Edinson FarfanThe layperson is not second class, we are all part of the People of God".

The Church is on the way to a Synod of Bishops to be held in Rome in October 2023. In each country the conclusions of the regional synods are being finalized. We interviewed Monsignor Farfán, responsible for this task in Peru. 

Jesus Colquepisco-August 12, 2022-Reading time: 10 minutes

Photo: Monsignor Farfán during a pastoral visit.

Monsignor Edinson Farfán Córdova, OSA, is the Bishop of the Prelature of Chuquibambilla (Apurímac, Peru) and Coordinator of the Synod in the Peruvian Episcopal Conference. He was born in Tambo Grande (Piura, 1974). He entered the Order of St. Augustine in 1998. He made his religious profession on January 11, 2003 and was ordained priest on July 26, 2008. He has a licentiate in spiritual theology and pedagogy from the Catholic University of San Pablo de Cochabamba (Bolivia). 

He has served as coordinator of the International Commission of communications and publications of the organization of Augustinians of Latin America (OALA-2006-2014); master of prenovices of the Augustinian Order (2011-2012); pastor of Our Lady of Montserrat in the archdiocese of Trujillo (2012-2013); professor of theology at Benedict XVI Catholic University in the archdiocese of Trujillo (2013-2015); prior and master of the professed of the Augustinian Order (2013-2017) and secretary general of the Organization of Augustinians of Latin America (OALA-2015-2019). Since April 2018 he was Apostolic Administrator of the Territorial Prelature of Chuquibambilla; and on December 7, 2019 he was appointed Bishop of that prelature, in January 2022 he was elected president of the Episcopal Commission for Communication of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference.

Monsignor, you preside the Episcopal Commission for the Synod in Peru, how has the present Synod been received in all the dioceses of Peru, has there been an organized and participative work during the process? 

- We have had a good response, the synodal process has been carried out in the 46 ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Peru. First the Permanent Council of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference (CEP) formed the National Commission that would animate the Synod of Synodality in Peru, we collected all the guidelines and documents prepared by the General Secretariat of the Synod and adapted them to the reality of the country. Then we invited each ecclesiastical jurisdiction to launch the Synod, each one did it from its own reality and context; and then we invited the Bishop to form his Diocesan Commission, which animated the synodal process in its territory. It was also requested that there be a parish synodal commission for the listening process.

What was the purpose of this whole process?

- The objective was to reach all the places, the 95% of the jurisdictions formed their Diocesan Commission. We have worked in an organized manner, with monthly coordination meetings. Peru has responded to the Synodality, it is a Catholic people and loves its missionaries very much, it has felt accompanied by its bishops, priests, religious men and women and committed lay people.

In this listening process the people have responded with gratitude and generosity, the faithful feel that their voices have been heard and valued. It has also been a time to heal wounds, at some point the faithful said that they were not taken into account and now in this time they have been able to express their needs, complaints or hopes. We could say that the Synod is on its way and the Peruvian Church has assumed the commitment to walk together with the challenges that will surely arise along the way.

After listening to the national survey, what issues are of interest or concern to the Peruvian Catholic faithful?

- Reviewing the syntheses of the jurisdictions, there are constant and priority themes that have stood out in this phase of listening, and they are the following: the ongoing formation of the baptized to assume an ecclesial commitment, the pastoral care of families through catechetical formation, the formation of the laity in the field of politics, the prophetic dimension enlightened by the social doctrine of the Church, evangelization through the media and the formation of religion teachers through the Office of Catholic Education.

There was also concern for the celebration of the liturgy, greater clarity and concreteness in lay ministries, the value of popular piety, the faith experience of peoples according to their reality, the lack of missionaries in remote villages, vocation promotion, the option for the poor without excluding anyone, a more protagonist role for women and young people in the Church and society, the consequences of covid 19 and ecumenical dialogue.

There were also reflections on the clericalism that affects the lives of the faithful, sexual abuse in the ecclesial sphere, accompaniment of the elderly, trafficking in persons and migrants, the need for an organic and structured pastoral plan in each jurisdiction, formation in synodality for future priests, mining conflicts, care for the common home and the Amazon, care for indigenous cultures, and welcoming those who are excluded.

These are the constant themes that manifest themselves in most ecclesiastical jurisdictions, which the people of God have reflected upon.

Under this reading, what are the challenges for the Church in Peru?

- In the first place, the ongoing formation of the laity. This has come up in all ecclesiastical jurisdictions. We ask ourselves what kind of formation our faithful want and really need. What are those fundamental topics in which the people of God need to be formed? This is the discernment that the Church must make, obviously, always keeping in mind the centrality of the mystery of Jesus Christ; in this sense, the process of listening is very useful.

This formation should also lead to ecclesial commitment. In Aparecida, a weak faith of the people with little ecclesial commitment was evidenced; and this is due to the lack of formation. This issue is very important and should be addressed in deep discernment.

I see, and what other topics are presented?

- Also, another important issue is the formation of the laity in politics. As a Church we have a great treasure of knowledge in the Magisterium, Pope Francis published his third encyclical "Fratelli Tutti" which invites us to enter the field of politics, we have to form our faithful and teach them that politics is good, politics in itself is to seek the common good. How to encourage our faithful to enter this field is certainly a great challenge.

The Church has to be attentive to the needs of the world, discern the signs of the times, make known the Magisterium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The laity must participate in the field of politics; it is a great opportunity for the integral growth of our peoples. In politics, the common good will always be sought and I am convinced that a well-formed lay person can contribute much to the development of society and the human person.

What about popular piety?

Popular piety is presented as a strength for our country, but at the same time as a challenge. It is up to us as bishops to accompany the People of God, keeping in mind the culture of the people, we also have to respect and value it. Before there was talk of purifying and extirpating, now we have to accompany and learn from this expression of faith. Obviously we must also take care of the essential: the faith of the people, doctrinal formation; that is to say, popular piety must also lead us to sacramental life and ecclesial commitment.

As pastors, it is our duty to accompany the holy people of God, of which we are also a part as baptized persons, and to form them in the Sacred Scriptures, Tradition, the Magisterium and the Sensus Fidei. Always valuing the richness that exists in each people. Popular piety is the treasure of the Church. In Latin America, in Peru, our people have kept their faith through popular piety, through simple faith. It is a challenge how to accompany these experiences of faith so that they always lead us to a personal encounter with the Lord, to the praxis of sacramental life and to ecclesial commitment.

Photo: Monsignor Farfán in a Marian procession in Chuquibambilla

In recent years there has been a lot of talk about the care of native cultures. What is the situation in Peru?

- The Amazon and the care of the common home and native cultures is an urgent call. Pope Francis repeatedly invites us to a greater awareness of the care of the common home. It can be seen in "Laudato Si", "Dear Amazon", "Fratelli Tuti", also in the Latin American Magisterium: Medellin, Puebla, Santo Domingo, Aparecida and lately in the prophetic voice of the First Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean, we cannot close our eyes: nature continues to be attacked.

In 2019 there has been the Synod of the Amazon, our bishops of the Amazon are a prophetic voice for our Amazonian peoples, they feel in their own flesh the mistreatment of the land, the concern of contaminated waters, the pain of some indigenous communities that are outside their lands because these have been degraded. The bishops of the Amazon walk with their people and know their needs. However, as far as everyone is concerned, it is not enough to say that "we must take care" or "we must value and take care of the native or autochthonous cultures", we need to train ourselves in sensitivity in order to be able to act. It is everyone's responsibility to be able to assume a greater commitment in the different areas of action.

Could you give a concrete example?

I live in a place where there are constant mining conflicts related to the issue of environmental contamination. It is the Apurimac region, where the largest copper mining company in Peru, "Las Bambas", is located. There are constant conflicts between the peasant communities and the mining company. However, a major problem in this region is the increase of informal mining. Environmental contamination is alarming, the hills are collapsing, the water is contaminated and people are getting sick on a daily basis.

What to do in the face of this harsh reality? It is our moral responsibility to take concrete steps to take care of our common home; it is a cry from the Peruvian coast, jungle and highlands. The listening process of the synod has allowed the people of God to dialogue on this alarming reality that should lead us to assume concrete pastoral orientations.

Let's change the subject. Clericalism is another issue of concern to Pope Francis.

- Yes, and it has also been a topic that has come up at all times, it is a challenge because we cannot keep the laity in an infantile stage, relegating them and not taking them into account in the decisions. Today we really need to walk together. We are all part of the People of God because we have received the sacrament of baptism; bishops, clerics, religious men and women, and lay faithful. The priest should not have to command and command always, we have to learn to distribute and delegate responsibilities as People of God. It is not a matter of the laity doing what the priest does, and the priest doing what the laity does, but rather that together, from our vocation and ministry, we contribute to the growth of the Church and its mission. 

What does Pope Francis mean when he speaks of the People of God or the holy people of God?

- The answer can be found in the Ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, in chapter II: "The People of God" of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium" Who make up the People of God? All the baptized, that is to say, before being bishops, priests, we are first the people of God, our identity card is our Baptism. Many times it has been erroneously understood that the people of God are only the laity. This is an issue that should be further deepened. In the challenges and pastoral orientations of the First Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean, it appeared as a priority to be addressed urgently.

How are they going to work on the issue of abuse?

- Another current challenge for the whole Church is abuse in the ecclesial sphere. Every bishops' conference in the world is taking steps through Listening Offices. The people are asking to be heard and, of course, the people who have been affected need to be accompanied. I think this has to be done in a more serious and responsible way. We are taking steps as a Church in Peru. As the Episcopal Conference, we have recognized this problem as a priority because of its importance: to accompany at all times those people who have been affected and mistreated.

Professional help is also necessary to be able to accompany specific cases. We have reflected a lot on this subject, we cannot close our eyes to this painful reality. Some situations of pain are evident, that is why this space of accompaniment is necessary to heal wounds, including the victimizer. 

How has the experience of synodality been carried out during the process? What future opportunities open up under this modality of work in the Church?

- We have done what Pope Francis asked us to do in his homily at the inauguration of the Synod for the whole ChurchWe have been able to "create spaces of encounter, dialogue, listening and discernment". In this synodal experience, what has been most striking is the meeting of people, whether virtual or in person, in spaces of communion. This meeting has allowed people to express themselves, to express their points of view, to feel listened to.

Listening makes us mature in our faith, in our commitments, wise is the one who listens and asks for advice. These meeting spaces have made us see different themes according to the local reality. While it is true that the Synod set us some themes, many others have become evident. In our country, with a rich diversity, these spaces have favored communion. This is also the challenge, it is difficult for all of us to walk together, to sit down and listen to each other, it requires a lot of patience.

It is also important to understand the spiritual dimension of the Synod. It is the Spirit who guides and accompanies his Church. He leads us along new paths, towards new challenging topics, where there is room for reflection and even for complaint or complaint. Always with full confidence that if we place ourselves in his hands, he will undoubtedly lead us to a successful conclusion.

Synodality is a great challenge for our Church in Peru..

- In this synodal time of the First Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean and the listening process of the Synod, the desire to walk together has been evident. I see the bishops of Peru very united, reflecting on very current issues. The virtuality in this sense has helped us a lot, there is good communication, we are convinced that synodality must always remain.

Although it is true that the reality of Peru is very diverse -coast, highlands and jungle-, there is a great commitment to communion. One of the challenges that has already been discussed in several Assemblies of the CEP, and that I am sure will soon take concrete steps, is the material help among the Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions, both with the presence of missionaries and economically. There are jurisdictions that can support themselves economically and others that are very poor economically. Others have enough clergy and others lack priests. In short, this is a great challenge to work together in this sense, giving us a hand from the possibilities of each jurisdiction. 

How will the Synod be concluded in Peru?

- We are now working on the final synthesis, a richness for the Church of Peru. It is a pleasure to read the simple words of the faithful. Just as it has been expressed in the meetings, in the same way it has been put in writing. The National Commission has now the mission, in a climate of prayer and discernment, to make a national Synthesis. With the information that has reached it from the jurisdictions and with the impressions that it has been able to gather during the pre-synodal or preparatory meetings. Everything is being taken into account for the National Synthesis.

On August 5, we must submit the national synthesis to the Permanent Council of the CEP for approval. Then, before August 15, it has to be delivered to the General Secretariat of the Synod. We are on the right track, we have already organized the timetable. We will also send the diocesan syntheses of the jurisdictions to serve as technical support for information and reference, which is evidence of a serious and responsible work. 

The next step will be the continental phase, CELAM, together with the General Secretariat of the Synod, are carrying out the respective coordinations. Synodality must always remain. From Latin America we have to continue working on the challenges and pastoral orientations that the First Ecclesial Assembly has left us.

In conclusion, what is your final reflection on this synodal process?

- My final reflection is that we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the temptation is to want to control everything, but it happens that the Spirit overflows us and uninstalls us from our place of comfort, leading his Church along new and surprising paths. Precisely, having this full trust in the Lord, who walks with his Church and loves her, we have to move forward. It is not enough to say I believe in synodality, we have to take concrete steps, steps in which this synodal spirit is shown in the Church.

Great challenges arise in order to continue growing as a Church of communion, participation and mission; this is achieved when we make a journey together.

The authorJesus Colquepisco

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