By Fr. Benjamín Clariond, LC
After the General Chapter elected Fr.
Eduardo Robles Gil general director of the Legion of
Christ, as we waited for the confirmation of the
Holy See, I had the opportunity to interview Fr. Eduardo
in the Legion’s General Directorate.
Fr. Benjamin: Fr. Eduardo,
thank you for granting this interview. Thank you, also, for
accepting the General Chapter’s election of you as General
Director. Not everyone has had the opportunity to get
to know you. So, I would like to begin by
asking you: Who is Fr. Eduardo Robles Gil?
First of all, I would like to thank LaRed and
our websites for the chance to grant this first
interview. I would like to address the Legionaries of
Christ and the members of the Movement, since we are
all brothers and sisters. I would like to give them
a chance to get to know me. With time,
I hope I can get to know them as
well. I ask one and all for a prayer.
Who am I? I am a member of Regnum Christi.
I answer that way because, in some way, having
met Christ in Regnum Christi has marked my whole life.
I was born into a household where the Catholic
faith was being lived. My dad died when I was
three-and-a-half years old. So, my grandmother and one of
my aunts came to live with us. They were
deeply religious. My mother has a great faith
that is down to earth and realistic. All of
that definitely marked my childhood.
I went to school
at the Cumbres Institute [Cumbres Lomas, Mexico City] and there
got to know the Legion of Christ. I had
an uncle who was a Jesuit. He was a
very good and holy priest. I also had an
uncle who was a Marist. But the place I
met Jesus Christ was with the Legionaries of Christ,
in Regnum Christi. For this reason, when I define who
I am, I say that I am a member
of Regnum Christi who found his vocation in the Movement
to consecrate himself completely to God and be a
Fr. Benjamin: You spent a large portion of your religious
life when Fr. Maciel was the general director of
the Legion. What relationship did you have with him?
I studied in Rome from 1977 through 1983. In those
years, he would come visit us in Via Aurelia
677, but not that often. During the time in
which I studied in Rome, another Legionary brother and I
were looking for properties to build the new residence.
We found the property that is now the Mater Ecclesiae
[a seminary for diocesan priests run by the Legion
in Rome]. At times, I would have meetings with
the founder to keep him up to speed about
Afterwards, I stopped working directly with him.
I went to Spain for two years after my
priestly ordination, then to Brazil for four. The next
time I had to work with him was for
two years as the territorial administrator in Mexico. But you
can’t say that we were very close.
Now, since what
we Legionaries saw was his work as a formator and
since we didn’t know about his hidden life, I
felt a certain admiration for him.
Fr. Benjamin: In light of
what we’ve come to learn, how has the figure of
the founder changed for you?
Fr. Eduardo: When the
first news came out in 1997, I asked myself
the question: “What if it were true? What would
I do?” In my heart, my conscience, I arrived
at the following conclusion: God called me to the priesthood
in the Legion. If what they are saying about
the founder turned out to be true, I would
continue to be a Legionary priest. But, at the
time, it was only hypothetical for me.
when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
put out its communiqué about the founder, I sensed
that what had been said about him was true. Honestly,
I could not believe that the Church would lightly
put out a communiqué like that. Nevertheless, I still
had a hard time believing it, because it didn’t
correspond with the experience I had had of the founder.
the initial pain when the confirmation came that it
was true, I lived out an inner process that
made it easier for me to assimilate it all and,
as a priest and minister of forgiveness, trust in
God’s mercy. Naturally, I also felt a deep grief,
above all for the suffering caused. God granted me
the grace of forgiving and turning the page. Since
then, I have put myself to work.
Fr. Benjamin: You
were part of the Outreach Commission formed by Cardinal De
Paolis to attend the victims of Fr. Maciel. What
was that like?
Fr. Eduardo: You have to understand persons
who have been victims of abuse. It leaves a
painful mark on their lives, a mark that is
not easy to remove. In fact, for many, it
never goes away. For me it was painful and
sad to see the consequences of all of this. No
one should take it lightly.
The experience of dialoguing
with, of getting to know, those who have suffered has
helped me to understand them better and to try
to grasp the grief of a person who suffers.
In the cases I dealt with, we spoke, we
asked for forgiveness, and we began the journey towards
Fr. Benjamin: How will the Legion continue to be
committed to preventing abuse?
Fr. Eduardo: Of course. Today, the Catholic
Church is committed to make sure that abuses won’t
take place anymore. You can see it in the
actions of the dicasteries [in the Vatican], as well
as the recent discourses of the Pope. The Legion
of Christ is also working, and will continue to do
so, in order to prevent all types of abuse,
in the formation and selection of those who join
the congregation, in creating safe environments. And, of course, in
prompt and serious responses to any allegation that comes
to us. In all of this we fully collaborate
with civil and ecclesial authorities in the countries we
work in, and we will continue to do so.
we have to remember that human beings are weak.
We have to assume that we cannot affirm that
this task has been concluded, that there will never
again be abuses in the Church. This realism should always
bring us to be watchful and to apply all
the means at our disposal to prevent them. We are
working on prevention and attention, but there is always
room to grow.
Fr. Benjamin: You studied in Rome from
1977 to 1983. It was a relatively quick formation
period. Have you noticed any weak area in your
personal preparation for the priesthood?
Fr. Eduardo: Everyone in the
Legion has a personal process of formation. For that
reason, you can’t speak of a prototype, even though
there are some shared guidelines. In comparison with other Legionaries,
my process was relatively short. When I joined
consecrated life [in Regnum Christi], I took many of the
courses that you have in novitiate and humanities, though
I didn’t put as much time into it, above
all into humanities.
I joined consecrated life when I
had finished my degree in engineering at the Anauhac
University. As a consecrated man, I had two years
of formation. I arrived to Rome in 1977 to
study philosophy. Since I already had a degree, I
was able to go straight into graduate level studies
at the University.
Afterwards I earned a bachelor’s degree
in philosophy at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. Then,
I did the studies corresponding to what used to
be called the pastoral year in Spain according to a
plan set out by the Legion’s general prefect of
studies, but without enrolling in a university.
I would like
to take the chance to thank the priests who
have been my superiors and formators. Some of the
priests who welcomed me in Rome in 1977 were
in the Mass of the Holy Spirit with which we
began the General Chapter. I am still moved that
they remain firm and faithful 37 years later.
What passage of Sacred Scripture most inspires you or helps
Fr. Eduardo: I don’t like to single out things that
I most like or that have helped me the
most. But one that has always stood out to me
is the passage from Jeremiah that I put on
my ordination card: “Before I formed you in the
womb I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5) This passage has
marked my life. I am here because God called
me to be here. In addition, I am very fond
of the passage in Gethsemane, in which Jesus Christ
has to struggle with himself: “Take this cup away
from me, but not what I will but what you
will.” (Mark 14:36).
In fact, when the Cardinal asked
me if I accepted, I did not respond “I accept”
but “I obey.” I was obeying God above all,
represented by the supreme authority of the Legion, which
is the General Chapter. I do so trusting in
God who, by means of the General Chapter, has
called me to follow him.
Fr. Benjamin: When you began
to realize that you could end up being the one
who got elected, what went through your mind?
Eduardo: How do you answer that? Before leaving Mexico, someone
told me: “Make sure you come back!” I took
it as a joke. Afterwards, some of the chapter
fathers began to ask me if I would be
willing to accept if I were elected. That’s a good
hint that someone is thinking of you. Others would
ask me how my health is. I told them
that I’m doing okay. That also made me
think that I was an option.
The days of
the chapter began to pass by and, as different topics
came up, I realized that this really was a
possibility. So, I left it in the hands of
Jesus Christ and of the Virgin Mary.
Fr. Benjamin: Now
that you mention the Blessed Virgin, what role has Mary
played in your priesthood?
Fr. Eduardo: She is always
there. I don’t have many devotions, but I do
have a great faith in the presence of God
and of the Virgin Mary in the life of a
priest and in my own life. I can say that
the Blessed Virgin has shown me what unconditional love
means and that I can trust fully in her
The first time that I seriously considered the
vocation in a mature way was in the old Basilica
of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City (the
new one didn’t exist yet). There, while I was praying
to the Blessed Virgin, I realized that God could
be calling me to be a priest.
Fr. Benjamin: Do
you feel that, after the General Chapter, the issues raised
by the Holy See after the apostolic visitation will
be over and done with? Or will there still
be more to do?
Fr. Eduardo: The Chapter marks both
an ending and a new beginning. This is what
many of the chapter fathers feel and that’s how
we have expressed it in the chapter hall. But,
so that it can truly be a new beginning,
it is necessary to put the challenges of the past
in their place. This is why the Chapter decided
to publish a communiqué for the Legionaries, the members
of Regnum Christi and for all those who have
been following our recent history. We can’t erase the past.
We have to learn the lessons, mourn what occurred,
trust in God’s mercy and, like St. Paul, run forward
in pursuit of the goal of reaching Christ.
have made progress in these years, but we cannot
say that the task is completed. The Pope has given
us indications by means of the Pontifical Delegate. We
have to change progressively our way of thinking in
certain areas. This is a continuous conversion. The Church is
holy and at the same time always in need
of reform. We can never say that we are
fully converted as persons, nor fully purified or renewed as
an institution. This is something that the new
government will have to stress in the next few years:
continued purification in which we all take part. We
want it to be a new beginning in which
together we will passionately seek to do good to people
and help them get to know the love of
Christ and his mercy.
Fr. Benjamin: You are the successor
of Fr. Alvaro Corcuera and, in a way, of Fr.
Syvester Heereman as well. Do you have anything to
say to them?
Fr. Eduardo: I have a great friendship
with Fr. Alvaro that has lasted many years. We
entered consecrated life in Regnum Christi together in 1975,
but we had known each other even before that.
Together with that friendship, I would like to express
respect and admiration and, for these past years, a
sense of gratitude. His example of goodness and warmth
towards everyone moves me.
I have had a lot
of work related interaction with Fr. Sylvester in these last
few months, especially since I began to be territorial
director last August. I admire his clarity of mind and
his courage. I hope that together in the
central government we can serve the Legion in this time
of renewal and simulate the apostolates for the good
of the Church.
Fr. Benjamin: You have worked in
Spain, Brazil and Mexico. What have you learned from these
Fr. Eduardo: I’ve never really thought about what I
learned in each country I’ve worked in. I try
to be optimistic and content wherever I have to
be in a given moment.
In Spain I lived my
first two years of priestly ministry. There I learned what
it is to serve as a priest and a
confessor. It was very enriching to experience the mercy
of God and be his instrument.
In Brazil, I
had to found [the Movement’s presence there]. There wasn’t anything
when the first Legionaries got there. There I realized
how difficult it is to begin a Regnum Christi
section and works of apostolate from scratch. In 1989,
only God knows how many hours I put into
the groundwork to start our first school. I never saw
it materialize, but I did the paperwork. I have
very warm memories of Brazil. Some of the fathers
in Mexico would laugh at me since I talked
about Brazil so frequently. They ask me if I want
to go back. It’s a country with a vibrant Church,
a very great faith. As well, since it
is the country with the most Catholics in the world,
it is a place where the Legion has a
role to play. We have much to learn from
the Brazilian spirit, a happy spirit with which they live
the joy of the faith.
I have lived
in Italy. Though I have not lived in other
European countries, I have lived with Legionaries from many of
these countries. They greatly enrich our family. I
couldn’t leave out a mention of the United States
and Canada, which have a very important part to play
within the Church. I hope to be able to
get to know these places, from which we have
so much to learn.
Fr. Benjamin: How did you realize
that God was calling you to be a Legionary priest?
Fr. Eduardo: It is complicated to identify precise moments. In
the Movement, little by little I found a personal
relationship with Our Lord. Little by little, he called
me more and more. At some point, I developed a
sense that God was calling me to the Legion.
There were two years of inner struggle, of searching,
of ups and downs. In prayer, spiritual direction and contact
with other Legionaries, among whom was the founder, I
received the grace of saying “Yes” to God’s invitation.
Fr. Benjamin: One of the principal points of the Legion
is education. You have directed several schools. What can
you tell us about Regnum Christi’s apostolate in this field?
Eduardo: The Church has always been concerned with education. Pope
Benedict XVI spoke of the “emergency of education”. Education
is the cultivation of the mind, of the intelligence,
of the spirit. In Regnum Christi, at times, we have
expressed the experience of Christ as knowing, loving and
following Jesus Christ. In a school you have a chance
to offer the part of the teaching of the
faith, the first experience of the faith outside the
home, so that students can love Jesus Christ and so
that God can be someone present in their lives.
In the Catholic Church, we find religious persons who
believe in God. But it’s not always a God that
has much to do with day to day life.
It’s not always a Christ who fills and gives
meaning to life. In a Catholic school, in a
Regnum Christi school, you can really have this experience.
My own life is connected with Jesus Christ, whom
I got to know not only in my family, but
also in Regnum Christi institutions.
Here I would
like to say “thank you” for the work of so
many Legionaries, consecrated men and women and lay people
who dedícate themselves to educating young people, children, families.
There is much to be done, but it is
beautiful to see what God has accomplished in people because
of the efforts of these brothers and sisters of
ours. Your dedication moves me.
Fr. Benjamin: In the past
few years, there are priest and brothers in formation who
have left the Legion. What are your feelings towards
Fr. Eduardo: I send a warm greeting to the
priests and brothers who have left the Legion. They
have carried out a discernment, seen at a certain
point that, in their conscience they could not continue
in the Legion. We have to respect the decision
they have made. I also believe that those of
us who follow Christ in the Legion and those who
follow him along a different path have much in
common. We should pray for each other.
have passed through my life. I have been the superior
of some. I have worked together with some. Whenever someone
leaves, you feel a certain sadness. The truth is
that I love them and continue to consider them
my friends and brothers. I send a greeting to all
and ask them for a prayer.
Fr. Benjamin: With
everything that has happened in the Legion in the past
few years, would you recommend to a young man
who is discerning that he join the Legion?
I believe that the Legion of Christ is going through
a period of renewal, of purification. It’s had
an institutional crisis. Being in an institution like this
offers certain guarantees to one who joins. Why? We are
not a congregation that is marked by success, but
by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and
the cross of our own weakness. Someone who wants
to join will find a congregation that wants to live
out the following of Jesus Christ, in fidelity to
the Catholic Church. I think that, in this sense, a
young man could find this place satisfactory.
Would you like to send a message to the Legionaries
and Regnum Christi members? What do you hope for
from us in the next six years?
I accepted the election as general director because I
have a lot of trust. I trust, not only
in God and the Church, but I also trust people:
Legionaries of Christ, consecrated men and women, the members
of Regnum Christi. They are giving themselves in the state
of life to which God has called them. If
I had thought that I were alone, I would
not have been able to accept.
What do I hope
for from the Legionaries? I hope that they
will continue working enthusiastically, collaborating, giving of themselves. We
are in this together. I’ve been given the task
of leading, along with the general council, but we
are in this together. We are all rowing together. We
are all working. We are all loving Christ.
have a stimulating challenge in front of us, the
challenge of unity: internal unity within the Legion, unity
and collaboration with the consecrated men and women of
Regnum Christi in our shared mission and unity with all
the members of the Movement. In these years we
can look forward to chances to exercise patience, fortitude
and innovative charity. It’s what Christ wants: “May they be
one.” Only in this way can we serve the
Church and Regnum Christi well.
What do I
want? What I learned when I joined Regnum
Christi in 1972: that Christ may reign in the hearts
of everyone. What we want is that getting to know
Christ will bring people fullness in their lives, that
more people will meet the Lord and thus families,
workplaces and society as a whole will begin to be
transformed. I hope that Christ fills us with love,
enthusiasm and hope.
Fr. Benjamin: Thank you very much for