Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dom José Maria Pires: The trajectory of a bishop of the people

By Thaís Brito (English translation by Rebel Girl)
O POVO (em português)
June 22, 2015

His mother had African and Gypsy blood. His father came from a Portuguese family. During his career in defense of black people and the oppressed, Dom José Maria Pires was also known as Dom Pelé and Dom Zumbi. At age 96, the retired archbishop of Paraíba travels around the country to speak about the Second Vatican Council that ended in 1965. He is one of the few living conciliar fathers in Brazil.

Born in Minas Gerais, he united a mineiro's calm with the frankness of a northeasterner to defend the poor during the military dictatorship. In the man from Ceará, Dom Helder Câmara, he found a personal friend and ally in the struggle for human rights. In an interview with O POVO, he recalls the pact signed by the Church to reach the weakest and pursue simplicity. After 50 years from the last conference, he thinks that a conversion to the Council's message is needed.

O POVO - Where do the nicknames "Dom Pelé" and "Dom Zumbi" come from?

Dom José Maria Pires - When I was ordained bishop in 1957, I was the only black bishop in the Brazilian episcopate. It was the time when Pelé was at his height, a young man. At one of our meetings, I came in a little late with another bishop. When I entered, they said, "Feola (Vicente Feola, former player of the national team), who was chubby, and Pelé." Then they started calling me Pelé.

OP - And how did the "Zumbi" come about?

Dom José - "Zumbi" was in Serra da Barriga (Alagoas), on the centenary of the abolition of slavery. We had made a pilgrimage to the mountain range, which was the seat of the Quilombo dos Palmares. There, Dom Pedro Casaldáliga (emeritus bishop of São Félix do Araguaia) says, "Look, Zé Maria. Pelé doesn't do anything for black people. You keep fighting for the blacks. So we're going to change your name from Pelé to Zumbi because he also gave his life for blacks." From then on they called me Dom Zumbi.

OP - And do these nicknames please you?

Dom José - No, they don't matter to me. Some call me José, others Zé Maria. I answer to all of them. (laughs)

OP - You entered the seminary when you were still young?

Dom José - I was just 12 in the seminary. At that time, we finished primary school and then entered seminary. The whole junior high part we did there.

OP - At the beginning of your studies, as a black child of humble origins, did you face difficulties or discrimination?

Dom José - I didn't think it was discrimination. Minas Gerais has a very high black population. Because of being a land of mining, especially diamonds, there were lots of slaves there to work the land. And a black person there is normal. Now, really whites made their exceptions and distinctions. For example, in my first year of seminary, at age 12, I had a disagreement with a colleague of mine. We fought, the person in charge came, he separated us and punished us. We were kneeling in the hallway. Then the director of the house came by, he saw us and called the person in charge. "What did these boys do?" He said, "They were fighting." Then the director: "This one is a very good boy, from a good family. It's that black one that's no good."(laughs) That was the view and we accepted it. I thought that black was inferior. Only later did I come to see that wasn't the case. Black is different. It's neither superior nor inferior; it's different.

OP - In 1965, you were transferred to João Pessoa. Did coming into contact with the people in Paraíba bring more the vision of a church dedicated to the poor? Or was that already part of your work in Minas Gerais?

Dom José - It was in part. Because at that time there was a very strong social distinction between Minas Gerais, which was in the south, and the Northeast. Mineiros are very quiet, withdrawn. There's a marked difference. But northeasterners are wide open... You come and talk with them half an hour, you already know their whole life. And there was a problem in the Church in the Northeast because, even during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), there was a very great divide in some diocese. One of them was Paraiba. The clergy were divided almost in half. The archbishop was 62, but was unable to work. So it was necessary to provide someone who was new and in condition to face that situation.

OP - What division was that? Were there two distinct visions of Church?

Dom José - The Second Vatican Council projected a new image of the Church and a new image of the priest. Before, the priest went around in a cassock, celebrating Mass and baptizing in Latin. He had to be someone quite remote; he celebrated with his back to the people. The Council projected a different image. He's the one who's social, talks to everyone, gets close to them. So a group of older priests stayed in that ancient rite, the younger priests didn't. So it led to tremendous confusion. In the Northeast, they had this. What does the Holy See do? It picks someone who doesn't know the Northeast. So they took me out of Araçuaí (Minas Gerais) and sent me there. So because of being a mineiro and knowing nothing there, I came in without any concern. I didn't take any step whatsoever and let the priests do it. It really was interesting for them, but it brought them together. Because the bishop was not on one side or the other. We managed to work. It wasn't my own merit, it was the mineirice [being from Minas Gerais]. Being a little different from them changed the situation. And I was turning into a paraibano.

OP - Was it in Paraíba that you came to know Dom Helder Câmara?

Dom José - I had already met him since he was elected bishop. But it was a fairly generic meeting, in that crowd of bishops. When I came to Paraíba, it was different there. I was his closest neighbor.

OP - Dom Helder's beatification process has now begun; there's now a committee gathering testimonies about him...

Dom José - (interrupting) I was the first to give testimony.

OP - That testimony is secret, but what can you tell people about Dom Helder?

Dom José - I can tell them everything (laughs). He was a great priest, a great bishop. An ability to understand people, to coexist. He was an authority, but he never exercised authority. He never presided a Region 2 (a division of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil) session. He who was president. The one who presided was his auxiliary, Dom José Lamartine. He was there in the back like one of the other bishops. From time to time, he'd get up and say, "But, my brothers ...". And then he came out with his view, which was masterful. He had a good relationship with the people. Who ever heard of an archbishop of a city like Recife not having a car? Having no secretary, eating at home? It really was a wonderful witness. Because I was his closest neighbor, we had a lot of contact in order to see how things could move forward. I had a deep friendship with Dom Helder.

OP - Because of your actions in defense of the people during the military dictatorship, people still refer to you as red archbishops. To what do we owe this title and the idea that you were in a progressive wing of the Church?

Dom José - Everything depended a lot on the region of Brazil. There in the south, they didn't have the problems we had in the Northeast. The bishops in the south were much more settled. And they didn't believe in much of what people said. Recife, for example, was a cauldron. It was that constant boiling. That was the first reason. The second is the fact that we lived in the Northeast, seeing the situation of the people moved us a lot. Why? They had poor people there in the south too. But in the Northeast it wasn't the poor, it was the impoverished. You had to provide conditions for people to develop. Not in the south -- if someone wanted to work, there was land for him to work. In the Northeast, if he wanted to work, he didn't have land or anything; it was a kind of slavery. This completely changed our view. You're used to a region where there's a good coexistence. You come to one that's at war, right? That greatly obliged us to take a stand. With Dom Helder, it was the same thing. He was bishop of Rio de Janeiro. During the International Eucharistic Congress (1955), he was in Rio facilitating. Then he was transferred to the Northeast. He changed his language, changed his activity. Why? We are archbishops of the people. So if the people are suffering, our mentality has to change.

OP - How did the Church become close to the disadvantaged and act in their defense?

Dom José - It's what it has done since Vatican II. There were very serious events during that period, 1964 and 1965. The first for us was the military dictatorship. And for the Church, the closing of the Second Vatican Council. So we left the Council with that enthusiasm, wanting the Church to be of the poor. Then a group of 42 bishops celebrated in the catacombs of Rome and signed a pact to have the Church of the poor. It was saying: "We bishops will no longer live in palaces, we won't have any gold objects. Whoever has a gold cross will sell it, will donate it." Simplicity, right? Pay special attention to the poorest families. Instead of sticking with the more important ones. Not only the mentality changed, so did the lifestyle. That, to those in power, was communism (laughs). But we weren't bothered by that. They called Dom Helder a red bishop, wrote on the wall of his house. It didn't bother us.

OP - And did it make you stop acting for the people?

Dom José - No. Dom Helder used to do incredible things for an archbishop of Olinda and Recife. We were there at a meeting of Northeast Region 2, of which he was president. People came from the [Ministry of] the Interior and warned us that the property owners of that area had ordered the fence near where the poorer people were living, where they had their crops, to be opened to release their cattle there. Dom Helder tried to find out if it was true. And it was. Then he said, "And are we going to go on with our meeting here? Leaving the people to suffer like that? We have to do something." Dom Helder never decided what to do, he tossed out the problem, and we discussed it. That's where the solution came from. It came out of a gathering of opinions. The result was: "Someone has to go there and support the people." So four of us bishops went. Me driving a Beetle, Dom Helder beside me. When we got there, that thing was set up, it had over a hundred soldiers. Then one of the commanders came to greet Dom Helder. When they saw the bishops coming in, people cheered. Everybody was trapped in their homes, and the cattle were eating everything. People came out of their houses and Dom Helder started to recite the commandments of nonviolence with them. Dom Helder yelled, "First." The people said, "Never kill." "Second." "Never harm" and so on. Having finished the commandments, Don Helder said, "Now we're going to throw the cattle out." A soldier came and said, "You can't do that." He said, "So you're going to let the cattle eat the people's crops?." The soldier said, "But the owner has to do that." But it was the owner who ordered the fence to be open and sent the police to guarantee that. Dom Helder didn't argue anymore. He took some manioc, a small cassava rod, and said, "We'll deal with the cattle slowly. Because the cattle have eaten a lot of cassava and may feel bad if they run. Let's go slowly, OK?." Soon we four were herding cattle. It was a very symbolic thing.

OP - And with your actions in the Archdiocese of Paraíba, did you suffer any
persecution during the military dictatorship?

Dom José - Not persecution. Dom Helder and I had restrictions. For example, Don Helder made many trips abroad. And they would hold his passport. In those days, the passport was only for that trip. The passport stayed with the Federal Police. When it was almost time for the trip, someone would come there with his passport. It was pressure on him. They also put pressure on us by violating [the privacy of] our correspondence. You could see it clearly. There was that kind of persecution, then intimidation. I scheduled a visit to the Potiguara Nation, which is some indigenous people who have a whole city there in Paraiba. A police officer came and said, "Do you have permission to enter there in the indigenous area?." I said, "No, I don't need authorization." He said, "Oh, you need it." I said, "But I'm not there just to visit; I'm going to make a pastoral visit. I'm the archbishop so I'm going to visit them." The policeman said, "Ah, but if you don't have authorization from the army, you're not going in there." I said, "Okay." We got there with a nun and another guy; there were the police. They asked for my documents. I handed them over, they looked at them and opened the gate. What they did a lot was intimidate people. If you would give in, it was their victory. But if you would insist, they didn't have the courage to confront you. It was a very interesting time (laughs).

OP - The Center for the Defense of Human Rights was founded during that period in 1971. Was that institution linked to the Archdiocese? How did it help people?

Dom José - Our center for the defense was the first one that emerged in America. The Council emphasized the issue of human rights a lot, people's rights, the value of the individual, including in the Church. And how would we help people, mainly the poor who were being hardest hit? So you would resort to a lawyer to defend so and so who was arrested. But it didn't happen because you would need people who would take this seriously. Then the diocese of Paraíba decided to hire a lawyer to stay just on that account. That's where the Center for Human Rights started. We now had a lawyer, one of those who doesn't wait around for something to appear. There's a land problem over there, he goes there to get to know it, spends a lot of time there and has all the data to make a defense. It was a blessing for those poor people knowing they had a lawyer. And some cases weren't for the attorney to solve; they were an army thing. He'd give a letter to the guy to go to the Grupamento de Engenharia [Corps of Engineers]. Then the citizen would go and say, "Look, this is a letter to the commander." The commander would read the letter; it was from the lawyer. He'd tear the letter up and say, "When you have problems, you don't need to go there to that Communist place."

OP - To this day, you are called to meetings to talk about the Second Vatican Council. In addition to changes in the image of priests and the proximity to the people, what change in the role of the Church would you highlight?

Dom José - It's not a matter of changing. All that earlier doctrine is still valid. You will now focus on those things that are important to the people. Before, the image of the Church was like a pyramid. At the top is the Pope, then come the bishops, the priests, the religious, and at the base are the people. Vatican II projected another image. The Church is the people. It's all here; there's no one on top. Here's the pope, the bishops... Each with his role. It's like in a company -- people have authority precisely to exercise that function. In the Church, there are some who are assigned to be in authority for the benefit of the journey. The Church is the people of God on the way. It's not static; it's not an institution that is standing there. On this journey, you have constant change. The Church is ready for these changes. On this journey, you need food for the road. Prayer and the Eucharist are great food. And the Eucharist isn't a prize for pious people, it's food for those who are traveling. So it changes completely. It doesn't negate the old stuff, but projects a different image of Church for today.

OP - Were this theory and this image conceived during the Council applied?

Dom José - It wasn't conceived during the Council. It's the original image of the Church. The apostolic communities began that way. What we were doing after the Council is what John XXIII called renewal. Going back to the sources. How was the Church in the beginning? How was it born? Let's go back to the sources. Now, the theory speaks of sources. But it happens that, over the centuries, things change. Women today no longer dress like they dressed in that period. So we have to get up-to-date. So the Church has to be faithful to that beginning, but updated. You'll keep the ardor, but use the opportunities to update it.

OP - And how was the Church's dialogue with other Christian denominations? The Council discussed ecumenism. Was it important to talk about that?

Dom José - Look, ecumenism was something a bit theoretical before. With Vatican II comes the practical stuff. We're going to meet because we have something in common between us. For example, every year we have a meeting of bishops and evangelical pastors. What do we have in common? The Bible. If it's the Bible, in the morning we have to have a celebration of the Word. And the one who presides is a Protestant. In the evening, there's a celebration of the Eucharist. The one who presides is a bishop. And everyone attends. And during the day we'll discuss issues that concern society. For example, we'd talk about violence. It matters to Protestants and Catholics that people understand one another and come closer.

OP - You are of African descent from your mother. In the dialogue with other religions, how do you view the spirituality of millions of blacks in Brazil who have a heritage of Catholicism and African culture, combining devotion to the saints and the orixás?

Dom José - In the beginning, the Church condemned all that. Because it entered Brazil and America through those who came from Europe. They were all Catholics. They thought religion was that, that it had to be that way. Anyone who didn't practice that way, in that style, was out. Indigenous stuff was considered superstition. Black stuff was superstition. So it threw candomblé out. Time passed and then we discovered that God is really present in all these cultures. You have to respect different cultures. It wasn't easy. In 1992, we still had a strong argument about this in Santo Domingo at the General Conference of the Latin American Bishops [CELAM]. We saw that what the Church believes in is the inculturation of faith, of the gospel. And I can't live my faith the same way as someone from over there in Europe, who has a completely different lifestyle. The faith is the same; the way of life is different. For a European to pray, the quieter it is, the better. Not for a black person. The more dancing, the more he thinks he's praising God with his dances and drumming. Until 1992, this inculturation process wasn't accepted. In Santo Domingo, the need to inculturate the gospel in America was adopted. That required an adaptation and showed that cultures aren't bad. What's fundamental in the Afro [Brazilian] culture? The orixás. If they had understood this from the beginning, blacks would have worshiped them. The orixá is like my guardian angel. Everyone at birth has their orixá. In Catholic doctrine, everyone has their guardian angel. So is it just because the name changed? Everyone in the Catholic Church worships God. In the African culture, I worship Olorum. I only changed the name, right? The fact that the Vatican has given attention to these cultures has caused a lot of stuff that was previously impossible to become easy. This dialogue between different religious cultures is still there too.

OP - The Council also brought the message of a more merciful and less condemning Church. We see this idea a lot in Pope Francis' speech, going to the outskirts and reaching people. In your opinion, what does the Church need in order to follow this path and have a more merciful view?

Dom José - It would just need one thing. For Vatican II to be studied more in the seminaries. All this is in Vatican II. A Church that's not in the center, that's at the margins, on the periphery. It has to go to the periphery because that's really where its mission is. You would need people to convert to Vatican II and want to put it into practice. Because it isn't easy.

OP - So it would be a conversion?

Dom José - It would be. And this conversion is not only in the people. It begins the bishops. It would be returning to the original tradition we gradually lost over time. The important thing is to return to the early gospel communities. People even lived as brothers and sisters. There wasn't "this is mine." This here is ours. Communities were really living in brotherhood. They weren't concerned about defending this or that. They were concerned about living the gospel. We need as much as possible to go back to that spirit of brotherhood.

OP - Why does the vision of a Church for the poorest need to start with the formation of priests?

Dom José - According to the gospel, the Church has to be of the poor. Christ, by making himself someone like us, made the option for the poor. He could have been born in a big city; he was born in Bethlehem. He could have been born in a palace; he was born in a cave. He didn't even have a house. The first time he slept, he slept in a trough. The manger is the trough where they put food for the animals. He made this option for the poor. He didn't exclude the rich, but the preferred option was for the poor. So if the Church wants to be faithful to him, it has to see where there is more poverty. Not just material poverty -- sometimes it's intellectual poverty, people who aren't accepted, who committed a crime. All these people who are experiencing physical, material, intellectual or spiritual poverty are the main target of the Church.

OP - So how should this training converted to Vatican II be applied?

Dom José - The model is in the Gospel. Christ wasn't a teacher like the others. The others had their classroom, their disciples came and sat down, then they gave their lessons. Christ was different. He went out among the people and was carrying on his life. And they were learning -- how I treat people, how I should assist so-and-so. Training today should give a lot more space to reality. Not just be intellectual training, just studying philosophy, theology. That's part of it too. But contact with reality is indispensable. Priestly formation should be much more integrated into the lives of the people. Since Vatican II, there have been attempts in this direction. Some have succeeded, others not. For example, the time of the Teologia da Enxada ["Theology of the Hoe"]. Young people who went into a rural environment, went to a property that belonged to the Church to work and study. The teachers went there periodically, they studied in their free time. The teacher would come back later and would want to see how they were discussing it. It didn't succeed, but those who were ordained at that time are excellent priests. Even bishops and some are also archbishops. We would need it to be more assumed by the Church such that we could have doctors and teachers with intellectual training side by side with pastors coexisting with the people during the whole training period.

OP - How is liberation theology viewed at the Vatican? Is there a division within Catholicism?

Dom José - The answer isn't easy. For those of us who live in an areas where people are still very enslaved...There are many people who go hungry in a country like ours, which could feed twice the population it has. For those people, the useful theology is one of liberation. They have to be freed from hunger. In other places, people have to be freed from vice. A theology that is theory is useless to them. No, it has to be something practical. This will require that pastors better know the reality. Be more in touch with the situation of the people and be able to reflect upon it. How are the people being led? Is this what God wants? If not exactly that, what should we do so that people get on the path of God's will? Liberation theology is something that, in a country like ours, is indispensable. In the past, theology was theory. You learned all those theses. Liberation is seeing how people are, asking if that's what God wants and doing something.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Forbidden Mass

By Mónica García Peralta (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Prensa
June 14, 2015

Forty years ago, on an earthen floor and between adobe walls, the Misa Campesina Nicaragüense [Nicaraguan Peasant Mass] rang out for the first time. The Church and the government thought it heretical, blasphemous, and dangerous. Both banned it. Now Carlos Mejía Godoy, its author, will ask Pope Francis to lift that veto.

And there they all were. A white haired and bushy bearded priest officiated the Mass. The peasants anchored their boats and pangas around the island. The mazurkas rhythms echoed, Nica sound, sound of bulls, the “miskitu” and five musicians sang at the beginning of the rite: "Vos sos el Dios de los pobres/ El Dios humano y sencillo/ El Dios que sufre en la calle/ El Dios del rostro curtido..." ["You're the God of the poor / The human and simple God / The God who suffers in the street / The God of weathered face ..."]

A small plane was flying over the shingled church, but inside the Misa Campesina didn't stop. It was a Sunday during Holy Week, says poet and sculptor Ernesto Cardenal. In 1974 or 1975, vaguely recalls Carlos Mejia Godoy, its composer and singer, with the musical group Los de Palacagüina. "Spies from the Somoza government also came and the plane was still there, threatening us from the air, almost about to fall on us," remembers Ernesto Cardenal, the former priest who was also an adviser with his brother Fernando Cardenal in the creation of verses for this Mass.

Many people came that day, says Cardenal, from different places, but especially from San Carlos, "especially the young people." "All the guys were there. The future combatants who would later take the San Carlos barracks: Felipe Peña, Alejandro Guevara, Laureano Mairena, Elvis Chavarría."

Mejía Godoy finished shaping the refrains on that piece of earth on the waters of Gran Lago. "Solentiname was the little laboratory where we were putting together that brainteaser. That's where the Misa Campesina was sung for the first time."

The Nicaraguan Bishops Conference, presided in those days by Monseñor Manuel Salazar y Espinoza, reacted against the songs. On November 9, 1976, it decreed "the non-approval of the Misa Campesina because it is not considered liturgical song" as the Church published in a communique, according to the study Canto Popular de Nicaragua by Francisco “Pancho” Cedeño that is soon to be published, says Roberto Sánchez, the book's editor.

The great "sin" of the Misa Campesina was the boldness that Carlos Mejía Godoy wrote into the lyrics, in Cardenal's opinion. "It seemed heretical," he says, because it put God as a worker in the street. "A God who sweats, a God who is Christ the Worker. And that is Christ himself, it's the Biblical Jesus. It seems like outlandishness or blasphemy but no, it's talking about God himself incarnated in man," explains the poet, who at that time wrote an explanatory document for the Bishops Conference defending the texts. No answer ever came.

Even so, the ban remained. Carlos Mejia Godoy recalls that the Vatican itself issued a veto and the state also forbade it. According to Ernesto Cardenal, Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo also forbade it. "And it's still prohibited today," he reiterates. And although these conflicts did not stop the spread of the songs that sounded later in Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru, Spain, the United States and many other countries, this year, Carlos Mejia, on the 40th anniversary of its creation, is going to ask Pope Francis for an audience so that the Misa Campesina Nicaragüense can resound again under the church atria.


In those days, Carlos Mejía Godoy was already a thirty-year-old. He had already recorded two albums -- Cantos a Flor de Pueblo and La Calle de en Medio. He had studied three years to be a priest in the National Seminary. And he had become disenchanted with Christianity because of the "monastic" training in which he had been taught since childhood.

The Spanish priest José de la Jara, his music teacher in seminary, urged him to participate in the creation of a Nicaraguan popular Mass on leaving the seminary. "In those days, national Masses were being written everywhere. There was a Salvadoran one, a Honduran one, and Father de la Jara created the Nicaraguan one," comments Ernesto Cardenal. Mejía Godoy wasn't involved in that Mass because "in conscience I still wasn't clear about my position as a Christian," he explains. "I just told him a little later, never imagining that it would really be so."

The Misa Popular Nicaragüense began to be sung in all the Nicaraguan churches in 1968, historian Roberto Sánchez points out. "Father de la Jara had left his role as a teacher to found San Pablo Apóstol parish in Colonia 14 de Septiembre and they put out a record with those songs that had the Mass on one side and on the other side, Ernesto Cardenal's psalms sung by William Agudelo," says the historian.

"He (Father José de la Jara) gave birth to the Nicaraguan people's churches and that's the experience on which I worked, later," says Godoy, who saw a potential movement to fight for the poor, which originated in the eastern neighborhoods of Managua "and so yes I became enthusiastic; that Mass served as a parameter for me and I started planning something different, a little deeper."

"That was the main antecedent of the Misa Campesina Nicaragüense. The Misa Popular was traditional, but still pointed to the identity of Nicaragua," explains Wilmor López, journalist and cultural researcher, who believes that was the base on which Carlos Mejia began the composition and arrangement of 11 songs intended to accompany the church liturgy of Nicaragua.

"The difference with the Misa Popular was perhaps in its musical rhythms and its song lyrics. The latter incorporated the instruments and rhythms of mazurkas, sounds of bulls, a Nica sound, songs with the harmony of Miskito songs and new creations, like the meditation song, known as "Canto de los Pájaros" ["Song of the Birds"], by Pablo Martinez Téllez of León," López says. But the unexpected leap of this creation "was taking the living word of the gospel in the mouth of peasants and workers," says Mejia Godoy, who was given the task of gathering -- tape recorder in hand from the four corners of the country for more than a year -- what people understood from the gospel.

"When you say 'Christ have mercy, Christ take pity on us', what are you thinking?," Mejía Godoy would ask people. He says that thus, with that curiosity, he went to the ministry in the north, where pastor Gregorio Smutko, affectionately known as "Goyito", assigned him to Anselmo Nixon, a seminarian in the area so he would sing the Miskitu Lawana, an anonymous hymn of the Moravian Church. "Because I didn't want the Mass to just be from the Pacific but I wanted it to be from all of Nicaragua, the guy came to Managua to sing it, as I wanted it to be, in the original language," says the songwriter, who also went to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, to later come to a stop in Solentiname.

The most important thing about this Mass, says Carlos Mejía, is that it not only contains the rhythms that were already sounding from end to end in Nicaragua, but also the words. "Those of the workers, those of the peasant. It's slang, escaliche [Nicaraguan urban slang], words derived from Nahuatl. It's the fruits, the birds, the flowers. Nicaragua is alive there."


That small plane that was flying very low over the church of Solentiname the first day that this mass was sung on that archipelago, was only a warning. Those who attended the celebration heard a huge noise, but the harassment would go beyond a document issued by the Bishops Conference and that noise against the music would be heard many other times.

A large opening Mass was planned that would be attended by over a thousand people and would be in Managua. They chose to celebrate it in Plaza de los Cabros in the Open Tres neighborhood, now Ciudad Sandino, but the celebration hadn't started when the National Guard made a massive eviction. "At rifle butt, with shots and tear gas they kicked everyone out. Carlos Mejia himself was put in a military vehicle," recounts Roberto Sánchez. All because of different lyrics -- "Lyrics that called to liberation and Somoza wasn't going to allow those expressions, anything that smacked of freedom clashed with the dictatorship and the Misa Campesina is a liberation song," says the historian.

The day after that thwarted premiere, the Mass was already being sung in the four corners of the country, says Mejia Godoy, that this "was a vast wave of spirituality and love for Nicaragua." Sanchez says it was the music itself that won the people's love and imposed itself over Church measures. "It became popular religiosity, even when it couldn't be celebrated in any church officially."

The judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of Managua, Julio Arana, recalls the situation very differently with regard to the Misa Campesina. According to him, there was just one conflict in the eastern neighborhoods of Managua, in a chapel where "some people wanted the Misa Campesina to be sung every Sunday at all the Masses." In some years it was allowed to be sung, said the priest, and this served to attract people to an experience of the Eucharist "as something folkloric, but you must understand that the songs of Carlos Mejia Godoy's Mass were responding to a reality of the times, a specific political situation and in the context of liberation theology. But the Church has never forbidden singing the Misa Campesina. There is no document that expressly forbids it," says Arana.

Yet according to the memories of those involved, only some "progressive" priests allowed this Mass. Today parts of it are sung in some churches, but there are sectors that still don't allow it, says Sanchez. "I think if Carlos Mejia Godoy wants to make that request to Pope Francis, it's his right. I think the Vatican is going to say that you have to go to the commission of the Bishops Conference and in this case, the liturgical commission so that any kind of theological errors that these songs might contain is evaluated," Father Arana says, for his part.


Carlos Mejía Godoy is the main author, but other musicians also collaborated. Here is the structure and the contributions made:

Entrance hymn: compilations by Carlos Mejía in the Popular Sound Workshops.

Kyrie: is a Greek word meaning mercy. The song is a Segovian mazurka with Jinotegan music from La Perra Renca.

Gloria: contains the sound of bulls known as La Mama Ramona, the music was played by the popular band of Diriá under Professor Teodoro Ríos.

Credo: was composed with parts of the testimonies that were given after the gospel [at Masses] officiated by Ernesto Cardenal and were a sort of dialogue with the peasants.

Offertory: has parts of a Segovian mazurca -- La Chancha Flaca.

Miskitu Lawana: is an anonymous song from the Moravian Church; it was interpreted by Anselmo Nixon.

Meditation song: known as "El Canto de los Pájaros" ["Song of the Birds"], it is a creation of Carlos Martínez Téllez, El Guadalupano.

The Sanctus: the music is a version taken from the musicians called Los Soñadores de Saraguasca, from the Tomatoya district in Jinotega.

Closing hymn: it was the last song to be composed in the popular sound workshops.


The Misa Campesina was evaluated by Nicaraguan and foreign theologians from different religious denominations, among them Catholics, Evangelicals, and Baptists.

Carlos Mejía Godoy, according to Julio Arana, followed the structure proposed in the Roman Missal after the Second Vatican Council.

It has been translated into six languages and is still sung in many parts of the world.

Father Arana defines this composition as "something that was not contrary, but they aren't strictly liturgical songs."

  • Full text of the Misa Campesina Nicaragüense and other Central American folk Masses. (PDF)

Secret wounds

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
June 28, 2015

Mark 5:21-43

We don't know her name. She's an unimportant woman, lost in the midst of the crowd that is following Jesus. She doesn't dare speak to him like Jairo, the head of the synagogue, who managed to get Jesus to go to his house. She could never have that luck.

Nobody knows that she's a woman marked by a secret illness. The masters of the Law have taught her to see herself as an "impure" woman while she has bleeding. She has spent many years looking for a healer but no one has been able to cure her. Where will she be able to find the health she needs to live with dignity?

Many people among us are going through similar experiences. Humiliated by secret wounds that nobody knows about, without the strength to confide in anyone about their "illness", they are seeking help, peace, and consolation without knowing where to find it. They feel guilty when often they are just victims.

Good people who feel unworthy to come forward to received Christ during Communion, pious Christians who have been suffering in an unhealthy way because they were taught to see everything related to sex as dirty, degrading and sinful, believers who, at the end of their life, don't know how to break the chain of supposedly sacrilegious confessions and communions...Will they never be able to know peace?

According to the story, the sick woman "heard about Jesus" and sensed that this was someone who could extract the "impurity" from her body and from her entire life. Jesus doesn't talk about worthiness or unworthiness. His message speaks of love. His being radiates a healing force.

The woman looks for her own way to meet Jesus. She doesn't feel strong enough to look him in the eye -- she approaches from behind. She's ashamed to tell him about her illness -- she will act silently. She can't touch him physically -- she will just touch his cloak. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter one bit. To be clean, that great trust in Jesus is enough.

He says so himself. This woman must not be ashamed before anyone. What she has done isn't bad. It's an act of faith. Jesus has his ways for curing secret wounds and tells those who seek him: "Daughter, son, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and health."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Integral Ecology: The big news of Laudato Si': A special interview with Leonardo Boff

by Patricia Fachin and João Vitor Santos (English translation by Rebel Girl)
IHU On-Line
June 18, 2015

The concept of integral ecology is "the focal point of the theoretical and practical construction of Laudato Si'. I fear that it might not be understood by the great majority,  mentally colonized just by the anthropocentric discourse of environmentalism, dominant in the media and unfortunately in the official discourse of governments and international institutions like the UN. As the new paradigm suggests, we all form a large and complex whole," says the theologian and writer.

"The vision of integral ecology is systemic; it integrates everything into one great whole in which we move and have our being. The Pope makes this relationship connection of all with all derive from a theological fact. The Trinitarian God is essentially an eternal simultaneous relationship between the three divine persons. If the Triune God is relationship, then everything in the universe is also relationship," says Leonardo Boff when analyzing, in an interview with IHU On-Line via email, Pope Francis' encyclical letter Laudato Si' about the care of the common home, published this morning, 6-18-2015.

According to the theologian, for Pope Francis, "the North American motto -- one world - one empire -- isn't valid. But one world and one common project."

Leonardo Boff points out that the "Pope is using the methodology that he himself explicitly included in the Aparecida document -- see, judge, act and celebrate. This method has the advantage of always starting from below, from the specific realities, from the real challenges, not from doctrines from which deductions are made, usually abstract and not very incisive when referred to the issues raised."

And he remembers a phrase of St. Thomas Aquinas: "Error in the knowledge of the world can lead us to error in the knowledge of God. The sciences in their way serve the Lord of all things..."

"The value of this encyclical," he continues, "isn't measured only by what it proposes, but by the teaching of the other bishops around the world. This is also a novelty of this pontificate, so innovative and surprising in many respects."

He concludes by recalling "Chesterton's humorous phrase: we're all in the same boat, and we're all seasick. Not everybody. Certainly not Pope Francis."

Leonardo Boff is a theologian, philosopher, and author of a huge body of work on environmental themes. Of that work, we would cite Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor ["Ecologia: grito da Terra, grito dos pobres"], recently republished.

Check out the interview.

IHU On-Line - What's novel about the encyclical Laudato Si'?

Leonardo Boff - The absolute novelty is that the encyclical assumes the new contemporary paradigm under which everything forms a great whole with all interconnected realities, influencing each other. This moves it beyond the fragmentation of knowledge and gives great coherence and unity to the text. Not even the UN has produced a text of this nature.

IHU On-Line - What is the logical structure of Laudato Si'? What theories is the Pope defending in this encyclical and what is its main argument?

Leonardo Boff - The Pope is using the methodology that he himself explicitly included in the Aparecida document -- see, judge, act and celebrate. This method has the advantage of always starting from below, from the specific realities, from the real challenges, not from doctrines from which deductions are made, usually abstract and not very incisive when referred to the issues raised. The method requires us to look at incorporating the more certain data from the scientists and compose the actual framework of the most relevant issues.

In the judging, two movements are in process -- a scientific-analytical one and the other, theological. In this, the Pope was masterful -- he unmasks the illusory explanations of a certain type of intrasystemic science, where its ideological nature appears, usually for the benefit of the market and the dominant groups who consider social and ecological contradictions to be externalities that don't enter into business calculations. It is at this point that the impasse of the current situation and its inability to provide any solution except more of the same, is revealed.

The theological judging part is easier because there you're dealing with categories already known to theology. Even in that part, he makes the necessary corrections to the reductionism that has been done in the interpretation of the position of human beings within creation -- not as dominators, but as caregivers and guardians of the inheritance received from God. He explores the positive biblical times linked to creation and offers beautifully Jesus' example in relation to nature, birds, flowers, fields, harvests, at various moments.

In the act part, he draws from global governmental policies since the problem is global. For him, the North American motto -- one world - one empire -- isn't valid. But one world and one common project. He emphasizes small steps that come from below but bring seeds of the new.

In the celebrate part, he expands about ecological conversion and spirituality. This isn't derived so much from doctrine, but from the messages and inspiration that spiritual paths present for a proper relationship to creation, rather than to nature. The Pope's pedagogy is noteworthy -- he never gives prominence to the dark aspect of reality but emphasizes the human capacity to overcome difficulties and find beneficent solutions. In all issues, the poor are present, and he associates the cry of the earth with the cry of the poor, something that is emphasized a lot in Latin American thought.

IHU On-Line - What are the main theological concepts of Laudato Si' and how do they relate to Pope Francis' theology in general?

Leonardo Boff - The main theological concept is not looking so much at nature but at creation. It points to the Creator and is the expression of an act of love. He cites the beautiful phrase of the Book of Wisdom that "God is the sovereign lover of life." (11:26) Then, the concept of incarnation through which the Son didn't simply assume human nature, but the matter of the world and the world itself, referring to Teilhard de Chardin who developed this cosmic vision. He inserts Christ in the mystery of creation, citing the epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians.

The resurrection is the transfiguration of the whole universe. He sees the world not as something to be solved, but to be admired and praised. The Triune God is eternal relationship, so all things are His resonance and are always related.

IHU On-Line - What worldview is the Pope, in a way, opposing? And what worldview does he suggest to readers of Laudato Si'?

Leonardo Boff - Consistent with his integral ecology, he sees the world as orders open to each other, all interconnected, which implies an evolutionary view of the universe, without saying the name and getting into that issue. He does highlight the uniqueness of the human being, bearer of signs of divinity with an ethical mission to take responsibility for creation. He sees the world as a common home, suggesting a sense of acquaintanceship.

He draws inspiration from Saint Francis to recall the brotherhood between men and women, of all beings, also brother sun, sister moon, brother river and all other beings. Here his poetic-mystical flight takes off. The Pope's vision is always positive and he tries to rescue whatever good there is. But he's strict in criticizing the assaults we have inflicted on the common home, the millions of poor who have been neglected, and he is against the consumer culture. He proposes shared sobriety.

IHU On-Line - In the part that talks about the "human roots of the ecological crisis," the Pope mentions that the crisis is a consequence of modern anthropocentrism, also drawing attention to the dangers of relativism. What do you think of the thesis that the cause of the ecological crisis is based on a human crisis?

Leonardo Boff - For the Pope, the root of the ecological crisis lies in technocracy. He distinguishes it from techno-science that has brought us so many benefits. But it degenerated into technocracy, a kind of technical dictatorship claiming to solve all environmental problems. He rightly criticizes this view because it isolates beings that have always been interlinked. By dissociating them, you can produce more harm than good. In this context, he addresses anthropocentrism since technocracy is human beings' weapon of domination over others and over nature.

It starts from the illusion that things are only ordered to human use, forgetting that every being has an intrinsic value, praises God in its own way and brings a particular message, as it is unique in the universe.

Anthropocentrism separates the human being from nature. He doesn't feel part of it and puts himself over it as a form of domination, breaking the universal brotherhood. That's why simple environmentalism is always anthropocentric, because it only looks at the human being -- his well-being -- and not the common good of all the other beings, inhabitants of the common home.

IHU On-Line - How does the degradation of the planet interface with the excluded - the poor, the elderly, the victims of the financialization of life, always cited so much in Francis' speeches? How does the Pope establish a connection between human degradation and that of the planet?

Leonardo Boff - In his integral ecology, he is looking at all the interconnected facts and phenomena. Hurting the Earth is hurting the human being who is also Earth, as the Pope says, citing Genesis. Productivist and consumerist greed produces two types of injustice -- one ecological, degrading ecosystems, and the other social, throwing millions of people into poverty and destitution. The Pope denounces this causal connection. So he proposes a paradigm shift in the relationship between all, which is more benevolent to nature and more just to humans and all other beings that inhabit the common home.

IHU On-Line - What is the concept of integral ecology, proposed by the Pope in Laudato Si'?

Leonardo Boff - This seems to me the main point of his theoretical and practical construct on ecology. I fear that it might not be understood by the great majority, mentally colonized only by the anthropocentric discourse of environmentalism, dominant in the media and unfortunately in the official discourse of governments and international institutions like the UN. As the new paradigm suggests, we all form a large and complex whole. There is a network of relationships that run through all beings, connect and reconnect all orders. The Pope repeats like a refrain that everything is related, that all beings, even the smallest, are involved in bonds of connection. Nothing exists out of relationship.

This implies understanding that economics has to do with politics, education with ethics, ethics with science. All related things help each other to exist, subsist and persist in this world. This view is absolutely new in the discourse of the Magisterium, still hostage to the old paradigm that separated, dichotomized, atomized and divided reality into compartments. Because of this distorted view, every problem had its specific solution, without realizing that its impact on other parts could be harmful.

The vision of integral ecology is systemic; it integrates everything into one great whole in which we move and have our being. The Pope makes this relationship connection of all with all derive from a theological fact. The Trinitarian God is essentially an eternal simultaneous relationship between the three divine persons. If the Triune God is relationship, then everything in the universe is also relationship.

IHU On-Line - The text of the encyclical also brings ideas from the laity. How are the ideas of science present in the encyclical? What is Francis' intention in this move of listening to science?

Leonardo Boff - Pope Francis respects and listens to the sciences because they bring him the real ecological state of the world. We need to hear what they have to say. Without their contribution, the Church would have a narrow view and ineffective practice. The secular world is what cultivates scientific knowledge in particular. They should help the Christian community define the best approaches. A phrase of St. Thomas Aquinas is worth remembering here: Error in the knowledge of the world can lead us to error in the knowledge of God. Everything is related. The sciences in their way serve the Lord of all things.

IHU On-Line - Critics of Francis' text are claiming that the Pope wasn't neutral in his remarks on the subject. He was only listening to those who believe in the effects of global warming and not the aspect of science that is more skeptical of this view. How do you see Francis' stance?

Leonardo Boff - The Pope is simply telling us to look at the reality that is around us. Here we observe the devastation of the common home, the abuse of nature and especially the most vulnerable. We don't need a lot of science to realize that such inequities are the result of irresponsible human activity. We have so assaulted the Earth that it has lost its sustainability. To replace what we take from it in a year, it needs a year of work. Pope Francis didn't argue with the dissenting opinion, because today it has already been discredited by the scientific community and is refuted by the facts themselves, which are the extreme events that are occurring in all parts of the planet.

IHU On-Line - The encyclical cites excerpts from the encyclicals of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, on ecology and other subjects, such as economics and inequality. How do the previous encyclicals relate to and dialogue with Francis' encyclical?

Leonardo Boff - The pronouncements of the previous Popes have never gotten to the key systemic point of the problem, which is that our way of inhabiting the common home is bringing countless discomforts to us and to our common home. But he does it to honor his predecessors. However, you can't overlook the fact of the Pope valuing the contributions of numerous national and continental conferences, from the most powerful such as the USA, to the simplest, such as Paraguay or Patagonia. The exercise of collegiality that the Pope says he wants to revive, is shown here.

I would say that the value of this encyclical isn't measured only by what it proposes, but by the teaching of the other bishops around the world. This is also a novelty of this pontificate, so innovative and surprising in many respects.

IHU On-Line - Francis himself points out that dealing with the subject of ecology is nothing new in his papacy. However, how does this expression by Bergoglio differ from the previous popes?

Leonardo Boff - Previous popes addressed ecology promptly. Now it is systematically within a bold new systems approach under the new paradigm, building, for almost a century now, from the life and Earth sciences, from the new cosmology, quantum physics and the new biology. In this, the Pope is absolutely innovative.

IHU On-Line - Some theologians have called attention to the fact that the encyclical doesn't refer to the great Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism. In your opinion, why wasn't this issue contemplated in Francis' encyclical?

Leonardo Boff - I think it's a void in the encyclical, because it's addressed to all humankind and he would have done well if he had honored Eastern wisdom, so rich in ecological perspectives. I don't know the reasons. But I believe he was reserving it for when he revisits the issue in the context of interfaith dialogue.

IHU On-Line - Is there a special intent in the fact that the Pope published the encyclical six months prior to the COP-21 in Paris? How does the document put the debate on the environment back on the public agenda?

Leonardo Boff - The encyclical is providential, especially as to the systemic method and in the span of integral ecology that has always been missing in these official meetings, some of which I myself have participated in. They don't have the slightest concept of a global vision, as if they hadn't yet discovered the Earth, only pieces of it, where national interests are rooted that always prevail over universal ones. If they don't seriously take an integral ecology view, the meetings will result in failure as has happened so far. All are flying blind and don't know where they're going. They just want to preserve their national interests and forget the global ones. Chesterton's humorous phrase applies: we're all in the same boat, and we're all seasick. Not everybody. Certainly not Pope Francis.

IHU On-Line - How do you think the text of the apostolic document should echo beyond the Vatican walls, in the Church throughout the world? And outside the Church, what should the impact be?

Leonardo Boff - I suppose that the impact will be huge because of the breadth of the approach and especially the new (for most) integral ecology perspective, valid for the entire planet, for its inhabitants, human or not. This time we don't have a Noah's ark, which included only a few. This time we must all save ourselves.

IHU On-Line - What kind of suggestions did you send to the Pope during the period when he was writing the encyclical? Which of these contributions were incorporated into the text?

Leonardo Boff - This question causes me embarrassment. The Pope has his body of experts and he consulted many people. The encyclical is his and not the collaborators'. With regard to Pope Francis' request, I sent through the Argentine ambassador to the Vatican -- otherwise there's the risk that it doesn't get there -- various materials and books, as I'd already been working intensely for 30 years on this integral ecology issue (I did a DVD for popular use on the four ecologies, where the last was integral ecology) and had especially delved into the subject of caring, of the common home, ethics and spirituality. Whether the Pope made use of these materials or not is not for me to say. I did my part as a simple useless servant, as the gospel says.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

French Bishops' Statement and Message on Migrants for June 21, 2015

English translation of the statement and message by Rebel Girl.

Statement of the Permanent Council

Paris, Wednesday, June 17, 2015.

As the presence of migrants is creating growing tensions on the Italian border, at Calais, and Paris too, and with the coming of World Refugee Day on June 20th, the Permanent Council of the Bishops' Conference of France is launching a challenge on this issue that affects us all. At the same time, Msgr. Laurent Dognin, Msgr. Jacques Blaquart and Msgr. Renauld de Dinechin are addressing Catholics in France in the message: "Love therefore the immigrant, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt." (Dt. 10:19).

Migrants: We are all affected

With ever-increasing intensity, the painful issue of migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East is being addressed to us.

For many reasons, often very tragic -- wars, poverty, climate disruption -- many are forced to leave their country where they can no longer live.

Many Catholics are already involved with their foreign brethren through hosting them, supporting them, and being concerned to give them decent living conditions.

We welcome this commitment and urge all Catholics in France to change their perspective, become close, overcome their prejudices and fears, and dare meeting.

It's not possible for us to withdraw into ourselves and ignore the misery of so many men, women and children around the world who seek only to live in dignity.

As did Pope Francis, we declare our "shame" in the face of what is happening in the Mediterranean as well as at Calais.

We must realize that this will unfortunately continue to worsen and that the whole national community, all of society is affected.

We urge our leaders to intensify international cooperation to meet the challenges. Europe must especially take responsibility and call its constituent countries to offer a real answer.

The dignity of human beings is at stake.

Msgr. Georges PONTIER, Archbishop of Marseille, president of the CEF
Msgr. Pierre-Marie CARRÉ, Archbishop of Montpellier, vice-president of the CEF
Msgr. Pascal DELANNOY, Bishop of Saint-Denis, vice-president of the CEF
Cardinal André VINGT-TROIS, Archbishop of Paris
Msgr. Jean-Claude BOULANGER, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux
Msgr. François FONLUPT, Bishop of Rodez
Msgr. Hubert HERBRETEAU, Bishop of Agen
Msgr. Jean-Paul JAMES, Bishop of Nantes
Msgr. Stanislas LALANNE, Bishop of Pontoise
Msgr. Benoit RIVIÈRE, Bishop of Autun, Chalon and Mâcon

Message for Sunday, June 21, 2015

"Love therefore the immigrant, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt." (Dt. 10:19)

For a change of outlook on migrants ... The recent dramas of migrants adrift in the Mediterranean and Andaman Sea have once again solicited our emotion and compassion. Men, women and children take extreme risks at sea in search of a safe haven, while traffickers and sometimes state authorities or armed forces behave with an inhumanity we thought was gone. Listening to the media disseminating scenes of horror throughout the world...

Let us remember...You were once exiles!

 Many voices have expressed outrage at these events. It is good that this is so. We address here the Catholics of our country to invite them to step back in the face of these recent events, to change their outlook on migrants, to take action as citizens towards the authorities of the European Union who will meet on June 25th and 26th ...in short, not to be silent after legitimate emotion. By not letting emotions fall back down...

Let us remember...You were once exiles!

Migrants are not problems; they are men, women, children -- human beings. Migrants should not be seen primarily as a risk or a potential threat to national sovereignty. We must get out of an exclusively security or police view of the migration phenomenon. The social teaching of the Church is known. The human being must be at the center of our reflections. You can never exploit human beings. The sovereignty of a state is never absolute, for we must also take into account the wider common good that goes beyond any particular state. In challenging our states and European leaders ...

Let us remember...You were once exiles!

The issue must be defused -- France is a country of successful migrations. Everyone can find in their family history or in the history of migration signs of acceptance and successful integration. It's not about denying past or present difficulties. But basing ourselves on the success stories of migration to find what promotes acceptance, brotherhood, coexistence. Many fellow citizens have problems of unemployment, housing, exclusion, discrimination ... Migrants are not responsible for these social ills; they are victims, often more than other residents of the country. It's up to us to find ways of involving these migrants so that they can become part of the solution of our social ills. In celebrating the moments and methods of successful coexistence...

Let us remember...You were once exiles!

The number of migrants explodes when dealing with failed nations; there are hundreds of thousands, millions. Of these migrants from failed nations, France and the European Union welcome in only a small proportion. It's the neighbors of the failed nations that bear the brunt. It is the responsibility of the international community to help these "refugees" and restore the functioning of bankrupt nations.

The history of migration teaches us the importance of non-governmental players in the welcoming and support of migrants -- extended family, migrant associations, support groups, ethnic or national communities of belonging, religious communities, local authorities, local public services (school, work) ... We must take lessons from history for action today. By actively participating in the construction of a truly united world ...

Let us remember...You were once exiles!

It would be ideal obviously to promote cooperation between the society of origin and the host society, between migrant associations and the associations of origin ... we know the important role the various diasporas play in the world today, for the development and sometimes the survival of migrant communities of origin. By sharing the common wealth and multiplying partnerships with the most fragile...

Let us remember...You were once exiles!

We have not wanted to indicate miracle prescriptions for the management of migration. Because there are none. All exploitation of migrants is to be rejected; it is contrary to human rights, the foundations of our political order. It is contrary to the social teaching of the Church. The migrant is a human being first.

Let us remember...You were once exiles!

The generosity of the founding values of Europe can not ignore the fight against traffickers or the need for cooperation with countries of origin to promote the residents' stability.

We call for a change of perception on migrants ... and we suggest that on Sunday, June 21st, every community accompany its prayer with an act of welcoming, of sharing, fasting, a moment of silence, information. Let us remember...You were once exiles!

+ Laurent DOGNIN
Appointed Bishop of Quimper and Léon
Chairman of the Bishops Commission for the Universal Mission of the Church

+ Jacques BLAQUART
Bishop of Orléans
President of the Council for Solidarity

+ Renauld de DINECHIN
Auxiliary Bishop of Paris
Bishops Commission for the Universal Mission of the Church
Migrant Ministry

Ex. 23:9 : You are not to oppress the immigrant -- you know what his life is like because you too were immigrants in the land of Egypt. Dt. 10:19: Love therefore the immigrant, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why are we such cowards?

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
June 21, 2015

Mark 4:35-41

"Why are you so cowardly? Do you still have no faith?". These two questions that Jesus addresses to his disciples are not, for the evangelist Mark, an anecdote from the past. They are questions that Jesus' followers must hear in the midst of their crisis. Questions we are to ask today too: What is the root of our cowardice? Why are we we afraid of the future? Is it because we lack faith in Jesus?

The story is brief. Everything begins with Jesus' order: "Let us cross to the other side." The disciples know that on the other shore of Lake Tiberias is the pagan territory of the Decapolis. A different and strange country. A culture hostile to their religion and beliefs.

Suddenly a heavy storm -- a graphic metaphor for what is happening in the group of disciples -- comes up. The stormy wind, waves crashing against the boat, water beginning to invade everything, express the situation well: What can Jesus' followers do against the hostility of the pagan world? Not only is their mission in danger, but also the very survival of the group.

Awakened by his disciples, Jesus intervenes, the wind dies down, and a great calm comes over the lake. What is surprising is that the disciples "remain terrified." Before they were afraid of the storm. Now they seem to fear Jesus. But something crucial has occurred in them: They have turned to Jesus. They have experienced a saving force in him they didn't know. They begin to wonder about his identity. They begin to sense that anything is possible with him.

Christianity is now in the midst of a "strong storm" and fear is beginning to take hold of us. We dare not cross to the "other side". Modern culture is a strange and hostile country to us. The future frightens us. Creativity seems prohibited. Some believe it's safer to look back to move forward better.

Jesus could surprise us all. The Risen One has the power to inaugurate a new phase in the history of Christianity. We are only being asked to have faith. A faith that frees us from so much fear and cowardice and commits us to walk in Jesus' footsteps.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Magna Carta of Integral Ecology: Cry of the Earth - Cry of the Poor: An analysis of Pope Francis' encyclical

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Jornal do Brasil (em português)
June 18, 2015

Before any commentary, it is worth emphasizing some unique aspects of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si'.

It is the first time that a pope addresses the subject of ecology in the sense of integral ecology (so it goes beyond the environmental) so completely. Big surprise: he develops the theme within the new ecological paradigm, something that no official UN document has done to date. His argument is basic with the surest data from life and Earth science. He reads the data affectively (with sensitive or cordial intelligence) because he discerns that behind them are hidden human tragedy and much suffering of Mother Earth too. The current situation is grave but Pope Francis always finds reasons for hope and confidence that human beings can find workable solutions. He honors the popes who preceded him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, quoting them frequently. And something absolutely new: his text is inscribed within collegiality as it is enriched by the contributions of dozens of bishops' conferences around the world ranging from the USA, to Germany, to Brazil, to Patagonia-Comahue to Paraguay. He welcomes the contributions of other thinkers such as Catholics Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Romano Guardini, Dante Alighieri,  his teacher -- Argentine Juan Carlos Scannone, the Protestant Paul Ricoeur, and the Sufi Muslim Ali al-Khawwas. Finally, its addressees are all human beings, for all are inhabitants of the same common home (a word used a lot by the pope) and suffer the same threats.

Pope Francis isn't writing as a Master or Doctor of the faith but as a zealous pastor who cares about the common home and all beings, not just humans, who live in it.

One element merits highlighting as it reveals Pope Francis' "forma mentis" (the way of organizing his thinking). This is attributable to the pastoral and theological experience of the Latin American churches that, in the light of the documents of the Latin American bishops (CELAM) from Medellin (1968), Puebla (1979) and Aparecida (2007), made an option for the poor against poverty and for liberation.

The text and the tone of the encyclical are typical of Pope Francis and of the growing ecological culture. But I'm aware that many expressions and ways of speaking also go back to what has been thought and written about primarily in Latin America. The themes of "common home", of "Mother Earth", the "cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor", "caring", the "interdependence of all beings", "the intrinsic value of each being", "the poor and vulnerable", the "paradigm shift" of "the human being as Earth" that feels, thinks, loves and worships, "integral ecology" among others, are recurrent among us.

The encyclical's structure follows the methodological ritual used by our churches and for theological reflection linked to liberation practice, now assumed and consecrated by the Pope: see, judge, act, and celebrate.

First, he reveals his greatest source of inspiration: St. Francis of Assisi, whom he calls "the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology...[and] particularly concerned...for the poor and outcast." (no.10; 66).

And then he starts with the see: "What is happening to our common home" (nos.17-61). Says the Pope, "we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair." (no.61). In this part, he incorporates the most consistent data with reference to climate change (nos.20-22), the issue of water (nos.27-31), the erosion of biodiversity (nos.32-42), the deteriorating quality of life human and degradation of social life (nos.43-47), he denounces the high rate of inequality globally, affecting all areas of life (nos.48-52), the main victims being the poor (no. 48).

In this part, he uses a phrase that brings us back to a reflection made in Latin America: "Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor." (no.49). Immediately afterwards he adds: "the cries of sister Earth are united to the cries of the abandoned ones of this world" (no.53). This is absolutely consistent, since at the beginning he says "we are earth" (no. 2; cf. Gen. 2:7.), well in line with the great Argentinian indigenous singer and poet Atahualpa Yupanqui, "human beings are the Earth that walks, feels, thinks and loves."

He condemns proposals to internationalize the Amazon, which "only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations." (no.38) There is a very strong ethical statement: "[It is a] terrible injustice...[to] obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration." (no.36)

With sadness he acknowledges that "never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years." (no. 53) In the face of this human assault on Mother Earth that many scientists have denounced as the inauguration of a new geological era - the Anthropocene one, he laments the weakness of the powers of this world who, deluded, think that everything can continue as is as an alibi for keeping "their self-destructive vices" (no.59) as well as seemingly suicidal behavior. (no.55)

Prudently, he recognizes the diversity of opinions (nos. 60-61) and that "there is no one path to a solution." (no.60) Yet "the present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view, for we have stopped thinking about the goals of human activity" (no.61) and are lost in the construction of means for unlimited accumulation at the expense of ecological injustice (degradation of ecosystems) and social injustice (impoverishment of the people). Humankind has simply "disappointed God's expectation." (no.61)

The urgent challenge, then, is to "protect our common home" (no. 13), and for this we need, to quote Pope John Paul II, "a global ecological conversion" (no. 5), "a 'culture of care' which permeates all of society." (no. 231)

The seeing dimension having been accomplished, it's now time for the judging dimension. This judging is carried out in two aspects, one scientific and the other theological.

Let's look at the scientific one. The encyclical devotes the entire third chapter to the analysis of "the human roots of the ecological crisis." (nos.101-136) Here the Pope intends to analyze technoscience, without preconceptions, agreeing that it has brought "important means of improving the quality of human life." (no. 103) But this is not the problem. It has become independent, dominating the economy, politics and nature with an eye to the accumulation of material goods (cf.no.109). It starts from a mistaken assumption that there is an "infinite supply of the earth's goods" (no.106), when we know that we are already touching on the physical limits of the Earth and most of the goods and services are not renewable. Technoscience has become technocracy, a real dictatorship with its steely logic of domination over everything and everyone. (no.108)

The big illusion, now dominant, lies in the belief that all ecological problems can be solved with technoscience. This is a misleading endeavor because it implies "separat[ing] what is in reality interconnected." (no.111). In fact, "everything is connected" (no.117), "everything is interrelated" (no.120) -- a statement that permeates the entire text of the encyclical like a refrain, as it is a key concept of the new contemporary paradigm. The major limitation of technocracy is in fact "the fragmentation of knowledge" and "loss of appreciation for the whole" (no.110). The worst thing is that it "doesn't recognize the intrinsic value of other beings, and even denies any special value to humans beings." (no.118).

The intrinsic value of every being, however minuscule it may be, is permanently emphasized by the encyclical (no. 69), as it is by the Earth Charter. By denying that intrinsic value, we are keeping each creature from communicating its message and giving glory to God. (no. 33)

The largest deviation produced by technocracy is modern anthropocentrism. Its illusory assumption is that things only have value insofar as they are ordered to human use, forgetting that their existence has value in itself. (no.33) If it is true that everything is related, then "we human beings are united as brothers and sisters...[and] in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth." (no.92). How can we claim to dominate them and see them through the narrow perspective of domination by human beings?

All of these "ecological virtues" (no.88) are lost through the will to power and domination of others and of nature. We are experiencing an anguishing "loss of meaning of life and coexistence." (no.110) Several times, he quotes the Italian-German theologian Romano Guardini (1885-1968), one of the most read in the last century and who wrote a critical book against the pretensions of modernity. (no.83, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 1959)

The other aspect of judging is theological in nature. The encyclical reserves plenty of room for the "Gospel of Creation" (nos. 62-100). It begins by justifying the contribution of religions and Christianity since, being a global crisis, each body must, with its religious capital, contribute to the care of the earth (no.62). He doesn't stress doctrines but the wisdom present in the various spiritual paths. Christianity prefers to speak of creation rather than nature, because creation "has to do with God's loving plan" (no.76). More than once he quotes a beautiful text from the Book of Wisdom (21:24) where it says clearly that "creation is of the order of love" (no.77) and God emerges as "the Lord and lover of life." (Wis 11:26)

The text opens into an evolutionary view of the universe, without using the word, but making a circumlocution, referring to the universe "shaped by open and intercommunicating systems." (no.79). It uses the main texts linking the incarnate and risen Christ with the world and with the whole universe, making matter and the whole earth sacred (no.83) In this context, he cites P. Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955, no. 83 note 53) as a precursor of this cosmic vision.

The consequence of the fact of the Triune God being a relationship of divine Persons is that all things in relationship are echoes of the divine Trinity (no.240).

Citing the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church, he recognizes that sins against creation are sins against God. (no.7). Hence the urgency of a collective ecological conversion to rebuild the lost harmony.

The encyclical concludes this part, rightly: The analysis "has shown the need for a change of direction...[we need to] escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us." (no.163). This is not about reform, but, citing the Earth Charter, seeking "a new beginning." (no.207) The interdependence of all with all leads us to think of "one world with a common plan." (no.164)

Since reality has multiple aspects, all closely related, Pope Francis proposes an "integral ecology" that goes beyond the usual environmental ecology (no.137). It covers all fields -- the environmental, the economic, the social, the cultural, the spiritual -- and also everyday life. (nos. 147-148) He never forgets the poor who also evidence their form of human and social ecology, experiencing bonds of belonging and solidarity with one another. (no.149)

The third methodological step is to act. In this part, the encyclical sticks to the great themes of international, national and local policy. (nos.164-181). It emphasizes the interdependence of the social and educational with the ecological and sadly notes the constraints that the prevalence of technocracy brings, making changes that would slow the voracity of accumulation and consumption and could inaugurate something new, difficult. (no.141). It again takes up the topic of economics and politics that should serve the common good and create the conditions for potential human fulfillment (nos.189-198) It goes back to stressing the dialogue between science and religion, as has been suggested by the great biologist Edward O. Wilson (cf. the book The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, 2008). All religions should seek the protection of nature and the defense of the poor. (no.201)

Also within the act aspect, one challenge is education in order to create "ecological citizenship" (no.211) and a new lifestyle, based on caring, compassion, shared sobriety, the alliance between humanity and the environment, as both are inextricably linked and co-responsible for everything that exists and lives and for our common destiny (nos.203-208).

Finally, the moment of celebrating. The celebration takes place in a context of "ecological conversion" (no.216) which implies an "ecological spirituality" (no.216). This derives not so much from theological doctrines but the motivation to which faith gives rise to take care of the common home and nourish "passionate concern for the protection of our world." (no.216) Such experience is first of all a mystique that mobilizes people to live in ecological balance, "within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God." (no.210). Here, "less is more" seems true and we can be happy with little.

In the sense of celebration, "rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise." (no.12).

The fresh fraternal spirit of St. Francis of Assisi permeates the entire text of the encyclical Laudato Si'. The current situation doesn't mean a predicted tragedy, but a challenge to take care of the common home and each other. In the text, there is lightness, poetry, and joy in the Spirit and unwavering hope that as great as the threat is, the opportunity to solve our ecological problems is greater still.

It ends poetically with the words "Beyond the sun," saying, "Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope." (no.244)

I am pleased to end with the final words of the Earth Charter that the pope himself cites (no.207): "Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life."