In his 34 years as a priest, Archbishop Dominique François Mamberti, 62, has worked on the church’s diplomatic teams in Algeria, Chile and Lebanon; represented the Vatican at the United Nations; served as nuncio to Sudan and apostolic delegate to Somalia and Eritrea; been the Vatican’s Foreign Minister; and as of this year is the head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Catholic Church’s highest judicial authority.
And over the course of this career, Archbishop Mamberti has persistently called on the world community to move beyond their own preconceptions and experiences to work for a greater good. “The Holy See,” he said in a visit to Australia last November, “acts as a voice of conscience, at the service of the common good, by drawing attention to the anthropological, ethical and religious aspects of the various questions affecting the lives of peoples, nations and the international community as a whole.”
So in a 2011 address he called for the United Nations to be “courageous” in coming up with a viable two-state solution in the Middle East; a year later he challenged the world’s “loss of faith in the value of dialogue, and the temptation to favor ‘a priori’ one of the sides in regional and national conflicts.”
Speaking at the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Archbishop Mamberti noted that it was “not just a reminder of the end of an era of profound division; it is a symbol of hope, showing that it is possible to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles for the benefit of what is deeply rooted in our human nature, namely life in dignity and freedom.”
How do you feel about being named cardinal? How has your family reacted?
To be named cardinal is, of course, a great honor, but it is first a great responsibility. If I am permitted to pray for myself, my prayer is this: that being named a cardinal would only draw me closer to the Lord, to give completely of myself in His service.
What do you hope for the church today?
It is my hope for the church that she, in all her members, will be faithful to Christ Jesus, witnessing to the world, even to the point of giving our lives, to His offer of forgiveness, redemption, and salvation.
What is one message you feel the church should be offering to today’s world?
The church, in her pastors, of course, but most especially in the millions and millions of “everyday Catholics”—parents, workers, professionals, students, the young and the old—must show forth in the world that holiness and fidelity to the Gospel is possible. This is an offering—an example, a witness—of immense value: to show by the coherency of one’s life that, with the help of divine grace, it is possible to conform ourselves to the Gospel rather than to the world, and having been freed from sin, to come to know the unrivaled joy of being redeemed in Christ.
What has your work taught you about God and the church?
In my work in the service of the Gospel, the church called me for a long time to serve in her mission of diplomacy. This gave me a unique opportunity to experience the unity and the universality of the church in my various assignments throughout the world and to work with many people of good will who do not necessarily share our Christian faith.
It was in this “behind the scenes” work, which is far from the imagination of most Catholics, that I came to know, through this rather unique ministry, the importance of the church’s mission to make incarnate, in the here and now, the reality of the Kingdom of God: a kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace, as we read in the Preface for the Solemnity of Christ the King.
What’s an image of God, passage from Scripture or figure from church history that you look to for support and encouragement?
Upon my consecration as bishop, I chose for my episcopal motto a few words from the passage in the Acts of the Apostles where Jesus tells his disciples just as He ascends into Heaven: “you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Eritis mihi testes -- You will be my witnesses. Not a command, but a statement of fact, or even a promise. These words of our divine Savior are for me a source of consolation and also an encouragement always to remain faithful in my witness to the One who is the Truth, Christ Jesus, who alone can make us free.
Finally: What are your hopes for next October’s Synod?
As bishops of the church, we are called to be teachers of the truth of the Gospel, especially with regard to marriage, about which there is much confusion in the world today. It is therefore my hope that the work of the Synod will be one of peaceful and prayerful reflection on the challenges that face the family in this day and time and that the Holy Spirit will guide the Synod Fathers and the Holy Father according to the wisdom and the truth of Christ.
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