Msgr. Luis Argüello: "All the charisms of the Church are necessary".

For the past four years the name of Luis Argüello has been linked, essentially, to the General Secretariat of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, but, since last November, Bishop Luis Argüello has had a single and clear mission: to shepherd the diocesan Church in Valladolid. A see in which he has already served as auxiliary to his predecessor, Bishop Ricardo Blázquez, and in which he has lived his entire priestly life. 

Maria José Atienza-January 12, 2023-Reading time: 8 minutes

Archbishop Luis Argüello García will be the Archbishop of Valladolid as of July 2022. With a degree in Civil Law, he was a university professor before entering the seminary. His profound analysis of reality and his knowledge of the human being remain from his facet as a professor, as well as a vast culture that finds its way into the conversations and interventions of the one who has been, for four years, the spokesman of the Spanish episcopate. 

His new stage in the Church in Valladolid, today's society, secularization, are some of the topics that appear in this conversation with Omnes in which Bishop Argüello extends his analysis from the lands of Castile and León to the universal Church. 

You are not "new". Valladolid has always been your diocese and you have served there as auxiliary bishop. But isn't a certain novelty required of every new bishop?

-The Church always combines fidelity and novelty. In this sense, my own position in Valladolid is also situated in this balance. On the one hand, I have already shared many responsibilities during these years in Valladolid. From there, there is a path of fidelity; but I believe that the very characteristics of the Church of Valladolid and of the society of Valladolid itself demand of me and of the whole diocesan Church an impulse of novelty. In what points? I would say that in everything that means the transmission of the faith, both proclamation and Christian initiation. A call to a new way of be in the territory and in society and an encouragement to witness the newness of the love of Jesus Christ to our contemporaries.

He speaks of the proclamation of the faith. Listening to the Church seems to be less and less, especially among young people. Is there no interest, or do we not know how to address today's world?

-I think there is a bit of both. The whole path of secularization, of the autonomy of people and society with respect to God, and of what the Church means, has a singular accent. Not only in young people, but also in people under 60 years of age, who happen to be the parents of children and adolescents. It is precisely the secularization of today's generation between 40 and 60 years of age that has the greatest influence on the lack of knowledge of Jesus and the Church that many children, adolescents and young people have. 

On the other hand, there is a cultural environment that offers other "attractions" to the undoubtedly searching heart of teenagers and young people. 

Evidently the Church, the Christian communities, the life of the parishes..., also have their responsibility. Perhaps, at the time of the proposal of catechesis, formation of adolescents and young people, etc., we have continued in an inertia without taking into account this great change of the vital, family and cultural context in the environment of schools, institutes or the environment that enters through the screens. 

However, I believe that generalizations, besides being unfair, are misleading. A few months ago we experienced the Youth Pilgrimage in Compostela (PEJ'22) and it is true that there were 12,000 people in the group of young Spaniards, that is to say, a drop. But in that meeting we perceived in the young people a special search for a new meaning, for that which is more explicitly supernatural, if I may use the expression, and not so much for "activities". I was surprised, for example, by the interest shown by the young people in the workshops on reason and faith, science and faith, the study of some of today's fashionable philosophers, a way of dealing with series or movies. A concern of the participants themselves was expressed: that of wanting to give a reason for their faith to their high school and university classmates. This also exists. 

I am more and more convinced that the era in which we live is a post-secular era, and the accents of the Church's life are still marked, in many cases, by the experience of the pre-secular era. 

In this post-secularity there are unsuspected searches, the most varied, sometimes the most bizarre; but there are also searches for meaning, for spirituality and for God. 

So, is it about giving a new proposal?

-Exactly. It is about offering, without complexes, what we believe and what we try to live. With humility, with a greater trust in grace. 

One of the characteristics of this post-secular time is that the Church, in the West, is coming out of centuries and centuries of a mixture between society and the Church, which has marked certain relationships with the powers that be. We are still there, because these processes last a long time, they last for centuries, and we have to have a new way of being in the territory.

In Castilla y León there are lots of small municipalities, of few inhabitants, scattered..., and in all of them, the big building is the church. In all of them, there is a tower with a bell tower and, until not long ago, under each tower there was a hood.

Today, our way of being in the territory is different. Our way of understanding the parish must be different. This in what refers to the territory. And then, the way of being in the society; in which there is a crossroads because, for certain aspects, the great majority of our society of these Castilian-Leonese municipalities continues being Catholic: to celebrate the feasts of the patron saint, in the Holy Week, in Christmas. But then, in many aspects of daily life, people live as if God did not exist, also in the small towns, 

Bishop Chaput points out that we consider faith "a nice piece of furniture that we have inherited" and that it does not fit in our modern little apartment....

-In many cases, I believe that this is the case, and sometimes even without the modern little apartment. But, at the same time, there is a search, there is restlessness, because the Lord is always ahead. 

What we speak of as an "ecclesial transformation" is part of a social shift in which the extreme praise of the autonomy of the individual as opposed to the common good, of freedom as opposed to love, generates dissatisfaction, generates discomfort. A very concrete malaise that is called "loneliness", that is called "consumption of psychotropic drugs"; in the limit, it is called not knowing what to do with life. 

On the other hand, there is a hidden desire that appears in thousands of small causes of fraternity, of the common good, of care for creation, etc. This is what Pope Francis often emphasizes. 

The characteristic of the kerygma of Francis is that he is Trinitarian. The center is always the announcement that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death, but together with this, to announce God the Creator and, from there, all that arises from the affirmation of creation: the ecological dimensions. To announce also that God is Father. From there, it is born to speak of fraternity, of bonds, of alliances. 

These two heartbeats are strong in the hearts of our contemporaries, but sometimes they seem impossible to live, because the heartbeat of autonomy is considered stronger than that of fraternity. 

Another issue that is implicit when talking about a Castilian-Leonese seat is that of heritage. Are we turning churches into mere museums? 

-The main challenge of most of the temples in Castilla y León is that they are closed, that they are not even open to be visited. The second challenge is their conservation, because we have received them from previous generations. The third is that some buildings that are maintained and can be opened for what they were created for, that is, to make possible the entrance to an environment that places us before the mystery of God and his presence. 

In a time like ours, which is missionary, and in which many people do not know the codes of the temple itself and do not recognize the real presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle, we also have the challenge that the opening and the visit, perhaps at the beginning with a more historical-cultural criterion, can be an opportunity to know what the temple is, what the temple means, and also what the Tabernacle means with a lighted lamp. 

This is a question that has been discussed, especially in relations with public administrations. Because many of these constructions were built as ecclesiastical buildings, but it is also true that they were built at a time in which the gap between society and the Church that I have already mentioned was very large. 

On the other hand, the Church is aware that it alone cannot maintain many of these buildings located, many times, in small towns. This is something that not only happens in Castilla y León but also in other parts of Spain. 

We recognize that they are ecclesial places and that their raison d'être is the celebration of worship, but we must remember that "worship" and "culture" have the same root. What is the problem? That, unfortunately - not only in churches but in life in general - culture has more to do with cultural products and less and less to do with the cultivation of the naturawhich is what defines us as humans. 

Today "culture" is very fashionable. As soon as you get careless, you hear about culture: the culture of wine, the culture of the green hoopoe..., but you don't really know what that means. Rather, what one perceives is that there are cultural products. 

The risk of our ecclesial patrimony is that it becomes just another cultural product, measured only by its economic value. Evidently its economic value is not negligible, especially in a time of strong economic crisis..., but what is genuinely cultural is that which cultivates human nature. The temples add to this colloquium between culture and natura that which, for a believer, constitutes the key to both: grace. The grace that is in the naturaThe grace that becomes culture, a way of life, and that transforms nature into new life, into eternal life. 

When the bishops of the Church in Castille Ages of Man, The founding text already speaks of faith-culture dialogue and of a Samaritan Church in the face of these realities of a society that is dissolving as what was to be the hallmark of the Church in Castile. Evidently, for many people, Ages of Man is only a cultural brand that is measured by the economic value it leaves in the hospitality industry, in other respects, Ages of Man tries to tell, year after year, a story that has to do with the genuinely cultural proposal of the Church. 

You know the Spanish Church in depth. In recent EEC documents, the need for unity among Christians has been repeatedly mentioned. Do you perceive a division within the Church? Are there opposing currents?

Disunity is always anti-evangelical; currents are not. 

We are Catholics. We are not one of those multiple Churches that came out of the Reformation in which, every time an accent or a diversity arises, a new Church emerges. 

In the Catholic Church, the different sensibilities are sometimes called charisms, which have given rise to religious congregations, movements, communities..., distinct in the Church and all recognized and proclaiming the same Creed and recognizing in the successors of the Apostles the principle of unity. 

Catholic communion is not a communion in a uniformity in which we all live with exactly the same intensity the same pages of the Gospel. 

In times of crisis, it is true that a typical phenomenon occurs: that of tension between different perceptions. Some brothers place the accent on one side and others on the other. We speak again of fidelity and novelty. 

Times of great change place the Church in polarizations. Sometimes from good intentions and sometimes from the consequences of original sin. 

Pope Francis is the first Pope to come from a southern megalopolis; this is a bit disconcerting for us Europeans. But Pope Wojtyla, who came from a Poland that had suffered two totalitarianisms, or the intellectual stature of Benedict XVI... who arrived after centuries of Italian Popes, were also disconcerting. 

In this pontificate, Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of the kerygmathe (Evangelii Gaudium) and to proclaim the kerygma, one must be holy (Gaudete et exultate). This kerygma that we are announcing places us in a social colloquium, because the kerygma has an incarnation (Fratelli Tutti)... 

The moral proposal that we have to make has a root, which is an anthropology, and that anthropology has a light, which is Christology, Christ. To enter into moral debates with individuals who do not share the anthropology or who reject that in Christ, the incarnate Word, "what it means to be man" has been manifested "to man" is, to say the least, complicated. 

The Pope calls us to proclaim what is essential and from there to build a proposal of person and morals. This is easy to say and, indeed, there are those who may feel disarmed in the face of great social and moral debates. They may be right, if we do not have a great commitment to the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

To evangelize personal situations as varied as the present ones, all the charisms of the Church are useful and the different sensitivities must be united in a founding communion, the acceptance of the creed and the centrality of the Eucharist.

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