Vatican City, 8 June 2015 (VIS) – The prelates of the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference were received in audience by Pope Francis this morning, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit. In the written discourse he handed to the bishops, Francis recalls that one of the first dioceses of the American continent was founded on this Caribbean archipelago, and he invites them to be “heralds of the Gospel and custodians of the hopes of the people”, called to “continue inscribing the work of God in the local Churches, inspired by a spirit of ecclesial communion, ensuring that faith grows and the light of the truth shines in our days too”.
“Spend your energy not in divisions and conflicts, but rather in building and collaborating”, the Pope advises. “Be aware that the more intense your communion is, the more the mission is encouraged. Know how to keep a distance from any form of ideological or political trend that may lead you to waste time and your true zeal for the Kingdom of God. The Church, by virtue of her mission, is not linked to any political system, enabling her always to be a sign and safeguard of the transcendent nature of the human person”.
“The bishop is a model for his priests, and I encourage them always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover anew the joy of ministering to the flock within the great family of the Church”, Francis observes. “Before the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy, I urge first you and then your priests to be faithful servants of God's forgiveness, especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation, which allows God's love to be experienced in the flesh and offers every penitent the source of true inner peace”.
With reference to the task of the laity, the Pope reminds the bishops that “facilitating the sacramental life of the faithful and offering them an adequate continuing formation enables them to fulfil their mission”, and he expresses his hope that, “encouraged by the example of distinguished laypersons such as Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago, model of commitment and apostolic service, or the venerable master Rafael Cordero y Molina, they may continue along the path of a joyful adherence to the Gospel, deepening the social doctrine of the Church and participating lucidly and serenely in the public debates regarding the society in which they live”.
The Pope also remarks that one of the initiatives that must be increasingly consolidated is that of the pastoral ministry of the family, “afflicted by serious social problems: the difficult economic situation, migration, domestic violence, unemployment, drug trafficking and corruption. These are issues that give rise to concern. Let me to draw your attention to the value and beauty of marriage. … The differences between man and women are not of the order of opposition or subordination, but rather communion and generation, always as the image and semblance of God. Without mutual commitment, neither of the two will be able to understand the other in depth. The sacrament of marriage is a sign of God's love for humanity and Christ's commitment to His Bride, the Church. Take care of this treasure, as one of the most important of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples”.