“May Christians be witnesses of faith”

The address by the Bishop of Elphin, Msgr. Kevin Doran, at the Percy French Summer School. The encyclical, moral values, role of the laity in the church and in society

“The kind of mission Pope Francis speaks of is not necessarily overseas; in fact it is not really about “place” but how Christians can be witnesses of faith rather than consumers of religion”. It is the belief of Monsignor Kevin Doran, bishop of Elphin. In his opening speech at the Percy French Summer School (Castlecoote House, Co., 8-10 July), delivered on July 8, the Irish prelate developed a reflection on the sources of Christian moral values, with special attention for Pope Francis, which for some, he remarked, “is a kind of enigma”. Speaking of his brief meeting with the Pontiff in 2014, bishop Doran recalled his expressiveness: “He does body language very well”, and then delved into an analysis of the encyclical “Laudato Si”, which describes “a really good read and really challenging”. Conversion of the economy. In 192 pages of text, said Mons. Duran, “Pope Francis explores the essential connection between the ownership of natural resources, the regulation of banks, animal experimentation, unemployment, genetic modification, consumerism, respect for life, poverty, prayer and politics”, inviting us to experience “wonder and awe” in God’s presence, exhorting to praise the Lord “not only in prayer but also in the way in which we live in “our common home”. Most of all he demands a “conversion”, because the root of the economic crisis is “relativism”, which is also “the root of all moral disorders”. “In a comment which might almost seem to have been written for Ireland”, continues the bishop of Elphin, Pope Francis argues that “there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life”, while “saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, forgoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises”. Compassion and truth. Clarifying the context and the words pronounced by the Pope on homosexuals on his return flight from Rio de Janeiro, he said: “”If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Msgr. Duran referred to the teaching of Catechism of the Catholic Church, that teaches that “people of homosexual orientation” “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” and that they should not be victims of “unjust discrimination.” In the encyclical, he continues, the Pope “demands coherence in the respect of nature”. “Acceptance of our bodies and respecting its meanings is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father. Also valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognise myself in an encounter with someone who is different”. In this and other areas, Christians, for the prelate, “both to exercise compassion and to act in accordance with the truth”. The Bishop thus referred to the outcomes of the recent referendum in Ireland that gave a majority vote to same-sex marriages: “Many of the arguments in favour, as some of those that we are starting to hear in support of assisted suicide, are based exclusively on sentiment”, but “emotions are not the problem”, but rather “the denial of human nature in its entirety, along with the refusal of every position other than one’s own.” For the Pope, Doran notes, “those who reject as absolutist the Church’s insistence on objective moral norms, are often themselves absolutist, especially in proclaiming the rights of individuals”. Dialogue and mission. Pope Francis “knows what he believes in, but he also wants to understand what others believe”, and “he seems to recognize that through dialogue one’s own faith can be enriched rather than diminished”, added Mons. Doran, convinced that this “humble faith” inspired the Pope “to invite the entire Catholic world to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead for the family and send the results of their reflections. It was not a sociological analysis but an invitation to adopt evangelical discernment”. For the Irish bishop Francis “was simply recognizing that even if the Pope is guided by the Holy Spirit in matter of faith and morals, he doesn’t have the monopoly on wisdom and truth. In this he was not only shaping a new style of leadership but he was asking the lay faithful to exercise the responsibilities of their Baptism”. For the Pope, concluded Msgr. Doran, “morality is not only to avoid sin. Morality in its best sense is a relationship. Through a personal encounter with God’s love we are motivated to become” what in “Evangelii Gaudium” the Pope calls “missionary disciples”.

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