Thursday, July 31, 2014

Give them some food yourselves

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
August 3, 2014

Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus is busy healing the sick and malnourished people that have been brought to him from everywhere. He does it, according to the evangelist, because their suffering touches him. Meanwhile his disciples see that it's getting very late. Their dialogue with Jesus allows us to penetrate the inner meaning of the episode erroneously called "the multiplication of the loaves."

The disciples make a realistic and reasonable suggestion to Jesus: "Dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves." They have already received the attention they needed from Jesus. Now let everyone go back to their villages and buy something to eat according to their resources and capabilities.

Jesus' reaction is surprising: "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves." Hunger is too serious a problem for us to ignore each other and let each one solve it in his own village as he can. It's not the time to separate but to unite more than ever to share what there is among all without excluding anyone.

The disciples show him that there are only five loaves and two fish. It doesn't matter. A little bit is enough when shared generously. Jesus orders everyone to sit down in the meadow to celebrate a great meal. Suddenly everything changes. Those who were about to separate to satisfy their hunger in their own village, sit together around Jesus to share what little they have. That's how Jesus wants to see the human community.

What happens with the loaves and fishes in Jesus' hands? He doesn't "multiply" them. First, he blesses God and gives thanks. That food comes from God; it belongs to all. Then he breaks them and gives them to the disciples. The latter, in turn, give them to the people. The loaves and fishes were passed from one to another. Thus all were able to satisfy their hunger.

The Archbishop of Tangier has raised his voice once again to remind us of "the suffering of thousands of men, women and children who, left to their fate or persecuted by governments, and delivered up to the usurious and enslaving power of the mafias, beg, survive, suffer, and die along the road of emigration."

Instead of uniting our forces to eradicate world hunger at its root, we just shut ourselves in our "selfish comfort", raising increasingly degrading and murderous barriers. In the name of what God do we dismiss them to drown in their misery? Where are the followers of Jesus? When will Jesus' cry  -- "Give them some food yourselves" -- be heard in our Masses?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Catholic parish in Gaza bombed

Religión Digital (English translation by Rebel Girl)
July 30, 2014

The Holy Family Catholic parish, located in the al-Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza and until today a stronghold in which 29 disabled children and nine elderly women aided by three nuns found refuge, was also hit by Israeli bombs. This morning, in fact, the bombing destroyed the home of the Institute of the Incarnate Word nuns within the facility. The explosions also damaged the old parochial school, the pastor's office and other areas.


This was reported today by Argentine priest Jorge Hernandez, pastor of Holy Family Church in Gaza, who has decided to remain with his faithful since the Israeli offensive began on July 8th.

"Unfortunately, the resistance movement is always around the houses or in the streets That was our problem yesterday... At a given point, we couldn't leave the house. Then came the bombings," he said.

This is what the priest told Vatican Radio, between artillery shots that could be heard in the background as he was giving the interview. According to Father Hernandez, "a home here, near the church, was hit and we noticed serious consequences in the rectory and school."

Father Hernandez, who received a message of solidarity from Pope Francis a few days ago also spoke about the impossibility of escaping as so many Gazans have done. "We can't move. How do you get 29 disabled children and nine elderly people out? You can't. No way," the priest continued.

It's also impossible to move to another place because, according to the Argentine priest, "these aren't orphans" and "we aren't their guardians."

So, "without permission, we can't do it. Moreover, leaving the house is dangerous. So we're here, trying to hold on."


The 29 disabled children miraculously survived the bombs only because at that moment they were inside the Church, says the Unione Nazionale Italiana Trasporto Ammalati a Lourdes e Santuari Internazionali (Unitalsi).

Speaking of the Sunday prayer by the Pope on behalf of children who are caught in conflicts, the priest said there's a need for someone to say "enough" and "put an end to this slaughter, because it's stunning."

But sadly, "the Pope isn't always heard." On the other hand, Father Hernandez said that two days ago he witnessed a tragedy. "The house of a Christian family was bombed, the mother died, the father was injured, and the son is struggling to survive in a hospital" in which "there isn't the means or the space."

"It's an absurd war that, nonetheless, goes on," the priest said. The main target of the attack that hit the parish was a house that is a few meters from the Catholic facility and was completely destroyed by the attack. Yesterday afternoon, the Vatican news agency reported, the Israeli army began sending text messages to residents of the eastern district of al-Zeitun. In these messages, the army ordered the inhabitants out of the houses that would later be bombed. Many people fled, but evacuation wasn't possible for those currently living in the church, about 50 people.

"It's an absurd spiral. Both parties must listen to the voice of reason, stop this slaughter, and go into negotiations with the real intention of addressing and solving problems," said Msgr. William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem and Patriarchal Vicar for Palestine. "It's like World War II, total destruction."

"It's striking everyone -- civilians, women, children and hospitals," Father Raed Abusahlia, director of Caritas of Israel and Palestine, commented. Christians are also victims of the bombs. The homes and schools in the community of 1,300 people -- 310 families total -- aren't safe.

Liberation theologian Ivone Gebara to receive honorary doctorate

Adital (English translation by Rebel Girl)
7/29/2014

Because of her work and contribution for over 30 years to the Brazilian and Latin American theological scene, theologian and philosopher Ivone Gebara will be honored with the title of Doctor Honoris Causa. The initiative comes from the Núcleo de Pesquisa de Gênero das Faculdades EST – Escola Superior de Teologia de São Leopoldo (NPG-EST). The award will be given during the 2nd International Congress on Religion, Media and Culture, to be held September 8-12 in São Leopoldo, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Besides reaffirming the commitment of Faculdades EST to feminist and gender theological work, the bestowal of the title is, above all, a recognition of the personal and intellectual trajectory of the theologian, who, about to turn 70, still devotes her time and effort to liberation theology and feminist theology.

Ivone Gebara is Brazilian, born in São Paulo but of Syrian-Lebanese descent. She is a nun, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady  (Canoneses of St. Augustine), and has been dedicated to feminist theology for many years. She has a PhD in philosophy from the Catholic University of São Paulo and in religious studies from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).

At Dom Helder Camara's side, she taught at the Theological Institute of Recife (ITER) in Pernambuco for 17 years until its closure in 1989 by order of the Vatican, then under the command of John Paul II, considered a critic of liberation theology.

A few months after the compulsory closing of ITER in 1990, Gebara was tried and condemned by the Vatican for expressing criticism of Catholic Church doctrine. Her ecclesiastical penalty was "obsequious silence" for two years. During this period, she remained outside of Brazil and produced a book that addresses the question of evil, Rompendo o silêncio: uma fenomenologia feminista do mal ["Breaking the silence: a feminist phenomenology of evil"].

Her troubles with the Vatican were accentuated when, in October 1993, during an interview with a widely circulated magazine in Brazil [Veja, October 6, 1993], she gave statements on abortion, saying that, for poor women, the practice was not necessarily a sin since more births meant many difficulties for the mothers and children. The theologian was speaking from her experiences with women from poor communities in Recife.

Teologia Ecofeminista ["Ecofeminist Theology"], Rompendo o silêncio: uma fenomenologia feminista do mal ["Breaking the silence: a feminist phenomenology of evil"], Teologia Ecofeminista: ensaio para repensar o conhecimento e a religião ["Ecofeminist Theology: An essay for rethinking knowledge and religion"], As águas do meu poço ["The waters of my well"], O que é Teologia Feminista ["What feminist theology is"], O que é Teologia ["What theology is"], O que é cristianismo [What Christianity is], and A Mobilidade da senzala feminina. Mulheres Nordestinas, Vida Melhor e Feminismo ["The mobility of female slaves: Northeastern women, a better life, and feminism"] are a few of her more than 30 published titles.

Today, Ivone Gebara devotes her time to pastoral work, gives lectures, participates in events in various countries and offers courses, helping to form new activists, theologians, philosophers, and thinkers.

Women at the altar

By Juan José Tamayo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Redes Cristianas
July 29, 2014

Two different religious scenes, two different images of women, two diametrically opposed sensibilities, two paradigms of the Christian Church.

November 7, 2010: Barcelona. Around 250,000 people cheer Pope Benedict XVI in the streets. Church of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. A Solemn Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Church of the Sagrada Familia, in the presence of the kings of Spain. The Pope is joined by cardinals, archbishops, bishops, clergy -- all male. The pope proceeds with the consecration of the church by anointing the altar with chrism and censing it all around. Oil has been spilled on the floor that needs to be cleaned up. Seven solicitous nuns belonging to the Auxiliares Parroquiales de Cristo Sacerdote appear immediately at the altar, bending over to clean the oil droplets and preparing the altar for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, while the men contemplate the scene without assisting them. Then they lay the cloths for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and leave the altar. Their role has ended.


The scene went around the world and caused stupor, even dismay and outrage at the lack of parity, the irrelevance of, and discrimination against women in the Catholic Church. A situation that has nothing to do with the equality between men and women proclaimed in the gospel, what Jesus of Nazareth lived and practiced in the early Christian communities. The nuns, however, said they were happy and felt it was a real privilege to have provided this service at such a solemn moment.

September 11, 1992: the General Synod of the Anglican Church in England approved the ordination of women. They could access the altar, not to prepare it for worship as auxiliaries to the clergy but to preside over the Eucharist. Other provinces of the Anglican Communion began to bring women into the priesthood in the 1970's. The debate soon arose about women's access to the episcopate, and several provinces of the Communion took that step and ordained women bishops, Scotland, Northern Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia for example....


The General Synod of the Church of England, however, refused to take that step. There was an attempt in 2012, which failed due to opposition by the representatives of the laity. Finally, the resistance has been overcome and the Synod, made up of bishops, clergy and lay people gathered in the city of York, has given its approval for women to be bishops by an overwhelming majority of the three sectors of the Synod. The momentous decision also has the support of 74% of Anglicans. The first to commend it was the Archbishop of Canterbury, who declared the anniversary on which it was adopted "a historic day" and doesn't think the possibility of a woman becoming Archbishop of Canterbury is far off.

This is not an isolated gesture of the Anglican Church on the road to inclusion. For several decades, it has been moving firmly in that direction without turning back in the building of an inclusive Church. Along with the incorporation of women in the exercise of priestly and episcopal ministry, in leadership roles and in the development of theological and moral doctrine, we must appreciate the respect and recognition of different sexual identities. Gays and lesbians are part of the ecclesial communion. Gay marriages are blessed. Priestly and episcopal ordination is not limited to straight people, as happens in the Catholic Church, but it extends to other sexual identities. Marriages between homosexual clergy are celebrated.

One feature of the Anglican Communion is the high degree of autonomy in its different provinces, leading to a high level of creativity and broad diversity, in line with the autonomy, creativity and diversity in the early Christian communities. Not all the churches are moving at the same pace. Each step towards a more open and inclusive church is not the result of a decree by the church leadership, but instead takes place through dialogue, debate, even confrontation, openly and democratically, respecting those who dissent. Don't think, however, that the Anglican Church is angelic. The steps forward often cause opposition, resistance, and even break-ups. But the problems don't lead it to become stagnant in discriminatory and exclusionary positions of the past, but to seek solutions via parity while respecting the more conservative sectors.

I think it's an example for the Catholic Church, where women and homosexuals are still in a situation of genuine segregation.

Juan José Tamayo is a theologian, a professor at Carlos III University and author of Invitación a la utopía. Ensayo histórico para tiempos de crisis, Trotta, Madrid, and Cincuenta intelectuales para una conciencia crítica, Fragmenta, Barcelona, 2013.

Photos: Nuns cleaning and preparing the Sagrada Familia altar; Anglican women priests with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Leonardo Boff: "Within the capitalist system, there is no salvation"

By Débora Fogliatto (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Sul21 (em português)
July 26, 2014

One of Brazil's best-known theologians, Leonardo Boff is a name currently acclaimed around the world, but he was once very marginalized within the Church in which he believes. In the 1980s, the then friar was condemned by the Catholic Church for his ideas of liberation theology, a movement which interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ as a manifesto against social and economic injustice.

At 75, Boff is an award-winning intellectual, writer, and teacher who is respected in the country and whose opinion is listened to by personalities such as Pope Francis and presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. In this interview with Sul21 granted during his visit to Porto Alegre, Boff talks about current times in the Catholic Church, criticizes priests who use the gospel to justify retrogressive ideas or take money from the faithful, comments on the situation in the Middle East, abortion, violence and the global ecological and economic crisis.

The two are deeply intertwined -- as Boff explains, capitalism is founded on the exploitation of people and nature. "This system isn't good for humanity, it isn't good for the environment and could eventually lead to a social and ecological crisis with unimaginable consequences, in which millions of people could die from lack of access to water and food," says he who is a great scholar of questions related to the environment.

Sul21: In the 1980s, because of the liberation theology ideals you espoused, you were sentenced to a year of respectful silence and suffered various penalties that were eventually softened in the face of social pressure on the Catholic Church but made you leave the priesthood. Do you believe that the Church  would act the same way today?

Leonardo Boff: No. The current Pope says much more serious things than I said in my book Church: Charism and Power, which was the subject of condemnation. If he had written it, he would have been condemned. I said much softer things, but that affected the Church. I said that the Church didn't respect human rights, that it's sexist, that it has an absolutist and absolutely excessive concept of power without limits.

Times have changed and thank God we have a Pope who, for the first time in 500 years, responds to reform, responds to Luther. Luther launched what we call the Protestant Principle, which is the principle of freedom. And this Pope lives it. And he doesn't see Christianity as a bunch of truths that you adhere to, but as the living encounter with Jesus. He distinguishes between Jesus' tradition -- that set of ideals and traditions -- and the Christian religion, which is equal to any other religion. He says: "I belong to the Jesus movement", and not to the Catholic religion. Such statements are outrageous to traditional Christians, but are absolutely correct in the theological sense -- what we always said and were persecuted for.

And I'm glad that the Church is no longer a body that embarrasses us, but a body that could help humanity make the difficult crossing to a different kind of society that respects the rights of nature, of the Earth, concerned about the future of life. I myself have been in touch with the Pope and his central theme is life. Human life, that of the earth, of nature. And we have to save it, because we have all the tools to destroy it.

Sul21: Do you believe that the Catholic Church, under the guidance of Pope Francis, will effectively renounce some subjects that have been treated as taboo such as gay marriage?

Leonardo Boff: We still don't know his opinion well. He says: "Who am I to judge?". Basically, he's saying to respect people. He will let there be a big discussion in the Church on the issues of divorce and homosexuals, especially on Christian sexual morality, which is extremely strict and restricted. In some cases, it's criminal. For example, preaching in Africa that it's a sin to use condoms in places where half the population suffers from AIDS, is committing a crime against humanity. That is what Pope Benedict XVI said several times. I think Francis is more than a Pope. He's a plan for the world, a plan for the Church. He realizes that humankind is one, that it's at risk and we must unite despite our differences to overcome the crisis.

I think the greatness of this Pope won't be him defining things, but letting them be discussed. And I think he will respect people, because most aren't homosexual or homoaffective by choice. People discover they're homoaffective. And he's saying, "Walk in God. Don't feel excluded." He's saying that (homosexuals) are as much children of God as other people. So respect them. He may say "don't call it marriage, which is a canonical concept." But a responsible union that deserves the blessing of God and that has legal protection, that has its place in the Church, that they can receive the sacraments. This will surely be his path.

Sul21: And with these positions of Pope Francis, do you think the Catholic Church might be able to regain believers in the face of the advance of the evangelical churches?

Leonardo Boff: This Pope isn't a proselytizer and he says clearly that the gospel should attract because of its beauty, its humanitarian content. He isn't interested in increasing the number of Christians, in making them come back. He's interested in people, in their confessional situations, making themselves available at the service of humanity, the good things humanity needs.

It's what we call "ecumenism of mission." We are divided. It's a historical fact, but it's not a painful division. Because each has his own hole, prophets and teachers. But how we acknowledge our differences together and how together we support the landless, the homeless, the marginalized, the prostitutes. This service we can do together.

Sul21: Many people use religion to justify conservative, sexist and homophobic opinions. What's your opinion on these positions?

Leonardo Boff: There's the specific example of abortion in the last election. That mobilized the churches, they even went to the Pope, they put pressure on the faithful. I think it's a false use of religion. Religion wasn't made for that. And everyone should recognize -- and they're forced to recognize it by the Constitution -- that the country is secular. So those people are sinning against the basic principle of democracy; they aren't democratic. They can have their own opinion but they can't impose it.

Their position is very facile; it's saving the baby. And after it's saved, it's in the street, abandoned, hungry, and dying. And they have no compassion for the over 100,000 women who die each year because of botched abortions. They're people who are sinning against democracy and against humanity, humanitarianism. No one is in favor of abortion as such. The women who get abortions didn't ask for that. But many times they're going through such delicate situations that they need to make that decision.

What I advise is what many countries have done, including Spain and Italy, which are Christian to the max and allow abortion, asking that there be a monitoring group that would talk with the woman and explain to her what it means. And leave the decision to her. If she decides to, we'll respect the decision. But she's doing it consciously. I think that would be democratic and it would be responsible within the faith. You're not renouncing your faith but respecting conscience which is the ultimate body that answers to God.

Sul21: Some churches here charge a tithe to the faithful. They often say that it's to give thanks to God that people have to pay the churches. What's your opinion and how does liberation theology view this practice?

Leonardo Boff: They're the so-called "prosperity gospel" churches. They say you give and God pays you back. I think it's an abuse because religion wasn't made to make money. It was made to tend to the spiritual side of human beings and give a horizon of hope. Now when the church turns religion into economic power, like the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, which in Belo Horizonte has a shopping mall on the side, called "the other temple", which is the temple of consumerism, and after worship, people are instructed to shop, for me it's a perversion of religion. I also think that it's against the Constitution to use religion for ends that aren't in its nature. I fight that; I'm absolutely against it. Because that's deceiving people; it's distorting and tossing away the spiritual character of religion. Religion has to work for spiritual, not material capital.

Sul21: What about this violent crisis between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in which the State of Israel has already killed hundreds of people? How do you think the rest of the world should act on this? Could the Pope be someone to mediate the conflict?

Leonardo Boff: This pope is absolutely contemporary and necessary. I think he's the only world leader who is listened to and eventually could mediate this war of criminal massacre that Israel is carrying out against Gaza.

And I think much of the blame rests with Obama, who is a criminal. Because no drone (unmanned aircraft) attack could be done without his personal license. They are using all sorts of weapons of destruction. They've closed Gaza complete, it has been turned into a concentration camp, and they will destroy it. So you have a country that was the victim of Nazism and uses Nazi methods to create victims. This is the great contradiction.

And the United States supports them -- Obama and all the presidents are victims of the great Jewish lobby that has two branches: the branch of the big banks and the media branch. They have enormous power over the presidents who don't want to alienate them and follow whatever these radical extremist Jews united with the Christian religious Right say. This is combined with a president like Obama who hasn't the least bit of humanitarian feeling, the compassion to say "stop the slaughter."

Sul21: What's your assessment of the current race for the presidency of the Republic?

Leonardo Boff: We note that it's a contest of power interests. They aren't discussing plans for Brazil, they're arguing over power. Which I find unfortunate because it's not enough to have power; power is a means. I see that there are two visions of the future. One is more progressive, which is held by the current government. And I support it to win. But winning to move forward, not to reproduce the agenda. It achieved an agenda, which is the first step, of including millions of people who now have the right to basic consumption, to food, to have a refrigerator, a house, light. This is the right of every citizen. I think the government has fulfilled this step well. But now comes a new stage, because human beings are not hungry just for bread. They hunger for schools, beauty, leisure, participation in social life, public spaces.

And there are those who want to impose what is being imposed and isn't working in Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, which is the most radical neoliberalism. Which is in fact austerity. It's tightening wages, increasing the primary surplus, which is the dough that's paid to the rentiers. There is the vision of the future Brazil wants to embody in this kind of globalization that is good for capital, because the capitalists have never enriched themselves so much. So much so that in the United States 1% have the same as 99% of the population, while in Brazil 5,000 families control the equivalent of 43% of the GDP. They are the big name families, who live off speculative capital.

I think we have to win this, because it's not good for the people. Even with all the flaws and ethics violations that happened, mistakes that the PT committed, even so their plan is the one best suited for carrying out advancement. Now if you're winning to move forward, because if it's just to do the same thing, it's all the same if the other wins.

Sul21: You mentioned the economic crisis that Greece, Spain, and the European countries that follow neoliberalism are going through. Are there ways to reverse the crisis?

Leonardo Boff: Europe is so weakened and ashamed that it no longer enjoys life. What I hear most at every lecture when I'm in Europe is people begging me "please, give me hope." When people lose hope, they lose the meaning of life. This happens because they've achieved all they wanted, dominated the world, exploited nature as they wanted, attained a well-being that has never happened in history and now they realize that they're unhappy. Because human beings have other hungers. Hunger to love and be loved, to understand each other, coexist, respect nature.

And all this was put aside. Only the GDP counts. But everything that gives human meaning isn't included in the GDP: love, solidarity, poetry, art, mysticism, wisdom. That's what makes us human and happy. And this perspective in which only material goods count may lead humanity to a great tragedy. Within the capitalist system, there is no salvation. For two reasons. First, because we've reached the Earth's limits. It's a small planet, with mostly non-renewable resources. The system has difficulty reproducing itself, because there's nothing more to exploit. And secondly, because the poor, who before the crisis were 860 million, have jumped, according to the FAO, to 1.2 billion.

So this system isn't good for humanity, it's not good for the environment, and it may eventually lead to a social and ecological crisis with unimaginable consequences, in which millions of people could die from lack of access to water and food. This system -- completely perversely to me -- has turned everything into a commodity. From a society with a market to a market society, turning food into a commodity. The poor don't have money to pay, so they starve and die.

Sul21: Are you also worried about the advance of the extreme Right in Europe?

Leonardo Boff: It's the normal reaction when there's a major crisis that some postulate radical solutions. In the case of Europe, it's xenophobia. But they're all countries that have a problem of negative population growth. Germany has had to bring in 300,000 people per year to maintain the minimum population growth, and in France the situation is similar. So they're in great difficulty, because they need them but they want to drive them out. But there is the risk that there might be a process like the one that generated the Second World War, which was the result of the 1929 crisis that was never resolved, until the Right created Nazi fascism. But the world is different today; it's globalized. You can't solve the problem of one country without being linked to others.

Sul21: Do the Latin American governments offer an alternative to this European model that's in crisis?

Leonardo Boff: Many, like (Portuguese sociologist) Boaventura de Sousa Santos, think that in Latin America there's a set of values lived by the indigenous cultures that can help humanity out of the crisis. Especially with the central feature of right living, which means having a different relationship with nature, seeing the Earth as mother, that gives us everything we need or that we can complete through work. And they invented communitarian democracy, which doesn't exist in the world, it's a Latin American invention, in which groups get together and decide what is best for them, and the country is made up of networks of community democracy groups. This new relationship with nature and the world is what we need to develop to have a relationship that isn't destructive and can make humanity survive.

There's a revisiting of native cultures because they still respect nature; they don't accumulate. They're values already being lived out by the Andean cultures, which had always been despised but which are studied today by great scientists and sociologists who realize that there are principles there that can save us. Instead of talking about sustainability, respect the rhythms of nature. Instead of talking about GDP and growth, ensure the physical and chemical basis that sustains life. Because without it life will wither away. And instead of growth, redistribution. There is so much accumulated wealth that if there were a 0.1% tax on the capital that's rolling around the stock markets, that's in speculation, it would yield such a large fund that it would give humankind enough to end hunger and guarantee housing. Because the productive capital is $60 trillion, while the speculative is $600 trillion. So it's a completely irrational economy, inimical to life and nature. And it has no future; it's heading towards death. Either it will lead us all to death, or they themselves will sink.

Sul21: And what's Brazil's role in the ecological sphere? Have the governments been able to deal with environmental issues?

Leonardo Boff: Brazil is the most environmentally well-endowed part of the planet. It has the largest tropical forests, the greatest amount of water, the highest percentage of arable land on the planet. But it's unaware of its wealth. And public policy has no strategy for how to deal with the Amazon, deal with the various ecosystems. It's always based on production. So they're expanding into the Amazon rainforest and deforestating it to have soybeans and cattle.

And the Ministry of the Environment is one of the weakest, as well as the Human Rights one. That means life doesn't count; the economy counts. I think this is unfortunate. And this criticism must be made by citizens. Saying that we support a government project, but that we disagree about this. Because it's ignorance, irresponsibility, government stupidity. Much of the future of humanity passes through us, especially drinking water, which may possibly be the most serious crisis, even more than global warming. And Brazil has the capacity to be a table set for the whole world and provide drinking water for the whole world. I think we're not aware of our responsibility. The rulers are still victims of an economistic viewpoint; they obey the rules of macroeconomics. Our relationship with nature isn't cooperative, it's exploitative.

Sul21: How can Brazil deal with the serious problem of urban violence?

Leonardo Boff: The problem that needs to be thought about is that now 63% of humanity lives in cities -- 85% in Brazil. We can no longer think only of agrarian reform, we have to think about how people will live. In Brazil, we're experiencing the shame that all cities have a modern core surrounded by an island of poverty and misery that is the slums. This is an unsolved problem and, for me, a key one in the campaign: how to deal with the 85% who live in cities, who have now lost the rural tradition -- planting and living off of nature -- but who have not assimilated into urban culture. So they're lost. Hence the increase in crime. And many say that society has a social pact governing the behavior of citizens. That is, "you excluded us so we're not obliged to accept your laws. We will create our own." The militias in Rio created parallel state functions, they created their organization and distribution, and the government is powerless. And the UPPs aren't the solution, because it creates islands and the drugs remain on the margins. The problem isn't the police; it's the kind of society we've created, mounted on top of colonialism, slavery and ethnocide of the indigenous. We don't "have violence" in Brazil. We are sitting on top of structures of violence. It's a permanent state of violence.

Sul21: And how can the country escape this?

Leonardo Boff: What it's already started to do -- stop making rich policies for the rich and poor ones for the poor and make policies of integration, inclusion, starting with education. For where there's education, people are empowered to defend themselves, find new ways of survival. A country that doesn't invest in education and health care has ignorant and sick people. And these people have no way of making a quality leap. For me, this is the great challenge and it should be discussed in the campaigns, not the parties. Challenge everyone: "How are we going to get out of this?" Because it tends to get worse and worse. That would be worthy, ethical politics where the common good would be at the center and they would join forces, alliances of people who propose to change the structures that sustain an unjust state, which has the second most inequality in the world. Inequality means injustice, which is a mortal social structural sin. And that isn't discussed.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The most important decision

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
July 27, 2014

Matthew 13:44-52

The gospel includes two brief parables of Jesus with the same message. In both stories, the protagonist discovers a tremendously valuable treasure or a pearl of incalculable value. And both react the same way -- they joyfully and resolutely sell what they have and seize the treasure or the pearl. According to Jesus, that's how those who discover the Kingdom of God react.

Apparently, Jesus fears that people are following him for various interests without discovering what is most attractive and important -- the Father's exciting project which is to lead humankind towards a more just, fraternal and joyful world, thus putting it on the road to its ultimate salvation in God.

What can we say today after twenty centuries of Christianity? Why are so many good Christians locked in their religious practices with the feeling of not having discovered any "treasure" in them? What is at the root of this lack of enthusiasm and joy in many spheres of our Church, which is incapable of attracting to the core of the Gospel so many men and women who are moving away from it, albeit without renouncing God or Jesus?

After the Council, Paul VI made this sweeping statement: "Only the Kingdom of God is absolute. Everything else is relative." Years later, John Paul II reaffirmed it, saying, "The Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument." Pope Francis has been repeating that "Jesus' plan is to establish the Kingdom of God."

If this is the faith of the Church, why are there Christians who haven't even heard about this project that Jesus called "the Kingdom of God"? Why don't they know that the passion that animated Jesus' whole life, his reason for being, and the goal of all his actions, was proclaiming and promoting the Father's humanizing project -- seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness?

The Church can't be renewed at its root if it doesn't discover the "treasure" of the kingdom of God. Calling Christians to collaborate with God in His great project to make a more human world isn't the same as being distracted with practices and customs that make us forget the very heart of the Gospel.

Pope Francis is telling us that "the Kingdom of God is calling to us." This cry comes from the very heart of the Gospel. We are to hear it. Surely, the most important decision we have to make today in the Church and in our Christian communities is to recover the project of the Kingdom of God with joy and enthusiasm.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hispanic Catholics and the New Evangelization

By Fr. Alex Diaz (English translation by Rebel Girl)
PadreAlex.com
July 23, 2014

Yesterday, Tuesday, July 22nd, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture on evangelization titled "Hispanic Catholics and the New Evangelization" given by Father Virgilio Elizondo, a priest in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas. It was a very enjoyable talk and very rich in content. I loved being able to hear something new and refreshing, something different than what we're usually used to hearing, the same trite issues as always that don't lead to thinking beyond the circle in which many find themselves. It was a pity that there were few to hear it, perhaps because they feel a hint of fear at checking out something new.


The talk turned around two big topics that were interwoven -- the first was the seed and the second, the fruit that seed has produced.

In the first topic, Elizondo made us look at our roots, our sources, based on our indigenous roots. United with the mixture of European and African blood, we are the fruit of a mixed culture but one that still conserves the richness of its sources. We are a people rich in faith, in tradition. We are people who worship and glorify God with the music, dance, folklore, and joy that characterize us. We are lively people who have maintained their faith despite the attacks we have suffered throughout history.

Hispanic people are Marian people who gather in the maternal arms of the Virgin Mary. In her, we see the model of Mother, teacher and friend, and we can note this in the various Marian celebrations that take place all over the American continent. Mary plays an important role in the evangelization of our people.

Hispanic people are people for whom Our Lord Jesus accompanies us as the God of love, the one who became man to redeem us through his suffering, the God who consoles us from the cross. It's because of him that we see a path to redemption in suffering. We see and accept the cross of Jesus with faith, joy and hope, and we commend ourselves to him in every moment of our lives. It's normal in Hispanic Christian households to see a crucifix presiding over the home and an image of Mary nearby. The suffering Jesus reminds us that our suffering is united to his in the redemption of the world.

We are an evangelized and evangelizing people, fortified in the culture of encuentro and heartfelt giving to others, warm people who, with our popular religiosity, speak and transmit the faith. A simple people who today are still becoming a new world, that keeps itself alive with its rich cultural tradition and gives birth to new children in the faith and grace of God through an ongoing encounter with the gospel.

The second topic of this lecture was the fruit produced by this continent that sowed the seed of faith. That fruit is none other than Pope Francis, a son of that culture who has become a new evangelization phenomenon -- a man of the people, a warm, simple and humble man who with his simplicity and poverty has attracted those who had been alienated and wounded in the Church itself. His ministry turns around acts, words, and homilies and talks that are short and simple but with a rich and deep message. His message is clear. We should go to the neediest and bring the gospel message in our own lives. Live the gospel and carry it with joy in our body and soul. That should motivate us not to lose hope, in spite of everything that overwhelms and frustrates us. Jesus is always there to support us and walk with us.

Another of the major traits marking his pontificate is preaching clearly and bluntly about mercy, which is nothing more than taking on our brothers' and sisters' -- our neighbors' -- misery, experiencing the suffering of those who suffer, suffering with them, having mercy for suffering hearts. All of these traits were drawn one way or another from this culture that developed amid upheavals and hardship. That's why the pope is only putting into action what he experienced and received from Hispanic American culture -- a simple but rich culture, welcoming, evangelized and evangelizing.

Finally, we are people who are children of the Maya, the Aztecs, and the Incas, who received the gospel from the hands of the first missionaries who with love and devotion forged deep in our soul that gospel love and thus we mixed with European and African cultures and from that mixture we emerged. We have learned from all of that. But above all, we are the face of Jesus who goes on manifesting himself in every culture and every sign and symbol. We are the Hispanic people who with their traditions and traditional virtues have maintained the truth of the gospel.

Fr. Alex Diaz is a priest from El Salvador who is presently Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church in Dale City, Virginia.

Photo: Fr. Virgilio Elizondo and Fr. Alex Diaz surrounded by Catholic catechists and other laity from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.