Miami Prelate Recalls Pope's Visit to Cuba, Looks to Year of Faith

Archbishop Thomas Wenski Speaks About Pastoral Care of Immigrants

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By Ann Schneible

ROME, MAY 17, 2012 (Zenit.org).- In confronting the war that secular culture is raging against the family, the Year of Faith calls Christians to embrace the faith, and to become shaped by it, according to a Florida bishop who was just in Rome for his five-yearly meeting with the Pope.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami spoke with ZENIT about the upcoming Year of Faith and the challenges it aims to confront.

With the beginning of the Year of Faith approaching, there are pastoral considerations in the work of enriching the faith in southern Florida where there is such a strong immigrant community. "Faith," explained the archbishop, "is always very much tied up in culture because of the incarnation of our Lord, when the Word became Flesh. It's also very normal for human beings when they respond in faith to the Gospel that they also make that Gospel part of their culture. Certainly, the Latin immigrants who come to the United States come from a culture that has been influenced by Christianity, and specifically by Catholicism."

Recalling the Apostolic Journey to Mexico and Cuba

The Holy Father's Apostolic Journey to Cuba earlier this year, which Archbishop Wenski attended with five or six hundred fellow pilgrims, brought a great deal of hope to many in southern Florida, he said.  Most of the one million Cubans who live in the region were forced to leave Cuba due to its communist regime. "Fifty years of atheistic materialism in Cuba did have a harmful effect on Cuban society. The Pope going to Cuba helps to again open the windows of that particular society to the possibility of transcendence, to the possibility of God."

"The people in Miami," he went on, "were also very hopeful at the Papal visit that his words in Cuba would help move Cuba towards a new future as the Holy Father himself likes to say: 'The future of home.' To quote the Holy Father again: 'A world without God is a world without a future, a world without hope.' So certainly, fifty years of atheistic materialism in Cuba did have a harmful effect on Cuban society. The Pope going to Cuba helps to again open the windows of that particular society to the possibility of transcendence, to the possibility of God."

Secularism and the Year of Faith

The growth of secularism, which puts both their faith and culture under stress, creates a unique pastoral challenge, the archbishop admitted. "Certainly, in our society in the United States, with 40 years of the abortion regime, with a president that has just come out in favor of same-sex ‘marriage,’ we certainly have a task ahead of us to once again allow the Christian message, the Christian faith, to have its shaping culture, directing its shape upon society. That's part of what we're called to do as Christians. Our faiths should be like leaven in the dough, and transform the dough."

In fighting against the onslaught of secularism on the family, said Archbishop Wenksi, Catholics must first seek to reaffirm and fortify the faith within themselves. "In the past forty years," he explained, "we have allowed the culture to influence us in ways that we didn't even understand or realize. For example, today Catholic families are affected by the wars as much as non-Catholic families. Catholic attitudes towards things like contraception are often similar to their neighbors."

"The Gospel always challenges us to conversion. The Lord sends us out to preach the good news, but that preaching of the good news always begins with a conversion to the Lord. Therefore, our witness to others, and that witness means that we should model what a healthy relationship looks like, so that for our contemporaries who are looking for ways to be happy, to fulfill themselves, etc., they can see that the Gospel offers the way that no other way can equal."

To confront the secularized culture, therefore, it is necessary to "embrace our faith anew, and allow it to shape us,” he said. "The Year of Faith allows us the opportunity to once again reaffirm our faith, and in reaffirming our faith, to assume our responsibilities as Christians to shape the culture according to the light of our faith."