Cardinal: the Gospel Spells Solidarity (Part 1)

Interview With President of Caritas Internationalis

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By Jaime Septién and Omar Arcega

QUERETARO, Mexico, JULY 28, 2010 ( According to the Church, we are administrators of creation, children of God, and our neighbor is our brother. According to the world, God is our enemy, our neighbor is an adversary and creation is something to be exploited.

This contrast, proposed by Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and president of Caritas Internationalis, reflects the change he says must happen in the world. Solidarity must grow, the cardinal affirms, and we must be more filled with love.

In this two-part interview with ZENIT, the 67-year-old cardinal spoke about globalization and the need for solidarity between the developed world and the developing world.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Thursday

ZENIT: Are charity and globalization compatible?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: Not only are they compatible but charity must be globalized. Christ left us love of neighbor; John Paul II told us that in a world where the economy alone is globalized, solidarity must be globalized and the greatest proof of solidarity is love.
ZENIT: What is the responsibility of developed countries vis-à-vis developing countries?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: It is co-responsibility, this must be a two-way street, of developed countries toward developing ones and vice versa. It is not only a question of humanitarian aid, as it is called, out of fear of using the word charity. It seems this concept is devalued. There is nothing more distorted. The first thing Benedict XVI said to us is «God is love,» and we must not have inferiority complexes in calling things by their name: Charity is the summit of the Christian, it is the greatest thing.
ZENIT: Where are the words solidarity and Gospel united?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: On its own the Gospel already spells solidarity. It is the Word made flesh who comes to be one of us and becomes Good News, becomes Gospel. In the first volume [of his book] on Jesus Christ, the Holy Father said: the Kingdom is not a place, it is not things, the Kingdom is a person, it is the Lord Jesus. All are gathered there: solidarity, charity and Christ.
ZENIT: What is the relationship between justice and the environment?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: The campaign carried out by Caritas Internationalis is not simply ecology, because in the name of ecology one falls into ecologism, which is one more ideology, often perverted into pantheism, which also becomes anti-Christianity. In Caritas we speak of justice with creation, justice with the environment. Sadly, the Copenhagen summit was a failure because the powerful of the world do not wish to commit themselves in their responsibility for creation.

That is why Caritas maintains that it is not only a matter of being concerned for the environment, but rather for justice with creation. God gave creation into our hands not for us to be despots, or abusers; he put creation in our hands as administrators. We cannot inherit a pillaged world, we must inherit a creation suitably administered by justice.
ZENIT: In what areas of the world are there red flags in the justice and peace relationship?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: It is difficult to say where the border is, because as the Puebla document already stated, the border line of good and evil passes through the heart of each one of us. Sadly we find everywhere that the mystery of inequity is still active. This is one of the areas in which we must always remain vigilant and be able to identify that evil spirit to defeat it with the force of goodness.

I believe one can find everywhere in the world those who wish to do good and those who enjoy doing evil. Hence the call to conversion is for all, we cannot point to any one, we must take what is appropriate for us from that call to conversion.
ZENIT: What role must we Catholics carry out for justice and peace to kiss?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: In the first place we must realize that charity is not opposed to justice. In his first encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI speaks to us of this. In the 60s, when all ideologies looked to socialism, they said: «One must not give through charity what corresponds in justice.» They were mistaken. Justice and charity are united. When there is justice there is peace; peace cannot be built on injustice, peace cannot be built on hatred.
ZENIT: From your experience, are we Catholics aware of the social dimension of the Church?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: I think there is awareness but it must be educated. The Christian community must be formed in the meaning of the social dimension of charity. This instruction is necessary because the prevailing ideologies in the world go the opposite way.
The Holy Father himself has spoken to us of individualism as a tendency that is contrary to God’s plan, which is to save us as a community, as People of God. This has very great social implications. We cannot say that we love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love our neighbor whom we can see. That is why the Church has given us the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, not as just another book, but as a task for all the baptized, which we must internalize in order to put into practice.
ZENIT: How can we answer those who label Caritas’ policies as welfarism, understanding this word in the most negative sense of the concept?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: Those who speak of welfarism have never given a cent to serve their neighbor. I have proof of this. They speak and scorn but they don’t collaborate. A person who knows what it is to love and serve one’s neighbor, even with a little charity, will never speak of welfarism. Let those continue to speak of welfarism who do not even help themselves.
ZENIT: The Holy Father speaks of the importance of Catholic aid, yet we know of some diocesan Caritas agencies in Europe where there is only professionalism, and the spirit of love is lost. They limit themselves to the sole topic of efficient aid. How can we reconcile the aspect of love and of efficient aid?
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: We touched upon this topic in the last conference with all the European Caritas groups. There are few who have fallen into the idea that to serve in Caritas is just another job. The majority of the Caritas groups are from countries that no longer have so much economic prosperity; hence, Caritas is not a source of employment because the majority of those who take part in Caritas are volunteers. In Spain, for example, there are 6,000 organized parishes and hundreds of volunteers work in each of them. Our job is to give them the theology of charity so that it is understood that we are not one more NGO but an organization of faith, and it is for the faith that we serve our neighbor with love.
There will be an appropriate answer to the reconciliation of love and efficient aid in the next assembly, which will be in May of next year.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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