Friday, May 22, 2015

Jon Sobrino: "We don't want them to beatify a 'watered down' Romero"

by Alver Metalli (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Tierras de America
May 22, 2015

In the Centro Monseñor Romero, planted at the heart of the Universidad Católica, Jon Sobrino moves as if he were dancing. He founded it after the massacre of his brother Jesuits -- "I didn't die like them only because I was in Thailand," he recalls -- and he is devoted to it as if it were the last mission of his life, now that he has reached 77. An average of about twenty years more than Ignacio Ellacuria and his companions lived, felled by assassins' bullets on November 16, 1989. Jon Sobrino knows well the resistance, the accusations of leftist and pro-guerrilla that rained down on Romero in El Salvador and were received by condescending ears in Rome. So he can't fail to rejoice at the beatification. But it isn't like that. Or at least he has to point out many things about it. We ask him if a few years ago he could have imagined that a day like today would come -- like Saturday, May 23rd, to be exact. In the main room of the "UCA Martyrs" mausoleum, his thin body stirs and he lets out a provocative "It never mattered to me." He repeats it again so it is quite clear. "Seriously...I'm saying it seriously: Romero's beatification never mattered to me." We wait for a clarification. There must be one. What he just said can't be his last words. "When he was killed, people here -- not the Italians and much less the Vatican -- the Salvadorans, our poor, immediately said, 'He's a saint!'. Pedro Casaldaliga wrote a great poem four days later: '¡San Romero de América, pastor y mártir nuestro!' ['Saint Romero of America, our shepherd and martyr!']." He also recalls that Ignacio Ellacuria, who was struck down a few meters from the place where we are, "three days after Romero's assassination, celebrated Mass in a hall at the UCA and said in his homily, 'With Monseñor Romero God has passed through El Salvador.'" He breathes deeply as if needing air. "Yes, that. I never would have imagined anyone could say something like that. It's good that they're beatifying him; they're 35 years late but it's not the most important thing." He makes sure the listener has received the blow. "Do you understand what I'm saying to you?," he exclaims, an indulgent smile sketching his fine lips. All he receives in reply is another request for explanation. "I understand that none of what is happening is persuasive to you..." Near us, they're unloading packets with the latest issue of Carta a las Iglesias, the journal he edits. "It's good that they're beatifying him. I'm not saying it isn't, but I would have liked it done another way...and I still don't know what Cardinal Angelo Amato is going to say the day after tomorrow. I don't know, I don't know if his words will persuade me or not."

But Sobrino won't be able to hear the homily of the Prefect coming from Rome, or doesn't want to hear it. "We know you're going away, that you've programmed a trip, and that on Saturday you won't be in the plaza with everyone. Did you do it on purpose?" He delays in answering, as if asking himself how we knew. Then the clarification comes; "I'm going to Brazil, because in Rio de Janeiro they will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the journal Concilium. I have worked on that journal for the last 16 years. I have to give a speech and then I will retire from the journal. The beatification coincides with this meeting. It's not that I'm going away; I'll watch the beatification ceremony on TV and shortly before noon I'll go to the airport." Sixteen years on Concilium and Sobrino is retiring the day of Romero's beatification. That's news too. On the wall in front of us, the "Fathers of the Latin American Church" are listening very gravely. The gallery begins with Monseñor Gerardi, murdered in Guatemala in 1998, and continues with the Colombian Gerardo Valente Cano, the Argentine Enrique Angelelli killed in 1976, Hélder Pessoa Câmara, a saintly Brazilian, the Mexican Sergio Méndel Arceo with another compatriot at his side, Samuel Ruiz, and the Ecuadorian Leónidas Proano, followed by Monseñor Roberto Joaquín Ramos (El Salvador 1938-1993) and Father Manuel Larrain, the Chilean founder of CELAM, ending with Romero's successor, the Salesian Arturo Rivera y Damas, a key figure in Romero's story and unfairly ignored in the celebrations these days.

On Saturday at noon, according to the program broadcast by the beatification Committee, they should be reading the decree that will formally include Servant of God Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez among the blessed of the Catholic Church. Jon Sobrino probably won't have time to hear it. But he's not worried. He explains his reasons in some fashion while presenting the material of Carta a las Iglesias year XXXIII, number 661, which has on the cover a mural that depicts Romero holding the hand of a campesino's daughter who has just cut a cluster of bananas with a sickle. "Two articles are critical. Father Manuel Acosta criticizes the actions of the official preparatory commission of the beatification. Luis Van de Velde is more critical of the hierarchy. One wonders if Monseñor Romero will be recognized on the day of his beatification. We've been on guard for a while so that they don't beatify a watered down Monseñor Romero. This risk exists; we hope they beatify a living Romero, sharper than a two-edged sword, just and compassionate."

The clothes worn by his Jesuit friends and colleagues on the last day of their lives are hung on display in a glass case in the next room, as if in a closet. Ellacuría's brown cassock, a bathrobe, a pair of pants a little yellowish, all pierced by the bullets that the military did not bother to save. It's natural to think of them and of their beatification process which began recently. "That doesn't concern me either," Sobrino exclaims. "I was in Thailand that day and that's why I wasn't killed. I have seen the blood of many people in El Salvador running; beatifications don't interest me. I hope my words help Ellacuría be better known; we're trying to follow his path. That's what interests me." Not even a sign of appreciation for the Argentine Pope who has promoted Romero's cause? "No, I'm not interested in applauding, and if I do applaud, it's not for the fact that the pope is Argentinian or a Jesuit, but for what he says, for the way he behaved at Lampedusa, for example. What interests me is that there's someone saying that the bottom of the Mediterranean is full of corpses. I don't applaud Jesus' resurrection. Applauding isn't my thing."

Attention is now turned to the day after tomorrow. "I've seen horrors that were never denounced, like Monseñor Romero used to denounce them. We'll see if his words resound on Saturday." To be sure they don't misinterpret him, Jon Sobrino recites them from memory: "'In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression.' I heard this from him and it stuck in my mind."

The rest of his thinking about Romero, an "unsweetened" Romero, the "real" Romero, is found in the article he wrote for the Revista latinoamericana de Teología of Universidad Católica, whose editorial committee has included, among others, Leonardo Boff, Enrique Dussel and the Chilean Comblin. "I show what Monseñor Romero felt and said in the last spiritual retreat he preached a month before being assassinated. Then I offer three points of reflection that I consider important. I recall that a campesino said, 'Monseñor Romero defended us poor; he didn't just help us, he didn't just make an option for the poor, which is now a slogan. He got out and defended us poor. And if someone comes to defend it's because someone needs to be defended, and the one who is attacked, needs defending. So' -- this campesino said with certainty -- 'they killed him.' Mother Teresa who was good and didn't bother anybody, received the Nobel Prize. Monseñor Romero, who annoyed people, didn't receive any Nobel Prize."

Invocation to the Spirit

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
May 24, 2015

John 20:19-23

Come Holy Spirit. Awaken our small, weak and wavering faith. Teach us to live trusting in the unfathomable love of God our Father towards His sons and daughters, be they within or outside of your Church. If the faith in our hearts goes out, our communities and churches will soon die as well.

Come Holy Spirit. Make Jesus be the center of your Church. May nobody and nothing take His place or obscure Him. Do not dwell among us without bringing us to His gospel and converting us to follow Him. May we not flee from His Word, nor turn away from His commandment to love. May the memory of Him not be lost in the world.

Come Holy Spirit. Open our ears to hear your call, the one that comes to us today from the questions, suffering, conflicts and contradictions of the men and women of our time. Make us open to your power to give birth to the new faith that this new society needs. In your Church, may we be more attentive to what is being born than to what is dying, with hearts sustained by hope, not undermined by nostalgia.

Come Holy Spirit and purify the heart of your Church. Put truth among us. Teach us to recognize our sins and limitations. Remind us that we are all weak, mediocre and sinful. Free us from our arrogance and false security. Help us learn to walk among men and women with more honesty and humility.

Come Holy Spirit. Teach us to look at life, the world, and especially people in a new way. May we learn to look as Jesus looked upon those who suffer, those who cry, those who have fallen, those who live alone and forgotten. If our way of seeing changes, so too will the heart and face of your Church. We, the disciples of Jesus, would better reflect his closeness, understanding and solidarity with the neediest. We would be more like our Lord and Master.

Come Holy Spirit. Make us a Church of open doors, compassionate hearts, and contagious hope. May nothing and nobody distract us or deviate us from Jesus' plan: to build a more just and worthy world, a more friendly and blessed one, opening the way to the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Vatican examining the activism of nuns Caram and Forcades

by Enric Juliana and Josep Playa Maset (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Vanguardia
May 19, 2015

The two must popular nuns in Catalonia, Lucia Caram and Teresa Forcades, are going through a delicate point in their church life. Both find themselves, in different ways, facing the dilemma of exclaustration if they wish to maintain in the coming times the intense public and media activity that has given them great social exposure.


Sister Lucia Caram (Tucuman, Argentina, 1966), a Dominican nun from the Santa Clara convent in Manresa, has been called to task by the nunciature (embassy) of the Holy See in Spain and last Friday she was received at the Vatican by the Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, a Roman dicastery that oversees the activities of religious orders. Teresa Forcades (Barcelona, 1966) has gone a step further and has just informed the Procés Constituent platform, of which she is a founder, that she is willing to temporarily leave the religious life to lead a joint candidacy of the sovereigntist Left in the elections to the Catalan Parliament, announced for September 27th.

Caram confirmed last week to this newspaper that she was going to be received in Rome to discuss her situation, having received a verbal warning from the nunciature, which considers her constant media exposure, especially on television, not to be very compatible with the principles of monastic life. Sister Lucia is a contemplative Dominican nun, an order founded in 1206 by St. Dominic with the dual purpose of silent prayer and evangelism. The secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life is the Spanish Franciscan José Rodríguez Carballo. Carballo's appointment was one of the first that Pope Francis made shortly after being elected in 2013.

Caram has become a television personality of the first order. Popular, funny and daring, Caram has given interviews on different kinds of programs -- speaking from inside a confessional with reporter Xavier Sarda on one of them -- and has her own space on Canal Cocina ["the Cooking Channel"]. A few weeks ago, it was announced that she would participate in the program "En la caja" ["In the box"], similar to the reality show format of channel Four. Lucia Caram's convent is under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Vic, headed by Romà Casanova, one of the more conservative Catalan prelates. In ecclesiastical circles, the bishop's negative opinion about some of the activities of the Argentino-Catalan nun who seduces television programmers, is known.

Caram's popularity has helped propel the activities of the Rosa Oriol charitable foundation, a civil solidarity group based in Manresa, chaired by businesswoman Rosa Tous and whose vice-president is Elena Rakosnik, wife of the president of the Generalitat, Artur Mas. Caram has not taken sides specifically for any grouping, but she doesn't hide her sympathies for the sovereignist cause and President Mas.

Sister Lucia is suspicious of Ada Colau and at the beginning of the current electoral campaign asked residents of Barcelona, via Twitter, not to vote for her. Forcades, by contrast, is a friend of Colau and shares a good part of her political plan with her.

Forcades belongs to the community of Benedictine nuns from the monastery of Sant Benet, Montserrat, under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Sant Feliu de Llobregat, headed by Agustí Cortés. With the consent of the community, Teresa Forcades has carried out an intense labor of public debate -- she was very critical of the vaccine against influenza A -- and political facilitation, which has crystallized in the Procés Constituent platform, which supports the independence of Catalonia without giving up active collaboration with the new Spanish alternative Left. Procés Constituent is part of the Barcelona en Comú ["Barcelona in Common"] candidacy.

After a period of study in Germany, during which she reduced her public activity, Forcades has returned to the political arena. A few days ago, she leaked the contents of a letter to her Procés Constituent comrades, in which she expressed her willingness to temporarily leave the religious life to be a candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat. In the letter, released by the digital portal Vilaweb, Forcades explains that a possibility has opened for her full-time dedication to politics. "That possibility is asking permission from the monastery for one year, extendable to two (...) This means that after a year or two, I could go back to my monastery." Forcades is referring to the "indult of exclaustration" provided for in the Code of Canon Law. The exclaustration, for a maximum period of three years, may be imposed for "serious reasons" or granted, upon request, for reasons that justify it. The decision is the exclusive competence of the Holy See.

A few months ago, Sisters Caram and Forcades' situations were the subject of closed deliberation by the bishops of the Catalan dioceses, at a meeting of the Tarragona Bishops Conference. The Conference asked Bishops Casanova and Cortes to find solutions, although the deliberation was not included in the public communications about the issues addressed.