interview by Dietmar Neuwirth with Dom Erwin Kräutler, Bishop of the Xingu, Brazil, in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse last week. Blogger Luis Miguel Modino has produced a Spanish version. We bring it to you in English.
You survived an attempt on your life and have been under police protection for eight years. How do you deal with the fear of death?
If I were just afraid, I couldn't live. My greatest protection is the people.
Which of your experiences could be brought to Europe? To Austria?
The keyword is lay people. In Brazil, much is demanded of men and women. I have 800 communities and 27 priests. That says it all. If the lay people don't assume responsibilities in their communities, the communities don't exist. Ten years from now, it will be like that in Europe too, that men and women will lead communities.
Does the administration of the sacraments remain reserved for the priests?
Not exclusively. I can give anyone permission to baptize or officiate at a wedding. Ninety percent of all the communities in Amazonia don't have Eucharist on Sundays. Seventy percent have Eucharist once or twice a year, or sometimes they have a Liturgy of the Word.
The Second Vatican Council speaks of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life. The praxis you mention is very far from this proposal.
Not at all. God is also present in His Word, but the Liturgy of the Word is just one part of the Eucharistic celebration. In most of the communities, unfortunately, the second part is missing and that's the biggest problem.
For Catholics, there's also a right to the Eucharist. How is that problem solved?
Yes, there's a right to it. This is not a privilege.
Might it be necessary to change the access rules?
Exactly. That's what I said to the Pope too. The Pope is very open. He won't have a solution overnight. But the Pope told me that the bishops, the regional bishops' conferences should make bold proposals.
How do you reconcile the access rules with the priestly function?
What are the possibilities? Celibacy should not necessarily be mandatory for celebrating the Eucharist. Celibacy means a man or a woman is obliged to live without getting married. When I think about what I've experienced, how could I have done it if I had had a wife and children? Wouldn't my first task have been being at the side of the wife and children and not risking my life? One proposal might be disassociating celibacy from the Eucharistic celebration. That the celebration of the Eucharist becomes dependent on a celibate priest, this I don't agree with.
But you have to agree.
That's already changing to the point of being able to make proposals to the Pope. My visit with the Pope was extraordinary. I had a private audience with him. I told this to the Bishops' Conference. It's highly probable that a commission will be created to address the problem and make suggestions. How can we help the Pope? He's asking us for suggestions. He wants them.
Are you counting on this, that Francis will implement such reforms?
I hope so. This process wasn't allowed until now. Benedict XVI used to say that we should pray for priestly vocations. It's different with this pope. He wants to initiate a process. That's new. So there are doors being opened.
On women's ordination, Francis thinks that door is closed.
As long as there's a door...The door isn't bricked in. But women's ordination happening with this Pope? I don't think so.
Should the door be open?
Yes, but I'm not going to anticipate it.
Have you ever denied communion to anyone?
Never. That would be a scandal. Who am I to deny communion? Those concerned have to decide in their own consciences.
Francis criticizes the economy harshly. How much criticism of capitalism is bearable for the Church?
Here, the Pope is talking like a Latin American. He asks who is the agent, the economy or man? For whom should it exist? Here things get confused too.
Some have noted a leftist tendency in the Church...
The madness is condemning liberation theology as Marxist. Liberation theology is biblical.