Bishop of Santander
Interview with the Bishop of Santander
Question: How old were you when you were ordained a priest? By whom and where?
Answer: I was 28 years old. I was ordained a priest by the Archbishop Parrado of Granada. He already died a few years ago. The place where I was ordained priest was in the Church belonging to the University of Comillas.
Question: When did you first go to Garabandal and why?
Answer: I went eight days after the first appearances. I went there because Bishop Doroteo Fernandez called me. He was at that time the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese. Since I was a priest I trusted, I wanted me to go there to observe events and to report to him all the impressions of everything I observed. So I went to Garabandal, eight days after Garabandal's first appearances.
Question: How many times have you visited Garabandal during the time of the apparitions? Answer: I only went to Garabandal twice, all by order of the Bishop.
Question: Could you witness some of the girls' ecstasies? If so, please describe what you saw and heard. What were your impressions?
Answer: Yes, yes, I saw them in ecstasy. That was what they called the psychological trance. I believe it was a trance, but not as deep as the first, because they went in and out of ecstasy. I said at the time that I believed it was a trance, and that made people believe it was supernatural. My impressions were of mere spectator. We will see. We'll see what will happen, because with these kinds of situations we can't be in a hurry.
Question: When did you start being part of the diocese of Santander? Was this the first diocese as bishop?
Answer: I joined the diocese on December 4, 1971 and was posted on January 16, 1972. I was here for 20 years. Before that, I was in Jerez de la Frontera, in the region of Cadiz, which belongs to the diocese of Seville. I was placed there by the Cardinal of Seville, where I performed my normal duties like any other Bishop.
Question: Since the beginning of the apparitions, how many Bishops have preceded you?
Answer: Many. They were many, if we consider that some were bishops and other apostolic administrators, because during that time there was a lot of movement in the diocese of Santander. There was Doroteo Fernandez, Eugénio Beitia, Vicente Puchol, Enrique de Cabo, and then came Jose Maria Cirarda, who at the time was in charge of the diocese of Bilbao as Auxiliary Bishop and Apostolic Administrator. Then another Bishop named Rafael da Fuente and finally me in 1972.
Question: Isn't it true that of all the bishops, it was the one who really witnessed the ecstatic girls?
Answer: I think so. I think I was the only one. I heard that Conchita fell in ecstasy in front of Bishop Puchol but I am not sure. Yes, I think I was the only one witnessing the ecstasies.
Question: Have you ever imagined that God would put you in this unique situation?
Answer: I have always tried to be in God's hands. I have always tried, regardless of whether they are difficult or easy situations, and in this case (Garabandal), it was difficult but at the same time, it gave me joy.
Question: When did you decide to remove the restrictions that previous bishops had imposed on priests regarding Garabandal and why?
Answer: I do not clearly remember the exact date. Everything was done step by step. I first told the parish priest to remove the restrictions, then later I made that decision public, but I don't remember the exact date it happened. I think it was six years before I retired. However, I think it was my last year in September.
Question: Were Garabandal's apparitions ever condemned by the Church? Answer: No. The preceding Bishops never admitted that the apparitions were supernatural, but to condemn them, no, that word was never used.
Question: When did you decide to reopen the Garabandal study and who did it? How was it conducted and when was it completed?
Answer: The study was finalized in April 1991 during a meeting we had in Madrid, but it was not opened on a specific date. It began six years earlier, in which several notes were taken about all the circumstances there. At the beginning we were doing little by little, so it took six to seven years until the process was completed. Until then, it had gone exactly as far as the other bishops had gone. They had said no, but personally I always thought I should do something else. I had to conduct a personal investigation, because responsibility required it. He had to do something because he felt that something very important and serious had happened in Garabandal. Because it was so serious, I had to try to find out what had really happened there myself.
Question: What happened to the results of this investigation?
Answer: The results were delivered to the Holy See, the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. They were delivered to Cardinal Ratzinger.
Question: Are Garabandal's messages theologically correct and in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church?
Answer: I think so. Theologically correct, yes. But one thing bothers me a little: "Many bishops and priests are on the path to perdition ...". I think to myself that these statements are too harsh. However, the messages say nothing against Church doctrine.
Question: When and why did you decide to retire?
Answer: I decided to retire due to my age. The Church asks this of all the bishops of the world, and we are around 4000. When we reach the age of 75, we send a letter to the Pope asking for his replacement. That's what I did. My 75th anniversary of the priesthood was on 13 June last year (1991), and I retired on 29 September.
Question: Do you have any special plans for the future?
Answer: Yes, my plan will be to pray more, because now I have more time, so it is one of my first plans. My second plan is to help the underprivileged. My third plan is ..... well I wrote a lot, before being a Bishop, I didn't do it anymore for lack of time. If you want to be a good bishop, there is no time to write, because there is always so much work to do. But for now, writing is also part of my plans. If at the time I was a Bishop I had written a lot, I would not be able to perform my tasks in the best way. I always thought I would resume this role of writer when I was retired. So I am currently writing a book that will take about a year and a half to complete. I think the title will look something like "The Christians in 2000." It will be a book that will talk about European culture and how it is influencing the Christian life and also how, as Christians we are, this culture meets God.
Question: As a "Redeeming Mother" and "Mother of the Church," what kind of influence do you believe Our Heavenly Mother will have in the lives of all mankind?
Answer: In answer to this question, the first thing that comes to mind is the life of Cardinal Wyszynsky from Poland. He was a cardinal in times of great difficulty. With the establishment of the communist empire, the church was oppressed and persecuted, there was no freedom. It was at this worst moment that Cardinal Wyszynsky entrusted all his suffering to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Czestochowa. In this moment of extreme distress, the Cardinal and his faith have found refuge in Our Lady, because she is the only one who will save the faith. In relation to this question, I can perfectly identify with Cardinal Wyszynsky, because I think in the same way that he, in other words, will be Our Lady who will save the faith.
Question: Do you believe that messages are the most important part of Garabandal?
Answer: Absolutely. I consider the messages important, because they are very important within this area, and because they are similar to those of Fatima and Lourdes. It is very important for us Christians to live up to the content of the messages, if we consider that she said this, I am not admitting it, because otherwise I would be admitting that the apparitions would be true, and I cannot say that because the Church has not yet commented on this. The Church is the only one who will have the last word.
At the end of this question session, Bishop del Val Gallo left the following comment: "I was very pleased with your visit. It was very significant for me."