Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, OFM, Archbishop Emeritus of Seville, was in Rome last Thursday at the presentation of three books of Pope Francis: “Love Alone Can Save Us,” “I Ask You to Pray for Me” and “Do Not Let Yourselves Be Robbed of Hope,” published by Romana Editorial in collaboration with Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
At the end of the presentation, ZENIT had an opportunity to speak with His Eminence about Pope Francis, his words and why he attracts people so much.
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ZENIT: Why does this Pope attract people so much, particularly those of Spanish speaking origin?
Cardinal Amigo: We have a Latin American Pope and both [Spaniards] as well as Latin Americans also need feeling. We need the head, the intellect of reason, but our culture is also full of feeling. So the Holy Father is faithful to himself, he speaks in plain language, of the people, of the Buenos Aires neighborhoods, and people who can be found in any corner of the world. He speaks of the advice his grandmother gave him and tells us the sayings of his own country, but also our responsibility to be faithful to what we promised at Baptism.
ZENIT: It’s known that Pope Francis wants a reform of the Curia, but it seems that his words are already changing many things.
Cardinal Amigo: I think that more than reform it’s about a renewal, and a renewal that is not so much about doing new things but about removing the rust that sin has caused or the negligence of persons. It’s not about doing new things but about being genuinely faithful to what the essence of the Christian faithful is. Some think that the renewal will bring about new things or something like that. Instead, the renewal will help us to cleanse ourselves a bit, so that the face of Jesus Christ will shine in our face, because this is what it means to be a Christian.
ZENIT: His simplicity is very evangelical, no?
Cardinal Amigo: It is a simplicity of his gestures and also of words. But in addition, it is the simplicity of the mystery. Mystery understood not as something hidden, arcane, a sort of wall that’s in his head, but mystery which is something great, admirable, sublime, full of light and the Pope is introducing us into that mystery, as someone who doesn’t want things, he puts us into God’s heart.
ZENIT: So many people have approached or returned to the Church. Is it just because of his language?
Cardinal Amigo: It’s also the sacramentality of his gestures, like the sacramentals, holy water: it might seem that it’s a bit of water that one puts on one’s fingers and blesses oneself. Instead, this brings one closer, it converts the heart. One is introduced into a new space, and these are the gestures. One doesn’t stay with the gestures but has a conversion of heart. Seeing what the Pope does, one also feels an appeal to conscience, what one must change. He is telling us where the way is, where the truth is.
ZENIT: Does a Cardinal also feel this?
Cardinal Amigo: Well, I feel it and I feel it very much, and when during the presentation of these books some pages of Pope Francis were read, which should be read kneeling, and on more than one occasion tears have welled up and I have wept within, yes, I have wept within many times reading such admirable things, especially his homilies at Saint Martha’s. Sometimes we are concerned because the Church engages in many works of charity and people at times don’t realize this. Well, the Pope isn’t very interested in this, but in fidelity to the message of the Gospel.