2015-07-10 02:00:00

Pope Francis in Bolivia: meetings with clergy, religious, popular movements

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis had two major public engagements on Thursday afternoon in Santa Cruz, Bolivia: the first was a meeting with clergy, religious men and women and people in formation for the priesthood and religious life; the second was with a gathering of representatives of worldwide popular movements – groups of poor, socially marginalized, dispossessed and disenfranchised people.

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In his prepared remarks to the clergy, religious, and people in formation, Pope Francis focused on the figure of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, the story of whose healing in the Gospel according to St Mark was read during the encounter. “Two things about this story jump out at us and make an impression,” the Holy Father said. “On the one hand,” he continued, “there is the cry of a beggar, and on the other, the different reactions of the disciples.” He went on to say, “It is as if the Evangelist wanted to show us the effect which Bartimaeus’ cry had on people’s lives, on the lives of Jesus’ followers.” Some simply passed Bartimaeus by, while others told him to quit complaining. Jesus, on the other hand, responded with patience, gentleness and solicitude – and the disciples were agents of Our Lord, who summoned the blind beggar to the Lord with words of consolation and encouragement.

“This is the logic of discipleship, it is what the Holy Spirit does with us and in us,” said Pope Francis  “We are witnesses of this.  One day Jesus saw us on the side of the road, wallowing in our own pain and misery. He did not close his ear to our cries. He stopped, drew near and asked what he could do for us.  And thanks to many witnesses, who told us, ‘Take heart; get up,’ gradually we experienced this merciful love, this transforming love, which enabled us to see the light.  We are witnesses not of an ideology, of a recipe, of a particular theology.  We are witnesses to the healing and merciful love of Jesus.  We are witnesses of his working in the lives of our communities.”

In his second major engagement, Pope Francis focused on the power of the Gospel to change and heal hearts, and through the works of the people whose hearts have been thus turned and healed, to change and heal societies and indeed the planet with the stewardship of which we are all charged.

“Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation,” said Pope Francis in his prepared remarks. “For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment.  It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right.  The universal destination of goods is not a figure of speech found in the Church’s social teaching.  It is a reality prior to private property.  Property, especially when it affects natural resources, must always serve the needs of peoples. And those needs are not restricted to consumption.  It is not enough to let a few drops fall whenever the poor shake a cup which never runs over by itself.

Nevertheless, social programmes are not enough, nor are they on their own capable of ensuring a truly just and humane order of life in society. “Welfare programs geared to certain emergencies can only be considered temporary responses,” Pope Francis said. “They will never be able to replace true inclusion,” which provides dignified, free, creative, participatory work that is genuinely in service to the authentic common good.

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