Church Is Not a Social Agency, Pope Says

Address to Uruguayan Bishops

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 6, 2001 ( John Paul II warned visiting Uruguayan bishops not “to reduce Christian communities to social agencies.”

The bishops are making their every-five-year “ad limina” visit to the Pope. They held individual meetings this week with the Holy Father, and concelebrated Mass with him in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo.

The Pope urged them to “fearlessly proclaim the complete and authentic truth” on Christ, the Church and the world, “without reductionism or ambiguities.”

“It is not enough to promote the so-called values of the Kingdom, such as peace, justice, liberty, fraternity; instead, Christ must be proclaimed as the only mediator between God and men,” the Holy Father explained.

According to the Holy See´s Statistical Yearbook, 76.5% of Uruguay´s 3.3 million inhabitants are Catholics. Yet, the country has the lowest degree of practice of the faith in Latin America, in part because of the influence of anti-clerical French intellectuals of the Enlightenment.

John Paul II emphasized that evangelization is “the first service that the Church can render every man and the whole of humanity in today´s world, which enjoys great progress, but seems to have lost the sense of ultimate realities.”

The Pope highlighted four decisive areas in the task of evangelization: the university, the media, the family, and the preferential option for the poor.


The Holy Father congratulated the bishops for the creation of the “Monsignor Mariano Soler” School of Theology in Montevideo, as well as the Higher Theological Pastoral Center and a three-year course in theology for the laity.

“The evangelization of culture” means that “everything good sown in the heart and intelligence of men, in special rites, or in the cultures of these peoples must not only not be lost, but must improve, develop and achieve its perfection for the glory of God … and the happiness of man,” the Holy Father explained.


“In her evangelizing action,” he said, “the Church cannot neglect the means of social communication [if she is to] reach people today, especially children and youth, with appropriate language that faithfully transmits the Gospel message.”

“This is the audacity, at once humble and serene, which the Christian presence inspires in the public dialogue of the media,” the Pope clarified.

Marriage crisis

John Paul II pointed out the “generalized deterioration of the natural and religious meaning of marriage, with worrying consequences both in the personal and public spheres.”

Hence, it is “necessary to engage in pastoral discernment on the alternative forms of union that today affect the institution of the family in Uruguay, especially those who regard simple de facto unions as family realities, ignorant of the true concept of conjugal love,” the Pope stressed.

“All laws that harm the family and make an attempt against its unity and indissolubility, or grant legal validity to unions between persons, including of the same sex, pretending to supplant, with the same rights, the family based on marriage between a man and a woman, is not a law in conformity with the divine plan,” the Pope said.

Preferential option for the poor

Given the existing serious social problems, John Paul II encouraged the Church in Uruguay to continue to promote “the culture of solidarity, maintaining the preferential option for the poor with the practice of an active and concrete love toward every human being, in the face of any temptation to indifference or inhibition.”

“This is a realm that decisively characterizes Christian life, the ecclesial style, and the pastoral program, without ever giving in to the temptation to reduce Christian communities to social agencies” the Pope clarified.

John Paul II applauded the Church in Uruguay, which, “despite limited material resources, is in the front line of attention to individuals and families who live in condition that are below the minimum required by human dignity.”

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