Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras, who is on a first name basis with the Pope, told an audience of University students that they can make a difference in a world that appears beaten down by war in the Middle East, terrorism from Afghanistan and rampant poverty, corruption and injustice worldwide.
Through stewardship—his favorite English word—and solidarity, Cardinal Rodriguez said Catholics here can help the church move forward in its mission of improving living conditions for all people.
“You, my friends, are called to answer to these challenges,” he said. “Are we growing in humanity? I think we are, and the way is through solidarity. We are given co-responsibilities in trying to make this world a better world to live in. When you grow in co-responsibility, every day, you are building justice and building peace.”
The cardinal was brought to the University by Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk to be the keynote speaker at the Third Annual Su Casa awards dinner and silent auction at the Cintas Center. Proceeds from the fundraiser benefit the Su Casa Hispanic Center, a Cincinnati Archdiocese-sponsored organization that helps local Hispanic residents with employment, housing, legal, medical and translation assistance, youth activities, educational programs, and social and religious issues.
During his talk to students and again in his evening address, Cardinal Rodriguez spoke of the challenges facing the Catholic Church in the new millennium and what Catholics can do to meet them. The theme he repeated, using examples from his own impoverished country, was creating grassroots solidarity among people to fight poverty, injustice, corruption and racism.
“The world is full of hatred, rivalries and racism. It’s a reality,” he said. “We are created to know, to serve and to love God. It’s all interrelated. This is the road to walk to face the great challenges in the 21st Century. You can’t love if you do not know. Once you know other people and cultures, it’s impossible to forget and be indifferent.”
He spoke of a united North and South America—a single America—and he mourned the fact that though 25 percent of the world’s population is Catholic, there are too few lay missionaries. He ranted about the corruption of governments that has weakened the economies of many countries, including Honduras, and suggested the answer is to teach ethics. He talked of the poor and downtrodden for whom more money is not the answer.
“With Pope John Paul II there has been a great impulse for solidarity in the church. We know the best answer to poverty in the world is solidarity. In a globalized world, we need the globalization of the solidarity of the church. This is the great hope for all of us in America,” he said.
The 59-year-old Rodriguez, who was named Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in 1993 and Cardinal last year, is often mentioned as a possible successor to the Pope. He holds many important positions in the Roman Curia—Papal Commission on Latin America, Papal Justice and Peace Council, and Papal Council for Social Communications—but he brushes off any talk about succeeding Pope John Paul.
“I don’t even think about it because I’m sure when the moment comes, it will be the Holy Spirit who will decide,” he said.