Vatican City, 28 May 2015 (VIS) – Fraternity with nearby Haiti, attention to marriage and the family, the battle against drug trafficking and the exploitation of minors, the continuing formation of priests and the laity, and the defence of the environment are the central themes of the written discourse the Pope handed this morning to the bishops of the Conference of the Dominican Episcopate, where the evangelisation of the American continent began. “Today the Church, which continues her progress in these beloved lands with her children in search of a happy and prosperous future, encounters the great challenges of our time which affect social and ecclesial life, and families in particular”, writes the Pontiff. “Therefore, I would like to make an appeal to you to accompany the faithful, to reinforce the faith and identity of all members of the Church”.
Francis begins with marriage and the family, that is experiencing a “serious cultural crisis”. However, this does not mean it has lost its importance, but rather that the need for it is felt more than ever. He urged the prelates to pay special attention, in this upcoming Jubilee of Mercy, to matrimonial and family reconciliation, as keys to peaceful coexistence: “A broad-ranging catechetical effort regarding the Christian ideal of conjugal communion and family life, and the spirituality of fatherhood and motherhood, is necessary. Greater pastoral attention needs to be paid to the role of men as husbands and fathers, as well as the responsibility they share with their wives with respect to marriage, the family and the upbringing of children”.
The Pope goes on to invite the prelates to dedicate time to and to look after their priests, and remarks that the Dominican clergy is distinguished by its fidelity and coherence to Christian life. “May its commitment to the weakest and neediest help it to overcome the worldly tendency towards mediocrity”, he writes. “The seminaries must not neglect human, intellectual and spiritual formation, ensuring a true encounter with the Lord, while cultivating pastoral commitment and emotional maturity so as to prepare seminarians able to embrace priestly celibacy and to live and work in communion”.
“Pastoral and charitable attention to immigrants, especially those from neighbouring Haiti, who seek better conditions of life in the Dominican territory, cannot allow indifference on the part of pastors of the Church”, he underlines. “It is necessary to continue to collaborate with the civil authorities to find fraternal solutions to the problems of those who are without documents or deprived of their basic rights. It is inexcusable to fail to promote initiatives of fraternity and peace between the two nations that form this beautiful Caribbean island. It is important to know how to integrate immigrants into society and to welcome them into the ecclesial community. I thank those who are close to them and to all who suffer as a gesture of loving care towards the brother who feels alone and helpless, with whom Christ identified”.
The Pope assures the bishops that he is aware of their efforts and concerns in appropriately facing “the serious problems that affect our people, such as trafficking in drugs and persons, corruption, domestic violence, abuse and exploitation of minors and social insecurity. The intimate connection between evangelisation and human development means that every action of the Mother Church must be directed towards the care of the most disadvantaged. Everything that is achieved in this respect will increase the presence of the Kingdom of God that gave us Jesus Christ, while enhancing the credibility of the Church and the relevance of the voice of her pastors”.
With regard to the Dominican laity, which has an important presence in works of evangelisation, Francis emphasised the need for “constant support, so that it is able to bear witness to Christ, penetrating those environments that frequently the bishops, priests and religious cannot reach. … Those engaged in this service and this educational mission must not lack a vigilant and courageous attitude, so as to provide in schools an education that conforms to the moral and religious principals of families”.
The final part of the discourse is dedicated to the protection of the environment. The Pope, considering “the beauty and the colourful landscapes of the Dominican Republic” urged the prelates to “renew commitment to the conservation and care of the environment. Man's relationship with nature must not be governed by greed, manipulation or unfettered exploitation, but should instead conserve the divine harmony between creatures and creation to place it at the service of all, and of future generations”.