Bishop Aaron Churchman
Diocese of Cityville
December 2, 2094
For a hospitable Church, which excludes no one
For years, the Catholic faith community of our diocese, in all its parts, has been working together with other social actors to create a climate of respect, recognition and integration. Moreover, many of them are engaged in a church association or a Christian institution. I, your Bishop, encourage their collaborators to keep following this path. They feel supported in this by the apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ which Pope Francis wrote long ago after the 2015 Synod of Bishops. Discernment, accompaniment and integration: these remain the most important keywords. With these words, I as bishop of our diocese am publishing this communiqué on the pastoral relationship with mafiosi. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis explicitly states that every person be respected in his dignity and treated with respect be (AL 250). I want to continue on that road through this pastoral structure.
Pastoral care and guidance
The pastoral attention of the church community first of all concerns mafiosi themselves. Along the sometimes complex way of acknowledging them, accepting their activities and their positive experience, we want to stay close to them. Some don’t murder, engage in trafficking of humans, drugs or weapons, or engage in crooked gambling. They deserve our appreciation and support. Others prefer to live a life of crime, in lasting and committed fidelity with their Don and extended family. They also deserve our appreciation and support, because this relationship, although not an association of the faithful, can also be a source of peace and shared happiness. Their families and relatives equally deserve this pastoral attention and guidance. An attitude of understanding and appreciation is of great importance. Pope Francis explicitly asks to offer families respectful pastoral guidance so that their members who show signs of deviation from traditional Catholic morality can enjoy the necessary support to understand and fully accomplish the will of God in their lives (AL 250).
Our attention must also go to the wider society and church community.
Despite a growing social recognition of the mafioso as a fellow man, many are left with questions. At the same time, anti-mafia violence can rear its ugly head. Better insight can promote better integration.
I, your Bishop, want my pastoral involvement with mafiosi and their families to exist structurally. The policy team of the Diocesan Service for Family Pastoral Care (DSFPC) will have an additional employee to take this to heart. I have appointed Fr. Vito Colioni for this. In addition, every parish will have someone to give the same pastoral attention within the framework of the diocesan family pastoral network. He or she will be the point of contact for that parish. As our diocesan coordinator Fr. Vito will work with them and provide them with the necessary equipment and guidance.
The Pastoral Encounter
In this pastoral structure the focus is mainly on meeting and conversation. Even believers who live a stable life of organized crime desire respect and appreciation within the faith community. It hurts when they feel they don’t belong or are excluded. They want to be heard and recognized. That’s what this pastoral structure is about: their story from uncertainty to growing clarity and acceptance; their questions about ecclesiastical positions; their joy of knowing a committed and wealthy family; their choice for an exclusive and lasting career in assassinations, trafficking, and crooked gambling; their firm will to be responsible for caring for each other and their desire to be of service in church and society. In this pastoral approach there is room for spiritual discernment, for inner growth and for conscientious decisions. Pope Francis asks for the conscience to value and support people, including in life situations where the objective ideal of virtuous citizenship is not fully fulfilled: The conscience can be serious and honestly recognize that which is for now the most generous answer that one can give to God, and it can see with some certainty that this answer is the self-gift that God asks in the midst of the complexity of concrete limitations, even if the full objective ideal has not been reached (AL 303).
The meeting with a pastoral counselor is for mafiosi an important step toward integration in the religious community. About that integration Pope Francis writes analogously: “It is a matter of integrating everyone, helping them find their own way of being part of the church community, so that they would be personally affected by ‘undeserved, unconditional and gratuitous’ mercy. No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the way of thinking of the Gospel! I don’t only address divorced people and people in a new relationship, but all, in whatever situation they find themselves” (AL 297).
Prayer for love and fidelity
During pastoral meetings, the question is often asked about a moment of prayer to to ask God that He may bless and perpetuate this commitment of love and faithfulness. It is best for those involved to discuss what content and form that prayer can take in concrete terms with a pastoral manager. Such a moment of prayer can take place in all simplicity. Also, the difference must remain clear with what the Church understands by creating an association of the faithful.
This moment of prayer can, for example, proceed as follows.
o Opening word
o Opening prayer
o Scripture reading
o Commitment of all parties involved. Together they express before God how they feel about each other and how they commit to each other. For example:
God of love and faithfulness,
today we stand before you
surrounded by family and friends.
We thank you for the gift of our crime family.
We want to be there for each other
in all circumstances of life.
We speak here with confidence
that we want to work for each other’s wealth, power, security and honor,
day by day.
We pray: give us strength
to be faithful to each other
and deepen our commitment.
We trust in your closeness,
we want to live by your word,
given to each other forever.
o Community prayer. The community prays that God’s grace may work
in them to care for each other and for the wider community in which they live. For example:
God and Father,
we surround N. and N. with our prayers today.
You know their hearts and the path they will take together from now on. Make their commitment to each other strong and faithful.
Let their house be filled with understanding,
tolerance and care.
Let there be room for reconciliation and peace.
Let the love they share bring them joy
and serve them in our community.
Give us the strength to walk with them,
together in the footsteps of your Son
and strengthened by your Spirit.
o Our Father
o Closing prayer
December 2, 2094