Interview with Navarro-Valls


I don't believe I've seen anybody appear so deeply human in such a brief interview as Joaquin Navarro-Valls, head of the Vatican press office, does in this interview with the Italian Espresso Online.

First, he recounts his experience of the death of Pope John Paul II

Q: The whole world watched, live, as you wept for the death of pope Wojtyla.

A: "Yes, in the end I displayed all of my vulnerability. Until that moment I had been able to carry out my duty of providing information on the worsening condition of John Paul II while keeping my emotions in check. But then, when a German colleague asked me: 'But how are you experiencing this bereavement personally?', I was pierced with sorrow and could no longer hold back my tears."

Q: Three months have gone by. Is the pain going away, too?

A: "It is in fact diminishing, and the reason for this is precisely the rich and full character of the pope himself. It is easier to reconcile oneself to the death of a man who has left a mark like he has. I would like to tell you about something that has been kept private until now. Do you know what was the first prayer said by the persons in the room at the moment of his death?"

Q: A Requiem?

A: "No, a Te Deum, which is a solemn hymn of thanksgiving. The religious sisters, the secretary, and the few others who were present spontaneously intoned it to thank God, not for his death of course, but for those 84 years that were so fruitful. I myself found it extraordinarily difficult in that moment to recite the usual prayers on behalf of the deceased."

Is that not a beautiful image to bring to mind?

Q: And what was your family of origin like?

A: "It was wonderful and close. My father, a liberal lawyer of great intellectual rigor, permitted me to become a doctor without insisting that I follow the juridical tradition of the family. My mother, who is now 91, was a mother through and through, devoted and affectionate. I wanted to unite both of their last names with a hyphen, in order to keep both of them always with me. And then there was my sister Assunta: it was wonderful to be with her."

Q: Your face lit up just then. Did you love your sister very much?

A: "I loved her very much, but she died suddenly of a brain aneurysm at the age of 35. She left four little children, and I was present when each of them was born."

Q: Now your face has become very troubled. It seems that this is still an open wound.

A: "It is. We were almost like a couple, with an extraordinary mutual understanding. She was just a year older than me, and we did everything together, we even danced together. When we were young, at parties people would ask us to perform the tango. My girlfriend would be there, too, but I danced with Assunta. It seems that we were quite good."

Later on:

Q: Doctor Navarro, even though you look very good for your age, you are 69 years old. Do you feel the sadness of declining?

A: "My reaction to growing old is rather one of surprise. Good grief, I say, I'm no longer capable of the great mastery in tennis that once was laughably easy. Am I perhaps out of training? No, Iím just getting old."

Q: And this doesn't make you afraid?

A: "Not at all. I look at the limitations of our culture, which experiences old age as an insult. Once the child making his first communion was dressed as an adult. Now the adults dress like children, and they are ridiculous. But the wonderful way in which the pope grew old may have been a corrective. He taught that life leads to death, but that this is not the final end of life."

It is a wonderful read all the way through.

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on July 20, 2005 7:48 AM.

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