The Vatican

Msgr. Fernando Vérgez, L.C.: "We need witnesses to the Gospel who know how to shake consciences".

In this interview with Omnes, Msgr. Vérgez Alzaga talks about some features of the functioning of the small Vatican State, the mission of those who work in it, the consequences of the pandemic, the desire for world peace, the ecological challenge and the reform of the Roman Curia. In the near future: "great challenges for the Church".

Giovanni Tridente-July 8, 2022-Reading time: 7 minutes
Fernando Vergez

Photo: Bishop Vérgez at his episcopal ordination. ©CNS photo/Paul Haring

"Everything is at the service of the Pontiff and the Church": this is how Spanish Archbishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, L.C., president of the Governorate of Vatican City, comments that he will be created cardinal by Pope Francis on August 27, his service in the Roman Curia for more than fifty years.

Your Excellency, you have been serving in the Roman Curia for fifty years, having joined the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes as an official. How have you lived this trajectory that has run parallel to your vocation as a Legionary of Christ?

-In our service to the Roman Curia we must never lose sight of the reason for which we have been called to office. To be the Pope's closest collaborators in order to enable him to exercise his universal ministry over the Church.

Working daily in the Roman Curia means, therefore, to be the interpreter of the requests coming from the local Churches all over the world.

I have experienced responsibility as a call to mission, thus living my religious consecration.

My field of apostolate has been, in part, within the Roman Curia. In working in the various Dicasteries we do not lose our identity as bishop, priest, religious, layman, but everything is placed at the service of the Pontiff and the Church.

Among your various assignments, you have managed various sectors of the Vatican State, from APSA to telecommunications, to the current presidency of the Governatorato. What aspect would you highlight of the service you have provided and continue to provide?

-Working with passion is undoubtedly one of the characteristics that should characterize those who participate in the various bodies of the Roman Curia. It is natural, however, that there are tasks for which we are better suited according to our personal abilities.

Sometimes, we are asked to run certain offices or agencies, such as the large structure of the Governor's Office or simply the Telecommunications and Information Systems Directorate. I must say that working in the latter directorate at a time of profound technological and IT transition has been exciting and attractive. There are still many challenges to face, but it is precisely in them that one grows and matures from a human and professional point of view. Just think of the defense against hacker attacks, which are becoming more and more cunning and organized.

Seen from the outside, it is often difficult to understand how this small city-state is organized. Could you illustrate, even with similes, the role it plays and how the Vatican functions?

-To understand Vatican City State, one must consider its nature: it has been functional to the mission of the Successor of Peter from the beginning. If this is forgotten, one thinks of the State as an entity of record, due to its geographical extension, or as a postcard country, to be included in the tour of Europe.

The Vatican, as it is simply called, is the reflection of a reality rooted in ecclesial communion, in the universality of the Church.

If one wants to compare my role with an external structure in the international sphere, we must think of a governor of a State. A figure who has powers, by delegation of the Pope, to carry out the function of guiding and managing a series of diversified realities that depend on the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, which also promulgates the general regulations. I would like to recall that legislative provisions are issued by the Pope, or on his behalf, by the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State.

The exercise of executive power is delegated to the President of the Pontifical Commission, who takes the name of President of the Government.

When he consecrated you bishop on November 15, 2013, Pope Francis also entrusted you with the spiritual care of State employees. What does this paternal accompaniment consist of in a community made up of many souls and different living conditions?

It is natural that Vatican City reflects the reality of the universal Church, so that all its constituent bodies are represented in it. Caring for the spiritual care of employees means accompanying them on their journey of union and fidelity to Christ.

This portion of the People of God needs pastors as do all the parts that make up the Church, so we must not neglect the promotion of pastoral care and training to motivate people to imitate the example of the Master.

Recently it has also been announced that you will be created a cardinal, which will take place on August 27th. With what feelings have you welcomed this decision of Pope Francis?

With great gratitude to God and to the Pope for having called me to serve him even more closely. I received the news with surprise and gratitude for a gift that came to me so suddenly. However, I am aware that it carries with it a greater responsibility and an ever greater dedication to the good of the universal Church.

As for those who work in the service of the Apostolic See, how important is the recognition of their contribution to evangelization?

The collaborators and those who are part of the working community of the Vatican must, by their very nature, be missionaries. This is demanded by the nature of the structure of which they are a part, so there is no doubt that all must share their talents in order to put them at the service of the Pontiff's mission.

The new Apostolic Constitution "Praedicate Evangelium".The title of the book, already in its title, underlines the aspect of ad gentes of the Roman Curia, so that it is in the very missionary nature of the Church that the recent reform also finds its realization. For this reason, it is important never to lose sight of the evangelizing tension implied in Christ's own request to his disciples.

We have gone through two years of a very painful pandemic and yet it is difficult to consider it over. What has been the impact on the Vatican and how have you managed the development of Covid-19?

Certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic was not an easy challenge, both because of its severity and because it took us all by surprise.

We had to deal with an emergency that went from being a health emergency to a social and economic one, with considerable repercussions also from the human point of view.

The recrudescence of the various waves of the virus has not yet been completely extinguished, and the damage it has left behind must be reckoned with.

 The last few years have been particularly difficult not only for Covid-19 healthcare personnel and patients and their families, but also for workers and people in disadvantaged socioeconomic situations.

Numerous studies show that loss of work productivity, one of the effects of Covid, is among the leading causes of poor mental health. Y

On December 31, 2021, Pope Francis, during the Te Deum At the end of the year Thanksgiving celebration, he stressed: "This time of pandemic has increased the feeling of bewilderment throughout the world. After a first phase of reaction, in which we felt solidarity in the same boat, the temptation of "every man for himself" has spread. But thank God, we have reacted again, with a sense of responsibility.

The pandemic is a test to demonstrate our responsibility towards others, to bear witness to our coherence with the values of the Gospel and to exercise charity towards our brothers and sisters.

The world is currently experiencing a de facto "third world war", as Pope Francis has also said. What can be done to put an end to conflicts and restore peace?

Pope Francis never ceases to call for peace and to ask governments to take decisions to restore peace in countries where there are conflicts.

Unfortunately, there is not only the war in Ukraine. There are many scattered foci in different geographical areas, where no other solution is sought than the use of weapons.

Pope Francis in each of his speeches or meetings always tries to draw attention to the war ravaging Ukraine. Whether it is to achieve peace or a truce to silence the weapons, or to promote the reception of refugees and those suffering under the bombs. In his Wednesday general audiences, the Pontiff never fails to recall the dramatic situation of populations exhausted by the consequences of conflicts. Even in that of Wednesday, June 15, the Pope asked not to forget the tormented people of Ukraine and not to get used to living as if war were something far away.

One of the themes also close to Pope Francis is ecology, well developed in the Encyclical Laudato si'. How is this declined in the "management" and administration of the Vatican State?

The Vatican City State, since the last pontificates, has always been attentive to the implementation of alternative energies and the protection of the environment.

With the pontificate of Pope Francis and the publication of the Encyclical Laudato sìThe commitment has become even more important. I recall the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Paul VI Hall to produce electricity from the sun and also in the service canteen of the Governorate. Also the construction of water systems in the Vatican Gardens to optimize resources and eliminate waste and the creation of the ecological island that has allowed the selective collection of waste that, from being a cost, has become a resource.

I also stress that, as a State, we are ahead of the benchmarks set to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 55%, compared to 1990, as set by the European Green Deal targets. We have also opted for zero plastic throughout the Vatican.

A few weeks ago the new Apostolic Constitution on the Praedicate Evangelium of the Roman Curia came into force. Why is this new reform of Pope Francis important and what perspectives does it open up?

As I said before, one of the elements that characterize the Apostolic Constitution is the missionary. This means that it is necessary to be a missionary both in countries where the Gospel was proclaimed centuries ago and where it is in danger of disappearing due to secularization, and in those lands that have not yet accepted it.

The other fundamental element of the Constitution is the synodalityEach one, according to his task, is called to participate in the mission of the Church. Hence the need for pastoral care for those who work in the Curia. It is a call to conversion, especially for those who work most closely with the Pope. The Constitution has also tried to eliminate a certain careerist attitude in order to foster a mentality of service that does not demand to be rewarded with promotions.

As the next cardinal, how do you see the future of the Church?

The future of the Church is in God's hands, so we have nothing to fear. We are only cooperators of Providence, we must act as disciples who keep our eyes fixed on the Master.

The near future holds great challenges for the Church, but we must not forget that all of history has been characterized by dramatic and complex periods. We must never lose sight of the missionary nature of the Church.

There will be an increasing need for heralds witnessing to the Gospel who will shake consciences and call to God people immersed in secularized societies in which certain values are forgotten, absent or denied.

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