VISIT TO MEXICO 90: Option for the Poor
Pope John Paul II
To priests, religious and laity: 'Option for poor' rooted in love, not in conflict
In the sports arena of Cristobal Colon College in Mexico City. (12 May) the Pope celebrated First Vespers of the Fifth Sunday of Easter with, representatives of the priests, religious, seminarians and lay leaders of all of Mexico. Addressing them in Spanish, the Pope particularly encouraged them to be faithful to the commitments they have freely assumed, and to be loyal followers of the Church's one Magisterium.
"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (I Pt 2:9).
1. These words of St Peter the Apostle which we have just heard during the recitation of the liturgical hour of Evening Prayer are directed in a special way towards you, most beloved priests, religious, seminarians and lay leaders.
What a joy it is for me, the Successor of Peter, a pilgrim of love and hope along the byways of Mexico, to have this prayer meeting with you who are singularly. chosen by God to be constituted as ministers and collaborators in building up his Church (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 12). The liturgical prayer this afternoon, wells up within hearts which have been consecrated to following the Lord, ready to proceed joyfully along the path of perfection and to dedicate all their strength and zeal to the work of evangelizing.
May my words be, first of all, a testimony of deep gratitude for the valuable and selfless work with which you proclaim God's Word, administer the Sacraments, bear a witness of chastity, poverty and obedience out of love for Christ and bring help and consolation to those most in need. Furthermore, thank you for your pastoral work in the fields of education, health, vocations and human development; in this way you bring life and action to the Lord's command to evangelize all peoples (cf. Mt 8:19).
Likewise, I wish to express gratitude for the words which Archbishop, Manuel Perez-Gil Gonzalez of Tlalnepantla addressed to me, and at, the same time express my deep happiness over the presence of my dear Brothers in the Hierarchy.
2. Our meeting, today is an exceptional, opportunity for recalling those industrious missionaries who, under the maternal watchfulness of Our Lady of Guadalupe, evangelized these Mexican lands by their selfless work as witnesses to the Gospel. Like those people of yesteryear, you, the Mexican clergy of today, have assumed the enormous responsibility of making God's Kingdom present through your lives and your service for the Lord and for humanity, "to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins" (Hb 5: 1). Just as they had to face creatively the challenge of what we today call "constitutive evangelization" (Puebla, 6), you too have before you today a new and great challenge: the new evangelization.
Looking at the situation of your people, Christian consciousness is stimulated by the urgent need to be involved in a new evangelizing process. Certainly, reasons for concern are not lacking in the face of certain factors which impede Church activity and make the passing on of the faith to younger generations difficult.
Indeed, secularization which is increasingly present tries to alienate from people's awareness references to their transcendent destiny. Agnosticism, which exists in many, futilely attempts to find all sorts of substitutes. At the same time, the decrease in, attendance at celebrations of the Christian mysteries and the insufficient attention paid to manifestations of authentic popular piety weaken the necessary active participation of believers in community life. In this sense, we are assisting in the spread of an intimist manner of conceiving the faith which forgets and leaves aside the Christian's social, thrust, resulting in a lack of greater solidarity with those who, suffer and of a firmer commitment-not ideological but rather evangelical-to the poorest which excludes no one; resulting in consumerism which increasingly extends into more homes and families, making possessions the greatest desire of all; resulting also in growing proselytism by new religious groups which together threaten Mexico's Catholic identity.
Neither do certain signs of deteriorating discipline in the Church and respect for canonical legislation concerning priestly and religious life, certain attitudes in the moral field, as well as conflicting concepts of freedom and certain wrong ways of understanding the option for the poor (cf. Libertatis Nuntius, passim) help in overcoming these situations.
Facing such a backdrop, there is an urgent need for you who have made a fundamental option to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd (cf. Jn 10:11), in fidelity to Church magisterium, to cooperate unconditionally with your Bishops in an intense way in the tasks of the new evangelization.
3. To carry out the above-mentioned task, it becomes necessary on everyone's part to deepen and strengthen an ecclesial consciousness. As priests you must be ready to give a constant witness through your lives and public actions to love for the Church, intimate communion with your bishops, whose irreplaceable collaborators you are, and involvement in the mission you have been called to "in persona Christi" (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 2, 7).
Your first and greatest responsibility to the lay people is to be and show yourselves to be priests, irreproachable, in your following of the poor, chaste and obedient Christ.
Mexico is a country of authentic religious tradition; her people are very aware of the dignity of the priest. In you they expect to see always a model who leads them and who is committed with the generosity of one who has consecrated himself to the Lord in a life of celibacy, which he must have in order to be entitled to devote himself undividedly to the mission entrusted to him (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 16).
Be servants of the Word as well (Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 4). Corresponding to that high responsibility is the inner consistency of the ministry which must always seek the good of those it serves by passing on faithfully the full truth of the Gospel. The servant of the Word "never sells or falsifies the truth out of a desire to please men, or to shock..." (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 78). The priest must not use the Word of God to carry out his personal projects, nor even-with supposed good intentions-to help change a situation according to his own viewpoint. The priest must humbly draw near to the Word which gives life and must listen to it attentively; take it into his heart to meditate upon it, as Mary the Mother of the Lord did (cf. Lk 2:19); make it part of his own life and thus proclaim it with full fidelity.
Option for the poor
4. Just as the Church is a sign of unity between, humanity and God (cf. Lumen Gentium, 1), and of people with one another, the priest-who receives his mission from the Church herself-is the man called to be the creator of communion (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 3, 8-9, 15).
How important is the task of working for unity! The Church was instituted by our Saviour to save and serve all of humanity. Thus no one must remain excluded from your ministerial activity. When the Church speaks of the preferential option for the poor, she does so in light of the Lord's universal love which was seen precisely in his preference for those who needed him most. It is not an ideological option; neither is it a matter of letting oneself be trapped by a false theory of class struggle as a vehicle of historical change. Love for the poor is something which is born of the Gospel itself and which must not be formulated nor presented in terms of conflict.
In fact, to forestall unacceptable reductionism it is imperative to emphasize that this love for the poor, the marginalized, the sick and the needy of all types is neither exclusive nor excluding (cf. Puebla, 1165). Jesus was born, suffered, died and rose for all people. He came to proclaim divine sonship with the Father, as well as fraternity among all peoples, called to be children in the Son (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 22). Therefore nothing is more alien to one who is called to act "in the person of Christ," than to shorten the universal reach of his mission and his love (Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 6).
5. Today's world is witness to the ideological crisis of those who were offering a new society and proclaiming a new man, without taking note that it was at the cost of personal freedom. The legitimate aspirations of man have placed in doubt ideologies and systems which, by denying any transcendence, attempted to satisfy with substitutes the yearnings of the human heart for higher values. The development of events itself has shown that the authentically, human values of Justice, peace, happiness, freedom, and love do not create, but rather permit, the desire for the infinite, the longing for God. "Fecisti nos, Domine, ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te," St Augustine reminds us. Thus, when the world begins to notice the clear failures of certain ideologies and systems, it seems all the more incomprehensible that certain sons of the Church in these lands-prompted at times by the desire to find quick solutions-persist in presenting as viable certain models whose failure is patent in other places in the world.
You, as priests, cannot be involved in activities which belong to the lay faithful, while through your service to the Church community you are called to cooperate with them by helping them study Church teachings.
A number of these reflections addressed to priests can be shared also by the other participants in this lovely gathering. Therefore I ask you, brothers and sisters, as chosen members of the Church of God in Mexico, to accept these thoughts which well up out of my concern as Pastor and the love which I profess for you.
I urge all of you here present as well as all the consecrated, persons and the others engaged in pastoral work and apostolic activity, who are spiritually united to this celebration throughout the length and breadth of this great country, to be light and salt which illumines and gives the flavour of Christian virtues to individuals, families and society.
6. Now I wish to address especially the religious, a select group among the People of God in the evangelizing efforts of yesteryear, of today and of tomorrow. You have been called to give witness, to the presence of Christ among people, by taking on without reservation the basic spirit of the Beatitudes. As members of the Church with a special consecrated vocation, be aware that your witness of common life constitutes in itself an "effective means of sanctification" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 69). Consequently, rejoice that you are a clear image of Christ for others, radiating everywhere the love and joy of having been called to make your lives reflect the Kingdom values in their eschatological dimension.
Dear religious, prayer, the call to holiness, the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience have to be the axis upon which your life turns. Thus before all else you must renew day-by-day your awareness of being consecrated persons, since the greater is the pace of your activities and the greater your incorporation into the world, so much more necessary is the peaceful reflection on the nature and the specific characteristics of the mission to which you have been called. You are not immune from the pressures of a secularistic or consumeristic view of life. Fidelity to yourselves and to the Lord's call must prompt you to be tireless in spiritual discernment, as well as in the daily examination of your actions so that your activities of service may always be directed towards the good.
7. Many of you are participating in the task of evangelizing the culture. In our time the importance of such work in the service of the Kingdom of God is seen more clearly each day.
In your activities as teachers you must take special care to show always a faultless fidelity to the Church. The teachings of the Magisterium must not only merit your formal adhesion, but also illumine in a vital fashion the concrete message of which you are the bearers. Unfortunately, there is no lack of exaggerations and wide-spread errors today; for this very reason you have to be careful to carry out your educational efforts in full harmony with the directives of your Bishops, who are Teachers of the truth (cf. Discurso inaugural en Puebla, 1). In this respect, I wish to recall to you the message which I addressed to the Mexican Hierarchy and the Superiors General of Mexican religious during the General Assembly last October: "The very nature of the Church, which is a mystery of communion, demands that there exist among the Bishops of the local Churches and the religious a close collaboration which avoids possible parallel magisteriums and also ministerial programmes which do not reflect this communion and unity sufficiently" (27 October 1989). As consecrated persons, you are called to be together with your Bishops; servants of the unity of God's People. Every effort realized in the name of love and fellowship towards. building Christian communities which are in solidarity and reconciled is a valuable contribution to the tasks of renewed evangelization to which the Pope is calling the entire Latin American Church.
8. Be careful, then, not to accept nor allow a Vision of human life as conflict nor ideologies which propose class hatred and violence to be instilled in you; this includes those which try to hide under theological writings (cf. Libertatis Nuntius, XI). On the contrary, seek in the treasure of the Gospel all that unites people and work tirelessly so that all that makes for quarrels or enmity may be overcome by the message of love which the words and deeds of Jesus show us.
The Pope trusts you, dear religious of Mexico! The Pope is hoping that you will give yourselves over generously to the new evangelization with your incomparable enthusiasm! What a blessing it would be for Mexico if all her consecrated persons would renew daily their commitment to bring the Gospel to all the corners of this welcoming land, to all its inhabitants!
From within the silent and austere existence of the cloister, contemplative nuns are intimate, participants in this mission and commitment; I wish to address my greeting of special affection and appreciation to them now. "In this Mystical Body which is the Church, you also have chosen to be its 'Heart'," as I said to you in my message of 12 December last, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Church greatly values contemplative life! The Pope would like to see an increase in the whole world and in Mexico, naturally, of convents and contemplative vocations. Precisely because the world so needs prayer! The world needs the witness of persons who, leaving all, follow Jesus in a radical way.
9. The presence of so many young seminarians, the hope of the Church, is a reason for special joy for me. As aspirants to priestly and religious life, I strongly encourage you to devote yourselves generously and enthusiastically to your formation. The priestly ministry to which you feel called demands of you a solid preparation-spiritual and doctrinal, as well as regarding human virtues.
As for the permanent deacons, I wish to encourage you towards generous dedication to the communities which you serve as disciples of the Lord. Always be true teachers in word and example. Also, you who have committed yourselves to God as members of Secular Institutes are called to an intensive apostolic work which tries to direct all temporal things towards God.
Although I have already had an opportunity to address directly the laity during my pastoral visit, I do not want to go without expressing my joy at the presence of such an abundant turnout of laity involved in building up the Church and a more peaceful, just and fraternal society. Through you I greet all the lay faithful of this noble country, so rich in examples of real lay commitment to the Church of Jesus Christ. Carry my greetings to all. the laity of these lands, together with my encouragement, my trust, and my blessing!
In concluding, I invite you all: priests, religious, deacons, seminarians and lay faithful, to look to Mary as a model of fidelity, obedience and commitment to the fulfilment of God's plan. Imitate her "yes", committing yourselves with renewed hopes to the task of making present in Mexican society the message of love which her son Jesus brought us to teach us the path to eternal happiness. I bless you all from my heart.
Weekly Edition in English
14 May 1990, page 3
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