ZENIT spoke with the 67-year-old cardinal about solidarity and a range of related issues, calling on his experience as the president of Caritas Internationalis.
In this two-part interview with ZENIT, the 67-year-old cardinal emphasized the primary responsibility of priests to be educators of the faith, and he revealed the first thing "good Christians" forget when they enter politics.
Part 1 of this interview appeared Wednesday.
ZENIT: What role do volunteer workers have in Caritas?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: [Their role] is central. Caritas could not exist without volunteer workers because many believe that Caritas is simply attending emergencies -- this is one of its roles, but Caritas' main function is to educate every Christian in the social dimensions of love, to show that one cannot shut himself in to live his Christianity in an individualist way. All educational programs are a priority and all the Caritas groups have programs of formation and education for Christians. The ideal is that all parishes have their social ministry program organized, in which Caritas has a role.
ZENIT: What characteristics should Caritas of the 21st century have?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: The same ones it has had from the beginning, because Caritas is love, love does not change, rather, it must grow. If there is a characteristic it must be that we now love more than before, because when it comes to money, whoever has a lot of money and gives much money does not stay without anything; in matters of love, whoever has much and gives much, has more every day.
God's plan is that we should be administrators of creation, we should be children of God, and we should be brothers with our neighbor. The world sees God as an enemy, our neighbor as an adversary, creation as an opportunity for exploitation. Hence, this has to change; we must be more co-responsible, more solidary and more full of love.
ZENIT: There was talk in Aparecida, Brazil, [at the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean] of a change of age. Three years after Aparecida, how do you see the call to the permanent mission?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: It moves at different speeds. In some places the first year was dedicated to studying the document and in this sense I have seen progress in many dioceses and also indifference in others. There are some who have yet to learn about Aparecida.
I would like us all to feel that need to live it because it is a beautiful document. We see in it the Lord's inspiration. An official launching of the Continental Mission, which will be a process, has already been made. In some places it is bearing good fruits -- one of these is co-responsibility between the dioceses. We cannot think that the diocese is a paddock with fences where no one can move. The frontiers of love are not barriers. There is more awareness in our continent of being co-responsible.
The project will rest basically on the pastoral zeal of the bishops and priests because the laity is willing, but we pastors must be full of the heart of St. Paul: "Woe is me if I do not evangelize."
ZENIT: That is an important topic: pastoral conversion.
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: For me it is one of the brilliant elements from Aparecida, it hits the nail on the head. After the Second Vatican Council we took up some things, but stayed doing more of the same. As it turns out, the Holy Spirit doesn't work like that. What the Spirit does first is to dislodge us. A priest in a parish who is doing more of the same ends up doing nothing because this new era is asking different things of us.
A survey was carried out in Santiago, Chile. In one school the children were asked to make a drawing of the Church. There was a common denominator: all the churches were closed, the priest never appeared. The children tell us much here. I think we cannot continue to do more of the same.
Aparecida emphasizes formation in the faith, that is, catechesis. Here we find one of the lacunae in pastoral care. In my parishes I have asked: How is education in the faith going? And they exclaim: "What's that?" Others say: "We don't have Catholic schools."
According to the Church, the parish priest is the first one responsible for educating his faithful in the faith and the directory of the catechesis tells us that education in the faith must be progressive and systematic. This is not being done. Catechesis is episodic and pre-sacramental. Often it is so elementary that one finds catechists who are good people, but who are imparting a deficient formation. One of the lines of pastoral conversion is that the parish priest must regard himself as the first person responsible for the formation of his faithful. There is still no awareness of this.
ZENIT: Has the Church in some countries succumbed to a mentality of clientelism?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: The whole continent has this problem. We are waiting for them to come to us, and increasingly there are fewer who come because they are not motivated. It is time to go out. We must take the Lord to their environments. This is where we find one of the greatest defects of pastoral care: We have not succeeded in evangelizing politics and politicians, then when some who call themselves good Christians enter into politics, the first thing they forget is the Gospel.
I founded a Catholic university that now has 14,000 students. With much effort we created a political science program, but nobody has enrolled because they don't believe that in order to be a good politician you need formation. They all simply believe that one must know all the tricks. The task to be done is to form genuine politicians.
There are not many politicians willing to give their lives for the Kingdom, but there are many who succumb in face of easy money. When it is a question of perpetuating themselves in power they don't care if they trample on the constitution. We are still just starting out when it comes to politics of the common good.
[Translation by ZENIT]
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Part 1: www.zenit.org/article-30020?l=english