CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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Go help them understand…

MEXICO CITY (SE): Papal tours tend to have a sameness about them, with the regular round of visits to government, bishops and leaders of other faiths, as well as Masses celebrated for huge adoring crowds, but each one also has at least one unique event to focus the attention and leave a memorable impression.

The visit of Pope Francis to Mexico from February 12 to 18 was no exception, but it featured two events, both of which are tightly focussed on issues near and dear to his heart, to leave their unique mark on the memory—migrants and the environment.

At a Mass for representatives of the indigenous communities of Chiapas held that the Municipal Sports Centre in San Cristobal de las Casas on February 15, Pope Francis spoke of the years of yearning for freedom, contemplating a land free from oppression, mistreatment and humiliation, which are the almost consistent lot of indigenous peoples the world over.

“In many ways, and in many forms, there have been attempts to silence and dull this yearning, and in many ways there have been efforts to anaesthetise our soul, and in many ways there have been endeavours to subdue and lull our children and young people into a kind of lassitude by suggesting that nothing can change, that their dreams can never come true. Faced with these attempts, creation itself also raises an objection,” Pope Francis said.

He pointed out that indigenous people, who have lived harmoniously with their natural surrounds for centuries and sometimes millennia, have suffered the same fate as the environment they have nurtured and cherished.

Then quoting his own encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home (Laudato Si’), Pope Francis said, “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

He continued, “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.

“This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she groans in travail,” Pope Francis said.

He pointed out that the love of the indigenous people for nature and their attempts to protect it have often provoked the wrath of their colonial masters, who have worked to destroy their cultures and livelihoods as persistently as they have worked to destroy the natural environment.

Pope Francis called this dynamic an expression of the throwaway culture that has captured the modern world and told the indigenous people that today, the world needs them more than ever to teach the value of gratitude—gratitude for the rich blessings of the creator through the gift of nature.

Father Damanio Tina, from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, told AsiaNews that the people of his violence-torn state of Guerrero had said that Pope Francis would be welcomed warmly in the sprawling suburb of Ecatepec and they are hoping that he will be informal with them. They want to listen to him speaking without a script.”

Father Tina said that they wanted the pope to tell things like they are and they were sure that he would not ignore the war raging around them and would not remain silent.

But undoubtedly the absolute highlight of this trip was the presence of the pope at Ciudad Juarez on the border with the United States of America, with its huge population of people on the run, an area reputed by some to be the toughest in the world.

Father Tina said that so many have died and been victims of the guns and drugs that are constantly being run in and out of the home of the American Dream.

Father Federico Lombardi, from the Vatican Press Office, said, “We know that 27,000 people have disappeared in recent years. (The pope) intends to show his closeness, his presence to all.”

During a Mass celebrated on February 18 on the infamous border, with a television link up to around 30,000 people gathered in a sports stadium across the border in El Paso, Pope Francis said, “Here in Ciudad Juárez, as in other border areas, there are thousands of immigrants from Central America and other countries, not forgetting the many Mexicans who also seek to pass over to the other side.”

He continued, “Each step, a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted; so many of these brothers and sisters of ours are the consequence of a trade in human beings.”

He called on the desperate mass of humanity gathered around him to be prophets to a profligate world, citing the story of the prophet Jonah and the great city of Nineveh, which was self-destructing under the weight of its own oppression and dishonour, violence and injustice.

“The grand capital’s days were numbered, because the violence within it could not continue. Then the Lord appeared and stirred Jonah’s heart…

“Go and help them to understand that by the way they treat each other, ordering and organising themselves, they are only creating death and destruction, suffering and oppression. Make them see this is no way to live, neither for the king nor his subjects, nor for farm fields nor for the cattle,” Pope Francis encouraged them.

He described Jonah’s mission as an expression of God’s mercy, as he invited them into a conversion, to repentance; and to see the damage being done at every level.

“Mercy always pierces evil in order to transform it,” the pope said.

But he then pointed out that the humanitarian crisis which has meant migration for millions of people cannot be denied and must be called a human tragedy of forced migration and recognised as a global phenomenon today.

“This crisis which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families. They are the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organisations,” Pope Francis said.

“Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest,” he noted.

However, Father Tina said that there is yet another danger—that the voice and words of the pope will not be heeded.

“No one should take for granted that real change will come, as the Church is like an elephant, slow to move. It is devout, but does things by the book,” the Italian missionary continued.

 

However, he said his hope is that the pope can prompt a real and qualitative change that explodes inside people’s minds—as this visit of the pope is an extremely important moment in the history of Mexico.

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