In his weekly general audience April 4, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the “unforgettable days of joy and hope” that he experienced during his recent apostolic visit to Mexico and Cuba. The pope made pilgrimages to several spiritual sites, celebrated various liturgies and met with bishops, government officials, journalists, youth and others during the March 23-28 journey. It was Benedict’s 23rd apostolic visit abroad and third visit to the Western Hemisphere since being elected pope in 2005. Below are selections from his various addresses, in which he encouraged and challenged the Church in Latin America. For the full texts, visit vatican.va.
“I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently.”
Naturally the Church must always ask if enough is being done for social justice on this great continent. This is a question of conscience that we must always ask ourselves: what the Church can and must do, what she cannot and should not do? The Church is not a political power, nor a political party, but rather a moral reality, a moral force.
Inasmuch as politics should be a moral reality, on this track the Church fundamentally has to do with politics. I repeat what I have already said: the Church’s first thought is to educate consciences and thereby to awaken the necessary responsibility; to educate consciences both in individual and public ethics. And here, perhaps something is missing. In Latin America, and also elsewhere, among many Catholics a certain schizophrenia exists between individual and public morals: personally, in the private sphere, they are Catholics and believers but in public life they follow other trends that do not correspond with the great values of the Gospel which are necessary for the foundation of a just society.
It is therefore necessary to teach people to overcome this schizophrenia, teaching not only individual morality but also public morality. We try to do this with the Church’s social teaching because public morality must of course be a reasonable morality, shared and shareable by non-believers too, a morality of reason. Interview with journalists during flight to Mexico, March 23
I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently. In this way, they will be able to share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard. This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity. …
Together with faith and hope, the believer in Christ indeed the whole Church lives and practices charity as an essential element of mission. In its primary meaning, charity “is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations” (Deus Caritas Est, 31), as we help those who suffer from hunger, lack shelter, or are in need in some way in their life. Nobody is excluded on account of their origin or belief from this mission of the Church, which does not compete with other private or public initiatives. In fact, the Church willingly works with those who pursue the same ends. Nor does she have any aim other than doing good in an unselfish and respectful way to those in need, who often lack signs of authentic love. Welcoming Ceremony Address, Guanajuato International Airport, Silao, Mexico, March 23
The disciple of Jesus does not respond to evil with evil, but is always an instrument of good instead, a herald of pardon, a bearer of happiness, a servant of unity. He wishes to write in each of your lives a story of friendship. Hold on to him, then, as the best of friends. He will never tire of speaking to those who always love and who do good. This you will hear, if you strive in each moment to be with him who will help you in more difficult situations. Meeting with Young People at Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico, March 24
Dear brothers and sisters, by coming here I have been able to visit the monument to Christ the King situated on top of the Cubilete. … His kingdom does not stand on the power of his armies subduing others through force or violence. It rests on a higher power that wins over hearts: the love of God that he brought into the world with his sacrifice and the truth to which he bore witness. … We ask Christ to reign in our hearts, making them pure, docile, filled with hope and courageous in humility. Homily during Mass at Expo Bicentenario Park, Silao, Mexico, March 25
At this time, when so many families are separated or forced to emigrate, when so many are suffering due to poverty, corruption, domestic violence, drug trafficking, the crisis of values and increased crime, we come to Mary in search of consolation, strength and hope. She is the Mother of the true God, who invites us to stay with faith and charity beneath her mantle, so as to overcome in this way all evil and to establish a more just and fraternal society.
With these sentiments, I place once again this country, all of Latin America and the Caribbean before the gentle gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe. … I now ask that her presence in this nation may continue to serve as a summons to defense and respect for human life. May it promote fraternity, setting aside futile acts of revenge and banishing all divisive hatred. Angelus Address at Expo Bicentenario Park, Silao, Mexico, March 25
The Catholic faith has significantly marked the life, customs and history of this continent, in which many nations are commemorating the bicentennial of their independence. That was a historical moment in which the name of Christ continued to shine brightly. That name was brought here through the labors of outstanding and self-sacrificing missionaries who proclaimed it boldly and wisely. They gave their all for Christ, demonstrating that in him men and women encounter the truth of their being and the strength needed both to live fully and to build a truly humane society in accordance with the will of their Creator. Homily during celebration of vespers with bishops of Mexico and Latin America at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Light, Léon, Mexico, March 25
God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the loftiest mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church. Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy.
Dear brothers and sisters, before the gaze of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God. Amen. Homily during Mass for the 400th anniversary of the image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Plaza Antonio Maceo Square, Santiago de Cuba, Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, March 26
The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimizes the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favorable conditions for peace and harmonious development, while at the same time establishing solid foundations for securing the rights of future generations.
When the Church upholds this human right, she is not claiming any special privileges for herself. She wishes only to be faithful to the command of her divine founder, conscious that, where Christ is present, we become more human and our humanity becomes authentic. Homily during Mass at Plaza de la Revolución José Martí, Havana, Cuba, March 28
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