It has a profound Christian tradition, but it is also the country of the samba and bossa nova. It gave birth to the great Pele: it is Brazil, the largest country in South America where, for the next four years, the world will be watching.
In fact, not only will it host the next Olympic Games in 2016, and the next World Soccer Cup in 2014, but will host hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the world in Rio de Janeiro to meet with Pope Benedict XVI for World Youth Day (WYD) next year.
After Madrid 2011, in fact, the green-golden country will host an event that is animated and full of religious significance, but which is also, as attested by past WYDs, an extraordinary opportunity for evangelization.
“Go and make disciples of all nations!”: the great finale of Matthew’s Gospel cannot represent better an event awaited not only by young people, but by all those who recognize in Jesus Christ the meaning of life and of history.
The rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, Bishop Enrico Dal Covolo, wished to prepare the Lateran academic community for this event by going to Brazil. Bishop Dal Covolo visited seminaries, universities, theological institutes, and Christian communities from Brasilia to Porto Alegre, and met with numerous bishops to share with them the academic and pastoral mission of what, with an altogether special title, is the Pope’s University.
Bishop Dal Covolo spoke with ZENIT about his trip to Brazil.
ZENIT: Your Excellency, what are the three most significant images you have from your Brazilian tour?
Bishop Dal Covolo: It’s difficult to synthesize, because the experience lived was so rich and intense, that I fear trivializing it while telling it. However, if I must choose three images, I recall first of all the extraordinary vivacity of the Brazilian Church: the New Communities, but also the presence, by now tested, of long years of evangelization, transmitting great hope. In particular – and it’s the second image – I appreciated the work being carried out by the numerous and crowded Pontifical and Catholic Universities of Brazil. In short, as a son of Don Bosco, I was extremely pleased to see how much the Salesians have done, and continue to do in the realm of evangelization and human promotion of the territory: on August 16 at Porto Alegre I presided over the Eucharistic celebration on Don Bosco’s birthday -- an enthusiasm without equal!
ZENIT: Can you summarize for us the principal stages of your visit?
Bishop Dal Covolo: The first stage was Sao Paulo. I was the guest of the Heralds of the Gospel. I visited the community called “Canzon Nuova,” all dedicated to evangelization through the means of social communication. Above all I visited the“P. Giuseppe B. Pegoraro” Institute of Canon Law, associated with the “Utriusque Iuris” Institute of the Lateran. I met with the Cardinal Scherer, with some Auxiliaries, and at Aparecida with the president of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Assis.
The second stage was Campogrande, where I signed a convention with Don Bosco Catholic University. Then Brasilia, headquarters of a forthcoming Lateran affiliation: the four-year theological course of the “Redemptoris Mater” Missionary Seminary. In this capital – the city of Don Bosco’s dream! – I had important meetings with Cardinal Falcao, with the archbishop of the diocese and with the Apostolic Nuncio. After Curitiba and Porto Alegre I went to Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.
In Rio I met with Archbishop Orani Tempesta and his Auxiliaries, to plan and organize the participation of the representation of the Lateran University at the World Youth Day. In all these meetings I tried to insist on the authentic idea of a University – referring especially to the teaching of Blessed Cardinal Newman and Pope Benedict XVI – as an effective answer given the educational emergency that faces us. In fact, I’m increasingly convinced that we have in our hands an effective answer to come out of the crisis, even if at times we are not always aware of it: this answer is a University that functions well, namely, a University that is an inexhaustible place of dialogue between faith and reason, a fervent forge of formation of formators.
ZENIT: So you visited several institutes connected in some way with the Lateran University. How important for you is the international dimension of the Athenaeum you have the honor to govern?
Bishop Dal Covolo: I would say that the great finale of Matthew 28:19 “Go and make disciples of all nations”– fits in a special way the mission of the Pope’s University. Obviously, in what is specific to the academic mission, which is the mission of teaching and of scientific research. But precisely this mission, in today’s sociocultural context, cannot be carried out except as a “network”: that is, in intense, shared and the most extensive possible collaboration with other academic institutions, of worldwide scope. To tell the truth, not even such an international academic network is sufficient. It must be extended, in the most appropriate ways, to the various “educational agencies” (so they are referred to today), which operate on the territory.
ZENIT: Tell us about the Brazilian people, considered in the collective imagination as joyful and welcoming. Are they so?
Bishop Dal Covolo: They are precisely so: joyful and welcoming. Of course, there is also the other side of the coin. The risk is that passing emotions will prevail as regards well-rooted convictions. Today the challenge facing the Church in Brazil is no longer radical forms of “liberation theology.” The challenge, rather, are the religious sects, which in the main appeal to immediate emotions. In face of this twofold evidence, I’m persuaded that it is decisive to insist more on a “witnessing theology,” on a “theology that prays and witnesses the event of faith.” We, professors of theology, have a professional deformity: almost without noticing, we hold as definitive the ides quae creditor, that is, the objective contents of the act of faith. Vice versa, faith that is believed cannot be without the fides qua creditur; that is, it cannot be without the personal witness of one who believes. It’s no accident that Jesus’ words-testament, in fact those that I chose as my episcopal motto, are these: Eritis mihi testes! You, my disciples – the Master continues to repeat – you will be my witnesses, with your daily life!
ZENIT: Next year Brazil will host the WYD. How is the Brazilian Church preparing for this event?
Bishop Dal Covolo: Truly, in the Brazilian Church fervet opus, in an impressive way. Something that struck me was the visit to the archbishopric of Rio, where I was a guest in what will be, after the appropriate restructuring, the Pope’s apartment. Significant was my visit to the seventh floor of the bishop’s residence; the area is already entirely ready, with the most sophisticated technological equipment and with a wise division of ambiances, for the organizational and logistical needs of World Youth Day. Altogether, there is a generous activity which I am sure will bear copious fruit , not only for Latin America but for the whole Church and the world, thanks to Jesus’ promise: “Go, therefore … Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Bp Bishop Dal Covolo is the rector of Pontifical Lateran University