On the third centenary of the apparition of the Virgin of Aparecida, more than a thousand Franciscans attended the National Chapter of Mats, from 3 – 6 August 2017, in Brazil. During the meeting, one day was dedicated to reflections on Laudato Si and Care of Our Common Home. Igor Bastos (GCCM) was one of those responsible for deepening this reflection and proposing actions, such as the Season of Creation and the Laudato Si Pledge. A final letter was unanimously approved, showing the need to hear both “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”. Read the letter:
Letter of Aparecida
“Hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” LS,49
The Conference of the Franciscan Family of Brazil recently celebrated a National Chapter of Mats. Aware of their mission to “bring the mercy of God to the world,” participants direct a message to all people of goodwill, to those who continue to believe in a world of justice and fraternity; to those who, in the midst of the contradictions and cruelties of our time, live the pain of disappointment and the lack of hope.
The discussions we had in our time together lead us to affirm that we are living a true Pentecost. In this sense, the Chapter calls us to renew our charism while reminding us of our inheritance, the original inspiration which gave birth to the Franciscan movement. The experience of Mats leads us to take up again our vocation as pilgrims and strangers.
Our history is marked by the blood of the poor and marginalized, the indigenous, black women and black youth. It is characterized by excessive and destructive extractivism, by an economy which excludes the majority and by the destruction of peoples, cultures and nature. In the light of our charism we understand that it is necessary to build a new utopia that will commit us to the construction of a new project for our country, one dedicated to justice, peace and care for creation.
We hear the cry of the impoverished and of Mother Earth! We must act with mercy towards them and with indignation at this system that excludes, impoverishes and mistreats. We call on everyone to unite and become part of the struggle, to participate in the reconstruction of the Church with Pope Francis and to rebuild Brazil from the ruins.
It is time to pick up our mats and to extend them on the ground of the peripheries of the world. We must constantly transform our way of Living, Being and Consuming in response to the appeals of Pope Francis.
The ecological and socio-political-cultural reality of our country demands a prophetic commitment of denunciation and announcement. We have witnessed with holy anger the violation of the rights that we the Brazilian people have won through hard work and networking. For this reason we cannot fail to engage with social movements in the struggle to maintain every right we have won; against any attempted coups; against retrograde and abusive “reforms” promoted by an illegitimate government; against a parliament divorced from the interests of the people; and against a justice that ignores equality and “that instead of strengthening the role of the State to meet the needs and rights of the weakest, favors the interests of big capital.”
Here in this city of Aparecida, Our Lady, patroness of Brazil, who was rescued from the waters of a river that is now polluted and degraded, encourages us to take up a special commitment to Sister Water, among so many other issues that we face. To do this we will build a process of reflection and action in defense of water as a common good, through the participation of the Franciscan Family in meetings forums and initiatives, which will strengthen our work related to Justice and the Integrity of Creation.
Sisters and Brothers, all of this happens because Saint Francis taught us that in the most difficult moments of life we need to return to Mother Earth (to the house of our Mother?). Francis and his brothers frequently returned to the little church of Saint Mary of the Angels, the Portiuncula. We return to the Sanctuary of our Lady of Aparecida, who for 300 years has journeyed with the little ones of this earth.
“Oh black Mother, oh Mariama! Of course they will say, Mariama, that this is politics, that it is subversive, that it is communism. But it is the Gospel of Christ, Mariama!” (Dom Helder Camara). In spite of everything, we invoke his blessings on our Franciscan Family and on Brazil, which is thirsting for “Peace – fruit of justice, goodness and the mercy of God.”