Pope Francis received the bishops of Mexico on Monday, encouraging them to promote harmony and to proclaim God’s mercy. “At the present moment, the many forms of violence that afflict Mexican society, especially the young, call for a renewed appeal to promote this spirit of harmony through the culture of encounter, dialogue and peace,” the Pope said to the Mexican bishops at the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. While pastors should not offer mere “technical solutions” or adopt “policy measures” outside the scope of their ministry, they must be “tireless” in proclaiming “that God, in his mercy, made Himself a man and made Himself poor, that he wanted to suffer with those who suffer in order to save them,” the Pope said. “Fidelity to Jesus Christ must be lived as committed solidarity and closeness to the people and their needs, offering Gospel values from within,” he affirmed. His remarks came during the Mexican bishops’ ad limina visit, which takes place routinely every five years. During the visits, bishops from different regions meet with the Pope and other Vatican officials to discuss issues in their country. Pope Francis said that despite being faced with problems, the Church in Mexico is “consolidated on strong pillars.” He encouraged the bishops to be faithful always to prayer with God and to be close to the people. The Pope noted the Mexican bishops’ efforts on behalf of those who work in “subhuman conditions,” for migrants seeking a better life, and for farmers. “I know of your concern for the victims of drug trafficking and for the most vulnerable social groups, and your commitment to the defense of human rights and the full development of the individual,” he added. These efforts express the “intimate connection” between the Gospel and seeking the good of others, the Pope said. These actions also contribute to the credibility of the Church. He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation that the bishops not let themselves “be intimidated by the powers of evil” but “be valiant” and “work to ensure that the sap of your Christian roots may nourish your present and your future.” He also pointed to Catholic social teaching as “a valuable tool that can help Christians in their daily struggle to build a more just and united world.” Lay involvement is essential, Pope Francis said, encouraging the bishops to promote the laity’s secular responsibility and give them adequate training “to make visible the public dimension of the faith.” The power of popular piety is an “indispensable starting point” in deepening and maturing the people’s faith, the Pope continued. He encouraged the bishops to strengthen their pastoral care for the family, which he called “the basic cell of society and the first center for evangelization.” Though the family is faced with “the dehumanizing culture of death,” he said, it “may become a promoter of the culture of respect for life in all its phases, from conception to natural death.” Pope Francis reminded the bishops of the importance of being close to their priests and to consecrated religious. He also noted the importance of priestly and religious formation. He praised the bishops’ adoption of the Aparecida guidelines, which were produced during the 2007 meeting of the general conference of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. These guidelines placed the pastoral mission of the Church in a “missionary mode.” “We can bear witness to Christ in life even among the most distant, and reach out of ourselves to work with enthusiasm in the task that has been entrusted to us, keeping our arms lifted in prayer,” the Pope said. He concluded by invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe, the “Star of the New Evangelization.”
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