Archive for January, 2008

On the Journey to Brazil

January 30, 2008
“The Church Must Mobilize All of the Moral and Spiritual Energies”

VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square. The reflection focused on his recent trip to Brazil.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In this general audience I would like to reflect on my recent apostolic journey to Brazil from May 9-14. After the first two years of my pontificate, I finally had the joy of going to Latin America, a place I love dearly and where a great number of the world’s Catholics live.

The central destination of my journey was Brazil, but I also extended my embrace to the entire Latin American continent because the ecclesial event that called me there was the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

I wish to reiterate my profound gratitude for the welcome I received from my dear brother bishops, in particular, those of São Paulo and Aparecida. I thank the president of Brazil and the other civil authorities for their cordial and generous cooperation, with great affection I thank the Brazilian people for the warmth with which they welcomed me — it was great and moving — and for the attention they paid to my words.

My journey was an act of praise to God for the “wonders” he has done in the midst of the peoples of Latin America, for the faith that has animated their lives and their culture for more than 500 years. It was also a pilgrimage, culminating at the sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil.

The theme of the relationship between faith and culture was always in the hearts of my venerated predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II. I also wished to take up this theme to confirm the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean in their walk of faith that has been and still is a living history — as we see in popular piety, art, in dialogue with the rich pre-Columbian traditions as well as numerous European influences and influences from other continents.

A look back at a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelization of the Latin American continent: It is impossible to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous peoples, who often had their basic human rights trampled on. But the very mention of these unjustifiable crimes — crimes that were condemned at the time by missionaries such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and theologians such as Francisco de Vitoria of the University of Salamanca — must not stop us from expressing gratitude for the wonderful work carried out by divine grace among those populations in these past five centuries.

Brazil is a great country that has deeply rooted Christian values, but is experiencing enormous social and economic problems. To help resolve these problems, the Church must mobilize all of the moral and spiritual energies of its communities, to find points of convergence with the healthy energies of the country.

Among the positive elements to point out are the creativity and the fecundity of the Church there, from which many new movements and institutes of consecrated life are born. No less worthy of praise is the generous dedication of the many lay faithful, who show themselves to be very active in the various initiatives promoted by the Church.

Brazil is also a country that can offer the world a new model of development: The Christian culture can facilitate a “reconciliation” between men and creation, beginning with the recovery of personal dignity in the relationship to God the Father.

An eloquent example of this is the “Fazenda da Esperança,” a network of rehabilitation centers for young people who wish to come out of the dark tunnel of drug abuse. At the one I visited, taking away a profound impression that I will keep alive in my heart, I noticed the importance of the presence of the Poor Clares.

This appeared symbolic for the world of today, which is in need of a psychological and social “rehabilitation,” but an even deeper spiritual rehabilitation.

Also symbolic was the canonization, celebrated in joy, of the first native Brazilian saint: Father Antonio de Sant’Ana Galvão. This Franciscan priest of the 18th century, devoted to the Blessed Virgin, an apostle of the Eucharist and of confession, was called, while living, “a man of peace and charity.” His witness is yet another confirmation that holiness is the true revolution, which can promote the authentic reform of the Church and society.

In the cathedral of São Paulo, I met with the Brazilian bishops, the largest bishops’ conference in the world. Conveying to them the support of the Successor of Peter was one of the major goals of my mission, because I know the great challenges that the proclamation of the Gospel faces in that country.

I encouraged my brother bishops to promote and strengthen the task of the new evangelization, exhorting them to develop in a methodical way, the spreading of God’s word, so that the innate and widespread religiosity of populations can deepen and become a mature faith, adhering personally and communally to the God of Jesus Christ.

I encouraged them to recover the style of life of the first Christian community, described in the Acts of the Apostles: dedicated to catechesis, the sacramental life and works of charity.

I know the dedication of these faithful servants of the Gospel — the Gospel they wish to present without reductions or confusion, keeping watch over the deposit of faith with discernment; and their constant goal of promoting social development mainly through the formation of the laity, who are called to assume responsibility in political and economic fields. I thank God for allowing me to deepen my communion with the Brazilian bishops and I continue to remember them in my prayers.

Another important moment of the journey was, without a doubt, the meeting with young people; hope not only for the future, but a vital force also for the present — for the Church and for society. This vigil, animated by them in São Paulo, was a festival of hope, illuminated by Christ’s words to the “rich young man” who asked him: “Master, what good must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16).

Jesus points out, above all, the commandments as the way of life, and then invites him to leave everything to follow him. The Church does the same thing today: First of all, it proposes the commandments, the true education of freedom for personal and social good; and, above all, it proposes the “first commandment,” that of love, because without love even the commandments cannot give full meaning to life and procure true happiness.

Only the person who experiences the love of God in Christ and places himself on this path to live it among humanity, becomes his disciple and missionary. I invited the young people to be apostles of their peers; and to therefore take great care of their own human and spiritual formation; to have great esteem for marriage and the way that leads to marriage, in chastity and responsibility; to be open to the call to consecrated life for God’s kingdom. To summarize, I encouraged them to take advantage of the great “riches” of their youth, to be the young face of the Church.

The high point of the journey was the inauguration of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida. The theme for this important meeting, which will continue until the end of the month, is “Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so That Our People Might Have Life in Him — I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

“Disciples and missionaries” corresponds to what the Gospel of Mark says concerning the call of the Apostles: “(Jesus) called the twelve that were with him and sent them out to preach” (Mark 3:14-15).

The word “disciple” recalls the aspects of formation and following, in communion and friendship with Jesus; the term “missionary” expresses the fruit of discipleship, that is, the witness and communication of the lived experience, of the truth and love that is known and assimilated.

To be disciples and missionaries implies a close link with the Word of God, with the Eucharist and the other sacraments, living in the Church, listening obediently to his teachings. Joyously renewing the desire to be Jesus’ disciples, to “stay with him,” is the primary condition for being his missionaries — “beginning again with Christ,” according to John Paul II’s mandate to the Church after the Jubilee of the Year 2000.

My venerated predecessor always insisted on an evangelization that was “new in its ardor, its methods and its expression,” as he said when speaking to CELAM [the Latin American bishops’ council] on March 9, 1983, in Haiti (Insegnamenti VI/1 [1983], 698).

With my apostolic journey, I wished to exhort them to continue along this path, holding up the encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” as a unified perspective, an inseparable social and theological perspective, summarized in this expression: “It is love that gives life.”

“God’s presence, friendship with the Son of God incarnate, the light of his Word, are always fundamental conditions for the presence and efficacy of justice and love in our societies” (Inaugural speech of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, 4: L’Osservatore Romano, May 14-15, 2007, p. 14).

I entrust the fruits of this unforgettable apostolic journey to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary who is venerated as Our Lady of Guadalupe and patroness of all Latin America, and to the new Brazilian saint, Father Antonio of Sant’Ana Galvão.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My recent Pastoral Visit to Brazil embraced not only that great nation but all Latin America and the Caribbean, home to many of the world’s Catholics. My visit was above all a pilgrimage of praise to God for the faith which has shaped their cultures for over five hundred years. While we do not overlook the various injustices and sufferings which accompanied colonization, the Gospel has expressed and continues to express the identity of the peoples in this region and provides inspiration to address the challenges of our globalized era. In the Fazenda da Esperança, a network of centres for young people recovering from drug addiction, I saw a symbol of that spiritual “recovery” which our world truly needs, a recovery of our dignity as God’s children and a reconciled relationship with all creation. The canonization of Brazil’s first native saint, Frei Antônio de Sant’Ana Galvão, reminded us that holiness is the real “revolution” which brings about authentic reform in Church and society. In Aparecida, I opened the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is addressing our need to be convinced “disciples and missionaries” of Christ and his love. After my joyful meeting with the young people, I am confident that they will be apostles to their contemporaries, use their rich gifts in the service of the new evangelization and ensure a future of hope for the Church in Brazil and in all Latin America.

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including members of the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, as well as the young artists from Nairobi. I thank all of you for your prayers during my visit to Brazil. May God bless you all!

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