An interview with the Archbishop of Manila. Tomorrow he will be created Cardinal by Benedict XVI. He talks of commitment to pastoral care among the poor, mission and evangelization of Asia. "This continent is the cradle of religions and the capital of economic development". And he underlines the continuity from John Paul II to Benedict XVI.
Rome (AsiaNews) The struggle against poverty, a vocation for mission and a commitment to search for a "new expression" for evangelization of Asia. Armed with these goals, the Archbishop of Manila, Mgr Gaudenzio Rosales, will join the College of Cardinals tomorrow, 24 March. He will be one of 15 new cardinals installed by Benedict XVI in his first consistory. In an interview with AsiaNews in Rome, where he arrived on 18 March, Cardinal Rosales talked about how he will approach his new responsibilities, about the Pope's special attention for Asia, and about the values and problems of his people, the Filipino nation, which must fight against poverty and political corruption.
Eminence, what significance do you attribute to Benedict XVI's decision to appoint you, together with two other Asian cardinals? I refer here to Cardinal Zen, Archbishop of Hong Kong, and Cardinal Cheong of Seoul.
First of all, it has a practical significance: the three archdioceses are all Cardinal sees that have been vacant for some time. But of course, it is not only about this. Asia is a very important continent: it is the cradle of the main religions, millenary religions, including Christianity. At the same time, it could be called the "capital" of economic development. It's enough just to think about the growth of countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, without forgetting the two economic giants: China and India.
Benedict XVI wants to intensify what John Paul II announced when he said: "Asia: here is our shared task for the third millennium" (Arise, let us go!). Asia is the objective and the instrument of evangelization of our times. In this, there is complete continuity with the previous pontificate.
How do you think the Church should proceed towards this end?
Evangelization is the main challenge for the Church in Asia. But evangelization must have a new expression, adapted to the needs of this continent, while keeping to the same message: the word of Christ. I think we should follow the path of so-called "integral evangelization" indicated by Paul VI, sensitive to people's problems and to faith inculturation, with the aim of freeing men and women from slavery: of vices, sins, and corruption. And this is especially evident and necessary in the Philippines.
Quale può essere il contributo del suo Paese all'evangelizzazione?
The Philippines, the only Asian country with a Catholic majority apart from East Timor, really and truly has a vocation for mission. Thousands of men and women leave this country for mission around the world; through various organizations as lay people, or through congregations as religious, and they serve in many dioceses. But still more people leave for economic reasons: we are a people of migrants, and people leave to find work in industries, factories or as domestics. In this way, they offer first and foremost economic input to the countries where they go, which however must be added to their faith contribution. With their devotion and their love for religion, they are an example of Christian life in those communities abroad where they live. I call them "informal missionaries", indirect, that is, they bear Christian witness directly in the homes and factories where they work.
Today, the Philippines is passing through times of great difficulty and political uncertainty. How is the mission of the Church proceeding in the country?
The country is highly politicized and corruption permeates every pore of society. There is no one party that could be called "clean", honest. Many bishops fight against corruption, prostitution, gambling and ill-considered land exploitation; it is the duty of the Church to persist in denouncing injustices. But beyond politics, poverty remains the most pressing problem facing the country. In the Philippines, large corporations and grand families are rich, but most of the people ask for and need only homes and food. For the first time in the country's history, one can talk of 62% of people living in poverty. I think the struggle against poverty is also one of the aims of the Pope and his Encyclical Deus Caritas is a sign of this. The aim is to bring about an end to inhuman poverty that takes away dignity. This is the aim on which we must focus and as cardinal, I will continue to feel that I am a shepherd of the poor.
The south of your country is a stronghold of Islamic extremism and rocked by anti-Christian violence. What possibilities for inter-faith dialogue?
The Filipino Bishops Conference has decided that the National Youth Day will be held in Mindanao in the south this year, to give a sign of openness and hope. In the southern regions of the Philippines, there are many historical problems in relations between Christians and Muslims: the reasons are cultural (each community has its own value system, different life style, models of development, education) and political. Too often, these tensions erupt into violence, especially in places where Islamic terrorism is embedded. It is therefore necessary to install mutual trust. The Church wants to move towards dialogue between the two communities; this means launching an exchange of religious and cultural ideas, setting up a "dialogue of presence" and of life, collaborating on a daily basis, for example, in relief to the poor and in sharing hope. There is already a conference of bishops and imams for dialogue in Mindanao, aimed at building mutual trust and respect, and it is working.