Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ask and Ye Shall Receive: $1 Million for Libraries in Medellin

Just last Saturday night, Padre Fernando offered a prayer for an end to violence in his native city of Medellin, Colombia. Today some good news for Medellin and in the Spanish newspaper, El País, a headline that says it all: "Bibliotecas contra la violencia" ("Libraries against violence").

"The Colombian city of Medellín has gone in the last few years from being known for its high levels of violence and drug trafficking to being an example of urban renewal through a program of development based on education and culture. The latest honor it has achieved is the Access to Learning Award, along with $1 million given by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the Fundación Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), for its "innovative use of technology in public libraries to promote the development of the community."

The rest of the story from Colombia Reports:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the Medellin public libraries with US$1 million for providing computers and internet access to citizens in 34 libraries throughout the city.

The EPM Foundations Network of Public Libraries (NPL) is located throughout Medellin in some of the city's most marginalized communities. The libraries have become cultural centers "for accessing knowledge, learning and also as areas of community action and pride," Clara Patricia Restrepo, executive director of the EPM Foundation, said.

The majority of NPL's guests are from low-income communities who do not have a computer at home, like Hugo Patiño. The 50-year-old cook, who came to Medellin in 2007 after violence displaced him from his home in northern Colombia, had never used a computer before. But through courses at the public library, he learned how to create cost estimates, keep books and to promote a business online. Now Patiño is inspired to open his own restaurant.

The NPL has more than 500,000 visitors per months. "Their work is a stunning example of how a country can use the power of public libraries and technology to transform people's lives," Deborah Jacobs, director of the Global Libraries initiative for the foundation, said.

The EPM Foundation will use the money to expand their services on its web portal and to develop information and communication technology training programs.

Photo: A professor helps a student practice her computer skills at The Biblioteca Carlos Castro Saavedra - Tren de Papel, Medellin, Colombia.

From the margins

I suppose I'm a bad partner and mother because I didn't go to the multicultural festival this weekend. Met some of the prayer group later at the church and no one asked: "Are you OK?" No. It was: "You weren't there and there was no one to take pictures of our kids." "The Herald was there," I answered lamely, for want of anything better.

But, as it turns out, they were right. Our kids are not in the Herald. Our food, our culture, even our priests aren't there. Just a couple of our servidores dressed in their orange T-shirts -- a reliable immigrant workforce. Is this really how the Renovación should be used?

So after this opening salvo of guilt-tripping, I stood through a "spontaneous" lecture on the wonders of the church's preconciliar architecture while struggling to take the requisite "large group" photos under lights designed to shine only on the ordained while leaving most of the Body of Christ in a penumbra.

I thought of going up to the balcony to escape the claustrophobia of the overcrowded sanctuary and maybe get a better camera angle. I asked one of the servidores. "Oh no," she said. "Es sólo para los americanos." The balcony is only for Americans?? "I'm American," I said. "So am I," she replied and we settled back into an uneasy silence.

Taking communion was out of the question and I retreated further to the margins. In the end, I made sure I had the dozen photos I needed to complete my assignment and took the next bus home.

By Sunday, the physical pain and depression got the upper hand. I woke up feeling completely dead inside without the slightest desire to set foot in any church, Catholic or otherwise. Put the photos on the Web. Cried. Filed a backlog of mother's financial papers before they toppled over onto the bedroom altarcito. Cried some more. Went back to sleep. Awoke to go out and get some Chinese food. Went back to sleep again.

Where is God in all this? I don't feel renewed, just tired and used.

A 'participatory' Church would challenge hierarchical power, bishop says

Union of Catholic Asian News
August 26, 2009

QUEZON CITY, Philippines (UCAN) -- Retired Bishop Francisco Claver, in his new book, "The Making of the Local Church," shares his vision of a participatory and inculturated Church.

The Jesuit anthropologist spoke with UCA News about the tensions such a concept has created within the Church, including the challenge it poses to the established power structure.

Bishop Claver, 80, was the first bishop to come from the indigenous Bontoc people of the northern Philippines. He was ordained in 1961 and appointed the first bishop of Malaybalay, in the southern province of Bukidnon. He served there until 1983.

From 1995 until he retired in 2004, he headed the apostolic vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe. He also served in the 1980s as chairman of the Philippine bishops' Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace.

On Aug. 24, two days before he was to launch his book at the Jesuits' Loyola School of Theology in Quezon City, he shared with UCA News the highlights of his ministry and the insights he gained, including his vision of Church.

The interview follows:

UCA NEWS: How do you define the "local Church"?

BISHOP FRANCISCO CLAVER: It is a Church of bishops, priests, Religious and laity trying in their own way to make the Gospel come alive in their communities, where members interact as Christians and human beings.

You highlight inculturation in your book.

Inculturation is the dialogue between the people and the Spirit, and it must take place at all levels of the life of the local Church. Faith is a gift of the Spirit, and culture belongs to the people. If you put the two together, then the Spirit will talk about Gospel values, and inculturation is trying to put the cultural values and your faith values together.

Why did the movement to build the local Church slow down?

Take a look at the literature -- theological journals talk about the local Church very commonly. It's only Rome that is insisting on "particular Church" and other terms. That cardinal from the Roman curia I wrote about in the book, telling us at the 1998 Synod (for Asia), "Let's talk about the 'Church in' not 'Church of' Asia" -- that's all part of this attempt to fight it.

Why does Rome prefer "Church in Asia"?

If you just say "Church in," then its part of a power structure. You are just a small part, whereas "of" means there is more independence. That's why I insist on using "local Church." The bishops of Asia used that term in their 1974 Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences plenary assembly. Even then, the bishops said the Church in Asia must not only be geographically "in Asia," but speak with an Asian voice, act in Asian ways so we can be authentic Asian Christians.

But during the Asian Synod, that cardinal objected to the term and proposed instead "Church in Asia." I don't oppose the term, but it is not wrong to say "Church of Asia" and "local Church." It is in consonance with what Vatican II said about the nature and mission of the Church.

Will this vision of "local Church" materialize without Rome's acceptance?

Well, let's not talk about Rome. Let's talk about what's happening on the ground, about renewal from the bottom. The big thing about changing clerical culture is to start mostly from the ground, with laypeople interacting with their priest. If it is taken from the ground, it is very emotive. That is why I make much of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). If what happens in the BEC takes place also at the top, this whole idea of participation, we can have a genuine community of disciples.

What are the key elements for this to succeed?

Anthropologists are the first ones to say culture change is not going to be easy because it impacts the values of people. You cannot change values overnight. The more you talk about it the better.

How do BECs promote the local Church?

In BECs we stress discernment. Let the people discern and realize what the values are and what changes are taking place. We stress shared faith communities.

Who will lead that discernment?

Cultural village philosophers: the people.

People have complained about priests blocking BECs.

Priests are the biggest obstacle. That's why we start with the philosophy of change. My own experience in Bukidnon is an example. I wanted to start BECs. I had 30 priests, all Jesuits, and only a few of them -- four or five young ones -- were open to it. So with the five, we went ahead and developed this. Only little by little, when the others began to see what was happening, did they take an interest. When I left in 1983, out of 35 parishes 33 were fully in line with the BEC. Lay leaders and priests must understand and accept what change is going to take place.

What examples of discernment and people's participation do you give in your book?

There was a layman who talked about ideology. At a recollection I asked why Marxist ideology seemed more attractive than Christianity. One of them said the Marxist ideology and methods were clear, but as Christians we just have to be able to walk in darkness and discern what the Gospel tells us to do.

I was flabbergasted, because this was a man with not even a high-school education, and an indigenous person at that.

I had also written a pastoral letter saying it was not right for Christians to participate in the referendums that (Ferdinand) Marcos had scheduled to show that people supported his regime. These mocked their dignity as a people. I wrote that boycotting the referendums was the most moral action to take.

But when families got together to discern my letter, I was surprised they decided the husband would boycott the referendums and the wife would vote. The family is very much part of the Filipino culture. The father could have gone to jail, but someone has to take care of the children. So it is also out of responsibility that they decided to do this, with their culture meeting what the faith says.

When you see this happening, you begin to ask yourself whether we can have this in the whole Church -- thoughtful people making responsible decisions. Isn't that what participatory Church is all about?

It seems obvious. How come it has to be pointed out?

I think it's about power. That's why I criticized clerical power in the book. I mentioned in the book that for some clerics, it's not so much about unity but uniformity. We tend to emphasize doing the same thing, but we can have unity in diversity.

You say this book is a summary of your episcopacy, but is it more than that?

Even if I talked about my experiences in Malaybalay and Bontoc-Lagawe, readers have said they recognize that I am talking about the whole Church in Mindanao (southern Philippine region). I also discussed in the book the symbiosis between Church and state. The BECs are not only aiming for change in the Church, but also in wider society.

What is the impact of poverty on BECs?

It's easier to build BECs in poor communities. It's very hard in cities, because some people don't care, but also because people are more cosmopolitan.

A BEC works better in the rural set up, where people still have a sense of community, gathering around the village chapel, and nobody is a stranger to anybody. That's one of the objections of some priests about getting this started in cities, but I say that's even more reason to get it going there.

Use your imagination to get people together. A BEC has to be tied in with the parish, with the diocese, with the local Church. It should not be apart like a ghetto (or) it becomes a sect. That's why I also point out its difference from voluntary organizations and from mandated organizations. BECs are non-selective, unlike the Knights of Columbus and other groups. BECs accept people who are baptized.

When you started as a priest, did you imagine you would envision such a Church?

No, I didn't. We were trained in the old Church, with Latin and so on. Then Vatican II came and it was revolutionary.

Do you anticipate the movement on the ground will weather resistance from the hierarchy?

It depends on the direction the Church takes. I'm hopeful for the Philippine Church, because in PCP II (Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, 1991) at least the Church already said this is what we want to be. It takes a long time, bishops have to learn. People talk about differences between conservatives and liberals, but I say that's not our problem.

Our problem is between close-minded conservatives and close-minded liberals. They have all the answers. That's why when you talk about the participatory Church, you have to make much about the learning Church. That's the problem of bishops. They always think they are going to teach, and are not looking at the other side, the learning part.

In writing this book, were you mindful of the shortage of priests?

I faced the question: Why do you call it ecclesial when to be ecclesial you have to have the Eucharist? BECs don't have the Eucharist. The Church teaches about the centrality of the Eucharist, but if it cannot provide a priest for this, it might come to relaxing the rule on celibacy. What I point out here is the contradiction of the Church. If you are the one who talks about that centrality of the Eucharist, and you are the one who engineers it so that people don't have the Eucharist, you are contradicting yourself. We make it more important that the celibacy rule is followed even if people are deprived of the Eucharist. It was the Church who imposed that celibacy rule.

What other points in the book do you expect will draw a reaction?

The point I brought up about this whole canon law on consultative-deliberative votes of bishops. That's precisely what's wrong with the Church, and we haven't faced up to that thing of power in the Church. I'm raising the question of participation in the Church. I'm telling the Church you are not respecting human dignity, and I criticize a consultative-deliberative vote because where it concerns the life of the community, the people have a right to have a say. Even in a democracy, people are consulted, but by stressing this law, the Church is emphasizing power.

What exactly do you oppose in this law?

In consulting, I may ask your ideas, but already from the beginning my mind is made up. That consultative process is a farce. For example, in synods the documents are already written up, or there is a consultation, but it is only the Pope who writes the final statement. He could do that without consulting.

Well, it all hangs together. There is a lot there in the concept of participatory Church -- there is power, there is inculturation. That's why the "local Church" is a very threatening concept for the hierarchy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First International Congress on Ignacio Ellacuría

This week the First International Congress on Ignacio Ellacuría is taking place in Mexico. The Congress is organized by the Fundación Ética Mundial, the Embassy of Spain in Mexico and the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana (which, by the way, as its name suggests, boasts a major archival collection and research center on Sor Juana de la Cruz). Participants include Jon Sobrino, Rodolfo Cardenal, Héctor Samour, Sergio Bran (El Salvador); Alejandro Rosillo, Juan José Tamayo (Spain); Enrique Dussel, Miguel Concha and Gerardo Martínez Cristerna (Mexico). The program focuses almost exclusively on Ellacuría's work. It is another in this year's events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Fr. Ellacuría, his five fellow Jesuits and their housekeeper and her daughter at the UCA in San Salvador.

Juan José Tamayo, director of the Cátedra de Teología y Ciencias de las Religiones "Ignacio Ellacuría", at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid, paid tribute to Ellacuría in the opening ceremony on Monday evening: "He was one of the main promoters of liberation theology in Latin America, whose work, in broad strokes, turned around the defense of the popular masses and the oppressed peoples," he said.

EFE interviewed one of the participants, Jon Sobrino, SJ, who survived the massacre only because he was out of the country when it occured. Here is an English translation:


Mexico - Aug. 25 -- The Basque theologian Jon Sobrino said today in Mexico that the world continues to be full of "crucified people", as the Spanish Jesuit Ignacio Ellacuría also used to say, and he called for a revival of the ideas of his colleague, who was assassinated in El Salvador in 1989.

In an interview with EFE hours before participating in the 1st International Congress
on Ignacio Ellacuría in Mexico, Sobrino, who was born in Bilbao (northern Spain) in 1938, remembered that his friend and rector of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in San Salvador touched on "the important problems of humanity" twenty years ago.

Those problems, in Sobrino's opinion, "haven't changed."

For Ellacuría, talking about the "crucified people" meant the majority of people on the planet whose lives are at risk daily because of the marginal conditions in which they live, the Spanish theologian recalled.

The great dream of his life was "to not abandon a crucified people and help take them down from the Cross."

Sobrino believes it is important now to revive the ideas of Ellacuría, an intellectual who centered his work on morality, Christian theology, and defending those who have the least.

Ellacuría also got politically involved during the civil war in El Salvador (1980-1992), where he carried out about four hundred negotiations for peace in the country, and interviewed more than once with the leaders of the guerrilla group, Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN).

The priest was threatened with death on many occasions until he was assassinated in San Salvador on November 16th, 1989, together with five Spanish Jesuits and a Salvadoran one, as well as two women, by uniformed men, according to witnesses.

Sobrino remembers today how Ellacuría thought the so-called "civilization of wealth" was an error, that in which the engine of history is believed to be the accumulation of capitol, and the meaning of life, enjoying it.

Instead, he proposed the "civilization of poverty", that in which work is the essential element and the meaning of life is achieved through solidarity.

Sobrino, one of the leading exponents of liberation theology and based in El Salvador, also referred to the current crisis of the largest world economies and stated that its development is a "tragic-comic" occurence.

The tragedy of the situation is that those who had the least now have less means to survive because the situation has "impoverished the poorest", he stated.

It is comic, he said, that the international system has invested a large amount of resources in recent months for the bailout, with which "the hunger of humanity would have disappeared, I don't know, for ten, twenty or thirty years," he added.

Finally, he acknowledged that in some of the developed countries solidarity with those in the Third World has increased, but he thinks that those gestures are still "minimal and marginal", and do not translate into real help that improves the lives of those who have less.

Britain's man for Latin America

"Proud member of Amnesty International, Anglican ex-seminarian, a liberation theology sympathizer, and fan of the music of Pablo Milanés, Nacha Guevara and Mercedes Sosa, the new British Secretary of State for Latin America, Chris Bryant (47), is not your typical politican." Thus begins EFE's profile of Britain's point person for Latin American diplomacy.

And the article goes on to say that the hermano speaks fluent Spanish as a result of spending at least part of his seminarian days on the continent where he lived with a community of Columban Fathers in Comas, Peru, met liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez, studied theology at the Instituto Superior de Estudios Evangélicos Teológicos in Buenos Aires, and experienced his share of human rights atrocities committed by the Pinochet regime in Chile. It was the experience of being struck by tear gas grenades ("Made in Britain") while attending the funeral of a young victim of the Chilean military that led Bryant to join Amnesty International and change his party identification from Tory to Labor and leave the religious life for a political career.

Bryant describes Latin America as a "sleeping giant" that has both great potential and great problems, not the least of which is its rampant economic inequality, as well as ongoing human rights issues in some countries. Bryant also indicated his interest in dealing with problems of climate change, particularly with Brazil and Mexico, and with drug trafficking.

This is a man who "gets it" and it would be my fondest hope that maybe, in the spirit of international dialogue, he could stop by Washington and share some of his experience and perspective with Mrs. Clinton.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

El Discípulo/The Disciple

Heads up to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for Film and Broadcasting: Sharpen your pens because a new film is going into production that takes the life of Christ almost exclusively from a historical perspective. Spanish film director, Emilio Ruiz Barrachina, introduced his new feature film project The Disciple at the 12th Malaga Film Festival back in April, saying that the film will portray Jesus Christ from a historical point of view, leaving His religious dimension aside. Barrachina, founder of Ircania Productions, is best known as the director of the 2006 documentary Lorca, el mar deja de moverse about the death of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca.

According to The Disciple's official Web site, the plot of the film is as follows:

In his childhood Jesus witnesses the death of his father Joseph in a confrontation with Roman military troups. Years later, he becomes the favorite disciple of John the Baptist, leader of a group of Macabees who announce the imminent coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, in which the Roman invaders would be expelled.

When John the Baptist is beheaded, Jesus becomes the leader of the group and organizes the assault on the temple in Jerusalem. Thus, the same facts that are already known from the Gospels take on a different character. This project is based on the latest research, which sets the film in a plausible historical context.

More information about this historical research is available on the Web site in English and in Spanish. One of the film's main consultants is Dr. Antonio Piñero, Professor of New Testament Philology at the Complutense University of Madrid, who has written about this film project in his blog. According to Piñero, Barrachina's Jesus "was not just a deeply religious, pacifist Jew who loved sinners, preached kindness and a future Kingdom of God -- the foundation of the Christian faith -- but also and above all a spiritual leader of a group of 1st century Jews, who were initially followers of John the Baptist and then His disciples, committed heart and soul to the religious liberation of the Jewish people. The political liberation of the land of Israel from the yoke of the Romans was an important part of this group's religious ideology, since religion and politics were linked at that time."

The film will be shot in English on locations in Madrid and Andalucia with a flamenco music soundtrack composed by Daniel Casares (including a flamenco version of the Schubert "Ave Maria"!) and has a tentative release date of Spring 2010. It stars Joel West (Officer Aaron Jessop on CSI Miami) as Jesus, Marisa Berenson (actress and former Vogue model who received two Golden Globe nominations for her portrayal of the Jewish department store heiress Natalia Landauer in the 1972 film Cabaret) as Mary, and Ruth Gabriel (who received a Goya award as Best New Actress for her character Charo, a drug-addicted prostitute in Días Contados) as Mary Magdalene -- all the more interesting since Barrachina has been quoted as saying that he doesn't think Mary Magdalene really existed. As for the Mother of God, Berenson says she will be portrayed as a religious woman who has disagreements with her Son because she knows His actions will lead to His death.

In addition to the feature film, Barrachina plans to produce a shorter documentary titled "Jesus 2.0" which will "show that there was not one, but multiple forms of Christianity, some of which denied that Jesus was God and denied the Incarnation and the Resurrection. Others that rejected Paul of Tarsus and his doctrine, calling him a false prophet and a traitor to Jesus. Forms of Christianity (i.e. the Gnostics, though the film Web site doesn't specifically say this) that thought they were the only ones who really understood Jesus' revelation and would be saved. Forms of Christianity that promoted the independence of women in the church."

"Jesus 2.0" will interview theologians and people of different faiths as well as atheists to "understand the real historical, anthropological, and theological dimensions of Jesus." It will be "the most exhaustive audiovisual study of Jesus to date." Oy ve! We can't wait...

Photo: Emilio Ruiz Barrachina and Marisa Berenson

Priest takes church to task for not ordaining women

By Michael Paulson
Boston Globe
August 24, 2009

WESTON - A prominent priest whose support for women’s ordination has him in trouble with the Catholic Church ratcheted up his confrontation with the hierarchy yesterday, calling the church’s refusal to ordain women a "scandal" and "spiritual violence."

“I will not be silenced on this issue,’’ said the priest, the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, to about 100 people in Weston at an event hosted by the congregation of Jean Marchant, a former staffer for the Archdiocese of Boston who claims she was ordained as a priest in an unsanctioned ceremony four years ago.



The Catholic Church views Marchant and Bourgeois as having been automatically excommunicated for participating in unsanctioned ordination ceremonies.

Yesterday Bourgeois said he remained unclear about his status because he has had no formal communication from his order, the Maryknoll Fathers, or from the Vatican, which last fall told him he would face excommunication if he did not recant.

“If they choose to kick me out of the church because I believe that men and women are equal, so be it,’’ Bourgeois said. “I will never be at peace being in any organization that would exclude others.

“What’s going on in our church today is spiritual assassination, it’s spiritual violence being done that’s inexcusable. That is a scandal,’’ he said.

The Archdiocese of Boston yesterday declined to comment on the event in Weston, referring instead to a statement it issued last year saying, “The ordination of men to the priesthood is not merely a matter of practice or discipline within the Catholic Church, but rather, it is part of the unalterable Deposit of Faith handed down by Christ through his apostles.’’

And in 1994, Pope John Paul II declared that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,’’ citing both tradition and the fact that Jesus’ apostles were male.

For their part, advocates for women’s ordination say Jesus also had women in his inner circle, that polls show most American Catholics support their cause, and that the church faces a crushing shortage of priests.

But church officials say women play other valuable roles in the church, and the answer to the priest shortage is a combination of prayer and efforts to help young men recognize and accept callings to the priesthood.

Bourgeois is the first Catholic priest in good standing to participate in an unsanctioned ordination ceremony held by advocates of women’s ordination. He took part in a ceremony in Kentucky last summer.

In an interview yesterday, Bourgeois, 70, a Louisiana native, said he has stopped wearing a clerical collar and celebrating the Eucharist and other sacraments out of respect for the church’s view that he has been excommunicated.

But, he also said at one point, simply, “I am a priest.’’

He said he is confident his position on women priests is the correct one.

“If anyone should be excommunicated, it is the patriarchy involved in this discrimination,’’ he said. “But I don’t believe in excommunication - no one has a monopoly on the truth.’’

Bourgeois said he is winning some support from other priests.

He said five priests around the country have agreed to go public with their support for women’s ordination, and yesterday’s gathering drew at least three archdiocesan priests, none of whom would comment publicly.

Another attendee at yesterday’s event was Joe McLaughlin, 60, a Dorchester native who now lives in Storrs, Conn.

He said he came to the event after becoming frustrated by the diminished role for women at his own parish.

“My sister is a nun, I was an altar boy, and I don’t want to leave. But I get angry now, instead of inspired,’’ McLaughlin said.

Roberta Robinson, 60, of West Roxbury, said she now worships at an “ecumenical Catholic congregation’’ - a group not recognized by Rome - and that she came to the event “to support the movement.’’

She said she believes the Catholic Church will change its position on women’s ordination, saying, “it has to, or it will fall.’’

The event was held at the Congregational Church of Weston, a United Church of Christ congregation.

The pastor, the Rev. Joe Mayher, said in an interview that the church regularly hosts Marchant’s congregation, called “Spirit of Life,’’ because “we strongly share their values and their prophetic justice commitments.’’

Photos: Fr. Roy Bourgeois; Rev. Jean Merchant and her husband, Rev. Ron Hindelang, co-pastors of the Spirit of Life Community.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Faith without justice is meaningless": An interview with Fr. Manuel Plaza, SJ

Many articles and interviews are appearing with people who have been associated with the Jesuits who were killed in the massacre at the Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas" (UCA) in San Salvador 20 years ago. This interview is with Fr. Manuel Plaza, SJ. Fr. Plaza is the director of the Centro Ignaciano Espiritualidad Ellacuría and the Comité Óscar Romero in Burgos, Spain.

By R. Pérez Barredo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Diario de Burgos
August 23, 2009

The tall, affable man with snow-white hair and a luminous smile radiates the peace of the just. His clear and tempered speech brings one back to the essence of what Christ proclaimed: justice, dignity, solidarity, dialogue, and love are the words this Jesuit from Burgos born in 1935 repeats. Companion of Amando López, another Jesuit from Burgos who was assassinated with Ellacuría in El Salvador twenty years ago, he is organizing the homage that from Burgos will pay tribute to those martyrs in November and which will be open to all the people of Burgos. "It is important to create solidarity, which is something that is not just the role of us Jesuits, but of all who work for international cooperation, because it is helping people to lift themselves up."

A few months ago you visited El Salvador. Has it changed much in the twenty years since the murder of your companions happened?

I think there have been important changes. At the economic level, there is no resemblance between the El Salvador of today and the one 20 years ago: much has been built, highways have been built, big supermarkets...It's true that there are still pockets of poverty , as many or more than before. On the political level, the change with the election of Funes (Mauricio Funes, of the Frente Farabundo Martí de Liberación won the election last March ending two decades of right-wing rule) is a hopeful step for El Salvador and all of Central America. He is a man who on his election day publicly remembered Romero, the poor and the victims, something that is rarely seen in politics, and he is going to try to govern for all. It is a radical change.

And the Salvadoran Church?

There is also a substantial change with the naming of the new Archbishop of San Salvador, Monsignor José Luis Escobar, who also when he was named made reference to Romero, to the victims and the people, using Gospel language that doesn't always appear.

The language of the principles of liberation theology...

More than liberation theology, it's the language of the Gospel, of Jesus of Nazareth. And that language, which ought to be the norm, isn't in the Church.

Can the traces of those martyrs still be felt?

Yes. Whether we like it or not, the assassins, who are still alive and still say that they didn't do it and that they don't have to ask forgiveness, in an example of lack of ethics, are nobody. However, the victims of that massacre are a reference point for the people, as models of a Christian university.

What must a Christian university be?

It should train leaders who will denounce injustice and stand up for truth and justice.

What did Ellacuría, Amando López and the others represent for the Company of Jesus?

Something very important. When they would tell Arrupe (a Basque Jesuit who was the Superior General of the Company) that the Company was bad, he would respond: How can it be bad if they killed some twenty Jesuits in recent years?

What kind of young people are being trained by UCA?

The UCA students come from the comfortable middle-class; it's a private university, and, despite state assistance, one has to pay. Ellacuría used to stress that a university is Christian and Catholic when it has quality of life and teaching. It's true that the UCA of today is not the same as it was twenty years ago (the assassins knew very well who they were killing), but it is without doubt a national reference point and weighty at the international political and human rights level. The opinion of UCA during the recent elections was very important.

Is it a sort of light, a beacon of conscience and thought in Central America?

I would say that it is a light and a hope, liberating thought even though it makes some people nervous. And, above all -- and this is very important -- because the excluded are not far from the lecture halls, but present in the analysis of the national situation.

One month before the massacre you were in Burgos with Ellacuría. How do you remember that meeting?

They were going to give him the Fundación Comín Prize in Barcelona and a few days before, he came through here to be with us. I asked him if he was afraid that they would kill him. He answered that he wasn't. He was afraid that they might kidnap and torture him, but he was not afraid of death. Ellacuría was a dreamer. I remember that he was giving a speech and he spoke of another reality, another place different from our own. I thought clearly that he was a person who intended to give up his life.

Because the risk was great.

He had had to leave El Salvador several times because they were coming for him.

And what was Armando like?

He was a good man, a cordial man, a wise man. He had a gift for being with people. When you ask those who knew him, they smile because he was kind and welcoming. He conveyed more through this welcoming kindness than through all the speeches and homilies. The beautiful thing about those Jesuits is that they never lost contact with the people in addition to the classes.

I remember them mixing with the people in the slums and the most marginalized townships. From Monday to Friday they gave classes at the university and on the weekends they went into these townships. You have to take into account that they did this at a time of war, when real atrocities were being committed without any respect for human rights. At that time they even had target practice on little children. That's real, that's the truth. In that context, having to go to the townships or the suburbs to say Mass or give catechism was not only celebrating the Eucharist, but coming into contact with violence, tragedy, human rights abuses, with the danger of being killed themselves.

Why were they so bothered?

Because for them, faith in Jesus of Nazareth was inseparable from justice; a faith that does not include justice is not a gospel faith. As Ignatius of Loyola says, they let themselves be affected by suffering people, and what they did was to respond from the truth. So, from the university they internationalized this atrocity -- the whole world became aware of it through them. And they made the Salvadoran government and the American government uncomfortable.

And why do their heirs still do that?

I believe that the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth, in spite of living in a superficial and consumerist society such as we have in Europe, has something to say to the world. But something about hope, justice, kindness, reconciliation, peace. And that, for some systems, is not pleasing.

And the Vatican? Didn't it leave them a bit, let's say, abandoned?

The Church is like a family. There are many ways to experience it. There is one part that has taken a position in favor of the excluded of the world. Jesus loved everybody, but He was obsessed with the suffering of this world. There are men and women, religious and laity, who follow that line. So another part of the Church doesn't understand this? Well, what will we do?

But it's sad, isn't it?

Yes, but it's like it is in a family.

An investigation into the assassinations has been reopened, although 20 years later. Do you think the truth will end up being known?

It seems to me that the fact that those who are ideologically responsible for the assassinations are coming out is very important for justice. It is not about just looking for those who are responsible for the deaths of the Jesuits, that have to emerge, but also those who gave the orders. Why? Because the victims have a right to have their faces be publicly recognized. It is the same as what happened with Videla in Argentina and Pinochet in Chile. One must become aware that the victims have a face.

It seems that Latin America never stops ridding itself of populist and corrupt regimes with an eternal undercurrent of violence. Why?

The big problem is corruption. The most recent case we have seen is in Honduras, where the corrupt ones have been able to organize a coup d'état while justifying themselves through some laws and Catholic principles that they got out of nowhere. When there is a lack of ethics, violence comes. When a system is unsustainable because it lacks solidity and humanity, violence always appears.

The people, the poor, the oppressed are always the ones crucified: they are the saints.

That is what Jon Sobrino says. And so it is. Now, at a time of global crisis, benefits are privatized but harm is socialized. And that cannot be. It's that in the end the market, that iconoclastic god that is such an enemy of the oppressed people, collapses and ends up doing more damage to the disinherited. How terrible! That is why what impresses me is that in the face of the world crisis, when we hear the politicians, the excluded don't exist, they are not present in the analysis of the crisis. Deep down, they are trying to get out of the crisis through inhumane values. And history is going to repeat itself. Statistics for the last 20 years show that the number of poor people has not stopped increasing. It is ferocious capitalism that does not take into account human rights. Only profoundly human and profoundly believing people are able to confront this tremendous bull that is money for money's sake. Money is good, but when it is used badly it begets death.

Western democracies use the word "solidarity" a lot. Is it tangible and effective or is it smoke?

Affective solidarity is about 32 percent; effective solidarity goes down to about 17 or 18 percent. One continues to work for solidarity, yes. It is important, but the same economic crisis that has gone through the pockets of households has done the same with those of solidarity. But there will be solidarity to the extent that we learn to look at reality in a different way. For example, in Burgos there will be solidarity, inter-religious dialogue and value given to ethnicity if we learn to look at the 20,000 immigrants in the province in a different way. That is one of the challenges. And it is that society is changing. That is going to be very positive because these people also have their truth, their story, their life. As a Jesuit, I have learned how God speaks to us through the history that is coming.

Will it be much longer before social justice is achieved?

It is a dream, but it is not impossible. One must go towards it, because another world is possible.

In this sense, what does Obama represent?

He has been fresh air, a different way of positioning himself relative to other countries, with a stance of recognizing people, without subjugating them like Bush, who came and stomped on them, did. Obama has his faults and limitations but he is different. For millions of people he is fresh air. And we have to look a little beyond.

Is the Company of Jesus being put aside or covered up by new neoconservative groups?

The number of Jesuits has decreased, it's true, because age is unforgiving and there is a crisis in vocations. But at this moment there is a lot of hope, a great sensitivity to this whole world of dialogue with boundaries that are not between countries but between problems. I honestly believe that, though we have faults, obviously, there is a great vitality and a great concern to dialogue to help the world find the light.

Is this knowledge of the social reality what ails much of the Church?

It is a delicate subject, but there are many good people, with great sensitivity to the problems of today's world. In Honduras, the Dominicans have strongly denounced the coup d'état. Sometimes we are left with the scandals, abuses of power and arrogance -- those that are, have been and will be -- but there is another part that is walking hand in hand with men and women along the pathway of life. And there are many people in that caravan.

Do you think the Church should rethink some of its foundations to lead the caravan?

The Church would have to look more towards the Gospel to see how Jesus acted instead of looking at where we place our prestige, social status, and political and economic interests. And that is happening here and in other countries.

Jesus of Nazareth would now be in the Congo or some other terrible place. Or in a slum in Madrid. He would be working to heal, to liberate, to bring hope, to say that men and women have the same dignity, that the aged are a treasure and the living memory of the people and cannot be laid aside. Either the Church has that sensitivity and a commitment to it or it won't have any future.