Pope Francis appointed the Argentine theologian Emilce Cuda in a Secretariat for Latin America

From Rome

The Argentine theologian Emilce Cuda was named on Friday by Pope Francis as Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America of the Vatican, a role that he will share with the Mexican philosopher Rodrigo Guerra López, who is also Secretary. Presided over by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Pontifical Commission had until now been headed only by men. Cuda was appointed last July as head of the office of that Pontifical Commission, a position lower than Secretary. But on Friday the Pope decided to increase her responsibility.

“The Pope appointed us together so that two positions from Latin America were represented, a man and a woman, the north and the south since my colleague is from Mexico,” Cuda explained in an interview with PageI12. Cuda she got her doctorate in Ethical Theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina where she worked as a professor. She also taught at the Arturo Jauretche University and worked as a visiting professor at the Faculty of Philosophy at UBA and at universities in the United States, such as Boston College and Northwestern University.

It is not the first time that Pope Francis has opened doors to women in the Vatican. In August 2020, just to give an example, he appointed six economic experts from different countries as members of the Council for Economic Affairs of the Holy See, in charge of advising and controlling the economy and finances of the Vatican. Before, in 2017, other women had been appointed, one as Undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life and another in the Undersecretary of Relations with States.

– What specifically will you have to deal with from now on?

-Both my colleague Rodrigo Guerra and I spoke with Cardinal Ouellet and told him that it seemed to us that the original function of the CAL (Commission for Latin America, a shortened name for the Pontifical Commission for Latin America), which was only to maintain communication between the Roman curia and the Latin American episcopal conferences on issues of faith and religion, was limited considering the encyclicals and documents issued by Pope Francis. In all these documents, a lot of impetus is given to what is known as the Social Doctrine of the Church, that is, to deal with the problems that threaten Creation. That is why we think that Cal should also extend its functions to promoting the integral development of the region. In this framework, I proposed to have a North-South dialogue, which includes not only the Latin American countries but also those of North America. Because in those countries, especially the United States, many Latin Americans live as immigrants who were forced to emigrate from their own countries for economic or socio-environmental reasons, among others. That is why we believe it is important to open a North-South dialogue. Cardinal Ouellet agreed and so did Pope Francis. They gave us their consent to expand the functions of the CAL which will now not only deal with faith and religion but also open North-South dialogue.

-And what would be the topics to be discussed in these dialogues?

-I believe that there are two urgent issues that must be addressed in Latin America: the energy problem and the food problem. I think it is urgent to pay attention to the structural causes of forced migration of people. Because those people don’t want to go to do tourism in other countries. They are forced because they do not have work. And that migration has a structural cause. In Latin America, people lived off natural wealth. But now it seems that they can no longer live off their natural riches because the exploitation that is made of them is deteriorating the care of the planet. Which is true and those who are exploiting those resources are not Latin Americans but foreign companies. Living from natural wealth is a right that we have. God gave them to us so that we could take care of managing these industries. But for that we would need advanced machinery at an energy level but we do not have the economic or scientific-technological conditions to develop them. Under international pressure we are going to be forced to buy this machinery from other countries and Latin Americans will have to go into debt to pay for it and other countries will end up taking that wealth.

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-And what does that have to do with CAL?

-Well, within Theology, we speak of Economic Theology. And this has nothing to do with the daily economy but deals with the administration of the Common Home, of Creation. And it is up to us to defend it. So it is not the CAL that is going to do practical work but to open the dialogue, as Pope Francis said. “Set the table”, as they say, so that they can sit down to talk. Who is it? College students first. In this way, a collaboration between the universities of the North and the South could begin to develop, at a scientific-technological level, which could develop projects that allow development so that the South can live with dignity from its natural wealth without these being exploited with anti-ecological techniques. by foreign countries. We are not going to deal with that, but we open the dialogue. We also opened the dialogue to see how to solve the problem of the indebtedness of our countries. This is a challenge that my colleague Guerra proposed. It is not about doing politics or economics, or seeking power, but neither is it about reducing ourselves to worship. Christianity is a theology that intervenes in the face of people’s suffering. La Cal will open doors, facilitate dialogue and expand our communication channels to North America.

-The first North-South dialogue is scheduled for next Thursday, right?

– Yes, it is next Thursday and Pope Francis will be present live to speak with university students. Students from several Latin American countries will participate in addition to Canada and the United States. The main theme will be migrations. I propose intervening in university research programs to study the causes of migration and see how to generate jobs, and how to stop the ecological disaster to prevent people from fleeing their own country. Other future dialogues could be focused on energy, food production, transportation. The university is not the machine to obtain resources in order to carry out new projects. But he has knowledge in his hands, knowledge, he has to recover the importance of his place. Today there is financing only for the development of projects that are functional for large companies. But the dialogue could find other ways to produce necessary things. Like for example solar heaters for poor neighborhoods. That they are worth nothing, that no company is interested because they are not profitable, but that they would be very useful to the people of those neighborhoods.

-But later it will be necessary to look for investors…

-Yes, but CAL does not deal with that. What we want is to give visibility to the issue, this time with the presence of the Pope. On Thursday we will start with Catholic universities, Jesuits. But later the idea is to continue the dialogue with other universities.

-Is it difficult for a woman to work within the Vatican having a responsibility like yours?

-It’s not dificult. It is not difficult if one is a woman who has had to penetrate other structures before. It is difficult in the Universities too. How many women rectors of universities do we know in Latin America? How many women leaders of multinational companies do we see in the world? It is not something that has to do with the Catholic Church but with the role that has been given to women worldwide. But today the woman is reacting to that. There are also men who fight for women to be recognized. Women work, they work a lot but they are invisible. They earn less salary than men even if they hold the same position. But now women are making their way into many institutions

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