Fr. Luis Gaspar, executive director of the visit of Pope Francis to Lima, has granted an interview to Palabra magazine, in which he refers to the best preparation to receive the Pope, to his visit to Trujillo, and to several Peruvian saints.
-text R. Miner
The pace of preparation for Pope Francis' visit to Peru is hectic. However, Fr. Luis Gaspar Uribe takes a break to comment on some aspects with Palabra. He recalls that the central and final activity of this visit will be the Holy Mass to be celebrated in the esplanade of the air base of Las Palmas, and that the enthusiasm to attend this Eucharistic celebration is overflowing.
On the eve of Pope Francis' visit, it seems logical to recall that Peru received St. John Paul II in 1985 and 1988. What do you remember now about that visit?
-The memory of the visits of St. John Paul II to Peru in 1985 and 1988 is a treasure that has illuminated the lives of many Peruvians. How can I forget that message of John Paul II to the youth in February 1985 in Lima: "Young people of Peru, only in Christ is the answer to the deepest yearnings of your heart. I also remember the energetic appeal he made in Ayacucho, at a time when terrorism ferociously struck that part of the country. From that city, he strongly urged the terrorists to change the path they had embarked on. He called for a world where justice, the defense of the defenseless and freedom prevail. Pope John Paul II showed the world what it means to be a holy man.
How can Peruvians best prepare themselves for the Pope's visit? Has there been any pastoral message from the bishops?
-The motto of Pope Francis' visit to Peru is United in Hope, and the founding unity has its center and root in Christ truly present in the Eucharist. Therefore it is indispensable -as preparation- to visit and remain before the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist daily. Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani wrote two apostolic letters calling the faithful to a profound spiritual preparation to receive the Holy Father. In those documents he told us that this preparation implies seeking Jesus and inviting him to enter our soul so that, with his mercy and forgiveness, he may enlighten our lives, our families, our work, that is, our whole existence. Then he also invited us to pray the holy rosary as a family, a prayer when we leave the house, attendance at Sunday Mass all together, participation in the activities that are organized in parishes, schools and movements for the coming of Pope Francis. And if we speak of hope, we must not forget that hope finds its most important place in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Hope is what helps us to be optimistic in order to see the positive aspects around us and to express our opinions, in family and work conversations, with enthusiasm and a positive sense. In conclusion, the first steps for a good preparation to receive Pope Francis with affection are to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament every day and to go to the sacrament of Forgiveness, whenever necessary, to cleanse our souls of sin.
What issues do you think Pope Francis will focus on during this trip?
-First of all, it should be made clear that Pope Francis' visit is a pastoral trip, in which no political indications are expected to be given. It is undeniable that the Holy Father will arrive in a country with its own characteristics and particular circumstances. Nor can it be hidden the fact that Peru is currently going through a deep crisis where corruption hits the poor hard, because it prevents millions from having access to hospitals and other public services. This practice makes a few people rich, but generates distrust and pessimism in a country that is growing reasonably economically.
Why has the Pope chosen, besides Lima, visit Madre de Dios in Trujillo?
-Madre de Dios is an area of the Peruvian jungle that is rich in natural resources, but also suffers from illegal mining that leads to a series of illicit activities, such as human trafficking. The Pope will go to meet with the inhabitants of the area and will have time to visit the El Principito shelter. Trujillo, a city in the north of the country, was one of the places hit by the El Niño Costero phenomenon at the beginning of the year, which left hundreds of victims who lost everything. The Pope will visit the Buenos Aires neighborhood, where there is a considerable number of people affected by the natural disasters. He will take his message of love and hope to all of them.
There is a lot of devotion to several Peruvian saints, among them St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres. Can you comment on this?
-The Pope has it deep in his soul that Peru is a land of saints and he has said so: "Peru is a land of many great saints.". He has an enormous attraction to live that popular piety. In addition, he has a personal devotion to St. Martin de Porres. In the first greeting he addresses to the Peruvian people, he does it with the broom saint as a background. It must also be said that as a recognition of his tremendous affection for Peruvian saints, in the rooms he will occupy in the Apostolic Nunciature of Peru, pictures of St. Martin and St. Rose of Lima have been placed to accompany his stay.
In addition to the official anthem, Con Francisco a caminar, by Héctor Quiñones, there is a song, Peregrino de la Esperanza, which won the Bienvenido Francisco contest...
-Pilgrim of Hope was chosen in a contest where 381 songs were submitted. The girls from Colegio Santa Anita received one of the highest votes from the public through the web page and then went on to the semifinal and final by the decision of the contest jury. The dream of these girls was to meet Pope Francis, and they will fulfill this dream on January 21 in Lima when they sing to the Pope. It is very nice to see the faith and dedication of these teenagers performing 'Peregrino de la Esperanza'. In addition, we have released the video clip of this song, where one of the most important figures of Peruvian song, Eva Ayllón, joins in welcoming Pope Francis to our country.