Is humility common in your country?
Only humility makes one free from influence
On May 19, Carlos Aguiar Retes (61), Archbishop of Tlalnepantla (Mexico), was appointed President of the Latin American Bishops' Council (CELAM) at the 33rd Ordinary Assembly of the Representative Body of the Episcopates of All Latin America in Montevideo. The bishops and the other delegates of the Latin American churches have surprisingly unanimously given him this four-year mandate.
Aguiar holds a PhD in Biblical Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and has previously served as Professor of Scripture at the Pontifical University of Mexico. He already holds the office of President of the Mexican Bishops' Conference in his second mandate. Even his personal history and his professional career make him a typical representative of that generation of bishops who, after the internal church contradictions and ideological radicalizations, feel the urgent need for a “pastoral conversion”. That conversion that was expressed in the final document of the CELAM meeting in Aparecida (2007) as a horizon for the apostolic work of all Latin American churches.
Carlos Aguiar Retes [© Celam]
CARLOS AGUIAR RETES: The continental mission did not arise out of nowhere, it was not a kind of “desk project”. Even before the general assembly of the CELAM in Aparecida, many dioceses had started to give themselves such a pastoral orientation. In Aparecida you could see that this phenomenon was not an isolated case - and so the entire Latin American episcopate decided to follow this example, to follow this path as it were.
What was decisive for that?
The realization that we have entered a new social context. This process is particularly noticeable in the large urban areas, which are becoming increasingly widespread. In this sense, the mission proposed in Aparecida was also prepared by the reflection on the megalopolis. The rural exodus is a constant in Latin American life. Now, however, these phenomena mark the transition from a time when Christian values were accepted by everyone to a situation in which models change and a multicultural society begins to emerge.
What does this mean from a pastoral point of view?
We must not believe that our main task is to stand on the threshold and see whether the believers have the administrative skills to be part of the Church or not. Our time is a time of preaching: we must pass on the essence of Christianity to everyone. To all persons as they are; in their concrete state of mind today; with the expectations they have today. In my part of Mexico there are 12 dioceses that are home to people who are forced to commute back and forth every day. And we have to take these new patterns of coexistence into account. For example, access to the sacraments must be made easier. The danger of people losing contact with the Church can only be averted if the parishes are able to actually fulfill their obligations.
In the past few decades the so-called new evangelization has been aimed primarily at organized groups and movements. What can we learn from the episode about the Legionaries of Christ today?
That we need a certain humility - that humility that Benedict XVI. shows continuously. We must be able to admit that human fragility inevitably harbors the possibility of relapse, of sin. We must not convince society that the church is a perfectly human institution in which everything functions. This is a good start. But we also know that the fragility and plight of people often create deplorable, scandalous situations that are contrary to the testimony that is to be given. The Benedict XVI. Recommended attitude of humility is born of trust that God is at work and can change things. This is the only way to avoid being lulled by the media, who want to blacken the church as an institution by all means.
Many still see the Latin American churches from the perspective of the 1960s and 1970s, arguing that the worst part would still be the reduction of the Christian message to a political ideology. Is that correct?
The endeavor to impose a kind of ideological "index card" on the church members has been unnecessary and outdated for years - it remains to be seen whether it has ever been an appropriate key to interpreting the facets and experiences of the churches in Latin America. Aparecida looked at the Church as it is now, and she was attentive to what the Holy Spirit is now directing her. I believe that this document clearly shows how completely outdated these ideological interpretations have become. In the Comunio different points of view can live together in the Church; in it there can be different approaches to get to the bottom of things.
The Catholic media and press agencies often describe the churchmen as representing a kind of “counterbalance” to the governments and political groups in Latin America. Is that plausible?
The events in Latin America have created a growing belief that the Church must be as free as possible from governments. Always respectful of the authorities involved, open to any kind of cooperation, but at the same time free to express your opinion on how society should be. Unfortunately, this ideological schematism, which I have already mentioned and which the Church does not even take into account, is not completely out of date in all countries. Some still believe that their policies and their governments must be aligned with ideological discourse - and consequently the masses too. But besides these examples for the support of the rigid ideological influence of the old style, there are also others who are more pragmatic and who see social policy as an instrument for solving the problems.
What is the most serious problem in your country?
A major problem in Mexico is the general impact of the doge trade and illicit money flows. Problems that cannot be solved if there is no real international cooperation, especially with the United States. The US would have to be stricter and try to prevent weapons from being smuggled into Mexico. No weapons are produced in Mexico, there is not a single weapons or armaments factory - but weapons can be easily obtained on the other side of the border! How can that be? It is undeniable that criminals have a hand in this!
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