CIVITAVECCHIA, Italy, FEB. 9, 2005 (Zenit.org).- When asked about an image of the Blessed Virgin that allegedly wept tears of blood, Bishop Girolamo Grillo recalls a famous line from Scripture.
“A tree is known by its fruits,” says the prelate, 10 years after the tears were first reported in the town of Pantano, near Civitavecchia, some 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Rome.
The phenomenon was first manifested on Feb. 2, 1995. The bishop of Civitavecchia was a direct witness of the lacrimation on March 15 of that year. In this interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire, he assesses its effects.
Q: What has happened in these 10 years?
Bishop Grillo: Judge for yourself. Since then the presence of pilgrims has not only not diminished, but it has been purified from all obstacles of sensationalism.
The people who go to Pantano are impelled by a great need for conversion. And it is demonstrated by the fact that I have had to arrange for the continual presence of five confessors.
They have told me that they have been able to reconcile many people with God who have been estranged for many years; not rarely, also offenders.
Close to 1,000 broken families, due to divorce or separation, have been reunited, and today this is anything but usual.
Many women have been granted their desired maternity and then they come to have their children baptized here.
Finally, many have asked for baptism, including former Muslims. So why not make these fruits known to the world?
Q: Are you planning any special initiative for the 10th anniversary?
Bishop Grillo: A dossier has been prepared which will soon be published at the national level. Moreover, there are 44 visitors books, full of visitors’ signatures and thoughts, which in my opinion reflect all the anxieties of our time, but also all the hopes of those who turn to Mary.
Q: And is a special celebration planned for these days?
Bishop Grillo: Every year, on the night of February 1-2, the faithful leave from the city center and arrived in the town of Pantano, walking the 12 kilometers of the trajectory. This year there were 1,500, who weathered intense cold.
Don’t forget that up to 20 years ago, Civitavecchia was considered “the Stalingrad of Latium” — 60% communist, an anti-clerical and anarchic city. Today I think this event has left its mark.
Of course, if it is true that the Virgin wept, I don’t think she wept only for Civitavecchia.
Q: What has this event meant from the pastoral point of view?
Bishop Grillo: As bishop I am very happy because St. Augustine’s Parish in Pantano has become a center of evangelization not only for the city, but for Italy and the whole world. In the last registry, relative to the months of November and December 2004, I counted 12 foreign pilgrimages, from Sri Lanka to Latin America.
We make every effort to indicate true devotion to Mary, that which leads to Christ. And I think this teaching is amply received.
As for the rest, I think these things need time to settle, a period of waiting, and great patience. The supernatural, especially in a world that doesn’t believe in God and that has lost values, cannot be demonstrated if it doesn’t bear fruits.
Q: And what fruits has it borne for Bishop Grillo?
Bishop Grillo: After that morning of March 15, I was under shock for two or three years. The Virgin unsettled my life and drove me to greater inwardness. On my part, the effort has increased to be attentive and open to the needs of the faithful. Because of this, I am much more dedicated to spiritual direction, in addition to pastoral work.
Q: Has the Blessed Virgin ever spoken to John Paul II?
Bishop Grillo: In the course of the last “ad limina” visit, the Holy Father asked me about the eventuality of building a shrine.
I told him that I was willing to do so but I also asked him to help me open a house for the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, in Civitavecchia. In fact, I would like the spiritual and material fruits of a shrine to be also and above all in favor of the poor.