Interview: Mons. Bernardo Cazzaro, Archbishop Emerito di Puerto Montt (Chile)
Mons. Bernardo Cazzaro, Servant of Mary, Archbishop Emeritus of Puerto Montt (Chile) spent most of his life as a missionary in Chile. At the end of his active episcopal service, he returned to Italy to give support both as spiritual counselor and confessor at the Marian Shrine of Monte Berico.
In May 2007, during a pilgrimage to Medjugorje with a group from Vittorio Veneto, he outlined his impressions of Medjugorje in an interview with Lidija Paris.
Monsignor, this is the first time that you have visited Medjugorje. Why did you come?
This is my first visit to Medjugorje and I have come at the invitation of a group of pilgrims who come mainly from Vittorio Veneto in Italy. Despite spending many years so far away in Chile, I had heard about Medjugorje, but not in any great detail due to the huge distance involved. Back in Italy, whenever possible, I listen to Radio Maria and Father Livio who diffuses the messages, with the result that I desired to know Medjugorje better, not just through others but from first-
Would you please outline your first impressions?
My first impressions are totally beautiful and positive. I see that the things that I had previously heard are true. Indeed, I found a lot more than I had expected. This I found on two different levels. Firstly, there are these physical structures… I have found a great number of prayer places apart the places of apparition themselves, places where it is easy to pray, where people have full access to and can congregate. I had no idea that this was so! I knew about the two bell towers and the church, a very beautiful church indeed… and so very solid! And then on another level, I am very impressed by the sheer numbers of pilgrims who arrive here, so many of them displaying so much fervour and so much cordiality. Every group is a small community that moves with one heart and one spirit, living the Gospel in these moments of prayer and of movement made together. I am very impressed, because the messages are more or less already known, as there is nothing new in the messages, and yet the number of persons coming to see, to feel and to experience, is really very impressive!
Have you met the visionaries?
No, I have not met the visionaries. I don't particularly desire to speak to the visionaries. Yesterday I was present at Mirjana's apparition. I am pleased apparitions take place. If Our Lady is appearing so often, I give thanks to God because these charisms are not only for the visionaries, they are for all of us. In fact, it is through them that Our Lady appears to all of us and speaks to all of us. Personally, something else is of importance to me. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who believe without having seen"! I am peaceful anyway because I know what I must do in response to the messages that I receive, even though I do not hear them directly from Our Lady. The messages reach the whole world through the print media. Not everyone will check if every event is true or not!
These apparitions have provoked a movement of prayer throughout the world…
Yes, this is a typical response in human psychological terms. The human psyche tends towards what is new. When these new things are beautiful, they generate reaction, even to the extent of conversion. Sure, the Lord who has created us knows that we have this inner mechanism that attracts us to what is new, and fortunately, the events taking place here are beautiful! Many people are attracted in this manner. The Lord uses these things for the greater good. He also uses miracles because some people can only be moved by miracles!
The apparitions are ongoing for 26 years now…
This is another noteworthy topic, the sheer length of time these apparitions are taking place. This is not a great problem for me. I don't call God to account. Rather He calls me to account, not I Him. If the Lord wants to appear twice, or twenty times or two hundred times indeed, what need I say in response? I should rather listen. The number is not the issue here. The main issue is what the Lord says to us, what he wants from us, and the problems that he wants to resolve. That is the bottom line. He wants to change us, he wants to change the whole world, but because we are stubborn, the Lord becomes more insistent… he educates us slowly through the messages, which are simply a reflection of the Gospel. If we read the Gospels more often and meditated upon them, the messages wouldn't be necessary. But the fact is, we have forgotten, and so the messages remind us. They are not saying anything extraordinary, or difficult. We just have to change our hearts. Jesus is asking this for 2000 years now.
Throughout the history of private revelations, there have been cases in which the apparitions lasted the whole life of a person, yet remained hidden. Here in Medjugorje everything has become public.
The Lord has his plans. There are charismata. A charisma is always given for the benefit of the Church… of the whole community. Sometimes the benefit remains hidden. But the charismata are never exclusively and absolutely personal. Their purpose is always the common good above and beyond the personal good. Here, the charismata are out in the open, in the sunlight, in the public arena.
What's your view of the pastoral life of the parish?
Here in Medjugorje Our Lady has chosen a well organized place from the ecclesiastical point of view. She has chosen a small portion of the flock of God, a parish responsibly cared for by its priests. You are fortunate to have the excellent Franciscan fathers in charge, and not just one single person but rather a whole community of consecrated priests. Our Lady wishes to speak to all parishes. The language that she uses here is valid for all of them. All parishes should be communities of prayer, of faith, of love. When a community is too large this becomes more difficult because of the anonymity. Personal relations are no longer easy or fluid. In Latin America, in Chile where I have been for many years, we call the parish a "community of communities". Ideally a parish is a group of communities, comprised of 25 or 30 small communities, just like a bunch of grapes, bound together by the main stem, the priest. The parish is a community of communities, and each one of them has a little autonomy, while the priest leads them all with the cooperation of the laity, often because of the shortage of priests. Our Lady has chosen this parish in order to say that the structures of the Church must be at the service of love and of faith, more like a staircase that helps one ascend, rather than a fixed legal structure.
How should the Church proceed if it wants to recognize or give legal status to a place where something happens that attracts so many pilgrims, as is the case here in Medjugorje?
The Church is doing very well to do as it is doing. Prudence… I say prudence not just because the demon can show himself as an angel of light. This we know as Saint Paul has already forewarned. But I say so for another reason. I will give you as a little example the legal process. This type of process can take a considerable amount of time. The judge has to hear all the voices: those who say one thing, those who contradict, those who accuse one and those who accuse another… Here, it is not quite such a process, but it is a useful comparison. The judge must listen. When all have finished, he pronounces sentence. In Fatima, the extraordinary facts of the apparitions happened in 1917, but the Church only gave her final approval in 1942, 25 years later! People had gone to pray, there was a spiritual, a religious movement you might say, but the Church had not yet made a pronouncement. However, the necessary delay didn't impede the spiritual profit. It is understandable, therefore, when we enquire: "These apparitions, these phenomena, are they of divine origin or not?" I do not at all condemn this line of inquiry, but I ask: What really matters here? The main issue is not so much the origin but rather the fruits that derive from the phenomena… yes, the fruits. If I go into an orchard full of trees with beautiful, mature fruit, I do not go to see whether the roots are all right or diseased and worm-
What of Fasting?
Fasting is correctly advocated here. I have given a lot of thought to it. Fast entails the moderate, correct use of things. We humans are tempted to exaggerate so much. We are inclined to abuse so many of the good things that arrive in our hands. We ruin so much because we are sinners. We can abuse food by overeating, even to the extent of damaging our health. Then we diet, we have to go for walks, and jog… Our Lady says: Fast… twice a week. This is very good, excellent in fact. This type of fast is beneficial for those who are able to do so. There are people who cannot because of their personal circumstances. They should then make an alternative fast. We abuse many things, television for example. I say that one of the greatest fasts that we can undertake is to turn off the television, the dirty programs, or the Internet. We must fast from the immorality that is in the press, or in the mass media. That is the kind of fast that we should knowingly make. This is necessary for our wellbeing. Evil comes because we abuse the mass media. We are sinners. There are also those who organize evil on a worldwide scale. Yet another type of fast is to fast from our vices. The very word fast has broad, indeed profound implications. It is not enough to abstain from food. There is the fast which Jesus spoke of: "Whosoever 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 your wayward inclinations under control. This is Christian asceticism. This is what we need. We have forgotten the Gospel, and we have also forgotten the Cross that is so evident in the Gospel. This is fasting… to carry the cross day after day, to be good, to dominate our passions. Fasting is not just one singular type of action, but it is rather a life program.
Here in Medjugorje Our Lady has invited us to venerate the Cross.
Yes, because we have forgotten the cross, not just the physical cross, but life's sufferings which Jesus speaks about in the Gospel. Veneration of the Cross is an act of piety that must be reflected in real life. We must educate the children well and teach them to renounce their whims. When I was a child, I was taught to make "the florets", those small sacrifices that were made especially in honour of Our Lady during the month of May. Veneration of the cross focuses attention on one point. That one point must illuminate all the rest. The cross -
Regarding Confession, the pilgrims come from right across world in order to make a confession here in Medjugorje.
This is so beautiful. This is one of the most beautiful fruits of this place, of the phenomena of these apparitions. In fact, Our Lady asks for confession in order to entrust us to the Mercy of God and bring about a change of life.
I come from the Shrine of Monte Berico where similar things have happened, but not on the same grand scale. Our Lady appeared in 1426 and 1428, twice altogether. There was a great plague then and Our Lady intervened and asked for a chapel to be built. Nobody, neither the Bishop nor any other authority believed Vincenza Bassini, the seer involved. Consequently, the plague continued for two years. When some good people prayed, Our Lady appeared again, in the same place, and traced with a cross the perimeter of the chapel. People finally believed, and they constructed the chapel in three months. From the very day they began to construct the chapel, the plague began to diminish. After three months, it had disappeared altogether. Our Lady added that she wanted not only healing of the body but also spiritual healing, because as always there were many sins. God wanted conversion… not just health of body, but health of spirit also. We hear confessions on a daily basis. This happens at all shrines where there are priests involved.
Medjugorje has also become a place of renewal for priests. In July of this year, we will have a retreat preached by father Raniero Cantalamessa.
Beautiful! We priests are men like all the rest. We have our weaknesses, and we also need conversion. We are not confirmed in grace!
Here we pray so much for priests…
To sum up, I don't find anything crooked or worrisome here. Neither do I, as a bishop, find anything strange or whimsical. Everything happens according to the norms of the Church: liturgy, prayer, sacrifice, and above all conversion. All is orthodox here and so we are grateful to God. If the Church decides "it is true", and whether it says so tomorrow or in twenty years time, the actual timing is of no great consequence. Let us avoid undue haste! Let us leave the Church free! Let us leave the competent authorities free, the local bishop, or as is the case here, the Vatican. None of this is of great significance. Indeed, it is the fruits that I respect.