VIDEO MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE BISHOPS AND THE DIOCESAN AND REGULAR CLERGY OF VENEZUELA
ON THE OCCASION OF A VIRTUAL MEETING ON THE TOPIC:
"OUR PRIESTS IN THE PANDEMIC: THEIR EXPERIENCE AND
MINISTERIAL EXERCISE IN THIS PERIOD"
[19-20 January 2021]
Dear brother Bishops and Priests,
I thank the Lord for the opportunity to be able to address you on this day when you begin a virtual meeting, taking into account the difficulties that also oppress so many of our brothers and sisters in Venezuela and throughout the world. This is an opportunity to share, in a spirit of ministerial brotherhood, your priestly experiences, your labors, your uncertainties, as well as your longings and your conviction to carry on the work of the Church, which is the work of the Lord.
In these difficult moments, the passage from Mark's Gospel comes to mind (cf. 6: 30-31), which tells how the Apostles, on their return from the mission to which Jesus had sent them, gathered around him. They told him all this. they had done, everything they had taught. Then Jesus invited them to go, alone with Him, to a deserted place to rest for a while.
Our being Pastors of the Church, even in the current context, asks us to act in this way. We cannot act alone, isolated, self-sufficient, with hidden agendas. It is indispensable that we always return to Jesus, that we gather in sacramental fraternity, to tell him and tell each other "everything we have done and taught", with the conviction that it is not our work but God's. It is he who saves us, we we are only tools in his hands.
This assembly, which is taking place virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, aims to allow the meeting of those who have received the mission of witnessing and extending the Lord's paternity in the holy faithful people of God. By the way, to point out to you two principles which should never be lost sight of, and which guarantee the growth of the Church, if we are faithful: love of neighbor and service to one another . These two principles are anchored in two Sacraments that Jesus institutes at the Last Supper, and which are the foundation, so to speak, of his message: the Eucharist, to teach love, and the washing of the feet, to teach service. Love and service belong together, otherwise they won't work.
This is what the Lord wants: experts in the task of loving others and capable of showing them, in the simplicity of small daily gestures of affection and attention, the caress of divine tenderness. We also need servants of our brothers, but humble servants, because it is Jesus who sends us and reminds us that the servant is not greater than his Lord, nor is the one sent greater than the one who sent him. It is necessary to revive in life the desire to imitate the Good Shepherd, and to learn to be "servants" of all, in particular of the less fortunate and often discarded brothers and sisters, and to ensure that, in this time of crisis, they feel accompanied, supported, loved.
Dear brother Bishops and Priests, I invite you to go forward, working with joy and determination in your pastoral work. To renew the gift of yourselves to the Lord and to his holy people. I thank you for the witness of love and service to Venezuelan brothers and sisters, manifested in your attention to the sick, to whom you have brought the strength of the Word of God and the Eucharist; manifested in your accompaniment to medical staff, paramedics and volunteers who assist patients in this pandemic; in your zeal to help the poor and the excluded, and those who lack the necessary to survive and move forward in dignity. Thank you, thank you for all this!
With gratitude I assure my closeness and my prayers to all of you who carry on the mission of the Church in Venezuela, in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the numerous initiatives of charity towards brothers exhausted by poverty and the health crisis. I entrust you all to the intercession of Our Lady of Coromoto and of Saint Joseph.
And may the Lord bless you and accompany you. Bless and accompany your work, your heart, your hands, your knees when you pray. Bless and accompany your hopes, good intentions and, above all, bless and accompany your unity. Don't split up, brothers! Don't split up. There is always a chance to join. As always there is a possibility of isolating oneself and creating an attitude of the sectarian heart, outside the unity of the Church.
The Lord bless you and accompany you! And please, I ask you to pray for me. Thanks!
Source: Vatican.va - Image: Screenshot