Pope Francis on September 7, 2019, reminded the bishops of Madagascar that in sowing the faith they must address the needs of the people — especially the poor — in this life, not only prepare them for eternity.
The Holy Father met with the bishops in the Cathedral of Andohalo, part of his September 4-10 apostolic journey to Africa. He noted that their mission is carried out in a land of contradictions that has a tradition of respect for life and the dignity of the human person – but suffers from inequality and corruption. Sowing is difficult.
“We bishops, like the sower, are called to spread seeds of faith and hope on this earth. To do so, we need to develop that ‘sense of smell’ that can enable us to recognize more clearly whatever compromises, hinders or damages the sowing,” Pope Francis. He cited Evangelii Gaudium 182-183:
For this reason, “the Church’s pastors, taking into account the contributions of the different sciences, have the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives since the task of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being. It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven. We know that God wants his children to be happy in this world too, even though they are called to fulfillment in eternity, for he has created all things ‘for our enjoyment’ (1 Tim 6:17), the enjoyment of everyone. It follows that Christian conversion demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life ‘related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good’. Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society.”
The Holy Father went on to stress the need to ensure nourishment and dignified sustenance for all people and “general temporal welfare and prosperity.” Referring again to Evangelii Gaudium, he reminded the bishops of the need for all people to have education, healthcare, and employment.
“The defense of the human person is yet another aspect of our pastoral responsibility,” Francis said. “To be pastors according to God’s heart, we must be the first to choose to preach the Gospel to the poor.
“In other words, we have a particular duty to protect and remain close to the poor, the marginalized and the little ones, to children and those most vulnerable, to the victims of exploitation and abuse.”