Families, the Crisis and the Church in America

Interview With Canada's Cardinal Ouellet

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By Gilberto Hernández García



MEXICO CITY, JAN. 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- There is plenty of good news to share about the Christian family in the world, and this is news that the Catholic Church offers, according to the archbishop of Quebec, Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

The cardinal was one of the speakers at the 6th World Meeting of Families last week in Mexico City. He spoke with ZENIT at the conference about various situations facing families today.

Q: The presence of Latin American Catholics in the United States revitalizes that Church. What is this situation like in Canada? What is the evangelizing role of Latinos in the Church in Canada?

Cardinal Ouellet: In recent years in the United States, one can see a growth in the Church's awareness of this reality; in the seminaries of the United States -- in Florida, California and in other parts -- there is concern for priests to learn Spanish and there is a good percentage of those who do, so as to be able to attend those communities who come from other areas. This is a new cultural fact indicating the weight of the Latin American community in the United States.

I don't think we can say exactly the same for Canada; but this openness is increasing, this welcome and the testimony of Latin America; in particular since Aparecida, I see a continental Church that is uniting more and that has more clarity regarding its evangelizing mission, and with the motto very clear that we have to form missionary disciples; this is an extraordinary force. The continental mission that begins with this boost given in Aparecida promises fruits, not only for Latin America, but also for the North and for all of the Church.

Q: It is a fact that there are divided families: divorced couples who have remarried, single-parent families, and other situations. What are the paths to strengthen the family institution?

Cardinal Ouellet: It seems interesting to me what the president of Mexico said in the inauguration [of the theological congress]: that the state should support and consider the family a very important patrimony. He also said that not everyone has the opportunity or the joy of having a family, with a father and a mother and children and a good education. In this case, Christians are not indifferent regarding these difficult situations.

Today, the family must be strengthened in itself, and not only strengthening it in an individual way, as a family, but in stirring up associations of families so that they have public strength, such that they are more listened to by the state, and recognized as a social subject, because not just individuals have rights. If we want to resolve long-term the problems of single-parent families and all of this, the best strategy is prevention, better said, to help families to have consistency, stability and thus we will help to diminish these particular factors and phenomena.

Q: What do you think the impact of the economic crisis will be on families? What hopes has the World Meeting of Families given in this regard?

Cardinal Ouellet: There are many families who live in difficult economic situations; a year ago when the price of gas was at $140, this was a tragedy. We have seen in various parts groups and people shouting that they could no longer buy basic needs because the price of gas made other prices shoot to the stars. The world economic crisis -- that doesn't depend only on gas now but on bad administration -- impacts the family in the basic elements of its life: food and education, because if they must invest money in food, how to do they continue to pay for education. The problems multiply.

I think the reflection of this world meeting is very rich. The influence of communication on family life and the culture in general was spoken of. It is important for those who work in this area and have a social responsibility -- it is important that they develop attitudes that are favorable to the family and not only to individual liberty like now in the culture; that they think of the family, in its stability, in its unity. To help so that they can educate children with peace and not have all of these messages that make the work of fathers and mothers in the home more complicated.

There is much that can be transmitted as good news about the Christian family in the entire world. This is the testimony of the Catholic Church. I hope that this beautiful testimony of the Catholic Church is ever more recognized because it is an extraordinary contribution to peace and civilization.