Pope Francis on feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe: 'Yes to life, no to exclusion'

Pope Francis burns incense during a Mass marking the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Dec. 12 (CNS photo/Paul Haring). 

In a searing analysis of a society that is developing across the American continent, Pope Francis, in his homily for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, denounced the signs of mistrust, division, fragmentation that mark so many countries today, and the exclusion of so many people “from the train of life.”  

He prayed that Our Lady of Guadalupe may show the people of this continent the path to “reconciliation” and help them build a society “that says ‘yes’ to life and ‘no’ to every type of indifference, exclusion and the discarding of peoples and persons.”

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For the fourth year in succession, Francis celebrated Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a crowded St. Peter’s Basilica in the presence of ambassadors from the countries of the “new world.” As on former occasions, so too today the festive celebration was enriched by Latin American choirs and enchanting, lively music.

Children carried the flags of their respective nations and stood at the side of the altar throughout the celebration. Pope Francis, in his homily, denounced the fact that “the society that we are building for our children is each time more marked by the signs of division and fragmentation, leaving so many ‘out of the game,’ especially those for whom it is difficult to obtain even the bare necessities to move forward with life, and with dignity.”

This society, he commented, “likes to brag of its scientific technical advances” but “it has become blind and insensitive before the thousands of faces that are being left behind on the road, excluded by the blind pride of a few.”  

This society, he stated, “ends up by establishing a culture of disillusionment, disenchantment and anxiety” for “so very many of our brothers and sisters” because of the difficulties they face and the fear of being left on the roadside.

The first Latin American pope told his continental audience that “it seems that, without our realizing it, we have become accustomed to living in a ‘society of mistrust’ with all that this implies for our present and especially for our future.”

Francis remarked that it is indeed difficult to boast that society is doing well “when we see that our dear American continent has accustomed its eye to seeing thousands and thousands of children and young people in situations on the street where they beg and sleep in the train or metro stations or wherever they can find a place [to lay their head].”

He passionately denounced the fact that young people “are exploited in clandestine work and obliged to earn some coins at the crossroads of the streets by cleaning the windows of our cars, and feel that ‘the train of life’ has no place for them.”

The pope lamented the fact so very many families today suffer great pain “at seeing their children taken by the merchants of death.”

The former archbishop of Buenos Aires is well aware of what is happening on the streets of the metropolises of this continent from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. He fiercely denounced “the precarious situation that affects the dignity of so many women.

“Some, from childhood and adolescence, are subjected to multiple forms of violence within and outside the home,” the pope said.

He denounced the fact too that across the continent “we have normalized the exclusion of our elderly people obliging them to live in solitude, just because they are no longer productive (for the market).”

As a pastor, Pope Francis recognizes that these distressing situations “can paralyze us...can put in doubt our faith and especially our hope, our way of seeing and facing the future.”

In his homily, delivered in Spanish, Francis sought to give hope by encouraging the people to look to Our Lady of Guadalupe “who is the mother of all the peoples” of this continent, and has accompanied them as they came to birth.”

She “accompanies and nourishes our faith and our hope in the different stages [of life] that we have to pass through,” the pope stated.

To celebrate the memory of Mary, he said, “is to remember the mother, to remember that we are not and never will be orphans. We have a mother. And where there is the mother the brothers can fight but the sense of unity will always triumph.”

Francis said he has “always been impressed at seeing in the different peoples of Latin America these fighting mothers who many times have to carry forward alone the lives of their children.”  Mary is like this with us, he said; she is a mother who fights “in the face of a society of mistrust and of blindness, in the face of a society of indolence and dispersion: she fights to give flesh to the Gospel.”

He concluded by reminding the inhabitants of this continent that “to celebrate the memory of Mary is to affirm that against all the odds, there lies in the heart and in the life of our peoples a strong sense of hope, in spite of the conditions of life that seem to obfuscate all hope.”

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