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(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass on Sunday near the Study Centre of Ecatepec, in the suburbs of Mexico City.
In his homily for the Mass, the Holy Father spoke about three temptations of Christ, which are also temptations for Christians: the temptation to wealth, to vanity, and to pride. The penitential season of Lent, he said, is an invitation to conversion, to turn ourselves to Christ, who is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down.
Below, please find the official translation of the prepared text of Pope Francis’ homily for Mass for the First Sunday of Lent:
Homily of Pope Francis
Holy Mass at the Ecatepec Study Centre
Sunday 14 February 2016
Last Wednesday we began the liturgical season of Lent, during which the Church invites us to prepare ourselves to celebrate the great feast of Easter. This is a special time for recalling the gift of our baptism, when we became children of God. The Church invites us to renew the gift she has given us, to not let this gift lie dormant as if it were something from the past or locked away in some “memory chest”. Lent is a good time to recover the joy and hope that make us feel beloved sons and daughters of the Father. The Father who waits for us in order to cast off our garments of exhaustion, of apathy, of mistrust, and so clothe us with the dignity which only a true father or mother knows how to give their children, with the garments born of tenderness and love.
Our Father, he is the Father of a great family; he is our Father. He knows that he has a unique love, but he does not know how to bear or raise an “only child”. He is the God of the home, of brotherhood, of bread broken and shared. He is the God who is “Our Father”, not “my father” or “your stepfather”.
God’s dream makes its home and lives in each one of us so that at every Easter, in every Eucharist we celebrate, we may be the children of God. It is a dream which so many of our brothers and sisters have had through history. A dream witnessed to by the blood of so many martyrs, both from long ago and from now.
Lent is a time of conversion, of daily experiencing in our lives of how this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies, by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and fractious society. A society of the few, and for the few. How often we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbours, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognized. How many times have we had to cry and regret on realizing that we have not acknowledged this dignity in others. How often – and it pains me to say it – have we been blind and impervious in failing to recognize our own and others’ dignity.
Lent is a time for reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. It is a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image which God wanted to form in us:
There are three temptations of Christ… three temptations for the Christian, which seek to destroy what we have been called to be; three temptations which try to corrode us and tear us down.
Wealth: seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for “my own people”. That is, taking the “bread” based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. This is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children.
Vanity: the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who “are not like me”. The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the “reputation” of others. “Making firewood from a felled tree” gives way to the third temptation:
Pride: or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not share the life of “mere mortals”, and yet being one who prays every day: “I thank you Lord that you have not made me like those others…”.
Three temptations of Christ… Three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily. Three temptations which seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel. Three temptations which lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin.
And so it is worth asking ourselves:
To what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?
How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth?
To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope?
We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one; we want to follow in his footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy. We know what it means to be seduced by money, fame and power. For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: he is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down. He is the God who has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power and in his name we say once more with the Psalm: “You are my God and in you I trust”. Let us repeat these words together: “You are my God and in you I trust”.
In this Eucharist, may the Holy Spirit renew in us the certainty that his name is Mercy, and may he let us experience each day that “the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus...”, knowing that “with Christ and in Christ joy is constantly born anew” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 1).
(Vatican Radio) For the second time in two nights, Pope Francis greeted crowds outside the Apostolic Nunciature in Mexico City on Saturday.
After returning to the residence after his busy Saturday, the Holy Father heard the crowds and came back outside.
He asked if they people were tired, and they shouted "No!"
"We could go until 4 a.m? But that could be a little long," Pope Francis said.
The Holy Father said he thought someone had a problem of the heart, and asked the crowd to pray to the Virgin Mary.
"The Virgin is a mother, and is good...a few might say she is not like a mother-in-law," he joked.
Pope Francis then led crowd in a Hail Mary, and encouraged them to take their problems to God through Our Lady, before returning to the residence for the night.(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) One highlight of Pope Francis’ first full day in Mexico on Saturday was Holy Mass at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe which is home to the Basilica is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world.
It is particularly important to the first Latin American Pope who had asked to pray in private before the image of “Our Lady of Guadalupe” in the “camarin”, a sort of a secret room right behind the altar of the Basilica.
Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick had a word with Fr Federico Lombardi, Director of the Vatican Press Office, at the end of an eventful day.
Fr Lombardi agrees that the visit to the Shrine bore special significance for Pope Francis…
Listen to the report:
Fr Lombardi says that being at the Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe represented the most intense spiritual moment of Pope Francis’ first full day in Mexico.
“It was long-awaited because the Pope had said he was coming as a pilgrim to this Shrine to see and to be seen by the Virgin of Guadalupe” he says.
He explains that when we contemplate this image we receive from her a profound spiritual message of proximity, of encouragement “like – he says – that experienced by St. Juan Diego”. Fr Lombardi points out that we too have the hope that the Virgin is looking to us and gives the profound sense of her love and proximity, of God’s love and of the coming of Jesus.
“In this sense there is a dialogue and during those 20 minutes in the Basilica we were able to participate with profound emotion in this dialogue between the Pope and the Virgin” he says.
The Pope, Fr Lombardi concludes, was praying not only for himself but in particular for the people of Mexico and for the entire humankind.(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis heads to the rough, crime-ridden neighborhood of Ecatepec - part of Mexico City’s suburbs - to celebrate Mass with people “on the periphery” on Sunday. The day will be in stark contrast to Saturday, when the Pope met Mexican government and civic authorities at the National Palace and later, bishops, at the grandiose Cathedral of the Assumption, and celebrated Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Our correspondent Veronica Scarisbrick, is in Mexico with the Pope. She takes a look at Ecatepec, where Pope Francis celebrates an outdoor Mass Sunday:
Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick’s report, "Where people fear to tread" :
At the time of the Aztec Empire, ‘Ecatepec de Morelos’ was an alternative name to ‘Quetzalcoatl’ or the God of the moon. It comes from the Nahunta language and means "windy hill".
Situated northeast of Mexico City, it’s still on a windy hill but it no longer bears the majesty it held at the time of the Aztecs.
It’s now an ugly sprawl of a shanty town littered with rubbish in one of Mexico’s ‘barrio bravo’. An expression meaning a lawless neighbourhood where organized crime, pollution and poverty reign and where most people fear to tread.
But not Pope Francis. This is exactly the kind of place he loves to visit, in a special way during this Year of Mercy. Part of the ‘centuriòn de la pobreza’, a poverty belt surrounding Mexico City,the neighborhood lies in stark contrast to the glamour of downtown Mexico City where those ‘Ecapatans’ who have a job commute to.
Pope Francis has done his homework; he has priests on the ground and knows what goes on here. He knows how the once clear canal that flows through the area, the ‘Rio de los Remedios’ has a fetid aura and has become a dumping place for corpses. In 2014 alone drainage work uncovered hundreds of human bones and the remains of five men and sixteen young women. For women are targeted in a special way, raped or forced into prostitution. And when they don’t consent, they’re disfigured with acid or become part of the army of ‘desaparecidas’ amid the indifference of the police.
But it has to be said: with the support of their mothers who make it their mission in life to find out the truth about their daughters. The only institution people can rely on here is the family .
As for the boys, they’re recruited by the drug lords at a young age and by the time they turn eighteen become ‘pozoleros:’ those who hide away the corpses, or ‘ sicarios:’ assassins.
Ecatapec is not a place for the soft-hearted but it’s the site Pope Francis has chosen to celebrate Holy Mass on the second day of his apostolic journey to Mexico.(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of Holy Mass Saturday at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Pope Francis led the faithful in the Rite of Coronation of the image of the Most Holy Virgin of Guadalupe. Veronica Scarisbrick is our correspondent traveling with Pope Francis in Mexico. She takes a look at the importance of this Marian image and the history behind it:
Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick's report, "The Crowning of the Morenita":
“You are not an orphaned people, as you are proud to have a ‘Mother” Pope Francis once said speaking to Mexicans about Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I asked a number of people here Mexico City what the 'Morenita' meant to them and they all replied: 'She is our ‘Mother’. Except for one person, a security guard who replied: 'She is our 'jefa', our boss.
I don’t know what Pope Francis would have said to that but what’s certain is that his devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe runs deep.
Earlier in the day in his address to the Mexican bishops, he had said: “Could the Successor of Peter, called from the far south of Latin America, deprive himself of seeing la Virgen Morenita”
No surprise then that on the first full day of his visit he celebrated Holy Mass with the 'Guadalupe' faithful at the Shrine on the ‘Tepeyac’ hill above Mexico City where Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego all those centuries ago.
With a stretch of imagination the story began in 1519. It was Good Friday and Spaniard Hernan Cortés disembarked on the shores of the American continent to the dismay of the native Indians.Two days later the Franciscans who had sailed with him planted a wooden cross in the sand.Soon Cortés and his army had subjugated the mighty Aztec empire with its terrifying sacrificial practices.
But despite this military success the Franciscans had a hard time converting this people. They tried hard enough. They even learnt the Aztec languages going so far as to file down their incisors so as to better pronounce the unfamiliar sibilants.
But to no avail, few Aztecs converted.Then in 1531 something extraordinary happened to one of the few they had baptized. His name was Juan Diego, the place the Tepeyac hill by the azure lake that surrounded the city of Tenochtitlàn, now Mexico City.
Something the Aztec people who believed in signs from the skies understood: an ‘Apparition’. That of Our Lady, soon to be named by the Spaniards of 'Guadalupe'.
It was to be a Marian apparition which brought together the culture of the Spaniards and the Aztecs. Perhaps too because 'Our Lady' appeared as a 'mestizo', of mixed race. As we can see in the image that she left during her fourth apparition to Juan Diego on his simple sack-cloth garment tied at the shoulder, known as 'tilma'.
This artefact together with a text dating back to the 16th century are all that tangibly remains to explain this apparition after which eight million Amerindians converted to the Catholic faith.
In the twentieth century Pope Pius XI declared our Lady of Guadalupe Queen of Mexico and Patroness and Protectress of Latin America and the Philippines. His successor to the See of Peter Pius XII stepped this up to both Americas.
And now in the 21st century the first Latin America Pope has celebrated Holy Mass with the Guadalupe faithful. Adding his very own touch to the devotion by crowning her with a gold and silver tiara.
Veronica Scarisbrick, Mexico City
More about Our Lady of Guadalupe:
The miraculous image dates back to 1531, when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. Since that time, the Virgin, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, has been proclaimed Patroness of Mexico, Patroness and Empress of the Americas, and Heavenly Patroness of the Philippines. She is also known as the Protectress of Unborn Children.The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most visited pilgrimmage places in the world, with millions of pilgrims coming each year to venerate the sacred image.
Below, please find the prayer for the Coronation of the Image of the Most Holy Virgin of Guadalupe:
Blessed are you, O Lord, God of heaven and earth, who, in your mercy and justice, cast down the proud, and exalt the humble.
In the wondrous designs of your providence, you have offered a perfect model in the Incarnate Word and in the Virgin Mother: Your Son, who voluntarily humbled Himself, even to death on the Cross, shines in eternal glory and sits at your right hand as King of kings and Lord of lords.
And the Virgin, who desired to call herself your handmaid, who was chosen as Mother of the Redeemer and true Mother of the living, and now, lifted up above the choirs of angels, gloriously reigns beside her Son, interceding for all men, the advocate of grace and queen of mercy.
Look with kindness, O Lord, on these your servants who, in placing a royal diadem upon the image of the Mother of your Son, recognize in your Son the King of the universe, and invoke, as Queen, the Virgin.
Grant that, in following their example, we too might consecrate ourselves to your service, and make ourselves available to others, fulfilling the law of charity, thus triumphing over selfishness, and in generously giving we might lead our brothers and sisters to you.
Grant that, seeking humility on earth, we might one day be lifted to the heights of heaven, where you yourself will place on the heads of your faithful the crown of life.
Through Christ our Lord.(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) On the first full day of his visit to Mexico, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world and one that is particularly important to the first Latin American pope.
During his homily, drawing inspiration from the episode of the visitation of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, the Holy Father stressed on the “yes” of Mary’s surrender to God which prompted her to give the best of herself, going forth to meet the others.
He said the Madonna of Guadalupe “wished to come to the inhabitants of these American lands in the person of the Indian Saint Juan Diego”, and that “she has and continues to accompany the development of this blessed Mexican land.”
With reference to the first Miracle in 1531, the Pope said that “God roused the hope of the little ones, of the suffering, of those displaced or rejected, of all who feel they have no worthy place in these lands.”
Juan who considered himself lowly and unworthy, experienced in his own life what hope is, what the mercy of God is. He was called to build a shrine and the Pope emphasized that the shrines that they were called to build are for the poor and the oppressed.
“God’s Shrine”, he said “is the life of his children, of everyone in whatever condition, especially of young people without a future who are exposed to endless painful and risky situations, and the elderly who are unacknowledged, forgotten and out of sight. The Shrine of God is our families in need only of the essentials to develop and progress. The Shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day…”
Assuring solace of the presence of Our Lady in the lives of the Poor and suffering, the Pope said “Mary tells us that she has ‘the honour’ of being our mother, assuring us that those who suffer do not weep in vain.
Reiterating the call of Mary to be her ambassadors, the Pope said, “we can build shrines by sharing the joy of knowing that we are not alone, that Mary accompanies us.”
Below please find the full text of the official English translation of the Holy Father's Homily.
APOSTOLIC VISIT OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Homily of Pope Francis
Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Saturday 13 February 2016
We have just heard how Mary went to meet her cousin Elizabeth. She sets out without delay, without doubts, without lessening her pace, to be with her relative who was in the last months of her pregnancy.
Mary’s encounter with the angel did not hold her back since she did not consider herself privileged, or make her hesitate in leaving those around her. On the contrary, it renewed and inspired an attitude for which Mary is, and always, will be known: she is the woman who says “yes”, a “yes” of surrender to God and, at the same time, a “yes” of surrender to her brothers and sisters. This is the “yes” which prompted her to give the best of herself, going forth to meet the others.
Listening to this Gospel passage in this place has a special significance. Mary, the woman who gave her “yes”, wished also to come to the inhabitants of these American lands in the person of the Indian Saint Juan Diego. Just as she went along the paths of Judea and Galilee, in the same way she walked through Tepeyac, wearing the indigenous garb and using their language so as to serve this great nation. Just as she accompanied Elizabeth in her pregnancy, so too she has and continues to accompany the development of this blessed Mexican land. Just as she made herself present to little Juan, so too she continues to reveal herself to all of us, especially to those who feel, like him, “worthless” (cf. Nican Mopohua, 55). This specific choice, we might call it preferential, was not against anyone but rather in favour of everyone. The little Indian Juan who called himself a “leather strap, a back frame, a tail, a wing, oppressed by another’s burden” (Ibid.), became “the ambassador, most worthy of trust”.
On that morning in December 1531, the first miracle occurred which would then be the living memory of all this Shrine protects. On that morning, at that meeting, God awakened the hope of his son Juan, and the hope of his People. On that morning, God roused the hope of the little ones, of the suffering, of those displaced or rejected, of all who feel they have no worthy place in these lands. On that morning, God came close and still comes close to the suffering but resilient hearts of so many mothers, fathers, grandparents who have seen their children leaving, becoming lost or even being taken by criminals.
On that morning, Juan experienced in his own life what hope is, what the mercy of God is. He was chosen to oversee, care for, protect and promote the building of this Shrine. On many occasions he said to Our Lady that he was not the right person; on the contrary, if she wished the work to progress, she should choose others, since he was not learned or literate and did not belong to the group who could make it a reality. Mary, who was persistent – with that persistence born from the Father’s merciful heart – said to him: he would be her ambassador.
In this way, she managed to awaken something he did not know how to express, a veritable banner of love and justice: no one could be left out in the building of that other shrine, the shrine of life, the shrine of our communities, our societies and our cultures. We are all necessary, especially those who normally do not count because they are not “up to the task” or “they do not have the necessary funds” to build all these things. God’s Shrine is the life of his children, of everyone in whatever condition, especially of young people without a future who are exposed to endless painful and risky situations, and the elderly who are unacknowledged, forgotten and out of sight. The Shrine of God is our families in need only of the essentials to develop and progress. The Shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day…
Visiting this Shrine, the same things that happened to Juan Diego can also happen to us. Look at the Blessed Mother from within our own sufferings, our own fear, hopelessness, sadness, and say to her, “What can I offer since I am not learned?”. We look to our Mother with eyes that express out thoughts: there are so many situations which leave us powerless, which make us feel that there is no room for hope, for change, for transformation.
And so, some silence does us good as we pause to look upon her and repeat to her the words of that other loving son:
Simply looking at you, O Mother,
to have eyes only for you,
looking upon you without saying anything,
telling you everything, wordlessly and reverently.
Do not perturb the air before you;
only cradle my stolen solitude
with your loving Motherly eyes,
in the nest of your pure ground.
Hours tumble by, and with much commotion,
the wastage of life and death sinks its teeth into foolish men.
Having eyes for you, O Mother, simply contemplating you
with a heart quietened by your tenderness
that silence of yours, chaste as the lilies.
And in looking at her, we will hear anew what she says to us once more, “What, my most precious little one, saddens your heart?” (Nican Mopohua, 107). “Yet am I not here with you, who have the honour of being your mother?” (Ibid., 119).
Mary tells us that she has “the honour” of being our mother, assuring us that those who suffer do not weep in vain. These ones are a silent prayer rising to heaven, always finding a place in Mary’s mantle. In her and with her, God has made himself our brother and companion along the journey; he carries our crosses with us so as not to leave us overwhelmed by our sufferings.
Am I not your mother? Am I not here? Do not let trials and pains overwhelm you, she tells us. Today, she sends us out anew; today, she comes to tell us again: be my ambassador, the one I send to build many new shrines, accompany many lives, wipe away many tears. Simply be my ambassador by walking along the paths of your neighbourhood, of your community, of your parish; we can build shrines by sharing the joy of knowing that we are not alone, that Mary accompanies us. Be my ambassador, she says to us, giving food to the hungry, drink to those who thirst, a refuge to those in need, clothe the naked and visit the sick. Come to the aid of your neighbour, forgive whoever has offended you, console the grieving, be patient with others, and above all beseech and pray to God.
Am I not your mother? Am I not here with you? Mary says this to us again. Go and build my shrine, help me to lift up the lives of my sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters.(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ first full day in Mexico began on Saturday morning when he went to Mexico City’s National Palace for a formal welcome ceremony and to pay a courtesy visit to the President of the Republic.
During his private encounter with President Enrique Pena Nieto gifts were exchanged, the two men conversed and the Pope was introduced to top representatives of the Mexican Government.
Pope Francis then went on to meet with members of the diplomatic corps and of civil society before travelling to the Cathedral of the Assumption where he met with bishops.
Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick reporting live from Mexico City speaks about the highlights of the day and sheds extra light on events, people and places…(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed the Catholic Bishops of Mexico on Saturday, the first full day of his Apostolic visit to the country.
He had strong words for the Bishops, telling them: "Do not lose time or energy in secondary things, in gossip or intrigue, in conceited schemes of careerism, in empty plans for superiority, in unproductive groups that seek benefits or common interests. Do not allow yourselves to be dragged into gossip and slander. Introduce your priests into a right understanding of sacred ministry."
Turning to the cancer of the drug trade, Pope Francis said, "I urge you not to underestimate the moral and antisocial challenge which the drug trade represents for Mexican society as a whole, as well as for the Church. The magnitude of this phenomenon, the complexity of its causes, its immensity and its scope which devours like a metastasis, and the gravity of the violence which divides with its distorted expressions, do not allow us as Pastors of the Church to hide behind aondyne denunciations."
He also reminded them of their primary function as pastors of the Church. "We do not need 'princes', but rather a community of the Lord’s witnesses. Christ is the only light; he is the well-spring of living water; from his breath comes forth the Spirit, who fills the sails of the ecclesial barque. In the glorified Christ, whom the people of this country love to honour as King, may you together kindle the light and be filled by his presence which is never extinguished; breathe deeply the wholesome air of his Spirit."
Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father's prepared remarks, in their official English translation.
I am pleased to have this opportunity of meeting you the day after my arrival here in this beloved country, which, following in the footsteps of my predecessors, I also have come to visit.
How could I not come! Could the Successor of Peter, called from the far south of Latin America, deprive himself of seeing la Virgen Morenita?
I thank you for receiving me in this Cathedral, a larger casita (“little house”) and yet always sagrada (“sacred”), as the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe had requested. I also thank you for your kind words of welcome.
I know that here is found the secret heart of each Mexican, and I enter with soft footsteps as is fitting for one who enters the home and soul of this people; and I am deeply grateful for you having opened your doors to me. I know that by looking into the eyes of the Blessed Virgin I am able to follow the gaze of her sons and daughters who, in her, have learned to express themselves. I know that no other voice can speak so powerfully to me of the Mexican heart as the Blessed Mother can; she guards its highest aspirations and most hidden hopes; she gathers its joys and its tears. She understands its various languages and she responds with a Mother’s tenderness because these men and women are her own children.
I am happy to be with you here, near Cerro del Tepeyac, in a way close to the dawn of evangelization in this continent. Please allow la Guadalupana to be the starting point of everything I will say to you. How I wish She herself would convey to you all that is dear to the Pope’s heart, reaching the depths of your own pastoral hearts, and through you, to each of the particular Churches present in this vast country of Mexico.
The Pope for some time has nourished a desire to see la Guadalupana just as Saint Juan Diego did, and successive generations of children after him. And I have desired, even more, to be captured by her maternal gaze. I have reflected greatly on the mystery of this gaze and I ask you to receive in these moments what pours forth from my heart, the heart of a Pastor.
A gaze of tenderness
Above all, la Virgen Morenita teaches us that the only power capable of conquering the hearts of men and women is the tenderness of God. That which delights and attracts, that which humbles and overcomes, that which opens and unleashes, is not the power of instruments or the force of law, but rather the omnipotent weakness of divine love, which is the irresistible force of its gentleness and the irrevocable pledge of its mercy.
A rather inquisitive and famous literary figure of yours, Octavio Paz, said that in Guadalupe great harvests and fertile lands are no longer prayed for, but instead a place of rest where people, still orphaned and disinherited, may seek a place of refuge, a home.
With centuries having gone by since the founding event of this country and the evangelization of the continent, it may be asked: has the need been diluted or even forgotten for that place of rest so ardently desired by the hearts of Mexicans entrusted to your care?
I know the long and painful history which you have gone through has not been without much bloodshed, impetuous and heartbreaking upheavals, and violence and incomprehension. With good reason my venerable and saintly predecessor, who felt at home here in Mexico, wished to remind us: “Like rivers that are sometimes hidden and plentiful, converge at times and at others reveal their complementary differences, without ever merging completely: the ancient and rich sensitivity of the indigenous peoples loved by Juan de Zumárraga and Vasco de Quiroga, whom many of these peoples continue to call fathers; Christianity, rooted in the Mexican soul; and modern rationality of the European kind, which wanted so much to exalt independence and freedom” (John Paul II, Address, Welcoming Ceremony, 22 January 1999).
And in this history, the maternal place of rest which continually brought life to Mexico, although sometimes seeming like “a net of a hundred and fifty-three fish” (cf. Jn 21:11), was never without fruit, was always able to heal the divisions which threatened.
For this reason I invite you to begin anew from that need for a place of rest which wells up from the spirit of your people. The restful place of the Christian faith is capable of reconciling a past, often marked by loneliness, isolation and rejection, with a future, continually relegated to a tomorrow which just slips away. Only in that place of faith can we, without renouncing our own identity, “discover the profound truth of the new humanity, in which all are called to be children of God” (John Paul II, Homily, Canonization of Juan Diego).
Bow down then, quietly and respectfully, towards the profound spirit of your people, go down with care and decipher its mysterious face. The present, so often mixed with dispersion and festivity, is it not for God a preparatory stage, for him who alone is fully present? Familiarity with pain and death, are they not forms of courage and pathways to hope? And the view that the world is always and uniquely in need of redemption, is this not an antidote to the proud self-sufficiency of those who think they can do without God?
Naturally, for this reason it is necessary to have an outlook capable of reflecting the tenderness of God. I ask you, therefore, to be bishops who have a pure vision, a transparent soul, and a joyful face. Do not fear transparency. The Church does not need darkness to carry out her work. Be vigilant so that your vision will not be darkened by the gloomy mist of worldliness; do not allow yourselves to be corrupted by trivial materialism or by the seductive illusion of underhanded agreements; do not place your faith in the “chariots and horses” of today’s Pharaohs, for our strength is in “the pillar of fire” which divides the sea in two, without much fanfare (cf. Ex 14:24-25).
The world in which the Lord calls us to carry out our mission has become extremely complicated. And even the proud notion of cogito, which at least did not deny that there was a rock on the sand of being, is today dominated by a view of life which more than ever many consider to be hesitant, itinerant and lawless because it lacks a firm foundation. Frontiers so passionately invoked and upheld are now open to the irony of a world in which the power of some can no longer survive without the vulnerability of others. The irreversible hybridization of technology brings closer what is distant; sadly, however, it also distances what should be close.
It is in this very world that God asks you to have a view capable of grasping that plea which cries out from the heart of your people, a plea which has its own calendar day, the Feast of crying out. This cry needs a response: God exists and is close in Jesus Christ. Only God is the reality upon which we can build, because, “God is the foundational reality, not a God who is merely imagined or hypothetical, but God with a human face” (Benedict VI, Address to CELAM, 13 May 2007).
Observing your faces, the Mexican people have the right to witness the signs of those “who have seen the Lord” (cf. Jn 20:25), of those who have been with God. This is essential. Therefore, do not lose time or energy in secondary things, in gossip or intrigue, in conceited schemes of careerism, in empty plans for superiority, in unproductive groups that seek benefits or common interests. Do not allow yourselves to be dragged into gossip and slander. Introduce your priests into a right understanding of sacred ministry. For us ministers of God it is enough to have the grace to “drink the cup of the Lord”, the gift of protecting that portion of the heritage which has been entrusted to us, though we may be unskilled administrators. Let us allow the Father to assign the place he has prepared for us (Mt 20:20-28). Can we really be concerned with affairs that are not the Father’s? Away from the “Father’s affairs” (Lk 2:48-49) we lose our identity and, through our own fault, empty his grace of meaning.
If our vision does not witness to having seen Jesus, then the words with which we recall him will be rhetorical and empty figures of speech. They may perhaps express the nostalgia of those who cannot forget the Lord, but who have become, at any rate, mere babbling orphans beside a tomb. Finally, they may be words that are incapable of preventing this world of ours from being abandoned and reduced to its own desperate power.
I think of the need to offer a maternal place of rest to young people. May your vision be capable of meeting theirs, loving them and understanding what they search for with that energy that inspired many like them to leave behind their boats and nets on the other side of the sea (Mk 1:17-18), to leave the abuses of the banking sector so as to follow the Lord on the path of true wealth (cf. Mt 9:9).
I am particularly concerned about those many persons who, seduced by the empty power of the world, praise illusions and embrace their macabre symbols to commercialize death in exchange for money which, in the end, “moth and rust consume” and “thieves break in and steal” (Mt 6:19). I urge you not to underestimate the moral and antisocial challenge which the drug trade represents for Mexican society as a whole, as well as for the Church.
The magnitude of this phenomenon, the complexity of its causes, its immensity and its scope which devours like a metastasis, and the gravity of the violence which divides with its distorted expressions, do not allow us as Pastors of the Church to hide behind aondyne denunciations. Rather they demand of us a prophetic courage as well as a reliable and qualified pastoral plan, so that we can gradually help build that fragile network of human relationships without which all of us would be defeated from the outset in the face of such an insidious threat. Only by starting with families, by drawing close and embracing the fringes of human existence in the ravaged areas of our cities and by seeking the involvement of parish communities, schools, community institutions, political communities and institutions responsible for security, will people finally escape the raging waters that drown so many, either victims of the drug trade or those who stand before God with their hands drenched in blood, though with pockets filled with sordid money and their consciences deadened.
A vision that can build
In the mantle of the Mexican spirit, God, with the thread of mestizo characteristics, has woven and revealed in la Morenita the face of the Mexican people. God does not need subdued colours to design this face, for his designs are not conditioned by colours or threads but rather by the permanence of his love which constantly desires to imprint itself upon us.
Therefore, be bishops who are capable of imitating this freedom of God who chooses the humble in order to reveal the majesty of his countenance; capable of reproducing this divine patience by weaving the new man which your country awaits with the fine thread made of the men and women you encounter. Do not be led by empty efforts to change people as if the love of God is not powerful enough to bring about change.
Rediscover the wise and humble constancy that the Fathers of faith of this country passed onto successive generations with the language of divine mystery. They did this by first learning and then teaching the grammar needed to dialogue with God; a God concealed within centuries of searching and then brought close in the person of his Son Jesus Christ, who is our future and who is recognized as such by so many men and women when they behold his bloody and humiliated face. Imitate his gracious humility and his bowing down to help us. We will never comprehend sufficiently how, with the mestizo threads of our people, God has woven the face by which he is to be known. We can never be thankful enough.
I ask you to show singular tenderness in the way you regard indigenous peoples and their fascinating but not infrequently decimated cultures. Mexico needs its American-Indian roots so as not to remain an unresolved enigma. The indigenous people of Mexico still await true recognition of the richness of their contribution and the fruitfulness of their presence. In this way they can inherit that identity which transforms them into a single nation and not only an identity among other identities.
On many occasions, much has been said about a supposedly failed future of this nation, about a labyrinth of loneliness in which it is imprisoned by its geography as well as by a fate which ensnares it. For some, all of this is an obstacle to the plan for a unified face, an adult identity, a unique position among the concert of nations and a shared mission.
For others, the Church in Mexico is also regarded as being either condemned to suffer the inferior position to which it was relegated in some periods of its past, as for example when its voice was silenced and efforts were made to eradicate it; or condemned to venture into expressions of fundamentalism thus holding onto provisional certainties while forgetting to nest its heart in the Absolute and be called in Christ to unite everyone and not just a portion (cf. Lumen Gentium 1:1).
On the other hand, never cease to remind your people of how powerful their ancient roots are, roots which have allowed a vibrant Christian synthesis of human, cultural and spiritual unity which was forged here. Remember that the wings of your people have spread on various occasions to rise above changing situations. Protect the memory of the long journey undertaken so far and know how to inspire the hope of attaining new heights because the future will bear a land “rich in fruit” even if it involves considerable challenges (Num 13:27-28).
May your vision, always and solely resting upon Christ, be capable of contributing to the unity of the people in your care; of favouring the reconciliation of its differences and the integration of its diversities; of promoting a solution to its endogenous problems; of remembering the high standards which Mexico can attain when it learns to belong to itself rather than to others; of helping to find shared and sustainable solutions to its misfortunes; of motivating the entire nation to not be content with less than what is expected of a Mexican way of living in the world.
A vision that is close and attentive, not dormant
I urge you to not fall into that paralyzation of standard responses to new questions. Your past is a source of riches to be mined and which can inspire the present and illumine the future. How unfortunate you are if you sit on your laurels! It is important not to squander the inheritance you have received by protecting it through constant work. You stand on the shoulders of giants: bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful “unto the end”, who have offered their lives so that the Church can fulfil her own mission. From those heights you are called to turn your gaze to the Lord’s vineyard to plan the sowing and wait for the harvest.
I invite you to give yourselves tirelessly and fearlessly to the task of evangelizing and deepening the faith by means of a mystagogical catechesis that treasures the popular religiosity of the people. Our times require pastoral attention to persons and groups who hope to encounter the living Jesus. Only the courageous personal conversion of our communities can seek, generate and nourish todays disciples of the Lord (cf. Aparecida, 226, 368, 370).
Hence it is necessary for us Pastors to overcome the temptation of aloofness and clericalism, of coldness and indifference, of triumphalism and self-centredness. Guadalupe teaches us that God is known by his countenance, and that closeness and humble bowing down are more powerful than force.
As the wonderful Guadalupana tradition teaches us, la Morenita gathers together those who contemplate her, and reflects the faces of those who find her. It is essential to learn that there is something unique in every person who looks to us in their search for God. We must guard against becoming impervious to such gazes but rather gather them to our hearts and guard them.
Only a Church able to shelter the faces of men and women who knock on her doors will be able to speak to them of God. If we do not know how to decipher their sufferings, if we do not come to understand their needs, then we can offer them nothing. The richness we have flows only when we encounter the smallness of those who beg and this encounter occurs precisely in our hearts, the hearts of Pastors.
The first face I ask you to guard in your hearts is that of your priests. Do not leave them exposed to loneliness and abandonment, easy prey to a worldliness that devours the heart. Be attentive and learn how to read their expressions so as to rejoice with them when they feel the joy of recounting all that they have “done and taught” (Mk 6:30). Also, do not step back when they feel humiliated and can only cry because they “have denied the Lord” (cf. Lk 22:61-62), and offer your support, in communion with Christ, when one of them, disheartened, goes out with Judas into “the night” (cf. Jn 13:30). As bishops in these situations, your paternal care for your priests must never be found wanting. Encourage communion among them; seek the perfection of their gifts; involve them in great ventures, for the heart of an apostle was not made for small things.
The need for familiarity abides in the heart of God. Our Lady of Guadalupe therefore asks for a casita sagrada, a “small holy home”. Our Latin American populations know well the diminutive forms of expression and use them willingly. Perhaps they need to use the diminutive forms because they would feel lost otherwise. They have adapted themselves to feeling small and have grown accustomed to living modestly.
When the Church congregates in a majestic Cathedral, she should not fail to see herself as a “small home” in which her children can feel comfortable. We remain in God’s presence only when we are little ones, orphans and beggars.
A “small home”, casita, is familiar and at the same time “holy”, sagrada, for it is filled by God’s omnipotent greatness. We are guardians of this mystery. Perhaps we have lost the sense of the humble ways of the divine and are tired of offering our own men and women the casita in which they feel close to God. On occasion, a disregard for the sense of omnipotent greatness has led to a partial loss of reverential fear towards such great love. Where God lives, man cannot enter without being invited in and he can only enter “taking off his shoes” (cf. Ex 3:5), so as to confess his unworthiness.
Our having forgotten this “taking off our shoes” in order to enter, is this perhaps not the root cause of that lost sense of the sacredness of human life, of the person, of fundamental values, of the wisdom accumulated along the centuries, and of respect for the environment? Without rescuing within the consciences of men and women and of society these profound roots and the generous efforts to promote legitimate human rights, the vital sap will be lacking; and it is a sap that comes only from a source which humanity itself cannot procure.
A holistic and unified vision
Only by looking at la Morenita can Mexico be understood in its entirety. And so I invite you to appreciate that the mission which the Church entrusts to you demands a vision embracing the whole. This cannot be realized in an isolated manner, but only in communion.
La Guadalupana has a ribbon around her waist which proclaims her fecundity. She is the Blessed Virgin who already has in her womb the Son awaited by men and women. She is the Mother who already carries the humanity of a newborn world. She is the Bride who prefigures the maternal fruitfulness of Christ’s Church. You have been entrusted with the mission of enrobing the Mexican nation with God’s fruitfulness. No part of this ribbon can be despised.
The Mexican episcopate has made significant strides in these years since the Council; it has increased its members; it has promoted permanent formation which is consistent and professional; there has been a fraternal atmosphere; the spirit of collegiality has matured; the pastoral efforts have had an influence on your local Churches and on the conscience of the nation; the shared pastoral initiatives have been fruitful in vital areas of the Church’s mission, such as the family, vocations, and the Church’s presence in society.
While we are encouraged by the path taken during these years, I would ask you not to lose heart in the face of difficulties and not to spare any effort in promoting, among yourselves and in your dioceses, a missionary zeal, especially towards the most needy areas of the one body of the Mexican Church. To rediscover that the Church is mission is fundamental for her future, because only the “enthusiasm and confident admiration” of evangelizers has the power to attract. I ask you, therefore, to take great care in forming and preparing the lay-faithful, overcoming all forms of clericalism and involving them actively in the mission of the Church, above all making the Gospel of Christ present in the world by personal witness.
Of great benefit to the Mexican people will be the unifying witness of the Christian synthesis and the shared vision of the identity and future of its people. In this sense, it is important for the Pontifical University of Mexico to be increasingly involved in the efforts of the Church to ensure a universal perspective; for without this, reason, which tends to compartmentalize, will renounce its highest ideal of seeking the truth.
The mission is vast, and to carry it forward requires multiple paths. I strongly reiterate my appeal to you to preserve the communion and unity that exist among you. Communion is the essential form of the Church, and the unity of her Pastors offers proof of its truth. Mexico and its vast, multifaceted Church, stand in need of bishops who are servants and custodians of that unity built on the word of God, nourished by his Body and guided by his Spirit who is the life-giving breath of the Church.
We do not need “princes”, but rather a community of the Lord’s witnesses. Christ is the only light; he is the well-spring of living water; from his breath comes forth the Spirit, who fills the sails of the ecclesial barque. In the glorified Christ, whom the people of this country love to honour as King, may you together kindle the light and be filled by his presence which is never extinguished; breathe deeply the wholesome air of his Spirit. It falls to you to sow Christ in this land, to keep alive his humble light which enlightens without causing confusion, to ensure that in his living waters the thirst of your people is quenched; to set the sails so that the Spirit’s breeze may fill them, never allowing the barque of the Church in Mexico to run aground.
Remember: the Bride knows that the beloved Pastor (cf. Song 1:7) will be found only where there are verdant pastures and crystal clear streams. She does not trust those companions of the Bridegroom who, sometimes out of laziness or inability, lead the sheep through arid lands and areas strewn with rocks. Woe to us pastors, companions of the Supreme Pastor, if we allow his Bride to wander because we have set up tents where the Bridegroom cannot be found!
Allow me a final word to convey the appreciation of the Pope for everything you are doing to confront the challenge of our age: migration. There are millions of sons and daughters of the Church who today live in the diaspora or who are in transit, journeying to the north in search of new opportunities. Many of them have left behind their roots in order to brave the future, even in clandestine conditions which involve so many risks; they do this to seek the “green light” which they regard as hope. So many families are separated; and integration into a supposedly “promised land” is not always as easy as some believe.
Brothers, may your hearts be capable of following these men and women and reaching them beyond the borders. Strengthen the communion with your brothers of the North American episcopate, so that the maternal presence of the Church can keep alive the roots of the faith of these men and women, as well as the motivation for their hope and the power of their charity. May it never happen, that, hanging up their lyres, their joys become dampened, they forget Jerusalem and are exiled from themselves (cf. Ps 136). I ask you to witness together that the Church is the custodian of a unifying vision of humanity and that she cannot consent to being reduced to a mere human “resource”.
Your efforts will not be in vain when your dioceses show care by pouring balm on the injured feet of those who walk through your territories, sharing with them the resources collected through the sacrifices of many; the divine Samaritan in the end will enrich the person who is not indifferent to him as he lies on the side of the road (cf. Lk 10:25-37).
Dear brothers, the Pope is sure that Mexico and its Church will make it in time to that rendezvous with themselves, with history and with God. Perhaps some stone on the way may slow their pace and the struggle of the journey may call for rest, but nothing will make them lose sight of the destination. For how can someone arrive late when it is their mother who is waiting? Who is unable to hear within themselves that voice, ‘am I not here, I who am your Mother’?(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the first major address of his visit to Mexico on Saturday, to the nation’s civil authorities and the corps of diplomats present for the occasion. In his remarks, the Holy Father described himself once again as “a missionary of mercy and of peace,” and also as, “a son who wishes to pay homage to his mother, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, and place himself under her watchful care.”
Listen to Chris Altieri's report:
Praising Mexico’s unique cultural richness and stressing the central importance of Mexico in American life, the Holy Father had especial words of encouragement for the young people of the nation. “Mexico’s principal richness today has a young face,” said Pope Francis. “This makes it possible to contemplate and plan for a future, for a tomorrow,” and “offers hope and future prospects.” The Pope went on to say, “A people with a youthful population is a people able to renew and transform itself; it is an invitation to look to the future with hope and, in turn, it challenges us in a positive way here and now.”
Renewing his calls for concerted effort to build a just and inclusive society that cares for all its citizens without respect for age, race, or condition, and for responsible participation in and stewardship over the order of creation, Pope Francis said, “This is not just a question of laws which need to be updated and improved – something always necessary – but rather a need for urgent formation of the personal responsibility of each individual, with full respect for others as men and women jointly responsible in promoting the advancement of the nation.”
Pope Francis assured Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, that the Government of his nation can rely on the cooperation of the Catholic Church, “Which,” he said, “has accompanied the life of this nation and which renews its commitment and willingness to serve the great causes of mankind: the building of the civilization of love.”(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered an address to Mexican civil authorities and the Diplomatic Corps in Mexico on Saturday, the first full day of his Apostolic visit to the country. Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father's prepared remarks, in their official English translation
I thank you, Mr President, for your words of welcome. I am happy to set foot on Mexican soil which holds a special place in the heart of the Americas. Today I come as a missionary of mercy and of peace but also as a son who wishes to pay homage to his mother, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, and place himself under her watchful care.
Endeavouring to be a good son, following in our mother’s footsteps, I wish in turn to pay my respects to this people and to this land which is so rich in culture, history, and diversity. Through you, Mr President, I would like to greet and embrace the Mexican people in its numerous expressions and in the most diverse of situations it experiences. Thank you for welcoming me to your land.
Mexico is a great country. It is blessed with abundant natural resources and with an enormous biodiversity that extends across its vast territory. Its privileged geographical position makes it a reference point for America; and its indigenous, mestizo and criollo cultures endow it with its own identity that facilitates a cultural richness not always easy to find and, particularly, to value. The ancestral wisdom shown by your multiculturalism is, by far, one of your greatest biographical resources. It is an identity that learned gradually how to shape itself amid diversity and that now constitutes, without any doubt, a rich patrimony to be valued, encouraged and protected.
I believe and I dare to say that Mexico’s principal richness today has a young face; yes, this richness is your young people. Just over half of the population is made up of youth. This makes it possible to contemplate and plan for a future, for a tomorrow. This offers hope and future prospects. A people with a youthful population is a people able to renew and transform itself; it is an invitation to look to the future with hope and, in turn, it challenges us in a positive way here and now. This reality inevitably leads us to think about one’s own responsibilities when it comes to constructing the kind of Mexico we want, the Mexico that we want to pass on to coming generations. It also leads us to the realization that a hope-filled future is forged in a present made up of men and women who are upright, honest, and capable of working for the common good, the “common good” which in this twenty-first century is not in such great demand. Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development.
The Mexican people anchors its hope in an identity which has been shaped in the trying and difficult moments of its history. It was forged by the wonderful witness of citizens who understood that, in order to overcome situations born of the obstinacy of individualism, it was necessary to have agreement between the political, social and financial institutions, and of all men and women committed to the common good and the promotion of the dignity of the human person.
An ancestral culture together with encouraging human resources such as yours, should be a stimulus to find new forms of dialogue, negotiation, and bridges that can lead us on the way of committed solidarity. Starting with those who call themselves Christians, it is a commitment to which all of us must give of ourselves, for the construction of a “political life on a truly human basis” (Gaudium et Spes, 73), and a society in which no one feels a victim of the culture of waste.
Leaders of social, cultural and political life have the particular duty to offer all citizens the opportunity to be worthy contributors of their own future, within their families and in all areas where human social interaction takes place. In this way they help citizens to have real access to the material and spiritual goods which are indispensable: adequate housing, dignified employment, food, true justice, effective security, a healthy and peaceful environment.
This is not just a question of laws which need to be updated and improved – something always necessary – but rather a need for urgent formation of the personal responsibility of each individual, with full respect for others as men and women jointly responsible in promoting the advancement of the nation. It is a task which involves all Mexicans in different spheres, public or private, collective or individual.
I assure you, Mr President, that in this effort, the Government of Mexico can count on the cooperation of the Catholic Church, which has accompanied the life of this nation and which renews its commitment and willingness to serve the great causes of mankind: the building of the civilization of love.
I am ready to travel around this beautiful and wide country as a missionary and as a pilgrim who wishes to renew with all of you the experience of mercy as a new horizon of opportunity which inevitably brings justice and peace. I also entrust myself to the gaze of Mary, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, so that by her intercession, the merciful Father may grant that these days and the future of this land be an opportunity for encounter, unity and peace. Thank you.(from Vatican Radio)