The Liberty of Expression in the Church


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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2010 ( The Church has a great capacity to listen to people and thus allows for a generous liberty of expression, says the archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.

Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, president of the Bolivian episcopal conference, affirmed this in a conversation with ZENIT while he was in Rome for a May 24 meeting with Benedict XVI.

The prelate's audience took place a week after Bolivian President Evo Morales met with the Pope on May 17. The president later told the press that he spoke with the Pontiff on topics such as the "rights of mother earth" and the commitment the Church should have toward immigrants.

According to Morales, he also presented a request to the Holy Father to "democratize the Church," allowing women to be ordained and abolishing priestly celibacy.

The Vatican press office reported that the dialogue addressed "questions concerning the current international and regional situation, and on the need to develop greater social awareness for the protection of the environment."

It added that the president and the Pope discussed "the situation in Bolivia itself, in particular collaboration between Church and State in the areas of education, health care, and social policies in defence of the weakest."

ZENIT asked Cardinal Terrazas to comment on this meeting between Benedict XVI and the Bolivian president, and to describe the current situation of the Church in that country.

ZENIT: Can you tell us about your May 24 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI?

Cardinal Terrazas: A meeting with the Pope is always something gratifying, especially for those of us who come from afar.

This was first an ecclesial experience, of faith, of adherence to all that he teaches us and also of listening, to see his concerns and desires so that our Latin America can be renewed with the continental mission, which is one of the points that the Holy Father addressed with much concern and hope.

ZENIT: How is the topic of the continental mission developing in the dioceses of your country?

Cardinal Terrazas: We are doing everything possible for it to really advance.

Bolivia is an enormous territory -- 1,098,581 square kilometers [424,164 square miles] -- with a small population (some 8.3 million inhabitants). The churches are making notable efforts to reach all corners and places of the country and then to move on from this time of concentration and of making known what the permanent mission is.

Last Sunday, with the solemnity of Pentecost, a stage began of in-depth reflection on the subjects of this mission.

ZENIT: What is your opinion on President Evo Morales' statements after his private audience with Pope Benedict XVI?

Cardinal Terrazas: I think that these meetings should always be held to seek the good of peoples.

I won't say any more because they are topics he addressed with the Holy Father, but I think we must stress that our Church has a great capacity to listen, even to those things that perhaps are not very urgent.

This requires me to say that there is a very great liberty of expression in the Church and that is perhaps what our president took advantage of.

ZENIT: What are the main challenges for the Church in Bolivia?

Cardinal Terrazas: Our Church, as all the [local] Churches of Latin America, with the exception of course of some small groups, has always manifested itself with a strong ecclesial communion with the Holy Father and adherence to his teaching. I believe that the episcopates move in that perspective and also all the organizations of the People of God.

I believe the main challenge is to maintain this unity, to make it patent in difficult moments, to express it, as all the [bishops'] conferences have done, because of all the problems that have arisen with our priests.

I think the main challenge will always be to maintain ecclesial communion with everyone: with our priests, with our laity, with religious. A unity that every day is more the expression of what the Lord said: "That they may be one, as the Father and the Son are one."

ZENIT: What are the principal riches of the faith of the Bolivian people?

Cardinal Terrazas: I believe their great popular piety is one of the greatest, intangible and also untouchable riches at this time, because despite all the threats, the existence of other forms of religious expressions, which can come in, and have come in from outside, the People of God are renewing or updating the fruits of yore, always having great love for the Lord, a great love for the Virgin, and above all for the crucified Lord which is, perhaps, one of the most extraordinary points of these religious expressions.