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USA – Philadelphia – 27.09.2015

Instituto Correccional “Curran-Fromhold”

Visita a los presos

Queridos hermanos y hermanas:

Gracias por recibirme y darme la oportunidad de estar aquí con ustedes compartiendo este

momento. Un momento difícil, cargado de tensiones. Un momento que sé es doloroso no solo para ustedes, sino para sus familias y para toda la sociedad. Ya que una sociedad, una familia que no sabe sufrir los dolores de sus hijos, que no los toma con seriedad, que los naturaliza y los asume como normales y esperables, es una sociedad que está «condenada» a quedar presa de sí misma, presa de todo lo que la hace sufrir. Yo vine aquí como pastor pero sobre todo como hermano a compartir su situación y hacerla también mía; he venido a que podamos rezar juntos y presentarle a nuestro Dios lo que nos duele y también lo que nos anima y recibir de Él la fuerza de la Resurrección.

Recuerdo el Evangelio donde Jesús lava los pies a sus discípulos en la Última Cena. Una actitud que le costó mucho entender a los discípulos, inclusive Pedro reacciona y le dice: «Jamás permitiré que me laves los pies» (Jn 13,8).

En ese tiempo era habitual que, cuando uno llegaba a una casa, se le lavara los pies. Toda persona siempre era recibida así. No existían caminos asfaltados, eran caminos de polvo, con pedregullo que iba colándose en las sandalias. Todos transitaban los senderos que dejaban el polvo impregnado, lastimaban con alguna piedra o producían alguna herida. Ahí lo vemos a Jesús lavando los pies, nuestros pies, los de sus discípulos de ayer y de hoy.

Todos sabemos que vivir es caminar, vivir es andar por distintos caminos, distintos senderos que dejan su marca en nuestra vida.

Por la fe sabemos que Jesús nos busca, quiere sanar nuestras heridas, curar nuestros pies de las llagas de un andar cargado de soledad, limpiarnos del polvo que se fue impregnando por los caminos que cada uno tuvo que transitar. Jesús no nos pregunta por dónde anduvimos, no nos interroga qué estuvimos haciendo. Por el contrario, nos dice: «Si no te lavo los pies, no podrás ser de los míos» (Jn 13,9). Si no te lavo los pies, no podré darte la vida que el Padre siempre soñó, la vida para la cual te creó. Él viene a nuestro encuentro para calzarnos de nuevo con la dignidad de los hijos de Dios. Nos quiere ayudar a recomponer nuestro andar, reemprender nuestro caminar, recuperar nuestra esperanza, restituirnos en la fe y en la confianza. Quiere que volvamos a los caminos, a la vida, sintiendo que tenemos una misión; que este tiempo de reclusión nunca ha sido y nunca será sinónimo de expulsión.

Vivir supone ensuciarse los pies por los caminos polvorientos de la vida, de la historia. Todos tenemos necesidad de ser purificados, de ser lavados. Todos, yo el primero. Todos somos buscados por este Maestro que nos quiere ayudar a reemprender el camino. A todos nos busca el Señor para darnos su mano. Es penoso constatar sistemas penitenciarios que no buscan curar las llagas, sanar las heridas, generar nuevas oportunidades. Es doloroso constatar cuando se cree que solo algunos tienen necesidad de ser lavados, purificados no asumiendo que su cansancio y su dolor, sus heridas, son también el cansancio y el dolor, las heridas de toda una sociedad. El Señor nos lo muestra claro por medio de un gesto: lavar los pies y volver a la mesa. Una mesa en la que Él quiere que nadie quede fuera. Una mesa que ha sido tendida para todos y a la que todos somos invitados.

Este momento en la vida de ustedes solo puede tener una finalidad: tender la mano para volver al camino, tender la mano para que ayude a la reinserción social. Una reinserción de la que todos formamos parte, a la que todos estamos invitados a estimular, acompañar y generar. Una reinserción buscada y deseada por todos: reclusos, familias, funcionarios, políticas sociales y educativas. Una reinserción que beneficia y levanta la moral de toda la comunidad y la sociedad.

Quiero animarlos a tener esta actitud entre ustedes, con todas las personas que de alguna manera forman parte de este Instituto. Sean forjadores de oportunidades, sean forjadores de camino, de nuevos senderos.

Todos tenemos algo de lo que ser limpiados y purificados. Todos. Que esa conciencia nos despierte a la solidaridad con todos, a apoyarnos y buscar lo mejor para los demás.

Miremos a Jesús que nos lava los pies, Él es el «camino, la verdad y la vida», que viene a sacarnos de la mentira de creer que nadie puede cambiar, la mentira de creer que nadie puede cambiar. Jesús que nos ayuda a caminar por senderos de vida y de plenitud. Que la fuerza de su amor y de su Resurrección sea siempre camino de vida nueva.

Y así como estamos, cada uno en su sitio sentado, en silencio, pedimos al Señor que nos bendiga. Que el Señor los bendiga y los proteja, haga brillar su rostro sobre ustedes y les muestre su gracia, les descubra su rostro y les conceda la paz. Gracias

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USA – Philadelphia – 27.09.2015

Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility

Visit to detainees

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Thank you for receiving me and giving me the opportunity to be here with you and to share this time in your lives. It is a difficult time, one full of struggles. I know it is a painful time not only for you, but also for your families and for all of society. Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society “condemned” to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain. I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own. I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection. I think of the Gospel scene where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. This was something his disciples found hard to accept. Even Peter refused, and told him: “You will never wash my feet” (Jn 13:8). In those days, it was the custom to wash someone’s feet when they came to your home. That was how they welcomed people. The roads were not paved, they were covered with dust, and little stones would get stuck in your sandals. Everyone walked those roads, which left their feet dusty, bruised or cut from those stones. That is why we see Jesus washing feet, our feet, the feet of his disciples, then and now. Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us. We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from travelling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us what about we have done. Rather, he tells us: “Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me” (Jn 13:8). Unless I wash your feet, I will not be able to give you the life which the Father always dreamed of, the life for which he created you. Jesus comes to meet us, so that he can restore our dignity as children of God. He wants to help us to set out again, to resume our journey, to recover our hope, to restore our faith and trust. He wants us to keep walking along the paths of life, to realize that we have a mission, and that confinement is not the same thing as exclusion. Life means “getting our feet dirty” from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher, who wants to help us resume our journey. The Lord goes in search of us; to all of us he stretches out a helping hand. It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society. The Lord tells us this clearly with a sign: he washes our feet so we can come back to the table. The table from which he wishes no one to be excluded. The table which is spread for all and to which all of us are invited. This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation. A rehabilitation which everyone seeks and desires: inmates and their families, correctional authorities, social and educational programs. A rehabilitation which benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community. Jesus invites us to share in his lot, his way of living and acting. He teaches us to see the world through his eyes. Eyes which are not scandalized by the dust picked up along the way, but want to cleanse, heal and restore. He asks us to create new opportunities: for inmates, for their families, for correctional authorities, and for society as a whole. I encourage you to have this attitude with one another and with all those who in any way are part of this institution. May you make possible new opportunities, new journeys, new paths. All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from. May the knowledge of that fact inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another and seek the best for others. Let us look to Jesus, who washes our feet. He is “the way, and the truth, and the life”. He comes to save us from the lie that says no one can change. He helps us to journey along the paths of life and fulfillment. May the power of his love and his resurrection always be a path leading you to new life.

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USA – Philadelphia – 27.09.2015

St. Charles Borromeo Seminary

Meeting with Bishops taking part in the World Meeting of Families

Dear Brother Bishops, I am happy to be able to share these moments of pastoral reflection with you, amid the joyful celebrations for the World Meeting of Families. For the Church, the family is not first and foremost a cause for concern, but rather the joyous confirmation of God’s blessing upon the masterpiece of creation. Every day, all over the world, the Church can rejoice in the Lord’s gift of so many families who, even amid difficult trials, remain faithful to their promises and keep the faith! I would say that the foremost pastoral challenge of our changing times is to move decisively towards recognizing this gift. For all the obstacles we see before us, gratitude and appreciation should prevail over concerns and complaints. The family is the fundamental locus of the covenant between the Church and God’s creation. Without the family, not even the Church would exist. Nor could she be what she is called to be, namely “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1). Needless to say, our understanding, shaped by the interplay of ecclesial faith and the conjugal experience of sacramental grace, must not lead us to disregard the unprecedented changes taking place in contemporary society, with their social, cultural – and now juridical – effects on family bonds. These changes affect all of us, believers and non-believers alike. Christians are not “immune” to the changes of their times. This concrete world, with all its many problems and possibilities, is where we must live, believe and proclaim. Until recently, we lived in a social context where the similarities between the civil institution of marriage and the Christian sacrament were considerable and shared. The two were interrelated and mutually supportive. This is no longer the case. To describe our situation today, I would use two familiar images: our neighborhood stores and our large supermarkets. There was a time when one neighborhood store had everything one needed for personal and family life. The products may not have been cleverly displayed, or offered much choice, but there was a personal bond between the shopkeeper and his customers. Business was done on the basis of trust, people knew one another, they were all neighbors. They trusted one another. They built up trust. These stores were often simply known as “the local market”. Then a different kind of store grew up: the supermarket. Huge spaces with a great selection of merchandise. The world seems to have become one of these great supermarkets; our culture has become more and more competitive. Business is no longer conducted on the basis of trust; others can no longer be trusted. There are no longer close personal relationships. Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to bond with anything or anyone, not to trust. The most important thing nowadays seems to be follow the latest trend or activity. This is even true of religion. Today consumerism determines what is important. Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming… Whatever the cost or consequences. A consumption which does not favor bonding, a consumption which has little to do with human relationships. Social bonds are a mere “means” for the satisfaction of “my needs”. The important thing is no longer our neighbor, with his or her familiar face, story and personality. The result is a culture which discards everything that is no longer “useful” or “satisfying” for the tastes of the consumer. We have turned our society into a huge multicultural showcase tied only to the tastes of certain “consumers”, while so many others only “eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Mt 15:27). This causes great harm. I would say that at the root of so many contemporary situations is a kind of impoverishment born of a widespread and radical sense of loneliness. Running after the latest fad, accumulating “friends” on one of the social networks, we get caught up in what contemporary society has to offer. Loneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognized. Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society? Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world? Should they hear their pastors saying that “it was all better back then”, “the world is falling apart and if things go on this way, who knows where we will end up?” No, I do not think that this is the way. As shepherds following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we are asked to seek out, to accompany, to lift up, to bind up the wounds of our time. To look at things realistically, with the eyes of one who feels called to action, to pastoral conversion. The world today demands this conversion on our part. “It is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded” (Evangelii Gaudium, 23) We would be mistaken, however, to see this “culture” of the present world as mere indifference towards marriage and the family, as pure and simple selfishness. Are today’s young people hopelessly timid, weak, inconsistent? We must not fall into this trap. Many young people, in the context of this culture of discouragement, have yielded to a form of unconscious acquiescence. They are paralyzed when they encounter the beautiful, noble and truly necessary challenges which faith sets before them. Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions, when everything can be perfect. Meanwhile, life goes on, without really being lived to the full. For knowledge of life’s true pleasures only comes as the fruit of a long-term, generous investment of our intelligence, enthusiasm and passion. As pastors, we bishops are called to collect our energies and to rebuild enthusiasm for making families correspond ever more fully to the blessing of God which they are! We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing the problems of the world around us and the merits of Christianity, but in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family. Here too, we need a bit of holy parrhesia! A Christianity which “does” little in practice, while incessantly “explaining” its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced. I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle. A pastor must show that the “Gospel of the family” is truly “good news” in a world where self-concern seems to reign supreme! We are not speaking about some romantic dream: the perseverance which is called for in having a family and raising it transforms the world and human history. A pastor serenely yet passionately proclaims the word of God. He encourages believers to aim high. He will enable his brothers and sisters to hear and experience God’s promise, which can expand their experience of motherhood and fatherhood within the horizon of a new “familiarity” with God (Mk 3:31-35). A pastor watches over the dreams, the lives and the growth of his flock. This “watchfulness” is not the result of talking but of shepherding. Only one capable of standing “in the midst of” the flock can be watchful, not someone who is afraid of questions, contact, accompaniment. A pastor keeps watch first and foremost with prayer, supporting the faith of his people and instilling confidence in the Lord, in his presence. A pastor remains vigilant by helping people to lift their gaze at times of discouragement, frustration and failure. We might well ask whether in our pastoral ministry we are ready to “waste” time with families. Whether we are ready to be present to them, sharing their difficulties and joys. Naturally, experiencing the spirit of this joyful familiarity with God, and spreading its powerful evangelical fruitfulness, has to be the primary feature of our lifestyle as bishops: a lifestyle of prayer and preaching the Gospel (Acts 6:4). By our own humble Christian apprenticeship in the familial virtues of God’s people, we will become more and more like fathers and mothers (as did Saint Paul: cf. 1 Th 2:7,11), and less like people who have simply learned to live without a family. Our ideal is not to live without love! A good pastor renounces the love of a family precisely in order to focus all his energies, and the grace of his particular vocation, on the evangelical blessing of the love of men and women who carry forward God’s plan of creation, beginning with those who are lost, abandoned, wounded, broken, downtrodden and deprived of their dignity. This total surrender to God’s agape is certainly not a vocation lacking in tenderness and affection! We need but look to Jesus to understand this (cf. Mt 19:12). The mission of a good pastor, in the style of God – and only God can authorize this, not our own presumption! – imitates in every way and for all people the Son’s love for the Father. This is reflected in the tenderness with which a pastor devotes himself to the loving care of the men and women of our human family. For the eyes of faith, this is a most valuable sign. Our ministry needs to deepen the covenant between the Church and the family. Otherwise it becomes arid, and the human family will grow irremediably distant, by our own fault, from God’s joyful good news. If we prove capable of the demanding task of reflecting God’s love, cultivating infinite patience and serenity as we strive to sow its seeds in the frequently crooked furrows in which we are called to plant, then even a Samaritan woman with five “non-husbands” will discover that she is capable of giving witness. And for every rich young man who with sadness feels that he has to calmly keep considering the matter, an older publican will come down from the tree and give fourfold to the poor, to whom, before that moment, he had never even given a thought. May God grant us this gift of a renewed closeness between the family and the Church. The family is our ally, our window to the world, and the evidence of an irrevocable blessing of God destined for all the children who in every age are born into this difficult yet beautiful creation which God has asked us to serve!

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