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Pope’s Address to Puerto Rican Bishops

“Allow me to call your attention to the value and beauty of marriage. The complementarity of man and woman, summit of divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God”

Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today to the bishops of Puerto Rico, who are in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visit.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate:

I am happy to be able to greet you on the occasion of the visit ad limina Apostolorum, a pilgrimage that I hope will constitute a fruitful experience of communion for each one of you and for the Church that pilgrimages in Puerto Rico. I thank Monsignor Roberto Octavio Gonzalez Nieves, archbishop of San Juan and president of the episcopal conference, for the words he addressed to me in the name of all.

One of the first three dioceses that were established on the American continent was founded on that beautiful Caribbean archipelago. Since then, its ecclesiastical history has been interwoven by the fidelity and tenacity of many pastors, religious, missionaries and laymen who, responding to the times and places, were able to communicate the joy of the proclamation of Christ the Savior, in whose name so many initiatives have been created in favor of the common good, in the liturgical, social and educational field, which have marked profoundly the public and private life of the Puerto Rican people.

As heralds of the Gospel and custodians of the hope of your people, you are called to continue carrying out that work of God in your Churches, animated by a spirit of ecclesial communion, in an effort to make the faith grow and the light of truth shine also in our days. Mutual confidence and sincere communion among yourselves will enable the clergy and the faithful to see the genuine unity desired by Christ. Moreover, in face of the magnitude and disproportion of the problems, a bishop needs to take recourse not only to prayer, but also to friendship and the fraternal help of his brothers in the episcopate. Do not waste energies in divisions and confrontations, but build and collaborate. You already know that, “the more intense communion is, the more the mission is favored” (Pastores gregis, 22). Be able to distance yourselves from all idelogization or political tendency that can make you lose time and true ardor for the Kingdom of God. Because of her mission, the Church is not linked to any political system, in order to be able to be always the “sign and safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person” (Gaudium et spes, 76).

The Bishop is a model for his priests and he encourages them to seek spiritual renewal always and to rediscover the joy of feeding his flock within the great family of the Church. I ask you to have a hospitable attitude with them; may they feel themselves heard and guided so that they can grow in communion, holiness and wisdom, and take to all the mysteries of salvation. In face of the forthcoming Jubilee of Mercy, you must first remember and then the priests, the service of being faithful servants of God’s forgiveness, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which enables one to experience in one’s own flesh the love of God and to offer each penitent the source of true interior peace (cf. Misericordiae vultus, 17).

To have good pastors it is necessary to take care of the vocational pastoral ministry, so that there is an appropriate number of vocations and, especially, that Seminaries offer due formation to the candidates. The Seminary is the area that asks the most solicitude of the Bishop Pastor.

To facilitate the sacramental life to the faithful and to offer them an adequate permanent formation also makes it possible for them to fulfill their mission. The Puerto Rican faithful and, in particular, the Associations, Movements and educational institutions are called to collaborate generously so that the Good News is proclaimed in all environments, including the most hostile and estranged from the Church. I sincerely desire that, encouraged by the example of famous laymen, such as Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago, model of selflessness and apostolic service, or the Venerable teacher Rafael Cordero y Molina, you continue to advance on the path of joyous adherence to the Gospel, reflecting on the Social Doctrine of the Church and taking part lucidly and serenely in the public debates that relate to the society in which you live.

Among the initiatives that it is necessary to consolidate increasingly is family ministry, given the serious social problems that afflict it: the difficult economic situation, emigration, domestic violence, unemployment, drug trafficking and corruption. They are realities that generate concern. Allow me to call your attention to the value and beauty of marriage. The complementarity of man and woman, summit of divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the “image and likeness” of God. Without mutual self-giving, neither one can understand the other in depth (cf. General Audience, April 15, 2015). The Sacrament of Marriage is a sign of the love of God for humanity and of Christ’s giving himself for his Bride, the Church. Look after this treasure, one of the “most important of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples” (Aparecida, 433).

Finally, among the greatest present challenges for apostolic work is the implementation of the Joint Pastoral Plan in the dioceses, through programs elaborated to proclaim Christ and to answer the anxieties of society and of the People of God today, in which the missionary dimension must always be present in the furthest existential peripheries.

I assure you of my prayer, also for the priests, the consecrated and for all the lay faithful of that beloved Puerto Rican land. Please take the Pope’s greeting to all. Look after with zeal and patience that portion of the Lord’s vineyard entrusted to you, and go forward all together. I entrust the work of evangelization of Puerto Rico to the Most Holy Virgin Mary and, asking you not to forget to pray for me, I impart to you affectionately my Apostolic Blessing.

[Original text: Spanish] [Translation by ZENIT]

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