ROME, FEB. 29, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The metropolitan archbishop of Ayacucho, Salvador Piñeiro García Calderón, took office four months ago and at the end of January was elected president of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference.
In this interview with ZENIT, he analyzes the problems of his country and of Latin America.
ZENIT: Archbishop Piñeiro, just a month ago you assumed the presidency of the Peruvian episcopate. What are your short-term objectives?
Archbishop Piñeiro: There are two important tasks. To harmonize the work of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference with the commissions and projects of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), because there must be efficiency in our work. And, as president of the episcopate, I have been asked by my brother bishops to speak with institutions and the government, so that they will know what we believe and what we want: that the Gospel of Jesus might convert hearts, transforming our society. Because there is much marginalization, confrontation, hatred and violence, but we must set our hopes on the Gospel of life, of the family, of peace and of justice.
ZENIT: How will you promote the Continental Mission, called for when the Pope visited Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007?
Archbishop Piñeiro: We believe that many have heard the Gospel and there are yet so many who don't know Jesus. And what is even sadder, how many have become estranged because of our lack of witness, because they don't see fraternal communion, or because they find other doctrines that excite them, when we are the ones who have the perfect globalization, which is the Gospel of love!
ZENIT: What plans do you have for the archdiocese of Ayacucho?
Archbishop Piñeiro: I only took office four months ago, and I see much work being done in silence, for example, in day nurseries, in the mental health center. It gives me satisfaction to see, in the midst of the limitations of poverty, that there are those signs of hope. We have set ourselves three priorities for this year: one is the family, because I am worried about the amount of violence, many broken homes, the abandonment of youths. We have to work harder to make the family the Nazareth of love, of understanding, of solidarity. The other issue is people who haven't heard of Jesus. There are many communities that, thanks to the work of former missionaries, have a catechist, someone who gives them direction, but they need more formation and renewal in the spirit of the mission so that the Good News of the Gospel is multiplied. And third, is the need for vocations. Undoubtedly, the first seedbed of vocations is the family, but I would also like teachers in schools and institutes to help me awaken the desire in the hearts of young men to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
ZENIT: Not too long ago one of the historic rebel leaders was captured in the Huallaga jungle. How is his terrorist group regrouping in your jurisdiction? How many are there still?
Archbishop Piñeiro: It was a capture without violence, without deaths. And I invite Artemio to convert. I am of Augustinian education, where punishment must be medicinal. The man must convert. We can be mistaken, the mind can be clouded by hatred, vengeance, violence, but we must believe in man's conversion. In the region of VRAE (Valley of the Apurimac River and Ene), which is in my jurisdiction, things are also complicated because terrorism is cooperating with drug trafficking, and there are conflicts with the Shining Path groups, violent men, who facilitate the transport of drugs. It is estimated that there are still some 400 armed men there; that is why the army and the police are seeing to it that those areas are not abandoned by the economy but that they are integrated in society. And also at the level of the Church, I already have three parish priests there in the parishes of Siria, Pichari and San Francisco, whom I have asked to work in coordination, because if there is no presence of the Church, any message can blind the people and uproot their faith in Jesus.
ZENIT: The Pope will be in Latin America in a month's time.
Archbishop Piñeiro: I am very happy because the Holy Father wants to embrace the whole of our America, which has already begun to celebrate the bicentenary of its Independence. They are, certainly, jubilees that have many meanings: how these nations grew, matured in their civil commitments, in their rights and became independent of the Spanish crown. We received the faith and the language of Cervantes. That is why in the Catholic Church half of the world's believers speak the same language.
And in León of Guanajuato the Holy Father will meet with the presidents of the Latin American Episcopal Conferences. We all await his message, which will also be a new call to evangelization, because we must be the missionaries of this New Evangelization that will encourage, that will build an America in peace, justice and prosperity.
ZENIT: Latin America is called, precisely, the continent of hope, of love, but it is also of a poverty that is spreading. What do Latin American peoples expect on this matter from the Pope's message?
Archbishop Piñeiro: This has been the constant teaching since Medellín, Puebla, Santo Domingo. We are a Christian America of Indians, whites, blacks, where everything separates us: our economies, ideologies, but we believe in Jesus. In two thousand places of America we venerate Mary! So the Holy Father will exhort us undoubtedly to do away with the chasm between opulence and misery. This is not the Gospel. Jesus Christ did not preach hatred or injustice, but he gave us the language of love. How well the Pope has reminded us about sobriety and solidarity. We must live in simplicity opening our hearts and pockets so that there are no injustices, so that misery will be done away with, so that times of prosperity will come for all.
ZENIT: You just took part in an important meeting on the situation of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. What can you tell us about this?
Archbishop Piñeiro: I was very happy because Cardinal Bertone received Cardinal Cipriani; the second vice-president of the Peruvian episcopate, Archbishop Javier Del Rio and myself. And with what simplicity, as a good Salesian educator and former rector of his Congregation's university, he reminded us of the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae of Blessed John Paul II, and how the Catholic University must comply with it. Hence I don't understand the fear to accept the norms of the Church. The title of this Constitution is so beautiful: "From the heart of the Church," because the universities were born there and that is why we must take care that they have that Catholic identity.
There were two topics that seemed to be in conflict. One is that the University wants the assembly to elect the rector, but we must be aware that in the life of the Church there is the hierarchical part and the democratic part. Hence what the Church asks is that the assembly nominate a list of three possible rectors, as happens in all Catholic Universities. I ask our Catholic University to understand the affection the Pope has for this institution and that its authorities will be chosen by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education from the three candidates presented by the assembly.
And the other topic of conflict -- in which the interpretation of a slanted press has done great harm -- is that the archbishop of Lima wants to take over the economy. No sirs! The Church also looks after the goods that have been brought about with so much sacrifice in this beloved Catholic University of Peru. That is why Cardinal Bertone has told us that it must be supervised in some way by the Peruvian Episcopal Conference. And it will be so, gladly, we will look at the budget and if some authorization must be given for some sales, we can work on that. I think there will be a solution and that we are on the road to an understanding.
I trust that the rector will be the best communicator to the assembly of what the Holy See is asking for: that they take up the teachings of the Church. Because it is a Pontifical University that loves the Pope very much, whom it also honored giving him the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa when he visited Peru as Cardinal Ratzinger.
When I greeted the Pope on Wednesday at the general audience, he gave me a special blessing for Ayacucho and for the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.
[Translation by ZENIT]