Monday, March 18, 2013

My friend Don Giacomo
“During the ceremony of confirmations in Saint Laurence Outside the Walls
we prayed for his health... and he expressed his gratitude with a gesture that
was of hope of healing and, at the same time, of trust”. Cardinal Bergoglio
remembers Giacomo Tantardini, priest
by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio

“Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you; Consider
the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Heb 13, 7). Thus, the
author of the Epistle to the Hebrews exhorts us to bear in mind those who
announced the Gospel to us and who have already departed. He asks us to
remember them, but not in that formal and, at times pitiable way, that leads
us to say “how good he was!”, a phrase often heard in the courtyard of
cemeteries. That type of memory is a simple reminder of social formalities.
This asks us, rather, to remember them beginning from the fruitfulness of
their sowing in our midst. It asks us to remember them with the memory of
the heart, that Deuteronomic memory that builds on rock, that moulds lives
and marks hearts. Yes, our heart is built on the memory of those men and
women who have brought us closer to sources of life and hope that can also
be drawn upon by those who follow us. It is the memory of the inheritance
we have received and that we must, in turn, transmit to our children.
So, it is with this memory that we remember Don Giacomo, and we ask
ourselves: what did he leave us? What signs of him do we find on the journey
of our life? I dare simply say that he left the impression of a man-child who
never finished being surprised. Don Giacomo, the man of wonder; the man
who let himself be surprised by God and was able to open up the path so that
this wonder be born in others.

Don Giacomo, a man surprised that, as he watched the Lord who
called him, always wondered within himself, was hardly able to believe it, as
Caravaggio’s Matthew: I, Lord? A man overwhelmed with wonder before this
indescribable “superabundance” of grace that wins over the mean abundance
of sin, that sin that diminishes us, always; a man amazed that he felt himself
sought, wanted and loved by God long before he himself had sought him,
wanted him and loved him; a man in wonderment who, like those of Lake
Tiberias, did not dare ask Him who He was because he knew He was the
And this man in wonder, allowed himself, more than once, to be
queried: “Do you love me?”, to reply with the ardent simplicity of love: “Lord,
you know that I love you”. And it was so because this man-child nurtured his
love with the simple but wise readiness of the contemplation of all that
Grace that surpassed him.
Don Giacomo was so. He had not lost the ability to be surprised; he
reflected beginning with the wonder that he received and nourished in
prayer. Sometimes, he gave the impression that this sensibility stressed him,
made him tired or restless, and this is not unusual in a man with a strong
human temperament, on which Grace did not cease to work in his
conversion to meekness.

The last image I have of him moves me: during the ceremony of
confirmations in Saint Laurence Outside the Walls, with hands clasped, his
eyes open and in wonder, smiling and serious at the same time. There, we
prayed for his health... and he expressed his gratitude with a gesture that was
of hope of healing and, at the same time, of trust. Thus, by grace, one can
persevere on the path until the end: the man-child abandons himself to the
arms of Jesus while he asks that this chalice may pass, and is picked up and
carried in the arms, his hands clasped and eyes open. Allowing himself to be
surprised once again, for the greatest gift.
I thank God our Lord for having known him. That “consider the
outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” of the Epistle to the
Hebrews is also directed to me.
Buenos Aires, 6 May 2012
“Jesus will give us strength. Not you, but Him in you”
Homily by His Eminence Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of
Buenos Aires, during the Holy Mass in which he administered the Sacrament
of Confirmation — Rome, 18 February 2012, Basilica of St Lawrence Outside
the Walls

by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio

First Reading (Is 43, 18-19. 21-22.24b-25)
From the book of the prophet Isaiah
Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing
something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland,
rivers. The people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise. Yet you did not call
upon me, O Jacob, for you grew weary of me, O Israel. Instead, you burdened me with your sins, and
wearied me with your crimes. It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember
no more.

Second Reading (2 Corinthians 1, 18-22)
From the Second Epistle of the apostle St Paul to the Corinthians
As God is faithful, our word to you is not “yes” and “no”. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was
proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not “yes” and “no,” but “yes” has been in him.
For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him; therefore, the Amen from us also goes
through him to God for glory. But the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is
God; he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.

From the Gospel according to Mark (Mk 2, 1-12)
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many
gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached
the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus
because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the
mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins
are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that
way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what
they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is
easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that
you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” - he said to the paralytic, “I say to
you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of
everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this”.

In the prayer at the beginning of Mass we made an appeal to God the
Father: “May your help, merciful Father, make us ever attentive to the voice
of the Spirit”. We need the help of God to understand the voice of the Spirit,
the newness of the Spirit. The Spirit is always new, always comes to renew.
That’s what we heard in the first Reading, the prophecy: “I am doing
something new”. So does God, so does the Spirit. So we ask God’s help to be
attentive to the voice of the Spirit, to the new things.
Making everything new. The Gospel tells the story of the paralytic who
was renewed by the power of the Spirit and of Jesus. The Spirit was in Jesus.
Jesus is the one who sends the Spirit to renew everything. Jesus is the only
one capable of starting everything anew, of beginning life again. Let us think
about the life of this paralytic, the physical life, and also the inner life –
because the Lord heals the soul first: “Your sins are forgiven”. Jesus has the
power, with the strength of His Spirit, to renew the heart. We must have
confidence in this. If we do not have confidence in the power of Jesus Christ
as the only salvation, the only one who can make all things new, we are fake
Christians. We are not true Christians.
Jesus does not force you to be a Christian. But if you say you are a
Christian you must believe that Jesus has all the strength – the only one who
has the strength – to renew the world, to renew your life, to renew your
family, to renew the community, to renew everybody. This is the message
that today we must take with us when asking the Father to make us attentive
to the voice of the Spirit that does this work: the Spirit of Jesus
Today, following the invitation of my friend Don Giacomo, whom I
treasure so much, and we all must pray for him, because he’s somewhat ill...
Shall we all pray for him? Yes or no? I can’t hear anything ... If the prayer is
like that, we’re done for... Shall we will pray for him? Yes!
The call for today is to perform these confirmations on you who come
to receive the strength of the Spirit of God: believe in the power of the Spirit!
It is the Spirit of Jesus. Believe in Jesus who sends you this Spirit – to you and
all of us: He sends the Spirit to renew everything. You are not fake Christians,
Christians only in name. You are Christians with your words, with your
hearts, with your hands. Feel like Christians, talk like Christians and do the
work of Christians. But you alone could not do it. It is Jesus who will give you
this Spirit, will give you the strength to renew everything: not you, but Him
in you.
And with this thought of Jesus who is the only salvation, the only one
who brings us grace, who gives us peace, brotherhood, who gives us
salvation, let us continue the celebration of this Mass with the recitation of
the Creed, the profession of our faith.
Closeness and compassion
The bishops participating in the latest Assembly of the Latin American
Bishops’ Council speak of the ‘continental mission’ of their Churches. Not
projects of cultural hegemony, but a ‘pastoral conversion’ to help people’s faith.
And to reach out to everyone. Amidst the processes of secularization and
temptations of neoclericalism
by Gianni Valente
On Saturday morning at Constitución station, located in what is by no
means a ‘good’ neighborhood in Buenos Aires, everything is moving, as
always: buses, taxis, travelers going in and out of the terminal, women with
shopping, police, street vendors with their carts. The youths of the parish of
Santa Elisa and those of the Virgen de Caacupé have set up their yellow tent
on the edge of that perpetual whirl of human motion, alongside the
monument to the inspirer of the Argentine Constitution, the Mason Juan
Bautista Alberdi. They call it the Carpa misionera, the missionary tent of the
Catholic Church. They have also brought a statue of the Virgen de Lujan, the
Madonna venerated in the national shrine. Around it they have set a few
tables with statuettes of the Child Jesus and Saint Expedito, the saint of
urgent cases. And then some of them begin quartering the whole station
precinct, handing out to people waiting and passing by a holy picture of
Jesus with a prayer. Many people approach to ask for a blessing, leaving in
the boxes on the tables little notes asking for health and work for themselves
and others, prayers and masses for their dead loved ones, happiness and rest
from toil. A queue wanting confession has formed in front of Father Flavio.
Bautismos aquí, baptisms here’, says a banner hanging from a tree. And
underneath it stands a table where two youths write down requests for
baptisms. Even of those who wander up out of simple, instinctive curiosity.
Since yesterday evening, since the start of the mission, the baptisms of
thirteen children and adults has taken place in front of the ‘carpa católica’,
people already prepared by lay catechists, with whom post-baptismal
catechesis continues. At one point, unexpectedly and without warning,
Father Bergoglio also arrives. The Archbishop of the city greets the young
men and women one by one, and hugs Don Facundo, who immediately
thunders into the megaphone: “Adelante, come over to the Carpa misionera,
we’ll be celebrating Mass in a few minutes”. A street drinker also stops. At
eleven in the morning he’s already a bit tipsy. He closes in on Bergoglio,
looks at him in puzzlement: “I’ve seen you somewhere...”, he mutters. And
adds: “Are you Catholic? Then you say Mass!” Don Facundo, while taking out
vestments for the service, also asks him to say mass. Then, in front of the
small group of kids, old men, mothers with children and chance passers-by
the Jesuit Cardinal speaks a few words. “Let’s call on Jesus for all we need.
Let’s ask the Father in His name, let’s ask Him to ask the Father. Like the
poor who asked everything of Him when He went through the streets and
they thronged around Him. Jesus is very keen to be with the rest of us, with
all the rest of us, with all those passing by. It’s something that interests Him
first of all. If there had been only one man or one woman in the whole world,
He would have offered His life just the same, for that one man or one
For that reason Bergoglio – and Facundo, Don Flavio and all the priests
of Buenos Aires who sometimes go to baptize and confess in the stations,
squares and even under the obelisk in Plaza de la República, along the
immense Avenida 9 de Julio – believes it is most important to make things
easy, not to be selective, not to put obstacles in the way of this desire for
Jesus. Embracing any hint of expectation that might spring from the fleeting
and fortuitous situation that the present moment offers. Acting as the
Apostle Philip did with the eunuch to whom he proclaimed the good news as
they went along. “Look, here is water: what prevents me from being
baptized?” the eunuch asked as they passed near a stream. “So Philip
baptized him. When they were out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord
spirited Philip away and the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way
rejoicing” (Acts 8, 36-39).
The feeling of insecurity grows, but also the chances for encounter
“In the Gospel”, Cardinal Aloísio Lorscheider used to say, “the most
beautiful encounters of God with mankind take place on the road. Centuries
in the history of lived Christianity tell us no different”.
At this moment, the whole of Latin America seems like a huge train
station in which everything is on the move, nothing is standing still. Where
potent economic and socio-cultural processes are changing and sometimes
distorting the experience of individuals and multitudes. While the Mass and
the baptisms administered at the Constitución station are one concrete
image – out of the many possible – of the Continental Mission that the Latin
American Churches took on as their task, in these rapidly changing
circumstances, in 2007 at Aparecida, at the last General Assembly of the
Latin American episcopate.
Four years later, the bishops and others summoned to the 33rd
Assembly of the Latin American Bishop’s Council, held in Montevideo
May15/20 last, checked on progress. They once again asked themselves
questions and scrutinized the insights and the overview of the Continent set
out at the Aparecida conference.
In the words and views of some of the representatives of the episcopate
at that meeting, as put together by 30Days, the shared judgment is that of an
unfinished and ongoing project. Where – as always happens – insights full of
evangelical hope burgeon and blossom in the daily work of the pastors most
involved in the lived experience of God’s people.
An initial datum helps set aside misunderstandings often fueled by
clerical and anticlerical propaganda: the more pastorally aware bishops are
increasingly sure that the continental mission is not a strategy or program.
Nor an appeal to new militancy aimed at regaining lost positions. “The
continental mission outlined at Aparecida”, Ricardo Ezzati Andrello,
Archbishop of Santiago in Chile, explains in firm and straightforward terms,
“is not and cannot be understood as a scheme to recapture some of the
sociological power that the Church has been losing in Latin America”. Not
least because, as pointed out by Rubén Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of
Bogota, “the Church as such is of no interest, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a tool.
The Second Vatican Council reiterates that the Church is a sacrament and a
sacrament in itself is meaningless except as a sign and instrument. This is
the Church. It exists only to serve men by showing them the face of Christ”.
So the arguments of the ’eighties and ’nineties which staked everything on
an almost magical ‘evangelization of culture’, to be contracted out to elites
militating to re-establish a culturally influential presence in the public arena
for the Church, seem to have had their day in Latin America also.
The continental mission, repeats Brazilian Geraldo Lyrio Rocha,
Archbishop of Mariana, “is not a mobilization, or a list of new things to do
and events to organize, but a spirit that should set its mark on every
expression and detail of the life of the Church. In times of transition and
great change such as we are living through, concern and a feeling of
insecurity grow, but also the possibilities of encounter. For example with the
eighty percent of Brazilian Catholics who in Catholic Brazil live their lives
removed from the ordinary practices of the Church”.
The Aparecida declaration took account of the fact that processes of
secularization in Latin America are ongoing and the faith that has animated
the Church and the life of the continent for five centuries is not being
transmitted from generation to generation with the ease of the past. The
document called on the Latin American Churches to get rid of all the
“transient structures that no longer encourage the transmission of the faith”
(no. 365), not to wallow in rhetorical complacency about the ‘continent of
hope’ and ‘not to take anything for granted and settled’ (no. 549). The same
document also did away with the pretexts of professional complainers and
recriminators, expressing the hope – with a quotation from Pope Paul VI’s
Evangelii nuntiandi – that “the world of our time ‘may receive the Good News
not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient and anxious,
but from ministers who have primarily received the joy of Christ in
themselves’ (no. 552). Despite the amount of reflections, points and
suggestions made, the continental mission was not configured as the goal of
the effort of pastoral workers, the outcome of those who presume to build
the Church by their exertions, maybe even from scratch. Because ‘the action
of the Lord always remains the most important thing in the Church’
(Introduction, no. 5). And every new step ‘can only come about if we
positively make the most of what the Spirit has sown’ (no. 262). Starting out
from the faith that despite all omissions, frailty and possible waste,
continues to manifest itself in the simple devotion of the people, with the
helplessness of a child rescued from the waves. The gratuitous and surprising
sign of the love for Jesus and His Mother still alive in the hearts of most Latin
From the notion of the Church as regulator of faith to a Church as
facilitator of faith
In article 264, the same document describes popular piety as a great
and enduring ‘confession of the living God who acts in history’. A matter of
fact before which the ecclesial body has the minimal mandate not to
complicate what is simple. Eduardo Horacio García, Auxiliary Bishop of
Buenos Aires and in charge of the pastoral work of the archdiocese
compresses in a neat but effective phrase: “It’s a matter of passing from the
notion of the Church as regulator of faith to a Church as facilitator of faith”.
In this may lie the whole of the pastoral conversion that the Aparecida
document set out as the fruit of gratitude and the task proper to the
Churches in Latin America at the present time. In the discourse of many
bishops the word most frequently used, and not at random, is cercanía,
closeness. The characteristic feature of a Church that offers itself to all like ‘a
mother who comes forward to greet, a welcoming home’ (no. 370). Thus the
bishops in this present moment of the Church pick up the threads of
continuity with the generations of their predecessors. In particular, the
generation of pastors who after Vatican Council II forged the CELAM into an
effective tool for witnessing to the daily sharing by local Churches in the
destinies and real lives of the peoples of the continent. “Above everything
else”, notes Venezuelan Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo, Archbishop of
Mérida, “even in this time of great changes, closeness to the desires and
sufferings of people remains a hallmark of the Latin American Churches, and
people acknowledge this. Even in the face of the growth of violence and
social degradation, always at the expense of the weakest, everyone knows
they can find in the Church a reality in tune with their real desires for peace,
a quiet life, security, and a concrete help in difficulties and sufferings”. He is
echoed by the Capuchin friar Andrés Stanovnik, Archbishop of Corrientes:
“In general, leaving aside individual cases, if there is a human reality that
keeps its footing in our countries in the middle of daily life, that reality is the
Church. Our Churches are not made up only of the meetings of bishops, like
that of Aparecida. Those same bishops every day walk alongside their people.
The priests do not live secluded in their parishes. They are with the people
all day, in the streets, in soup kitchens, in country schools, in all the endless
social and charitable works where they truly come across people’s struggle to
continue. Only within the concrete circumstances of daily life can one share
in the faith and joy for the living presence of Christ. Otherwise, any
community project in the long run closes down the prospect and turns into
segregation with religious pretexts”.
A certain harking-back to clericalism: the old figure of the ‘Prince’
According to some bishops, the most insidious enemy of “closeness” as
suggested by the Aparecida Conference is not relativism or secularism, or the
prejudices of groups hostile to the Church. “The greatest resistance”, notes
the Peruvian Franciscan Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, Archbishop of
Trujillo, “coincides with a certain harking-back to clericalism. Not least for
that reason the pastoral conversion outlined at Aparecida primarily concerns
priests and bishops. But even some organized groups and movements, which
sometimes behave like cliques in search of prestige and power in the
Church”. The old figure of the ‘prince’ priest seems to resurface In some
situations, the representative of a privileged caste, official of a religious
power, which treats even the sacraments as its own so as to assert its
supremacy over the laity. Maybe throwing the weakness and hurts of people
in their face, stultifying the willingness and expectations of those not in good
standing with doctrinal ‘requirements’ and moral conditions imposed by a
growing return to clerical strictness. One of those styles and structures that
the Aparecida document defines as ‘perishable’, and that does not encourage
but hinders the transmission of the faith. “It’s inevitable”, notes Archbishop
Stanovnik, “that when one plans to build, to ‘make’ the Church as one’s own
project and achievement, one ends up in self-celebration”. Archbishop
Porras adds: “Similar presumptions have marked the history of Catholicism
in Latin America from the beginning. It’s enough to read the documents
published by the Vatican on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the
discovery of America. Then there were people who out of disciplinary
strictness required that priests or religious be born in wedlock, reared up in
respectable families, able to bestow a dowry. And already then, between the
16th and 18th centuries, hundreds and hundreds of dispensations came from
Rome to get around those rigorist pretensions”.
A Church against the powers that be?
Since the days when it was led and inspired by such free spirits as
Chilean bishop Manuel Larraín and Dom Hélder Câmara the CELAM has
always reflected the prevailing feeling of the Latin American bishops towards
the changing social and political geography of the area. That interweave of
peoples and nations that Dom Hélder himself called ‘the Christian continent
of the Third World’ when calling on his brethren to fight the poverty ‘that
destroys the image of God in every man’.
At present the ranks of variously assorted left-wing governments in
these countries are consolidating over time and growing with new additions,
with leaders of diverse backing and orientation – former guerrillas, former
soldiers, national-populists, pragmatic reformers – all called on to handle a
booming economic situation, real processes of political integration, growing
imbalances and compensatory social programs that have impact on the lives
of millions of people. A continental effervescence in which the media
portrayal of churchmen is routinely to dismiss them as frowning censors.
Emissaries of a corporation in everlasting struggle with political leaders and
governments, and stuck fast to an agenda of ethically sensitive issues:
defense of life, of the family, of freedom of education.
The fact is that among the bishops who came together in Montevideo
for the recent CELAM assembly, no one seemed ready to back or even
expand the media cliché of the Church as a ‘belligerent’ bloc alternative to
the powers that be. For all of them the characteristics cognate to ecclesial
action are those of apostolic zeal and meekness. “The image of a Church as
an antagonistic force”, says Venezuelan Archbishop Porras, “is convenient
for governments and populist regimes that often fall into the deification of
their own power. Then the Church, precisely because of its immanence in
the people and the way in which it assesses social problems without
messianism, is presented as a corporation in search of privileges”. According
to Chilean Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati, “in political language there are those
who want at times to pass off the idea that the Church structure is a factor in
backwardness that reins in society and individual conscience, and who
denounce its alleged attempt to reclaim a lost social and cultural monopoly.
In my opinion, no confirmation should be given to the stereotype. And it
should be made clear that the Church seeks no power, no hegemony. It just
wants to make known to our people a message of liberation that is good for
all”. Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la
Sierra, described the reduction of the Church to a countervailing force as a
convenient caricature: “In Bolivia, in recent years, the Church waited in
silence for the changes so much desired by the people. We started talking
only when we heard speeches calling for the eliminating of the ‘Christian
God’ and claiming there was a division between two Churches, that of the
rich and that of the poor”. Colombian Rubén Salazar Gómez concludes:
“Emphasizing only the intervention of the clergy on matters of sexual
morality is a distortion of the media. And the Church must do everything
possible to avoid the mechanism of those who paint it as an antagonistic
political corporation. Showing everybody, with humility, that it seeks
nothing for itself.”.
“Grant what You command”
The beautiful prayer of St Augustine, recently revivified also by Benedict XVI,
can also summarize this book: “Grant what You command, and command
what You will”. So writes Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of
Buenos Aires, in the preface of the book Il tempo della Chiesa secondo
Agostino (The Time of the Church according to Augustine)
by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Giacomo Tantardini, Il tempo della Chiesa secondo Agostino. Seguire e rimanere in attesa. La
felicità in speranza, Città Nuova, Rome 2009, 388 pp., 22 euros
In the pages of this book run the impassioned lectures on the
relevance of Saint Augustine given by Don Giacomo Tantardini at the
University of Padua, over the course of the three academic years from 2005
to 2008.
It can be said in so many ways that the holy Bishop of Hippo is
relevant. One can venture reviews of his theology, rediscover the modernity
of his gaze at the motions of the human spirit, bring out the brilliance of his
judgments on the historical vicissitudes of his time, in some ways so similar
to those of the present day.
In his lectures on Augustine, with the texts read and commented on
directly, Don Giacomo has picked and followed another pattern. If Augustine
is relevant, if he is our contemporary – as this book documents – he is so
especially because he describes just how to become and remain Christian in
the time of the Church. That time which is His, as it is ours. “That short time
– Augustine repeats several times commenting on the words of Jesus in the
Gospel of John (John 16, 16-20) – which goes from the Lord’s ascension into
heaven in His true body to His glorious return” (p. 123).
The most striking image for me of how one becomes a Christian, as it
emerges in this book, is the way in which Augustine recounts and comments
on Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus (pp. 279-281). Zacchaeus is small, and
wants to see the Lord pass, and so he climbs a sycamore. Augustine says: “Et
vidit Dominus ipsum Zacchaeum. Visus est, et vidit / And the Lord looked at
Zacchaeus himself. Zacchaeus was seen, and therefore saw”. What strikes
one are those three seeings: that of Zacchaeus, that of Jesus and then that of
Zacchaeus again, after being seen by the Lord. “He would have seen Him
pass even if Jesus had not raised his eyes”, comments Don Giacomo, “but it
would not have been a meeting. He would perhaps have satisfied that
minimum of good curiosity out of which he had climbed the tree, but it
would not have been a meeting” (p. 281).
There is the point: some believe that faith and salvation come with our
effort to look for, to seek the Lord. Whereas it’s the opposite: you are saved
when the Lord looks for you, when He looks at you and you let yourself be
looked at and sought for. The Lord will look for you first. And when you find
Him, you understand that He was waiting there looking at you, He was
expecting you from beforehand.
That is salvation: He loves you beforehand. And you let yourself be
loved. Salvation is precisely this meeting where He works first. If this
meeting does not take place, we are not saved. We can talk about salvation.
Invent reassuring theological systems that turn God into a notary and His
gratuitous love into a due deed to which He is supposed to be forced by His
nature. But we never enter into the People of God. Whereas, when you look
at the Lord and you realize with gratitude that you are looking at Him
because He is looking at you, all intellectual prejudices go away, that elitism
of the spirit that is characteristic of intellectuals without talent and is
ethicism without goodness.
If the beginning of faith is the work of the Lord, Saint Augustine also
describes how you remain in this beginning. Here the keywords are those
contained in the subtitle: following and awaiting. And the figure that
represents them is John, the beloved disciple. John represents those awaiting
to be loved, and remains by grace and not effort in this expectation. In him it
is obvious that “if one is not loved first (cf. 1 Jn 4, 19) one can neither love nor
follow” (p. 171). The awaiting of the acts of the Lord is renewed in him in
every instant, the expectation of those new beginnings in which freedom
adheres to grace “through the pleasure by which it is drawn” (p. 372).
According to Augustine, there are distinctive features – Don Giacomo
points out – indications of when one is seen and embraced by the Lord.
The first sign is gratitude, the spontaneous motion of the heart that
gives thanks. Augustine shows that even the clear understanding of what it
takes to obtain salvation can become a source of pride, of the sort that he
registered among the Platonic philosophers of his time, who “have seen
where one must reach to be happy, but decided to attribute to themselves
what they saw, and become proud, have lost what they saw” (p. 27). One can
arrive at discovering that only in God is there happiness, but this knowledge
does not by itself move the heart. The heart remains sad and full of itself. It
does not dissolve in tears of gratitude (pp. 19-25). Instead, when one is
picked up in His arms by the Lord and “humbly embraces my humble God
Jesus” (p. 40), without even thinking about it, he becomes full of gratitude
and gives thanks. And in this gratitude also becomes good. Don Giacomo
writes that “one is good not because one knows what goodness is, one is glad
not because one knows what happiness is. One is good and is happy because
one is embraced by goodness and by happiness” (p. 330).
The other distinguishing feature is precisely the surfacing in the heart
of that happiness in hope that the subtitle of the book also mentions. For
Augustine, the joy promised by the Lord to his followers is given and lives in
spe, in hope. What does that mean? The expression in spe in the writings of
Augustine indicates that this happiness is always a grace. In our earthly
condition, this is immediately obvious to everybody: happiness on earth,
promised as pledge of heavenly happiness, does not come from us, we
cannot build it nor maintain and master it. It is not in our hands, and hence
is precarious, according to the schemes of those who believe they can build
their life as their own project. It is the happiness of the poor, who enjoy it as
a gratuitous gift. The happiness of those who live forever suspended in the
hope of the Lord, and for that very reason are untroubled. Because it is a
beautiful thing to live confident that the Lord loves us beforehand, seeks us
beforehand. The Lord of patience that comes to us hoping that we, like
Zacchaeus, climb the tree of humilitas. Saint Augustine addressed to Him
the beautiful prayer also recently revivified by Pope Benedict XVI, which can
also summarize this book: “Grant what You command, and command what
You will”. Grant us the gift of becoming as children, and then ask to be as
children, to enter the kingdom of heaven.
These are some of the many tones and ideas in this book that can be
an invaluable comfort to many, well beyond the circle of experts and
For this I wish it luck, while all the friends of Augustine are preparing
to remember that 1600 years have passed since the holy Bishop of Hippo,
faced with the sack of Rome, was inspired to write the City of God.
We are not owners of the gifts of the Lord
Interview with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
by Gianni Valente
If the priests of Buenos Aires aim to make “every effort” to help their
fellow citizens approach the first sacrament, they can rest assured that they
have the archbishop by their side. For Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio the
important things are these.
Some priests In Buenos Aires are taking steps to facilitate the
celebration of new baptisms and encourage them in every way. What
is driving them?
JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO: The Conference of Latin American
Bishops held in 2007 in Aparecida reminded us to proclaim the Gospel by
going out to find people, not sitting in the Curia or the presbytery waiting for
people to come to us. In the third to last paragraph, the Aparecida document
casts back thirty years and returns to the apostolic exhortation Evangelii
nuntiandi of Paul VI, which described “apostolic zeal” as “the sweet and
comforting joy of evangelizing”, of “proclaiming with joy a Good News that
has been learned through the mercy of the Lord”. But this is expressed not so
much by planning initiatives or exceptional events. The Evangelii nuntiandi
itself repeated that “if the Son came, it was precisely to reveal, by His words
and His life, the ordinary paths of salvation”. It’s the ordinary that one can
achieve in missionary fashion. And baptism is paradigmatic in that. I think
the parish priests of Buenos Aires are acting in that spirit.
Do you think that concern to facilitate baptism is tied to specific
and local situations, or is a criterion that can be recommended for
BERGOGLIO: The concern to encourage in every way the
administration of baptism and the other sacraments involves the whole
Church. If the Church follows its Lord, it comes out of itself, with courage
and compassion: it doesn’t remain locked in its own self. The Lord works a
change in those who are faithful to Him, makes them look up away from
themselves. That is the mission, that is witness.
In the handbook on baptism prepared and distributed by the
diocese of Buenos Aires answer is given to possible criticism from
those who say that the sacraments should not be “a bargain offer” and
that the requirements of preparation and readiness should be held to.
Is the criticism valid?
BERGOGLIO: There is no sellout, no exchange. The parish priests are
observing the directions given by the bishops of the pastoral region of
Buenos Aires, which meet all the conditions required by the Code of Canon
Law, according to the basic criterion expressed in the last canon: the
supreme law is the salvation of souls.
In your opinion, are the cases where baptism is denied to
children because the parents are not in a canonically regular marital
situation justified in some way?
BERGOGLIO: To us here that would be like closing the doors of the
Church. The child has no responsibility for the marital state of its parents.
And then, the baptism of children often becomes a new beginning for
parents. Usually there is a little catechesis before baptism, about an hour,
then a mystagogic catechesis during liturgy. Then, the priests and laity go to
visit these families to continue with their post-baptismal pastoral. And it
often happens that parents, who were not married in church, maybe ask to
come before the altar to celebrate the sacrament of marriage.
It sometimes happens that ministers and pastoral workers
assume almost a proprietorial attitude as if the decision to grant the
sacraments or not were in their hands.
BERGOGLIO: The sacraments are signs of the Lord. They are not
performances or the conquests of priests or bishops. In our vast country
there are many small towns or villages that are difficult to reach, where the
priest arrives once or twice a year. But popular piety feels that children
should be baptized as soon as possible, and so in those places there is always
a layman or woman known by everyone as bautizadores who baptize the
children when they are born, awaiting the arrival of the priest. When the
priest comes, they bring him the children so he can anoint them with holy
oil, completing the ceremony. When I think of it, I’m always surprised by
that story of those Christian communities in Japan that were left without a priest for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned they found them all baptized, all married validly for the Church and all their dead had been buried in Christian fashion. Those laymen had received only baptism, and by virtue of their baptism they had also lived their apostolic mission.

According to some people unless there is adequate
understanding and preparation the sacramental rite is in danger of
becoming something “magical” or mechanical. What do you think?
BERGOGLIO: Nobody thinks that we don’t need catechesis, preparing
children for confirmation and communion. But we must always look at our
people as they are, and see what is needed most. The sacraments are for the
life of men and women as they are. Who maybe don’t talk all that much, but
their sensus fidei captures the reality of the sacraments with more clarity
than that of many specialists.
Can you give us some incident in your pastoral experience that
highlights this sensus fidei?
BERGOGLIO: Just a few days ago I baptized seven children of a woman
on her own, a poor widow, who works as a maid and she had had them from
two different men. I met her last year at the Feast of San Cayetano. She’d
said: Father, I’m in mortal sin, I have seven children and I’ve never had them
baptized. It had happened because she had no money to bring the
godparents from a distance, or to pay for the party, because she always had
to work ... I suggested we meet, to talk about it. We spoke on the phone, she
came to see me, told me that she could never find all the godparents and get
them together ... In the end I said: let’s do everything with only two
godparents, representing the others. They all came here and after a little
catechesis I baptized them in the chapel of the archbishopric. After the
ceremony we had a little refreshment. A coca cola and sandwiches. She told
me: Father, I can’t believe it, you make me feel important... I replied, but
lady, where do I come in, it’s Jesus who makes you important.
BUENOS AIRES. The priests, the narcos, the threats
“They are priests who pray and work”
The drug traffickers threatened the parish priest of a villa miseria, stirring a
wave of popular sympathy. An interview with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Interview with Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio by Gianni Valente
Sometimes he also encounters them, the poor slaves of paco, maybe on
Sunday when he arrives on foot in the maze of some villa miseria, to say
Mass, baptize and confirm, to celebrate the patron saint. They see the white
collar in the distance, realize that it’s a priest, and then the calls go up: “Hola
padre, tienes un peso para la coca?”. For Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit,
cardinal and archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998, it is the confirmation
that in those parts “they tell the truth”. Also when they want to leave the
dark background of their disastrous lives. So everything is fine, but let no
one try to touch his priest friends of Baires. Those who speak to him
informally of the miracles that the Lord performs down their way. It was him,
Father Bergoglio, who made public the death threats brought to the priests
from those whom he calls “los mercaderes de las tinieblas”, the merchants of
Why did you decide to let everyone know that a priest had been
threatened by the drug traffickers?
JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO: The decision was taken in prayer. I felt
that this was a problem of the whole local Church. And all the faithful
should know. I mentioned it in a sermon during the Mass said for workers in
schools and educational activities, in which I also spoke of the dangers for
the young people of today, such as drugs. At the end, I just added that a
priest had been threatened, without even speaking his name.
Those who have had the luck to meet Father Pepe and the priests
who work with him know that they are also prudent and realistic.
They’re not hamming the part of “frontier priests”, or “anti-drug
professionals”. What has changed? Why were they threatened?
BERGOGLIO: They work. They’re not attacking anyone. The one who
said that drugs are a danger, not just in the favelas, but throughout the city,
was myself at that Mass. I told parents to watch what their children do, to
take care of them, because drugs reach everywhere, come to the school gate.
They, the priests of the villas, are also working in preventing drug addiction
and the social rehabilitation of young drug addicts. A month ago they
drafted a constructive proposal on the startling growth of drug trafficking.
The people of Villa 21 have recently opened three shelters for young addicts.
It must be that the traffickers don’t like that. Someone must have got
It’s well known that you are attached to the priests who work in
the villas miserias and poor neighborhoods.
BERGOGLIO: They work and pray. There are priests who pray. And
they do catechesis, social work... That’s what I like. This priest who was
threatened, they say, and it is true, has a special devotion for Don Bosco. It is
precisely the style of Don Bosco that inspires him.
How has the rest of the diocese reacted? Jealousies?
BERGOGLIO: Not at all. More than four hundred priests in Buenos
Aires signed a declaration in favor of their brothers, and presented it at a
press conference in the bishop’s residence. An initiative that they took
themselves, not something inspired by the bishops. They saw the matter as
an example of apostolic work.
Your concern for pastoral work in the poor districts and the
villas has become a reference point for the whole diocese.
BERGOGLIO: Yes, and they are happy about it. The company and the
government have responded well in backing Pepe.
Maybe there are people who would have preferred these
problems to be hidden since there’s also the question of the
connivance and inaction of politicians.
BERGOGLIO: Greater responsiveness to this problem emerged in the
Church some time ago. Last year the bishops’ conference made a statement.
Another came from the Social Pastoral Commission. Then Bishop Jorge
Casaretto, a member of the Comisión Nacional de Justicia y paz, conducted
an enquiry and has spoken several times on the subject. Finally came this
document from the priests of the villas, with the resultant threat, which
caught everybody’s attention. All this to make clear that the document was
not an isolated statement, but is in line with the course taken by the whole
Church in Argentina, to say to everybody: watch out, this is a danger.
But does the Church have the fight against drugs as its main task?
BERGOGLIO: Not at all. It’s a pastoral thing. Pastoral work. To ask for
the conversion of all. Even traffickers.
Father Pepe has many friends
The nasty event occurred in the evening, at the end of April. Father
Pepe was coming back home on his bicycle. The one with the Huracán
stickers, the team that always gets through by the skin of its teeth, and
indeed the other priests of Nuestra Señora de Caacupé make fun of him
(they follow River or Boca Juniors, good goers). At a certain moment, a man
beckoned him to stop. “Are you Father Pepe?”, he asked. He had never seen
him. He spoke with a porteño accent, was dressed well. He was not a cabeçita
negra from Villa 21. He said few words to him. That if he didn’t stop, if they
continued to talk about those things on television, “tu vas a ser boleta. Te la
tienen jurada”: you’ll be taken out, we’ve sworn it.
Father José María “Pepe” Di Paola immediately understood what the
trouble was. Before Easter, he and other priests who work in the villas
miserias – the favelas of Argentina, half way between shanty towns and
working-class neighborhoods, packed with immigrants from Bolivia,
Paraguay and the poor provinces to the north of the country – had written
and distributed a document telling everyone that in their neighborhoods
drug trafficking was “de facto decriminalized”, that the narcos were
transforming those slums full of poor and helpless people into helpless, offlimits
areas, no man’s land where to peddle their surplus production of
cocaine. A “Brazilian” crime wave, which is seeing the number of dead and
wounded growing from month to month, daily felonies and cruelty.
It wasn’t that Pepe and his friends had got a sudden urge to turn into
heroes. The fact was that they happened to be priests there, in the villas,
among the misshapen and afflicted lives of those alleys, in the midst of those
fragile and wounded people who have so often seen hope blossom, like a
flower on the edge of the pit. They had seen how the Lord did great things
among the multitude of their powerless and destitute friends, He, who
always prefers the humble to the arrogant. Thus, every attempt to try to
protect those poor beloved of the Lord always comes like a conditioned
reflex, like an instinctive move. From generation to generation.
In the ’sixties and ’seventies, the first priests who opened chapels and
parishes in the villas not least in support of the villeros’ fight for justice and
to show them how to work for social improvement, found fresh commitment
in the encounter with the simple faith and devotion of those whom they had
generously gone to educate and help. They – Rodolfo Ricciardelli, Carlos
Mugica, Jorge Vernazza and all the other “pioneers” close to the movement
of the sacerdotes para el tercer mundo– had had to hold their helpless arms
wide to block the bulldozers sent several times by the military regimes to
flatten the shacks of the villeros.
Now what was making their days tormented were no longer the
topadoras sent by the military to limpiar la ciudad, to rid Buenos Aires of
those who, according to them “did not deserve” to live there. For several
years now the monster has been viler and more devastating. It burns out
brains, dims eyes, cankers the hearts of young people, teenagers, children.
They call it el paco, or pasta base de cocaina (PBC). It’s made with the
chemical residue of the processing of the white powder. The quality stuff is
sent to Europe and the US. The “normal” stuff is for the good neighborhoods
of Buenos Aires. In 2001, the year of the economic collapse in Argentina, they
discovered that the waste product could make money as mass commodity in
the villas. One dose costs less than a dollar and a half, indeed they give away
the first ones. It turns people on more than marijuana, but the effect is very
short-lived and people want it again immediately. Just one day is enough to
become adicto. The state of anxiety that follows every smoke is unbearable,
abstinence is a nightmare of paranoia and hallucination. The need to find
money to buy another dose makes people crazy. In just a few days normal
children and adolescents become zombies voracious for a dose, to the point
of killing those they come across for a few peso without even realizing it.
They call them the muertos vivos, the living dead. They forget to eat. They
spend entire weeks without sleep. They wander aimlessly, with dead eyes, or
slump on sidewalks, lips burned by the homemade tin pipes they use to
Pepe also came across them in the more secluded corners of the villa.
Some of those in his barrio had known them since they were little kids.
Maybe they would greet him, ask for a rosary and a bit of money. And Pepe
would reply that he didn’t have anything at that moment, but if they’d come
by the church, he could do something. He had too many things to do already.
Since he’d arrived in Caacupé twelve years ago, with the help of the Virgin
and the saints – St Expedito, St Pantaleo, St Cayetano and all the others – a
surprisingly exuberant Christian life had grown around the network of
chapels of the parish: Masses of healing and popular canteens, rosaries and
professional schools, pilgrimages and sewing classes, camping in Bariloche
and spiritual retreats for couples, doctors’ surgeries and nights to prepare the
fire for the asado. There are those who would have paused to gaze in selfcontent
on these small and large victories in the marginal intricacy of the
villa, shaking their heads at the fate of drogacitos. Accepting it as if it were
just part of the evil of the times. But Pepe and his friends could not. Unable
not to bet that the contagion of that improved life they saw spreading in the
villa would reach even them, the most damned. Nor could they keep their
mouths closed about the abyss in which so many were getting lost.
In 2008, seeing that the kids almost always failed in their attempts at
detoxifying in the city help centers, they tried to set up an ad hoc rescue
project, structured in three stages, all of them woven into the network of
social relations of the villa. Father Charly and misionero Gustavo handled it,
with the help of the whole community. The men of the parish offered dozens
of weekends of trabajo solidario to build up the farm on the road to Luján,
where the second stage on the path of recovery takes place: a few months of
retreat, with paced rhythms of work and rest, away from the city. But the
path starts at the Hogar de Cristo, the day center opened on the outskirts of
Villa 21: a few rooms, the kitchen, the soccer field. The street children, whom
they called the niños de Belén, the children of Bethlehem, also go there to eat,
to wash and to see movies with pretty good heroes. It is there that some of
the paco addicts begins to look in to see whether there is anyone who could
rid them of the darkness in their lives. The symbol of the Hogar is a cross
planted so as to break a chain. A bit naive, but it meant that nobody can save
themselves alone, without the help of Jesus. One can’t do without it, it’s
necessary as the bread baked at the school for cooks in Pepirí street that
then goes to the comedores to feed the children of the villa. One person well
aware of it is Miriam, the beautiful girl who two years earlier was sleeping
tossed like a rag between the waste containers, whose two children had been
taken away from her and who spent her days and nights getting money for
paco in any way she could. “I didn’t think there was any rescue for me. But I
was always bumping into the curate in the calle and he’d say: Dios te ama”.
Now she’s also a catechism teacher, she wants to become a therapist for the
drug addicts who want to come off, and she wants to see her girls again, “but
not yet, only when I’m stronger”. Also well aware of it is Raúl, who once
managed to stop, but then lapsed (“I felt una mierda. A year of effort, and
within a few hours everything collapsed again”) and who for some months
now has been attending the Hogar, taking the course in electrics and
carpentry at the Pepirí school, and who realizes in some confused way that
something is changing. Charly and Gustavo know many stories like this.
Failures and re-starts. Outsets derailed and rebegun. Lives saved hand over
hand. The muertos vivos returning to life. What miracle is there greater than
this? It leaves hope open even to those who sell drugs, and would seem
unredeemable. The smalltime drug dealers of the villa, maybe believing
they’re just doing a job like any other, just to find the gana for their family,
and not even aware of the evil they do, greet Charly or Pepe when they pass
along the street.
The Church, Bergoglio always says, is not a place just for good people.
The cardinal of Buenos Aires reiterated in his sermon on the feast day of San
Cayetano: “Are people driven out of here because they are bad? No, on the
contrary, they are welcomed with more affection. That is what Jesus has
taught us”. When the cardinal wants to be heartened he often goes to hear
about the victories of Jesus to be seen in the villas. On Maundy Thursday in
2008, at the mass of in Coena Domini, he went to wash the feet of twelve
boys who attend the Hogar de Cristo. That day they were the apostles.
Initially the only money for the
Reportage. Priests and poor in Buenos Aires
The friends of Father Bergoglio
In the sixties some priests went to live among the immigrants in the shanty
towns of the Argentine capital to help them in their political and social
struggles. And were changed by the simple devotion of those they aimed to
educate. The story of a Christian adventure that continues. With the help of
the Virgin Mary and the saints
by Gianni Valente
The appointment is for Sunday at noon in front of Nuestra Señora di
Caacupé. “Procession and mass de sanación y liberación” promised the flyer
delivered even to the most dilapidated hovels in Villa 21. Initially there were
more than two hundred, but many more joined in as the small procession
headed by Bishop Oscar threaded the network of muddy alleys packed with
crossed water pipes, threads of drooping electric wires, the burnt out
carcasses of cars. On the feast of St. Pantaleon, a doctor and martyr, which
falls in the middle of Argentina’s winter one needs to protect oneself from
the gripe, the flu virus, from pneumonia and other seasonal illnesses. But not
only that. “Let each of us look into our hearts and see what is going on”, is
the invitation that Father Pepe makes during the Mass, in the square
crammed beyond belief. “Let us all acknowledge that we are sinners, and
that we need the Lord to heal us. For those who are sick in body and soul, for
those who are worried and going through a serious problem ... We ask our
mother, the Virgen de Caacupé, to help us to have the health we need in our
barrio”. At the end of the Mass, the most elderly get in line to receive the
anointing of the sick. So that “the Holy Spirit of forgiveness may heal us and
rid us of all illness ... As St. James says, the prayer made in faith will save the
The poet Charles Péguy, thinking perhaps of the parable of the
Pharisee and Publican, writes that when the rich man prays he talks, the
poor man asks for things that are needed in life: peace in the family and in
the world, the healing of a loved one, the health of soul and body. In the
villas miserias – the favelas of Argentina, midway between slum
neighborhoods and working-class neighborhoods – it is not difficult to fall ill.
In Villa 21, then there is also the Riachuelo, “the filthy river, the most
polluted in the world” – they say – that runs alongside, infesting the air with
its miasma. Part of the Villa has arisen on the mountains of garbage of the
illegal landfills, God only knows what’s under there. When every day, several
times a day, freight trains cut the tangle of earth roads without seeking
permission, the walls of huts tremble like cardboard and occasionally
someone – mostly children caught in their street games – loses their legs.
And then there are the other diseases, the ones that beset marginal
agglomerations in many urban suburbs in the southern hemisphere: the
chicos devastated by paco, the drug for the poor made with the residue of
cocaine manufacture, the niños de la calle, the drunks who beat their wives,
the thousand destinies derailed, broken families, the bankrupt lives of so
many who have given up. Including those whom the economic crisis of 2001
tossed out into the street when the banks and their interest rates stole their
There are a lot of people who need healing. But with all this, there is
also a current of good life, a line of healing that is growing over time, in the
tired and tangled days of the villeros.
“It was Father Pepe”, they all say. They say for example that since he’s
been in Caacupé, Father José “Pepe” di Paola, with his friends – Father
Facundo, Don Charly, the deacon Juan and all the others – people no longer
kill in the streets. The Paraguayans no longer have knife fights with the
Bolivians. But if you mention it to him, he will immediately dodge with his
loud and contagious laugh: “We haven’t invented anything,” he says, “we’ve
just taken position behind the Guaraní who today live in the Villa and the
saints they brought from their villages when they arrived here in town”.
From them, too, Pepe has learned that one doesn’t get much done, if you’re
not in sympathy with the Virgin and the saints. And before him, Father
Daniel had also learned it.
Friends in Paradise
The barrio songs tell of “el angel de la bicicleta”, the one on which he
died in the early ’nineties run over by a bus. Whereas the naïf murals around
the Villa portray him with arms out wide, blocking the way of the bulldozers
that were razing the villeros’ homes. It was 1978, and the regime had decided
to clean up the city before the World Cup. They called it the plan de
erradicación. Daniel de la Sierra, the Claretian priest who built the church of
Nuestra Señora de Caacupé in Villa 21, put his vulnerable body in the way as
passive resistance to the violence of the topadoras. And other priests of the
equipo de los curas de la villa did the same. The ones who already during the
Council had chosen to settle in the Buenos Aires shantytowns that were
swelling with emigrants mainly from Paraguay, Bolivia and the poor
northern provinces of Argentina (Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, Jujuy, Salta,
Missiones, Corrientes) to proclaim the love of Christ among los cabecitas
negras, sharing in the lives of those that the rest of the city considered gente
mala, dangerous vagrants, half scoundrels to stay away from.
The curas villeros were third-worldist priests, no getting away from it.
They went to the Villa to testify that Christ was with the poor. They wanted
to get involved with a generous stance in the low-class struggles of those
years. But when they arrived, and people noticed they were priests, the
requests began, “Olà Father, I have two chicos to baptize”, “when does
Catechism start?”. “Is there mass next Sunday?”. “The, surprise”, wrote Jorge
Vernazza, one of the pioneers, who died in 1997, in the book telling their
story, “was comparable only to our ignorance about the real feeling of those
people... Sometimes we would talk among ourselves of seeking an ‘authentic
faith’, but we expected more from ‘evangelical think tanks’ than from
traditional methods of spreading the faith... the situation of the people of the
villas in which we generously and without prejudice involved ourselves,
ended up opening our eyes to the richness of the devotion of the people”. So
the curas villeros began building chapels with unequivocal names (Santa
Maria Madre del Pueblo in Bajo Flores, Christ Obrero in Villa de Retiro,
Christ Libertador in Villa 30), to minister baptisms, weddings and funerals,
recite rosaries, organize processions, at the same time as working every day
to support the material and socio-political demands of the villeros:
commissions for water, sewers and electricity, to get a minimum of health
care for the villas, organized resistance to the plans for demolition regularly
set up by the various military regimes, building cooperatives, canteens. Some
of them did not hide their explicit political siding with the Peronist left. In
1972, on the plane that brought Peron back to Argentina for his last fleeting
return to power, there was also Father Vernazza along with Carlos Mugica,
the priest martyr of Villa de Retiro, killed by paramilitary gunfire on 11 May
1974, while returning home after celebrating Mass (see box). But their
immanence in the real life of the villas exposed them to misunderstandings
of an opposing sort. There were those who considered them subversives in
cassocks, priests contaminated by Marxist propaganda. On the other hand,
even the intellectuals of the left who looked abroad for inspiration, including
those of ecclesial mould, did not spare their enlightened contempt of the
villeros so busy dealing with primary needs as to have no time for insurgency,
and of their priests still lingering with Madonnas and rosaries, masses and
confessions. “They think they’ll effect a revolution with pilgrimages to Our
Lady of Luján”, some wisecracked, when in the late ’seventies the curas
villeros – on the suggestion of a mother in the congregation of Bajo Flores –
organized the first annual pilgrimage of the villas to the national Marian
shrine, fifty kilometers from the capital. Pepe says: “In those years that was
the point of greatest misunderstanding between the curas of Buenos Aires
and the misunderstood progressivism of some ecclesiastics who maybe came
from Europe with a certain mentality ilustrada, enlightened. On the one
hand there were those who had seen and followed the faith of the people,
their way of living it and expressing it. On the other was the pride of those
who came from outside to give lessons”.
New friends
From the mid-’eighties the slogan whereby one gets ahead in an
ecclesiastical career changed in Latin America also. Those who argued
against the theology of liberation became appreciated. In the analysis of the
new ecclesial conference-paper-givers, including those who were flirting
with the growing trend towards the free-market, the curas villeros were seen
as a local reflection of the Catholic third-worldism that was on the way out.
But the villas, in Buenos Aires and in all the cities of Argentina,
continues to exist. When the period of ferocious dictatorship ended they
began swelling again, also with masses of new poor, including those
produced in those recent years by the late twentieth century free-market
mirage. The curas villeros continue to share the daily lives and concerns of
the people they have chosen to follow. In their off-limits neighborhoods,
where taxi drivers do not enter and even the police do not venture, they
remain faithful to the simplest gestures of faith of their people, they
continue to recite rosaries, build chapels, celebrate all the feasts of the Virgin.
Almost without wanting to, they are safeguarding treasures of devotion that
others seem to have lost, through a program of consciousness raising and a
strategy of cultural hegemony.
“An icon in every home, a shrine at every crossroads”. Such was the
idea of Rodolfo Ricciardelli for his Villa, one of the founders of the
movement of Priests for the Third World, who was also one of the first
members of the equipo de los curas villeros, who died last 14 July after two
years of illness. We were reminded of such by Cardinal Bergoglio, celebrating
his funeral in the church of Bajo Flores before the people of the barrio
children, old people, workers, old companions and the new ones also, the
squad of young priests, between thirty and forty, who currently work in the
villas. Those who continue to walk on the path marked out by Mugica,
Vernazza, Ricciardelli, Father Daniel de la Sierra. And none are epigones
nostalgic for a past ecclesial period. “Passing time makes things clearer”, says
Guglielmo, parish priest at Villa Retiro, in the church of Christ Obrero where
Mugica is now buried. “We can see better that even for the first ones the
only criterion was the Gospel. Loving the poor living in their midst, as Jesus
did. For some of them in that difficult time, that meant also becoming
involved in the political struggles. But that had to do with the circumstances
at the time”. Now, with the residues of ideology drained away,
misunderstandings and misconceptions about the work of the curas villeros
have disappeared. And providential proximities flourish. “We work in the
same spirit as those who preceded us”, says Father Gustavo, parish priest at
Villa Fatima: “the situations and problems are different, but what unites us
with them is the most important thing: admiration and care for the faith of
people and for their devotions”. After so many even ecclesial
misunderstandings the bishop is with them. “Father Bergoglio”, says Gustavo,
“shows in his style the preferential option for the poor. He has established
many new parishes in the working-class neighborhoods. It was he who
suggested to me being the priest in a villa, and he also asked other priests
just out of the seminary”. Three years ago the priests of the equipo of the
villas miserias were less than ten, now there are a score, almost all young.
Occasionally, the archbishop leaves the curia of Plaza de Mayo and takes the
metro, then jumps on some bus, and pops up in one or another of the villas
to bless new canteens, celebrate christenings and confirmations, inaugurate
new chapels, celebrate the feast of the saint or the Virgin to whom the parish
is dedicated. Maybe he happens to stop and eat el locro with them, the soup
of meat and corn they cook outdoors in large cauldrons. Meanwhile he gains
fresh heart, like a father watching his children play, because “it does good to
the soul to see what the Lord can do among his beloved children”.
Ask Saint Cayetano
At the last feast of Saint Cayetano, during the sermon, Father Bergoglio
told all those who were there in front of him: some of the hundreds of
thousands of Argentineans who as every year packed the outlying
neighborhood where the shrine stands to ask favors from the saint of bread
and work or thank him for those received. “Let me ask you a question: is the
Church is a place open only for the good?”; and all in chorus: “Nooo!”. The
cardinal, in reply: “Is there room for the bad guys, too?”. And the others, still
all together, “Yeeees!!!”. “Do people get thrown out because they’re bad? No,
on the contrary, they’re welcomed with more affection. And who taught us
that? Jesus taught us. Imagine, then, how patient the heart of God is with all
of us”.
In Father Pepe’s parish they see it the same way. The one thing you
need to do is keep the doors open, make things easier. “Here everyone knows
that one can come to the parish throughout the year and go to communion
or confirmation after some catechism lessons. For baptisms, you just have to
turn up a quarter of an hour before the mass”. The last time, on the feast of
St John the Baptist, the adults who got themselves confirmed were more
than a hundred and fifty. “The people work, desde lunes hasta sábado. You
have to keep it in mind: you mustn’t impose any burden on people. We
believe in the work of grace, rather than the stratagem of lengthening the
preparation courses”.
It must be through the trust in grace, and the continuous “complicity”
of the Virgin and the Saints, that a network of astonishing life, a sparkling
whirl of facts, events, things to do, has taken root and is growing around the
work of Pepe and the other young curas villeros. In Villa 21 alone, catechism
for a thousand children and adolescents involved in the “movimiento
Exploradores” (a kind of homemade Salesian scout group), eight comedores,
the canteens where eight hundred people eat everyday, daily school help for
six hundred and fifty chicos, football schools, music and sewing, homes for
the recovery of drug addicts and niños who live in the street, and then, “for
the most rebellious chicos, those who do not go to catechism, there is the
Murga, “band” of dancers and drummers (“but we always start with an Ave
Maria, and the uniform is blue and white, because those are the colors of the
Virgin’s cloak”), and even spiritual retreats for groups of men and women,
for families ... A network of charity overflowing and carefree, where there is
always time to try something, and there is always something to be tried, to
help somebody not get lost, to ask that hope be rekindled in those who seem
already lost. Letting themselves be guided by what happens.
In 2001, for example, when the Argentine economy collapsed, the
effects on the people of the villa were devastating. And even when things
started to go better, nobody could find work anymore, not even a changa in
the homes of the rich, “because no one takes those of the villas”. Pepe and
his friends realized that they had to do something. So, even asking the
diocese of Como for help, the school of Avenida Pepiri was set up, where five
hundred kids from the villa are learning to become electricians, stone
workers, mechanics, blacksmiths. And bakers, who all week prepare the
bread for the comedores. Now, energies are focused on the recovery of
drogacitos. At weekends, the group of men from the parish goes out of town
to cheer up, between a mass and an asado, the farm where the young drug
addicts who want to detox go. “It’s on the way to Luján, near the shrine,”
Pepe winks, “so the Virgin also lends a hand...”.
The circuit of good life that runs through the Villa is all woven around
the eight chapels with colorful murals and the dozens of wayside shrines that
Pepe and his friends have scattered in the alleys and courtyards: a network of
dozens of places to pray, say mass, recite rosaries. And where every
opportunity is good to dedicate someone – children, men, women, old
people – to the Paraguayan Virgin of Caacupé, or the Bolivian one of
Copacabana, or the Argentine one of Luján, or to St. Cayetano, to St. Blaise,
to St. John, or St. Pantaleon. The last time it happened was to thirty villeros
couples whom Pepe had invited to a two-day retreat in the Holy House on
Avenida Independencia. “There was Bishop Oscar also. We prayed,
celebrated mass, spoke of sufferings and joys, and then all the couples
dedicated themselves to the Virgen de Luján. Some people were moved. In
the end, some couples came to ask me to celebrate their marriage in church”.
Because “there are many in the Villa, couples living together for years, and
bringing up their children without being married...”.
For a calm and quiet life
“Gracias, san Expedito, por tu milagros”, is written on a banner at the
entrance of the Villa in the barrio of Zavaleta. The Roman soldier, the saint
of urgent causes, the one to whom all run when time has become short and
the tunnel seems a dead end, always finds new friends in the villas and
throughout Buenos Aires. The miracle they ask is not the revolution, a
perfect world, but a quiet life, health of soul and body, that there be work to
do so as to get up in the morning, and that the kids don’t lose themselves in
the black maze of drugs, where everything becomes dark. That is why, as the
slogan of the parish says, “Caacupé calla, reza y trabaja por su barrio”,
Caacupé keeps silence, prays and works for its district. Ora et labora. As
happened more than three hundred years ago in the reducciones of Guaraní,
here, too, what colors the days is not the mirage of a dream to be achieved,
but the drops of daily charity that water the routine of ordinary acts and
moments. The kind that silently and boundlessly without even realizing it
Chula, the mother of five children, spreads around her each day as in her
home, transformed into a chapel, she prepares lunches and dinner for forty
children from the Villa, “because I’d promised it to San Cayetano, if my
husband found work”. Or that of Pablo Ramos arrived here from Paraguay
after escaping torture by the military (“but they were mixed up, we were
from the Franciscan Youth, were didn’t harm anyone”), who would have
liked to study architecture, but has no regrets, and gives thanks to God
because in the Villa they gave him a chance to build the chapel of San Blas,
and for his two chicos flamantes, his two wonderful children “who when I
look at them so, give me strength and life también”.
Meanwhile, the male and female missionaries of the parish are
distributing a new statuette to the huts in the barrio. They call it “el Cristo de
la villa”. The young stone workers and carvers of the barrio Pepiri school
made it, “after the sectarians of the Iglesia universal,” says Pepe, “had gone
around slandering us, saying that we preach a dead Christ”. The image is also
reproduced in the mural of the church. Jesus smiling victorious and
reassuring, while crushing the head of a snake beneath his feet. His blessing
hand is lifted skyward, with the arm straight, as goleadores do in the stadium
when they score. “If he plays for us”, Pepe says laughing, “we’ll win the
championship this year as well”.
What I would have said at the Consistory
An interview with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos
by Sefania Falasca
“I must return”, he repeats. Not that he doesn’t like the atmosphere of
Rome. But he misses that of Buenos Aires. His diocese. He calls it “Esposa”.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, always makes
lightning visits to Rome. But this time an attack of sciatica has forced him to
prolong his stay in the Eternal City for some days of rest. And what is more,
by an irony of circumstances, he had to miss the occasion for which he
crossed the ocean, the meeting with the Pope and all the cardinals gathered
in Consistory.
His company is never far away. He tells us how the Aparecida
Conference went, where he chaired the editorial committee for the
concluding document. He confides that his speech at the Consistory would
have been on that. And this is what he had to say about it in that light, but
acute and incisive, way of talking that throws one off track and takes one by
Your Eminence, you would have spoken about Aparecida at the
Consistory. What for you characterized the fifth General Conference of
the Latin American bishops?
JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO: The Aparecida Conference was a
moment of grace for the Latin American Church.
Yet there was no lack of argument about the closing document…
BERGOGLIO: The concluding document, that was an act of the
Magisterium of the Latin American Church, underwent no manipulation.
Neither from us nor from the Holy See. There were some small re-touchings
of style, of form, and some things that were removed on the one hand were
put back in on the other. The substance, therefore, remained identical, it was
absolutely not changed. The reason for that is because the atmosphere
leading up to the editing of the document was an atmosphere of genuine and
brotherly collaboration, of mutual respect, that characterized the work, work
that moved from below upwards, not vice versa. To understand the
atmosphere one has to look at what for me were the three key points, the
three “pillars” of Aparecida. The first of which was precisely that: from below
upwards. It’s perhaps the first time that one of our General Conferences
didn’t start out from a pre-prepared basic text but from open dialogue, that
had already begun earlier between the CELAM and the Episcopal
Conferences, and that has since continued.
But wasn’t the orientation of the Conference already set out by
the opening speech by Benedict XVI?
BERGOGLIO: The Pope gave general indications on the problems of
Latin America, and then left it open: up to you, up to you! That was very
grand on the Pope’s part. The Conference began with statements from the
twenty-three presidents of the various Episcopal Conferences and from that
discussion opened on the topics in the different groups. The editing phases
of the document were also open to the contributions of all. At the moment
of gathering the “modes”, for the second and third editing, 2,240 arrived!
Our stance was that of receiving everything that came from below, from the
People of God, and to make not so much a synthesis, as a harmony.
An arduous task…
BERGOGLIO: “Harmony”, I said, that’s the right word. In the Church
harmony is the work of the Holy Spirit. One of the early Fathers of the
Church wrote that the Holy Spirit “ipse harmonia est”, He Himself is
harmony. He alone is author at the same time of plurality and of unity. Only
the Spirit can stir diversity, plurality, multiplicity and at the same time make
unity. Because when it’s us who decide to create diversity we create schisms
and when it’s us who decide to create unity we create uniformity, leveling. At
Aparecida we collaborated in this work of the Holy Spirit. And the document,
if one reads it well, one sees that it has circular, harmonic thinking. The
harmony is perceived not as passive, but creative, that urges creativity
because it is of the Spirit.
And what is the second key point?
BERGOGLIO: It’s the first time that a Conference of Latin American
bishops has gathered in a Marian shrine. And the place in itself already
speaks all the meaning. Every morning we recited lauds, we celebrated mass
together with the pilgrims, the believers. On Saturday or Sunday there were
two thousand, five thousand. Celebrating the Eucharist together with the
people is different from celebrating it amongst us bishops separately. That
gave us a live sense of belonging to our people, of the Church that goes
forward as People of God, of us bishops as its servants. The work of the
Conference then went on in a hall below the sanctuary. And from there one
continued to hear the prayers, the hymns of the faithful… In the final
document there is a point that concerns popular piety. They are very fine
pages. And I believe, indeed I am sure, that they were inspired precisely by
that. After those contained in the Evangelii nuntiandi, they are the finest
pages written on popular piety in a document of the Church. Indeed, I would
go so far as to say that the Aparecida document is the Evangelii nuntiandi of
Latin America, it is like the Evangelii nuntiandi.
The Evangelii nuntiandi is an apostolic exhortation about the
missionary spirit.
BERGOGLIO: Exactly. There’s a close similarity also in that. And here I
come to the third point. The Aparecida document isn’t sufficient to itself, it
doesn’t close, it is not the last step, because the final opening is to the
mission. The announcing and the testimony of the disciples. To remain
faithful we need to go outside. Remaining faithful one goes out. That is what
Aparecida says at bottom. That it is the heart of the mission.
Can you explain the image further?
BERGOGLIO: Staying, remaining faithful implies an outgoing.
Precisely if one remains in the Lord one goes out of oneself. Paradoxically
precisely because one remains, precisely if one is faithful one changes. One
does not remain faithful, like the traditionalists or the fundamentalists, to
the letter. Fidelity is always a change, a blossoming, a growth. The Lord
brings about a change in those who are faithful to Him. That is Catholic
doctrine. Saint Vincent of Lerins makes the comparison between the biologic
development of the person, between the person who grows, and the
Tradition which, in handing on the depositum fidei from one age to another,
grows and consolidates with the passage of time: “Ut annis scilicet
consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate”.
Is this what you would have said at the Consistory?
BERGOGLIO: Yes. I would have spoken about these three key points.
Nothing else?
BERGOGLIO: Nothing else… No, perhaps I would have mentioned two
things of which there is need in this moment, there is more need: mercy,
mercy and apostolic courage.
What do they mean to you?
BERGOGLIO: To me apostolic courage is disseminating. Disseminating
the Word. Giving it to that man and to that woman for whom it was
bestowed. Giving them the beauty of the Gospel, the amazement of the
encounter with Jesus… and leaving it to the Holy Spirit to do the rest. It is
the Lord, says the Gospel, who makes the seed spring and bear fruit.
In short, it is the Holy Spirit who performs the mission.
BERGOGLIO: The early theologians said: the soul is a kind of sailing
boat, the Holy Spirit is the wind that blows in the sail, to send it on its way,
the impulses and the force of the wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Without His
drive, without His grace, we don’t go ahead. The Holy Spirit lets us enter the
mystery of God and saves us from the danger of a gnostic Church and from
the danger of a self-referential Church, leading us to the mission.
That means also overthrowing all your functionalist solutions,
your consolidated plans and pastoral systems …
BERGOGLIO: I didn’t say that pastoral systems are useless. On the
contrary. In itself everything that leads by the paths of God is good. I have
told my priests: “Do everything you should, you know your duties as
ministers, take your responsibilities and then leave the door open”. Our
sociologists of religion tell us that the influence of a parish has a radius of six
hundred meters. In Buenos Aires there are about two thousand meters
between one parish and the next. So I then told the priests: “If you can, rent
a garage and, if you find some willing layman, let him go there! Let him be
with those people a bit, do a little catechesis and even give communion if
they ask him”. A parish priest said to me: “But Father, if we do this the
people then won’t come to church”. “But why?” I asked him: “Do they come
to mass now?” “No”, he answered. And so! Coming out of oneself is also
coming out from the fenced garden of one’s own convictions, considered
irremovable, if they risk becoming an obstacle, if they close the horizon that
is also of God.

This is valid also for lay people…

BERGOGLIO: Their clericalization is a problem. The priests clericalize
the laity and the laity beg us to be clericalized… It really is sinful abetment.
And to think that baptism alone could suffice. I’m thinking of those
Christian communities in Japan that remained without priests for more than
two hundred years. When the missionaries returned they found them all
baptized, all validly married for the Church and all their dead had had a
Catholic funeral. The faith had remained intact through the gifts of grace
that had gladdened the life of a laity who had received only baptism and had
also lived their apostolic mission in virtue of baptism alone. One must not be
afraid of depending only on His tenderness… Do you know the biblical
episode of the prophet Jonah?
I don’t remember it. Tell us.
BERGOGLIO: Jonah had everything clear. He had clear ideas about
God, very clear ideas about good and evil. On what God does and on what
He wants, on who was faithful to the Covenant and who instead was outside
the Covenant. He had the recipe for being a good prophet. God broke into
his life like a torrent. He sent him to Nineveh. Nineveh was the symbol of all
the separated, the lost, of all the peripheries of humanity. Of all those who
are outside, forlorn. Jonah saw that the task set on him was only to tell all
those people that the arms of God were still open, that the patience of God
was there and waiting, to heal them with His forgiveness and nourish them
with His tenderness. Only for that had God sent him. He sent him to
Nineveh, but he instead ran off in the opposite direction, toward Tarsis.
Running away from a difficult mission…
BERGOGLIO: No. What he was fleeing was not so much Nineveh as
the boundless love of God for those people. It was that that didn’t come into
his plans. God had come once… “and I’ll see to the rest”: that’s what Jonah
told himself. He wanted to do things his way, he wanted to steer it all. His
stubbornness shut him in his own structures of evaluation, in his preordained
methods, in his righteous opinions. He had fenced his soul off with
the barbed wire of those certainties that instead of giving freedom with God
and opening horizons of greater service to others had finished by deafening
his heart. How the isolated conscience hardens the heart! Jonah no longer
knew that God leads His people with the heart of a Father.
A great many of us can identify with Jonah.
BERGOGLIO: Our certainties can become a wall, a jail that imprisons
the Holy Spirit. Those who isolate their conscience from the path of the
people of God don’t know the joy of the Holy Spirit that sustains hope. That
is the risk run by the isolated conscience. Of those who from the closed
world of their Tarsis complain about everything or, feeling their identity
threatened, launch themselves into battles only in the end to be still more
self-concerned and self-referential.
What should one do?
BERGOGLIO: Look at our people not for what it should be but for
what it is and see what is necessary. Without preconceptions and recipes but
with generous openness. For the wounds and the frailty God spoke. Allowing
the Lord to speak… In a world that we can’t manage to interest with the
words we say, only His presence that loves us, saves us, can be of interest.
The apostolic fervor renews itself in order to testify to Him who has loved us
from the beginning.
For you, then, what is the worst thing that can happen in the
BERGOGLIO: It is what De Lubac calls “spiritual worldliness”. It is the
greatest danger for the Church, for us, who are in the Church. “It is worse”,
says De Lubac, “more disastrous than the infamous leprosy that disfigured
the dearly beloved Bride at the time of the libertine popes”. Spiritual
worldliness is putting oneself at the center. It is what Jesus saw going on
among the Pharisees: “… You who glorify yourselves. Who give glory to
yourselves, the ones to the others”.
The Holy Spirit defender and consoler
Translation of the homily of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the Basilica of
Saint Laurence Outside the Walls during the mass with the conferring of the
Sacrament of Confirmation during the solemnity of Pentecost Rome 4 June
Now you will have the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches us that the Holy Spirit
is a gift that He sends us from Heaven. It is indeed important to have the
Holy Spirit over us. What will the Holy Spirit do? We have heard: “The Holy
Spirit , whom Jesus will give you, will lead you to complete truth”. What does
this mean? That the Holy Spirit combats evils.
The Holy Spirit comes over us and in us. He guides us. He reminds us
of everything that Jesus has taught us. He guides us straight along the path,
in situations that perhaps now we can’t imagine. He guides us. The Holy
Spirit guides us and insures that we have two very important attitudes. If we
all have these two important attitudes in life, that are two virtues, we will
have the full happiness of the Holy Spirit, the consolation of the Holy Spirit.
The first is the meekness that says: “Don’t quarrel, brothers, you are my sons,
good, beloved”. The Lord has told us the Spirit teaches us to be as brothers
among ourselves, therefore to love each other, to be united. The second
virtue seems contrary but is not contrary: it is strength. Strength is the
witness of Jesus Christ. Strength gives witness to Jesus: of not being afraid to
be Christian. This the Holy Spirit will give us.
The Gospel calls Him the interior consoler, because he gives us
consolation. He gives you peace. The Gospel also calls him the defender, the
advocate. It is understood that the accuser is the devil. The devil accuses us.
He accuses us because he wants us to be sad, he wants us with a bitter heart,
sad. The Holy Spirit gives a heart sweet with meekness and a heart strong
with strength, according to the teachings of Jesus full of joy.
You candidates for confirmation, who will now receive the Holy Spirit,
pray for this small community of yourselves, who today, as the first apostles,
is formed in this church. Remember that the consolation of the Holy Spirit
makes us as children. We must remain as children, because the Lord wants
us to be children andour mother is the Madonna, and now I invite you,
candidates for Confirmation, to pray to the Madonna. Stand up,
Confirmation candidates, along with me, and with me, you are ready for the
Holy Spirit and pray with me.
Let us say:
Come, Holy Spirit, through Mary.
Come, Holy Spirit, through Mary.
Come, Holy Spirit, through Mary.
Remember to hold the hand of the Madonna because if you have the
Holy Spirit and hold your hand in the Madonna’s hand you will be happy.
All the articles above were extracted from 30 Days magazine:

No comments: