Chicagoland

The church’s focus on the poor is based on ministry of Christ, Vatican cardinal tells local Catholics

By Michelle Martin
Sunday, November 13, 2016

The church’s focus on the poor is based on ministry of Christ, Vatican cardinal tells local Catholics

Archbishop Cupich shakes hands with Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, following the cardinal's lecture "The Theology of Freedom: Encountering Christ at the Margins of Society" on Oct. 28, in the chapel at Mundelein Seminary. (Photo courtesy of University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary)
Cardinal Gerhard Cardinal Müller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, celebrates Mass after giving a lecture on "The Theology of Freedom: Encountering Christ at the Margins of Society" Oct. 28 at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Mundelein Seminary. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Priests from the Archdiocese of Chicago join Cardinal Müller for Mass on Oct. 28 at Mundelein Seminary. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Cardinal Müller incenses the altar while celebrating Mass Oct. 28 at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Mundelein Seminary. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Cardinal Müller smiles during the homily. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, celebrates Mass with parishioners at St. Ferdinand Parish in Chicago on Oct. 29. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, blesses Polish Catholics who brought up the gifts during Mass at St. Ferdinand Parish in Chicago on Oct. 29. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Cardinal Müller speaks to Polish media following Mass at St. Ferdinand’s on Oct. 29. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Members of the Polish Honor Guard lead Cardinal Müller during the final procession at Mass at St. Ferdinand Parish in Chicago on Oct. 29. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Because Christ came to the world in poverty and first proclaimed the Gospel to the poor and marginalized, the church now has an obligation to be present to the poor, according to Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

It is only by accepting poverty of spirit that that the faithful can free themselves to follow Christ, he said, saying he was speaking of “poverty as a way of evangelization in the spirit of Pope Francis.”

Cardinal Müller made the remarks the morning of Oct. 28 as he addressed a group at Mundelein Seminary. While he was in Chicago the weekend of Oct. 29 he also celebrated Mass at St. Ferdinand Parish, 5900 W. Barry Ave., and Holy Name Cathedral, State and Superior. Cardinal Müller is a native of Manz, Germany. In 2014 Pope Francis appointed him head of the congregation that promulgates and defends church teaching.

“A disciple of Christ must not bind his heart to passing riches, to fancies of power and worldly honors,” Cardinal Müller said at Mundelein. “He has been liberated from false idols in order to serve others with all his material goods and all the talents of his spirit and mind in order to become like Jesus. This is the authentic freedom given to us by Christ.”

The church’s focus on the poor, its theology of liberation, is not a social program, he said, but a theology based on the mission of Christ. It’s a topic the cardinal addressed in the book “On the Side of the Poor: The Theology of Liberation,” written with Dominican Father Gustavo Guttierez, which was published in English in 2015.

“The option for the poor principally and primarily has a Christological motivation, concerning Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, in order for him to condemn sin in the flesh,” Cardinal Müller said. Much as St. Paul said, “though he was rich, for your sake, he became poor, so that you might become rich. By virtue of his poverty and humiliation, we poor beggars before God creatures destined for death, become participants of his message of universal salvation.”

But this theology requires practical action and solidarity, the cardinal said.

“Millions of people, our brothers and sisters, lack the resources to feed, shelter and clothe themselves,” he said. They are stripped of human dignity and rights. It’s a story that winds through human history, with the powerful preying on the weak in wars, slavery, genocide and terrorism.

“Before this ocean of tears and blood which inundates the story of humanity, no one can escape the sense of despair, of nihilism or protest against God and destiny if God himself had not done justice to the victims of every unjust violence with the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, his son.”

That means that the church must stand with the poor, Cardinal Müller said.

“The church is not governed by honors, riches and earthly powers, but rather she uniquely seeks to carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit. Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served,” he said.

The church itself, as well as its members, must fight the tendency to worldliness, he said.

“The church and all of us, her members, are constantly subject to the temptation to give in to the way of the world as a well-organized spiritual, social and indispensable institution in order to obtain the recognition of the powerful and those who form public opinion,” he said.

To do otherwise leads to existential suffering rather than the joy of the Gospel, he said.

To participate in the work of Christ, Cardinal Müller said, the church must turn to those to whom Jesus first brought the Gospel: the poor.

“The option for the poor is the option for that kingdom proclaimed by Jesus Christ,” Cardinal Müller said.

Archbishop Cupich responded to Cardinal Müller’s remarks following the talk, which was hosted by the seminary and the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship.

Archbishop Cupich told the assembled seminarians that they should study the “depth and breadth” of Cardinal Müller’s remarks and understand what the cardinal is telling them about the need to share the Gospel.

“We have a new metric, a new way of taking up our work that is not the way of the world,” Archbishop Cupich said. “We have to make room for the poor.”

Topics:

  • cardinal cupich
  • pope francis
  • theology
  • mundelein seminary
  • cardinal muller

Related Articles

Pope Francis continues reform of religious life

One area of church life that Pope Francis has quietly sought to reform is religious life, namely the communities of nuns, religious sisters, monks and friars, and in particular the newer ones. Francis, a member of the Society of Jesus, one of the best-known religious congregations in the world, has sought to tackle problems in recently established orders. He has also publicly acknowledged the sexual, psychological and spiritual abuse of nuns both from priests and within their congregations.

Advertising