A Bishop in the Father's Heart

Interview With Prelate of Canelones, Uruguay

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By Nieves San Martin

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, APRIL 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Church needs to go deeper in the richness it has received from Jesus, says Bishop Alberto Sanguinetti Montero in speaking of his priorities as a newly ordained prelate.

Bishop Sanguinetti, 64, is the new bishop of Canelones, Uruguay, where he was appointed last Feb. 23. His new diocese has some 339,000 Catholics, served by 40 priests, 153 religious and a permanent deacon.

Alberto Sanguinetti was born in Montevideo in 1945. In 1962 he entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in 1973. On March 20, he was consecrated a bishop.

In this interview with ZENIT, Bishop Sanguinetti explains his vocation to the priesthood, his pastoral priorities and the urgencies for the Church in Uruguay.

ZENIT: How did your priestly vocation arise?

Bishop Sanguinetti: I was born in a Catholic family and was educated in the faith. I was taught and assimilated that we have to discover God’s will for our lives, to ask him what he wants from us and to be disposed to do his will. From my childhood I structured myself in this search for the will of God.

I had an ordinary life as a schoolboy and began my pre-university studies in architecture, which is my natural work vocation. At the same time, I was involved in parish Christian life, where I realized that, among the multitude of life’s facets that attracted and interested me — architecture, politics, art, marriage, etc. — the most important were always the things of God and the Church. Our Lord God was inviting me and I was responding: I began to go to Mass twice a week — although to do so I had to get up at 6 a.m. and not at 6:30 — then I began to go to daily Mass, and got closer to the Gospel. And thus the Lord went showing me his will and I followed him, until I entered the seminary.

ZENIT: What were your feelings when you learned of the news of your appointment?

Bishop Sanguinetti: I am an older man, though with good health. Many times there was talk of the possibility of my being called to the episcopate. So I’m not going to pretend surprise over the appointment, which is always unforeseeable and concrete. Christians who in the communion of faith and love of the Church have shared this designation have given me much joy, because I have lived it with them as an occasion of renewal in belonging to the Church and of opening themselves to the presence of God in it. I am very calm in assuming this ministry, I have confidence in the clergy and laity of the Church of Canelones and in the One who is concerned about her, who is the Lord Jesus. Like John the Baptist, I prefer to point to him so that the Church will be ever more fully united to him.

ZENIT: What will be your pastoral priorities?

Bishop Sanguinetti: I’m going to continue being who I am, and to continue living what I am: a Catholic priest. In this sense, I bring no novelties. In any case, as bishop the first thing always is care of the clergy, to know, understand and help them to live their priesthood more fully and to be able to serve the Church giving the best of themselves. Then the concrete Church must be supported in her parish, docent, religious and monastic communities.

Without lecturing, and less so in a few lines, I do believe that among the things that the Church must do, for many reasons, is to go deeper into what is most important and to live better and more profoundly what is richest in what Jesus has given it. Then, not neglecting very important dimensions, I believe we must be renewed and centered on adoration and giving of ourselves to the Father and, in the concrete elements, in an ever more authentic, participated-in liturgical life, in keeping with its truth, namely, according to the tradition of the Church.

Indispensable also is the renewal of catechesis, which includes fuller knowledge of the treasure of revelation given by Christ to his people. It is necessary to know the truth of Christ that makes us free. And in everything patience, humility and charity.

ZENIT: What do you think are the urgencies of the life of the Church in Uruguay?

Bishop Sanguinetti: Much is answered in what I said earlier. I don’t know if they can be called urgencies, because for this, it seems that one must run out with the siren blasting as an ambulance. And the processes of permanent conversion, in the life of Christians, are not that way.

However, there are strong deficiencies and different weaknesses that must be addressed in the People of God journeying in Uruguay: religious ignorance, the relatively little love for and awareness of the Eucharist and of participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice. There is a lack of priests, of men and women religious, and of a well-prepared laity. A very important point, which is not solved with urgencies, is the cultural presence of the Church. At the same time there are structural and economic matters that cry out for attention.

ZENIT: What message would you give to priests in this Year for Priests?

Bishop Sanguinetti: I would like to invite priests to reflect further on the objective dimensions of the priesthood, starting from the highest reality that is the Most Holy Trinity. It is the Father who sends the Son. It is Jesus Christ who calls us and associates us to his saving power. It is the Holy Spirit who consecrates and acts. In such a way that the priest should not pay attention primarily — even if it is part of his life — to what he feels, likes or fears, or to what others want or judge, but to the foundation of his reality: God created him, called him, consecrated him taking him for himself, and he works in him. Of course this asks for a personal appropriation and a reception in and with the ecclesial community. For the same reason the measure of the response is not primarily fulfilling oneself or pleasing men, but being faithful to God, with one’s confidence placed only in him, and the giving of oneself and adoration of the Father’s love.

ZENIT: Which of your activities prepared you for the episcopal ministry?

Bishop Sanguinetti: In the first place I have been in the priestly ministry for 37 years, 28 of which I have been parish priest in four very different communities because of the people, neighborhood and size.

In the second place, study, which in my case was intense, because I have taught sacred theology for more than 35 years.

In the third place, I have had the occasion to dedicate myself in different ways to so-called Popular Ministry, or pastoral care inasmuch as it takes as subject the People of God as a whole, and it has been of great enrichment for me.

Moreover, I point out that taking part in the organization of artistic, musical, plastic, and architectural events has contributed to appreciating that human creation and its connection with the faith lived by the Church.

Finally, I reiterate that the sacred liturgy celebrated in its greatest solemnity, with the participation of the Christian people in listening, in responding, in singing and in silence, but above all with Christ’s offerings and with Christ to the Father, is the joy of the grace and the truth that is given to us so that from it we live for the glory of God.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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