Argentinian bishops want people to hear the Pope, not the Pope

ROME – Even if the papacy is not a popularity contest, the influence of a pope in his country of origin is a means of measuring his performance. Alas, when it comes to Pope Francis’ Argentina, things are a bit more complicated: according to local bishops, Argentines hear about the Pope, but they don’t actually hear him.

According to a National Council for Scientific and Technical Research 2020 survey (CONICET), nine out of ten Argentines say that their religiosity has not increased after the election of the first pope in the history of the South. In addition, 40% of Argentines are “completely indifferent” to the Pope, and among this number, 32% of those who responded identify as Catholics. And 27% of people think he’s too involved in politics instead of spiritual matters.

Considering these numbers, it’s no surprise that the head of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Oscar Ojea de San Isidro, believes that two of the six challenges facing the local church for the coming years involve Pope Francis and his Magisterium:

  • The missionary challenge posed by the Encyclical of Pope Francis Evangelii Gaudium.
  • The Synod on Synodality convened by Pope Francis.
  • Accompaniment of the social Magisterium of the Church.
  • The defense of life.
  • Abuse in the Church.
  • Gender ideology.

Speaking about the Synod, which includes a two-year consultation process at parish, diocesan, national and regional levels ahead of the true Synod of Bishops on Synodality, to be held in Rome in October 2023, Ojea said that with him, “ The church comes out to listen in a world of the deaf, in which each group listens to its own talk. Before the Synod’s proposal, there are different reactions and fears.

As president of the Argentinian bishops, he declared: “I have clearly seen sectors of a secularized mentality, very ingrained in certain media, which do not hesitate to use disinformation, slander and defamation to attack the ‘Church, seeking to expel it from the public space “.

On the other hand, he argued, “there is a religious fundamentalism that does not respect the freedom of others and feeds forms of intolerance and violence, yearning for a church that imposes power.”

These two sectors, according to Ojea, have a lot of economic and media power, and in Argentina, they united, “like Pharisees and Sadducees”, to systematically denigrate the church “through the figure of Pope Francis, who has deserved the respect and consideration of most of the peoples of the world, near and far from the Church, during these nine years of his pontificate.

In his own country, the bishop stressed, these groups have become a major obstacle for Pope Francis to “be read directly” and thus his teachings reach the faithful. Instead, “our people have heard more opinions and qualifications about him than what they express through his words and writings.”

Pope Francis speaks with, from left to right, Marcelo Daniel Colombo, Archbishop of Mendoza; Oscar Vicente Ojea, bishop of San Isidro; Mario Aurelio Poli, Archbishop of Buenos Aires; and Carlos Humberto Malfa, Bishop of Chascomus, in a meeting with the Argentine Bishops’ Conference in the Vatican on Saturday, February 3, 2018 (Credit: L’Osservatore Romano / Pool Photo via AP.)

“We must constantly unmask these two extremes, without allowing ourselves to be defeated by a secularism that socialite church or by a fundamentalism that prevents them from enculturing themselves and correctly reading the signs of the times, ”Ojea said.

On the issue of sexual abuse of the clergy, the president of the Argentine bishops said: “We must not give in to any kind of cover-up. We must be very firm in this determination. We bishops in these situations carry a real cross. It is first necessary to protect the victims, to recognize that if there are some false allegations, the great majority of the allegations are true and this should concern us, occupy us and invite us to deepen in a reorganization of the ecclesial structure.

He stressed that protecting children, preventing abuse and helping survivors is a task for the whole Church, “called to face the weight of a culture steeped in clericalism inherited from its history.”

Ojea also spoke of the need to fight against all forms of abuse, including those of power, financial nature and conscience.

Speaking of gender ideology, the prelate said that in this regard it is important for the laity to form themselves, because “in a certain sense we found ourselves surprised in the haze of a very rapid cultural change”.

“It is possible to distinguish without separating biological sex from the socio-cultural role of sex,” Ojea said. Rather, gender ideology distinguishes sex and gender by separating them and thus preventing a harmonious relationship of all aspects of the human person.

Pope Francis has raised this issue several times throughout his pontificate, calling it a “world war” against the family. Last year, speaking of where he sees evil in a book on Pope John Paul II, he said that “no place is ‘gender theory’. Right away, I want to clarify that I am not talking about people with a homosexual orientation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church invites us to accompany them and to ensure the pastoral care of our brothers and sisters.

Gender theory, he said, has a “dangerous” cultural purpose of erasing all distinctions between men and women, men and women, which would “destroy to its roots” God’s most fundamental plan for human beings: “Diversity, distinction. That would make everything homogeneous, neutral. It is an attack on difference, against the creativity of God and against men and women.

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Francis said he did not want to “discriminate against anyone”, but was convinced that human peace and well-being should be based on the reality that God created people with differences and that to accept – not ignore – these differences are what bring people together. .

Regarding the Argentine bishops, Ojea said that “we prefer to take a gender perspective. Rather, gender ideology views gender as a fluid, self-constructed reality, independent of biology, so that its identity can be designed according to each person’s autonomous desire.

The prelate also declared that “all people” should be treated according to “their equal dignity”, and in this regard, “we cannot deny that our history bears the traces of a patriarchal history in which the equal dignity of men and women has not been recognized in practice and we see that here a profound change is needed.

Ojea said the bishops’ conference considers the imposition of gender ideology on all educational projects, ignoring the freedom of parents and educational institutions, also part of the sixth challenge they foresee for years. future.

On the fourth challenge, defending life, Ojea said that sometimes the Catholic Church is accused of being “anti-rights” and that by being against abortion and same-sex marriage, the Church is putting these last “in the same bag”. with violence against women.

“We must make it clear that we are not anti-rights because first and foremost we defend the right of each mother and each unborn child, that is to say the right of all, without excluding anyone,” he said. -he declares. “We must always emphatically affirm our most categorical rejection of all forms of violence, especially those against the most vulnerable, women and children.

Abortion on demand in the first 14 weeks of gestation was legalized in Argentina in December. In the videos, Ojea says he discussed the matter with Pope Francis in January, when the two met in the Vatican. During this conversation, the pontiff urged the bishop to find “creative ways” to continue to emphasize the importance of life and the fact that it is science and the books of embryology that prove that life begins. to design.

On the first challenge, that of being a missionary Church, he said that it comes directly from the programmatic letter of Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, published in 2013, where he wrote: “I dream of a missionary option capable of transforming everything.

“The immediate context of the pandemic has left deep traces of anger, sadness, disillusion and fear,” Ojea said. “All of these shards left by the pandemic cannot be conveniently assessed due to the proximity in time. This missionary influence of our Church faces this reality and this context.

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