Salesian Rector Major: Friend to youth

Fr Ángel Fernández Artime


By Danuska Da Gama

Panaji, April 7, 2019: The tenth successor of Don Bosco, Rector Major Ángel Fernández Artime was in Goa. The head of more than 15,000 Salesians the world over spent time with youngsters while visiting the Panaji Province.

It wasn’t the first time Father Artime visited India. But on his maiden visit to Goa, he managed to steal the limelight in the Salesian family while interacting with youth and others. He didn’t enjoy the formal programs as much as he enjoyed getting candid with the young people, sitting and talking to them, clicking selfies or shaking his leg on stage to the music. He created a kind of magic wherever he went during the six-day trip to Goa. The Spaniard couldn’t deal with the heat but that didn’t come in the way of making the most of his time in Goa.

He spoke to Navhind Times of Goa.

What was your impression about India, how did it change after being here for about a week?

First of all I need to say that India is a great nation, almost a continent, and my impressions have always been really good in the four visits I have made. The reality is diverse in Delhi, Trichy, Hyderabad, Kolkata or Assam. I want to speak about Goa where I found a lively Salesian spirit, and a passion for education a great welcome. I feel that we have a great task at hand now and a wonderful hopeful future.

What are the main focus areas during your time as Rector Major and leader of this widespread community?

What we need to never forget is that we are Salesians. And the whole Salesian family has a mission in the Church. The young boys and girls call us for this mission, and among these are the neediest. We have to leave our palaces. We need to change the walls. Only one thing we can never lose is our family spirit and our special mission towards the young, especially the poor.

We’ve witnessed your enthusiasm with youth. What do you love most about the youth worldwide?

About the youth in the world, what I like the most is that they spirited. Like Don Bosco, I feel the youth are young and that is enough for them to be loved. I admire the young because they have a lot to offer and have numerous possibilities. They have a big heart and are always ready to accommodate anyone. At times it is us, as adults, who do not have time for them. They always have their doors open. Hence, I believe that we have a lot of future, as Salesians, because the youth will always be there. We only need to ask God for fidelity.

The youth are the most misunderstood segment of population, isn’t it?

Well, it is possible that we adults or we educators, look at our youth from a very different perspective as if they are standing there… away from us or segregated. I think it is not true at all. The youth do not go away from us, and the young also wait for us to bring them closer. I tell people, especially my Salesians and the Salesian family, to always have a warm heart, to accept them wholeheartedly. That is, a Salesian heart that always tries to see the good in the young. I feel that the youth is our future. To come closer to the young and being with them, will help us find our joy and have a profound sense for our own life.

Religion and politics has been engulfing the world, especially India. Your comments on the same.

Let me begin by saying that this is human history. The diversity of cultures, races, religions has always existed. Well, we should always strive to educate ourselves to live in diversity, accept the differences and accept others with their diversity. We need to accept our own personal identity too. You should never renounce your own identity, like in our case as Christians. To understand, like how Jesus taught, the others are never our enemies.

The Pope is transforming the Church with new ideas and changes, particularly with propagating gender equality within the Church. Comment.

I think Pope Francis has not said anything new about the doctrines of the Church or the dogmas of faith. He has not changed anything as it is not possible to change the truth about our faith. According to me, he clearly has his vision as a pastor which finds ways to bring people closer to the Church, just as Jesus did not condemn anyone, and that seeks to open the doors. This I feel is the most wonderful aspect of the pastoral heart of the Pope. And this is the true conversion that we are called to.

What is more important being religious and keeping the Sabbath day holy or following the path of work being worship and just being good human beings?

There is no doubt in that as that is the advice given by Jesus himself. Our mission as Christians, for some of us priests or religious, is not the Sabbath. That would mean being rigid, condemning others or throwing away our careers in the smoke. Our attempts should be to find a way for the good of others, to serve, to give testimony, to pray for others, to always have our doors always, and that of being the proof of God’s love. We follow a saying as Salesians – ‘We are signs and bearers of God’s love for the young.’

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