Saturday, November 7, 2015

Leonardo Boff: Letter of Support to Pope Francis

During the Second Continental Theology Congress that was held October 26-30, 2015 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, liberation theologian Leonardo Boff drafted a letter of support for Pope Francis which was co-signed, according to Boff's blog where the original Portuguese version of the letter appears, by about 300 of the conference participants. The full text of the letter in English follows:

Dear Pope Francis:

Many of us in Latin America, the Caribbean, and in other parts of the world are following with concern the opposition and attacks against you by a conservative but powerful minority in and outside the Church. Perplexed, we have witnessed something unheard of in recent centuries -- a stand taken by some cardinals against your way of conducting the Synod and, most of all, the universal Church.

A strictly personal letter addressed to you was leaked to the press, as happened with your encyclical Laudato Si', in clear violation of the principles of ethical journalism.

Such groups posit a return to the model of Church of the past, conceived more as a closed fortress than as "a field hospital always open to welcome those who knock at her doors," a Church that should "seek to welcome humankind today not with closed doors, which would betray herself and her mission, and that instead of being a bridge, would become a barrier." These were your brave words.

The pastoral attitude of the kind of Church proposed in your speeches and in your symbolic gestures, is characterized by warm love, by a living encounter between people and with Christ present among us, by mercy without limits, by the "revolution of tenderness," and by pastoral conversion. This implies that the pastor has a "sheep smell" because he lives with them and accompanies them along the way.

We regret that the most such groups do is say "no." We remind our brothers of the most obvious things in Jesus' message. He didn't come to say "no." On the contrary, he came to say "yes." Paul in the Second Letter to the Corinthians reminds us that "the Son of God was always 'yes,' because all of God's promises are 'yes' in Jesus." (2 Cor. 1:20)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus states explicitly, "If anyone comes to me, I will not send them away." (Jn. 6:37) It could be a prostitute, a leper, a fearful theologian like Nicodemus - he welcomed everyone with love and mercy.

The basic characteristic of the God of Jesus, "Abba," is His limitless mercy (Lk. 6:36) and His preferential love for the poor, the sick, and sinners (Lk. 5:32, 6:21). Rather than founding a new religion with the pious faithful, Jesus came to teach us to live and carry out the central message of the Kingdom of God whose properties are love, compassion, forgiveness, solidarity, hunger and thirst for justice, and the joy of everyone feeling like the beloved sons and daughters of God.

The attempts to delegitimize your way of being Bishop of Rome and Pope of the universal Church, being guided more by charity than by canon law, more by collegiality and cooperation than by the solitary exercise of power, will be in vain because nothing resists goodness and tenderness, of which you have given us a splendid example. From history, we learn that where power prevails, love disappears and mercy becomes extinct, core values of your preaching and of Jesus'.

In this context, given the new planetary phase of history and threats to the life-system and system-Earth boldly pointed out in your encyclical Laudato Si' on "care for our common home," we want to close ranks around you and show our full support for you and your ministry, your open pastoral vision of the Church and the charismatic manner through which you makes us feel like the Church is our spiritual home again. And there are many from other denominations and religions and in the secular world who support and admire you for your way of speaking and acting.

It is not insignificant that most Catholics live in the Americas, in Africa, and in Asia where one notes great vitality and creativity in dialogue with the different cultures, showing various faces of the same Church of Christ. The Catholic Church today is a Third World church since only 25% of Catholics live in Europe. The future of the Church is being decided in these regions where the Holy Spirit is blowing strongly.

The Catholic Church can not remain hostage to Western culture which is a regional culture, however great the merits that it has accumulated. It is necessary for it to de-westernize, opening up the process of globalization which favors the meeting of cultures and spiritual paths.

Dear Pope Francis: You share the fate of the Master and the Apostles who were also misunderstood, maligned and persecuted.

But we are calm because we know that you take such tribulations in the spirit of the Beatitudes. You bear them with humility. You ask forgiveness for the sins of the Church and follow in the footsteps of the Nazarene.

We want to be by your side, supporting you in your liberating gospel vision of the Church, giving you courage and inner strength to refresh for us, through words and gestures, the tradition of Jesus, made of love, mercy, compassion, intimacy with God and solidarity with suffering humanity.

Finally, dear Pope Francis, continue to show everyone that the gospel is good for all humankind, that the Christian message is an inspirational force in the "care for our common home," generating a bit of anticipation of an Earth reconciled with herself, with all human beings, with nature, and especially with the Father who has shown a Mother's traits of infinite goodness and tenderness. In the end, we can say together, "all is very good." (Gen. 1:31)

Photo: Leonardo Boff reads his proposed letter to participants in the Second Continental Theology Congress.

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