Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 17, 1891 when Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon dedicated St. Bernard Church, Enfield.
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20130728nw208 webPilgrims pack Copacabana beach for the World Youth Day closing Mass in Rio de Janeiro July 28. In attendance was an estimated 3 million people -- one of the largest crowds in the history of World Youth Day. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

 RIO DE JANEIRO (CNS) – Pope Francis commissioned some 3 million young people to join forces and form what could be called Missionaries Without Borders.

"Where does Jesus send us?" he asked World Youth Day pilgrims July 28. "There are no borders, no limits: He sends us to everyone."

On the white sand of Copacabana beach – under partly sunny skies, a relief after days of rain in Rio – Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass for the July 23-28 celebration of World Youth Day Rio.

Although retired Pope Benedict XVI had chosen the theme for the gathering – "Go and make disciples of all nations" – it was tailor-made for Pope Francis, who continually tells Catholics: "Go out. Go forward. Keep going."

"Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole church and that includes you," he told his beachfront congregation, which included hundreds of thousands who had spent the night on the sand, sleeping or not.

Long journeys, days of rain and sometimes improvised accommodations did not dampen the spirits of the World Youth Day participants, and Pope Francis told them that if they did not share their experience of God's love with others it would be "like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly."

Jesus did not tell his disciples to share the Gospel "if you would like to, if you have the time," the pope said. Instead, he commanded them to proclaim the Good News to the world.

Sharing the love and mercy of God and the salvation offered by Christ through the church "is born not from a desire for domination or power, but from the force of love," the pope told the young pilgrims, who were joined on the beach by tens of thousands of Rio residents and other Latin Americans, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Bolivian President Evo Morales and Suriname's President Desi Bouterse.

But even more special guests were present: The pope invited a couple and their baby girl, who has anencephaly (missing part of her brain), to come forward during the offertory. Pope Francis met the family July 27 as he was leaving Rio's St. Sebastian Cathedral and invited them to participate in the Mass. Under Brazil's abortion laws, the couple would have been able to abort the child, but chose not to.

With the father carrying the baby, the parents walked up to the pope wearing shirts with a Portuguese message on the back: "Stop abortion."

In his homily, Pope Francis told the young people that evangelizing requires a personal witness of love for God and love for others, especially the weak, the poor and the defenseless.

When the psalm says "Sing a new song to the Lord," he said, it is not talking about a certain set of lyrics or a specific melody, rather "it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus; it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts (and) his actions."

"The life of Jesus is a life for others," the pope said. "It is a life of service."

The pope did not mince words with his young audience, telling them: "Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did."

Pope Francis said he knows how daunting it can be to recognize that each Christian bears personal responsibility for sharing the Gospel with his or her actions and words, but Jesus told the first disciples and tells disciples today, "Be not afraid."

"Jesus does not leave us alone; he never leaves you alone," the pope said.

And the church does not leave any of its members, or even small groups, to go it alone, he said. "Jesus did not say: 'One of you go,' but 'All of you go.' We are sent together."

"Be creative. Be audacious," he said. "Do not be afraid."

Pope Francis thanked the hundreds of bishops and thousands of priests who accompanied their young pilgrims to Rio, but told them the pilgrimage was just one step on the young people's journey of faith.

"Continue to accompany them with generosity and joy, help them to become actively engaged in the church; never let them feel alone," he said.

He gave the younger generation a final instruction, "As you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel."

It can change the world, he said. "Bringing the Gospel is bringing God's power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred."

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.