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?SVILUPPO: And an interview with CNS makes a hat trick....
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: 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.
A: 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: 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.
Those who think the pope will have a message for Catholic voters because he is visiting during a presidential election year should remember "the pope is not a political but a religious leader," Archbishop Sambi said. "To America he will bring the voice and the love of Jesus Christ.PHOTO: Michael Temchine/Religion News Service
"If there is something that is an exclusive prerogative of the Americans, it is the choice of their leaders. And the foreigners should not interfere," the archbishop added....
Asked about diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the U.S. in light of the church's criticism of Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, Archbishop Sambi replied that "the deep conviction of the Holy See is that war must be always the last option. All other options have to be tried before starting a war. A war is always a sign of human failure in reaching an agreement.
"Peace is not a defeat for anybody but is a victory for the future," he added....
Archbishop Sambi said the pope will find "a really alive Catholic Church" in the United States, something the nuncio has seen in his own travels around the country. One of his duties is to attend episcopal ordinations and installations of new U.S. bishops; he has been to 35 since he took the post in February 2006.
"I have found everywhere Catholics of excellent quality, youth, full of joy, of energy and of creativity," he said.
"Many good things are done in the Catholic Church in the United States," Archbishop Sambi said, but "as a good nuncio, I should say much more can be done to bring Jesus Christ to everybody who is thirsty for him, and to invite those who abandoned (the church) or (left because of) a decision of the church to return home."
"There is no church alive without a permanent evangelization," he continued. The church must "continuously give the word of God and the instrument of salvation," the sacraments, "to the faithful," he said.
Evangelization "is a very precise and clear mandate ... the last mandate of Jesus Christ to the apostles before the ascension into heaven," he said. "The church of today must continue for the human being of today ... the same mission of Jesus Christ."