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Friday, July 12, 2024

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Cardinal Maurice E. Piat: Christmas, A Time For Building Bridges

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As usual, the Bishop of Port-Louis, Cardinal Maurice E. Piat, sent a Christmas message. Here is the message in full:

Dear brothers and sisters of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Chagos and Agalega,

I wish you with all my heart the simple but profound joy that God places in our hearts at Christmas.

At Christmas, we celebrate an extraordinary step taken by God towards us 2000 years ago. He who created the whole universe, He who gives us life, decided to come down to earth to meet us. In Jesus, he made himself human in order to be close to us and to share our life, with its joys, its worries, its hopes.

When Jesus is born in Bethlehem, God builds a bridge between heaven and earth to come to us and also so that we can welcome him into our lives.

When God crosses that bridge and comes to us in the person of Jesus, he desires more than anything to bring peace to the earth. When we take dangerous paths where we feel lost, God, like a good shepherd, seeks us out in our deserts. When he finds us, he takes us on his shoulders and brings us back to the fold.

When we have fallen, wounded, on the side of the road, in the general indifference, God stops, he raises us up and guides us towards good Samaritans.

When our burden is too heavy, he offers to carry it with us. He walks beside us to give us courage.

The Christmas season is a time to meditate on the way God is close to us, a time to be touched by the warmth of his friendship and the support he gives us in our struggles. His way of being close to us leads us to become bridge builders.

Let us take the example of Jesus: he did not wait for us to be exemplary before coming among us. Despite our imperfect lives and our sins, he took the first step and came among us. He listened to us, engaged in dialogue with us and invites us to be reconciled with him.

In the family, parents must take the first step to be close to their children, although it is not that simple. Building a bridge means building a good relationship with your child, listening to him, understanding his interests. Then, trust will develop, and a more relaxed atmosphere will allow for a real dialogue and a more dynamic relationship with your child.

In the classroom, a teacher should not only focus on students who are doing well. He or she must build a bridge to reach those who are struggling academically. If he does not take the time to listen to them, to know their reality, to understand their situation, he will never be able to teach them anything. The student can only learn in a climate of trust and friendship. As we say in English: “If you want to teach Johnny, start by getting to know Johnny”.

In a company, on a construction site, in a workshop, the boss must also create bridges to meet his employees, listen to them and understand their situation. It is always the one in authority who must go to those who work under his responsibility. A bridge is a meeting place, a respectful place, a place for frank dialogue. It is this that puts oil in the wheels and allows the company to progress.

In the Church too, we need to build bridges: between the bishop, priests, the faithful, religious and laity, between adults and young people, between those who frequent the Church and those who are on the periphery. It is not because some are far from the Church that they have nothing to say to us. On the contrary, they are capable of reflection, they have expectations. I have a special thought for my brothers and sisters who are drug addicts and their parents. These people who are caught up in the spiral of drugs are not criminals; they must be considered as sick people. Their parents are going through a real ordeal. We must build bridges to them to listen to them and give them courage.

Just as God did not wait for us to be close to him before coming close to us, we too should not wait for those who are far away to come back to us. Let us take the first step, let us build a bridge to reach them! We will then be peacemakers.

Our country, our society, is also in great need of building bridges. We have built beautiful bridges over the traffic circles, over the ravines, as is currently the case in Beau-Bassin, or over the waterfalls in Réduit. These bridges are very useful because they facilitate traffic, which causes less stress and loss of time.

But why not take the same trouble, the same means to build bridges between different groups within our society? For example, a bridge over the chasm that has unfortunately opened between the Opposition and the Government. Or bridges over the slowness and administrative complications that block the access of the small and poor to certain state services to which they are entitled; bridges over the abyss of lack of trust that is dangerously deepening between the police and the people; bridges between those who militate for the protection of the environment and the respect of established norms and those who want to approve at all costs projects that endanger certain sensitive areas; bridges between the State authorities and the Mauritian people, civil society as a whole and not only their supporters – bridges of frank and respectful dialogue that create links, bridges that bring together people of different backgrounds, different parties, different skills to seek together the interest of the nation and not only the interest of a group or a political party.

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