Saturday, July 18, 2015

Like sheep without a shepherd

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
July 19, 2015

Mark 6:30-34

The disciples, sent by Jesus to proclaim his Gospel, come back enthusiastic. They need time to tell their master all they have done and taught. Apparently, Jesus wants to listen calmly and he invites them to retire "by yourselves to a quiet place to rest a while."

The people spoil their whole plan. From every village they run to find them. The quiet meeting Jesus had planned alone with his closest disciples, is no longer possible. By the time they get to the place, the crowd has invaded. How will Jesus react?

The evangelist describes his attitude in detail. Jesus is never disturbed by people. He looks at the crowd. He knows how to look not only at specific, close individuals, but also at that mass of people made up of voiceless, faceless men and women without special significance. Then compassion stirs in him. He can't avoid it. "He felt sorry for them." He bears them all deep in his heart.

He will never abandon them. He sees them as "sheep without a shepherd" -- people without guides to find the way, without prophets to hear the voice of God. Therefore, "he began to teach them" calmly, devoting time and attention to them to feed them with his healing Word.

Some day we'll have to review before Jesus, our one Lord, how we view and treat those crowds that are walking away little by little from the Church, perhaps because they aren't hearing his Gospel among us and because our speeches, statements, and declarations no longer speak to them.

Simple and good people who are disappointed in us because they don't see Jesus' compassion in us. Believers who don't know who to go to or what paths to follow to find a more humane God than the one they perceive among us. Christians who are silent because they know their words won't be taken into account by anyone important in the Church.

Some day the face of this Church will change. It will learn to act with more compassion; it will forget its own speeches and begin to listen to people's suffering. Jesus has the power to change our hearts and renew our communities.

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.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pope's visit to Latin America ends, leaving a pleasant "Gospel" taste (Part 1)

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

Since the beginning of Francis' pontificate, one has perceived a new ecclesial moment that continues and is reaffirmed with the encyclical letters he has published as well as through his actions, words, and attitude. The trip to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay (July 5-12) continues to demonstrate it. It should be noted that the media, who are more accustomed to a different papal style, bent over backwards to justify, modify, and tone down what the Pope was doing and saying.

They turned to pronouncements from Vatican circles to explain that the Pope didn't say this, didn't do that, didn't agree with someone else, etc. Focused as they were on a more punishing than merciful message, on more rigid than spontaneous gestures, and on some doctrinal statements that are more focused on rules than on the Gospel, now they don't know how to fill their pages with the Pope's messages that speak of life, reality, social, political and economic issues, and, of course, the poor. Moreover, Francis uses spontaneous, popular, everyday language, thus breaking the ecclesial image that likens holiness to the use of classical language that doesn't allow for idioms or common sayings. What is important is not letting his message get lost and seeking to make it better known to see if this change that has made us happy, will be truly incorporated into the daily life of the Church, not just remaining a papal style without managing to permeate other Church strata.

It is impossible to describe the Pope's tour step by step or refer to all his speeches. But it is gratifying to see that both the countries chosen for his visit and the meetings he had, showed which side the Pope is on in his pontificate, "from whence" he speaks and hails and "whom" he favors in his encounters.

At the Pontifical University of Ecuador, speaking to the world of Education, he focused his speech on the care of creation -- in line with his recent encyclical Laudato Si' -- talking to the teachers about their responsibility to help their students develop a free critical spirit, able to care for the world today, not ignoring the reality in which they live. And he pointed to a challenging question: How can it be news and even a great global scandal when the stock markets in the major world capitals go down two or three points, and not news when the poor die from the cold? In the face of this, God's question to Cain remains valid: Where is your brother? Addressing the students, he invited them to make a fuss and reminded them that their ability to study is not synonymous with more money or social prestige but a commitment to social change, especially responding to the urgent needs of the poor and the environment.

At the meeting with the general public in Quito, starting from the example of family relationships, he invited the general public to be able to see themselves as a big family in which gratuitousness, solidarity and subsidiarity have priority. Gratuitousness because we have received everything for free and we are to look out that it bears fruit in good works.

He recalled that all property has a social mortgage on it and that gratuitousness is an indispensable requirement for justice. Solidarity is not just giving to the needy but being accountable for one other. Seeing others as brothers and sisters leads us to not let anyone be excluded or set aside. And subsidiarity, capable of respecting the value of everyone and recognizing unity amid diversity. With respect to freedom, society is called to promote each individual and social agent so they can assume their own role and contribute to the common good in their specific way.

Referring to the Church's task in civil society, he called for collaboration in the search for the common good, promoting ethical and spiritual values, being a prophetic sign, bringing light and hope to the neediest. The Pope also clarified a question that he feels many people want to ask him: Why does he talk so much about the needy, needy people, excluded people, people on the side of the road? And he answered: Simply because that reality and the response to that reality are the heart of the Gospel (Matthew 25).

In the meeting with the clergy, men and women religious, and seminarians at El Quinche Marian Shrine (Ecuador), as befits his spontaneity, he didn't read the speech he had prepared but preferred to talk directly to those present (and in his day-to-day language -- Argentinian -- “mirá vos” ["Oh really?"], “che” ["listen!"], “mocosito” ["little snot"]). He focused on gratuitousness, reminding them that a true disciple is free, like the Virgin, the first disciple of her Son, and that vocation is a grace received. He asked them not to fall into spiritual Alzheimer's, that is, forgetting where the Lord took them from, warning them that gratuitousness doesn't coexist with the careerist advancement sometimes seen in clerics and men and women religious. Along this same line of gratuitousness, he asked them not to charge for grace, that their ministry be free.

Coming to Bolivia, in the welcoming ceremony, Pope Francis acknowledged Evo's government's efforts for social change: "Bolivia is making important steps towards including broad sectors in the country’s economic, social and political life. It has a constitution that recognizes the rights of individuals, minorities and the natural environment, and has institutions that are sensitive to these realities." And he reminded the pastors that their voice must be prophetic, speaking to society from the preferential gospel option for the last and least, for the outcasts, for the excluded because that is the preferential option of the Church. And undoubtedly it was very significant that he stopped at the tomb [sic] of Fr. Luis Espinal, whom he called "a victim of interests that did not want him to fight for the freedom of Bolivia, someone who preached the Gospel and that Gospel annoyed them, so they eliminated him."

In the meeting with Bolivian civil authorities, the Pope invited them to keeping moving towards the integration of the diverse wealth that country has at every level and for faith to be translated into social works that promote the common good. He stated that politics should not let itself be dominated by financial speculation or the economy, nor governed solely by the technocratic and utilitarian paradigm, but take into account the whole of the culture and the need to work on all its aspects. He devoted special attention to the family so affected by domestic violence, alcoholism, machismo, drug addiction, lack of work, etc., and he invited a dialogue among nations to overcome conflicts, specifically, the exit to the sea that Bolivia is demanding. Frank and open dialogue is the way to solve all problems.

Pope Francis also met with bishops, seminarians, men and women religious of Bolivia and the message was very graphic. Based on the text of blind Bartimaeus, he confronted them on the response they are giving to current needs -- "passing by", "silencing the demands" or stopping to give "encouragement and helping the sick person to get up." He invited them to bear witness to the latter attitude because the disciple must be a witness to what he himself has experienced.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Francis visited Bolivia

by Victor Codina, SJ (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
July 13, 2015

It isn't easy to summarize in a few lines Francis' marathon trip to Bolivia, where the people went out and received him with great warmth. People waited for hours in the cold to watch the popemobile pass through La Paz and to participate in the big Mass in Santa Cruz. There was great excitement, there was emotion and tears.

The Bolivian people once again demonstrated their simple and deeply religious essence with a faith rooted in centuries of tradition that, at times, used to even drift into papolatry and magic.

Internationally, perhaps what caused the greatest impact was Francis' request that differences between countries be resolved through genuine dialogue and he added ... like on the subject of the sea -- not walls but bridges. But it would be unfair to reduce the papal message to the sea problem. There were other signs and messages.

Among the signs is obviously his closeness to the people, the embraces and kisses to children and seniors, the affection with which he approached those deprived of freedom in Palmasola prison, where he told them that for God there are no prison bars and detention doesn't mean exclusion.

Another big symbolic and prophetic moment was the Pope's brief stop at the place where the corpse of Jesuit priest Luis Espinal (1932-1980) was found, riddled with bullets for having preached a faith united to justice. Francis briefly prayed at that place and said "his comrade Espinal" preached the freedom of the gospel, that that bothered people and that's why he was killed.

The Pope's visit to the 2nd international meeting of popular movements was also very significant because it showed that the Church not only supports the struggle for "labor, lodging, and land", but puts its hope for lasting social change in these grassroots movements, not in the elites.

The Pope's messages didn't just have a church dimension, but Francis came out of the walls of the church to the street and addressed civil society. Surely his address to the popular movements was the most revolutionary. He didn't fall into the trap of just blessing the ongoing process of change or aligning himself with the Bolivian opposition, but went to the root of the current socio-political world situation and asked that the logic of discard be replaced by the logic of inclusion, bringing about change not imposed from above but the result of a conversion that desires a different model of society and a different type of relationship with nature.

Taking up the proposals of Laudato Si', he called for an integral ecology that cares for people, the family and the earth. He harshly criticized the idolatry of money that generates exclusion and rejection, and encouraged a new paradigm of life that not only affirms the Andean slogan "Don't lie, don't steal, don't be lazy" but integrates all the excluded -- children, youth, women, indigenous people, the elderly -- towards development that respects the values of human dignity and the wealth of cultures in the service of the people and in defense of Mother Earth.

In this change process, Francis urged Christians to play a determining role, being leaven and light, announcing the joy of the gospel. That ministers and consecrated people listen to the people, not shut them up but get close to the "holy People of God." That they not feel like a higher caste or elite, that they remember their origins and not be foremen but pastors. They must welcome the people, show the tenderness and mercy of the Father, heal their wounds, accompany them. The Pope honestly acknowledged that the Church had participated in the genocide of indigenous people during the time of the conquest and asked God's forgiveness for it. But he acknowledged that both yesterday and today there have been many prophetic voices who have distanced themselves from the colonial system and have accompanied and defended the indigenous people.

We can summarize the papal message in these points: tenderly approaching excluded people, proclaiming a gospel that requires deep personal, family, social and ecological change, and denouncing the injustices of a system that no longer works and an ideology that discard weak people and destroys our common home on Earth. We must return to Francis of Assisi, go back especially to the joyful gospel of Jesus.

With Francis, God passed through Bolivia these days and gave us a big embrace.

Photo: Victor Codina (far left) with Pope Francis in Bolivia.

Pope Francis' Speech to the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements

We are taking the liberty of reprinting this speech in its entirety from the Vatican web site because it deserves widespread dissemination. The Pope delivered these remarks in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, on July 9, 2015.

Dear brothers and sisters, 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 the three “L’s” for all our brothers and sisters: land, lodging and labor. 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. Before all else, 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 truly 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, if we do realize all this, 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 the forms of exclusion. These are not isolated issues. Can we recognize that invisible thread which links them? I wonder whether we can see that those 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 Basil of Caesarea – one of the first theologians of the Church – 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 a neighborhood with their hearts full of hopes and dreams, but without any real solution for their problems? They can do a lot. They really can. 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” – do you agree? – (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. Secondly, 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. There must be a change of heart. That is why I like the image of a “process”, processes, 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 to bring about processes and not to occupy 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”, and in that sense, worthily.

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, all of us…. 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, ever since I was 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 they exist and we all 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 build up this culture of encounter. We do not love concepts or ideas; no one loves a concept or 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, favoring 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. Third and 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. It is not easy to define it. 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] (Pope John XXIII spoke this last phrase fifty years ago, and Jesus says in the Gospel that whoever freely offers a glass of water to one who is thirsty will be remembered in the Kingdom of Heaven.) All of 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”, which is not the same as “to have 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, in addition to irresponsibly accelerating the pace of production, and 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 and incidental responses. They could never 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 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. I have seen some of you here. 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. We, 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 to say, 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. That is inequality, brothers and sisters, and inequality generates a violence which no police, military, or intelligence resources can control.

Let us say NO, then, 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, the Council of Latin American Bishops, has said it, and I too wish to say it. Like Saint John Paul II, I ask that the Church – I repeat what he said – “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. Together with this request for forgiveness and in order to be just, I also would like us to remember the thousands of priests and bishops who strongly opposed the logic of the sword with the power of the Cross. There was sin, a great deal of it, for which we did not ask pardon. So for this, we ask forgiveness, I ask forgiveness. But here also, where there was sin, great sin, grace abounded through the men and women who defended the rights of indigenous 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 – though I said bishops, priests and laity, I do not wish to forget the religious sisters who have been so present to our poor neighborhoods, bringing a message of peace and wellbeing – ; 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 piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide – I insist on the word – 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 – a coming together of peoples and cultures - in a form of coexistence which I like to 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’, which I believe will be distributed at the end.

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. Each of us, let repeat 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. Believe me; I am sincere when I say from the heart that 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. It is something important: hope does not disappoint. I ask you, please, to pray for me. If some of you are unable to pray, with all respect, I ask you to send me your good thoughts and energy. Thank you.

[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.


[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.

For a collective examination

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
July 12, 2015

Mark 6:7-13

Jesus doesn't send his disciples forth any which way. To collaborate on his project of the kingdom of God and prolong his mission, caring for lifestyle is essential. If not, they'll be able to do many things, but not introduce his spirit into the world. Mark reminds us of some of Jesus' recommendations. We will highlight a few.

First, who are they to act in the name of Jesus? What is their authority? According to Mark, by sending them, Jesus "gives them authority over unclean spirits." He doesn't give them power over the people they will meet on their journey. Neither did he use his power to rule, but to heal.

As always, Jesus is thinking of a healthier world, freed from the evil forces that enslave and dehumanize human beings. His disciples will introduce his saving power among the nations. They will break through in society, not by using power over people, but by humanizing life, alleviating the people's suffering, making freedom and fraternity grow.

They will take only a "walking stick" and "sandals." Jesus pictures them as walkers. Never settled. Always on the road. Not attached to anything or anyone. Just with what's essential. With the agility that Jesus had to be present wherever anyone needed him. Jesus' staff is not for ruling, but for walking.

They will take "no food, no sack, no money." They are not to be obsessed about their own security. They only take with them what's most important: Jesus' Spirit, his Word, and his Authority to humanize people's lives. Interestingly, Jesus isn't thinking about what they have to bring to be effective, but what they are not to take. Lest some day they forget the poor and become absorbed in their own well-being.

Nor will they bring a "second tunic." They will dress with the simplicity of the poor. They will not wear sacred vestments like the Temple priests. Nor will they dress like John the Baptist alone in the desert. They will be prophets among the people. Their lives will be a sign of God's nearness to all, especially the neediest.

Will we dare do a collective examination within the Church someday to let ourselves be enlightened by Jesus and see how we've been moving away from his spirit almost without realizing it?