Q. How and why did you become a priest?
A. Since I was four years old I wanted to be a priest. The vocation grew with me as I grew older. However, many difficulties came to me. A week before entering the seminary in Managua, Nicaragua, my homeland, I had to leave the country with my family because the Sandanistas took over the government. I went to the U.S., then to Rome where I studied theology and philosophy. In 1987, I developed many different illnesses. The ordination couldn't take place because my condition wouldn't allow any stable responsibility. So, in 1997 Archbishop Jose La Boa, who was the apostolic nuncio to Malta and Libya, called me and told me, 'You have a vocation, and a vocation can never be wasted. When I go to Rome, I will present your case to the Holy Father to request a pontifical indult for you to be ordained.' [Archbishop La Boa did this, and] the Holy Father only required that I have a bishop. So, the Archbishop -- knowing of my relationship with Archbishop Giuseppe Bernardini in Turkey -- contacted him to present the situation. Archbishop Bernardini without any hesitation accepted me as his priest. He flew all the way from Turkey on December 1997 to ordain me. I was ordained on Dec.13.
Q. Why are you in the Bay Area?
A. I am here due to my heath situation. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis especially on my right lung. I have a disorder called meningitis, and many other different problems. Archbishop Leveda welcomed me in his territory as a guest priest until I leave the United States. He issued a canonical statement of faculties in March 1998.
Q. What was your experience with the Sandanistas?
A. I found myself in a situation with a completely alien form of philosophy. All of us know what the Communists are. Wherever you go their philosophy is the same. They persecuted the Church. Poverty is the daily bread since they took over. It was a painful experience because number one, I had to leave my homeland, and number two, to see what they did to Nicaragua. It used to be a very beautiful country -- peaceful and clean. Now, it's a completely different story.
Q. What is your opinion of the Bay Area?
A. Like every place in the planet, we find lights and shadows. We find sin and grace. We know that in the Bay Area as well as in the rest of the planet, we have holy people and sinners. But, in the end as we all know the victory is Christ's.
Q. You were involved with a miracle of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Can you tell us about it?
A. In April of this year, Reverent Mother Teresa of the Child Jesus from Mexico was dying. She was in a monastery in Lincoln, Nebraska. The doctor said there was no hope for her and she was going to die any second. I flew Nebraska with a first class relic of Mother Teresa of Calcutta that was given to me by her house, the Gift of Love, in San Francisco. When I saw Mother in her cell she was ready to die -- all the vital organs were collapsing. So I celebrated Mass in her cell and administered the sacrament of the sick. After Mass, I blessed her with the relic and left it in her hands. The morning after, Mother was healed. After this, we were asked to write a letter to the Holy Father and to the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints. Some time later we got a letter from Rome acknowledging that the Holy Father had received the letter. Mother's heart and lung conditions that were killing her are completely healed and disappeared. She is ninety years old; and, I can tell you she is more alert than I am.
Q. Can you tell us about the photo with you and the Pope?
A. I asked the Holy Father if I could have his cap. He said, 'So you want to be pope.' I said, 'Are you crazy?' He said, 'So you think I'm crazy?' We both laughed.
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Giuseppe Germano Bernardini, O.F.M. Cap (born 27 September 1928) is an Italian prelate of the Catholic Church who worked as a missionary in Muslim-majority countries from 1957 to 2004 and served as Archbishop of Izmir, Turkey, from 1983 to 2004.
Giuseppe Germano Bernardini was born in Verica, a village in Pavullo nel Frignano, Italy, on 27 September 1928, the son of Sergio and Domenica Bernardini, both declared "Venerable" by Pope Francis in 2015. He was ordained a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin on 21 March 1953.
He chaired the Episcopal Conference of Turkey from 1989 to 1992.
On 13 October 1999, addressing a meeting of the Synod of Bishops, the 2nd Special Assembly for Europe, he warned that Islam was intent on dominating Christian Europe. He said: "The 'domination' has already started with petrodollars, used not to create jobs in poor countries in North Africa and the Middle East, but to build mosques and cultural centers in Christian countries ... including Rome, center of Christianity." He advised especially against allowing Muslims to use Christian churches for their services. He called interfaith meetings with Muslims "a dialogue of the deaf".