Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Toribio, a cardinal who smells of sheep and mines
May 23, 2018
On Pentecost, Pope Francis named 14 new cardinals, many of them from marginal areas. Among them, Toribio Ticona, a Bolivian emeritus bishop from a poor peasant jurisdiction who, before being bishop, was a peasant, bootblack, miner, bricklayer, and newspaper vendor.
Many were surely surprised with this nomination that breaks the traditional image of cardinal princes of the Church, members of noble families and bishops of great world capitals. Toribio responds to another image, that of the poor and simple pastor, always close to the peasant and mining people.
I have met him several times and I especially remember an occasion when he invited me to a meeting of the Church Base Communities in the mining district of Siglo XX. Toribio was the one who served at table.
This nomination is not casual; it responds to Francis' concern to reform the Church, to go back to a poor Church and for the poor, a Church that goes out to the borders and is a field hospital, where the pastors aren't taskmasters or feudal lords, but servants who smell of sheep, who break recalcitrant clericalism and build a Church People of God.
This designation is also a criticism of a society that builds walls to defend itself from poor migrants and where the representative of the most powerful country calls foreign immigrants "animals", a world where wealth, consumption, prestige and power are valued, and one escapes with the "bread and circus" of princely weddings and spectacular sports championships.
In the face of this false and unjust world, Toribio's nomination means that there are other values more important in life, such as honesty, work, simplicity, justice and solidarity with the poor.
Finally, this nomination reminds us of the gospel of Jesus who came not to be served but to serve. He washed his disciples' feet and said that the most important in the Kingdom of God are the little ones and the poor.