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Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Mass at San Cristobal de la Casas: the Pope asks indigenous peoples for forgiveness
Vatican City, 16 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father arrived shortly after 9 a.m. local time (4.10 p.m. in Rome) at Tuxtla Gutierrez, capital of the state of Chiapas. Given its high growth rate the city, usually referred to as Tuxtla, is one of the poles of attraction for clandestine immigration both from bordering Guatemala and other Latin American countries.
Chiapas is Mexico's southernmost state and, despite is great wealth of natural resources, it is one of the poorest with the lowest life expectancy. Thirty per cent of its four and a half million inhabitants speak the indigenous language only, and the past oppression of the indigenous population was in 1868 the cause of the rebellion that came close to conquering Tuxtla. The state is also the stronghold of the Zapatista movement (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), established in 1983 to demand respect for the rights of indigenous populations and the recognition of their culture, and to claim control of local resources, especially land. The Zapatistas set aside their weapons in 1994 and moved to the political sphere through a strategy of civil resistance and the use of communications media. The popular basis of the movement is constituted principally of the inhabitants of rural areas and the Maya indigenous populations.
From Tuxtla Gutierrez the Pope transferred by helicopter to San Cristobal de las Casas, considered the cultural capital of Chiapas. The city, founded in 1528 and named first "Villareal" and subsequently "Ciudad Real", over time adopted the name of the state's patron saint, Cristobal, and added "de Las Casas" in honour of Fr. Bartolome de Las Casas, the first bishop of Ciudad Real from 1554 to 1566 and defender of the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Pope was received by Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de Las Casas, and celebrated the Eucharist in the municipal sports centre, able to hold a hundred thousand people. The majority of the faithful were indigenous people from throughout the whole of the state of Chiapas and the celebration was held not only in Spanish but also in the tseltal, ch'ol and tsotil languages, in accordance with a decree approved by Francis for the occasion, enabling the use of indigenous languages in the liturgy.
In his homily, the Holy Father recalled the liberation of the People of Israel from the tyranny of the Pharaoh, and their yearning to live in freedom in the promised land "where oppression, mistreatment and humiliation are not the currency of the day". He cited the Popol Vuh (Book of Wisdom) which recounts the Mayan myth of creation, according to which "The dawn rises on all of the tribes together", as well as on the earth itself, which demands respect and is instead "among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor", leading to the current environmental crisis, one of the gravest in the history of our planet. The Pope praised the wisdom of the indigenous populations, and reaffirmed that they have much to teach humanity on account of the harmony of their relationship with nature, and he asked their forgiveness for the many times throughout history that they have been misunderstood, excluded and robbed of their lands, values, cultures and traditions.
"Li smantal Kajvaltike toj lek – the law of the Lord is perfect; it revives the soul. Thus begins the psalm we have just heard", said the Pope. "The law of the Lord is perfect and the psalmist diligently lists everything that the law offers to those who hear and follow it: it revives the soul, it gives wisdom to the simple, it gladdens the heart, and it gives light to the eyes. This is the law which the people of Israel received from the hand of Moses, a law that would help the People of God to live in the freedom to which they were called. A law intended to be a light for the journey and to accompany the pilgrimage of his people. A people who experienced slavery and the Pharaoh’s tyranny, who endured suffering and oppression to the point where God said, “Enough! No more! I have seen their affliction, I have heard their cry, I know their sufferings”. And here the true face of God is seen, the face of the Father Who suffers as He sees the pain, mistreatment, and lack of justice for His children. His word, His law, thus becomes a symbol of freedom, a symbol of happiness, wisdom and light. It is an experience, a reality which is conveyed by a phrase prayed in Popol Vuh and born of the wisdom accumulated in these lands since time immemorial: 'The dawn rises on all of the tribes together. The face of the earth was immediately healed by the sun'. The sun rose for the people who at various times have walked in the midst of history’s darkest moments".
"In this expression"; he continued, "one hears the yearning to live in freedom, there is a longing which contemplates a promised land where oppression, mistreatment and humiliation are not the currency of the day. In the heart of man and in the memory of many of our peoples is imprinted this yearning for a land, for a time when human corruption will be overcome by fraternity, when injustice will be conquered by solidarity and when violence will be silenced by peace. Our Father not only shares this longing, but has Himself inspired it and continues to do so in giving us His son Jesus Christ. In Him we discover the solidarity of the Father Who walks by our side. In Him, we see how the perfect law takes flesh, takes a human face, shares our history so as to walk with and sustain His people. He becomes the Way, He becomes the Truth, He becomes the Life, so that darkness may not have the last word and the dawn may not cease to rise on the lives of His sons and daughters".
"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: '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. 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. The environmental challenge that we are experiencing and its human causes, affects us all and demands our response. We can no longer remain silent before one of the greatest environmental crises in world history".
"In this regard, you have much to teach us, much to teach humanity", emphasised the Pope. "Your peoples, as the bishops of Latin America have recognised, know how to interact harmoniously with nature, which they respect as a 'source of food, a common home and an altar of human sharing'. And yet, on many occasions, in a systematic and organized way, your people have been misunderstood and excluded from society. Some have considered your values, culture and traditions to be inferior. Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your lands or contaminated them. How sad this is! How worthwhile it would be for each of us to examine our conscience and learn to say, 'forgive me!', 'forgive me, brothers and sisters!' Today’s world, ravaged as it is by a throwaway culture, needs you. Exposed to a culture that seeks to suppress all cultural heritage and features in pursuit of a homogenised world, the youth of today, these youth, need to cling to the wisdom of their elders. Today’s world, overcome by convenience, needs to learn anew the value of gratitude".
"We rejoice in the certainty that 'The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us'. We rejoice that Jesus continues to die and rise again in each gesture that we offer to the least of our brothers and sisters. Let us be resolved to be witnesses to his Passion and his Resurrection, by giving flesh to these words: Li smantal Kajvaltike toj lek – the law of the Lord is perfect and comforts the soul", he concluded.
At the end of the Mass a representative of the indigenous communities addressed "Tatik Francisco" to thank him for his visit. "Thank you for visiting us. Although many people disregard us, you wanted to come here and have thought of us, as Our Lady of Guadalupe did with St. Juan Dieguito. May you carry in your heart our culture, our joys and sufferings, the injustices we have suffered. … Although you live far away from us, in Rome, we feel that you are very close to us. May you continue to inspire us with the joy of the Gospel, and help us to care for our sister and mother Earth, that God has given to us. And thank you for having again authorised the role of the indigenous permanent diaconate, with its own culture, and for having approved the use of our languages in the liturgy".
After the Eucharistic celebration the Pope transferred to the episcopal curia where he lunched with eight representatives of the indigenous populations. He subsequently visited the cathedral dedicated to the Assumption, built between 1500 and 1600, where he was awaited by a group of elderly and sick people with whom he spoke at length. He also paused to pray by the tomb of Msgr. Samuel Ruiz, who died in 2011, and who served as bishop of San Cristobal de Las Casas for forty years, during which he was greatly esteemed by the indigenous communities of Chiapas.
Published by VISarchive 02 - Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Encounter with families: combat uncertainty and isolation
Vatican City, 16 February 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon, after visiting the Cathedral of San Cristobal de Las Casas, the Pope departed by helicopter to Tuxtla Gutierrez where he met with families in the Victor Manuel Reyna stadium. Upon arrival at the stadium, by popemobile, he was greeted by thousands of people and received the keys to the city from the hands of the governor of the state of Chiapas.
The meeting began with testimonies from a young couple; a family made up of divorced parents in a new relationship; Manuel, a disabled adolescent; Beatriz, a single mother, and various other couples from the diocese of Tapachula who had been married for many years.
The Pope then addressed those present, starting by giving thanks to God "for being here, on Chiapaneca soil". He continued, "It feels good to be here on this soil, on this land; it is good to be here in this place which, with you here, has a family flavour, a home flavour. … I also thank you, families and friends, for giving us your witness, for opening to us the doors of your homes, the doors of your lives; you have allowed us to sit with you sharing both in the bread that nourishes you and in the sweat of your brow as you face the difficulties of every day. It is the bread representing the joys, the hopes and the hard sweat with which you confront sadness, disillusion and failings".
"Manuel, before thanking you for your testimony", he continued. "I thank you for your witness and especially for your example. I liked the expression you used, 'to put your heart into it' [echarle ganas] describing the attitude you took after speaking with your parents. You began to put your heart into your life, your family, your friends; you put your heart into us gathered here. Thank you. I believe that this is what the Holy Spirit always wants to do in our midst: to put a new heart into us, giving us reasons to keep on taking risks for the good of the family, dreaming and building a life that has this sense of home, of family".
"This is something which God the Father has always dreamt of and for which God the Father has fought for a very long time. When everything seemed lost that afternoon in the Garden of Eden, God the Father put a new heart into that young couple and told them that everything was not lost. And when the people of Israel felt that they could not go on journeying through the desert, God the Father put His heart into it by giving them manna from heaven. And when the fullness of time came, God the Father put His heart into it, into humanity, by sending us His Son".
"Similarly, all of us here have had this experience, in different moments and different ways; God the Father has put His heart into it for us. We can ask ourselves: why? Because He cannot do otherwise. God our Father does not know how do to anything else but love us and put His best into us, encouraging us, helping us move forward… because His name is love, His name is self-giving, His name is mercy. This He has shown us with complete power and clarity in Jesus, His Son, Who risked everything to the end so as to once again make possible the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom that invites us to share in a new mindset, that puts into motion a dynamic power capable of opening the heavens, capable of opening our hearts, our minds, our hands and capable of challenging us with new possibilities. This is a Kingdom which has the feeling of family, the flavour of a life shared. In Jesus and with Jesus this Kingdom is possible".
"Manuel, you asked me to pray for the many adolescents who are disillusioned and on a wrong path. How well we know this. Many adolescents who are deflated, tired and without aspirations. And as you yourself rightly said, this attitude often comes from a feeling of loneliness, from not having someone to talk to. Think of fathers and mothers: do they speak to their sons or daughters or are they always busy or in a rush?"
"This reminds me of the witness which Beatriz gave us", he continued. "Beatriz, you said: 'the struggle has always been difficult because of uncertainty and loneliness'. How many times did you feel singled out, judged: 'that one'? Let us think of all those people, of all those women who go through what Beatriz went through. Uncertainty, insufficiency, and often not having the bare essentials, can lead to despair, can make us deeply anxious because we cannot see a way to go on, especially when we have children in our care. Uncertainty is not only a threat to our stomach (which is already serious), but it can also threaten our soul, demoralising us and taking away our energy so that we seek apparent solutions that in the end solve nothing. And you were brave Beatriz, thank you. There is a kind of uncertainty which can be very dangerous, which can creep in surreptitiously; it is the uncertainty born of solitude and isolation. And isolation is always a bad counsellor".
"The way to overcome the uncertainty and isolation which makes us vulnerable to so many apparent solutions – as Beatriz mentioned – can be found on different levels. One is through legislation which protects and guarantees the bare necessities of life so that every home and every person can develop through education and dignified employment. There is, on the other hand, what the witness of Humberto and Claudia made evident when they explained how they tried to convey to others the love of God that they experienced through service and generous giving. Laws and personal commitment make good duo that can break the spiral of uncertainty. And you have the inspiration, you pray, and you are united to Jesus, and you are involved in the life of the Church. You used a beautiful expression: 'Let us take communion with the brother who is weak, ill, needy, in prison'. Thank you. Thank you".
"Today we see how on different fronts the family is weakened and questioned. It is regarded as a model which has done its time, but which has no place in our societies; these, claiming to be modern, increasingly favour a model based on isolation. … It is true that family life is not always easy, and can often be painful and stressful but, as I have often said referring to the Church, I prefer a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play, to a family and society that is sick from isolationism or a habitual fear of love. I prefer a family that makes repeated efforts to begin again, to a family and society that is narcissistic and obsessed with luxury and comfort. … I prefer a family with tired faces from generous giving, to a family with 'made up' faces that know nothing of tenderness and compassion. I prefer a man and a woman, don Aniceto and his wife, with faces that are wrinkled due to the daily struggles over the fifty years of strong married love; and here we have them".
"And speaking of wrinkles, to change the subject a little, I remember the testimony of a great actress – an actress of Latin American films – almost in her sixties, and showing some wrinkles on her face. She was advised to have some work done on her face so as to carry on working successfully. Her response was quite clear: 'These wrinkles cost me a lot of work, much effort, much pain and a full life, so I would never even dream of touching them; they are the signs of my life history. And I am still a great actress'. The same thing happens in marriage. Married life has to be renewed every day. And, as I said before, I prefer families with wrinkles, with wounds, and scars, but who carry on moving forwards; for these wounds, scars and wrinkles are the fruit of a faithful love which has had its share of difficulties. Love is not easy, it not easy, but the most beautiful thing is when a man and a woman can offer each other true love and offer it for life".
"I have been asked to pray for you and I want to do so now. You, dear Mexicans, have something extra; you run ahead with an advantage. You have a Mother, la Guadalupana. La Guadalupana wanted to visit this land and this gives us the certainty of her intercession so that our dream, which we call the family, may not be lost through uncertainty or solitude. She is a Mother and is always ready to defend our families, our future; she is always ready to put her heart into it by giving us her Son. For this reason, I invite you, as you are, without moving around too much, to hold hands and address her together: 'Hail Mary…'".
After all those present in the stadium prayed a Hail Mary together, the Pope added, "And let us not forget St. Joseph, quiet, a worker, but always at the forefront looking after his family. Thank you, and may God bless you. And pray for me. And now I would like to invite married couples here present, in the context of this celebration of the family, to renew in silence their marriage vows. And those who are preparing for marriage, ask for the grace of a faithful family, full of love. In silence, renew your marriage vows, and newly-weds, pray for the grace of fidelity and love in the family".
Later in the afternoon Francis returned by air to Mexico City, from where he travelled to Morelia to celebrate Mass with the priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and seminarians of the city, and to meet the rectors of various Mexican universities and leaders of other Christian confessions in the cathedral. The Pope's day will conclude with a meeting with young people in the Morelos y Pavon Stadium, after which he will return to Mexico City.
Published by VISarchive 02 - Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Other Pontifical Acts
Vatican City, 16 February 2016 (VIS) – On 14 February, the Holy Father appointed Bishop George Bugeja, O.F.M., as apostolic administrator sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis of the apostolic vicariate of Benghazi, Libya. He is currently coadjutor of the apostolic vicariate of Tripoli, Libya, and succeeds Bishop Sylvester Carmel Magro, O.F.M., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same apostolic vicariate upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.