Thursday, March 7, 2013

Jon Sobrino, SJ: "I don't care if the Pope is black or European; I care about whether he will take risks for the poor"

By Enrique Conde (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Noticias de Navarra
February 23, 2013

He visited Pamplona during the lecture cycle organized by the Jesuits for the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. The room was packed to see Jon Sobrino, who talked about "The Church of the Poor: The Pact of the Catacombs", a title revealing a man who has frequently brushed with the Church hierarchy. Jon Sobrino says that what's important isn't why Ratzinger resigned -- about which he thinks it's normal that he would feel a certain "solitude before God, because he didn't have another pope above him from whom to ask advice" -- or who will be his successor, but that what's absolute, what's relevant is "God and hunger (hambre)." He speaks ironically and says he was afraid that they would change a letter in his speech, thinking that he really meant to talk about God and man (hombre). Because in fact when he read Ratzinger in 1966 in Frankfurt, "he wrote very well" but he was "very sensitive to the dehumanization -- the one produced by the disappearance of God -- but not of the poor. It doesn't seem like he was aware of the hunger of the people." Moreover, after so many years with this distinct argument, certainly Christian, he clarifies that "now they don't even ask me what liberation theology is." "It's God and hunger," he answers to himself.

You once said that the Church, like Jesus on the cross, has to begin with the defeated. However, it seems that at a certain point that path got twisted.

Sure it got twisted, like democracies...When I read the newspapers, there are a lot of truths that deep down are contrary to what the bishops do, or about the Pope who just resigned -- whether he did it well or badly -- but honestly it doesn't seem the most important thing to me. What's most important is what we can do as human beings. I was talking here about building a Church of the poor, where the poor feel at home. That they don't now is another matter. That immigrants, in the United States for example, find in Christians and others something that basically helps them, and who defend them when they're attacked, and that Christians take risks.

What can they risk?

Time, fame, money, even life, like the martyrs of the past, like Monseñor Romero in El Salvador. In the current context of the new Pope, about whether he'll be black, or European, what you read about in the newspapers every day, what do I know?...What matters to me is that he be someone who takes risks for the poor of this world and that in this he would be like Jesus and we would help him be like Jesus, beyond criticizing him once in a while. The Church of the poor sounds strange and a Europe of the poor sounds worse. Right? Not that there are poor people in Europe, which there are, but that Europe doesn't feel that it's future is abundance and having more and not falling into the misfortune of Africa, which is my impression. That Europe would feel in solidarity with the poor of Africa, Latin America and Europe...That we would view the world from the perspective of the poor to enjoy with them. Soccer, the amount of material assets that are invested in the elite sports, that has all the traits of being a multinational industry with which the majority entertain themselves and forget their burdens...But all those resources of mankind -- it isn't that there's a president who has many millions and with his millions pays for this or that -- no, those millions belong to all.

You've been quoted several times as saying that the Church should be in the Third World.

In what we call the Third World, geographically. Certainly it should be there and it is there. What I mean is that here, in these countries, that aren't the Third World although they have their crises and pains, the Church should be in solidarity with what is Third World in these countries and fight against what is First World in said countries. The First World, what does it do? Oppress the Third World.

In your opinion, the new Pope should be like Jesus of Nazareth...

Read the Gospel of Mark. There Jesus appears, he links up with a prophet like John the Baptist and starts to proclaim some good news: God is with the poor. He starts to perform miracles, which are poorly understood, to do good, heal the sick, cheer up those who are possessed by the devil, and defends the poor against the scribes, the pharisees, a high priest, against those who had the sacred and political power in Jerusalem in those days. I'm not saying for the Pope to be like that. But the Pope, the bishops, the priests and the theologians, we should go that way.

Should the manner of electing the Pope change?

Let's hope it changes towards greater participation. The Pope is the bishop of Rome. For him to be elected by the 1.2 billion Catholics you would have to find mechanisms, but I would like it to come in time.

Has the Church regressed a lot in the last decade?

I don't know. I think the last decade...We've been like this for some time. On the other hand I see that elite sports has evolved a lot into an industry that produces an infinite amount of money, that unites with other sub-industries in fashion, tourism...It's changing. And you like it better than before? To each their own. Does this make things more humane? I rather doubt it. And that to be president of a [soccer] club you have to have an infinite concentration of capital...What's wrong with having so much capital? I don't like it in a world of poor people like ours.

Do you think elite sports dehumanize society?

For me, as a whole, yes.

Has power been the greatest enemy of the Church?

The Church has been and is an institution that also has power, not that everyone in the Church has it. Popes and emperors in the Middle Ages fought each other, which was a pleasure. The Church as an institution has enemies when it puts itself at the service of the poor, the democratic poor...

What message would you like to stand out from your work?

There's a group of bishops (Casaldáliga, Romero), a group of important Christians who have devoted themselves to the liberation of the poor, of the oppressed...There are those of us theologians who try to formulate this in concepts. The message is that we hold two things and only two things to be absolute -- for those of us who are Christian: God and hunger. Everything else is relative except God and hunger, and when we meet hunger, that we relativize where we came from, where we're going, what we've studied, if we're in a democracy...And that we put everything else out there so that in this world there won't be hunger. Now, in Europe, they're showing terrible scenes of people looking for food, but hunger is normal in many parts of this world. If we overcome hunger, it's that we can eat and, if we can eat, we will all do it together, Europeans and Africans. We should know that we have relatives in Africa -- the one in the dinghy is a relative, a very distant one -- this would be a legacy to promote among all. But if we don't see ourselves as brothers and sister, someone will win the "Champions", and some will rejoice and others will suffer. What's important is humanization, that we are all brothers and sisters.

What did you feel when you discovered hunger?

That I had never been hungry. I though about what we have, about putting ourselves at the service of those people...And then about thanking them, because many of those who are hungry give more to us than we give them.

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