During the second week of September, the formation course for new prelates in mission territories was held at the Collegio San Paolo in Rome
Organized by the Dicastery for Bishops, in collaboration with the Dicastery for Evangelization, 125 bishops from Asia and Africa - with the exception of three prelates from Latin America - were able to address a wide range of topics during the course. These ranged from the challenges of Artificial Intelligence in the evangelization challenge to the ministry of the bishop in the context of the journey of the Church in the world; passing through current issues such as "the pastoral government of the bishops in a synodal Church", "the service to the People of God", "the Catholic Communion with all the Churches" or "the synodal identity of the bishop in a synodal Church".
In the words of monsignor Miguel Angel Cadenas Cardo OSA, Vicar Apostolic of Iquitos, who since May 2021 is in charge of shepherding this ecclesiastical territory in the Amazon jungle, "it was a profound experience of Catholicity".
The change of "dynamics”
"We have been able to appreciate how the Church is organizing itself to reach territories where it was more complicated to be before," Father Miguel Ángel points out. "What I see is an increasingly strong implantation of the Church, especially in Africa and Asia, with a great growth of Catholics, which means a completely different scenario. I believe that in the coming decades the Church in these territories is going to be much stronger than the European Church, and that, necessarily, is going to change certain dynamics."
Accompanied by Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Social Communications, Fr. Michelangelo shared with the communication office of the General Curia the concerns and opportunities of Artificial Intelligence, whose irruption in recent years is proving decisive in areas such as telecommunications, education or politics.
"I remember that an African bishop put something to the Prefect that I found very interesting. He was saying: 'Well, we live in dramatic situations and for us it is more important to attend to suffering than to artificial intelligence'. And his reply was: 'There is no denying that. But artificial intelligence continues to affect those territories that do not even have telephone coverage yet." Cárdenas continued, "I honestly believe that this is a great challenge for the Church. And of course I am struck by the clarity with which they are addressing this issue, because even Francis has already announced that the World Day of Peace on January 1, 24 will be precisely on the theme of AI".
On the road to the Synod
When asked about one of the burning issues in the life of the Church - vocations - Fr. Miguel Ángel told us that in this last course of bishops organized by the Holy See, it was possible to note the attempts "to implement a new dialogue, seeking ways to collaborate," in view of "the plummeting" number of those who say yes to the Lord. "In the last ten years, in Latin America, the number of those who say yes to the Lord has suddenly dropped. I believe that a fundamental issue we must ask ourselves is not only how many vocations we have, but for what kind of church. It is not simply 'let's have priests' but we need priests for a synodal Church".
"I believe that we must continue to move forward along the line marked by Pope Francis," Fr. However, this Augustinian friar points out that "he has the feeling that a great part of the people of God does not feel rPrecisely with regard to the Synod of Bishops that in just a few days will begin, the Vicar Apostolic of Iquitos reminds us of the words of St. John Chrysostom when he said that "Church and Synod were practically synonymous represented in this topic of synodality, which is a great question". "From this Synod what I hope is that we can all converse in the Church, that we can reach some minimum agreements but, above all, I hope that it will be the possibility to continue deepening, because a synod is not simply an event that is there, but it is a process. I hope it will help the Church to enter into this synodal space (and this means putting into practice the participation in the Church), in subsidiarity and in all the other principles that are fundamental in the life of the Church".
The work of the Order in Iquitos
Regarding his new task entrusted by the Holy Father for the Peruvian Amazon and its evangelization, Fr. Miguel Angel tells us how the Order of St. Augustine has been "120 years making it possible to generate a local church". In this sense, the apostolic vicar tells us, "the Order has been very generous with the diocesan church since all the parishes and all the existing infrastructures, like the parochial schools, built by the Augustinians, have passed into the hands of the Vicariate, although the Augustinians still continue to run some temples". Miguel Angel tells us that this will change little by little in favor of the management and administration of the diocesan priests. "What we have to do is to move the local church forward, and for that it is very important not to focus exclusively on religious and priests, but to prepare lay people who can carry out evangelization, which is something we Augustinians have always done, at least since the Second Vatican Council. We need to continue betting on lay people who are well formed so that they can carry on the Christian communities".
Mission, dealing with and understanding the reality of the indigenous peoples and the setbacks they face -such as extractivism-, visiting the parishes and the faithful, eradicating and attending to cases of abuse, caring for the most vulnerable... All these tasks occupy the daily life of Bishop Cardenas in his work as an Augustinian bishop in a "highly conflictive" place. "We cannot lose sight of the fact that we know we are in a mission territory where we have to proclaim the Good News. Conflict is part of daily life, so it is not alien to us. So, our task is to proclaim Jesus Christ in the midst of these conflicts. It is difficult, delicate and hopefully we can get it right".