Back to Index

Papal Visit



     I mustn't twit Jaqui White. In her last memo, she spoke of fifteen "American" bishops, and I assume she meant U.S. bishops. Other Americans resent our monopolizing the term "American." Her message was serious, as this shows:
     "How was I mis-quoted? I NEVER said that the Virgin of Guadalupe was for the Gringos - it is exactly the opposite. She has dark skin, thus is of tremendous appeal to the indigenous populations of Mexico - she is considered the patron saint of all Mexico - Everyone loves her, and her image is on every wall of every home in Mexico as well as the wall of most Hispanics in the US. She is our most revered icon. Moving along, Pope John Paul II delivered his "Apostolic Exhortation" appropriately at the venerated Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe intended as a plan for the church of the Americas in the new millenium. It calls on the church to bring the word of God not only to the poor, but to cultural and civic leaders - a strategy the pope hopes will help promote the church's social teachings "We must stir up a new Springtime of Holiness on the continent" the Pope urged. "No more violence, terrorism, drug trafficking. No more torture or other forms of abuse. There must be an end to the unneccessary recourse to the death penalty. No more exploitation of the weak, racial discrimination , nor ghettos of poverty. The Continent of Hope must also be the Continent of Life. This is our cry - Life with Dignity for all."The concern for life is a repeated theme in "Church in America" with several warnings against abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty, all considered sins by the church. More broadly, the document restates the church's feelings for the world's underdogs, in human rights, economics and moral issues. "In America as elsewhere in the world, a model of society appears to be emerging inshiech the powerful predominate, setting aside and even eliminating the powerless" - the exhortation declares, using "America" to signify North and South America together. More than a dozen times the document calls on the church to work on behalf of the poor, especially in light of the globalization of the economy and the hegemony of free-market capitalism - a system, the document asserts, that is sometimes used as n excuse to exploit the poor. But it was the document's call to look after the spiritual lifes of the powerful that caught many readers by surprise. "Pastoral care forthe leading sectors of society has been neglected and many people have thus been estranged from the church. If this evangelization of the leadership sector is neglected, it should not come as a surprise that many who are a part of it will be guided by criteria alien to the Gospel and at times openly contrary to it." Few documents have attempted to draw so many disparate issues of modern life into a single, coherent vision of what it means to be a Christian, and church leaders have high hopes tht it will launch a new era. Incidentally, the exhortation calls for special attention to migrants, racial minorities and indigenous people, who were highly visible, reading prayers in Navajo, Quechua and Nahuatl."
     My comment: Of course, and I apologize for questioning Jaqui's use of the term "American", which referred only to that one phrase. My last memo stressed the problems the Pope's message faces, Jaqui's its positive side. My viewpoint was that of a gringo, while Jaqui has been caught up in the Mexican enthusiasm. I hope she's right.

Ronald Hilton - 01/23/99


More on Papal Visit



     The Pope's visit to Mexico City has aroused extraordinary enthusiasm among Mexicans. From Padre Island (whence the name?) on the Mexican border, Jaqui White reports:
     "Everyone is sumamente enthusiastic, and everyone would like to be there, along with the other 23 million other people . Bishop Raymundo J. Pena, Bishop of the Caholic Diocese of Brownsville, is in Mexico City along with several dozen other pilgrims from the area. Tickets to the Pope's appearances are scarce indeed, with each parish receiving only a few. Among those receiving tickets were several dozen Totonaco Indians from the village of Hueytlalpan, in the mountains of Mexico's Sierra Norte. They consider themselves extremely blessed. Bus drivers refused to take the crumbling, cliff-hanging dirt road to the mile-high village in Mexico's towering Sierra Norte, so the pilgrims piled onto trucks to reach the nearest highway, four torturous miles away. Residents of Hueytlalpan, located in the central part of the state of Puebla , earn a hardscrabble living from coffee, cattle, plantain, mangoes and other crops. They blend Roman Catholicism with Totonaco traditions, celebrating Mass in Spanish and singing church songs in both Spanish and Totonac . Jose Luis, 64, a Carmelite friar at Hueytlalpan's centuries-old church, said he hoped the Pope would urge the government and church officials to address the region's poverty and discrimination against indigenous peoples. "We can have a beautiful Mass, " Luis said, "But we need a message of justice." The Virgen of Guadalupe is of tremendous importance to the people - in many cases the absolute foundation of their faith. Bishop Pena of Brownsville is one of only fifteen American Bishops appointed to the Papal Synod in 1997."
     My comment: The demand for social (i.e. economic) justice is worldwide. In Argentina, Peron called his party "justicialista." Here again, we run into the problem of language. Traditionally, justice was stern. It was the principle of Dante's Inferno, a nasty place not primarily concerned with economic fairness, which is what the word has come to mean. And what does Jaqui mean by "American"? The Pope specified that the Virgin of Guadalupe was for all America, not just the gringos.

Ronald Hilton - 01/24/99


Webmaster