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Interview with His Eminence Álvaro Leonel CARDINAL Ramazzini Imeri

Our ABBA Magazine team moved to Guatemala to exclusively interview the new Cardinal Álvaro Ramazzini of the Catholic Church.

Dear Cardinal Ramazzini, we are in the Synod of the Amazon. Without any doubt, a great initiative of Pope Francis to learn, value, and accompany all the wealth and values of our aborigines

Jaime Sevilla: Are we valuing all the wealth and values of our indigenous people? Do we appreciate their traditions, their customs? Is the Synod of the Amazon the door to understanding Indigine Theology? Perhaps we have not been honest enough as Catholics, both at the hierarchy and secular level, that instead of enculturating ourselves with the aborigines, we have struggled to assimilate them, imposing our customs, traditions, and rules?

Cardinal Ramazzini Imeri: I would distinguish levels here. At the level of the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala, many years ago, in 1992, we made a document called “500 Years Sowing the Gospel”, and there, we indicated guidelines and criteria, that could be followed in all dioceses. Unfortunately, this effort has not had all the results I would have expected, because I was already a bishop in 1992, and we worked hard to prepare this letter that touched the topics you have mentioned.

At the level of the Catholic hierarchy, let us talk about the bishops. We, from the Episcopal Conference, are now again re-propelling this whole process that is now taking place with what is called the “Indigine Theology,” which for many, sounds like something heretical, but it is not like that. When one begins to understand what this “Indigine Theology” is, one realizes that there is nothing heretical.

We are re-propelling this through our Indigenous Pastoral Commission, I say re-propelling because there was a period that had a decline, but now we are trying again to raise it.

But the problem is often at the clergy level, unfortunately, and here we would have to touch on the topic of seminary formation; and we should also see the issues of where our seminarians come from. I was rector of the National Major Seminary, and I have to confess that one of my sins, at that time, was not to have given the place that indigenous seminarians should have had. We never forbade them to speak in their language, but we also never encouraged them to speak in their language and share their experience - at this level that is quite internal if you want - that is not so external, as there are other deeper facts, never either. We promoted it, we have been talking about this, too.

It is the whole issue of inculturation of the gospel, which unfortunately in the 4th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, blocked the document; that is, they didn’t let everything really come out. And in fact, I remember the discussions that took place at that time and I participated in that Conference. It was unfortunate the control of some characters of the Vatican, of the Roman Curia, who wanted to impose their criteria. So, I remind myself that at that time, the one who was Secretary of State came to tell all the bishops, “Look you have to do this because this is the will of the Pope ...” etc. And John Paul II wrote “Redemptoris Missio”: The Mission of the Redeemer, that is, a document that also guides everything that has to do with inculturation, etc. Benedict XVI also wrote important reflections on this subject. I think we have to continue on this path. The Synod of the Amazon, it is not necessary to see it only from the point of view of the care of creation, that is, the continuation of “Laudato Si” of Pope Francis; but also take into account all this that you point out: “The religious worldview of the original peoples.” We have always maintained that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. In that sense, the Plan of God is the same, let us try to locate it in the moment and in the historical context that we are living. Now, in that sense, it will not only be taken care of by Creation but also more universal. (And this because I have begun to read some comments that are already saying: The Synod of the Amazon is going to accept the ordination of married men, that is what is sought - that is, they are walking on the other side).

In fact, today I was reading a small article in which is made a very strong criticism against Cardinal Hummes, Bishop Edwin Crawler, and I. With both of them I was in the Synod of America, and they named me, I don’t know why, the coordinator of the reflection group of the Brazilian Bishops, that is, I had to coordinate the discussion and there was another secretary. There was Edwin Crawler, and there were other bishops, too. I am talking about the Synod of America and they said, look - Crawler said - I have a Vicariate because it was not a Diocese, which is Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, and I do not know what other countries together. To go from one parish to another, I have to do 3 hours by plane sometimes, said Crawler. Then, we need to give a greater position of service not of power, to the laity. These were topics that were already being discussed, but the theme of this Synod of the Amazon is broader, it is global. It has to do with all the world reality, and I am sorry that some peoples are focusing on that now: Ordination of married men? Will the Synod accept it, or will it not accept it? When the reality is much bigger, and it is the reality of peoples who have been faithful to their traditions.

Globalization, in the full sense of the word, has not reached these peoples, nor has it reached many peoples here. That is to say that here, one realizes that sometimes, even many of our catechists still have that background of their spirituality, that they have sucked from their grandparents, so let us take advantage of it, there is no contradiction.

Jaime Sevilla: I like the term “Indigine Theology.” Teilhard of Chardin’s canticle on creation immediately came to my mind, where everything is interconnected. Personally, as a pastor, have you heard what the Christological vision of native people is?

Cardinal Ramazzini Imeri: To be honest just like that, no; I have had glimpses of what they have. A very interesting example of what they have, just to say … a pastor told me this: An indigenous man came to the church and prayed. The priest knew the native’s language and listened to the prayer of the man who said: “God Tata, thank you for the corn harvest you gave me, this year was excellent, I thank you. I already came to leave what I have to leave to your house, I already left another part for some neighbors who had no corn; but now that I have to go pick up a part for me, I have a problem, Tata, the birds are eating my harvest; please tell them not to do it, because I am no longer going to have corn to share...” That left me thinking, because it is then that idea of an interrelated universe, as you say, where everything is well placed; we have been the ones who have come to change the place of what forms this universe, and I kept thinking about it. Now, having a talk with catechists like that from you to you, I haven’t had it. I have had it when I have the meetings where they reaffirm their faith in Jesus Christ as the one who saves us, they reaffirm their faith that God owns everything, the one who takes care of everything, the one who asks us to care, because that is the concept: CARING, not EXPLOITING, taking advantage, it is not either, I am the owner, no. Although unfortunately, due to economic globalization, this idea that I am the owner, unconsciously is entering, isn’t it? But it is more I take care, I’m the caregiver. And I have found in the catechists that idea.

Jaime Sevilla: That vision is a good starting point to develop Indigine Theology, such a component. That vision of God from these original peoples, how much good it would do to the Church ...!

Cardinal Ramazzini Imeri: We are in that effort, and that is why I am very happy that one of the Mexican priests, who is a Zapotec, Father Eleazar, has been invited to participate in the Synod of the Amazon as an observer, because he has been one of the Drivers through the CENAMI indigenous center, National Center for Indigenous Missions in Mexico, together with another priest whose name has gone away, together they have been the great drivers of inculturation processes in the true and authentic sense of the word.

Do not miss the other segments of the interview we did exclusively to Cardinal Ramazzini Imeri.

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