By Jose Antonio Varela Vidal
VATICAN CITY, JULY 6, 2012 (Zenit.org).- In recent days the Council of Cardinals met. It
is responsible for the economic affairs of the Holy See. Among those present was Cardinal
Jorge Urosa, archbishop of Caracas, who talked to ZENIT about the meeting and also about
the pastoral and political challenges of his country.
ZENIT: What brings you to Rome this time?
Cardinal Urosa: I came for the meeting of the Council of Cardinals for the Administrative
and Economic Affairs of the Holy See. We had a very intense meeting with the full
attendance of fifteen cardinals, with very good reports on how the affairs of the Vatican are
going. I am very pleased with this meeting.
ZENIT: Why are you pleased with the meeting?
Cardinal Urosa: The accounts are good, some ups and downs but, fortunately, there is an
attitude of much control, much precision, of very exact administration, of awareness of the
character – I would say even sacred – of the funds they administer. I very much appreciate
the work done by both the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See as well as
of the Governorate of the Vatican and the Prefecture. We can say that things are going well amid a global economic crisis, and I am certain of the competence and dedication of those who are heading these institutions.
ZENIT: What do you think of the Pope’s letter to Cardinal Bertone, confirming his
confidence in him?
Cardinal Urosa: That manifestation of support and confidence of the Holy Father to the
cardinal Secretary of State is very important, in the midst of difficult circumstances and a
great quantity of rumors which are simply that, speculations intended to damage the internal workings of the Holy See, and which we must regard as groundless.
They want to affect the credibility and image of the Church but, thank God, things are going well. It will be seen that they are groundless speculations, and as regards leaks, for which I’ve already expressed my solidarity with the Holy Father and the Holy See, they are efforts to damage the image and reputation of the Church in the midst of a world that is moved by envy and desires that do not correspond to the experience of fraternity and the ecclesial nature of the Holy See.
ZENIT: Turning to Venezuela. What is worrying the Venezuelan bishops at present?
Cardinal Urosa: We are worried about the tendencies of secularism, of consumerism, of
hedonism, materialism and relativism, which are being manifested especially in the Western
world, and which are affecting the living of the faith. That is why we think that the Pope’s
initiatives in proclaiming the faith and the New Evangelization, will give a new impulse to that task which is indispensable for the Church to carry out, in particular, to bishops and priests.
I think that the challenge to proclaim Jesus Christ in the world as the true Savior must be
addressed with much enthusiasm, because salvation does not come from money, or sex, or
power, or human pride, but, in fact, from God through his only Son sent precisely to give us
answers to the questions of human existence: Who are we? Where are we going? In what
does happiness consist?
ZENIT: The bishops of Latin American have made some progress, haven’t they?
Cardinal Urosa: We have been very strongly committed to the New Evangelization ever
since Pope John Paul II launched that great challenge in 1983, and later with the initiative
of Aparecida to launch a continental evangelizing mission. The Venezuelan episcopate has
taken up these initiatives with great strength and is working very particularly in each diocese.
In Caracas we dedicated three intense years to the continental evangelizing mission and, as
a fruit of that activity, we have prepared a new joint Pastoral Plan which we will launch at the end of the year. I mentioned secularism and, in Caracas in particular, with the problem of the lack of priests, which means that many people – including baptized persons –, don’t know Jesus Christ or don’t know their faith well; hence, the New Evangelization is a permanent challenge which we are addressing with determination and enthusiasm.
ZENIT: In some countries there is concern over excessive devotion to the saints. What can
be done about this?
Cardinal Urosa: The message is that Jesus Christ is the only Savior. Excessive devotion
to saints arises as the people’s answer to their yearning for God, when they haven’t had
contact with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the last few years we have had a marked growth of excessive devotion to saints in Venezuela, precisely because of the lack of knowledge of the faith, of Jesus Christ, so that the answer to this phenomenon must be to present Jesus as our Savior, as the only one who can respond to the needs and questions that we human beings bear in our hearts. Excessive devotion to saints will cease to grow when we carry out our evangelizing work.
ZENIT: There is a trend in Latin America to impose other models of marriage, to attack the
life of the unborn. What is the reason for this?
Cardinal Urosa: This has to do with what we were saying earlier, the hedonist tendency,
materialism, the tendency to forget God, something that is very present in secularism, that,
wish to copy the bad examples of other cultures. We now have in our countries the desire
to implement absolutely erroneous forms of the family, of marriage, etc. We will have to
fight strongly to support the true and natural character of the family, and to defend life and
the integrity of marriage. These are challenges that appear as a consequence of the strong
secularist current that is invading us, which must be answered with intense, strong and
enthusiastic evangelizing action.
ZENIT: At present there is an electoral campaign taking place in Venezuela. What has
been the bishops’ appeal to the candidates?
Cardinal Urosa: I must say that we have lived in permanent political agitation in recent
years. And now there is an intense period of elections. First of all there are the presidential
elections, then the elections for governors of the different states and at the beginning of next year, the elections for mayors, so we will have more agitated months than usual. Something that is very important, and on which we have insisted, is to try to have these campaigns carried out with due respect to the political and civil rights of all the citizens; that there be no violence and that opportunism be avoided. Sadly I must say that there is much opportunism on the part of pro-government political forces in relation to the electoral campaign, because they have the use of a great quantity of resources of the State which they shouldn’t use.
The bishops’ line of action is to foster peaceful coexistence, respect for the political activity of all the participants, and the maintenance of peace excluding all types of violence, both verbal as well as physical. Sadly there is a great polarization and there have already been small attacks by groups attached to the government, against the political activities of the Opposition, so we have insisted that this be avoided during the unfolding of the electoral campaign.
ZENIT: Is there something positive in President Chavez’s government?
Cardinal Urosa: What the government has done is to give a role to the poorest, and this
is certainly very positive, and that is why it has been widely accepted. Moreover, there
has been a great quantity of social programs, some of which are very positive such as
the literacy program, the distribution of foods, and a quite good program called “Barrio
adentro,” health close to the people, which are positive things. On the other hand, however, the government wished to implant, against the popular will — manifested in a referendum in December of 2007, which rejected the imposition of Socialism as a political system in the Constitution –, a series of laws which are outside the constitutional framework. In two documents signed by all the bishops, we have already expressed that it is unacceptable because it is immoral, it goes against the popular will and the Constitution.
ZENIT: What is the Head of State’s health like?
Cardinal Urosa: The President has said publicly that he is sick, and all of us Venezuelans
know this, and that he is undergoing treatment. God willing he will be cured, because it is
important for the political stability of the country.
ZENIT: He has attacked you very much on a personal level. Has he asked you for
Cardinal Urosa: No, the President hasn’t asked for forgiveness, he has simply ceased his
attacks recently. For my part, I forgive the offenses, although I reject them, and I exact that my dignity as a person, as a citizen and as a bishop of the Catholic Church in Venezuela, be respected.
ZENIT: Can you send a final message to ZENIT’s Venezuelan readers?
Cardinal Urosa: Not only to the Venezuelan but to all ZENIT’s readers! We are in a very
important time, in which the Church must be renewed and this renewal calls for conversion,
it exacts greater closeness to God, a greater living of the faith, greater religious practice,
greater fervor. We must not let our spirit be contaminated by secularism, in our ways of
life and attitudes before God and all that is religious. I think the renewal of the Church is
fundamental, and it is one of the objectives of the Year of Faith. The New Evangelization
passes through a conversion of heart, the living of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the
practice of all the virtues. Likewise, it passes through a much more intense pastoral action,
with greater joy and greater clarity on the part of all of us, but particularly priests, Religious, deacons, lay pastoral agents and bishops themselves. We must all strengthen our living of the faith and our dedication to Jesus Christ, because we know that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and this is something we must demonstrate in our attitude and in our pastoral work.