By Linda Bordoni
The 23rd International Congress Renovabis took place this week on the theme The Urban Church. Challenges in Providing Pastoral Care, both East and West“.
Renovabis is a Catholic charity based in Germany. It was founded in 1993 to help people in Eastern and Central Europe, and although the European landscape has changed considerably in the past decades, the Charity continues to grow and it sponsors some 14,000 assistance projects in 28 different countries.
The Congress on 11 and 12 September gathered partner organizations and members to discuss the challenges facing pastoral and ministry, especially in big cities.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago addressed the Congress listing the priorities he believes must be taken into consideration in order to ensure the Church’s efforts to minister to those in need are both effective and authentic.
Cardinal Cupich said he was asked to focus his presentation on the priorities that he believes the Church should give to the challenges it faces in offering pastoral care in an urban setting, particularly form a North American perspective.
Cupich lists the care offered by so many projects in his own Diocese of Chicago pointing out that he struggles to find a priority.
“Every day we care for the sick, poor, aged, homeless, the unemployed migrants and prisoners,” he says, “we have the largest Catholic charities in the US and we are the largest provider of social services within the State of Illinois”.
He went on to reveal that the Diocese of Chicago has the largest Catholic hospital system, that it educates the young in over 200 schools, advocates for public policies promote and defend life and dignity, as well as care of the planet, anti violence measures and religious freedom.
He conceded that these are all priorities, of course, but pointed out that there is “another level of priorities that have to do with securing the conditions necessary for these ministries and efforts to be both effective and authentic: to really be about what the Church is supposed to be doing in ministry”.
Not just another NGO
“Because we are not just another NGO, but are ministering in the name of Jesus,” he said.
Cupich spoke of what he called “foundational priorities” that set the conditions for the Church to be able to be really authentic.
“They involve challenges that need Jesus’ healing and if not met, they will undermine the impact of all the other ministries that we have,” he said.
Cupich listed the challenges he highlighted in his presentation to the Congress
1: the changing face of the family in an era of increasing globalization and secularization;
2: social polarization that leaves humanity divided, not only politically, but spilling over into the life of the Church and undermining “the Church’s ability to give authentic witness for what it means to be the body of Christ working in urban areas.”
3: The sexual abuse crisis. Cupich said its impact on the Church’s efforts are not to be underestimated noting that “while it should never paralyze us, it does, in the US undermine our ability because we have to be credible witnesses of the Gospel and when we have failed, we have to admit it, deal with it and bring healing”.
After listing the priorities to be taken into account, Cupich reflected on the resources available and pointed to the results of the Synods of Bishops on the Family and on Married Life.
Especially for the divisions in society, he invited those present to call upon the insights of Pope Saint John Paul II on social solidarity.
Cupich also referred to his predecessor, Cardinal Bernadine, who said “we need a consistent ethic of life”.
“Yes, that is important, but today, in a world when people are so divided, I am calling for a consistent ethic of solidarity that brings us together,” he said.
He decried the fact that in the political sphere and sometimes even in the Church, “not only are people not talking to each other, they often have contempt for each other and they will not even intersect and engage in dialogue”.
Finally he recalled Pope Francis’ effort to recover from the earliest traditions an emphasis on synodality in the Church.
“We have to walk together with our people and with each other,” he said.
Cupich said there is a rich tradition of treating those who are injured and wounded in the world and Pope Francis, he said, is giving us a pathway forward.
“I want to open a conversation on how the Church may find a pathway forward for responding to these foundational challenges” Cupich concluded, “because if we don’t, all the other efforts we make on behalf of those in need really will be undermined, while if we address them, we will be both effective and authentic”.