Papal journey to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, July 5-13, 2015
August 07, 2015
The ninth apostolic journey of Pope Francis was the occasion to mention the celebration of the bicentennial of the independence of several Latin American countries (1809 for Ecuador and Bolivia, 1811 for Paraguay). According to Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, when the Pope in his speeches encouraged a true democratic transition, he was relying on the Final Document of Aparecida, most of which he himself composed as then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, in May 2007, at the end of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM). In this document, which was intended to give new impetus to evangelization on the continent, Cardinal Bergoglio insisted on the strength of popular religiosity in America and its four pillars: the shrine, the pilgrimage, the feast day and Marian devotion.
On July 6, 2015, during the Mass for families celebrated in Samanes Park in Guayaquil (Ecuador), Pope Francis commented on the Gospel about the wedding feast in Cana. “The family constitutes the best ‘social capital’. It cannot be replaced by other institutions. It needs to be helped and strengthened.” Indeed, those other institutions owe the family a “social debt”, because it is “the nearest hospital, ... the first school for the young, the best home for the elderly.” Moreover “The family is also a small Church, called a ‘domestic Church’, which, along with life, also mediates God’s tenderness and mercy.” The Pope then explains what the “hour of Jesus” means at the wedding feast of Cana: “In the family, and we are all witnesses of this, miracles are performed with what little we have, with what we are, with what is at hand… and many times, it is not ideal, it is not what we dreamt of, nor what ‘should have been’. There is one detail that makes us think: the new wine, that good wine mentioned by the steward at the wedding feast of Cana, came from the water jars, the jars used for ablutions, we might even say from the place where everyone had left their sins…it came from the ‘worst’ because ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20).”
The Pope makes use of the exegesis to say what he expects from the Synod on the Family next October: “Shortly before the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Church will celebrate the Ordinary Synod devoted to the family, deepen her spiritual discernment and consider concrete solutions and help to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families today. I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, like the water in the jars scandalizing or threatening us, and turn it – by making it part of his “hour” – into a miracle. The family today needs this miracle.”
On July 7, with more than a million people in attendance, Francis celebrated Mass in Bicentennial Park in Quito (Ecuador). Comparing “the murmuring of Jesus during the Last Supper” to the “cry for the Independence of Hispanic America” more than 200 years ago, “a cry of awareness of a lack of freedoms, of being subject to oppression and exploitation”, the Supreme Pontiff said, “I would like to see these two cries joined together, under the beautiful challenge of evangelization.” Saint Pius X, for his part, denounced those who “are not afraid to make blasphemous comparisons between the Gospel and the Revolution” (Notre charge apostolique, August 25, 1910).
Frequently citing Evangelii gaudium (see DICI no. 286 dated December 6, 2013, DICI no. 287 dated December 20, 2013) during his homily, the Pope declared: “Evangelization can be a way to unite our hopes, concerns, ideals and even utopian visions,” after saying that “the word of God invites us to live in unity so that the world might believe.” He also asserted that “Evangelization does not consist in proselytizing; proselytizing is a caricature of evangelization. Rather, evangelization is attracting by our witness those who are far off, humbly drawing near to those who feel distant from God and the Church, drawing close to those who feel judged and condemned from the start by those who feel they're perfect and pure.” Then Francis vigorously exclaimed: “That is what it means to evangelize, that is our revolution—because our faith is always revolutionary (sic)—this is our deepest, most constant cry!”
That same day, addressing representatives of Ecuadoran civil society, in the Church of Saint Francis in Quito, Pope Francis dwelt on “the essential social values”, which he identified as “giving freely, solidarity and subsidiarity”. Thus solidarity is born of the fraternity experienced in the family, and it “does not consist solely in giving to someone in need, but in being responsible for one another”. The Pope insisted on the necessary dialogue which in a “participatory democracy” must be granted to “each of the social forces” (i.e. indigenous groups, Afro-Ecuadorans, women, etc.) so that they might be “indispensable protagonists in this dialogue” and not “spectators”. Moreover “the norms and laws, as well as the projects of the civil community, must seek inclusion” instead of “excessive control and the restriction of freedoms”, the Pope declared to applause.
COMMENTS: Rather than praising the “social values” of “giving freely”, “solidarity” and “subsidiarity”, placed at the service of a “participatory democracy”, we would have expected to hear from the Pope’s mouth a reminder about the necessity of the virtues of justice and charity. This speech about the values of sociability just goes to prove that Romano Amerio was correct in the analysis that he made as early as 1985 in Iota unum: “The Church seems to be afraid of being rejected, as she is in fact by a large percentage of the human race. And so she seeks to downplay her own meritorious distinctive features and instead to play up the characteristics that she has in common with the world.” Consequently she highlights her secondary mission of civilizing works and humanitarian projects, thus eclipsing her primary, essential and strictly salvific role. This is why, according to Amerio, “All the legal causes supported by the world have the Church’s support. She offers her services to the world and seeks to take the lead in human progress.” Whether it be for ecology or for human rights....
In BoliviaOn July 8 the Pope started the second stage of his journey, arriving in La Paz (Bolivia). On that occasion he received from President Evo Morales a replica of the crucifix belonging to Jesuit Father Luis Espinal, which has the shape of a hammer and sickle. This crucifix “can be described as a sort of protest art”, he later told journalists matter-of-factly in the airplane on the return trip to Rome, adding that “Father Espinal was killed in 1980, at a time when liberation theology advocated a Marxist analysis of reality.... Father Espinal was passionate about this Marxist analysis, but also about the theology that confronted Marxism.” Francis insisted on going to the place of the assassination, asking those present to observe a minute of silent prayer in memory of that Jesuit.
Participating in the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, in Santa Cruz (Bolivia) on July 9, Francis asked “forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but for the crimes against indigenous peoples during what is called the conquest of America.” So as to be “fair”, he made sure to recall “the thousands of priests and bishops who opposed the logic of swords with the power of the cross.” Then he denounced the “new colonialism” inherent in the “anonymous power of the idol, money”, citing the example of “several so-called ‘free trade’ treaties and the imposition of austerity measures, which always tighten the belts of laborers and of the poor.”
“Let us say it fearlessly, we want a change,” the Pope declared. “We can no longer support this system; the peoples do not support it. And the Earth does not support it either, Sister Mother Earth, as Saint Francis used to say.” The expression “Mother Earth” used several times by the Argentine Pope in Bolivia, also alludes to the cult of Pacha Mama, a goddess invoked by the American Indians. Francis kept hammering the point: “Let us say no to an economy of exclusion and injustice in which money reigns instead of serving. This economy kills. This economy excludes.”
When he arrived in Paraguay on July 11, the Pope met with representatives of civil society in the city of Asunción. In his speech he did not hesitate to protest against the ideologies that often ended in dictatorships. The proponents of these ideologies, he insisted, think “everything for the people but do nothing with the people.” He also denounced corruption as a consuming “moth, the gangrene of the people”, thus criticizing Latin American socialism.
On July 12, Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the immense air base Nu Guazú in Asunción. With 700,000 of the faithful in attendance, he recommended evangelizing, not by seeking “to convert people with our arguments” but “by learning to welcome” because “the Church, as Jesus wants it to be, is the house of hospitality.” “The distinctive characteristic of the Church”, the Pope insisted, “is to learn to live in fraternity with others.” He explained that this also means “making a transition from a logic of egotism, being closed, confrontation, division, and superiority to a logic of life, freely giving, and love. From the logic of domination, oppression and manipulation to the logic of welcome, reception and care.”
(Sources: apic/imedia/vatican.va/vis – DICI no. 319 dated August 7, 2015)
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