Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Opening new windows on the world: Fr. Miguel Cruzado, SJ talks about Pope Francis

by Jonathan Coronado Flores (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola Boletin de Noticias
July 2013

On Tuesday July 23rd, Pope Francis inaugurated World Youth Day in Brazil with the attendance of more than two million Catholic youth from all over the world, among them three thousand Peruvians. In this context, the Provincial of the Jesuits in Peru, Father Miguel Cruzado Silveri, SJ analyzes the first four months of his papacy and the overwhelming effect that his message and unusual way of being have generated. With more that 8 million followers on Twitter and countless followers on his Facebook accounts, the first Jesuit and Latin American Pope is a point of reference today for youth in the social networks, but also a Church revolutionary by bringing the Gospel of Christ closer to all nations, to the ends of the earth.

Four months have gone by since a Jesuit took over as Pope. How do you view his development in this short time?

I view it with much optimism, and I think people in general see it that way too. Pope Francis is a presence that renews and revitalizes life in the Church. He's a Pope who is very close to everyone, who, beyond the protocols, communicates trust and the Church's closeness to the lives of the people. He asks of us the simplicity and austere lifestyle that he himself practices. He encourages us to dialogue with everyone, with believers and non-believers, with people of other religions, and on Holy Thursday he knelt and washed the feet of young prisoners, Catholics and Muslims, men and women. He himself celebrates the Eucharist every morning with the workers at the Vatican and through it, he communicates a word, every day, for the whole of humanity. These gestures that accompany his words, his doctrine, speak to us of what he hopes for the Church, the directions in which he wants to take it.

And where does he want to take it?

The Pope, guided by the Spirit and maintaining Benedict XVI's concern for the internal problems of the Church, clearly wants like John XXIII to open new windows on the world in its diversity and problems. There is  a very deep pastoral concern in Pope Francis to communicate with renewed vigor the message of the gospel to the men and women of today. It's not a message that's just for those of us who believe. It's not a message to leave us in peace. It's a message that challenges believers on their lifestyle. From the Christian message, he also wants to have a word for non-believers and believers in other religions. He has reminded us almost every day since he was elected Pope to turn our eyes to the world of the poor, to care about them and to commit ourselves as Church -- and with us, all of humankind -- to fighting against poverty and violence.

What are the differences between Pope Francis and his predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II, who will soon be declared a saint?

The popes, in the historical context in which they have had to exercise, have responded to what the Church needed from them at the time. Naturally,  there are special charisms in the Church, with distinct ways of proceeding and that put special emphasis on given matters according to specific circumstances being experienced by the Church and humankind. Some have focused special attention on apostolic zeal and bringing the gospel to every corner of the world, like John Paul II, who took the Church out of Rome and carried it throughout the world. Others, like Benedict XVI, have focused on theological reflection and deepening the doctrine. Benedict XVI renewed us spiritually and with his act of resignation gave us a message of humility, that we need to change but that he could no longer accompany us in that process. Today we have a missionary Pope again -- one sees his Jesuit training clearly in him -- with a broad vision of the Church and its mission in the world, with a clear concern for the poor and justice.

Pope Francis has said that Vatican II is irreversible and has presented several political leaders with the final document of Aparecida, which they also say he always has at hand. What does this mean?

It means what it should mean to all us Catholics: Vatican II was a marvelous gift of the Holy Spirit for the life of the Church. The Lord inspired it, it's a gift of His grace and of course, there's no turning back. Opposing the Council would be opposing the Holy Spirit. The Pope has urged us not to be "stubborn", not to remain stuck in the past. The Council has allowed the Church to take new paths of renewal and openness. Thanks to the Council we haven't experienced a major crisis in the Church. The Council initiated a path of dialogue with the modern world that should be continued and deepened. The Council invited us to an ecumenical attitude. The Council invited us to liturgical renewal which the Church is continuing.

With respect to Aparecida, it's normal that the Pope would stress it, not just because it's also a breath of the Holy Spirit, but moreover because Pope Francis himself, as Archbishop, headed the commission that drafted the final document six years ago now. It's a message of hope for our people and a call to the Latin American Church to commitment to the poor, to concern for native cultures, to evangelizing renewal.

If we talk so much about the poor, why isn't liberation theology accepted by the Church?

You're mistaken. Liberation theology is accepted by the Catholic Church. It's already part of Catholic orthodoxy. It's a theological perspective that's studied in all the serious schools of theology in the whole world. Fr. [Gustavo] Gutiérrez has given courses at the Pontificio Colegio Angelicum, in the heart of Rome. It's a theology that has contributed a lot to Catholic thought, that also has immediate practical implications. That's probably why uninformed individuals may still question it -- because the perspective of the poor from theology might have immediate and specific implications for specific economic, political, and social situations or choices. It's not easy to embrace feeling challenged about one's own lifestyle or ways of thinking through which we inadvertently legitimize unjust situations. It isn't easy to embrace the radical nature of the demands of the gospel. We have to work at it every day and help each other with it.

But you're not going to deny that there was or is persecution by his predecessor against Gustavo Gutiérrez...

The current Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, is a personal friend and has publications co-authored with Father Gustavo Gutiérrez. Archbishop Müller is the highest person responsible for doctrine in the Church after the Pope. His job is to guarantee the healthy doctrine of our theologians. So we can conclude that Fr. Gutiérrez's theology is fully within the healthy and correct doctrine of the Catholic Church. There is no official controversy in the Church with the thought of Gustavo Gutierrez. If there was any confusion at a time, that has been cleared up. Gustavo Gutiérrez is a great priest, admired and recognized, with a deep sense of Church. He is without a doubt the most famous Peruvian theologian, and currently one of the most important Catholic theologians in the world.

The cause of the beatification of Monseñor Romero has finally been unblocked. Was he treated unfairly during John Paul II's papacy?

John Paul II knelt at his tomb and prayed before it when he visited El Salvador. There's a very strong gospel message in Monseñor Romero. Mons. Romero faced years of political convulsion and a terrible dictatorship. He used to say that the dictatorship wasn't in tune with the gospel, that the peasants had rights to the land, and that human rights shouldn't be violated. Death and violence should never be means to development. He was very concerned about social justice. His message for Christians in Latin America and throughout the whole world is huge.

Are the Jesuits reds? Progressives? We Jesuits are priests and brothers, missionaries, trained to go into frontier situations, there where the message of the Gospel is challenged, at the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, where the answers aren't clear, where the demands of humankind challenge us. That's what we were born to do as an order. So I would prefer to say that we are at the forefront, that we're on the edge. "Progressives" has multiple connotations and "reds" makes no sense to those who know us. Since our founding, popes have sent us to hard places where others couldn't go, amid conflict situations. At the beginning, they were geographic places; now they're also social and cultural places. Jesuits are sent to dialogue with science. For decades we were asked to understand the world of unbelief. Even today we are sent into areas of violence and social unrest. Some people don't understand it. They ask us why we're not just in the parishes, what we're doing in places where there aren't any believers, why we study professions or perform jobs that aren't directly religious. So they think we're "progressives", or something like that. We're there because the Church asks us; it's what it expects of us.

As a former student of the Colegio San Ignacio and the PUCP [Pontifical Catholic University of Peru], what has that training left in you?

In June, Pope Francis met with Jesuit students and among the messages he gave were two very strong ones -- one explicit and the other implicit. The explicit one was: poverty is a scandal, work for there to be more justice in the world. That message that I received at Colegio San Ignacio marked my life -- being a person for others, the value of service. The Pope's implicit message by not reading the speech and asking the students to ask him freely about any issue, was that Christ's message is something close to people, that we must feel free before God, without putting on appearances, without gimmicks or fears, just as we are. From the Jesuits at the high school and university I learned that I should always be myself before God, and that God wants my freedom and my happiness above all, the freedom and happiness of any human being.

And as a Piurano, what message would you leave to our local Church?

That we experience intensely this moment in the Church. Let's try to read what Pope Francis is saying to us with his gestures and words. Let's feel challenged by his message. Let's be faithful to what the Spirit of God is showing us today through him. Let's hope that solidarity, joy, welcoming others, go on being what people who come to Piura remember about us.

Fr. Miguel Cruzado, SJ studied at the Jesuit Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola in Piura, and is a graduate in Sociology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, where he became more enthusiastic about the work of the Jesuits, and so, having recently graduated, asked to become a member of the Society of Jesus. He did his Theology studies at the Centre Sèvres in Paris, and got a graduate degree from Georgetown University (Washington - United States). Before being appointed Provincial for Peru by the Superior General Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, he worked in the social sector of the Society of Jesus and from that, it's clear that he has a view of God and the Church from the world of the poor that's quite deep and true.

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