Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cardinal Castillo Lara is no more

We started the day with the announcement that Cardinal Castillo Lara passed away.

Perhaps for the Catholic Church this is not anymore a terrible loss except for the sentimental aspect of it since Cardinal Castillo had reached some of the highest positions at the Vatican and was the mentor of many a younger Cardinal of the world. But at 85 years old and after 7 years of retirement his life was accomplished, and in more senses than one.

The great loss was for Venezuela since Cardinal Castillo was one of the most outspoken critics of Chavez. And perhaps the one who most irked chavismo because he had an uncanny ability to poke his fingers in the moral weaknesses of chavismo, and Chavez himself. It is fair to say that after president Bush Cardinal Castillo was perhaps the person that Chavez hated the most, and perhaps the one that could materially do the least against him. But morally and intellectually, that was quite another story.

Chavismo was so adamant at damaging Castillo Lara that it even tried to implicate him, a frail 80 year old man, in the murder of Danilo Anderson, with charges of traveling to the torrid Panama jungles for the deed. The accusation was so ridiculous that it actually forced chavismo for a while to tone down its hatred toward the Cardinal.

One of the reasons why any of the accusations thrown by chavismo against the Cardinal never stuck was in the very own life of the Cardinal. See, of the XX century Venezuelans Rosalio Cardenal Castillo is perhaps one of the half dozen truly success stories among those who made a brilliant carer overseas. Born in San Casimiro, a humble village in Aragua, he rose to become one of the power brokers in the Vatican, with crucial roles as much as in the establishment and defense of the doctrine of the faith to the finances. A Papal vice president of sorts. This is a man that had it made in Rome, that could have remained there to finish his old age in the artistic splendors of the Vatican.

Instead Castillo Lara returned to the tiny village of his childhood, Güiripa, where he grew up, a few miles from San Casimiro, at the tend of a long lost coffee growing valley, when oil did not exist in Venezuela. Rosalio Castillo Lara left his cardinalice life to face the difficulties and discomfort of living in a Venezuelan Podunck where he could not even get Internet and had to rely on an expensive telecommunications system during his early retirement as the Vatican had to keep consulting regularly with him. Of course as years went by he limited himself to a cell phone and an assistant to take care of his old days. After all, he was a Prince of the Church and if their retirement is not luxurious, it is still comfortable.

I know some of this stuff personally as I have had the good luck to meet the Cardinal in his retirement. Even though established religion is not my cup of tea, I must admit that I was quite impressed by the man. In his almost peasant like simplicity of speech you could sense a rare intensity, a keen intellect and an extraordinary knowledge of the ways of the world. That he has been so articulate in his intense exposure of Chavez for the thug this one is was not an accident. The Church has been dealing for centuries with people trying to destroy it, people like Chavez. They know what these people are all about and they are never impressed. That is what Chavez cannot forgive the Catholic prelates: they see right through him, for the fraud he is.

So there you had Rosalio in his retirement. Back to the family home he inherited in Güiripa, saying mass to the few dozens local who attended the small church. A Cardinal saying mass at the near edge of the world to people who might have never even been to Caracas once in their lives. Imagine that for a second. Though his home did attract many visitors who trekked the two hour drive from Caracas to visit him and seek advice. Regularly from Güiripa he made the news. Or from some public service in some holiday, each time infuriating beyond belief chavismo.

In any normal country a man of his achievements would receive all sorts of state honors. Many US cardinals received the visit of protestant US presidents once they died. Or got plenty of honorific mentions in their home states. But here in Venezuela today it seems that chavismo is taking a particular pleasure in ignoring the event preferring to focus on the constitutional changes, a fraudulent new commie bible that the Church is increasingly attacking. Because there is something that chavismo, like Stalin did, ignores: Chavez will be long forgotten when the Catholic Church will still be relevant in the world. And the one that reminds this is a lapsed Catholic who attended mass for communion decades ago for the last time. Not even Cardinal Castillo could make me go back to Church on Sundays....

And that is perhaps the secret of the resentment that chavismo professes toward Cardinal Castillo. Chavistas, and Chavez, are mediocrities that cannot achieve anything except by bullying or plain violence. Rosalio showed that a determined youth can make it in the world on his own. Because if you think that the Vatican gives away plum positions just because of affirmative action programs to Latin American scholars you are in for a rude awakening.... If Rosalio had chosen another way he would have probably succeeded all the same, becoming a great businessman, or a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Chavistas know that without Chavez they are nothing, that they would still be eating dirt in far back of some low office. And Rosalio Cardinal Castillo Lara did have the guts to do what revolutionary chavistas cannot do: give up a life of comfort, art, culture, interesting people to go back to the poor village of his childhood, to try to help them by founding a small library or starting a foundation for a health center before Barrio Adentro was invented by Chavez. How many chavistas are giving up their new riches to go back to the people they defend?

-The end-

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