What is the definition of happiness for Catholicism, and what is the diet that helps to nurture it?
The definition of happiness we steal, so to speak, from the Jews, because we take it from the Old Testament, that is, from the Hebrew Scriptures. We steal it from the prophet Isaiah whom Jesus quoted at the Last Supper in the great communion banquet that was ordained by God, and where all peoples gathered together.Happiness is the great communion that sees people come together without fear and that recognizes diversity as difference. Joy is linked to this sense of fulfilment of being able to feed one another.
So is the metaphorical diet for happiness sharing with one another?
In the sense that the technical concept of Catholicism means "all are gathered together". In addition, with regard to diet, we have to say that Christianity no longer forbids any foods, unlike many other religions. Our problem with diet is more about quantity rather than quality.
What significance does fasting have within the Catholic faith?
First, all of us Catholics need to apply self-criticism. In the last 40 or 50 years, and especially following the cultural crisis of 1968 and the secularization process as a whole, we have lost what was a fundamental process, that of writing our faith on our bodies, that is, fasting and abstinence.
The idea of giving up meat, or all foods at certain times, during Lent, served to reinforce the idea that there is something more important than food. Fasting allows us to focus our thoughts on the memory of Jesus’ death and on his resurrection.
How is food represented in your religion, and what are its main characteristics?
It is represented on various levels. First of all, the bread and wine symbolize God's presence among us. Jesus surrendered himself saying, "This is my body, this is my blood", so our everyday foods remind us of our religion. At the same time, food permits us to make the pilgrimage to the kingdom of God, thus it is also a great travel device. Food is about sharing, if we think about the manna in the desert, but it is also a way of showing that God loves us. Jesus multiplied the loaves, but also reassured his starving disciples, telling them not to fear hunger, but the leaven of the Pharisees. By this, Jesus was referring to the mounting anger of the Pharisees. Food, from this point of view, also becomes a great way of expressing emotions, through imagery.
Do you have any interesting facts to relate on a specific tradition, or an anecdote about a particular food?
During Expo Milano 2015, we would like to remind people anew of the experience, skills, and wisdom possessed by the monks with regard to their relationship with nature and agriculture. Well before the canals that Leonardo da Vinci designed, areas of the Po valley to the south of Milan had been reclaimed by waterways built by monks. The Benedictines created a rule that brought together contemplation, knowledge, community, work and love for food, all in a balanced fashion.
Food, in the Catholic faith, represents important topics such as the bonds of family, joy, and sharing. Have I forgotten any others?
Food definitely represents our relationship with God, so much so, that the devil tempted Jesus after his fast, telling him, "Turn these stones into loaves of bread". He reminds us that man does not live by bread alone, which is also the theme with which the Holy See is presenting itself at Expo Milano 2015. The relationship with food, which is important, reminds us that our relationship with God is even more important.
The agricultural system we currently use to produce our food is ruining the planet. How important is the way food is produced to the Catholic religion?
Christianity has grown alongside the development of the western world. We didn’t address this problem before, because no one saw it. But gradually, the Christian faith has started to reflect on ecology. Popes Benedict XVI and Francis continue to speak of an ecology of humankind as a whole that needs to be at the heart of the entire production process. Looked at from this perspective, the Catholic Church would like Expo Milano 2015 to be a place to reflect on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), and to generate a serious debate that goes beyond the tensions and the many examples of politically-motivated unilateralism that have been adopted on this issue.
Our faith teaches us that creation was given to us so we would cultivate it and nurture it. If there are certain discoveries that can help us, it’s right that we use them, but they must be used to help the people and creation, and not just to serve the interests of the few. We must become aware of the paradox that we are now experiencing: that we are able to produce food for all, while at the same time we are living in a world where many are still dying of hunger.
In your book (Alla tavola di dio con gli uomini. Idee e domande di fede intorno a Expo 2015), you condemn consumerism and food waste.
From the very beginning, the Church has always condemned consumerism. We must learn to use that which we have as if it were a gift; everything has to be seen as a means for reaching God.
We have production capacity that could feed everyone on earth, yet there is still so much hunger, and this tells us that we have not yet matured as human beings.
As the Pope says, the issue of world hunger is not only a moral or ethical issue, nor is it about unfair distribution, but it is an anthropological problem. He tells us: if we thought of those people who are dying from hunger as human beings just like us, we would not be so indifferent. How can we look into the eyes of someone who is starving and not react? To that which Pope Francis
calls ‘the globalization of indifference', we must replace with the globalization of love.