Gracias, buena Francisco , por venir a nuestra casa. Dios los bendiga en su camino .
Mary E. Latela, September 26, 2015
The Visit of Pope Francis to the United States provides much food for reflection. There will be discussions of his talks, his sermons, his addressing of some challenging, even painful issues. But my initial reaction is to those moments of tenderness and mercy which brought up emotions, and which showed us that our leaders can be healers as well.
A reporter from The Guardian 9/25 (Ed Pilkington) writes about the poignant visit to Ground Zero. “For 14 years, Ground Zero has been a symbol of grief and loss, the disaster zone where so many lives were cut short that fateful September morning. It has also symbolized America’s patriotic response. Out of its rubble, the US launched two wars and engaged in global conflicts that are still ongoing.”
On Friday, Pope Francis came to Ground Zero and sought to move beyond both those instincts. Out of what he called the “wrongful and senseless loss of innocent lives”, out of “injustice, murder, and the failure to settle conflicts through dialogue”, would come something new and good. He summed it up in two words: “Simply peace.”
“For all our differences and disagreements,” he said, “we can live in a world of peace … Peace in our homes, our families, our schools and our communities. Peace in all those places where war never seems to end.” Then he paused in silent prayer.
Pope Francis reminded those who were gathered: “The lives of our dear ones will not be forgotten,” he said. “They will be present when we strive to be prophets not of tearing down but of building up, prophets of reconciliation, prophets of peace.”
In Philadelphia, Pope Francis kissed the forehead of a boy with cerebral palsy after landing in Philadelphia, coaxing a small smile from the profoundly disabled 10-year-old. Francis apparently spied young Michael Keating as his car passed, and he stopped.
Francis got out, walked over to the boy, put his hand on his head and kissed him as his sobbing mother looked on. He clasped the hand of Kristin Keating, the mother, and the father, director of the high school band which played for the Pope’s arrival. What a beautiful gesture, which his mother says she is sure her son felt.
The Catholic Church is involved in differences and challenges, which have risen to top priority, some to the level of angry exchanges. A couple of commentators were asked about these. Sister Simone Campbell, who wrote The Nuns on the Bus, pointed out that the absence of women in the large gathering of clergy saddened her. She did not mention ordination of women, but referred to the fact that women are the workers in the churches, that women taught in the Catholic schools – for which families paid nothing and paid a pittance – which was pooled with others to run a household of active and retired nuns. Not mentioned but quite true, is that the sister principal was never the administrator of the school – the parish priest where the school was located was the official clerical leader.
A priest commentator – not in answer to Sister Campbell’s statement – said that Protestant mainline groups were losing members because they were ok with fudging the doctrinal barriers which held a church together. One assumes he is discussing acceptance GLBT persons and the lack of women leading, for example, preaching, directing a service of reconciliation, without the need of ordination.
It is a source of joy, then, that Pope Francis urges another way to strengthen the church and to mend the hurt, the marginalized, the people on the “edges.” He states: “Dialogue is our method, not as a shrewd strategy but out of fidelity to the One who never wearies of visiting the marketplace, even at the eleventh hour, to propose his offer of love (Mt 20:1-16).
“The path ahead, then, is dialogue among yourselves, dialogue in your presbyteries, dialogue with lay persons, dialogue with families, dialogue with society. I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly. The richer the heritage which you are called to share with parrhesia, the more eloquent should be the humility with which you should offer it. Do not be afraid to set out on that ‘exodus’ which is necessary for all authentic dialogue. Otherwise, we fail to understand the thinking of others, or to realize deep down that the brother or sister we wish to reach and redeem, with the power and the closeness of love, counts more than their positions, distant as they may be from what we hold as true and certain. Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart; although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing.”
To me, dialog begins with prayer and reflection, continues with respectful speaking, and most of all with listening compassionately.