Today, Pope Benedict’s message to the Aparecida bishops:
550. It is Pope Benedict XVI himself who has invited us to “a mission of evangelization capable of engaging all the vital energies present in this immense flock,” which is the people of God in Latin America and the Caribbean: “priests, the men and women religious and the laity who work so generously, often in the face of immense difficulties, in order to spread the truth of the Gospel.” It is a missionary zeal and proclamation that have to pass from person to person, house to house, community to community. The Holy Father continues:
- In this work of evangelization the ecclesial community should be clearly marked by pastoral initiatives, especially by sending missionaries, lay or religious, to homes on the outskirts of the cities and in the interior, to enter into dialogue with everyone in a spirit of understanding, sensitivity and charity.
This evangelizing mission embraces all with the love of God, especially the poor and those who suffer. Hence, it cannot be separated from solidarity with the needy, and the promotion of their integral human development:
- If the persons they encounter are living in poverty, it is necessary to help them, as the first Christian communities did, by practicing solidarity and making them feel truly loved. The poor living in the outskirts of the cities or the countryside need to feel that the Church is close to them, providing for their most urgent needs, defending their rights and working together with them to build a society founded on justice and peace. The Gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor, and the Bishop, modeled on the Good Shepherd, must be particularly concerned with offering them the divine consolation of the faith, without overlooking their need for “material bread”.
The “modeling” of the bishop: this, a significant challenge these days. In some cases it might be enough to just not get in the way. Today, it seems best that pastors and lay leaders model the best face of the Christian faith.
For deeper examination, check an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.