El papa Francisco en tierra de nadie

New York Times (en español)

>>>Pope Francis in no man’s land

January 21, 2018

By Rafael Gumucio

Santiago – Este es un país muy desconfiado. La presidenta Michelle Bachelet se lo advirtió al papa Francisco no bien pisó Chile el 15 de enero. Cuatro días de visita por el centro, sur y extremo norte del país no bastaron para disipar esa desconfianza. En Chile, Francisco se convirtió en la prueba viva de que no hay nada más estrecho que el ancho camino del medio: en su breve pontificado ha logrado defraudar las esperanzas de conservadores y progresistas.

En cinco años, el papa ha visitado países de mayoría musulmana, judía, protestante, y ateos, todos ellos con razonable público y sin demasiados escándalos. En Chile enfrentaba quizás un reto mayor. Los chilenos, como muchas sociedades que han prosperado bruscamente, no solo han perdido la fe, sino que la han remplazado por un cada vez más activo anticlericalismo. Los 80 casos conocidos de abuso sexual perpetrados por miembros del clero en Chile le han dado alas a un sentimiento antirreligioso que tiene su manifestación más extrema en la quema de iglesias en el sur de Chile, presuntamente a manos de grupos mapuches.

La Iglesia chilena necesitaba un milagro de Francisco. El primer discurso del papa en el Palacio de la Moneda parecía una señal astuta y equilibrada de que había comprendido la dimensión del desafío. Francisco empezó su visita citando a Gabriela Mistral para alabar los logros de la democracia chilena. Sin demorarse ni un minuto pidió perdón a las víctimas de los abusos sexuales, usando sin eufemismo la palabra “vergüenza” para calificar lo que la Iglesia debía sentir ante la reiteración de esos casos.

[Google Translation: This is a very distrustful country. President Michelle Bachelet warned Pope Francis as soon as he stepped on Chile on January 15. Four days of visits to the center, south and far north of the country were not enough to dispel this distrust. In Chile, Francisco became the living proof that there is nothing narrower than the broad middle way: in his brief pontificate he managed to defraud the hopes of conservatives and progressives.

In five years, the pope has visited countries of Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, and atheist majority, all of them with reasonable public and without too many scandals. In Chile he faced perhaps a greater challenge. Chileans, like many societies that have prospered abruptly, not only have lost faith , but have replaced it with an increasingly active anticlericalism. The 80 known cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy in Chile have given wings to an anti-religious sentiment that has its most extreme manifestation in the burning of churches in southern Chile , presumably at the hands of Mapuche groups.

The Chilean Church needed a miracle from Francisco. The pope’s first speech at the Palacio de la Moneda seemed a clever and balanced sign that he had understood the dimension of the challenge. Francisco began his visit by quoting Gabriela Mistral to praise the achievements of Chilean democracy. Without waiting for a minute, he apologized to the victims of the sexual abuse, using without euphemism the word “shame” to describe what the Church should feel about the repetition of those cases.

In an equally astute way, Francisco began his visit just where the one of Juan Pablo II, 31 years ago, had failed in the most resounding way. In the O’Higgins Park, the Polish Pope saw from the altar how his parishioners faced with the police of the dictatorship. His attempts to calm the crowd were useless. More than 600 people were injured in the fray. Francisco, in the same place, greeted a calm and happy crowd of more than 400,000 people. Right there, however, he finished his honeymoon with the Chileans. The television cameras caught Bishop Juan Barros Madrid among the participants of the mass , indicated by the victims of Father Karadima as a cover-up for sexual abuse.

[Display Type: Pope Francis has been unable to connect with the heart of either of the two churches that divide the heritage of St. Peter and St. Paul, the progressive and the conservative.]

The resisted bishop of Osorno suddenly took away any visibility from the pope, who confirmed again his confidence in the innocence of the prelate and his anger against anyone who doubted him. The tears that he would have shed in a private encounter with anonymous victims of the clergy’s sexual abuse failed to calm the uncomfortable questions and the uncomfortable emplacements that followed him in every place where his slow walk and tired smile tried to reach him. The pope, who was supposed to come to give us his peace, ended up trying to slander anyone who dares to question Barros. An abrupt “Is that clear?” left the question settled. The Pope of simplicity was once again the authoritarian and determined Cardinal Bergoglio who so feared his Argentine Jesuit brothers.

Neither Temuco nor Iquique nor Maipú managed to fill the immense esplanades that awaited him. His use of Argentine lunfardo or his attempts to introduce juvenile jargon – he spoke of “vocational selfie ” – or popular to his speeches failed to seduce more than those who were already convinced in advance. The Pope of all was, in the end, nobody’s pope; the shame that he expressed feeling for sexual abuse ended up infecting his entire visit, considered by the most varied vaticanistas the most disastrous of which he has undertaken.

In Chile, the tragedy that has marked the entire papacy of Francisco, its inability to reconcile what remains of the Church of John XXIII with the still almighty Church of John Paul II, was staged with special cruelty. In the seventies and eighties the theology of liberation sowed and harvested bishops, priests, thinkers and martyrs throughout Chile. John Paul II punished with special zeal this Church of the poor organized into very active grassroots communities. Since then, the Chilean Church spent all the prestige gained in the dictatorship in trying to prevent the law of divorce, equal marriage or any type of abortion. During his visit, Francisco ignored any of these topics. The conservative hierarchy left by the Polish pope did not fail to note that signal.

For the conservatives, Francisco will always be a Jesuit more concerned with the life of women in prison than with the rights of unborn fetuses. For the progressives, however, Francisco has not ceased to be the pope who defends Bishop Barros, representative of everything that has led the people away from the churches: not only sexual abuse but a distant and courtly style that prefers to remain well with the hierarchy that calm the anxieties of their parishioners. The pope, who wants shepherds with the smell of sheep, ended up defending one that smells of expensive Vatican perfume. Francisco ended up being the face of a Church that imposes from above appointments resisted by the faithful.

The humility of the customs of this Pope does not fit his impatient and derogatory character that does not bite his tongue to condemn and that is rather more cautious when it comes to celebrating. Unable to connect with the heart of one of the two churches that divide the heritage of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the progressive and the conservative, he has achieved what is supposed to be his land, Latin America, to be a perfect stranger.

Rafael Gumucio is a Chilean writer and directs the Institute of Humor Studies of the Diego Portales University in Santiago. His most recent novel is “The imperfect heartthrob”.]

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