We don’t have to wait for the Philippines to celebrate its 51st International Eucharistic Congress in 2016 to hear what messages Pope Francis has for the government, Catholic clergies, the faithful, the youth, the politicians, the poor in our society and others.
The pope’s recent statements/pronouncements, while celebrating the World Youth Day in Brazil, are enough lessons, urgings and admonitions that we ought to heed if we want things to be right. What is applicable and good for Brazil is no doubt, also relevant and useful for us.
Below are some excerpts of his utterances:
Relative to drug-trafficking or as he calls it “dealers of death”, Francis had this to say: “A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America. Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future.”
On keeping stronger the Catholic faith, Francis said: “It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure. Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols.”
According to census data, the number of Catholics in Brazil dipped from 125 million in 2000 to 123 million in 2010, with the church’s share of the total population dropping from 74 per cent to 65 per cent. During the same time period, the number of evangelical Protestants and Pentecostals skyrocketed from 26 million to 42 million, increasing from 15 per cent to 22 per cent of the population in 2010.
Francis offered a breathtakingly blunt list of explanations for the “exodus.”
“Perhaps the church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas,” he said. “Perhaps the world seems to have made the church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions. Perhaps the church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age.”
“At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people. “Without the grammar of simplicity, the church loses the very conditions which make it possible to fish for God in the deep waters of his mystery.”
On helping the poor, the needy, Francis delivered this message to the priests: “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel. Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the periphery (of where we live), with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church. They, too, are invited to the table of the Lord.”
On crime and hunger, Francis spoke of “the silence of the victims of violence, those who can no longer cry out, especially the innocent and the defenseless. Jesus is united with every person who suffers from hunger in a world where tons of foods are thrown out each day…”
About the Church scandal committed by pedophile priests, Francis referred to “those young people who have lost faith in the Church, or even in God because of the counter-witness of Christians and ministers of the Gospel”.
The South American pontiff used a phrase, “counter-witness” which encompasses any breaches of the teachings of the Church, from sex abuse to venality and hypocrisy, Vatican experts said.
On political leadership, Francis did not minced words when he said: “So many young people have lost faith in political institutions because they see in them only selfishness and corruption.”
Lastly, this is the instruction of Pope Francis that impacted the youth: “I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses! I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!”
Well said, Your Holiness!