The Franciscan Cardinal Archbishop of Seville, Spain, His Eminence Carlos Amigo, was recently on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The pilgrimage was organized by the office of pilgrims and tourists of the archdiocese of Seville, whose director is Fr. Álvaro Dorado, brother of Fr. Rafael Dorado, the guardian of the sanctuary of Gethsemani.
The Cardinal presided over Mass in the Basilica of Gethsemani, made a solemn entry into the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, and went on a fraternal visit to the Franciscan monastery of Saint Saviour in Jerusalem. On Monday 7 November the Cardinal went to the Holy Sepulchre, where he was welcomed by Fr. Artemio Vítores, Vicar of the Custos, as well as by the Franciscan community of the Holy Sepulchre. After venerating the stone of unction he proceeded in procession, while the friars sang the “Te Deum”. Fr. Artemio gave a welcome speech and saluted the Cardinal and pilgrims. Cardinal Amigo then thanked the Franciscans for the service they render to the Catholic Church. He said that as a Franciscan he felt at home in the Holy Land, and was very pleased to meet another group of pilgrims, from his home diocese of Valladolid. The Cardinal then entered the edicule of the Holy Tomb for a brief moment of prayer.
On the occasion of the visit of Cardinal Carlos Amigo to Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, and the Franciscan community of Saint Saviour, Fr. Enrique Bermejo, who was a student of the Cardinal at the Centre of Studies of the Conciliar Seminary of Compostela, asked him to give the following interview.
Father Carlos, this is not your first visit to the Holy Land. What drives you to come to the land of Jesus?
A Christian does not need many motivations to come to the land of Jesus, except for the desire to come to search for Jesus Christ. We can say that a pilgrimage in the Holy Land implies the physical following of Jesus in this land. The immediate motive which drove me to come here was a pastoral one. I wanted to accompany a group of pilgrims from my diocese, as a pastor. Even though many persons have already come on pilgrimage here, they always feel close to the Holy Places, and they desire to participate once more on a pilgrimage. Thanks to our office of pilgrims and religious tourism and its magnificent director, we strive to give publicity to such initiatives, because we feel that many good fruits can come out of them. This is the reason why I am here in the Holy Land, accompanying a group of pilgrims.
Which of the sanctuaries attracts you most?
Even if one comes many times to the Holy Land, one might feel that he knows everything. Yet he can always discover new elements, not because the sanctuaries change, but because there is always a new dimension in the way the Spirit of the Lord works in presenting these Holy Places. I remember the first time that I came, the places which left a lasting impression on me were the lake of Tiberias, certainly the Holy Sepulchre, but particularly the lake, because it seemed to me that that was the place where many of the events of the life of Jesus Christ took place. I was certainly moved when I celebrated Mass on the Holy Sepulchre; for me it was a unique experience. I was also very impressed by Gethsemani, the place which is particularly linked with the life of the Lord. Every holy site has its own experience, its own expression of faith, its own remembrances. I always like to walk along the streets of Jerusalem, particularly the Via Dolorosa, to look at the old stones which pave it, the buildings, the local people, who in fact live together even though they are different. This is a grace of God.
Seville and Jerusalem are so similar in Holy Week celebrations. What relationship do you find between both cities regarding the Passion and the joy of the Resurrection of the Lord?
I can say that Seville is very close to Jerusalem because of Holy Week. In fact, the Holy Week in Seville is not simply that which runs from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, because the spirit of Holy Week is lived all year round with the help of more than 600 confraternities of brothers who keep alive the celebrations which take place all through the year. This is particularly evident during Holy Week, with its processions and defilés. It is a unique week in which we accompany Jesus Christ in his passion, death and resurrection. It is not strange that groups of pilgrims come to the Holy Land from Seville, because the references to the Holy Places, to events and words of Jesus, are well known by local confaternities. I quote as examples the titles: “The Almighty Lord passed along this street”, or “The Virgin Mary of Hope here remained united with her Son on the Cross”, or “This is the place where Caiphas hit the Lord who was derided”... It is a kind of existential union with an event, but which is part and parcel of the same celebration.
Father Carlos, I have known you in Santiago de Compostela as a brother, and here in Jerusalem I meet you as Cardinal. At the sime time I still feel in you the Franciscan spirit ... and his charism.
It is normal that the vocation which is most deeply rooted within me is the Franciscan vocation. In spite of the way a Franciscan dresses, or of the way he has been dressed up by others, deep down in his heart one conserves his Franciscan vocation. I do not find it difficult to be a bishop or cardinal of the Church. On the contrary, I think that my Franciscan vocation is of great help, because it is fundamentally built upon the evangelical spirit, which our father Saint Francis gave to us his brothers. We are Franciscans exactly because of this brotherly spirit, no matter what kind of ministry we accomplish. It is, after all, a question of following Jesus Christ in his poverty, in his humility and in a joyful spirit.
We have been talking about your Franciscan formation and about the message we frairs who live in this land can receive from you. What is the message that you would like to offer to the Church in Spain today?
More than a message I would speak about a remembrance, namely, that we should remember that a people without roots is a people without a future. I have the impression that we want to cut ourselves from our roots. We are working towards a society, an economy, a participation of the citizens in a process of democracy, in which as a Christian community it is our fundamental duty to remember our Christian roots. Otherwise one has the impression that we are building a magnificent and beautiful edifice, but at the same time we are not applying the cement, which keeps it together as one whole. I repeat that the remembrance of our Christian roots provides the unifying element which truly gauarantees our future.