Several weeks ago, a group of Pontifical Swiss Guards left for Emilia in central Italy, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake. They volunteered to help the bishop of Carpi, Monsignor Francesco Cavina. Anna Artymiak met up with Monsignor Cavina to talk about these things.
How did the Swiss Guard conceive the project of helping the diocese of Carpi?
Mons. Francesco Cavina: The project originated from the friendship I have with the Swiss Guard. The reason is that I worked in the Vatican’s secretariat of state until I was appointed bishop of Carpi a few months ago. Between me and the Swiss Guard there has always been a relation of cordiality and mutual respect. So, when they heard about the earthquake in the diocese of a bishop they knew, they asked to bring their help and solidarity to the population.
How did you feel about it?
Cavina: I was really impressed by the presence of the Swiss Guard and their gesture of great love and affection. I must say that when they left, I felt a pang in my heart, realizing that a group of people were leaving who had shown me love, affection and solidarity as well as a great deal of competence. In my opinion, they made a great contribution to building up a positive image of the Holy See. I think this will be good for the Church and the Holy Father.
How did the people of Carpi react?
Cavina: I must say that they were deeply impressed by the kindness, competence and professionalism of these young men, especially the first time they were entrusted with the surveillance of the city hospital, which had been evacuated. The non-medical staff thanked me more than once because they felt safe and protected.
They returned for three consecutive weekends, giving up their days off.
I must say that the presence of the Swiss Guard greatly helped the population, the Catholics, to understand the true nature of the Holy See in this particular moment.
Above all it roused a moving sense of love for and attention to the Holy Father in the hearts of Christians and non-Christians alike. They rightly saw the presence of the Swiss Guard as a gesture of attention from the Pope to the earthquake victims. People saw the arrival of the Swiss Guard as a gift from the Holy Father to the diocese of Carpi and a sign of affection for its bishop. It was really a moment of great solidarity.
In what sectors did the Swiss Guard operate?
Cavina: They offered to organize shows for adolescents to help them get over the trauma of the earthquake, so they made friends and played with them, making them feel very happy. Here in Carpi we have a popular parish recreation center. When the boys learned that these people were Swiss Guards, they appreciated their simplicity in approaching them; it was a unique experience for these boys.
The Guards helped me to empty the bishop’s palace, which has been seriously damaged, removing the works of art and precious furniture which ran the risk of being destroyed. In this case too, I was deeply impressed by the competence of these young men, who emptied the palace of all its contents in two and a half hours.
They won the admiration, not only of the locals, but also of the fire brigade and the carabinieri, who were on the spot and also helped.
You say the palace has been seriously damaged…
Cavina: In this regard I would like to appeal to all those willing to help reconstruct the curia and the bishop’s palace. At the moment the offices of the curia are located in various parts of the town, since we no longer have a place where we can work unitedly. There is no reference point. Of course I cannot divert money from the aid we receive. I would need a benefactor to take it upon himself to finance the reconstruction of the curia and the bishop’s palace of Carpi.
Did the Swiss Guards promise to return?
Yes, they will keep coming back, I don’t know when. Of course they need all the necessary permissions from the secretariat of state; but their desire to return has been confirmed. Back to article about Swiss Guards to the Rescue.