Q. Where were you born and raised?
A. Something happened in the family and due to
those circumstances, I was born in Burgos, but when I was fifteen days old,
I was taken to Santander, and I always lived there after that.
Q. What made you decide to be a priest?
A. When I was four years old, the pastor of my
church asked me if I wanted to become a priest I said "yes" in a way that
such a small child would answer. But then, when I was nine years old, an
aunt, who was my father's sister and was a nun in the order of The Daughters
of Charity died in the order of sanctity because there had been a big epidemic
of a very contagious disease among the children and (in spite of it) she
was taking care of the sick. She was told to be very careful because she
could become contaminated and die, but she said, "My whole life has been
consecrated to God by serving the poor and I'm not going to stop now when
they need me the most and that is what I will continue to do." She eventually
got sick from the epidemic that was going around and died. This was being
discussed and talked about in my home when I was nine years old and it made
such an impression on me. This heroic action that the sister of my father
did as a Daughter of Charity made me think, "Could I myself do this if I
were a priest?" That's when I made my decision that I wanted to be a priest.
I was nine years old. Then when I was twelve years old, I entered the Pontifical
University of Comillas until I became a priest in 1944.
Q. How old were you when you were ordained...by whom and where?
A. I was ordained by Archbishop Parrado of Granada
when I was 28 years old. He died many years ago. I was ordained in the church
of the Political University of Comillas.
Q. When did you first go to Garabandal and why?
A. I went eight days after the first apparition.
I went there because Bishop Doroteo Femandez called me, he was actually the
Apostolic Administrator. Since I was a priest that he trusted, he wanted
me to go there as an observer and to report back to him my impressions of
everything that I had seen. So I went there about eight days after the first
apparition because the Bishop told me to go.
Q. Who was the bishop of the diocese at that time?
A. Bishop Doroteo Fernandez.
Q. How many times did you visit the village during the years of
the reported apparitions?
A.I went only another two times after that by
order of the same bishop.
Q. Did you witness any of the four girls in ecstasy? If so, please
describe what you saw and heard. What were your impressions?
A. Yes. Yes, I saw them. Yes, I saw them in ecstasy.
That is what they were calling a psychological trance. I believe it was a
trance but not as deep as one's first impression because they were going
in and out of ecstasy. I said that I believed that it was a trance and this
is what astonished the people and made them believe it was supernatural.
My impressions were that of a spectator. We'll see. We'll see what happens
because with this type of thing we cannot be rushed.
Q. When were you assigned to the Santander diocese? Was this your
first diocese as bishop?
A. I was given the diocese on December 4, 1971.
and came here on January 16, 1972. This was the first and the last diocese
that I have had as a resident bishop. I was here for twenty years. Before
that I was in Jerez de la Frontera in the area of Cadiz which belonged to
the diocese of Sevilla, I was put in charge of that region of Cadiz by the
Cardinal of Sevilla carrying on there like any other bishop which today is
its own diocese.
Q. Since the beginning of the reported apparitions, how may bishops
A. Many. There were many if we consider that some
were bishops and some were Apostolic Administrators because during those
years, there was a lot of movement in the diocese of Santander. There was
Doroteo Fernandez, Eugenio Beitia, Vicente Puchol, Enrique de Cabo, acting
bishop but was titular vicarate, and then came Jose Maria Cirarda then when
he was taking care of the diocese of Bilbao as auxiliary bishop and Apostolic
Administrator, another bishop came called Rafael Torrija de la Fuente, and
then I came in 1972.
Q. Isn't it true that out of all those bishops, you are the only
one who actually witnessed the girls in ecstasy?
A. I think so. I think I am the only one. I heard
say that Conchita had made some ecstasies in front of Bishop Puchol but I
am not sure. Yes, I think that I was the only one who saw the ecstasies.
Q. Did you ever imagine that God would place you in such a unique
A. I have always tried to be in the hands of God.
I always try regardless of whether it is a difficult situation or a joyful
one, and this one (that is Garabandal) is both hard and joyful at the same
Q. When did you remove all the restrictions that the previous bishops
imposed on the priests and why?
A. I don't remember clearly the exact date. It
was done step by step. I told the pastor to start (removing the restrictions)
and then it was just announced publicly. But I don't remember the exact date.
I think it was about six years before I retired which was last year in September.
Q. Have the Garabandal apparitions ever been condemned by the church?
A. No. The previous bishops did not admit that
the apparitions were supernatural but to condemn them, no, that word had
never been used.
Q. When did you reopen the study of the apparitions and who did
the study, how was it conducted and when was it concluded?
A. It was finished in April of 1991 during a reunion
we held in Madrid but it was not opened on a specific date. It was opened
six years earlier, taking notes of the circumstances here and there. In the
beginning, we were going little by little so it took about six or seven years
before the study was concluded. Until then I had gone by what the other bishops
had done. They had said no. But then it seemed to me that I should personally
do something myself. I needed to do a personal investigation because the
responsibility demands this of oneself so I had to do something about it
and because I thought it was something serious that had happened in Garabandal.
It seemed to me that because it was so serious, I had to find out for myself
exactly what happened in Garabandal.
Q. What has become of the results?
A. The results were brought to The Holy See, to
The Sacred Congregation for The Doctrine of The Faith. That is where you
have to take things like this so that is where the documents are. They were
given to Cardinal Ratzinger.
Q. Were the Garabandal Messages found to be theologically correct
and in accordance to the teachings of the Catholic Church?
A. I think yes. Theologically correct, yes. But
one of the details bothers me like the one: "Many bishops and cardinals are
walking the path of perdition" it seems to me to be a bit severe. The Messages
do not say anything that is against the doctrine of the church.
Q. When and why did you retire?
A. I retired because of my age. The church requires
all the bishops in the world, and we are more than 4,000, when we reach the
age of 75, to write a letter to the pope telling him of the date when you
are 75 years old so that the Holy Father can start looking for a replacement.
So that's what I did. My 75th birthday was June 13th of last year (1991),
so I retired on September 29th.
Q. Do you have any special plans for the future?
A. Yes. My first plan is to pray more than before
because now I have more time and so that is one of my first plans, to dedicate
much more time to prayer. My second plan is to help the under-privileged
and my third plan is, well I used to write before becoming a bishop and then
after I became a bishop, I didn't do it anymore because there wasn't any
time to do that. If you want to be a good bishop there is no time to write
because you have too much work. So, that's what I plan to do now. At the
time I was bishop, I didn't do it because if you write books, you aren't
going to do your job well. I used to think that someday when I retire, I
will become a writer again. So I am writing a book which will take at least
another year and a half before it is finished. but for now, I am thinking
that the title can be. "The Christian in The Year 2000." It will be a book
about today's culture in Europe and how this culture influences our Christian
life and how this culture as Christians has to respond to God and to the
service of man.
Q. As "Mother of The Redeemer" and "Mother of The Church" what
kind of an effect do you believe Our Blessed Mother will have on the life
A. In response to this question, the first thing
that comes to my mind is Cardinal Wyszynsky from Poland. You know that he
was a cardinal there during the times of the most difficult conditions. With
imperial communism the church was so oppressed with so much persecution,
there was no freedom. yet in his worst moment. Cardinal Wyszynsky entrusted
his flock to the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Czestochowa. In that extreme
moment, the cardinal in his faith found his refuge in the Blessed Mother
because She is the One who is going to save The Faith. In this question,
I am able to identify with Cardinal Wyszynsky since I think like he did,
that is The Blessed Mother is the One who will save The Faith.
At the close of this question and answer session, His excellency added
these additional interesting comments:
I am grateful for your visit, it has been very meaningful. A final question
was asked of Bishop del Val: "Do you believe that The Messages are the most
important part of Garabandal?" and his reply was: "For sure I consider the
messages important! Because they are important! In the area where it is similar
to Lourdes and Fatima, it is important for us Christians to live what the
Messages of The Blessed Mother are saying, if we consider that She could
have said this...but, I'm not saying that She did since this would be admitting
that the apparitions are true and I cannot do that because the church has
not said so yet. The church is the one that has the last word.