Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti

Diocesi di Perugia - Città della Pieve

INTERVIEW: Cardinal Bassetti: ‘Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by the Holy Father’

Former Vice President of Italian Bishops’ Conference Speaks of Upcoming National Congress and Pope’s Participation in It


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Italy’s National Ecclesial Congress next week will give bishops another chance for frank and free discussion, only a handful of days after the conclusion of the synod on the family, says Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, archbishop of Perugia-Citta della Pieve and former Vice-President of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI).

The Pope will visit the congress on Nov. 10 with a day-trip to Florence.

Asked by ZENIT to comment on the synod, the Cardinal described as “tavern gossip” the media’s stress on divisions between the Fathers. In regard to the Florence congress, instead, Cardinal Bassetti perceives a great occasion for the rediscovery of a Christian humanism against all forms of man’s “ontological death” and of his desolating subordination to the laws of the economy, science and technology.

According to the Archbishop of Perugia, the Holy Father’s intervention, although unpredictable, as Francis’ style is, will be inspired for the good of the Italian Church.

ZENIT: Your Eminence, some days after its conclusion, what is the greatest richness we can draw from the Synod on the Family and, in particular, from the final Relatio?

Cardinal Bassetti: I think that one of the greatest riches that this Synod is leaving us in legacy is a family pastoral [program] inspired in the look of the Good Samaritan: a look that, first of all, sees the family in its real and concrete everyday [life] without allowing one to be deceived by a series of ideal or abstract formulations. And then, in the second place, this look gives life to a pastoral plan that, succeeding in gathering the riches and the sufferings of modern families, is resolved to receive, heal and integrate the men and women of today within the ecclesial community. In sum, evident, with Vatican Council II, is the evangelical call as well as pure marriage.

ZENIT: The media stressed above all the “dark side” of the Synod: divisions on doctrine and on pastoral care, close confrontations between the Fathers, true or alleged disputes against the Holy Father, ambiguous interpretation of the Relatio. How much is true or false in this reading of the events?

Cardinal Bassetti: As I had the occasion to repeat many times, there is no “dark side” of the Synod and no alleged . Eventually there was parrhesia, that is, a clear and frank way of speaking, which is precisely what the Pope requested the Synod Fathers to do. There were, obviously, as it is right that there should be, different sensibilities and opinions. But this is absolutely normal. This is what has happened for 2,000 years. The Church is historically a living body in which there are personalities with different histories and cultures. However, we are all called to realize Jesus’ testament: “Ut omnes unum sint.” Saint Bernard Abbot wrote that “the world is agitated, the body makes its weight felt, the devil lays snares” but I “don’t fall because I am established on the rock.” Christ is our rock. The Church is founded precisely on this unbreakable rock and we are only useless servants. All the rest is tavern gossip.

ZENIT: We are on the eve of the National Ecclesial Congress of Florence. What are the strong and weak points of the Italian Church that, in your opinion, will emerge in the course of the assembly?

Cardinal Bassetti: There will be talk of a new humanism at Florence, which is historically the homeland of humanism; hence, I am sure that there will be a rich debate of original suggestions and reflections. Despite the difficulties, the Italian Church is still a Church of the people, present in every corner of the country and she can give very much to the universal Church and to the country. Personally, I hope that, beyond the celebratory moments, there will be a frank and free discussion, from which we can draw to formulate a guiding idea that is able to inspire the Italian Church for the next 10 years. The program seems to me very encouraging.

ZENIT: The theme of the congress is “A New Humanism in Jesus Christ.” In what terms can the Church contribute to re-humanize society?

Cardinal Bassetti: Like Christ, the Church is lumen gentium, light for humanity. Jesus is a person, not a philosophy. The rediscovery of a neo-personalism is key, in my opinion, for every discourse on man and on Creation. Today we have, on one hand, an economy that values profit and forgets the dignity of the human being; and on the other, a techno-science that ends by disassembling man, to the point of declaring his ontological death and his surpassing. The prospect of cyborg man, of robotics and of neuro-sciences are subjects for most important reflections. Therefore, Christian humanism is fundamental today. If we take back in hand what Mounier, Maritain, De Lubac and Guardini wrote in the middle of the 20th century, we will realize immediately that everything was already foreseen, and that the true anthropological mutation was not born today but more than 50 years ago.

ZENIT: The Holy Father’s intervention is expected on November 10. What are the subjects he might address and, in any case, to what degree can the Pontiff orient the works of the Ecclesial Congress?

Cardinal Bassetti: I challenge anyone to be able to foresee what the Pope will say in his intervention! Unpredictability and originality are two among Francis’ main gifts. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by the Holy Father and by the action of the Holy Spirit that, without a doubt, will be able to inspire him for the good of the Italian Church.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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Luca Marcolivio

Roma, Italia Laurea in Scienze Politiche. Diploma di Specializzazione in Giornalismo. La Provincia Pavese. Radiocor - Il Sole 24 Ore. Il Giornale di Ostia. Ostia Oggi. Ostia Città (direttore). Eur Oggi. Messa e Meditazione. Sacerdos. Destra Italiana. Corrispondenza Romana. Radici Cristiane. Agenzia Sanitaria Italiana. L'Ottimista (direttore). Santini da Collezione (Hachette). I Santini della Madonna di Lourdes (McKay). Contro Garibaldi. Quello che a scuola non vi hanno raccontato (Vallecchi).

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