I am continuing to update the site and the whole mission itself in these days that I have in Boston. Hopefully by the end of August the site will be renewed and updated, that's my goal. In the meantime this summer, Pope Francis has had a lot of great things to share. Here are a bunch over the course of the last few months that have come along. I hope you can find an echo in the mission in Ecuador I'm sharing here with you!
(The source for all the quotes is ZENIT News Agency.)
However, [Pope Francis] warned, “be careful not to give in to the temptation to become a non-governmental organisation, an office for the distribution of ordinary and extraordinary aid. Money helps but can also become the ruin of the Mission. Functionalism, when it is placed in the centre or occupies a major space, as if it were the most important issue, will lead you to ruin, as the first way to die is to take the 'sources' for granted – that is, He Who inspires the Mission.
"Please, with all your plans and programmes, do not cut Jesus Christ out of missionary work, which is His work. A Church that is reduced to pursuing efficiency of the party apparatus at all costs is already dead, even though the structures and programmes in favour of the clergy and 'self-employed' laity could last for centuries."
"It is always worth remembering, however, that for dialogue to be authentic and effective, it presupposes a solid identity: without an established identity, dialogue is of no use or even harmful. I say this with the young in mind, but it applies to everyone."
Pope Francis has once again shown his care not only for the material, but also the spiritual well-being of those less fortunate.
Some 50 homeless persons, residents of a shelter run by the Roman parish of Saint Lucy, are having an all-expense paid trip to see the Holy Shroud in Turin.
"The trip was offered to our homeless brethren by Pope Francis who, upon hearing about the pilgrimage, through his almoner assigned to works of charity, wished to give a contribution to these people who live in precariousness with the conviction that, like the Shroud, they represent the suffering Face of the Lord Jesus," said Fr. Antonio Nicolai, pastor of St. Lucy's Parish.
"I recommend: capacity for dialogue! To build bridges, to build bridges in this society where there is the habit of building walls. You, please, build bridges! And build bridges with dialogue. However, this can happen only on one condition: that the individual groups not lose contact with the parish of the place where they have their headquarters, but which in many cases they do not frequent because, although they carry out their service there, they come from other areas. You are called to find the way to integrate yourselves in the pastoral work of the particular Church, establishing relations of esteem and collaboration at all levels, with your Bishops, with the parish priests and with other priests, with educators and members of the other ecclesial associations present in the parish and in the same territory, and do not be content with a “decorative” presence on Sunday or on important circumstances."
"Today, as then," Francis observed, poverty is "a word that always embarrasses."
"Many times," he said, "we hear: 'But this priest talks too much of poverty, this bishop speaks of poverty, this Christian, this nun talks about poverty ... But they're a bit 'communist,' right?" To this, Francis responded, "Poverty is at the very center of the Gospel. If we we remove poverty from the Gospel, you would not understand anything about the message of Jesus."
When St. Paul spoke to the Church of Corinth, the 78-year-old Pontiff said, the Apostle highlighted what was their real wealth.
Paul told them, "You are rich in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and love that we have taught you ... As you are rich, you are also great for this generous work" in "this collection."
"If you have much wealth in the heart, zeal, charity, the Word of God, the knowledge of God," the Pope noted, you need to give to the poor. "When faith does not come with pockets, [it is] not a genuine faith."
"There is this contrast between wealth and poverty," Francis said. "The Church of Jerusalem is poor, is in economic difficulty, but it is rich, because it has the treasure of the Gospel message. And this Church of Jerusalem, poor, has enriched the Church of Corinth with the Gospel message."
"From poverty comes wealth ," Francis added, saying, "It is a mutual exchange."
The foundation of the "theology of poverty," Francis stressed is this: "Jesus Christ was rich - from the wealth of God - and was made poor. He lessened himself for us."
The Argentine Pontiff also pointed out that from here, we have the meaning of the first Beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." That is, "being poor is letting oneself be enriched by the poverty of Christ and not wanting to be rich with other riches that are not those of Christ."
The Pope stressed that simply helping the poor with the excess that one has is not what St. Paul had in mind. Instead, the Pontiff stressed, Paul is wishing that people truly give of themselves.
When one gives up something, he noted, "but which is not only from abundance," to give to the poor, the Pope said, this "enriches me."
"Jesus is acting in me when I do this," Pope Francis said.
Quoting St. Jerome, Pope Francis is affirming that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. … "To be able to proclaim the word of truth, we ourselves must have had the experience of the Word: we must have listened, contemplated, almost touched it with our own hands”, writes the Holy Father in the discourse he handed to those present.
Christ’s charity, he continued, “is the sole force that renders her universal and credible for man and for the world: this is the heart of her truth, that does not erect walls of division and exclusion, but instead forms bridges to build up communion and to recall the unity of humanity.”
“The mission you will one day be called to carry out will take you all over the world. In Europe, which needs to be reawakened; in Africa, which thirsts for reconciliation; in Latin America, which hungers for nourishment and inwardness; in North America, intent on rediscovering the roots of an identity that does not define itself in terms of exclusion; in Asia and Oceania, challenged by the capacity for transformation in diaspora and by dialogue with the immensity of ancestral cultures.”
"This is the mystery of Jesus [who] takes upon himself our dirt, our impurities," Francis said, recalling how St. Paul described how Jesus emptied himself for us.
"Proximity," the Pope said, calls for an examination of conscience on behalf of "the Church, parishes, communities, consecrated persons, the bishops, priests, everyone."
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to ask themselves. "Do I have the spirit, the strength and the courage to touch the marginalized?"
"I have visited Ecuador on a number of occasions for pastoral reasons. Today too I have come as a witness of God’s mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ. For centuries that faith has shaped the identity of this people and borne much good fruit, including the outstanding figures of Saint Mariana de Jesus, Saint Miguel Febres, Saint Narcisa de Jesús and Blessed Mercedes de Jesús Molina, beatified in Guayaquil thirty years ago, during the visit of Pope Saint John Paul II. These, and others like them, lived their faith with intensity and enthusiasm, and by their works of mercy they contributed in a variety of ways to improving the Ecuadorian society of their day.
In our own time too, we can find in the Gospel a key to meeting contemporary challenges, respecting differences, fostering dialogue and full participation, so that the growth in progress and development already registered will ensure a better future for everyone, with particular concern for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. In these efforts, Mr President, you can always count on the commitment and cooperation of the Church."
"In Ecuador," he noted, "is the point closest to outer space: it is the peak of Chimborazo, which for that reason is called the place 'closest to the sun', the moon and the stars. We Christians identify Christ with the sun, and the moon with the Church."
Here, the Pope added to his prepared text, saying, "The moon does not have its own light, and if the moon is hidden from the sun, it becomes dark. The sun is Jesus Christ. And if the Church distances itself from Jesus Christ, it becomes dark and does not give testimony.
"May the coming days make all of us ever more clearly aware of how close is the sun which 'dawns upon us from on high.' May each of us be a true reflection of his light and his love."
The Church’s mission as sacrament of salvation also has to do with her identity as a pilgrim people called to embrace all the nations of the earth. The more intense the communion between us, the more effective our mission becomes (cf. John Paul II, Pastores Gregis, 22). Becoming a missionary Church requires constantly fostering communion, since mission does not have to do with outreach alone… We also need to be missionaries within the Church, showing that she is “a mother who reaches out, a welcoming home, a constant school of missionary communion” (Aparecida Document, 370).
Continuing his address, Pope Francis said that he asked that the spirit of the Good Shepherd would guide him during his recent visit to Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. He thanked the people, the governments, and the clergy for their welcome and participation during his visit.
"With these brothers and sisters, I praised the Lord for the wonders He has done in the People of God in that land, for their faith that has animated and encourages their lives and their culture," he said.
"The Latin American continent has great human and spiritual potential, they guard deeply rooted Christian values, but also live through grave social and economic problems."
The Argentinian Pontiff confirmed the Church's commitment in announcing the Gospel to those most in need of hope. He also recalled his invitation to the people of Latin America to draw from Christ the strength to spread the Word of God, "so that the strong religiosity of that people can always be a faithful witness of the Gospel."
Concluding his address, Pope Francis entrusted the fruits "of this unforgettable Apostolic Visit" to the patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
"Like Isaiah, we too are invited to not remain closed in on ourselves, protecting our faith in an underground bunker to which we flee in difficult moments." Rather, he continued, "we are called to share the joy of knowing we are chosen and saved by God’s mercy, the joy of being witnesses to the fact that faith gives new direction to our steps, that it makes us free and strong so as to be ready and able for mission."
"How beautiful it is," the Holy Father highlighted, "to realize that faith brings us out of ourselves, out of our isolation."
“The Church knows well that the situation of the divorced who have entered a second union contradicts the Christian sacrament of Marriage. However, her gaze always draws from a mother's heart, which, animated by the Holy Spirit, always looks for the good and the salvation of people.”
“As these situations especially affect children, we are aware of a greater urgency to foster a true welcome for these families in our communities," the Pope said, noting the great number of little ones who are affected by this reality.
“How can we encourage these parents to raise their children in the Christian life, to give them an example of Christian faith, if we keep them at arm’s length?" the Pope asked the faithful gathered. While saying there is no easy solution for these situations, he underscored that we can and must always encourage these families to participate in the Church’s life. Some suggestions he offered on how to do this included prayer, listening to God's Word, and Christian education of their children.
The biblical icon of the Good Shepherd presented in the Gospel of John, Francis said, sums up the mission that Jesus received from the Father to give his life for his sheep. “This attitude," Francis stressed, “is a model for the Church, which welcomes her children as a mother who gives her life for them.”
As the Good Shepherd gives his life, so the Church as a Mother gives her life for all her children, by being always the “house of the Father, with doors wide open.” "No doors closed," the Pope told those gathered, speaking off the cuff.
Reflecting on those with failed marriages, the Pope said, "In fact, these people are not at all excommunicated, and should never be treated as such: they are always part of the Church."