Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza (Madrid, 1963) has chaired, since 2018, the Catholic Association of Propagandists and is president of the San Pablo CEU University Foundation. Twenty-five years ago, Bullón de Mendoza directed the first congress Catholics and Public Life which this year celebrates a quarter of a century. The congress has managed to position itself, in this time, as a meeting point of Spanish Catholicism and has dealt with topics such as political correctness, freedom, Christian commitment or the faith of young people.
The XXV Congress Catholics and Public Life brings together in Madrid between November 17 and 19, 2023 speakers such as Malek Twal, ambassador of the League of Arab States in Spain, Professor of Philosophy and member of the Royal Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, Juan Arana or Sebastian Schuff, president of the Global Center for Human Rights.
Bullón de Mendoza receives Omnes just a few hours before the start of the twenty-fifth congress of Catholics and Public Life and that it is still as necessary and current as it was a quarter of a century ago.
The congress Catholics and Public Life has been 25 years since 1999. In this quarter of a century, how has the social physiognomy changed?
-I think it is evident that there has been a great change in these 25 years, that there has been an evident situation of regression of Catholicism and the influence of Catholicism within the Spanish society, but also in the last few years there is a clearer and more forceful outflow of Catholics than before. There is a desire to show that here we are and we are proud to be Catholics and we have a faith to propose.
In Spain we are currently living in times that are, to say the least, convulsive. Is Catholic commitment present?
-I believe that today there is a Catholicism that sees the need to commit itself more and more and this is emerging in different areas. We have realities such as Effetá, or Hakuna through music. There is a desire to transmit the Gospel and we are looking for ways that are adequate to the times we live in.
This loss of social relevance has led to a greater awareness of the personal commitment of the Christian, so perhaps it is not so bad?
-We are facing something that happens. The problem is to consider that Catholicism is a personal religion and not a proposal for the world. In this sense, we see various conceptions of the subject, for example, Dreher's Benedictine option, little less than living in isolation, in small ghettos trying to survive what is happening outside. But we Propagandists are Paulines, and the Pauline option is just the opposite: it is the option of spreading the Gospel.
I believe that it is an option that is gaining strength and we must be aware that Catholicism is not born with the idea that each person will carry it in isolation and not communicate it to the world.
In these 25 years, has the Catholic Association of Propagandists also changed?
-I believe that the Catholic Association of Propagandists remains the same: an association of Catholics, men and women, with a vocation to public life and who seek to have the means of formation and the means to spread their faith.
In history, there are always a "happy few" who change the course, are these congresses of Catholics and Public Life a sample of those "happy few"?
-I hope there will be many more (he laughs). I believe that today there are many Church initiatives, many groups that are very active in different fields and that the whole of all this is what can allow a revival of Catholicism in its social presence in Spain.
Freedom, life, culture, the role of faith in young people, Europe as a concept.... Catholics and Public Life What legacy are these congresses leaving behind?
-I think it has served to raise problems that may arise at some point in society and what should be the response given to them from the Catholic sphere.
The congress Catholics and Public LifeThe aim has always been to be a forum where people can come and say, "How can we Catholics react to this problem?
Do Catholics have a moral duty to their country?
-We have a duty to the society in which we live. In that sense, we must be aware of the problems of our society and try to find ways to respond to them.
Catholics and Public Life was born and developed in Spain, but it has crossed our borders in places like Puerto Rico or Chile. In the end, are the problems raised universal?
-Of course. There were countries in Latin America that saw that what was proposed in Catholics and Public Life was appropriate to their own reality and wanted to replicate it, also within the university world.
What are the guidelines for this XXV Catholics and Public Life Congress?
-This year, we have 2 lines in the congress. On the one hand, we wanted to commemorate the First Catholics and Public Life Congress 25 years ago, and on the other hand, the Congress itself. With regard to the first one, we have counted on the Cardinal Rouco who officiated at the Mass at the I Congress and with Jaime Mayor Oreja who was the one who, at the time, gave the inaugural lecture, then, as Minister of the Interior.
As far as evangelization itself is concerned, this congress has sought to address a series of situations in different realities. One of the cases, for example, is the ambassador of the Arab League who tells us about the situation of Christians in that environment and who is a Catholic.
On the other hand, we have the CEO of Mary's meals who recently received the Princess of Asturias award and who will tell us what they are doing in this NGO.
This year there is a children's congress. There are those who are concerned that "no Catholics are coming out of Catholic schools". Is this children's congress a seed to tackle this issue?
-I believe that Catholic schools have an obligation to transmit, to propose the faith because that is the reason why they were created.
It is true that there may have been times or realities that, also as a consequence of the lack of vocations, have caused the message of some schools to become diluted, but I also believe that now most Catholic schools are aware of their role and try to fulfill it.
What is the future of the congress Catholics and Public Life?
-I believe that they have a buoyant future because we will continue with this initiative that we think has had good results over time and we want it to continue because it has been consolidated as a meeting point for Spanish Catholicism.
It is already known that once a year we have this Congress, in which different topics are addressed, different points of view are offered and a dialogue is held.