ROME – Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s top diplomat, said on Sunday that the “contradiction between faith and life is one of the most serious scandals that Christians can give to the world.”

Parolin took a June 18-21 trip to Mexico to celebrate the episcopal ordination of the new papal representative to Papua New Guinea. He also met with the local leadership of the Catholic Church ahead of a Monday meeting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

During Mass on Sunday in the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Parolin spoke of the situation in Mexico and other Latin American countries a “boat being rocked by the waves” due to “social inequality, poverty, the violence of organized crime, division for political, social and even religious reasons.”

“Mexico needs to reconcile with itself, to meet again as brothers, to forgive each other, to unite as a society, overcoming polarization,” he said, calling for a country that “knows how to look at its history so as not to forget the great richness of its roots.”

The cardinal, who arrived on Thursday, said that believers must recognize that the encounter with Christ has been the “most valuable and transcendent gift for the peoples and cultures of this nation and the American continent,” and the way towards a better future is consolidating and deepening the faith.

“A deep faith, a convinced faith, a coherent faith, an operative faith, a faith that becomes a testimony of life, because we know that the separation and perhaps the contradiction between faith and life is one of the most serious scandals that Christians can give to the world,” Parolin said.

Reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic, he called it “a new reality that has hit the whole world and has made us feel our human fragility, paralyzing our activities, affecting our health and filling many families with mourning in the apparent absence of God.”

“In the midst of so many trials, the church as a family of families, has tried to be close, to accompany, to pray, to intercede for so many people wounded in body and spirit,” he said. “Today too, our plea has reached God, as an almost defiant cry: Lord, where are you? Master, why are you sleeping? And the Lord has made us feel his presence again through the generosity and service of so many good people who have assisted us physically and spiritually.”

The Vatican Secretary of State on Saturday participated in the episcopal ordination of Archbishop Fermín Sosa Rodríguez, the new Apostolic Nuncio to Papua New Guinea. The ceremony took place in the Marian shrine of the Immaculate Conception of Izamal, Yucatán.

“While you defend the dignity of every human being from conception to natural death, of the need to promote a development that takes care of the poorest and weakest without considering them as refuse, and while you remind everyone of the commitment to peace, sincere dialogue and respect for creation, you must make transparent with your life and your words that Christ is the source of all hope and the origin of the Church’s thought,” Parolin told the new archbishop.

A nuncio, he said, is called to serve both the pope and the Holy See to the local churches and the states where he is sent, making his a “service of communion: You are sent to maintain, strengthen and increase communion.”

“You are not the bearer of a personal message, but an ambassador of the pope’s teachings at the service of the unity of the universal Church,” Parolin said. “This union is given with respect for the specific characteristics of the particular Church and gives rise to the miracle of a people reunited with the Holy Spirit in communion without the disappearance of the particularities of each one.”

Sosa Rodríguez’s new assignment in Papua New Guinea will send him to a county with 19 dioceses and where 30 percent of the population is Catholic.

“It is a country situated between Asia and Oceania that has abundant resources and a concrete collaboration between the civil powers and the religious communities is needed for an integral and orderly development,” Parolin told him.

Addressing all Mexicans during the ordination Mass, the cardinal said that “in the face of the pandemic, we need to recover the dimension of faith, hope, values, but above all to forgive.”

Mexico, with 126 million inhabitants, has 97.8 million Catholics, the second highest number in the world behind Brazil.

Desde la fe, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Mexico, reports that this is not Parolin’s first visit to Mexico. In fact, he played a key role in the establishment of diplomatic relations between the country and the Holy See in 1992. The then-priest served as Secretary of the Apostolic Delegation in Mexico between 1989 and 1992.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma