(Vatican Radio) Pastoral ministry should always be missionary and its ministers must
be courageous evangelizers not afraid to go out ‘into the deep’, the outskirts of
existence, to bring the ‘sweet and comforting joy’ of faith to people today.
This is Pope Francis’ message to his brother Argentinian bishops who are gathered in the city of Pilar for their Plenary Assembly, an assembly he was to have led as President of the Episcopal Conference, before his election to the papacy. Emer McCarthy reports:
In a letter sent to the group, who will remain in closed session until April 20, the Pope begins by ‘apologizing’ for his absence noting that ‘recent commitments’ have impeded his attending. He then urges them to reflect on the theme ‘Into the Deep’ in light of the great missionary document of Aparecida, launched following the V General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. A document the then Cardinal Bergoglio helped draft.
“Mission” he notes, “is key to ministry”. “A Church that does not go out of itself, sooner or later, sickens from the stale air of closed rooms”. Pope Francis went on to concede that at times, like anyone else, in going out the Church risks running into accidents. But he added “I prefer a thousand times over a Church of accidents than a sick Church”.
Pope Francis said that the Church typically suffers from being self-referential, of only looking to and relying on itself. He spoke of a “narcissism that leads to a routine spirituality and convoluted clericalism” and prevents people from experiencing the sweet and comforting joy of evangelization.
Pope Francis concluded his letter with a special greeting to the Argentinian people, and a fraternal embrace for his fellow bishops asking them to pray so that “I do not grow proud and always know how to listen to what God wants and not what I want”.
In a statement released during the Plenary Assembly, the Argentine bishops addressed the issue of pending reform of the justice system. They write that any reform requires "profound insight", "extensive consultations, discussions and consensus on the many proposed changes."
The note, entitled "Justice, democracy and the national Constitution," refers to the proposed reform of the justice system made by the Head of State, President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner: the text, already sent to Congress, provides for the reform of the Council of the Judiciary, a law ensuring democratic access to the courts and prosecutors, the change of the rule imposing an obligation of transparency of actions carried out by the judiciary and the creation of three separate Appeals Courts .
"A hasty negotiation of reforms that are so significant - the bishops write - run the risk of debilitating the republican democracy established by the Constitution, particularly in one of its essential dimensions, that is, the independence of the three powers: legislative, executive and judicial."
Other issues also on the agenda during the Plenary Assembly include the election of Pope Francis, the first Argentine Pontiff, and preparations for the Fourth National Missionary Congress which will open in Catamarca on August 17.
Photo: Residents of the Villa 21-24 slum pray during Mass in the Virgin of Caacupe chapel, where then Cardinal Bergoglio used to give mass, in the Barracas neighborhood of Buenos Aires.