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Those who govern are called to humility and service, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Those who govern or are in positions of authority are called to be humble and serve the good of the people God entrusts to them rather than the interests of their party or themselves, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis gives the homily as he celebrates Mass Sept. 18 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Without prayer, a leader risks serving his own selfish desires or political party, closing himself or herself in a “circle from which there is no escape,” the pope said Sept. 18 during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

“Who has more power than a ruler? The people, who have given him the power, and God, from whom power comes through the people,” the pope said. “When he has this awareness of being subordinate, he prays.”

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy in which he asks that “supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority.”

The pope also spoke about the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, which recounted Jesus’ healing of a slave at the behest of his master, a Roman centurion.

“This man felt the need for prayer” not because it was a last resort but because he knew that “there was someone above him, there is another who is in charge,” the pope said.

Praying for politicians and those who lead, the pope continued, is important “because it is the prayer for the common good of the people who are entrusted to him.”

Leaders also must pray and ask the Lord for wisdom so that they find their true strength in God and in the people and not “in small groups or in myself,” he said.

And leaders who claim they cannot pray because they are agnostic or atheist, he said, at least must examine their consciences and seek counsel from those their people consider wise.

Christians “cannot leave rulers alone, we must accompany them with prayer,” the pope said. And when a leader does “awful things,” he added, they need even more prayers.

“Pray, do penance for those who govern,” the pope said. “The prayer of intercession, it is beautiful what Paul says, is for all leaders, for all those in power. Why? So ‘that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life.’ When a leader is free and can govern in peace, all people benefit from this.”

     

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Vatican Letter: Pope moves toward decentralization, local responsibility

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis talks about the need for a “healthy decentralization” in the Catholic Church, but how that should look and work has been a topic of debate since the Second Vatican Council.

The discussion often centers on how people describe the way the church experiences and ensures its unity around the globe: For example, by focusing on a strong, decision-making central authority, that helps unites the parts to the whole or by describing the church as a communion where unity is found in sharing, cooperative relationships among the diversity of local churches.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this 2015, file photo. The pope has spoke of a “healthy decentralization” in the Catholic Church and has made several decisions toward this goal. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“The key thing” in striving for a healthy balance and reform, one Vatican official said, is to avoid a business-management idea of decentralization and “embed theology back into the term.” In other words, it’s not about a cold transfer of power, but an emphasis on collegiality and collaboration.

Bishop Paul Tighe, adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told Catholic News Service, “the model is the hub,” with the pope and his assistants in the Curia at the center, always connected to the local churches, which are the first to encounter new situations and the first to respond.

“The Vatican is in contact with those different churches,” not as the problem-solver, but to “put them in contact with other churches” that have been dealing with the same or similar issues, so they can share ideas and best practices, and avoid reinventing the wheel, he said.

“Rome has that ability to have that overview” because it is “a point of contact. It’s not centralizing, but building a bond of communion” between churches and church leaders at local, regional and national levels, he said.

“What should be done locally, should be done locally,” Bishop Tighe said, but when some issues “transcend one locality,” that is, they end up being “universal questions that need a harmonious response,” then the help of a central authority is essential.

“People see the church as a hierarchical, monolithic structure. But it is much richer than that,” he said.

Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane told CNS that people are used to hearing “the claim that the unity of the church doesn’t mean uniformity, and much of what Pope Francis has done and is doing is simply moving beyond the rhetoric to give some reality to that claim,” for example, in his naming of new cardinals from very diverse parts of the world.

“There may be some danger of fragmentation in passing more authority to local churches and to bishops’ conferences, but the Holy See and especially the Petrine ministry is the guarantor that a healthy decentralization doesn’t become an unhealthy fragmentation,” he said in an email response to questions.

The archbishop, who chairs the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s commission for evangelization and was a member of the Synod of Bishops on the family in Rome in 2015, said healthy cooperation between the Holy See and bishops requires co-responsibility.

For example, Pope Francis’ new motu proprio, “Magnum Principium,” on guiding future liturgical translations “is an attempt by the pope to restore the balance between the bishops and the Holy See in line with the provisions of Vatican II and in the light of experience since the council. It’s a document driven not by ideology but by theology, and its intent is clearly pastoral.”

A “good liturgical translation” holds the balance between the doctrinal and pastoral, he said, and that requires responsible cooperation among bishops and between bishops’ conferences and the Holy See.

“It does mean that the bishops will have to work hard at shaping a new language, drawing on the work of experts, of course, but maintaining control of the process and working trustfully with the Holy See to ensure that the communion of the church and her fidelity to doctrine are not compromised,” he said. “This will produce variety, certainly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean disunity.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI said he, too, “always wished that the local churches be the most autonomous and lively possible, without needing assistance from Rome,” he said in the book-length interview, “Last Testament,” published in 2016.

During the Synod of Bishops on the role of the bishop in 2001, he endorsed greater responsibility for bishops as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council and spoke, to great applause, on the bishops’ duty to govern and to judge and correct doctrinal error in their own dioceses.

When that happens, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at that time head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the synod of bishops, “the so-desired decentralization happens automatically.”

At the end of that synod, he had stressed that unity was brought about by a harmonious unity of purpose, with a greater focus on Christ and the need to move “forward together to announce Christ to a world that needs a new proclamation of Christ and the Gospel.”

Neglecting those essential tasks because of too much attention to secondary things like internal church structures and organization has been “a way to strangle the life of the church,” he had said.

“The world’s first need is to know Christ. If it doesn’t, all the rest will not function,” he said.

     

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Vatican diplomat recalled from U.S. during child-porn investigation

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A member of the Vatican diplomatic corps serving in Washington has been recalled to the Vatican where he is involved in a criminal investigation involving child pornography, the Vatican said.

People are seen outside the Vatican Embassy, or apostolic nunciature, in Washington in 2014. A member of the Vatican diplomatic corps serving in Washington has been recalled to the Vatican where he is involved in a criminal investigation involving child pornography, the Vatican said. (CNS photo/Tyler Orburn)

The Vatican press office said Sept. 15 that it was notified Aug. 21 by the U.S. State Department “of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See accredited to Washington.”

“The Holy See, following the practice of sovereign states, recalled the priest in question, who is currently in Vatican City,” the press office said.

The Associated Press reported that the State Department confirmed it had asked the Vatican to lift the official’s diplomatic immunity. It said that request was denied.

The Vatican said the priest’s identity and other details are covered by “investigative confidentiality” during the preliminary investigation stage. The Vatican yearbook lists the nuncio, Archbishop Christoph Pierre, and three priests as making up the diplomatic staff at the Washington nunciature.

After receiving the notification from the State Department, the Vatican said, “the Secretariat of State transmitted this information to the promoter of justice of the Vatican tribunal.” The promoter of justice is the Vatican’s chief prosecutor.

“The promoter of justice opened an investigation and has already commenced international collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case,” the Vatican said.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said the investigation is concentrated on matters defined as “crimes against children” in the Vatican’s 2013 “Supplementary Norms on Criminal Law Matters.”

Specifically, he said, the investigation is referring to what the law defines as “child pornography,” which “means any representation, by whatever means, of a minor engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities as well as any representation of the sexual parts of a minor for primarily sexual purposes.”

Burke also referred reporters to section 10 of the supplementary norms, which discuss criminal penalties for a person found guilty of producing or selling and trading child pornography; in those cases Vatican law foresees a maximum of 12 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $299,000.

     

Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.

       

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Vatican reform process ‘nearly complete,’ C9 member says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals, the so-called C9, is nearly done with its work of advising the pope on a major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, the secretary of the council said.

Pope Francis leads the 18th meeting of his Council of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 13. Seated to the left of the pope are: Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, secretary of the council; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy. Seated at right are: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, secretary of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, told Vatican Radio Sept. 11 that “as far as the reform process of the Roman Curia is concerned, it is even more than three-quarters of the way there; it is almost complete.”

“It is nearly complete at the level of proposals made to the pope,” he said.

The Council of Cardinals was meeting at the Vatican Sept. 11-13. Pope Francis, who returned from his visit to Colombia Sept. 11, did not attend the first day’s meeting.

Bishop Semeraro told Vatican Radio of the council’s work in advising the pope on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and church governance, describing it as a three-step process of “listening” to the contributions from the bishops, the Roman Curia and “many people who have written,” reflecting on those proposals and checking them over.

“Listening, reflecting, checking and then making a proposal to the pope” because the Council of Cardinals does not issue a decree; “the Council of Cardinals proposes to the pope,” he said.

Throughout their meetings, he continued, Pope Francis takes part “primarily by listening” and “intervenes when he recounts his personal experiences when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, or of current situations in the life of the church.”

The work of the council is not only dedicated to reforming the Roman Curia but to informing, advising and collaborating with Pope Francis concerning various situations in the church, Bishop Semeraro said.

One example, he added, was to discuss “the very painful reality of the abuse of minors.”

“This, in itself, is not part of the reform of the Roman Curia. Yet, the pope has decided to listen to the council, too, about these steps. And, when it comes to clarifying or intervening, the pope intervenes but with great discretion. He mostly listens,” Bishops Semeraro said.

Regarding the time frame of the reform, the Italian prelate said the final proposals dealing with all the dicasteries “will be more or less complete in a few months” and that it will be up to the pope “to decide how and when to implement them.”

“Right now the pope has preferred a gradual implementation, as well as a sort of breaking-in period. In some cases, the pope has already intervened to make corrections because in passing from theory to practice, needs for correction have emerged,” Bishop Semeraro said.

     

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Pope Francis hopes Trump reconsiders DACA decision

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM COLOMBIA — Politicians who call themselves pro-life must be pro-family and not enact policies that divide families and rob young people of a future, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Cartagena, Colombia, to Rome Sept. 10. Earlier, the pope cut and bruised his face on the popemobile window when he was greeting people. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Flying from Colombia back to Rome late Sept. 10, Pope Francis was asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed some 800,000 young people brought to the United States illegally as children to stay in the country, working or going to school.

Trump announced Sept. 5 that he was phasing out the program; his decision was strongly criticized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope Francis said he had heard of Trump’s decision, but had not had time to study the details of the issue. However, he said, “uprooting young people from their families is not something that will bear fruit.”

“This law, which I think comes not from the legislature, but from the executive (branch), if that’s right, I’m not sure, I hope he rethinks it a bit,” the pope said, “because I’ve heard the president of the United States speak; he presents himself as a man who is pro-life, a good pro-lifer.

“If he is a good pro-lifer, he understands that the family is the cradle of life and its unity must be defended,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said people must be very careful not to dash the hopes and dreams of young people or make them feel “a bit exploited,” because the results can be disastrous, leading some to turn to drugs or even suicide.

Pope Francis spent only about 35 minutes answering journalists’ questions and commenting on his five-day trip to Colombia. After he had answered eight questions, Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, told the pope it was time to sit down because the plane was approaching an area of turbulence.

The pope went to the journalists’ section of the plane still wearing a small bandage on his left eyebrow and sporting a large bump, which had turned black and blue, on his cheek. Rather than joking with reporters, he told them that he had been reaching out of the popemobile to greet people and turned. “I didn’t see the glass.”

While his trip back to Rome did not have to change flight plans like the flight to Colombia Sept. 6 did because of Hurricane Irma, Pope Francis was asked about the apparently increasing intensity of hurricanes and other storms and what he thinks of political leaders who doubt climate change is real.

“Anyone who denies this must go to the scientists and ask,” he said. “They speak very clearly. Scientists are precise.”

Pope Francis said he read a report citing a university study that asserted humanity has only three years to reduce the pace of climate change before it’s too late. “I don’t know if three years is right or not, but if we don’t turn back, we’ll go down, that’s true.”

“Climate change, you can see the effects,
Pope Francis said. “And the scientists have told us clearly what the paths to follow are.”

Everyone has a moral responsibility to act, he said. “And we must take it seriously.”

“It’s not something to play with,” the pope said. “It’s very serious.”

Politicians who doubt climate change is real or that human activity contributes to it should speak to the scientists and “then decide. And history will judge their decisions.”

Asked why he thinks governments have been so slow to act, Pope Francis said he thinks it’s partly because, as the Old Testament says, “”Man is stupid, a stubborn one who does not see.”

But the other reason, he said, is almost always money.

Talking about his five-day stay in Colombia, Pope Francis said he was “really moved by the joy, the tenderness” and the expressiveness of the people. In the end, they are the ones who will determine Pwhether Colombia truly has peace after 52 years of civil war.

Politicians and diplomats can do all the right things to negotiate peace deals, he said, but if the nation’s people aren’t on board, peace will not be lasting. In Colombia, he said, the people have a clear desire to live in peace.

“What struck me most about the Colombian people,” he said, was watching hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fathers and mothers along the roads he traveled, and they would lift their children high so the pope would see and bless them.

What they were doing, he said, was saying, “This is my treasure. This is my hope. This is my future. I believe in this.”

The parents’ behavior with their little ones, he said, “is a symbol of hope, of a future.”

     

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Being vulnerable is being human, pope tells young people

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Catholic News Service

BOGOTA, Colombia — Proudly showing off their costumes for television cameras before Pope Francis arrived, dozens of young people with Down syndrome and other developmental challenges were obviously proud and pleased.

Pope Francis, smiling broadly, was obviously delighted by the precision of the traditional Colombian songs and dances they performed for him Sept. 7 outside the Vatican nunciature, where he was staying.

Young people with Down syndrome and other developmental challenges show off their costumes for Pope Francis and television cameras outside the Vatican nunciature in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 7. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

But the atmosphere changed when one of the young women spoke.

Just to make sure everyone heard her, the pope asked the “beautiful Maria” to repeat what she had said.

“We want a world in which vulnerability is recognized as essential to the human person,” Maria repeated. Vulnerability, “far from weakening, strengthens and dignifies us” and is “a common meeting place that humanizes us.”

Pope Francis seconded what Maria said, insisting vulnerability is part of “the essence of being human.”

“We are all vulnerable, everyone,” he said. Some people are particularly vulnerable in their feelings and reactions to other people, so no one sees that vulnerability. Other people have vulnerabilities that are obvious.

Either way, the pope said, that vulnerability must be “respected, caressed, cared for as much as possible.”

Pope Francis ended the brief meeting by leading the young people in reciting a Hail Mary. And, to his usual “please, do not forget to pray for me,” he added, “because I am very vulnerable.”

     

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Forgive your aggressors, pope tells victims of Colombia’s civil war

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Catholic News Service

VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia — If just one victim of Colombia’s civil war forgives his or her aggressor, it can set off a chain reaction of hope for reconciliation and peace, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating Mass Sept. 8 in Villavicencio, a city filled with those who fled their homes during the war and with former fighters trying to start over, Pope Francis pleaded for honesty and courage.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Catama field in Villavicencio, Colombia, Sept. 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At the beginning of the Mass, he held up two heroic examples of those who gave their lives to “rise up out of the swamp of violence and bitterness”: Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca, who was murdered by Colombian Marxist guerrillas in 1989, and Father Pedro Maria Ramirez, who was killed at the start of the Colombian civil war in 1948.

Pope Francis beatified the two at the Mass, which was celebrated in the middle of a broad field, typical of the area’s cattle ranching terrain.

In his homily, the pope acknowledged that, during 52 years of war, many at the Mass suffered horrors.

“How many of you can tell of exiles and grief,” he said.

The Christian call to reconciliation is not something abstract, the pope said. “If it were, then it would only bring sterility and greater distance.” It requires acknowledging the truth and letting victims speak.

And “when victims overcome the understandable temptation to vengeance, they become the most credible protagonists for the process of building peace,” he said. “What is needed is for some to courageously take the first step in that direction, without waiting for others to do so. We need only one good person to have hope. And each of us can be that person.

“This does not mean ignoring or hiding differences and conflicts. This is not to legitimize personal and structural injustices,” Pope Francis insisted. Reconciliation must be accompanied by a firm commitment to change the inequalities and behaviors that fueled the war for decades.

Celebrating Mass in an area known as the gateway to the Amazon, the pope said he could not ignore the need for reconciliation with the natural environment.

“It is not by chance that even on nature we have unleashed our desire to possess and subjugate,” he said. To the delight of many in the crowd, he quoted the famous Colombian singer and peace activist, Juanes: “The trees are weeping, they are witnesses to so many years of violence. The sea is brown, a mixture of blood and earth.”

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Defend life, equality, unity, pope tells Colombians at Mass in Bogota

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Catholic News Service

BOGOTA, Colombia — Consolidating peace in Colombia will mean overcoming “the darkness” of inequality and a lack of respect for human life, Pope Francis said.

“Here, as in other places, there is a thick darkness which threatens and destroys life,” the pope said in his homily at a late-afternoon Mass Sept. 7 in Bogota’s Simon Bolivar Park.

Pope Francis passes Colombia’s flag with a rosary on it as he greets the crowd before celebrating Mass at Simon Bolivar Park in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Colombian authorities said more than 1.1 million people gathered in the park for the Mass. Many of them were soaked in a rainstorm before the pope arrived, but as Mass began, bits of blue sky began to appear.

Still, preaching about the Gospel story of Jesus’ first encountering Simon Peter after the fishermen had fished all night without luck, Pope Francis spoke about the “turmoil and darkness” of the sea as a symbol for “everything that threatens human existence and that has the power to destroy it.”

For Colombia, just starting to recover from more than 50 years of civil war, and for many other nations as well, the pope said, the threats come from “the darkness of injustice and social inequality; (and) the corrupting darkness of personal and group interests that consume in a selfish and uncontrolled way what is destined for the good of all.”

The threats include “the darkness of disrespect for human life which daily destroys the life of many innocents, whose blood cries out to heaven; the darkness of thirst for vengeance and the hatred which stains the hands of those who would right wrongs on their own authority; the darkness of those who become numb to the pain of so many victims,” he said. But “Jesus scatters and destroys all this darkness.”

In society, in politics and in the church, Pope Francis said, people can get “tangled up in endless discussions” about what went wrong and whose fault it is. But the only way forward is to follow Jesus, obeying his command to cast out the nets, which means taking responsibility for personal conversion and changing the world.

“Jesus invites us to put out into the deep, he prompts us to take shared risks, to leave behind our selfishness and to follow him,” Pope Francis told the crowd, which included Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and his wife.

Jesus wants people to leave behind their fears, “which paralyze us and prevent us (from) becoming artisans of peace, promoters of life.”

The people of Colombia, he said, are called to continue their conversion to peace and respect for all the nation’s people. That can happen only by promoting unity, “working for the defense and care of human life, especially when it is most fragile and vulnerable: in a mother’s womb, in infancy, in old age, in conditions of incapacity and in situations of social marginalization.”

Jesus calls people “out of darkness and bring us to light and to life,” the pope said. “He calls everyone, so that no one is left to the mercy of the storms,” asking the strong “to carry the most fragile and promote their rights.”

After the Mass, Pope Francis was scheduled to greet bishops from neighboring countries, including from Venezuela, which is in the midst of a social, political and economic crisis.

Venezuelan Cardinals Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas and Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Merida told reporters Pope Francis also invited them to discuss the crisis with him.

“We have the highest inflation in the world, an inflation of 700,000-800,000 percent,” Cardinal Urosa said. It is “a truly desperate situation. There are people who eat the garbage; yes, there are people who eat garbage, and there are people who die because there is no medicine.”

He said the bishops also wanted to tell the pope more about “the serious political situation, because the government is doing everything possible to establish a state system, totalitarian and Marxist.”

Cardinal Porras added, “I think that this meeting is a real gift that the pope is giving to all of the Venezuelan people through the bishops who are here.”

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Pope tells bishops in Colombia to work for peace as pastors, not politicians

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Catholic News Service

Quoting celebrated Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pope Francis told the country’s bishops he knows “it is easier to begin a war than to end one” and that, to succeed, Colombia needs bishops who are pastors, not politicians.

“All of us know that peace calls for a distinct kind of moral courage,” the pope told the bishops Sept. 7. “War follows the basest instincts of our heart, whereas peace forces us to rise above ourselves.”

Pope Francis greets Colombian bishops at Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez’s residence in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Welcoming Pope Francis to the meeting, Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota told the pope, “Our homeland is struggling to put behind it a history of violence that has plunged it into death for decades,” but the process of building peace “has become a source of political polarization that every day sows division, confrontation and disorientation. We are a country marked by deep inequalities and inequities that demand radical changes in all fields of social life. But it does not seem we are willing to pay the price required.”

One temptation, the pope said, is for the bishops and priests to get involved in the country’s heated partisan political debate.

Resist, the pope told them. The country needs pastors. It needs ministers who know firsthand “how marred is the face of this country,” how deep are the wounds and how intensely it needs to experience healing and forgiveness.

“Colombia has need of you so that it can show its true face, filled with hope despite its imperfections,” he said. It needs the church’s help “so that it can engage in mutual forgiveness despite wounds not yet completely healed, so that it can believe that another path can be taken, even when force of habit causes the same mistakes to be constantly repeated.”

Finding a magic formula to fix problems is a temptation, Pope Francis said. But the church’s ministers “are not mechanics or politicians, but pastors.”

The church does not need special favors from politicians, he said. It only needs the freedom to speak and to minister.

But it also needs internal unity, the pope told the bishops. “So continue to seek communion among yourselves. Never tire of building it through frank and fraternal dialogue, avoiding hidden agendas like the plague.”

Although he said he had “no recipes” and would not “leave you a list of things to do,” Pope Francis made two specific requests of the bishops: Pay more attention to “the Afro-Colombian roots of your people,” and show more concern for the church, the people and the environment in southern Colombia’s Amazon region.

The region holds “an essential part of the remarkable biodiversity of this country,” and protecting it is “a decisive test of whether our society, all too often prey to materialism and pragmatism, is capable of preserving what it freely received, not to exploit it but to make it bear fruit.”

In a speech that included several references to the duty to defend human life, Pope Francis said he wondered if society could learn from the indigenous people of the Amazon “the sacredness of life, respect for nature and the recognition that technology alone is insufficient to bring fulfillment to our lives and to respond to our most troubling questions.”

“I am told that in some native Amazon languages the idea of ‘friend’ is translated by the words, ‘my other arm.’ May you be the other arm of the Amazon,” he said. “Colombia cannot amputate that arm without disfiguring its face and its soul.”

A few hours later, Pope Francis met with members of the executive committee of the Latin American bishops’ council, known as CELAM, and focused on the ongoing efforts to evangelize the continent by means of “closeness and encounter.”

To be evangelizing disciples, the pope said, Christians must be willing to journey like Jesus did. “When he meets people, he draws near to them. When he draws near to them, he talks to them. When he talks to them, he touches them with his power. When he touches them, he brings them healing and salvation. His aim in constantly setting out is to lead the people he meets to the Father.”

The church and its members must be concrete and unafraid of listening to and accompanying real people with real challenges.

Unlike the colonizers of old or exploiters of today, he said, “the church is not present in Latin America with her suitcases in hand, ready, like so many others over time, to abandon it after having plundered it.”

The colonizers looked with “superiority and scorn” on the “mestizo face” of the continent’s Catholics, the pope said, while Catholics themselves are called to celebrate that diversity of races and cultures the same way they honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Aparecida, both of which have mixed-race features.

Insisting the bishops do more to support, educate and appreciate lay Catholics, Pope Francis spoke particularly of the contribution of women.

“Please, do not let them be reduced to servants of our ingrained clericalism,” he said.

     

Contributing to this story was David Agren.

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Colombia youths must teach elders to forgive, to move on, pope says

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Catholic News Service

BOGOTA, Colombia — As Colombia strives to build a lasting peace, the country’s elders need the encouragement and insistence of young people, who believe with all their hearts that forgiveness is possible and grudges don’t have to last for decades, Pope Francis said. Read more »

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