Canada’s papal nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi will celebrate Christmas with staff in Ottawa. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Christmas is the Good News, wherever nuncio may be

  • December 23, 2014

Christmas in the small town of Gandino, in the foothills of the Italian Alps, was a wondrous time for Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi.

Canada’s apostolic nuncio recalls Christmas for his family meaning the Christmas crib, and each year the children were given statues that could be added to the stable that Bonazzi’s father, a carpenter, would construct.

“When I was eight or nine there was already a good number of statues, which we used to dispose in a different way every year,” he said. His mother left the children to “create every year our little fantasy.”
Bonazzi spent the first 14 years of his life in Gandino, until he went into the seminary. From there, and especially after his ordination and life as a priest in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, Christmas would be much different for Bonazzi.

While things may have changed, and Bonazzi is posted far from home, he does not recall feeling homesick.

“We have a saying, Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi (Christmas with your relatives or with yours, Easter with whomever you choose or those you like),” said Bonazzi.

“For me, ‘Yours’ was the nunciature where I was.”

The people at the nunciature were his family to rejoice with at the family feast of Christmas, “because it is the feast where the Lord is visiting the human family and assuring us of His friendship, of His esteem, of His alliance.”

“Since I am a nuncio also, I take this Christmas as an occasion to have a special moment of friendship, of family life with all the members of the nunciature,” he said.

Not only does he show appreciation for the work they do, but for them as persons, for their presence, their character and their love.

This family celebration in nunciatures over Christmas has happened wherever he has been posted, whether Haiti, Cuba, Cameroon or Lithuania, and it will here in Canada as well.

“This family reality goes across the countries.”

In Haiti, he was invited to help various groups who helped those in hospitals, in orphanages and the poor to make gifts. By the end of November, he was already receiving letters from the groups, telling him they were counting on his help.

“Of course it was really a pleasure. It was a possibility for the nunciature to do something good, beyond the wall of the nunciature.”

When he was in Cuba, every Christmas the nunciature would receive a huge basket from the Castro family weighing around 35 kilograms. In it would be an “immense” turkey, already with a thermometer sticking in it. It would also contain some of Cuba’s best rum and tropical fruits.

Each year, the nuncio receives an autographed letter from the Pope, decorated with that Pope’s coat of arms. The nuncio reads the letter together with his staff.

“This is also a family moment, an important moment to share together.”

Each Christmas, Bonazzi tries to make his correspondence to the bishops, to the heads of religious congregations and to his fellow ambassadors as personal as possible.

“I consider it important that if I send a Christmas card, it is not a routine,” he said.

Whether in the nunciature or back home in Gandino during the 1950s, Christmas is a far cry from the consumer-driven frenzy of North America.

“The consumer society tries to steal Christmas in order to transform Christmas into a good to sell,” he said. “This is really the opposite of what is Christmas. Christmas is not something to buy, it is something to receive. Christmas is a gift.

“It is this incredible thing, of God deciding to visit His people, to come down from Heaven,” he said. “It is like God turns to me and says, I really wish to see how they are, what they do, what do they think, and He comes and He becomes one of us, in order to know us...

“So Christmas is the Good News for everybody, it is the Good News that there is someone taking interest in me, accepting me as I am, in this sense, then in this context, the Christmas gift, receives a meaning, because after having experienced the gift I receive from God I take pleasure also in sharing some gifts with the others,” he said.

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