sexta-feira, 26 de junho de 2015

Os direitos constitucionais que ninguém sabia existirem...

Bolas! Estava à procura de
um direito constitucional
Por onde começar? Não sei mesmo qual será a notícia mais importante em termos do impacto que tem sobre a nossa civilização…

Mas começo pelas notícias com sangue e mortos. Nesta mesma sexta-feira do Ramadão, vários atentados abalaram o mundo. Uma decapitação em França, um atentado num hotel turístico na Tunísia e ataque suicida numa mesquita xiita no Kuwait. Preparem-se, vai ser um looongo Ramadão.

Nos Estados Unidos, outra bomba. O Supremo Tribunal decidiu que o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo é um direito constitucional e de uma assentada legalizou-o em todo o país. É uma tremenda vitória para os activistas gay, agora vão começar as batalhas legais que afectam mais directamente as instituições religiosas etc.

O Vaticano assinou um tratado com a Palestina em que se refere a ela como um Estado. Não é novo em si, mas é mais um passo nas relações entre os dois.

quinta-feira, 25 de junho de 2015

O tempo que não havia? Afinal há

Um gesto que já só se repetirá no Céu
Todos diziam que não havia tempo mas, afinal há tempo! Quem diria! A proposta de lei apresentada por um grupo de cidadãos, com o objectivo de, entre outras coisas, alterar a lei do aborto, vai ser discutida nesta legislatura, já no dia 3 de Julho. D. Manuel Clemente saudou a decisão e disse que “não podia ser de outra maneira”.

Morreu esta quinta-feira o Patriarca Católico Arménio Nerses Bedros XIX, aos 75 anos (na foto com o Papa)

O Papa recebeu hoje os futuros núncios apostólicos e recordou-lhes que eles representam um homem cuja verdadeira autoridade vem da caridade, e que deviam pautar a sua actuação por isso mesmo.


E se pensavam que o Estado Islâmico tinha esgotado o rol de novos tipos de execução, enganaram-se. Para além de crucificarem crianças, andam a inovar nas formas grotescas de matar os seus inimigos…

Ontem publicou-se o artigo desta semana do The Catholic Thing. Hilary Towers pergunta até que ponto estamos dispostos a confrontar os nossos amigos e familiares que são infiéis aos seus casamentos. Leiam o artigo e opinem mas, acima de tudo, leiam o comentário que já lá está e rezem pela sua autora. 

quarta-feira, 24 de junho de 2015

Bruce Jenner, Casamento e Verdadeira Caridade

Hilary Towers
É muito tentador para os católicos sentir que não temos nada a ver com a história que envolve Bruce Jenner [ex-atleta olímpico americano que recentemente foi sujeito a uma operação de mudança de sexo]. Que um homem abandone voluntariamente a sua vocação de marido e pai de uma forma tão dramática, permanente e física, parece quase inconcebível. Gostaríamos que o Bruce conhecesse o sentido e a Fonte da sua existência. Gostaríamos que ele compreendesse, como nós compreendemos, que a felicidade autêntica não vem de alimentar a besta narcisista que habita em cada um de nós, mas da busca pela virtude; de carregar as nossas cruzes físicas e emocionais para o bem dos outros, sobretudo das nossas famílias.

Mas talvez o caso do Bruce Jenner não tenha só a ver com género, mas represente um falhanço multifacetado de compromisso e coragem: o seu compromisso para com a mulher e filhos (e deles para com ele), o compromisso da sua família alargada e dos amigos para com a sua verdadeira felicidade e bem-estar, o compromisso da nossa cultura no encorajamento e no apoio à sua vocação e a coragem de todas as partes para dar seguimento a esses compromissos.

Nestes meses entre os sínodos faríamos bem em examinar as nossas consciências: Como é que mostramos verdadeira compaixão para com aqueles que revelam dificuldades em cumprir as promessas que fizeram? O nosso entendimento católico do sentido da vida, da caridade e da felicidade é um dom, mas tem sentido apenas na medida em que é acompanhado de acção. Quando nós, que somos abençoados com o conhecimento da verdade plena, deixamos de aplicar os nossos conhecimentos teológicos aos desafios práticos de viver uma vida virtuosa, seguem-se a confusão moral e o sofrimento.

Este desnexo entre os ensinamentos morais da Igreja e a vida do dia-a-dia é sobretudo claro em relação ao casamento. De facto, desde o sínodo de 2014 que tem havido uma discussão sobre a natureza da caridade e a sua relação com uma visão autêntica da felicidade, em particular no contexto da sexualidade e dos votos matrimoniais.

A discussão parece centrar-se em dois dos principais atributos da vida de casado: Permanência e fidelidade. É impressionante como foi curta a estrada entre a aceitação social do divórcio unilateral (tanto por católicos como por não-católicos) à normalização de tantos desvios daquilo que São João Paulo descreveu como a “norma personalística”. As pessoas não devem ser um meio para alcançar um fim, são criadas para serem amadas.

As consequências desta inconsistência em relação ao casamento para as famílias católicas são claras. Há um exemplo actual perto de mim, uma tragédia que abala minha comunidade suburbana e, em grande medida, católica. Gostava de poder dizer que é uma situação fora do comum, mas a verdade é que, por causa do meu trabalho – que envolve escrever e falar sobre o compromisso das comunidades e dos esposos para com o casamento – conheço várias situações com traços comuns a esta.

Neste caso um marido católico, altamente respeitado, casado há 24 anos e pai de cinco crianças, abandonou a sua mulher por outra, mãe de dois filhos, que por sua vez abandonou o seu marido. O que este homem deixou para trás foi uma família dilacerada pela confusão, o desespero, a descrença, revolta e medo. Alguns dos filhos mais novos agarraram-se à mãe. Outros, mais velhos, abandonaram a fé e com isso mostram as repercussões do exemplo do seu pai nessa fase das suas vidas.

Como se a traição e o divórcio unilateral não fossem suficientes (podia-se escrever um livro sobre a vertente legal deste pesadelo: A justiça para as famílias nos “tribunais de família” é um mito), este homem engravidou a sua nova parceira e agora vive numa casa com ela e com o filho a pouca distância do lar que construiu com a sua mulher, com quem na verdade ainda é casado.

Bruce Jenner, antes e depois
Ele e a parceira abriram um novo negócio na cidade. Com o apoio de muitos membros, embora não todos, da comunidade católica (incluindo a escola católica local), prevê-se que venham a ter muito sucesso.

Mas sucesso para quem – e a que custo? Quais são os amigos e familiares deste homem que demonstraram a verdadeira caridade de um confronto compassivo – não só uma vez, mas várias, sem cedências? Que homem de integridade e força se comprometeu totalmente com este marido e pai católico durante esta transformação (não tão diferente da de Jenner), fornecendo-lhe o apoio e a pressão positiva necessárias para restaurar o seu casamento e a sua família?

De igual modo, haverá alguma amiga de verdade que continue a desafiar a parceira para regressar aos ensinamentos sobre o casamento da fé que diz professar? Na sua situação actual isso implicaria, como primeiro passo, viver em castidade e procurar o perdão pelo mal que já causou.

A verdadeira compaixão, no sentido de evitar, ou tentar inverter, o comportamento destrutivo nunca é fácil, mas se exercida com paciência e fortaleza pode causar um impacto profundo e positivo na vida daqueles que amamos. A nossa decisão de intervir ou de desviar o olhar baseia-se, no fundo, na nossa definição de amor autêntico. A caridade consiste em mantermos o silêncio em nome de uma falsa paz – uma táctica falhada das últimas cinco décadas que causou danos mensuráveis para incontáveis esposos, filhos e comunidades católicos? Ou consiste na disposição de darmos a nossa vida pelos nossos amigos?

Há ainda outra virtude fundamental da nossa fé católica em jogo nesta discussão: Esperança. Como Jenner, de certo modo parece que o homem que abandonou o seu casamento já passou para o outro lado – decisões fatídicas foram já tomadas, o mal está feito.

Mas os católicos são pessoas de esperança. Acreditamos na promessa do arrependimento, restauração e reconciliação (que estas sejam as palavras chave do sínodo de 2015). Nunca é tarde de mais para que o Bruce Jenner se converta – O Bruce que Deus criou e ama permanece, independentemente do quão escondido e quebrado possa estar.

E nunca é tarde de mais para que todos aqueles que abandonaram um casamento procurem o perdão, emendem as suas vidas e comecem de novo, pois Ele renova todas as coisas.


A Drª Hillary Towers é psicóloga de desenvolvimento e mãe de cinco filhos. O seu trabalho em genética comportamental aparece em vários livros e revistas académicas. Escreve para muitas publicações de grande tiragem e escreve frequentemente sobre questões de casamento e abandono esponsal, sobretudo em relação à forma como esses assuntos são tratados no interior da Igreja Católica.

(Publicado pela primeira vez no sábado, 20 de Junho de 2015 no The Catholic Thing)

© 2015 The Catholic Thing. Direitos reservados. Para os direitos de reprodução contacte: info@frinstitute.org

The Catholic Thing é um fórum de opinião católica inteligente. As opiniões expressas são da exclusiva responsabilidade dos seus autores. Este artigo aparece publicado em Actualidade Religiosa com o consentimento de The Catholic Thing.

"Asia Bibi's imprisonment is a political and not a legal issue"

Archbishop Joseph Coutts. Foto: Edgar Sousa/Renascença
This is a full transcript of my interview with Archbishop Joseph Coutts, of Karachi, Pakistan, about the situation of Christians in Pakistan, the Blasphemy laws and Asia Bibi.
The news story, in Portuguese, can be found here.

Transcrição integral da entrevista ao Arcebispo Joseph Coutts, de Karachi, sobre a situação dos cristãos no Paquistão, a lei da blasfémia e Asia Bibi. A reportagem pode ser vista aqui.

Occasionally we hear stories of persecution coming out of Pakistan, bombings, killings and so on. But what is life like for Christians on a daily basis in your country?
Unfortunately the news that gets out is all the negative news.

When you use the word persecution, I'd just like to clarify that, if you mean persecution by the State or the government is persecuting the Christians, that is not the case.

Of course, as a small religious minority in Pakistan, we have always faced discrimination and are trying to fight against it, things like that were always there, there were always difficulties. But what we are experiencing now, that you are hearing about, the bombing of churches and attacking of Christians, that is a new phenomenon; it’s a new experience for us.

It was a traumatic experience when it happened the first time, in 2001, just after the Americans began bombing Afghanistan, after 9/11, in October. Shortly after that the reaction was very strong, because thousands of Afghan refugees started arriving in Pakistan and all the pictures of women and children crying... Two angry young men, Muslims, entered a church and just started shooting on a Sunday morning, they killed 14 Christians and injured many others.

That was the first time really that Muslims came and attacked a church! We never had that before. Since then we have had even worse experiences. Just this year two more churches were bombed. So this is not coming from the government, it is coming from those extremist groups who have their own agenda and who are a threat even to our Government and other moderate Muslims.

Do you feel that the Government does all it can to protect you?
The Government itself is not in a strong position.

Finally, last year in June 2014 the Government took the decision and the army launched a very big offensive involving about 30 thousand soldiers, with air support, in the mountains bordering Afghanistan, where many of these extremists have found a very good refuge. It's a very difficult terrain, very difficult to control, and this is where they had their factories, producing their homemade bombs, the suicide jackets and things like that. The army action is still ongoing, and we hear reports that there has been some success, but it’s a very slippery adversary, they can very easily slip across the border into Afghanistan, until the heat is off, regroup and start again. So it is a very tricky, difficult and dangerous situation we are in.

Take the current time, Ramadan. Does it affect Christians at all? Are they still free to eat in public during the day, for example?
We see that overall society in Pakistan is becoming more and more Islamised. In this sense, and this is a good example, during Ramadan we see a gradual increasing in the position of Islamic rules that eating houses should be closed and nobody should be found eating during the time of Ramadan, whether Christian or Muslim, and a few years ago it was not so. So there is hardly an option left.

Of course, being Pakistani Christians we are aware of this and we wouldn't want to desecrate or show disrespect for this very deeply religious activity of fasting.

Is there a difference between the city and the countryside? Or from region to region?
I think there are certain areas where there is more prejudice. I am in the large city of Karachi, in the South, which is our largest city, with a population which is easily twice that of Portugal, a big commercial and industrial city, very cosmopolitan, with people of different ethnic groups, many Hindus there - unlike other parts of Pakistan. Things had always been more tolerant in Karachi, while in other areas, specially the rural areas, where the imam still a strong religious and leadership role, with the use of the mosque loudspeaker, if the imam happens to be a fanatic it becomes very easy for him to use the loudspeaker to rouse the sentiments of the people, and this is what has happened not only in villages but also in cities where a false blasphemy accusation.

If the imam takes it up and announces it over the city or the village mosque, then even the Muslims who are sitting neutral, if they hear that the holy book has been desecrated, or the name of the holy prophet has been maligned there is an emotional reaction.

If you were approached by a Muslim seeking conversion and baptism, how would you handle the situation?
Nowadays we would handle it very carefully, with great caution, because it could also well be a trap, and that has also happened, people coming just to try and get us into trouble.

But basically our task, as Christians is not to convert people, but to be witnesses to our faith, to show what it means for us to be Christian, and to be Christian in that particular milieu, and I think much of what we do and say is reflected in all the institutions we have. The Church is very strong in the field of education, we have hundreds of schools, we are generally highly respected and there are many Muslims in our school, many of our teachers, together with Christians, the staff is common. For example, in Karachi we have only one Catholic doctor. The medical advisor is a Hindu and nearly all the other doctors are Muslims. It is known as the Holy Family hospital and it is well known.

In this respect, in terms of conversions and baptisms, for example, do you find that the more informal Protestant churches have more freedom? And does that present difficulties for you?
The freedom is there, but if you misuse it you get into trouble.

Let's be very clear... Muslims are very sensitive about this idea of conversion. When the blasphemy law was passed they wanted to pass another law that if a Muslim changes his religion, he should be declared an apostate and killed. It was not made into law, but it shows you that the thinking is already there.

Are Christians the most oppressed religious minority in Pakistan, or do other groups have it worse than you?
There is a group called the Ahmadis, or Mirzais. The Ahmadis say they are Muslims, but officially they were declared non-Muslims in the 70s, and they say that is not fair. So this is really an internal theological problem there, which makes it very difficult for us to interfere in any way, not being Muslims. They say they are Muslims, but Pakistan is the only country, I guess, where they have officially been declared non-Muslims, they are really being persecuted.
  
The fact the Pakistan is such a homogenously Sunni Muslim country, does that bring you closer to Hindus, Shiites, etc? 
I don't know whether you would call it a homogenous Sunni country... We have a very large minority of Shiites. I don't know the exact figures, but certainly not less than 20%, which is not a small minority. Then there are also other branches of the Shiite movement.

Where the problem is coming from, from the religious point of view, is not from all the Sunnis, it is from some branches. For example, we have the Wahhabis, the Deobandis, these are all Sunni groups. But Wahhabi Islam is the kind of Islam you find in Saudi Arabia, and it is a very narrow and restricted form of Islam. It is the Wahhabis, usually, who are very intolerant and do not easily accept the Shiites and other small groups, like the Ismailis within the Shiites.

Would you say that Wahabbiism is a relatively new phenomenon in Pakistan? Is this a different form of Islam than your father would have recognized in Muslim communities?
This kind of Islam has grown in the last couple of decades. We never had this before. It has come up... There are a number of factors, but this form of Jihadi Islam, promotion of the idea of Jihad, this happened when the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan in 1979 and then that threw a lot of fear into the Western world. 

Remember that is 79/80 the Soviet Union was still a superpower; in Europe you still had the Berlin Wall. So what it meant was that Afghanistan had fallen to communism, and Pakistan might be next. “So stop the communists!” Because if Pakistan fell, it meant an opening to the Gulf and to the source of the Western world's oil, so the USA, with Saudi Arabia and with our government said they better stop the communists right there, and they found the people to do the fighting, the extremist groups. 

The idea of Jihad was officially promoted. Jihad in the sense of taking up weapons and fighting the enemy. The enemy were the atheists, the communists who had entered Afghanistan, a country that is 100% Muslim. So it really appealed to any believing Muslim: Stop atheism, and you are protecting your brother Muslims. So hundreds of young men were trained, with American and Saudi help, to go and fight in Afghanistan.

So what happened to the arms that came in? Given it’s a country with so much corruption, a good percentage went into the black market, into the hands of criminals, drug dealers, into the hands of political parties, and others. With the result that nowadays Pakistan is afloat with small arms, it is very easy to obtain even hand grenades, submachine guns and things like that.

Some of these groups are better armed than our police force. So it is really a big challenge for our government. Our police was not trained in this kind of warfare, using suicide bombings, which most Muslims say is Haram, forbidden, just like in Christianity. But they justify it.

So there are strange things happening within Islam, and what is dangerous is that these groups which were quite isolated and had different agendas, such as Boko Haram, Isis, and here you had the Afghan Taliban, now you also have the Pakistani Taliban, you have Al-Qaeda, it seems they are spreading a new kind of Islam that was not there.  

Has there been an attempt by the more traditional Islamic forces of the Indian subcontinent to try and counter the influence of this Jihadi Islam, and is there any chance they will succeed?
They may be few in number, but they are well armed and well supported. From where exactly, I wouldn't know, and that is what our government would like to know. 

You see the Madrassa, which has been an Islamic institution for centuries, was just a school where you studied the Koran, but when 9/11 came and we had these issues, many madrassas were used as breeding grounds for the selection of young men to be brainwashed, religiously, to go and fight.

And up to now we don't know how many new madrassas just sprang up during those days. Our present government is trying to control that, and to see what is being taught in these madrassas, because many of the problems arise from there. They are fertile ground to recruit young men with the idea of Jihad. 

Are there any high ranking Christians in the Armed forces, police forces, judiciary, for example?
The highest army officer we have is a two star general, just one, but we do have others up to the rank of colonel, a few brigadiers, many majors.

So you would not say that Christians are kept out of the armed forces...
No, but I would say it is impossible to have the Chief of Staff as a Christian... And officially our Constitution says that the President and the Prime minister have to be Muslim. 

Of course you have Christian politicians...
We have a minister now, a federal minister for ports and shipping. 

So there is some participation in the Public, military and political life, for example.
Yes, there is, there is. 

We have heard so much about the blasphemy laws, for so many years now, has anything at all been done to at least reduce their harm?
Ever since this law was introduced, we as Christians have been protesting.

Of course it brings an immediate emotional reaction. The point that has finally got across to the Muslims who did not want this law abolished is not just the abolition of the law but the way the law is framed, that we need safeguards to prevent the misuse of this law, which is what has been happening all along.

I think there is more awareness now in the country. Earlier it was just not accepted that what was happening was that the law was being misused to settle personal enmities, jealousy and other things, not just to get people into trouble, but even to get them killed. And there is talk, more and more, of putting in some safeguards to prevent this from happening.

Which you would consider a success?
It’s something, definitely! Because things are bad, the way it is being misused.

Do you have any idea how many people in general are in prison at the moment because of the blasphemy laws?
There are statistics, but I don't want to give the wrong figures at the moment. There are many Christians, but many Muslims as well.

But are we talking about dozens or hundreds?
Not hundreds, but certainly dozens.

Because this affects not only Christians...
The law is for everybody! And at the moment, statistically, there are more Muslims in jail for blasphemy than Christians.

The Government has now passed a law stating that the first thing to do is to have the person examined for his mental state of mind, because some of the cases have happened with people who were not mentally sound. It is very easy to want to kill such a person, so the person first has to undergo a psychological test.

Nobody has ever been executed because of a blasphemy law, but it is still life threatening just to be accused, is it not?
Yes, that is right. The law has not yet executed anybody for Blasphemy, but all the killings have been extra-judicial and they have been like lynchings. The emotions take over and before the person has a chance to clear his name, it is too late.

Sometimes even after acquittal...
That has also happened. A few years ago there was a case of a 13 or 14 year old boy accused of Blasphemy, of having written very bad words on the wall of a mosque. Finally, when the case came up in the high court it was proved that the boy was hardly literate and that it was impossible for him to have written those kinds of words. He was rightly acquitted by the high court, but the fanatics kept screaming for his life. There was an attempt to kill him. With him were his two uncles, who were also accused. They killed one, in a drive-by shooting by two Muslims on a motorcycle, and the boy and the other uncle were slightly injured. They had to be hidden and were finally given asylum in Germany, I don't know where they are now. This was over 10 years ago. They were Christians.

Of course the most famous victim of the blasphemy laws has been Asia Bibi, what news is there of her? Is she ill?
I wouldn't be able to give you up to date condition of Asia Bibi, I am right down in Karachi and she is up North, about 1300 km away, our Justice and Peace Commission is handling the case, with a number of NGO's supporting, but I don't have the latest information, so it would not be fair to say anything right now.

When Western governments and influential figures speak about her case and put pressure on the Pakistani government, might this be counterproductive?
Yes, because you should understand that it is not just the government. The Government is not strong. This kind of extremist fanaticism is very strong, in the sense that if you are the judge you will be threatened, and you will be very careful before going against an existing decision of the court for the death penalty.

A few years back we had a parliamentarian, a very fine lady, a Muslim, who had said she would put in a petition in Parliament to review the blasphemy law. The intention was, ultimately, to abolish it. When some fanatics came to know this they started threatening her, and the threats were taken seriously.

She being a very capable lady, a parliamentarian and otherwise very knowledgeable, was appointed an ambassador to another country, to protect her. She is back now after a few years.

So that is how it is. It is not the government alone that has the power to take the decision. They have the power, but if they make the decision they also fear the reaction.

Why is she even still in jail? Is it a legal issue, or a political issue?
It is more political, and it is fear of the extremists.

I'll give you another example. Shortly after Asia Bibi was condemned to death, by the lower court and not yet by the higher court, it was none other than the governor of the most powerful province of Pakistan who, being a very fair minded person, a Muslim, went to the jail to visit Asia Bibi and suggested she write an appeal to the President of the Republic of Pakistan, because the President has the power to commute a death sentence. And he told her not to worry, because he would take her appeal personally and present it to the president. 

When that appeared in the press the next day, the fanatics went mad! Who was the President of the Republic to grant pardon to somebody who has insulted the prophet? The best remedy is death!

So when you are up against this kind of thinking, and these extremists are not only ready to kill, they are ready to die. And that is where you have this whole thing of suicide bombing.

Do you believe she will be freed, eventually?
That would only be a guess. The efforts continue, and that won't stop.

You were born before partition...
As many people were!

And is your family originally from Amritsar, where you were born?
No, my parents are originally from further South, from a place called Goa.

(Edgar Sousa/Renascença)
When there was partition and your family found themselves in Pakistan, a new country formed especially for the Muslim community, did it ever occur to them or to any Christians who found themselves in that situation, to move away? Did it occur to them that things might reach this situation?
No. Because nearly all the Christians in Pakistan were already where they are. My father had an option, because he was working in a multinational company and if he had wanted to stay in India he could have asked to be transferred to Delhi, or somewhere else, but he just continued in Lahore. So there was no question there, and I think most of the Christians were quite happy.

Remember that at that time the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah had made a beautiful speech, where he said to the Parliament: “You are free to go to the mosque, to the temple or to any place of worship. What you believe has nothing to do with the State. We must all now learn to be Pakistanis first”, which was very reassuring. So the stress was not on being Muslim or non-Muslim, but on being Pakistanis in the new country.

At that time, I can only imagine, because I was a couple of years old, everybody must have been very happy with that. But what we have been seeing, as things have been developing, the idea of Pakistan as a homeland for Muslims, as a modern democratic state… Now we hear the extremists saying they don't want democracy, it is a Western concept, they want a Caliphate, an Islamic State, which is something completely different from what the founding fathers of Pakistan had in mind. 

And that is where the real clash is. It is not Muslim-Christian, it is a whole new ideology, and these extremists are basically against the State. When they attack us it is to embarrass the state. 

If things don't improve within the next few years, if they get worse, as is happening in many Middle Eastern countries, for example, is there a future for Christians in Pakistan?
Some already think that there is no future. 

A number of Christians, a few hundred perhaps, have already found refuge in Sri Lanka, because visas are not too difficult to obtain, a few hundred fled to Thailand, precisely because they see no future. But for me, personally, we should not give up hope.

If there is a young couple who tell you they are thinking of leaving, do you discourage them from going?
Yes I would. Because I think they also have very simple ideas, just as you have these migrants coming to Europe, crossing the Mediterranean. They have an idea that things will be very easy once they go abroad. I would never advise anybody to do that. There have been extreme cases, where people have been threatened for various reasons, where we have supported them, as individuals to seek refuge. There are other examples of enlightened Muslims, who have spoken against extremism... 

I remember when Osama Bin Laden was still alive and was considered a hero, and he declared a Jihad against all the Americans, and all non-Muslims, and there was a good imam who gave a very good speech, a very good talk, explaining what Jihad really means, and he said this is not Jihad, only a legitimate authority can declare Jihad and you have to be very clear who the enemy is, and he gave very good, logical reasons. Within a week he was killed by a suicide bomber. So it is not just a question of being threatened. Most sensible people, moderate people, who want to live peaceful lives, regardless of their religion, at the moment, are under threat in Pakistan.

Is moving to India an option?
A number of Hindus have considered that option, they would feel more welcome there, especially with the present government in India.

So your family is from Goa, do you trace your history to the presence of the Portuguese in Goa? Were your ancestors converted by the Portuguese?
I wouldn't know exactly. They say that when the Portuguese arrived the Franciscans were already in Goa. So it is not as simple as that. Because Christianity was, for sure, already there since the second century, lower down in Kerala.

They say they found a cross identical to the St. Thomas cross in Goa recently. There is no historical evidence, but they say that St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew went to that coastal area. The whole area was a port, and a port brings all sorts of people together. There were Armenian Christians who were traders, Christians from Persia, and other parts, who travelled this coastal area. And usually in a coastal area you get a mixture of different kinds of people. 

So it is not very clear at what point Christianity arrived. It certainly developed much more when the Portuguese arrived, it became much stronger. 

Is there a memory of the first conversion in your family?
Because we were away from Goa, and even for me Goa is nothing more than a tourist spot, although I do have first cousins there, much of my family is in different parts of the World. Canada, a brother settled in Sweden, so really I have been away from my roots since birth.

We hear so many appeals from the Middle East, Iraq, Syria, from Patriarchs, Archbishops, for help. But what exactly can we do, for example, to help the Pakistani Christians?
If you are talking about financial help, I would say you are already doing it, through Aid to the Church in Need. I am not here to collect funds, but to create awareness, at the invitation of ACN. 

You are on the ground, you see how the money is spent and the effects of donations made here...
Definitely, in Pakistan, Aid to the Church in Need has been a very good benefactor for many years, building churches, convents, the education of seminarians for the priesthood. Any other pastoral needs, ACN has been there to help us and they still help us! 

As for the really big needs in Syria and Iraq, we pray to God that we don't reach a situation like that.

When you hear, in Pakistan, that people are praying for you. Does that help?
Yes. I was very moved yesterday when I went to Guimarães. The faith of the people, a living faith, and also the concern, the special prayers, with banners which depicted persecution. I recognized the scenes in two of them, and there were others from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria as well.

So the prayers and the sincerity of the people who assured us that they would continue praying, is something very moving, which I take back with me, to our people. 

The Archbishop and yours truly  (Edgar Sousa/Renascença)

terça-feira, 23 de junho de 2015

Governo do Paquistão tem miaúfa!

Save the date!
Já foi publicado o documento de trabalho do próximo sínodo da família, que decorre em Outubro. A julgar pela conferência de imprensa, os temas polémicos continuarão a dominar.

O Governo paquistanês tem o poder de acabar com a lei anti-blasfémia, mas não o faz por medo dos extremistas. Quem o diz é o arcebispo Joseph Coutts, de Karachi, que entrevistei. O arcebispo fala também do clima geral de perseguição aos cristãos no seu país.


E em Israel um grupo de drusos, uma minoria religiosa, atacou uma ambulância militar, matando um dos dois feridos transportados, que alegadamente eram jihadistas sírios. A guerra civil na Síria chegou já às zonas dos drusos e recentemente vários foram massacrados por radicais muçulmanos.

Por fim, uma nota. Este ano a Caminhada pela Vida vai ser no dia 26 de Setembro. A ideia tinha sido fazer a caminhada sempre no primeiro sábado de Outubro, mas como é possível (embora não certo) que as eleições legislativas sejam no dia 5, optou-se por antecipar a caminhada para evitar confusões. Marquem a data na agenda e espalhem a palavra!

segunda-feira, 22 de junho de 2015

Francisco visita o Santo Sudário

A cara que se vê no Santo Sudário de Turim
O Papa Francisco pediu perdão pela forma como a Igreja Católica perseguiu os fiéis da Igreja Valdense, em Itália.

Isto passou-se durante uma visita de Francisco a Turim, durante a qual teve oportunidade de rezar diante do Santo Sudário, sobre o qual podem saber mais, aqui, nesta conversa com o jornalista e especialista João Paulo Sacadura.

Está em Portugal o presidente da Conferência Episcopal do Paquistão. O arcebispo Joseph Coutts esteve em Guimarães, onde falou da situação dos cristãos no seu país. Amanhã apresentamos uma entrevista mais aprofundada com este arcebispo.

sexta-feira, 19 de junho de 2015

Patriarca Siríaco no Vaticano e Rito Moçarabe em Lisboa

Vasos sagrados a serem tapados com um véu
numa celebração de rito moçárabe
O Papa encontrou-se esta sexta-feira com o Patriarca da Igreja Ortodoxa Siríaca, uma Igreja de mártires, como disse Francisco. Juntos rezaram pelas vítimas da guerra na Síria, incluindo os dois bispos raptados há mais de dois anos perto de Alepo.

A encíclica do Papa Francisco continua a dar que falar. Ontem na Renascença houve um debate entre Pedro Vaz Patto, da Comissão Nacional Justiça e Paz e Francisco Ferreira, da Quercus, em que foi dito esta é uma “forma de pressão” sobre os líderes mundiais.

Pelo menos um desses líderes, Barack Obama, não poupou elogios ao documento.

Ontem houve um trágico massacre numa igreja histórica afro-americana, no sul dos Estados Unidos. O assassino, que matou nove pessoas, incluindo um pastor, é um jovem branco e racista, que entretanto foi detido.

O eurodeputado Paulo Rangel publicou um ensaio sobre política e religião que foi lançado esta semana e no qual se descreve como um “mau samaritano”.


Deixo-vos com um aviso e um convite. No sábado, às 18h30, quem vive na zona de Lisboa tem a oportunidade raríssima de ir a uma missa de rito moçárabe na Sé de Lisboa. A não perder!

quinta-feira, 18 de junho de 2015

Especial encíclica ecológica

São Francisco, inspiração para o "laudato si"
Já foi publicada a encíclica do Papa Francisco sobre o ambiente. Desengane-se quem pensava que ia ler um texto hippie, desenraizado da doutrina católica, o Papa diz, entre muitas outras coisas, que não faz sentido preocuparmo-nos com a natureza mas justificar o aborto, e grande parte da sua preocupação com a ecologia justifica-se pela forma como afecta os pobres.

Aqui pode ver algumas das frases mais fortes do texto, por tópicos e aqui os conselhos práticos do Papa para uma “conversão ecológica”.

Francisco dedica bastante espaço à crítica aos países desenvolvidos que, diz, têm uma “dívida ecológica” para com os países pobres.

Francisco é o primeiro Papa a escrever uma encíclica inteira dedicada à ecologia, mas está longe de ser o primeiro Papa a ocupar-se deste assunto, como pode ver aqui.

Ainda assim, continua a haver quem ponha em causa que um líder religioso se debruce sobre assuntos científicos e técnicos. O padre Vítor Melícias, franciscano, explica aqui porque é que este é também um assunto religioso.

Com a encíclica a dominar as atenções da informação religiosa esta quinta-feira, tempo ainda para vos apontar na direcção do artigo desta semana do The Catholic Thing, onde se pergunta como é que chegámos a um ponto em que a sociedade olha automaticamente para a religião com desconfiança?

quarta-feira, 17 de junho de 2015

Porque é que a Religião é Suspeita?

David G. Bonagura Jr.
Recentemente um comentador desportivo estava a tecer considerações sobre a razão pela qual um treinador e ex-estrela da NBA não tem conseguido arranjar trabalho naquele campeonato, sugerindo que talvez se deva ao facto de ser “muito religioso”. Não é que haja problema em ser religioso, acrescentou rapidamente, mas esse factor poderia tornar mais complicado lidar com ele.

Não acredito que o comentador tivesse más intenções, estava a falar de improviso e por isso não estava a exprimir uma opinião cuidadosamente pensada, mas sim um preconceito absorvido e não raciocinado. Mas isso faz com que o comentário seja ainda mais impressionante: De onde é que esta ideia surgiu? Porque é que se havia de associar o facto de uma pessoa ser religiosa com um carácter complicado, isto é, inflexível, teimoso, difícil ou antipático?

Num conflito cultural em que as percepções parecem contar mais que a realidade, os inimigos da religião conseguiram utilizar os media, a indústria do entretenimento, as escolas e as leis para criar esta associação que o comentador fez. “Extremismo religioso”, por exemplo, faz parte do léxico comum, mas o seu sentido deixou de se aplicar só a violência cometida sob a capa de crenças religiosas para abranger também as crenças que entram em conflito com os valores das elites seculares.

A indústria cinematográfica mostra regularmente as personagens cristãs como sendo tolos ou vilões. Na praça pública as afirmações baseadas na fé ou na Bíblia são frequentemente recebidas com cepticismo, hostilidade, ou simplesmente ridicularizadas. As conversas sobre os benefícios da fé são recebidas com a evocação das crusadas, a inquisição ou guerras religiosas.

Sejamos claros: O Cristianismo é a maior força para o bem que o mundo alguma vez viu. Ponto final. Não há nada que se aproxime sequer. As instituições caritativas, o cuidado pelos vulneráveis e marginalizados, arte, arquitectura, música e filosofia, tudo isto tem sido sustentado e avançado por cristãos que procuram a glória de Deus e o benefício da humanidade. Os valores e os ideais que são mais queridos pelo mundo hoje – liberdade, justiça e igualdade – derivam todos da reflexão filosófica e da prática cristã.

Então o que é que a religião tem – sobretudo o Cristianismo, contra qual tanta revolta se tem feito sentir nas últimas décadas – que faz com que possa ser retratada de forma tão negativa? Juntamente com o mandamento da caridade, o Cristianismo inclui um estrito código de proibições morais que contrariam a ética secular de autonomia radical individual – o alegado “direito a definir o nosso próprio conceito de existência, o significado, o universo e o mistério da vida humana” ao ponto de poder fazer o que nos apetecer em privado e definir o nosso próprio género ou raça.

À medida que a opinião popular parece deslocar-se mais em direcção ao libertinismo, não é segredo nenhum que um Cristianismo fervoroso permanece como último obstáculo a um colapso moral completo. E aqueles que desejam acelerar esse colapso estão a fazer os possíveis para difamar o Cristianismo sempre que podem.

Propaganda pró casamento gay
Quem é contra é primitivo...
Nos últimos anos, enquanto o enfoque das questões fracturantes passou do aborto para o casamento, a retórica passou a descrever os cristãos como “intolerantes” – somos portadores de “ódio” e “fobias” – por não cederem às exigencias da libertinagem cultural. A convicção moral tem sido descrita intencionalmente como sendo ódio por indivíduos. O juízo de actos confunde-se intencionalmente com o juízo de pessoas. Os cristãos que se atrevem a defender a moral tradicional foram obrigados a recuar até uma posição em que dificilmente conseguem ganhar terreno numa cultura que vive de sound-bites.

E é assim que nos vemos perante a afirmação do nosso comentador desportivo. Esta sua ideia tornou-se parte da narrativa dos media generalistas que são a linha da frente da ofensiva desta guerra cultural. Numerosos filmes, programas de televisão, protestos, livros e videoclips, vistos por mais de 100 milhões de pessoas, têm contribuído, aos poucos e de formas diferentes, para retratar a religião, e o Cristianismo em particular – uma religião baseada no amor por Deus e pelo próximo – como um obstáculo anacrónico e opressor à satisfação pessoal.

Sobretudo entre jovens este preconceito tornou-se prevalecente. Não admira, por isso, que uma pessoa religiosa seja descrita como “de trato difícil” – porque quando uma pessoa abraça uma crença parte-se do princípio que ela seja um obstáculo aos desejos de outra, seja em actos privados, seja num jogo de basquete.

Tendo em conta esta situação, como é que os cristãos podem contrariar este preconceito que se formou contra eles? Se a percepção supera a realidade, então aquela velha exortação de que “saberão que somos cristãos por causa do nosso amor” deixa de ter o mesmo encanto, uma vez que para os inimigos da religião o amor define-se como deixando as pessoas fazer o que lhes apetece. Mas o abandono da moral cristã tradicional não é solução – o protestantismo “mainstream” já mostrou que não se pode separar Cristo da moralidade.

Ao longo de dois milénios os cristãos têm conseguido converter pessoas que acreditam em toda a espécie de diferentes deuses. Mas converter aqueles que apenas acreditam em si mesmos parece um desafio ainda mais difícil. No tribunal da opinião pública os sentimentos e as emoções superam a fé e a moral.

Existe, contudo, um precedente historic, embora não seja um paralelo perfeito, que nos dá esperança. Os jacobinos radicais da Revolução Francesa, na sua tentativa de purgar tudo o que era bom, acabaram por ser destituídos por aqueles que não estavam dispostos a render-se ao caos total. Aos cristãos resta rezar para que aqueles que foram levados a desconfiar da religião compreendam que os verdadeiros suspeitos são os que a no banco dos réus.


David G. Bonagura, Jr. é professor assistente de Teologia no Seminário da Imaculada Conceição, em Huntington, Nova Iorque.

(Publicado pela primeira vez na quarta-feira, 17 de Junho de 2015 no The Catholic Thing)

© 2015 The Catholic Thing. Direitos reservados. Para os direitos de reprodução contacte: info@frinstitute.org

The Catholic Thing é um fórum de opinião católica inteligente. As opiniões expressas são da exclusiva responsabilidade dos seus autores. Este artigo aparece publicado em Actualidade Religiosa com o consentimento de The Catholic Thing.

segunda-feira, 15 de junho de 2015

Papa quer salvar o ambiente e manda Blatter à fava

Arcebispo Józef Wesołowski vai ser julgado no Vaticano
Estamos a dias do lançamento da encíclica do Papa Francisco sobre o ambiente. Até quinta-feira a Renascença vai publicando alguns trabalhos de contextualização, como por exemplo este, sobre o que os anteriores Papas também disseram acerca deste tema. Concluindo, Francisco inova mais na forma do que no conteúdo.

Duas grandes notícias na frente do combate aos abusos de menores. Um arcebispo polaco que é acusado de abusos e de posse de pornografia infantil vai ser julgado num tribunal civil no Vaticano. É a primeira vez que um bispo é julgado directamente por abusos. No mesmo dia o Papa Francisco aceitou a resignação de dois bispos americanos acusados, não de abusos, mas de não ter agido de forma a evitá-los.

As simpáticas Paulinas fazem 100 anos. É um século ao serviço da comunicação da Igreja e a certeza de que os livros religiosos não podem ser o parente pobre da literatura.

Foi preciso esperar até aos 102 anos, mas uma judia conseguiu finalmente aquilo que os nazis lhe tentaram negar!

E o Vaticano rompeu com a FIFA até que se esclareça a questão da corrupção. Obrigado Santo Padre!

E a paróquia de São Cristóvão lançou uma campanha de “crowdfunding” para tentar restaurar uma importante obra de arte. Saiba como pode ajudar.

quinta-feira, 11 de junho de 2015

Caracóis, amigos, drusos, maçonaria e Opus Dei

Drusos. Grandes barbas!
Já está online a transcrição integral da entrevista que fiz na terça-feira a Austen Ivereigh, biógrafo do Papa. Está igualmente online o artigo desta semana do The Catholic Thing, onde lhe explicamos que para salvar a Cristandade basta casar, ter filhos e fazer bons amigos cristãos.

Recentemente, a propósito de uma campanha sobre os direitos dos caracóis, um grupo de jovens universitários bem-intencionados fez uma campanha de resposta, contra o aborto. Teve algum sucesso e chegou até a alguns meios de comunicação. A ideia foi boa, mas podia ter sido bem melhor, como procuro explicar aqui.

Passando a notícias mesmo, o Vaticano criou um tribunal onde vão ser julgados os bispos acusados de terem encoberto casos de abusos sexuais.

Só em Portugal é que se equipara o Opus Dei à Maçonaria, considera o responsável pela organização católica em Portugal, a propósito de recentes polémicas em que o Opus se viu metido.

Depois dos cristãos, dos curdos e dos yezidis, agora são os drusos que sofrem às mãos dos extremistas islâmicos na Síria. Só ontem terão sido mortos vinte numa aldeia.

“Pope Francis is a missionary of mercy”

Full transcript, in the original English, of my interview with Austen Ivereigh, journalista and author of “The Great Reformer”, a biography of Pope Francis. The news story, in Portuguese, can be found here

Transcrição integral da entrevista com Austen Ivereigh sobre o seu livro “O Grande Reformador”, uma biografia do Papa Francisco. A notícia pode ser lida aqui.  

Let’s start with the title. The Great Reformer? What reforms are we talking about here? Reforms of church teaching and discipline? Or a more general reform of style?
There are two provocative words in the title. One is "Reformer" the other is "radical", because I describe him as a radical Pope, and part of the reason for choosing that title is I wanted to demonstrate that he belongs to a tradition of radical Catholic reform, which goes back to the Middle Ages, to St. Francis of Assisi. But he is a reformer, he is not Luther; he is radical, but he is not Che Guevara. The tradition he belongs to is about recovering the church's original mission, entrusted to it by Jesus Christ, which is to announce God and God's mercy to the world. 

So that actually the reform that he is engaged in, the “great reform”, as I refer to it in the epilogue, is a culture change within the Church, a refocusing on the priorities of the Church and a deliberate attempt to remove all those things which impede the Church offering Christ to the world. In other words, the Church should not depend on ego, on power, as it were, the things of this world, but focus on what he calls the “kerygma”, the essential, offer of the Church, the Good News of the saving love of God through Jesus Christ.

Your conference this afternoon [June 9th, Lisbon] is about four key aspects which are essential to understanding Pope Francis’ reform. Could you tell us briefly what these are?
The four keys, as I call them, to understanding where Pope Francis is taking us begins with Mercy as Evangelization. This is a new idea in the church, one which is very familiar in Latin America, but not to us in Europe and the United States, which is that the way people are converted is not so much through an encounter with an argument, but rather having an experience of God's love and mercy. So that is the key for Francis to the New Evangelization: How do we represent the gospel to societies which appear to have rejected it? We do that through Mercy.

The second key is that his reform belongs to a tradition of true Catholic reform, and I use a theologian who is very influential on Francis, Eve Congar, to distinguish between true and false reform. There are criteria for true reform: One is that it does not question core Catholic doctrine and tradition, it is innovating within the tradition, its purpose is pastoral, it is about enabling more people to go to Church and have contact with God and in prayer, and thirdly it is about the centre opening up to the periphery. 

The third key is “no to spiritual worldliness and yes to mission”. This is all about how the Church can recover its missionary purpose, but that requires rejecting a lot of things which have become attached to religion but which do not belong to it, which is his war on what he calls “spiritual worldliness”.

And the last one is about his communication, and the importance of “parresia”. Parresia is a form of apostolic courage, a gift of the spirit which allows us as Christians to speak freely and boldly and directly to the human heart, and that is the way he is now communicating as Pope, a way which of course is surprising, controversial, disconcerting, but of course incredibly effective.

So those are my four keys for understanding where Francis is going.

All eyes are, of course, on the upcoming synod of the Family. Do you expect changes to be made?
I am saying that the synod is going to produce no change in doctrine, and I don't believe it is going to produce any change in sacramental discipline. But what it will produce, or what Francis hopes it will produce, is a refocusing.

So it is not just about how the Church can defend the indissolubility of marriage from the threats to it, from a secularized, relativistic society, but rather how do we enable those who have not been properly catechised, who entered marriage with the horizon, not of the Gospel, but of society, who ended up estranged from the Church... How can we bring them back in?

The tension that Francis is inviting the Church to live in is to say: “How do we open the Church, open the paths for people to come back to the Church, while at the same time defending the absolutely essential value of the indissolubility of marriage”.

People who are very worried about the synod say that can't be done, that if you do one you are going to end up undermining the other. Francis is confident that he has created in the synod what he calls a protected space for the Holy Spirit to act, that this is actually how the Church has always developed and how the Church has always learned to evangelize in new ways, it is not by changing the doctrine, but by living in the tension between the truth of the doctrine and the pastoral needs of people, which is of course what Jesus does, Jesus left the Church with that tension. He is happy to sit in that tension, and the Synod is all about learning to live in that tension and allowing the spirit to act through that.

I think if the synod produces a convergence around certain key ideas and attitudes, and so on, he will regard that as a sign of the action of the Holy Spirit similar to that which existed in the early councils of the Church.

You say you don't believe there will be any change in doctrine or sacramental discipline, but the propositions of Cardinal Kasper and his followers do point in that direction... 
Just to be clear about this, Kasper said only the other day, but he has said it various other times, that he has never suggested that the Church adopt the Orthodox practice of recognizing second unions, what he said is that he believes that we should discuss it, that the Church should look at it and consider how better it can embody the message of mercy. Because as far as Kasper is concerned, and I think Francis agrees with him, the Church at the moment has a message on marriage which appears to be devoid of the elements of mercy. So Kasper's challenge is how to reintroduce that question of mercy. 

Kasper denies that is what he is urging, and I don't think that is what will happen, nor do I think the synod will adopt that, nor do I think that is what Francis wants. So I think in a way the whole conservative critique of the synod is based, I think, on a misapprehension of what Kasper is trying to do.

I wasn't talking about second marriages, but the idea that some couples in irregular unions could be accepted to Communion after a process of repentance...
So the whole question is, what path of conversion or repentance is necessary for the Church to recognize as sufficient to be readmitted to the sacraments, and of course, if the original marriage has not been dissolved, then the first thing to do of course is to consider annulment. So a big part of the reform is reforming the annulment system, to make annulments easier and more accessible. 

But there will always be people for whom that system, which is a legal process, is not going to be appropriate, and yet the Church will recognise that in fact that first marriage was not valid, or that there has been this conversion. Then, very possibly, and this is what one concrete result of the synod could well be, that the synod agrees that bishops should, on a case by case basis, admit particular people or couples to Communion, having satisfied themselves of that path. And that is what, I think, is being examined. 

However, I actually think, looking at the synod at the moment, that there is not sufficient consensus on that point for there to be, in October, a resolution on that. But what we could get is a decision to study it in more detail.

Could the Pope move ahead with that even without the consensus of the synod?
I don't think that Francis can ignore the consensus of the synod, nor would he want to. Because he would see that as a sign of the Holy Spirit. So even though technically the Pope is not bound by the synod, ultimately he retains the sovereignty and the power in the Church, he has created a mechanism which is deliberately designed to discern the will of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Having created that mechanism, neither this Pope nor any future Pope would want to ignore it.

That is what is different in this synod from the previous synods, because this genuinely is a mechanism of Ecclesial discernment, whereas the previous synod was controlled by the Vatican and was actually designed to prevent any of that kind of novelty.

Recently when the Jubilee of Mercy was presented there was mention in the Vatican documents about an unspecified grand gesture of mercy. Do you know what that might be?
I think the particular initiative which was referred to in the bull, which has since been announced, is the so called missionaries of mercy, who are priests entrusted by the Pope with the power to forgive the sin of abortion. So even though in practise that dispensation has been given before, I think the idea is that there are sufficient numbers of these missionaries of mercy for the forgiving love of God to be much better known in the area of abortion.

The missionaries of mercy are hinted at in the bull, and it was afterwards that the Vatican specified what it would involve. Exactly how many, and where, I don't think is clear. That is one of the initiatives which will take place after the synod, because the year of mercy begins in December.

Interestingly, by the way, the Jubilee year has been entrusted by Francis, and very few people have noticed this, to the pontifical council for New Evangelization. This, again, makes the link between New Evangelization and Mercy very, very clear.

How important is it to understand Francis’ years in Argentina, and what exactly does your book bring which is new to this story?
I've said before, it is impossible to understand St. John Paul II without understanding something of the tortured history of Poland, and I think the same is true of Jorge Maria Bergoglio, that he is the product, in many ways, of the peculiarities of his extraordinary nation. 

It is a country I know very well, because I did my doctorate on it over 25 years ago, on the Church and politics in Argentina, and I wrestled back then, as a foreigner, with the complexities of Argentina and the Church. 

Of course I was fascinated when I came to write the book and research it with where he located himself within all these tensions, particularly in relation to Peronism, which is a movement which very few people outside Argentina quite understand. 

So what does my book do? Well the first thing it does is it goes a lot into Argentine history, and I make no apology for that, because it is a dramatic history and one which is very important to Francis himself. Secondly, I am the first biographer to really enter into the Jesuit period in detail, I read everything he ever wrote, over 20 years, as a Jesuit, which oddly enough, no other biographer had ever done.

This is something which surprised me, that these writings are not well known. One volume, I have seen now, has been republished in Spanish, but actually most of them are out of print, and it was clear, in studying those writings of his as a Jesuit in the spirituality journals, that he had a conception, from the beginning, in his thirties, of himself as a reformer and the vision that he had of that reform, struck me as quite remarkable in the light of what we now see in Francis.

So even though he has developed and changed over time, sometimes in many remarkable ways – for example he became very close, as a cardinal, to charismatic spirituality in a way he hadn't before, so there is clearly growth and development in him – and yet, what is remarkable to me is the continuity from the early Bergoglio, through the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, to now, the Pope we know.

There are some unexpected stories about him in Argentina. Is it true that he also got himself into some trouble with the Jesuits at the time?
The big question I asked myself before this writing this biography when I went out to Argentina at the end of 2013 was: "What went wrong?"

Everybody knows that he became estranged from the Society of Jesus, that over many years as bishop and Cardinal he never went to the Jesuit headquarters in Rome, that he cut his links with the society in any kind of formal level, and it was well known that he had suffered some kind of internal exile, he was ostracized within the company, so chapter 5 is dedicated to explaining that, and it is a remarkable story, it is a very dramatic story, it hasn't been told before.

All I would say is that to understand it is in many ways to understand him, and to understand Argentina as well. That many different things came together in that, but he was an extraordinary leader who ended up dividing the province. The young Jesuits adored him and saw him as a huge figure, the elder and more intellectual Jesuits, the more upper class Jesuits, and part of this had to do with social class, didn't like the direction he was taking the Jesuits in, and lobbied Rome to intervene. It was the new general in Rome, actually, which dislodged him.

The great thing about the story of Francis and the Jesuits is also a story of reconciliation, because shortly after he became Pope, the Jesuit generals, knowing a lot of this baggage and background, reacted very quickly in sending him a letter to say "please Holy Father, let's..." And the two of them had the most remarkable reunion, and it is an amazing story.

When I was in Argentina in October 2013 I spoke to a number of very old Jesuits, by now in their eighties, some in their 90s, in a Jesuit old people's home. And I knew that some of them had been his enemies, and they showed me letters that he had handwritten them, with tears in their eyes, obviously without showing me the contents, but these were very beautiful letters of reconciliation. 

It’s been two years since he was elected. What do you make of the Papacy until now?
Well I think it has been a whirlwind. It's been an extraordinary mix of things which have taken the world and the Church by surprise.

It’s been a restless and dynamic papacy in a way I think we have become unused to, and on the question of the reform and what he has succeeded in doing, my assessment is really this, in the Vatican – which by the way is not part of the big reform, I think reforming the Vatican is what any Pope would have had to have done, although I think he has done it better than most of them would have done it – I think he has been successful on finances. On governance he has introduced much greater collegiality, which is one of the big reforms left over from the second Vatican council, and I think that genie is now out of the bottle, as we say in English, and won't be able to be put back.

The restructuring of the Curia, however is going to take years, I think that will outlive him, but the big reform, the great reform, as I call it, which is this culture change in the Church, I think we have to say, two years in, is still a big question mark. When you go to your local parish, is it different? Is it now energized by a missionary focus? Does it have its doors open? Does it combat spiritual worldliness?

He is shaking up the Church, he is forcing the Church to look at itself in a new way, he is challenging the Church in all kinds of ways, but I think it is going to take time for the changes to happen, and I think that is probably true of all great cultural and political reforms in History, they take time to play out.

But one thing I think is remarkable about this Papacy is that he has got the world to look at him again and to look at the Church again. In writing this book everybody wants to tell you about Pope Francis. The taxi driver, the person at the dinner party, people say all the time: "Don't like the Catholic Church, got a problem with it, don't agree with its teaching, but I love Pope Francis". 

And one of the questions I think the book does answer is how is it that this Pope, who after all is a very traditional Catholic, who hasn't changed a single dot of church doctrine, and doesn't intend to, how is it that he can get the liberal secular individualistic world to look again at the Catholic Church and love what they see? And I think the answer is because he has grasped the power of mercy. In many ways he is a Jesuit who is restoring, as a missionary, the idea of the religious experience of God's love and mercy as the primary message of the Church, and because he embodies that so successfully and communicates it so effectively, he is awakening, in Western consciousness, the memory of the Christ that subconsciously we all remember but have since lost. 

As a journalist, how do you explain the media hype with the Pope? More specifically, in contrast with the way journalists covered Pope Benedict?
As you say I am a journalist, and I know the media well, and you are a journalist as well and you know this, that once the media gets a narrative it is very hard to shift that narrative. And I think poor old Benedict was always going to be seen as an old distant man who was out of touch with the world, even though, actually, so much of what he said was quite the opposite. So that now when Francis says something which Benedict said, before it created a storm of headlines, but Francis seems to be able to get away with almost anything. Some of the things Francis says, Benedict would have been massacred for. 

So this is the power of media frames and media narratives. So yes, I think a large part of it is due to that media narrative and of course there are many people, particularly in the United States, who are deeply suspicious of this Pope, precisely because the media love him. And it is almost as is they say: “Hang on, if the media love the Pope, there must be something wrong, he must be diluting the doctrine.”

Cardinal Dolan, who I saw recently in New York, for the launch of the book, told me that in Madison Avenue, which is where the big advertising agencies are in New York, they ask him who is the man behind him. They think there is some kind of genius PR strategy behind it, but of course there isn't.

Actually what Francis does is communicate in a completely unfiltered way, to the point where I have been at press conferences in the past where Father Lombardi is asked by a journalist about an interview the Pope had given that morning, and he answers that he doesn't know anything about that. Literally he will be the last person to find out. 

Francis communicates in a completely direct, unfiltered, spontaneous natural way and I think that is actually having its own galvanizing, dynamic effect, in a world in which the politicians, for example, are so bound by message discipline, in which we speak this dry, gray colourless language, precisely because we are so afraid of being misinterpreted, to have Pope Francis come along in his way and to give these incredible press conferences and remarks which are completely unfiltered, is in itself captivating. 

So why is it that Francis is getting such good press? Why is it that he has been able to reach the parts which other Pope's haven't been able to reach? I think it is a combination of things, but I think, ultimately, it is this incredible directness and integrity. He really is what you see.

A last thing on his communication: St. Ignatius Loyola, his hero and the founder of the Jesuits, used to say that love is known in deeds rather than words, and I think that Francis has understood that in a word glutted world, actions and gestures, speak in a way that reaches people.

Just to take one example, which I am sure we all can remember, when Francis embraced a man deeply disfigured by neuro fibromatosis, called Vinicio Riva, it caused the most astonishing impact. In the UK we have The Guardian, which is a sort of citadel of liberal secularism, and the columnists saying “gosh, this man is extraordinary, the love and the compassion which he embodies”.

I think Francis has understood that arguments are too easily dismissed. In the contemporary Western society, the idea is that we all have our own narratives and there is no such thing as truth, but if you take a gesture like that, it spins over every wall and every boundary of language and misunderstanding in culture and politics, and I think that is the great genius of Francis is that from a lifetime of meditating on Christ, he has actually learned to embody Christ in a really remarkable way.

Francis’s change of style alone worries many conservatives, not to mention the more radical traditionalists. How much change do you think he can accomplish without causing a serious rift in the church, if not a real schism?
One of the questions about Francis's governance of the Church is very interesting. In many ways, even though he is a very collegial Pope, which means he has introduced reforms which allow the bishops to take part in the governance of the Church, and he consults very broadly, and he encourages disagreement, and yet, actually his own government is very centralized, very personalistic. He is well known in Rome for bypassing institutions and burocracy, he governs through people, rather than documents. That, of course, is very, very disconcerting for the Vatican.

Some of the criticism directed against him in Rome is very fierce, and comes precisely from those invested in the existing systems. Part of that objection is because their interests are being affected, but there is also a very valid criticism which is: “Ok, he is shaking things up, but what is he building?” And I think that question still has to be answered. 

O Papa abraça e beija Vinicio Riva
I think he will be seen as a Pope who shook things up, who opened things up, who created processes in a very dynamic way, and who has enabled a profound reform to take place, precisely because he has bypassed the existing structures, but I think it will need to be consolidated, and there will come a period, whether under Francis or under his successor, where, if you like, we will have to put back together a little bit of what has been shaken up.

But I think for some conservatives, particularly those engaged in the Culture Wars, in the United States, Francis will continue to be bad news, because ultimately there is a risk that some of them put their faith precisely in the fact that the Church is an unchanging institution, whereas Francis's conviction is very different. Precisely because God and the Holy Spirit is in charge of the Church, the Church must always be changing and reforming, must be alive, and I think there is a clash there between two visions of Church and I think Francis will never be able to satisfy a certain kind of traditionalist.

But I do think his popularity – and I can back this up with statistics – is remarkable across the board, among ordinary Catholics. Some elites may have a problem with him, but actually ordinary Catholics love him and all the statistics show that he has phenomenally high ratings and ultimately Francis, and this comes through in my book, will always root himself in what he calls God's Holy Faithful People, in other words the ordinary believing people, not the educated elites or the powerful, but the ordinary believing people, the people who have popular devotions, who go to sanctuaries. He believes that they carry, to some extent, Christ, and that the church and the Pope and the bishops must be in contact with God's Holy Faithfull People.

That is why every week in the square he gives 15 minutes of Catechesis, and then one hour and a half of another kind of catechesis, which is reconnecting the teaching authority of the Church with ordinary people. And that is a very strong idea in him from the very beginning, the idea of “el santo pueblo fiel de Dios”, as he calls it is very powerful in him. 

Ultimately those people who are disillusioned with Francis will probably always be the intellectuals who are invested in certain narratives, but I think ordinary people will continue to love him.

Your account of the election of Francis came under some heavy scrutiny, due to allegations that there was a “Team Bergoglio”, led by your former boss Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Oconner, and also Cardinal Walter Kasper. O’Conner even had to write a letter to dispel any “misinterpretations” which might have arisen from your account. Could you explain to our readers what it was that you wrote, and do you stand by your version of those events?
Just to clarify what it is that Cardinal Murphy O'Conner wanted corrected. What he wanted corrected was the implication of one of the sentences in my book, which is that those Cardinals who were urging his election, and he doesn't deny that... But one unfortunately written phrase I had which gave rise to the misinterpretation that Bergoglio was in some way part of that, or knew about it. 

Cardinal Murphy O'Conner wrote a letter to that effect, saying "we never spoke to him", and I immediately put out a statement saying I was sorry if it looked like I said that, because I never meant to say it, and in subsequent editions that has been corrected, and indeed in the paperback edition, to come out in September, not only have I corrected it but I have also drawn attention to it in the prologue, to say Bergoglio had nothing to do with this process.

However those cardinals were involved in urging his election, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, there is no breaking of any conclave rules. Popes get elected because groups of cardinals vigorously organize. That is how Benedict got elected, it is how John Paul II got elected, it is no surprise. The Holy Spirit does choose the Pope, but the Holy Spirit does work through human processes.

Those cardinals weren't the only people involved in his election, but they were certainly the ones who were most vigorous, and they were mostly over 80, or some of them were, and on the whole Northern European cardinals, who had been meeting for some years, as I reveal in the book, and were very concerned about collegiality and saw the problems in the Vatican and in Rome as a consequence of the lack of that collegiality.

It was this group of cardinals who combined with another large group from Latin America, who came together in the election of Bergoglio and then the others came in behind. That, basically, is how Bergoglio got elected, and the reason most journalists didn't spot it is because it was happening below the radar. 


Austen Ivereigh é fundador do grupo Catholic Voices, que se está a lançar em Portugal

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