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Interview of Cardinal Toribio Ticona

(By Alexander Cossio, AM)

1. Dear Cardinal, what was your impression, or what went through your head, when you received the unexpected news of your naming as a Cardinal of the Church?

On the 21st, Monsignor Javier del Río called me from Tarejas saying, “Congratulations!” I said, “No, my birthday is on May 23rd, not yet.” But he says, “No, Pope Francis has named you this morning as a Cardinal of Bolivia.” And I said, “No, it’s a joke; how is he going to name me?” I did not believe it. Then it was spread by the media. In the end, I said, “It must be true.” But even with that, nothing ... besides being a peasant, mine worker, and poor. How the Pope is going to take notice of me ... but it has been the grace of God.

2. What was your response when you had to give an answer?

It gave me a little fear, and I said, “I can send my resignation,” but the apostolic nuncio told me “No, stay, because there may be things interpreted wrong,” and I stayed, and I am here.

3. How was the moment when you had to make the decision to travel to the consistory of Rome? How did you feel?

Well, since I was “Joseista,” I learned to see, judge, and act, and I said with courage, “I’m going to assume it,” and I went there accompanied by my great friend Pablo who is here. He knew Rome more than me. He has been in several places in Europe. He accompanied me and then we went to the consistory, and there I received the ring and the biretta that the Pope gave to me.

4. Dear Monsignor, you are telling us that you are a miner, poor, and native. What can you say to this Church of miners, poor, and natives? What is your message as a Cardinal for this people?

May they never lose their hope; I know we have reasons, but God has other reasons. We have to be people of hope and without any fear to move forward. No one kind of work denigrates like in my life. Being shoeshine boy, rebellious newspaper seller, bricklayer assistant, mechanic, and miner. I’m happy to have lived like this.

5. In Bolivia, we have 36 ethnic groups. What can you say to those brothers of the ethnic groups?

Hopefully, someday, one of the ethnic groups can become a priest; it is needed for the same ethnic groups ... a bishop, archbishop, and through God someday a cardinal.

6. Dear Monsignor, this question is oriented to see that there are bishops and cardinals who are a bit against the way that Pope Francis is leading the Church. How do you see that situation? Do you consider him a bit liberal? What do you think of the attitude of these brothers who reject the way of carrying the Church of Pope Francis?

It seems to me that in the Church, there are other winds that come from the Holy Spirit, and the Pope, by the grace of God, does everything he does even though he is being criticized. Many people and myself like his way. People who have been away from the Church are now returning and that is why the audiences in Rome are full. People from everywhere; from Latin America, from Europe, go to listen to the Pope and his catechesis.

7. Do you consider that the Pope must change his form of government, or it is fine as it is?

It seems like it is going forward; times are changing; the Church was not generated like that; it has to go out and move on; always forward.

8. Dear Cardinal, the Salvadoran people have had the immense joy of having their first saint. I am referring to Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero. How have you received the news of the new saint?

With a great joy because when we studied in Belgium, I knew that El Salvador lived an enormous violence, persecution, death, and hatred; all for the ambition of power of those who oppressed the poor.

This saint, Oscar Romero, has been a friend of the poor; he has shouted many times against violence...enough, enough, by the love of God, not more violence! Many Jesuits and many catechists died. At the end, when he was celebrating Mass, he was killed. I believe that his martyrdom, his death has a lot of meaning with the death of the Lord.

9. It is estimated that 65 million Latinos live in the United States, and many of them have been discriminated against or separated from their children and their families. They are having their human rights violated. What would you like to say to all those immigrant people who are surviving in the United States?

Latin American brothers, that out of your lands because of violence, lack of sources of work, and abuses of the powerful have left your lands, family and friends, but it is not finished. Someday, when you are ready and have passed those things, return to your lands.

I have been going to Buenos Aires to see the emigrants who are two million in number and they truly suffer; they work 14 hours, and they are 20 hours locked in a room. Surely you, too, brothers, are living in this way, but do not lose your hope. After you have your things, return to your homeland; it is better to live in your homeland even though poorly than to go to other places for a little more bread, money, work and suffering the consequences of another kind of poverty.

10. What message would you like to give to the Bolivians who live in the United States?

Dear Brothers and Sisters who live in the United States in Oregon, receive a warm greeting and a blessing from the God of life and the History. From a Cardinal as I said, poor, hard-working and native. Who can separate us, says Saint Paul, “neither hunger nor persecution,” but on the contrary gives us more strength to continue living as brothers.

Live in unity above all says the voice of the Textecas; in understanding, comprehension, and solidarity with your brothers. In Bolivia, so many ethnic groups suffer like you.

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