By Jose Antonio Varela Vidal

ROME, JULY 31, 2012 ( We offer our readers the last part of the interview with the superior general of the Marianist Fathers, who was re-elected last week during the General Chapter of the Society of Mary, which is taking place in Rome.

In his answers, Father Manuel Cortes transmits his optimism that his Congregation will work diligently with young people so that they will develop a mature and strong faith for our times; at the same time, he points out how the Church must address certain problems of hostility in very secularized countries such as his native Spain.

ZENIT: Your new government is also set in the framework of the 20 years of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Is there a general interest that the new generations receive a profound catechesis from educators?

Father Cortes: For us, who are very dedicated and committed to education, the evangelization of young people is a great concern. We have spoken of it in the Chapter, because we are in a social reality where, due to secularism, religion is absent and this affects the capacity of young people to accede to faith. We must keep in mind that the faith is transmitted, and that chain of transmission – in which the family has had an important role, and tradition in the good sense of the word --, has been severed. Hence there is a problem of “education of young people for the faith” and “education of the faith of young people.”

ZENIT: What are you referring to with this distinction?

Father Cortes: The “education of young people for the faith,” means that our education must promote the human conditions, the capacities and the sensibilities that make possible access to faith. Because there are many young people who don’t have it, and as we are in a society that has lost the faith, it is not just a question of educating them, but of promoting those human capacities that make access to faith possible. For example, openness to the other, the capacity to listen, because when a person is educated in individualism, he is closed to faith, given that the latter is above all an act of confidence in the Lord.

ZENIT: And the other aspect?

Father Cortes: Then there is the other dimension, “education of the faith.” Because there are many young people with a faith that needs to be educated, nourished, formed for the times.

ZENIT: It’s a whole process …

Father Cortes: We must develop the processes more, those that lead to faith, and those that lead to a maturation of the faith. And these processes are very diverse today, and there is no uniformity in the culture or in the type of persons that we meet in our mission. This calls for reflection, which has to do with the New Evangelization.

ZENIT: Let’s talk of Spain. How do you analyze the hostility that exists against the Church? There seems to be little room for religious education, attacks on her teachings, the intention of overburdening her with taxes.

Father Cortes: If we speak of hostility against the Church, I would distinguish several aspects, because we cannot put in the same bag all the difficulties that the Church can face in Spain. I think there is a hostility to the Church which has a historical root, a certain anti-clericalism in the history of Spain which sprang with force in the 19th and 20th centuries, and which emerged in the Civil War and the Republic. It’s something very recent
and continues to be present. I think that it will still be difficult to assimilate all those historical roots and to purify what must be purified, on the part of all. The Church demonstrated that she was more up to the task of the times in the period of political transition, something for which she is not greatly recognized today.

ZENIT: There is even verbal violence on the part of some sectors, no?

Father Cortes: There is still an aspect, which is an aggressiveness of a political type. It is the fruit of the absence of a clear ideology in political parties or a government proposal, and they distinguish themselves among themselves by issues of a moral and ethical type which are translated into anti-Church positions, given the Church’s position on moral questions.

ZENIT: How should the Church respond?

Father Cortes: The Church must respond with a certain intelligence and not place herself in the battlefield of the political camp, which does not correspond to her and is very uncomfortable. I have always liked to mediate on the “two flags” of Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. He makes one see there that the Devil uses a strategy, and the Lord’s answer, that of the captain that Saint Ignatius represents, is not to answer with the same strategy or in a more powerful way, but to answer in another way. Then the Lord’s strategy conquers, because the Devil’s strategy is to tempt with wealth until one becomes proud, while the Lord’s is totally opposite: it is striving with poverty until one attains humility. I think this can also be applied to the world, because the battle of the two flags is going on at every moment of history. I think it is evident that political power is one strategy and the Church cannot fall into the same strategy: “because you say this, I have the power to say the opposite.”

ZENIT: And in the financial aspect, the imposition of taxes on religious works?

Father Cortes: There is another area which is the economic, and you have alluded to taxes. We must distinguish between the presence of the Church that enters the economic world, where there are Houses of Exercises which of course charge for pension or where there are bookstores or structure that even if they are of the Church enter that ambit; then we must accept that in moments of crisis something must be contributed. But we must also know that there are structures of the Church that are at the service of the people, which have no economic function and hence should not have to pay taxes.

ZENIT: Let’s return to the Marianist Fathers. How is the Congregation fairing at present in the world?

Father Cortes: Our Congregation is very widespread in the world. We are 1,200 religious. It has developed more recently in Africa, India and Korea. New foundations have been created where we weren’t present, such as in Cuba, in Haiti where we have a dozen Haitian Religious, and in the Philippines, which are the most recent. Hence, as happens with all institutes, our face is changing, it is growing and we maintain ourselves, although diminishing in Latin America and Europe, the United States and Japan. The Togo unit created a foundation recently in Benin, and the East African unit, which has already decided to found one in Southern Sudan, has had difficulties in doing so.

ZENIT: Have you a final message for the Marianist family that reads ZENIT?

Father Cortes: I would say that, contemplating Mary we understand that She is the door through which the Redemption entered the world. And that perhaps today more than ever, it is important to continue Mary’s mission, and to continue being like Her, an open door of humanity to God and of God to humanity.