Thirty years after the pastoral trip of St. Pope John Paul II to Chile, the current Pope Francis undertook his sixth visit to Latin America, this time visiting Chile and Peru (between January 15 and January 22) during different historical, social, and political circumstances, that are always changing, of course. On the last papal visit in 1987, for example, Chile was under the military and dictatorial regime of Pinochet. Today, Chile lives in a regime of democratic government.
Enlightening the minds and hearts of men and women of good will, Pope Francis, in his mission and style, confirms and encourages the faith of Catholics, and helps clarify - by the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - today's problems, of the men and the peoples he visits. He presented the Good News of Jesus with current themes, very near and very close to the feelings and the deepest, most intimate, and most current experiences and urgencies of the life of each audience.
With the emotion of a Catholic and with the pride of being Chilean, with the fresh joy of the encounter with Francis and with gratitude to God for the privilege of having been present in this Apostolic Journey as a special guest of the Chilean government, let me emphasize here, very briefly, the thoughts, the themes, the strong ideas, and the most important moments, of the speeches delivered by Pope Francis to the Chilean people, transcribing his very words to preserve them - just as they were delivered, without interpreting them or changing them, for our reflection and Christian life.
At the MEETING WITH THE AUTHORITIES, THE CIVIL SOCIETY AND THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS at the Palacio de la Moneda in Santiago de Chile on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, the Pope reminded all Chileans of the challenge that should enliven the days of this Nation in its present and near future: "a great and exciting challenge: to continue working to make this democracy, as your forebears dreamed, beyond its formal aspects, a true place of encounter for all. To make it a place where everyone, without exception, feels called to join in building a house, a family and a nation. A place, a house and a family called Chile: generous and welcoming, enamored of her history, committed to social harmony in the present, and looking forward with hope to the future. Here we do well to recall the words of Saint Alberto Hurtado: “A nation, more than its borders, more than its land, its mountain ranges, its seas, more than its language or its traditions, is a mission to be fulfilled.” It is a future. And that future depends in large part on the ability of its people and leaders to listen.”’ And, added the Pope: to especially listen:
- “TO THE UNEMPLOYED, who cannot support the present, much less the future of their families;
- TO THE NATIVE PEOPLES, often forgotten, whose rights and culture need to be protected lest that part of this nation’s identity and richness be lost;
- TO THE MIGRANTS, who knock on the doors of this country in search of a better life, but also with the strength and the hope of helping to build a better future for all;
- TO YOUNG PEOPLE, and their desire for greater opportunities, especially in education, so that they can take active part in building the Chile they dream of, while at the same time shielding them from the scourge of drugs that rob the best part of their lives;
- TO THE ELDERLY, with their much-needed wisdom and their particular needs. We cannot abandon them.
- TO THE CHILDREN, who look out on the world with eyes full of amazement and innocence, and expect from us concrete answers for a dignified future.”
And, at this moment of his intervention, Pope Francis added a request for forgiveness that was very just, necessary, and anticipated by the Chilean people in this Apostolic Visit: "Here I feel bound to express my pain and shame, shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the Church. I am one with my brother bishops, for it is right to ask for forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensuring that such things do not happen again.”
In the Homily of the Eucharistic Celebration FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE at O'Higgins Park in Santiago de Chile on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, he reminded us that "the Beatitudes are not the fruit of a hypercritical attitude or the “cheap words” of those who think they know it all yet are unwilling to commit themselves to anything or anyone, and thus end up preventing any chance of generating processes of change and reconstruction in our communities and in our lives. The Beatitudes are born of a merciful heart that never loses hope. A heart that experiences hope as “a new day, a casting out of inertia, a shaking off of weariness and negativity” (Pablo Neruda, El habitante y su esperanza, 5) and he added that "peacebuilding is a process that calls us together and stimulates our creativity in fostering relationships where we see our neighbor not as a stranger, unknown, but rather as a son and daughter of this land.”
During his brief visit to the Women’s Penitentiary of Santiago, the Holy Father reminded the inmates that " losing our freedom does not mean losing our dreams and hopes.... Losing our freedom is not the same thing as losing our dignity.... No one must be deprived of dignity." He also said that "public order must not be reduced to stronger security measures, but should be concerned primarily with preventive measures, such as work, education, and greater community involvement.”
On the same day, Tuesday, January 16, and at the MEETING WITH THE PRIESTS, CONSECRATED MEN AND WOMEN AND SEMINARIANS at Santigo Cathedral, he encouraged them to "renew our ‘yes’, but as a realistic ‘yes’, sustained by the gaze of Jesus.” He invited them to pray, saying “the Church that I love is the holy Church of each day.… Yours, mine, the holy Church of each day… Jesus Christ, the Gospel, the bread, the Eucharist, the humble Body of Christ of each day. With the faces of the poor, the faces of men and women who sing, who struggle, who suffer. The holy Church of each day.” And he ended his speech asking them: "What sort of Church is it that you love? Do you love this wounded Church that encounters life in the wounds of Jesus?”
At the MEETING and GREETING OF THE POPE WITH THE BISHOPS OF CHILE in the Santiago Cathedral Sacristy, he told them that "the lack of consciousness of belonging to God’s faithful people as servants, and not masters, can lead us to one of the temptations that is most damaging to the missionary outreach that we are called to promote: clericalism, which ends up as a caricature of the vocation we have received.”
On Wednesday, January 17, in the Homily of the Eucharistic Celebration FOR THE PROGRESS OF PEOPLES at Maquehue Airport in Temuco, the Pope addressed especially the members of the Mapuche people, as well as the other indigenous peoples who live in these Austral lands: the Rapanui (Easter Island), the Aymara, the Quechua and the Atacameños, and many others... and at this airport in Maquehue, in which serious human rights violations took place. The Pope called for our construction - as artisans - of unity and the recognition of (original) cultures without violence, saying that "the unity sought and offered by Jesus acknowledges what each people and each culture are called to contribute to this land of blessings” and that “you cannot assert yourself by destroying others, because this only leads to more violence and division. Violence begets violence, destruction increases fragmentation and separation. Violence eventually makes a most just cause into a lie.”
In the MEETING WITH THE YOUTH, in the National Shrine of Maipú, he exhorted them to be "the protagonists of change. To be protagonists. Our Lady of Mount Carmel accompanies [them] so that [they] can be protagonists for the Chile of which [their] hearts dream.” And, he reminded them that "maturing means growing and letting dreams grow and letting aspirations grow, not lowering your guard…” He also said: "How much the Church in Chile needs you to ‘shake the ground beneath our feet’ and help us draw closer to Jesus! This is what we ask of you, that you shake the ground beneath our fixed feet, and help us to be closer to Jesus.”
In the VISIT TO THE PONTIFICAL CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF CHILE, the same Wednesday, January 17, he recalled the importance of the identity, of the existence and mission of the Catholic University for national coexistence and for the construction of community, telling them that the construction of coexistence “is not so much a question of content, but of teaching how to think and reason in an integrated way. What was traditionally called forma mentis.…The university, in this context, is challenged to generate within its own precincts new processes that can overcome every fragmentation of knowledge and stimulate a true universitas.” And, added the Pope, we must "seek out ever new spaces for dialogue rather than confrontation, spaces of encounter rather than division, paths of friendly disagreement that allow for respectful differences between persons joined in a sincere effort to advance as a community towards a renewed national coexistence.”
Finally, in the Homily of the Eucharist in honor of OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL and in the PRAYER FOR CHILE as a Farewell, in the Lobito Campus of Iquique, on Thursday, January 18, the Holy Father encouraged us all to "like Mary at Cana… be attentive to all situations of injustice and to new forms of exploitation that risk making so many of our brothers and sisters miss the joy of the party. Let us be attentive to the lack of steady employment, which destroys lives and homes. Let us be attentive to those who profit from the irregular status of many migrants who don’t know the language or who don’t have their papers “in order”. Let us be attentive to the lack of shelter, land and employment experienced by so many families. And, like Mary, let us say: They have no wine, Lord.”
After this wealth of prophecy delivered by the Pontificate of Francis in Chilean lands, nothing remains but:
After this wealth of prophecy delivered by the Pontificate of Francis in Chilean lands, nothing remains but:
- Regret, if the sensationalism and the media’s curiosity focused voraciously, rampantly, vulgarly and commercially on the subject of sexual scandals and on the person of a Chilean bishop accused of protecting a pedophile priest, a matter that the Pope himself denied and in which he came out in defense of the bishop and - as noted above – for which he asked for forgiveness. Sensationalism and curiousity that - in some moments and sectors, then, could overshadow and forget the wealth and importance of the visitor and his pastoral and evangelizing mission.
- To hope, with the construction and the active and generous contribution of everyone, that the Gospel’s seed watered in our Chilean Homeland by Francis bears - in the near future of our beloved Nation - good and abundant fruits.