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Challenges for Legionaries and Regnum Christi (Part 1 of 2)

Interview With New General Director, Father Álvaro Corcuera

ROME, JAN. 31, 2005 (Zenit) - The general chapter of the Legionaries of Christ elected Father Álvaro Corcuera as the new general director last week in Rome.

Father Corcuera succeeds the congregation's founder, Father Marcial Maciel, 84, who declined re-election for reasons of age and because of his desire to see the Legion continue to flourish under the direction of his successor.

Father Corcuera, 47, until recently rector of the Legion's Center for Higher Studies, in Rome, granted this interview to us. Part 2 of this interview will appear Tuesday.

Q: You are succeeding, in the office of general director of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Regnum Christi movement, the founder, Father Marcial Maciel, who has directed the congregation since its foundation. What does this mean for your religious institute?

Father Corcuera: In a religious congregation, in an apostolic movement, the founder occupies a unique and irreplaceable position. He is the one who, by divine will, receives for the Church a new charism which enriches the already luxuriant tree of the Church as a new gift of the Holy Spirit.

We have had the grace of being able to count on the presence of our founder for many years, since its foundation in 1941. In the stages of our history, we have been able to count on his encouragement, paternal closeness and example. The fact that he continues to be present as founder with a new general director at the head of the Legion, is a new grace of God for all and each one of us.

Q: And, for you personally, what has this election meant?

Father Corcuera: As you know, Father Maciel was the one who was elected first because we all see in him a true spiritual father who has transmitted to us, with his example and words, the desire to ardently love Jesus Christ, the Church, the Pope and souls.

These are the great spiritual motivations that have led him to found numerous apostolic works in the field of priestly formation, in the area of the family, of the education of youth, of the means of social communication, of service to the poorest, etc. It was difficult for us to imagine another general director during his lifetime.

It was only when he communicated to us his decision to decline his re-election because of his age and his desire to support his successor while he is still able, that, to my surprise, I was elected.

I accepted this election of the chapter fathers as an act of obedience to God, with the desire to serve, with exquisite fidelity and love, the Church, the Holy Father, the bishops in communion with him, the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement, which is my beloved spiritual family.

Needless to say, when considering the responsibility of an office of such importance for the good of the congregation, I was overwhelmed. But Father Maciel reminded me of the supernatural principle according to which when God asks something of a person, he first gives the grace for it.

He also quoted to me that phrase of Psalm 37 in which he found strength and consolation when, in the early days of the foundation, he sought light in prayer: "Commit your way to the Lord; trust that God will act."

Then he told me that our life should be offering to God every day from the beginning a blank page so that he can write what he desires, his will. Consequently, at the same time that I felt the weight, I also felt, and I feel, a great confidence in the divine action that can make use of our littleness to carry out his plans of salvation for humanity.

That is why I have very present in my mind the phrase of St. Paul: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

I also have an immense sense of gratitude to my parents who gave me the gift of life and of faith. I thank my mother from the heart for having taken the risk to give me life at the risk of endangering her own. as the doctors advised her to abort the pregnancy given that the probabilities were high that she would die if she continued. If I am here today to fulfill this mission, it is also because of her.

Q: You mention two reasons why Father Maciel did not accept his re-election. But there are many other theories circulating in the media, including some that seem to be slanderous. What can you say in this respect?

Father Corcuera: Our founder's reasons are the ones I have mentioned. Remember that he is already 84 years old, and that he would be 96 at the end of a new term.

Moreover, I think that there is enormous humility, prudence and wisdom in the decision of Father Maciel. He knows that religious congregations continue after the founder is gone.

Before God, he has seen that the best for the Legion and Regnum Christi is to take an institutional step of this sort so that he will be able to be with his successor during the years that God still grants him life. There are no other reasons, neither internal or external to the Legion. It is that simple. It is that beautiful and moving when we are able to read it with the eyes of faith.

Moreover, there are recent precedents to his decision. I am thinking, for example, of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who also wished to leave the direction of her congregation in the hands of Sister Nirmala while she was still alive.

Q: There are also those who speculate that there are currents of power within the Legion of Christ.

Father Corcuera: I can tell you that there is no truth at all in these suppositions.

Those who know the spirit of the Legion of Christ know very well that we live in an intense and sincere atmosphere of union and charity. We all want to give the best of ourselves to cooperate with Jesus Christ and with the Church in the mission of preaching the Gospel. Thank God, we also see a profound sense of service and humility in all the superiors and members.

I can also tell you that all of us desire not to have the burden of responsibility and authority on us. And those of us who receive that authority exercise it with a spirit of service, as Jesus Christ teaches us.

Believe me, it is an experience akin to that of the early Christians who lived, with all their heart, the mandate received: "Ut unum sint."

In the end, charity is our mandate, our uniform and our distinguishing mark as Christians. In this we should be recognized, and we live this experience as an extraordinary gift that he grants us with so much goodness.

I know for sure, and have the grace to live every day, the fact that in every Legionary I see a real brother who reflects the goodness and charity of Christ, that among us we have a common homeland, and that we want to struggle with all sincerity so that the charity of Christ will reign in the whole of society.

Contrary to what these groundless speculations -- which you mention -- indicate, I can say with great joy that now more than ever, all of us Legionaries are united with the founder around the Eucharist, as the Pope requested recently, in his words of exhortation on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Father Maciel's ordination.

The Eucharist, the sincere effort to live in our communities the commandment of charity and love that Christ left us in the Last Supper, service to the Church and the Pope, and union around our founder, are the axes that currently center our spiritual attention.

Moreover, I believe it is providential that we are living this intense experience in the Year of the Eucharist, which the Pope opened while the International Eucharistic Congress was being held in Guadalajara, Mexico, and which we are living in an intense way in communion with the whole Church.

[Tuesday: What will the founder do now?]

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