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  Number 396 | Julio 2014
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What influence will Pope Francis have on the Nicaraguan Church?

A reflection on Pope Francis’ profile and the influence he’s having on the world …and possibly but not probably on the Nicaraguan Church..

Rafael Aragón

Pope Francis is exercising a notable degree of leadership in global society. The influence he could have on the Catholic Church depends on a number of important factors. Here I’d like to reflect on the influence he may have on Nicaragua’s Church.

From the Council of Trent
to CELAM in Medellín

To begin with, a few historical notes to set the context. Following the Council of Trent (1545-1563), when Catholic bishops and cardinals met to respond to the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church turned inwards and became defensive. It spent the next four centuries like that until the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), convened by Pope John XXIII. That Council was an epoch-making event that created many expectations in the Catholic Church, other Christian churches and all of society.

Among the many changes that came about as a result of Vatican II, the most important in my view are changes in our conceptions of God, of our position as human beings before God and of the world and history. The Council invited us to move from considering God as our provider to seeing him as a God who invites us to commit ourselves to transforming the world. We were invited to stand before God not with a resigned faith but with a faith committed to the march of history, and to view the world with optimism rather than negativity, as a horizon towards which we walk in hope, with a dream, with a utopia. These changes renewed classical and traditional theology. The Church understood itself as God’s people committed to making real the dream of Jesus, the Kingdom of God. Following the great Protestant tradition, the Catholic communities began to read the Bible with a renewed exegesis.

Vatican II comes to Nicaragua

The Council’s renewing influence arrived in Nicaragua through a group of priests who had been immersed in it while studying in Rome, Jerusalem, Spain and Germany. In Nicaragua they met other foreign priests who shared this inspiration. Between them, they began to put together a movement for pastoral renewal.
In 1968, the Second Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM), held in Medellín, Colombia, gave a new interpretation to the Second Vatican Council. Under the influence of the Council’s current of renewal, with a vision informed by the social sciences—in particular at that time by dependency theory, which linked Latin America’s stagnation and poverty to its economic dependence on the centers of global power—and following the see-judge-act method, the bishops reflected on the continent’s reality, identifying its injustices and needs and giving a central place to the “preferential option for the poor.” Medellin constituted an original and autochthonous recreation of Vatican II’s contributions.

The Nicaraguan Catholic Church began to change under the influence of the Council and Medellín. Christian base communities began to be created in Managua, first in 14 de Septiembre and other barrios of the San Pablo Apóstol parish. Even the secretary of the papal nuncio founded four Christian base communities in the San Judas neighborhood through his pastoral ministry, something that today sounds tremendously unusual and innovative.

The experience of Delegates of the Word came to Nicaragua from Honduras. It arrived in the department of Carazo through Capuchin monks and other priests, including Xaverian brothers, who promoted lay leadership in rural areas. A new way of interpreting the Bible began to be promoted throughout the country.

The renewal of the Nicaraguan Church…

These multiple influences began to renew the Nicaraguan Catholic Church which, until then, had been very inward-looking and closely linked to the Somocista dictatorship. During this same period, Ernesto Cardenal began a novel type of ministry in Solentiname and communities of nuns left their upper- and middle-class schools and went instead to work in poor neighborhoods.

An institution that contributed significantly to the renewal of peasant consciousness was the Escuelas Radio¬fónicas, which played an especially important role in Las Segovias and the León-Chinandega region. Basing their work on the vision of Pablo Freire’s consciousness-raising methodology, these schools broadcast literacy classes and biblical education by radio. I particularly remember their courses on Radio Católica on the books of Exodus and the Prophets. They continue to work today, providing education by radio. After the triumph of the revolution, the Church hierarchy banned their biblical education so they had to limit themselves to social development work.

Alongside all these Catholic sectors, important sectors of the Baptist Church also played a role in Christian renewal that deserves to be highlighted.

…How deep and for how long?

I remember the years prior to the revolution, when the renewal inspired by Vatican II was expressed in encouraging signs. I remember Monsignor Obando, archbishop of Managua, arriving at clergy meetings without his cassock, just one more participant. He didn’t even use a dog collar and went dressed the same way to the parishes. There was a more intimate atmosphere.

In my opinion, those ten years and more of Church renewal from a consciousness-raising and liberating perspective created a strong social foundation that allowed the FSLN to take strong root in society and its proposals to achieve sufficient popularity to be supported by the Nicaraguan people. This enabled the Sandinistas to lead them to confront and defeat the Somocista dictatorship.

I believe the first important visible result of the renewal experienced by the Nicaraguan Church in that time was precisely that: the massive participation of Nicaragua’s Catholic people organized in communities, in the overthrow of the dictatorship.

The consequences
were not long in coming

Nevertheless, following the fall of the Somoza regime, there was a high price to be paid for this participation. The great majority of lay leaders trained in the new Church spaces and movements began to participate full time in the work of the revolution. The all-encompassing revolutionary project completely absorbed these leaders, leaving them without free creative space for criticism, even without spaces of gratitude and celebration to draw close to God. I made this same observation in the eighties, indicating that there would be consequences.

While this was happening among the lay leaders, the hierarchy, bishops and majority of the Catholic clergy failed to understand or provide pastoral support in that historic moment; instead they progressively distanced themselves from the revolution. At the beginning they tolerated the new situation but soon there was a confrontation between the Catholic clergy and laypeople who opposed the revolution and those who supported it. The lay leaders who supported the revolution felt hurt and offended by the positions the hierarchy adopted.

Little by little, then, the atmosphere of renewal was disrupted, on the one hand by the revolution and on the other by John Paul II, leading the Church to turn back in on itself, to seal itself hermetically against reality. The revolution had this effect because of its all-encompassing nature, which introduced new symbols and meanings. And John Paul II had it because he favored the restoration of traditional positions in the Church and was hostile to the revolution.

A defensive return to traditional positions

In the confrontation between the Catholic hierarchy and the revolution, the hierarchy not only failed to provide support but also returned to the prevailed traditional positions before the Council. I remember a meeting of the clergy in the Managua curia where participative catechesis was banned and the clergy was ordered to teach the catechism using the traditional methods based on memorizing the questions and answers.

Inward-looking and on the defensive against the revolution, the official Church centered its activities on promoting three traditional devotions: to the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary and the Pope. Eucharistic Thursdays came back, and with very traditional songs; the singing of the Misa Campesina was banned. The traditional Feast of the Immaculate Conception was promoted once more, following a period in which it was treated with certain reserve by the official Church and lacked the importance it now has. For example, the Catholic hierarchy had banned the singing during liturgical events of the songs of the Immaculate Conception that nowadays provide the Catholic people with identity. Devotion to the Pope was increased through John Paul II’s first visit to Nicaragua in March 1983. All ministry was aligned with these three axes—the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary and the Pope—strengthening popular piety and Catholic people’s identity, considered to be “threatened” by the revolution.

The Latin American Episcopal Council openly supported the Nicaraguan Catholic hierarchy’s strengthening of these pastoral axes. Even more importantly, so did the Vatican, where the papacy of John Paul II was distancing itself more and more from the renewal of the Council, instead strengthening a highly traditional theology and censuring and controlling any attempts at renewal. The Brazilian Jesuit theologian João Bautista Libanio categorized this period as “the return to strict discipline.”

During the struggle against Somoza, the Managua seminary had closed as the seminarians were drawn to participate in the Sandinista struggle. It opened again at the beginning of the 1980s. All training given there was influenced by the vision of John Paul II, who disagreed with the conclusions of Vatican II and wanted to restore the clerical vision that had predominated in the Church from the time of the Council of Trent.

Although Vatican II had renewed that vision after four centuries, John Paul II reinstated it. This restoration model, which emerged during the 1980s in opposition to the revolution, had been adopted by the Nicaraguan Catholic Church by the late eighties, before the revolution’s electoral defeat. It was consolidated in the nineties and remains in place until today, in full force.

Enter Pope Francis

In these circumstances, following 35 years of papacies opposed to the Council under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pope Francis has appeared on the scene. It makes sense then to reflect on the repercussions that his pastoral model could have in Nicaragua, given its differences with that of his predecessors.

Nobody expected a person such as Pope Francis to become the head of the Catholic Church. From the moment of his appearance at the end of the conclave, he surprised the world by saying he had been elected “bishop of Rome,” bowing before the crowds asking the people to pray for him and even refusing to use the traditional red, erminetrimmed renaissance cape the popes use as an aristocratic symbol. Benedict XVI often used that cape but Pope Francis rejected it the day of his election. As they went to put it on him he said, “The carnival is over!”

A child of Vatican II

With these signs, Pope Francis showed from the very beginning that he is a child of the Council. It was Vatican II that proposed that the pope be the bishop of Rome, as a sign of communion in charity with all the Church, that he be a servant of the people and live in simplicity.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio is a Jesuit, an intellectual with a spirituality based on discernment. He’s a humanist whose every gesture and pronouncement overflow with humanism. He’s a parish priest with a Franciscan-inspired pastoral strategy. He’s also a Latin American, open and sensitive to the reality of the poor, a pastor with experience ministering to the marginalized and excluded people of the urban periphery.

In contrast to John Paul II, whose experience of the Council was informed by that of his country, Poland, which has always sought its identity in highly traditional Catholicism, Pope Francis, as a child of the Council, is open to modernity. He differs too from Benedict XVI who, although he participated in Vatican II as a theological advisor, was ultimately afraid of the challenges the Council proposed for Church renewal. Francis appears to be a man without fear.

In his first press conference with foreign journalists shortly after his election, Bergoglio was asked why he had chosen the name Francis. He gave three reasons. Firstly, because Francis of Assisi wanted to renew the Church from the perspective of the poor. He added one of his first important and provocative declarations: “How I wish we had a poor Church for the poor!”

Secondly, because Francis of Assisi promoted peace through dialogue and understanding among religions and peoples, participating in his time in dialogue with Islamic authorities. Pope Francis wishes to play a role in leading dialogue with other religions and spiritual traditions to promote peace in the world.

And thirdly, because Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of environmentalists. Pope Francis plans to write an apostolic exhortation on ecological matters.

What needs to be renewed in the Church?

What can Pope Francis contribute to the renewal of the Catholic Church? Progressive theologians have great hopes of what he can achieve and have made many types of proposals. All agree that the Church should return to the Gospel of Jesus and the renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council.
They propose the reform of the Roman Curia, the Church’s governing structure. Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff has proposed its decentralization with the Pontifical Council for Culture in the Middle East, that for Inter-religious Dialogue in Geneva, Justice and Peace in Latin America, and so on. The idea is that spreading the ecclesiastical government would link it better to the plural and diverse world.

Structural reforms of the Vatican Bank are also proposed in light of its connections with corruption and money laundering. Three solutions are proposed. One is that the Church’s funds be kept in existing banks. Another is that the Vatican Bank be converted into an ethical bank. And the third is that it operate based on financial principles that include ethical considerations. The latter appears to be the solution Pope Francis favors and he has already made changes among the directors to this end.

Theologians also propose the transformation or dissolution of the Vatican State, placing all its patrimonial and cultural treasures in the care of UNESCO. They propose that it be declericalized, appointing lay persons as nuncios given the clear contradiction between nuncios being the pope’s ambassadors throughout the world but also bishops. How can they be bishops without a Christian community?

They further propose the elimination of the honorary titles of cardinal and monsignor, with the only authorities being the bishops. This would make the Church more synodal, more collegial, and the pope, as Bishop of Rome, would convene the bishops of each country to participate in governing the universal Church.

Other reform requirements

In addition to all the proposals that have been made, I believe that a true renewal of the Catholic Church would require the revision of Canon Law, the set of laws that govern the life of the Church and are equivalent to a national Constitution.

It would also require renewal of the Catholic Church Catechism, which contains Catholic doctrine. The current versions of both Canon Law and the Catechism have been inherited from John Paul II and were never touched by the Council’s spirit of renewal. To reform Canon Law and reformulate the Catholic Catechism, Pope Francis would need at least as long—27 years—as John Paul II had to make his changes. The Code John Paul II reformulated hadn’t been touched since 1917. How long might Francis have as bishop of Rome? Perhaps another eight years as he has already said he will retire when God gives him a sign.

What contributions might Pope Francis
make to these and other renewal ideas?

First of all, given that Pope Francis has already named several new cardinals this year, some theologians suspect he won’t make any real changes in the Church’s government. There are several other issues the pope has barely touched on, other than in a few phrases, making it appear that he doesn’t wish to tackle them. One very important one is the role of women in the Church. The pope doesn’t even use inclusive language in his homilies and interviews.

Nor does he treat issues of sexual ethics directly or intensively. He attracted the world’s attention when he said that “if someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” but he hasn’t dealt in any depth with the Church’s homophobia. Similarly, in a telephone conversation with a divorced woman he told her she should take communion without feeling any guilt but has not gone any further with this ecclesiastical prohibition. He seems to be shying away from delicate or controversial issues.

In a meeting with the UN Secretary General, Pope Francis offered his leadership for a “worldwide ethical mobilization” to bring an end to inequality and spread “a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity.” The pope is also committed to using his leadership to unite the world’s great religions and spiritual traditions in the promotion of justice and peace, especially in conflict-affected countries. He has begun to do this in the conflict in Syria when an invasion by Western countries seemed imminent.

It is to be hoped that Pope Francis continues to provide leadership through emblematic gestures such as his visit to Lampedusa, where he made an appeal for the migrants who come to Europe looking for a better life, or his visit to Calabria, birthplace of the Italian mafia, where he “excommunicated” mafia members. He has planned a visit to the Mexican-US border for 2015 and will also continue the Wednesday general audiences in St Peter’s Square as well as his visits to prisons, hospitals and poor neighborhoods.

The Pope and Latin America’s
Liberation theology perspective

Pope Francis understands the reality of Latin America very well but doesn’t share the liberation theology perspective. It’s interesting that when Jorge Mario Bergoglio was archbishop and cardinal of Buenos Aires he was a great friend of Alberto Methol Ferré, the Uruguayan philosopher, theologian and intellectual. They had considerable mutual influence on each other’s ideas about the value of popular religiosity and about the poor, in both cases perspectives that contradicted those of liberation theology. Both men successfully sought to influence the documents produced by the 1979 Latin American Episcopal Conference in Puebla, Mexico.

It was Methol Ferré who first gave the name “popular church” to the wing of the Nicaraguan Catholic Church that supported the revolution in the eighties, as published in the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa. It was also Ferré who defined it as a convergence between Marxist-Leninist ideology, the financial resources of the Protestant World Council of Churches and the “useful dupes” of Nicaragua. The Sandinista government’s housing minister, lay Catholic Miguel Ernesto Vijil, replied in El Nuevo Diario that the option of Christians for the revolution was very different from Ferré’s characterization. The term “popular church” was born, then, in La Prensa and never accepted by those of us who in our parishes and communities were committed to the social transformations proposed by the revolution. The tragedy is that both CELAM in Latin America and the Pope in the Vatican accepted that characterization and reacted against it.

A humanist, not a liberationist

Although Bergoglio never belonged to the liberation theology school and has criticized Marxism as a method for analyzing reality—including several times since becoming pope—he’s critical of the prevailing economic system from an ethical and humanist standpoint. It is from that ethical humanist standpoint that he promotes personal transformation that places the poor at the center of pastoral action.

For theologian Leonardo Boff, it’s unimportant which analysis the pope uses; what matters is that he prioritize the poor and propose to work from that perspective. Nonetheless, I feel that Pope Francis’ vision fails to propose and consider the poor as the agents of their own transformation and also lacks a dialectical vision of history. It’s not enough to promote personal change, what’s also needed is to strengthen and support the new social actors who are emerging from the “social and existential peripheries” where Pope Francis says we should be and organizing themselves to promote bottom-up proposals. The social movements now seeking alternatives are the new agents of change, called upon to play a decisive role in the radical transformations we need at this moment in history.

Who’s for and who’s against him?

Even though he has yet to make any radical changes, Pope Francis’ humanism is more acceptable and thus more attractive to the global community in which Catholics and other believers live together with non-believers than to the organized Catholic community so molded by the “strict discipline” of the two preceding popes. There’s resistance to change. Some Catholic groups oppose the pope, and the transparency slowly being imposed on the Vatican Bank has created important enemies.

The Italian Vatican expert Marco Politi has recently published a book titled Francisco entre los lobos (Francisco among the wolves). The “wolves” he refers to can be found on the Internet, coordinating and protesting aggressively against the pope. They are ultraconservative Catholic groups, both in Europe and Latin America, who are accusing Pope Francis of populism, “talking too much about poverty,” “protestantizing” the Church, and being liberal on sexual matters. Politi notes “a kind of horizontal alliance” of such “wolves” inside and outside of the Curia it and in the world of major economic interests, including the Italian mafia. Politi is struck by the fact that “episcopates everywhere haven’t come out in favor of Pope Francis’ reformist policy.” “That’s strange,” he writes. “They are neither presenting documents nor launching initiatives in favor of the Pope, I observe total inertia.”

Where does Nicaragua’s
Church come down?

That same inertia can be seen in the Nicaraguan Church. In the face of this evidence, I consider that the pope’s proposal to change the model imposed by his two predecessors isn’t going to come to much in Nicaragua any time soon. Maybe there’ll be a hopeful horizon in the medium or long run, however. Who knows?

What makes me see things this way is the pre-modern mentality of Nicaragua’s dominant culture and the traditional training received by the Nicaraguan clergy. John Paul II’s theological model is firmly entrenched in Nicaragua’s ecclesiastical structures and ecclesial movements. This leaves little room for hope that the Church will change its pastoral approach. For the most part, the Nicaraguan clergy have been trained with a traditional and closed vision.

Life in male religious orders is also deeply clericalized and classless, leading me to think that Pope Francis’ proposals are also unlikely to have much resonance among the members of the different religious orders in Nicaragua. In contrast, among women’s religious orders, despite the appearance of increasingly traditional congregations in recent years, I feel the Council’s renewing tradition is most alive among nuns who live in poor neighborhoods and rural areas. I think Pope Francis’ pastoral proposal will be welcomed among them.

The outlook of the Nicaraguan bishops and priests is in line with their very traditional preparation. I don’t believe they’re inclined to reflect on reality with a Biblical basis or the see-judge-act approach. Some communities in different parts of the country do follow this line but I don’t believe the movement is strong enough to push the whole Catholic Church in this direction, either among the clergy or among monks and nuns. These communities do what they can but are limited to very small spaces and lack the strength to move the whole ecclesiastical apparatus.

Nor do I believe this can be achieved by Carmelite Father Silvio Báez, auxiliary bishop of Managua, notwithstanding his outstanding intellectual level and profound Biblical training. Perhaps the fact that he was in Costa Rica and then in Rome studying during the eighties, and thus didn’t have the experience we did living through those years in Nicaragua, makes it difficult for him to identify with the prophetic tradition of the poor.

A critique of the bishops’ document

In this context, I want to make a critical assessment of the document presented by the bishops to President Daniel Ortega in the meeting they had with him on May 21. I agree with the majority of the problems they identify based on their analysis of national reality. As regards the family, however, the vision they present is very traditional and I believe should be looked into more deeply. Let’s hope that the Synod on the Family, to be held this October in Rome, opens up new possibilities.

The points the bishops raise regarding legality and political institutionality seem weak and inappropriate to me. In Nicaragua, we need to analyze more thoroughly what the revolution meant for the country, with both its good and bad points. We shouldn’t ignore this; it’s important to analyze present-day reality accepting what happened and looking forward. If we talk about democracy, human rights and the rule of law without taking into account the effects of the revolution we fail to respect and be objective about the country’s history.

I believe that being open to an analysis of reality that incorporates the processes experienced in Nicaragua would be a creative way to support the development of proposals that give people hope for the future from the perspective of the poor and the logic of the many. That would mean proposing other ways of doing politics, other types of grassroots organization, other ways of institutionalizing the State and another rule of law that serves the poor majority of the population rather than one interpreted, understood and manipulated by the usual minorities. In the bishops’ document I sense an absence of the prophetic spirituality that characterizes the great Biblical tradition and is a mark of the followers of the Gospel of Jesus.

Will the Nicaraguan people
welcome the pope’s model?

Finally, if Pope Francis’ pastoral model won’t find a welcome among the Catholic clergy and hierarchy, what about the people? Like its clergy, Nicaragua’s Catholics have a deeply embedded, highly traditional vision of Catholicism, which is the way they were taught. They defended themselves with this vision against the revolution’s all-encompassing project, which frightened the Church and induced it to close in on itself. Now they defend themselves the same way against the Evangelicals. To preserve its traditional identity against the Evangelicals, the Church is promoting neither an awareness-raising catechesis, nor the theological training of the faithful, nor even an ecumenical dialogue. It remains isolated in its identity and increasingly promotes highly traditional devotions.

The Council opened up the liturgy to reflection on the Word of God and organized the Christian calendar around a series of celebrations in which Christ is always the center. Devotion to the Saints was virtually displaced, relegated to second or third place, and some Saint’s days were even eliminated from the Church calendar.

Traditionalism is stronger than ever

Nowadays, both the clergy and the people want to recover all Saints’ days and all the most traditional devotions with the argument that “if the Evangelicals only talk about the Bible, we talk about the Virgin and the Saints,” Such competition is an obstacle to renewal, be it from above, from the hierarchy and the institution, or from below, from the communities that have been taught about these traditions for many years.

This even true on the Caribbean Coast, where the American Capuchins who evangelized the population didn’t arrive with those devotions more typical of Italian and Spanish missionaries. Nevertheless, the coast’s bishops now allow the Caribbean people to promote these devotions from the Pacific Coast in the name of Church unity and communion.

Nicaragua’s Catholics, who are mostly poor, can’t change without changing their economic circumstances and being educated in a way that evolves their cultural conditioning. It is crucial today to awaken people’s dignity as active agents who demand their rights with critical thinking and a commitment to participate in society’s progress. I think both the Church and the current government are far from making such a commitment. Pope Francis’ outlook won’t have any impact in Nicaragua without intensive education of the people and development of the country. I spoke with a friend who attends the clergy’s meetings—I no longer go—and asked him if he knew of any movement among the priests of Managua or the Estelí clergy, which he knows well, that could provide some hope of changes in the ministry inspired by Francis. His reply was unequivocal: “No, there isn’t anybody.”

Where does this leave the FSLN?

To return to power, the FSLN abandoned its revolutionary project, thinking and ideology a long time ago and made an alliance with the Catholic Church hierarchy, personalized as Cardinal Obando. Since winning the elections, it has used diverse social programs to maintain its grip on power and ally itself with society’s poorest sectors, to whom it presents itself with a mythical-religious project led by the First Lady. This government alliance with the poorest sectors of the population with their highly traditional religiosity is continuing and even becoming stronger. The FSLN’s objective is electoral: to keep the masses in suspense and dependent on the completely ideologized figure of Daniel Ortega as a “savior” without whom the country would be lost, in the process promoting a mythical-religious vision of politics.

There is a group of priests who now legitimize the governing party but they don’t truly constitute an organized tendency within the Church. They’ve adopted this position for personal reasons and don’t have the hierarchy’s support; on the contrary it criticizes them for their stance, as is also the case of Cardinal Obando. It’s well known that the Bishops’ Conference neither shares nor sympathizes with his support of the government.

The government uses these priests’ support to try to give itself legitimacy and promotes religious celebrations to try to legitimize itself with the Catholic people. In Chinandega, for example, the Celebration of San Pascual Bailón, which has indigenous origins and is similar to that of Santo Domingo in Managua, was ignored by the Church and had almost disappeared. The government is now promoting it through the Ministry of Tourism and the Institute of Culture, in line with the logic of its mythical-religious project.

The national clergy’s seminary training didn’t lead them to develop a critical consciousness. At the same time they like to be close to power, a longstanding tendency in the Catholic Church and the model of Christianity, in which political and ecclesiastical powers always seek out and understand each other, and like to be close to each other. Many priests, for example, very much like to appear in public together with mayors and governors. Both these factors make parish priests and even bishops vulnerable. Consequently, one government strategy is to buy their silence with handouts and other favors. The government’s ability to neutralize and win them over is much stronger than the fragile training they have received.

What’s the solution?

What pastoral approach can be used to confront this situation? The only answer I can see is to create awareness, organize the people and provide them serious theological teaching. The Church leadership should identify and support organized groups in society and among poor people to encourage them, reflect with them and based on that build alternative proposals for society. This is the role of bishops, priests, monks, nuns and lay people.

Another urgent task for the Church is to provide intensive training to free men and women from machismo. Beyond posters, slogans and marches, overcoming this machismo, which causes so much violence against women and so many deaths, requires a long-term education and training process in the home, schools, parishes and churches.

Change isn’t easy,
but we have to make it happen

These tasks are not easy. Any awareness-raising task would be difficult given the baggage of traditional Catholic religiosity, plus that of the many fundamentalist Evangelical churches that preach an alienating message as well as the weight of the First Lady’s midday preaching through the official media every day.

I return to Pope Francis and the changes he has made, those he could make and those we hope he’ll make. The theologian Víctor Codina insists that the pope can make many changes but warns that if we don’t change and bring about change from below, if we don’t renew many things from below, no change will happen. Jesus of Nazareth didn’t ask the High Priest for permission to talk about the Kingdom of God. He just did it, from that periphery of his country that was Galilee. It cost him his life, but he did it.

Rafael Aragón is a priest and friar in the Dominican Order.

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