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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate:
I receive you with great joy, Pastors of the Church of God that journeys in Colombia, who have come to Rome for your ad limina visit and thus tighten the bonds that unite you to this Apostolic See. As Successor of Peter, this is a precious opportunity to reiterate to you my affection and cordiality. I am grateful for the kind words addressed to me in your name by monsignor Rubén Salazar Gómez, archbishop of Bogota and president of the Episcopal Conference, presenting me with the realities that concern you, as well as the challenges that the communities over which you preside in the faith must face. I know the efforts you have made in recent years, both within the Episcopal Conference as well as in your particular Churches, to implement initiatives geared to fomenting a current of renewed and fruitful evangelization. In fact, Colombia is not a stranger to the consequences of forgetfulness of God. Whereas years ago it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural fabric, widely accepted in its reference to the content of the faith and all that was inspired in it, today it does not seem to be so in vast sectors of the society, given the crisis of spiritual and moral values which negatively affects many of your compatriots. Hence, it is indispensable to revive in all the faithful their awareness of being disciples and missionaries of Christ, nourishing the roots of their faith, strengthening their hope and invigorating their testimony of charity.
To this effect, you have molded your evangelizing desires on the Global Plan of the Episcopal Conference (2012-2020), the result of a conscious discernment of the hour the Church is living in Colombia. I want to encourage you to continue following, with tenacity and perseverance, the guidelines set out in it. Do so by strengthening the communion to which Bishops are called in the exercise of their mission as, by agreeing on pastoral approaches and uniting wills, the ministry that the Lord has entrusted to you will bear copious fruits. With this same objective, take advantage of the reflections of the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, as well as the proposals of the “Year of Faith” which I have called, to illustrate your teaching with them and to irrigate your apostolate beneficially.
Growing religious pluralism is a factor that calls for serious consideration. The ever more active presence of Pentecostal and Evangelical communities, not only in Colombia, but also in many regions of Latin America, cannot be ignored or underestimated. In this connection, it is evident that the people of God are called to purify themselves and to revitalize their faith, allowing themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, to thus give new thrust to your pastoral action, as “many times sincere people who leave our Church do not do so because of what ‘non-Catholic’ groups believe but, fundamentally, because of what they live; not for doctrinal but for existential reasons; not for strictly dogmatic but for pastoral reasons; not because of theological but methodological problems of our Church” (5th General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate, Conclusive Document, n. 225). Hence, it is about being better believers, more pious, affable and welcoming in our parishes and communities, so that no one will feel distant or excluded. Catechesis must be promoted, giving special attention to young people and adults; homilies must be carefully prepared, as well as promoting the teaching of Catholic doctrine in schools and universities. And all this to recover in the baptized a sense of belonging to the Church and to awaken in them the aspiration to share with others the joy of following Christ and of being members of his Mystical Body.
It is also important to appeal to the ecclesial tradition, to promote Marian spirituality and to take care of the rich devotional diversity. To facilitate a serene and open exchange with other Christians, without losing one’s own identity, can also help to improve relations with them and to overcome mistrust and unnecessary confrontations. Moved by apostolic zeal and looking to the common good, do not fail to individualize all that hinders the right progress of Colombia, going out to meet those who are deprived of liberty because of the iniquitous violence. Contemplation of the lacerated face of Christ on the Cross will drive you also to redouble measures and programs tending to support lovingly and to assist all those who are being tried, particularly all those who are victims of natural disasters, the poorest, peasants, the sick and afflicted, multiplying solidaristic initiatives and works of love and mercy in their favor. Do not forget either those who must emigrate from their homeland, because they have lost their work or are keen to find it; those who see their fundamental rights trampled and are forced to leave their homes and abandon their families under the threat of the dark hand of terror and criminality; or those who have fallen into the ill-fated trade of drugs and arms. I wish to encourage you to continue on this path of generous and fraternal service, which is not the result of human calculation but is born of the love of God and of one’s neighbor, source where the Church finds her strength to carry out her task, giving to others what she herself has learned from the sublime example of her Founder.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, if the grace of God does not precede and sustain him, man soon weakens in his objectives to transform the world. Hence, for the light from on High to continue to make fruitful the prophetic and charitable commitment of the Church in Colombia, you must insist on fostering in your faithful their personal encounter with Jesus Christ, so that they pray without faltering, meditate assiduously on the Word of God and participate more worthily and fervently in the sacraments, celebrated in keeping with the canonical norms and liturgical books. All this will be a propitious way for an ideal itinerary of Christian Initiation, inviting all to conversion and sanctity and will cooperate towards the very necessary ecclesial renewal.
On ending this meeting, I pray to the Almighty that the Name of Our Lord Jesus is glorified in you, and you in Him (cf. 2 TSs1:12). While placing you under the protection of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquira, heavenly Patroness of Colombia, I am happy to impart the implored Apostolic Blessing, as pledge of peace and joy in Jesus Christ, Redeemer of man.
[Translation by ZENIT]