Brazil: World Youth Day, July 22-29, 2013

Source: FSSPX News

This account of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro records the words and actions of Pope Francis on his first international trip, and contains valuable information as such. Alongside reminders of the Cross and Christian combat can be found other themes to which he has referred frequently since the beginning of his pontificate, including synodality, collegiality, and interreligious dialogue... which he has intentionally promoted on his return to Rome by sending, on August 2, a message of “appreciation and friendship” to Moslems for the end of Ramadan. During the last months of this year, the Curia reform that was announced and the appointment of prefects to the major dicasteries will demonstrate how these themes will be implemented institutionally.

Pope Francis arrived in Rio de Janeiro on July 22 at 3:40 pm, and was welcomed by President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, the governor of the state of Rio, the mayor of the city, the archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Orani Joao Tempesta, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida and President of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference.

On July 24 Pope Francis visited the Marian shrine of Aparecida, under heavy rain. After praying before the Black Madonna, he presided at the 10:30 am Mass celebrated with regional bishops and those responsible for catechesis during WYD. In the homily, the Pope invited Christians to be hopeful, but to let themselves be surprised by God and to live in joy. He expressed the wish that in spite of difficulties and discouragements, Christians might not be overwhelmed. He told faithful, “Keep always in your hearts this certitude: God is at your side, he never abandons you! Do not lose hope! Never let it fail in your hearts. The ‘dragon’, evil, is present in our story, but he is not the strongest. God is the strongest! God is our hope!”

“A feeling of solitude and emptiness fills the hearts of many and lead them to seek replacements, ephemeral idols” that take the place of God and seem to give hope: money, success, power, or pleasure, lamented Pope Francis. He asked for support for young people: “they need above all to be offered the non-material values that form the spiritual heart of a people, the memory of a people. In this sanctuary, part of the memory of Brazil, we can almost read their values, spirituality, generosity, solidarity, perseverance, brotherhood, joy. They are most profoundly rooted in the Christian faith.”

At the hospital of St. Francis in Rio, which specializes in treating drug addicts and alcoholics and offering medical care to the poor, the Holy Father was welcomed by the head of the hospital and the Minister of Health, before meeting with patients in the chapel. The Pope spoke out against death merchants who follow the logic of power and money regardless of the cost. He denounced the notion of liberalizing drug use, favoured in numerous areas of Latin America as a solution to drug trafficking, addiction and related crimes, currently very widespread and controlled by powerful cartels.

On the contrary, said the Pope, “it is necessary to face the problems at the root of their use and to promote greater justice, by teaching young people the values that make up life in society, by supporting those in difficulties and giving them hope for the future.” He encouraged those who have fallen victim to drugs: “You must make the first move towards recovery!” In the fight against drugs, “the Church is not far away,” he emphasized.

In the favela of Varghina.

On July 25, 2013, he said Mass privately and travelled to the favela of Varghina, one of the largest favelas north of Rio. He was received by the vicar general, the parish priest and the local superior of the Sisters of Charity, and visited the little soccer field, soaked by the heavy rain, after pausing to pray in the favela chapel. The Pope emphasized solidarity several times, recalling that “there is a more profound hunger, the hunger for happiness that God alone can satisfy. There is neither true promotion of the common good, nor true development of man when the fundamental pillars of society, its non-material goods, are ignored. Life is a gift of God, a value to be preserved and defended, as well as the family, the foundation of living in a community and the solution to social breakdown,” he stated.

The Pope addressed himself to Argentinean bishops and young people in the cathedral of Rio, saying, “I want a Church out in the streets! I want us to detach ourselves from worldliness, from convenience, from comfort, from clericalism, from everything that keeps us self-centered. Parishes, schools, and institutions are meant to be outgoing! If they are not outgoing, they become NGOs, and the Church cannot be an NGO.” He recalled that “faith in Jesus Christ is not a joke; it is a scandal. The Cross is still a scandal, but it is the only safe path, that of the Cross, of the Incarnation of Jesus.”

At the prayer vigil held on the beach of Copacabana, the evening of July 25, 1.2 million young people came to greet Pope Francis on the occasion of his first meeting with participants in WYD, the theme of which was “Go and teach all nations” (Matthew 28, 19). A huge stage was designed for the event, inspired by the irregular lines of the mountains of Rio de Janeiro. It had four circular platforms of different heights joined by a staircase. Behind the Holy Father a huge screen was set up. Early in the evening, which was punctuated by singing and skits representing the history of the missions in Latin America, the Pope asked young people to “renew their commitment as Christians,” asking them to follow in the footsteps of Christ, to put “faith, hope and love” in their lives, to beware of the illusions of “possessions, money, power,” for “only Christ can give faith, hope, and love.” “This is why,” he continued, “I tell you today with firmness: Put Christ in your life, and you will have a friend you can always trust; put Christ in your life, and you will see the wings of hope grow so that you may travel the road of the future with joy; put Christ in your life, and it will be filled with his love, it will be a fruitful life.”

On July 26, 2013, Pope Francis spoke with eight young people detained at the archbishopric in Rio de Janeiro, after hearing the confessions of five young people in the park of Quinta da Boa Vista, in the “Vocational Fair” (see here). 50 confessionals made of white wood were installed there for the duration of WYD.

The podium of the Way of the Cross.

At the end of the afternoon, two million participants met on the beach of Copacabana for the Way of the Cross, where Pope Francis followed the meditations from the gigantic podium set up at one end of the beach. His chair was at the foot of an enormous cross; he had expressed the wish to have 35 Argentinean garbage collectors seated with him. The Way of the Cross was a spectacular production, supported by music, both classical and popular, with cellos and electric guitars, with choreography and special lighting effects. Meditations at each station were read by young people from diverse backgrounds: a volunteer in a rehab centre, a woman involved in the pro-life movement, a young couple about to start a family, a budding scientist. There was a tableau at each station, with numerous actors, a choir and an orchestra, showing a specific aspect of the sufferings of young people. The WYD participants, sitting on the sand, followed the Way of the Cross on the twenty or so giant screens set up all along the beach. There was no Our Father or Hail Mary during this show-like Via Crucis.

After the meditations, Pope Francis recalled that “carrying His cross, Jesus travelled our path to take on Himself our fears, our problems, and our sufferings, even the most profound,” and spoke of the many sufferings of the world and of young people in particular, from hunger to the scourge of ‘artificial paradises’. The Argentinean pontiff told the crowd of young people, “Jesus is looking at you today and is asking you if you want to help Him carry His Cross. With the strength of your youth, answer Him! Let us lay our joys, our sufferings, and our successes on the Cross of Christ. We will find there an open heart that understands us, forgives us, loves us, and asks us to carry this same love in our lives, to love each of our brothers and sisters with that same love.”

On July 27, 2013, at 9 am, Pope Francis said Mass in the Cathedral of St. Sebastian in Rio de Janeiro. In the presence of bishops from across the world and thousands of priests, religious and seminarians, the Pope asked Church authorities to have the “courage to go against the flow.” He exhorted them to oppose the “culture of death,” from abortion to euthanasia, to fight “modern dogmas” of pragmatism and results-based practice, and to come out of their parishes to preach the Gospel. He told clergy and religious to strive for “fidelity” in their prayer life and to “evangelize” their own milieu before all else, he then exhorted the members of the Church again not to “stay shut into their parishes, their communities while so many people are waiting for the Gospel.” “With courage, let us think of evangelization outside of the immediate area, beginning with those who are farthest away, who do not usually attend the parish,” he asked.

After this first engagement of the day, the Pope visited the municipal theatre of Rio to meet the political leaders of Brazil. In the name of “an integral vision of the human person,” he called for “a constructive process for a better future for all” by “developing integral humanization and the culture of meetings and relationships.” Through this culture of meetings—and dialogue—the Pope wishes to promote the political common good. While Christ the Redeemer of Corcovado proclaims the right of the Son of God to reign here below, the Pope preferred to ask Brazilian leaders to develop “an ethical sense”, that they reflect on the consequences of their decisions, “observing, weighing, evaluating,” by placing their action “before the rights of others and before the judgement of God.” In conformity with the spirit of Vatican II, he declared that “the separation of Church and state, where the state takes the position of no religion in particular, but respects and values the presence of the religious dimension in society, and encourages its most concrete expressions, contributes to the coexistence of diverse religions.”

Defending “integral humanism” (which is a reference to the work of Jacques Maritain, whose influence on Paul VI is well-known—Ed.)  Pope Francis also called for constructive dialogue and for a rejection of “egotistical indifference” as well as “violent protests”. He emphasized the “fundamental” contribution of “the great religious traditions,” “which play a fruitful role as catalysts in the life of society and animators of democracy” (sic), within the framework of a secular state that respects and values the religious phenomenon, and clarified that “brotherhood among men and cooperation to build a more just society” was not “utopian” but indeed “the result of a concerted effort towards the common good.”

On the same day, Pope Francis addressed the 300 bishops of Brazil at the archbishopric of Rio. He asked the Church not to “yield to disillusionment, discouragement, and lamentation,” he mentioned “the difficult mystery of those who leave the Church,” of people who let themselves be “dazzled by other arguments”. The Pope wondered, “Perhaps the Church has appeared too weak, too far from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold towards the, perhaps too self-referential, perhaps a prisoner of its rigid expressions, and the world has perhaps turned the Church into a leftover from the past, inadequate for their new questions.”

For “those who seek answers in new and numerous religious groups, but also to those who seem Godless both in theory and in practice,” Pope Francis wished for “a Church that can support them”. This Church, he said, should be able to “go beyond simply listening” in its support for men, should be able to “read the darkness contained in the flight of so many brothers and sisters.” “I want all of us to ask ourselves today,” he told the bishops, “are we still a Church that can warm hearts?” Brazil has experienced a vertiginous drop-off in Catholic adherents; Pope Francis accused the promises of “implacable globalization” and its “dark side” along with “the loss of meaning in life,” “internal rupture and divisions in families.”  He also blamed “failed attempts to find answers in drugs, alcohol, and sex, each becoming an additional prison.”

Pope Francis called for promotion of “qualified formation” that would allow Catholics to “listen to illusions of many, without falling prey to them.” He added that “centralized bureaucracy is insufficient” and that it was necessary to “develop collegiality and solidarity.” He emphasized the importance of strengthening families, young people and women, the latter having “a fundamental role in the transmission of faith.” “We must not reduce the involvement of women in the Church, but rather encourage their active involvement in the church community,” said the Pope. He also claimed for the Church “the right to serve man in his integrality,” “the right and the duty to maintain alive the flame of the liberty and the unity of man.”

Youths danced with bishops from around the world.

The night of July 27, the youth prayer vigil did not take place at Guaratiba, since the area was soaked in heavy rain, but on the beach at Copacabana. On the enormous podium, before the Pope’s arrival, some young people danced briefly with bishops from the entire world, to the applause of a electrified crowd. Pope Francis asked the 3.5 young people in attendance (according to the organizers’ records) that they not be “part-time Christians,” “stiffened” or “superficial”. “I am sure you do not want to live in the illusion of a liberty that is at the mercy of the fashions and customs of the moment,” he stated before continuing, “I know that you are aiming high, that you want to make firm choices that will make your lives fully meaningful.” “You are the builders of a more beautiful Church and a better world,” said the Pope. “Rise above apathy, give a Christian answer to the political and social concerns of the world,” exhorted the Sovereign Pontiff, before adding, “What does a player do when he is asked to join a team? He trains, and trains a lot!” Then he said that Jesus promises a reward that is much better than the “World Cup”: “eternal life.” After his address, Benediction was celebrated before the crowd.

On July 28 Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass of the 28th World Youth Day on the beach at Copacabana, in the presence of the Brazilian, Bolivian, Surinamese and Argentinean heads of state and 3.7 million people. “The Gospel is for all, and not for some,” declared the Pope, asking them not to be “afraid to go and bear Christ to every walk of life, to the edges of existence.” “Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you!”

During the afternoon of July 28, the Pope addressed representatives of the 22 Bishops’ Conferences of Latin American and the Caribbean (CELAM). He said that the renewal of the Church would happen through the conversion of priests, who ought to guide the faithful, and not manipulate or impose “undue submission” on them. In the context of the missionary duty of Christians, the Church is exposed to a variety of “temptations,” explained Pope Francis, the risk of “turning the message of the Gospel into an ideology.” He condemned in this way the “sterilized” interpretation of the Gospel and the Church, which can take on several aspects: that of “socialist reduction” or that of a “disincarnated” spirituality, with an erroneous notion of progress that calls for “priests to marry, for nuns to be ordained, for divorced people to be given Communion,” continued the Pope. He also criticized the “Gnostic temptation” of a certain elite, imbued with the ideas of the Enlightenment. Finally he condemned as a “Pelagian” temptation the position that seeks to promote a restoration involving “an exaggerated doctrinal or disciplinary ‘security’,” confirming with these words his off-the-cuff remarks of June 6 to organizers of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious (CLAR). See DICI no. 277, 21/06/13.

The Pope also denounced the “functionalism” that is paralyzing the Church. This concept reduces the reality of the Church to the structure of an NGO where “what matters is the measurable results and the statistics,” he lamented. The Pope said several times that he wanted to contribute to developing synodality in the Church, one of the key concepts of Vatican II, making bishops co-responsible for the government of the Church. He also condemned the temptation of clericalism, encouraging lay responsibility through “Bible study classes, base-level Church communities, and pastoral counselling.”

In the plane returning to Rome in the night of July 28 – 29 2013, Pope Francis took questions from the 70 journalists who accompanied him.

When asked about his plans to reform the Curia, the Pope said “the cardinals asked this of the man who was to become pope.” The creation of a commission of eight cardinals to assist in the reform of the Curia and the government of the Church is part of the “line of development of the relationship between synodality and the primate.” Among the many reforms suggested on the eve of the conclave, Pope Francis mentioned a reform of the methodology of the secretariat of the synod, the possibility of making more informal consistories of cardinals permanent consulting bodies.

On remarried divorcees: “This must be considered within the context of pastoral practice regarding marriage. In parentheses, the Orthodox have different customs. They follow what they call the theology of economy and offer a second possibility. I think this problem—and I close the parentheses here—must be studied in the context of pastoral practice regarding marriage. One of the matters on which I will consult the commission of eight cardinals, from October 1 to 3, will be how to progress in terms of matrimonial pastoral care,” and he added, “people marry without maturity, without realizing that it is for their whole lives, or because socially they must marry. That is part of matrimonial pastoral care, as is the legal problem of the nullity of marriages.”

On the ordination of women: “The Church has spoken, and said no. John Paul II ruled definitively on the matter; this issue is closed.”

Charismatic movements: “Towards the end of the 70s and in the early 80s, I could not stand them! (…) Today I believe that these movements do a great deal of good for the Church, in general.”

Canonization: “Celebrating the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II together is a message for the Church; they are both very good.” Their canonizations will take place, in all likelihood, in 2014, and on September 30 of this year, the Pope said, a consistory of the cardinals will decide on the exact date.

Bishop of Rome: Questioned on his insistence in referring to himself as “Bishop of Rome”: “There is no need to go farther than what is said. The pope is a bishop, the bishop of Rome, and for this reason he is the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ… The first title is “Bishop of Rome” and the other follow. To think that this means primus inter pares [first among equals], no.”

(Sources: no. 280, 09/08/13)

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