To priests, religious and laity: 'Option for poor' rooted in love, not
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
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,
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,
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
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
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
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.