Pope Francis received the Bishops of Costa Rica in the Vatican on their ‘ad Limina’ visit yesterday. During the meeting, they thanked him for his pastoral gestures and exchanged ideas on the situation of the Church in the Central American country: the pastoral care of vocations, defense of life, deterioration of the social fabric and reception of migrants.
Bishop Oscar Fernandez Guillen of Puntarenas and President of the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica said to Vatican Radio that the Bishops thanked the Pope for his pastoral service and his magisterium. They greeted his “gestures” and “signs” which reflect “the charity of the Heavenly Father and the mercy of the Pastor.”
“We consider him as our great brother and his gestures and signs have become an example and a stimulant for us. That is why we thank him: for his style, for his consistent manner in approaching people whom he has sought from the beginning, the most forgotten, the most marginalized, and because he addressed an appeal to us to reinforce this way of carrying out pastoral care,” he added.
Pastoral Care and the `Defense of Life
Bishop Guillen recalled the main challenges of the Costa Rican Church, beginning with the “lack of priests.” Therefore, the dioceses reflected further in these last years on vocational pastoral care and they are already witnessing “a slight growth in the number of priestly vocations.”
They also shared the concern of the local Church given “the enormous quantity of baptized persons that live their life without sacramental experience and without taking part in the mission of the Church.” “We make great efforts to implement one of the principles of the Aparecida Document: (…) a Church that goes out to bring (…) the joy of the Gospel.”
The Church in Costa Rica is also engaged in the defense of life and marriage in the civil society: “We make an effort to proclaim the beauty, the grandeur of marriage conceived in a Christian way and to proclaim the beauty of the family in a Christian spirit, and we are engaged in forming the faithful to take that message to the civil society and to proclaim the grandeur of life, from the moment of conception and for ever.” Bishop Guillen reported that the Legislative Assembly often consults the Episcopal Conference, even if “many of their positions are contrary to ours.”
Great Solidarity for Migrants
In the course of the conversation the Bishop evoked the social and economic problems of the country: the “deterioration of the social fabric due to an increase in violence and organized crime, dominated by drug trafficking”; the “growing inequalities,” the increase of poverty “in a very large sector of the country,” caused, notably, by disparity in the distribution of riches.
However, he praised the “very hospitable” migratory policies of Costa Rica: “We have many migrants from Nicaragua – the two countries are close – and lately migrants have arrived from Colombia and Venezuela. (…) Many migrants do not arrive in Costa Rica to stay there, but to continue their exodus to other countries, in particular, the ‘giant of the North,’ namely, the United States. In this regard, poor migrants found themselves before a wall when the government of Nicaragua closed the border to impede people from passing through the country to reach the United States.”
Therefore, Costa Rica had to give asylum and hospitality to numerous migrants: “the present government must be thanked for acting with great humanity and great solidarity towards these people, and … the Christian faithful, motivated by their priests, gave them a truly fraternal hand.”