The meeting with families and the Mass with tens of thousands of indigenous people in Chiapas brought the Pope from the capital of Mexico to its southern border. And the events showed his missionary will to be close to the poor and to care for all those families who are facing difficult times. Pope Bergoglio has always made these priorities clear and has highlighted them in many ways since the start of his Pontificate, just as they are sure to emerge from the imminent and highly anticipated exhortation resulting from the two Synod Assemblies.
Bartolomé de las Casas, a Dominican priest, was the first Bishop of San Cristóbal, dating back to 1543. He was the pioneer who protected the indigenous peoples and author of the Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias. The Papal Mass here on Monday morning, 15 February, featured three indigenous languages, and the songs, music and dance of the native peoples. The evocative Liturgy concluded with the presentation of new translations of the Bible in these languages — after long years of work — and with enthusiastic gratitude to the Pontiff for restoring the permanent diaconate among these communities. Both these things call to mind the origins of Christianity.
Consistent with patristic appreciation for the perception of truth (the semina verbi) in the works of pagan poets and philosophers, Francis cited the Mayan text Popol Vuh, explaining that “in the heart of man and in the memory of many of our peoples is imprinted this yearning for a land, for a time when human corruption will be overcome by fraternity, when injustice will be conquered by solidarity and when violence will be silenced by peace”. This yearning has a face, that of Jesus, the Pope added.
As the Latin American bishops recognized at Aparecida, there is much to be learned from indigenous populations, in facing “one of the greatest environmental crises in world history”: namely, the capacity for a balanced and harmonious relationship with nature, the central theme of the Encyclical Laudato Si’, which has garnered so much interest. Yet these peoples have been misunderstood and excluded, “on many occasions, in a systematic and organized way”. For this reason, the Pontiff said, it would be worthwhile “for each of us to examine our conscience and learn to say, ‘forgive me!’, ‘forgive me, brothers and sisters!’”.
The packed stadium in Tuxtla Gutiérrez then set the stage for the meeting with families, where Pope Bergoglio heard the testimony of four families and conversed with them. Once again the Pope raised his voice in support of the family, hoping for protective legislation and above all pointing to personal commitment as the antidote to precariousness and to the isolation that has actually become a social model.
Acknowledging that family life is not easy, Francis applied to families what he has often times said about the Church. In other words, he prefers “a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play, to a family and society that is sick from isolationism”. He prefers a family with faces that are tired and wrinkled, which are true to God, to “faces full of makeup that know nothing of tenderness and compassion”.
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