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Right at home

A meeting with clergy, sisters, religious and seminarians concluded the papal visit in Ecuador, three days in which the Pope felt at home. He said so himself in the beautiful church of St Francis, the baroque heart of Quito, immediately after receiving the keys to the city. Condensed in that historic place of worship — the Pope said to representatives of civil society — is the extended dialogue of the Ecuador’s history, with success and failure interwoven together, but the amalgamation that resulted “radiates such exuberance” that we can look to the future with great hope.

That look, both lucid and yet positive, was the common thread linking his appointments of a day which opened by a long and warm meeting with the Bishops of Ecuador, just before Mass for the evangelization of peoples in the vast park named for the bicentenary of the country’s independence. Both occasions confirmed that Bergoglio’s defining characteristic is the missionary dimension, effectively summed up as the joy of proclaiming the Gospel which became the title of the first document of the pontificate.

Speaking to nearly a million faithful, the Pope drew out a unified and concrete vision of the challenge that Christians have before them. In a world wounded by sin — which manifests itself in wars, violence, individualism, selfishness — the missionary Church must take on the difficult burden of unity with the “intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships”, in order to live and witness the Gospel to the world and to her own members: this is our revolution, the Pontiff exclaimed.

The parable of the sower inspired the Pope to speak to teachers and students at the Pontifical University of Ecuador about a crucial point, education, which he presented as a task entrusted by God — according to the biblical account — to cultivate and care for creation. Against the background of his recently published encyclical, Bergoglio repeated that the whole of creation is a gift that must be shared: “It is the space that God gives us to build up with one another, to build a ‘we’”, counteracting any form of exclusion and developing a critical sense and an open mind capable of caring for today’s world.

And meeting with the representatives of civil society in that unique setting of St Francis, the Pontiff once again described — at times improvising to great effect — the irreplaceable role of the family, where, he said, we find the basic values of love, fraternity and mutual respect, which translate into essential values for society as a whole: gratitude, solidarity and subsidiarity. Life choices that were just before this meeting illustrated by the simple and moving testimony given by an 85-year-old catechist, Caicedo Vega, and by a delicate passage of contemporary music, performed by a close-knit group of people with disabilities and concluded by two little girls from the orchestra bursting into a run and jumping into the arms of a Pope, who was visibly moved.

g.m.v.

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St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 14, 2018

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