Friday, January 13, 2012

Challenges and tasks of theology in the Andean region from the perspective of indigenous theology

by Sofía Chipana Quispe

Text of Bolivian indigenous theologian Sofía Chipana Quispe's presentation at the Jornadas Teológicas Andinas in Bogotá, Colombia, October 21, 2011.


In this sharing, I want to evoke the memory of the ancestors who lived in our Andean region, who left us a legacy: wisdom, spirituality, personal experiences, art, rituals, sacred and ancient myths that help us to see ourselves as descendants of cultures thousands of years old.

To address the challenges and tasks of indigenous theology, I will use the method of Latin American Theology: SEE, JUDGE, ACT AND CELEBRATE, a method that somewhat reflects the indigenous perspective, that goes to the source, to rethink how we are today, and to lead to an inspired, dreamed and desired future. Moreover we are regaining the celebratory dimension that is very strong in indigenous spirituality, but there's no celebration as long as there's no reason to, which is why it's important to look inward, to measure the extent to which one has passed through the Qapac Ñan, the path of wisdom that enables Sumaj Kausay, Suma Qamaña .

I. The emergence of indigenous peoples

"We realize that we are a massive force and we are increasingly more aware, and the awakening of the sleeping giant is inevitable after being under centuries of oppression and humiliation."

Political Declaration. VIII ampliado de la CSUTCB (1). Sucre, February 27, 1986

It seems appropriate to use the metaphor of the giant to express the significant presence of indigenous peoples. It's not a recent awakening, but it's the experience of people who didn't cave in in their daily fight for survival, silent and anonymous struggles that kept alive the hope and strength of many generations who passed on to us the dream of a land without evil.

In these times, we can not deny that we are witnessing the emergence of many indigenous peoples who have been marginalized and exploited for centuries, and today their voices and presence are felt strongly because they are demanding their collective rights, the right to be themselves, to preserve the polyphony of their languages and cultures, to care for and defend their lands and territories, to preserve their self-determination, to fight for quality education, to look out for the recognition of their own spirituality and religious practices. And, as Xavier Albó asks, "should their awakening be a cause for panic or hope?" (2)

However, the awakening of the indigenous peoples doesn't happen the same way, so it is important to remember what is stated in the introduction of the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples: "situation of indigenous peoples varies from region to region and from country to country and that the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical and cultural backgrounds should be taken into consideration."(3)

Therefore, one shouldn't limit oneself to looking at the large indigenous populations, but at the significant presence of indigenous communities throughout the world who are demanding their rights within society and are demanding a theological reflection within the faiths that takes their spirituality into account.

In turn, we can not ignore the resistance of many indigenous peoples in recent times against the threat posed by transnational companies, hydroelectric projects, the mining, agro-forestry, oil and other companies supported by the nation states on behalf of an alleged "development" for a few at the expense of the life of indigenous communities.

And another reality that can not be overlooked is migration and the search for a decent life, since the presence of indigenous people bearing their cultures has burst into various urban areas. While enriching these spaces, they run the risk of experiencing being uprooted from their native lands and the loss of ancestral values.

II. The challenge of the Church in the face of the indigenous presence

The process of opening and change for the Catholic world was undoubtedly the Second Vatican Council (1965) which proposed opening the windows of the Church to let in fresh air that would revitalize the life of the faithful and that encouraged the re-creation of church life of the Western world, in the Asian, African and Latin American worlds.

Moreover, liberation theology put the poor as a subject of theology on the screen of theological tasks. In this theological process, we indigenous men and women were classified as poor, so that our cultural and spiritual situation wasn't considered. However, the identification process as historical subjects became evident as the indigenous analyzed their social and pastoral situation after a process of reflection within the various churches, concluding that their cultural oppression was crying out for liberation.

Although an effort was made, because of recognizing the cultural differences of indigenous peoples, a much greater challenge has emerged -- moving from an acknowledgment of multiculturalism that tolerates and harmonizes differences to an intercultural dialogue that enriches our life together, without there being a dominant culture but a symmetrical relationship in which there is an appreciation of and sensitivity to indigenous spirituality, which was long regarded as popular religiosity, syncretism, or in some cases "idolatry." But because of what our peoples are experiencing, we dare to suggest that it isn't religious syncretism in the Andes, but a shared religion. Many of the indigenous could not reject the prevailing religious values that were critical to the structure of colonial society that excluded them more and more, so they accepted the official religion, but their hearts were still firmly attached to their spirituality, and they lived it out in secret. And over time some Christian practices acquired their space and importance, just as indigenous spirituality has its times and its spaces.

III. Weaving indigenous spirituality with broken and burnt threads

So far we have seen that indigenous theology made a process, which is evident in the diverse experiences in various regions of Abya Yala , strengthened in some regions by the emergence of indigenous movements that have taken stands and questioned the political, economic and religious system. But there are many outstanding tasks to take on and challenges to face.

The Tasks of Indigenous Theology:

- Moving beyond a valuation of what is indigenous that is linked to the rural area, because migratory movements from country to city, a very frequent situation, are causing the need to approach the indigenous spirituality that is being re-created in urban areas, where we find second and third generation migrants looking to value our Andean identity and seeking to experience a reconciliation process with our identity.

- A big task we, the new generations of indigenous theologians, have is, as the Mayan wise woman Ernestina López says, is "rescuing the ancient broken and burnt threads and creatively weaving our indigenous spirituality"(4), in dialogue with Christian spirituality.

- In the process of reflection about Indigenous Theology, one task which we are invited to take on is to dive into the depths of our own wells, to drink the wisdom of our ancestors as expressed in the myths and legends, the still told stories, the songs that are still being sung, folklore, dance expressions, proverbs, taboos, laments, ethical codes, symbols, allegories, metaphors, imagery, maps, and codes that reflect a new vision of life.

- Delving further into indigenous world views and spiritualities, perhaps by borrowing the tools of the Phenomenology of Religion, to be able to sketch out indigenous theology.

The Challenges of Indigenous Theology

- From the perspective of Indigenous Theology, we are challenged to confront the modern individualistic world view that, from a patriarchal, androcentric and anthropocentric way of thinking that is often grounded in the theological discourses of a logic of dominance, has separated human beings from nature and legitimated colonization and the repression of indigenous peoples. Therefore the challenge is for us, from the perspective of indigenous spirituality, to share our world views that perceive the reality of life in an inter-connected and inter-related way. This gives a holistic view that is pluralistic, centered on the life and earth, and that leads to a commitment to the deconstruction of theological constructs that seek to present themselves as the only way to think theologically.

- Recognizing that ancient spirituality challenges us, starting from different cosmocentric world views and wisdom, to rebuild a theology that overcomes dualism -- spirit/matter, black/white, inside/outside, heaven/earth -- through the strong sense of the inter-relationship with the land and the lives of other beings, which gives a holistic view, focusing on life and on the earth.

- Taking on the challenge of rethinking inter-religious dialogue with the spirituality of indigenous peoples in Latin America.

- Initiating a process of mutual understanding and interaction between the indigenous spirituality and wisdom of various areas of our region, which has long acquired an Andean hue and excludes the Amazonian, with the support of indigenous leaders, indigenous theologians and wise men and women.

- Discuss the common characteristics of the different expressions of indigenous spirituality.

- Explore a theological reflection that goes beyond a streamlined theological discourse and creatively interprets indigenous wisdom and spirituality.

IV. We welcome the emergence of indigenous men and women as subjects and not objects

- Celebrate that despite various official pressures from the Church, the encounter between the brothers and sisters of southern Peru and the Aymara and Quechua area of Bolivia is growing stronger, and thanks to that resistance, the XXI Andean Theological and Pastoral Encounter was held this week, meeting in Puno, thinking about the images of God in the Andean context.

- We celebrate the tasty fruits of spirituality that are being gestated by our indigenous brothers and sisters who travel through the various areas of Mother Earth guided by the dream of a decent little house, good food for their families, training of their children, and the many other dreams that fuel their journey.

- We celebrate that on our journey, we found that the ancestral tree had been cut and the branches damaged, but the roots could not be eliminated, which is why the peoples and their plans to revitalize their identity and become alternatives to a globalized world are re-emerging.

- We celebrate the memory of our ancestors who are with us, because we are conscious of drinking constantly from the depths of our own wells the wisdom to teach the new generations, which are now the present and needing to feed on the flavorful fruits of our ancient cultures to weave their dreams and projects of hope.

- We celebrate the hope against hope, of our indigenous peoples who enable the Qapac Ñan to take the path towards the experience of Sumaj Kausay, the Suma Qamaña, in the inter-relationship with our great common home, Earth conceived as Pachamama, Mother Earth who seeks to be nurtured and re-created.

- We celebrate the presence of a God of Life who crosses all religious barriers and can be named individually in different languages.


(1) Acronym for the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia.

(2) Xavier Albó. El gigante despierta. Cuarto Intermedio 77 (2005), 25 – 26.

(3) United Nations. UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 2008, p.1

(4) Encuentro de Teólogas Indígenas de Abya Yala. Berlín – El Salvador. November 29, 2009

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fellow servants

By Sr. Teresa Forcades (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Un Manament Nou

NOTE: These current columns by Sr. Teresa, which we will be gradually translating into English, are extracts from her most recent book, published in Catalan in 2011 by the Abadía de Montserrat, Ser persona, avui: estudi del concepte de ‘persona’ en la teologia trinitària clàssica i de la seva relació amb la noció moderna de llibertat ["Being a person today: a study in the concept of 'person' in classic Trinitarian theology and its relationship to the modern notion of freedom"].

Basil recognizes that master-slave relationships are a given among men and he doesn't condemn or reject them in principle. In some cases he even justifies them, understanding then that the "master" isn't the one who exploits the subject for his own benefit, but the one who decides for him for the benefit of all:

"Some, oppressed by the power of others, have been reduced to the yoke of slavery, like captives of war, or others, because of their poverty, as the Egyptians [it seems like he should have said Hebrews instead of Egyptians] under Pharaoh, or, according to a wise and arcane provision, disadvantaged children have been sentenced to serve the more clever and gifted ones, something an impartial observer would not consider a condemnation, but a benefit. Since the one who, through lack of understanding, does not have rule over himself by nature, it is more useful for him to make himself the property of another so that, led by the reason of the owner, he ressembles the chariot that receives the charioteer or the ship that has the captain at the helm." (20:51)

However, in light of what has been said of the concept of 'communion' in Basil, isn't this definition of 'relationality' contradictory? Doesn't Basil argue precisely that 'communion' excludes 'subordination', and that nor is subordination benevolent and, in principle, beneficial to both sides? Indeed, we find on this point in my opinion an example of the necessary transformation of human relations in the light of divine ones:

"They [those who claim that the Spirit is neither slave nor master, but free] insult the dogmas of theology with human examples and try to fit the custom of the world, which maintains sharp differences in dignity, to the ineffable divine nature, not perceiving that, among humans, no one is a slave by nature." (20:51)

In this short paragraph, we distinguish the following three statements: 1. that the customs of the world are not criteria for assessing divine realities, 2. that differences in dignity don't fit into the ineffable divine nature, and 3. that among human beings no one is a slave [meaning 'slave of another man'] by nature. Precisely because God is Lord (the one Lord), all master-slave relationships between men are ultimately delegitimized (here we find the seeds of modern consciousness of equality in dignity and human rights, and their ultimate foundation):

"So, therefore, while one is called master and the other slave, both due to the equal respect we owe each other and the fact that we are like possessions of the One who created us, we are fellow servants. If this is so, who could be excluded from servitude? Because of the fact itself of being created, one is made a servant. Creatures don't really rule over each other (...)." (20.51)

Learning to live

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo

John 1:35-42

John the Evangelist narrates the humble beginnings of Jesus' small group of followers. His tale begins mysteriously. We are told that Jesus "was walking by." We don't know where He is coming from or where He is going to. He doesn't linger with John the Baptist. He goes beyond his religious world of the desert. Therefore, he tells his disciples to pay attention to Him: "This is the Lamb of God."

Jesus comes from God, not with power and glory, but as a defenseless and unarmed lamb. He will never impose Himself by force; He will not compel anyone to believe in Him. One day He will be sacrificed on a cross. Those who want to follow Him will have to accept Him freely.

The two disciples who have listened to John the Baptist begin to follow Jesus without saying a word. There's something in Him that attracts them although they still don't know who He is nor where He is taking them. Nonetheless, to follow Jesus it's not enough to listen to what others say about Him. A personal experience is needed.

So Jesus turns around and asks them a very important question: "What are you looking for?" These are Jesus' first words to those who follow Him. We can't walk in His footsteps any old way. What are we expecting from Him? Why do we follow Him? What are we looking for?

Those men don't know where the adventure of following Jesus can take them, but they sense that He can teach them something they don't yet know: "Rabbi, where do you live?" They don't look for great doctrines from Him. They want Him to show them where He lives, how He lives, and for what. They want Him to teach them to live. Jesus says to them: "Come and you will see."
In and out of the Church, there are many today who live lost in the labyrinth of life, without a path or direction. Some start to strongly feel the need to learn to live differently, more humanely, in a healthier and more worthy manner. Meeting Jesus can be great news for them.

It's difficult to approach this Jesus as described by the evangelists without feeling attracted to Him. Jesus opens a new horizon for our lives. He teaches us to live starting with a God who wants the best for us. Little by little, He frees us from the deception, fear, and selfishness that are blocking us.

Anyone who starts to walk behind Him begins to regain joy and sensitivity towards those who suffer. He begins to live more truthfully and generously, with more meaning and hope. When one meets Jesus, one has the feeling of finally beginning to live life starting from the roots, since one starts to live based on a Good God, one who is more humane, friendly and salvific than all our theories. Everything begins to be different.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Italian "priests from the border" call for women and married priests

by Alessia Pilotto (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Il Gazzettino

They want a Church that opens its doors to women priests and married priests, a poor Church, without titles, without trappings and free from the constraints of power, a Church that pays taxes and asks homosexuals and victims of pedophilia for forgiveness, a more democratic Church, a Church as a place of forgiveness that welcomes everyone. Except that those who are asking are not just anybody, but a group of priests.

The "requests" are contained in the now traditional Christmas Letter (the ninth one) presented yesterday at the Centro Balducci in Zugliano, in the municipality of Pozzuolo del Friuli (Udine), and signed by ten priests, those who have been called "the priests from the border", from lives in contact with the marginalized and who often land in the news for heterodox positions with respect to the Church: Pierluigi Di Piazza (Centro Balducci), Franco Saccavini (Udine, San Domenico), Mario Vatta (Comunità di San Martino al Campo, Trieste); Giacomo Tolot (Vallenoncello, Pordenone), Piergiorgio Rigolo (prison chaplain in Pordenone), Alberto De Nadai (Comunità Arcobaleno, Gorizia), Andrea Bellavite (former pastor and former director of Voce Isontina, Gorizia), Luigi Fontanot (Fiumicello, Gorizia), Albino Bizzotto (Beati i costruttori di pace, Padova -- photo), Antonio Santini (Vicenza).

"It's a letter inspired by the Second Vatican Council," explained Don Di Piazza. "We have written to communicate what the people are communicating to us, a way to re-express the demands and continue the dialogue." This year's missive is entirely centered on the Church, "for which we are deeply grateful" the text reads. "It is this gratitude that sustains us in considering the shadows and the betrayals of the Gospel. When the Church receives power, it loses the strength to denounce illegality, injustice, immorality, racism, as happens in our region at the political and legislative level."

Among the topics raised, reconsidering the hour of religion [religious ed in the schools] (which should become a study of religious phenomenon) and the issue of military chaplains ("because the question of the relationship between the Gospel and weapons is still open"). But also the crisis and the relationship between Church and politics: "A Church that is silent in the face of the tragedies of the world is light years away from Jesus. The current crisis is ethical and cultural more than economic. Christians must work for a new world, but a Catholic political party is unthinkable."


Lettera di Natale 2011

La Chiesa del Vangelo e del Concilio Vaticano II con le porte sempre aperte

Anche quest’anno, in prossimità del Natale, vi scriviamo. Sappiamo che diversi di voi, amiche ed amici, aspettano; crediamo che altri possano esserne interessati o incuriositi. È comunque nostra intenzione offrire un’opportunità di dialogo e di confronto con quanti lo vorranno.

Dopo la lettera di Natale del 2009 riguardo al Dio in cui non crediamo e al Dio in cui crediamo, dopo quella del 2010 su Gesù di Nazareth, avvertiamo il desiderio di comunicare le nostre esperienze e sofferenze, le nostre convinzioni e speranze riguardo alla Chiesa, guidata dallo Spirito di verità e libertà.

Siamo preti convinti e desiderosi sempre più di testimoniare il Vangelo in questa Chiesa cattolica; ad essa siamo profondamente grati per la fede ricevuta e nutrita; per le testimonianze di fedeltà e coerenza al Vangelo di tante donne e tanti uomini, a cominciare dalle nostre famiglie; per la Parola che continuamente ci provoca e consola; per i sacramenti celebrati con le comunità che serviamo, soprattutto per l’Eucaristia; per la ricchezza spirituale, culturale, umana sperimentata; per lo straordinario patrimonio di profeti e martiri a cui attingiamo luce e sostegno nel nostro cammino.

È questa profonda gratitudine che ci sostiene fortemente nel considerare le ombre e i tradimenti al Vangelo di cui la cronaca è cruda testimone e nell’affrontare la complessità della situazione presente.

Chiedendo coerenza prima di tutto a noi stessi, spesso ci interroghiamo sul rapporto fra la storia in generale, le storie delle persone che incontriamo e la dottrina della Chiesa, che spesso avvertiamo come un mondo lontano, a se stante.

La Chiesa di Gesù di Nazareth, sacramento di salvezza

Ci riconosciamo preti nella Chiesa comunità di fede, che fa scaturire e motivare la sua presenza e la sua azione nella storia da Gesù di Nazareth ucciso-risorto e dal suo Vangelo. Troviamo conferme importanti per questa appartenenza nella tradizione viva dei martiri, dei profeti e dei santi e delle sante e, ultimamente, nella Chiesa del Concilio ecumenico Vaticano II, a nostro giudizio troppe volte ignorato o male interpretato.

Quando si parla della Chiesa, comunemente ci si riferisce alla gerarchia: papa, cardinali, vescovi, preti, diaconi... Sono solo una parte di essa, che invece è composta da tutti coloro che – grazie al Battesimo che hanno ricevuto – sono diventati in Cristo “sacerdoti, re e profeti”, segno visibile dell’amore di Dio che fa di tutti gli esseri umani il “popolo di Dio”.

La Chiesa vissuta, quindi, nel suo insieme non come fine, ma segno, “sacramento
di salvezza” nella storia, nella misura in cui, guidata dalla forza dello Spirito, riesce ad essere fedele al Dio di Gesù e al Vangelo.

Il fine è il Regno di Dio, ‘il sogno’ di Dio sull’umanità: la giustizia, l’uguaglianza, l’accoglienza, il perdono, la pace, il bene... Un sogno che troverà compimento nel mistero di Dio e sarà realizzato nella forza del suo Spirito, ma che riguarda pienamente la storia dell’umanità, senza alcun alibi e rimando; perché esso si realizzi, chiede a tutti impegno, fedeltà e perseveranza.

Spesso risuonano in noi, anche perché suggerite da incontri con le storie di tante persone, le parole con cui inizia il documento Gaudium et Spes del Concilio ecumenico Vaticano II: “Le gioie e le speranze, le tristezze e le angosce degli uomini di oggi, dei poveri soprattutto e di tutti coloro che soffrono, sono pure le gioie e le speranze, le tristezze e le angosce dei discepoli di Cristo e nulla vi è di genuinamente umano che non trovi eco nel loro cuore”.

La Chiesa è nello stesso tempo “santa e peccatrice”, sempre da “convertire”, perché formata da uomini e donne con le loro fragilità, perché istituzione storica segnata da condizionamenti, parzialità, errori. Il suo fondamento costitutivo è il Vangelo di Gesù Cristo. Quando da esso si allontana al punto di smentirlo o tradirlo in maniera sistematica, diventa una istituzione di potere fra le altre, con l’aggravante e la copertura di pretendere il suggello divino di custode della verità.

Crediamo la Chiesa profetica, coraggiosa nell’annuncio del Vangelo, fedele e coerente nella testimonianza, con scelte chiare, da tutti leggibili, che sa dire: “ sì, sì; no, no”.

Contro ogni privilegio

Quando la Chiesa riceve dal potere - economico, politico e militare- finanziamenti, vantaggi, privilegi e onori perde la forza profetica di denunciare con libertà la corruzione, l’illegalità, l’ingiustizia, l’immoralità, le guerre, il razzismo, nella nostra Regione manifestato anche a livello politico e legislativo.

Così è avvenuto e continua ad avvenire in ogni parte del mondo, con la drammatica conseguenza che il potere si sente in questo modo legittimato, difeso, compiaciuto, incoraggiato e sostenuto. Possiamo esemplificare con due situazioni:

L’insegnamento della religione cattolica nella scuola

Sarebbe, a nostro avviso, importante che Stato e Chiesa riconsiderassero l’ora di religione cattolica nella scuola. In una società sempre più multietnica, multiculturale e plurireligiosa l’insegnamento della religione dovrebbe essere concepito e proposto come insegnamento del fenomeno religioso sotto tutti i suoi aspetti, come conoscenza, obbligatoria per tutti, delle diverse religioni. Risulterebbe conseguente che la scelta degli insegnanti e la loro formazione dovrebbero seguire le modalità comuni a tutti gli altri, con titoli di studio e abilitazioni professionali di competenza dello Stato, senza la necessità di “idoneità” da parte di un’autorità religiosa. Non quindi un’ora di religione cattolica che esclude e separa, ma un’ora di insegnamento delle religioni che unisce e arricchisce.

I Cappellani militari

Avvertiamo inoltre l’urgenza grave di ripensare la presenza dei Cappellani militari nell’esercito, e la loro collocazione come graduati con stipendio corrispondente e privilegi annessi e connessi. Presenza sempre più discutibile in un esercito ora professionale, ma che, al massimo, potrebbe avere un senso come servizio di vicinanza umile e disinteressata alle persone, senza assumere una funzione strutturale e gerarchica all’interno dell’esercito. Rimane infatti aperta la grave questione del rapporto fra il Vangelo e le armi e su questo, in modo particolare, la nostra Chiesa dovrebbe dire una parola inequivocabilmente chiara, seguendo il Vangelo della non violenza e della costruzione della pace.

La Chiesa dei diversi ministeri e carismi

Nella Chiesa ci sono varietà di presenze, compiti, ministeri.

Con evidenza vanno riconosciuti i diversi ruoli e ministeri, tra essi anche quelli specifici del magistero e dei teologi. Il primo svolge il servizio di custodire e annunciare la fede, di testimoniarla con fedeltà e coerenza, attento costantemente al “sensus fidei” del popolo. È importante anche il compito dei teologi che devono favorire l’approfondimento delle grandi questioni nel rapporto tra fede, ragione e storia; è tanto più significativo tale compito quanto più la riflessione parte dalla realtà, non quando si svolge solo in modo teorico; quando è libero nell’approfondimento e nella proposta. La teologia della liberazione resta un esempio eloquente.

Avvertiamo con particolare urgenza la necessità di privilegiare la testimonianza e la coerenza rispetto all’ortodossia e alla disciplina: sempre e prima di tutto obbedienti al Vangelo.

Alla richiesta di una maggiore democrazia nella Chiesa, si risponde solitamente che la Chiesa è molto di più della democrazia, è comunione. In realtà, per esserlo, la Chiesa dovrebbe promuovere partecipazione e corresponsabilità. Di fatto la rinuncia alla prassi democratica nel confronto, nelle decisioni, nelle scelte e nell’obbedienza, riduce e spesso vanifica la comunione; essa infatti, non può essere invocata per coprire la mancanza di democrazia.

Riteniamo che si debba aprire un dialogo sereno su quelli che vengono chiamati, ormai in maniera sempre più stanca e rituale, “valori non negoziabili”: famiglia, matrimonio, concepimento, conclusione della vita...

Siamo convinti che tali problemi sempre più in grado di coinvolgere profondamente la coscienza e la sensibilità delle persone non debbano mai diventare oggetto di trattativa ideologico-politica. Non si dovrà certo percorrere la strada del relativismo etico, bensì riaffermare l’opzione etica di fondo, che accoglie le sofferenze e le speranze di tutti, che si lascia provocare dalla complessità della vita, con il fine costante di contribuire all’accoglienza, al sostegno, all’incoraggiamento, alla serenità e al bene delle persone.

Crediamo la Chiesa come luogo del perdono, dedita a prendersi cura delle situazioni di difficoltà, fragilità, smarrimento, in cui ogni servizio all’uomo possa essere riconosciuto come servizio evangelico. Tra essi c’è anche il ministero sacerdotale che riteniamo possa essere svolto - con pari dignità - da uomini celibi e sposati e da donne prete; la riconsiderazione della legge del celibato potrà finalmente affermare la libertà e con una speciale attenzione valutare positivamente la disponibilità al servizio dei preti sposati che, per l’attuale disciplina, sono stati costretti a lasciare il ministero. Crediamo si debba ripensare il ruolo della donna, simile e complementare a quello dell’uomo, anche riguardo ai ministeri ordinati. Per quanto riguarda questa questione siamo convinti che non sussistano motivi biblici e teologici decisivi di contrarietà; del resto non si tratterebbe di una scontata rivendicazione di parità dei diritti, ma molto più profondamente, di coinvolgere la ricchezza e la diversità di genere, liberando così la Chiesa da un maschilismo di fatto che ha conseguenze non di poco conto nelle decisioni dottrinali ed etiche.

Riteniamo che nell’ambito della riflessione sui ministeri sia necessario considerare con particolare attenzione le dimensioni dell’affettività, dell’amore, della sessualità, anche attraverso la convocazione di un Sinodo mondiale e allo stesso tempo di incontri nelle comunità parrocchiali e nelle Diocesi, per ricostruire una vera e propria teologia dell’affettività e della sessualità, esaminando serenamente alla luce del Vangelo, e con il contributo delle donne e degli uomini di scienza e di esperienza, le diverse situazioni e implicanze. Questa riflessione induce a chiedere perdono a tutte le vittime della pedofilia, per la violenza e le sofferenze inflitte, per i silenzi e le coperture; e ancora alle persone omosessuali per l’esclusione nei loro confronti.

Una Chiesa povera

Riteniamo che la Chiesa debba farsi carico con maggiore limpidezza e credibilità, di una più autentica e forte testimonianza del Vangelo riguardo al denaro, ai beni, alle strutture, e in genere allo stile di vita.

Crediamo la Chiesa povera, umile, sobria, essenziale, libera da ogni avidità riguardo al possesso dei beni. Ricordiamo che proprio Gesù di Nazareth ci ha consegnato il vero modello di povertà evangelica quando “da ricco che era si fece povero per arricchirci con la sua povertà” (2Cor.8,9). La Chiesa utilizzi quindi sempre con trasparenza il denaro, i beni, le strutture, rendendo conto pubblicamente di tutto. Sia sempre chiaro il fine a servizio delle comunità e della promozione della persona con una reale opzione dei poveri vicini e solo geograficamente lontani. Non ci si preoccupi, quindi, di diventare più ricchi per aiutare di più, ma ci sia l’impegno ad imparare, sull’esempio di Cristo, a stare accanto ai più piccoli anche con la propria povertà. La Chiesa quindi, paghi doverosamente le tasse riguardo a quei beni che non sono in modo chiaro ed evidente finalizzati alla solidarietà, alla promozione culturale, al bene comune.

Le donne e gli uomini che osano chiamarsi cristiani, vivano in modo dignitoso, semplice e sobrio, senza accumulare e ostentare, a cominciare dal Papa, dai vescovi, dai preti, dagli ordini religiosi maschili e femminili.

Siamo convinti che la Chiesa debba scegliere una volta per sempre di liberarsi dai ridicoli titoli nobiliari e onorifici quali Sua Santità. Eminenza, Eccellenza, Monsignore, Reverendo..., perché a questo ci richiama espressamente il Vangelo oltre che il buon senso. Anche a chi svolge perciò i doverosi compiti di guida e di responsabilità ci si possa, quindi, rivolgere in modo semplice, fraterno, filiale.

Riteniamo anche che la Chiesa debba fare uno sforzo decisivo per liberarsi dai vestiti e paludamenti clericali che appartengono ad altri tempi e mentalità. Essi tendono a sottolineare distanze e dipendenze di cui non troviamo traccia nel Vangelo.

Crediamo la Chiesa dell’accoglienza, delle porte aperte, senza pregiudizio o giudizio, tanto meno rifiuto: prima l’accoglienza, l’ascolto, la comprensione, l’attenzione poi il dialogo, il confronto, il sostegno. Crediamo la Chiesa, che accompagna negli interrogativi e nella ricerca di risposte, che sa ascoltare e imparare prima di esprimersi ed insegnare.

Crediamo la Chiesa che si apre all’incontro, al dialogo, alla conoscenza, alla preghiera, e condivide, con donne e uomini di altre fedi religiose, con tutte le donne e tutti gli uomini di buona volontà, la responsabilità per la giustizia, la pace, la salvaguardia del creato.

Ricordiamo che “la regola d’oro” “Fai agli altri ciò che vuoi gli altri facciano a te”, è egualmente presente, solo con qualche piccola varietà verbale, in tutte le più grandi tradizioni religiose dell’umanità.

Una Chiesa che può ispirare l’impegno politico, ma mai compromessa con il potere

In questo periodo la Chiesa Italiana ripropone un rinnovato impegno politico dei cattolici e ribadisce che la fede non può essere rinchiusa in una dimensione individuale, privatistica. Riteniamo che si debba particolarmente avvertire questa urgenza nell’attuale momento storico. Nella crisi epocale in corso, che sempre più vede l’aumento endemico delle disuguaglianze, lo scandalo della fame con il crescente numero di poveri, l’insostenibilità dell’attuale modello di sviluppo con ricorrenti crisi finanziarie di vaste proporzioni, conflitti tra culture, religioni e identità diverse, la Chiesa è impegnata a richiamare i cristiani alla loro responsabilità di collaborare alla gestazione di un mondo più giusto e fraterno. Una Chiesa che tace o rimane insensibile di fronte alle tragedie del mondo contemporaneo è distante anni luce dall’eredità di Gesù e dal suo annuncio di liberazione. Sono quindi doverose la riflessione e la proposta continua di una società e di un mondo riconoscibili per la giustizia, l’uguaglianza, i diritti umani uguali per tutti; e questo nella nostra società e nell’intero pianeta sempre più interdipendente. La crisi attuale è etica e culturale, ancor prima che economica.

Ribadiamo l’importanza della laicità della politica.

Se è vero che le donne e gli uomini credenti devono cercare nella loro fede ispirazione e forza per dare il proprio contributo alla costruzione della società degli uomini, è anche vero che tale contributo non può prescindere da un confronto anche dialettico che tenga realisticamente conto del possibile più che di salvaguardare affermazioni di principio.

Nell’aula dei Consigli di rappresentanza (comunali, provinciali, regionali, nazionali o sovranazionali), nel partecipare ad una commissione, nel preparare una legge, nel votare una scelta, ciascuno esprimerà il suo patrimonio spirituale ed etico. Non servono dichiarazioni preventive facendone un blocco di ideologia religiosa o specularmente laicista, Non è pensabile quindi un partito di cattolici. Essi si esprimano nella laicità della politica e delle istituzioni. Ci si chiede: le persone impegnate in politica e che si dichiarano cattoliche partecipano a una comunità, alla celebrazione dell’eucarestia? Da dove traggono l’ispirazione?

La Chiesa dell’accoglienza, della condivisione e della festa

Crediamo la Chiesa che vive la liturgia, la celebrazione dell’Eucaristia e degli altri sacramenti con intensità e semplicità, in modo responsabile, partecipato e diretto, celebrando per vivere l’incontro fra noi e Dio, fra storia e trascendenza, fra concretezza e mistero, fra spiritualità e materialità, fra memoria, presente e futuro: fra il già e il non ancora. Sentiamo disagio per le liturgie contrassegnate dal protagonismo del clero, a cui il popolo assiste con distacco.

Crediamo la liturgia che celebra la benevolenza di Dio e la nostra vita che a Lui si ricollega nelle esperienze più diverse: la nascita, la morte, l’amore, il lavoro, le scelte più importanti, il dolore, la speranza.

Se l’accoglienza è decisiva, come crediamo, per la nostra testimonianza di fede, ci permettiamo di indicare una possibilità: che ogni comunità cristiana accolga una persona, o una famiglia, con particolare attenzione a chi vive nel territorio: la disponibilità di una stanza o un appartamento per l’accoglienza di un italiano o di uno straniero, di un malato o di un ex carcerato... e questo come comunità.

Emergono spesso dal nostro profondo le parole di Bonhoeffer, grande teologo martire del nazismo: “Viene un tempo nel quale ci restano due scelte: pregare e operare per la giustizia”.

Una Chiesa che preghi e operi per la giustizia. Da qui ripartiamo e qui ritorniamo.

Sottoscrivono i preti:

Pierluigi Di Piazza (Udine); Franco Saccavini (Udine); Mario Vatta (Trieste); Giacomo Tolot (Pordenone); Piergiorgio Rigolo (Pordenone); Alberto De Nadai (Gorizia); Andrea Bellavite (Gorizia); Luigi Fontanot (Gorizia); Albino Bizzotto (Padova); Antonio Santini (Vicenza)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sister Eugenia Russián, Missionary of Christ: "God speaks through the community, from the sweeper to the Pope"

by Clodovaldo Hernández (English translation and additional information by Rebel Girl)
Redes Cristianas

She is a nun, a human rights advocate, and simply and quietly leads Mass in her small community in Caracas, without even seeking ordination. Sr. Eugenia "Sister Jenny" Russián is currently president of the Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social ("Latin American Foundation for Human Rights and Social Development" - Fundalatin) and has been a Missionaries of Christ nun for 20 years. She also directs the Instituto de Desarrollo Humano y Economía Social (IDHES) which works in various working class areas of Caracas and in the interior of the country in community organizing.

Sister Jenny has worked in the peasant communities in the state of Sucre, Venezuela, in the Yaruro indigenous community in Apure, and she currently works as vicar ("vicaria") of the Santa Ana parish in a poor area of Caracas with groups of families, youth and children of the area. She leads Christian base communities and gives workshops on ethics and human rights to the Caracas police. She has a program on Saturdays called "Llegó La Hora Hacia una Cultura de la Solidaridad" ["The Time Has Come: Towards a Culture of Solidarity"] on Radio Comunitaria Senderos de Antimano.

Hernández: We are in the Christmas season and in revolution, but the values of capitalism, selfishness, consumerism seem to be getting worse, don't they?

Russián: The birth of Jesus was the emergence of a new human project against the imperialism of those days. This project was justice, solidarity, peace, and making the poor visible. In times of revolution, Christmas should remind us that we have a commitment to peace, solidarity, love, justice, and family unity.

But capitalism has put into our heads, through its media, that Christmas is spending money and consuming. We suffer from the "Sambil* effect". It's amazing to see the masses waiting for the malls to open to go in to shop like desperate people. Even in our Metro, the ads are about consumerism, such and such clothing line, this and that brand. How interesting it would be if it were to have messages of solidarity, that Christmas is sharing.

Hernández: And, beyond Christmas, as a grassroots Christian living in a barrio emblematic of Caracas (Santa Ana, Carapita), how do you see the population's response to this change in values? Are we moving forward or are welfare, patronage, and waiting for handouts predominant?

Russián: We're moving forward in the economic sphere, in access to health care, education, housing, with all the weaknesses that can be noted. But some symptoms worry me. For example, when RCTV's license ended, in a month everybody in the barrio had cable TV. I asked why and they told me, "it's that we have to watch the soaps." That persuaded me that we need to work harder at formation because we have placed emphasis on money and a revolution that can't be sustained through oil revenues. The first mission I would create would be the Family Mission, because when you produce change in the family, you achieve change in society. For example, it seems to me very dangerous that the good life means to equip your home with a plasma TV, an air conditioner, a refrigerator and a stove. As long as the idea that the good life is materialism grows stronger, we will continue to have capitalism.

Hernández: How is that change achieved?

Russián: By walking with people. It's useless for me, from an office, to make an analysis and try to explain how a neighborhood is, as the officials at the Ministerio de las Comunas ["Ministry of the Popular Power for the Communal Economy"] do.

Hernández: Speaking of which, is there a popular Church and a corporate Church or is this an invention to divide Catholics?

Russián: Jesus' movement wasn't born as a formal church, but as a reaction against an empire that used God. The apostles began to organize themselves into communities and were the first to speak of communism in Acts 2:42, when they said that they held everything in common. Then, when Constantine legalized Christianity and ordered everyone to be baptized, we were screwed because the empire got mixed up with the salvific plan of Jesus. Today there is still a conservative Church that makes arrangements with the empire, that sells the sacraments, and there is another, committed to the poor, that calls us to solidarity. The Venezuelan Church is one hundred percent hierarchical, sexist and conservative. They're upset that the nuns are living in the barrios and going around dressed as civilians. The hierarchs love to be in the cathedral; they want nothing to do with the barrios.

Hernández: Aren't there any exceptions?

Russián: Well, we have Monseñor (Arnulfo) Romero in El Salvador, Monseñor (Leonidas) Proaño in Ecuador, Monseñor (Pedro) Casaldáliga in Brazil, who are at the grassroots, with the people.

Hernández: And in Venezuela?

Russián: There are no bishops in Venezuela committed to the people. There are bishops settled in the archiepiscopal palaces, committed to the powerful.

Hernández: Have you gotten into any conflicts over such opinions?

Russián: What I may be looking to get is that they'll excommunicate me, not just for my opinions, but because I support the right of women to be priests. I believe in a church where women are not just for performing services and being quiet. It's not easy because they are values that are very established in everyone's mind. For example, the Ministry of Women called to ask me for a priest for the Women's Day Mass. I said the few priests committed to the project were very busy, but I would be at their disposal to do a religious service. And in the ministry that should be ensuring gender equality, they responded, "No, sister, what we need is a priest." Damn, what can you expect from the rest of society?

Hernández: You don't seem to fear excommunication, but other priests and nuns have yielded...

Russián: They excommunicated Father Roy Bourgeois (USA), who has fought all his life for the closing of the School of the Americas, for ordaining five nuns as priests [sic]. He took a chance and broke the fear and so must we. I don't go on and on about offering my Masses.** I offer Mass. I don't know if the cardinal has heard, but I don't care. How long are we going to go on thinking that God speaks only through the priest? Who said so? God speaks through the community, from the sweeper to the Pope.

Hernández: In the chapel, you have the image of our frustrated national saint, Jose Gregorio Hernandez, something the hierarchy also doesn't accept. Haven't they reprimanded you?

Russián: Carapita is the only church that has an image of him. Why? Because the community wanted it that way, because he is a saint of the people, even though the Vatican doesn't recognize him. The bishop once came for some confirmations and asked me what that image was doing there. I told him the people put it there and that if I took it out, they'd lynch me.

Defending Julián Conrado

Eugenia Russián, Sister Jenny, is the successor to Father Juan Vives Suria and therefore president of the Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social ("Latin American Foundation for Human Rights and Social Development" - Fundalatin). This entity is responsible for defending Guillermo Enrique Torres Cuéter, known as Julián Conrado, the singer/songwriter of the FARC.

"In a revolution we don't have the luxury of handing this citizen over to a government like that of Colombia, which is the true sponsor of terrorism in that country. Venezuela has the right to not grant him asylum, but it could make it easier for another country to give it to him. Handing him over to Colombia would mean his death," says Russián, who was born in Puerto Ordaz and has been a Missionaries of Christ nun for 20 years.

Russián has spent this time with peasant communities, indigenous people and in the barrios of Caracas. Therefore, she has a very clear vision of reality. "We must strengthen the communal councils, but it can't be that people attend the meetings because they are going to be given money," she says.

She has other criticisms of factors in the process. "We see people screaming 'out with the empire', who then go eat at McDonald's. Damn, if you're against the empire, reject this gringa culture!"

The Caracas experience has moments when the hand of God helps a lot. "I have to go to pray at the funerals of crooks. Of course, I tell them to give me a helmet because they start shooting in the air and I have yet many things to do on this earth."

Julián Conrado's Song

To pay back her efforts to get political asylum for him, Julián Conrado, who has been called Colombia's answer to Alí Primera (the revolutionary Venezuelan folk singer), composed a song for Sister Jenny from jail:

Canción a Eugenia

Viviendo con amor
No sé cómo son tus ojos pero sé
que son limpias tus miradas, a quien ves
sólo puede ser feliz con tu mirar

No he sentido latir tu corazón
pero puedo asegurar en mi canción
que más dulce no se puede palpitar

No son cosas de adivinación
no tengo el poder de adivinar
pero es de muy fácil deducción
que así se debe manifestar
quién vive viviendo con amor:
Hermana Eugenia Russian

No he escuchado el sonido de tu voz
pero quién sinceramente sirve a Dios
dá la más hermosa nota musical

Y aunque nunca te he mirado sonreír
al hacerlo en tu alma se puede medir
el tamaño exacto que tiene la paz

No son cosas de adivinación
no tengo el poder de adivinar
pero es de muy fácil deducción
que así se debe manifestar
quien vive viviendo con amor:
Hermana Eugenia Russian


* Sambil is a shopping center chain in Venezuela and its Caracas mall is the fourth largest in Latin America.

** The term Sister Jenny uses in this interview is "doy misa". It isn't clear whether this means she is actually celebrating the Eucharist or simply leading a Catholic liturgy in the absence of a priest and distributing pre-consecrated hosts. The brief biography of her on the SOAW website calls her a "vicar", though her role may be more akin to what would be called a "parish administrator" in the United States. This still begs the question as to why a woman with so much faith, initiative, and commitment to meeting the spiritual needs of the faithful in her poor community cannot be considered for ordination as a priest simply because of antiquated, sexist and man-made rules.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A different paradigm: listening to nature

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Now that heavy rains, floods, storms, hurricanes and landslides are approaching, we have to relearn how to listen to nature.

All of our Western culture, of Greek origin, is based on seeing. Not without reason the central category - idea (eidos in Greek) - means vision. Tele-vision is its greatest expression. We have developed our vision to the utmost limits. With powerful telescopes we have penetrated even the depths of the universe to see the most distant galaxies. We have descended to the elementary particles and the inner mystery of life. Seeing is everything for us. But we must be aware that this is the way of being of the West and not of everyone.

Other cultures around us -- the Andean one of the Quechua, Aymara and others -- are structured around listening. Logically they also see, but their pecularity is listening to the message of what they see. A peasant from the Bolivian Altiplano told me, "I listen to nature and know what the mountain is saying to me." And a shaman I was talking to told me: "I listen to the Pachamama and I know what she is communicating."

Everything speaks: the stars, sun, moon, the magnificent mountains, serene lakes, deep valleys, fleeting clouds, the rain, birds and animals. These people learn to listen carefully to these voices. Books are not important to them because they are mute, while nature is full of voices. And they have specialized in this listening so that, by seeing the clouds, listening to the wind, watching the flames or the movements of the ants, they know what will happen in nature. This reminds me of an ancient theological tradition developed by St. Augustine and systematized by St. Bonaventure in the Middle Ages: the first divine revelation is the voice of nature, the real book speaking of God. But as we have lost our ability to hear, God, out of mercy, gave us a second book, which is the Bible so that by listening to its contents, we could hear again what nature is telling us.

When Francisco Pizarro in Cajamarca in 1532, through a treacherous ambush, took the Inca chief Atahualpa prisoner, he ordered the Dominican friar Vicente Valverde with his interpreter Felipillo to read him the requirement, a Latin text through which they let themselves be baptized and submitted to the Spanish sovereigns, as the Pope had ordered. If they didn't, they could be enslaved for disobedience. Atahualpa asked him where his authority came from. Valverde gave him the book of the Bible. Atahualpa put it up to his ear. Hearing nothing, he threw the Bible to the floor. It was the signal for Pizarro to slaughter the whole royal guard and imprison the Inca ruler. Thus we see that listening was everything to Atahualpa. The book of the Bible did not speak at all.

For Andean culture everything is structured within a web of vital relationships, full of meaning and messages. They see the thread that penetrates, unifies and gives meaning to everything. We Westerners see the trees but do not perceive the forest. Things are isolated from each other. They are silent. Talking is just for us. We grasp things outside the set of relationships, so our language is formal and cold. In it we have developed philosophies, theologies, doctrines, science and dogma. But this is our way of perceiving the world, not the way of all people.

The Andeans help us to relativize our supposed "universalism." We can express the messages using other relational and inclusive forms and not those mute and objective ones we are accustomed to. They challenge us to listen to the messages that come to us from all sides. These days we should listen to what the black clouds, the forests on the mountainsides, the rivers that rise and break barriers, the steep slopes and loose rocks are warning us about. The natural sciences help us in this listening. But it isn't our cultural habit to grasp warnings from what we see and then our deafness makes us victims of regretable disasters. We only master nature by obeying her, that is, by listening to what she wants to teach us. Deafness will give us bitter lessons.