Martes, 05 de noviembre de 2013

Discurso del Cardenal Fernando Filoni, Prefecto de la Congregación para la Evangelización de los Pueblos  a los obispos de la Conferencia Episcopal de Pakistán, con los que se ha reunido en la tarde del 31 de octubre en Lahore.

SPEECH of Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan 

Lahore – October 31, 2013


My Dear Brother Bishops, 

1.      I am so very happy to visit your Country, to make my first visit to Pakistan, and to have the opportunity to meet all of you, and to spend time together,  which is a very beautiful thing, before going to Faisalabad for the Consecration of a new Bishop, Msgr. Joseph Arshad.  I greet with affection the President of the Episcopal Conference and each one of you, as well as the Apostolic Nuncio, the General Secretary and the various collaborators present.  By means of this meeting, as Pastors of the Church, we desire to live together a moment of communion among ourselves and with the Holy Father, Who sends through myself His most cordial greetings and His Blessing.  In the word of Psalm 133 (132), words of a hymn of love and mercy with which the Chosen People expressed their full joy to the Most High, we can also say how good it is for brothers to be together and to share the same joy and anxiety for the Church. 

2.      Certainly, prayer already joins us together, beyond the geographical distances and hours that separate us in daily life.  This morning, then, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and listening to the Word of God have permitted us, around the Altar of the Lord, to feed ourselves with the same spiritual food.  In this celebration, our Diocesan communities, the poor, the sick, and particularly those who suffer for the Faith or are discriminated against are all spiritually present with us.  In a special way, the victims of Peshawar and other brothers and sisters whose glorious witness is known only to the Lord are with us as well. 

3.      The question of an often uneasy peaceful coexistence among majority and minority religious groups, and, as such, the violation of human rights and the freedom to believe and worship specifically, is deeply troubling to me; and we are asked about it every time the phenomena of intolerance, abuse of power, loss of understanding, and the lack of living together peacefully occurs.  From the religious point of view, as Catholics, we are called to practice the teaching of Jesus, Who announced the Reign of God while doing good works as He passed through this life.  At the same time, Jesus respected the intimate choice of each person, even of His enemies, never seeking to proselytize, because, as Pope Francis noted two weeks ago on the World Day of Mission, the mission of Jesus was not that of proselytism, and consequently, such methods must not be a part of the mission of the Church.  The Church, therefore, is always called, as Blessed Pope John Paul II said, to build bridges and not walls, and, as Pope Francis specified last May 8th, “evangelizing is not proselytizing” and a Christian must always do things such that “Jesus Christ is accepted, received, and not refused”(cf. L’Osservatore Romano, 9 May 2013).  We know that this type of service is not easy and not even well understood.  We know that when evangelizing we are not alone, and that behind and before this service, there is the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit; thus, it does not depend only on us.  Nevertheless, we must do everything possible, because the pathway of the Truth, of knowing Him and receiving Him must never be impeded.  Because the Truth, Jesus Himself, is also the Way and the Life for every human person. 

4.      The Church in Pakistan, the Christian in Pakistan, is not, are not realities or citizens extraneous to this noble Country.  The Church lives within civil society of this land and fully participates in its development with its own goods and important institutions, in the service of all those who desire to benefit from them.  I am thinking of the schools and educational services that depend on ecclesiastical authorities: of health services, of charitable works and assistance to the poor and needy, of the formation of young couples, and of job training for young people.  Ever since the Church initiated its religious mission with the Jesuits in 1594, followed by the Augustinians, Carmelites, and the creation of the first Apostolic Vicariate of Punjab in 1880, and finally with the institution of the Hierarchy in 1950 only three years after the country’s independence and constitution as a Republic (1947), she has participated with intensity and loyalty to life in Pakistan.  Thus, the Catholic Church is a part of the life of this noble Nation, not only in the historical sense, but also in the religious, social and educational dimensions.  

5.      With seven Ecclesiastical Circumscriptions, including the Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta, with hundreds of priests and religious men, and almost 800 religious women who are her members, the Church in Pakistan is in the hands of native Bishops, priests, and religious men and women, and constitutes a living and beautiful reality in the service of the People of God and of this Nation.  In spite of her modest numeric presence, the Church of this Country can always be thought of as a smaller yet more faithful Church, very much like the early Church in its intense solidarity and courageous witnessing (cf. Joseph Ratzinger, Faith and the Future, 1969).  

6.      Here, I would like to offer a few considerations on the perspective that implicates our mission.  One of the reasons for which Pope Benedict XVI instituted the Year of Faith was the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  What was the Church like fifty years ago in Pakistan?  It is no mistake to think of this period as a time in which the Church was in formation, and we think, for example, of the presence of numerous missionaries, who generously labored to lay the foundations for us today.  To them, if I may say so, is due our immeasurable and eternal gratitude.  But what of the Church in Pakistan today?  It is a well-structured reality, made up completely of those born here, capable of facing competently and generously the challenges that confront her, charged with hope. It is a Church that does not look in a self-referential way only to its own interests.  Being part of this great Continent of Asia, she is called to be fully a part of the spread of the Gospel, crossing the threshold of the Third Christian Millennium with the premonition of gathering a great harvest of faith on this vast and vibrant Continent, as Pope John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia in Asia (cf. n. 1).  There are, thus, two perspectives: one ad intra, that is the strengthening of the ecclesial reality itself, and one ad extra, that is its role in the Continent of Asia and in the world. 

7.      Dear Brother Bishops, speaking of our mission ad intra, I cannot but urge you, as Pastors of the Flock that the Lord has entrusted to you, to always encourage and confirm the Faithful in the Faith and to be their neighbors in various circumstances and difficulties.  We know well that being Christian in this Country over the past decades has not always been easy.  In fact, I must say that in not a few circumstances, the Christian Community in Pakistan has given the highest testimony of martyrdom and of fidelity to Christ in the face of extremism and fanaticism.  Your courageous witness represents good most precious, not only in the eyes of God, not only to the eyes of the community of nations, but also in the eyes of the entire Church and of the whole world.  The words of St. Paul in the Second Letter to the Corinthians come to mind here, when he wrote: But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4:7-10). 

8.      In the recent waves of violence against Christians, your strong faith has been shown through deep adherence to the way of peace – unwavering trust in the transforming power of forgiveness, a continuous offering of the hand of friendship and a persevering journey on the path of peace, fraternal dialogue, and mutual respect. After the deadly attack on Christians in Peshawar, your collective response was very edifying.  You all came together to pray – Christians of various denominations, leaders of groups from civil society, and even of some Muslim leaders – convinced that no one should fall into the trap of retaliation that can only ignite further escalation of violence and hatred. In a world marred by wars and ethnic and sectarian conflicts, your Faithful, strengthened by their faith, showed the world that the way to peace is peace. Believers are, by vocation, peace-makers. Pope Francis, when he called on for a day of fasting and prayer for Syria during the Angelus on September 1st, 2013 emphatically said, “War brings on war! Violence brings on violence”; he went on to say, the “world needs to see gestures of peace and hear words of peace”. Your Faithful never tire of showing the world eloquent gestures of peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt. 5:9).  In the context of Pakistan’s history, I immediately thought of Shahbaz Bhatti, whom we can consider an icon of courageous adherence to peace and to the way of peace. In him, we see that a man of faith is a man of peace. He shed his blood for the faith, and he died for peace.  

9.       In this country, the presence of the Catholic Church is mostly felt through its schools, generally considered to be prestigious and appreciated for their quality education, as well as in the areas of community service and health. They serve to give a human face to the Church in this predominantly Islamic Pakistani society. The local government in some parts of Pakistan does not fail to esteem and be grateful for the endeavors of the Catholic Church in these fields. For example, it seems that the Government of Sindh exempts three Catholic hospitals from property taxes. The government is said to be prepared to grant a tax exemption as well to some Catholic institutions in economically depressed urban areas and for those working with indigenous peoples in the Thar Desert. It gave some tribal families of the ethnic group parkari koli, that were affected by the floods, four acres of land and new homes, which are part of a support program launched by the Catholic Hospital of St. Elizabeth in Hyderabad, and the list goes on.  It is thus clear that the violence that inflicted by extremists on the Christian population, in particular, does not reflect the sentiments of Pakistani society toward the Church. Make the words of St. Paul your very own: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).       

10.   The Holy Father, Pope Francis, on the occasion of “Id al-Fitr”, the conclusion of the month of Ramadan, made “Promoting Mutual Respect through Education” the theme of this year’s Message.  In expressing his “esteem and friendship for all Muslims, especially those who are religious leaders”, he stresses the importance of thinking, speaking and writing respectfully about others and always avoiding unfair criticism or defamation. To achieve this goal, families, schools, religious teaching and the media all have a role to play. In this light, therefore, continue to transform the many Catholic schools under your guidance to be not only the loving human face of the Church, but to be a real locus where Muslim and Christian youth will develop a strong sense of mutual respect and esteem, along with the capacity to dialogue with each other meaningfully, transforming them into ambassadors of peace and good will. 

11.   As you all know, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, wishes to continue what has been begun by his predecessors, Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.  It was made clear that the Third Millennium should usher the Church into a New Evangelization and a greater sense of mission. To the de-Christianized West, the Gospel must be preached with renewed vigor and new expressions. To places where Jesus is yet to be known, a stronger sense of mission ad gentes is to be instilled. 

12.  We Bishops are very much in the center of this exhortation of the Popes. Its realization or failure, to a great extent, will depend on us: we will either make it or break it.  It is along these lines that Pope Francis invited the Bishops of CELAM, who gathered in Rio de Janeiro last July. Is our Episcopal Ministry more pastoral than administrative? Do we have a proactive mindset or do we simply react to complex problems as they arise? Do we make the lay faithful sharers in the Mission? Is pastoral discernment, through pastoral and financial Councils as indicated in the Code of Canon Law, part of our shepherding of the People of God? 

13.  In many other occasions, when talking and preaching to Bishops and priests, Pope Francis exhorts us to be authentic Shepherds of the flock entrusted to us. “Bishops must be pastors, close to people, fathers and brothers, and gentle, patient and merciful. Men who love poverty, both interior poverty, as freedom before the Lord, and exterior poverty, as simplicity and austerity of life. Men who do not think and behave like “princes”. Men who are not ambitious, who are married to one church without having their eyes on another. Men capable of watching over the flock entrusted to them and protecting everything that keeps it together: guarding their people out of concern for the dangers which could threaten them, but above all instilling hope: so that light will shine in people’s hearts. Men capable of supporting with love and patience God’s dealings with his people. The Bishop has to be among his people in three ways: in front of them, pointing the way; among them, keeping them together and preventing them from being scattered; and behind them, ensuring that no one is left behind, but also, and primarily, so that the flock itself can sniff out new paths” (Pope Francis, Address to the Leadership of the Episcopal Conferences of the Latin America during the General Coordination Meeting, Sumaré Study Center, Rio de Janeiro, 28 July 2013). 

14.   In the performance of the enormous task of the Episcopal Office, we have our close and immediate collaborators, the priests, both Diocesan and Religious, who are working within your jurisdiction. May you never tire of investing in their permanent formation in order to empower and properly equip them pastorally, culturally, and spiritually.  Strive to create in the Presbyterium not simply a good camaraderie, but a real spirit of fraternal and priestly communion, nourished by mutual trust and confidence, and strengthened by the Eucharist, which is both a wellspring and a school of unity and charity. Experience shows that priests normally do not find it difficult to love, respect, and obey their Bishop, who is both fatherly and fraternal toward them. As you may be aware, we always have a difficult time getting good candidates for the Episcopate as your successors, rendering the process of selection exceptionally long. Please give us good and well-formed priests. Be very close to them and know them well. Kindly convey my encouragement and esteem to all your “collaborators”. 

15.   A healthy body requires a healthy heart, which is why we are always reminded to have our heart checked. The Second Vatican Council speaks of the Seminary as “the heart of the Diocese” (Optatum Totius, n. 5). I am happy that the Apostolic Nuncio has been doing his best to address the many problems and concerns of the two National Major Seminaries, St. Francis Xavier Seminary in Lahore and the Christ the King Seminary in Karachi. As we all know, both of its Rectors have just been recently appointed, and we hope that this will be an occasion for a fresh beginning for these two important institutions. The problems confronted by the National Catholic Institute of Theology (NCIT), the institution responsible for the seminarians’ academic formation, must be looked into without delay. 

16.   I ask you, as well, my dear Brother Bishops, to give your utmost moral and material support and interest for the improvement of priestly formation. Please visit often your seminarians and develop personal relationships with each of your students, since it is impossible to truly discern the authenticity of their vocation of you do not know them. What great damage is done to the Christian community when an ill-formed priest is given to them as their spiritual father. It is of this that St. Paul strongly warned Timothy, “Do not lay hands too readily on anyone, and do not share in another’s sins…” (1 Tim. 5:22). 

17.   I would be remiss if I allowed this occasion to pass without confiding to you one problem that has detrimental repercussions on the running of Dioceses in mission countries like yours. I am referring to the financial concerns of the Dicastery that attends directly to your needs, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.  Together with what Pope Benedict used to refer to as “tired faith” in the West is “donors’ fatigue”. There is writing on the wall indicating that the well appears to be drying up. If the current tide of this falling trend is not stemmed, we might not be able in the future to be in the position to subsidize, like we do now, the Dioceses in mission countries. Several things must be addressed: the need to find means of financial autonomy for the Dioceses; better criteria for appropriating funds for both operational expenses and projects; greater transparency from top to bottom; greater austerity, savings, and well-considered, professionally managed investments. A functional Diocesan Financial Council is indispensable for the financial management of the Diocese.    

18.  Before we conclude, I would like to convey words of appreciation for the pastoral ministry you have undertaken for the Local Church here in Pakistan. I understand the many difficulties and limitations you face each day. The Lord, Who has called you and has shared with you the fullness of the Priesthood, has not only assured you of his abiding presence (cf. Mt. 28:20), but at the foot of the Cross, He also gave us his Mother (cf. John 19: 27). May the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom you venerate with great filial devotion in the National Marian Shrine in Mariamabad, protect you always with her maternal care.   


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