By Luca Marcolivio
ROME, FEB. 20, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Prior to Saturday’s consistory the then Cardinal-designate, Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò spoke to ZENIT about his vocation and work as president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.
ZENIT: Eminence, you hold an important post within the Vatican Curia. On receiving the cardinal’s biretta, how much will the exercise of your episcopate and your mission change?
Archbishop Vegliò: When the Holy Father announced the forthcoming Consistory on Jan. 6, he said clearly that “cardinals have the task of helping the Successor of Peter in carrying out his ministry of confirming brethren in the faith and of being principle and foundation of unity and community of the Church.”
And this entails an even greater dedication, which adds a different meaning to what I was doing up to now.
Hence, I read in this gesture of the Pope a sign of gratitude for the mission of the Pontifical Council, and I see his solicitude towards men and women involved in migrant work, which notably influences the life of the modern world and the life of the Church. Consequently, in this pastoral realm in which the Holy Father asked me to be his collaborator, I must be every day more faithful and generous.
ZENIT: Do you live this appointment more like an honor or a burden?
Archbishop Vegliò: In the Church we live the evangelical dynamic of availability. The Pope’s homily in the 2010 Consistory was very clear. For God, the criterion of greatness is service. Whoever wishes to be a Christian must live like Christ, he must make his own Christ’s lifestyle, who “did not come to be served but to serve.” And if this is valid for all Christians, it is even more so for one who has the task of guiding the people of God. Hence the Pope affirmed, “It is not the logic of domination, of power according to human criteria, but the logic of bending down to wash feet, the logic of service, the logic of the Cross which is the basis of all exercise of authority.” Only in this way will we be able to reveal the true face of God.
ZENIT: Tell us how your priestly vocation was born?
Archbishop Vegliò: My vocation was born in a very serene environment, in the family and in the parish. As a child I was very devoted to Father Achille Sanchioni, a priest of Fano, a friend of the family, and a holy man. I also regularly attended the parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Pesaro, run by the Capuchin Fathers and I was among the most regular altar boys, who were loved by all.
One day I decided to enter the diocesan seminary of Pesaro. The early days were not easy so far from the family, to which I was very attached, so much so that, at a certain moment — it was the month of April — I even wanted to go back home. But my mother, who also suffered from my absence, asked me to wait a few months to finish the school year with the exams. Having passed these, my mother said I could return home. I answered her, I remember it now: “No, Mother, I want to be a priest!” I don’t know what happened in that brief period of time, but I have certainly always been happy with my choice. I recall with pleasure the years I was chaplain of young people, I tried to combine friendship and jokes with duty, always ready to listen in order to understand and, if possible, to help. And it is precisely this that Pope Benedict XVI asks for when he says: authority, for a Christian, is service and love.
My young vocation, born in a profoundly Catholic environment, was forged over the course of the years, faithful to the commitment made of consecration to the Lord, and so well expressed in Verse 4 of Psalm 26: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” I had this most beautiful thought printed on the holy picture of my priestly ordination, on March 18, 1962, and also on that of my episcopal consecration, on Oct. 6, 1985, and now in memory of my election to the dignity of cardinal on Feb. 18, 2012.
ZENIT: A principle in today’s Church held by some is that obedience to the Holy Father is somewhat obsolete. How will this indispensable condition be lived in the 21st century by a successor of the Apostles?
Archbishop Vegliò: If earlier we made reference to the meaning of authority in the Church, we must understand obedience also in the same line. I think it is important to stress that obedience is not an objective in itself, but rather a means.
We must, first of all, be obedient to the will of God the Father, and that’s why every day we must ask ourselves, at the personal and community level, what we must do to fulfill what we request in the prayer: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
The Holy Father’s authority is at the service of this search for the will of God, so that it will be realized in unity and truth.
The words spoken by Pope Benedict XVI in the homily at the beginning of his ministry were enlightening when he said: “My true program of government is that of not doing my will, of pursuing my ideas, but of listening, with the whole of the Church, to the word and will of the Lord and to let myself be guided by Him, so that it is He himself who guides the Church in this hour of our history.”
It is fundamental for the Church to recognize and appreciate the Petrine ministry, perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity, which was explained well by the Holy Father in one of his catecheses, when he said: “Peter must be the custodian of communion with Christ for all time. He must guide people to communion with Christ; he must ensure that the net does not break, and consequently that universal communion endures. Only together can we be with Christ, who is Lord of all.” (General audience, June 7, 2006).
ZENIT: You have described migrants as “bearers of hope.” In what way can they be so?
Archbishop Vegliò: It depends on each one of them and on the possibilities that are offered them. As the Second Vatican Council affirmed, “All peoples constitute only one community,” that is, “only one human family,” according to Benedict XVI’s words. Migrations, which characterize our globalized world, enable us to hope for the realization of this worldwide family “of brothers and sisters, in societies that are increasingly multi-ethnic and inter-cultural.” This, however, presupposes steps to be taken and a path to be undertaken of openness to the other. It is necessary, for example, to be committed to the integration of the newly arrived, be it on the part of the migrant or on that of the society that receives him. This requires from both mutual respect for the values, customs and traditions of each one; it presupposes, then, fraternal hospitality and solidarity on the part of the local population, and on the part of the migrant respect of the laws and customs of the country he has arrived in, with an effort to learn the local language, etc., until loving one another as in a family.
Catholic migrants, to whom I was referring, can be “bearers of hope” in places where the faith no longer seems to make any sense in people’s lives and has lost its value for society. In these situations, in fact, what is lacking is that joy of living and that optimism that are born from the certainty that the destiny of the human person is not to end on this earth, in a vale of tears, but to go beyond the boundary of death to a life that has no end. In this way a Catholic migrant, if appropriately formed and supported, can be a light in the darkness of the lack of meaning, through the testimony of a life of happiness, despite the difficulties.
ZENIT: The presence of many non-Christian foreigners, often difficult to integrate with our culture, poses a challenge to evangelization. How can a Catholic address this challenge?
Archbishop Vegliò: For non-Christians, it is not a New Evangelization, but rather a first proclamation of the Christian message, a first evangelization. On our part, howeve
r, we need to have a willingness to listen. It is necessary to begin with dialogue, seeking to find what unites, identifying the things we already have in common, rather than stressing what divides us. The Golden Rule is present in practically all religions and I think it can also be shared by one who has no religious creed: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Matthew 7:12) is written in the Gospel. Our sacred book contains the Word of God, but in the other religions, there are what we call “seeds of the Word.” It is these that we must look to find a point of meeting, to be able to understand one another and live together in harmony and peace. If we listen with our heart to our non-Christian brothers, and try to see with their eyes, we will succeed in understanding them more profoundly. As a consequence they will be disposed to hear what we have at heart, that is, the evangelical message, offered as a gift.