Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Be missionaries of God's love and tenderness ", especially to those who "in the Gospel Jesus calls 'the little ones'" is the task that Pope Francis has entrusted to the confraternities, lay associations of faithful all over the world. Mass in front of St Peter's Basilica was attended by about 100 thousand of them, from all four corners of the world, each with their own uniform, symbols, crucifixes, statuettes of devotion. St Peter's Square was awash with colors, capes, embroidered veils, flower arrangements, images of the Madonna, but also umbrellas, given the inclement, rainy and gray weather.
The pope joked about the weather and
preceded his homily with the words "Dear brothers and sisters, you were
brave to come here in this weather!", greeted by an endless applause and smiles
This encounter between the Pope and the confraternities is one of the events set to celebrate the Year of Faith. In his homily, which explains the Christian value of these associations, Francis refers to the teaching of Benedict XVI and that of the Document of Aparecida, the final text of the 2007 meeting of the bishops of Latin American, drawn up under the authority of the then Card. Bergoglio.
Francis emphasizes first the
character of "Gospel authenticity" of the confraternities: " Whoever loves the Lord Jesus welcomes him and
his Father interiorly, and thanks to the Holy Spirit receives the Gospel in his
or her heart and life. Here we are shown the centre from which everything must
go forth and to which everything must lead: loving God and being Christ's
disciples by living the Gospel. When Benedict XVI spoke to you, he used this
expression: evangelical spirit. Dear confraternities, the popular piety of
which you are an important sign is a treasure possessed by the Church, which
the bishops of Latin America defined, significantly, as a spirituality, a form
of mysticism, which is "a place of encounter with Jesus Christ. '"
"Do not rest content - he adds - with a mediocre Christian life, but let your affiliation serve as a stimulus, above all for you yourselves, to an ever greater love of Jesus Christ".
The second element that the pope recalls, referring to Benedict XVI, is "ecclesial spirit ". " The Latin American Bishops - he explained - wrote that the popular piety which you reflect is "a legitimate way of living the faith, a way of feeling that we are part of the Church" (Aparecida Document, 264). Love the Church! Let yourselves be guided by her! In your parishes, in your dioceses, be a true "lung" of faith and Christian life. In this Square I see a great variety of colors and signs. This is also the case with the Church: a great wealth and variety of expressions in which everything leads back to unity, to the encounter with Christ".
The pope repeated the notion that
popular piety is "a legitimate way of living the faith." In
the period after the Council an attempt to "purify the faith" of
irrational aspects led to excessive intellectualism and a suppression of popular
piety, especially in Latin America, resulting in an impoverishing of the
expressions of faith and the flight of the faithful towards sects seen as
closest to popular piety.
The third element highlighted in his homily was "mission". "You - said the Pope - have a specific and important mission, that of keeping alive the relationship between the faith and the cultures of the peoples to whom you belong. You do this through popular piety. When, for example, you carry the crucifix in procession with such great veneration and love for the Lord, you are not performing a simple outward act; you are pointing to the centrality of the Lord's paschal mystery, his passion, death and resurrection which have redeemed us, and you are reminding yourselves first, as well as the community, that we have to follow Christ along the concrete path of our daily lives so that he can transform us. Likewise, when you express profound devotion for the Virgin Mary, you are pointing to the highest realization of the Christian life, the one who by her faith and obedience to God's will, and by her meditation on the words and deeds of Jesus, is the Lord's perfect disciple (cf. Lumen Gentium, 53). You express this faith, born of hearing the word of God, in ways that engage the senses, the emotions and the symbols of the different cultures... In doing so you help to transmit it to others, especially the simple persons whom, in the Gospels, Jesus calls "the little ones". In effect, "journeying together towards shrines, and participating in other demonstrations of popular piety, bringing along your children and engaging other people, is itself a work of evangelization" (Aparecida Document, 264). May you also be true evangelizers! May your initiatives be "bridges", means of bringing others to Christ, so as to journey together with him. And in this spirit may you always be attentive to charity. Each individual Christian and every community is missionary to the extent that they bring to others and live the Gospel, and testify to God's love for all, especially those experiencing difficulties. Be missionaries of God's love and tenderness!".
Almost at the end of Mass, before praying the Regina Caeli, the Pope recalled "one of the characteristics of popular piety," which is "devotion to Our Lady." "For this - added the Pope - I invite you to meditate on the last chapter of the Constitution of the Second Vatican Council on the Church, Lumen Gentium, which speaks precisely of Mary in the mystery of Christ and the Church., It is said that Mary "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith "(n. 58). Dear friends, in the Year of faith I leave this icon of the pilgrim Mary, who follows her Son Jesus and precedes all of us in the journey of faith."
Francis then sent greetings to the Eastern Churches who today celebrate the feast of Easter. "I wish - he said - to send a special greeting to these brothers and sisters, uniting myself with all my heart to them in proclaiming the good news: Christ is risen! Gathered in prayer around Mary, we ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete so He may consul and comfort all Christians, especially those who celebrate Easter amid trials and sufferings, and guide them on the path of reconciliation and peace. "
Finally, Francis said that "yesterday in Brazil Francisca de Paula De Jesus, known as NháChica was proclaimed Blessed. "Her simple life was totally dedicated to God and charity, so much so that she was known as "mother of the poor". I join the joy of the Church in Brazil for this bright disciple of the Lord. "
After the Marian prayer, the Pope concluded the Mass with the farewell salute that has almost become his trademark: "Have a good Sunday and a good lunch."