2016-02-15 L’Osservatore Romano
The Pope’s long silent prayer before the unique and greatly venerated image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, was inspiring. The important moment was hoped for, asked for, announced and then emphasized by Pope Bergoglio in his addresses and homilies in Mexico City, beginning with his speech to authorities in the National Palace, the symbolic seat of political power that for the first time opened its doors to a Pontiff.
Francis is the third Pope to visit the great North American country, and at the beginning of the meeting with bishops in the Cathedral, he asked how “could the Successor of Peter, called from faraway Latin America” not “rest his gaze on la Morenita [dark-skinned] Virgin”? Likewise, how could he not want Mary’s maternal gaze upon him?
The very gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where “the secret heart of each Mexican” is found, was chosen by the Pontiff as the common thread for the long and challenging reflection that characterized his meeting with the country’s bishops. In his international journeys, Pope Francis has always reserved ample and significant space for this moment, which achieves Catholic communion and true pastoral sharing. It was the same this time too.
The central image of the Pope’s address to the Mexican episcopate was therefore that of the gaze: both of la Morenita, and also of those who contemplate her and in their turn have the responsibility to look to others, to offer them the womb of Christian faith and to reflect the tenderness of God. Bishops need to give this particular attention to young people, the Pontiff said. Above all, and with powerful expressions, he called them to courageously confront the demoralizing phenomena of drug trafficking which, he said, “devours like a metastasis”.
Indeed, bishops must look to the example of God’s “gracious humility and his bowing down to help us”, culminated in the Incarnation. Francis emphasized this concept, repeating the term the Greek Fathers used to define it: synkatàbasis. For this reason, the Mexican episcopate, standing “on the shoulders of giants” — namely, predecessors in the faith who allow us to see far into the distance — must draw from the source of riches that is their past. And do so with the certainty shown by the Pope, that in time Mexico and its Church will arrive at its meeting with history and with God.
The same encouragement expressed to Mexican Catholics by Paul VI was quoted by his Successor, Francis, at the end of the Mass in Ecatepec. Precisely out of love for Christ, the Virgin loved her neighbour, “which must be the rule governing all human relations”, Pope Montini recalled. He added that one must see “in every man a brother and, in every brother Christ, in order that love for God and for mankind be joined as one living and operative love, the only thing that can remedy the miseries of the world and renew it at its deepest root: the heart of man”.