Bishop Lozano: "We expect the participation of different charisms".

Interview with the Secretary General of the Episcopal Council of Latin America, Monsignor Jorge Eduardo Lozano, on the recently begun Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean.

David Fernández Alonso-July 7, 2021-Reading time: 6 minutes
mns lozano

The Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean has begun with the listening phase, and with its respective works in the different countries. Specifically, on June 19, the animation team for the Ecclesial Assembly of the Episcopal Conference of Argentina held a virtual meeting of diocesan delegates, pastoral areas and national leaders of Movements, in order to nurture the listening process.

All this "in communion with the whole Church on pilgrimage in Argentina, walking together towards the Ecclesial Assembly proposed by the Latin American Episcopal Council at the initiative of Pope Francis", as mentioned by the Bishops' Conference of Argentina.

Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, "this listening process, in synodal perspective, will be the basis of our discernment, and will enlighten us to guide the future steps that, as Church in the region and as CELAM, we must take to accompany Jesus incarnated today among the people, in their "sensus fidei" which is their sense of faith. This listening process will take place between April and August of this year 2021, so we ask you to be attentive and request your participation to your ecclesial organisms of reference".

On the occasion of this good beginning of the Ecclesial Assembly, Omnes interviews Monsignor Jorge Lozano, Secretary General of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), about the topics being dealt with in this process, as well as the ideas that have motivated it and the objectives that have been set.

Mons. Lozano was born in the city of Buenos Aires on February 10, 1955, the first of two brothers. He graduated as an Electrical Technician at the Industrial School Nº 1 "Ingeniero Otto Krause". After studying Engineering for a year, he entered the Seminary in Villa Devoto. He obtained a Bachelor's degree in Theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina.

He was ordained a priest on December 3, 1982 at the Obras Sanitarias Stadium in the city of Buenos Aires by Cardinal Juan Carlos Aramburu, Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Elected auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires by St. John Paul II; he received episcopal ordination on March 25, 2000 in the cathedral of Buenos Aires by the then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ, current Pope Francis, (they were co-consecrators: Bishop Raul Omar Rossi, Bishop of San Martin and Bishop Mario Jose Serra, Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires).

He was appointed bishop of Gualeguaychú by Pope Benedict XVI on December 22, 2005; he took possession of this diocese and began his pastoral ministry on March 11, 2006.

In the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) he was responsible for the Section Lay Builders of Society in the period 2003-2007, and for the Social Pastoral Section from 2007 to 2011.

During the V General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in 2007 in Aparecida, Brazil, he was responsible for the Press Office of the Assembly. He was one of the four Argentine bishops who participated in the Synod on the New Evangelization in Rome in October 2012.

Currently, in the Argentine Episcopal Conference, he is president of the Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral and advisor to the National Commission for Justice and Peace.

A frequent guest on panels, round tables and in the media, he has published numerous articles in the provincial and national media. He is the author of the following books: Tengo algo que decirte (Lumen, 2011);Vamos por la vida (San Pablo, 2012), Por el camino de la justicia y de la solidaridad (2012) and Nueva Evangelización: Fuerza de auténtica libertad -from 2013 and in collaboration with Fabián Esparafita, Claudia Carbajal and Emilio Inzaurraga- (all three from the Colección Dignidad para todos de editorial San Pablo) and La sed, el agua y la fe (La sed, el agua y la fe) (Agape, 2013). Every week, a column-reflection of his authorship is published in provincial and national media.

Appointed by Pope Francis on August 31, 2016 Coadjutor Archbishop for the Archdiocese of San Juan de Cuyo, he assumed this mission on November 4, 2016. He took possession of the Archdiocese as Archbishop on June 17, 2017.

In recent times there has been much talk of ecclesial synodality, how would you define this concept and what is your opinion on this way of walking in the Church?

-Synodality implies listening, dialogue, community discernment. The word synod is of Greek origin, and means "to make a journey together". St. John Chrysostom in the 4th century affirmed "Church and synod are synonymous". Guided by the Holy Spirit, we seek how to take up the challenges that arise for evangelization.

It is a participatory way of working that involves everyone. 

Now that the unprecedented 1st Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean is underway, could you tell us how the idea of the Assembly came about and what makes it unique?

-In May 2019, the CELAM Assembly, composed of the Presidents and Secretaries of the 22 Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, met. On that occasion, it was resolved to propose to the Pope to convene the VI General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean. The V had been held in Aparecida in 2007. Francis responded that there is still much to implement and assume from Aparecida, and proposed to think of a meeting of the People of God, summoning representatives of the different vocations. From these dialogues, the Ecclesial Assembly was designed.

What is unprecedented is the breadth of the convocation. Assemblies have been held in recent years in the dioceses, or even at the national level. But this is the first time a Continental Assembly has been held.

The Assembly faces challenges in the Latin American Church, what are these new challenges facing the Assembly, for the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean?

-The new challenges and pastoral responses are the object of the Assembly's discernment. They will undoubtedly be greatly influenced by the pandemic we are going through.

Among the objectives that you intend in the Assembly Guide, you speak of reviving the Church in a new way, presenting a reforming and regenerative proposal. What would be your proposal to achieve this objective?

-The proposal for renewal is already being implemented with the participation of all the members of the People of God in different parts of the continent.

Although the Ecclesial Assembly will be in session from November 21 to 28, this time of listening is already part of the Assembly's journey.

In the presentation of the Assembly, the President, Bishop Cabrejos, on behalf of CELAM, affirmed that "the Conference of Aparecida left us a pending task, that of setting in motion a Continental Mission to "go into deeper waters" to meet the most distant and build together". What did he mean by this expression?

-In the Gospel of St. Luke, after the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus invites the disciples to go "out into the deep" (Lk. 5:4), into deeper waters. It is an image that St. John Paul II used to encourage the Church at the beginning of the third millennium.

Precisely in the conclusions of the V Conference of Aparecida, they speak of "the advance of strong cultural influences that are foreign to the Christian people and often hostile. In fact, there are powers that have set out to do away with customs and convictions that have characterized the life and legislation of our peoples". What are these influences and how is this situation in Latin America today?

-The influences are diverse. On the one hand, the strong individualism that pushes us to enclosure and self-referentiality, disengaging us from others. On the other hand, wasteful consumerism compromises the ecological balance.

The listening process, in synodal perspective, which is taking place from April to August of this year 2021, how is it developing and what fruits are expected?

-The listening process is going very well. The deadline is the end of August and there are already thousands of contributions. In addition to the quantities, the idea is to make it a space for community reflection.

If you could make a general assessment, what do you expect from this Ecclesial Assembly, at all levels, for the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, and for the universal Church?

-I hope that we will achieve the broad participation of the diverse vocations, charisms and ministries. May we listen to the voices of the geographical and existential peripheries.

The style of work can serve as a stimulus for the journey towards the Synod of 2021 -2023, for a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.

Towards the November meeting

The Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean began with a preparation process in June 2020, in which a content committee worked to establish and define the contents to be worked on during the following phases of the journey.

Between November and January 2021, the document was drafted and immediately afterwards the Listening process and document were designed.

Between April and mid-July, the Listening process is being developed, with telematic forums in the different countries, which, according to what Bishop Lozano has told us, is being well received and with a wide participation. During the months of September and October we will work on the document and the discernment of those summoned, prior to the Ecclesial Assembly in person in November 2021.

The Assembly itself affirms that it is essential that all women and men who make up the Church of Christ in Latin America and the Caribbean, and who wish to contribute their word and witness, request their participation in the broad listening process. To this end, it is necessary that they consult with their bishops and the respective diocesan organizations, parishes, Caritas, other ecclesial organizations, religious congregations, lay movements and other ecclesial and social institutions, in order to ensure that their voice is heard.

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