The Church: Helping to Fight Corruption in Americas

Cardinal of Santo Domingo Looks Toward Benedict XVI’s Visit to Cuba, Mexico

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By Sergio Mora

ROME, DEC. 14, 2011 ( Benedict XVI’s visit next year to Latin American is a reminder of the Church’s efforts to defend human rights. The Church is firmly opposing drug trafficking, violence, and corruption in the region.

This was what ZENIT was told by Santo Domingo’s Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López in an interview following the Mass celebrated by Benedict XVI in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

ZENIT: After five years during which Latin America seemed a little forgotten there are two visits by the Pope programmed: one next year to Mexico and Cuba, and then in 2013 to Brazil for World Youth Day.

Cardinal de Jesús: Yes, undoubtedly the forthcoming visit by Pope Benedict is, as were the 18 visits by John Paul II, a cause of deep joy in our countries. That this visit takes place in the context of the bicentennial of independence is also significant. These nations were born with the aid of the Church and we also have to say that as soon as the missionaries arrived they defended the rights of the indigenous population.

ZENIT: Could you tell us a bit more about the defence of the rights of the indigenous?

Cardinal de Jesús: In my city we recently had the launch of a book written in Spain about human rights in Santo Domingo. We can leave aside the disagreement with the United Nations, which maintains that human rights came into existence with the French Revolution. Nevertheless, the authors of the book, professors of Madrid’s Complutense University, said: go to San Fermín, before 1511, and there human rights were defended brilliantly and completely.

ZENIT: What is the meaning of the bicentennial of the independence of some Latin American countries?

Cardinal de Jesús: In my case, I am happy that the Holy Father has accepted the suggestion that he celebrate the Mass on the occasion of the bicentennial. That is because the Catholic Church wasn’t aloof from these events. Even Simon Bolivar wrote a very beautiful letter to the Pope at the time, asking him to name some of those born in the Americas to be bishops, because the separation of these countries from Spain did not mean they wished to separate from the Catholic Church. It’s very significant that this letter exists.

Consequently, we feel very pleased with this celebration and we hope that the visit by Benedict XVI will confirm the interest of the popes for the Americas.

ZENIT: After the first evangelization in Latin American now there is talk of a new evangelization. What is the greatest difficulty in accepting the faith, and what is it the Pope wants to stir up?

Cardinal de Jesús: I believe there are a number of problems on a global level. Undoubtedly there is a new cultural context in Europe, the United States, and other countries. There are also other factors of concern in Latin America, such as violence, there is so much violence. Then there is drug trafficking and corruption that is a blow to the conscience of Latin Americans. These problems are very widespread.

ZENIT: How does the Church react to this violence and corruption?

Cardinal de Jesús: The problems are deep-rooted. These people have the ability and the cleverness to enter into the diverse levels of society due to their wealth.

I recently heard it said that the Catholic Church is the only institution in Latin America that, until now, has not been affected by drug trafficking. I think we can generally agree with this. Nevertheless, even though it is difficult to admit this, we have to admit that money is corrupting and damaging many people’s conscience.

ZENIT: In these circumstances what is the Church’s message?

Cardinal de Jesús: The Church needs to maintain a very clear stand in defence of truth, justice, peace and respect for all people, including those without faith, that is, respecting everyone. And, of course, we are open to dialogue, including with other religions.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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