Many Vocations in Mexico Thanks to Discernment and New Norms

ZENIT Interviews Cardinal Robles Ortega

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Mexico’s Bishops have begun their “visit ad limina.” The first group met with the Holy Father on Tuesday, May 13, and the second group on Thursday, May 15. There will be nine groups in total. ZENIT had the opportunity to interview Cardinal Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara, who indicated the new way of being with the Pope on a visit “ad limina,” the great quantity of vocations existing in his diocese, the atmosphere of fervor in the diocesan seminary, as well as the measures taken in keeping with Rome’s directivess, so that cases of abuse will never happen again.

–Q: Eminence, how is the “ad limina” visit unfolding?

–Cardinal Robles: We began with a celebration [of Mass] in the tomb of Saint Peter – very important in our visit ad limina, beginning on the threshold of our faith with the testimony of the Apostles Peter and Paul. In addition, we have been in the dicasteries and Pontifical Councils. This has been very valuable in our meeting with the Holy Father. They are the Pope’s closest collaborators and they received brief information, which we sent them, on the basis of which they have made observations and given pointers and stimulation. They also sent the Pope information they thiought the Holy Father should know before our meeting with him.

–Q: How is the ad limina visit held?

–Cardinal Robles: There was a change of form in our meeting with him, which I liked. It’s the third: the first was with Saint John Paul II, the second with Benedict XVI and now with Pope Francis. Before there were some 15 minutes of a personal meeting with the Holy Father and now, instead, it is held in small groups. On my part, I see an advantage, a raison d’etre, because in addition to being able to talk about our diocesan reality, we, Bishops, can listen to one another.  They listen to what I share with the Pope about my diocese and I listen to what the others are sharing with him, such as concerns, achievements, hopes and there is a double movement: one of communion with Peter and the other [of communion] among ourselves.

–Q: Did you know Cardinal Bergoglio?

–Cardinal Ortega: Yes, in the Brazilian Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida, I had the opportunity not only to be led by him in the minor groups but also the opportunity of a personal contact, as we returned from the Shrine to the Hotel, on a long ramp, walking and talking together. We met in Quebec’s Eucharistic Congress, we remembered one another perfectly, and even recalled our walk together.

–Q: What has the Holy Father transmitted to you?

— Cardinal Robles: The hope that the Gospel has given us. The Pope invites us to return to the genuine spirit of the Gospel. To receive it in all the radicalism of the faith and to transmit it with all joy and hope. The Gospel is the only thing that can change the face of a community, of a country. The Pope transmits to us that ardor to transmit it and he consoles us, he befriends us. People feel he “is one of ours” and he is representing us.

–Q: What can you tell us about the problems and hopes of Mexico and of Guadalajara?

–Cardinal Robles: What we shared with the Holy Father primarily were intra-ecclesial subjects, for instance, vocations. We are in a region where vocations are still numerous, both for the priestly life as well as the consecrated life. Religiosity is very intense, markedly Marian and very Eucharistic. We rejoice with the witness of the martyrs, as it is an area of martyrs. And along with these positive realities we have shared some challenges with the Pope, for instance, the ideology of individualism, of hedonism, which is already affecting families.

-Q: Can you tell us more about the vocations?

–Cardinal Robles: The seminary of Guadalajara is very blessed. We have 1,300 seminarians who are boarders, in addition to 400 adolescents and youths who are with their families but who are cared for so that they can discern, given that they have vocational anxieties. A problem that we perceive is that the young men who come to us sometimes are of very damaged environments, families with much conflict. Sometimes these youths have either participated or perceived the other ways of youth. They bring those anxieties and the seminary has to invest to reconstruct their personality, in the human, Christian and spiritual [dimension]. In this sense, the work is very intense. Thank God, we have a good priestly team, a good psychological team, and bit by bit the condition can improve.

–Q: How many priests are ordained every year?

–Cardinal Robles: The percentage of perseverance is high, thanks to that previous work, the seminary and the family. Very conscientious work is done to discern. One who enters the seminary does so because he has a basic conviction, and work is also done with his family. This year I’m going to ordain 50 priests on the Day of Pentecost; last year I ordained 49.

–Q: Did the Pope say something in particular to you about vocations?

–Cardinal Robles: When we were sharing our diocesan reality with the Holy Father, he was very calm, tranquil, receptive and attentive to what we were saying to him. Every now and then he would interrupt to learn more or to make a comment or give precise guidelines, in the sense of motivating us to be closer to our priests, to take much care of the young priests.

–Q: Have measures been taken in the seminaries to prevent abuses?–Cardinal Robles: Of course, but these subjects were particularly addressed with the Congregation for the Clergy, because it is a specific subject. Although finally it [rests] with the Pope, because it’s a team of the Holy Father.

–Q: There is a change of attitude, no?

–Cardinal Robles: Precisely, zero tolerance, so that never again should such things happen. First is prevention. We are determined in this effort to discern if someone has a tendency or has been marked by some experience, because in general those who commit these types of crimes were victims before in the heart of the family, or outside the seminary. Deep down they bring a past. Then we are, so to speak, sharpening the criteria of discernment and, if we are aware of a problem, we cannot encourage progress on the path of priestly formation. Instead we discourage them and direct them to another positive path. We are applying the directives, the new norms so this won’t be repeated.

–Q: Does the problem of drug trafficking exist in your diocese?

–Cardinal Robles: There is the subject of drug trafficking … and even areas of production. Not the climate of violence seen in other states, although there are some isolated events. We still live in a climate of normality, but the subject is active.

–Q: And with regard to migration?

–Cardinal Robles: It’s a very intense area of immigration and this has repercussions on the subject of the family, because the whole family emigrates, or the father does, or the children and this has been the cause of family disintegration.

There are many people who emigrate, especially in the area of Jalisco: they all have an uncle, a brother or some relative in the United States. And there are also the immigrants who come from Central America by the two routes: of the Pacific and of the Gulf. Those who come from the Pacific route pass through Guadalajara. There we do feel that reality and all the parishes, which are along the way of the train are implementing actions to give them some support, although minimal, of food for two days, clothes, etc.

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