This interview was published in Nuntii de Universa Nostra Congregatione, No. 490, June 2012, p.122.
Born in Balsareny (Barcelona, Spain) on February 16, 1928, Don Pedro is 84 years old. Made his first religious profession on September 8, 1945 and his perpetuals on March 19, 1949. Ordained a priest on May 31, 1952 and bishop on October 23, 1971 when Pope Paul VI entrusted him to the Prelature of Sao Félix de
Araguaia (Brazil). After his retirement he continued to live in Sao Felix as bishop emeritus. He has been called the "bishop of the poor" and his figure is the key to understanding the history of the Latin American Church in the post-conciliar era. In these latter years his concern has been for all the Churches. He has become a "global pastor". We thank Don Pedro for his kindness in responding to this interview.
NUNC: What is the current situation of Don Pedro Casaldáliga: human being, missionary disciple, bishop?
D. Pedro Casaldáliga: That of an 84-year-old man under the omnipotent control of Parkinson's disease. That of an underutilized disciple in the following of Jesus, but who has maintained a passion for the Kingdom, with an option for the poor as the great motivation for his life. That of a Claretian Missionary who admits having failed much as a member of the Congregation to which I owe almost everything. That of a border bishop with possible excesses, but also with appropriate achievements and supported by a great cloud of witnesses to the point of martyrdom.
Now 'I don't do anything'. I look to accept with 'hopeful humor' the limitations that Parkinson's has placed upon me and the requests of those who accompany me. I have more hours for meditation, I receive visitors, I write some messages and I look to correct my impatience and misunderstandings. Who's afraid having Easter?
NUNC: What can you share with us in your evaluation of your service as pastor of the Church of Mato Grosso?
D. Pedro Casaldáliga: Fortunately for me, I had from the beginning of the Prelature a pastoral team and I lived through a historical juncture of the Church of Vatican II and Medellín, in the company of great pastors and the pastoral ministry of the evangelical avant-garde, such as the ZEBU, the CIMI, the CPT, the insertion of Religious Life, intercultural dialog, the solidarity that we have received and have given. Always in the option for the poor.
NUNC: Of the teachings given to this people and to the peoples of Latin America in general, what do you value the most and why?
D. Pedro Casaldáliga: The spirit of welcome, of hospitality, of 'partilha' (sharing). The contagious joy, simplicity, sobriety (which is a great warning to our vow of poverty), the proximity of the Samaritan woman who helps to create community in Society and the Church.
NUNC: What is your perception of the Catholic Church at the present time?
D. Pedro Casaldáliga: Without being defeatist, because I always count on Easter hope, we need to recognize that our Church is living in a time of disillusionment and difficulty, of sad distances between the institution and the people. There is a lack of proximity between the structure and credibility.
On the other hand, there is a growth in adult faith and co-responsibility among many sectors of the laity. But there is a freedom of spirit, which may have its excesses, but which has a lot of personal and community experience, a sign of the times; following Jesus with a prophetic opening to the world of today.
Ecumenism and the macro-ecumenism will be imposed because they are a call of the spirit of Pentecost.
NUNC: What perspectives do you envision for the Claretian mission in the Churches of Latin America?
D. Pedro Casaldáliga: Avoid dispersion and strengthen community life and teamwork, with a shared mission for the truth. Thus, the local churches in which you are working will become yours.
Live more and more as a community and make it a community. The condition of the "young vineyard" recognized by the founder in Our America will oblige us to respond with a passionate mission (the urgency of Claret) and hopeful to any challenge. We must embrace the organized awakening of our original Afro-American-Indian peoples. The "Service of the Word" will always be a service to the cry of the suffering, excluded masses and a service to the silence imposed by the various powers of this world. And it must be, personally and in community, the prayerful welcome of the Word. Let us also take on fully the opportunities the media presents to us.