Here’s the third and final part of the transcript of my interview with Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio.
Q: One of the most important parts of your job is recommending good candidates for bishop to Pope Benedict. What do you look for in a bishop?
A: I look for a man of faith, who not only believes but also is capable of communicating in a convincing way, his faith. I look for a man who has a spirit of service, service to the community; and who is convinced, like Jesus, that we come not to be served but to serve. I look for a person who every day makes an effort to be holy, so as to be an example for his flock.
Q: How important is a candidate’s pastoral experience, as opposed to, for example, experience in the Vatican’s curia?
A: Let us not forget that Pope Benedict before coming to Rome has been many years a professor, for a number of years a bishop. It’s extremely important, pastoral experience, but what is more important is a pastoral heart a pastoral spirit and a conception of life like a gift received to be given.
Q: I read where you said the pope would address the clergy sexual abuse crisis in this country. Why do you think that, and what do you think he will say?
A: Yes, I think that.
Q: Why do you think that?
A: Why do I think the sun is shining, or that it’s a nice day, there are some things you just know.
Q: It’s been suggested that you think the U.S. church has become too hidebound, too timid, too concerned with money after the sex abuse crisis. Is that so?
A: The sexual abuse of minors is something horrible that should be condemned without any hesitation, especially by those who should be guides. In this affair there has been some strange attitudes: a small minority of Catholic priests have been abusers … The impression has been more than a moral problem, it has been a money problem.
Q: A money problem as in people trying to get money from the church?
To get money from the church. Personally I am of this idea: the church, in response to what has happened with the sexual abuse, must stand up and walk in a more pure and a more faithful way to her mission toward the faithful of the United States.
I can tell you what I’ve seen. In a parish where you have a parish priest who is dedicated to the service of his faithful, that scandal had no impact. In a diocese where you had a bishop fully dedicated to the service of his diocese, the scandal had no impact. It is through higher quality of faith in Jesus Christ and service to the faithful that the scandal will be overcome.
Q: Ok. Another topic. What’s it like to have the pope stay in your house?
A: For me it’s not the first time.The pope (John Paul II) stayed at apostolic nunciature in Jerusalem six days, John Paul stayed (with me) in Burundi. Then, first of all it’s not my house!It’s his house.
Q: I heard you have the piano tuned up for him.
A: I have the piano, but I do not have the time.
Q: Last question, I promise. I’m interested in your impression of the church in this country?
A: I have been impressed by mainly positive elements of the Catholic Church in the United States. We are in the period of Lent. At the beginning of Lent, many adult persons went to the bishop of their diocese asking to be prepared to receive the sacraments of initiation at Easter. This means that these adults look to the church as the place where the people meet Jesus Christ, and a response to the basic question of life and a way to find happiness.
I have seen that the Catholics in the United States, mainly go to church every Sunday. One would like that they should be more. But compared to the Catholic Church in Europe, much more go to the church every Sunday.
I have found happy families solid in their unity and being in the faith. I have found a sign of the charity of the Catholics of the United States almost all over the world. I think that is the Catholic Church of the United States.
There are great possibilities for a new spring, for a new Pentecost, especially among the young people. One thing that deeply impressed me, has been the March for Life of the 22nd of January of every year. Usually it is a very cold day. I have seen two years ago with snow and 20,000 people at the Verizon Center ready to suffer cold weather and an uncomfortable night but confirmed in their faith in life and the giver of life, God himself.