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Tuesday,September 24,2019 11:29 AM

Building a Church of the poor

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Added 5th September 2019 04:01 PM

On 5th October 2019, the Scarlet biretta will be served to Cardinal-elects from Congo, Angola, Morocco, Lithuania, and Indonesia. In the previous consistory, Cardinals came from Mali and Laos.

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On 5th October 2019, the Scarlet biretta will be served to Cardinal-elects from Congo, Angola, Morocco, Lithuania, and Indonesia. In the previous consistory, Cardinals came from Mali and Laos.

By Fr Lazar Arasu
 
Once again the Holy Father Pope Francis has chosen Cardinals from “The Peripheries” (meaning margins of the society and the world) as he usually does.
 
On 5th October 2019, the Scarlet biretta will be served to Cardinal-elects from Congo, Angola, Morocco, Lithuania, and Indonesia. In the previous consistory, Cardinals came from Mali and Laos. Now we have a significant number of Cardinals from mission lands, remote island nations and other churches that are in war and conflict for several years, such as the Republic of Central Africa. Even those coming from European nations come from bishoprics those never had Cardinals at their Sees, such as Sweden, and Luxemburg.
 
This choice of having “Princes of the Church” from insignificant and remote places is clearly in line with the papal vision of Pope Francis. Soon after his election, he said, “The credibility of the Church and on the Christian message rests entirely on how Christians serve those marginalized by society.”
 
In February 2015 during the Consistory ceremony the Pontiff told the Cardinals, "Dear brothers, I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians -- edified by our witness -- will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it."
 
He continues to urge the prelates, "to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is marginalized, they must see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith, or who have declared themselves to be atheists." Hence for the Pontiff marginalized does not mean only those caught up in material poverty but those who have lost faith, those discouraged in life and those oppressed by the society for one reason or another.
 
What does this mean for the church? Pope asserted, “I am very hopeful about what this means for the future of the church. First, it reflects a recognition of the fact that the Catholic Church is now a church that is predominantly a Third World church, a church whose vitality and center of gravity is in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.” Pope Francis continues to articulate and take action very forcefully that the church today is predominantly a church of the poor in everything he does. Though he is advanced in age and with health issues he has made over 30 visits abroad mostly to counties that are very poor, with a small percentage of Catholic population and those in war and conflict.
 
The Church of the poor consists of a vast majority of Christians who are living in the so-called Third World countries. Pope wants the Church to realize that those privileged to live a comfortable life in the northern hemisphere and the West are only a small minority in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis continues to emphasize that the gospel being the Good News is for the poor. In that regard he represents both a source of hope and a challenge to the Church, to all of us, to embody in our own lives and actions what we claim to believe as a community, as a Church, and as individuals Christians.
 
Reaching out to the poor is the source of hope for not only the poor but for the body of the Church. It is God’s own extraordinary self-gift of love through the Church. The Church that avoids the poor and neglects the needs of the poor is preaching the anti-gospel message, often thoughtlessly. Including poor in our evangelization and service of the Church is bringing God’s presence among them who are not loved in the world, who have been marginalized, ostracized, excluded, and discarded. Now they are given an assurance that God loves us all equally and freely, regardless of any merit we may have. This is a message of hope.
 
This also brings us a challenge to live out of gratitude for God’s mercy, for God’s acceptance and reconciliation, and we treat those who are abandoned in the world today as our own brothers and sisters. So what is called the preferential option for the poor is then something we undertake not out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of gratitude for the extraordinary gift of God’s love. The way we receive that gift is precisely through the way we share it and live it out in those places where Jesus Christ has said he is present in a special way.
 
This indirectly brings to our mind the social teachings of the Church that any society or any system that instrumentalizes human persons or that attaches value to persons solely on monetary or market value. The more a person or a group is able to produce and consume is considered worth and counted. This is fundamentally materialistic and atheist system—an indirect negation of God and humane values. It is un-Christian, regardless of what it may claim to be nominally. And the causes of poverty, therefore, are not simply bad persons but bad systems or structures that promote, encourage, and reward certain forms of behaviors over others.
 
Pope Francis through his appointments, apostolic journeys, promulgation of documents and day to day preaching and animation proclaims to the world the Good News to the poor—Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God and Christ’s own affirmation in his first preaching that Good News is preached to them. Let us move with the agenda of the Holy Father and we will be counted as of today’s evangelizers to the world.
 
Fr. Lazar Arasu SDB is a Priest and School Administrator    
 
 

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