Interview: Mons. Bernardo Cazzaro, Archbishop Emerito di Puerto Montt (Chile)
Mons. Bernardo Cazzaro, Servant of Mary, Archbishop Emeritus of Puerto Montt (Chile) spent the major part of his life as a missionary in Chile. At the end of its active episcopal service, he returned to Italy in order to help as a spiritual councillor and confessor in the Marian shrine Monte Berico.
In May 2007, during a pilgrimage to Medjugorje with a group from Vittorio Veneto, in an interview with Lidija Paris he expressed his impressions on Medjugorje.
Monsignor, this is the first time that you are coming to Medjugorje. Why did you come?
I have come to Medjugorje for the first time, invited by a group of pilgrims who come for the greater part from Vittorio Veneto. While I was in Chile for many years, I heard about Medjugorje, but not much, because I was at the other part of the world, quite far. Back in Italy, according to my possibilities, I was listening to Radio Maria and Father Livio who diffuses the messages, therefore, I had the desire to know Medjugorje directly, not only through the others. I have accepted the invitation of this group of pilgrims. I am glad to be here. Calculating the travel, we are here four complete days. It is a little short time. I am participating in these beautiful communitarian manifestations, but personally, I would enjoy to be also alone, to meditate, to taste in personal way these events. However, when you are with the group, you follow the program.
Your first impressions?
The first impression is totally beautiful, positive, I see that the things that I had heard are true, indeed I found a lot more than what I supposed. I mean it in two senses. Firstly, the physical structures - I have found a great amount of prayer places, apart the places of the apparition, places where it is easy to pray, where people go, where they gather. I had no idea about this! I knew that there are two bell towers, this church, it us a beautiful church! Very solid! And then I mean it also in an other sense, in the sense of the amount of persons who arrive here, I am very impressed. Many pilgrims, much fervour and also much cordiality among them. Every group is a small community that moves, one heart, one spirit, the Gospel lived in these moments of prayer, of movement made together. I am very impressed, because the messages are more or less read, there is nothing new in the messages, but the amount of persons that come to see, to feel, to experiment, this is very impressing!
Have you met the visionaries?
I have not met the visionaries. I do not look forward so much to speak with the visionaries. Yesterday I went to the apparition of Mirjana. I am glad that there are apparitions. If Our Lady is appearing so much, I give thanks to God because these charisms are not for them, they re for us. In fact, through them, Our Lady appears to all of us, speaks to all of us. Personally, something else is important for me. Jesus said, “Blessed are those that believe without having seen”! I am peaceful anyway because I know what I have to do with the messages that I receive, even if I do not hear them directly from Our Lady. The messages go into the whole world through newspapers. Everyone will not go to check if every event is true or not!
This event of the apparitions has provoked a movement of prayer throughout the world.
Yes, because this corresponds to the human psychology. It goes towards what is new. If these new things are beautiful, they move some mechanisms, even the movement of conversion. Sure, the Lord who has created us knows that we have this inner mechanism of looking for what is new, and fortunately, here the things are beautiful! Much people come attracted in this way, the Lord uses it and it is good so. He has also used the miracles because there are people that can be moved only with a miracle!
The apparitions last for 26 years now.
This is another topic, the duration of these apparitions. For me, it is not a great problem. I do not ask God to make accounts to me. He will ask me, not I to the Lord. If the Lord wants to appear two times, or twenty times or two hundred times, what should I say? I listen. This is not the picture here. This is the frame. The picture is what the Lord says to us, what he wants from us, that problems he wants to resolve. That is the picture. He wants to change us, he wants to change the whole world, and as we are stubborn, then the Lord insists, educates us slowly through these messages, which are all a reflection of the Gospel. If we would read more the Gospel and meditated it, we would not need the messages. We have forgotten, that’s it, and the messages remind us. They do not say anything extraordinary, or difficult, we just have to change our hearts. Jesus is saying this for 2000 years now.
In the history of the private revelations, there have been cases in which the apparitions lasted the whole life of a person, but remained hidden. Here in Medjugorje everything has become public.
The Lord has his plans. There are charisms. A charisma is always given for the benefit of the Church, of the community. Sometimes this benefit is hidden. But, the charisms are never exclusively and absolutely personal. They always have for purpose the common good beyond the personal good. Here, the charisms are in the open air, in the sunlight, in common.
The pastoral life of the parish?
Our Lady has chosen here an organized place from the ecclesiastical point of view, a parish, a small portion of the flock of God in charge of the priests. You have the fortune to have the excellent Franciscan fathers, not a single person but a community of consecrated. Our Lady speaks to all the parishes. The same language that she is using here is valid for all of them. They should be communities of prayer, of faith, of love. Only, when a community is too large, it is difficult, because there is anonymity. Personal relations are no more easy, fluid… In Latin America, in Chile where I have been for many years, we call the parish “community of communities”. A group of communities, 25, 30 small communities, like a grape, with a priest who is in the main centre. The parish is a community of communities, and each one of them has a little autonomy, and the priest leads them all with the participation of laity, sometimes because of lack of priests. Our Lady has chosen a parish in order to say that the structures of the Church must be at the service of love, of faith, not legal fixed structure, but like a staircase to help to go up, like a stairway that helps.
How is the Church proceeding when it wants to recognize or to give a legal form to a place where something happens that attracts so many pilgrims, like here in Medjugorje?
The Church is doing very good to do as it is doing. Prudence. I say prudence not because the demon can show himself as an angel of light – we know this, saint Paul told us already. I say for another reason. I will give you a little example A process. A process can be very along. The judge has to hear all the voices: those who say one thing, those who contradict, who accuse one, who accuse another… Here, it is not the case of a process, but it is a comparison. The judge must listen. When all have finished, I pronounce the sentence. In Fatima, the extraordinary facts of the apparitions have happened in 1917, but the Church has given definitely the green light only in 1942. After 25 years. People went to pray, there was a spiritual, religious movement, but the Church has not pronounced itself before. This has not impeached a spiritual profit. Therefore, when we go to see and to ask: “These apparitions, these phenomena, are they of divine origin or not?”, it is a comprehensible curiosity. I do not at all condemn this way, but I say: Where it is the main thing? The main thing is another: the fruits that derive from it. The fruits. If I go in an orchard full of trees with beautiful, mature fruit, I do not go to see if the roots are all right or worm-eaten, ill. I see the beautiful fruit, I take it, I eat it, I offer it. If the fruits are good, the roots will also be good, says Jesus. When we say, “I do not believe”, I understand it, it is a human attitude, cannot be condemned because the Church leaves us freedom. Only the Creed we must accept for faith. The rest is private things. You do not have to go so much to the roots. Look at the fruits, the fruits of conversion, the invitation and the content of the messages. They are all evangelical contents. You cannot throw away the Gospel, even if it comes to you chewed in form of baby food, because we are like children, and Our Lady is giving us the baby food. We have become children, we are to be re-evangelised. Our Lady says it in a simple way like a mother, in small but precious portions, in order to make us digest the Gospel that we have forgotten. This is important. Let the Church go slowly, study, make commissions, examine for and against, whatever it wants. We say that the Church “should approve”. What is this “Church”? And what are we? We are Church, we have already approved! The responsible hierarchy is prudent, in order to avoid errors, in order to confirm all the good that is made. When I go to eat, I do not go to see what happens in the kitchen. Enough that they bring a good plate to eat, I feed myself, I am happy, for the kitchen I trust! I will not refuse food because I do not know if in the kitchen everything is made with hygiene. These are little comparisons… I understand the poor bishops, sometimes people bring us so many messages… and there are stupid things also! Even printed… where the eternal salvation depends on your works. What! There are false messages where the eternal salvation does not depend on Jesus but on your rosary, your pilgrimage, and not on confession, communion, conversion…
The fast is right here. I have thought a lot about it. This fast is the moderate, just use of the things. We humans are tempted to exaggerate in all. Every good thing that arrives in our hands, we abuse of it. We ruin all because we are sinners. We ruin also the food because we eat too much. And our health gets lost. We make diets. We have to go for walks, jogging… Our Lady says: fast. Two times a week. It is very good. Excellent. This type of fast do those who can. There are people who cannot because of little forces that they have. Then you must make another fast. We are abusing many things. For example television. I say that the greatest fast that we should do is to put off the television, dirty programs, or Internet. We must fast from the immorality that is in the press, or in the mass media. That is the fast that we must make. With decision. And it is necessary for our life. The evil comes because we have also abused the mass media. We are sinners. There are also those that organize the evil on the worldwide level. Another type of fast is that from our vices. The word fast is very deep and large. It is not enough to abstain oneself from food. There is the fast about which Jesus spoke: “Who wants to be my disciple let him deny himself”. That is the greater fast: to deny your pride, your vanity, your anger, your concupiscence, your avarice… to keep under control your defects. This is Christian asceticism. This is what we need. We have forgotten the Gospel, we have forgotten also the Cross that there is in the Gospel. That is fasting. To carry the cross day after day, to be good, to dominate our passions. The fast is not only one action, it is a life program.
Here in Medjugorje Our Lady has invited us to venerate the Cross.
Because we have forgotten the cross; not the physical cross, but the suffering of life about which Jesus speaks in the Gospel. The veneration is an act of piety that must be reflected in life. We must educate the children well, teach them to renounce to their whims. When I was a child, I was taught to make “the fioretti”, small sacrifices that were made especially in honour of Our Lady in the month of May. The veneration of the cross focuses the attention on one point. That point must illuminate all the rest. The cross - you have it on your back… to accept suffering in union with the Lord Jesus. An act of piety must enter in life. That is the cult that pleases to God. It would be pharisaic to honour God in the church, and then outside to honour yourself and your pride, to throw away the cross, to do all the possible to avoid cross in life. And when the cross comes, you despair and you do not know what to do…
Confession. The pilgrims come from the entire world in order to make a confession here.
That is beautiful. This is one of the most beautiful fruits of this place, of these phenomena of the apparitions. In fact, Our Lady is asking for confession in order to entrust us to the Mercy of God. To change life.
I come from the shrine Monte Berico where same things happened, but not in these great dimensions. Our Lady has appeared in 1426 and 1428. Two times. There was a great plague and Our Lady intervened and asked for a chapel. Nobody, neither the Bishop, neither other authorities have believed this woman, Vincenza Bassini. Therefore, the plague continued for two years. Some good people prayed, then Our Lady appeared again, in the same place, and have traced with a cross the perimeter of the chapel. Then they have believed, and they made the chapel in three months. From the day in which they have begun to construct the chapel, the plague has begun to diminish. After three months, it disappeared. Our Lady said also that she wanted not only the healing of the body but also the spiritual healing, because there were many sins, like always. God wanted conversion: the health of the body but also that one of the spirit. Every day we hear confessions. This happens in all the shrines where there are priests.
Medjugorje has become also a place of renewal for the priests. This year in July, we will have a retreat preached by father Raniero Cantalamessa.
Beautiful! We priests are men like all the others. We have our weaknesses, we also need conversion. We are not confirmed in grace!
Here we pray so much for priests…
All together, I do not see here anything crooked, nothing worrisome. As a bishop I do not see whims here, or strange things. Everything happens according to the norms of the Church: liturgy, prayer, sacrifice, especially conversion. It is good. We are grateful to God. If the Church says, “is true”, if it says it tomorrow or in twenty years, it is not important. Let us not have haste! Let us leave the Church free! Let us leave free the competent authorities that is the local bishop, or in our case here, the Vatican. It has no importance. I respect the fruits.