In a message for the Lenten season, Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, called on fallen-away Catholics to “return to the home of their mother, the Church, who waits with an open heart.”
The bishop explained that “today the Church presents us with the beautiful parable which reflects the heart of our Father God, who waits with open arms for our return to the family home. He does not reproach nor punish, but rather celebrates with a great feast. The only condition is that the younger son acknowledges his error, repents, and chooses to change his life. And in order for the feast to be complete, the older son must accept his brother instead of condemning and rejecting him. God is pleased when he sees us united as brothers.”
“According to the 2000 census, the number of fallen-away Catholics has grown. Just as the number of those who abandon the Catholic faith is on the rise, so too is the number of people who no longer practice their faith and become indifferent. In our country 3.49% declare themselves to have ‘no religion’. In Chiapas that figure is 12.9%. The majority are Catholics or Protestants who have fallen away. Some go from church to church and end up nowhere,” he added.
Bishop Arizmendi said that “during this time of Lent, there are many people who humbly approach the sacrament of Reconciliation, sincerely confess their sins, choose to change their life, receive the generous mercy of God the Father, through the priest who is authorized to forgive in the name of the Lord, and participate joyfully in the banquet of the Eucharist, together with their brothers and sisters in the faith.”
“They were dead to God and to the Church and they have come back to life; they have resurrected. Nevertheless, there are many who do no take advantage of this time of reconciliation. Because of their pride, the do not admit their sin and they do not make a good confession. For this reason, they do not enjoy the Paschal feast in the home of the Church,” he said.
“In our diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas,” the bishop announced, “throughout Lent and until the feast of Pentecost, I have authorized all priests to open the doors of God the Father’s mercy, offering absolution of the penalty of excommunication for the sin of abortion, as long as there is true repentance.”
“One who is freed from the serious sin of killing an innocent and defenseless newly conceived life feels such great joy! I hope may people take advantage of this opportunity in order to come back to the house of God, which is His Church,” he said.
Bishop Arizmendi underscored that “Lent is an opportune time to think about one’s life, as the younger son in the parable did. We must be humble in order to acknowledge we are sinners and brave in order to return to our father’s house: ‘I will get up and return to my father.’ May everybody make a good confession of their sins! Only this way will one be able to experience the joy of returning the heart of God the Father.”
“May fallen-away Catholics return to the house of their mother, who awaits them with an open heart! We are sad that you have gone away. If it was our fault, we ask for forgiveness. We do not want to be like the older son in the parable, who was filled with scorn. We are brothers and God wants us to be together,” said the bishop.