A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH

Cultural Promotion in Church's DNA

Part 1

Interview With Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone After Mexico Visit

VATICAN CITY, 12 FEB. 2009 (ZENIT)

Proclamation of the Gospel is cultural creation, and Catholic institutions must show that they can address progress and development successfully, said the Pope's secretary of state.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was in Mexico from Jan. 15 to 19 to preside over the 6th World Meeting of Families and to meet with Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, as well as with the representatives of the world of culture.

On his return to the Vatican, the secretary of state gave a joint interview to Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore Romano and the Vatican Television Center, in which he evaluated his visit.

This interview was conducted by Carlo Di Cicco, deputy director of the Vatican newspaper, and Roberto Piermarini, director of the news service of the papal radio.

Part 2 of this interview will be published Friday.

Q: Eminence, your visit to Mexico seemed very different from your previous ones. In addition to the fact that you took part as a papal legate, it seemed to mark a new beginning in relations between the Church, the Holy See and Mexican society. What actually happened?
 
Cardinal Bertone: It was a trip of a profound pastoral character — as papal legate for the 6th World Meeting of Families — and, of course, [it was] also political to have meetings with the president of the republic and other authorities.

We must recall that Archbishop Dominique Mamberti also went recently to Mexico on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, which was a great change in Mexico, a stage marked in 1993 by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his trip for World Youth Day in Denver.

The secretary of state went to Mexico as papal legate but also as secretary of state, which put the accent on these positive aspects. Not that there is a positive secularism in Mexico — a subject that was discussed later in the meeting of Queretaro — but yes, there are more positive meetings and relations between the Church and the state.

There is a Church that is reassuming itself — a martyr Church, which the Mexican [Church] is. It was an exceptional occasion in which the Pope made himself present with two messages: his recorded blessing and live transmission during which the joyful and palpitating Mexican cry resounded: "the Pope is present."

It is a conviction that expresses the great desire for the presence of the Pope, but also the sense of full communion and fellowship with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.
 
Q: Family and culture were the two most important points in all your speeches. Why did you give so much attention to these topics?
 
Cardinal Bertone: Because in reality, the family is the first transmitter of values and culture for the new generations; for children and young people growing up, the family is the transmitter of values.

This is a proven fact in the experience of family life, despite all the difficulties that mark the way, not only in Europe but also in Latin America.

I recall a conference, a debate, that took place here in Rome, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, with Professor Barbiellini Amidei, precisely about the family, regarding its capacity or incapacity to address other instances of socialization in the task of transmitting values.

In the end we agreed that the family is the first instance of the transmission of values — and this is also the conviction of the Popes: of John Paul II and, particularly, Pope Benedict, as taken up in the two messages addressed to Mexico — the family is the first instance of human and Christian formation.

It transmits the identity, the family's own identity, and the cultural and spiritual identity of a people.

Then the state is born thanks to the grouping, the communion among families, that is why the state should have the mission to strengthen the identity of a people grounded in its roots, in its origins, which later determine the development of both the political and ecclesial community.
 
Q: In some way, you seemed to encourage a re-foundation of Mexican Catholic culture. With what objective?
 
Cardinal Bertone: There are great cultural traditions in Mexico: there are many universities and many educational institutions, and there is a risk that these realities, which were reborn after the Church was given a space of freedom, will remain in a corner.

There is a strong strain of secularism, there are forces which are opposed to the Church, which oppose the Church's mission to educate and form, the Church's function to develop culture.

But we must recall that the Church was the creator of the university; the universities were born in the heart of the Church, and in Mexico they say there are more than 2,000 universities, counting the state and private ones, many of them Catholic, also belonging to religious institutes.

It is an immense resource that must be tapped, so to speak, that must be made present and active, so that it can influence the people's culture and demonstrate — and herein lies the problem of the evangelization of the culture — that also universities of a Catholic nature or Catholic inspiration can address science, make it progress and thus create new ambits and forms of cultural development, precisely for the good of the Mexican nation. That is why I sought to encourage and stimulate this type of development.
 
Q: In the meeting with [people of] the world of culture and education you emphasized the limited success that Mexican culture had during the last century. Is it not a rather harsh judgment for a Church that suffered persecution, including a bloody one?
 
Cardinal Bertone: It is, in fact, a question of harsh judgment. I literally quoted an author, Gabriel Zaid, who remembers his meeting with a European bishop who asked him: "Is a Catholic culture possible in Mexico? Can the Catholic Church have some cultural influence in the country?"  

When this European bishop, more precisely this Dutch bishop, asked him what could be expected of Mexico, Zaid, desolate, said: "I couldn't give him any hope.

"In Mexico, beyond the vestiges of better times and popular culture, Catholic culture has ended" — you must realize that we were in the 70s — it remained on the margin, in one of the most notable centuries of Mexican culture: the 20th century. How could that happen? — Zaid replied — "I'm still asking myself that!"

This diagnosis is certainly pessimistic: I have taken it up again precisely because there have been incentives, highly significant positive aspects, so that it would be very unjust to stress the negative and subscribe fully to this diagnosis.

Nevertheless, the writer's observation and the bishop's question require an answer; they are stimulating.

That culture is necessary in the work of the Church, and even more so in humanity itself, was affirmed by Pope John Paul II, in his great address in UNESCO, when he cried out: "The future of man depends on culture! The peace of the world depends on the primacy of the Spirit! The peaceful future of humanity depends on love!" Thus he related peace, culture and love.

For the Church, cultural promotion is an innate reality, written in her DNA, in her history: It is an urgent and necessary imperative.

By the very fact that the Gospel is itself creator of culture, the proclamation of the Gospel is cultural creation.
 
The truth is that the Church in Mexico was persecuted and gave many martyrs. I received and venerated the relics of a 15-year-old boy, who looked much more mature than his age, Josι Sαnchez del Rνo, who took part in a cultural circle of Catholic Action.

Despite his young age, he was arrested, and after his capture he was killed. Before dying, he wrote "Long Live Christ the King," which was the cry of Mexican martyrs.

That is why Mexico's Church is certainly a martyr Church, but also because of this she has been marginalized.

This Church has always practiced a great religion of worship, very significant, source of her fidelity to Christ and of her enthusiasm for the faith, but somewhat resigned from the cultural point of view.

That is why it was and is necessary to re-launch the whole of cultural promotion that — as I said — is innate to the mission of the Church, particularly in Mexico.


Part 2

Interview With Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone After Mexico Visit

VATICAN CITY, 13 FEB. 2009 (ZENIT)

Our Lady of Guadalupe signifies a meeting and a unity between different cultures, inviting popular and elite groups to come together in one nation, said the Pope's secretary of state.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was in Mexico from Jan. 15 to 19 to preside over the 6th World Meeting of Families and to meet with Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, as well as with the representatives of the world of culture.

On his return to the Vatican, the secretary of state gave a joint interview to Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore Romano and the Vatican Television Center, in which he evaluated his visit.

This interview was conducted by Carlo Di Cicco, deputy director of the Vatican newspaper, and Roberto Piermarini, director of the news service of the papal radio.

Part 1 of this interview was published Thursday.
 
Q: Another point [you] touched upon was the necessary opening and recovery of "mestizaje" [intercultural mixing that gives rise to a new culture]. Is it not a concept that is needed not only in Mexico but also in Western countries, where this concept is accepted with difficulty and there is still a long way to go?
 
Cardinal Bertone: "Mestizaje" is a way of thinking, a very beautiful reality that indicates the evolution of the culture, which is verified through the meeting of cultures, a meeting that must not be exclusion.

In Mexico — but the same is true for other countries, for example, in the West — the code of the culture is the Gospel and the Bible.

Nevertheless, in Europe and in the West, the cultural code, which is the Gospel and the Bible, or better, its Christian roots, is occasionally laid aside and discarded as a code of life, of experience and of cultural evolution.

In Mexico, Mexican Baroque and the whole mestizo inspiration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, are in danger of being divided by those who only defend the indigenous culture and on the other hand, those who propound a superiority — so to speak — of European culture, which would have done away with the roots, the indigenous roots.

Because of this, we are at risk [of a] opposition between the indigenous and European cultures, without a real dialogue and a synergy of the two cultures, and a synthesis made by both that would form this new culture, which is the characteristic of the Mexican people and of so many peoples of Latin America.

This division, this enormous divorce, is the great divorce that occurred between popular culture and the culture of the elites, so influenced by European culture.

So, in the face of this divorce, the great Baroque and "mestizo" synthesis is the sign of the identity of the Mexican people.

The division must be avoided and the synthesis taken up again between the cultures through an effective, fecund and fruitful dialogue.

This dialogue is represented in Mexico by art, but also by that mysterious, extraordinary presence that Pope John Paul II underlined in the figure of the Virgin of Guadalupe, when he said that she is a symbol of the inculturation of evangelization. Since the beginning of the history of the New World, the "mestizo" face of the Virgin of Guadalupe showed that there is unity of the person, within the variety of cultures and in the meeting between cultures.
 
Q: What is your judgment on the meeting you had with the president of the republic?
 
Cardinal Bertone: It was an extremely cordial meeting, I would say very beautiful and very rich, which lasted just over an hour, an hour and 10 minutes.

It was a meeting with a Catholic man, who delivered a great speech in the assembly of the World Meeting of Families, a man who has the will to recover the Christian roots of Mexican culture, but who also asks precise questions to the Church.

He underlined the relation between religion and life, the need for coherence in belonging to the Catholic religion. Let's keep in mind that 87% of Mexicans, according to the most recent statistics, declare themselves Catholic, but as in many places, unfortunately, the fact of declaring themselves Catholic does not mean that they live in accord with the Gospel and the indications of the Church.

That is why we spoke with great sincerity and touched on several topics, such as the educational problem in Mexico, the topic of Catholic schools, which constitute, I believe, 5% and, consequently, a very low percentage of all Mexican schools; we spoke, therefore, of the problem of instruction.

We also spoke about the teaching of the Catholic religion for the integral formation of children and young people, and for the development of their personality.

I gave as an example the agreement signed between the Holy See and Brazil, which addresses this matter. It deals with an enormous Latin American country, a modern country.

I was happy to greet all the members of his family, [his] three children; one is called John Paul, probably in memory of John Paul II's visits to Mexico.
 
Q: What conclusions have you come to on the Church in Mexico after your meeting in prayer with the bishops, seminarians and faithful?
 
Cardinal Bertone: I think it is a very lively Church.

The Church in Mexico is not an institution in crisis; there is a beautiful episcopate.

I met with the bishops, as I do on all the international visits and trips I make. I had a very frank discussion also with them. I could see a Church in growth, from several points of view, obviously with all the difficulties of modern times and of the countries of Latin America: for example, the problem of the aggressiveness of the sects.

However, it is about a growing Church, which gives a role to the laity, and the laity have a great desire to collaborate, both in the ambit of culture as well as business, typical of lay activity, and also in politics.

They ask for guidance from the Church, encouragement and proposals in order to participate together and share.

In only November of last year, the bishops held the meeting of the episcopal conference with the participation of 120 [members] of the Catholic laity, well-prepared and well-intentioned and, for that reason, able to collaborate and reinvigorate the presence of the Church in Mexican society.

Vocations continue to be numerous, the seminaries continue to be crowded, though with different numbers from one diocese to another, but there are dioceses with hundreds of seminarians.

The problem of formation is still to be resolved, but it is a question of an immense strength. Keep in mind that Mexico has 92 dioceses, so that Mexico can be a missionary source for neighboring countries.
 
Q: Your interventions and those of Benedict XVI had a singular harmony, as two instances of the same theme of the colloquium with the Church in Mexico. What does that mean and what is the objective of this harmony?
 
Cardinal Bertone: I must first say that the Holy Father knows Mexico's Church very well, as the episcopal conference and consequently the bishops of Mexico, came on their "ad limina" visit a few months after the election of Benedict XVI, who, as he does in all visits of this type, prepared himself in detail.

He studied the reports provided by the dioceses, by the nuncio and by the episcopal conference, having a specific dialogue with each bishop. This allows, of course, taking the pulse of the life of the Church in a specific country.

Moreover, the Pope's first collaborator is perfectly in tune with him. Of course the secretary of state knows the Pope's speeches and prepares himself for these trips in harmony with the interventions and topics that most concern the Holy Father and the Holy See.

The topics of the family and culture, especially during the meeting in Queretaro with the world of culture, are topics that the Pope has very close to his heart.

We know quite well the articulation of the Holy Father's thought and that is why it isn't difficult to be in tune with his thought: to support the bishops, the Catholic world and the Mexican laity in this full and concrete communion, not only through prayer, but with the affection, also public and enthusiastic, of the Holy Father, while at the same time sharing the cultural and pastoral projects that interest him.

I tried to encourage this great Catholic country — this was the objective — to be an attractive country, a model country for Latin America and the Caribbean, above all because of its strength, its extraordinary resources, as it has great human wealth and ample material, moral and cultural resources.

Because of this, Mexico could be a spearhead for the rest of the countries of Latin America. This is the hope that I would like to formulate after my trip to Mexico, and which I place at the feet of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
 

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