Cultural Promotion in Church's DNA (Part 2)

Interview With Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone After Mexico Visit

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2009 ( Our Lady of Guadalupe signifies a meeting and a unity between different cultures, inviting popular and elite groups to come together in one nation, said the Pope’s secretary of state.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was in Mexico from Jan. 15 to 19 to preside over the 6th World Meeting of Families and to meet with Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, as well as with the representatives of the world of culture.

On his return to the Vatican, the secretary of state gave a joint interview to Vatican Radio, L’Osservatore Romano and the Vatican Television Center, in which he evaluated his visit.

This interview was conducted by Carlo Di Cicco, deputy director of the Vatican newspaper, and Roberto Piermarini, director of the news service of the papal radio.

Part 1 of this interview was published Thursday.
Q: Another point [you] touched upon was the necessary opening and recovery of “mestizaje” [intercultural mixing that gives rise to a new culture]. Is it not a concept that is needed not only in Mexico but also in Western countries, where this concept is accepted with difficulty and there is still a long way to go?
Cardinal Bertone: “Mestizaje” is a way of thinking, a very beautiful reality that indicates the evolution of the culture, which is verified through the meeting of cultures, a meeting that must not be exclusion.

In Mexico — but the same is true for other countries, for example, in the West — the code of the culture is the Gospel and the Bible.

Nevertheless, in Europe and in the West, the cultural code, which is the Gospel and the Bible, or better, its Christian roots, is occasionally laid aside and discarded as a code of life, of experience and of cultural evolution.

In Mexico, Mexican Baroque and the whole mestizo inspiration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, are in danger of being divided by those who only defend the indigenous culture and on the other hand, those who propound a superiority — so to speak — of European culture, which would have done away with the roots, the indigenous roots.

Because of this, we are at risk [of a] opposition between the indigenous and European cultures, without a real dialogue and a synergy of the two cultures, and a synthesis made by both that would form this new culture, which is the characteristic of the Mexican people and of so many peoples of Latin America.

This division, this enormous divorce, is the great divorce that occurred between popular culture and the culture of the elites, so influenced by European culture.

So, in the face of this divorce, the great Baroque and “mestizo” synthesis is the sign of the identity of the Mexican people.

The division must be avoided and the synthesis taken up again between the cultures through an effective, fecund and fruitful dialogue.

This dialogue is represented in Mexico by art, but also by that mysterious, extraordinary presence that Pope John Paul II underlined in the figure of the Virgin of Guadalupe, when he said that she is a symbol of the inculturation of evangelization. Since the beginning of the history of the New World, the “mestizo” face of the Virgin of Guadalupe showed that there is unity of the person, within the variety of cultures and in the meeting between cultures.
Q: What is your judgment on the meeting you had with the president of the republic?
Cardinal Bertone: It was an extremely cordial meeting, I would say very beautiful and very rich, which lasted just over an hour, an hour and 10 minutes.

It was a meeting with a Catholic man, who delivered a great speech in the assembly of the World Meeting of Families, a man who has the will to recover the Christian roots of Mexican culture, but who also asks precise questions to the Church.

He underlined the relation between religion and life, the need for coherence in belonging to the Catholic religion. Let’s keep in mind that 87% of Mexicans, according to the most recent statistics, declare themselves Catholic, but as in many places, unfortunately, the fact of declaring themselves Catholic does not mean that they live in accord with the Gospel and the indications of the Church.

That is why we spoke with great sincerity and touched on several topics, such as the educational problem in Mexico, the topic of Catholic schools, which constitute, I believe, 5% and, consequently, a very low percentage of all Mexican schools; we spoke, therefore, of the problem of instruction.

We also spoke about the teaching of the Catholic religion for the integral formation of children and young people, and for the development of their personality.

I gave as an example the agreement signed between the Holy See and Brazil, which addresses this matter. It deals with an enormous Latin American country, a modern country.

I was happy to greet all the members of his family, [his] three children; one is called John Paul, probably in memory of John Paul II’s visits to Mexico.
Q: What conclusions have you come to on the Church in Mexico after your meeting in prayer with the bishops, seminarians and faithful?
Cardinal Bertone: I think it is a very lively Church.

The Church in Mexico is not an institution in crisis; there is a beautiful episcopate.

I met with the bishops, as I do on all the international visits and trips I make. I had a very frank discussion also with them. I could see a Church in growth, from several points of view, obviously with all the difficulties of modern times and of the countries of Latin America: for example, the problem of the aggressiveness of the sects.

However, it is about a growing Church, which gives a role to the laity, and the laity have a great desire to collaborate, both in the ambit of culture as well as business, typical of lay activity, and also in politics.

They ask for guidance from the Church, encouragement and proposals in order to participate together and share.

In only November of last year, the bishops held the meeting of the episcopal conference with the participation of 120 [members] of the Catholic laity, well-prepared and well-intentioned and, for that reason, able to collaborate and reinvigorate the presence of the Church in Mexican society.

Vocations continue to be numerous, the seminaries continue to be crowded, though with different numbers from one diocese to another, but there are dioceses with hundreds of seminarians.

The problem of formation is still to be resolved, but it is a question of an immense strength. Keep in mind that Mexico has 92 dioceses, so that Mexico can be a missionary source for neighboring countries.
Q: Your interventions and those of Benedict XVI had a singular harmony, as two instances of the same theme of the colloquium with the Church in Mexico. What does that mean and what is the objective of this harmony?
Cardinal Bertone: I must first say that the Holy Father knows Mexico’s Church very well, as the episcopal conference and consequently the bishops of Mexico, came on their “ad limina” visit a few months after the election of Benedict XVI, who, as he does in all visits of this type, prepared himself in detail.

He studied the reports provided by the dioceses, by the nuncio and by the episcopal conference, having a specific dialogue with each bishop. This allows, of course, taking the pulse of the life of the Church in a specific country.

Moreover, the Pope’s first collaborator is perfectly in tune with him. Of course the secretary of state knows the Pope’s speeches and prepares himself for these trips in harmony with the interventions and topics that most concern the Holy Father and the Holy See.

The topics of the family and culture, especially during the meeting in Queretaro with the world of culture, are topics that the Pope has very close to his heart.

We know quite well the articulat
ion of the Holy Father’s thought and that is why it isn’t difficult to be in tune with his thought: to support the bishops, the Catholic world and the Mexican laity in this full and concrete communion, not only through prayer, but with the affection, also public and enthusiastic, of the Holy Father, while at the same time sharing the cultural and pastoral projects that interest him.

I tried to encourage this great Catholic country — this was the objective — to be an attractive country, a model country for Latin America and the Caribbean, above all because of its strength, its extraordinary resources, as it has great human wealth and ample material, moral and cultural resources.

Because of this, Mexico could be a spearhead for the rest of the countries of Latin America. This is the hope that I would like to formulate after my trip to Mexico, and which I place at the feet of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  

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Part 1 of this interview:

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