giovedì 6 luglio 2017

(a cura Redazione "Il sismografo")
Carlo Di Cicco - Tiscali

Navarro Valls, l'uomo dell'Opus Dei al potere con il Papa divenuto Santo.
L’Opus deve tutto a Papa Wojtyla che ne ha codificato la presenza nella Chiesa. La figura di Joaquin Navarro Valls va collocata in questo contesto.

Ora che Giovanni Paolo II è visto come un santo le cose sono più facili, almeno in apparenza, ma quando viveva le cose non erano altrettanto facili né nel mondo né tanto meno in Vaticano.
Nel mondo c’era ancora la guerra fredda e poi, d’improvviso, la caduta del muro con lo sgretolarsi del mondo comunista.
E poi, quando il capitale occidentale sembrava trionfante ecco la sorpresa: le guerre balcaniche prima e l'11 settembre poi con il gran disordine internazionale che ne è seguito e tuttora la fa da padrone. Il regno del male non era tutto nel comunismo. Nella Chiesa lo scontro tra gli amici e gli avversari del concilio Vaticano II con le sue aperture alla modernità, tra i riformatori e  i tradizionalisti, quella sorta di caccia e repressione a quanti erano sospettati a torto o a ragione di essere comunisti perché schierati dalla parte dei poveri, quella commistione tra potere e altare, quelle corsie preferenziali per il denaro e il suo potere, la rigidità nella difesa della famiglia e della vita con i valori non negoziabili, le battaglie senza fine contro il gender, la predilezione nel voler combattere sempre qualche nemico.
Furono anche gli anni dell’irruzione dei movimenti nella Chiesa con minor discernimento, sollevando enormi problemi pastorali e sofferenze per creare un nuovo equilibrio accettabile da tutti. Tra le nuove realtà più contestate che si imponeva al mondo mediatico era l’Opus Dei, vista come una sorta di leggenda nera nella Chiesa. L’Opus deve tutto a papa Wojtyla che ne ha codificato la presenza speciale nella Chiesa come prelatura personale, al di fuori del governo delle singole diocesi.
La figura di Joaquin Navarro Valls, medico, psichiatra, giornalista, chiamato da Wojtyla nel 1984 a dirigere la Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, illustre membro dell’Opus va collocata in questo contesto. Ora che all’età di 80 anni è morto a Roma se ne parla sui media considerandolo nella luce riflessa di Giovanni Paolo II che lo scelse direttore della Sala Stampa  nel sesto anno del suo pontificato. Una coppia omogenea e perfetta per il tempo che si stava vivendo nella Chiesa. Navarro è stato un valido portavoce e un promotore competente e appassionato dell’immagine appropriata di Giovanni Paolo II in tutto il mondo. Ma lo ha fatto con uno stile personale, rifuggendo da un certo cascame provinciale che non di rado ha accompagnato nella Chiesa l’emergere del potere e dell’affermazione di realtà contestate. C’era il paradosso che le realtà che spingevano per arrivare alla ribalta presentandosi come nuove portavano con sé molta nostalgia del passato.  E così anche il medico giornalista preposto alla comunicazione vaticana, si è trovato a incarnare le contraddizioni del proprio tempo nel laborioso percorso che ha portato una vera rivoluzione nei media.
Fedele al suo datore di lavoro, egli ha rappresentato un segno di contraddizione nel tentativo di armonizzare la fedeltà all’istituzione con l’onestà specifica richiesta dalla sua professione giornalistica. Fedele cattolico senza essere clericale, è andato per la sua strada contribuendo con decisa gradualità all’aggiornamento della comunicazione  nella Chiesa. Del resto era lo stesso Giovanni Paolo II a premere con le sue scelte che innovavano profondamente la forma e lo stile di fare il papa. Chi ne ha sostenuto l’opera e gli obiettivi – e Navarro è stato tra i suoi fedelissimi – ha potuto contare su un pontificato durato  ben 27 anni che avevano permesso di consolidare i processi innovativi, ma anche le situazioni di sofferenza di quanti la pensavano diversamente.
Gentiluomo nella forma ma inamovibile nella sostanza, Navarro Valls si potrebbe definire un moderno cavaliere con il cuore antico. Irripetibile come direttore della Sala Stampa, facendo nascere una certa difficoltà a comprendere la linea di confine tra chi fosse un direttore di sala stampa, un portavoce del papa, un alto funzionario vaticano che sedeva come esperto affidabile  nelle delegazioni alle conferenze internazionali dove si discutevano delicate questioni sulla famiglia e il matrimonio. Una figura che nello stesso tempo era materia di informazione e custode dell’informare la materia stessa.
Difficile sfuggire del tutto a una certa ambiguità e minor trasparenza nei rapporti con la stampa internazionale dove i rapporti sono condizionati dai rapporti di forza esistenti da sempre tra i piccoli e i grandi centri dell’informazione, le grandi catene e le piccole testate, il mondo dell’immagine e quello della carta stampata, i nuovi ambiti introdotti dallo sviluppo rapido e imprevisto di internet. Ogni giornalista che lo ha conosciuto, con tutta probabilità potrà raccontare la sua versione su chi era e chi è stato Navarro Valls. Certamente si può affermare che non è stato un indifferente. E’ sempre stato chiaro da che parte stesse. Ha dato la stura a infinite discussioni sul modo di starvi. Ma proprio in questo è stato una figura dal fiuto prevalente e inconfondibile di un giornalista competente che ha realizzato in sé l’unità tra professione e fede religiosa, tra interessi di parte e razionalità. Un laico nella scia di fides et ratio, una tra le più celebri encicliche di Giovanni Paolo II.
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Joaquin Navarro-Valls: Take him for all in all, I will not look upon his like again
John L. Allen Jr. - Crux

Joaquin Navarro Valls, the longtime spokesman for Pope John Paul who played a role under the Polish pope somewhat akin to a chief of staff, died Wednesday at the age of 80 from cancer. He wasn't without his flaws, but he was nevertheless a giant of a man, and someone who took a deep personal as well as professional interest in the people around him. Whatever else can be said, it will be a long time before we see someone else like him.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke on the phone to Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who served as the Vatican spokesman from 1984 to 2006, though that hardly does justice to the role he played under Pope John Paul II. In reality, Navarro was a member of John Paul’s inner circle and something akin to a Chief of Staff, much more than a mere press mouthpiece.
I had heard Navarro was seriously ill with a type of cancer, and since I was in Rome I wanted to have the chance to say goodbye. His voice was barely recognizable, scratchy and breathless, but he still managed to tell me I do “stupendous” work and to ask me to say hello to my wife for him.
I hung up in tears, conscious I had just spoken to a dying man.
On July 5, the end came. Navarro-Valls is dead at the age of 80, with the news breaking through a tweet by his successor as Director of the Holy See Press Office, American Greg Burke, who added a phrase that could well be the whole of Navarro’s epitaph: “Grace under pressure.”
Born in Cartagena, Spain, in 1936, the young Navarro attended a German school in his hometown, then studied medicine at the Universities of Granada and Barcelona, eventually becoming a professional psychiatrist and teaching medicine. (Later, Navarro would be known in the Vatican press corps for occasionally offering unsolicited medical advice to journalists, chiding them for putting on weight, not getting enough exercise, and so on.)
Navarro also studied journalism, earning a degree from the University of Navarra in 1968 and another in 1980. He would eventually make journalism his profession, becoming a foreign correspondent for the Spanish newspaper ABC. While covering Italy and the Vatican, he was elected a member of the Board of Directors and later as President of the Foreign Press Association in Rome.
Also as a young man, Navarro joined the Catholic organization Opus Dei, eventually becoming a “numerary,” meaning a celibate member who lives in an Opus Dei center. Over the years the organization served as a lightning rod for controversy, in part for its reputation for conservative politics, in part over charges of cult-like control over members’ lives.
Navarro often bristled at questions about his Opus Dei ties, insisting it was a private matter that had nothing to do with his job.
“I was a foreign correspondent in Egypt, in Israel, and in Greece,” Navarro said in an interview for a 2005 book.  “Inevitably I had to write on Islam, on Judaism and on Orthodoxy. Nobody, neither public officials nor religious leaders, was the least concerned, or even curious, about my personal beliefs. They were concerned only with the accuracy and fairness of my reporting.
“Very much the same happened when I worked as a medical doctor in a hospital for fourteen years,” he said. “They were interested in good medical attention, and that was what I tried to give them.”
Navarro was a highly personal choice by John Paul, who called him to a lunch to offer him the job. Looking back, Navarro once said he believed the primary reason John Paul turned to him was because he had been twice elected president of the Foreign Press Association in Rome, a sign of respect by his colleagues, though he acknowledged that being in Opus Dei was perhaps a “guarantee” for the pope that he had a solid formation in Catholic teaching.
As spokesman, Navarro sought to shape the narrative of John Paul’s papacy. He once made a trip to the American White House during the Reagan years to spend time with their communications team, and sought to emulate the best of advanced Western “spin.”
Marco Politi, a veteran Vatican writer for La Repubblica and other Italian outlets, described Navarro as “orientational,” in the sense that he tried to steer journalists in a particular direction in terms of how the story of John Paul II was reported, as opposed to other spokespersons content simply to repeat what the pope said or did and leave it at that.
Beyond simply dealing with the press on John Paul’s behalf, Navarro also was a key policy adviser and emissary of the pontiff, for instance leading the Holy See’s delegation at an International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, where there was a strong push to enshrine access to abortion as a human right under international law.
Navarro helped put together an improbable coalition, quickly dubbed the “Holy Alliance,” of Catholic and Muslim nations to beat back that attempt.
Navarro was smart, articulate, hard-working, multi-lingual, and utterly devoted to the popes he served (he would stick around for a while under Benedict XVI before giving way to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.)
None of that is to say Navarro was without his flaws.
For one thing, it was often not entirely clear, when he talked about John Paul, whether he was telling us what actually happened or what he felt should have happened. It predates my time, but oral tradition in the Vatican press corps has it that once Navarro gave a full in-air briefing about a meeting John Paul had with Guatemalan human right activist Rigoberta Menchú, down to the colorful native costume she wore.
The only problem was that the meeting was cancelled at the last minute because Menchú was too ill, so Navarro was forced to retract everything. He’d obviously had his talking points ready to go, and didn’t bother checking whether the encounter had actually happened.
During John Paul’s final illness in 2005, the pope underwent a tracheotomy on Feb. 24 to relieve respiratory problems. The next morning Navarro told the press that John Paul had eaten ten cookies for breakfast - which, beyond just being an awful lot of cookies, strained credibility because it wasn’t clear how a patient with a tracheal tube could even do it.
Still, on the important stuff we all took Navarro seriously, because we knew John Paul had his back.
Navarro was also the bane of many reporters’ existence, because he nakedly and openly played favorites. There were some journalists, either because of the size of their audience or because he trusted them, with whom he would share insider information, and others whose phone calls and emails he would never return.
I got a spot on his “A” list fairly early, so I never had any complaints, but I understood why many of my colleagues did. Remarkably often, I’d end up calling him with a question for one of them, simply because I could get through and they couldn’t.
However, no one’s perfect, and on the whole, the Navarro Valls I knew was a giant of a man. He also took a deep personal interest in the people around him - in fact, the very last question he ever asked me in that brief talk we had a couple weeks ago was about my health.
Here’s what Burke, like Navarro a numerary of Opus Dei, said on his predecessor’s passing.
“Joaquin Navarro embodied what Ernest Hemingway defined as courage: grace under pressure. I got to know Navarro when I was working for Time, and the magazine named John Paul II ‘Man of the Year.’ I expected to find a man of faith, but I found a man of faith who was also a first-class professional.
“Navarro had worked as a correspondent before coming to the Vatican, and his colleagues from around the globe clearly recognized his merits, electing him President of the Stampa Estera in Rome.
“I remember watching Navarro closely during the UN Population Conference in Cairo - one of the best examples of what Pope Francis calls ideological colonization. It was fascinating to see someone who was defending the faith, but he wasn’t on the defensive. He was leading the fight.
“I didn’t always agree with Navarro, but he always behaved like a Christian gentlemen - and those can be hard to find these days.”
I’m not going to come up with a better summary than that, so let me just add one final note.
When I spoke to Navarro for the last time, I tried to tell him what he had meant to me, and how much he had helped me when I was just starting out. I’m not sure he took it all in, because by that stage in the conversation he was obviously fatigued and drifting in and out.
If he didn’t quite get it, let me say it now: I’m probably not here, writing this appreciation or doing anything else in journalism, had it not been for Joaquin Navarro-Valls. To quote Shakespeare, “Take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”
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Joaquin Navarro-Valls, John Paul II's spokesman, passes away at 80
Rome Reports
"One day I received a phone call and I was at work, at my office, 'You have to go for lunch with the pope.' Naturally, I told my secretary: 'Call the Vatican because someone is trying to play a joke on me.' She called and they confirmed that it was true...
I clearly remember at that lunch, that the Pope raised the subject of whether I had any idea on how to improve the way of communicating (not about how he should communicate, because he needed no advice, but how the Vatican can communicate universal human and Christian values).
I answered something that seemed good to me. Then, some time passed and the phone call came. The pope has appointed you director of ...
I hesitated for a while before accepting. Immediately after accepting, I said that I wanted to talk to the pope, that I wanted to know what his idea was in depth, what he really wanted... So began that stage of my life that I thought was going to last a couple of years and actually lasted 22 years.
I remember one thing that has helped me many times afterwards. I said, 'Holy Father, this is a very big responsibility for me. It's a subject that can worry anyone.' He told me something that has helped me often in life: 'You cannot do a job well if you only think about responsibility. If you are only thinking about responsibility, then you feel like you are tied up, like locked inside that responsibility.' It was a very wise advice that has helped me many times and I have gained a lot during those 22 years working with him.”
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Joaquín Navarro-Valls, portavoz de Juan Pablo II, fallece a los 80 años de edad
"Un día recibí una llamada telefónica, yo estaba en mi trabajo, en mi oficina: 'Tiene que ir usted a almorzar con el Papa'. Naturalmente le dije a mi secretaria: 'Llame usted al Vaticano porque alguien me quiere tomar el pelo”. Llamó y le confirmaron que sí...
Y recuerdo claramente aquel almuerzo con el Papa que planteó el tema, de si yo tenia alguna idea de cómo mejorar el modo de comunicar (no ya de comunicar él, que no necesitaba ningún consejo, sino de comunicar ese universo de valores humanos y cristianos que el Vaticano tenía que hacer).
Dije alguna cosa que me pareció, pasó algún tiempo y luego llegó la llamada telefónica. El papa le ha nombrado a usted director de...
Dudé mucho antes de aceptar. E inmediatamente después de aceptar, dije que quería hablar con el Papa, que quería conocer en profundidad cuál era su idea, cuál era su idea, qué es lo que efectivamente quería... Y así comenzó aquella etapa de mi vida que yo pensaba que iba a durar un par de años y que en realidad duró 22 años.
Recuerdo una cosa que me ha servido muchas veces luego. Le dije: 'Santo Padre, esto es una responsabilidad muy grande para mí. Es un tema capaz de angustiar a cualquier persona'. Y me dijo algo que me ha servido muchas veces en la vida: 'No se puede hacer bien un trabajo si sólo se piensa en la responsabilidad. Si sólo se piensa en la responsabilidad entonces te sientes como amarrado, como encerrado dentro de esa responsabilidad'. Fue un consejo muy sabio que me ha ayudado muchas veces y del que he sacado mucho partido a lo largo de esos 22 años trabajando con él.