After Benedict XVI’s last audience in Saint Peter’s Square on Wednesday, the archbishop of Urgell and episcopal co-prince of Andorra, Joan Eric Vives, greeted the Holy Father in the Clementine Hall in representation of his country.
Urgell is a diocese of the Church, suffragan of the Archdiocese of Tarragona, Spain. It has a population of less than 200,000, most of whom are Catholic.
Since 1278 the bishops of Urgell are also co-princes of Andorra, that is, they have a temporal mandate.
Jaume Serra, the ambassador of the Principality of Andorra to the Holy See, also came to Rome for this historic event.
ZENIT met with Archbishop Vives and asked him about his final impressions of Benedict XVI.
ZENIT: How did you find the Holy Father?
Archbishop Vives: I found him very tranquil and very happy after the audience. He had a rather tired look given his age, but peaceful, an inner peace which he radiates. It is the peace of one who is faithful to his conscience, who has found the will of God after reflecting, asking for light and discerning.
ZENIT: So he has great peace.
Archbishop Vives: He wasn’t tense, he wasn’t nervous. He wasn’t in a hurry. In any event, he had time for all of us. We were able to spend more time with him than all the other Heads of State that he received earlier.
ZENIT: And what did the Pope say to you?
Archbishop Vives: We had time to express to him some of our thoughts. He wasn’t concerned about other things but about the person he had before him, of this country. Specifically, he said to me: “I have Andorra in my heart, and Catalonia and Spain in my heart.”
ZENIT: Did Benedict XVI already know you?
Archbishop Vives: The Pope already knew me. He appointed me archbishop ad personam, and also because during his pontificate there has been a very close relation with the State Secretariat. An agreement was signed, a Concordat between the Holy See and the Principality of Andorra.
And this, which was accomplished during his pontificate, has been very important for Andorra, because it gave some juridical stability, although that had existed with the Constitution of 1993. With this international treaty the Holy See commits itself at the same time to respect the fact that the bishop of Urgell can always be the co-prince of Andorra.
ZENIT: What other things did you talk about with His Holiness?
Archbishop Vives: I also thanked him for his courage and faith, for the documents he has given us, Deus Caritas Est, Spes Salvi, Caritas in Veritate, and he listened attentively.
I told him that many people ask for his prayers and he said, “I shall pray for you.” I added that he has given us a great example of courage and fidelity to the voice of God.
I held his hands the whole time and he held mine. He walks slowly with his cane; he walks well but with his cane.
ZENIT: Who else was at the audience in the Clementine Hall?
Archbishop Vives: The Pope received the mayor of the city of Rome, Gianni Alemanno; the president of the Slovak Republic, Ivan Gasparovic; the Regent Captains of the Republic of San Marino, Teodoro Lonfernini and Denise Bronzetti and the President of the Free State of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer and his consort who brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers and spoke in Bavarian. And then I remained, and he remembered the co-prince.
ZENIT: What touched you especially in today’s audience?
Archbishop Vives: The Pope is a man who is evidently a man of God. And in his catecheses he has taught us that before speaking about God or of God, we must speak to God.
And what moved me in today’s general audience was that he is a person who has an intimate friendship with Jesus. We already knew this, because we expect it of every bishop, priest and believer, and more so of a Pope. But he said with great sincerity that the Lord Jesus is in the barque with us, and that we mustn’t be afraid, that Jesus will give a good Successor to his Church, and that we must have confidence like a child in the arms of his father. I think he radiates this.
ZENIT: And at the end?
Archbishop Vives: I also greeted Cardinal Bertone, and thanked all in the Roman Curia who work with so much speed and promptness to serve the Holy Father. Not all are stories of revenge and what-not, when in reality there are some magnificent collaborators. I also wished to say as a servant, that behind a person such as the Holy Father there are people who aren’t visible and who are very good collaborators.[Translation by ZENIT]