ROME, JAN. 30, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The new general director of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement says that their mission remains the same: to bring people to a personal encounter with Christ.
Father Álvaro Corcuera, 47, recently succeeded the congregation’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel, 84, who declined re-election for reasons of age and because he wants to see the congregation continue to flourish under the direction of a successor.
Father Corcuera, until recently rector of the Legion’s Center for Higher Studies, in Rome, granted this interview to ZENIT. Part 1 of this interview appeared Friday.
Q: What are the guidelines of the spiritual program and apostolic action of the congregation for the near future?
Father Corcuera: This is precisely what we are formulating in these days, together with our founding father, in the general chapter; but, undoubtedly, our program can be no other than to give continuity in time, with new vigor and passion, to the charism of the congregation and of Regnum Christi, exactly as it has been approved by the Church, according to the spirit of the founder.
Our greatest desire is that the largest possible number of men and women may have a personal encounter, based on faith, with Jesus Christ.
All the apostolic initiatives that we undertake begin and are directed to carrying out the program of the universal Church and of the local Churches, which is to make known the person of the Son of God who out of love assumed a human nature to save us.
This knowledge and love of Christ is the foundation and driving force of the New Evangelization to which John Paul II has called us, with the goal of creating a civilization of Christian justice and love.
We seek the salvation of all souls, without distinction of persons, knowing that Christ came to save us all. That is why we have the motto: “Your kingdom come!”
In this way, we are especially linked to the evangelizing action of this great apostle that is John Paul II, whom we so love. His indications, suggestions and desires are for us a program that we follow as faithful children within our beloved Catholic Church.
Q: In the spirit of starting “from Christ,” do the Legionaries concentrate their attention on any specific works of apostolate?
Father Corcuera: We will continue with those apostolic works already initiated, according to our charism, especially through the Regnum Christi movement, whose statutes the Holy Father has just approved. And we will favor all those works directed to spreading the Catholic faith: the Christian formation of children, adolescents, and young people through our educational centers; the spiritual and human help of married couples and Christian families; the integral promotion of the human person, especially of the least fortunate, through missionary and charitable works; the evangelization of culture, etc.
All of this in the closest cooperation with local bishops, parish priests and the various persons in charge of the diocesan clergy, all of us united, according to our specific charism, in the common task of the New Evangelization requested by the Holy Father and so urgent in a society ever more exposed to secularization and the loss of its Christian roots.
The situation is so grave for the faith today, that there is no room for sterile divisions. In fact, we are focusing apostolates such as Youth for the Third Millennium, the schools of faith and programs for family formation in such a way that they can be used and implemented in a natural and spontaneous way within the pastoral program of dioceses and parishes, thus helping the parish priests in their apostolic mission.
In addition, we have the entire realm of pastoral action in the ample mission territory of the prelature of Cancun-Chetumal with the Mayan Indians. The Pope recently named Legionary Bishop Pablo Pedro Elizondo as bishop of this prelature. It is a very dear and important place for us, both in the area of pastoral care as well as in the work of human and Christian promotion in the society.
Q: You have met with the Holy Father John Paul II on numerous occasions since he made his first visit to Mexico in 1979, and during your many years of residence in Rome. What can you tell us about him?
Father Corcuera: Ever since 1979, when I met him for the first time as a lay university student collaborating with Father Maciel to organize that first unforgettable visit of John Paul II to Mexico, I was profoundly impressed by his spirit of prayer and, at the same time, his closeness, his ability to establish contact with people, his great humanity and that profound spirituality which is reflected on his face. We were all deeply moved to be able to see him close up, to speak with him, to hear him.
It was the first time that a pope had set foot on Mexican soil, sealed by the blood of so many martyrs. Everyone came en masse to see the Vicar of Christ in person, if possible.
The Mexican people, in the words of John Paul II himself, have the “charism of love of the Pope.” On that first occasion we were able to witness it in a tangible way.
And if the Pope captivated the Mexican people, John Paul II was profoundly captivated by the simple faith of this people. It was this first apostolic trip that, in a certain sense, inspired and encouraged all the subsequent years of his pontificate, according to the personal testimony of the Pope himself in his book “Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way!”
In Mexico, he confirmed his idea to be a pilgrim of love through his apostolic trips.
Later, arriving in Rome, first as a student and then as rector of our college, I have been able to meet him up-close on several occasions and to speak with him.
When Father Maciel celebrated his 80th birthday, the Pope invited him to dine with him, and I had the grace of accompanying him, together with Father Brian Farrell, now bishop and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
I recall that during that dinner, the Pope commented with profound satisfaction on that trip. I also recall that when an activity was organized to celebrate his 100th apostolic trip, in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican, we were asked to join him and the orchestra of our Center for Higher Studies played for him the song entitled “Amigo.” At that moment, there was a very moving silence and emotion. The memories were being relived of that historic trip of this “Great” Pope, as some already call him.
Above all, I see in his person the Vicar of Christ on earth, who guides the boat of the Church in the course of history.
Our founding father has taught us to venerate, to love the Pope and all the bishops in communion with him.
This is, in fact, one of our great loves, together with the love of Christ, of the Church, of Mary and of souls. This is a love that translates above all in the faithful fulfillment of his wishes and in cordial and practical adherence to his magisterium.
Q: Many wonder, What the founder will now do? What is your personal relationship with him?
Father Corcuera: I have known our founder since I was very young, when I studied in a school of the Legionaries. My relationship with him is very simple, filial and pervaded by a spirit of faith.
I see in him the person that God chose to begin this work of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement; someone who has given his whole life for Christ, an exemplary and holy priest, with a passion for the Church, full of affectionate devotion to the Virgin Mary, totally given over to the mission of evangelizing and serving his brothers, of ample horizons, able to forgive with Christian charity, of a gentle and good heart.
What can I say of someone who has taught me the greatest thing I have in life, which is to be able to love Christ and to want
to give my whole life for him and his Church?
I have a debt of gratitude that I can settle, only by being faithful to that which he has always taught me with the words and example of a true father who has given his life to all of us without sparing a single effort.
Really, when I see him work at the pace he does, when I see him wear himself out with so much love for God, I can only say that here is a man of God, who thinks only about how he can serve and give himself to others as a priest, following the example of Christ.
To answer your question, the truth is that I don’t know what his plans are, but knowing him well, I know he will not be able to “retire,” nor to withdraw to a tranquil life. He cannot stay calm; he is always looking to see what more he can do for the good of others and the salvation of souls.
He will continue to fulfill, as he has up to now, in an inexhaustible way, his mission of founder, of father to us, encouraging us with his presence, his word and his example. He will proceed to guide us with the respect that has always characterized him and exhort us to live our own charism in fullness and fidelity at the service of the Church. This is the request we have laid before him.
Q: You are Mexican, and Mexican Catholics are devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. What message does Mary give to the new general director of the Legionaries of Christ?
Father Corcuera: You are right. As Mexicans we are profoundly devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The presence of the Virgin of Guadalupe has marked great milestones in our history. When foreign pilgrims visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tepeyac, they are amazed by the sincere, warm and simple devotion of Mexicans to Mary.
Father Maciel received his priestly ordination in the old shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. And now one of her images always presides over the ordinations of the Legionary priests.
As I have said, Mary is one of our great loves. That is why I would like, now more than ever, to make my own John Paul II’s motto: “Totus tuus, ego sum, Maria!”
I also had the great gift of being ordained a priest December 24, 1985, in our parish of Guadalupe, which Pope Pius XII entrusted to us in Rome. I remember when, approaching the altar, I looked up and saw her eyes. Whatever fear I had, was turned into confidence and peace, certainty and serenity. Her motherly words, “Why are you afraid, my child? Am I not here who am your Mother?” were engraved more than ever on my heart.
Yet now, I cannot tell you that I have no fear from the human point of view. I see who our founder is, what the Legion is, and I feel very small.
But Mary takes us by the hand, guides us, and with her goodness and gentleness says that there is nothing to fear. We take her hand.
How many times the Pope, as in the moment of the attempt on his life, has given us the example that it is Mary who protects us, and that love is stronger than fear, stronger than hatred, than resentment, than any type of evil. Because of this, how many times have we heard the Pope say and exclaim in difficult and even dramatic moments in the history of humanity: “Love is stronger!” “Be not afraid!”
I want to entrust my priestly ministry and new mission to Mary so that she will be the one who inspires and encourages my service to the congregation and the Church.