Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Spanish in issue 3,045 of the weekly magazine Vida Nueva, corresponding to the week of July 22-28. It’s re-printed here in translation with authorization.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s Catholic University’s Theology Faculty hosted the first International Symposium of Catechesis in Buenos Aires and Latin America on July 11-14.
Organized by the Superior Institute of Catechesis in Argentina, which belongs to the Commission of Biblical Catechesis and Pastoral Care of the Argentinian bishops’ conference, the symposium had among its participants Spanish Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, the newly appointed Jesuit prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
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Also among the speakers were Colombian Bishop José Octavio Ruiz Arenas; Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, Archbishop of Buenos Aires; Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, rector of the university; and theologian Father Carlos María Galli.
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When the symposium was first announced in May, Ladaria was the secretary of the CDF, but weeks before he arrived in Argentina, Pope Francis named him prefect of one the Vatican’s most complex congregations.
“When the pope offered me the position I have today, I said: ‘Holy Father, if you say so, there’s nothing left to talk about,’” Ladaria said.
During his stay in Buenos Aires, he spoke with Vida Nueva, saying that he was convinced that “the Church is useless if locked in itself because something essential, which is proclamation, would be missing.”
Vida Nueva: In one of your talks in this symposium, you spoke about the value of the image …
Ladaria: In the Middle Ages, the time of the great cathedrals, people didn’t know how to read, only a few clergymen knew how to read. The truths of faith came from images: In the cathedrals, the stained glass, the paintings, the frescoes. Faith came in from the eyes. They didn’t know how to read, but they knew who Jesus was, that he was the Pascal lamb and that was Isaac’s sacrifice.
We live in a society that knows how to read, but that is heavily mediated by image and information. How do you see this reality from theology?
It’s a reality that is there and that is not easy to address. We, myself included, have been theology professors and have dedicated ourselves to books. However, this catechetical concern exists and we are here, in this symposium, precisely so that these truths of faith can be transmitted in the context of today. And this brings into play the creativity of all, not only that of theologians, but also that of the catechists, the pastors of the Church. It always takes creativity to convey the proclamation and the need to move in the midst of reality.
In the world, there are many situations of poverty and exclusion where the Church is forced to address immediate issues – such as hunger – before speaking about faith. What guidance can you give on this issue?
We have to tend to everything. The Catholic Church has always had a principle, which is not the principle “or, or”, but the principle “and, and”, that is, “et, et.” This is what Jesus says in the Gospel. You have to have an integral vision of the person. This is the virtue of the Catholic Church: It is not “love of God or love of neighbor,” but “love of God and love of neighbor.” “and, and” is Catholic.
Did you ever think that a Jesuit could be pope?
I never would have thought of it, nor would I ever have imagined myself to be where I am today in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
What do you see that Francis takes from the Jesuit charism and puts into practice in the Pontificate?
Perhaps this answer would have to be given by someone who sees it from the outside. I can say that I am in a deep and spontaneous harmony with the pope. When we talk, we have the same concerns. In fact, when the pope offered me this place that I occupy today, I said: “Holy Father, if you say so, there is nothing more to talk about.”
I believe that this is something that St. Ignatius of Loyola [founder of the Jesuits] had greatly internalized: What the pope said was what had to be done.
When the pope appointed you prefect, you already had your agenda organized …
I had planned this trip to Argentina since long before this appointment. Then, when naming me, I asked Pope Francis expressly if I had to cancel these commitments. He told me that I had to travel and fulfill what I had already agreed.
Given that the Argentines are waiting for Francis and that many make political speculations when he comes up, did the pope make any suggestions to you before leaving for Argentina?
Pope Francis has not given me any indications. I also have no special knowledge of what happens in Argentina … I have a general knowledge of other countries, but particularly about Argentina I do not have a specific knowledge. Pope Francis only told me: “You have to go.”