Pope Francis received this morning in audience the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Dominican Republic, on the occasion of their Visit “ad Limina Apostolorum.”
Here is a ZENIT translation of the text of the Pope’s address.
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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate:
I cordially welcome you on the occasion of the visit ad limina Apostolorum. I trust that these days of reflection and prayer before the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul will be for you a source of renewal, and serve to cultivate the bonds of ecclesial communion to respond to the exigencies of a joint and coordinated action, in the promotion of the spiritual and material progress of the portion of the People of God entrusted to you. I thank Monsignor Gregorio Nicanor Pena Rodriguez, Bishop of Our Lady of Altagracia in Higuey and President of the Dominican Episcopal Conference, for his kind words in the name of all.
The beginnings of evangelization in the American Continent always bring to mind the Dominican soil that received in the first place the rich deposit of faith, which the missionaries took with fidelity and proclaimed with constancy. Its effect continues to be perceived today in the Christian values that animate coexistence and in the different social endeavors in favor of education, culture and health. Moreover, the Church in the Dominican Republic has numerous living parishes with a large group of committed lay faithful and a consistent number of vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life. We thank the Lord for what has already been done and is being done in each of its local Churches.
The Church continues to walk today with her children in those dear lands in search of a happy and prosperous future; she meets with the great challenges of our time that affect social and ecclesial life, especially families. Therefore, I would like to appeal to you to support people, to reinforce the faith and the identity of all the members of the Church.
Marriage and the family are going through a serious cultural crisis. But this does not mean that they have lost importance, but that their need is felt all the more. The family is the place where one learns to live together in differences, to forgive and to experience forgiveness, and where parents transmit values to their children and, singularly, the faith. Marriage “seen as a mere form of affective gratification,” ceases to be an “indispensable contribution” to society (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 66). In the forthcoming Jubilee of Mercy, do not fail in the work of matrimonial and family reconciliation, as a good of peaceful coexistence: “ample catechesis on the Christian ideal of conjugal communion and of family life is urgent, which includes a spirituality of paternity and of maternity. It is necessary to give greater pastoral attention to the role of men as husbands and fathers, as well as to the responsibility they share with their wives in relation to marriage, the family and the education of the children” (Ecclesia in America, 42). Let us continue to present the beauty of Christian marriage: “to be married in the Lord” is an act of faith and love, in which the spouses, through their free consent, become transmitters of the blessing and grace of God for the Church and for society.
I invite you to dedicate time and to look after the priests, to take care of each one of them, to defend them from the wolves that also attack the pastors. The Dominican clergy is distinguished for its fidelity and coherence of Christian life. May your commitment in favor of the weakest and neediest help you to overcome the worldly tendency to mediocrity. Do not neglect human, intellectual and spiritual formation in the Seminaries, ensuring a true encounter with the Lord, without ceasing to cultivate pastoral dedication and an affective maturity that will make the seminarians ideal to embrace priestly celibacy and capable of living and working in communion. “The Seminaries cannot be filled with any kind of motivations, and less so if these are related to affective insecurities, the search for forms of power, human glories or economic wellbeing” (Evangelii gaudium, 107).
The pastoral and charitable care of immigrants, especially those from neighboring Haiti, who seek better conditions of life in the Dominican territory, does not admit the indifference of the pastors of the Church. It is necessary to continue collaborating with the civil authorities to reach solidaristic solutions to the problems of those who are deprived of documents or are denied their basic rights. It is inexcusable not to promote initiatives of fraternity and peace between the two nations, which make up that beautiful Island of the Caribbean. It is important to be able to integrate the immigrants in the society and to receive them in the ecclesial community. I thank you for being close to them and to all those who suffer, as gesture of the loving solicitude for a brother who feels alone and unprotected, with whom Christ identified.
I know your efforts and concerns to address appropriately the grave problems that affect our nations, such as the traffic of drugs and of persons, corruption, domestic violence, the abuse and exploitation of minors and social insecurity. From the intimate connection that exists between evangelization and human promotion, all action of Mother Church must seek and look after the good of the less favored. All that is done in this connection will enhance the presence of the Kingdom of God that Jesus Christ brought, at the same time that it gives credibility to the Church and relevance to the voice of her pastors.
The Continental Mission, promoted by the Document of Aparecida , and the Third National Pastoral Plan must be the two motors of the joint activity of the local Churches. However, keep in mind that it is not enough to have well-formulated plans and festive celebrations if they do not permeate the daily life of our peoples.
Therefore, it is indispensable that the Dominican laity, which is perceived very present in the works of evangelization at the national, diocesan, parish and community level, not neglect its doctrinal and spiritual formation, and receive constant support, so that it is able to give witness of Christ by penetrating those environments where often the Bishops, priests and Religious do not reach. It is also necessary that the pastoral of young people receive careful attention so that they are not distracted by the confusion of the anti-values that seek to overwhelm youth today.
Without having the orientation that the parents and the Church want to give to the formation of the new generations, the civil laws tend to substitute the teaching of religion in the school with an education of the religious event of a multi-confessional nature or by a mere illustration of ethics and religious culture. A vigilant and courageous attitude cannot be lacking in those committed in this service and educational mission, so that in all schools there is an education in keeping with the moral and religious principles of the families (cf. Gravissimum educationis, 7). It is important to offer children and young people catechetical teaching in accordance with the truth we have received from Christ, Word of the Father.
Finally, to conclude, and keeping in mind the beauty and color of the countryside of the beautiful Dominican Republic, I invite all to renew their commitment for the conservation and care of the environment. Man’s relation with nature must not be governed by greed, manipulation or unbridled exploitation, but it must preserve the divine harmony between the creatures and creation to put them at the service of all and of the future generations.
Brothers, I ask you, please, to take to the beloved Dominican sons and daughters the Pope’s affectionate greeting, whom he entrusts to the intercession of Our Lady of Altagracia, whom they contemplate in the mystery of Her divine maternity. I ask you to pray for me
and I impart to you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.