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2003-07-03

AMERICA/ARGENTINA - IN THE PRESENT SITUATION OF CRISIS THE CHURCH HAS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN BUILDING A NEW SOCIETY IN THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL VALUES: INTERVIEW WITH ARCHBISHOP GUILLERMO JOSE GARLATTI, OF BAHIA BLANCA

Vatican City (Fides Service) – Archbishop Guillermo Jose Garlatti, of Bahia Blanca, one of the 42 new Archbishops who received their Pallium from the hands of the Pope in Rome on June 29, told Fides Service about the role of the Church in Argentina and the main challenges it faces.

What is the present situation in Argentina?
For two years, as everyone knows, our country has been struggling with a serious crisis which has caused above all economic and political problems and led to a loss of confidence in the political leaders. This has provoked a weakening of the government which finds it even more difficult to keep the present situation under control. The root of all these troubles, as we have said on various occasions, is ethic and moral: widespread corruption in every sector of society.

What is the role of the Church in this situation?
The Church is anxious to help in every way to find a solution to the crisis and to meet the arising necessities. The Argentinean Bishops’ Conference continues to launch appeals to institutions, political parties, the government, society in general. When the crisis struck the Church worked to promote dialogue setting up a Table of Argentinean Dialogue striving to involve as many structures, institutions, associations as possible to elaborate a minimum plan to start a process of reforming the country. However the initiative was not as successful as we had hoped, there was little participation, nevertheless dialogue continues.
In their respective dioceses as part of social pastoral care, the Bishops are trying with various initiatives to involve everyone with a constructive spirit of responsibility. They aim above all to meet the needs of large sectors of society, the poor and excluded who are particularly affected by the crisis. It must be said that Caritas Argentina has played an important part in coping with the crisis to alleviate the suffering and meet necessities. It has been and still is a major agent of assistance greatly appreciated all over the country.
The Church realises that it has an important task in this crisis because it is a situation that arises from a society which is sick and has lost many values. In this perspective the evangelising role of the Church in the light of the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching is vitally important for the building of a new society. This is the only way to solve the crisis. Unless the rebuilding of the nation is founded on ethic and moral values which lead to the rebirth of institutions which have been discredited and to recompose the structures of society in every sector, any other measures taken will be only transitional certainly not lasting.

Besides commitment to overcome the social and political crisis what other challenges face the Church in Argentina?
On the whole, and in my diocese especially, we give great attention to new evangelisation. This means focusing on formation in its different aspects, so that it may lead to serious work in the apostolate. Another concern is encouraging vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. Although we do need well formed committed laity, we also have urgent need of priest sand the example of consecrated life, according to the different charisma which enrich the Church. Argentina has a great need of vocations. In my dioceses the problem is acute and urgent: our priests are few and elderly.
Other challenges are to foster more authentic Christian way of life, in a spirit of the Gospel; to make the Church present in all fields, culture, economy, education…that lay people are Christians not only because they pray and go to Mass but that all this is projected on society. The great evils gripping our society show that, although it claims to be a Christian society, Gospel values do not prevail in our culture. This challenge must be seriously taken up.

How is Argentina preparing for CAM 2?
In every diocese in Argentina there is great missionary attention and various missionary groups exist. We will not be able to take part directly in the 2nd all American Mission Congress for financial reasons, we cannot afford the expenses. Nevertheless we are working to increase mission awareness and apostolic commitment. In fact we see a growing missionary spirit among young lay people who decide to work for the missions for a period of time. This is also a challenge for the Church in Argentina: vocations for mission ad gentes RG (Fides Service 3/7/2003 EM lines 60Words: 778)

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