Clare Myers, Staff Writer
Members of the Church suffer from “cardiac insufficiency” and must ask the Holy Spirit to give them a “spiritual pacemaker,” Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga declared in the keynote address at the University of Dallas Ministry Conference on Saturday.
The Honduran cardinal, who is coordinator of the papal advisory Council of Cardinals, emphasized the centrality of Christ for the Church.
“There is no possible reformation of the Church without a return to Jesus,” he said.
Cardinal Rodriguez was enthusiastically received, not only by the audience of over 3,000 at the UDMC, but also by the 100-plus members of the UD community who attended a meet-and-greet on campus on Thursday.
Despite very short notice of the event, students and faculty crowded into the upstairs Haggar dining room for a question-and-answer session. The cardinal discussed a variety of subjects ranging from the reform of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps to the importance of personal faith.
“Faith is like power that moves you,” he said, comparing faith to energy and light. “For me, this is beautiful, to put the light on every day.”
Students were impressed both by his obvious passion and by his “genuine love of people,” as junior Phil Wozniak put it.
“I think he represents the best qualities of our Church leadership,” Wozniak said. “He’s in charge of reforming the world’s oldest, most sacred institution and he took the time to just sit and talk with us.”
“I loved how informal the encounter with the cardinal was,” sophomore Emily Lataif said. “For me, it reflected the tone of Pope Francis: humility and candor.”
During both his address and a subsequent press conference at the UDMC, Rodriguez focused on broader topics than he did in the more informal discussion with students. He spoke of the role of the council, nicknamed the “G8,” in the reform of the Roman Curia. He spoke of the need to change the way people view authority and hierarchy in the church.
“We are here to serve,” he said. “Authority and hierarchy in the church is a service that requires lowering ourselves to the condition of servants.”
Such an attitude is in line with Pope Francis’ call for a “poor church,” an idea Rodriguez discussed during his visit to UD.
At the conference, he went into detail concerning the role of the laity, a topic considered by many to be a priority for the Church today. He said that there are suggestions of creating a dicastery specifically for the laity and explained that the establishment of the G8 is part of a grassroots approach to reform.
Rodriguez compared his role in the council to that of a director of an orchestra. He acknowledged that the G8 has a difficult job ahead of it.
“We are not going to die of boredom,” he said during the UD meet-and-greet. “There is work to be done.”
Both students and conference attendees were struck by Rodriguez’s charisma and focus on themes of love and charity. Matt Barber, a former UD student and current Dallas-area Catholic schoolteacher who attended the UDMC, compared the cardinal’s approach to that of Pope Francis.
“I liked him,” he said. “Someone mentioned to me … that he was one of the cardinals in consideration during the last [conclave]. If so, I like where the Church’s emphasis has been: the heart.”
Rodriguez frequently drew laughter from the students, especially when he described the public’s positive reaction to the pope.
“They say Argentina now has the Holy Trinity,” he joked. “Maradonna is the Father, Messi is the Son and the pope is the Holy Spirit.”
At the close of his keynote address, Rodriguez inspired the audience with a passionate appeal to Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for hearts like that of St. Peter.
“We have to ask the Holy Spirit to give us a spiritual pacemaker,” he said, pounding on his own chest for emphasis. “Woe on me if I don’t preach the Gospel.”