By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis sent a message on Tuesday to the bishops, diocesan priests and religious of Venezuela, during a virtual meeting organized as a space to share their experiences during this time of health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I thank the Lord for the opportunity to be able to address you on this day when you begin a virtual meeting, taking into account the difficulties that also oppress so many of our brothers and sisters in Venezuela and throughout the world,” Pope Francis said in his video message.
“This is an opportunity to share, in a spirit of ministerial fraternity, your priestly experiences, your labors, your uncertainties, as well as your yearnings and your conviction to carry on the work of the Church, which is the work of the Lord.”
The virtual event, organized by the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference, takes place on 19–20 January. It is themed, “Our priests in the pandemic: their experience and ministerial exercise in this period.” The meeting aims at providing a space, in fraternal dialogue, to listen to and share experiences, as well as exchange suggestions in planning pastoral actions.
We cannot remain isolated
Pope Francis noted that in these difficult moments he is reminded of the passage in Mark's Gospel (cf. Mk 6:30-31) which tells us how the Apostles, on their return from the mission to which Jesus had sent them, gathered around Him.
“Jesus invited them to go, alone with Him, to a deserted place to rest for a while,” Pope Francis recalled.
“Our being Pastors of the Church, even in the present context, asks us to act in this way,” the Pope said. “We cannot act alone, in isolation and self-sufficiency, with hidden agendas. It is indispensable that we always return to Jesus, that we gather in sacramental fraternity, to tell Him and each other ‘all that we have done and taught,’ with the conviction that it is not our work but God's.”
“It is He who saves us; we are the ones who are saved. It is He who saves us; we are only instruments in his hands,” the Pope affirmed.
Two important principles
The Pope highlighted that the meeting, held online because of the pandemic, has the objective of allowing “those who have received the mission to witness to and extend the Lord’s fatherhood among God’s faithful, holy people.”
In this regard, he pointed out two principles that guarantee the growth of the Church which should never be lost sight of: “love of neighbor and service to one another.”
These two, the Pope explained, are anchored in the two Sacraments that Jesus instituted at the Last Supper, and are the foundation of His message. The Eucharist – to teach love – and the washing of feet – to teach service.
“Love and service together, otherwise nothing works,” Pope Francis said.
Humble servants of God’s people
Pope Francis further explained that what the Lord wants of us is to be “experts in the task of loving others,” showing them, in the simplicity of daily small gestures of affection and attention, the caress of divine tenderness.
At the same time, the Pope noted that God “wants us to be servants of our brothers, but humble servants, because it is Jesus who sends us and reminds us that the servant is not greater than his Lord, nor is the one sent greater than the one who sent him.”
“It is necessary to revive in life the desire to imitate the Good Shepherd and to learn to be ‘servants’ of all, especially of our less fortunate and often discarded brothers and sisters, and to ensure that, in this time of crisis, they feel accompanied, supported and loved,” he added.
Witnesses of love and service
The Pope concluded his message by inviting the Bishops and priests to “go forward, working joyfully and decisively in pastoral work” and to renew the gift of themselves to the Lord and His holy people.
He also expressed his gratitude to the meeting’s participants for their “witness of love and service” to Venezuelans: in their attention to the sick to whom they bring the Word of God and the Eucharist; in their accompaniment of medical personnel and volunteers assisting patients during the pandemic; in their zeal for helping the poor, the excluded and those who lack the basic necessities to survive and get by in dignity.
“Thank you, thank you for all this,” Pope Francis said.