Bishop Pates: Help the pope extend God's love

Joseph Kenny | jkenny@archstl.org
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Join Pope Francis and bolster his voice, thus extending the frontiers of God's love, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines told about 500 people attending the Missouri Catholic Conference Annual Assembly. The assembly was held Sept. 28 at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

Bishop Pates, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, gave the keynote address, based on the theme of the conference, "Francis, Rebuild My Church," a reference to St. Francis and the newly elected pope.

Since his election, the Holy Father is moving forward, building on the Church's efforts the past 50 years rooted in Vatican II, Bishop Pates said. Pope Francis, he said, challenges people to be:

- Disciples of Jesus, internalizing the Gospel.

- In sync with the Church, living the unity Jesus had sought.

- Called to personal action as missionaries in the culture and context of society today.

Bishop Pates said the world is imperfect, but people are expected to operate in it -- not shy away from it -- to be effective. "Neither the Republican nor the Democratic party speaks for the totality of the Church truth," he said. "Our first allegiance is to this truth. As missionary-disciples, may we support the policies of merit but work zealously and tirelessly for reform in either party where it is so evidently and badly needed."

The Church cannot afford divisions that have separated pro-life and social justice proponents, he added. "In the interest of practicality, we may concentrate our personal work in one area. But, in the end, may we come together as a grand coalition committed to God's family and the life and dignity of each of His children."

The bishop, a native of St. Paul, Minn., praised those attending the assembly for taking "the challenge of Jesus' teaching to the public square" out of love, service and "irrepressible hope because God's faithfulness is without end."

After telling humorous stories comparing Iowans to the rest of the nation, he talked about Pope Francis and the work of St. Francis of Assisi, both popular figures similar in their direct and simple style. Pope Francis, he said, has emphasized mercy, peace and a preferential option for the poor. People are called to be disciples, he said, by advocating for the culture of life, welcoming the stranger, assuring good health, building a just economy, providing opportunity for education and protecting creation and enhancing the environment.

Bishop Pates cited the spreading materialism, individualism, atheism and agnosticism in Europe, North America and Australia that contrasts with the growing Church in Africa and renewal of the Church in Latin America.

Since their earliest days, he said, Christians were identified by their love for one another and their unity. That unity is derived from the presence of Christ strengthened by the ongoing nourishment of the Eucharist, he said.

An example of the pope's influence can be seen in the response to the ongoing Syrian crisis, he said, with the sentiment for peace echoed by a chorus of Catholic and ecumenical leaders around the world. And the eventual outcome -- dismantling the chemical weapons of mass destruction by Syria -- is hopeful for the region and world, he added.

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