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Leader of Council of Cardinals Sums Up Pontificate: Mercy, Joy and the Poor

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga Considers 2-Plus Years With Pope Francis

The archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduas, and president of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, is one of Pope Francis’ main collaborators. Since April of 2013, he has coordinated the Council of Cardinals that advises the Holy Father on the reform of the Roman Curia and the government of the universal Church.

In this interview with ZENIT, which took place last Friday in Madrid, the Cardinal asserts that after two years of work of the Council of Cardinals, “the balance is quite positive.”

He notes the Pope’s affirmation: “All institutions can be reformed, but if persons aren’t reformed it leads nowhere.”

In this connection, he explains that “the Curia isn’t a court” and that there cannot be “careerism in the Church.” Therefore, one of the keys of the reform underway is “how the institutions of the Curia can serve better, serve more flexibly.”

In regard to the IOR, Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga points out that “14,000 accounts were cancelled.”

“When there is transparency, corruption diminishes a lot,” he stresses. “The Holy Father was extremely worried by the scandals that had to do with the economy.”

Moreover, the current president of Caritas Internationalis laments that “there is a myth about the great riches of the Vatican.” By way of example, he indicates, “the budget of the whole of Vatican State does not reach the ankles of the Archdiocese of Cologne.”

Here is a translation of the conversation held with the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa:

* * *

ZENIT: What role does the Church have in present-day society?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: The Church, as hierarchy, has a mission, which is especially to evangelize the culture. And the Church, as People of God, has a precious mission, which is to evangelize with witness. I think the two things complement one another. This does not mean that the laity does not also have a mission of teaching, of reflection, etc. However, basically, what all the baptized should have most is witness of the values of the Gospel.

ZENIT: What is the main challenge facing the Church in the 21stcentury?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: I would say, not to fall into the individualism of present-day society, but the contrary. To remember that, as Church, we are the People of God, we are a community. And as Pope Saint John Paul II said to us, the Church must be a house of communion and a school of communion. In a world in which each one tries to shut himself in his own limitations, the Church is called to have a tin opener in her hand and open those ambits.

ZENIT: You are the Coordinator of the Council of Cardinals. How do you assess the meetings of the so-called C-9 in the Vatican?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: The balance is quite positive. One of the most beautiful things is that we have the Holy Father as one of us in all our meetings, and he is there as one more brother. He does not impose his thought. Sometimes he asks for a clarification. However, in general he listens a lot. And this is beautiful. He is with all of us all the time – from the Holy Eucharist in the morning to, sometimes, the night. He eats with us and also has coffee with us. We can have that very fraternal and very lovely access with the Holy Father.

What balance? Many people say: “They haven’t done anything.” It is better that one who doesn’t know, not speak, because what isn’t known, can’t be discussed. The Holy Father was extremely worried about the scandals that had to do with the economy. Then he said to us: “The first step must be the economic issue.” And come! Before our first meeting, he established two different Commissions. One on the administration of the patrimony of the Apostolic See and the other on the famous IOR, called the Vatican Bank. And these Commissions led to the handing of materials that we studied beginning with the first meeting in October, in the meeting of December of 2013, and in the meeting of February the decision was already clear. A Secretariat of the Economy had to be created, almost like a Ministry of Finance within the Church. It was created by a motu proprio and it’s functioning – also the problem of the administration of the patrimony of the Apostolic See. It has been constituted at present as the sections of a Central Bank of a State, with all the functions, especially the economic. Then the IOR has also been subjected to a great reform; it is not a Bank in itself, it’s a Foundation.

ZENIT: You clarify that the IOR isn’t a bank …

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: It’s a Foundation made by Pope Pius XII, when there was danger that Hitler would take the Vatican, and then the properties of the Religious Communities would be lost. It began to function thus, but with the passage of time it became practically a bank in which there were persons who had no reason to have accounts there. Fourteen thousand accounts were cancelled and their proprietors were told: “Look, take your money to the Italian State, which is what’s right.” Because often they sought not to pay taxes, which is basically a great mistake, in addition to being ethically very bad. Now, all this reform has led to greater transparency. Today I would say that there is a very efficient administration and everything is published. The budgets will be on the Internet, if they are not already there, in such a way that not only the budget can be seen but also the execution of the budget.

On the other hand, there is a myth about the great riches of the Vatican. I don’t know if you learned recently when the Archdiocese of Cologne published its patrimony and its budget. The budget of the whole of Vatican State doesn’t reach the ankles of the Archdiocese of Cologne! I think all this is a good thing, because when there is transparency, corruption diminishes very much. And this is a good thing.

ZENIT: And the reform of the Roman Curia?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: The Pope himself has said that all institutions can be reformed but if persons aren’t reformed it leads nowhere. Therefore, the reform of persons is basic — the reform of a mentality. And the Pope has not failed to remind us of these criteria. For instance, the Curia isn’t a court; there is no papal court. Perhaps there was in the past, when he was considered a ruler … But it isn’t so now. The Pope says that the Curia is there to serve.

Then one of the criteria of the reform is what to do so that the institutions of the Curia can serve better, can serve more flexibility. Then, another of the criteria is that there is no careerism in the Church.

ZENIT: The second year of the Pope Francis’ election has just ended. How would you describe this time of pontificate?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: I have it very clear. I would describe his pontificate with three words: mercy, joy and the poor.

ZENIT: What features would you point out of the Holy Father’s personality?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: The Holy Father has a very fraternal communicative style, very simple and sometime jocose.  Last December we were with him close to his 78th birthday and he said to us: “Look, pray for me. I’m already 78.” But he is in good health, he has a very clear mind, and his commitment is very clear. So that we ask the Lord that He give him the necessary life to take this work forward, which is very important – very important for the future and especially, to continue giving hope and joy. He is the bearer of joy. Sadness has nothing to do with the Christian faith.

ZENIT: What message would you like to give ZENIT’s readers?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: In the first place that we try to help ZENIT, because we all appreciate that content, that closeness and, at the same time, the richness of information we receive. However, that doesn’t come from the clouds. It also requires concrete solidarity. And I am saddened when I see you launch your campaign and, sometimes, the goals are not reached. I would like to make a petition so that we all help. 

[Translation by ZENIT]

About Iván de Vargas

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