On July 19, 2022, Fr. Diego Fares, an Argentinean, left this earth at the age of 66, surrounded by his two sisters and his companion in the novitiate, Ernesto Giobando, who was in Rome at the time. For about two years he had been living with a serious illness, facing it with patience, fortitude and spiritual serenity. The treatment he had to undergo had required his transfer from the community of La Civiltà Cattolica to the infirmary of the Residenza S. Pietro Canisio, from where, however, he continued his collaboration with the journal, and continued, as far as possible, his apostolic activity and the spiritual accompaniment of many people.
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His passing has deprived our community of a jovial and deeply spiritual person with a great appreciation of friendship; it has deprived the magazine itself of a creative and insightful writer.
Fr. Diego was a sower who sowed a lot, without regard for measurements and proportions. He sowed very early in the morning, when he prayed next to his thermos of good hot mate, because to that prayer he brought everything: difficult situations, tensions, problems, questions, but above all people. He was a Jesuit who loved much and was much loved in return. Always discreet and inconspicuous, with a great sense of humor, he built solid relationships, founded on his amiable temperament.
His personality was strong and decisive, but with that he was transparent and mild. You could feel the passion, you could feel the magma and his powerful ability to be clear, to speak his mind, to have a direction, to dismantle any hypocrisy. He was aware that sometimes it was better for him to be silent, because he knew that if he intervened, his passion would not be contained. He knew how to discern times and places. At the same time all this was experienced with a gentleness and a smile that disarmed all resistance.
Fr. Diego did not think about his reasons or his moods, which he knew well. He thought of the Lord of his life, his rock, his cliff, his fortress, and he let himself be guided by consolation. He conversed with God naturally and engaged willingly with those whose opinions differed from his own. He taught those close to him that it is never a question of arguing about wrongs and reasons. It is useless to list them. The important thing is to act spiritually, seeking the consolation of God. He sought in God the solution to enigmas. That is why he was decisive, but never partisan. He was a prophet, not a fan. Fr. Diego had a familiarity with God that gave him peace and balance, a peace that was diffused in a natural and spontaneous way.
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Fr. Diego was an intellectual. He obtained his doctorate in philosophy with a thesis on The Phenomenology of Truth in the Thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar, and was professor of metaphysics at the Universidad Católica de Córdoba of the Society of Jesus.
At the same time he worked for about twenty years with a team of more than a hundred lay people, at El Hogar de San José, a reception center for adults living on the street or in conditions of extreme poverty. Together with the Jesuit Father Angel Rossi – now Archbishop of Córdoba – he was the initiator of the Fundación Manos Abiertas, which also helped to run the Casa de la Bondad, a hospice for the terminally ill. It should be remembered that already as a very young man he worked in the Barrio San Martín, at the time one of the poorest neighborhoods of Mendoza, which emerged out of a rubbish dump on the outskirts of the city.
For him there was no head without hands and no hands without a head, and there were no heads and hands without hearts. Being an intellectual, for Fr. Diego, meant having the warm intelligence of life, living without a safety net, not “looking at life from the balcony” (balconear, as he used to say in Spanish), but throwing himself into the fray, among the people, listening to those most in need. Without defenses and listening to needs, as, for example, in the pastoral care of the Chinese in Buenos Aires, which led him to learn to celebrate Mass in Chinese, though knowing only a few expressions in the language.
In 2015 Fr. Diego left his world to come to Rome to La Civiltà Cattolica, willing to leave everything he had built and start again. The election of Pope Francis refreshed the journal’s mission of accompanying the pontiff in the best way possible, according to its tradition dating back to 1850. With the help of the Superior General of the Jesuits at the time, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás – who had the magazine very much at heart – those who could be of help were sought. It was easy to identify Fr. Diego. The pope himself, in fact, on his return from the apostolic journey to Brazil, had advised the journalists to read the books of this hitherto unknown Jesuit.
Fr. Diego was received into the Society of Jesus as a novice by the then Jesuit provincial in Argentina, Fr. Jorge Bergoglio, on February 21, 1976. Fr. Bergoglio was also his godfather at his priestly ordination, which took place in 1986. Fr. Diego had an understanding of the pope that came from a deep spiritual communion with Francis and other Jesuits of his generation. This spiritual communion was preserved and deepened in these last years in Rome by a very discreet, and intense relationship. We were not surprised by the pope’s silent yet focused participation at Fr. Diego’s funeral, right next to his coffin.
For him to communicate the spiritual intelligence of the pontificate – through the obedience of the Society – had become a real mission. His writings help one understand the core of this pontificate. With the painstaking patience of a writer, he carried out his mission. His writing struggled to stay within the limits of the article structure: it was overflowing, communicative certainly, and, intimate. But in the end he managed to contain his inspiration and give it appropriate shape.
His inspiration was nourished by reflection, but also by a taste for poetry and literature. It was clear that his intellectual and spiritual maturation had taken place alongside that of the current pontiff, Jesuit priest and bishop, with whom he had grown through many occasions, among them the Aparecida Conference. From Bergoglio he had learned the profound dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.
His writing during the seven years of his tenure at La Civiltà Cattolica includes over 50 articles and volumes. It could be summed up as an attempt to explore the “nascent thought” of Francis as it unfolded. This involved not always necessarily commenting on his speeches, but always putting to good use his insights and directions. Thus he reflected on themes such as political anthropology and the renewal of ecclesial language; the poverty and fragility of the planet; the scandal of abuse; the task of the bishop and the challenge of Pentecostal movements; spiritual discernment and prayer. Perhaps his strongest contributions – real pearls – were those dedicated to themes as diverse as the “spirit of fierceness,” spiritual triumphalism and worldliness, the “good spiritual battle,” but also vulnerability, evangelical language and communication in a polarized society.
He always felt, moreover, the need to have before him relevant figures, models of life from various eras, to present through his writings: José Gabriel Brochero, María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, Pedro Claver, Enrique Angelelli, Charles de Foucauld, Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, Madeleine Delbrêl, but also the saints that Pope Francis canonized with the procedure of “equipollent canonization,” such as Angela of Foligno, Peter Faber, José de Anchieta, Marie of the Incarnation, Francis de Laval, José Vaz and Junípero Serra.
Fr. Diego also always faithfully maintained his own personal blog with commentaries on the Sunday Gospel and other reflections. He reached so many people. In this way he displayed a wise use of technology, enabling him to communicate. In his pastoral work he was especially sensitive to all the places where dialogue was the basis of life. He knew that there was a particular place where this happened: the family. That is why he followed groups of families with great fidelity and patience.
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Recently Fr. Diego had been writing about the Sacred Heart. It was the subject of his prayer and reflection. He had proposed writing an article on the subject to the magazine; it was his last writing based on his blog of “contemplations.” The Lord prepared him for the encounter with himself through a particular “school of the affections.”
Why the heart? Because, he wrote, “only the heart makes us live life humanly. Only through the heart does spirit become soul and matter becomes body, and only through it does human life exist as such, with its joys and sorrows, its labors and struggles, poor and great at the same time.”
Here finally is an intuition of Fr. Diego’s that seems to sum up his life, his love for people and for God: “No two hearts are the same,” he wrote, “and every heart is a ‘co-heart,’ that is, a heart that exists ‘with others,’ with the memory of others, in dialogue with others who love it. There are no ‘isolated hearts,’ that is why in order to know one’s own heart one must know the heart of the one who loves us, and who better than Jesus for this task?”
DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 6, no.11 art. 11, 1122: 10.32009/22072446.1122.11