminded the Bishops, “the results of our pastoral work do not depend on a wealth of resources, but on the creativity of love.”

The Holy Father went on to speak about the great love the Bishops of Rome have always had for Brazil, recalling especially the care of Blessed John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II for their nation. He went on to speak about the Gospel story of Emmaus, and the two disciples who left Jerusalem after the Crucifixion, only to encounter Jesus on their way. “We need a Church,” he said, unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation.” And he asked, “Are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?”

Pope Francis concluded his remarks by emphasizing several challenges facing “the beloved Church of Brazil.” He highlighted the need for formation, of Bishops, priests, religious, and laity. He called, too, for collegiality and solidarity within the Episcopal Conference, calling for a true unity in diversity. And the Holy Father noted that the Church has a permanent missionary aspect, joined to the need for pastoral conversion.

He spoke, too, about the role of the Church in society. “In the context of society, there is only one thing the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”

Finally, Pope Francis spoke about the Amazon Basin as a litmus test for Church and society in Brazil. “I would like to invite everyone to reflect on what Aparecida said about the Amazon Basin, its forceful appeal for respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it can be indiscriminately exploited, but rather made into a garden.”

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

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