Hope is high for the trip which will take Pope Francis to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay from July 5-13. He will fly seven times, pronounce 22 addresses, and proclaim “the joy of the Gospel” (thread of the trip) to more than one million people.
It could not be explained in any other way than which John Paul II already described, having visited the Continent of Hope” several times. It is an expression that has remained in the annals, recalled emotionally by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, in a lengthy interview yesterday with the Vatican Television Center, on the eve of the “the longest trip” of Francis’ pontificate.
To understand its importance, the Cardinal referred precisely to the words of the canonized Polish Pope, whom Francis himself quoted in the Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica on December 12, 2014, on the occasion of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, referring to Latin America as the “Continent of Hope.” Expected from it are new models of development that combine Christian tradition and civil progress; justice and equity with reconciliation; scientific and technological development with human wisdom; fruitful suffering with joyful hope,” said Cardinal Parolin quoting Wojtyla’s words directly.
This is, then, “the physiognomy” of the land that the Holy Father is about to visit — a land that can offer new impetus to the Church and to world politics, as the interviewer Barbara Castelli highlighted. “The Latin American Continent is a continent in movement, where there are transformations, changes at the cultural level, the economic level and the political level,” which during these decades, in a “positive phase,” have made it possible for many people to emerge from the poverty of extreme misery and ”to incorporate themselves progressively also in the middle class,” explained the Secretary of State.
At the same time, the Cardinal pointed out “accentuated phenomenons of urbanization” or others linked on one hand to globalization and on the other to the “progressive secularization of the Latin American society,” in face of which the Church “has chosen the way of pastoral conversion” and “missionary commitment,” in a way that “can also become a paradigm for many other parts of the world.”
All this is expressed fully in the Pope’s Magisterium, which “sinks its roots” in the document of Aparecida and to his references to the primacy of grace, to mercy and to apostolic courage – references proposed now by Pope Francis to the whole universal Church.
From a political point of view, Cardinal Parolin described Latin America, instead, as a “laboratory, where new models of participation, and more representative ways are being sought and being experienced, which give voice to s sector of the population that up to now has not been sufficiently heard. One of these ways “is the search for their own path to democracy, which takes account of the plurality of these countries and which is able to include the participation of all: hence pluralism, hence freedom, hence fundamental liberties; and hence respect for human rights,” he explained.
Reflecting then in greater detail on the three stages of the Pontiff’s trip, the Cardinal Secretary of State talked about the Church in Ecuador, which today is called to make a common front against those ‘ideological colonizations’ that tend to subvert the ethos and traditions of the populations,” he said.
In this connection, Cardinal Parolin recalled a pastoral letter published last year by the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference, in which the Prelates “sought to describe the role of the Church in society and sought to define what is understood by a healthy laicism, by a true laicism.” “The Church asks only for the possibility to exercise her mission, which contributes to the good of the society, which contributes to the democratic debate, which contributes to the promotion of every human person, especially of the most vulnerable groups,” noted the Cardinal.
Then he analyzed the stage in Bolivia, where the Pope will be received by President Evo Morales, with whom he shares several concerns, such as attention to the poor and protection of the environment. In Bolivia, the Pope will be able to confirm these strong invitations clearly expressed already in the recent encyclical Laudato Si’: the safeguarding of Creation, social justice, the search for “a peace that is respectful of the rights of all.” But also “the invitation to a society that is more inclusive of the poor, to fight against extreme forms of poverty so that the dignity of every person is recognized.”
Moreover, stressed Cardinal Parolin, the Holy Father will bring to worldwide attention the question of “respect of what is the cultural identity of every country, against the tendency of globalization to make everything uniform,” to avoid also “the commercialization of social relations.”
Finally, the third stage of the trip, Paraguay, where Pope Francis will go as a “missionary,” according to the definition of the country’s Bishops, recalled the interviewer. There, just a few steps from his Argentina, the Pope will put the topic of the family at the center, thus inserting himself in the catechetical and missionary endeavor of the local Churches, centered these three years especially on the family.
“A family that reflects the Latin American family, namely, [a family that] has so many values,” glossed Cardinal Parolin, explaining that “in Paraguay families are still solid and numerous:” and that it is “one of the youngest countries of the world.” Moreover, the commitment is very strong in the country “at the Constitutional level, to respect for life, from its beginning to its end,” he said.
“Weaknesses,” however, are not lacking. Among these, for instance, are one-parent families, where the mother is alone and bears practically the whole weight of the family,” and unemployment and under-employment, which “evidently compromises the stability and normal life of the families,” observed the Cardinal, without forgetting the plague of drugs, “which destabilizes many families.”
Well, in face of these often gloomy scenarios, the Pope will be “a presence of closeness to all the families, especially those that suffer for one of these reasons,” as well as an “encouragement to go forward,” assured the Vatican Secretary of State.