Between 19 and 20 November, the first Theological-Philosophical Symposium on the Magisterium of Pope Francis took place at the San Juan María Vianney Priestly House in Havana. The initiative of the Archdiocese of Havana was carried out in partnership with the International Seminary on Trinitarian Anthropology that the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) promotes annually and in conjunction with the Latin American and Caribbean Section of the University Institute of Sophia. The organization and management of the event was carried out by the Ecclesial Network of Advanced Studies of Cuba (REEAC).
The meeting was an open space, aimed at a group of priests, religious, teachers and lay people in general, seriously committed in different ways to the pastoral work of the Church of Cuba. The conferences addressed current core topics such as that given by Dr. Peter Casarella with the title “The Culture of Encounter in Pope Francis”, or the one pronounced by the first Latin American doctor in Theology by the Gregorian University of Rome, Dr. Clara Bingemer, “The Trinitarian dimension of the woman-male and laity-clergy relationship”. They were among the renowned theologians of Latin America, in addition to the Italian Piero Coda, rector of the Sophia University Institute and member of the International Theological Commission, who delveed into the theme “Communication and dialogue from a Trinitarian perspective”.
On the conduct of this symposium, the participation of CELAM, and the origin and nature of REEAC, Palabra Nueva spoke with MsC. André Barros, coordinator of REEAC, and with the Secretary General of CELAM, Msgr. Juan Espinoza, present in Cuba during those days
Andrés, how and why did REEAC come about, who are the ones who make it up?
“The first thing I want to say is that it is not a new institution, a new structure that was born in the Church of Havana. The Network simply wants to be that: a network, a collaborative platform. It is an interdisciplinary space promoted by the Archdiocese of Havana, at the service of the entire Cuban Church, with the aim of joining forces and articulating effective cooperation between the various Catholic organizations dedicated to complementary education on the island.
“For this it aims to create conditions and environments where different experiences and knowledge in teaching, research and extension can be shared and articulated organically, as well as available human resources and physical structures. None of this as an end in itself, but as a possibility of openness to all the reality and varied complexity of Cuban culture, in the same spirit of the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who calls us to be an outing Church, a Church identified with the riches and needs of the peoples where it is located and to which it serves. In other words, what we intend is to build spaces of dialogue and coexistence between different cultural and spiritual realities called, by origin and vocation, to the construction of a more fraternal and supportive society.
“The council is composed of representatives of these different church educational institutions, Calasanz Center, Loyola Center, Lateran, Varela, Bioethics Center, etc.”.
How long has the Network been working? What other events have you held and what future plans do you have?
We’re working next February. This is the second time the Network has shown up to promote an event and probably many of you have never heard of it. The first time was with the Symposium Pensar la Isla and the theme ‘The Cuban in poetry, sixty years later’, which was held in the magna classroom of the Padre Félix Varela Cultural Center between October 11 and 13 of this year. On that occasion we invited five Cuban poets to present lectures that addressed the national reality from poetry.
“We have many future plans, but we will only need them after the next meeting of the coordinating team. However, we already collaborate with research, scholarship management and other activities.”
Why make this symposium in Havana?
“I believe that part of the answer can be found in the teachings that Pope Francis himself left us during his pastoral visit to our country, in 2015. In the midst of his ministry, Francis came to help us understand the specific vocation we have to live within the general vocation of the entire universal Church which is to proclaim and update the presence of the Kingdom of God in the world.
“In line with his predecessors, St John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Francis indicated to us the way of dialogue as the vocation to which we are called by living in a geographical and cultural area that is configured as a space of connection between worlds whose relations have rarely been harmonic and dialogical.
“Because of its historical, geographical and cultural circumstances, Cuba has received a kind of natural call to dialogue, the mission of making a bridge between peoples. From his own gaze, it is his turn to open up as a meeting point between different looks that aspire to meet in friendship.
“And that’s why we’re here, that’s the importance of us making this symposium in Havana. We want to learn to dialogue together. We want to prepare to respond to requests from the Spirit and history in a plural world. We want to train ourselves mentally and spiritually to overcome our wounds, to walk with open arms, to march with hope to the encounter of our vocation.”
How was coordination with this group of theologians, philosophers and researchers and CELAM possible?
“The International Seminary on Trinitarian Anthropology, that is, this group of magnificent theologians, philosophers and researchers, has been operating for six years. While in Mexico at a meeting last year, the idea arose and we agreed on the importance of making this symposium in Havana. The issue of anthropology is, in my view, fundamental in Cuba, as is the formation of a culture of dialogue.”
Why do you think dialogue in Cuba so important?
“Of course, the dynamics of dialogue give us the opportunity for reconciliation, it broadens the horizons of life.
“The relationship between different partners is always enriching and transforms us profun-demente, into a constructive process aimed at mutual knowledge and mutual enrichment. Dialogue leads to the expansion of the space. If it is authentic, it produces the expansion of individualities.
“On the other hand, overcoming the barriers of differences and embracing diversity is a big challenge. Differences can often arouse suspicion, worry, and engender conflict. True dialogue has nothing to do with uninformed delight and naive interest in the exotic, but with deep existential commitment and work for the other. Believing that dialogue is possible does not mean ignoring real difficulties of understanding.
“True dialogue involves a delicate and demanding colloquium between different interlocutors, animated by well-founded convictions determined to find similarities in difference. It’s not about looking for a reality that turns off or squats on distinctions, it’s about appropriating new possibilities.
“One of the most open documents of the Catholic Magisterium, Dialogue and Proclamation, 1991, which deals more precisely with interreligious dialogue, states: ‘Deep dialogue requires the interlocutors to be transformed by encounter’ (DA, 47). But it also reminds us that those involved in the conversation must maintain the strength of their own faith.
“It is necessary to love and respect the tradition to which one belongs. In other words, to open onese to dialogue and all its risks it is essential that one feels ‘domiciled’ in one’s own faith, in his deep convictions.
“That is, the essential challenge of self-opposition to the other must be added to the ge-nuino self-respect, because to be challenged by the truth of the other does not mean abandoning oneseal to a loose pluralism, which would be an easy pluralism, but also a false plu-ralism.
“As Francis told the community of the Focolare Movement of Loppiano, Italy, last May 10, to ‘build a shared culture of encounter it is necessary to prepare to chart new paths and walk them together’. It is necessary to learn the culture of unity, which has nothing to do with uniformity.
What impressions do you get from the event?
“I was quite shocked. Listening to people’s thanks, I felt that feeling I discovered six years ago when I arrived in Cuba. Cubans have a mission and almost a duty for their history, geographical location and culture, to be configured as that contact space in all directions. I felt the absolute need to build bridges, to make new relationships, to dialogue. The participation was one hundred people and that also impressed me a lot. This event has left marks and will surely open the way.”
Word New also spoke with Msgr. Juan Espinoza, who attended the symposium on behalf of CELAM.
Monsignor, how important is this symposium in Cuba to you?
“The importance is that this encounter with people who work directly in the different pastoral works leaves seeds. I’m sure it won’t be in words what’s been experienced these days. I have perceived a very good level of preparation in those present. People of faith and love for the Church. And both for them and for us it has been a very good opportunity to share and learn.”
The theme “Towards a culture of encounter for a pastoral care in Trinitarian key” has been intended for Cubans?
“CELAM holds meetings of this type and with other formats in different countries. Not always with this team. Cuba is the meeting place. That is why we have planned to make this symposium with an important theme that it undoubtedly humanizes. It is necessary to accept differences, what we think is to promote the culture of encounter that the Pope constantly reminds us of. In this key, a dialogue involving listening, responsibility, which leads solidarity, to the common good, to the pursuit of justice, to the pursuit of peace is necessary.”
What future plans does CELAM and the Cuban Church have after the experience of this meeting?
“I believe that from this meeting we will surely enter into dialogue with the bishops of the conference and see what else we can collaborate on. We also hold meetings in other countries where representatives of Latin America go. Cuba has not always been able to be and I know the difficulties they have. You can be sure that CELAM will be attentive and attentive to what you need and will always accompany the Cuban Church.”
The true success of these meetings will be given by the seeds that participants can sow in their communities, by constancy in the proclamation of the gospel. Let us pray that together we can walk towards a culture of encounter. Ω