How do you see the task ahead in Nazareth?
The mystery of God become Man, who enters History and becomes the companion of each human being, begins in Nazareth. In Nazareth the dialogue between God and humanity, the latter represented by Mary, interrupted in Paradise after the Fall, is restored. Pope Paul VI delivered in Nazareth one of his most beautiful messages: Nazareth is "the school of the Gospel", the "school of human labor", the "school of silence". From Nazareth, we must help all Christian enter the mystery of God's plan, which is love, salvation and joy, so they can enter deeper into their Christian life.
What do you think of the idea of creating a "Marian Center"?
There is an old saying, "ad Jesum per Mariam" (to Jesus through Mary). Mary leads us to the knowledge of Jesus, because no one else knows Him more intimately.
Can we go to Jesus through Mary with all the Christian Churches of the Holy Land and by seeking the participation of all the local communities?
Mary is loved and venerated very much in the Holy Land. By all the Churches of course, but also by the Muslim community, and many Jewish women are named after her. The Mother is the center of unity in the family. We all have experienced in our own families how much family unity is spun around the mother and her motherly love. The Virgin Mary does the same for the Church!
How have the Churches of the Holy Land reacted to the "Mary of Nazareth" Project?
From what I have heard, the Churches are all favorable to the project, and not primarily out of self-interest. They back it in view of the potential benefits for the local faithful and the pilgrims. This project can potentially help anyone to discover the mystery of God coming in the life of men! And once people understand that, they start to understand also God's method of entering the life of each one of us. God took flesh in a concrete place, in a concrete moment in Time. The same thing happens in the life of each one of us: God comes into our life at a definite place and time. He touches, transforms and fulfils us. And once we have welcomed His presence in our life, life isn't dull anymore. There is not enough time to do everything we must do in God's name. We are drawn to come out of our ego-centric self-centredness and become a witness - in charity, in truth and in justice. Jesus told us, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth", which means anywhere you happen to be.
What's your opinion about the "Mary of Nazareth" Project?
It's still a project. What's crucial is to see how it's going to work, what spirit will guide it, and how it will convey to the visitors the sense of what Christian life and Christian joy really are.
How should we go about the construction?
Everything must be done in order to bring answers to today's men and women, because this lack of answers represents the number one source of human suffering. Mankind must be helped to find the meaning of life, because we have widely lost that meaning. Why were we born, why are we alive, where are we headed? Once someone finds the meaning to his life, he is inclined to thank God, for life is a gift. This in turn leads to a sense of mission, and the coming out of oneself to become a witness to God through love, hope, and faith. Discovering the meaning of life causes us to understand that we are, in any circumstances and with God's help, greater than all our troubles, whatever they may be.
What do you think of the idea of explaining faith through audiovisual technologies?
I think that it is indeed a good idea, because we can touch people's hearts today more easily through images than by reasoning. Audiovisual methods can help today's people who have little time to discover who God is, and who they are themselves. If they can find God, they will be saved from despair, because when we have found God in our lives, there is always a reason to hope.
What has living in the Holy Land brought you personally?
Personally and without trying to confess in public, I would say that I first came here as secretary to the Apostolic Delegation, as a young priest, about 35 years ago. Jesus Christ was for me a dream, a beautiful dream somewhere up in the sky. It was here, in the Holy Land, by Mary's side and walking in Christ's footsteps, that I met a different Jesus, in a more personal and engaging way, and this brought more fulfilment to my life as a person, as priest, and as a bishop. I met Jesus in the Holy Land.
Do you have a message for the Christians of Europe?
My message is this: come to the Holy Land, to discover Mary, to discover in a new way who is Jesus Christ in your life and for the world's salvation. A Europe that is afraid of God must come and discover that God is love, grace, and mercy. A Europe that is afraid of life will receive the revelation that Jesus Christ is the fullness of life. A Europe that is afraid of suffering, will come to realize, in the Holy Land, that suffering holds a meaning and a value for each of us and for humanity, when it is united to Christ's suffering. A Europe that is terribly afraid of death can come here to find that we all have a double vocation: because the call to live a life on this earth doesn't take all its significance until we have heard a second call which is that to our vocation for eternal life.