Friday, July 31, 2009

On the road to Emmaus

For all regular blog readers: I'm not going to be posting again until next week. I'm at a conference at Notre Dame called "Camino a Emaús: The Word of God and Latino Catholics." It is very enjoyable, especially being able to reconnect with old friends from MACC, which is well represented, as well as meeting other Biblical scholars who I have always wanted to meet. As soon as I can get home and have my USB cable, I promise a quick write-up and photos. We treated our bishops like superstars but they only got a fraction of the adulation shown to Hermana Glenda! Sorry, guys...;-)

On a sadder note, please say a prayer for Padre Hoyos and for the family of Maricel Castillo Mora. Maricel is the lady we stayed with last summer in El Salvador and Padrecito sent an e-mail saying that she has lost her battle with cancer and gone home to God. She was a devoted Catholic and a strong supporter of MAPAVI. Que en paz descanse. Estamos muy tristes. Here is a photo from back in April when we thought Maricel had more time with us:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hunger for Justice

I'm reprinting this with some caveats. I think that Frei Betto's analysis is absolutely correct with respect to hunger and the disproportionate amount of resources devoted to its eradication as opposed to propping up the financial markets. I think many would part company with Betto on the idea of combatting drug trafficking by crop eradication. This has been tried in various Andean countries and has not proved to be particularly successful. It is a solution imposed on the developing nations by developed countries unwilling and unable to effectively control the demand for illegal drugs and their trade among their own people. Worse, it has penalized the poor who are only trying to grow what they can most easily market, not to speak of the overall environmental and health effects of the herbicides being used. Frei Betto's response is too facile and he should study the economics of the drug trade more thoroughly before writing about this complex issue.

Frei Betto (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Adital
7/27/2009

There are now 950 million people whose lives are threatened by chronic hunger. Last year, there were 800 million. The number has grown from then to now due to the expansion of agribusiness, whose technology makes food more expensive, and to the expansion of areas devoted to the growth of agri-combustibles, produced to satisfy the hunger of machines and not people.

Hunger is the most lethal invention of human injustice. It causes more deaths than all of the wars. It eliminates almost 23 thousand lives every day -- almost one thousand people per hour! The main victims are children.

Almost nobody dies for lack of food. The human being can withstand almost anything: corrupt politicians, humiliation, aggression, indifference, the opulence of the few. Even the empty plate. Therefore it can be said that no one dies because of a complete lack of food. The hungry, when they have nothing to eat, put in their mouths, in order to cheat hunger, leftovers gathered from the garbage, lizards, rats, cats, ants and various insects. The lack of vitamins, carbohydrates and other essential nutrients weaken the organism and make it vulnerable to illness. Stunted children die of a simple cold, because of lack of defenses.

There are only four causes of premature deaths: accidents (either workplace or traffic), violence (assassination, terrorism, or war), illness (cancer or AIDS), and hunger. The latter produces the highest number of victims. However it is the one that provokes the fewest protests. There are ongoing campaigns against terrorism or to cure AIDS, but who is protesting against hunger?

The poor do not protest. Only those who eat go on strike, go out into the streets, publicly demonstrate their discontent and make their demands. Since those people are not threatened by hunger, the hungry are ignored.

Now the leaders of the richest and most powerful nations of the world, meeting at the G-8 summit in Aquila, Italy, at the beginning of June, have decided to free up $15 billion to relieve world hunger.

How cynical on the part of the G-8! They are responsible for the growing number of hungry people. These would not exist if the urban nations had not adopted protectionist policies, customs barriers, and agrotoxin and transgenic seed producing multinationals. Nearly 5 million children would not die of hunger each year if the G-8 had not manipulated the WTO, providing incentives for social inequality and all that feeds into it: the latifundio, speculation on food prices, the private appropriation of wealth.

Only 15 billion dollars! Do the ladies and gentlemen of G-8 know how many millions they allocated, not to saving humanity but, rather, to the financial market, from September 2008 to June 2009? One thousand times that amount! Fifteen billion dollars is only enough to give a few candies to a few hungry people. Without taking into account that a good part of those resources will go into the pockets of the corrupt or will be used as money for electoral change. "I'll give you some bread, give me your vote."

If the G-8 really intended to eradicate world hunger it would promote changes in the commercial structures that govern production and world trade, and it would channel more resources towards the poor nations than towards the financial market and the defense industry.

If the owners of the world really wanted to end hunger, they would declare the latifundio a crime against humanity and would allow the free circulation of food, similar to what has happened with money. Similarly, if they also had the goal of ending drug trafficking, instead of capturing a few traffickers, they would use their war machines to definitively destroy the fields of marijuana, coca, opium and other plants, transforming them into family farms. Without the basic material, no trafficker can produce drugs.

To say that the G-8 is going to end hunger or save the planet from environmental degradation, is like hoping that next Christmas Santa Claus will bring the gift of a decent life for all the poor children. The cynicism is so great that the world leaders are promising to establish bases of environmental sustainability starting in 2050.

Now, if nature has taught anything obvious it's that by then we will all be dead. If the Earth has already lost 25% of its capacity for self regeneration, what will happen if the human race has to wait another 40 years before taking effective steps?

If those who are not hungry would at least have hunger for justice -- a virtue that Jesus called a blessing, then hope for a better future would not be in vain.

Franciscan Friars Trudge 300 Miles and Find Kindred Souls on the Way

These Franciscans helped with presiding at the Masses at Our Lady Queen of Peace last Sunday so how wonderful to see this article about them in today's Washington Post. Fr. Ed (Eduardo) took the Spanish 1:00 community and, in addition to telling us a bit about the friars' pilgrimage from Roanoke, shared a funny story about his experiences working in Mexico, which I will pass along for all those who are afraid to try to speak a foreign language lest they make a mistake.

Seems that Fr. Ed was looking for a way to say "God bless you and your loved ones" in Spanish and he discovered "Que Dios le bendiga a ustedes y a sus amantes"...at least, until an older woman worked up the courage to inform the good father that he had been blessing everybody's "lovers"! Fr. Ed's presence at OLQOP was a blessing to us, our loved ones, and our lovers. We all left with a smile and a good story to share.


On June 16, four young Franciscan friars and their two mentors set out from Roanoke, Va., for a 300-mile walking pilgrimage to Washington that ends Wednesday.


Just a Closer Walk With Thee

By William Wan
Washington Post
Wednesday, July 29, 2009


They've been mistaken for Jedi-wannabes headed to a Star Wars convention. They've been investigated by police, approached by strangers, gawked at from cars and offered gifts of crumpled dollar bills and Little Debbie snacks.

After trekking along more than 300 miles of dusty Virginia country roads and suburban highways, six Franciscan friars reached Washington on Tuesday, having seen it all during an offbeat modern-day quest for God.

For six weeks, the brothers walked from Roanoke with only their brown robes, sandals and a belief in the kindness of strangers to feed and shelter them.

The sight of six men in flowing habits, trudging single file on the side of the road, prompted many to pull over and talk, even confess. People on their way to work described their loneliness. College students wanted help figuring out what to do with their lives. Children, mistaking them for the Shaolin monks in movies, ran up to ask the friars if they knew how to beat up bullies.

"Dressed like we are in our habits, it's like a walking sign that says, 'Tell us your life's problems,' " explained Cliff Hennings, the youngest of the friars at 23.

In every instance, the friars made time for conversation. They shot the breeze with a gang of drunk bikers, dispensed relationship advice to the brokenhearted commuters and bore witness to one and all, yea, even to the Chik-fil-A employee dressed as a cow.

The pilgrimage was the idea of four young friars just finishing their training in Chicago and working toward taking lifelong vows. Seeking to emulate the wanderings of their founder, Saint Francis of Assisi, they wanted to journey together as a fraternity, ministering to one another and to strangers, while depending on God for every meal and place to sleep.

Joined by two older friars supervising their training, they picked as their destination a friary in Washington, D.C., called the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land -- a symbolic gesture, because the actual Holy Land was too far away.

Then last month they drove from Chicago to Salem, just outside Roanoke, parked their van at a church and set out on foot.

They tried to live by the ascetic rules Jesus laid out for his 12 disciples: "Take nothing for the journey -- no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic." The less they brought, they reasoned, the more room they could leave for God. The friars did make a few modifications, carrying a toothbrush, a wool blanket, water and a change of underwear ("a summer essential," one explained), as well as one cellphone in case of emergency.

Some rules, however, had to be made on the fly. They had agreed not to carry any money, but just minutes into their first day, strangers were pressing dollar bills into their hands. So they made a pact to spend what they received each day on food, often high-protein Clif bars, and to give the rest to the needy.

They walked 15 miles their first day and found themselves at dusk in front of a fire station just outside Roanoke. One of the friars, Roger Lopez, a former fireman himself, knocked on the station door and asked whether there was somewhere they could sleep. As they talked, the friars spotted a giant trampoline out back.

"It seemed like such a good idea at the time," said Lopez, 30.

The six spread out on the trampoline as if they were spokes on a wheel. But soon they realized gravity was against them, pulling everyone toward the center. Some tried to sleep clutching the side railing. When one person rolled over, the rest bobbed uncontrollably like buoys. No one got much sleep, but the firefighters did send them off the next morning with corned beef sandwiches.

Since then, they have slept on picnic tables outside Lynchburg, basement floors in Charlottesville, even on office tables at a food pantry.

One night they were hosted by a man with tattoos on his arms, an unkempt ponytail and all of his front teeth missing. He had pulled up in his beat-up Jeep and offered to let the friars stay with him in an old one-room schoolhouse in Nelson County.

"He looked like he had just gotten out of prison," said Hennings, but the man turned out to be a Native American healer. The friars stayed up all night talking to him. He told them Native stories and played his double flute. They chanted Latin hymns in return and told him stories from the Gospel.

Such moments of grace became a daily occurrence for the friars. Sure, some passersby gave them the finger. One guy even leaned out the window to add a sprinkling of Nietzsche ("God is dead!") to his vulgarities. But most encounters were meaningful, even profound.

Just outside Harrisonburg, a woman in her 40s with a young daughter pulled over in her old Dodge sedan to talk to 25-year-old friar Richard Goodin.

She'd recently caught her husband cheating on her. He had kicked her and her daughter out of their house, she told Goodin. Now, like the friars, they were wandering through the wilderness, unsure of their next meal or their next move.

As they talked, the woman's daughter rummaged through the car and gave the friars a soda. Then she found a chocolate bar and offered that. As the conversation began winding down, the daughter said there was nothing more in the car. The woman reached for her purse and told Goodin, "I want to give you what we have left."

She pressed $3.52 into his hand, which he accepted reluctantly.

"I realized she wasn't giving this to us or to me," Goodin said. "I think she heard us talk about trusting in God and she wanted to try to trust in the same way. She was giving that money to God."

He and the other friars have thought about the woman a lot. Last week, they thought about her as they walked along Lee Highway in Fairfax, where Mary Williams and her three kids pulled over in their minivan and offered to take the brothers to a Chik-fil-A.

"It was the oddest experience sitting there at Chik-fil-A with everyone staring at us," said Williams, 45. "The high point was when the guy dressed up like a cow came out and gave us all high fives. He was in costume. They were in robes. A lot of people were wondering what was going on."

People had much the same reaction Tuesday as the friars crossed the Memorial Bridge and wandered past the Lincoln Memorial. In an instant, tourists went from posing in front of Lincoln's statue to posing with the Franciscans.

Their plan was to spend one last night wherever God provided and then arrive this morning at the monastery near Catholic University. They hope to spend the day there, telling the story of their journey and the goodness they encountered to anyone who wanted to listen.

Their message will be simple: "Anything can happen when you live in the moment, one step at a time," said Mark Soehner, 51, one of the mentors to the young friars. "But to find that out, you have to be willing to take that one step."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fifty Years as Bishop of the Poor: Don Samuel Ruiz García

His people are already starting to honor Bishop Emeritus Don Samuel Ruiz García of the diocese of Chiapas, Mexico, who next January will be celebrating his 50th anniversary as bishop and 60th anniversary as a priest. Ruiz is now 84 years old and retired but on Saturday night, a big concert was given in his honor, and an old friend of his, Francisco Gómez Maza, offered the following reminiscence which he also posted on his blog, Análisis a Fondo. We bring it to you in English.

Last Saturday at 5 p.m. we had a huge concert in the Auditorium of Centro Universitario Cultura to pay homage to Dr. Samuel Ruiz García, who will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his consecration as bishop of Chiapas on January 25th of next year. The organizers of the festivities have asked me to give my testimony and I think it would only be right to share it with my friends who honor me by reading this space each day:

I met Don Samuel sometime around the 25th of January, 1960. It was my first year of seminary in what was left of the Pontifical University of Chiapas. I met him and was very fortunate because I participated as an incense bearer in his consecration Mass as Bishop in San Cristóbal cathedral.

It was a huge party. Delegations came to San Cristóbal from all over Chiapas, and the cathedral and the surrounding areas, the central park, and adjacent streets were crammed with people.

It was a medieval ceremony, like those that were usually celebrated in the preconciliar Church. Much smoke came out of the censer that I carried. I was very close to him.

On that day, the young rector of the seminary in León began as bishop of Chiapas, a successor to Bishop Torreblanca, of an ancient, imperial, almost Constantinian tradition, when Mass was celebrated by priests with their backs to the people -- a custom which the Second Vatican Council, convened by the Good Pope John XXIII, abolished.

It was a cold, very cold January in Los Altos de Chiapas. Don Sam started his pastoral work, visiting the Conciliar Seminary of Chiapas. I was already a rebel then, a young man who dreamed about and idolized Marx, Engels, the Cuban revolutionaries, the Colombian revolutionaries, and who wasn't very obedient to the rules, the strict rules of the seminary. Samy, as we had already started to call him, visited us and I saw him as the most conservative and reactionary man I had ever seen in my life. The strict practices of seminary "education" would continue, with hard professors, disciplinarians who were detached from the real world and friends, yes, very good friends of the rich in San Cristóbal and the ranch owners.

The rector of the school, who came to care a lot for me, was implacable. And the bishop seemed to be continuing in the tradition. I didn't like it. I didn't like anything. He was scandalized -- or so I believed -- at the forwardness of we students, who instead of going to chapel to practice piety would go out to smoke on the terraced roof of one of the school buildings. We came to hate all piousness and only devoted ourselves to studying. I was fascinated with studying Greek and Latin, and the tales from La Celestina that my literature professor, an open-minded priest who was progressive for his time -- involved with the people, involved with the indigenous -- used to tell. But that was just an exception.

Samy wanted to impose order on us. But in the end we were the ones who put him in order, ha, ha, ha. Then he went to the meetings of the Vatican Council. Ever since that youthful period, when I was barely 15 or 16 years old, I devoted myself to journalism. Every Saturday I stayed awake to paste up my articles and summaries of magazines on a huge board, that at dawn on Sunday I would stick on the walls of the wing where I lived and studied Science and Humanities. Sometimes, Samy would approach that rudimentary newspaper mural. We also had a "radio station" that we called "XETVC". It consisted of only a sound system and a loudspeaker through which we aired home programming and music, so that everyone could listen to it during recess, and during study time and classes we put on religious music at low volume.

Once, Don Samuel decided to come through and look over the little rooms we lived in and how surprised he was when he entered mine. On the desk was a carton of Delicados cigarettes. In my little closet, there was a bottle of coffee liqueur and another of plum liqueur that I myself had made. In San Cristóbal, in those days, in the country, all around, there were plum trees and they would send me ground coffee from home. And he left really worried. He also saw how the seminarians were relating with girls. And I don't think he liked that at all. Of course, he came from a very medieval, traditional diocese -- León, Guanajuato, where he had been a seminary professor. But I never gave up on my attempt to change things. Well, as a young man, what could I change? It was just a dream. The daily practices of the school seemed to me -- pardon the expression but it is the only one that captures that reality -- stupid. I came from the capitol, from a very happy family, one that for every birthday threw a party with a lot of beer, a lot of ice, a lot of food, many marimbas. I already knew how to dance and had already had my first girlfriend as an adolescent.

And at that age I was already dreaming of going into the jungle with a rifle to change the state of affairs; more so when I heard about Camilo Torres Restrepo, the Colombian priest who after he had tried everything else -- academia, the Church, the Colombian barrios -- could not take it any longer and thought that the only way out was violence, and one day made a revolutionary proclamation and joined the ranks of the National Liberation Army that is still pestering the oligarchy in my beloved Colombia.

But Don Samuel came back from Rome completely changed. Converted from a conservative bishop to a prophet of aggiornamento. The state of affairs in the diocese of San Cristóbal started to change. Most of the priests didn't like their bishop's change of mindset at all and little by little emigrated to other conservative diocese. Samy started to be alone. Then he started to lean on those who understood his position. Progressive Catholics and Protestants joined his pastoral team. It would not be fair to mention them because, as many years have passed, I might forget some of them -- some who are now gone, others who are still in this world in this daily struggle so that the world will be, at least, less inhumane.

He began his pastoral visits to the indigenous towns and communities of Chiapas. And the Catholics from San Cristóbal started to look unfavorably on him. The cathedral was no longer filling up with "well-to-do people", but with indigenous people with their banners and their mutlicolored clothing. And I was fortunate enough to be designated his assistant. "Familiar" is what the seminarian who accompanied the bishop on his pastoral errands was called. We went to many towns to talk to the people, to provide liturgical services to them, but Samy needed a translator.

And he was not satisfied with this. He started to learn tzotzil, and his teacher was a seminarian from San Pedro Chenal’ho, the unforgettable Jacinto Arias, who came to finish theology and then became an anthropologist. A well of wisdom, each year he was loaded with medals for his high qualifications. Well, Samuel learned tsotsil, and then tsel'tal, and then ch’ol, and so many other Mayan languages that were still alive in my homeland, in my datcha, as I like to call Chiapas.

Well, we would go in an old jeep, or on foot, or by horse or mule to visit the towns and communities of Los Altos and the jungle. To go to the places in the jungle one had to walk single file, with a couple of macheteros in front to clear an opening. It was still virgin jungle, as fascinating and seductive as a woman, and not the jungle of sunflowers that it is now. Samuel followed, he went along these paths, along impassable roads where I have no idea how a jeep could get through, or mounted on an animal, but we got to the poorest communities where the inhabitants didn't speak one iota of castilla. That's what we called Castilian Spanish. More precisely: “castía”, as the indigenous people pronounce it. Nothing was left of the image of that conservative, reactionary priest. Samuel, who went to evangelize the indigenous people, was the one who was evangelized, and I along with him. I think I may have gone off the beaten path, but not the bishop. The bishop had to keep to a certain style, since the San Cristóbal society, those who at a certain point called themselves "the real insiders", had fallen out with him. They no longer attended liturgical events at the Cathedral and the diocese continued to shed its conservative priests. But the indigenous people and communities, with their theogony, with their cosmogony, with their mixture of their original religion and the Catholicism that the conquistadores and Europeans colonizers imposed on them -- it still might seem silly to many at this stage of this brutal Latin American history -- were evangelizing the bishop. He was already, for the indigenous people, "jTatik", a word that in several Mayan languages is only used for elders. It means "lord", "father", but not the lord who expropriates them, who excludes them, who rapes their women, who has the right to kick them, but the lord who is friend, brother, their equal, and not the punishing, threatening father, but the loving father, in whom one can trust.

And Samy allowed himself to be loved and his love grew for the indigenous people, who were his personal and pastoral reason for living. I lived high points of my life with him, not only in the church environment. I saw that the Church is not the byzantine, imperial, powerful structure of Rome. I began to discard that hymn that I think they still sing in the Vatican, “Roma, Sancta Roma”. With him, I saw that Rome was the empire, that Rome was the friars, who even in that period of the first half of the 60s, were convinced that learning was best accomplished through corporal discipline and who came from Spain to join an indigenous diocese, and thought that one had to be nasty to indigenous people because they didn't have souls, and they had to be saved from the devil, the sun, the moon, the nahuales that they worshipped and continue to worship, in a syncretism that the bishop immediately understood and absolutely respected. They never understood that in their cosmogony, while worshipping the sun, the moon, and the nahuales, they were worshipping God, that God that is only God if He frees human beings and the cosmos, rational animals, plants and minerals, because, according to the theology of all religions, He is the creator, the maker, and for poor Christians, the liberator of the people.

Long before the Latin American theologians, led by the unforgettable Peruvian Gustavo Gutiérrez, Porfirio Miranda (who discovered that Marxism was already in the Hebrew Bible) and many others, such as the Brazilian, Ecuadorian, Honduran, Chilean and many Mexican bishops brought to birth in the world the so-called liberation theology, which Joseph Ratzinger -- now the conservative Pope Benedict XVI -- defended in his youth, it was already practiced in Chiapas by jTatik and many of his collaborators. The naming of Samuel Ruiz García as bishop of Chiapas was a watershed moment. At that time I was completely convinced that I should be a priest to become indigenous with the indigenous, poor with the poor, brother among brothers, god with God, nature with Nature, all with the All. Samy and the indigenous people were my most decisive teachers. Teachers of truth who taught me the true word. Who made me an atheist with respect to that God that only ate in the homes of the lords, while the poor died of curable diseases, lived a life of hunger, and whose newborn children died of a little cold.

Therefore I understood and sympathized completely with the indigenous uprising of 1994, because neither those on the Right nor those on the Left understood and I think they still don't understand, that change cannot be imposed. Samuel understood it well. Obviously, in that conservative bishop who came to San Cristóbal and was consecrated in the cathedral with luxurious ostentation, the seed of liberation was coming. He became a servant of his people, through his comforting, his understanding, one among the poor who were his equals, because he had lived in much poverty.

And I had the opportunity to drink from that indigenous wisdom, and strengthen my rebelliousness. I am now convinced that rebelliousness is more revolutionary than revolution itself, that if it only remains in ideological egotism (for me, ideology is pure fascism), it is doomed to terrible failure, because in order to change society, men, women, people have to change first. Change judgements and attitudes as Samy changed, thanks to his teachers the tsotsiles, the tsel’tales, the ch’oles, the toj’olabales, the cak’chiqueles among other Mayan groups.

Before the successor to Don Lucio Torreblanca y Tapia was designated by the Vatican, the insiders, the powerful built on the left side of the San Cristóbal cathedral an episcopal "palace" --sumptuous on average for the colonial residences of the city -- for the new bishop who, to the people's good fortune and the disappointment of the powerful, was Samuel Ruiz García, a human being who found himself, became reconciled to himself, and found himself with others, with the poorest of the poor, and he became poor with the poor, like Francis of Assisi.

I had to sleep in that palace because our trips were in the early morning, whether in the jeep to certain places where we either had to keep driving around until we got to a community, or we had to abandon the vehicle to climb on a mule or a horse and keep going. We ate what the poor ate, which was not very abundant nor very rich in vitamins, protein and minerals, because the people and communities were, and continue to be, on the hillsides, on the crests of the mountains, which were the places they went to when they were displaced by the expropriating Spaniards who took possession of the best lands in the Valle de Jovel, from which milk and honey flowed, and even there went Samy, as Luchita, the sister who never abandoned him and was with him until her death -- a death greatly mourned by me -- taught me to call him. We never brought itacate (provisions), nor crozier, nor knapsack; we wore shoes only because the land was very rough and there was no sense in ending up with some injury to the sole of the feet.

And both jTatik and I integrated into the community. Many of the priests, the teachers, the rector of the seminary didn't understand that. The life the bishop led was completely misunderstood by most of the clergy in the diocese. Only a few understood, such as Aurelio Zapata, the priest who also became poor with the poor after spending a good part of his life in academic activity at the seminary. And I am allowing myself to mention Aurelio because he was my teacher, my brother, and my friend until his death, committed body and soul to the peasants and the indigenous people. I think he was one of the few who understood Samy, and he was also demonized, as jTatik was.

After the Council, and with a renewed bishop, a practitioner of the yet to be born liberation theology, things started to change in Chiapas. The consciousness of the peasants and the indigenous people began to be raised. Consciousness that they were being exploited by the landowners, by the atajadoras (a group of ladina women who went to the crossroads in the morning to cut off groups of indigenous who were going down to San Cristóbal with their hens, their chickens, their eggs, their vegetables, and would physically snatch what they were carrying and would pay them whatever they -- the women -- wanted to pay and even rob them on many occasions).

Don Samuel started to participate very actively with the progressive institutional Church in Latin America, both individually and in the multinational organizations like the Latin American Bishops' Conference, where he played a primordial role in boosting the liberation theologians and then indigenous theology, infinitely more radical than liberation theology because it was evangelical.

Living with my beloved Samy has been an enlivening, educational, gratifying, amicable, friendly, communal, and fulfilling experience in my now long life. I am completely certain that he marked my life as a rebel. He taught me to differentiate between the imperial, monarchical church and the excluded church, the church of the poor, the wretched, the indigent, the true universal church that excludes nobody -- not the agnostics, not the atheists, not the Buddhists, not the Jainists, not the Muslims, not the Jews, not the autochthonous religions, not the syncretic religions, not nature, fully evangelical, because Jesus makes no exceptions of people, although he does prefer the weak, the expropriated, the terminally ill, those who are called sinners -- although I am sure that the only "sin" that exists in Christian -- truly Christian -- ethics, is injustice. And he taught me that the only Leftist is the Samaritan...

Samuel Ruiz García is now retired in Querétaro, but he contributed in a decisive way to the emergence of a new Church, the Church of the poor that, unfortunately has ever less to do with the clerical structure of the Vatican. And that reminds me of an anecdote of the unforgettable Hélder Cámara, from that era, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife. When he went to visit the Pope on an occasion, his so-called ad limina visit, the Pope spoke of his concern that Europe was distancing itself from the "Church". And Dom Hélder took the liberty of suggesting to him, more or less: Holy Father. Leave the Vatican and make your headquarters in the poorest parish of Europe. Then you will see how the Europeans will turn back to the Church.

Well, Samuel is part of my life, of my formation as a human being, as a journalist, as someone who is concerned about and struggling for a less inhumane world and with the dream of a socialism that is not impossible, even though the conservative Church supports dictatorial governments, neoliberal governments, and condemns and demonizes liberation theologians and populist movements.

From Samuel I learned that a God who is not the liberator of the expropriated, the oppressed, the excluded, cannot be god. He is an idol made of clay.


Burke Lecture: Bishop Ruiz: The Pursuit of Justice