VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- At the end of the five-yearly visit of Switzerland’s prelates to the Holy See, Bishop Amédée Grab of Chur, president of the episcopate, assessed the trip in this interview with ZENIT.
Q: Your visit was disrupted by John Paul II’s flu and hospitalization. How did you experience this special circumstance? What value do you give to the rumors about the Pope’s resignation?
Bishop Grab: John Paul II was taken to hospital on the night of our arrival. We were unable to meet with him. Like the faithful and the rest of the world, we followed the evolution of his state of health. The rumors of the Holy Father’s resignation are nothing new.
Q: Your visit was the first after John Paul II’s memorable visit to Switzerland last June. Do you see any fruits?
Bishop Grab: John Paul II’s visit to young people and to all the Catholic population of Switzerland has been judged very positively, both in Rome as well as in Switzerland.
This was confirmed to us by the Pope’s aides. The bishops are trying to reinforce the national coordination of the pastoral care program of young people and sometimes they hear the question: “When will the next visit be?”
Q: You held your ordinary assembly of bishops in Rome. It must have given a different tone to your meetings, having held your assembly in this framework. Was this an important decision?
Bishop Grab: The ordinary assembly was planned for the beginning of March. In order not to multiply meetings, and in keeping with our custom to work together during the hours that the offices of the Curia are closed, we addressed some points of common interests outside of the “ad limina” visit. So we added exhaustion but also richness to our brotherly understanding. Meanwhile, I thought to myself: John Paul II is among us more than ever.
Q: You are also president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences. Were the enlargement of Europe, the Constitutional Treaty, and the continent’s future, topics that were addressed in this visit?
Bishop Grab: Not in a direct way. Some areas, such as political asylum, movement of persons, etc., that Switzerland is handling with bilateral agreements with the European Union, have been mentioned in the competent Vatican organizations.
There were also exchanges of points of view on the future of ecumenism, dialogue with Muslims, and ethical questions such as euthanasia.
Q: You have just had your 75th birthday and John Paul II wishes you to continue in your pastoral mandate. Did you expect this extension? Do you have a project that is especially close to your heart?
Bishop Grab: I tendered my resignation without any particular expectation. The response has not surprised me, as I had been notified a long time before.
At the diocesan level, there are some projects that are close to my heart, such as the restoration of the cathedral and the works undertaken in the seminary. These works should be finished in the year 2007. I would love to be present, in the office or as emeritus, in the celebrations that will mark the end of the works.
But I am far more interested in giving all my strength to reinforce the unity of a diocese that I found quite divided. With the Spirit of God, many priests, nuns and faithful are working to this end.
I would also like to coordinate better the preparation for confirmation, and encourage families. This Year of the Eucharist is also, in our dioceses, the year of priestly vocations. And the Virgin Mary, in her glorious assumption, is the patroness of the cathedral.