Pope Francis’ representative to the United States encouraged the nation’s bishops this week to promote solidarity and listen to those on the margins of society.
“Despite the various advances in technology and social communications, it seems that the mission of evangelization is stifled because often we only speak with those with whom we agree and do not listen enough to those at the margins of the Church and of society,” Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, told a gathering of the U.S. bishops on Wednesday.
True solidarity, he said, “demands recognizing the common, inherent human dignity of each person” like welcoming the migrant “fleeing persecution or ‘certain death,’ as is the case with so many migrants.”
The nuncio welcomed the bishops at their annual spring general assembly, held in Indianapolis on June 14-15.
At their meeting, the bishops discussed pressing issues like immigration, health care, and international religious persecution, as well as the upcoming synod on young people to be held in 2018.
Archbishop Pierre noted in his address that he has served as Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. for a year, and that he has been “impressed with the faith of the people” in the midst of “an increasingly secular culture that values efficiency and productivity over spiritual values.”
He referenced the 2007 general conference of Latin American and Caribbean bishops which resulted in the concluding Aparecida document, where the bishops conceded that the culture was rapidly changing and secularizing and that they could not “passively and calmly wait in our church buildings.”
Likewise, Catholics in the U.S. cannot wait, but must be “missionaries” and go “to the margins of the Church and society” to listen to those at the peripheries, he said.
He commended the bishops for already doing this, giving examples of the Mass said at the U.S.-Mexico border, their presence at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., and last November’s Mass at St. Peter Claver Church in West Baltimore, a historic African-American church near where the bishops gathered during their annual fall meeting.
That Mass “sent a powerful message in a time of racial tension that minorities will not be forgotten and that they enrich the whole Church,” he said.
Yet the bishops must continue reaching out to those on the “periphery” of society, including youth, who must be heard at the next synod on young people in 2018, the archbishop insisted. Yesterday, a survey was released on the Vatican website for the synod, reaching out specifically to youth between the ages of 16 and 29 to answer.
“I wish to encourage you to be proactive in ministering to our young people and in learning from them as you listen and evangelize,” the nuncio said.
He gave as an example of solidarity in action Latin American countries, which in recent years “have grown in fraternity” especially through “the collegial working of their bishops, giving rise to a true unity in diversity.”
“Why could the Church in the United States not generate positive results, in the Church and in the world, framing and influencing the direction of dialogue on the fundamental issues of our day?” Archbishop Pierre continued.
However, this solidarity between countries and persons is not “uniformity” that tramples on “the values and priorities of the people,” he insisted, as it rather opposes the “ideological colonization” that Pope Francis has warned of.
Rather, true solidarity can only be achieved “in the Truth, who is a person,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday morning, the bishops sent a greeting to Pope Francis where they mentioned his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in May.
“We pray the seeds sown on the common ground of life and religious freedom will bear much fruit,” they stated, while reaffirming their pledge to find “areas of good collaboration” with elected officials.
“Close to our hearts are the poor, families in need of health care and those immigrating to the United States in search of a safe and secure home,” they stated.
By Matt Hadro