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.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Trust and responsibility

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
May 17, 2015

Mark 16:15-20

At some point an appendix was added to the original gospel of Mark in which this final mandate of Jesus is recorded: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." The gospel must not remain within his small group of disciples. They are to go out and travel to reach the "whole world" and bring the Good News to all the peoples, to "all of creation."

Undoubtedly, these words were heard with enthusiasm when Christians were fully expanding and their communities were multiplying throughout the Empire, but how do we hear them today when we see ourselves as powerless to retain those who abandon our churches because they no longer feel a need for our religion?

The first thing is to live based on absolute trust in God's actions. Jesus taught us so. God continues to work on the hearts and minds of all His sons and daughters with infinite love, even though we consider them to be "lost sheep." God isn't blocked by any crisis.

He isn't waiting for us to put our plans for restoration or our innovation projects into action in the Church. He is still acting in the Church and outside of the Church. No one is abandoned by God, even though they might have never heard about the Gospel of Jesus.

But all this does not dispense us from our responsibility. We must begin to ask ourselves new questions: Through what paths does God go looking for men and women of the modern culture? How does He want to make present the Good News of Jesus to the men and women of our time?

We are to ask ourselves something more yet: How is God calling us to transform our traditional ways of thinking, expressing, celebrating, and incarnating the Christian faith such that we propitiate the actions of God within modern culture? With our inertia and inaction, don't we run the risk of becoming a deterrent and cultural obstacle to the incarnation of the Gospel in contemporary society?

Nobody knows how the Christian faith will be in the new world that is emerging, but it will hardly be a "cloning" of the past. The Gospel has the power to inaugurate a new Christianity.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pope Francis and Luís Espinal

by Victor Codina, SJ (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Blog de Cristianisme i Justícia
May 12, 2015

UPDATE: Since Fr. Codina wrote this article, the Secretary of the Bolivian Bishops' Conference, Fr. José Fuentes, has officially confirmed that the Pope will stop and have a moment of silent prayer near the place where Luis Espinal was killed, to remember him.

The fact that on the agenda of the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis to Bolivia, it is being contemplated that on the afternoon of July 8th during the descent from El Alto to La Paz, the Pope would stop briefly on the road, relatively near Achachicala, the place where the murdered body of Luis Espinal was found, has certainly drawn attention.

And although many have heard of Luis Espinal and many centers bear his name, the under-40 generation doesn't know what happened in 1980 or who Lucho Espinal really was.

Luis Espinal was born in St. Fruitós de Bages (Barcelona) in 1932 in the midst of a poor and very Christian era. After he finished high school, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1949. He completed his studies for the priesthood and was ordained in 1963. From '64 to '65, he went to Bergamo, Italy to specialize in Communications. There he began writing his famous "Oraciones a quemarropa" ["Point-blank prayers"].

After returning to Spain, he began working in film and TV. These were the years of the Franco dictatorship and they censored his program called "Cuestión urgente" ["Urgent Matter"] . Then he resigned from TV and accepted the offer to go work in Bolivia. He arrived in Bolivia in 1968, the year of the meeting of the Latin American bishops in Medellin, when the Church of Latin America began to be sensitive to poverty and injustice. From the political perspective, Espinal coexisted with democratic and dictatorial governments: R. Barrientos, L.A. Siles, Ovando, J.J. Torres, the Banzer dictatorship from '71 to '78, Pereda Asbún, D. Padilla, Guevara Arce, Natusch Busch and Lydia Gueiler, during whose weak government Espinal was killed in March. In July, Garcia Meza made the coup d'etat.

Why did they kill him? Espinal was a communications professional -- he wrote in the press, he did film critiques, he had radio and TV programs, he taught film at the university, he wrote 12 books on cinema, he worked on the production of the film "Chuquiago", he edited “Aquí” ["Here"], a magazine on social thought. But Luis Espinal didn't limit himself to being a mere communications professional; he used the media as a means to denounce injustice, poverty, the lack of freedom of the dictatorship, the massacres, the exiles, the complicit collaboration of many with the dictatorship, drug trafficking, the guilty silence of members of the Church. In December '77, he joined a hunger strike by women miners to demand amnesty for political prisoners of the Banzer dictatorship. On the night of March 21st, 1980, when leaving the cinema after seeing the film "Los desalmados" ["The Heartless"] for his later critique on the radio, he was violently put into a jeep by a group of murderers led by Arce Gomez. They took him to the Alto slaughterhouse where he was tortured and killed with 17 bullets. His body was found by a peasant in a landfill in Achachicala. About 80,000 people attended his funeral. That same day, Mons. Romero was murdered in El Salvador.

About his life and his death there is a real conflict of interpretations. While for some he was killed for meddling in politics and being revolutionary and Marxist, those who knew him well believe he was a prophet and defender of justice and the poor, based on faith in Jesus of Nazareth and following him. He died for that, as did many prophets and Jesus himself. And though he never wanted to be a martyr, he can be considered a martyr of faith and justice. He gave his life for others.

To better understand Lucho Espinal's stance, it's good to remember that in 1974-75, the Society of Jesus, in its General Congregation 32 convened by Father Pedro Arrupe, redefined the mission of the Jesuits as service of faith and the promotion of justice, an option that should permeate all its life and apostolic ministries. And with great foresight, they said they would not work for the promotion of justice without paying a price. Since then until today, more than 50 Jesuits from Asia, Africa and Latin America have been murdered for defending a faith linked to justice. Among them, Luis Espinal.

But Jesuit Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio attended that General Congregation 32 as Provincial of Argentina. As Provincial and then as Bishop and Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio was very sensitive to the issue of justice and the poor, and once elected Pope he assumed the name of Francis, dreaming of a church that is poor and for the poor, prophetically denouncing the injustice of an economic system that puts money above human beings. This Pope, who unblocked the beatification process of Mons. Romero of El Salvador, could not remain indifferent to the life and death of Espinal. And as a Jesuit, he understands that his murder is part of the social cost of the option for the poor and justice, as happened to Jesus.

In this brief stop near Achachicala, Pope Francis wants to bless a place watered by the blood of a witness to the gospel and confirm the conviction of the Bolivian people who see in Espinal a martyr for democracy and a champion of freedom and human rights.

The Holy See gives a green light to the beatification of Enrique Angelelli

by Valores Religiosos (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
May 11, 2015

The Vatican gave the green light to the cause of beatification for martyrdom in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith) of Bishop Enrique Angelelli of La Rioja, killed by the dictatorship on August 4, 1976. The formal petition to open the cause had been made on January 7th by the current bishop of La Rioja, Marcelo Colombo. And on April 21st, the Vatican gave its approval, as was revealed yesterday by Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, and pointed out by Elisabetta Piqué in La Nación.

On July 4th last year, the former commander of the Third Army Corps, Luciano Benjamin Menendez, and the former commodore, Luis Fernando Estrella, were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Angelelli, a deed that during the dictatorship was passed off as an accident.

The inquest was impelled in part by Pope Francis himself, who sent two secret documents that were a significant contribution to the cause. One document was a letter from Angelelli to the then apostolic nuncio Pio Laghi, in which he warned that he was being threatened, and another with the detailed account of the July 18, 1976 murder of two priests who were very close to the bishop, Gabriel Longueville and Carlos Murias.

Avvenire recalled that Angelelli was the first bishop killed during the dictatorships that emerged in Latin America in the 70s, like Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who will be beatified on May 23rd. The son of Italian immigrants, Angelelli had participated in the Second Vatican Council and was appointed by Pope Paul VI as bishop of La Rioja, one of the poorest provinces.

Bergoglio was in La Rioja on June 13, 1973, with other Jesuit priests, the same day that Angelelli was stoned in Anillaco. The next day, the bishop preached at a spiritual retreat for them and the current pope saw "a pastor who conversed with his people," as he said in 2006.

Two months later, he accompanied Father Pedro Arrupe, superior general of the Jesuits who, on seeing the work of the bishop and the political and social scene in which it was unfolding, said: "This is what the Church has wanted since Vatican II." In August 2006, 30 years after the death of Angelelli, the then Cardinal Bergoglio presided over a Mass in La Rioja and reappraised the pastor's life and the circumstances of his death, thus blurring the car accident theory.

"He was a witness to the faith by shedding his blood. Somebody was happy that day. He thought it was his triumph, but it was the defeat of the adversaries," he said in a homily in which he highlighted [Angelellli's] "apostolic courage and endurance to cope with the difficulties of preaching the Gospel." Bergoglio also vindicated Carlos de Dios Murias and Gabriel Longueville, the priests who were killed on July 18, 1976 in Chamical, and layman Wenceslao Pedernera, terminated a week later. "They gave their blood for the Church," he said, at a time when the Church had not taken steps to demand clarification of what happened.

This homily was a break and coincided with the reopening of the trial, after the voiding of the full stop and due obedience laws.

Not deviating from love

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
May 10, 2015

John 15:9-17

The evangelist John puts into Jesus' mouth a long farewell speech in which, with special intensity, some fundamental features are gathered that his disciples are to remember throughout the ages to be faithful to him and his plan. In our times, too.

"Remain in my love." That's the first. It's not just about living in a religion, but living in the love that Jesus loves us with, the love he receives from the Father. Being Christian isn't first of all a doctrinal matter but a question of love. Throughout the centuries, the disciples will know uncertainty, conflicts and difficulties of all kinds. The important thing will always be not to deviate from love.

Remaining in Jesus' love isn't something theoretical or vacuous. It is "keeping his commandments," which he himself sums up next in the mandate of fraternal love: "This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you." Christians find many commandments in their religion. Their origin, nature, and importance are diverse and not equal. With the passing of time, the rules multiply. Only of the mandate to love does Jesus say, "This is my commandment." In any era or situation, the important thing for Christianity is to not get away from fraternal love.

Jesus doesn't present this mandate to love as a law that is to rule our lives, making them harder and more burdensome, but as a source of joy: "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete." When real love is lacking among us, a void is created that nothing and nobody can fill with joy.

Without love it isn't possible to take steps towards a more open, cordial, joyful, simple and lovable Christianity where we can live as "friends" of Jesus, according to the gospel expression. We won't know how to generate joy. Even unwillingly, we will go on cultivating a sad Christianity, full of complaints, resentment, laments, and uneasiness.

Our Christianity often lacks the joy of what is done and lived out with love. Our following of Jesus lacks the enthusiasm of innovation and has too much of the sadness of what is repeated without the conviction that we are reproducing what Jesus wanted from us.