Mons. Salvador José Miguel Piñeiro García-Calderón, Archbishop of Ayacucho, President of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference, is going through hectic and busy days. The preparations for the Pope’s arrival are coupled by concerns for the earthquake that hit the south of the Country, and – with a relatively lighter impact – also his diocese. “Fortunately the seism in the area of Ayacucho did not cause severe damage”, he said outright. In the interview, Msgr. Piñeiro gave SIR an in-depth overview of the Peruvian people’s expectations and preparations for the meeting with Pope Francis: three-and-a-half days marked by a very busy program, from the afternoon of Thursday, January 18, to Sunday 21st (with visits to the capital city of Lima, to Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo). He equally addressed a set of “controversial” issues linked to the visit – the political situation and corruption, or, in the ecclesial realm, the Vatican’s decision to place the society of Apostolic Life “Solidalitium of Christian Life” under Compulsory Administration. A decision described as “opportune” by the CEP President.
“Unidos por la esperanza” is the slogan of the papal visit. Why does Peru need to combine union and hope? Peru is a divided Country today, and for various reasons that include the characteristics of its geography, economic inequalities, political ideologies. However, the Country is kept together by Jesus, along with deep-rooted spirituality, Marian devotion, the people’s deep affection for the Pope. Hope is the virtue that makes us live out the Gospel every day, it’s an operative virtue. In fact, in our meeting with the bishops, those were the terms that recurred more frequently. Moreover, we were inspired by the Pope, by his words, by his magisterium, by his reference to the great Saints of Peru when he announced the visit.
Could you briefly explain the significance of this visit to three very different and distant cities? How can this itinerary be best described?
For sure the Pope is not coming as a tourist! He will be visiting those places that most need his magisterium, especially where there is suffering.
On Friday the Pope will be in Puerto Maldonado. In the Amazon region there are many situations of suffering, such as the trafficking of human beings, deforestation, the ongoing environmental devastations, illegal mining activity … We addressed these themes with the Pope during the Ad Limina visit past May, and we shared the idea of a Synod for the Pan-Amazon region, which was later officially announced. On Saturday the Pope will be in the north of the Country, in Trujillo, that still bears the scars of last year’s floods. The Pope will bring his comfort also to the peoples living in these areas. He will then proceed to Lima, the capital city, where Sunday’s closing Mass will be celebrated. The urban area numbers 11 million inhabitants, with all the problems that ensue: peripheries, traffic, pollution …
How did you prepare for the visit?
To my knowledge the communities have put great effort in the preparations, with catechesis and prayer. Great hopes are placed in the aftermath of the visit,
that it may provide pastoral momentum and help us address new challenges.
As relates to the organization, everything is ready. The Government’s cooperation was conspicuous.
Are pilgrims expected in high numbers?
It is expected that more than a million people will crowd the streets for the Pope’s arrival. The Holy Father will pass by the Avenida de Brasil, a very large street, that can contain a large number of people. Over a million faithful are expected to attend Sunday Mass in the “Las Palmas” air base.
A few days ago the Vatican decided to place the society of Apostolic Life “Solidalitium of Christian Life”, founded in Peru, under compulsory administration. What is the opinion of the Peruvian Church?
It is an opportune decision, which I mentioned past May on the occasion of the ad Limina visit. Already then there arose grounded reasons, although the Vatican justly decided to follow the necessary procedures. On our part we are serene, and in fact we are reassured by the fact that the Pope addresses the problems.
Although to a minor agree compared to Chile, also in Peru there have been protests and some small attacks.
The most severe one was the attack on the statue of Christ that overlooks Lima, however, in the most part these attacks are committed by small groups, and such deeds have had little visibility. The majority of the population is happy and is cooperating for the positive outcome of the visit.
Corruption is another major issue…
Indeed, it is a major problem experienced across Latin America. The Pope’s words help us and strengthen us in the fight against this scourge. As regards the political situation in the Country, the President created a new Government and appealed to dialogue and reconciliation. It’s important
for discord to be vanquished.
Of course, there can be disagreements, or different viewpoints, it’s part and parcel of democracy. But we must remain united. Could I add one last thought?
In Peru six bishops are Italian, there are many missionaries, we also share a martyr, Blessed Alessandro Dordi. I wish to avail myself of this interview to highlight the deep bond with the Italian Church as well as our gratitude.