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Monday, August 1, 2016

Words shared with Polish Bishops

In the afternoon of Wednesday, July 27 of this year, the first day of the Apostolic Journey to Poland for the XXXI World Youth Day, Pope Francis met with the bishops of Poland in the Cathedral of Saints Stanislaus and Wensceslaus in Kraków.

In the course of the meeting, the Pope responded to some questions posed by the Polish prelates.

Dialogue between His Holiness, Pope Francis
and the Bishops of Poland

Pope Francis
Before beginning the dialogue, with the questions that you have prepared, I want to perform a work of mercy with al of you and to suggest another.  I know that during these days, with the Youth Day, many of you were busy and could not attend the funeral of your beloved Bishop Zimowski.  It is a work of charity to bury the dead, and all together, we want to pray now for him, and that this moment may truly be an occasion for us to demonstrate fraternal charity, by burying our brother who has died.  Let us pray together:  Our Father .... Hail Mary ... Glory be to the Father ... Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord ...

And then, the other work of mercy that I want to suggest.  I know that you are preoccupied about this: our dear Cardinal Macharski who is very ill ... At least we can be close to him, because I believe that we will not be able to enter into the place where he is, unconscious, but at least we can go to the clinic, to the hospital, and touch the wall while we say: Brother, we are close to you.  Visiting the sick is another work of mercy.  I too will go.  Thank you.

And now, some of you have prepared questions, at least you sent them to me.  I am ready.

His Excellency, Marek Jędraszewski
Archbishop of Łódź
Holy Father, it seems that the faithful of the Catholic Church and in general all Christians in Western Europe are finding ourselves increasingly in the minority within an increasingly liberal/atheist contemporary culture.  In Poland, we are experiencing a profound challenge, a fight between faith in God on the one hand and on the other hand, a manner of thinking and a way of life as though God did not exist.  In your opinion, Holy Father, what kind of pastoral action should the Catholic Church undertake in our country, so that the Polish people will remain faithful to more than a thousand years of tradition?  Thank you.

Pope Francis
Your Excellency, you are the Bishop of ...

His Excellency, Marek Jędraszewski
Of Łódź, where the journey of Saint Faustina began: it was there that she heard the voice of Christ telling her to go to Warsaw and to be a nun, there in Łódź.  The history of her life began in my city.

Pope Francis
You are privileged!
It is true, the de-Christianization, the secularization of the modern world is strong.  It is very strong.  But someone says: Yes, it is strong but we see religious phenomena, as though the religious sense is waking up.  And this can also be a danger.  I believe that we, in today's world that is so secularized, we also have the other danger, of gnostic spiritualization: secularization provides the possibility for a spiritual life of gnosticism to grow.  Let us remember that this was the first heresy of the Church: the apostle John hit the gnostics - and with what strength! - for having a subjective spirituality, without Christ.  For me, the most serious problem about this secularization is de-Christianizaton: remove Christ, remove the Son.  I pray, I feel ... and nothing more.  This is gnosticism.  There is another heresy that is also in fashion, at the moment, but I will leave it aside because your question, Your Excellency, goes in this direction.  There is also a Pelagianism, but let us leave that aside, in order to speak about it at another time.  To find God without Christ: a God without Christ, a people without a Church.  Why?  Because the Church is the Mother, the one who gives you life, and Christ is the big Brother, the Son of the Father, who refers to the Father, who is the one that reveals the name of the Father.  An orphan Church: the gnosticism of today, since it is really a de-Christianization, without Christ, leads us to a Church, or perhaps better said, to be Christians, an orphaned people.  And we must help our people to understand this.

What would I suggest?  It comes to mind - but I believe that there was a practice spoken of in the gospel, where the Lord's teaching can be found - closeness.  Today, we - servants of the Lord - bishops, priests, consecrated persons, committed lay persons - should be close to the people of God.  Without closeness, there are only words with no flesh.  Let's think about it - I like to think like this - about two pillars of the gospel.  What are the two pillars of the gospel?  The Beatitudes and Matthew 25, the protocol by which we all will be judged.  Concreteness.  Closeness.  Touch.  The works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual: But you say these things because it's in fashion to speak about mercy this year... No, it's the gospel!  The gospel, works of mercy.  There is a heretic or a Samaritan unbeliever who moves around and does what he has to do, who also risks money!  Touch.  There is Jesus who was always with people or with the Father.  Either in prayer, by himself with the Father, or among the people, there, with the disciples.  Closeness.  Touch.  And the life of Jesus ... When He was travelling, at the doors of the city of Nain (cf Lk 7:11-17), he was moved, he went and touch the coffin and said: Don't cry ... Be close.  And closeness allows us to touch the suffering flesh of Christ.  The Church, the glory of the Church, is seen in her martyrs, certainly, but there are also many men and women who have left everything and have spent their lives in hospitals, in schools, with children, with the sick ... I remember, in Central Africa, a religious sister who was 83 or 84 years old, she was thin, good, brave and she was with a child ... She came to say hello: I am not from here, I am from another part of the river, from the Congo, but every time, once a week, I go there and do things because its more convenient.  She told me her age: 83 or 84 years old.  Since I was 23 years old, I have been here, I am an obstetric nurse, I have helped to birth two or three thousand children ... - Ah, ... and you came here alone? - Yes, yes, we come by canoe ... At 83 years old!  With a canoe she spent an hour and arrived.  This woman - and many others like her - have left their countries - she's Italian, from Brescia - she left her country in order to touch the flesh of Christ.  And we go to these mission countries, in the Amazon, in Latin America, in cemeteries we find the tombs of many religious men and women who died young, because of illnesses in their native lands for which they did not have the antibodies, and they died young.  The works of mercy: to touch, to teach, to console, to waste time.  Take the time.  I was very happy, once, to see a man who went to confession and was in a situation where he could not receive absolution.  He went with a bit of fear, because he had been sent away a few times: No, no ... go away, go.  The priest listened to him, explained the situation, and said: But you, you pray.  God loves you.  I will give you a blessing, but you must return, do you promise?  And this priest was wasting time in order to draw this man to the sacraments.  This is called closeness.  Speaking to bishops is closeness, I believe that I need to speak about the most important closeness: closeness with priests.  The bishop should be available to his priests.  When I was in Argentina, I used to hear from priests - many many times, when I would visit to give a retreat, and I loved to give retreats - I would say: Speak with the bishop about this ... - Ah no, I called him, the secretary told me: No, he is very very busy, but he will see you within three months.  This priest felt like an orphan, without a father, without any closeness, and he began to go down.  A bishop who sees in his list of calls, in the evening, when he returns to the office, that a priest has called, either that same night or the next day should call him, right away.  Yes, I am busy, but is it urgent? - No, no, but let us set some time ... Help the priests to feel that you are a father.  If we cut priests off from our fatherhood, we cannot ask them to be fathers.  This is the sense of God's fatherhood.  The work of the Son is to touch human sufferings: spiritual and corporal.  Closeness.  The work of the Father: be a father, a father-bishop.

Then, the youth - why should we speak about youth in these days.  Youth are boring!  They always come to say the same things, or this is how I think about it ..., or the Church should ..., we need to be patient with young people.  From the time of my own childhood, I have known some priests: it was a time when people went to confession more often than they do now; they would spend hours listening, or receiving them in their parish offices, listening to the same things ... but with patience.  And then, taking young people into the countryside, into the mountains ... Think about Saint John Paul II, what he did with university-aged children.  Yes, they went to school, but then he went with them into the mountains!  Closeness.  Listening to them.  Spending time with youth ...

And I want to point out one more thing, because I think that the Lord has asked it of me: grandparents.  You, who have suffered communism, atheism, you know: it was up to the grandfathers and the grandmothers to pass on the faith.  Grandparents have the memory of a people, they have the memory of faith, the memory of the Church.  Don't throw away your grandparents!  In this culture of waste, which is in fact de-Christianized, throws out whatever is no longer useful, anything that is not needed.  No!  Grandparents are the memory of a people, the memory of the faith.  And connect the young with their grandparents: this too is closeness.  Be close and create closeness.  This is how I would answer this question.  There are no recipes, but we have to stay on the field.  If we wait for them to sound the call, or to knock at the doors ... No.  We should go out in search of them, like the shepherd, who goes in search of the lost ones.  I don't know, this is what I'm thinking.  Simply this.

His Excellency, Sławoj Leszek Głódź
Archbishop of Gdańsk
Dear Pope Francis, above all we are grateful that Pope Francis has deepened the teaching about mercy that was begun by Saint John Paul right here in Kraków.  We all know that we are living in a world dominated by injustice: the rich are becoming even richer, the poor are suffering, there is terrorism, there are liberal ethics and morals, without any reference to God ... And my questions is the following: how can we apply the teachings about mercy, and to whom, above all?  The Holy Father has promoted the medicine that he calls misericordina, which I have taken with me: thank you for the promotion ...

Pope Francis
... but now, misericordina plus are coming, it's getting stronger!

His Excellency, Sławoj Leszek Głódź
Archbishop of Gdańsk
... yes, and thank you for this plus.  We also have the plus program, organized by the government for large families.  This plus is popular.  For who and how, above all?  First, who should be the object of our teachings about mercy?  Thank you.

Pope Francis
Thank you.  All this about mercy is not something that just came into my mind.  It is a process.  If we look, Blessed Paul VI already had a few hints about mercy.  Then, Saint John Paul II was the giant of mercy, with his encyclical Dives in misericordia, the canonization of Saint Faustina, and then the octave of Easter: he died on the vigil of the octave of Easter.  It's a process that lasts years in the Church.  If we look, we will see that the Lord was asking us to awaken the Church to this attitude of mercy among the faithful.  He is the Merciful One who forgives everything.  I think often of the medieval capital (sculpture on a post) that is found in the Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene in Vézelay, in France, where the Cammino of Santiago begins.  In that captial, on one hand, there is Judas, who has hanged himself, with his eyes open, his tongue hanging out ... and on the other side, there is the Good Shepherd who is carrying him.  If we look closely, attentively, the face of the Good Shepherd, the lips on one part of his face are sad but on the other part they are smiling.  Mercy is a mystery; it is a mystery.  It is God's mystery.  I once did an interview which later was turned into a book entitled The name of god is mercy, but this is a journalistic expression, I believe that we can say that God is the merciful Father.  At least Jesus, in the gospel explains it this way.  Punishment in order to convert.  And then the parable of mercy, this is the way he wanted to save us ... When the fullness of time comes, the Son will be born of a woman; with flesh, we are saved through flesh; not as a result of fear, but by flesh.  In this process of the Church, we receive many graces.

You see this world that is sick with injustice, lacking for love, filled with corruption.  This is true, this is true.  Today, on the plane, we spoke about that eighty-year-old priest who was killed in France: it's time that I admit that the world is at war, we are living the third world war in pieces.  Let us think about Nigeria ... Ideologies, yes, but what is today's ideology, the one that is right in the centre and the mother of corruption, of war?  The ideology of money.  Man and woman are no longer the object of creation, that place has been taken by money, and everything can be bought or sold for money.  Money is at the centre.  People are being exploited.  And people are being trafficked today.  It has always been this way: so much cruelty!  I spoke about this sentiment to the heads of government and they told me: There has always been cruelty.  The problem is that we see it now on television, it has come closer to our lives.  Always such cruelty.  Killing for money.  Trafficking of persons, trafficking of creation.  One of the leaders of an African nation, recently elected, when he came to meet me, told me: The first act of government that I did was to reforest the country, which had been de-forested and destroyed.  We had not taken care of creation!  And this meant that there was more poverty, more corruption.  What are we to think when 80% - more or less, we need to check the statistics to see if it is 80% r 82% or 78% - of wealth is in the hands of less than 20% of the people.  Father, don't speak like that, you sound like a Communist!  No, no, these are statistics!  And who pays for this?  People pay, the people of God: children who are trafficked, young people who are unemployed.  In Italy, for the past 25 years, more than 40% of youth are unemployed; in Spain it is 50%; in Croatia, it is 47%.  Why?  Because we have a liquid economy that favours corruption.  A great Catholic told me that he was scandalized by a friend of his who was an entrepreneur who told him: I will show you how to earn $20,000 without ever leaving your house.  With a computer, from California, he bought something - I don't know what - and then he sold it to China: in 20 minutes, in less than 20 minutes; he had earned $20,000.  Everything is liquid!  Young people have no concept of a culture of work, because they do not have work!  The earth is dead because it has been exploited unwisely.  And it just keeps on going.  The world is heating up, why?  Because we have to earn more.  Earnings.  We have fallen prey to the idolatry of money: one of the Ambassadors told me this when he came to present his Credentials.  It's idolatry.

Divine Mercy is the witness, the witness of many people, of many men and women, laity, youth who are doing work: in Italy, for example, cooperative efforts.  Yes, there are some who are not too smart, but they are all doing good, they do good things.  And then the institutions that care for the sick: strong organizations.  They go in that direction, they do things so that human dignity can grow.  But what you say is true.  We are experiencing religious illiteracy, to the point that in some shrines throughout the world, things get confused: if we go there to pray, there are shops in which we can purchase objects of piety, wreaths ... but there are some that sell superstitious things, because people are seeking salvation in religious superstition, in religious illiteracy, the relativism that confuses one thing with another.  In cases such as these, there is a need for the catechesis of life.  The catechesis that not only gives the basics but accompanies the journey.  Accompaniment is one of the most important attitudes!  To accompany the growth of faith.  This is great work and youth are waiting for this!  Youth are waiting ... But if I begin speaking, they will get bored!  Give them some work to do.  Tell them to go somewhere during their holidays, for 15 days, to help build modest homes for the poor, or to do something else.  They will start to feel that they are useful.  And the seed of God will be sown.  Slowly.  But things won't work if you only use words!  Religious literacy today must confront them with three languages: the language of the mind, the language of the heart and the language of hands.  All three in harmony with each other.

I don't know ... perhaps I am speaking too much!  These are ideas that I share with you.  You, with your prudence, will know what to do.  But always, the Church must go out.  Once I dared to say: to quote that verse from the Book of Revelation - I stand at the door and knock (Rv 3:20); He is knocking at the door, but I wonder how many times the Lord knocks on the door from the inside, so that we can open the door and so that He can go out with us to share the gospel with others.  Not closed in, outward looking!  Go out, go out!  Thank you.

His Excellency, Leszek Leszkiewicz
Auxiliary Bishop of Tarnów
Holy Father, our pastoral work is based largely on the traditional model of the parish community, centred on the sacramental life. It is a model that is still effective. Nonetheless, we are aware that, in our situation too, the circumstances of daily life are changing rapidly and challenging the Church to come up with new pastoral models. Pastors and faithful are a bit like those disciples who are attentive and active, but do not always know how best to exploit the missionary dynamism - interior and exterior - of the ecclesial communities. Holy Father, in Evangelii Gaudium you speak of missionary disciples who enthusiastically bring the Good News to today’s world. What do you suggest for us? Is there a specific way you can encourage us to build up the Church community in our world fruitfully, joyfully and with a missionary spirit?

Pope Francis
Thank you! I would like to stress one thing: the parish remains valid! The parish must remain. It is a structure that we must not discard; it is the home of God’s people. The problem is how the parish is organized! There are parishes with ungodly parish secretaries who scare people off. Parishes with closed doors. But there are also parishes with open doors, parishes where when someone comes to ask a question, they are told: Come in, make yourself at home, what can we do for you? And someone listens to them patiently, because caring for the people of God requires patience; it takes effort! A fine university professor, a Jesuit who I knew in Buenos Aires, asked the provincial when he retired to be assigned as a parish priest in a city neighbourhood, in order to have that experience. Once a week he would come back to the university – he was a member of that community – and one day he told me: Tell your professor of ecclesiology that there are two things missing in his course. - What? - First, the holy people of God essentially wear you out. And second, the holy people of God naturally do whatever they think best. And this wears you out! Today being a parish priest is exhausting: managing a parish takes effort nowadays, with so many problems. The Lord has asked us to get a little tired, to work and not to rest.

A parish is exhausting if it is well organized. The renewal of the parish has to be a constant concern of bishops. How is this parish doing? What is it doing? What is its religious education programme like? How well is catechesis being presented? Is the church open? So many things … I think of one parish in Buenos Aires. Whenever an engaged couple arrived to get married, the secretary would immediately begin by saying: Here are the prices. This is wrong, parishes like this are wrong. How do we greet people? How attentive are we to them? Is someone always in the confessional? In parishes – not those in the country but in city parishes and those on the highways – if there is a confessional with the light on, people always come. Always! A welcoming parish. These are the questions we bishops should be asking our priests. How is your parish doing. Do you go out? Do you visit the imprisoned, the sick, the elderly? What about the children? Do you have a place for them to play? What about the oratory? The oratory is one of the great parish institutions, at least in Italy. There kids play and learn a little catechesis. They come home tired, happy, and a good seed has been sown.

So the parish is important! There are those who say that the parish is no longer relevant because this is the hour of the movements. That is not true! The movements help, but the movements must not be an alternative to the parish. They must help in the parish, contribute to the parish, like the confraternities, Catholic Action and so many other groups. To want to innovate and change the parish structure? What I am saying may seem heretical, but it is how I see things. I believe the parish structure is analogous to the episcopal structure, different but analogous. The parish cannot be touched; it has to remain as a place of creativity, a reference point, a mother, all these things. It is where that inventiveness has to find expression.

When a parish does all this, it becomes – with regard to missionary disciples – what I call a parish that goes forth. For example, I think about one parish – a good example that was later imitated by many – in a town where children tended not to be baptized because people didn’t have a lot of money. But they would prepare for the patronal feast three or four months beforehand by visiting homes and seeing how many children were unbaptized. They would then prepare the families and as part of the patronal feast they would baptize thirty or forty children who otherwise would not have been baptized.

Coming up with things of this kind ... People don’t get married in Church. I think of a priests' meeting where someone got up and said: Have you considered why? And he gave all those reasons we know about: the present culture, etc. But there are lots of people who do not get married because it is expensive! It costs money. Everything costs money … the party … it is a big social event. And that priest, who was quite creative, said: If anyone wants to get married, I will wait for you. Because in Argentina, we have two weddings: first you get married civilly and then you go to your place of worship and get married. Some – many! – do not come (to the Church) to get married because they don’t have the money for a big party … But the priests who are smart say: Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you! - On the days that the civil marriage office is open – from 11 to 12 and from 1-2 – I won’t take my siesta! So after the civil marriage the couples come to the Church, get married and leave in peace.

To be creative, to try to go out and meet people, to put yourself in people’s shoes. Nowadays parishes that are offices don’t work, because people are not disciplined. Your people are disciplined, and this is a grace of God. But people in general are not disciplined – I think of my own country: if you don’t go out to find them, if you don’t approach them, they do not come. This is what it means to be a missionary disciple, a parish that goes forth. To go out and look for people, as God did, when he sent his Son to find us.

I don’t know if this is a simplistic answer, but I don’t have any other. I’m not a brilliant pastoral theologian, I just say whatever comes to mind.

His Excellency, Krzysztof Zadarko
Auxiliary Bishop of Koszalin-Kołobrzeg
Holy Father, one of the most troubling problems facing Europe today is the question of refugees. How can we help them, since they are so numerous? And what can we do to counter fears of an invasion or aggression on their part, which would paralyze society as a whole?

Pope Francis
Thank you! The problem of refugees … It wasn’t always like this. Let’s speak of migrants and refugees, considering the two together. My father was a migrant. I told the President (of Poland) that in the factory where my father worked, there were many Polish immigrants, in the period after the war. I was a child and I knew many of them. My country is a country of immigrants, everybody … And there were no problems. Other times, really …

Why is there so much migration today? I am not talking about emigration from one's own country to another. This is due to lack of work; it is clear that people leave to seek employment abroad. This is a domestic problem, which you yourselves have to some extent … Here I am speaking of those who come to us, fleeing from wars, from hunger. The problem is back there. Why is the problem there? Because in those countries people are exploited, the earth is being exploited, there is exploitation for the sake of making more money. In talking with world economists who see this problem, they say: We need to invest in these countries. Investments will lead to employment and then there will be no need to emigrate. But there is war! There is tribal warfare, ideological wars or other artificial wars created by arms traffickers who make a living from this. They give weapons to you, who are against them, and to them, who are against you. That is how they make a living!

Corruption is really at the origin of migration. What can be done? I believe that every country has to look at times and means. Not all countries are alike; not all countries have the same possibilities. But they do have the possibility of being generous! Generous as Christians. We cannot invest there, but for those who come here …

How many and how? There is no one answer that fits every case. For acceptance depends on the situation of each country and culture. But certainly many things can be done. For example, weekly prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, prayer for those who knock at Europe’s door and are unable to enter. Some do, but others don’t … Then one does enter and takes a path that generates fear. We have countries that for years have done a good job of integrating migrants. They have integrated them well. In others, unfortunately, certain ghettos have formed. A whole reform has to take place, on a worldwide level, with regard to this commitment and acceptance. But that is something relative: what is absolute is a welcoming heart. That is absolute! With prayer and intercession, by doing what I can. What is relevant is the way I am able to do it. Not everyone can do it the same way. The problem is worldwide! The exploitation of creation, and the exploitation of persons. We are experiencing a moment of the annihilation of man as the image of God.

I would like to conclude with this aspect, since behind all this there are ideologies. In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these - I will call it clearly by its name – is (the ideology of) gender. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible!

In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way … and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a raw state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the raw state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. This is the age of sin against God the Creator. That will help us.

But you will say to me: What does this have to do with migrants? It has to do with the overall situation, no? As for migrants, I would say: the problem is there in their native lands… But how do we welcome them? Everyone has to determine how. But all of us can have an open heart and think of spending an hour in the parishes, an hour of adoration and prayer for migrants. Prayer moves mountains!

These are the four questions. Anyway ... Pardon me if I’ve talked too much, but my Italian blood betrays me …

Thank you very much for your welcome, and let us hope these days will fill us with great joy. Let us now pray to Our Lady, who is our Mother and who always takes us by the hand.

Salve Regina

And don’t forget the elderly, who are the memory of a people.
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