TO: All people who identify with Chistianity, whether you are practicing or not, whether you are even baptized or not, who wish to have your voices heard and your experiences shared during Covid-19. What are you being invited to do? Pope Francis shared his dreams for the future of the world in his most recent papal exhortation. Is that a top-down view from a traditional Roman Catholic Church? Or, now that Francis has shared his dreams, is it an invitation for the people to share our dreams for the kind of world we want to see … for our children and grandchildren? Is this an opportunity for the Spirit to lead from the bottom up? Is this even possible, given how diverse we are as a people? First, let us share the background.
In February, Pope Francis released a document, Querida Amazoni, a papal exhortation following an extensive consultation with 87,000 participants from this region. He said the people “know better than myself, or the Roman Curia, the problems and issues of the Amazon region, since they live there, they experience its suffering and they love it passionately.”
He shared his dream which included:
- a social dream, which stands for the rights of the poor and the oppressed against unjust corporate profiteering;
- a cultural dream, which preserves the region’s distinctive cultural identity and unique richness in our multicultural universe;
- an ecological dream which seeks to “integrate questions of justice…so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor;”
- an ecclesial dream with Christian communities capable of listening to and learning from one another, thereby developing a church that reflects the uniqueness of that region of the world.
Pope Francis’s prayer was that “the entire Church might allow itself to be enriched and challenged” by the Amazonian Synod. Just as he saw the people of the Amazon knowing what is best for their own region, so too would he see each of us knowing what is best for own region. Now is the time for us to issue a Peoples Exhortation encapsulating a rich and diverse tapestry of dreams.
Further, this papal exhortation was followed by a worldwide pandemic. Covid-19 has led to the emptying of public spaces around the world including our places of worship, a reality which is unprecedented in our times.
Pope Francis preaching to an empty gathering in St. Peter’s Square is symbolic of the empty churches all over the world
All of this started during the Easter season when many Christians take to heart the angel’s words: “Who are you looking for? …He is not here.” Is not this question echoed by the image of Pope Francis on the steps of an empty St. Peter’s Square? Yet this “emptiness” is being filled in genuine, innovative ways of caring for one another, connecting virtually to share scripture, worship together, and honor our rich and diverse heritage. Christians do this by breaking bread together as Jesus did with his apostles. The people are finding ways to transform emptiness into new life. Can we share these transformations in a Peoples Exhortation that is diverse and yet one? Could this be a response to Pope Francis who, referring to this pandemic, has characterized it as: “God’s call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on.”
So what are you being invited to do? Speak your dreams that transform emptiness! Just as Francis expresses his hopes and dreams for the people of the Amazon in his exhortation, you can also dream about the social, cultural, ecological, and spiritual/religious realities touching you in the world. It is our intention to create from your dreams a faithful compendium – we will call it a Peoples Exhortation- that reflect our relationships with one another, the Divine and all creation. All types of communities can express the dreams of the people in all their diversity, without exception or exclusion. We anticipate this proclamation will embody a new vision of the meaning of “church” and what the future can be for all of God’s people. This document will reflect who we are and where we are geographically, culturally, and spiritually in this historic moment of chaos, challenge and transformation. Now is the time to renew our hope in the strengthening, enlivening Spirit among us. As Pope Francis has said: it is up to us to discern the best ways forward and assume our responsibility to create a new and just world for the good of all.
Just as Pope Francis has issued his exhortation, expressing his hopes and dreams for the world as he would like to see it, so also we hope you will join in helping create an Exhortation of the People expressing our hopes and dreams for the world as we would like to see it. The beauty of this proclamation will not be in its unity but rather in its diversity. This invitation will be coming out next week. Please be watching for it. Until then…
We invite you to share your experiences The Spirit has not been covert in how she is waking us all up through this pandemic. We look forward to your sharing your own personal experiences: on our CCRI Facebook page or join us on our CCRI Twitter account.
1. How has this lock down affected your personal experience of living your faith?
2. Which liturgies challenge you to aspire to live your life in Christ authentically?
3. Has your experience of celebrating the Eucharist during Holy Week given you insights into living your life in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic? Has the experience affected your outlook on how you might want to continue celebrating the Eucharist?
If the experience has been good, how might we continue this form of being church and resist the temptation to revert back to a church that is failing us in so many ways? Let us not – out of habit – fall back into putting money in the collection basket of a church that is not listening to the signs of the times; that is unable to treat women with equal respect to men; that is unwilling to welcome the LGBT community as respected members of our community.
Your donations and contributions of ideas are most appreciated
Grateful to Virginia Saldanha for her article and grateful to all of you. Your donations and contributions of ideas as today is the close of this fiscal year. We look forward to your sharing your own personal experiences on our CCRI Facebook page or on our CCRI Twitter account. After all, if we do not effect changes based on lessons learned, the world will hurtle towards yet another crisis.