“For me, I cannot imagine my life without Jesus Christ. I simply cannot imagine it. I am so happy that I met Jesus from the very beginning of my life, when I was a very small, young boy. From the very beginning, I always considered he was my life. I am grateful that he called me in a special way to follow him. This is the perennial source of my happiness and my joy.” (Archbishop Lazzarotto, August 30, 2012)
In just a few weeks, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia will leave for the Holy Land, having been appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and Cyprus, and Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine.
Embarking upon his final post in a 41-year diplomatic career, the warm-hearted Archbishop has a touch of sadness at leaving this great Southland of the Holy Spirit, but is filled with expectation for his new post.
“In five years, I have visited almost all of the dioceses, and certainly every state of Australia. But also I have been to the small towns and villages, responding to the many invitations addressed to me to participate in special events in the life of the Church. These have been a beautiful part of my life and my work”, he said.
“I’m sure all of Australia would forgive me for mentioning in a special way my time in the Northern Territory. I spent ten days with Bishop Eugene Hurley. I visited many aboriginal communities and it was wonderful. I still remember meeting the young people in Darwin and talking with them after the mass. It was a beautiful moment of sharing with young people”, he said.
The work of a nuncio, the Papal Ambassador to a country, is wide and varied, and Archbishop Lazzarotto admits that the diplomatic work of the Church is not always well understood.
“The nuncio like everyone gets up in the morning. After a moment of personal prayer and celebration of the Mass, you have office work during the morning.
“We receive a lot of correspondence at the nunciature in Canberra and I value this opportunity. I always try to respond to people in an informal way. I try to be as personal as possible. There are people and situations behind the letters and I like to address them properly. There are hopes and joys which need to be encouraged.”
“In the afternoon, there is also a moment for work and this is more on my own. Then there are the diplomatic aspects of my life which includes contact with other embassies and the government.”
Archbishop Lazzarotto speaks warmly of his time in Australia, and highlights two events as significant for him.
“The first really memorable moment for me was World Youth Day which took place when I had recently arrived here. It was really wonderful. From what I saw and what I heard, it was also much beyond the expectations preceding the event.
“The Holy Father was so happy. I had the occasion to speak to him afterwards and he was so pleased. The concerns he had about the long distance to travel were totally dissipated.”
“The Canonisation of Mary MacKillop was the second beautiful celebration and again so well prepared, both here in Australia and also in Rome. In particular, I would refer to the Thanksgiving Mass at St Paul’s Outside the Walls. There was such an intense atmosphere of prayer at that celebration. It was so dignified and solemn, and really Australian. There was a real touch of the Australian character”, he said.
After five years of visiting Dioceses and people around Australia, Archbishop Lazzarotto sees much hope in Australia, including for the Church.
“I always met people with very strong faith. I met groups who were really trying to find a new way of expressing their faith, concerns and love. I see a lot of love there for the Church.”
Archbishop Lazzarotto spoke in a special way of young people that he has met throughout his time in Australia and had some advice to give them:
“I think of the words of the philosopher Seneca who said: “If a man does not know which port he is steering for, no wind will be favourable to him”.”
“Young people have many winds blowing around them. They are full of life, expectation and hope. But it is important that they know what port they are steering for. When you are young, you see your life ahead as a journey. But if in your journey, you don’t have a direction, everything is lost and meaningless.”
“My advice to young people would be “Don’t think of God as someone who has nothing to do with this journey. God is there – at the beginning, and you will meet him at the end. Take him on board.”
“For me, I cannot imagine my life without Jesus Christ. I simply cannot imagine it. I am so happy that I met Jesus from the very beginning of my life, when I was a very small, young boy. From the very beginning, I always considered he was my life. I am grateful that he called me in a special way to follow him. This is the perennial source of my happiness and my joy.”
In saying this, Archbishop Lazzarotto is happy about his new post particularly because it is where Jesus himself walked, and looks forward to working with the people in the region.
“Once you live in the Holy Land for a while, you cannot forget it. I was there 30 years ago and it was so meaningful and intense. I know the situation has changed, but it is still the Holy Land. It is still the land that God has visited physically.
“I want to offer my own humble gifts to try to foster dialogue. I want to walk with my fellow Christians there, but also the other communities and faith groups, and find together the best way to have an open dialogue. It is only through dialogue and living together that we can solve the problems affecting the region. This is what the Holy Father expects of me.”
“The Prince of Peace walked North, East, South and West in the Holy Land, and I really believe that we have a responsibility to bring about peace in that part of the world.”