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The InterVIEW

Arinze: Chastity a challenge for all continents Retired Vatican prefect to headline Nov. 22 dinner in Oakbrook Terrace

A regular feature of The Catholic New World, The InterVIEW is an in-depth conversation with a person whose words, actions or ideas affect today's Catholic. It may be affirming of faith or confrontational. But it will always be stimulating.

One of the Catholic Church’s leading African cardinals will visit Chicago in November to headline the Respect Life Office’s annual Chastity Education Initiative Benefit Dinner on Nov. 22.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the Holy See, will address the issue of chastity in today’s world during the dinner at at Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace.

Cardinal Arinze is a native of Eziowelle, Nigeria, and recently served as president delegate of the Synod for Africa held last month at the Vatican.

He speaks frequently to U.S. audiences and last year delivered the Lenten retreat for members of the Roman Curia and Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.

The cardinal corresponded by email with the Catholic New World about chastity issues in the United States and Africa.

Catholic New World: The United States is very involved in developing or influencing reproductive health-care policies in several African countries. What are the effects of this involvement? Does it promote a culture of life or is it harmful to African people?

Cardinal Francis Arinze: If the United States is helping some African countries to provide better medical care to mothers and children in the acceptable sense of medical care, then Africa should be grateful. But if by “reproductive health care” one means contraception, abortion, sterilization or infanticide, then this is not help but harm. Natural family planning respects God’s law and the human dignity of the woman and is acceptable.

The other actions just mentioned do not and should be condemned.

CNW: We in America often hear that the future of the Catholic Church is in Africa. What can the church in Africa teach the United States?

Cardinal Arinze: The future of the Catholic Church is in every continent and not only in Africa. Nevertheless, it is true that of all the continents, Africa has the highest percentage growth for Christianity each year. It is a happy thing to become and to remain a Christian in Africa. And vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life are mounting. And the lay faithful are conscious of their vocation and mission in the world.

Some of the values that the Catholic Church in Africa has to share with the universal church, and not just with the United States are: joy and song even in the midst of poverty, love for lively and respectful liturgical celebrations, sense of community (whether at marriage, ordination or religious profession celebrations), the extended family system by which cousins, nephews, nieces and other distant relatives are regarded as brothers and sisters, and love for the pope and for the Catholic Church, and love for children and for the family.

CNW: You are coming to Chicago to speak at a benefit for the archdiocese’s chastity education initiative. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that, “Chastity means the integration of sexuality within the person. It includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery.” Self-mastery is often a foreign concept in the American culture. Would you talk a little about why self-mastery is important for Christian life?

Cardinal Arinze: Self-mastery is indispensable if a person wishes to lead a genuine Christian life. Our Savior Jesus Christ is rather clear: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:37-39).

All genuine spiritual directors tell us about the importance of mortification or spiritual discipline. The attitude of: “Nobody is going to tell me what to do” is not Christian. Jesus is going to tell us what to do. The Catholic Church that Jesus established is going to tell us what God’s law tells us to do or not to do.

CNW: You travel the world speaking to Catholics of all walks of life. How does the United States compare with other countries in its views on chastity and life issues?

Cardinal Arinze: Chastity is a challenge in every continent and country. It is a conquest that always demands self-mastery. I would not like to compare or contrast the United States with other countries. I leave this task to others.

For information about the Chastity Education Initiative dinner visit or call (312) 534.5355.