A Prelate’s Hopes for Brazil Conference

Interview With Archbishop Robles Díaz, Published Posthumously

 

ROME, MAY 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Church in Latin America needs a renewal in pastoral activities, according to Archbishop Luis Robles Díaz.

 

The archbishop said this in an interview with the FIDES news agency days before he died suddenly on April 7, at age 69.

 

Mexican Archbishop Robles Díaz was the apostolic nuncio to Cuba and former vice president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

 

In this interview he expressed his hopes for the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

Q: What fruits should the Church in Latin America expect to obtain from this episcopal gathering?

 

Archbishop Robles Díaz: I think the main fruit of this general conference should be an intense renewal in the Church’s pastoral practices. It would be very useful for the reflection to be oriented mainly toward pastoral matters, since that is what the Church in that continent needs today.

 

Q: What should be done for the Gospel to reach more people? What should be done in order to spread a culture of life? What should be done to strengthen families and to convey to them the model of the Christian family?

 

Archbishop Robles Díaz: In short, I think these and other questions should find concrete answers in the reflection and the dialogue that is to arise between the pastors of the various nations attending, with the assistance of the lay people and experts invited.

 

Latin America, despite its cultural diversity, and without underestimating the particular identity of each of its peoples, constitutes one large unity; we are one single people with a markedly Catholic culture and identity.

 

This should be made use of, in order to provide in-depth solutions that, at the same time, are feasible and effective from a practical point of view. We must announce the Gospel and carry out the Church’s mission effectively.

 

Q: In your opinion, what are the grounds for this effectiveness?

 

Archbishop Robles Díaz: I think one should be aware of the main objective and direct all the required means in that sole direction. Our objective is to announce Jesus Christ and to help people — including Catholics — convert to the Gospel.

 

But we should convey a hope that is not based on merely human objectives: social, economic goals, etc. This hope is based on the concrete person of Christ.

 

Although this may seem an obvious truth, one must bear in mind that a pastor should only convey the model of Christ.

 

It is obvious that, today, the Church’s work, particularly in countries with considerable needs in the economic, social, and political fields, as is the case of many countries in Latin America, should reach all these spheres of human life and offer concrete answers.

 

Q: But what kind of answers should it provide? What should they be based on?

 

Archbishop Robles Díaz: When the Church’s mission becomes intermingled with worldly goals, including the political, economic and social fields, the Gospel becomes ineffective; we, human beings, make it ineffective!

 

Q: What particular features should characterize this general conference, as distinct from the previous ones?

 

Archbishop Robles Díaz: To answer this question, I prefer to begin the other way around — with what they have in common. One can perceive a clear continuity between these episcopal meetings, from Rio de Janeiro in 1955 to Santo Domingo in 1992.

 

They are all a response to the prompting of the Spirit during the Second Vatican Council.

 

There is a permanent renewal in the Church, and this accounts for these great assemblies that have been held successively, in an effort to respond to a concrete and current situation. However, this phenomenon of renewal takes place in continuity with the previous experiences and, particularly, with the conciliar teachings.

 

I believe, though, in reply to your question, that each general conference has been prompted in a particular and diverse historical context.

 

Within this continuity, each of these meetings has, in its own way, provided an answer to a concrete situation of the Church at a specific moment. The accumulated wealth is immense!

 

I don’t think the current moment in Latin America calls for any major doctrinal propositions.

 

Over the last 50 years, the magisterium has produced a considerable amount of material that is the result of deep reflection and an acute approach to the Church’s current situation.

 

It is enough to take a glance at the teachings of Pope John Paul II in his apostolic journeys to this part of the world. That alone, together with the documents issued from the previous general conferences, offers an infinite amount of tools to be applied.

 

That is why I believe that this fifth general conference should give rise, above all, to a renewal in action, but not action centered on political, social, and economic aspects, but rather, on Christ, on the Gospel, on Christian values, on popular and Marian piety, etc.

 

Q: Within the context of Latin America and the work carried out by the Church, what challenges do you consider most urgent?

 

Archbishop Robles Díaz: I think the most important ones are outlined in my answer to your first question. But I would like to add another one, which I consider essential: vocational work.

 

Imagine Christ without disciples, without followers; imagine Jesus without apostles; doesn’t it seem absurd?

 

Jesus’ entire person was already an invitation to follow him. He summoned his disciples and continues to do so today, in every Christian and, especially, in his pastors.

 

The Church could not endure without a permanent vocational apostleship.

 

The Lord himself urges us to “pray to the owner of the field that he send workers.” But as well as praying for this, one ought to seek it through concrete means.

 

During the last few years, many attempts have been made to increase the response to God’s call, with good results, in some cases, and not so good ones in others.

 

However, often there has been a loss of confidence in the efficacy of announcing the Gospel, Christ’s call, directly, and of defending, openly and sincerely, what the Church actually wants to convey, that Christ is the way, the truth and life.

 

At times, indirect paths that do not lead to good results have been sought, or attempts to disguise the message have been made, when what is needed is to present it as what it really is. If the Gospel is not attractive in itself, then how can we be convincing?

 

On the other hand, I think one can appraise the actual value of the means used in evangelization by the vocational fruits they yield.

 

Therefore, I feel that a great contribution of this fifth general conference would be a renewal in vocations, which, in turn, is highly related to the family, so that a strong campaign should arise in our countries to promote life in the priesthood, in consecrated life, with exemplary models — but a clear and direct campaign, not one which tries to filter through the channels offered by the world, rather, one equipped with its own channel, which is the testimony of pastors.

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