Fr Jose Luis Quijano, rector of the Institute for Advanced learning on Catechesis of Argentina (Isca) until March 2015, catechetical consultant for the Latin-American Bishops’ Conference (CELAM), parish priest of the church of the Immaculate Conception of Tigre (in the district of Buenos Aires), is one of 1.071 “missionaries of mercy” that will be sent out by Pope Francis. On February 10, during the celebration of Ash Wednesday in St. Peter’s Basilica, he will be appointed privileged witness of the extraordinary Jubilee Year and thereby become a “persuasive preacher of mercy.” Father Quijano, who has already been in the Vatican in 2014, on the occasion of a seminar organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, for a reflection on the situation of catechesis in Europe, USA and Latin America, has returned to be conferred this special mandate by the Pope.
Father Quijano, could you illustrate the mandate conferred by the Pope to the “Missionaries of mercy”?
In paragraph18 of the bull Misericordiae vultus, Pope Francis conveys his intention to send out the missionaries of mercy “as a sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith.”
Thus the missionaries are called to be “living signs” of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon.
What does it mean for you to be sent out by Pope Francis to offer this testimony?
This appointment has unquestionably revitalized my vocation. It brought me back to the first call of the Lord that I felt during my youth, in the parish missionary group. But above all I believe that the mandate of the Pope is a paradigm of this ecclesial time of an “outgoing Church”, clad with the mercy of God in order to reach out to everyone, to enter the hearts of the weakest and of those who feel distant from the Church.
If you were to describe the special mission that you have been entrusted, how would you define it?
The Pope entrusts us with the mission of going beyond the “borders”
I believe that the “outgoing Church” needs missionary disciples supported by prayer, capable of carrying out the merciful gesture. Mercy is not a theoretical question, it is a mystery of the faith that becomes concrete through action. The Church has always spoken of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. As missionaries we are called by the Pope to be “persuasive preachers of mercy”, “to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father.”
You have always shows a special concern for an evangelisation directed at “fostering an encounter with Christ.” As a “missionary of mercy” are you called to deepen this calling?
Practising mercy inevitably occasions the encounter with Christ. In a world often torn by hatred and enmity, only mercy is capable of making us open up to authentic reconciliation. Promoting a Church that welcomes her prodigal sons with open arms, that opens her doors to the violent and corrupt ones who have decided to change life, highlights the intention to show the merciful face of the Father in Jesus Christ. Reawakening mercy in human hearts means placing them on the path leading to their brothers and sisters for reconciliation and to God for an encounter that had been postponed many times in the past.
Pope Francis said that Lent will be a special period of this Jubilee Year, a strong moment to celebrate and experience the mercy of God…
The time of Lent is a time of spiritual exercise and retreat, when the Church reiterates her invitation: “I don’t want sacrifices but mercy.” Thus begins the Lenten proclamation that ushers in the 40-day period before Easter.
Over the past few days you have recalled the figure of Don Luigi Orione. Could you tell us why?
The example of Don Orione stands as an inspiration for everything regarding mercy. I know few people who have been so deeply committed with the poorest among the poor like he has been. For us the presence and the commitment of Don Orione is exemplary for all those who intend to experience mercy in their lives. Don Orione has been a great missionary. He decided to go to Argentina to fulfil his missionary work, notably with the foundation of the Cottolengo institute in the city of Claypole.
What are your expectations regarding your meeting with Francis?
There will be two very powerful moments: the personal meeting with the Pope (February 9) and the Mass for the sending forth of the missionaries of mercy (February 10). These are very significant moments when God speaks to us clearly and firmly to make us see that we are carrying forth his mission strongly assisted by His grace.