Corruption is “like a cancer” that consumes the daily life of people across Latin America, Pope Francis has told bishops.
In a letter to the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) at the start of their general assembly, the Pope decried corruption as “one of the most serious sins that plagues our continent today”.
The Pope reiterated his call to the bishops gathering in El Salvador to walk more closely with people, especially those on the peripheries, and to renew their hope.
Pope Francis wrote: “Corruption devastates lives by submerging them in the most extreme poverty. It’s a corruption which destroys entire populations by subjecting them to precariousness. It’s a corruption that, like a cancer, consumes the daily life of our people.”
The Pope used the story of Our Lady of Aparecida, the patroness of Brazil, as the basis of his message of hope. The statue was found 300 years ago by three poor fisherman who caught a miraculous amount of fish and grew in faith after asking for Mary’s intercession.
In his letter, Pope Francis said the story shows the accompaniment that Mary, an attentive mother, gives to her children. “In the story of Aparecida we meet her in the river covered in mud,” he said. “There she is waiting for her children, there she is with her children in the midst of their struggles and searches.”
The Pope further reflected that in their encounter with Mary, the fisherman’s nets filled up with a presence that filled their lives and gave them certainty that in their struggles they were not alone. Similarly, added the Pope, the community of believers “aware of their nets, their lives, are full of a presence that encourages them not to loose hope.”
Pope Francis added: “Aparecida does not bring us remedies but keys, criteria, a few big certainties to illumine us, above all, to spark the desire to get rid of all the superfluous things and return to the roots, to the essential, to the attitude that planted the faith in the primitive Church and then made our continent the land of hope. Aparecida asks to renew our hope in the midst of so many severities.”
The conference, entitled “A poor Church for the poor”, which runs until May 13, brings together representatives from 21 Latin American and Caribbean countries as well as the United States and Canada.