As always, when reporters interview people, a lot of good stuff gets edited out of the story. My interview with Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican’s #1 guy in the U.S., was no different in that respect. He’s a fascinating guy with lots to say, so I’m posting the whole transcript here on the blog. Rather than clog the blog with a block of text, I’m posting in three parts.
Here’s Part One:
Q: What’s your greatest hope for Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to the U.S.?
Sambi: The pope, Peter, has been called by Jesus himself, the stone on which the Church has been founded. So I would say that the visit of the pope should be for those who are uncertain, a guarantee that the Church is the Church of Jesus Christ’ proof that spirit of God is within the Church; where there is unity the spirit of God is present.
It’s evident the interest of the pope to visit the U.S., where he has been already more than once as a cardinal. This country, this people have a great influence in the world: political influence, economic influence, but also cultural influence, moral influence, religious influence.
It’s almost 40 years that I am touring the five continents in the name of the Holy Father. All over the world the young people, the youth, they sing American, they eat American, they dance American, they dress American. Together with this influence is linked a great moral and cultural responsibility.
Q: Is the visit primarily pastoral in purpose, or is it more political, with the speech at the United Nations and meeting at the White House?
A: The title is pastoral visit; that is primary absolutely; and you should never forget that even when the pope goes to the United Nations or meets the president, it’s always in view of his pastoral mission.
Pope Benedict is not known enough in the United States. I would say also that what is known is not based on his personality but is based on the position that he had before as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, known in the past as the Inquisition. As such, there are people who consider him a man of very solid principles, extremely rigid, inflexible, almost non-human. It’s true that he’s a man of principle but it will be enough to see him and to listen to him to discover a man of great human sensibility, of great attention to the other, of great capacity to feel the difficulty of another. And especially of great capacity because of his faith in Jesus Christ to give hope for a better future, a better life.
Q: You said at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in November that you hoped the papal visit would start a new Pentecost in America. Why do you think this country needs a new Pentecost?
A: I said at the meeting with the bishops that we should make the presence of Peter through his successor Pope Benedict an occasion for a new springtime, for a new Pentecost. We need always the presence of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul said that without the Holy Spirit not even able to say, “abba,” father. We need the presence of the Holy Spirit to guarantee that we walk in the footsteps of Jesus and we need to presence of the Holy Spirit to make this occasion of the visit of the pope a moment of renovation, a moment of renovation of witnessing to Jesus Christ and to his spirit.
Q: I’ve seen footage of past papal Masses in the U.S. in which people are very emotional about the presence of the pope. Why do you think they have that reaction?
A: The pope is a man of great faith. People have that reaction not only when he says Mass but also when they speak with him. And with his great faith in Jesus Christ he transmits to you love and great respect and hope.
End of Part 1.