Pope Francis: with the “Lumen fidei” to the suburbs of existence

Press Meeting

“Faith is the encounter with the living God; it is the space that God opens up in the world and in the human heart.” The topic of the meeting this morning at 11.15 am in the Auditorium D5, which was the doctrinal content of the encyclical of Pope Francis, could be summarized with these words stated by Father Stefano Alberto, Professor of Theology at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan. Together with him, Guzmán Carriquiry, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and José Maria “Pepe” Di Paola, priest of Villa 21 in Buenos Aires attended the meeting. The journalist Alver Metalli introduced them.
The reference to the suburbs of existence is one of the most frequent expressions used by Bergoglio from the beginning of his pontification. “He was a minister who physically visited our neighborhoods. He diverted the perspective of the gaze, that was no longer in the direction of the political and economic centre of power of Buenos Aires, but towards the poorest and the most abandoned suburbs,” Father Pepe tells that, in this way, the suburbs became the centre of his pastoral mission. For over 20 years, Father Pepe stayed in Villa 21; he had been sent there by Bergoglio as a sign of his predilection, to serve the poorest in a neighborhood forgotten by the State and even without water and light.” Bishop Bergoglio invited the priests of his diocese both to value the religiousness of people of the villas, and to have a different gaze towards the poor, considering them someone to learn from. That’s why they feel he is so close to them, a villero!”.
These words reveal the deep meaning of the apostolic mission of Pope Francis: sharing with the people and being close to their human and spiritual needs. Bergoglio knows what it means to fight alongside the poorest to regain the dignity trampled by drug traffickers and powerful people. Father Pepe says: “Bergoglio has doubled the number of priests who exercised their ministry in the villas, because he wanted priests to work in communion, in each of these neighborhoods, so that the projects carried out would bear fruit. We did not use sociological analysis, but the Gospel.”
There is no theory on the needs, on pauperism, but a call to charity and dialogue with everyone within the libertas Ecclesiae (the Church’s freedom). According to Carriquiry, meeting, discipleship and mission are the guidelines of Bergoglio’s ministry as bishop, and now as the Pope: “Providence had already prepared him to become the Pope, but grace has invigorated him with a peace, a serenity and a joy that can only come from his closeness to Christ”. Only the beauty of God gives meaning to the mission; the affection between Benedict XVI and Francis seems to be ‘designed’ by an experienced love for Christ. Carriquiry underlines that after a great master of theology, the pastor Pope is ready to make a real ‘evangelical revolution’. Quoting Father Carròn, he states: “The mission is an attraction born from the wonder of the encounter. It is necessary to communicate the gift of the Christian meeting by “getting out” of self-sufficiency and self-regarding, of self-pleased churches. Actually, the ”getting out’ is one of the most common expressions of his preaching.”
“Encounter, gaze, path, and memory” are the terms identified by Father Stefano Alberto as the core of Lumen fidei and of the ministry of Pope Francis. “Faith sees to the extent that it walks”, strongly affirms the theologian paraphrasing the words of the Pope’s encyclical letter. “Faith is a journey of the gaze, the adventure of a new beginning in the space open by God.” This approach is evident in the figure of Zacchaeus who wanted to see Jesus, but he really couldn’t see him till the Master looked at him, because he needed his loving and forgiving gaze, because it is Him who always take the first step and embraces us.