Birthday in the shadow?

Birthday in the shadow?

Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz Ossa © Romano Siciliani (KNA)

As a prince of the church with a humble attitude he has had a flawless career. But the long shadow of the abuse scandal has also fallen on the Chilean cardinal and friend of the Pope, Errazuriz.

At the age of 79, the vast majority of employees are no longer thinking about a career boost. But things turned out differently for Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, a religious and archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile. As a close confidant of Argentina's Pope Francis, he came to a third career in 2013: Francis made him one of those cardinals who will advise him on the governance of the universal church and advance a curia reform in the Vatican. This Wednesday, Errazuriz will now be 85 years old.

With Pope Francis, the likeable and winning clergyman shares not only a remarkable devotion and willingness to make gestures of humility. The two apparently also long shared a fatal misperception of the situation surrounding sexual abuse in the Chilean church. Both have had to row back unusually hard in recent months.

Victims of abuse accuse Errazuriz of protecting priest Fernando Karadima (88), later convicted, from prosecution. Behind closed doors it was already said for a long time that under the carpets of the episcopal palace of Santiago all kinds of dirt were swept. Public opinion turned against Errazuriz even more than against his successor Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati (76).

Vatican advisor, Schoenstatt leader, admonisher for reconciliation

For his third career as a Vatican advisor, the religious man brought experience from his two other world church careers: as superior general of the Schoenstatt Fathers (1974-1980) and as head of one of the most important dioceses in Latin America (1998-2010). In addition a robust health, which he owes also to decades of sporty activity.

From 1971 to 1990, Errazuriz was in charge of the Schoenstatt Movement in Vallendar, near Koblenz, and from 1996 to 1998, he was bishop of Valparaiso. Impressions of the Vatican control center, which he was later to help reform, he gained as secretary of the Congregation for Religious Orders from 1990 to 1996. From 2003 to 2007, Errazuriz was president of the Latin American Episcopal Council CELAM; he has been a member of the College of Cardinals since 2001. Like many Latin American countries, Chile, Latin America's economic poster boy, bears internal wounds from the period of military dictatorships. Errazuriz was always an admonisher for reconciliation after the 17-year dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). 3.000 people died during the military regime; tens of thousands were mistreated.

Time and again the cardinal has reached out to victims and perpetrators alike so that they might reach out to one another. And: With a public "Mea culpa" in 2000, he also asked for forgiveness for failings of the Catholic Church. A blind spot, however, seems to have been sexual abuse.

Fight against moral relativisms

His schooling enjoyed the on 5. September 1933 in Santiago with the Steyl missionaries of the Liceo Aleman, a German-speaking high school. Later he studied mathematics and became involved in the emerging Schoenstatt movement. He completed his studies in theology and philosophy in Fribourg, Switzerland, where he was ordained priest in 1961. His encounters with Father Joseph Kentenich (1885-1968), the founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, marked him for life. Errazuriz was named regional superior and, in 1974, superior general of the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Fathers. Later, as president of the General Presidium, he traveled to all five continents.

As archbishop of Santiago and CELAM president, he fought against moral relativism, "gay marriage," abortion and euthanasia. In view of the growing influence of Pentecostal churches and sects in Latin America, he was not afraid even then to expose the deficiencies of the Roman church.

That the churchman with the high forehead in old age once again got the opportunity to help shape a reform of the church leadership on behalf of the pope, he would not have dreamed in 2010 when he retired. And that in the end he would be so sharply caught in the crossfire of criticism, neither. Shortly before his birthday, there were even rumors in the media that Francis might exclude him and the Australian Cardinal of the Curia George Pell (77) from his circle of advisors.

By Alexander Brueggemann

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