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03/10/2012

1AG - Interview with Fr. Claudio, archbishop of Beira

dalla-zuanna-grande


Claudio Dalla Zuanna is the vicar general of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. Or rather, he WAS the vicar general. On October 7, he will be ordained as Archbishop of Beira in Mozambique.

Fr. Claudio was born in Argentina to an Italian family and entered the minor seminary at age 11. He did his studies for religious life and priesthood in the North Italian Province, and after his ordination as a priest, he went to Mozambique, where he worked in pastoral care and formation.

In 2003 he was elected to his first term on the general council and became the council liaison to Africa. Reelected to the council at the general chapter in 2009, he was appointed vicar general of the Congregation.

We asked him a few questions just before his departure for Mozambique.dalla-zuanna

 

QUESTION: First, what are your initial thoughts?

ANSWER: The experience of the last nine years gave me the opportunity to know the congregation in many different situations and in many different countries. I was enriched from the point of view of my management skills, and these years on council allowed me to compare many different ecclesial experiences. My time on the council was almost like a training course of nine years. I believe in God's providential plan, and this period was a way to prepare for this service as archbishop.

 

Q: Can you tell us how you learned your appointment as archbishop?

A: The appointment was sudden and unexpected. I was summoned by telephone to the Propaganda Fide [Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Vatican office responsible for the missions] for an interview. The prefect of the congregation said bluntly that I had been appointed archbishop of Beira, Mozambique.

I was speechless. I shared my difficulties and my inadequacies with respect to this service, but the prefect replied that I had to trust what the Church asked me to do. Faced with this I accepted the appointment and in a half hour my life was changed.

I did not have the opportunity to think about it because the prefect told me that he had to give an answer as soon as possible to the Holy Father.


Q: Becoming an archbishop you will be, in a sense, outside of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. After so many years in the SCJ family, how does this make you feel?

A: I must confess that after saying yes, when I started to really think about it, my legs started to shake and I almost felt like going back to the office.

One of the things that made accepting the decision so difficult is that it is hard imagine my life outside the SCJ community. My life for so many years has been shared in community. The pace of my life will now be different.

In some ways it feels like I am leaving my home and going to a place I do not know.

What consoles me and gives me strength is knowing that I go nowhere without Jesus Christ in front of me and waiting for me. I go with the Lord, and will have the support of my many friends and brothers.

 

mozambico-mappaQ: Why do you think a European missionary was chosen to serve as an archbishop in Africa?

A: This is now a rarity. I am currently attending a course at the Vatican for African bishops who were appointed within the last two years. Of the 63 bishops, only two are European.

In Mozambique almost all the bishops are from the country. The Church's path in this direction is therefore very clear. But sometimes, you have to confront situations. Mozambique was recently evangelized. Moreover, after almost 30 years of a Christian presence, there were setbacks because the government at one point came out openly against the Church. It took another ten years to overcome this. The result is that the clergy in the Diocese of Beira are all younger than me.


Q: You were in Mozambique for many years but in other parts of the country, not in the area where you have been assigned. The archdiocese where you're going is a vast territory with two local dialects and different problems. Do you have a sense of the situation that you will find and what you think will be the first questions you'll face?

A: I was a missionary in Mozambique for 18 years. It is where I did all of my ministry before coming to the General Council.

Mozambique is a large country with about 20 million inhabitants, but Catholics are a minority. I worked in the neighboring dioceses - Kilimane and Gurue - and I am familiar with the capital, where I worked in formation.

Beira is an archdiocese in the center of the country, with 1.7 million inhabitants, of which only half are Catholic. I think my first task is to create unity and to involve all in the building of the local church: diocesan priests, religious and laity.

There are also a number of challenges that arise from a social situation which is not easy. Beira is the second largest city in the country and it is a very important port. Strong economic development is linked to the development of coal deposits. The multinationals came with their own people because the country does not have people prepared to serve in the needed roles. The situations we experience in the city will be one of my first concerns.


A: Your friends, and all those who love you, how can they help you in this new mission?beira

Q: Bishops become a part of their local church. My family is now the church of Beira. One of the symbols is the episcopal ring, reminiscent of the marriage between the bishop and the local church. Therefore I must evolve with my new family without losing the relationships that I had previously. The local church is a part of the Catholic Church. We are not strangers to the other churches, but we must seek autonomy, including economic autonomy, for the good of the diocese.

At the same time, it is a great comfort to know that my brothers will continue to live their ideal and their identity as religious. This is also a form of solidarity: our ideals to live in harmony and communion.

 

Q: Africa is a continent in which access to resources continues to be problematic for the majority of the population. What do you think are the priorities to focus on in the coming years to try to change this state of affairs?

A: Mozambique is not a resource-poor country. It has the second largest coal field in the world, yet it is not properly utilized. It has one of the largest dams in Africa, which produces an enormous amount of energy. Recently oil fields have been discovered and a major project to mine for gas has been initiated. So there are opportunities for growth.

The problem is that people do not have access to this wealth, not only because it is held at a high level, but also because only a skilled workforce can take part in this economic growth.

The first thing, therefore, is to engage in training, both within the Church, in the sense of the formation of local clergy, and more generally, for a renewed relationship between the population and the skills needed for the modern world.

In the city, for example, we find all the latest technology, but just move a few miles outside of the it and one does not find even electricity. People move from the countryside to the city but do not have the tools to deal with the modern world. They are in danger of being overwhelmed.cattedrale-beira

 

Q: AIDS is one of the most serious problems afflicting Mozambique. What is the situation in the Archdiocese of Beira.

A: Unfortunately, because of the port and of what is called the "corridor" of Beira, through which many people and goods move, the percentage of HIV is very high. In this area it is estimated that about one in three adults is infected.

There are initiatives for the distribution of antiretroviral drugs. One of the most significant initiatives is from the Community of Sant'Egidio, which seeks above all to prevent transmission from mother to child. Then there are the plans at the national level, but these are off and on for lack of resources. Unfortunately, we are far from a decisive answer to the HIV/AIDS problem.

 

dalla-zuanna-messaQ: Fifty years ago Vatican Council II opened. On October 11, 1963, in an impromptu speech addressed to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, Pope John XXIII spoke the words that remained in the hearts of all the faithful. It was the famous "Sermon on the Moon." He says in one passage “My person is nothing, is a brother who speaks to you, becomes a father by the will of Our Lord, but all together, fatherhood and brotherhood and grace of God.”

How do you reflect on these words given that you have become the "father" of an archdiocese?

A: I do not have a top-down vision of the church, that being of a bishop who is above all, standing on top of a pyramid, organizing and directing all activities. Instead, the characteristic element of the ministry of the bishop is to become part of the college of the apostles, because what often comes to mind is the text from Revelation where it says that the city walls were built on 12 foundations on which are written the names of the apostles (Rev, 21, 14). To be a bishop then means to be "below,” in the foundations of the church, and be a supportive stone that makes up the city. A bishop should be a point of unity and support to the community.

The idea of "paternity,” in the sense of giving one’s life for his children, is in my Episcopal motto and taken from John 10.10 "That they may have life.” I feel that I have nothing else to give except Jesus Christ, who is the true life. Paternity in this sense is understood as giving one’s life so that others may have life.

 

Q: Do you want to give a special message to the congregation?Claudio-DZ-media

A: I feel gratitude and affection for the whole congregation because the SCJs are an integral part of my life. I have given the congregation many years of my life, but at the same time the congregation has made me who I am. Much of who I am, my education, my way of seeing things as a religious and as a Christian I owe to the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

Without the congregation I would not be the person I am right now. And I feel this as a gift, in the providential design of God, in view of this service to his church. In fact, some aspects of our spirituality, such as communion and reconciliation, are specifically important to the Church in the area where I will go. If I am in any way equipped to deal with this new service I owe it mainly to the Congregation.

The other message is related to what I was saying before. Know that there are people who share your same ideals and live the gift of their lives within the Congregation. Be a support for those who live outside of the congregation.

Finally I want to thank the provinces that wanted to help me, even from an economic point of view, in this stage. I am grateful that one of our SCJ brothers will come to help me in my first months of settling in. [Br. Vincenzo of the Generalate staff will assist the new archbishop.]

Thank you.