Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pope's visit to Latin America ends, leaving a pleasant "Gospel" taste (Part 2)

By Consuelo Vélez (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Fe y Vida: Blog de Consuelo Vélez
July 14, 2015

His speech to the popular movements was perhaps the one that most stood out in the international press because of its social character and his strong statements about the political and economic situations we are experiencing. In some ways it was putting into practice the social doctrine of the Church, which has worthy documents but they aren't sufficiently known or uttered with a prophetic tone, as Francis did this time. The beginning of the speech was an acknowledgement of the value of these movements: "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." He adds that, being with them, he senses "fraternity, determination, commitment, a thirst for justice" and that he is glad that many Christians are joining forces with them. These statements alone open a very different line to the one preached by other bodies for whom any social concern appears to be a betrayal of the gospel and a deviation from the mission of the Church. On the contrary, Pope Francis has continued to emphasize an open door church, capable of real, permanent and committed partnership with the popular movements. He continued by reinforcing the three sacred rights of all people --- land, lodging, and labor -- noting that they are worth fighting for.

Clarifying that his message was global, so nobody would feel he was speaking because of a particular situation, he made us realize that change is needed. And he referred to the need for structural change. First, climate change reveals this, showing the urgency to work for integral ecology. But he also invited us to recognize that behind much of the misery in the world is the "dung of the devil" which can be interpreted as the unbridled ambition for money that rules the world. We can only respond to this whole situation by committing ourselves to being agents of this change. Experiencing it as a process, changing hearts and minds, because the change that is required includes every human dimension. And, seeking to make his message more specific, he proposed three tasks: (1) Put the economy at the service of the peoples and not at the service of money which just promotes exclusion and inequality. On the contrary, the economy is called to promote the "right living" of the indigenous people; (2) Unite the peoples on the path of peace and justice and he referred to Latin American efforts to build the "Great Homeland" that is helping them be free from new forms of colonialism that come from mammon with its corporations, lending agencies, free trade agreements, imposition of austerity measures, etc., or when, under the guise of the fight against corruption, drug trafficking and terrorism, measures are imposed on the nations that have little to do with a real solution to those problems. The monopolistic concentration of the media imposes an ideological colonialism with its patterns of consumption and cultural uniformity. With regard to colonialism, the Pope apologized for abuses committed towards the native peoples of America in colonial times by the Church; (3) Defend Mother Earth. He ended his speech by pointing out that changes don't just come from the great leaders but from the peoples themselves, from their ability to get organized and work so that there is no people without sovereignty, no peasant without land, no worker without rights, no person without dignity, no child without childhood, no youth without opportunities, no elderly person without a venerable old age. As he has already done in other remarks, he said goodbye colloquially, asking them to "wish me well and send me good vibes."

With the prisoners in the rehabilitation center in Santa Cruz, his speech was simple, putting himself before them as the first one who has been forgiven and saved from his many sins. He encouraged them to believe that you can begin again and invited those in charge of the center to realize the responsibility they have in that process of integration of the prisoners into society, seeing to it that their actions help to restore dignity and not humiliate, encourage and not inflict hardship.

In Paraguay, in his greeting to the authorities, he recalled the hard and cruel history of that people, among other things because of wars and other human rights violations, and he highlighted the role of Paraguayan women in the reconstruction of that country and in the ability to sow hope. In these efforts to rebuild the country, one must not forget that the poor and needy must be given priority.

In the visit to the children at the pediatric hospital, again in colloquial language he spoke to them about the time Jesus got angry or was "ticked off", and it was when they wouldn't let the children approach Him. Thus he praised them, saying that the adults ought to learn from the children trust, joy, tenderness and their ability to be "fighters" against their illnesses.

In the speech to representatives of civil society at León Condou Stadium, in soccer language and referring to the young people, he invited them to "be committed to something, be committed to someone, don't be afraid to leave everything on the field. Play fairly, play with all you've got. Don't be afraid to give the best of yourselves. Don't look for a prearrangement to avoid tiredness and struggle. Don't bribe the referee." He also answered various questions that had been asked, inviting them to honest and frank dialogue and to have a common objective -- love for their homeland, without stifling the wealth provided by diversity but listening to each other and seeking to join forces. With respect to the poor, he called for them to be included but without exploiting them from an ideological view. One can fall into saying that one is doing things for the people, but without them. On the contrary, the poor should be valued for their own goodness and one should be willing to learn from them about humanity, goodness, sacrifice and solidarity. And this is clearer for Christians because our faith tells us that in the poor we see the face and flesh of Christ. Faced with the need to generate economic growth, one should not forget that this must always have a human face. The economy can not sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profitability. One must always seek the good of the people and especially of the poorest.

At the Mass in Campo Grande in Ñu Guazú, he talked about the attitudes Jesus is asking of his disciples that some think are exaggerated or absurd but, on the contrary, are the identity card of the Christian. Quoting from Mark 6:8-11, he invited us to take no more than a walking stick for the journey -- no need to bring bread, or a sack, or money. But in addition to this, there's an attitude that should characterize every Christian: hospitality. Being able to welcome people, give them shelter. Discipleship is not for feeling powerful, like an owner or a boss, armed with laws and rules. The disciple must change, starting with their own heart and those of others. The mission isn't thousand of programs and strategies but following the logic of the gospel which is along the lines of sheltering, providing hospitality. And, to who? The hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner, the leper, and the paralytic. Accommodating those who don't think like us, those who have lost faith. Hospitality towards the unemployed, the persecuted, those from different cultures.

In the meeting with young people on the waterfront, he departed from the speech he had prepared and spontaneously answered the questions they asked. He referred to freedom. And that the young people might know Jesus so that they would have the strength and hope to live out the Beatitudes which are Jesus' plan for us. He ended by saying that a priest told him that he's ordering the young people to make a ruckus and then the priests are the ones who have to fix the mess. But the Pope told them again: make a ruckus but then fix the mess you make. A ruckus that gives you a free, solidary, hopeful heart.

Many other aspects could be told and probably other syntheses might be more complete. But throughout these words, one perceives "a gospel flavor" -- "the favored ones of the kingdom" -- from this Latin American style used to warmth, simplicity, spontaneity and the consciousness of being peoples yearning for freedom and transformation, from a deep faith, that by the grace of the Spirit, Pope Francis is giving witness to through his bold prophetic voice and actions consistent with the mission Jesus entrusted to us.

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