On Papal Suffering and God's Power

Interview With Archbishop of Granada

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II by his suffering is demonstrating that a hospital bed can be a place of sacrifice, not unlike an altar, says a Spanish prelate.

Archbishop Francisco Javier Martínez Fernandez, the president of the ecclesiastical region of Granada, has been in Rome participating in a pilgrimage. He spoke with ZENIT about the Pope’s health and other topics.

Q: What thoughts do you have on the Pope in his present situation of sickness?

Archbishop Martínez: For me, it is impossible not to link what the Pope is going through with the Year of the Eucharist. I see the testimony of an offering that prolongs the life of Jesus Christ and invites us all to give witness.

The Pope is the living witness that a hospital bed can perfectly be an altar on which one continues to offer oneself.

The Pope is not doing anything he hasn’t always done: to give his life so that men will know Jesus Christ. He will do so while he is here and he will express it while he is able.

This moment of the Church is no less fruitful than others. It is a moment of frailty in which the power of God shines all the more.

Q: Does the world understand this situation of frailty in which the power of God shines all the more?

Archbishop Martínez: The world understands what it understands — above all, events that involve its interests and calculations. But men of simple hearts understand this message perfectly.

In the Pope’s case, his ministry so coincides with his humanity that even the most fallen away from the Church can recognize in that humanity the grace of God.

You can find Catholics who live only for the politics of calculations, and, instead, pagans who understand it. Something similar happened to the Lord: At times he was understood more by those who were far off than by those who were near.

Q: What aspect of Don Luigi Giussani — founder of Communion and Liberation, whom you met — has affected you most profoundly?

Archbishop Martínez: I cannot separate Pope John Paul II from Don Giussani. They are very parallel figures in my life. They have taught me that the key and consistency of all that is human is Jesus Christ.

I met Don Giussani in Avila in a course organized by a group of priests. The course was called «Truth of God; Truth of Man.» When he saw the sign he said: «This is the motto of my whole life.»

There is nothing human that is not done for Christ, and to be configured with Christ. He came to make relationship possible, to truly live this life. For the life beyond to have meaning it is necessary to live this life 101%; it is what makes conceivable to hope for eternal life.

Q: Islam has formed part of Granada in the past, and now. How are relations articulated between Christians and Muslims?

Archbishop Martínez: Granada is a frontier not only between Islam and the Western world, but also between tradition and postmodernity. A frontier can be a place that divides or that unifies; it allows for listening to one another, for appreciation of what is different.

As a Christian, I would like all men to be able to live as brothers. In that sense, I wish the good of Muslims in Granada. I don’t want them to be worse or less Muslim, but that they come close to God. In the measure that we men draw near to God we also draw near to one another.

I pray to God that neither Christians or Muslims ever put God at the service of our political or class interests. God is to be adored, to be thanked, and to be loved.

The object of hope is God. God works on men’s hearts; he asks us to give witness of his love, and the Church has done so in different circumstances.

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