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Pope Francis Calls for a “Revolution” of Evangelization in Latin America

Papa Francisco con familias – en


Diane Montagna - published on 07/08/15

Inspired by "the Joy of the Gospel"

QUITO, Ecuador — In his second homily on his weeklong homecoming to his native continent, Pope Francis has called for a “revolution” of evangelization in Latin America.

At an open-air Mass for the Evangelization of Peoples celebrated on Tuesday at Bicentennial Park in Ecuadoran capital of Quito, the Pope told more than one million people gathered from all over Ecuador and the neighboring countries of Bolivia and Peru: “We evangelize not with grand words, or complicated concepts, but with ‘the joy of the Gospel,’ which ‘fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,’ for those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness” (Evangelii Gaudium, 1).

The Pope took as the center pointe of his homily Jesus’ prayer to the Father on the evening before he offered himself for the salvation of the world: “Father, may they be one… so that the world may believe.”

Jesus’ prayer for unity, the Pope said, arose in the context of mission. “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” In that moment, the Pope said, “the Lord was experiencing in his own flesh the worst of this world, a world he nonetheless loved dearly. Knowing full well its intrigues, its falsity and its betrayals, he did not turn away, he did not complain.” 

In a world torn by violence and war, the Pope said, it would be easy to think that the problem of division and hatred concerns struggles between powerful nations. But the real problem is “the legacy of sin lurking in the human heart” and therefore Christians cannot be silent, he said.

“We must not respond with nonchalance, or complain we do not have the resources to do the job, or that the problems are too big. Instead, we must respond by taking up the cry of Jesus and accepting the grace and challenge of being builders of unity.”

Yet unity of faith, authentic Christian love, and joy in being freed from sin and selfishness trumpets loudest, Pope Francis said.

“Evangelization does not consist in proselytizing, but in attracting by our witness those who are far off, in humbly drawing near to those who feel distant from God and the Church, those who are fearful or indifferent, and saying to them: ‘The Lord, with great respect and love, is also calling you to be a part of his people’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 113).”

Christian evangelization also finds strength in unity, he added. Quoting his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II, who kissed the very ground on which the Mass was celebrated — once the landing field of Quito’s former Marical Sucre Airport — he said that the more intense the communion between us, the more effective our mission becomes (cf. John Paul II, Pastores Gregis, 22). 

Yet unlike “totalitarian, ideological or sectarian schemes,” Christian unity is not something men fashion can at will. True unity and evangelization are rooted in an encounter with the Person of Jesus Christ and intimate friendship with him. Both, he said, find their source and end in God. 

“Jesus prays that we will all become part of a great family in which God is our Father and all of us are brothers and sisters.”

He added: “We are brothers and sisters because God created us out of love and destined us, purely of his own initiative, to be his sons and daughters (cf. Eph 1:5). We are brothers and sisters because “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6). We are brothers and sisters because, justified by the blood of Christ Jesus (cf Rom 5:9), we have passed from death to life and been made “coheirs” of the promise (cf Gal 3:26-29; Rom 8:17).”

“This is the salvation which God makes possible for us,” he boldly declared, “and which the Church proclaims with joy: To be part of the divine ‘we’.” It is this conviction — that “we have an immense treasure to share” which “grows stronger from being shared” — that gives rise to “the joy of evangelizing,” he said.

“How beautiful it would be if all could admire how much we care for one another, how we encourage and help each other,” the Argentine Pope told his fellow Latins. “Giving of ourselves establishes an interpersonal relationship. We do not give ‘things’ but our very selves. In any act of giving, we give ourselves. ‘Giving of oneself’ means letting all the power of that love which is God’s Holy Spirit take root in our lives, opening our hearts to his creative power.” 

The Church’s first Latin American Pope noted that Quito’s Bicentennial Park commemorates the continent’s first cries of independence in the 1800’s. From here, Pope Francis concluded his homily, calling for a “new revolution.”

“When we give of ourselves, we discover our true identity as children of God in the image of the Father and, like him, givers of life,” he said. “We discover that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, to whom we bear witness. This is what it means to evangelize; this is the new revolution — for our faith is always revolutionary — this is our deepest and most enduring cry.” 

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.

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