Thursday, May 10, 2012

Padre Chiqui: "I think you have to go looking for the lost sheep"

by Maritza Espinoza (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La República
May 9, 2012

When you came here, to El Agustino, people must have been surprised. You're not the typical priest in a cassock and Roman collar...

Well, my fellow priests here didn't wear the habit either, but I had long hair, chains and things like that, since I feel like a child of the 60s, when marvellous things happened.

Things the Church didn't always approve of.

The Church disapproves of things in life that should have been accepted.

Like the transvestites, that marginal population with which you work, no?

I was working with them during very hard times. Many of my friends died of AIDS, people whom I loved very much.

By "my friends" you're referring to transvestites?


One of your superiors says they're not in God's plan.

I think he's totally mistaken. No human being can be outside of God's plan. All are in this plan to build a different world in which we all can fit, be respected and be loved.

So, what is sin?

I don't know, nor does it concern me. Well, perhaps the worst sin is the selfishness that produces injustice, marginalization, violence. That's sin.

So it isn't that God spends His time sniffing around under people's sheets?

That's a wrong image. The only image of God has to be the one revealed by Jesus, who forgives the adulteress, who sat down to eat with those public sinners, who drew near to prostitutes, or, they drew near to him because he was able to welcome, respect and love them.

You're so atypical within the Church!

I don't consider myself atypical. Jesus was a Jew and he criticized many things about the temple, the religion...And for me, the model is Jesus, and Jesus is the free man par excellence and he calls us to be free in the face of any type of power. I think that, from within, I can work to make the Church community, all of us, try to be more faithful to Jesus.

But wouldn't you tell those sisters murdered by AIDS "don't use condoms"?


 But the Pope has given huge sermons about the sin of using a condom.

Every person is different, each situation is different, and rather than prohibiting, what we need to do is be with those people to know their anxieties, problems, pain. Be channels of God's mercy.

Before feeling the call, what did you think you would be -- a soccer player, a rock star...?

No...I'm not a bad soccer player, but I don't play anymore. I tore some ligaments and broke my heel. Music fascinates me. In Spain, I recorded an album with a group of friends. I have very good friends here in Peru too. They're willing to sing with me, but I know that deep down they suffer, because I'm not good.

At what age did you decide to be a priest?

Very early, at seventeen. In those days, a person who entered at 22 or 23 was already old...

Have you had the opportunity to know female love yet?

Yes, I have. It's complicated, but you have another choice that leads you, somehow, to renounce certain aspects of that love. It's difficult to talk about emotions.

You never renounced the chastity vows?

No. I believe it has to be optional. I'm convinced that celibacy doesn't imply that you'll give more of yourself. I've met married people who could give an example of what commitment is to a lot of celibate priests. But it can change at any time. This isn't a dogma.

What do you hope for the future of your work here with the gangs, the marginalized?

When I die, I hope that I will have collaborated in making a more just and supportive Peru where the various forms of discrimination -- which are many and very harsh -- are a thing of the past and everyone is treated with the dignity that every human being has.

Are you a leftist priest?

I believe in the one about the lost sheep. Jesus tells us to leave the 99 to look for the one that's outside the borders of the flock. For the most part, the Church takes care of the 99 good ones, but if we could go to those who are outside, we'd be more evangelical.

On the day you go, would you like there to be a Beatles song along with the prayers for the dead?

What I hope is that there will be no prayers for the dead. When I die, I want them to take my body immediately to the Medical School. I don't want them to have a gloomy celebration like that when I die. But I do want all the friends, musicians, athletes with whom I worked to organize some revelry, if they remember and want to.

But you are going to heaven?

Yes, I hope to be in the kingdom of God, call it heaven or whatever. I think that that dream that appears at the beginning of the Bible -- in Genesis -- that's the end. And in some way I'll be participating in that dream of God's, along with people like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Túpac Amaru (he shows their photos)...

In Jesus' Style

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo
May 9, 2012

John 15:9-17

Jesus is saying goodbye to His disciples. He has loved them passionately. He has loved them with the same love with which He has loved the Father. Now He has to leave them. He knows their selfishness. They don't know how to love one another. He sees them arguing among themselves over who will have the first posts. What will happen to them?

Jesus' words become solemn. They must remain well understood by all. "This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you." Jesus doesn't want His style of loving to be lost among His own. If they forget it some day, no one will be able to recognize them as His disciples.

There is one indelible memory of Jesus. The first generations summarized His life like this: "He went about doing good." It was good to meet Him. He always sought out the good in people. He helped them to live. His life was Good News. One could discover God's good closeness in Him.

Jesus has a distinctive style of loving. He is very sensitive to the people's suffering. He can't pass those who are suffering by. One day, upon entering the little village of Nain, He runs into a funeral procession -- a widow is going to bury her only son. Jesus' love for that unknown woman comes out. "Woman, do not weep." Whoever loves as Jesus does alleviates suffering and dries tears.

The gospels recall on different occasions how Jesus grasped the suffering of the people with His glance. He looked at them and was moved. He saw them suffering or beaten down, like sheep without a shepherd. Quickly, he began to cure the sickest and feed them with His words. Whoever loves as Jesus does learns to look at people's faces with compassion.

Jesus' willingness to do good is admirable. He doesn't think of Himself. He is attentive to any call, always willing to do what He can. He welcomes a blind beggar who asks Him for compassion as He goes along the way with these words: "What do you want me to do for you?" Whoever loves as Jesus does goes through life with this attitude.

Jesus knows how to be with the most disadvantaged. They don't have to ask Him. He does what he can to heal their pain, free their consciences, and spread trust in God. But He can't solve all the problems of those people.

So He devotes Himself to acts of kindness: He embraces children in the street -- He doesn't want anyone to feel like an orphan; He blesses the sick -- He doesn't want them to feel neglected by God; He caresses the skin of the lepers -- He doesn't want them to see themselves as excluded. Such are the acts of whoever loves as Jesus does.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ernesto Cardenal: “Since the prophets, poetry is announcement and denouncement”

by Javier Rodríguez Marcos (English translation by Rebel Girl)
El País

Ernesto Cardenal is 87 years old and has been just about everything a human being can be in these times -- monk and priest, revolutionary and minister, translator and poet -- but there is one image that haunts him. It was captured on television in March 1983 at the Managua airport. Pope John Paul II had just gotten off the plane. He was greeted by a sign that said "We have justice, freedom and bread, and we are fighting for peace." In the official receiving line, he met Cardenal who, with his long beard, black beret and untucked white shirt, knelt before him. Thus he received the dry admonition from the Pope, who wasn't amused by his membership in the Sandinista government or his advocacy for liberation theology. The only thing he didn't do was criticize him as a poet.

Amid the choppy waters of politics and religion, the verses have always been the least noisy refuge of Ernesto Cardenal, who yesterday received the 21st Premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana, the most prestigious of the genre, organized by Patrimonio Nacional and the University of Salamanca and endowed with 42,100 euros. Thus he enters a laureate to which authors like Nicanor Parra, Antonio Gamoneda, Juan Gelman, José Emilio Pacheco, José Hierro, Álvaro Mutis -- all of whom are also winners of the Cervantes prize--, Claudio Rodríguez, Sophia de Mello Breyner, Francisco Brines, Blanca Varela and Fina García Marruz also belong.

From Managua, Ernesto Cardenal tells us by telephone that the news came to him at 5:30 in the morning. The surprise was the prize, not the hour. As usual, he had already been up two and a half hours. For Cardenal, poetry, faith, and commitment form an "indivisible whole." Born in Granada (Nicaragua), he was ordained a priest in 1965 after having participated in a first -- and failed -- attempted revolution against the Somoza dictatorship, after passing through the monastery of Gethsemani in the United States, and after studying theology in Mexico.

It was in "North America" that he delved into Walt Whitman and a poet as psalmodic as himself -- Ezra Pound, whom he translated. "My interest in making him known," he says,"comes from the fact that he brings something new: the language of the man in the street, of reality, of the jungle and the cities, of nature and history. Everything can be sung." A message that, he asserts, "has been little understood in Spanish language poetry."

After the triumph of the Sandinista revolution, in July 1979, Ernesto Cardenal was named Minister of Culture. By then he was the author of such fundamental titles in late 20th century Latin American poetry as Epigramas, Salmos and Oración por Marilyn Monroe y otros poemas. And of an unclassifiable book, El Evangelio en Solentiname, fruit of the campesinos' commentaries on the sacred scriptures -- "more profound than those of many theologians" -- from the island in Lake Nicaragua where the author had founded a Christian community.

"I have never been a dissident but a poet of liberation theology, which is the theology of the poor," Cardenal stresses. "'Gospel', in Greek, means good news and the good news for the poor is justice. It turned out that this theology wasn't the Vatican's. We believed in Jesus of Nazareth."

The conversation with the recent prize winner is full of nuances. He's neither a dissident, nor a politician: "No, I'm not a politician; I'm a revolutionary. I accepted the position of minister at a great sacrifice to spread culture to the people. I would never have been a minister in a capitalist bourgeois government."

True, he doesn't hide his disappointment with the current government of Daniel Ortega. In 1994, he disassociated himself from the Sandinista Front because of the latter's authoritarian drift. So did other ex-leaders like writers Sergio Ramírez and Gioconda Belli. Ten years later, he titled the third volume of his memoirs (published in Spain by Trotta, his main publisher) in a resounding way: La revolución perdida ("The lost revolution"). "That's what happened. It got lost," says the poet. "We didn't expect the revolution to be as beautiful as it was, a dream from which we didn't want to wake up. The current government in a nightmare from which we can't wake up. Nicaragua is now in a dictatorship. The current government isn't leftist, or revolutionary, or Sandinista. It's a family dictatorship of Daniel Ortega, his wife and his children."

Accustomed to rowing against the current, Ernesto Cardenal doesn't keep quiet. "I'm persecuted in Nicaragua. There are a lot of things I can't say. I'm risking a lot saying these things to you." And poetry? Can it change anything? The author of Canto cósmico says that for 20 years science has been his inspiration but he doesn't doubt it. "Obviously, it can do a lot. It can change the mind of the human race, which it has always done. The first language was poetry. Prose came later. Poetry keeps ideals alive and proclaims a better world. The prophets in the Bible, who are so close to the poets, already said it. Poetry is announcement and denouncement. It announces a new world and denounces injustice."