On November 18, 2022, the Augustinian Recollect Francisco Javier Acero Pérez was ordained auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Mexico City by the Lord Archbishop Carlos Aguiar at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
It has been a year since his episcopal ordination and we would like to ask him some questions. questions to inform visitors to www.agustinosrecoletos.org so that they feel linked to you. My first question, logically, is how is your health, spirit and motivation.
Since his appointment came on the scene and his episcopal ordination took place, a year has passed. Because it is the first, there will have been new events. Which ones do you remember with special affection?
Personally, it has been new to live outside the Augustinian Recollect community, although we auxiliary bishops live in community. The customs of the community follow: prayer, dialogue, listening, fraternal space, and are enriched in other ecclesiastical areas.
The new event outwardly has been the pastoral visit. Two days after my episcopal ordination I joined the process of pastoral visitation in the Archdiocese of Mexico headed by the Cardinal Archbishop Primate of Mexico. A process that has lasted almost two years, visiting environments and parishes.
Visits to parishes are especially pleasant moments and of great learning. Listen to the priests, their concerns, and the people, their problems and their experience of faith, have been important moments at the beginning of this ministry that requires closeness and a lot of mercy.
As auxiliary bishop I accompanied D. Carlos and the five auxiliary bishops in the shepherding of a large city. This requires a lot of prayer and patience.
The structural changes that have been made in the Church are fair and necessary; the demands are understandable when we do not want a dynamic church, in process and with an eye on the most vulnerable. All change is good, “it has always been done this way” or dreaming of a nostalgic museum Church, makes us remain in a state that is not very missionary and too comfortable. More ideologized than experiential.
There is a phrase attributed to the musician Gustav Mahler in relation to the tradition that the Pope has cited in some interview: “tradition is the transmission of the fire, not the worship of ashes. I think it’s time to personally evaluate and from the priestly fraternity these changes; the evaluations are improvement processes that help us streamline structures and observe that we do not we can go backwards to preserve humanism.
The vicarage of the laity in the world is another novelty and one of the tasks that I have. As auxiliary bishop and it is a new and exciting job. A Vicarage that works with everything the Church does abroad. From the socio-charitable aspect, culture and evangelization, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, to contact with the realities furthest from the Church and God. There are thirteen dimensions that accompany through teamwork. A good number of lay people are accustomed to collaborative work and I believe that this is what good operation of this Vicariate.
How did you feel during the preparatory course for bishops in Rome? Would you say that It represented a new learning experience that, looking back a year later, has served you well especially to carry out your task?
In the preparatory course for the new bishops I felt like a member of a universal Church integrated into the daily problems of each region and country. One of the most important issues is to work in harmony with the Ecclesiastical Province and with the Episcopal Conference. Collaborative work in various areas from Diocese is a gesture that enriches the Churches and a structure that helps to reach the most distant realities.
Of course, the media and new technologies have very close to everyone going in the same direction. Also the rhythm of prayer in the meeting was important, not only to be able to decide what was most appropriate, but also to be able to echo what one lives internally. Since the course has been developed on synodality, has confirmed to me that without the laity we cannot work. They are the essential part of the Church.
The personal meeting with the Pope should always mark. What impression did it make on you the greeting and conversation with Pope Francis?
Pope Francis is informed of what is happening in the world. At this moment he is addressing various internal and external problems. The reform of the curia, clericalism and the lack of transparency; the wars in the world and the migrations. On the occasions that I have met the Holy Father I have seen him strong and with a Impressive listening skills. With his age, he always has a full agenda, where he is serving all kinds of people. His personal agenda evening meetings is more relaxed.
The last time we were able to meet he was finalizing some details of the synod, there was also Cardinal O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, and the council Latin American Center for Prevention of Minors (CEPROME). There he left us a quite serious assignment besides that we pray for him; He told us:
“I don’t want it to happen without paying attention to a problem that is very serious in terms of abuse, filming of child pornography, which unfortunately by paying a small fee and they can have on the phone. Where is this child pornography made? In what country is does? Nobody knows. But it is criminality put at the service of each one through their phones. Please let’s talk about this too. Because those children who are filmed are victims, sophisticated victims of this consumer society. Do not forget “This is a point that worries me a lot.”
In the archdiocese of Mexico City, what areas of pastoral care do you have?
Directly entrusted by Cardinal Carlos Aguiar, the Vicariate of Laity in the World, which, as I have already mentioned, is a novel work and exciting. A Vicariate that works with everything that the Church does on the outside: the socio-charitable aspect, culture and evangelization, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, contact with the realities furthest from the Church and God. There are thirteen dimensions that are accompanied by teamwork.
I also support the Catholic University of the Archdiocese Lumen Gentium, and a Preparatory and a High School that belong to the Archdiocese. I also coordinate the Juvenile Commission and the Communication Office. And the territory of the second pastoral zone. Many tasks that can be accompanied with large teams of lay people, nuns, religious men and diocesan priests. The important thing It is listening and being present, being close.
How do you perceive synodality, so advocated by Pope Francis, in the Archdiocese of Mexico City and in the territory or pastoral care that is under your responsibility?
It is a process that has to be improved with greater participation of the laity. In this Archdiocese I was working as a parochial vicar, parish priest and dean. Already in that time there were parish, territorial and archdiocesan vicariate assemblies. Today the Pope shows us a discernment that goes beyond consensus. A temptation that we have is clericalism on the part of the presbytery and the laity. If we apply the spiritual conversation in our assemblies the results are different.
The Archdiocese is building the synodal path in the parishes and also in the environments that this great city has. The synodal consciousness and style is marked by the personal experience of encounter with Christ, from there is how we can begin to feel the communion, the mission and the participation.
In order to understand synodality we must allow ourselves to be evangelized. And evangelization is a long process that requires comprehensive support and also evaluations so that they do not remain simple events. In such a large Archdiocese I believe that the challenge is to work in network in the Deaneries.
The territory that I accompany is preparing parish and decanal assemblies. In some areas it is difficult because of the lifestyle they lead, taking the Church as a self-service, but it is not an impossible task, we are looking at a way to do it inter-parish. The proximity from the atrium, the personalized attention in anointing of the sick and reconciliation are key to having more than churches full, truly committed lay people.
What problem do you see as most pressing in the archdiocese of Mexico City that, probably extendable to the entire Mexican Republic?
Violence, lack of trust in the Church and the educational emergency. Violence is a scourge spread throughout the Mexican Republic. In the year 2000 the Mexican Episcopal Conference shared a very good pastoral letter that is helping me today to understand the situation we are experiencing. The pastoral letter carries the title “From the Encounter with Jesus Christ to solidarity with all. The meeting with Jesus Christ, path of conversion, communion, solidarity and mission in Mexico in the threshold of the third millennium”; In this pastoral letter the bishops indicated policies of prevention to avoid an extension of violence and drug trafficking.
The differences in social structures and strategies that led more to individualism and moral relativism. What was written 23 years ago we are living today. The lack of trust in most religious and civil institutions comes given by the issue not only of sexual abuse by clerics, but also either by the abuse of power by those who exercise a government service, that, more than to be empowered, they must be lived from a selfless service.
Have the same direction, avoid lack of transparency, let the Spirit speak, leave petty interests that manage to ideologize and separate the other through defamation or personal comfort. When we are moved by these interests, spiritual worldliness comes to the surface with gestures that are not very evangelical.
Catholic education in Mexico is another complex and serious problem. Our centers educational institutions continue to bother those who are governing. Our students must be able to become builders of peace, promoting a developed human integral so that they can be full, integral people with a social dimension that promotes, as the documents of the CEM – Mexican Episcopal Conference say -, a culture open to dialogue and with the values of the gospel.
Support parents to defend the values and also to participate as citizens through dialogue and our condition as believers. The globalization of indifference and radical consumerism have made many of our young people sit alone. Mexico has a high rate of youth suicides and we have to also try in Catholic schools with good teacher training, less ideologized and more human. Let it be more passionate about teaching than about partisan politics.
Also the issue of migrations. A complex issue that is slowly creating xenophobia in some parts of the country.