Vatican City, 16 November 2013 (VIS) – This afternoon Pope Francis sent a video message to participants in the pilgrimage-meeting “Our Lady of Guadalupe, star of new evangelisation in the American continent”, convoked by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Knights of Columbus and the Higher Institute of Guadalupan Studies, scheduled to take place at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico, from 16 to 19 November 2013. We publish below extensive extracts from the message:
“As well as transmitting my affection, my closeness and my wish to be with you, I would like to briefly share some reflections as a contribution to the meeting taking place in these days.
“Aparecida proposes placing the Church in a permanent state of mission, to carry out not only acts of a missionary nature but also in the broader context of a more general missionary approach: so that all the habitual activity of the particular Churches may have a missionary character. And this takes place in the certainty that missionary outreach, rather than being an activity amongst others, is a paradigm; that is, the paradigm of all pastoral action. … It is vital that the Church does not close herself up, does not consider herself satisfied and secure in all she has achieved. If this happens, the Church will become ill, will become sick from an imaginary overabundance … she becomes satiated and weak. It is necessary to leave one's own community and to have the audacity to arrive at the existential peripheries where God's presence needs to be felt. He abandons no-one, and always shows His tenderness and His boundless mercy, and therefore this is what we must bring to all people.
“A second point: the aim of all pastoral activity is always guided by the missionary impulse to reach everyone, without excluding anyone, and keeping in consideration the special circumstances of each person. This does not mean going forth like one who imposes a new obligation, who limits himself to reproaching or complaining about that which he considers imperfect or insufficient. The evangelical task requires a lot of patience … and involves presenting the Christian message in a serene and gradual manner, with the perfume of the Gospel, as the Lord did. It favours, first and foremost, the essential and most necessary fact of the beauty of God's love, which speaks to us through the dead and risen Christ.
“Third: it is the bishop who guides the pastoral care of the particular Church, and he does so like the shepherd who knows all his sheep by name … effectively demonstrating the maternity of the Church and the mercy of God. The attitude of the true shepherd is not that of a courtier or of a mere functionary, focusing principally on discipline, rules and organisational mechanisms. This always leads to a pastoral that is far removed from the people, incapable of favouring or achieving the encounter with Christ and the encounter with brothers. The people of God entrusted to him need their bishop to be watchful on His behalf, taking special care to keep them united and to promote hope in their hearts. They need a bishop who is able to discern, without stifling, the Holy Spirit that comes from where it wills, for the good of the Church and her mission in the world.
“Fourth: these attitudes proper to the bishop must also be shared deeply by other agents of pastoral care, especially priests. The temptation of clericalism, which does great damage to the Church in Latin America, is an obstacle to the development of Christian maturity and responsibility of a significant part of the laity. Clericalism implies a self-referential attitude, a group attitude, which impoverishes projection towards the encounter with the Lord, which makes disciples, and towards men who await proclamation. Therefore, I think it is important and urgent to form ministers capable of closeness, of encounter, who know how to inflame hearts, walk alongside the people, enter into dialogue with their hopes and fears. Bishops cannot delegate this work: they must take it on as something fundamental to the life of the Church, sparing no efforts, attention or support.
“I want to dedicate a few words to consecrated life. Consecrated life in the Church is … a leaven which enables the Church to grow towards the final manifestation of Jesus Christ. I ask consecrated persons to be faithful to the charism they have received, so that in their service to the hierarchical Holy Mother Church, they do not allow the grace given by the Holy Spirit to their founders to be dispelled, but instead transmit it fully.
“Dear brothers and sisters, many thanks for what you have done for this continental mission. Remember that you have received Baptism, which has transformed you into the Lord's disciples. But every disciple is, in turn, a missionary. Benedict XVI said that they are the two sides of the same coin. I ask you, as a father and brother in Jesus Christ, to take responsibility for the faith you have received in Baptism. And, like the mother and grandmother of Timothy, transmit faith to your children and grandchildren, and not only to them. The treasure of faith is not given solely for personal use. It is to be given and transmitted so that it may grow”.