Cardinal Fernando Filoni, appointed Prefect for the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples by Pope Benedict XVI on 10 May 2011, is an expert in Chinese affairs and on the Middle East. Here are excerpts of an interview he gave to O CLARIM on Monday, March 4.
Your Eminence, you are the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (CEP). What are the main goals of your Congregation?
The CEP is also known as Propaganda Fide, the first name, it’s a Latin name, nothing to do with propaganda. Propaganda in Latin means “bringing (the Gospel) to the world.” This is the real meaning. Our congregation was created four hundred years ago. This congregation was set up by the Popes, because they understood in that period of history when many countries were making colonies here and there, sometimes using religion for their political purposes. The Pope said “no,” one cannot mix religion and commercial or political matters. Evangelization is the first duty of the Church. The Church was created to evangelize. Now as a congregation today, we are taking care of the three big continents of Asia, Africa, Oceania and parts of Latin America, in 1,200 dioceses.
As the Vatican Council said, we must encourage evangelization, and make Catholics aware that they must be missionaries in their life. That also means promoting the inculturation of the Church for each country.
But evangelization has to walk with two legs: one is the Gospel, the other is the culture. So we have also to go to education, healthcare and social aspects.
We don’t want to impose, as Pope Francis says [many times], we want to propose our faith.
Macau and Hong Kong have given a big contribution to the evangelization in China. What role could both special administrative regions have under the agreement between the Holy See and Beijing’s Central Government?
Saint John Paul II said the church in Taiwan, in Hong Kong, Macau must bridge the two sides. But we have to say that China already has the church in itself. A bridge needs to have two pillars, not only one.
Some years ago you were also the head of the Holy See Study Mission in Hong Kong. Macau and Hong Kong have changed a lot in the recent years. Do you think the Catholic Church’s presence is still strong in both regions?
The Bishop, the priests, the religious, the lay people, they are doing a wonderful job. It is admirable, because, although we are minorities, we contribute a lot also not only in faith, but in education, in health assistance …
Do you think Pope Francis will consider the invitation of the two Chinese bishops to go to China?
He would like to go, waiting for the right moment, perhaps.