An interview with Mons. Girolamo Grillo from Civitavecchia – “The tree can be recognised by its fruits”, quotes Bishop Girolamo Grillo the words of Jesus from the Gospel, when somebody asks him about Gospa weeping tears of blood in the town of Civitavecchia. A little statue of Our Lady bought in Medjugorje more than ten years ago started to weep tears of blood about ten years ago, in the village of Pantano, near the town of Civitavecchia, 60 km from Rome.
The phenomenon was noticed for the first time on February 2, 1995. On March 15 of that same year, the bishop of Civitavecchia was personally a witness of this event, which science cannot explain. In the interview given to the Italian daily “Avvenire” (journal of the Italian Bishops Conference), bishop Grillo is evaluating what has happened in his diocese during the past ten years.
What has happened during the past ten years?
Bishop Grillo: See for yourself: since then, pilgrimages not only do not decrease, but this place of grace has been purified from all the sensationalistic elements and from curiosity. People who come to Pantano have an immense desire to change, to convert. In favour of this is also speaking the fact that I had to put five confessors permanently at the disposal of the faithful. They have told me that they have reconciled with God numberless people, people who were far from faith during long years. It has happened that they received even contrite murderers. More than thousand families, which had fallen apart because of divorce or a separated life, were reunited, and this is nowadays not a usual thing. Many women who were longing for motherhood became mothers. They continue to come here, with the desire to baptise their child precisely here. And finally, many are asking for the sacrament of baptism, even Muslims. Therefore, why not to make known all these numerous positive fruits?
Are you preparing a special initiative for the tenth anniversary?
Bishop Grillo: We have prepared a dossier, which will soon be published on national level. We have already 44 booklets with signatures of the pilgrims, with their thoughts and impressions. According to me, they reflect all the fears of our time, and at the same time hopes of those who ask for Mary’s intercession.
Any special festivities and celebrations?
Bishop Grillo: Each year in the night from February 1st to 2nd, the faithful come on pilgrimage from the centre of the town to Pantano. They walk 12 kilometres. This year, more than 1500 people were walking. They were not afraid of the freezing cold. However, let us remember: only 20 years ago, Civitavecchia was called Stalingard of Lazio. More than 60% of the population of this anticlerical and anarchistic city were communists. This event with Gospa gave a completely different mark to the city. It is true that the Mother of God was weeping, and I believe that it was not only because of Civitavecchia.
What has this event brought on the pastoral level?
Bishop Grillo: As a bishop, I am very happy that St. Augustin’ Parish in Pantano became a centre of evangelisation – not only for the whole city, but for whole Italy and for the whole world. In the last statistics for the month of November 2004, I counted twelve foreign groups of pilgrims, from Sri Lanka to Latin America. We try our best to cherish and to promote a true Marian devotion, a devotion that leads to Christ. I think that this is well accepted. For all the rest, it needs time. We have to wait and be very patient. If good fruits are not proceeding from them, supernatural events cannot be proven in a world that does not believe in God, that has lost the access to real values.
What good fruits has it brought to your personal life?
Bishop Grillo: After that morning, March 15, 1995, I was under a great chock during two or three years. The Blessed Virgin Mary has changed my life upside down, and she led me to ponder deeper into myself and into a deeper spiritual life. I have made greater efforts to be open for the needs of the faithful. Besides my pastoral work, I am consecrating additionally more time to spiritual guidance.
What is the Pope John Paul II saying about Gospa?
Bishop Grillo: During my last Ad Limina visit, Holy Father asked me about the possibility of building a Marian shrine. I answered to him that I was ready to do it, but I also asked him to help me to build in Civitavecchia a house for the sisters of Mother Teresa from Calcutta. I would really love that spiritual and material fruits of such a shrine be really and mostly of use for the poor.