Interview with Father Livio Fanzaga - Radio Maria Italy
Date: February 17, 2008
Christianity before being a doctrine is a personal relationship with God
Father Livio Fanzaga is a priest and a religious, member of the Congregation of the Scolopian Fathers, a Religious Order founded in the 17th century by S. Giuseppe Calasanzio (1557-1648) and customarily dedicated to the apostolate and education of poor children and young people.
Please tell us how did you hear about Medjugorje
I have felt to speak about Medjugorje in my parish of Milan. When I have felt this word, I have had like one called inner. Therefore, in March of 1985 for before the time, with to two boys of my parish, I have received this call that has been for me a change of life. Because from then they are put to me to I listen of the messages of the Madonna. From the 1985 always the years for my vacations to Medjugorje have come all. I came also 3-4 times the year. This has been the fundamental experience of my life.
Proclaim conversion and diffuse the messages in love
How have you begun with Radio Maria?
I knew a parish radio called Radio Maria, where father Slavko used to give the Thursday messages, and I started to be involved. It was a radio of prayer and entertainment, like all parish radios at that time. In 1987, a group connected with Medjugorje founded the association “Radio Maria”. This was the beginning of this great adventure. I obtained permission from my superiors for a year, then for an indefinite time, to dedicate myself to Radio Maria in quality of Director, and from then Radio Maria became a radio station founded on the two pillars of the prayer and evangelization. The impulse has come to me from an event that happened in January 1986, when a group of pilgrims of Radio Maria received a message in Medjugorje through Vicka: “Proclaim conversion. Diffuse the messages of the Queen of the Peace and give witness to them in love”. We can say that Radio Maria is unique, different from other catholic radios. The programming is founded in the first place on prayer. We transmit every day Holy Mass from another parish, and every afternoon an hour of adoration, also from different parishes. We have mobile studios and volunteers in all the Italian provinces. In the arc of the 24 hours we transmit six rosaries, some of which are directly involving families. We transmit all the liturgy of the hours, partially from the parishes, partially from our microphones. We have 12 hours of religious culture, covering practically all the matters of a faculty of theology. As conductors we have various bishops, about sixty priests and as many lay people. The majority of the priests are university professors in several pontifical faculties. We also promote culture and human sciences - medicine, pedagogy, psychology and several other disciplines seen from the religious perspective. We dedicate many transmissions to the family. We have catechesis: for children, for young people, for the sick, for the fiancés, etc. As far as the information, we have news twice a day, and we transmit every day Radio Vatican News. Music is rigorously religious, or such to elevate the soul to God.
Has Radio Maria in Italy always been transmitting the messages of the Queen of Peace?
From the very beginning, we wanted to be an authentic source of reliable information about Medjugorje. We have defined a very precise line: no conductor of program can speak about Medjugorje except the Director, who really knows Medjugorje. I have two hours of transmission a day. Every day I give catechesis, and in all these years - from 1987 until now, full 20 years - I was almost every day explaining the messages of the Queen of Peace, with one particular intention: to show that the messages are one was of the understanding of the Gospel, in tune with the doctrine of the Church, and therefore an element of spiritual and ecclesial growth. We have always transmitted the message, first on Thursdays, then on the 25th of the month, directly from Medjugorje. On this line, I have never had any problem with the ecclesiastical authority. I have always been able to speak about Medjugorje freely, but also loyally, saying that the Church has not said its final opinion, but leaves us free. In the same time we have shown the importance to follow this message and to live it, because Our Lady is here today… Naturally, this has been a way of growth along the course of the years, with perseverance, and the listeners of Radio Maria appreciate this a lot.
Who are your listeners?
We had a problem: is it possible for a radio of prayer and evangelization to have listeners? In Italy, there are 300 catholic radios. In their foundations, they have catholic values, but they do not have an organic program of prayer and catechesis. They are much similar to the common radios. We have an immense auditory, 2 million listeners a day. And this umber is assessed from official statistics. We are among the first 10 radios listened to in Italy. We have 2 millions listeners a day, 5 millions a week. It is a popular radio, which can involve simple public, but also more cultivated listeners. 40% of our listeners have the diploma of advanced school or are bachelors. Therefore, this radio can speak to all. The reason is to be found in the fact that people have hunger for the Word of God. We have made an audacious bet under the economic aspect - and it is a miracle that has amazed even the Holy See - because Radio Maria costs very much, even though all conductors are volunteers. In Italy, we have 850 repeaters, like RAI, to cover all the territory and to arrive to every person, while commercial radios have about 300, because the others are not profitable. The miracle is that we can face all these expenses without one word of publicity. We do not have particular financings, except offerings of people that stand in a row in the post offices.
Radio Maria in the world
How have you begun with Radio Maria in other countries?
We have covered Italy in three years, and then we started realizing Radio Maria in several countries of the world. We receive many demands from priests who are studying in Rome and listening to Radio Maria. When they return in their dioceses, they speak about it to their bishops. This is how we receive demands from every part of the world. We have asked to our listeners to help us to face these demands. We have never founded one Radio Maria of our initiative. If there is a demand, we contact the ecclesiastical authorities, we create the Association Radio Maria with local people and begin the realization and formation work. In this way we have gone in 50 countries of the world. Almost the entire America, many European countries, especially eastern Europe, 10 countries in Africa, and two of Asia. We are twinned with the Lebanese catholic radio, which is transmitting in Arabic. All Radio Maria of the world are members of the world-wide Association “World family of Radio Maria”. The president of every national association is a lay person, but all the Directors have to be priests, because it is a matter of evangelization and therefore the Church must supervise on the doctrine. In all Radio Maria the priests-directors have the canonical permission of the local Bishop who can intervene from the point of view of the doctrine and the pastoral line. Therefore the Church does not need to worry about financial, administrative and technical issues.
Are you connected with Medjugorje in all the countries?
Only Radio Maria Italy makes a particular reference to Medjugorje. It is a choice of the director. For the other Radio Maria of the world, it depends on the Director and the local ecclesiastical authority. Radio Maria in Austria and in Panama regularly transmit the messages of the Queen of Peace.
I have learned everything from Our Lady
What have you learned from Our Lady?
From Our lady I have learned everything, in particular the depth, the greatness and the beauty of the Christian faith. The message that stroke me most in Medjugorje is that Christianity, before being a doctrine, is a personal relationship of love with God. My great discovery in Medjugorje – which make many other pilgrims also - namely that we have a heavenly Mother called Mary. Theoretically I knew it before, but in Medjugorje I have felt it with the heart. The fundamental experience in Medjugorje is the encounter with Mary our Mother, who is also the Mother of the Church and of the humanity. She takes care of our life, she takes us by the hand and leads us, she teaches us to live Christian faith, shows us the way of salvation. She takes care of our personal life, but in the same time of the life of the Church and of the future of the entire humanity. This has been my fundamental experience. Often I ask myself why the pilgrims go to Medjugorje and then return home carried by a mysterious force? In Medjugorje, there is nothing particularly attractive. No great shrine like in Lourdes… Why do people return home content and want to return? This is a mystery. It seems to me that people discover here the motherly Heart of Mary. When I came to Medjugorje for the first time, on March 15th, 1985, it was raining, it was cold. Before Mass, the door of the sacristy where the visionaries had the apparition opened. First I saw the smiling face of Marija Pavlović, and then of other visionaries. Pure faces, faces full of light. I concelebrated Mass with Father Slavko. During the concelebration, I had something like a particular light: Our Lady is here, I said to myself, this means that Christianity is the only true religion! Our Lady is a Catholic! This was the force that I have transmitted in the programs of Radio Maria. On this idea I have constructed the program of Radio Maria, as an messenger of truth in charity! Our Lady is here in order to give to us Jesus Christ. We have created a radio that gives Jesus Christ, a radio that gives the Gospel through the maternal Heart of Mary.
I am friend of Vicka for a long time now, and I know them all personally. In more then twenty years of frequentation nothing has ever provoked any doubts. What hit me most is that the visionaries are completely normal. In all these years, they have never been in error, neither in matters of faith nor in matters of moral life. They could behave like stars, because they are known in the world, but they are full of simplicity and humility. As far as the famous critic, made even from the bishop of Mostar, that they are not religious, it is clear now that Our Lady has seen for time that the crisis of the family needs a the testimony of Christian families. Another thing hit me: in all this time, the visionaries have never contradicted each other. And then humility... Vicka, for example: Our Lady told her: “Be alone”. Since then, Vicka has the apparitions privately. One can see that there is a supernatural direction that leads all this and assigns to everyone a task with extraordinary wisdom. With much docility, the visionaries allow Our Lady to lead them.
The messages trace a way of Christian perfection, without equal in all the catholic Church. I always say: the booklet of the messages is superior to Imitation of Christ. The spirituality of Mary is maternal, tracing a way of holiness for the Church. A spirituality for all. The messages must be read with the heart, in the light of the Holy Spirit. They have an extraordinary depth. One thing is sure: the messages are guiding millions of Christians. We are not aware how much Our Lady’s words become a daily bread in great parts of the Church. And this is right, because it is the Gospel for the little ones. Nothing can be compared to this wonderful catechesis of the Mother of God.
Here is being realized Our Lady’s program
What has been initiated in the world and in the catholic Church thanks to Medjugorje?
I say clearly what I mean. Obviously the center of the Church is the Vatican, because there is Peter. But in a certain sense, in this moment, the heart of the Catholic Church is Medjugorje. The program of Our Lady is being realized here. She has not chosen only the six visionaries. She has chosen a parish. In the message given to the parish on 1. March 1984 she says that she has chosen this parish: “I have chosen this parish in a special way and I wish to lead it”. On 8. March 1984, Our Lady is giving her program that has been realised perfectly: “You in the parish, be converted. That way all those who shall come here shall be able to convert." On the last day of the year, after Mass, I have seen lights in 30 confessionals, with long rows of persons. Here, Our Lady is realizing her program through the parish of Medjugorje. Through the pilgrims and the priests who come here, she is renewing the whole Church. Here is happening for the second time what already has happened when Jesus said to saint Francis: “Go and repair my Church”. The Franciscan Order is the protagonist of this revival of the Church. Let us not forget the great pastoral hard work of receiving all these pilgrims who come from every part of the world. The great pastoral hard work of the Franciscan Order is exposed to the eyes of all.
Isn’t this a little idealized was of seeing things? The truth is not always so ideal. Can really be said that the parish Medjugorje has been converted? The parish is not perfect…
Better that it is not perfect, not to become haughty! Our Lady leaves to the parish all its weaknesses, all its defects, but what she wanted from this parish, she has obtained. Our Lady wanted to make of this parish a great center of prayer. When we come here to Medjugorje, than strikes us? Prayer! People pray everywhere: in the chapels, on the roads, on Cross Mountain, on Apparition Hill. Also in the houses. There is no doubt that Our Lady is renewing the Church. In that way? With prayer. Today, the attack of Satan regards faith. Today, which it is the greatest danger in the Church? That people lose faith. The Synod of the bishops of Europe said that silent apostasy reigns in Europe. Many think that everything ends with death. The loss of faith is the spiritual disease of Europe today. Which is the medicine that Our Lady has found to recover the loss of faith, which is the true danger of our time? Already Paul VI said: “Today, the true issue is that of faith”. Through prayer, Our Lady leads people to meet God, to meet Jesus Christ, in Holy Mass, in confession… In Medjugorje, all are believers. The fundamental problem today, before morality, is faith. Therefore, Our Lady renews the Church through prayer, because prayer strengthens faith. Pilgrims return home from Medjugorje with a stronger faith. There are some, species the journalists that make usual critics concerning the shops or new cars. I am not at all scandalized by these things. I am not contrary to a just material well-being, on condition that God is on the first place. I am not idealizing the parish Medjugorje, I know that it has its limits, but I say that this parish is living faith like few other parishes. I have visited many shrines in Europe, but nowhere I have found the fervor of prayer that is to be found in Medjugorje. There are defects, but they do not scandalize me. Human fragility cannot prevent Our Lady to realize her plans. Medjugorje is the only place where all people believed in the apparitions, facing with courage the persecution. This has not happened in Fatima, has not happened in Lourdes.
Why has Our Lady chosen this country?
Our Lady said that she has come here to complete what she has begun in Fatima. In the message of Fatima there is this figure of antichrist, of the atheist communism. Our Lady has defeated it here in Medjugorje, in a communist country. I have seen the communism collapse in the hearts. Our Lady said: do not be afraid! Our Lady is stronger than the communism! Here, in a communist country, the communism has collapsed!
But wasn’t it Pope John Paul II with his prayer, his influence in the world, his diplomatic and pastoral action that brought forth the collapse of the communism?
Yes, but John Paul II was the Pope of the Totus Tuus! An instrument of Mary!
Our Lady has chosen this parish in order to renew the Church
Sometimes it seems to me that we are a little pretentious about Medjugorje, believing that Medjugorje is the center of the world… Let us think about all that is lived in the universal Church! The salvation of the world does not depend on Medjugorje. Jesus has already saved the world, the Church is alive!
Medjugorje is little like Nazareth… a marginal and unknown village. Our Lady has often reminded us not to become proud, and to remain in humility, but there is no doubt that she has chosen this parish in order to renew the Church! She has chosen is as an instrument. But the parish should not forget that it is a “useless instrument”, as Jesus said… We are all useless instruments. We do what we have to do, but without attributing the merits to ourselves. And in fact, special graces are given here thanks to divine generosity.
Then, there is another thing that strikes me. Marija, the visionary who receives the message for the parish, lives in Italy, in Milan. But Our Lady, when she gives her message, says: “here in Medjugorje”… This is a holy place, the place of grace, even if the apparitions happen somewhere else! Our Lady said: “Here I am giving particular graces”. Here! Let us not forget then that the sign will be given here, in this land, in this place, on the Apparition Hill, and will be visible from here. Them most beautiful is still to come. All this is a preparation, and Medjugorje will be even more known in the future.
The cardinal Ivan Dias - prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of faith - has made on 8 December 2007, as envoy of the Pope, a speech in Lourdes where he has opened the celebrations of the 150º anniversary of the apparitions. He said that during the last two centuries Our Lady has prepared her army in order to fight and to gain the great battle against the powers of evil, against Antichrist. This speech was published in the Roman Observer of 9 December 2007. Our Lady, with her apparition of Rue de Bac in Paris, has come to aid of the Church, while in the world there was a growing imposture of the antichrist, in the form of a society that considers itself able to save itself, with its own forces, paying the price of the apostasy from the truth. Medjugorje is the final phase of this eschatological fight, at the end of which we will have a time of peace, “a time of spring”, as Our Lady says. This is the teaching of the last Popes, beginning with Paul VI. I want to say with this that Medjugorje is placed in the heart of the Church and of the great task that the Church must carry out in order to save our generation.
Sometimes it can seem to us that the Catholics are little timid, a little hypocritical, they live their faith quietly, like an ancient tradition, without zeal… making compromises with the values of the world…
Cardinal Dias has quoted one phrase of the cardinal Woytila shortly before becoming Pope: “We are confronted today of forehead towith the greatest combat that the humanity has never seen”. I do not think that the Christian community has understood it totally yet. We are today facing the final fight between the Church and the Anti-Church, the Gospel and the Anti-Gospel. We are in the moment of the greatest eschatological battle of all times, and the Catholic Church seems not to be aware of it. However, the role of the “little flock” will be decisive. In order to crush the head to the serpent, Our Lady needs people who have answered to her call, those that are faithful.
Interview: Lidija Paris