‘No Christian Experience Without Personal Encounter with Jesus’
Interview with Archbishop Jorge Eduardo Lozano, Secretary-General of CELAM
The Pope receives Mons. Lozano, February 2022
“There is no Christian experience without a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Without this dimension, the faith becomes ideology and the mission simple propaganda. Communion with Christ is also a renewed bond with brothers and sisters,” says Archbishop Jorge Eduardo Lozano.
Exaudi talked with the Secretary-General of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) about the recent Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean, and about the challenges it posed, as well as his recent appointment as Member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication.
Moreover, given that he was Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires when the Archbishop was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he talks about his relationship with Pope Francis. “It was a wonderful experience of communion and mission. To see him work, pray, be close to the poor was a witness that unsettled me. And now, as Pope, he continues to live the Gospel simply and eloquently. He is a man of God, passionate for Jesus and His people.”
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Exaudi: Just as Monsignor Cabrejos told us, in the conversation with Pope Francis during the audience with CELAM’s Presidency in September of 2019, the Holy Father said it was necessary to take up in the present times the conclusions of Aparecida, both in the Region as well as in the universal Church, and to assume the profound sense of the Continental Mission as Church in a “missionary going forth.” This Assembly arose as fruit of this conversation. How do you think this event has been useful to stimulate this pointer of the Holy Father regionally and universally?
Monsignor Jorge Lozano: The Ecclesial Assembly is a process that is still underway. The Pope has stimulated us on a path in which we must seek the participation of the People of God. The Listening Phase received contributions from more than 70,000 people and was very fruitful. We have perceived the desire to take up Francis’ call to be a missionary Church going forth to proclaim joyfully the love of God.
Exaudi: The last challenges of the recent Ecclesial Assembly certainly respond to the needs of the present-day Church: young people, victims of injustices, defense of life, participation of women and the laity in ecclesial life, synodality in face of clericalism, to hear the cry of the poor, the excluded and the rejected. Which do you think is the most urgent and/or primordial need?
Monsignor Jorge Lozano: I would say that all the challenges move us to the encounter with Christ and brothers, for which a determined pastoral conversion is necessary.
Exaudi: The 9th, “In the light of the Word of God and Vatican II, to renew our concept and experience as Church People of God, in communion with the richness of its ministeriality, which avoids clericalism and fosters pastoral conversion. In what does this “pastoral conversion consist? How can we feel ourselves the whole People of God, and especially the laity, called by this challenge to contribute to this conversion?
Monsignor Jorge Lozano: The “subject” of pastoral conversion is the Church in all her expressions, the Christian communities. The Pope has pointed out that the Book of the Acts of the Apostle must be our reference at this time. It’s a conversion of mind, heart, structures, and attitudes. An experience in which all the charisms, vocations, and ministries have their proper place.
Exaudi: Number 11 invites to “foster a personal encounter with Jesus Christ incarnate in the reality of the Continent.” Can you explain the radical necessity of this experience to truly awaken a coherent life of faith able to foster awareness of the most acute human needs (the injustices, poverty, physical and psychic wounds of one’s neighbor. . . )?
Monsignor Jorge Lozano: There is no Christian experience without a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Without this dimension, the faith becomes ideology, and the mission simply propaganda. Communion with Christ is also a renewed bond with brothers and sisters. Contact with the poor isn’t philanthropy, but to touch and heal Christ’s wounds in the suffering people.
Exaudi: The Ecclesial Assembly was a synodal event, antechamber of the Synod on Synodality, whose diocesan process has already become and will culminate in Rome in 2023. What does it mean to engage in process of listening and exchange within the Church? What would be the best way to foster this synodality, which the Holy Father describes as “the path that God expects from the Church of the third millennium?
Monsignor Jorge Lozano: The Ecclesial Assembly is a synodal event, and it was thought out thus from the beginning. We were in full preparation when, in the month of May of 2021, the Pope announced the Synod in 2023, convoking all the People of God to take part in diocesan, national and Continental agencies, to be part of the universality.
The best way to foster this convocation is to take up the motto “communion, participation and mission.”
Exaudi: Pope Francis appointed you recently a member of the Dicastery for Communication in the Vatican. What has this post meant for you? What do you think are the Church’s challenges in this area?
Monsignor Jorge Lozano: This assignment implies responsibility in collaborating with the Pope in one of the organizations of service of the universal Church. In this connection, it means more work and joy in taking part in initiatives and yearnings of the Holy Father.
One of the challenges is to be able to make it possible to communicate the experience of an encounter with Christ, and to make the Church’s initiatives known in the different cultures and geographies.
Exaudi: Given that for years you knew and worked closely with the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, we didn’t want to miss the occasion for you to tell us what the figure of the present Holy Father has meant and means to you…
Monsignor Jorge Lozano: I had the grace of being Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires from 2000 to 2006, when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was Archbishop. It was a wonderful experience of communion and mission. To see him work, pray, be close to the poor was a witness that unsettled me. And now, as Pope, he continues to live the Gospel simply and eloquently. He is a man of God, passionate about Jesus and His people.
Exaudi: Finally, Exaudi, a Catholic news agency born with the objective to evangelize and promote the unity of the Church with the Pope, will be just one year old in March. Can you say a few words of encouragement?
Monsignor Jorge Lozano: To communicate the life of the Church is much more than to make known an agenda of activities or paragraphs of an address. It’s to make present a community of men and women of faith, enamored of Jesus, who let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.
I congratulate you on this initiative, and I thank God for encouraging the hearts of those that communicate Words of life.