BUENOS AIRES, JAN. 9, 2002 (ZENIT.org–Avvenire).- Archbishop Estanislao Esteban Karlic of Parana has just presided over an extraordinary meeting of the Argentine bishops´ Permanent Commission, and signed a document on the state of the troubled country.
Q: You have headed the episcopal conference for the past six years. What is the situation in the country?
Archbishop Karlic: As we wrote in our document, our fatherland is gravely ill, affected by a moral infirmity that is reflected at different levels: economic, political and cultural. We must admit it, gather our forces, and not waste time in blaming one another, as unfortunately, is often the Argentine custom, yet not overlooking the need for justice and individuals´ responsibility for the disaster.
Rebirth of a people can begin at a time of greatest humiliation. This is our hope as Christians, which we wish to proclaim.
Q: How does the Church hope to participate in “the fatherland´s” reconstruction?
Archbishop Karlic: It is interesting and positive that there is a return to speaking about the fatherland. It would be truly grave if we lost a providential occasion to grow as a nation.
In the first place, the bishops and the entire Church wish to say to the whole country, including nonbelievers, that it is worthwhile to work to save Argentina and build a fatherland of brothers. We want to be, and try to be, close to the people, to strengthen one another reciprocally and bring this difficult task to conclusion.
More specifically, we suggest that room be made for decisions that will acknowledge the serious errors committed and the need for profound changes of mentality and behavior. This task corresponds especially to parties, labor unions, businessmen, financial institutions — but also to the three state powers.
In exceptional circumstances such as this, and with respect for republican institutions and the people´s search for peace and progress, the Church is willing, within its mission, to lead dialogue initiatives among the different social and political sectors.
Q: Did the Monday meeting with President Eduardo Duhalde develop in this spirit?
Archbishop Karlic: Exactly. It must be pointed out that he was the one who invited us. Bishops do not take political initiatives. Often there is a desire to forget that there is a difference, which does not mean distance, between the Church and the world. We cannot identify with any party or faction.
The president has shown us his plan and willingness to collaborate with our social works. He has not made revelations to us, nor have we made specific requests to him. Our concern is for the country and, obviously, for the poorest and neediest.
Q: It has been insinuated, however, that Duhalde might use the Church to shield himself from criticisms.
Archbishop Karlic: We know well that there is always the risk of manipulations. The president is Catholic; during his address he said he was inspired by the social doctrine.
For the time being, we are not evaluating the person or the programs. We reserve our free judgment and will always be prepared to denounce iniquitous measures. Our endeavor is to increase time for dialogue, we might also say for democracy, only for the common good.
Q: It is thought that Duhalde is an expression of the old politics, which has led Argentina to this disaster …
Archbishop Karlic: The fact that he refused to be a candidate in 2003 is positive, because it frees him from the temptation to work for his own re-election. As to the rest, we hope that he will act with freedom, free of compromises.
Q: The crisis undoubtedly stems from politics, but isn´t the society at fault?
Archbishop Karlic: Everyone is responsible for the disaster, and all must make sacrifices to emerge from it. We must recover the values of austerity, equity, justice, work ethic, respect for the law and one´s word. We are not unaware that society is sick because of the loss of moral fiber.<br>
Q: How can it be recovered?
Archbishop Karlic: In the first place, the quality of education must be improved, basing it on the eternal values rooted by God in man´s heart; then on a profound change of the media, which often degrades the people; the modernization of the production system to increase jobs; promotion of state and political reform; guarantee of justice, by uprooting corruption and privileges; and, finally, avoidance of waste of public property and funds.
Q: A huge task for the country …
Archbishop Karlic: The times are very difficult; we must be conscious of this. However, the most urgent need is to renew confidence, the confidence of people in those who govern them. Only in this way will we be able to proceed with the reconstruction.
Q: Last Sunday you expressed self-criticism on behalf of the Church.
Archbishop Karlic: Yes, following the example of John Paul II. And we underline this in the document. The pastors must also examine themselves. In a country that professes to be Christian in the majority, it is not easy to explain the present crisis without a serious lack of consistency between faith and life, between the catechesis and the preaching of social morality.
Q: But the Church is the most respected institution in Argentina.
Archbishop Karlic: It´s true, and it is reason for satisfaction after difficult years. However, we can do more. We must help [people] understand that justice might not be enough; we need solidarity, which is justice among brothers, giving freely, building social friendship. This is our highest objective: a civilization of love.