Thursday, March 21, 2013

Casaldàliga: "Francis is more than a name; it's a program of life"

by EFE (English translation by Rebel Girl, with additional material from O Globo)
March 15, 2013

Pedro Casaldaliga's voice is always listened to respectfully and attentively. A person who is critical of the power accumulated by the Vatican, the Catalan priest yesterday offered his reflections on the new pontiff. "The first impression is good," he asserted in some statements to TV3. Casaldaliga also referred to the choice of Francis as a name. "Francis is more than a name, it's a program of life, of ministry, that matches a simple life that he leads." He also referred to the profile of the new pope, a native of Argentina: "He's conservative but, pastorally, he's advanced. Now we'll have to see how he'll be able to transform the Curia, which advisers he'll choose, which secretaries." Just as he spoke about Jorge Maria Bergoglio yesterday, Casaldaliga also talked about Benedict XVI. "[Joseph Ratzinger] is very cultured. However he's a professorial deskman. And that's not enough. He's not the right person to carry out the profound changes that the Church needs," Casaldaliga said in an interview that the priest from Balsareny granted to reporter Toni Soler last summer.

In the same interview, the bishop of the poor called for a change of direction at the Vatican. "Rome must acknowledge the diversity of the Church; it should listen to the people -- the voice of the people is the voice of God. That isn't always easy to take, because the voice of the people is more difficult to distort the voice of God."

The Cardinal Archbishop of Barcelona, Lluís Martínez Sistach, also referred to Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Sistach asserted that the choice of the new pope sets the stage for the opening of a new period in the Catholic Church. In a statement to Catalunya Ràdio, the Archbishop of Barcelona said that the new pontiff is "innovative" and will be "different music" for the Church. "He meets the needs of the new times," the cardinal commented, asserting that the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, didn't influence the voting in the conclave at all. "He has retired and has removed himself," he stressed.

Getting back to Casaldaliga, in a separate phone interview with O Globo, Dom Pedro said he felt relief when Bergoglio was chosen, fearing that another more conservative pope would be elected. He said he feels the choice "means a change in the figure of the Pope. Obviously, the Pope alone isn't the Church -- it's everyone's responsibility," the bishop said.

Casaldaliga praised Pope Francis' simplicity, his evangelizing spirit, and the symbolism of his first gesture, bowing before the people gathered on St. Peter's Square to receive their blessing before bestowing his. "It's a different style," Dom Pedro said.

However, Casaldaliga also recalled that the "dark time" of the Church in Argentina during the period of the dictatorship still hovers over the new pope. As for the future, while hoping for changes in the Roman Curia, Dom Pedro also advocated for a Church dedicated to the poor, supportive of the defense of human rights, indigenous peoples, and those of African descent.

Leonardo Boff: "What matters isn't Bergoglio and his past, but Francis and his future"

By Fabiana Frayssinet (English translation by Rebel Girl)
March 18, 2013

RÍO DE JANEIRO -- Brazilian theologian Leonard Boff, a proponent of the progressive line in the Latin American Catholic Church, doesn't believe the denunciations that describe the new Pope Francis as a collaborator with the last Argentina dictatorship.

In an interview with IPS, Boff admits that it's a "controversial subject," with contradictory versions. But he prefers to trust the outpourings of notorious defenders of human rights in Argentina, who are denying any link between Jorge Bergoglio, who was elected pope by the Vatican, and the military regime that Argentina endured from 1976 to 1983.

Boff, a key figure in liberation theology, looks forward with hope and trusts that Francis will live up to his status as a Jesuit and be "energetic and radical" against the epidemic of pedophilia and corruption that currently plague the Catholic leadership.

IPS: How do your interpret the "decentralization" that having elected a Latin American pope implies?

LEONARDO BOFF: The central Church, that is, the Vatican and the European churches, felt humiliated and embarassed by theembarrassed scandals created within their own walls. So they chose someone from outside, with a different spirit and another style to lead the Church.

Sixty percent of Catholics live in the Third World. It was time to listen better to those churches. They are no longer mirror-churches of Europe but source-churches, with their own face and ways of organizing themselves, generally in networks of communities.

For me, the name "Francis" is more than a name; it's a plan for a poor Church, one that is close to the people, gospel-centered, loving and protective towards nature which is being devastated today. Saint Francis is the archetype of that type of Church. With Pope Francis, a Church of the third millenium is being inaugurated -- far from the palaces and in the midst of the peoples and their cultures.

IPS: To what do you attribute the preference for Bergoglio against Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer?

LB: Scherer was the candidate of the Vatican, where he had worked and made many friends. But he publicly defended the Curia and the Vatican Bank, which have been criticized by everyone, including many cardinals. That unleashed a public argument, which burned him. Moreover, he wouldn't have been good for the current situation in the Church. He's conservative and authoritarian. He would have been a Benedict XVII.

IPS: Bergoglio's election was criticized because of his alleged complicity in the kidnapping of two Jesuit priests during the dictatorship.

LB: I know that, in general, the Argentine Church wasn't prophetic in denouncing state terrorism. Despite that, there were bishops like (Enrique) Angelleli, who died in a sinister way, (Jorge) Novak, (Jaime) De Nevares, and Jerónimo Podestá, among others, who were clearly critical.

But with respect to Bergoglio, I prefer to believe Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel peace prize winner, and the former member of the Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas (Graciela Fernández Meijide) who have called that accusation libelous. They never found Bergoglio's name even once in the documents and complaints.

On the contrary, he saved many people by hiding them in the Colegio Máximo de San Miguel. Furthermore, it goes against his character which is already known, as a man who is both strong and tender, a poor man who has continuously denounced the existing social injustices in Argentina and the need for justice and not just philanthropy.

Finally, what matters isn't Bergoglio and his past, but Francis and his future.

IPS: Why did you ignore this issue in your initial statements?

LB: It's a controversial matter and one has to know it well. The versions are contradictory. I don't talk about things I'm not clear about. And I'm wondering what interest some groups have in raising this question and not talking about the serious crisis in the Church and its meaning in the face of the crisis of humankind.

Maybe -- this I'll concede -- he could have been more prophetic, like Bishop Hélder Câmara and Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns were in Brazil. But here the state is secular and separate from the Church. In Argentina, Catholicism is the state religion, which makes it hard but doesn't keep there from being resistance and denunciations from part of the Church.

IPS: Isn't omission a sin?

LB: The question isn't to answer whether or not it's a sin. That's a religious issue. The question is political and for me it's which side the person is on -- the side of the poor, of those who suffer evil inequality? Or of the status quo that wants unlimited growth and a culture of consumption? In 1990, four percent of Argentinians were poor. Now it's 33 percent (according to unofficial measurements).

Bergoglio took the side of those victims and demanded social justice. If we don't understand this, we're getting away from the main point.

IPS: You attributed his choice of the name Francis to the "demoralization" of a "Church in ruins" because of various scandals. How should that name be expressed in practice?

LB: He has given signs of a different type of papacy, without symbols of power or privileges. A pope who pays his bills at the hotel, who goes in a simple car to pray at the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica and secretly visits his friend, Cardinal Jorge Mejía, who fell ill in Rome..., they're acts that the people understand.

I'm sure that with respect to the pedophiles and the financial crimes, he'll be more Jesuit than Franciscan, energetic and radical, because the Church can't go on as it is.

IPS: The new pope thought he saw "the hand of the Devil" in issues like the decriminalization of abortion and homosexual marriage in Argentina and he has confronted the government because of this. Should we anticipate a pope who is equally or more conservative on these doctrinal issues?

LB: These subjects are prohibited by the Vatican. Nobody would be able to stray from the official position. I hope that Francis, as pope, would enable a broad discussion of all these issues, because they're part of the real life of the people and the new culture that is emerging, especially the problem of celibacy and sexual morality.

This doesn't mean that the Church would renounce its fundamental positions, but that it would discuss them democratically and would have to respect what is democratically decided. The good thing about democracy is that it prevents top-down impositions and allows different opinions to be heard, even if they don't prove to be winning ones.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Before the Crucified One

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
March 24, 2013

Luke 22:14-23:56

Arrested by the security forces of the Temple, Jesus no longer has any doubt: The Father hasn't listened to his wishes to go on living; his disciples have fled seeking their own safety. He's alone. His projects are fading away. Execution awaits him. Jesus' silence during his final hours is overwhelming. However, the evangelists have gathered some of his words on the cross. They're very brief, but they helped the first generations of Christians remember the crucified Jesus with love and thankfulness.

Luke gathered the ones he says as he's being crucified. Between shudders and cries of pain, he's able to utter some words that show what's in his heart: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." That's how Jesus is. He asked his own to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors. Now he himself dies while offering forgiveness. He changes his crucifixion into pardon.

This prayer to the Father for those who are crucifying him is, first of all, a sublime gesture of compassion and trust in the fathomless forgiveness of God. That is Jesus' great legacy to humankind -- Never mistrust God. His mercy is without end.

Mark gathers the dramatic cry of the Crucified One: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Those words uttered in the most total loneliness and abandonment, are overwhelmingly frank. Jesus feels that his beloved Father is abandoning him. Why? Jesus moans about His silence. Where is He? Why is He silent?

That cry of Jesus, identified with all the victims in history, begging God for some explanation of so much injustice, neglect and suffering, remains on the lips of the Crucified One, demanding a response from God beyond death: Our God, why do You abandon us? Are you never going to respond to the cries and moans of the innocent?

Luke gathers Jesus' last word. In spite of his mortal anguish, Jesus keeps his trust in the Father to the end. His words are now almost a whisper: "Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit." Nothing and nobody has been able to separate him from Him. The Father has been animating him with His spirit all his life. His mission over, Jesus leaves everything in His hands. The Father will break His silence and resurrect him.

This Holy Week, we are going to celebrate the Passion and Death of the Lord in our Christian communities. We will also be able to meditate in silence before Jesus crucified, delving into the words that he himself uttered during his agony.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Different image, same structure": Fr. Nicolás Alessio on Pope Francis

By Nicolás Alessio (English translation by Rebel Girl)
March 18, 2013

Electing Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope is a masterstroke of Vatican diplomacy. The Catholic Church, about to sink between the financial and sexual scandals, urgently needed another "image" in the face of public opinion in the world and more so in Latin America. The profile of Benedict XVI, a German, hard, rigid, an Inquisitor, failed to float the "barque of Peter". On the contrary.

They needed a man in Latin America, the last bastion of Catholics that must be protected from populist deviations in politics and the heresies of the liberation theologians.

Latin America, the land of the martyrs for justice -- Romero, Angelelli and so many others -- is dangerous soil for religious orthodoxy. The land of 21st century socialism and post-neoliberal governments smells "leftist" and that doesn't please the Vatican.

Especially in Argentina, because it's the first Latin American country that produced deep advances in the rights of sexual minorities, making marriage equality the law of the nation. That was a serious offense against Roman modesty and Catholic moral dogma. A bad example that should be exorcised. In fact, Bergoglio wrote to the Carmelite sisters that "it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a 'move' of the father of lies." For neophytes in religious terms, the "father of lies" is the Devil. It was a "holy" war.

Moreover, Argentina is a pioneer in bringing genocides to trial throughout the country. For a Church that still isn't taking responsibility for its complicity with the criminals against humanity, the "trials for memory and justice" are a bomb about to explode under their noses. In the courts of every episcopal palace. It must be deactivated.

Argentina is a model for the whole continent on these issues and also a model for all people who are victims of different forms of state terrorism and homophobia. Rome cannot forgive this, tolerate it, or let it go on -- it undermines its purported image of heavenly holiness.

Many have been left with the feeling that something is beginning to change and they speak of having "hope". I think it's just that, a feeling. Or a great desire that has become an illusion. Furthermore, it's worth remembering that Christian hope isn't based on the Vatican, much less on the Papacy. It is only based on the Jesus of the Gospels.

That they tell me he's simple, austere, and takes the subway doesn't take away or add anything to him. Primatesta wore a dilapidated cassock, had no car or property, was also sober and frugal.

It's true that a pope from Opus Dei would have been worse -- or, I don't know, because sometimes it's better to be clear about the adversary. A right-wing conservative with a good image is still a problem. It's confusing.

That he calls himself Francis isn't much of an honor to Francis of Assisi; the Franciscans' "Sister Poverty" didn't feel comfortable in the Roman palaces. And even though his name is "Francis", the Pope is a medieval Roman monarch. The image has changed, only the image. The power structure is the same; its interests, the same.

In Argentina and on the continent, the right-wing sectors, both political and religious, will be strengthened. They're already celebrating. A strange religious fervor has seized them.

But as the Holy Spirit surely is not in Rome and is among the excluded ones who cry out for justice, let's sleep peacefully and go on fighting. They didn't silence us before, nor will they be able to do so now.

Fr. Nicolás Alessio is a priest, a theologian, and a member of the Grupo Angelelli. He was suspended a divinis because of his stand on Argentina's marriage equality law.

The new pope and the geopolitics of secrecy

By Ivone Gebara (English translation by Mary Judith Ress)
Adital (Español / Português)
March 15, 2013

Now that the initial shock of Buenos Aires Cardinal Bergoglio's election and the thrill of having a Latin American pope who is both cordial and friendly are over, it’s time for some reflection.

Despite their value, the media also have the power to distract us, to lull our minds and keep us from allowing needed critical questions to surface. In the days leading up to the papal election, many in Brazil and around the world were “hijacked” by live broadcasts from Rome. Of course the historic events witnessed in these days are not everyday occurrences! But what interests are leading the huge telecommunication industry to transmit every detail of the election of a new pope? Who gains by the millions of dollars spent on the uninterrupted coverage until the white smoke appears? On which side do these interests stand? What Vatican interests make it so willing to offer facilities for these transmissions? These questions, which may not interest the wider public, continue to be significant for groups concerned over the growth of consciousness among ourselves and all of humanity.

In large measure, the telecommunication industry is responsible for maintaining the secrecy surrounding Vatican electoral policies. Secrecy, oaths, and the consequent sanctions when they are not respected are an integral part of the industry. They create an impact and make headlines. But this isn’t about a centuries-old tradition that will have no real impact on the rest of the world. Rather, these are behaviors that end up derailing the pursuit of dialogue among groups, or excluding some groups from the necessary dialogue.

There is no criticism of this perverse system, which continues to invoke the Holy Spirit in order to maintain ultraconservative positions clothed in the pretext of religiosity and docile submission. Official coverage allots no space for dissonant voices to be heard (even at the risk of being stoned). Once in a while, light criticism is allowed to surface, but it is quickly drowned out by the “status quo” imposed by the prevailing ideology.

They repeat that Pope Francis uses public transportation, that he is close to the poor, that he cooks his own meals and that the name he has chosen as pope shows his similarity to the great saint of Assisi. He was immediately tagged as a simple man, cordial and friendly. The Catholic press says nothing about many people's suspicions regarding his role during Argentina’s recent military dictatorship, or about his current political stands against gay marriage and the legalization of abortion. Neither do they mention his well-known criticism of liberation theology or his distain for feminist theology.

The image of a kindly and modest figure just elected by a group of cardinals assisted by the Holy Spirit veils the reality of a man who in fact embodies numerous contradictions. More recently the Brazilian newspapers (Folha de Sao Paulo, Estado de Sao Paulo) have offered differing profiles of the new pope that give us a more realistic idea of who he is.

In this light it becomes clear that his election was, beyond doubt, part of a geopolitical offensive involving competing interests and a balance of forces within the Catholic world. An article by Julio C. Gambina published via Internet March 13 in Argenpress, as well as information coming in from alternative groups in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Brazil and especially Argentina have confirmed my suspicions. The See of Peter and the Vatican State are positioning their pieces in the world game of chess in order to empower political projects championed by the North and its allies in the South. In a certain sense, the South is being co-opted by the North. A Church leader who comes from the South will help balance the forces in the world chess game, which have been displaced a good deal in recent years by left-leaning governments in Latin America and by the struggles of many movements -- among them Latin America's feminist movements, whose demands annoy the Vatican.

If something new is happening politically in the South, there’s nothing better than a Pope from the South, a Latin American, to confront this new political movement and preserve intact the traditions of family and property. Such an affirmation undoubtedly dumps cold water on this election's charm and on the thrill of seeing the multitude in the St Peter’s square breaking into applause and joyful cheers when the figure of Pope Francis appears. Many will say this criticism dampens the beauty of such an emotional event as the election of a pope. Perhaps, but I believe this critique is necessary.

The highly touted commitment to evangelization as a Church priority seems instead to be a commitment to a hierarchical order in a world where the elites reign and the people applaud in great plazas, where they pray and sing and bubble over with high spirits, invoking divine blessings upon the heads of their new political-religious leaders.

The same doctrine, with little variation, continues to be preached. There is no reflection, no awakening of consciousness, no invitation to critical thinking. What is invoked, instead, is a set of quasi-magical teachings. On the one hand, we have a society awash with great spectacles that captivate us and urge us to accept -- with a dose of romanticism -- the restraints imposed by the contemporary system of order/disorder, and on the other a system of paternalistic handouts that is equated with evangelization.

To go out into the streets and give food to the poor and pray with prisoners is somewhat humanitarian, but it does not solve the problem of social exclusion that afflicts many of the world’s countries.

To write about “the geopolitics of secrecy” in a moment of media euphoria amounts to spoiling the party for the buyers and sellers in the Temple, content with stalls filled with Rosaries, scapulars, bottles of holy water and the large and small statues of many saints. The problem is that if we break the secret and pull the plug on the allure of white smoke, we deflate the suspense of a secret conclave that denies the Catholic people access to the information to which we have a right—and lay bare those purple-clothed bodies with their sordid histories.

To break open this secrecy is to give the lie to the political and religious system that governs the Roman Catholic Church. It is to tear off the masks upholding it, and in this way to open our hearts to real independence and responsibility for us all. Power games are filled with cunning and deception, but there is also good faith. We are capable of being impressed with a public gesture of affection and friendliness without asking ourselves about this person's real life story. We don’t ask ourselves about his past actions, his present behavior or his future stratagems. The moment the amiable figure dressed in white appeared was enough to impress us. We can be deeply touched by the new pope’s warm greeting, “Buona sera” (“Good evening”), and then go to bed like well-behaved children blessed by a kind daddy. We are no longer orphans--since being fatherless in a patriarchal society is intolerable, even for a few days.

We are complicit in upholding these shadowy powers, which charm and oppress us at the same time. We ourselves—especially those of us who have more insight into these political and religious processes—are responsible for the delusions these powers foist on the lives of millions of people, especially those communicated through the religious media. We ourselves can become so enthralled that we forget the power games, the unseen manipulation and the cultivated theatrics so crucial for these occasions.

We cannot make predictions about the future direction of the Roman Catholic Church’s governance. But at first glance it seems that we can’t hope for great change in its current structures or policies. Significant change will come if Catholic Christian communities take concrete action in deciding the direction in which Christianity will move. If, that is, based on their own life needs, they are capable of saying how the Gospel of Jesus can be expressed and lived in our lives today.

The geopolitics of secrecy has huge interests to defend. It is part of a global power project in which the forces of order are seen as being threatened by the social and cultural revolutions underway in today’s world. To uphold the secret is to justify the belief that in history there are powers superior to the life-force--and that they are more decisive than the progress being made in our collective struggles for dignity, bread, justice and mercy in the midst of the many troubles and reversals that assault us along the way.

I end this short reflection with the hope that we will not allow the light of freedom living within us to go out, that we will continue to drink from the fountains of our dreams of dignity and clarity, without being much impressed by these seemingly novel occurrences. After all, it’s just one more Pope who has signed his name to an institution that, despite its history of ups and downs, deserves to be transformed and re-imagined for these times. Change can always occur, and we need to be open to the small signs of hope that continually pop up all around us, even in our world's most anachronistic institutions.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel on Pope Francis

This statement from Nobel Peace prize winner and human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel is available in its original Spanish on Amerindia. We bring it to you here in English -- RG

We are celebrating the appointment of the first Latin American pope in the history of the Catholic Church and his choice of the hopeful name Francis to carry forward his papal period.

We hope that he can work for justice and peace beyond the pressures and interests of world powers. We hope that he can leave aside the Vatican mistrust of the protagonism of the people in their liberation. And that he will also encourage the social transformation that is going forward in Latin America and other parts of the world, with the help of populist governments that are trying to get past the night of neoliberalism.

We hope that he will have the courage to defend the rights of the people against the powerful, without repeating the grave errors -- and sins as well -- the Church has made. During the last dictatorship in Argentina, members of the Catholic Church did not have homogeneous attitudes. It isn't debatable that there was complicity from a sizable part of the Church hierarchy in the genocide that was perpetrated on the Argentine people, and though many with an "excess of caution" made silent efforts to free the persecuted, few were the pastors who courageously and decisively took on our struggle for human rights against the military dictatorship. I don't think Jorge Bergoglio was an accomplice of the dictatorship, but I think he lacked the courage to accompany our struggle for human rights during the more difficult times.

I am traveling to Italy to celebrate a new anniversary of the martyrdom of Mons. Arnulfo Romero, a conservative pastor who in the face of the repression in El Salvador, found his "road to Damascus" towards the people and gave his life for justice and peace. Let's hope too that the choice of the name Francis, one of the most important saints of the Church, will be expressed in testimonies of option for and defense of the poor against the powerful, and advocacy for the environment.

Francis has not inherited an imperial throne but the humble chair of a fisherman. Therefore we hope he doesn't forget the words of the martyred Argentine bishop Monseñor Enrique Angelelli, when he said that "we should have one ear to the Gospel and the other to the people, to know what God is saying to us."

Pace e bene,

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
Nobel Peace Prize

Monday, March 18, 2013

Francis "will be a great Pope": Clelia Luro de Podesta weighs in on the new pontiff

By Roly Villani (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Tiempo Argentino
March 17, 2013

 Maybe to the new generation of Christian militants accompanying the slum priests, Monseñor Jerónimo Podestá's name doesn't mean much. But those who have been kicking around the barrios a few years know that the dictator Juan Carlos Ongania defined him as his main enemy when in 1967 he filled Luna Park to talk about Populorum Progressio (an act unthinkable and perhaps impossible in the 21st century, a Catholic priest who could convoke a crowd to talk about politics and religion). What is perhaps better known is his struggle for the right of priests to marry, his own resignation from the priesthood to unite with the one who has since been his wife [now widow] and partner, Clelia Luro, and the founding of the Federación Latinoamericana de Sacerdotes Casados y sus Esposas ["Latin American Federation of Married Priests and Their Wives"]. Following the appointment of Jorge Bergoglio at the head of the Vatican, Tiempo Argentino visited Clelia Luro at her home in the Caballito barrio. There, among photos of her partner and memories of the struggle of a lifetime, Luro stated that Francis "will be a great Pope, the Pope who is going to turn the Church around."

When did you get to know Bergoglio?

I got to know him when Jerónimo was sick. Nobody from the Church came near us, but when Bergoglio realized he was hospitalized, he talked to him by phone. And when they moved him into therapy, Bergoglio was in an audience, he put everything aside and came to bring him the anointing of the sick -- which isn't the same as extreme unction. I know what it must have meant to Jerónimo, after all the blows the institution had given him, for a cardinal to accompany him and be praying with him.

And after that episode, did you communicate again with each other?

He would call me every Sunday. Since Jerónimo died, 12 years ago, he has always been attentive.

What did you talk about?

Church and politics. Bergoglio was always a Peronist. It happens that both he and Jerónimo during the period when he was bishop of Avellaneda, are bishops for everyone. Jerónimo also never stated his political opinion publicly. They would come and ask him, "Who are you supporting?", and he would answer "Racing and Independiente [Translator's note: these are two local Argentinian soccer teams]" -- to give the idea that he was bishop of the whole diocese.

What do you think will happen with this Pope?

He's going to turn things around like John XXIII. He has already started making gestures. The first, which had an impact on those who saw it, was when he went out on the balcony in his white caplet and said: "Before giving you the blessing, I'm going to ask you to give it to me." He turned it around, put the people ahead of power. That was in Vatican II.

And with respect to your lifelong fight, celibacy?

The problem with celibacy is that for the Church, it's a cultural problem. The Church acts like a possessive mother who doesn't want her son to marry because when he marries, he starts to be a free man. The Church knows that it would be very hard to handle a group of free men and, for many years, there were those who were afraid of abandoning celibacy because it was part of the culture of the Catholic Church. But that cultural problem isn't there now. Now no one would be shocked by the fact that priests get married. On the contrary, people today don't understand why they can't be like everyone else.

Do you think Bergoglio's going to raise the issue?

I think it's going to be very hard for him to do it, although I know very well what he thinks and what he wants, because he's talked a lot with me, I've sent him a lot of the married priests' material and I know perfectly that he has behaved very well with his married priests -- he's helped them find work, get a house, things the institution doesn't do. It sends them out into the street.

Why do you think they elected him Pope?

He didn't want to stay over there. So much that he had a roundtrip ticket. He thought he would come back on the 23rd and he had already asked to do mission work in a nursing home. He liked being with the people, not power. But when he saw that there were four days of black smoke, he told me, "I'm going to have to accept because, if not, they're never going to agree." And one can see that he accepted it as a crucifixion, as a new commitment. That's why he has that serene, almost contented face -- one of joy, because of feeling that he's fulfilling God's will.

Do you think he'll be a good pope?

A very good pope. I don't know if it was the lightning that fell on the Vatican, the dove that flew out or the signs that there were, but he's the pope we need.

"Verbitsky doesn't like the Catholic Church"

Clelia Luro is very angry at the accusations that have rained down on the current pope about his complicity with the dictatorship.

"Horacio Verbitsky wanted to destroy him with that story that he had turned the priests over to the military. As an Argentinian, I feel ashamed of the things that are being said about Pope Francis. It's Verbitsky's obsession to destroy him, because he doesn't like the Catholic Church, but he's wrong. When he strikes Bergoglio, he's not striking the right-wing of the Church but he's hitting the social ministry, the opposition to the right-wing within the institution. With the same notion, now he's striking at Monseñor José María Arancedo. But Arancedo's a very good person and he doesn't have to speak ill of him," says Clelia.

Did you ever talk about the case of the priests Orlando Yorio y Francisco Jalics?

Sure. This is how it was: He was the head of the Jesuit province. Those two priests were fighting in the Flores slum. He warned them that they were marked, that they ought to leave, and they didn't heed him, they went on and the soldiers detained them. Then they say that Bergoglio had meetings with Emilio Massera, and in fact he talked with Massera to get them out of the country. Now, Yorio died in Uruguay convinced that Bergoglio had given them up, though the most serious thing one could say is that Bergoglio didn't help them when in fact he did what a provincial had to do -- he warned them. Now, Jalics came to Buenos Aires, celebrated a mass with Bergoglio, everything was fine and then, when the reporters ask him what happened during the dictatorship, he says "I'm not commenting on this matter." That's outrageous to me.

More than just "media folklore": Jon Sobrino, SJ on his hopes for the new pope

By Concha Lago (English translation by Hermano Juancito and Rebel Girl)
Diario de Noticias de Gipuzkoa
March 16, 2013

Jon Sobrino, Basque but universal, and a symbol of liberation theology, usually touches the heart. Distant from the pomp and paraphernalia of the Vatican, his comments have earned him more than one reprimand. Today he speaks for the first time about the new pope and does so loudly and clearly.

Jon Sobrino (Barcelona, 1938) is the Quijote of the disinherited, a theologian who takes the wrapping paper off of life to present its starkness. But to speak as Sobrino does, with an anti-imperialist spirituality, irritates many, above all the Roman Inquisitors. In a very clear but politically incorrect discourse, he assails the spectacle of the election of a new pope. "The sumptuous display was shocking, far from the simplicity of Jesus," he says. And, without mincing words, he states that “Bergoglio, Superior of the Argentinian Jesuits during the years of the worst repression of the civic-military genocide, had a falling out with the Popular Church which was committed to the poor. He was no Romero," Sobrino stresses.

You've dismissed the papal election as "media folklore."

St. Peter’s Square was mobbed with people of all races and colors, with a variety of banners, with expectant and smiling faces. The façade of the church was decorated with calculated refinement. One saw people wearing dressy episcopal garments which aren't seen in the streets of real life, on campesinos or women in the market. "Folklore", in English -- "traditional costumes" -– prevailed, although in St. Peter’s Square the costumes were more sophisticated and dressed up than those of the people in [my] native Spain or in the rural cantons of El Salvador, where I'm living.

Is that bad?

No. None of that was bad, but it didn't say anything significant about who was going to be the next pope, what joys and problems he would have, and what cross he was going to bear...Yes, the lavish display, far from the simplicity of Jesus, was shocking. And I sensed a certain boastfulness in the organizers as if to say that everything is going well. When that perfection also expresses power, I usually call it the ministry of apotheosis.

But not everything was folkloric.

No. There was something not folkloric even from the first day. I'm talking about the simple garments of the pope, the small cross on his chest without gold, or silver, or shining jewels, his prayer in which, bowing, he asked the people [to bless him] before blessing them. These are small but clear signs. Let's hope they grow into big signs and go along with his mission. His simplicity and humility were evident.

The election of Bergoglio was a complete surprise.

Yes, to the uninitiated, it was a surprise and a great novelty. The Pope is Argentinian, the first pope from that country. He's a Jesuit, the first pope from that order. Both things could be trivialized, as has happened in some news reports. Therefore, one must understand this well. Messi is Argentinian, but not all Argentinians are stars. Pedro Arrupe was a Jesuit, but -– and here I’m talking about something more serious –- not all the Jesuits are like him. Mentally lazy headlines without much wit like "Argentinian and Jesuit" are also folkloric. Don’t they have anything else to say? Moreover, folkloric media moments don't last long. It's sad to sustain them or continue to add insignificant details without going into the fundamental aspects of the matter, such as the Pope, the Church, God and us. Whether what is folkloric continues to be what is most served up, depends on the owners of the media -- and the spectators.

These days, you've spoken with people who know Bergoglio up close.

Yes. I'm not an expert on the life, work, joys, and sufferings of Bergoglio. And so as not to fall into any type of irresponsibility, I've tried to connect with individuals in Argentina, whom I won't quote, above all those who've had direct contact with him. I hope for understanding because what I'm going to say is limited and I apologize for any errors I might commit. Bergoglio is a Jesuit who has held important posts in the province of Argentina. He has been a professor of theology, a superior and a provincial. It isn't hard to talk about his external work. But of the more internal, one can speak only delicately and now respectfully and responsibly. Many companions have spoken of him as a person with deep convictions and temperament, a resolute and relentless fighter. "If they make him pope, he will clean up the Curia," it has been said humorously.

His austerity has been highlighted.

Also, they remember him for his boundless interest in communicating to others his convictions about the Society of Jesus, an interest which could become possessiveness, even to the point of demanding loyalty to his person. Many recall his austerity of life, as a Jesuit, archbishop, and cardinal. Examples of this are his residence and his proverbial travelling by bus. When he was bishop, many priests remember how he was close to them and how he offered to stand in for them in their parish work when they needed to go away to rest. The austerity of life was accompanied by a real interest in the poor, the indigenous, trade union members who were attacked; this led him to firmly defend them in the face of successive governments. Moral issues have been very dear to him, and certainly abortion, which led him to directly confront the president of the country.

Did they recall his option for the poor?

In all that, one can appreciate his specific way of making an option for the poor. Not in actively going out and risking himself in their defense during the time of repression of the criminal military dictatorships. The complicity of the church hierarchy with the dictators is known. Bergoglio was superior of the Jesuits in Argentina from 1973 to 1979, during the years of major repression of the civil-military genocide.

Are you talking about complicity?

It doesn’t seem fair to speak of complicity, but it seems correct to say that in those circumstances Bergoglio distanced himself from the Popular Church which was committed to the poor. He wasn’t a Romero -- celebrated for his defense of human rights and assassinated while exercising his pastoral ministry. I don’t have enough knowledge, and I say this with the fear of being mistaken. Bergoglio didn't present the image of Monseñor Angelleli, an Argentinian bishop who was assassinated by the military in 1976. Very possibly, it did occur in his heart, but he wasn't used to bringing out in public the living memory of Leonidas Proaño, Monseñor Juan Gerardi, Sergio Méndez...

However, he also has a pronounced solidarity side.

Yes. On the other hand, since 1998, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he has accompanied the poorly treated sectors of the big city in various ways -– and with concrete deeds. One eye witness talks about how, on the first anniversary of the Cromagnon tragedy [when a fire during a rock concert took the lives of 200 young people], Bergoglio was present and forcibly demanded justice for the victims. He used prophetic language at times. He denounced the evils that grind the flesh of the people and he named them specifically: human trafficking, slave labor, prostitution, drug-trafficking, and many others. For some, perhaps the greatest virtue and the greatest strength for carrying out his present papal ministry is that Bergoglio is a man who is open to dialogue with the marginalized from their suffering. He has gone along decisively with church processes on the margins of the Catholic Church and processes that are happening at the edge of legality. Two significant examples are the deanery of slum priests in marginal neighborhoods and his support for priests who are going about without a worthy ministry.

What awaits Pope Francis?

God only knows. The new pope will have thought well about what awaits him and about what he ought to do, what he will be able to and what he wishes to do. Now we could enumerate some tasks which appear important to us here in El Salvador and which could be important for everyone in the Church. We ought to carry them out too, but the pope has a greater responsibility and let's hope he has greater means. The tasks match those that José Ignacio González Faus recently proposed.

What's the most urgent one?

The first -- I believe the greatest dream -- is to make John XIII's dream a reality: The Church is in a special way the Church of the Poor. This didn't succeed in the hall of Vatican II, and so about forty bishops met outside the hall and in the Catacombs of Saint Domitila signed the manifesto which has been called the Pact of the Catacombs.

You always point out the Church's lack of sensitivity.

As many say, Bergoglio is sensitive toward the poor. Would that he had the lucidity to make the Church of the Poor real, and that the Church would cease to be a Church of abundance, of the bourgeois and the rich. He won't lack enemies, just as after Medellín there wasn't a lack for the many hierarchs who did put the poor at the center of the Church. The enemies were within the church curias and very strong within the world of wealth and power. The latter killed thousands of Christians.

It's impossible to forget Monseñor Romero, a Latin American martyr.

Let's hope Pope Francis isn't frightened of a Church that is persecuted and martyred, like the churches of Monseñor Romero and Monseñor Gerardi. Whether or not he canonizes them, let's hope he proclaims that the martyrs, speaking of them specifically as martyrs of justice, are the best that we have in the Church. This is what makes her like Jesus of Nazareth. For that, it's not essential that he canonize Monseñor Romero, although that would be a good sign. And, if the pope falls into any type of human weakness, may it be being proud of his Latin American homeland, suffering and hopeful, martyred and always on the verge of resurrection. And being proud of a whole generation of bishops: Leónidas Proaño, Helder Camara, Aloysius Lorscheider, Samuel Ruiz...They didn't become popes, most of them not even cardinals. But from them, we live.

And what can you tell me of the problems that are shaking up the church and that appear in the media?

The second dream is to face the known constellation of problems inside the organization of the Church which are waiting to be solved. For example, the urgent reform of the Roman Curia. It's also necessary that the members of the Curia should preferably be lay people. Likewise it's important that Rome let the local churches choose their pastors. That all the symbols of power and worldly honor should disappear from the papal environment, and certainly that the successor of Peter stop being a head of state, since this would have made Jesus ashamed. It's necessary that the whole Church see the present separation of the Christian faiths as an offense against God. We must ask the Pope that Rome resolve the problem of Catholics whose first marriage failed and who have found stability in a second union. And, of course, priestly celibacy should be reconsidered.

You don't neglect other classic demands either.

I do have three other concerns. On the one hand, that once and for all we fix the untenable situation of women in the Church. Also that we stop undervaluing, and at times despising, the indigenous world -- the Mapuche of South America and all those the pope will get to know in his travels through Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And, of course, that we learn to love Mother Earth.

All this with a firm commitment that has to do a lot with what has happened these days.

Yes. The commitment ought to be that the new pope on the balcony of St. Peter’s and the millions in the square not become a great actor -- the Pope -- and mere box-office spectators -- the faithful.