Quote for the Day

“He alone is true God, without beginning and without end. He is unchangeable, invisible, indescribable and ineffable, incomprehensible, unfathomable, blessed and worthy of all praise.” — St. Francis of Assisi

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Deacon Bob’s Homily from Thursday, 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week I

Here is my homily from this morning. God bless each of you!

I think one of the greatest temptations for all who try to follow the Lord is the temptation to discouragement and despair. Indeed, when we find ourselves battling against some personal sin, or when some form of darkness invades our lives, or when we consider all the national and international problems, we can be discouraged and hopeless.

For over 40 years we have prayed for and worked to end abortion; yet abortion continues. There are relentless assaults nowadays against marriage and family. So many of our brothers and sister are being persecuted and martyred for the faith in places of terrorism. We can see all this and lose hope, become discouraged.

Yet, what do we hear in the Gospel today? Jesus is telling us to lower our nets again for a catch. Yes, we have been working all night with no results it would seem, but he tells us to lower the nets again. He is telling us to not lose hope.

The Evil One would want us to lose hope. Why? Because if we lose hope, we begin to question our faith. We begin to become blind to the presence and working of God in the world. Satan knows that if he can discourage us in our lives, he can weaken our faith, and then if he can do that, we will become less loving, less like God. That is Satan’s aim, to disfigure God’s image within us.

We must never forget that God has a vision for our lives and for the world. We are to cooperate and advance his vision in faith. To know God’s will, his vision, we must embrace the faith given to us which enlightens us and opens our eyes. God’s vision for us and the world is love. This is a plan, a vision from God that generates tremendous hope for our lives and the world.

My friends, let us be people of hope! Let us cling to our faith and never become discouraged even when all seems for naught, even when we have worked all night and seemingly have caught nothing. Jesus commands us to lower the nets again, to go into the deep and to risk all for the sake of the Kingdom (which he has given us)!



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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Wednesday, 22nd Week of the Year, Year I

Here is my homily from Wednesday evening Mass. God bless everyone!

You have probably heard me say this before at Wednesday evening Mass, but our first reading tonight from St. Paul spurs me on to speak of it again. He wrote:

“… we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven…”

Indeed, we hear of those great three virtues: Faith, Hope and Love.

Faith, that gift given us at baptism and which is to grow and mature in our lives as we age; that great gift that allows us to recognize the divine presence, the working of God  in our lives and in our world, and the vision of God i.e., to see as God sees the world. Sure, we do not see nearly as perfectly as God, but that gift of faith allows us to enter into God’s way of seeing things and gives us a common vision of what is and is to be from God’s eyes, his plan for  us and the world. This vision, this vision of faith generates great hope in us for we then become appreciative of the promises of that God has made to us, and the glory which is to be ours, and because of this hope, grounded in faith, in the divine vision of God, we then are impelled to go forth and love God and each other.

It is faith which gives  us the foundation, hope which inspires and impels us, and love which is the end for which we were created and to which we are destined.

My friends, let us this night, and throughout the rest of this week, support each other in prayer that we  may truly embrace the faith which has been given to us, and in hope go forth to lovingly serve others as God would  have us.

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Holy Father’s Granting of Forgiveness and Indulgence

I have copied below a letter the Holy Father released today regarding the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy. In it you will see how broad and available he is making forgiveness and mercy to all the faithful throughout the world.

All priests will be granted the faculty to absolve the sin of abortion during the Holy Year.

The faithful who receive the Sacrament of Penance from priests of the Fraternity of St. Pius X will receive the sacrament validly and licitly during the Holy Year.

Those in prisons can obtain the indulgences normally reserved to pilgrims to Rome. They can do so in their prison chapels and the doors to their cells will replace the Holy Door in St. Peter’s.

Take a look:


To My Venerable Brother
Archbishop Rino Fisichella
President of the Pontifical Council
for the Promotion of the New Evangelization

With the approach of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy I would like to focus on several points which I believe require attention to enable the celebration of the Holy Year to be for all believers a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God. It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective.

My thought first of all goes to all the faithful who, whether in individual Dioceses or as pilgrims to Rome, will experience the grace of the Jubilee. I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed. To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. Likewise, I dispose that the Indulgence may be obtained in the Shrines in which the Door of Mercy is open and in the churches which traditionally are identified as Jubilee Churches. It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world.

Additionally, I am thinking of those for whom, for various reasons, it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door, particularly the sick and people who are elderly and alone, often confined to the home. For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord who in the mystery of his Passion, death and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness. Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence. My thoughts also turn to those incarcerated, whose freedom is limited. The Jubilee Year has always constituted an opportunity for great amnesty, which is intended to include the many people who, despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they worked and sincerely wish to re-enter society and make their honest contribution to it. May they all be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of his forgiveness. They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.

I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity.

Furthermore, the Jubilee Indulgence can also be obtained for the deceased. We are bound to them by the witness of faith and charity that they have left us. Thus, as we remember them in the Eucharistic celebration, thus we can, in the great mystery of the Communion of Saints, pray for them, that the merciful Face of the Father free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace them in the unending beatitude.

One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured itand who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

A final consideration concerns those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X. This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one. From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity. In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.

Trusting in the intercession of the Mother of Mercy, I entrust the preparations for this Extraordinary Jubilee Year to her protection.

From the Vatican, 1 September 2015



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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Here is my homily for the weekend. God bless all!

Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 2015

August 29/30, 2015

Dt 4: 1-2, 6-8; James 1: 17-18, 21b-22, 27;  Mk 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

These reading bring to my mind something very dear to my heart, and central to my spirituality, indeed to the spirituality of all deacons and all Christians, and it is this: That God speaks. God speaks his Word and we are to accept what he says in faith.

God speaks. This is the first thing we learn about God in the Bible. In the Book of Genesis what do we read? “And God said…. Let there be light!” God spoke and something beautiful happens and some new creation occurs.

Yes God speaks his Word and we are to believe what he says. We must hear God speak to us. We must hear God’s Word preached and taught in the Church, in the community, and then act on it, do something beautiful with it.

The Word which God speaks has created everything that exists. All things were created by the Word of God as the Scriptures tell us. And the Word of God is Jesus Christ.

God’s Word is something that St. Paul over and over says we must first hear with our ears and then believe with our hearts. We must listen, believe and then act. No one should say, “I cannot believe that God is telling me in the Scriptures, or in the homily, or in the teachings of the Church!” because each time God speaks his Word he also gives us the ability to believe. Each time he speaks his Word, he gives us the gift of faith which enables us to believe what he says. Hearing and believing God’s Word always go hand in hand.

Each and every time we listen to the Word of God spoken or preached, God extends to us the gift of faith, the ability to believe and to see his presence in our lives. The more we listen and believe, the more we become like Jesus who is the Word of God who makes all things; Jesus who always is hearing his Father and carrying out the Father’s will. The more we hear what God says to us, the more compelled we feel to speak out and tell others what we have heard, what God has done for us.

Our faith in God, a faith which first comes to us by listening to God’s Word proclaimed in the community of the Church, is a faith that always wants to be expressed and shared with others. Just think of all the times in the Gospel when Jesus heals someone and then tells them not to say anything to anyone. What happened? The person can’t help himself. He has to speak; he has to tell others what had happened to him. God speaks his Word to us and we must share it with others. When we hear the Word of God proclaimed in the readings at Mass and in the homily, or when we read the Scriptures ourselves, or when we study the Catechism, what happens to us? We begin to change and become more like Jesus. More good things start coming out of us, not evil things that defile us like we heard in the Gospel. We end up loving God more and more, and the more we love God, the more we want to love other people.

The Scripture today tell us to listen, to hear, to believe, and then to live differently, live well, live fully, and to care for those in need, like the second Reading told us.

God is calling you; he wants you to proclaim to the entire world what you hear right here, right now, at this Eucharist, in your hearing of the Scriptures today, in the homily, and in this parish. God is calling you to tell others that Jesus is the Son of God and savior of the world. Listen to God’s Word, believe and then act.

None of us get a pass on this. We are called to bring a message of hope and joy to our world; the message that Jesus has redeemed us all by his life, death, and resurrection; that he came to bring us life, fullness of life, eternal life, and he will come on the last day to judge us on how well we have loved other, especially the poor.

How can we bring this message to others if we have not first heard God speak his Word? We must take time then for Sunday Mass each week. We must pray every day. We must open our hearts and empty them of all those evil things that we heard in the Gospel: adultery, theft, unchastity, envy, arrogance, greed, pride, and malice. We must open our hearts with prayer and the Eucharist so our hearts can be filled with good things that come from hearing and believing: honesty, fidelity, generosity, patience, hope, love, commitment, and perseverance.

Yes we must hear God’s Word. Each time God speaks his Word, he gives us the gift of faith, a gift what enables us to believe what he says. With this faith, we see God’s presence and his vision for the world. We see as God sees.

Then, after hearing the Word of God and accepting it in faith, we must go out of these four walls and tell others what Jesus Christ, the Word of God, has done for us, his people.

We cannot remain silent.

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Petition the Holy Father Regarding Papa Luciani’s teachings on Mercy

The John Paul I Association has begun a petition to the Holy Father, asking him to promote Papa Luciani’s teaching on Mercy during this upcoming Year of Mercy. If you wish to review the petition, you may do so at Luciani and if after doing so wish to sign it, you will see the online instruction.

Prayerfully consider this.

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Yesterday, 37 years ago, Papa Luciani!



I didn’t have time yesterday to write this post. Yesterday, August 26, was the 37 anniversary of the election of Albino Luciani as Pope John Paul I. As any of you who frequent this weblog know, Luciani is dear to my heart for many reasons. His memory is fading quickly in the minds of most people with the passing of the years. He seldom is mentioned by those more prominent religious commentators of whom we read in the media, and perhaps even more seldom mentioned among the clergy at large.

I think part of the reason for this silence among the clergy has to do with a change in the understanding of Vatican II among those clergymen formed since the 1990’s. Prior to that time, there was a vision of Vatican II that predominated the landscape, a vision that was reformed in the latter years of John Paul II’s pontificate and during Benedict’s. Luciani was the personification of what I believe Vatican II set out to do. I do not mean any disrespect to John Paul II or Benedict (for they too, I believe, personify what Vatican II set out to do, each in his own way) but I do not think we can full appreciate the teachings of Vatican II without placing Luciani alongside of his two successors.

Luciani, in so many ways, was a promise of the coming of Francis, who we are coming to know to be the summation of John Paul II and Benedict. It may be true that the media portrays Francis as a break from the papal culture since 1978, but I don’t see it that way. I grant you I am a bit biased in my evaluation of Luciani because of my affection for him, but  I submit for your consideration that when Luciani said his pontificate would be brief and that another would come after him perhaps Luciani was prophetic and unwittingly alerting us to the coming of a pope from Argentina with roots in Italy, i.e., Bergoglio. Perhaps Luciani was the foretaste of Francis.

I have written before that John Paul II carried out John Paul I’s papacy in his own way. You see that in the pastoral urgency with which John Paul II carried out his Petrine ministry to the entire people of God. You see it also in John Paul II orthodoxy, an orthodoxy shared by John Paul I. Many think John Paul II and Benedict were intellectual heavyweights and John Paul I a lightweight. Anyone who has read Luciani’s writings will disagree with that assessment. Many will say Luciani was a liberal in regard to the moral life and John Paul II and Benedict were conservatives. Anyone who has read the writings of these men will disagree. All were men of the Church and faithful to Church doctrine and the moral life.

Luciani, on that day of his election, which I so vividly recall, stepped out onto the main loggia of St. Peter’s, and with a quivering voice blessed the world and in doing so offered a plenary indulgence to those present. He continues to bless the world, I believe, from a place in heaven, interceding for us that God extend his mercy to all his people.

Someday, Luciani will be numbered among the canonized of the Church. When that day happens, I hope I am able to be there in the piazza di San Pietro, to celebrate!

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Trappists, Deacons, Retreats and all the rest

I was honored this past week to preach the canonical retreat for the candidates for diaconal ordination from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Prior to ordination, all men to be ordained must make a five day retreat. The seven men, along with their class dean and formators, made their retreat at New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque, Iowa. Below is a glimpse of their main chapel.


New Melleray is a Trappist monastery founded in 1849 in the rolling hills west of Dubuque. For over 150 years, the monks there provided for themselves by farming. In recent years the farmland has been rented out and they now bring in needed revenue by making Trappist Caskets.

The retreat was a blessed experience for all of us, me included. The theme was the gift of faith, and my reflections on the various aspects of faith that I gleaned from my reading of the Holy Father’s encyclical Lumen Fidei and his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. 

I just love doing these retreats when asked. My own faith is deepened as I witness the growth and fervor of deacons and deacon candidates. The men from St. Paul will be welcomed additions to the diaconate community following their ordinations in December.

May God continue to bless them richly!

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Quote for the Day

“How little we appreciate our privilege of being given opportunity after opportunity of suffering in diverse ways and of offering all in union with and for the intentions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!” — Ven. Solanus Casey, OFM Cap.

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Papa Luciani!!

I read with delight an article written by William Doino, Jr., on Pope John Paul I, Papa Luciani, over at First Things. Those of us who were present in Rome during those 33 days of Luciani’s papacy in the summer of 1978 will never forget him, and how he in so many ways foreshadowed Pope Francis in his approach to the papacy and church mission.

Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer of us who remain from that 1978 in Rome and the Vatican. Whenever I mention Luciani’s name to those younger than 55 years, they invariably nod and say Luciani wasn’t around long enough for them to recall him or for him to have had an effect.

Yes, his papacy was only 33 days and he wrote no major documents during those days as pope, but he in my mind had an enormous effect on the subsequent papacy of John Paul II who in turn paved the way for Benedict, only to have Francis follow – not only Benedict in succession, but Luciani in tone and emphasis.

Take a look at this link.

Remembering the Smiling Pope

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Quote for the Day

“True peacemakers are those who preserve peace of mind and body for love of our Lord Jesus Christ, despite what they suffer in this world.” — St. Francis of Assisi

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Quote for the Day

“Mercy is not the same as moral relativism. Disagreement is not the same as discrimination. Tha law goes too far when it demands that the church abandon its beliefs in the pursuit of an entirely novel state of equality.” — Cardinal Donald WuerL

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Sunday, 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all!

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

July 11/12, 2015

Amos 7: 12-15; Eph 1: 3-14; Mark 6: 7-13

Faith and mission. Today’s first reading and the Gospel speak of faith and the mission we are sent on if we accept this faith. We are called and sent by God with the gift of faith! Amos was sent; the Apostles were sent; you are sent!

What is faith? Faith has two aspects to it. The first is the Deposit of Faith or the content of our faith that has been entrusted to the Church by the Lord Jesus himself to protect and proclaim to the nations. The Deposit of Faith is those revealed truths from God which we all must believe which we learn in the Catechism and in what we call the Apostolic Tradition, i.e., the teaching of the Apostles and their successors, the bishops.

The second aspect of Faith is the gift of faith. This gift can be thought of as the gaze of the soul on the presence of God, on divine Love, in daily life. Yes, the gift of faith allows us to see God’s presence and his love in the midst of our world which gives us the hope that propels us forward into loving God and each other. This gift God freely bestows on us.

Faith brings certain fruitfulness, or fertility you might say to all we say and do. It brings sacrifice also. It brings conversion and change, just like it did with Amos who was changed from a dresser of sycamore to a prophet, and faith will give you a mission or purpose in life.

Faith requires what we go on a mission. We must hand on to the next generation what has been given to us. Our lives have purpose and we must accept it, whatever that may be. Faith challenges us to “venture” or risk a lot for our faith, to put our lives on the line. All of us who are married know this. Marriage demands we become fertile and faithful with each other. It demands we put our lives on the line for each other. Marriage is a mission and it is a witness to the world of the love of a man for a woman, and parents for their children.

This is the message of all of today’s readings. We hear it in the call of Amos. We hear it in the Gospel and how Jesus chose 12 men to be his apostles, gave them the gift of faith, changed and converted them, and then sent them out on a mission to bear fruit, to become fertile, generating new life by their preaching and healing. They were rely on their faith in Jesus and not rely of material things such as tunics, money or extra sandals; rather rely only on their faith in God and in God’s fidelity to them. They were sent out with little more than the gift of faith for one purpose: to be fertile, to generate a new generation of believers.

Indeed, faith-filled and converted witnesses are sorely needed. We especially need married men and women willing to venture much, to become missionaries for marriage, to show the world by example what the true nature of marriage is.

Don’t think you are too small for the job. Amos was just a dresser of sycamores. When the Old Testament uses the phrase we heard, i.e., “The Lord took me from the flock,” it is a way of saying that God converted him. You are like Amos. Amos thought he was just a gardener but God called, prepared, converted, and sent him on a mission. Amos left all behind including his country and his possessions, trusting in God’s call. Amos risked everything because he was given the gift of faith. He was sent out to prophesy to be fertile in converting many people of his time, bringing them back to God, uniting them and reminding them of their dignity as the Chosen People of God.

God calls you, prepares you, converts you and wants to send you out also. “Trust me!” God says. “Have faith!” God insists. “If you accept the gift of faith, you will be fertile; you will multiply many times over the faith which has been given to you.”

Yes, to truly accept the gift of faith is to prepare for a fruitful life and to become a missionary, to become someone who is to bring others to the faith and become children of faith. To accept the gift of faith is to become a father and mother to many, because true faith makes you fertile, and demands that you give witness to that faith and bring others into faith.

Have faith in God who sends you out into life.

Your faith will bear fruit. Your faith will lead to the creation of new life, to a new generation of believers. Your faith will bring newness of life. Faith is never sterile; it is always fertile. You will see God’s presence and your soul will be able to gaze upon him.

You have been called. You have been given the gift of faith. You are now sent out to change the world and bring others to God.

Have faith! Believe! Go forth!



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Quote for the Day

“Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” — St. John XXIII

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Holy Father’s Call for Change: PLEASE READ!

My dear readers,

Please take the time to read this address of the Holy Father. It is a bit lengthy, but I would sincerely ask you read what he actually is saying before you begin to take in the soundbites and fragments that the press and other information sources will be feeding us.

This address of Pope Francis, I am told, was somewhat unusual in that he didn’t ad lib; rather, he kept to the text which makes one consider that the Holy Father intended this to be a teaching document of importance.


Deacon Yerhot



Expo Feria Exhibition Centre, Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia)
Thursday, 9 July 2015


Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

Several months ago, we met in Rome, and I remember that first meeting. In the meantime I have kept you in my thoughts and prayers. I am happy to see you again, here, as you discuss the best ways to overcome the grave situations of injustice experienced by the excluded throughout our world. Thank you, President Evo Morales, for your efforts to make this meeting possible.

During our first meeting in Rome, I sensed something very beautiful: fraternity, determination, commitment, a thirst for justice. Today, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, I sense it once again. I thank you for that. I also know, from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace headed by Cardinal Turkson, that many people in the Church feel very close to the popular movements. That makes me very happy! I am pleased to see the Church opening her doors to all of you, embracing you, accompanying you and establishing in each diocese, in every justice and peace commission, a genuine, ongoing and serious cooperation with popular movements. I ask everyone, bishops, priests and laity, as well as the social organizations of the urban and rural peripheries, to deepen this encounter.

Today God has granted that we meet again. The Bible tells us that God hears the cry of his people, and I wish to join my voice to yours in calling for the three “L’s” for all our brothers and sisters: land, lodging and labor. I said it and I repeat it: these are sacred rights. It is important, it is well worth fighting for them. May the cry of the excluded be heard in Latin America and throughout the world.

1. Before all else, let us begin by acknowledging that change is needed. Here I would clarify, lest there be any misunderstanding, that I am speaking about problems common to all Latin Americans and, more generally, to humanity as a whole. They are global problems which today no one state can resolve on its own. With this clarification, I now propose that we ask the following questions:

Do we truly realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farmworkers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected?

Do we realize that something is wrong where so many senseless wars are being fought and acts of fratricidal violence are taking place on our very doorstep? Do we realize something is wrong when the soil, water, air and living creatures of our world are under constant threat?

So, if we do realize all this, let’s not be afraid to say it: we need change; we want change.

In your letters and in our meetings, you have mentioned the many forms of exclusion and injustice which you experience in the workplace, in neighborhoods and throughout the land. They are many and diverse, just as many and diverse are the ways in which you confront them. Yet there is an invisible thread joining every one of the forms of exclusion. These are not isolated issues. Can we recognize that invisible thread which links them? I wonder whether we can see that those destructive realities are part of a system which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?

If such is the case, I would insist, let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change. This system is by now intolerable: farmworkers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable … The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable.

We want change in our lives, in our neighborhoods, in our everyday reality. We want a change which can affect the entire world, since global interdependence calls for global answers to local problems. The globalization of hope, a hope which springs up from peoples and takes root among the poor, must replace the globalization of exclusion and indifference!

Today I wish to reflect with you on the change we want and need. You know that recently I wrote about the problems of climate change. But now I would like to speak of change in another sense. Positive change, a change which is good for us, a change – we can say – which is redemptive. Because we need it. I know that you are looking for change, and not just you alone: in my different meetings, in my different travels, I have sensed an expectation, a longing, a yearning for change, in people throughout the world. Even within that ever smaller minority which believes that the present system is beneficial, there is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction and even despondency. Many people are hoping for a change capable of releasing them from the bondage of individualism and the despondency it spawns.

Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home. Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem. The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea – one of the first theologians of the Church – called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. This is the “dung of the devil”. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home, sister and mother earth.

I do not need to go on describing the evil effects of this subtle dictatorship: you are well aware of them. Nor is it enough to point to the structural causes of today’s social and environmental crisis. We are suffering from an excess of diagnosis, which at times leads us to multiply words and to revel in pessimism and negativity. Looking at the daily news we think that there is nothing to be done, except to take care of ourselves and the little circle of our family and friends.

What can I do, as collector of paper, old clothes or used metal, a recycler, about all these problems if I barely make enough money to put food on the table? What can I do as a craftsman, a street vendor, a trucker, a downtrodden worker, if I don’t even enjoy workers’ rights? What can I do, a farmwife, a native woman, a fisher who can hardly fight the domination of the big corporations? What can I do from my little home, my shanty, my hamlet, my settlement, when I daily meet with discrimination and marginalization? What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to a neighborhood with their hearts full of hopes and dreams, but without any real solution for their problems? They can do a lot. They really can. You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three “L’s” – do you agree? – (labor, lodging, land) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels. Don’t lose heart!

2. Secondly, you are sowers of change. Here in Bolivia I have heard a phrase which I like: “process of change”. Change seen not as something which will one day result from any one political decision or change in social structure. We know from painful experience that changes of structure which are not accompanied by a sincere conversion of mind and heart sooner or later end up in bureaucratization, corruption and failure. There must be a change of heart. That is why I like the image of a “process”, processes, where the drive to sow, to water seeds which others will see sprout, replaces the ambition to occupy every available position of power and to see immediate results. The option is to bring about processes and not to occupy positions. Each of us is just one part of a complex and differentiated whole, interacting in time: peoples who struggle to find meaning, a destiny, and to live with dignity, to “live well”, and in that sense, worthily.

As members of popular movements, you carry out your work inspired by fraternal love, which you show in opposing social injustice. When we look into the eyes of the suffering, when we see the faces of the endangered campesino, the poor laborer, the downtrodden native, the homeless family, the persecuted migrant, the unemployed young person, the exploited child, the mother who lost her child in a shootout because the barrio was occupied by drugdealers, the father who lost his daughter to enslavement…. when we think of all those names and faces, our hearts break because of so much sorrow and pain. And we are deeply moved, all of us…. We are moved because “we have seen and heard” not a cold statistic but the pain of a suffering humanity, our own pain, our own flesh. This is something quite different than abstract theorizing or eloquent indignation. It moves us; it makes us attentive to others in an effort to move forward together. That emotion which turns into community action is not something which can be understood by reason alone: it has a surplus of meaning which only peoples understand, and it gives a special feel to genuine popular movements.

Each day you are caught up in the storms of people’s lives. You have told me about their causes, you have shared your own struggles with me, ever since I was in Buenos Aires, and I thank you for that. You, dear brothers and sisters, often work on little things, in local situations, amid forms of injustice which you do not simply accept but actively resist, standing up to an idolatrous system which excludes, debases and kills. I have seen you work tirelessly for the soil and crops of campesinos, for their lands and communities, for a more dignified local economy, for the urbanization of their homes and settlements; you have helped them build their own homes and develop neighborhood infrastructures. You have also promoted any number of community activities aimed at reaffirming so elementary and undeniably necessary a right as that of the three “L’s”: land, lodging and labor.

This rootedness in the barrio, the land, the office, the labor union, this ability to see yourselves in the faces of others, this daily proximity to their share of troubles – because they exist and we all have them – and their little acts of heroism: this is what enables you to practice the commandment of love, not on the basis of ideas or concepts, but rather on the basis of genuine interpersonal encounter. We need to build up this culture of encounter. We do not love concepts or ideas; no one loves a concept or an idea. We love people… Commitment, true commitment, is born of the love of men and women, of children and the elderly, of peoples and communities… of names and faces which fill our hearts. From those seeds of hope patiently sown in the forgotten fringes of our planet, from those seedlings of a tenderness which struggles to grow amid the shadows of exclusion, great trees will spring up, great groves of hope to give oxygen to our world.

So I am pleased to see that you are working at close hand to care for those seedlings, but at the same time, with a broader perspective, to protect the entire forest. Your work is carried out against a horizon which, while concentrating on your own specific area, also aims to resolve at their root the more general problems of poverty, inequality and exclusion.

I congratulate you on this. It is essential that, along with the defense of their legitimate rights, peoples and their social organizations be able to construct a humane alternative to a globalization which excludes. You are sowers of change. May God grant you the courage, joy, perseverance and passion to continue sowing. Be assured that sooner or later we will see its fruits. Of the leadership I ask this: be creative and never stop being rooted in local realities, since the father of lies is able to usurp noble words, to promote intellectual fads and to adopt ideological stances. But if you build on solid foundations, on real needs and on the lived experience of your brothers and sisters, of campesinos and natives, of excluded workers and marginalized families, you will surely be on the right path.

The Church cannot and must not remain aloof from this process in her proclamation of the Gospel. Many priests and pastoral workers carry out an enormous work of accompanying and promoting the excluded throughout the world, alongside cooperatives, favouring businesses, providing housing, working generously in the fields of health, sports and education. I am convinced that respectful cooperation with the popular movements can revitalize these efforts and strengthen processes of change.

Let us always have at heart the Virgin Mary, a humble girl from small people lost on the fringes of a great empire, a homeless mother who could turn a stable for beasts into a home for Jesus with just a few swaddling clothes and much tenderness. Mary is a sign of hope for peoples suffering the birth pangs of justice. I pray that Our Lady of Mount Carmel, patroness of Bolivia, will allow this meeting of ours to be a leaven of change.

3. Third and lastly, I would like us all to consider some important tasks for the present historical moment, since we desire a positive change for the benefit of all our brothers and sisters. We know this. We desire change enriched by the collaboration of governments, popular movements and other social forces. This too we know. But it is not so easy to define the content of change – in other words, a social program which can embody this project of fraternity and justice which we are seeking. It is not easy to define it. So don’t expect a recipe from this Pope. Neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social reality or the proposal of solutions to contemporary issues. I dare say that no recipe exists. History is made by each generation as it follows in the footsteps of those preceding it, as it seeks its own path and respects the values which God has placed in the human heart.

I would like, all the same, to propose three great tasks which demand a decisive and shared contribution from popular movements:

3.1 The first task is to put the economy at the service of peoples. Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money. Let us say NO to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth.

The economy should not be a mechanism for accumulating goods, but rather the proper administration of our common home. This entails a commitment to care for that home and to the fitting distribution of its goods among all. It is not only about ensuring a supply of food or “decent sustenance”. Nor, although this is already a great step forward, is it to guarantee the three “L’s” of land, lodging and labor for which you are working. A truly communitarian economy, one might say an economy of Christian inspiration, must ensure peoples’ dignity and their “general, temporal welfare and prosperity”.[1] (Pope John XXIII spoke this last phrase fifty years ago, and Jesus says in the Gospel that whoever freely offers a glass of water to one who is thirsty will be remembered in the Kingdom of Heaven.) All of this includes the three “L’s”, but also access to education, health care, new technologies, artistic and cultural manifestations, communications, sports and recreation. A just economy must create the conditions for everyone to be able to enjoy a childhood without want, to develop their talents when young, to work with full rights during their active years and to enjoy a dignified retirement as they grow older. It is an economy where human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life. You, and other peoples as well, sum up this desire in a simple and beautiful expression: “to live well”, which is not the same as “to have a good time”.

Such an economy is not only desirable and necessary, but also possible. It is no utopia or chimera. It is an extremely realistic prospect. We can achieve it. The available resources in our world, the fruit of the intergenerational labors of peoples and the gifts of creation, more than suffice for the integral development of “each man and the whole man”.[2] The problem is of another kind. There exists a system with different aims. A system which, in addition to irresponsibly accelerating the pace of production, and using industrial and agricultural methods which damage Mother Earth in the name of “productivity”, continues to deny many millions of our brothers and sisters their most elementary economic, social and cultural rights. This system runs counter to the plan of Jesus, against the Good News that Jesus brought.

Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment. It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right. The universal destination of goods is not a figure of speech found in the Church’s social teaching. It is a reality prior to private property. Property, especially when it affects natural resources, must always serve the needs of peoples. And those needs are not restricted to consumption. It is not enough to let a few drops fall whenever the poor shake a cup which never runs over by itself. Welfare programs geared to certain emergencies can only be considered temporary and incidental responses. They could never replace true inclusion, an inclusion which provides worthy, free, creative, participatory and solidary work.

Along this path, popular movements play an essential role, not only by making demands and lodging protests, but even more basically by being creative. You are social poets: creators of work, builders of housing, producers of food, above all for people left behind by the world market.

I have seen first hand a variety of experiences where workers united in cooperatives and other forms of community organization were able to create work where there were only crumbs of an idolatrous economy. I have seen some of you here. Recuperated businesses, local fairs and cooperatives of paper collectors are examples of that popular economy which is born of exclusion and which, slowly, patiently and resolutely adopts solidary forms which dignify it. How different this is than the situation which results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!

Governments which make it their responsibility to put the economy at the service of peoples must promote the strengthening, improvement, coordination and expansion of these forms of popular economy and communitarian production. This entails bettering the processes of work, providing adequate infrastructures and guaranteeing workers their full rights in this alternative sector. When the state and social organizations join in working for the three “L’s”, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity come into play; and these allow the common good to be achieved in a full and participatory democracy.

3.2. The second task is to unite our peoples on the path of peace and justice.

The world’s peoples want to be artisans of their own destiny. They want to advance peacefully towards justice. They do not want forms of tutelage or interference by which those with greater power subordinate those with less. They want their culture, their language, their social processes and their religious traditions to be respected. No actual or established power has the right to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty. Whenever they do so, we see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice. For “peace is founded not only on respect for human rights but also on respect for the rights of peoples, in particular the right to independence”.[3]

The peoples of Latin America fought to gain their political independence and for almost two centuries their history has been dramatic and filled with contradictions, as they have striven to achieve full independence.

In recent years, after any number of misunderstandings, many Latin American countries have seen the growth of fraternity between their peoples. The governments of the region have pooled forces in order to ensure respect for the sovereignty of their own countries and the entire region, which our forebears so beautifully called the “greater country”. I ask you, my brothers and sisters of the popular movements, to foster and increase this unity. It is necessary to maintain unity in the face of every effort to divide, if the region is to grow in peace and justice.

Despite the progress made, there are factors which still threaten this equitable human development and restrict the sovereignty of the countries of the “greater country” and other areas of our planet. The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain “free trade” treaties, and the imposition of measures of “austerity” which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor. We, the bishops of Latin America, denounce this with utter clarity in the Aparecida Document, stating that “financial institutions and transnational companies are becoming stronger to the point that local economies are subordinated, especially weakening the local states, which seem ever more powerless to carry out development projects in the service of their populations”.[4] At other times, under the noble guise of battling corruption, the narcotics trade and terrorism – grave evils of our time which call for coordinated international action – we see states being saddled with measures which have little to do with the resolution of these problems and which not infrequently worsen matters.

Similarly, the monopolizing of the communications media, which would impose alienating examples of consumerism and a certain cultural uniformity, is another one of the forms taken by the new colonialism. It is ideological colonialism. As the African bishops have observed, poor countries are often treated like “parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel”.[5]

It must be acknowledged that none of the grave problems of humanity can be resolved without interaction between states and peoples at the international level. Every significant action carried out in one part of the planet has universal, ecological, social and cultural repercussions. Even crime and violence have become globalized. Consequently, no government can act independently of a common responsibility. If we truly desire positive change, we have to humbly accept our interdependence, that is to say, our healthy interdependence. Interaction, however, is not the same as imposition; it is not the subordination of some to serve the interests of others. Colonialism, both old and new, which reduces poor countries to mere providers of raw material and cheap labor, engenders violence, poverty, forced migrations and all the evils which go hand in hand with these, precisely because, by placing the periphery at the service of the center, it denies those countries the right to an integral development. That is inequality, brothers and sisters, and inequality generates a violence which no police, military, or intelligence resources can control.

Let us say NO, then, to forms of colonialism old and new. Let us say YES to the encounter between peoples and cultures. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Here I wish to bring up an important issue. Some may rightly say, “When the Pope speaks of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the Church”. I say this to you with regret: many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God. My predecessors acknowledged this, CELAM, the Council of Latin American Bishops, has said it, and I too wish to say it. Like Saint John Paul II, I ask that the Church – I repeat what he said – “kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters”.[6] I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America. Together with this request for forgiveness and in order to be just, I also would like us to remember the thousands of priests and bishops who strongly opposed the logic of the sword with the power of the Cross. There was sin, a great deal of it, for which we did not ask pardon. So for this, we ask forgiveness, I ask forgiveness. But here also, where there was sin, great sin, grace abounded through the men and women who defended the rights of indigenous peoples.

I also ask everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike, to think of those many bishops, priests and laity who preached and continue to preach the Good News of Jesus with courage and meekness, respectfully and pacifically – though I said bishops, priests and laity, I do not wish to forget the religious sisters who have been so present to our poor neighborhoods, bringing a message of peace and wellbeing – ; who left behind them impressive works of human promotion and of love, often standing alongside the native peoples or accompanying their popular movements even to the point of martyrdom. The Church, her sons and daughters, are part of the identity of the peoples of Latin America. An identity which here, as in other countries, some powers are committed to erasing, at times because our faith is revolutionary, because our faith challenges the tyranny of mammon. Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. This too needs to be denounced: in this third world war, waged peacemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide – I insist on the word – is taking place, and it must end.

To our brothers and sisters in the Latin American indigenous movement, allow me to express my deep affection and appreciation of their efforts to bring peoples and cultures together – a coming together of peoples and cultures – in a form of coexistence which I like to call polyhedric, where each group preserves its own identity by building together a plurality which does not threaten but rather reinforces unity. Your quest for an interculturalism, which combines the defense of the rights of the native peoples with respect for the territorial integrity of states, is for all of us a source of enrichment and encouragement.

3.3. The third task, perhaps the most important facing us today, is to defend Mother Earth.

Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin. We see with growing disappointment how one international summit after another takes place without any significant result. There exists a clear, definite and pressing ethical imperative to implement what has not yet been done. We cannot allow certain interests – interests which are global but not universal – to take over, to dominate states and international organizations, and to continue destroying creation. People and their movements are called to cry out, to mobilize and to demand – peacefully, but firmly – that appropriate and urgently-needed measures be taken. I ask you, in the name of God, to defend Mother Earth. I have duly addressed this issue in my Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, which I believe will be distributed at the end.

4. In conclusion, I would like to repeat: the future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change. I am with you. Each of us, let repeat from the heart: no family without lodging, no rural worker without land, no laborer without rights, no people without sovereignty, no individual without dignity, no child without childhood, no young person without a future, no elderly person without a venerable old age. Keep up your struggle and, please, take great care of Mother Earth. Believe me; I am sincere when I say from the heart that I pray for you and with you, and I ask God our Father to accompany you and to bless you, to fill you with his love and defend you on your way by granting you in abundance that strength which keeps us on our feet: that strength is hope. It is something important: hope does not disappoint. I ask you, please, to pray for me. If some of you are unable to pray, with all respect, I ask you to send me your good thoughts and energy. Thank you.

[1] JOHN XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra (15 May 1961), 3: AAS 53 (1961), 402.

[2] PAUL VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 14: AAS 59 (1967), 264.

[3] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 157.


[5] JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (14 September 1995), 52: AAS 88 (1996), 32-22; ID., Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 22: AAS 80 (1988), 539.

[6] Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 Incarnationis Mysterium (29 November 1998),11: AAS 91 (1999), 139-141.

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