and the Pope
Interview with the Rector Major
During the retreat he led for the North and South American provincials at Campos do Jordão, Brazil, Fr. Pascual Chavez gave an interview that was published in the Santa Teresinha Parish bulletin. He spoke of the Salesian Family’s relationship with Pope Benedict XVI and the role of the Holy Father, as well as the challenges that await Benedict’s successor.
|Fr. Chavez, in his capacity of president of the Union of Superiors General, addressing Benedict XVI in 2010|
In your message responding to the Pope’s stepping down, you said that Benedict XVI had been very generous to the Salesian Family. Can you give me an idea of some of the things Benedict XVI did during his pontificate for the Salesian Family?
The Holy Father, Benedict XVI, was a person who appreciated the Congregation and the Salesian Family very much. In a personal meeting with him, when I drew his attention to Mama Margaret, he demonstrated his knowledge of Don Bosco’s life and his mother’s life too. I had the chance to meet him often when he was vacationing at the Salesian house at Les Combes and each year at our parish at Castel Gandolfo, on the Feast of the Assumption. I always found him a man and a father of great kindness and gentleness; a true icon of God’s love.
The Holy Father showed us a gesture of particular predilection for our general chapter in 2008, receiving us and offering us a very significant message from a charismatic point of view. He greeted each one of the general councilors. Benedict XVI knows our Congregation well, and several times in his letter addressed to our 26th General Chapter he expressed his esteem for the life and apostolic activity of our Family.
Don Bosco always asked that the Salesian Family give unconditional obedience to the Pope. Do you think this request is still valid today, when dialog is very much to the fore? Why?
Don Bosco’s attitude had its roots in faith. He saw, and we share this view, the Holy Father as the Vicar of Christ, and his unconditional obedience was an act of love for both the Lord Jesus Christ and the Church, and the Pope. Don Bosco’s attitude is a fine legacy for us. We too are ready for total obedience to what the Pope asks us to do, even if such requests today follow the path of discussion, dialog, and the common search for truth.
For the Salesian Family what would be the ideal features of the next Pope?
We know that the Holy Spirit is at work and that the Pope to be elected will be someone who can best interpret the role of the Petrine ministry according to God’s heart. Looking at the Church today, we want to ask the Lord for a Pope who is open to all the situations experienced by Christians and Catholics, as found across all the continents in their cultural circumstances. We hope for a great openness to the least, the poor, the little ones who have always been the first beneficiaries of the Kingdom of God. We ask the Lord that the Holy Father will be attentive to young people, who as always are the hope of the Church. We also hope for a new and generous attention to women, recognizing that women in the Church have always been generously committed to the service of catechetics, charity, and many other ministries on behalf of the ecclesial community. I would also hope for greater consideration of consecrated life on the Church’s part. Today, tried as we are by secularism and religious indifference, religious men and women are testimony to the living God, and this means that their most important mission is to interpret the Gospel radically, incarnating the very life of Jesus in their being and action.
What do you think are the main challenges awaiting the Pope to help young people become active players in their own lives?
I believe that the biggest challenge today is, first of all, a profound renewal of evangelization. The Church needs to be close to all people, especially the young, and be able to communicate joyfully the “good news” that God loves the world, loves mankind.
We have to remove the suspicion by the young that God is someone opposed to their happiness, and invite them instead to discover that the God who reveals himself in Jesus is Love. Young people themselves need to become active witnesses of authentic freedom by choosing values that incarnate the Gospel; by dedication to building a new society; by accepting active responsibility for committed citizenship; by living their lives as a positive response to great matters of love, family, solidarity, life understood as a specific calling to build the Kingdom of God.
In what way can the Salesian Family contribute to the success of the next pontificate?
The Salesian Family is a Christian entity forever at the Church’s service following a particular charism, the salvation of the young. In all its circumstances and through its various groups; it works to “build up the Church” at local and global level. It is committed especially to the field of education; which is always the primary element in forming today’s young people to authentic human and Gospel criteria. A further basic point is its commitment to evangelization addressed not only to people who do not know the Gospel, but also those who want to undergo a journey of growth in faith and charity as indicated in the Gospel.
Education and evangelization are inseparable activities. One cannot educate authentically without anchoring the person in the great gift of Christ’s humanity – Christ who is both Son of God and Son of man.