Colombia’s bishops must be in the frontline to “touch the wounded flesh” of their country and people to help them overcome the violence and the inequality that underlie the weakness of so many families and young people threatened ‘by spiritual emptiness and seeking to escape through drug use, frivolous lifestyles and a rebellious spirit.”
Bogotà (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis’ met on Thursday with Colombia’s bishops in Bogotà cathedral in his second meeting of the day. In his address, he stressed their role as pastors. He cited the previous visits by Paul VI and John Paul II.
The Holy Father told the prelates that they must be in the frontlines “to touch the wounded flesh” of their own country and people to help them overcome the violence and inequalities that underlie the weakness of so many families and young people threatened ‘by spiritual emptiness and seeking to escape through drug use, frivolous lifestyles and a rebellious spirit.”
“You are not mechanics or politicians, but pastors,” he told them. As such they have to proclaim the work of reconciliation and mercy in freedom.
As he cited the theme of his visit – ‘Let’s take the first step’ – he noted that “God is the Lord of the first step” as the Bible shows. He approached Abraham and Moses until the “irreversible” step was fulfilled with the incarnation of Jesus who gives to those who accept him the gift of “the freedom to take the first step” without ever getting lost along the way. In light of this, Francis urged the bishops to never lose this freedom.
The pope told the prelates to see unity with Jesus through prayer, and “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.”
Likewise, he pontiff urged the bishops to “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,” whilst, at the same, “Show[ing] particular sensitivity towards the Afro-Colombian roots” of the country.
“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.”
Urging the prelates to hold their “gaze ever fixed on concrete men and women” the pope, who said he had no recipes to offer, turned his thoughts to families in difficulty and the difficult task of defending life. Speaking of the “scourge of violence and alcoholism”, he bemoaned “the weakening of the marriage bond and the absence of fathers, with the tragic effects of insecurity and a sense of abandonment.”
Indeed, “I think of young people threatened by spiritual emptiness and seeking to escape through drug use, frivolous lifestyles and a rebellious spirit.”
Given this background, Francis urged the bishops to “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.”
Before entrusting Colombia to its patron, Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá, the pontiff dedicated his last thoughts to the Church of the Amazon. “Amazonia,” he said, “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 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.”