By Jon Korta
ROME, DEC. 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University never imagined that at 87 years of age he would be made a cardinal.
Cardinal Urbano Navarrete Cortés shared that reflection in this interview with ZENIT. The Jesuit cardinal, an expert in canon law, also revealed the two requests he made of his community.
Q: How did you receive the news of your nomination as a cardinal?
Cardinal Navarette: On Oct. 16, the day before it was made public, the secretary of state [Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone] called me because I had been entrusted to study a juridical point. We discussed this point that was very simple for me. Then point-blank, he told me: “Tomorrow at noon, the Pope will proclaim that you are a cardinal.”
My reaction? At the age that I am — I am already 87 years old — to begin new things seems strange to me.
The day of the announcement — obviously I kept the pontifical secret until 12 the following day — I went to see my superior when there was no longer danger of violation.
The father rector made it public, and I said two things: I asked my superiors to leave me in the same place that I am, for the days of life which the Lord gives me; in the second place I asked my companions that they not change anything in how they deal with me, that I am the same as before and I would like them to treat me as before.
Q: Can we say, then, that the Holy Father has awarded you with the title of cardinal because of your extensive work as a canon lawyer?
Cardinal Navarette: In what refers to the aspect of reward, I think I have few merits, but I can say with all sincerity that I have dedicated many hours of my life to work that is secret, in the Vatican Archives.
For me, teaching was my principal obligation, and if I had to dedicate time to other things I had to squeeze them in at night if necessary, but all my life the first priority was to follow the educational formation of the canonists.
I dedicated countless hours to the codification of the Latin Code and also to the Eastern Code, as well as an instruction on the process of marriage.
These were hours that were dropped into a well, seen by no one. Perhaps the Pope wished to reward this aspect, my work. And evidently this honor overflows to the Gregorian and to the Jesuits.
Q: For many years you worked with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as a consultor. What can you say of Benedict XVI?
Cardinal Navarette: I can say that having worked many times with Cardinal Ratzinger that he is an extraordinarily intelligent man.
He is a man who in his mission as prefect listened to everyone, and then at the end made a synthesis without letting any relevant data escape, with an extraordinary capacity for understanding all the relevant material that the consultors highlighted, and then synthesized in the moment the central crux of the issue at hand.