Monsignor Segundo Tejado Munoz is one of the four Under-Secretaries of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development and he heads Group 1 (which supports and listens to the local Churches), of the COVID-19 Vatican Commission, created by Pope Francis last March 20, 2020.
In an exclusive interview with Zenit, the Spanish Bishop explains in detail the mission of the group he heads, the way they work jointly with other ecclesial realities, and accompany the local Churches in a process of listening that “cannot end,” but becomes a “living together, in communion,” he stresses.
Among the challenges facing the COVID-19 Vatican Commission is the Pope ‘s request for reflection to “prepare the future,” something that, according to Monsignor Tejado, the Church can only do by “placing herself in the light of the Gospel” and “living in the light of faith the problems being experienced.”
Thus the Prelate, who resides in Rome, reveals to Zenit that this pandemic period is “a very privileged moment for Evangelization, to give Christ as true foundation,” as “man needs a rock on which to set his life.”
Here is a translation of Zenit’s exclusive interview with Monsignor Segundo Tejado, Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, head of Group 1 of the COVID-19 Vatican Commission.
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–Q: The mission entrusted to Group 1 is to “support and listen to the local Churches. What road map do you use with each local Church?
–Monsignor Tejado: Our task has been primarily to listen to the local Churches. It’s not a question of making plans or projecting things, it is about listening. We have begun to move and to listen to chaplains of hospitals, of prisons . . . Episcopal Conferences, doctors, nurses, those responsible for health in the Episcopal Conferences . . . a bit by regions, of course. That has been our main work: to listen, and from this listening to draw conclusions and to see how the whole Commission must move, be it in Group 2, in charge of analysis, be it Group 3, in charge of relations with States. In other words, it’s listening to the local Churches and drawing information, synergies and collaboration from them. I must say it’s been very nice work because to listen to the local Churches is something that always enriches one very much.
We are shut-in in this crisis and, of course, a perception of what is happening in the universal Church must pass necessarily through listening. It’s not possible to draw conclusions from here, from Rome, shut-in as we were at home — including now, as one can’t travel easily. We were falling into the risk of doing something more theoretical. I, at least, have liked this listening a lot. It has been very hard work; every day we’ve had one or two teleconferences, listening to all the problems — just imagine — in Africa, in Latin America, the Commission’s . . . It’s working out, because we are still at it.
So, what the Pope has asked us especially is to listen. It’s not so much about doing great projects; the Pope said this to us from the beginning: we cannot resolve the problem. It’s a somewhat atypical emergency, I say this always. It’s not a localized emergency. We are speaking of the whole world, each one in his own rhythm, because in some places we have already passed the first phase, essentially sanitary, and in others . . . they are beginning, such as in Latin America, or in Asia. So, it’s impossible to help all.
–Q: And here is where collaboration with Caritas Internationalis comes in. How do you work jointly with them?
–Monsignor Tejado: What we did is to get in touch quickly with one of our branches: the Confederation of Caritas Internationalis, and we have requested their collaboration in this. We have asked them to do projects, to look for funds, because this is work that exceeds our capacities completely.
Caritas is a worldwide Confederation; it is in all nations, in all dioceses, in very many parishes, and they have a far greater real contact with reality.
With Caritas, with which the Dicastery for Integral Human Development has a special relationship, we asked immediately for collaboration and we have helped to finance some projects — we have already helped more than 25 nations –, projects that aren’t too great in number, in keeping with our possibilities and, together with Caritas, we have already responded to one of the very first health emergencies.
The Church’s response is multiform. It’s not, obviously, only what the Dicastery or Caritas Internationalis does. There are many organizations that are helping and that are mobilizing, with the principles of subsidiarity, each one in the areas and nations with which they already have a solid relationship. There are other Funds: for instance, the Emergency Fund of the Pontifical Missionary Societies, which has also been opened, from the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), so, the aid being given is multiform.
–Q: In this process of listening, what aspects are addressed with the local Churches?
–Monsignor Tejado: There are two types: the sanitary phase and the humanitarian phase (the phase of the problems brought by the pandemic). They are two different phases: the sanitary phase is the first; all conversations go in that direction, and then all began to mobilize towards the humanitarian crisis, something that will happen in many countries.
Many countries are in phase 1, others <are> already in another phase. It’s somewhat like a movement between two moments, and we are in this moment. Some nations are still in the sanitary phase, others have moved to work through Caritas, and many other organizations are helping people that are having trouble eating. Then we are there, going from one place to another, depending on whom we are talking to.
–Q: The Group you head is dedicated to listening and to supporting the local Churches, in a service that makes them protagonists of the situations they are living. How must a local Church assume the situation? What steps must it take?
–Monsignor Tejado: Every Church is different. What is important is that each one should organize itself according to its strengths and according to its idiosyncrasy. The situations are very different from the sanitary point of view and from the humanitarian point of view. The situations of the Churches are very different, as the presence in the sanitary ambit. In some countries, for instance, the presence of Congregations that are concerned with health have developed very much, in others less so . . . It’s very varied. There is no sole criterion, and it must be left somewhat to the genius of each Church and to the capacity that each Church has to organize itself. There are no preconceived schemes in the face of this very atypical emergency.
–Q: The Holy See reported that this Commission was created for five years. How are you managing the deadlines? Are you working in different phases?
–Monsignor Tejado: We must see how the reality unfolds. What the Pope asked us is to work a bit on the idea for the future, because the future is about to arrive. We have just begun this crisis. Now the humanitarian crisis is coming, the economic crisis, the job crisis . . . And we’ll see how this unfolds too, everything is yet to be seen. The Church must always “lengthen her view (as is said here). One must navigate somewhat according to what is happening and give an answer of faith. The Pope has asked us to build the future. This isn’t only to proffer ideas; it’s to live with the people, to give them a word of faith, which can illuminate what might happen in each nation because each nation will have different consequences.
Five years? Well, it might be five, as it might be two, as it might be seven . . . It must be decided little by little. We have given ourselves four phases: The first phase is to listen; the second phase is to build a strategy for the future; the third is to create plans of action, afterward to fashion a strategy that is born of the local Church, and then proposals for concrete things must be sought. However, I repeat, much will depend on the nations, much will depend on the evolution of the crisis itself; however, we have already prepared a series of phases that can help the local Churches to have elements to be able to address the crisis.
Although the listening phase never ends. Listening cannot end. It’s about “listening” and “accompanying” and “living together, in communion.” This is how the Church works; she has no other method.
–Q: Among the objectives pursued by the Vatican Commission is to “act now for the future” and “to look at the future with creativity.” How can the Church work for the future?
–Monsignor Tejado: By placing herself in the light of the Gospel. I believe there is no other way, and by living the problems being experienced in the light of faith. Only the Gospel will be able to give an answer to what will be, what our plans will be, and what our reading of the reality will be. I think the Church can always place herself in the light of the Gospel to build the future; there is no other way. Dialogue with all, of course, as we always do, but in the light of the Gospel, which is what must illumine all that we do.
–Q: They say that this crisis is bringing out the best and the worst of the human being. At the anthropological and spiritual level, how do you think the pandemic will change man?
–Monsignor Tejado: It’s too early for me to make a reading of this. I live and work in a parish. When I finish my work in the Holy See, I go to a parish to live and work. There is a bit of everything. The Church’s presence, — at least in what I experience (it’s very local, I can’t speak for everyone) — has indeed increased. There are many people that want to talk with a priest, share some anxieties, etc. This time has undoubtedly put man in his place. There is in man a tendency to <want to> ensure everything; this is human. Technology <and> science enabled us to think that things were secure and that the world had to go in a certain direction. This pandemic has destroyed this certainty somewhat for us. So man always seeks certainty in his life, because he cannot live in uncertainty. Man has to seek this certainty. Will he seek it in God? I don’t know. I believe so; I have faith. It’s a very privileged moment for Evangelization, to give Christ as the true foundation. Man needs a rock on which to set his life. I know that this rock is Jesus Christ, I know it; I’ve experienced it personally. I know that many people are looking for a rock on which to build.
These are ideas, but I think it’s a bit early. We have to wait for things to settle down, to return to a certain normality, to know people’s reactions and how God will seek people because He always seeks them. Above all, we must reflect.
–Q: The Holy Father has asked you to reflect on the “socio-economic challenges of the future,” and to propose “criteria to address them.” Is it the time to change the socio-economic model?
–Monsignor Tejado: The Church has always said it. A model based solely on finance — the Pope says it constantly — the power of money and speculation doesn’t help humanity and, above all, in the end those that pay are always the poorest. That model should change; it’s not easy . . . Speculations are already starting, taking advantage also of COVID-19. There are always people that take advantage of these situations . . .
Yes, it must change. The Pope has spoken a lot about this. He has asked the second Group of analysis for a very serious reflection on this, especially on this subject. It should change in terms of solidarity between countries, <there must be> a fair distribution of riches, social justice, a health service that reaches everyone . . . Humanity has so many challenges! I believe that what we are experiencing is going to help us to bring to light the Social Doctrine of the Church, to make a clearing in all this. People are seeking in the Church an answer to all this, an answer that is multilateral, not only the dimension of work but also the economy, finance, health, integral ecology . . . all this.