Thursday, September 7, 2017

Saint September 8 : Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary- #MotherMary - Mother of Jesus

Feast: September 8
Information: Feast Day: September 8
Her parents
Though few commentators adhere to this view of St. Luke's genealogy, the name of Mary's father, Heli, agrees with the name given to Our Lady's father in a tradition founded upon the report of the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal Gospel which dates from the end of the second century. According to this document the parents of Mary are Joachim and Anna. Now, the name Joachim is only a variation of Heli or Eliachim, substituting one Divine name (Yahweh) for the other (Eli, Elohim). The tradition as to the parents of Mary, found in the Gospel of James, is reproduced by St. John Damascene [24], St. Gregory of Nyssa [25], St. Germanus of Constantinople [26], pseudo-Epiphanius [27], pseudo-Hilarius [28], and St. Fulbert of Chartres [29]. Some of these writers add that the birth of Mary was obtained by the fervent prayers of Joachim and Anna in their advanced age. As Joachim belonged to the royal family of David, so Anna is supposed to have been a descendant of the priestly family of Aaron; thus Christ the Eternal King and Priest sprang from both a royal and priestly family [30].
The hometown of Mary's parents
According to Luke 1:26, Mary lived in Nazareth, a city in Galilee, at the time of the Annunciation. A certain tradition maintains that she was conceived and born in the same house in which the Word became flesh [31]. Another tradition based on the Gospel of James regards Sephoris as the earliest home of Joachim and Anna, though they are said to have lived later on in Jerusalem, in a house called by St. Sophronius of Jerusalem [32] Probatica. Probatica, a name probably derived from the sanctuary's nearness to the pond called Probatica or Bethsaida in John 5:2. It was here that Mary was born. About a century later, about A.D. 750, St. John Damascene [33] repeats the statement that Mary was born in the Probatica.
It is said that, as early as in the fifth century the empress Eudoxia built a church over the place where Mary was born, and where her parents lived in their old age. The present Church of St. Anna stands at a distance of only about 100 Feet from the pool Probatica. In 1889, 18 March, was discovered the crypt which encloses the supposed burying-place of St. Anna. Probably this place was originally a garden in which both Joachim and Anna were laid to rest. At their time it was still outside of the city walls, about 400 feet north of the Temple. Another crypt near St. Anna's tomb is the supposed birthplace of the Blessed Virgin; hence it is that in early times the church was called St. Mary of the Nativity [34]. In the Cedron Valley, near the road leading to the Church of the Assumption, is a little sanctuary containing two altars which are said to stand over the burying-places of Sts. Joachim and Anna; but these graves belong to the time of the Crusades [35]. In Sephoris too the Crusaders replaced by a large church an ancient sanctuary which stood over the legendary house of Sts. Joachim and Anna. After 1788 part of this church was restored by the Franciscan Fathers.
Her Immaculate Conception
The birth of Mary
As to the place of the birth of Our Blessed Lady, there are three different traditions to be considered.
First, the event has been placed in Bethlehem. This opinion rests on the authority of the following witnesses: it is expressed in a writing entitled "De nativ. S. Mariae" [36] inserted after the works of St. Jerome; it is more or less vaguely supposed by the Pilgrim of Piacenza, erroneously called Antoninus Martyr, who wrote about A.D. 580 [37]; finally the popes Paul II (1471), Julius II (1507), Leo X (1519), Paul III (1535), Pius IV (1565), Sixtus V (1586), and Innocent XII (1698) in their Bulls concerning the Holy House of Loreto say that the Blessed Virgin was born, educated, and greeted by the angel in the Holy House. But these pontiffs hardly wish to decide an historical question; they merely express the opinion of their respective times.
A second tradition placed the birth of Our Blessed Lady in Sephoris, about three miles north of Bethlehem, the Roman Diocaesarea, and the residence of Herod Antipas till late in the life of Our Lord. The antiquity of this opinion may be inferred from the fact that under Constantine a church was erected in Sephoris to commemorate the residence of Joachim and Anna in that place [38]. St. Epiphanius speaks of this sanctuary [39]. But this merely shows that Our Blessed Lady may have lived in Sephoris for a time with her parents, without forcing us to believe that she had been born there.
The third tradition, that Mary was born in Jerusalem, is the most probable one. We have seen that it rests upon the testimony of St. Sophronius, St. John Damascene, and upon the evidence of the recent finds in the Probatica. The Feast of Our Lady's Nativity was not celebrated in Rome till toward the end of the seventh century; but two sermons found among the writings of St. Andrew of Crete (d. 680) suppose the existence of this feast, and lead one to suspect that it was introduced at an earlier date into some other churches [40]. In 799 the 10th canon of the Synod of Salzburg prescribes four feasts in honour of the Mother of God: the Purification, 2 February; the Annunciation, 25 March; the Assumption, 15 August; the Nativity, 8 September.
The Presentation of Mary
According to Exodus 13:2 and 13:12, all the Hebrew first-born male children had to be presented in the Temple. Such a law would lead pious Jewish parents to observe the same religious rite with regard to other favourite children. This inclines one to believe that Joachim and Anna presented in the Temple their child, which they had obtained by their long, fervent prayers.
As to Mary, St. Luke (1:34) tells us that she answered the angel announcing the birth of Jesus Christ: "how shall this be done, because I know not man". These words can hardly be understood, unless we assume that Mary had made a vow of virginity; for, when she spoke them, she was betrothed to St. Joseph. [41] The most opportune occasion for such a vow was her presentation in the Temple. As some of the Fathers admit that the faculties of St. John the Baptist were prematurely developed by a special intervention of God's power, we may admit a similar grace for the child of Joachim and Anna. [42]
But what has been said does not exceed the certainty of antecedently probable pious conjectures. The consideration that Our Lord could not have refused His Blessed Mother any favours which depended merely on His munificence does not exceed the value of an a priori argument. Certainty in this question must depend on external testimony and the teaching of the Church.
Now, the Protoevangelium of James (7-8), and the writing entitled "De nativit. Mariae" (7-8), [43] state that Joachim and Anna, faithful to a vow they had made, presented the child Mary in the Temple when she was three years old; that the child herself mounted the Temple steps, and that she made her vow of virginity on this occasion. St. Gregory of Nyssa [44] and St. Germanus of Constantinople [45] adopt this report; it is also followed by pseudo-Gregory of Nazianzus in his "Christus patiens". [46] Moreover, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation, though it does not specify at what age the child Mary was presented in the Temple, when she made her vow of virginity, and what were the special natural and supernatural gifts with which God endowed her. The feast is mentioned for the first time in a document of Manuel Commenus, in 1166; from Constantinople the feast must have been introduced into the western Church, where we find it at the papal court at Avignon in 1371; about a century later, Pope Sixtus IV introduced the Office of the Presentation, and in 1585 Pope Sixtus V extended the Feast of the Presentation to the whole Church. Shortened from Text source the Catholic Encyclopedia

#PopeFrancis "I embrace every one of you, the sick, the poor… all of you; you are all in my heart." FULL TEXT in Columbia + Video

Pope Francis greeted the faithful from the balcony of the Cardinal’s Palace in Bogota after meeting the Country’s authorities. 
Please find below the official English translation of the Pope's prepared greeting:  
Greeting to the Colombian People
Thursday, 7 September 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
I greet you with great joy and I thank you for your warm welcome.  “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’  And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you” (Lk10:5-6).
Today I enter this house of Colombia, saying to you: Peace be with you!  This was the way of greeting of every Jew, and of Jesus too.  I offer this greeting because I wanted to come here as a pilgrim of peace and hope, and I desire to experience these moments of encounter with joy, giving thanks to God for all the good he has done in this nation, in every one of your lives. 
I have also come here to learn; yes, to learn from you, to learn from your faith, your strength in the face of adversity.  You have endured difficult and dark moments, but the Lord is near you, in the heart of every son and daughter of this country.  He is not selective, he does not exclude anyone but embraces all; and we are all important and essential to him.  During these days I would like to share with you the most important truth: that God loves you with the love of a Father who encourages you to continue looking for and desiring peace, that peace which is authentic and abiding.
I see many young people here, who have come from all over the country: from cachacoscosteñospaisasvallunosllaneros.  For me it is always a pleasure to meet young people.  Today I say to you: keep joy alive; it is a sign of a young heart, of a heart that has encountered the Lord.  No one can snatch this away from you (cf. Jn 16:22).  Do not let anyone rob you of joy; look after that joy which unites everyone in the knowledge of being loved by the Lord.  The flame of the Lord Jesus’ love makes this joy burst forth, and is sufficient to set the whole world ablaze.  How could you not be capable of changing this society and accomplishing all you decide to do!  Do not be afraid of the future!  Dare to dream big!  I want to invite you to that great dream today.
You, dear young people, have a particular ability of recognizing the suffering of others; volunteer workers around the world depend on thousands of you who give up your own time, your own comforts and plans, and allow yourselves to be moved by the needs of the most vulnerable, to whom you dedicate yourselves.  But this can also emerge in contexts where death, pain and division have impacted you so deeply that they have left you half-dazed, as if numb.  Allow the suffering of your Colombian brothers and sisters to strike you and mobilize you!  Help us, your elders, not to grow accustomed to pain and neglect.
You, also, young men and women who live in complex environments, with varying realities, and who come from a wide range of family situations, have grown used to seeing that not everything is black and white; you have seen that daily life is made up of a broad scale of grey tones, and that this can expose you to the risk of falling into a climate of relativism, thus discarding that potentiality which young people have, of perceiving the pain of those who suffered.  You have the capacity not only to judge, to point out mistakes, but also that other beautiful, constructive ability: that of understanding.  An understanding that even behind a wrong – for wrong is [always] wrong and cannot be just smoothed over – lies an endless number of causes, of mitigating factors.  Colombia needs you so much to put yourselves in the shoes of those who, many generations earlier, could not or did not know how to do so, or did not come up with the right way to reach understanding!
For you, young people, it is so easy to encounter one another.  All you need is a good coffee, a good drink or any other excuse to meet.  The young agree on music, on art… Even a final between Atlético Nacional and América de Caliis an opportunity to be together!  You teach us that the culture of meeting is not in thinking, living or reacting to everyone in the same way; it is rather in knowing that beyond our differences we are all part of something greater that unites and transcends us; we are part of this wonderful country. 
Your youthfulness also makes you capable of something very difficult in life: forgiving. Forgiving those who have hurt us; it is remarkable to see how you do not get entangled in old stories, how you watch with surprise when we adults repeat events that divide us simply by being tied to resentments.  You help us in the desire to leave behind what has hurt us, to look to the future without the burden of hatred; because you make us see the wider world which stands before us, the whole of Colombia that wishes to grow and continue its development; that Colombia which needs all of us, and which we older people owe to you.   
And precisely for this reason you are facing the enormous challenge of helping us to heal our hearts; of passing on to us the youthful hope which is always ready to give others a second chance.  An atmosphere of anxiety sickens the soul; it sees no way out of problems, and ostracizes those who try; it is an atmosphere that harms the hope every community needs in order to move forwards.  May your dreams and plans give fresh life to Colombia, and fill the country with wholesome goals.
Only in this way will people be motivated to discover the country hidden behind the mountains, the one that goes beyond newspaper headlines and which does not seem to be a daily concern since it is so far away.  That country which people do not see, that part of the social context which needs us: the discovery of the depths of Colombia.  Young people’s hearts are spurred into action when faced with great challenges: how much natural beauty there is to contemplate, without needing to exploit it!  How many young people, like yourselves, need your outstretched hand, need your shoulder so as to discern a better future!
Today I wanted to spend this moment with you; I am certain that you have the potential needed to build the nation we have always dreamed of.  Young people are the hope of Colombia and of the Church; in your walking and in your steps we can glimpse the steps of the Messenger of Peace, the One who brings us Good News.
Dear brothers and sisters of this beloved country, I now direct some words to all of you: children, young people, adults and the elderly, as someone bringing hope to you.  Do not let difficulties weigh you down; may violence not break you; may evil not overwhelm you.  We believe that Jesus, with his love and mercy that remain forever, has conquered evil, sin and death.  All we need to do is go out to meet him.  I invite you not to be just dutiful but to be committed to renewing society, so that it will be just, stable and fruitful.  From this place, I encourage you to entrust yourselves to the Lord, who is the only one who sustains us and inspires us to contribute to reconciliation and peace.
I embrace every one of you, the sick, the poor, the marginalized, those in need, the elderly, those who are housebound… all of you; you are all in my heart.  And I ask God to bless you.  And, please, do not forget to pray for me.

#PopeFrancis "Where do we find unity? Always in Jesus." FULL TEXT to Latin American Bishops CELAM

Pope Francis  to the Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM).
The Pontiff met with the Executive Committee of CELAM in the Apostolic Nunciature after his meeting with the Bishops of Bogota.
Please find below the full text of the official English translation of the Pope's prepared speech: 
Meeting with the Executive Committee of CELAM
Thursday, 7 September 2017
Dear Brothers,
          I thank you for our meeting and for the warm words of welcome by the President of the Latin American Episcopal Council.  Were it not for the demands of my schedule, I would have liked to visit you at the CELAM offices.  I thank you for your thoughtfulness in meeting me here.
          I appreciate your efforts to make this continental Episcopal Conference a home at the service of communion and the mission of the Church in Latin America, as well as a centre for fostering a sense of discipleship and missionary spirit.  Over these decades of service to communion, CELAM has also become a vital point of reference for the development of a deeper understanding of Latin American Catholicism.  I take this occasion to encourage your recent efforts to express this collegial concern through theSolidarity Fund of the Latin American Church.
          Four years ago, in Rio de Janeiro, I spoke to you about the pastoral legacy of Aparecida, the last synodal event of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean.  I stressed the continuing need to learn from its method, marked in essence by the participation of the local Churches and attuned to God’s pilgrim people as they seek his humble face revealed in the Virgin fished from the waters.  That method is also reflected in the continental mission, which is not meant to be a collection of programmes that fill agendas and waste precious energies.  Instead, it is meant to place the mission of Jesus at the heart of the Church, making it the criterion for measuring the effectiveness of her structures, the results of her labours, the fruitfulness of her ministers and the joy they awaken.  For without joy, we attract no one.
          I went on to mention the ever-present temptations of making the Gospel an ideology, ecclesial functionalism and clericalism.  At stake is the salvation that Christ brings us, which has to touch the hearts of men and women by its power and appealing to their freedom, inviting them to a permanent exodus from themselves and their self-absorption, towards fellowship with God and with our brothers and sisters.
          When God speaks to us in Jesus, he does not nod vaguely to us as if we were strangers, or deliver an impersonal summons like a solicitor, or lay down rules to be followed like certain functionaries of the sacred.  God speaks with the unmistakable voice of the Father to his children; he respects the mystery of man because he formed us with his own hands and gave us a meaningful purpose.  Our great challenge as a Church is to speak to men and women about this closeness of God, who considers us his sons and daughters, even when we reject his fatherhood.  For him, we are always children to be encountered anew.
          The Gospel, then, cannot be reduced to a programme at the service of a trendy gnosticism, a project of social improvement or the Church conceived as a comfortable bureaucracy, any more than she can be reduced to an organization run according to modern business models by a clerical caste.
          The Church is the community of Jesus’ disciples.  The Church is a Mystery (cf. Lumen Gentium, 5) and a People (cf. ibid., 9).  Better yet, in the Church the Mystery becomes present through God’s People.
          Hence my insistence that missionary discipleship is a call from God for today’s busy and complicated world, a constant setting out with Jesus, in order to know how and where the Master lives.  When we set out with him, we come to know the will of the Father who is always waiting for us.  Only a Church which is Bride, Mother and Servant, one that has renounced the claim to control what is not her own work but God’s, can remain with Jesus, even when the only place he can lay his head is the cross.
          Closeness and encounter are the means used by God, who in Christ always draws near to meet us.  The mystery of the Church is to be the sacrament of this divine intimacy and the perennial place of this encounter.  Hence, the need for the bishop to be close to God, for in God he finds the source of his freedom, his steadfastness as a pastor and his closeness to the holy people entrusted to his care.  In this closeness, the soul of the apostle learns how to make tangible God's passion for his children.
          Aparecida is a treasure yet to be fully exploited.  I am certain that each of you has seen how its richness has taken root in the Churches you hold in your hearts.  Like the first disciples sent forth by Jesus on mission, we too can recount with enthusiasm all that we have accomplished (cf. Mk 6:30).
          Nonetheless, we have to be attentive.  The essential things in life and in the Church are never written in stone, but remain a living legacy.  It is all too easy to turn them into memories and anniversaries to be celebrated: fifty years since Medellín, twenty since Ecclesia in America, ten since Aparecida!  Something more is required: by cherishing the richness of this patrimony (pater/munus) and allowing it to flourish, we exercise the munus of our episcopal paternity towards the Church in our continent.
          As you well know, the renewed awareness born of an encounter with the living Christ requires that his disciples foster their relationship with him; otherwise, the face of the Lord is obscured, the mission is weakened, pastoral conversion falters.  To pray and to foster our relationship with him: these are the most essential and urgent activities to be carried out in our pastoral mission.
          When the disciples returned excited by the mission they had carried out, Jesus said to them: “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place” (Mk 6:31).  How greatly we need to be alone with the Lord in order to encounter anew the heart of the Church’s mission in Latin America at the present time.  How greatly we need to be recollected, within and without!  Our crowded schedules, the fragmentation of reality, the rapid pace of our lives: all these things might make us lose our focus and end up in a vacuum.  Recovering unity is imperative.
          Where do we find unity?  Always in Jesus.  What makes the mission last is not the generosity and enthusiasm that burn in the heart of the missionary, even though these are always necessary.  It is rather the companionship of Jesus in his Spirit.  If we do not we set out with him on our mission, we quickly become lost and risk confusing our vain needs with his cause.  If our reason for setting out is not Jesus, it becomes easy to grow discouraged by the fatigue of the journey, or the resistance we meet, by constantly changing scenarios or by the weariness brought on by subtle but persistent ploys of the enemy.
          It is not part of the mission to yield to discouragement, once our initial enthusiasm has faded and the time comes when touching the flesh of Christ becomes very hard.  In situations like this, Jesus does not feed our fears.  We know very well that to him alone can we go, for he alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68).  So we need to understand and appreciate more deeply the fact that he has chosen us.
          Concretely, what does it mean to set out on mission with Jesus today, here in Latin America?  The word “concretely” is not a mere figure of speech: it goes to the very heart of the matter.  The Gospel is always concrete, and never an exercise in fruitless speculation.  We are well aware of the recurring temptation to get lost in the cavils of the doctors of the law, to wonder how far we can go without losing control over our own bailiwick or our petty portion of power.
          We often hear it said that the Church is in a permanent state of mission.  Setting out with Jesus is the condition for this.  The Gospel speaks of Jesus who, proceeding from the Father, journeys with his disciples through the fields and the towns of Galilee.  His journeying is not meaningless.  As Jesus walks, he encounters people.  When he meets people, he draws near to them.  When he draws near to them, he talks to them.  When he talks to them, he touches them with his power.  When he touches them, he brings them healing and salvation.  His aim in constantly setting out is to lead the people he meets to the Father.  We must never stop reflecting on this.  The Church has to re-appropriate the verbs that the Word of God conjugates as he carries out his divine mission.  To go forth to meet without keeping a safe distance; to take rest without being idle; to touch others without fear.  It is a matter of working by day in the fields, where God’s people, entrusted to your care, live their lives.  We cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by our air-conditioned offices, our statistics and our strategies.  We have to speak to men and women in their concrete situations; we cannot avert our gaze from them.  The mission is carried out by one to one contact.
A Church able to be a sacrament of unity
          What lack of focus we see all around us!  I am referring not only to the squandering of our continent’s rich diversity, but also to a constant process of disintegration.  We need to be attentive lest we let ourselves fall into these traps.  The Church is not present in Latin America with her suitcases in hand, ready, like so many others over time, to abandon it after having plundered it.  Such people look with a sense of superiority and scorn on its mestizo face; they want to colonize its soul with the same failed and recycled visions of man and life; they repeat the same old recipes that kill the patient while lining the pockets of the doctors.  They ignore the deepest concerns present in the heart of its people, the visions and the myths that give strength in spite of frequent disappointments and failures.  They manipulate politics and betray hopes, leaving behind scorched land and a terrain ready for more of the same, albeit under a new guise.  Powerful figures and utopian dreams have promised magic solutions, instant answers, immediate effects.  The Church, without human pretensions, respects the varied face of the continent, which she sees not as an impediment but rather a perennial source of wealth.  She must continue working quietly to serve the true good of the men and women of Latin America.  She must work tirelessly to build bridges, to tear down walls, to integrate diversity, to promote the culture of encounter and dialogue, to teach forgiveness and reconciliation, the sense of justice, the rejection of violence.  No lasting construction in Latin America can do without this unseen yet essential foundation.
          The Church appreciates like few others the deep-rooted shared wisdom that is the basis of every reality in Latin America.  She lives daily with that reserve of moral values on which the life of the continent rests.  I am sure that, even as I say this, you can put a name on this reality.  We must constantly be in dialogue with it. We cannot lose contact with this moral substratum, with this rich soil present in the heart of our people, wherein we see the subtle yet eloquent elements that make up its mestizo face – not merely indigenous, Hispanic, Portuguese or African, but mestizo: Latin American!
          Guadalupe and Aparecida are programmatic signs of the divine creativity that has bought this about and that underlies the popular piety of our people, which is part of its anthropological uniqueness and a gift by which God wants our people to come to know him.  The most luminous pages of our Church’s history were written precisely when she knew how to be nourished by this richness and to speak to this hidden heart.  For it guards, like a spark beneath a coat of ashes, the sense of God and of his transcendence, a recognition of the sacredness of life, respect for creation, bonds of human solidarity, the sheer joy of living, the ability to find happiness without conditions.
          To speak to this deepest soul, to speak to the most profound reality of Latin America, the Church must continually learn from Jesus.  The Gospel tells us that Jesus spoke only in parables (cf. Mk 4:34).  He used images that engaged those who heard his word and made them characters in his divine stories.  God’s holy and faithful people in Latin America understand no other way of speaking about him.  We are called to set out on mission not with cold and abstract concepts, but with images that keep multiplying and unfolding their power in human hearts, making them grain sown on good ground, yeast that makes the bread rise from the dough, and seed with the power to become a fruitful tree.
A Church able to be a sacrament of hope
          Many people decry a certain deficit of hope in today’s Latin America.  We cannot take part in their “moaning”, because we possess a hope from on high.  We know all too well that the Latin American heart has been taught by hope. As a Brazilian songwriter has said, “hope dances on the tightrope with an umbrella” (João Bosco, O Bêbado e a Equilibrista).  Once you think hope is gone, it returns where you least expect it.  Our people have learned that no disappointment can crush it.  It follows Christ in his meekness, even under the scourge.  It knows how to rest and wait for the dawn, trusting in victory, because – deep down – it knows that it does not belong completely to this world.
          The Church in these lands is, without a doubt and in a special way, a sacrament of hope.  Still, there is a need to watch over how that hope takes concrete shape.  The loftier it is, the more it needs to be seen on the faces of those who possess it.  In asking you to keep watch over the expression of hope, I would now like to speak of some of its traits that are already visible in the Latin American Church.
In Latin America, hope has a young face
          We often speak of young people and we often hear statistics about ours being the continent of the future.  Some point to supposed shortcomings and a lack of motivation on the part of the young, while others eye their value as potential consumers.  Others would enlist them in trafficking and violence.  Pay no attention to these caricatures of young people.  Look them in the eye and seek in them the courage of hope.  It is not true that they want to return to the past.  Make real room for them in your local Churches, invest time and resources in training them.  Offer them incisive and practical educational programmes, and demand of them, as fathers demand of their children, that they use their gifts well.  Teach them the joy born of living life to the full, and not superficially.  Do not be content with the palaver and the proposals found in pastoral plans that never get put into practice.
          I purposely chose Panama, the isthmus of this continent, as the site of the 2019 World Youth Day, which will propose the example of the Virgin Mary, who speaks of herself as a servant and is completely open to all that is asked of her (cf. Lk 1:38).  I am certain that in all young people there is hidden an “isthmus”, that in the heart of every young person there is a small strip of land which can serve as a path leading them to a future that God alone knows and holds for them.  It is our task us to present the young with lofty ideals and to encourage them to stake their lives on God, in imitation of the openness shown by Our Lady.
In Latin America, hope has a woman’s face
          I need not dwell on the role of women on our continent and in our Church.  From their lips we learned the faith, and with their milk we took on the features of our mestizo soul and our immunity to despair.  I think of indigenous or black mothers, I think of mothers in our cities working three jobs, I think of elderly women who serve as catechists, and I think of consecrated woman and those who quietly go about doing so much good.  Without women, the Church of this continent would lose its power to be continually reborn.  It is women who keep patiently kindling the flame of faith.  We have a grave obligation to understand, respect, appreciate and promote the ecclesial and social impact of all that they do.  They accompanied Jesus on his mission; they did not abandon him at the foot of the cross; they alone awaited for the night of death to give back the Lord of life; they flooded the world with his risen presence.  If we hope for a new and living chapter of faith in this continent, we will not get it without women.  Please, do not let them be reduced to servants of our ingrained clericalism.  For they are on the front lines of the Latin American Church, in their setting out with Jesus, in their persevering amid the sufferings of their people, in their clinging to the hope that conquers death, and in their joyful way of proclaiming to the world that Christ is alive and risen.
In Latin America, hope passes through the hearts, the minds and the arms of the laity
          I would like to repeat something I recently said to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.  It is imperative to overcome the clericalism that treats the Christifideles laici as children and impoverishes the identity of ordained ministers.
          Though much effort has been invested and some steps have been taken, the great challenges of the continent are still on the table.  They still await the quiet, responsible, competent, visionary, articulated and conscious growth of a Christian laity.  Men and women believers, who are prepared to contribute to the spread of an authentic human development, the strengthening of political and social democracy, the overturning of structures of endemic poverty and the creation of an inclusive prosperity based on lasting reforms capable of preserving the common good.  So too, the overcoming of inequality and the preservation of stability, the shaping of models of sustainable economic development that respect nature and the genuine future of mankind, which unfettered consumerism cannot ensure, and the rejection of violence and the defence of peace.
          One more thing: in this sense, hope must always look at the world with the eyes of the poor and from the situation of the poor.  Hope is poor, like the grain of wheat that dies (cf. Jn 12:24), yet has the power to make God’s plans take root and spread.
          Wealth, and the sense of self-sufficiency it brings, frequently blind us to both the reality of the desert and the oases hidden therein.  It offers textbook answers and repeats platitudes; it babbles about its own empty ideas and concerns, without even coming close to reality.  I am certain that in this difficult and confused, yet provisional moment that we are experiencing, we will find the solutions to the complex problems we face in that Christian simplicity hidden to the powerful yet revealed to the lowly.  The simplicity of straightforward faith in the risen Lord, the warmth of communion with him, fraternity, generosity, and the concrete solidarity that likewise wells up from our friendship with him.
          I would like to sum up all of this in a phrase that I leave to you as a synthesis and reminder of this meeting.  If we want to serve  this Latin America of ours from CELAM, we have to do so with passion, a passion that nowadays is often lacking.  We need to put our heart into everything we do.  We need to have the passion of young lovers and of wise elders, a passion that turns ideas into viable utopias, a passion for the work of our hands, a passion that makes us constant pilgrims in our Churches.   May I say that we need to be like Saint Toribius of Mogrovejo, who was never really installed in his see: of the twenty-four years of his episcopacy, eighteen were passed visiting the towns of his diocese.  My brothers, please, I ask you for passion, the passion of evangelization.
          I commend you, my brother bishops of CELAM, the local Churches that you represent, and all the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, to the protection of Our Lady under the titles of Guadalupe and Aparecida.  I do so, in the serene certainty that God who spoke to this continent with the mestizoand black features of his Mother, will surely make his kindly light shine in the lives of all.

#PopeFrancis "Christ is the word of reconciliation written on your hearts." FULL TEXT + Video in Columbia to Bishops

Below, please find the official English translation of the Pope's prepared speech:

Address: Meeting with the Colombian BishopsThursday, 7 September 2017 - 
Peace be with you This was the greeting of the Risen Lord to his little flock after he triumphed over death.  Let it be my own greeting to you at the beginning of my visit.
Thank you for your words of welcome.  I am pleased that my first steps in this country have brought me to meet you, the Colombian bishops.  Through you, I embrace the whole Church in Colombia; I hold all your people in my heart, the heart of the Successor of Peter.  I am very grateful for your ministry as bishops, and I ask you to carry it out with renewed generosity.  I offer a particular greeting to the retired bishops, and I ask them, by their prayers and their discreet presence, to continue to sustain the Bride of Christ to whom they devoted themselves so generously.
I have come to proclaim Christ, and to undertake a journey of peace and reconciliation in his name.  Christ is our peace!  He has reconciled us with God and with one another!
I am convinced that Colombia has one remarkable feature: it has never been a goal fully attained, a destiny completely achieved, or a treasure totally possessed.  I think of the nation’s human riches, its vast natural resources, its culture, its luminous Christian synthesis, the heritage of its faith and the memory of its evangelizers.  I think of the irrepressible joy of its people, the unfailing smile of its youth, its characteristic fidelity to the Gospel of Christ and to his Church and, above all, its indomitable courage in resisting threats of death not merely proclaimed but often experienced at first hand.  All this recedes, hides itself, from those who come here as foreigners bent on domination, while offering itself freely to those who touch its heart with the meekness of a wayfarer.  Such is Colombia.
For this reason, I have come to your Church as a wayfarer, a pilgrim.  I am your brother, desirous of sharing the risen Christ for whom no wall is impenetrable, no fear insurmountable, no disease incurable.
I am not the first Pope to speak to you in your home.  Two of my great predecessors were your guests here.  Blessed Paul VI came immediately after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council to encourage the collegial realization of the mystery of the Church in Latin America, as did Saint John Paul II in his memorable Apostolic Visit of 1986.  The words of both are a lasting resource; the guidelines they set forth, and the marvellous synthesis that they proposed regarding your ministry as bishops, are a legacy to be treasured.  I wish that everything I say to you may be received in continuity with their teachings.
Guardians and sacrament of the first step
“Let’s take the first step”.  This is the theme of my visit and this is the first thing I would say to all of you.  You know very well that God is the Lord of the first step.  He constantly goes before us.  Sacred Scripture everywhere speaks of God as exiled from himself for love.   So it was when there was only darkness, chaos, and God, going forth from himself, brought all things into being (cf. Gen 1:2.4).  So it was when he walked in the Garden and saw the nakedness of his creatures (cf. Gen 3:8-9).  So it was when, as a pilgrim, he dwelt in the tent of Abraham, leaving him with the promise of an unexpected fertility (cf. Gen 18:1-10).  So it was when he appeared to Moses herding the goats of his father-in-law and opened new horizons before him (cf. Ex 3:1-12).  So it was when he refused to turn away from his beloved Jerusalem, even when she prostituted herself in the byways of infidelity (cf. Ez 16:15).  So it was when he migrated with his glory towards his people exiled in slavery (cf. Ez 10:18-19).
Then, in the fullness of time, God chose to reveal the true name of the first step, his first step.  That name is Jesus, and that step is irreversible.  It is born of the freedom of a love that precedes all else.  For the Son is himself the living expression of that love.  Those who acknowledge and accept him receive the freedom always to take, in him, that first step.  They have no fear of getting lost if they step out of themselves, for they have the down payment of the love coming from God’s first step, a compass that keeps them from going astray.
Preserve, then, with holy fear and reverence, that first step which God has taken towards yourselves and, through your ministry, towards the people that he has entrusted to your care.  Realize that you are a living sacrament of that divine freedom which is unafraid to go forth from itself out of love, that has no fear of being impoverished by surrendering itself and needs no strength other than that of love.
God goes before us.  We are only branches, not the vine.  So do not silence the voice of the One who has called you, or delude yourselves into thinking that the success of the mission entrusted to you depends on your own meagre virtues or the benevolence of the powers that be.  Instead, pray fervently when you have so little to give, so that you will be granted something to offer to those who are close to your hearts as pastors.  In the life of a bishop, prayer is the vital sap that passes through the vine, without which the branches wither and bear no fruit.  So keep wrestling with God, even more so in the night of his absence, until he gives you his blessing (cf. Gen 32:25-27).  The wounds of that important daily wrestling in prayer will be for you a source of healing.  You will be healed by God, so that you can in turn bring healing to others.
Show clearly that you are a sacrament of God’s first step
Indeed, showing clearly that you are sacraments of God’s first step will demand a constant interior exodus.  “There is no mightier invitation to love than to anticipate in loving” (Saint Augustine, De catechizandis rudibus, I, 4.7, 26: PL 40).  Consequently, every area of your episcopal ministry should be marked by the freedom to take the first step. The premise for the exercise of the apostolic ministry is a readiness to draw close to Jesus, leaving behind all that we were, in order to become something we were not (Saint Augustine, In. Psal.,121, 12: PL 36).
I urge you to be vigilant not only as individuals but as a collegial body, ever docile to the Holy Spirit, with regard to this constant point of departure.  Where it is lacking, the features of the Master fade from the faces of his disciples, the mission is blocked and there is a weakening of that pastoral conversion which is nothing other than a renewed impulse to preach the Gospel of joy today, tomorrow and the day following (cf. Lk 13:33).  That same concern filled the heart of Jesus, leaving him without a place to lay his head, intent only on carrying out to the end the Father’s will (cf. Lk 9:58.62).  What other future do we have?  To what other dignity can we aspire?
Do not use the yardstick of those who would have you be mere functionaries, bowing to the dictatorship of the present.  Instead, keep your gaze fixed on the eternity of the One who chose you, ever ready to accept his own decisive judgment.
While acknowledging the complex reality of the Colombian Church, it is important to preserve the uniqueness of its varied and legitimate strengths, its pastoral sensitivities, its regional peculiarities, its historical memories and its wealth of distinct ecclesial experiences.  Pentecost means that everyone ought to be able to hear the message in his or her own language.  So continue to seek communion among yourselves.  Never tire of building it through frank and fraternal dialogue, avoiding hidden agendas like the plague.  Make every effort to take the first step, trying to understand each other’s way of thinking.  Allow yourselves to be enriched by what others can offer you and build a Church that can offer this country an eloquent witness of the progress that can be made when things are not left in the hands of a small group.  The role of the Ecclesiastical Provinces in relation to the Gospel message is fundamental, for the voices that proclaim that message are diverse and concordant. So do not rest content with a watered-down compromise that leaves the minority quietly impotent while dampening those hopes that should be courageously entrusted to God’s power rather than to our own weak efforts.
Show particular sensitivity towards the Afro-Colombian roots of your people, which have contributed so greatly to shaping the face of this land.
Touching the flesh of Christ’s body
I would ask you not to be afraid to touch the wounded flesh of your own history and that of your people.  Do so with humility, without the vain pretension of self-serving activism, and with a heart undivided, free of compromise and servility. God alone is Lord; since we are his shepherds, our hearts must not be subservient to any other cause.
          Colombia needs that watchfulness, proper to you as bishops, to sustain its courage in taking the first step towards definitive peace and reconciliation, towards abdicating the method of violence and overcoming the inequalities at the root of so much suffering.  That watchfulness is needed for renouncing the easy yet irreversible path of corruption and for patiently persevering in the construction of a res publica capable of combatting poverty and inequality.
          This is an arduous but necessary task; the path is steep and the solutions are not easy to find.  From the height of God, which is the cross of his Son, you will receive strength; with the kindly gaze of the Risen Lord, you will make your way forward; attentive to the voice of the Bridegroom whispering in your hearts, you will find the criteria to discern anew, at every moment of uncertainty, the right road to take.
          One of your distinguished writers said of a certain fictional character of his that, “He did not realize that it is easier to begin a war than to end one” (Gabriel García Márquez, Cien años de soledad, Chapter 9).  All of us know that peace calls for a distinct kind of moral courage.  War follows the basest instincts of our heart, whereas peace forces us to rise above ourselves.  The same author then went on to say: “He did not understand that many words were needed to explain what war was like, if one alone was enough: fear” (ibid., Chapter 15).  I need not speak to you about such fear, a poisoned root, a bitter fruit and a painful legacy of every conflict.  I would only encourage you not to stop believing that there is another way.  Know that you have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear; the Spirit himself bears witness that you are children, destined for an inheritance of glorious freedom (cf. Rom  8:15-16).
          With your own eyes you see, and you are aware as are few others, how marred is the face of this country.  You are guardians of the basic parts that make the nation one despite all its wounds.  For this very reason, Colombia has need of you, so that it can show its true face, filled with hope despite its imperfections.  So that it can engage in mutual forgiveness despite wounds not yet completely healed.  So that it can believe that another path can be taken, even when force of habit causes the same mistakes to be constantly repeated.  So that the courage can be found to overcome everything that generates misery in the midst of so many treasures.
          I encourage you, then, to strive to make your Churches wombs of light, capable of giving birth, even amid great poverty, to the new children that this land needs.  Find shelter in the humility of your people, and recognize their hidden resources of humanity and faith.  Listen to how greatly their ravaged humanity yearns for the dignity that only the Risen Lord can give.  Do not be afraid to abandon your apparent certitudes to seek the true glory of God, which is the living man.
The word of reconciliation
          Many people can help with the challenges facing this nation, but your mission is unique.  You are not mechanics or politicians, but pastors.  Christ is the word of reconciliation written on your hearts.  You have the power to preach that word not only in pulpits, in ecclesial documents or newspaper articles, but also in the hearts of individual men and women.  You have the power to proclaim it in the inner sanctum of their consciences, where they hope to hear the heavenly voice that proclaims: “Peace to those whom God loves” (Lk 2:14).  You must speak that word with the frail, lowly yet invincible resource of God’s mercy, which is capable of averting the pride and cynicism of selfish hearts.
          The Church seeks only the freedom to speak that word.  She has no need for alliances with this or that party, but only the freedom to speak to the heart of every man and woman.  There, they are free to face their anxieties; there, they can find the strength to change the course of their lives.
          The human heart, so often misled, wants to see life as a vast warehouse for depositing everything it accumulates. For this very reason, the question needs to be put: What does it profit a man to gain the entire world, if his soul remains empty? (cf. Mt 16:26).
          From your lips as legitimate shepherds of Christ, Colombia has a right to be challenged by the truth of God, who never ceases to ask: “Where is your brother?” (cf. Gen 4:9).  That question may not be silenced, even if those who hear it can do no more than lower their gaze in embarrassment and stammer in shame that they sold him, perhaps for the price of a fix of narcotics or for some misguided notion of reasons of state, or even for the false belief that the end justifies the means.
          I ask you to keep your gaze ever fixed on concrete men and women.  Do not talk about “man”, but about human persons, loved by God and composed of flesh and bones, history, faith, feelings, disappointments, frustrations, sorrows and hurts.  You will see that this concrete approach will unmask cold statistics, twisted calculations, blind strategies and falsified data, and remind you that “only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).
A Church on mission
          While acknowledging the generous pastoral work that you continue to carry out, let me now share with you some of my heartfelt concerns as a Pastor who wants to encourage you to be more and more a Church on mission.  My predecessors have already insisted on a number of these challenges: the family and life, young people, priests, vocations, laity and formation.  Despite the enormous efforts that have been made, in recent decades it has become perhaps even harder to find effective ways to express Church’s maternity in begetting, nourishing and accompanying her children.
          I think of Colombia’s families, of the defence of life from the maternal womb to its natural conclusion, of the scourge of violence and alcoholism that often affect entire households, of the weakening of the marriage bond and the absence of fathers, with the tragic effects of insecurity and a sense of abandonment.  I think of young people threatened by spiritual emptiness and seeking to escape through drug use, frivolous lifestyles and a rebellious spirit.  I think of your many generous priests and the challenge of supporting them in their daily decision to remain faithful to Christ and the Church, while some few continue to propose the easy way out, avoiding genuine commitment and remaining isolated and self-centred.  I think of the lay faithful throughout your local Churches who continue to gather together in response to the call of God, who is communion, even as many people are proclaiming the new dogma of selfishness and the death of solidarity.  I think of the immense efforts made by so many people to grow in faith, making it a radiant light for their hearts and a lamp to guide the first step.
          I offer you no recipes, much less do I intend to leave you a list of things to do.  Still, I would ask you, as you carry out in communion your demanding mission as the bishops of Colombia, to maintain your serenity.  Although you know very well that, during the night, the evil one continues to sow weeds, imitate the patience of the Lord of the harvest and trust in the good quality of his grain.  Learn from his patience and generosity.  He takes his time, because his loving gaze sees far into the distance.  If love grows weak, the heart becomes impatient, anxious to be busy about many things, hounded by the fear of failure.  Believe above all in the smallness of God’s seeds.  Trust in the power hidden in his yeast.  Let your hearts be drawn to the great beauty that leads us to sell everything we have, in order to possess that divine treasure.
          Indeed, what more powerful gift can you offer to the Colombian family than the quiet strength of the Gospel of love, that generous love which unites a man and a woman, and makes them an image of Christ’s union with the Church, givers and guardians of life?  Families need to know that in Christ they can once more become a luxuriant tree capable of providing shade and bearing fruit in every season, sheltering nests of life in its branches.  Nowadays so many people glorify trees that offer no shade, trees that bear no fruit, branches bare of nests.  May your own starting point be a joyful witness to the fact that happiness is to be found elsewhere.
          What can you offer to young people?  They love to feel loved; they distrust those who write them off; they look for integrity and they want to be involved.  Accept them with the heart of Christ and make room for them in the life of your Churches.  Do not undersell their hopes and expectations.  Be fearless in clearly and calmly reminding everyone that a society under the spell of drugs suffers a moral metastasis that peddles hellfire, sows rampant corruption and creates fiscal paradises.
          What can you give to your priests?  The first gift is to be fathers to them, assuring them that the hand that begot and anointed them continues to be part of their lives.  In this digital age, it is not hard for us to reach our priests instantly.  Yet the paternal heart of a bishop cannot be content with an occasional, impersonal and formal communication with his priests.  A bishop has to be concerned about where and how his priests are living.  Are they truly living as Jesus’ disciples?  Or have they found other forms of security, like financial stability, moral ambiguity, a double life, or the myopic illusion of careerism?  Priests have a vital and urgent need for the physical and affective closeness of their bishop.  They need to know that they have a father.
          Priests frequently shoulder the burden of the Church’s daily activity.  They are in the front lines, continually surrounded by persons with difficulties who look to them for pastoral assistance.  People approach them and appeal to their hearts.  Priests have to feed the crowds, but God’s food is never something to be merely handed out.  On the contrary, it can only come from our own poverty, which encounters God’s bounty.  To dismiss the crowds and to feed oneself on the little that one can unduly appropriate is a constant temptation (cf. Lk 9:13).
          So be vigilant for the spiritual grounding of your priests.  Keep leading them to that Caesarea Philippi where each of them, from his own Jordan experience, can hear Jesus ask once more: Who do you say that I am?  The reason for the gradual decay that often leads to the death of discipleship is always to be found in a heart no longer able to answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of God” (cf. Mt 16:13-16).  The result is seen in a loss of the courage to give freely of oneself, in interior confusion, and in the weariness of a heart no longer capable of accompanying the Lord on his way to Jerusalem.
          Show particular concern for the ongoing formation of your priests, from the first moment they hear God’s call in their hearts.  The recently published Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis is a valuable resource whose implementation will help the Church in Colombia in her efforts to respond to the gift of God, who never ceases to call so many of her sons to the priesthood.
          I ask you also to show concern for the lives of consecrated men and women. They represent an evangelical rebuke to worldliness.  They are called to purify every residue of worldly values in the fire of the Beatitudes lived sine glossa and in total self-abnegation for the service of others.  Do not look upon them as “useful resources” for the works of the apostolate, but hear in them the Bride’s cry of consecrated love: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).
          Be concerned too for the formation of your laity, who are responsible not only for the strength of their faith communities, but in great part for the Church’s presence in the area of cultural, political and economic life.  Formation in the Church involves coming into contact with the living faith of the ecclesial community and appropriating the treasure of experiences and responses that the Holy Spirit awakens, for he is the one who teaches all things (cf. Jn 14:26).
          I would now turn my thoughts to the challenges facing the Church in Amazonia, a region of which you are rightly proud, because it is an essential part of the remarkable biodiversity of this country.  Amazonia is for all of us a decisive test whether our society, all too often prey to materialism and pragmatism, is capable of preserving what it freely received, not to exploit it but to make it bear fruit.  I think particularly of the profound wisdom of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon region, and I ask myself if we are still capable of learning from them the sacredness of life, respect for nature, and the recognition that technology alone is insufficient to bring fulfilment to our lives and to respond to our most troubling questions.
          For this reason, I encourage you not to abandon the Church in Amazonia to itself.  Creating an “Amazonian face” for the pilgrim Church in this land is a challenge for all of you; and it calls for an increasingly conscious missionary support on the part of all the dioceses and the entire clergy of the nation.  I am told that in some native Amazon languages the idea of “friend” is translated by the words, “my other arm”.  May you be the other arm of Amazonia.  Colombia cannot amputate that arm without disfiguring its face and its soul.
Dear brothers:
          Let us now turn in spirit to Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá, whose image you were thoughtful enough to bring from her Shrine to the magnificent Cathedral of this city, so that I too might venerate her.
          As you well know, Colombia cannot achieve that true renewal to which she aspires, unless it is granted from on high.  Let us ask this of the Lord through the Blessed Virgin.
          Just as in Chiquinquirá God renewed the splendour of the countenance of his Mother, may he continue to shine his heavenly light on the face of this entire country and accompany the Church in Colombia with his gracious blessings.