Interview With Archbishop of Campobasso-Bojano Ahead of Pope's Visit

«May The Pope’s Visit Reawaken A ‘Slow’ But Beautiful Land Such As Molise»

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Pope Francis makes a pastoral visit to the dioceses of Campobasso and Isernia in the Italian region of Molise tomorrow. It goes without saying that the atmosphere there is one of joyful celebration, involving and profoundly affecting the life of 50,000 inhabitants, all caught up in preparations to make their city beautiful in view of the arrival of the Successor of Peter. Archbishop Giancarlo Bregantini of Campobasso-Bojano discusses this in the following interview with ZENIT, translated below, in which he describes a land rich in culture and humanity, but often somewhat ‘lazy’ in showing its infinite potentialities.

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ZENIT: Your Excellency, let’s say that the Pope’s visit on July 5 to Campobasso-Isernia is somewhat the jewel in the crown of a series of events which this year have called great attention to the Church in Molise

–Archbishop Bregantini: It’s true. Everything stems from the gift of having had Campobasso as the “City of Peace” in the March for Peace at the beginning of the year. Then there was my choice, at the request of the Holy Father, as author of the meditations of Good Friday’s Via Crucis, which was followed by different formative initiatives. Finally, the announcement of the Pope’s visit at the end of March – something great …

ZENIT: How is your city living these last days of waiting?

–Archbishop Bregantini: With growing enthusiasm. Initially it was only astonishment, then it became an awareness and, over the last weeks, an indescribable joy … There’s talk of nothing else here, it is all eagerness, mutual greeting, requests … The citizens are still incredulous on seeing the sports field, forever abandoned, now well prepared, beautiful, ordered and perfumed, with the reality of the altar built in the shape of a bell to recall the great passage of pastors in the course of the millennium … Truly a great joy.

ZENIT: What sort of reality will the Pope find in Molise?

–Archbishop Bregantini: A fringe reality hovering between the south and the north. In the south there is religious popularity, the problem of unemployment, a certain “grey area” – not of the Mafia but “grey” which renders consciences somewhat slow and cloudy. However, in the south there is also cordiality, the beauty of encounter, the joy of being together … At the same time, it is a region projected to the north: in Italy, for instance, it is the one that registers the lowest rate of pollution and delinquency — in sum, a reality with thousands of potentials.

ZENIT: The motto of Saturday’s visit is “God Does Not Tire of Forgiving.” What must be forgiven to Molise?

–Archbishop Bregantini: There is a certain slowness to be forgiven, the fact that it does not always expose itself or is capable of taking a position, of valuing or at least coordinating an endeavor of appreciation of its historical, social and cultural riches …. This isn’t a whine but a prayer to the Lord that the grace that has come to us, namely, that the Pontiff chose to visit our land, may be an invitation to have this latent identity emerge, to exploit these values thoroughly. I like to use an image: Molise is like an ensemble of most beautiful colored glass pearls, however, it is necessary to strengthen the thread that strings them together, which is able to evidence it, because, even if the thread isn’t seen, its function is decisive. Now the Pope is coming to give us this “thread”: more identity, more unity, more strength.

ZENIT: Among the meetings planned, which is the one you look forward to most?

–Archbishop Bregantini: All seven meetings are well connected. Listed as follows they seem like a little encyclical: work, city, the sick, the poor of the new structure of Caritas, young people, detainees, the greeting to the Region. Each stage is a piece of this encyclical. Perhaps the most awaited is the meeting with the world of work. It is certainly the most demanding. For that occasion we also invited Sergio Marchionne [CEO of the automaker FIAT], but who will be unable to participate because of commitments abroad, but who was very pleased with the warm message of invitation we sent him. FIAT is an establishment with 3,000 workers at Termoli; hence, his presence would be an encouragement for those working in this field. In any case, the world of work in Molise is not only FIAT: there are also several industries which are going through hard times due to the crisis, others that are shaky for reasons of management, other small enterprises that can’t find work outlets, which are relocated or can’t cope with the financial challenge. For Molise’s industry it is truly a very delicate moment.

ZENIT: Recalled especially of the Pope’s visit on June 21 to another place on the margins – Cassano all’Jonio – was his anathema against the Mafia, undoubtedly Calabria’s deepest wound. Instead, what wound will the Holy Father have to heal in Molise?

–Archbishop Bregantini: Unemployment, the precariousness of youth, will certainly be an acid test on Saturday. At present, it is the main problem, which does not assail Molise alone, but is extended throughout the world. But not just this: the Pope’s presence will also highlight positive moments. It will give vigor, for instance, to the rural world, inviting us to an intelligent use of resources, fair prices, love of the land. Very important then will be the meeting in a structure such as the University of Campobasso where he will meet entrepreneurs and workers. I believe this union between the world of work and the world of formation is a dream to be realized.

ZENIT: Still with Pope Francis’ excommunication of the Mafia, what effect did the Holy Father’s words have on you who, during the years of your episcopate at Locri, always fought strenuously against organized crime?

–Archbishop Bregantini: They were very explicit and courageous words. In March of 2006 I, myself, as Bishop of Locri, excommunicated those who poisoned the seedlings of the Policoro di Prati project in Locride. One thing, however, is the excommunication by a bishop, quite another that by the Pope. I am happy that the Holy Father made this very strong gesture. However, I would not want Calabria to be remembered only for this excommunication. The Pontiff’s discourse was of great intensity and profundity and it cannot be reduced to just one phrase … The invitation is also to all journalists to report other passages of the Pope’s homily, not just that one.

ZENIT: Your Excellency, one last wish in view of this great event.

–Archbishop Bregantini: The wish is that, after the visit, it is as radiant, united and courageous as this preparation has been. The fact that I have been requested to express my greeting at the end and not at the beginning is a sign in this sense, because it helps us not to leave the event there as an idol, an end in itself, but to make it concrete, active and continuing. Somewhat as if the Pope were to say: gather what I have given you and let the bishop then be the bridge to continue on these indications, with continuity. 

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Salvatore Cernuzio

Crotone, Italy Bachelor's degree in Communication Sciences, Information and Marketing (2008) and Master's degree in Publishing and Journalism (2010) from LUMSA University of Rome. Vatican Radio. Rome Seven. "Ecclesia in Urbe. Social Communications Office of the Vicariate of Rome. Second place in the Youth category of the second edition of the Giuseppe De Carli Prize for religious information.

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