Addressing the International Pastoral Congress on the World’s Big Cities, Pope Francis called on bishops to give “concrete mercy and tenderness” in their pastoral ministry.
The congress, which was held Nov. 24-26, was an idea developed by Pope Francis and Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, the archbishop of Barcelona. The three-day conference examined various themes regarding evangelization in major cities, especially pastoral ministry to those living in the outskirts.
The Pope began his address to the participants by saying that he wanted to share his personal experience as a pastor of a “populous and multicultural city like Buenos Aires.”
Together with the bishops of the 11 diocese of that ecclesiastical region, the Pope said they were able to confront some of the pastoral challenges experienced by many of the major cities around the world. He also said that he wished to allay certain fears that might come in facing those challenges.
“This is an excellent opportunity to explore the challenges and possible horizons of an urban pastoral ministry,” he said. “Challenges, that is, the places where God is calling us to; horizons, meaning, aspects to which I think we should pay special attention.”
The first challenge that the Pope outlined is implementing a change in pastoral mentality. As time has passed, the Pope said that the era where Christianity was at the forefront of culture has passed. In this age, the Church can easily fall prey to losing its “evangelical horizon”, thus becoming a relativistic pastoral ministry which doesn’t place the best interests of mankind first.
“We must have the courage to make a daring and fearless evangelizing pastoral ministry, so that man, woman, the family and various groups that live in the city expect from us, and they need it for their lives, the Good News which is Jesus and his Gospel,” the Pope said.
Regarding the second challenge, which he said was multicultural dialogue, the Pope recalled his visit to Strasbourg on Tuesday where he spoke of the multicultural diversity of Europe. A dialogue with other cultures, he stressed, must be free of relativism and “does not negotiate it’s own Christian identity.”
“We need a contemplative attitude, that without denying the contribution of the different sciences in understanding the urban phenomenon – these contributions are important – seeks to discover the foundation of cultures, that in their deepest core are always open to and thirst for God.”
“The third aspect,” the Pope said, “is the religiosity of the people. God lives in the city.” The 77-year-old Pontiff emphasized the importance of discovering the religious nuances of those who live in their care.
“We must not fail to recognize, or regard with disdain, this experience of God that, although at times dispersed or mixed with other things, needs to be discovered and not constructed,” he said.
The fourth and final challenge Pope Francis highlighted was the care of the poor and migrants, who he called “pilgrims of life in search of salvation.”
“The Church cannot ignore their cry, nor can she enter into the game of unjust, mean and self-serving systems that seek to render them invisible,” the Pope said.
To face these challenges, the Holy Father proposed that they help in facilitating an encounter of others with God, and work toward a “Samaritan Church.”
The latter, he said, gives a “concrete witness of mercy and tenderness that endeavours to be present in the existential and poor peripheries, acting directly on the social subconscious, producing guidance and meaning for city life.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis cited the example of his predecessor, Blessed Paul VI, who during his time as Archbishop of Milan, “cared for the great city mission with passionate zeal.”