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00Tuesday, June 16, 2009 12:41 AM
The procession of the Holy
By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome

On Thursday evening, June 11 — the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which is celebrated on Sunday (today) in the United States, Australia, and a number of other countries — Pope Benedict XVI, after driving in a car from the Vatican across Rome to St. John Lateran, celebrated Mass on the square in front of the basilica (photo), then led a Eucharistic procession to the basilica of St. Mary Major.

Today, in Belarus, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz led a similar procession for four and a half hours through the streets of Minsk, accompanied by some 10,000 Catholic faithful, despite a steady rain.

The ceremony of a public eucharistic procession has in recent decades become less common, but these two processions, and many others elsewhere, suggest the return of this manifestation of popular eucharistic piety in the public squares of the world.

In his homily, Pope Benedict commented on the words pronounced by priests at the moment of consecration: "This is My Body... This is My Blood."

Addressing his remarks to priests, the Holy Father said: "Becoming the Eucharist: let this be our constant desire and commitment!

"So that the offer of the Body and Blood of the Lord we make upon the altar may be accompanied by the sacrifice of our own lives.

"Every day we draw from the Body and Blood of the Lord the free and pure love that makes us worthy ministers of Christ and witnesses to His joy. What the faithful expect from a priest is the example of authentic devotion to the Eucharist. They like to see him spend long periods of silence and adoration before Jesus, as did the saintly 'Cure of Ars' whom we will especially recall during the imminent Year for Priests."

The Pope continued: "Aware that, because of sin, we are inadequate, yet needing to nourish ourselves from the love the Lord offers us in the Eucharistic Sacrament, this evening we renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Such faith must not be taken for granted!"

He added: "Today there is a risk of insidious secularization, even inside the Church. This could translate into a formal but empty Eucharistic worship, in celebrations lacking that involvement of the heart which finds expression in veneration and respect for the liturgy.

"There is always a strong temptation to reduce prayer to superficial and hurried moments, allowing ourselves to be overcome by earthly activities and concerns," he warned.

"With the Eucharist, heaven comes down to earth, God's tomorrow descends into the present moment and time is, as it were, embraced by divine eternity."

After Mass, the Pope presided at the Eucharistic procession along Rome's Via Merulana to the basilica of St. Mary Major. Along the route, thousands of faithful prayed and sang accompanying the Blessed Sacrament. A covered vehicle transported the Sacrament in a monstrance, before which the Holy Father knelt in prayer (photo).

Benedict did not hide his joy at being able to accompany the Blessed Sacrament along the path to St. Mary Major; he invited the faithful to raise up this prayer: "Stay with us, Christ, give to us the gift of yourself and give us the bread that nourishes us for eternal life. Free this world from the venom of evil, of violence and of hate, which contaminate consciences; purify this world with the power of your merciful love."


Today, in Belarus, generally regarded as one of the most strictly-controlled, authoritarian states in the world, a similar procession followed Archbishop Kondrusiewicz.

"It was raining, but there were a lot of people," Kondrusiewicz told me a few minutes ago by telephone. "The official estimates are from seven to ten thousand people, and I am sure they are not exaggerated. We began with Mass at the cathedral, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, then we walked to Victory Square, where there is an eternal flame, then to the Square of the October Revolution, then to the so-called 'Red Church' of St. Simon and Elena, then back to the cathedral again. We had no problem receiving government approval to process through the main streets of the city."

The Catholic Church in Belarus has very good relations with the government, Kondrusiewicz (photo), who previously was the archbishop in Moscow from 1991 until September, 2007, said.

He noted that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was treated as if he were a head of state when he visited Belarus one year ago, in June 2008.

On that visit, Bertone met with President Alexandr Lukashenko and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Head of the Council of Religious Affairs. (Bottom photo above: BelarusForeign Minister Sergei Martynov with Cardinal Bertone in Minsk, June 19, 2008)

Cardinal Bertone was on an official visit for talks with government, Catholic and Orthodox leaders in the country.

Bertone was even invited to deliver an address to the State University, something very unusual for a religious leader. (In fact, some six months later, Kondrusiewicz was invited to deliver a lecture there as well.)

After the country's majority faith, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism is respected as the second important traditional religion in the country.
Last year, Lukashenko, in Bertone's presence, highlighted that Belarus is respectful of the right to religious freedom. Bertone thanked Lukashenko for his words, and offered the Church's support for Belarus in its role as a bridge between East and West.

"I am very happy," Kondrusiewicz told us. "But I need to build churches! And my curia! I need to build 15 or 20 churches in the coming years, for my 300,000 Catholics in Minsk. The government has given me permission to build the churches, which is the first and biggest hurdle. Now, I must build them. A small chapel costs about $400,000 to build. You have to organize your readers to build one church for me! When the churches are built, I will put up a plaque, thanking all those who have contributed!"

Kondrusiewicz, who spent 16 years in Moscow, said he has not been back to the Russian capital since his transfer. I asked him if it had been difficult for him to leave after so many years.

"When I went to Moscow from Belarus in 1991, they asked me the same question," Kondrusiewicz said. "Look, I am a soldier of the Church. I serve the Holy Father. I do not go where I want to go, and I do not stay where I want to stay. I am under orders. And this is my happiness — to carry out those orders, to the best of my ability, believing that this is what God wants from me, and nothing else."

00Tuesday, June 16, 2009 3:15 PM

Mons. Fellay talks about
forthcoming events

By Kris Dmytrenko

TORONTO, Canada, JUNE 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- An announcement that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will now oversee discussions with the Society of St. Pius X is imminent, says the society's general superior.

Bishop Bernard Fellay revealed to ZENIT that the congregation told him to expect the publication of a statement issued "motu proprio" (on his own initiative) by Benedict XVI on the new structure of Ecclesia Dei before June 20.

The bishop confirmed that he met June 5 with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During a visit today to Toronto, the general superior explained that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, established precisely to oversee the process of healing the society's separation from the Church, will remain a distinct entity within the Church's dicastery for doctrinal matters.

"According to what we have heard," noted the bishop, "most probably, one of the monsignors of the congregation will be the executive head of Ecclesia Dei. So it will be very tightly united with the congregation."

Along with three other bishops ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988 without Vatican approval, Bishop Fellay had been automatically excommunicated, only to have the penalty lifted in January by Benedict XVI.

The Society of St. Pius X still lacks the canonical status required for the legitimate exercise of ministry, which, according to the Pontiff in a letter sent in March to all the Church's bishops, will only be granted when the society accepts the authority of the Second Vatican Council, along with the magisterial teachings of popes since the council.

Since 2000, the pontifical commission has been led by Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, whom Bishop Fellay describes as "very friendly" to the society. The bishop shared that, even after his June 5 meeting with Cardinal Levada, he remains unsure how the expected changes will affect negotiations with the Vatican.

"I don’t know [Cardinal Levada] enough to really answer the question. […] When we were received it was very courteous. He was gentle. […] I don’t frankly know what and if there will be a real change."

New excommunications

Most pressing for the new Ecclesia Dei leadership will be averting a new series of excommunications. On June 27, Lefebvrite Bishop Alfonso de Galaretta is scheduled to ordain three priests and three deacons in the society's Zaitzkofen seminary in Bavaria, Germany.

Bishop Gerard Muller of Regensburg has warned the society that, until the issue of canonical status is resolved, the ordinations lack proper authorization and would thus merit disciplinary action.

"Our bishop is waiting for Rome to advise on how to respond," said diocesan spokesperson Jakub Schotz earlier this month. "But it will almost certainly result in excommunication for these priests and the bishop who ordains them." [Quite an assumption to make, considering that no one else in the FSSPX outside the four bishops (and the late Mons. Lefebvre and a departed Brazilian bishop who orained the four bishops) has been excommunicated in all these 20 years!

Also as a common sense consdieration, wasn't Cardinal Levada's meeting with Mons. Fellay the appropriate occasion for the Vatican to haev conveyed to him that the FSSPX should not proceed with more ordinations? Apparently no such warnings were given even if Bishop Mueller reportedly brought the question to the CDF (of which he is a bishop member)].]

Bishop Fellay counters that the Society of St. Pius X already delayed subdiaconate ordinations in Regensburg earlier this year, and that he believes that the Vatican now "has no basic problems" with the upcoming priestly ordinations.

"We cannot just now say, 'stop breathing,'" he argues in defense of the society's continued administration of the sacraments. "We need to breathe. And, definitely, if the Pope was so good to take away the excommunications, that means he doesn’t want us now to die."

The society is planning to proceed with the ordinations, despite Bishop Fellay’s concern that new excommunications could "jeopardize everything" and derail the society’s discussions with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

[Maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, but since there was an earlier report in Der Spiegel (see earler post on this thread) that the Zaitkofen ordination has been 'upgraded' with Mons. Fellay himself to perform the rites, it seems he feels confident enough now of where the FSSPX stands vis-a-vis the Vatican.]

Central to those talks are the society's unambiguous condemnations of the Second Vatican Council, particularly in reference to the council’s affirmations of religious liberty, ecumenism and the separation of Church and state.

While the Swiss-born superior general prefers to resolve these doctrinal issues before he accepts canonical status in the Church, he insists that he is open to reaching a provisional compromise position with the Vatican.

"If Rome gives us enough guarantee, so to say, of survival, I think probably we would certainly consider it," he said. "We have no problem with the Church recognizing us, of course."

* * *

Kris Dmytrenko is an associate producer of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Television Network. Salt and Light will air an exclusive interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay on the Sunday, June 28, episode of Witness, hosted by Basilian Father Thomas Rosica.

00Tuesday, June 16, 2009 7:07 PM

Cardinal Zen gives the first comprehensible overview I have yet read of the confusing back-and-forth of relations among the Vatican and the Chinese government, and the official and underground Churches in China.

Cardinal Zen says
'Time to carry out Pope's letter -
whatever the cost'

by Gianni Criveller

HONGKONG, June 16 (AsiaNews) – In an impassioned dialogue with AsiaNews, Cardinal Joseph Zen says the time has come for the Chinese Church and the Holy See to stop accepting any form of compromise with the Beijing regime and to put into real effect the indications set out by Benedict XVI in his Letter, to safeguard the religious freedom of the Church.

Cardinal Zen, Archbishop Emeritus of Hong Kong (he retired last
April), is concerned above all by the 'official' Church's transparent submission to the Patriotic Association, which constitutes a “slap in the face” to the Pope and the clear directives that he indicated in his Letter to Chinese Catholics two years ago.

The prelate qualifies the importance of seeking diplomatic relations at all costs between Beijing and the Holy See, saying this risks being a mere illusion if there is no religious freedom in the nation.

The text that we publish today is part of a long interview that AsiaNews will publish in the August- September edition of its monthly magazine.

In this excerpt, Cardinal Zen recalls the commitment of the Church and the Holy See to reconciling the two Catholic communities in China (the official and non-official, or underground church) and he speaks of his future as a teacher in Hong Kong, but above all in constant contact with Christians in China.

Eminence, tells us about your commitment to religious freedom for the Church in China.

Since the late ‘70’s to the early ‘80’s, many people have been committed to the Church in China. And what happened was that the reality of the Church in China slowly began to be reflected outside China.

In other words, the division between the so-called open and official Church and the underground church created, at least at first, two different positions, both in Hong Kong and in the Holy See. Here in Hong Kong – I am speaking about the early years after the opening up – those who helped the Church in China fell into two groups. There were those who supported the underground community and were almost hostile to the official community, and on the contrary, those who sympathised with the official Church and looked with suspicion upon the underground community.

People who were well connected to the Church in China, who had intimate knowledge of what was taking place, were naturally on the side of the underground church, because it was more faithful to the Church and because it had courageously suffered for the faith. They viewed the official Church with suspicion, judging it to have given itself up to the government.

But a certain number of people in Hong Kong who were not familiar with China, or young missionaries who had never worked in China, were easily enthused by what there saw during their brief trips to China: open churches, congregations singing etc….. Therefore they were heartened by the freedom that they believed to be real.

As a result they accused the underground Church of stubbornness, unwilling to accept a new reality.

This was also the case within the Holy See: it is widely known that in the past there was friction between the Secretary of State, which tends towards mediation to re-establish diplomatic relations, and Propaganda Fide [Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples], which instead aims to ensure for the Church in mission lands a free and real ecclesial life.

After some years of exchange between the Chinese and Universal Churches, above all, thanks to those of us who went there to teach, we saw that the official Church was not in any way schismatic or separate. We realised that it is the government that is keeping it artificially separate from Rome.

The people, in their hearts, have preserved the Catholic faith, like the rest of us. And thus a little at a time the two positions drew closer. This is true of the Holy See and Hong Kong. Of course there are those few groups who still like to polarize the situation, and who are only on one side or the other.

We could say that as the Universal Church became more familiar with the concrete reality, it began to accept the so-called official Church. This resulted in the beginning of a recovery process of the faithful of the official Church, with older bishops presenting themselves to the Pope seeking forgiveness and asking to be recognised as bishops.

The Holy See had a very open attitude to this: after necessary investigation and with the consensus of the legitimate underground bishop, it recognised many of the bishops, without ever demanding public announcements of their newly bestowed legitimacy of them.

At the beginning this would have rendered the process of legitimisation very difficult. The Holy See’s tolerance was, to a certain extent, matched by the tolerance of the government. In fact at a certain point, the latter came to know about these events but did not react with hostile acts or the suppression of those bishops who had obtained Rome’s approval.

A second phase was dealt with in the same way, during which young bishops after their election [according to the “democratic” election procedure imposed by the government – ed.] wanted to receive papal approval ahead of their ordination. In this case too the Church was very generous and approved many of them, naturally as long as they were acceptable. And in these cases the government turned a blind eye and did not refuse them for the fact that they had sought Rome’s approval. Therefore there was a period in which there were concessions and compromises so that everything could finally be officially put to rights.

But that never happened: there was no continuity in reflection, we pushed ahead inertly, without necessary meditation and without ever trying to really improve the situation.

Now we have arrived at a point in which it is no longer right or possible to accept further compromise. The moment is mature for a new chapter to begin. The Pope’s Letter to the Catholics of China (2007) must mark this new beginning.

In fact the Pope spoke very clearly about the principles that must guide this new phase in the life of the Church in China[1]. Unfortunately over the past two years this move towards greater transparency has not taken place. In fact it seems to me that we are worryingly sliding down the slope of compromise.

The most disturbing episode, which goes against everything indicated by the pope, is the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first illegitimate consecrations in 1958. This really worries me: it appears almost impossible to stop the shape events are taking.

I truly am frightened by the prospect of the possibl'e Assembly of the Catholic Church in China'. Should that meeting, as I fear it will, succeed in securing the participation of many bishops and priests, it would mean the end. I repeat: it would mean the complete waste of all the efforts made in the previous years and it would be an insult to the Holy Father. Yes, it would be a slap in the face, because it would mean completely ignoring his Letter.

Who is responsible for the failed implementation of the directives contained in the Holy Father’s Letter?

Certainly in China, they tried to do everything to block the Pope’s Letter. But I also believe that the Holy See should have given greater support to the Letter. The Holy See should have carried on implementing the Pope’s directive for transparency for a greater length of time.

[Who, exactly, is working for the interests of the Holy See inside China, officially or unofficially?????]

Last January you wrote an editorial for the Catholic press in Hong Kong in which you asked China’s official bishops to have the same virtues as Saint Stephan, the first martyr, and not to submit to the will of the State when it is contrary to the faith. You have asked them to “stand their ground” and resist pressure from the Patriotic Association, to remain faithful to the pope [2].

The point that I am making, as laid out in the article that I wrote in January, may seem somewhat cruel, because to some it may seem that I am calling for martyrdom.

Martyrdom is not something we can choose. If a situation calls for martyrdom, there will be the Grace of the Lord that will give us strength. Martyrdom is not the fruit of our own initiative, but if the circumstance so requires, then we must be ready for martyrdom, there is no choice.

If the circumstance requires martyrdom, but the person subtracts himself from it, then it means that he is reneging on the witness of the faith that is his duty to offer.

The phrase “stand your ground” may seem brutal, but we must be clear, we must be firm. The other option is surrender. We do not have the right to surrender. We must stand firm in the faith.

On many occasions the Pope has said that we must stand firm in the principals of the faith, even if at first we appear to fail. Unfortunately some believe that we can renounce a part of our faith in order to be able to evangelise. But this is absurd, that is why I ask: but what Gospel are you talking about? A reduced Gospel? Of a discounted Gospel?

What are your thoughts on dialogue between the Holy See and China and the possibility of future diplomatic relations?

At times too much importance is given to diplomatic relations; they alone do not rectify everything. In fact sometimes they can deceive by giving the false impression that religious freedom exists. The most important thing is religious freedom, which certainly can be facilitated by diplomatic relations. But it is not necessarily true that when there is one there is the other.

Therefore you cannot have relations as your sole aim without ensuring real freedom. Currently the establishment of diplomatic ties appears improbable given that relations between Beijing and Taipei are greatly improved.

So to save face in front of Ma Yingjiou (the president of Taiwan) Beijing is in no rush for relations with the Vatican, which would mean a breaking off in relations between the Vatican and Taiwan.

It seems there is tacit reciprocal that Beijing will allow Taiwan to maintain its relations with a series of small States, whereas up until recently it pursued a campaign of taking these states from under Taiwan’s nose by offering economic concessions. Currently there is an armistice on this point.

Your plans for the future....

I said that I desired to leave the office of the diocese in order to withdraw and concentrate on service to China. This is why the Holy Father made me cardinal. I felt that it was impossible to do both well. I would receive many letters and people, but I could not follow the details of every diocese in China well. I could not keep up.

I would read the letters and put them aside, I would receive a guest (from China), say what I thought was right, but then it would finish there - I was not able to go any further. Now I hope to be able to do more.

This is my main aim: become better informed about the Church in China and each diocese in particular, thereby I will be in a better position to give advice. Right now I feel I am informed about the Church in China in a general sense, not about each single diocese. Many problems are on a single diocesan level.

Moreover because my previous work was in seminary formation, I would very willingly continue this work which is not incompatible with my work in China. This is why when Msgr. Tong asked me to help in teaching and seminary life, I was happy to accept.

Equally I would have willingly withdrawn altogether, to leave a clear field, perhaps to go to a Salesian college in Africa where they are in need of teachers. But I must remember that I am 77 years old, I do not know how much longer I will be able to carry on. I hope that my health will hold for a few more years still. And then when I am no longer able to serve, I will retire to a Salesian home.

[1] Ref. dossier AsiaNews.it: Pope's letter to the Church in China.
[2] Ref CERVELLERA B., “The bishop of Beijing and compromise with the Patriotic Association”, in AsiaNews, February 2009, pp. 27-30. Ref.: AsiaNews.it, 03/01/2009 Cardinal Zen asks Chinese bishops for more courage and 03/02/09 The bishop of Beijing, the Vatican and compromising with the Patriotic Association

If Cardinal Zen - who appears to be the best informed Church official about the situation of the Church in China - says he does not have enough information on a diocesan level, then who does? Do the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for Bishops and/or Propaganda Fide get any reports from the individual dioceses at all? If not, why not?

There has to be an institutional system set up for the Vatican to monitor the Church in China, both official and underground, rather than simply relying on someone like Cardinal Zen, who, with all his contacts, cannot operate as a one-man mission!

In effect, all that we, the interested public, know about the situation of the 'Church in China' is isolated patches of an unknown beast as in the fable of the blind man trying to recognize an elephant simply by what he can touch of it!

00Tuesday, June 16, 2009 9:48 PM

Cathedral of Saint Paul
designated a National Shrine

MINNEAPOLIS-ST.PAUL, Minnesota - The Vatican has designated the Cathedral of Saint Paul to be the first national shrine in honor of the Apostle Paul.

This special distinction was granted by the Office of the Holy See and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, following a request by The Most Rev. John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

This will be the first national shrine in the State of Minnesota and the only national shrine in North America dedicated to honor Saint Paul.

According to canon (church) law, “The term shrine signifies a church or other sacred place to which the faithful make pilgrimages for a particular pious reason with the approval of the local ordinary (bishop).”

Those wishing to participate more fully in the life of the National Shrine can become members of the Archconfraternity of the Apostle Paul.

Tens of thousands of people, particularly tourists, already visit the Cathedral of Saint Paul every year. Bus loads of children also come to learnabout the role of the Mother Church of the Archdiocese. The number of visitors is expected to increase significantly as a result of this designation as a national shrine dedicated to Saint Paul.

Over the decades, the Cathedral developed as a catechism in stone and glass by evangelizing through its grandeur and beauty.

The patron Saint Paul is particularly honored through a series of bronze grills that depict major events in his life, from his conversion to his martyrdom.

The Shrine of the Nations, which features patron saints of ethnic groups from Europe who settled the area, serves as a reminder that the work of the Apostle to the Gentiles continues through every age.

Welcome words

The Cathedral of Saint Paul is one of the largest and most historic churches in the United States. Its architectural grandeur and prominent site make it an integral part of the landscape of the capital city of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St.Paul — whose name derives from the title of this great building.

The Cathedral is rightly listed as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is a treasure for all Americans and one that we can proudly compare to the great cathedrals of Europe.

As a monument, the Cathedral is a destination for people of all beliefs. We respect and welcome people who may not share our faith in Jesus Christ. The transcendence of this sacred place encourages the best in all of us and shows us that beautiful dreams can come true. We are committed to engaging our fellow citizens in a dialogue as to how people of faith may contribute to the common good of our society.

As the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the Cathedral serves as the spiritual center of its approximately 700,000 members.

Here the most important moments in the Archdiocese's life take place, such as ordinations and the welcoming of a new archbishop. And at any time, this is a place where all Catholics may come to pray or participate in our many vibrant programs.

As a parish, the Cathedral is the primary spiritual home of nearly 2,500 families. Thus it is a living community of faith which tries hard to welcome some 200,000 visitors whom we receive each year. We pray that this website may encourage you to visit us in person.


One of the most distinctive cathedrals in the United States, the now N ational Shrine of St. Paul sits on Cathedral Hill overlooking downtown St Paul and features a distinctive copper-clad dome. The current building opened in 1915 as the fourth cathedral of the archdiocese to bear this name.

The design was inspired by French Renaissance architecture. The dome of the cathedral is 76 feet (23 m) in diameter and 186 feet (57 m) high. Warm-colored paint and gold leaf were added during a major renovation of the dome in the 1950s.

The exterior walls of the cathedral are Rockville granite from St. Cloud, Minnesota. The interior walls are American Travertine from Mankato, Minnesota. The interior columns are made of several types of marble.

The interior is illuminated by twenty-four stained glass windows featuring angelic choirs.

The life of Saint Paul is honored in the bronze baldachin, as well as massive bronze Te Deum and Magnificat grilles.

The cathedral also has six chapels dedicated to the patron saints of the European ethnic groups that settled the area around the city: St. Anthony for the Italians, St. John the Baptist for the French Canadians, St. Patrick for the Irish, St. Boniface for the Germans, Saints Cyril and Methodius for the Slavs; and St. Therese of Lisieux for the missionaries.

There are also chapels dedicated to the Sacred Heart, to Mary, the mother of Jesus and to St. Joseph, her husband, as well as to Saint Peter.

iN 1974, The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

00Wednesday, June 17, 2009 1:38 PM
TERESA BENEDETTA, 09.06.2009 17:52:

After Fellay-Levada meeting last Friday,
are doctrinal talks with FSSPX set to start?

The take-home message I get from Mons. Fellay's visit to the Vatican on Friday - besides it being a sign that a start has been made towards those all-important doctrinal talks - is that German bishops Mueller and Zollitsch had better take back their condemnations of planned new priestly ordinations by the FSSPX.

What could have been a better occasion to 'put Mons. Fellay in his place' if the Vatican opposed the ordinations at all? Because, surely, in the unlikely eventuality that it intended to stop the ordinations, both the Vatican and the FSSPX would have made an announcemnt to that effect - and there would have been a great big howl of protest from the FSSPX!

At last...and long overdue...

What do you say now Teresa?

00Wednesday, June 17, 2009 5:10 PM

From my starter-post for the day in BENEDICT XVI news:


Here is a translation of a communique from the Vatican Press Office today:

In response to frequent questions these days regarding the priestly ordinations of the Fraternity of St. Pius X scheduled for the end of June, we refer to what the Holy Father said in his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church last March 10:

As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church... Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

The ordinations are therefore still considered illegitimate.

Int he same letter, the Pope announced his intention for a new status of the Ecclesia Dei Commission which will be attached to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

There is reason to believe that the definition of this new status is imminent. This will constitute the premise for opening dialog with the responsible officials of the FSSPX towards the desired clarification of doctrinal questions - and any consequent disciplinary questions - which remain open.

[In other words, nothing has changed so far. Life will go on for the FSSPX as it has for the past 22 years, and they will continue their ordinations, knowing full well the canonical implications, as they always have. And the Vatican has not expressly prohibited them from going on, nor has it threatened a new excommunication, as the German bishops did!]

P.S. I would still refer to the Holy Father's March 10 letter to thw bishops, in which he is clear about doctrinal and canonical considerations (as in the paragraph cited in the Vatican communique today), which continue as before the January 21 decree, as well as the spirit of charity with which he is trying to repair the virtual schism of the FSSPX, as in these words:

Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful? Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church? I think for example of the 491 priests...

The Pope did not use the word 'priests' with quotation marks or say 'so-called priests' or 'illegitimate priests' - and that is because, as with the priests of China who were ordained by bishops who were 'illegitimately' ordained, the sacraments continue to be valid even if the ordained ministers are not legitimate.

The whole purpose of the upcoming doctrinal talks is towards an eventual legitimization of the anomalous canonical status that the FSSPX now has, once there is agreement on the doctrinal issues.

I personally believe that the FSSPX Catholics, if they follow the commandments of God and practice Church liturgy appropriately, are better Catholics and Christians than Catholic liberals who do neither.

P.P.S. The following paragraph comes from the wrap-up story on this episode by Salvatore Izzo, senior Vatican correspondent for the Italian news agency AGI. This is a translation:

But today's communique from the Vatican has another meaning: In fact, it rejects the call for new excommunications and confirms the desire of the Pope to get the theological dialog with the FSSPX under way as soon as possible with the intention of bringing back the FSSPX into full communion and allow their juridical re-integration into the Catholic Church.

Surprisngly, the AP story about this stated the canonical situation in clear and accurate terms. It would have been clearer if it had explicitly stated that the canonical situation of the FSSPX, even after the bishops' ecommunication was lifted, remains status quo ante.

Vatican: FSSPX ordinations
are valid but illicit


VATICAN CITY, June 17 (AP) -- Priest ordinations planned by an ultraconservative group won't be legitimate even though Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunications of the organization's leaders, the Vatican said Wednesday.

The Vatican issued a statement reiterating that the schismatic Society of St. Pius X still has no status within the Catholic church and that its clergymen do not legitimately exercise any ministry.

The Vatican in 1988 excommunicated the society's four bishops after they were consecrated without papal consent by the late traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Lefebvre founded the society in 1969, opposed to the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council and especially its outreach to Jews and other religions.

Benedict in January lifted the bishops' excommunications in a bid to bring the dissidents back into the church. But the move sparked outrage among Jews and Catholics since one of the prelates, Bishop Richard Williamson, had denied the Holocaust.

Benedict subsequently made a rare acknowledgment of a Vatican mistake, saying in a March letter to Catholic bishops worldwide that he was unaware of Williamson's positions when he lifted the excommunications. In the letter, Benedict noted that the society had no legal status within the church and that its priests didn't legitimately exercise any ministry.

The Vatican reiterated those points Wednesday in response to the society's announcement earlier this month that it planned to ordain three priests and three deacons on June 27 at a seminary in southern Germany.

Any ordinations by the group "must be considered illegitimate," the Vatican said.

German bishops had urged the Vatican to intervene against what they called a provocation prior to difficult reconciliation talks between the two sides.

The Church considers the society's ordinations are "valid but illicit." They are valid because Lefebvre was a validly ordained bishop in the Catholic Church, and thus could validly ordain others.

But because Lefebvre was suspended in 1976, he had no authority from the Pope to consecrate bishops, meaning their consecrations were illicit, or illegal in the Church's eyes. Subsequent ordinations the group carries out are similarly considered "valid but illicit."

Wednesday's Vatican statement also said the Pope would take another step to absorb the Vatican office that has handled the Lefebvre case, the Pontifical "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The commission, charged with healing the schism with the society, has been at the center of the criticism on how the case was handled since it apparently never knew about Williamson's views, which had been published in the mainstream media.

The Congregation will now oversee planned theological talks with the society in hopes of reabsorbing it into the church.

00Thursday, June 18, 2009 12:11 AM

Thanks to New Catholic at

who has translated a statement from the FSSPX's Sacred Heart Seminaary in Zaitzkofen, near Regensburg. Apparently, the statement was posted on their site before the Vatican communique:

FSSPX seminary issues statement
about coming ordinations

The Seminary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, regarding the Ordinations to the priesthood planned for 27 June, 2009, declares the following:

1. These ordinations are bestowed with the intention of serving the Catholic Church. We bestow these priestly ordinations because we wish to express our unity with the Church of Rome. This unity consists of the same doctrine, the same sacraments, and the holy sacrifice of the Mass of all times.

The newly ordained priests, as well as all of the members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, recognize the office of the Pope and the authority of the Church.

Just as all other clergy of the Fraternity, the candidates for ordination will pray by name for the reigning Pope as well as the local Ordinary - an expression of solidarity, which the Fraternity has practiced since its founding more than 30 years ago.

We do not want a parallel Church, but instead wish to preserve the incalculable treasure of Catholic Tradition within the one true Catholic Church.

2. When Rome, on January 21, 2009, repealed the decree of excommunication that had been declared against the 4 bishops of the fraternity [the number includes the ordaning bishops, Mons. Marcel Lefebvre and a Barazilian bishop, who have since died], the Holy Father surely intended it as a provision of life, and not of death.

The generous gesture was primarily intended to be a confidence-building measure for the coming theological discussions with representatives of the Holy See, in which, through difficult negotiations, the difficulties which still remain will presumably be eliminated.

3. An emergency requires and justifies corresponding emergency measures. Is there an emergency in the Church today? We refer to an appendix attached to this declaration, in which representative statements from popes, cardinals, bishops, and theologians are documented.

Pope Paul VI, for example, speaks of the "self-destruction of the Church", Pope John Paul II speaks of "silent apostasy".

Additionally we give two numerical examples: In 1950 in Germany, 13 million Catholics regularly attended Sunday Mass. Today it is less than 2 million - a reduction of more than 85 percent. The number of priestly ordinations in German dioceses in 2008 reached a record low of less than 100.

It is a question of the existence or the dissolution of Christianity in Europe.

Should the ordination of these new priests, who have been formed on the solid foundations of Catholic tradition and who are so necessary for the survival of the Church, be postponed?

Instead, as true vocations become more and more uncommon, should we not with great devotion thank God for the grace of such vocations? There can be no talk of an insult to the unity of the Church and most certainly, not of a rebuff of the outstretched hand of the Holy Father, for whom we pray daily.

4. The bishops, in their fury, continuously invoke canon law. But consider an analogy: a valuable building is burning down, a group of courageous young men rushes to the blaze to extinguish the fire, or at least to contain it and then afterwards to begin with the rebuilding. But they are detained by law enforcement for having exceeded the speed limit.

Isn't the last canon of the 1983 code of canon law still valid today, according to which the highest law of the Church is the salvation of souls?

5. Since the current problems are not of a disciplinary nature, the discussion has to be conducted at an entirely different level; in particular, at the level of faith.

When Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter to the bishops of March 10, 2009, made the dramatic declaration that the faith is in danger of being extinguished in many parts of the world, is it not urgent that we together make every effort to ascertain the causes of this crisis of faith and to utilize the means at our disposal to remedy this crisis?

In this spirit we renew our readiness to engage in dialogue with the German bishops in an atmosphere of peace and intellectual honesty, far removed from all polemics and unhelpful accusations.

Zaitzkofen, June 13, 2009
Father Stefan Frey, Rector of the Seminary

00Thursday, June 18, 2009 12:43 PM
Found this by accident

Some of you may already have seen this site. I found it by accident while trying to access Felici Foto [which is down, this morning]. How could anyone suggest that Papa Benedetto condones the marital state of Sarkozy and Carla Bruni? HE DOES NOT!!!! He could not have been so rude as to refuse to meet the president of France and his [supposed] wife. I really dislike sites like this. [SM=g7707]

I have to say I so much preferred the Jordanian example: King Abdullah and his wife, Queen Rania and their four lovely children. What a difference!
00Thursday, June 18, 2009 7:24 PM
Mary...So you have stumbled on to that site! It's run by far-out traditionalists who consider any Pope after Pius XII heretical,
so their thing is to cite as many instances they can of actions, statements and photographs of the 'heretical' Popes to prove their point.... Sometimes, they do come upon some unusual pictures, like their recent series of photos showing Karol Wojtyla in camping situations as a young priest when he is weating shorts, etc. (he was heretical because of that and because he was photographed with women! - that's their kind of shtick!]

Everything they say is outrageous, so what they said about the Pope and the Sarkozys is par for their course.

00Thursday, June 18, 2009 11:24 PM
I mistakenly posted a CNS story about Mons. Augustine Di Noia here yesterday, and have now transferred it to PEOPLE AROUND THE POPE where it more properly belongs. I am replacing it with this item from John Allen, who posted other columns earlier this week on the spring meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Two of those made it clear that the USCCB as a group was not going to do any serious follow-up to the Notre Shame outrage - such as moving to take off Notre Dame University from the list of Catholic institutions of learning.

So, as courageous as it was of the 83 bishops who publicly opposed Notre Shame's granting of an honorary degree to a fully unabashed pro-abortion President like Barack Obama, they do represent just about one-third of active diocesan US Catholic bishops. Quite a way to go for the American bishops in terms of faithfulness to Catholic orthodox doctrine and practice regarding the inviolate sanctity of human life.

Taking the bishops' temperature
on Obama-Notre Dame

June 19, 2009

I spent much of this week in San Antonio for the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops, where the press gallery was the loneliest corner of the room. Largely because the bishops opted not to put the flap over Notre Dame and President Barack Obama on their public agenda, many media organizations, including every major secular news outlet in the country, took a pass.

In reality, the fact that the Notre Dame-Obama controversy wasn't floated in public merely meant that it was talked about everywhere else.

Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco said on Wednesday that it came up "at breakfast, over coffee and in the hallways," and several bishops reported that the topic surfaced during their private regional meetings Wednesday morning.

Bishops also reported that it came up in Thursday afternoon's closed-door executive session, in the form of a discussion of the conference's 2004 policy statement on engaging figures in political life. (That statement stipulated that Catholic institutions should not honor politicians who hold views contrary to Church teaching, a provision that many bishops felt Notre Dame violated.)

The session was led by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center, chair of the bishops' committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, which is responsible for the document.

I tried to take the bishops' temperature on the Notre Dame controversy, and I came away with four basic impressions about where things stand, and where they might go from here.

The bishops (surprise!) don't all think alike.

One question left hanging in the air from the controversy has been what to make of all the bishops who didn't speak out. To be sure, the number of bishops who came out against the university was extraordinary.

The web site Lifesitenews.com came up with a total of 83, far in excess of the number of bishops who normally take up other hot-button issues, such as communion bans for pro-choice politicians.

Still, there are a total of 425 bishops in the United States, including 258 who are active as diocesan bishops or auxiliaries. So, how should one interpret the silence of the more than 300 prelates who held their tongues?

One thing my time in San Antonio made clear is that at least some of those 300-plus bishops were not entirely on the side of the critics.

"I'm sure the enemies of the church were delighted to see the bishops attacking the country's premier Catholic university, but I wasn't delighted," one bishop told me. He said he was "appalled" by the criticism from some of his brother bishops.

Another prelate pulled me aside to ask why Obama's Catholic critics didn't give him credit for pledging at Notre Dame to respect a "conscience clause," meaning legal protection for health care workers who object to providing abortion services. Yet another bishop said he's concerned that the approach of some of his colleagues vis-à-vis Obama risks becoming "too negative, too narrow, and too partisan."
[Since all the bishops who opposed Notre Dame's action oopposed it on the simple basis of being faithful and consistent with Catholic teaching about the sanctity of life and a specific guideline decreed by the USCCB itself agains honoring politicians who promtoe anti-Catholic values and practices, who is being partisan here but those who think the opposing bishops were being 'partisan' for opposing Obama?]

I have no way of knowing to what extent such views represent a larger body of opinion among the bishops, but I can at least confirm they exist.

Of course, this isn't exactly a shocker. In a group of more than 400 headstrong leaders, there's likely to be more than one view on most matters.

Yet it never fails to confound some people that there are different currents within the conference, perhaps because it makes it more difficult to engage in lazy generalizations about what "the bishops" think.

Sources said that when the bishops got into executive session, some argued that matters such as the Notre Dame affair should be left in the hands of the local bishop, without a scrum of prelates from other parts of the country piling on.

Others complained that when some bishops speak up on an issue and others don't, it allows activist groups to cast various bishops as either heroes or villains.

Still others suggested that the conference needs to consider questions of enforcement when Catholic institutions don't heed directions from the bishops.

When I asked Curry the day before if he felt the bishops were likely to reach a decision in the executive session, he laughed.

"It would be wonderful if we could have a decision that everyone would agree on," he said, "but I doubt very much that everybody is going to come to a consensus at the moment."

Why didn't the moderates speak out?

An obvious question begged by the foregoing is why bishops one might describe as "moderate" on the Notre Dame/Obama controversy weren't willing to speak publicly.

To some extent, the answer is that it always works this way. On virtually every issue in the church, it's easier to find sharply defined voices on either side than in the middle. Moderates believe in collegiality, so they're hesitant to be seen as criticizing brother bishops.

Further, the whole point of being a moderate is to see oneself as a mediator of conflict, not a party to it. When self-described moderates see a fight brewing, their instinct is to not to take sides, but to explain why both have a point.

[Sitting on the fence in this case is an act of cowardice, and 'moderation' is being used as a code word for cowardice.

How can any Catholic bishop dispute the Obama oppositors' 2 main points:- 1) Life is sacred and inviolable from the moment of conception; and 2) Why would you then confer an honor from a Catholic institution on someone who not only does not believe that but has always spoken and acted to promote and defend abortion and abortion rights up to late-term abortions?

Faith is about consistency - you believe something or you don't. To wimp out on the basic principle of the sanctity of life is simply unconscionable to any person of faith adn principle, especially if he is a Catholic bishop.]

In the case of the Notre Dame controversy, I suspect two other factors were also in play.

First, Notre Dame didn't just invite Obama to give a speech, but they also awarded him an honorary doctorate. Many bishops saw that as out of step with their 2004 statement, "Catholics in Political Life," which included the language cited above about withholding honors from politicians whose views conflict with church teaching.

(The extent to which its provisions apply to Obama has been debated, since he's not Catholic. Most bishops presume, however, that when it's a question of a moral truth, the principle applies to non-Catholics as well. [Of course! Moral truth does not change whatever your religion is, or lack therof!])

Some bishops said privately that had it not been for the honorary doctorate, they wouldn't have objected to seeing Obama speak at Notre Dame; after all, they say, he's the President of the United States, and the church is obligated to deal with him.

In the abstract, some might have been inclined to see the invitation favorably even with the honorary doctorate, but they felt duty-bound to respect a collegially enacted policy of the conference.

Second, many bishops regard it as a matter of principle that any response to a local dispute, even one with national implications, ought to come from the local bishop, who in this case was Bishop John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Once D'Arcy had expressed his opposition to the Obama event, many bishops would have felt uncomfortable taking a different position, whatever their private views.

During their executive session on Thursday afternoon, there was discussion about issuing a statement of support for D'Arcy, who also made a presentation to the body.

Compounding this point was the impression that D'Arcy, now 76 and on the brink of retirement, was not adequately consulted by Notre Dame.

Since D'Arcy is a widely respected figure, not to mention someone perceived to have gone to great lengths over the years to defend the university, this impression was another reason why some bishops might have hesitated to say anything that could be perceived as unsupportive of him.

One cardinal laughingly put the impact of it all on D'Arcy this way: "That was one hell of a retirement present!"

A paradox for the center-left

Using political categories to evaluate the church is always sloppy, but at a rough-and-ready level, sometimes it can help make sense of things.

Applying that framework to American Catholicism, one might say that the "center-left" in the States has long favored a strong bishops' conference, often accusing the Vatican and/or conservative American bishops of undercutting the authority of the conference.

During the 1980s, hard-hitting documents from the U.S. conference on the economy and on nuclear war were celebrated by progressive-minded Catholics.

Still today, center-left Catholics generally expect strong leadership from the conference on their core concerns, including immigration reform, the death penalty, and opposition to conflicts such as the U.S.-led war in Iraq. If it's not forthcoming in a given case, center-left Catholics often rue the "decline" of the conference.

Yet there's a growing tendency today among moderate-to-progressive Catholics to argue for allowing certain matters to be resolved by individual bishop, rather than seeking a binding national policy.
[Because it's so much easier and more convenient for them to lobby successfully on a local level than on a national level!]

That was the position taken by the center-left during debate over implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, John Paul's document on Catholic higher education, and it's the same position increasingly taken in liturgical disputes.

Famously, the commission led by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick regarding communion bans for pro-choice politicians ended up recommending that the decision be left to the local bishop, an outcome hailed by many on the center-left and blasted by many on the center-right.

On the direct question raised by the Notre Dame controversy -- whether the bishops need a stronger policy governing speakers at Catholic universities -- the dynamics seem likely to play out the same way, with moderate-to-progressives arguing for local flexibility, and conservatives clamoring for a tough national stance.

Obviously, a partial explanation for all this is easy to spot: As the conference has become less likely to adopt positions congenial to the center-left, those Catholics have become less eager for bold leadership from the conference.

So here's the paradox. On the one hand, the center-left can't hold onto an expectation of strong national leadership only on the issues it likes, which may imply gradually declining expectations of the conference.

As enthusiasm for the conference in that camp diminishes, however, so too may commitment to it, suggesting that the historical tendency of center-left bishops to win elections and to hold key positions in the USCCB may abate -- which could clear the way for the center-right to adopt precisely the strong positions that at least some on the center-left might fear.

The $64,000 question for the center-left camp is whether those bishops can figure out a way to argue for local flexibility, while at the same time maintaining a strong investment in the conference. To say the least, it will be interesting to see how that paradox is resolved.

From bishop-as-ruler to bishop-as-teacher

Despite the popular mythology that Catholicism is rigidly centralized, the Notre Dame/Obama affair offered a classic reminder of the limits of episcopal power.

In this case, the combined force of 83 bishops -- including the bishop of the local diocese, the president of the national bishops' conference, and five cardinals -- wasn't even enough to compel a Catholic university to find another commencement speaker.

Like many Catholic universities in America, Notre Dame is sponsored by a religious order and governed by an independent board of directors (consistent with the famous 1967 Land O'Lakes statement), which means that bishops have few direct ways to impose their will.

Further, the decade-long battle over Ex Corde illustrated that casting the relationship principally in terms of power is usually a losing proposition, regardless of the eventual outcome.

[Why there should even be a 'battle' over Magisterium that comes down from the Pope - Ex Corde Ecclesiae was an Apostolic Constitution for Catholic Universities, not just a simple decree - shows the extent to which bishops have mistakenly arrogated too much authority to themselves, over and above the Pope's!]

Going forward, some bishops may want to cast about for new ways of forcing places like Notre Dame to toe the line. One wonders, however, if that's the right lesson to draw. The way the Obama controversy played out could plausibly support another conclusion: In the absence of power, to fall back on persuasion. (Whether the bishops were actually persuasive is, for purposes of the theory, beside the point.)

I ran this hypothesis past Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York on Thursday, who was among the 83 bishops who criticized Notre Dame for the Obama invitation. In broad strokes, he seemed to agree.

"As far as authority and power go, it may look like a defeat. But in terms of a recovery of episcopal voice and muscle, it may have succeeded," Dolan said.

"I always look at things as a church historian," Dolan said. "Twenty-five years from now, when somebody's doing a master's thesis on all of this, it could be a chapter where the bishops came together and said, 'This is a moment when we need to exercise some teaching authority.'"

"We kitchen-tabled an issue," Dolan continued. "In normal Catholic homes throughout the country, people are talking about this. Granted, there might not be unanimity, but there's recognition that the bishops have something to say, they need to say it, and they ought to say it." [Well said, Archbishop Dolan! I am proud and glad to have an archbishop like you in what is now my home diocese.]

In truth, not every Catholic home in America may concur that those 83 bishops needed to say what they did. The discussion in Thursday's executive session would seem to suggest that even some bishops aren't inclined to look at the Notre Dame affair as a shining moment in the recent exercise of the teaching office.

Yet Dolan's reply nonetheless points to a possible paradigm shift: Circumstances may be compelling bishops to become more comfortable exercising their authority in the academy through the bully pulpit, through public teaching (and even, to some extent, through public "shaming"), rather than edicts. [Isn't that the way they are supposed to do it all the time? 'Edicts' - written rules - are still necessary anyway as a common reference.]

If the model of bishop-as-teacher is indeed gaining strength, it's a potentially fascinating transition -- ironically, one for which many leaders in Catholic higher education have long clamored. Some may not like what the bishops had to say, but having said it may help the bishops to be less inclined to engage in battles over power, and more willing to embrace the art of argument.

Over the long run, who knows where that might lead?

I suppose this all means that majority of American bishops still lack the backbone to stand up for the faith unequivocally when push comes to shove? Well, let us be thankful for the 83 that did stand up and pray that the Holy Spirit may blow the way of dissenting bishops - and priests!

00Friday, June 19, 2009 5:17 PM

The Jesuit magazine AMERICA has just published in its June 22 issue an outrageous editorial that, in effect, accuses conservative Catholics of sowing discord in the Church!

Father Z on his blog

not only reproduces and duly fisks, but to which he also appends an impassioned commentary that places the Jesuit dissent - driven by a very liberal, pro-Obama political ideology - in its right theological and historical context. BRAVISSIMO, and a million thanks, Father Z!


The America editorial is on

P.S. Father Z re-ran his blog entry on the editorial today, the issue date of the paper magazine although the editorial itself was placed online last July 18.

00Friday, June 19, 2009 5:46 PM

Cardinals approve miracle
for Newman beatification

by Peter Jennings

June 19, 2009

The miracle necessary for the beatification of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) was approved by the cardinals of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints during their meeting in Rome on June 2.

The Congregation is now working on the document that will include a résumé of the life of Cardinal Newman and the miraculous cure attributed to this Servant of God of Jack Sullivan, a Permanent Deacon from the Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts.

Jack Sullivan, aged 70, who lives with his wife Carol in Marshfield, near Boston, was cured of an extremely serious spinal disorder on August 15, 2001, the Solemnity of the Assumption, following his intense intercession to Cardinal Newman.

When completed the document will be taken by the Perfect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B., to Pope Benedict XVI who will authorize the promulgation of a decree.

The Pope, who is taking a personal interest in the Cause, was first introduced to the theology of Cardinal Newman in January 1946 when he was a young seminary student in Germany.

This correspondent was able to give the joyful news by telephone to Deacon Jack Sullivan at his home on June 13. Asked for this initial impressions upon receiving the news of the favorable recommendation of the cardinals, he responded by e-mail 24 hours later.

Deacon Jack Sullivan wrote: “When I first learned of the favorable recommendation of the Cardinals and bishops comprising the congregation for the Causes of Saints, I felt a sense of awe and immense gratitude to God and Cardinal Newman.

“If it wasn't for Cardinal Newman's intercession when experiencing extremely severe spinal problems, it would have been virtually impossible to complete my diaconate formation and be ordained for the Archdiocese of Boston. Nor would I have been able to continue in my chosen profession as a magistrate in our court system to support my family.

“My fervent desire to give all that I have in my parish ministry at both St Thecla's parish in Pembroke, Massachusetts, and my prison ministry at the House of Correction in Plymouth, Massachusetts, best expresses the intense appreciation I have for God's gift and Cardinal Newman, who directs my efforts.

“I have developed a very real relationship with Cardinal Newman in frequent prayer and I try to pass on what marvelous gifs I have received to those I meet.

“Secondly, when receiving the news, I felt a very deep sense of the reality of God's love for each one of us especially during times of immense difficulties and suffering.”

Deacon Sullivan added: “I realise that indeed there is such a thing as the Communion of Saints and a place of perfect peace which God has prepared for each on e of us. As the kindly light of truth guided the life of Newman amidst unspeakable challenges in his world, so too I feel the same sense of direction when reflecting on these awesome gifts by realising that God dispenses His favor especially on the lowly and those who are ordinary as beautifully described in our Lady’s praises in her Magnificat.”

On April 24, 2008, the Medical Commission of five doctors appointed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted unanimously that Deacon Jack Sullivan’s cure could not be explained medically.

The Positio was given to the seven members of the Board of Theologians appointed by the Congregation in late July 2008 just before the long Rome summer holiday.

At its meeting on September 20, 2008, the theologians voted four in favour with three reserving their judgment. A two-thirds majority, a minimum of five votes in favour was required before the case could be referred to the cardinals of the Congregation for a final vote.

The theologians requested further information and clarification from Deacon Sullivan and the Diocesan Commission set up in the Archdiocese of Boston to gather the evidence of the alleged miraculous cure. This was provided and the theologians met again just before Christmas, on 20 December, 2008. Again the vote was the same.

At the request of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints some of the material was strengthen and re-presented to the theologians. On March 28, 2009, the decision of the theologians was unanimous in favour of the miracle necessary to beatify Cardinal Newman.

The Positio was then completed before being given to the cardinals of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints. It is the cardinals who recommend to the Holy Father that a Servant of God is worthy to be beatified. It is the Pope alone who authorises the promulgation of the degree.

Beatification comes from the Latin word beatus, meaning happy, blessed, holy. Beatification is an act by which the Catholic Church through an official decree by the Pope, permits public veneration under the title Blessed, of a dead person whose life is marked by holiness and the heroic practice of the virtues.

At present opinion is divided as to the venue for the Beatification Ceremony between a location in Rome or Westminster Cathedral in London. There are two indisputable reasons for having the ceremony in Rome.

The first is the world-wide interest in Newman both as a theologian and writer but also as a holy, humble and pastoral parish priest who looked after the sick and poor of his Oratory Parish in Edgbaston.

Secondly the fact that Newman is a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. When he was created a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879 Newman wrote requesting permission to continue to live in Birmingham and continue his work as a parish priest rather than move to Rome as was the norm for cardinals at that time.

The Pope granted permission and Cardinal Newman died in his room at the Oratory House in Edgbaston during the evening of August 11, 1890.

The intriguing question now is will Pope Benedict XVI make an exception and personally beatify, either in Rome or in England, the best-known 19th century English Churchman, Blessed John Henry Newman.

00Monday, June 22, 2009 2:11 PM

'To some in the Church,
we would still be black sheep
whatever we did'

They will proceed with scheduled ordinations next Saturday, and
their superior, Mons. Fellay explains why.

Translated from
June 22, 2009

How is it going with the dialog between Rome and the FSSPX which created such a dust-up in January?
We sorted out our ideas earlier this month. The Pope's decision on the structure for the talks will be announced shortly. A special commission will be created for the discussions among some theologians from Rome and some of our own.

In your opinion, what is the purpose of this rapprochement: a special structure for you in a small niche, or a fundamental change in the Church?
That's a good question: who or what should be changed? It's wrong, of course, for anyone to claim that the entire Church should change. We are not the great enemy. Our situation is more like a thermometer which shows there's a fever in the body.

In fact, there is a problem to be resolved. And it's not ours but of the Church leadership. The Church has been suffering from a serious crisis, and Rome dealt with it so blandly that the illness developed and it's hard to see an end to the crisis. We are proposing measures that may help.

There are two points of conflict: on the one hand, your belief that the deposit of faith is in danger, and your rejection of specific documents from the Second Vatican Council. Do you want Rome to take back or modify these documents, or is it rather a case of "We agree that you do not agree"?
The present confusion comes in large part from a cultural crisis in the world, not only in the Church: a crisis of thinking, of philosophy. But some aspects of this crisis took concrete form in the Council. Rome should be prepared to clarify these points, because there are so many interpretations of Vatican II. Which of them should we recognize? Every theologian interprets it in his own way.

[Which interpretation to recognize? That's simple! Be guided by Benedict XVI's interpretation. But I suppose the FSSPX wants it sort of codified in a consolidated set of doctrinal notes from the CDF such as what it issued about what Vatican II said about the Catholic Church and all other 'churches'. That would actually be very helpful to everyone - except that all the liberal custodians of the faux 'spirit of Vatican II' will go into paroxysms and contortions to 'prove' that Vatican-II meant rupture, not continuity with tradition.]

The Holy Father already dismissed the interpretation of Vatican II as discontinuity and rupture with the past. But 80 percent of bishops and theologians want this rupture. So on this topic, we are not the problem.

You do not only reject some interpretations but even some conciliar documents in themselves that have to do with religious freedom and respect for other religions.
One example: The declaration on the collegiality of bishops (in Lumen gentium) which even had to be corrected during the Council itself by Pope Paul VI... The conciliar text can be interpreted in a catholic (universal) sense with the note that the Pope issued, the so-called 'Nota praevia' (by which Paul VI established that the bishops can lead the Church as a college, only 'under and with the Pope'). Unfortunately some are reading the original provision without looking at the the Nota praevia.

Would a new papal Nota praevia on these two documents satisfy your demands?
We cannot presume to dictate what and how the Church should think. That was never our intention. What we say is this: the Church had, up to the time of the Council, taught certaint hings, but something has since emerged which is not the Church. We wish to be clear about this.

The other major dispute with Rome was the Tridentine rite. Since the Pope has reauthorized this rite, that has been largely resolved. Are you satisfied on that now, or did you expect something more?
I am sure something else will come in the future. Not for us, but for Rome itself, the liturgical situation needs to be better. That will come.

The Pope has adapted the old rite by modifying the Good Friday prayer for the Jews. Do you still pray the old version?

Would it be possible for you to follow the Pope and introduce the new prayer?
Yes. What the Pope says does not contradict the faith. It is more a question of revising history, even insofar as the attitude of the faithful. The Good Friday prayers are among the most ancient prayers that we have.

For a reconciliation with Rome, a declaration of loyalty will probably be needed. Would you be able to do that even if the Church does not go back on all the points you raise about Vatican II?
I would say yes. If the Catholic principles we raise are clarified, even if not everything is resolved, then it is possible.

There is a very practical question which is evident now, which is - How will we be accepted? There is a very strong block which keeps us from moving ahead at this time. If we see too much opposition then we will simply decide to wait a bit longer.

A present point of contention is the announcement by heh FSSPX that it will ordain 3 priests on June 27 in Zaitzkofen, Germany. Many consider this a provocation to Rome and the Pope - it seems to be rejecting the friendly hand he has extended.
I regret that this is seen as a provocation. These ordinations have taken place every year for 30 years in exactly the same way. When we were discussing with Rome about lifting the excommunications, etc., the question was never raised that these ordinations should stop.

For us, this is a question of the life of the society. We need new priests as we need to breathe.

Everything cannot depend on these three ordinations, Would it not have been more prudent to suspend the ordinations to improve the climate?
The problem is only in Germany. In Rome, there is sympathy for these ordinations even if they consider it illegal and not in accordance with canon law.

We have been told that we are now in an intermediate stage during which we can talk to each other peaceably, and during which Rome can also observe us. We have no objections if Rome wants to send us an observer. We have offered that but perhaps not clearly enough.

Were you surprised that Rome has not placed conditions on lifting the excommunications?
No, not really. This rapprochement can only take place through small steps because of all the wounds that have been dealt and what has happened in the past. It was in that sense that the Pope's gesture, which we accepted with gratitude, also had the purpose of 9improving the climate. On our part, we are open, but not to interrupting our work in any way.

With the lifting of the excommunication, the Pope has often been compared to a father taking back the prodigal son who comes back full of remorse. Has it been that way or don't you see yourselves as the repentant son?
Yes, but no longer in that direction. There is an opening on our part. We asked for discussions and that has been accepted. We regret that there are those who are seeking to sabotage this with their hatred.

Why don't you perform the ordinations elsewhere? The harsh reaction of the German bishops was predictable.
I think one can see bad faith in this case. We could do anything they want and we would still be considered the black sheep. On certain points, we have decided we will not step back. You can understand that.

So you do not expect any rejection by the Pope of this act?
That would be interpreting the facts wrongly. This is not a hostile act, I wrote the Pope and asked him not to consider these ordinations as a rebellious act, but a measure of survival in difficult and complex circumstances.

In any case, it places the Pope in an unpleasant situation.
I understand. it is a very unpleasant situation for everybody. But let me repeat - the problem arises from having different currents in the Church which Rome itself finds it difficult to live with. It is a problem that cannot be resolved by the Pope. And I am not sure it can be resolved at all.

What is Mons. Williamson doing these days?
He is in London. He prays and studies, nothing else.

Is there a foreseeable end to his internal exile?
I don't see it. It depends entirely on him.

Would you prefer a further distancing from his negation of the Holocaust?
If he repeats such statements, then it cannot be tolerated.

00Monday, June 22, 2009 4:01 PM

US bishops clarify
Catholic approach to Judaism

San Antonio, Texas, Jun 21, 2009 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement on Thursday to clarify the Church's stance on how it relates to the Jewish community.

The statement was jointly issued at the spring meeting of the USCCB by the Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practice and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs spoke of the pastoral concern at hand.

“The 2002 document, Covenant and Mission, raised many questions among Catholics in the United States about how the Church relates to the Jewish community. Today’s statement helps to answer these questions clearly,” he said.

“The USCCB reaffirms what the Holy See has stated repeatedly: that while the Catholic Church does not proselytize the Jewish people, neither does she fail to witness to them her faith in Christ, nor to welcome them to share in that same faith whenever appropriate,” said Bishop Lori, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practice.

Bishop Lori went on to state the importance of current debates over Catholic understanding of the covenant with Moses in relation to Jesus.

“As followers of Jesus, we see his covenant as fulfilling God’s plan for the salvation of all peoples, both now and at the end of time,” he said. Jews today still adhere to the covenant with Moses, which Christians believe to be fulfilled in Christ.

Archbishop Gregory called to mind Pope John Paul II’s reference to Jews as “our elder brothers and sisters in faith.” Applauding the efforts at furthering dialogue between Catholics and Jews, he added, “By continuing our study together, we hope to deepen our understanding of Jesus and our relationship with each other in God’s redemption of the world

00Monday, June 22, 2009 11:41 PM

Cardinal Tauran says relations
with Muslims are better,
but problems remain

By John Thavis

VENICE, Italy, June 22 (CNS) -- Relations with Muslims have improved significantly in recent years, but problems remain on issues like conversion and freedom of worship, the Vatican's top interreligious dialogue official said.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, said one of the biggest challenges was to make sure that the greater openness shown by Muslim leaders -- the "elites" involved in dialogue -- filters down to the average Muslim in the street.

So far, that does not seem to have happened, the cardinal told a conference in Venice June 22.

Cardinal Tauran recounted an episode in Jordan that occurred a week before Pope Benedict XVI arrived to a warm official welcome from government and Islamic officials. A Christian woman fell on a street in Amman and asked passers-by for help; two Muslim women on the scene walked away, saying they could not assist an infidel, he said.

"I don't think that's the reaction of a good Muslim. But this is the reality on the street. On one hand we have the elites, on the other the masses," Cardinal Tauran said.

The cardinal said that at the official level the Vatican's various dialogues with Muslims have attained "a climate of greater trust."

"On the part of our dialogue partners can be seen a desire to give a more positive image of Islam," he said. Christian and Muslim leaders also are increasingly aware that cooperation is needed to remedy secular societies' "deafness" to God and to help build peace in the world, he said.

He cited important agreement on principles of religious freedom in statements produced by recent interreligious encounters, including the World Conference on Dialogue in Spain in 2008, which was initiated by Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz; a new Catholic-Muslim Forum at the Vatican last fall; and a Christian-Muslim encounter in Jordan in May.

Participants at these meetings rejected the idea of a "clash of civilizations," affirmed the importance of defending family values and refused the exploitation of religion for fanaticism or violence.

But the cardinal also pointed to what he said were "serious difficulties" that remain to be addressed.

For one thing, he said, even the most enlightened Muslim leaders can't convince their fellow Muslims to accept the principle of freedom to change religions, according to one's own conscience.

The cardinal also said that in Saudi Arabia there has been "no positive signal" on the church's request to obtain a place for the celebration of Sunday services for the almost 2 million Christians who reside in the country.

Cardinal Tauran was a key speaker at the June conference organized by Oasis, a journal launched by the Patriarchate of Venice in 2005 that deals extensively with problems of Christian minorities in the East.

The cardinal's talk was titled "Should We Be Afraid of Islam?" and he began by saying that it was a question on many people's minds.

"Islam makes people afraid: It is a fact. For many people, Islam is reduced to fanaticism, holy war, terrorism, polygamy and proselytism, all preconceptions that circulate in the Western world," he said.

But such perceptions are based primarily on ignorance, he said.

"Should we be afraid of Islam? No, certainly not," he said. But only dialogue allows people to overcome such fear, by informing them about the religious traditions of the others, identifying what unites and what separates them, and cooperating as much as possible in the societies where they live, he said.

00Tuesday, June 23, 2009 12:07 AM

Vatican to investigate miracle
attributed to intercession of
US chaplain who died in Korean War

COLWICH, Kansas, June 22 (AP) - A Vatican investigator is headed to a southwest Kansas town to look into whether the recovery of an area man was a bona fide miracle.

Andrea Ambrosi will arrive in Wichita on Friday and then travel to Colwich. He is coming from Rome to investigate on behalf of the Catholic Church whether 20-year-old Chase Kear survived a severe head injury last year in part because his friends and family successfully prayed to Father Emil Kapaun.

Kapaun, a U.S. Army chaplain who died in the Korean War, grew up in Pilsen, Kan.

The Rev. John Hotze, the judicial vicar for the Wichita diocese, said Ambrosi, a lawyer by training, will thoroughly "and skeptically" investigate Kear's case.

The Church requires miracles before elevating them to sainthood.

Hotze has spent eight years investigating the proposed sainthood of Kapaun. The Church has considered making Kapaun a saint for much longer, ever since soldiers came out of prisoner-of-war camps in 1953 with tales of Kapaun's heroism and faith.

The local diocese has continued receiving reports of miracles involving Kapaun, Hotze said.

While in the area, Ambrosi will consult with physicians in at least three cases, including Kear's, Hotze said.

Kapaun would be only the third American-born person to be canonized as a saint. The Church requires that at least one and possibly two miracles be proven on Kapaun's behalf, depending on whether Kapaun died a martyr.

The Church is also trying to determine that.

Ambrosi will speak with Kear's neurosurgeon, Raymond Grundmeyer, who told The Wichita Eagle in an e-mail that he believes Kear's survival was miraculous.

Even if Ambrosi agrees, the Church will still have to evaluate the case. But for the many hoping the Church canonized Kapaun, it will represent another step forward.

"There is no doubt in anyone's mind in our family that Father Kapaun helped save our son," said Paula Kear, Kear's mother. "We were told at least three or four times in those first two days that Chase wasn't going to make it."

Kear, a member of the Hutchinson Community College track team, fell on his head during pole vaulting practice in October. He was airlifted to a Wichita hospital.

His family began frantically praying as the helicopter landed. Within an hour, his sister, Linda Wapelhorst, asked a priest at the hospital to perform the Catholic sacrament of anointing the sick, which used to be called last rites.

She also called the Sacred Heart Church in Colwich and asked that people there pray to Kapaun for her brother's recovery.

Grundmeyer and others told the family that Kear's prospects were not good as his skull was cracked from ear to ear and his brain was swelling. They said an operation to remove part of his skull or an infection that might follow would likely kill him.

His family and dozens of others said they regularly prayed to Father Kapaun.

Only a few weeks later, Kear walked out of a rehabilitation hospital, a result his family and some physicians said had to be a miracle.

"Chase survived in part because hundreds of people prayed to Father Emil Kapaun to intercede on his behalf," Paula Kear said.

00Friday, June 26, 2009 6:37 PM

I take exception to the title and premise of this article - it may make for a clever headline, but I think it is trying to inflate something which has drawn adverse reaction so far only from the usual suspects - the Chief Rabbi of Rome and the ADL - who make it their life's mission to see anything that the Church says about the Jews as an affront and an attack.

Allen, however, also cites some Catholics involved in Jewish-Catholic dialog, who appear to have the equivalent of a Stockholm syndrome in taking the side of Jewish militants even when they are being illogical as they are in this case. (This 'Stockholm syndrome' effect is familiar from some Catholics involved in Muslim-Catholic relations.)

But to say that such voices within the Church are putting the Jews in the crossfire of intramural tensions is also an exaggeration.

New rows deepen old ruts
in Catholic-Jewish relations;
Jews sometimes caught in crossfire
of intramural Catholic tensions

Jun. 23, 2009

Rip Van Winkle famously went to sleep for twenty years and missed the American Revolution. Had he been a modern expert in Catholic-Jewish relations, however, Van Winkle could have awoken from two decades of slumber this week and felt right at home, as long-standing tensions over both Pope Pius XII and the conversion of Jews once again roiled the inter-faith waters.

Taken together, these episodes suggest that for all the progress in Catholic-Jewish ties over the last half-century, the relationship is nonetheless stuck in a couple of ruts that just seem to get deeper over time.

Current events also illustrate another point: Sometimes matters that look like divisions between Jews and Catholics are fueled at least as much by intramural Catholic tensions, with Jews sometimes caught in the crossfire.

The contretemps over Pius XII, the wartime Pope whose alleged "silence" on the Holocaust has long been a source of controversy, began with a mid-June conference in Rome sponsored by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (better known by its old Latin name, "Propaganda Fide").

During that event, Fr. Peter Gumpel, a German Jesuit and longtime postulator for the sainthood cause of Pius XII, asserted that Pope Benedict XVI has gone slow in declaring Pius a saint because "representatives of Jewish organizations" have warned him that "relations between the Catholic church and the Jewish would be definitively and permanently compromised."

Though Gumpel did not elaborate, he may have had in mind a meeting last October between Benedict XVI and the International Jewish Committee for Inter-Religious Consultations, as well as an audience the pope held with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in February.

In both cases, Jewish leaders told reporters they had pressed the Pope to open up the Vatican archives from the era of Pius XII in order to resolve unanswered historical questions.

Gumpel's suggestion that Jewish concern is to blame brought a swift rebuke from the Vatican. Italian Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the papal spokesperson, said Benedict should be left "completely free" to make his own decision, without "unjustified and inopportune" commentary.

"If the Pope thinks that the study and the reflection on the cause of Pius XII should be prolonged further, his position should be respected without interference," Lombardi said.

Several Jewish leaders rejected the implication that the hold-up is their fault, saying it's not just Jews who have raised doubts. Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo De Segni, said that debate over Pius XII "is first of all an internal problem of the Church. It is clearly a complex matter that divides the Church itself."

{Rabbi Di Segni is so quick to read negative signs in anything that has to do with the Church. Is the Church divided about Pius XII? I don't think so.

Fr. Gumpel's statement cannot be taken as a 'division within the Church'. He is a single voice speaking as Pius XII's postulator, who obviously has to learn that postulators need to cultivate the virtue of prudence as to what they say in public - arguments directed at the general public can only be seen nas attempts to pressure the Vatican, no matter how they are put - as well as patience. I doubt that Pius XII himself appreciates the imprudent impatience with which Fr. Gumpel has taken lately to advocating his cause for sainthood!

As for whether there are anti-Pius XII voices within the Church, maybe some of the usually militant liberal dissenters within the Church continue to share the revisionist Jewish mindset against Pius XII - as many of them did soon after Rolf Hochhuth's Soviet-instigated propaganda play sparked that revisionism - but they have not been heard from lately.]

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Vatican body charged with overseeing the sainthood process, voted in favor of a "decree of heroic virtue" for Pius XII on May 8, 2007. That decree would mark the first formal step toward sainthood, permitting the late Pontiff to be referred to as "Venerable Pius XII."

The decree, however, is not official until signed by the Pope, which Benedict XVI has not yet done.

To some extent, observers say, Benedict XVI may be caught between a rock and a hard place on Pius XII.

He's publicly come to the defense of his predecessor, arguing last September that the wartime pontiff had "spared no effort" to save Jewish lives. Yet Benedict XVI has also expressed a desire for improved Catholic-Jewish ties, most recently during his mid-May trip to Israel, and is particularly aware of Jewish sensitivities in the wake of the controversy surrounding his rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying traditionalist bishop.

As a result, most observers say it's hard to say when, or if, Benedict might decide the time is ripe to restart the process.

Conversion and covenants
While the Pius XII controversy was simmering in Rome, the conversion issue surfaced on the other side of the Atlantic, in the form of a new statement from the U.S. bishops asserting that the Jewish covenant is fulfilled in Christ, and that no one, Jews included, is exempt from the invitation to conversion, baptism, and membership in the church.

The bishops made those statements in a joint June 18 note from the Committee on Doctrine and the Committee on Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs, styled as a clarification of a 2002 text called "Covenant and Mission."

While no one believes the June 18 note signals a coordinated campaign to convert Jews on the part of the U.S. bishops, some critics say that it could green-light informal and ad hoc missionary efforts.

[If any such missionary work is undertaken, it would have to be on a one-on-one interpersonal level. The Church has enough practical problems in the Holy Land - and trying to safeguard the interests of the tiny flock there - to even think of openly evangelizing Jews within Israel!

Which leaves the half of world Jewry who live outside Israel, mostly found in the United States, where observant Jews, regardless of denomination, are fairly militant in defense and profession of their faith. Not an easy task at all, even on a one-on-one basis.]

Critics also say that the note's language about the Jewish covenant could stoke the idea that Christianity has "superseded" Judaism, which many blame for playing a role in the history of anti-Semitism in Europe that paved the way for the Holocaust.

When it was put together in 2002, "Covenant and Mission" collected the thinking of some leading American experts in Christian-Jewish dialogue, and thus had no authoritative standing for either faith. Yet after it was inadvertently published on the U.S. bishops' web site as an official conference text, it sparked wide Catholic debate, particularly among those who felt it betrayed traditional doctrine on Christ and salvation.

(For example, Fr. John Echert, a commentator on the EWTN web site, wrote that if the document were to gain official approval, he would consider it "one of the signs of the end times, namely, apostasy.")

More influentially, the late Cardinal Avery Dulles penned a widely read critique faulting "Covenant and Mission" for appearing to suggest that there are "two independent covenants," one for Jews and the other for Christians, "running on parallel tracks to the end of history." Until his death in 2008, Dulles continued to press for an official reply to "Covenant and Mission."

Sources told NCR that the Vatican also quietly signaled to the U.S. bishops that they ought to say something publicly about "Covenant and Mission."

The June 18 note states that "Covenant and Mission" was "insufficiently precise and potentially misleading" on several important points. The note states:

•While the Jewish covenant with God is "enduring," that covenant is nonetheless fulfilled in Jesus Christ, "both in history and at the end of time";
•Inter-religious dialogue is not an alternative to the proclamation of Jesus, because even in such dialogue a Christian gives "witness to the following of Christ";
•It's a mistake to believe that Jews are somehow duty-bound not to become Christian, or that the church has an obligation not to baptize Jews.

Fr. James Massa, the top staffer for the U.S. bishops on inter-religious affairs, told NCR that the June 18 note is not intended to shut down "a very fluid area of theological investigation," and that it "absolutely" does not mean the Catholic church intends to target Jews for new missionary efforts.

Instead, he said, the note is largely directed at "Catholic educators, scholars, and theologians," and is intended to defend core articles of the faith about Christ and salvation.

Some Catholic experts, however, charged that the June 18 note appears to contradict earlier Church statements on the Jewish covenant and missionary efforts.

Fr. John Pawlikowski of the Catholic Theological Union, a veteran leader in Catholic-Jewish relations, said he believes the note is inconsistent with statements from Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's top official for relations with Jews, that hopes for the Jews to one day accept Christ represent a "a strictly eschatological prayer, with no concrete implications for efforts at Jewish conversion" in the here and now – a position, Pawlikowski argued, that Pope Benedict XVI has also seemed to accept.

[I don't see a contradiction at all! Cardinal Kasper is referring to the text of the prayer in the context of how it could possibly offend the Jews.

It certainly does not rule out the inherent duty of every Christian to announce Christ, even to Jews, as the USCCB statement makes clear - and if in the process, some Jews convert, then such converts would be exercising their individual right to freedom of religion.

Cardinal Dulles was still very much alive when Benedict XVI revised the Good Friday prayer, and if he had any major theological objections to it, I believe we would have heard from him.

Moreover, how can any Catholic believe that Benedict XVI, of all people, would make an exception to the universal Christian duty to evangelize non-Christians?

Pawlikowski said that the bishops' note effectively ratifies the more conservative views of Dulles and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria, who has argued that the offer of faith in Christ should be made to Jews, albeit in a "unique" and "most sensitive" way. He predicted that the note will cause "confusion" among Jews about what exactly the Catholic Church is trying to say.

From the Jewish side, the Anti-Defamation League issued a June 22 statement objecting to the bishops' note, saying it could be read to imply that inter-faith dialogue is an occasion for inviting Jews to conversion.

[Nonsense! - but that's the usual Pavlov's-dog hardline reflex from the ADL. No Muslim engaged in current inter-religious dialog has ever claimed that! If everyone believed that nonsense, there would never be any inter-religious dialog.]

The ADL charged that such a stance "would foster mistrust between Jews and Catholics and undermine years of work building a positive relationship based on mutual trust and respect of our differences in faith."

Other Jewish leaders, however, suggested that the real tension may not be so much between Jews and Catholics, but among Catholics themselves.

Rabbi Yehiel E. Poupko, Judaic Scholar at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, told NCR that in his view, the June 18 note is part of "a great debate within the Church itself" – a debate that doesn't directly concern Jews because, Poupko said, "No faith community should turn to another and tell them what to believe."

Poupko said Jews are often less concerned with how Catholics articulate their theology than with what they do, and he sees no evidence of new missionary efforts from the Church directed at Jews.

[Perhaps Allen should have researched when there was ever a missionary effort from the Church towards Jews in modern times. I do not know - and I will look it up. In my mind, the only such missionary effort was in the early period of Christianity. What happened in medieval Spain centuries later was hardly evangelization but coercion from the state - which led most Jews to flee the country.]

At the same time, Poupko said, "given the history of the Church's treatment of the Jews over two millennia," he would ask all parties to this intra-Catholic argument to make it clear that no matter who prevails, "it will cause no harm to the Jewish people, to Judaism, or to the State of Israel."

[No matter who prevails about what? And how can the Church set out to 'cause harm' to anyone? Any organized effort to proselytize Jews is almost certainly out of the question. The Church cannot be clearer than it has been after Vatican-II that it has nothing but good will towards Judaism and Jews - as it has for other religions and their followers. The state of Israel is in a different category but John Paul II and Benedict XVI have also been unequivocal about recognizing Israel as a modern sovereign state.

And although they may never have explicitly said so, such recognition also implies recognizing that modern Israel was created for the purpose of establishing the Jews on what was their historical homeland - which it was for millennia, before Islam was ever born.]

The key, Poupko said, is for all sides to exercise "humility and caution."

00Saturday, June 27, 2009 12:18 AM
Christians can save Islam
from cultural death

The Islamic tradition could die out fear of modernity which it perceives as anti-religious.
For some time all Islamic extremism has been proposing is a return to a mythical past, that of the first
four ‘rightly guided’ caliphs, by proposing unchanging and superficial ways of life.
Christianity has confronted modernity for centuries and can help Islam achieve necessary insight into the matter.

by Samir Khalil Samir, SJ

Venice. June 25 (AsiaNews) – More than 70 people from 20 different countries gathered on the Isola San Giorgio in Venice for the annual meeting of the Scientific Committee of Oasis, a journal founded by the Patriarch of Venice Angelo Scola as a way to find “common venues” for dialogue between Christians and Muslims ((www.oasiscenter.eu ).

Held last Monday and Tuesday, the topic of this year’s gathering was Interpreting tradition in the age of Métissage. The term métissage, so dear to Cardinal Scola, looks at the ways cultures and religions engage each other in dialogue, comparing each other, copying one another, integrating and clashing, always changing as a result of their encounter.

This year, which focused on, tradition, put the spotlight on the importance of passing on one’s faith and culture in an increasingly multicultural world.

A very important aspect of this process is how migrants (Muslims in the West) and minorities (Christians in the Middle East) are able to pass on their traditions to younger generations.

All those who spoke at the event, including some Muslims from France, Tunisia and the United States, stressed the importance of the school system as a place for passing on and confronting cultural traditions.

The address by Fr Samir Khalil Samir was particularly significant. The Jesuit scholar looked at the difficulties Islam faces today, torn between a fossilised vision of the past (presented as the ‘true’ Islam by Muslim extremists) and modernity with all its problems.

To a certain extent Christians face similar difficulties because modernity brings secularism and rejection of the faith. But unlike Islam, Christianity has been involved in a dialogue with the modern world for a long time and for this reason can help it tackle the contemporary society, mitigating the danger of extremism, which only celebrates the ‘interment of Islam’.

Here is Father Samir’s address (translated by AsiaNews):

1. Tradition means continuity, identity and renewal
Tradition (Lat. tradere) means passing on one’s precious legacy which will in turn be passed on to others and so on. Thus tradition presumes continuity in the here and now.

It does not mean going back but assumes instead finding in one’s roots the inspiration that guarantees continuity, strengthens one’s identity and renews the present; in short, continuity, identity and renewal.

When tradition becomes identified with the past and stops inspiring the present it is dead. Because it no longer exists it is treated as something sacred; by making it sacred it is buried because it is no longer understood.

Increasingly we find ourselves in this situation in our Arab and Muslim societies. No longer do we have a future or a present; we are simply stuck with the past. We go back to the past and turn it into a myth, something sacred, for we have nothing else.

In reality in doing this we reinforce our cultural and spiritual death. The notion of tradition in today’s Muslim world means going back to the way things were in 7th century, an age that becomes sacred. We often focus on outer details like the beard, the veil or niqāb, the miswāk (a kind of long toothpick from a root that Islam’s prophet used), the long white tunic, etc.

Conversely, Christians (most notably in the West) tend to reject their traditions. Some people think that they must forget or even reject their past to be modern. The danger in that case is of losing one’s roots and authenticity. It is a danger I see in Europe.

This can drive some to become traditionalists, to hang on to some details (for example, the Latin mass, the cassock, etc.). The rise of Mgr Lefevbre and his followers is a mirror image of the rejection of tradition.

The matter at hand is thus not limited to the Muslim world, but in this part of the world it is at its most visible and prominent.

2. Fear of modernity that appears anti-religious
An obvious reason for this attitude is a fear of modernity. This is something we can see today in the Arab world. Today modernity rimes with the West whereas in the 9th-11th centuries it rimed with Islam.

For many a Muslim the West is scary and repelling because it is estranged from religion and is secularised. All of a sudden, for many Muslims modernity looks like a new Jâhiliyyah (ignorance, the name given in the Qur’an to unbelievers), which the Qur’an and Islam fought vehemently. Modernity for many Muslims is a form of neo-paganism.

Consequently, many Muslims have sought refuge in the past and in religion, which to them appear as safe and lasting values and with a safe repertory of behaviours.

This why today there is a tendency to sacralise the age of the first four caliphs (Muhammad’s successors), known as the ‘rightly guided’ caliphs (al-khulafâ’ al-râshidîn) : Abū Bakr al-Siddîq (the upright ) (632-634 AD), ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattâb (634-644 AD), ‘Uthmān Ibn ‘Affân (644-656 AD) and ‘Alī Ibn Abî Tâlib (656-661 AD).

This period, which runs from 632 to 661 AD, is like a Golden Age, a heavenly time, but there is a great danger, because it means that heaven, the model to be followed and recreated, is behind us, not ahead of us, something towards which we can strive.

Lest we forget, except for the first caliph, all of other three were murdered. ‘Umar was killed on 4 November 644, ‘Uthmān in 656, and ‘Alī in January 661 by the Kharijites.

If we want to renew Islam we must face the challenges the modern world has thrown at religions, whether Judaism, Christianity, Islam or others.

This is something Christianity faces everyday, especially in the West. If it turned back into its past, it will die. The same is true for Islam. However more often than not, the Muslim world seems to prefer to postpone dealing with the issue, and this will make finding a solution harder.

At the same time, this does not mean that we must uncritically adopt every new thing just because it is new. Insight into the matter is a must as well as a necessary condition for survival.

3. Conclusion
What is needed is a certain harmony between past and future, between traditions (which ought to inspire but not shackle) and modernity (which is not necessarily freedom or liberation).

Islam began finding this towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. It started its own renewal from within by confronting Western civilisation and culture, helped to a great extent by Arab Christians who had begun the same process before them.

Sadly in the middle of the last century, this movement was swept away by new ideologies (nationalism, socialism, pan-Arabism, etc.) and began going backward.

I think that Christianity, which has already faced this situation for several centuries, could help the Muslim world to reach this insight.

Yet only Muslims can carry out this process, looking into their own tradition, criticising what must be criticised and maintaining what is best.

Christians and Muslims (and other believers) face the same challenges. By cooperating, by not opposing anyone, we can all benefit.

Tradition must be a source of life; otherwise it dies, hence the need for a critique and for insight to reach harmony and true liberty.

00Saturday, June 27, 2009 2:53 PM

Thanks again to New Catholic at

for this item which was one of those I missed Thursday. I am posting the Rorate translation for convenience. Father Z has fisked the interview. I agree with him that the KNA interviewer's questions were clearly hostile, but at least they did the interview.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Some ordinations of new priests by the Bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX) took place in the United States last Saturday. New ordinations are expected for next Saturday [today, 7/28] in Germany - despite the overreaction of several German ordinaries.

Amidst the controversy, the German Catholic News Agency (KNA - Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur) interviewed the former Superior General of the SSPX and current Superior for the District of Germany, Father Franz Schmidberger (source: DomRadio):

The German Superior of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, Franz Schmidberger, has defended the ordination of new priests planned for the coming weekend. In an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA), Schmidberger also commented on his assessment of the Second Vatican Council and what he expects from further discussions with Rome.

KNA: Herr Schmidberger, are you a priest of the Catholic Church?
Schmidberger: Of course. I was ordained to the priesthood in 1975 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in Econe. [i.e., 12 years before Lefebvre was excommunicated, and therefore, fully legitimate and valid.]

You say that without any qualifications?
Yes. I live and work in the heart of the Church.

What does the Second Vatican Council mean to you?
There is no doubt that it was an ecumenical council, but among the 21 councils it possesses a unique status as a pastoral council. Both popes of the council declared that they wished to define no new dogmas. Therefore, the Second Vatican Council does not have the same status as the other councils.

What about its content?
The spirit of the council has been described as an evil spirit, even by Pope Benedict XVI. There are ambiguous statements in the documents, and many others that do not agree with traditional doctrine.

What should the theological dialogue between the society and Rome regarding the council look like?
As far as the external form goes, it could be both oral or written, but primarily it should be written. We have selected representatives from our side and Rome also has chosen its people. The discussions will consider: what is ambiguous in the council? What contradicts the traditional doctrine of the Church?

Frankly, do you believe that the old and new rites can continue to coexist over the long term?
Well, we will have to see how things develop. There are profound differences between the two rites; for example, the direction of the celebration. The old rite is God-centered. The new is man-centered.

Many of the gestures, symbols, and rituals have been fundamentally changed. Today, the old rite is like a solid rock amidst the pounding surf, that must remain unchanged. The new rite requires radical reworking so that the sacrificial nature is once again explicitly expressed.

What does the Society think of the Council's Decree on Ecumenism [Unitatis Redintegratio]?
It says that other [Christian] denominations are means of salvation. If that is true, then there is no longer any point in engaging in missionary activity. That needs to be cleared up.

What about Nostra Aetate, which concerns the relationship with the Jews?
Not only the Jews, it also concerns Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. These non-Christian religions are heaped with praise. [No, they are not. They are described for what they are - ideally, at least.]

This has encouraged the expansion of Islam, for example. Today there are 4.3 million Muslims in Germany. The Church has a mandate to work for their conversion, but I do not know of a single German bishop who has made any plans to do so.

As far as the relationship with the Jews goes, the statements of the Council cannot be criticized in their essence. But, since the Council, the idea keeps popping up that the Jews have their owns path to salvation. That is completely opposed to the missionary command of Jesus Christ.

And you also have problems with the description of the Jews by Pope John Paul II as the older brothers of Christians.
Certainly Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets are. But the Jews of today are not, because they do not recognize Jesus Christ as the one and only redeemer. How could they then be older brothers?

Is the impression correct, that you, with your positions, wish to set the price for unity with the Catholic Church.
We want the truth to triumph. It has nothing to do with subjective opinions, it is all about the truth.

As you define it.
No, read all of the previous statements of the Councils and the popes. Pope Pius IX spoke out against religious freedom, for example. The question is: do these false religions possess natural rights? The Second Vatican Council answers differently than Pius IX. That is a rupture. [This is the FSSPX position that I find most disputable!]

Canon law requires priests to submit to the local bishop. Why is that difficult for you?
It isn't difficult at all. But we are our own society, that was even praised by Rome in 1971. Afterwards, we developed our own life. Then tensions developed because we refused to participate in the destructive protestantizing reforms.

We have questions about the faith of the Church and the bishops only respond by demanding obediance. But faith is superior to obediance.

In connection with the Williamson scandal, Pope Benedict XVI accused the FSSPX of arrogance and urged you to refrain from provocations. But the opposite has happened. How can you help to put the pieces back together?
Naturally, every man has his weaknesses and unfortunate things have been said. But we want to live together peacefully.

I have written a private personal letter to the chairman of the bishops conference, Archbishop Zollitsch, but the bishops are not willing to engage in discussions. They reject any dialogue with us. Why do they demand that we obey canon law to the letter while at the same time they assert that we are outside the Church?

In 2005 there was a conversation in Castel Gandofo, in which, in addition to the Pope, curial Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, and Traditionalist Bishop Bernard Fellay, you also took part. What was agreed at that time?
We discussed the entire situation of the Society and agreed on the path which we are now following. The Motu Proprio of 2007 and the lifting of the so-called excommunications were the first steps. Now comes the theological dialogue. Next, we have to find a canonical structure for the Society with its 500 priests. We are satisfied with the solution that Rome is considering.

Which is?
In the direction of a personal prelature.

Similar to Opus Dei?

More ordinations are planned for the coming weekend, although Rome has said that they are illict. Why do you insist on these ordinations?
The supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls. The faithful have a right to the celebration of the traditional form of the Mass. The point is making priests who desire to proclaim the Gospel available.

The ordinations are not meant to be an affront to anybody. They are actually being done to help the Pope and the bishops. But it like dealing with patients who do not see what medicine does for their health.

And so you claim the role of physician.
Yes, that is true. Tradition is the only guide to bringing the Church out of the present crisis. In 1950, 13 million Catholics went to Sunday Mass. Now it is just under 2 million. That is a drop of 85 percent. In ten years, all of the Churches will be empty. Is that what the bishops want? What is going to happen to our children? It is about preserving Christianity in the West.

{Schmidberger manifests here the tunnel vision that seems to have characterized the FSSPX since they went into virtual schism with the Church in 1988. It could be part of the society's own internal policy to proclaim a hard line in public for the benefit of their own followers, but it is counter-productive PR-wise with respect to the general public. One can only hope their representatives are reasonable and realistic in the upcoming discussions with Rome.]

00Saturday, June 27, 2009 10:11 PM

Dimming the Pauline spotlight; Jubilee fruits -
and what next for the Apostle to the Gentiles?

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, JUNE 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- This, the last week of the Year of St. Paul, has seen a flurry of activity as the Holy See prepares to dim the spotlight on the Doctor of the Gentiles. But the question remains, will St. Paul fade to black?

Several of the events surrounding these closing ceremonies are intended to continue the momentum of this grace-filled year.

A major art exhibit in the Vatican Museums will continue to draw the faithful, while the Holy See has sent seven envoys to the eightons that hosted St. Paul before his martyrdom in the Eternal City, to emphasize the desire for unity among these peoples of Paul.

The chosen members of the College of the Cardinals have already departed for their destinations: Jerusalem, Malta, Turkey, Greece, Syria and Lebanon, all of which are well known on the world stage, but the little island of Cyprus deserves a special moment of limelight to reflect its important role in the history of Christianity.

The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul (at that time still known as Saul) and Barnabas left Antioch for Cyprus in about 45-47 A.D. and began preaching in the synagogues of Salamis on the eastern side of the island.

Despite trials and challenges, one of St. Paul’s first great success stories unfolded on this island. Overcoming the machinations of a local sorcerer, Elymas, Paul converted Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. As a result, Cyprus became the first territory in the empire to be governed by a Christian.

The site of this watershed event in the history of the Church was on the western side of the island, in the city of Paphos, already world renowned as the first home of the goddess Aphrodite.

Born of the Mediterranean waves, Aphrodite was gently wafted to the shores of Cyprus, and alighting in Paphos, she brought love and beauty to mankind. St. Paul perfected Aphrodite’s gift by revealing Christ’s model of love and incarnational beauty to the Mediterranean gateway of Cyprus.

Upon departing from the island, the Apostle would leave behind his old name of Saul, and take on his new identity as Paul.

Cyprus has long been contested by many different parties, even to the present day. Ancient times saw Cyprus claimed by the Byzantine emperors, Arabs, crusaders, Venetians and Ottoman Turks, but the strong bond to Christianity, part of Paul’s legacy, has marked the island over the years.

Queen Charlotte of Cyprus was forced to abdicate in 1463 in favor of her scheming half brother. She escaped to Rome where she died and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. Today, her tomb faces that of Pope John Paul II in the crypt.

Ottoman conquest brought the island under Turkish rule in 1570, but an 1872 census showed that the population remained high in Christians: 100,000 to 44,000 Muslims. This small but significant island has long been proof that the seeds St. Paul sowed in the Mediterranean were both hardy and lasting, and as this year draws to a close, they show no signs of waning.

Worthy alliance

At the same time Cardinal Renato Martino left for Cyprus carrying Rome’s message of unity, a special envoy from Cyprus was unveiled in Rome. The icon of St. Nicholas tis Ste’gis was put on display this Wednesday after a long and loving restoration in the expert studios of Rome.

The large, 203 centimeters x 158 centimeters (80 inches x 62 inches), image painted in tempera on wood panel represents St. Nicholas, a particularly beloved saint of both the Eastern and Western Church, flanked by scenes from his life.

It was painted in the late 13th century for the church of St. Nichloas tis Ste’gis in the town Kakopetria, about halfway between the Cypriot capital of Nicosia and the town of Paphos. Today it is kept in the Byzantine Museum of Kakopetria.

The icon was brought to Rome for the delicate restoration after atmospheric elements had damaged the paint, insects had weakened the wood, and vandalism had scraped away the faces of the donors of the panel featured at the feet of the saint.

The alliance between Rome and Cyprus to save this work of sacred art closely mirrors the strong artistic collaboration between the Cypriots and Romans in the Middle Ages.

The panel is painted on a surface primed not only with plaster and linen, but also with a piece of pergamum, or animal skin, fixed to the wood by animal glue. This special technique, developed in Cyprus, helped to preserve the work and was passed onto Italian artists in the Medieval era.

St. Nicholas stands about 6 feet tall, inside a gilt frame of embossed lilies, a common symbol in western art. The precious pigments, lapis lazuli, gold and silver are characteristic of icons, but were regularly exported to Rome. Above his head, Jesus hands St. Nicholas the Gospel while Mary proffers the pallium, the insignia of his office as bishop conferred on him by Christ and the Church.

Side panels recount his life and miracles, but the inclusion of Nicholas’ gift of dowries to poor girls and the resurrection of three murdered priests, reveals a Latin, as well as Eastern influence in the iconography.

The donors are believed to be a noble Latin family, judging by the imperial eagle on the armor of the figure on the right. This work, executed in the years of Western lordship of the island, recount the fruitful collaboration of the Cypriot artists and the Latin patriots to making beautiful images together for the greater glory of God.

The icon will be on display until July 27, 2009, in the National Museum of Piazza Venezia, Tuesdays through Sundays from 8:30 to 7:00.

Eternal friendship

The Vatican Museums, magnet for Christians and non-Christians alike, has decided to keep the Pauline fires burning beyond the closing of the Year of St. Paul.

Today, the Museums inaugurated a new exhibit titled “St. Paul in the Vatican: The Words and Image of the Apostles of the People in the Pontifical Collections,” which will continue until Sept. 27, 2009.

Housed in the Pio Christian Museum, this exhibit draws together over 120 works from various parts of the papal collections; some come from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, while other objects were loaned by pontifical universities or the Vatican Library.

Rare manuscripts and ancient images reconstruct both the historical figure of Paul as well as the legacy of his letters across both centuries and continents.

The first section explores the recent and ancient discoveries around the tomb of the Apostle at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. A model of the old church built by Theodosius in the fifth century and the cast of the famous stone slab, placed on the grave of Paul and inscribed with the words, “Paul, Apostle, Martyr” testify to the antiquity of the tradition of Paul’s burial site.

A spectacular sarcophagus from 350 A.D., called the “Dogmatic Sarcophagus” , richly carved with the first image of the Trinity in the world, and found buried next to the tomb of the Apostle, confirms the prestige of Paul’s tomb.

Almost 30 objects explore the development of the iconography of Paul. Vivid watercolors by Monsignor Joseph Wilpert of images from the Roman catacombs, as well as stone sarcophagi reliefs, illustrate how the visage and history of St. Paul were first diffused through the highly visual culture of the Greco-Roman world.

The loveliest artifacts from this section are the gold glass medallions, precious souvenirs for the early pilgrims, with the faces of Peter and Paul etched in gold leaf between the sheets of glass. This iconography of the new Romulus and Remus, co-founders of the new Christian Rome, took off immediately.

The relationship of Peter and Paul is further analyzed in the exhibit by looking at the wealth of images of St. Paul found at the tomb of St. Peter. From the 15th-century ciborium from the Basilica by Paolo Romano showing the beheading of Paul, to the image of Paul on the bronze doors still gracing the church, these works highlight the friendship and unity between the Apostle to the Gentiles and the Prince of the Apostles.

The final section looks at the testimony of the written word. The oldest Christian inscription, the Epitaph of Albercius from the end of the second century, describes the pilgrimage of Bishop of Hieropolis, who used the letters of Paul "as my guide." Printed versions of the Bible spanning the illuminated manuscripts of Charles the Bald in the ninth century to the most modern version from the Italian bishops' conference bear witness to the legacy of the written words of St. Paul.

Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible sits by Thomas Aquinas’ commentaries, and Slav, Copt, Arab, Spanish, Chinese and Armenian Gospels illustrate the universality of the letters of St. Paul.

Paul, debtor “to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and the unwise" (Romans 1:14), complements the Museums perfectly. The art of the pontifical collection draws people from all backgrounds and faiths, while the exhibit allows Paul to preach again as he once did in the Agora in Athens and the synagogues of Cyprus. The greatest fruit of the Pauline year will be if people continue to listen.

00Saturday, June 27, 2009 10:29 PM

The 'light' will be kept on
for Pauline pilgrims:
Archpriest comments on closing
of the Year of St. Paul

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Even though the Year of St. Paul will end this weekend, the archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls says he will keep a light on and the door open for pilgrims wishing to visit the Apostle of the Gentiles.

Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo said this today in a press briefing ahead of the closing of the Year of St. Paul. Benedict XVI will close the jubilee year marking the 2,000th anniversary of Paul's birth in a ceremony Saturday at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

"The Pauline Year is coming to an end," the 83-year-old cardinal said, "but the great ferment of pastoral initiatives, catechesis, and cultural events is destined to continue, and to find a large following at both the local and the continental level."

"The Pauline Door [...] will remain open, and the Pauline flame lit by the Holy Father at the beginning of this year will continue to burn in the quadriporticus," he added, "reminding all the pilgrims who continue to arrive from every corner of the globe of the richness and profundity of the Word of God transmitted to us by the Apostle of the Gentiles."

Cardinal Montezemolo reported that tens of thousands of pilgrims visited the Pauline basilica in the last year, and that on May 1 of this year, the basilica saw more than 18,000 pilgrims. In recent weeks, he added, "we have certainly seen more than 10,000 a day."

Pilgrims who visited were able to see Paul's tomb, he added, which hadn't been possible before: "An opening was made in the ancient fifth century brickwork surrounding Paul's tomb under the main altar, so that pilgrims could see one side of the great marble sarcophagus, which has never been opened and which has held the mortal remains of the apostle for the last 20 centuries."

Apostle's message

The archpriest recalled that the jubilee was about more about than visiting the basilica. He noted that one of the year's main objectives was to "increase people's knowledge of, and invite them to meditate upon, the valuable message left to us by the Apostle of the Gentiles in his writings, which are often difficult and little known or poorly interpreted."

Another objective, he added, was "to create various programs in the ecumenical dimension, which means working to an ever greater degree with non-Catholic Christian communities on various initiatives of prayer, study and culture."

Reflecting on the activity of the last year, Cardinal Montezemolo noted "the celebration of the second millennium of the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles was perceived and experienced as a fresh stimulus, a further reason to work toward evangelization."

"This was also felt in the Orthodox Churches and in many other Christian communities, and has become a shared commitment on the path to recreating unity among Christians," he added.

Recalling the highlights of the Pauline year, the cardinal noted Benedict XVI's catechetical addresses on the Apostle of the Gentiles, which were delivered at the weekly Wednesday audiences from last July 2 through Feb. 4.

Another highlight, he said, was the opening Mass of the synod of bishops on the Word of God, which took place at St. Paul Outside the Walls. He noted that at this meeting of bishops, St. Paul was the most mentioned figure, after Jesus Christ.

At the end of his jubilee year,
the figure of St. Paul
stands in clearer focus

By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY, June 26 (CNS) -- After 12 months of special liturgies, conferences, Bible reflections, indulgences, concerts and pilgrimages, the Year of St. Paul has left the Apostle a more clearly defined figure on the Catholic landscape.

Even before Pope Benedict XVI led final closing ceremonies in Rome June 29, Vatican officials declared the jubilee year a success.

"The result has been positive, even beyond the most optimistic predictions," Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, said at a Vatican press conference June 26.

At the Pauline basilica, which had often been overlooked by pilgrims to Rome, overflow crowds came to visit and pray at the tomb of the Apostle, the cardinal said.

Thanks to some architectural finessing, a portion of the tomb, a rough-hewn marble sarcophagus buried beneath the main altar, was for the first time made visible to visitors.

It was Pope Benedict who almost single-handedly gave the jubilee its content. In weekly talks, homilies and liturgical celebrations, he sketched a detailed portrait of the man considered the model of Christian conversion and the archetypal missionary.

St. Paul was the most prolific of the early Apostles, the man who took the Gospel of Christ into the world of non-Jews and helped set the Church on a more universal path.

The Pope's main point was that this evangelizing spirit based on personal conversion needs to be rekindled among today's 1.1 billion Catholics.

"Dear brothers and sisters, as in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St. Paul," the pope said when he proclaimed the jubilee.

As the year progressed, the Pope found a "St. Paul angle" for his talks to bishops, religious orders, university students and his own Roman Curia. He had plenty of material to draw upon: St. Paul's 14 letters represent nearly half of the New Testament.

On Pope Benedict's foreign trips, St. Paul came along. In Paris last year, as the global financial crisis worsened, the Pope recalled St. Paul's preaching against idolatry and greed, and asked whether it wasn't relevant today: "Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even knowledge, diverted man from his true identity?"

The Pope's annual message for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees featured St. Paul as a "migrant by vocation" and an ambassador-at-large for Christ.

In talks to bishops from Asia, the Pope suggested they try to learn from St. Paul's ability to evangelize in cultures that are new to Christianity, presenting the Gospel in ways that resonate with the traditional spiritual wisdom of their continent.

Citing the Apostle's missionary courage, he told a group of newly appointed bishops to imitate St. Paul's persistence in the face of personal mistreatment and dangers.

Pope Benedict also applied the saint's lessons to contemporary rivalries and controversies within the church community.

In early 2009, during debate over several of his own decisions in the Church, the Pope quoted St. Paul's admonition to Galatian Christians not to "go on biting and devouring one another." St. Paul understood that Church unity was the primary requisite for a credible witness of the Gospel in the world, he said.

He struck a similar theme at the ecumenical vespers service Jan. 25, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul. That liturgy marked the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and the Pope was joined by Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican representatives in the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls.

In his homily, the Pope emphasized St. Paul's message that without internal unity, Christians cannot bring peace and reconciliation to the ruptured societies across the globe.

Pilgrims who came to Rome enjoyed a special itinerary of nine sites linked to the life of St. Paul, including ancient churches built on sites where the Apostle resided, the Mamertine Prison where he was incarcerated by Roman authorities, and the Abbey of the Three Fountains where he was beheaded on the order of the Emperor Nero.

A plenary indulgence, the remission of temporal punishment due to sin, was offered for pilgrims who crossed the threshold of the "Pauline Doors," prayed at the tomb of St. Paul, confessed their sins, received the Eucharist and prayed for the Pope's intentions. It was also offered to Catholics participating in local events marking the jubilee year.

A series of concerts was offered in the Basilica of St. Paul throughout the year. Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo said that when he broached the idea to Pope Benedict, to make sure there was no objection, the music-loving Pope simply replied: "Are you inviting me?"

The cardinal said it was decided that at the ceremonial closing of the Pauline year, the "Pauline flame" that has burned in the basilica during the past 12 months would be kept lit, to symbolically keep alive "all that's been positive during this year."

00Sunday, June 28, 2009 2:23 AM

The Preface to the fourth edition of
what Were the Crusades? (Ignatius Press, 2009)

It is 30 years since the first edition of this short book appeared. The earlier prefaces give an account of the subject's progress from my point of view, but they also expose how slow one can be when it comes to recognizing new developments.

Writing the preface to the third edition six years ago, I was conscious that the nineteenth century had come into view, but I was still sure that crusading was moribund after 1800. Now I am not so certain.

During the last 30 years a historical vision, which prevailed for nearly two centuries and still informs popular understanding, has been challenged. The vision originated in the writings of two early nineteenth-century authors, the Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott and the French historian Joseph-Francois Michaud.

Between 1819 and 1831 Scott published four novels in which crusaders played significant parts. For him, a child of the Enlightenment who had been influenced by the philosopher-historian William Robertson, the crusades were the incursions of glamorous but uneducated westerners, childish and destructive, into a civilization superior to their own.

For Michaud, whose Histoire des croisades appeared between 1812 and 1822, and for those writers who followed him, the crusades were glorious instruments of nationalism and proto-imperialism. These views of the past must have seemed irreconcilable — indeed the only thing on which they were in agreement was that a crusade was to be defined by its opposition to Islam.

but they began to merge with one another in the 1920s, when crusading, stripped of its ethic, was being interpreted in social and economic terms by Liberal economic historians, who had inherited from imperialism, and took for granted, the assumption that crusading was an early example of colonialism.

Scott's Enlightenment image of representatives of an inferior culture barging their way into a more sophisticated one coalesced with the Michaudist Romantic conviction that their motivation had been proto-colonialist and the amalgam gave birth to a neo-imperialistic and materialistic orthodoxy which is still a feature of popular perceptions.

No one had even half-proved this interpretation by research, but by the 1950s it had gained general currency. The consensus prevailing at that time can be summarized as follows.

1. Crusading was defined in terms of the goal of Jerusalem and warfare against the Muslims and the only crusades worth considering were, therefore, those directed to the East.

2. In their expeditions to the Levant the crusaders were taking on opponents who were culturally their superiors.

3. The crusades were generated as much by economic as by ideological forces; and the best explanation for the recruitment of crusaders was that they had been motivated by profit.

4. The military orders were most usefully to be considered nor as religious orders, but as political and economic corporations.

5. The settlements in the Levant were proto-colonialist experiments, aspects of the first expansion of Europe, although there was no agreement about the colonial model that it was best to adopt.

These propositions could not survive a renewed concern with theories of violence in a post-war, cold-war society, the interest of which in the justice or otherwise of force was fuelled by debates about nuclear deterrence and proportionality, and a revival of the conviction that human beings can indeed be inspired by ideas, even ones that might seem alien to us.

Without digressing into complex historiography, publications have appeared in the last 40 years which have expressed, or implied, some or all of the following counter-propositions, although they are not, of course, acceptable to everyone.

1. As the first and subsequent editions of this book have maintained, authentic crusades were fought in many different theatres and against many different opponents. Crusading can no longer be defined, therefore, solely as warfare against Muslims, but should be viewed in broader terms. It is true to say, however, that this — the most discussed aspect of the new approach — is itself being further modified, particularly by those who have been most influenced by it.

2. It is not helpful to treat the crusaders as the cultural inferiors of the Muslims. Nor is it provable. The evidence provided in the past never supported a case which was always selective — indeed often anachronistic — and it is striking how it has been tacitly abandoned.

3. The crusades were primarily religious wars and, insofar as one can generalize about them, the best explanation for the recruitment of crusaders was that they were moved by ideas.

4. The military orders can only be understood as orders of the Church and their history should be treated in the context of that of other religious orders.

5. The settlements in the Levant may well have been 'colonies' of a sort — provided the word 'colony' is loosely defined — but the issue of colonialism seems to be no longer one that is considered to be worth serious discussion.

It has lost its significance in the wake of the abandonment of the Marxist experiment and a disenchantment with historical 'models', and because of changes in historical perception, particularly in Israel, where the kingdom of Jerusalem has taken its place in the background history of the land.

Most historians of the Latin East are more interested in the settlements for what they were and in their relationship to other co-existing societies.

The third of these propositions is now attracting a lot of attention and each edition of this book has involved spending more time on it.

Although everyone agrees that crusading responded to changes in fashion, that the responses of recruits were never uniform and that the intentions of individuals were often mixed, a group, to which I have rather clumsily given the name of Sentient Empathists, has emerged from among those scholars interested in motivation.

These historians try to reveal the sensations and emotions as well as ideas of the men and women who took the cross. They search for entry-ports into the crusaders' thought-world, sometimes through the collective consciousness of closely-knit groups, such as families, seeking to identify the triggers that galvanized men and women into action.

These are to be found, they believe, in 'the mental spaces that people ... themselves inhabited', in the words of Marcus Bull. They include memory and memorialization, and what Bull has called 'the underlying assumptions and instincts which up to then may not have found any dedicated outlet but could now assume a central importance'.

Out of the work of several young crusade historians is beginning to emerge a new, more credible, picture of the crusaders and of the influences on them.

The revival of the interest of the general public in the subject is being fuelled by the spectacular appearance on the scene of aggressive pan-Islamism, inspired by Sayyid Qutb's concept of Crusaderism (sulubiyya).

In the final section of the book I touch on this extraordinary and deadly twist to crusade historiography, which also raises questions about the survival of old ideas and images into modern times.

00Sunday, June 28, 2009 5:10 AM


Here are photos from the news agencies who decided there was news value in the FSSPX ordination of three priests at their Zaitzkofen seminary near Regensburg today (Saturday).

Bishop Antonio Galarreta, one of the four FSSPX bishops ordained illegally by the late Mons. Marcel Lefebvre, was the ordaining bishop.

So, they went ahead and did it as they have done without incident for the past 30 years - during which never once did the Diocese of Regensburg nor any other German bishop take interest in them or their activities. [Probably these bishops did not think them worth even thinking about - fit only to be ignored!)

Until this year when the Bishop of Regensburg and the chairman of the German bishops' conference warned them not to go ahead with their yearly ordinations because they would be in violation of canon law and a 'provocation' to the Vatican!

All of a sudden, these German bishops were acting holier than thou - when it was clear from simple common sense and a modicum of canon law that nothing has changed so far in the status of the FSSPX.

They still have no canonical status in the Church, and lifting the excommunication from the four bishops was the Pope's personal gesture to the four men individually. It regularized neither their own canonical status in the Church nor that of the FSSPX as a whole - all this was to be decided depending on what happens in the next phase of this rapprochement with Rome, which the Pope as Pastor of the Church so dearly wants.

Who are better Catholic pastors, after all: the FSSPX who live by the millebnnial tradition of the Catholic Church and manage to train a constant number of seminarians yearly, or the ultra-liberal German bishops who will bend over backwards and contort themselves to 'curry favor' with their liberal and dissenting 'parishioners' but who can never get to fill their Churches, from all accounts, and whose seminaries are empty?

What good is professing adherence to all of Vatican II while openly defying what it says about how bishops should behave with respect to the Pope and his authority? And even worse, dissenting from traditional teaching about abortion and divorce and priestly celibacy, to name just a few!

Personally in this Year for Priests, I thank the Lord for three new priests today who, i think, are not ever likely to campaign to abolish priestly celibacy

00Sunday, June 28, 2009 6:25 PM

It's hard not to consider this event providential in every way. For the discovery to be made just before the Pauline Year closes, for the image to be in such good condition over a distance of 16 centuries, merely adds to the indescribable thrill one feels before a major archaeological find. And this one is prime major.....

L'Osservatore Romano has a couple of longish articles about the find in today's issue, but for now I will use a story from the Italian secular press based on those articles because it is shorter.

Roman archaeologists find
oldest known image of St. Paul
in a Roman catacomb

by Giacomo Galeazzi
Translated from

June 28, 2009

Vatican archaeologists have discovered a portrait of the Apostle Paul in the catacombs of St. Tecla.

L'Osservatore Romano today unveiled the oldest known image of the saint, described as 'a sensational find which has impressed experts'.

The archaeologists found the valuable portrait on June 19 during restoration of frescoes decorating a small cubicle in the catacombs on Rome's via Ostiense, just a few hundred meters distant from the basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, which was erected on the site where Paul was buried and houses his tomb.

The frescoes date to the end of the fourth century, making this portrait of Paul the oldest known pictorial representation of the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Working with laser tools, the archaeologists from the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology uncovered 'the severe and easily recognizable face of St. Paul".

The Vatican paper describes the bust portrait as "a marvel of suggestive expression which left the restorers breathless, interrupting their work in awe of that face which, emerging from the obscurity of the catacomb, strikes and moves whoever looks at it."

Archeological experts from the Vatican museums rushed to the site to verify 'the extraordinary importance of the discovery' which led the Vatican to announce the news almost immediately, despite the fact that restoration of the cubicle is still underway.

[What the Stampa article does not mention is that the circular portrait of Paul is one of four similar 'tondos' on the ceiling fresco whose central figure is the Good Shepherd, and that one of the four portraits clearly depicts St. Peter. The other two have not been conclusively identified but it is thought they represent the Apostles John and James the Elder.]

"A lucky and surprising discovery from a the 'submerged world' of dark catacombs, tunnels and cubicles miraculously preserved from obliteration," exults Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of teh Pontifical Commission for Culture.

"It is an eloquent testimony of Christianity in the early centuries, marking a a new and extraordinary chapter in the history of Christian art in late antiquity."

Recent studies have overturned many stereotypes about the person of the man who has been called 'the inventor of Christianity' [a disparaging appellation by anti-Christian scholars who imply that St. Paul 'invented' the major features of the story of Christ].

The most recent researches, for instance by Fr. Cesare Atuire, belie the image of Paul as the warrior for God who was robust and powerful as many imagined due to his many perilous missions, but was in fact,
irascible, short, bald, slightly hunchbacked and probably an epileptic.

That in fact, the human features cloaking the interior spirituality of St. Paul show him to be some one who was simply 'one of us'.

Fr. Atuire has been doing on-site research in the places associated with St. Paul, from Syria to Turkey to Malta and Cyprus, adn then to Rome, and is naturally ecstatic about the sensational find.

"It is an image that speaks to man today, that in order to imitate St. Paul, one must find his humanity, as a man with so many disadvantages. This portrait depicts a man who, with all his physical defects, succeeded to embody the Christian message."

"Significantly," he continues, the early Christians responsible for this portrait chose not to prettify him, because to present him with all his physical disadvantages makes him a more valuable model to follow. He was a man who lived in himself the contradictions of his time, with very human attitudes which make us feel him close to us and not distant as many saints often make us feel."

Speaking of Paul's experience on the road to Damascus, the priest says: "The lightning bolt and his fall from the horse on the road to Damascus was the moment of Paul's vocation - when he was called by Christ - and not of his conversion, which was a much longer and slower process. Paul's experience shows that God's call can come to everyone, even those who are in a state of sin. God does not address himself only to people who are already holy."

Mons. Ravasi says, "There is a great theological and spiritual value to this find, besides its historical and artistic merit. The presence of the image of St. Peter in the same fresco is additional and important proof of the concordia apostolorum [perfect apostolic harmony] which was at the heart of the religious notion of the Roman Church in the second half of the fourth century".

Day after day, the restorers are "uncovering depictions of Biblical stories and faces of the apostles through which ideas, programs and new projects for the faith were conveyed in pictorial form," he notes.

Paul's face, surrounded by a yellow-gold round frame on a background of red, "moves us by its stark expressionism, a strong and eloquent icon of the Apostle, a face of his time, which reminds us of that mission which the Church of Rome, in the 3rd and 4th centuries, carried out in the name of Paul in order to convert the last of the pagans to Christianity".

As for Paul's tomb, located under the main altar of St. Paul's Basilica outside the Walls, the Archpriest of the Basilica, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, said the other day that there has been no decision yet to open the tomb.

He said the decision would be made by the Pope, since it would involve major steps such as deconstructing the present main altar. Attempts to inspect the interior non-invasively by X-ray have failed, he said because the sarcophagus walls are 25 centimeters thick.

00Tuesday, June 30, 2009 5:00 PM

Yesterday, the regular newsphoto agencies feeding Yahoo posted online as many photos of the annual ordination of priests at the FSSPX main seminary in econe, Switzerland, as they did to the Papal Mass and imposition of palliums in St. Peter's Basilica.

At least one Italian news agency sought an appropriate follow-up at the Vatican:

Fr. Lombardi says Vatican
has nothing new to say
about the FSPPX ordinations

VATICAN CITY, June 29 (Translated from AGI) - Vatican press director Fr. Federico Lombardi says he has no new comment to make regarding the ordination of 12 priests and nine deacons by the FSSPX today at its main seminary in Econe, Switzerland.

"I have nothing to add to what has been said previously," Fr. Lombardi said, "namely, that the ordinations continue to be illegitimate".

"But in the same statement," he added, "I also pointed out, to keep things in context, that we are now awaiting the start of a dialog between the FSSPX and the Holy See which is aimed at overcoming the present situation".

So, here are some of the pictures. The ordinations apparently took place in a tent pitched on the Alpine meadow outside the FSPPX church in Econe.

Mons. Bernard Fellay, the FSSPX superior-general, presided at the ordination rites, and the two other FSSPX bishops, Bernard Tisser de Malleret of France and Alfonso Galarreta of Spain also laid hands on the new priests.

Conspicuously absent was the fourth FSSPX bishop, Richard Williamson of the United Kingdom, whon the society has consigned to 'internal exile' at their London headquarters until he reconsiders his position negating or minimizing the Holocaust.

Meanwhile, Reuters' Faith Blog had this guest contribution yesterday, introduced with these words:

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Nicolas Senèze is deputy editor of the religion service at the French Catholic daily La Croix and author of La crise intégriste, a history of the SSPX. He wrote this for FaithWorld (translation by Reuters) after covering the ordinations in Ecône for La Croix.

Mons. Fellay ordains new priests,
hints at 'timid' opening

by Nicolas Senèze

June 29, 2009

Bishop Bernard Fellay has gone and done it. On the morning of June 29, before crowds of the faithful gathered on the large meadow outside the Saint Pius X seminary in Ecône, Switzerland, the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (SSPX) ordained eight new priests.

Just like Bishop Alfonso de Galaretta did on Friday in Zaitzkofen, Germany, and Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais 10 days ago in Winona, Minnesota in the United States.

They went ahead and ordained these men despite the Vatican’s declaration that the ordinations were “illegitimate”, i.e. illegal according to the law of the Roman Catholic Church.

[The reporter fails to point out that this is nothing new - it has always been the case since 1988 - which has nor stopped the FSSPX from training seminarians and ordaining new priests, because while the ordinations are 'illegitimate', the sacraments performed by the priests are considered valid under canon law.]

Was this a provocation by the SSPX against Pope Benedict, whose flag flies above the seminary? Absolutely not, a very self-confident Bishop Fellay responded to journalists who had journeyed to this Swiss Alpine village for the ceremony.

“There is a tacit tolerance from Rome,” said the Swiss-born bishop, whose 20-year excommunication was lifted in January along with the three other bishops drummed out of the Church in 1988. “We did not have an explicit order not to do this. I have contacts with Rome, I’m not just making this up out of thin air. Rome knows this is not a provocation on our part.”

[What he says appears to be confirmed by Fr. Lombardi's subsequent statements yesterday.]

In any event, for Bishop Fellay, the SSPX is in the “state of necessity” which canon law mentions when it allows derogations from Church rules. “If everything went well in the Church, our gesture would have been disobedience. But all is not well in the Church,” he said calmly. “We see such scandals at Mass, we hear sermons so contrary to the faith!”

This is the same “state of necessity” that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre invoked in the 1970s and 1980s, when he went ahead with priestly ordinations without having the power to do so.

At the time, the SSPX, which had been dissolved by the bishop of Fribourg with the endorsement of Pope Paul VI, had no official status in the Church.

Pope John Paul had asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to settle the Lefebvre case. The CDF prefect at the time was named … Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Early this year, the same person, who became Pope in 2005, lifted the excommunications pronounced after the collapse of the talks he had conducted in 1988 with Archbishop Lefebvre.

Again, the case will now be entrusted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - a sign that the differences with these fundamentalists are primarily theological.

But that means there is also a red line not to cross — the fundamentalists must accept the authority of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the post-conciliar magisterium of the popes.

“The biggest problem is philosophical,” Bishop Fellay observed. “Two philosophies meet: the classical scholastic philosophy and modern philosophy. The Pope is very eclectic and we feel that he has been marked by a subjective philosophy — less when he talks about morality than when he speaks in the abstract. Our scholastic philosophy is more objective.”

So Bishop Fellay thinks that Rome and Ecône may speak “about the same thing, but differently.” This is a timid opening, but it must be appreciated for what it is. Only a little while ago, the SSPX Council firmly rejected Vatican II as a council tainted by error.

In essence, Bishop Fellay is saying that the fundamental issue is less the Council itself than its interpretation. [But that's not new - this is what the FSSPX has maintained all along!]

There are differences of position within the Catholic Church that are larger and more serious than those we have with Rome [How true! How true! And don't we all know it!],” he said.

“The Council texts opened the door to interpretations. It may be necessary that the Pope clarifies them, as Paul VI did on collegiality. But when the Pope condemned the hermeneutic of discontinuity, he condemned 80% of what is happening in the Church!”

00Wednesday, July 1, 2009 2:10 PM

Vatican unveils restored papal chapel
featuring Michelangelo murals

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, June 30 (CNS) -- Work on the Pauline Chapel in the Apostolic Palace was not so much a restoration as a restitution of the pope's prayer space, said the director of the Vatican Museums.

Containing the last two murals Michelangelo ever painted, the private papal chapel had been under scaffolding for more than five years; it was presented to reporters June 30.

Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to inaugurate the chapel July 4 with an evening prayer service in the presence of four dozen members of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.

The patrons -- laypeople from the United States, England and Ireland -- fully covered the almost $4.6 million it took to clean and restore the chapel's artwork, refurnish it and install a sophisticated new LED lighting system.

The chapel -- named after Pope Paul III, who commissioned its construction in 1537 -- has side walls that feature Michelangelo's paintings of the crucifixion of St. Peter and the conversion of St. Paul.

NB: These photos of the two murals are pre-restoration.

Access to the chapel is from the Sala Regia, the "royal room" where popes once met visiting Catholic kings and queens.

While the room's murals focus on the church's influence and power in the temporal world, "as soon as you cross the threshold (into the Pauline Chapel), you pass into the church that lives in the dimension of eternity," said Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums.

Traditionally the private chapel has been reserved for the pope's celebration of early morning Mass with special guests and for the adoration of the Eucharist during the day by people who work in the Apostolic Palace.

"The body of Christ is at the center, and it is surrounded by the story of the princes of the Apostles": St. Peter, to whom the popes trace their spiritual responsibility for the church, and St. Paul, from whom they inherit the mission of preaching the Gospel to all peoples and preserving the unity of Christ's disciples, Paolucci said.

Michelangelo began work on the two murals in 1542 after he had finished "The Last Judgment" in the Sistine Chapel. He completed his contribution to the Pauline Chapel in 1550 at the age of 75.

"It is a kind of spiritual testament marked by a vast sadness and deep pessimism," Paolucci said. "One has the impression that the mystery of grace offered to an unworthy humanity causes anguish for the soul of the artist, a Christian, who lived through and witnessed the religious crisis of his era, which was divided and lacerated by the Reformation."

The chapel walls feature other episodes from the lives of the two apostles by Lorenzo Sabbatini and Federico Zuccari, Italians who began their work on the chapel about 25 years after Michelangelo finished his.

Restoration of the art was not the only concern of those who worked on the chapel over the past five years, said Arnold Nesselrath, the Vatican Museums official who oversaw the effort.

"The Pauline Chapel is still one of the three papal chapels in the Apostolic Palace and has a traditional liturgical function, so we had to return the space intact" without making modifications for purely educational or documentary purpose, he said.

Paolucci told reporters that almost every pope who has served the church in the last four centuries made some kind of modification to the Pauline Chapel.

The modifications, he said, show just how personally connected each pope felt to the chapel, but they complicated the restoration work.

An international commission composed of 13 experts on Michelangelo or on the theory and practice of restoration was formed to advise the Vatican on how far to go not only in cleaning the works, but also in deciding which of the later additions to remove or keep.

In addition, U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household, and Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, were involved in deciding what furnishings to use and where to place them.

Bishop Paolo De Nicolo, regent of the papal household, said that in the end, it was Pope Benedict who decided to remove the altar placed in the chapel by Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council.

Pope Benedict chose to restore the original marble altar, but not to place it completely against the wall where it stood for 400 years.

"The chapel is meant for eucharistic adoration, and if the altar were against the wall it would have been very difficult to reach the tabernacle," which is flush against the wall, Bishop De Nicolo said.

He said the pope also wanted to be able to cense the entire altar -- front and back -- during liturgies, and he wanted the option of celebrating Mass facing the people or facing the cross with them.

00Wednesday, July 1, 2009 4:33 PM


Here is the companion portrait of St. Peter found last week in the same ceiling fresco in a cubicle of the catacombs of St. Tecla as the one of Saint Paul. [See earlier post on this page.]

(Similar portraits of two other apostles were uncovered, thought to be Saints John and James the Elder, but no photos have been released yet).

Below, detail of St. Peter's head from Michelangelo's 1550 fresco of The Crucifixion of Peter in the newly-restored Pauline Chapel at the Vatican:

The iconography of both Saints Peter and Paul appears to have been established pretty well by the 3rd-4th century when the Tecla portraits were done. (See photos in the banner strip above for this post).

00Thursday, July 2, 2009 2:30 AM

St. Paul in our midst
by Lucetta Scaraffia
Translated from
the 6/30-7/1/09 issue of

Certainly it has not been only lately that the world appears divided and disconcerted because of contingencies that are doubtless difficult and unpleasant to confront, but also and more especially, because a cultural and scientific change is under way in the West that is a threat to the human being himself.

Never before, in fact, has the divine likeness recognizable in every human being - which alone should warrant his dignity - come under such attack. The news that recurs in the media is almost always negative, showing us a picture of our society that has so little positive about it that at times, it seems it has been irreparably injured.

All this weighs down on us like a black cloud, from which it is difficult to imagine how we could possibly emerge.

But something has happened these days that has made us lift our sights higher, to make us understand what we should be mindful of, in order to change such a depressing world.

Among the mundane news that crowd the media, somehow a 'new' face has made its mark - a balding bearded man, with deep gentle eyes and furrowed brow, who looks down at us from across 16 centuries: the face of Paul of Tarsus, which has re-emerged almost miraculously in the hands of a restoration worker at the Roman catacombs of St. Tecla.

It is a face marked with profound meanings. And we have been left breathless not only by the extraordinary coincidence of the discovery with the conclusion of the jubilee year dedicated to him by the Catholic Church [the portrait came to light on June 19) but by its timely appearance amidst the disorder of our day.

In the face of Paul - recognizable because of the iconography that had become the conventional way to depict him in the context of an an-iconic culture like Judaism and early Christianity - we see features typically associated with the ancient Greek philosophers (particularly Plato or Plotinus) in someone who was one of the founding figures of Christianity.

Thus we see in him the roots of our culture, Athens and Jerusalem, turning up before our eyes unexpectedly to remind of us of who we are, or better, of who we have forgotten we are.

And to this wise portrait that looks back at us was soon added another sensational news: scientific inquiry conducted for the first time in what long unbroken tradition has always venerated as the apostle's tomb appears to confirm that his mortal remains indeed lie there, in that tomb, buried with gold-threaded purple garments deemed appropriate for one of the founders of the Church of Rome by the early Christians who buried him after his martyrdom.

With these double discoveries, the extraordinary Pauline jubilee - which had until then been confined almost only within the confines of the Catholic world [also to the Orthodox world, since Bartholomew I promptly followed Benedict XVI's initiative and proclaimed a Pauline Year likewise for the Greek Orthodox Churches], and sometimes with observances which were rather routine - suddenly took on new life, 'invading' even the secularized world which is generally deaf to the affairs of saints.

It is as if Paul is telling us that he is here, among us, and he wants us to listen. And if we listen to him, this fundamental figure who is at the roots of our civilization - not just in the religious sense, but culturally, morally and philosophically - he has much to say to us in these wretched times, extraordinary things which have the flavor of truth and novelty.

Paul teaches us that in life everything can change, everything can make sense and impose a new direction: his conversion on the road to Damascus remains the model of all the true and profound changes that a human being is capable of, the model for a fundamental turning-point that illuminates life, that in changing one man, can transform an entire society.

Paul teaches us that if we ourselves become renewed, then we can renew the world.

That unforeseen violent moment of conversion - that is, the reversal of a wrong direction to the right one and carries along whoever makes the change - has been the subject of numerous works of art in the Christian tradition, even if perhaps no one has represented it with such power as the sinner Caravaggio, as well as equally numerous narrations, biographical and autobiographical fictions.

In all of them it appears that Paul is associated with sudden apparitions, strong and clear, like his exhortations to change direction if one is headed the wrong way, and to move ahead with energy and courage.

For the believer, the message is clear, as Benedict XVI has explained in his profound and lucid way. But I believe that even the non-believer can grasp it: From Athens and Jerusalem, through Paul, to every person, comes an invitation to rise up from the depths and begin a new life.

00Thursday, July 2, 2009 2:31 PM


Thanks to

for the photo, which gives a remarkably good idea of the two Michelangelo murals on Paul (left) and Peter (right).

I was preparing to translate a couple of OR articles on the restoration but Dr. Robert Moynihan has a first-hand account of seeing the restored chapel on Monday, so let me start with him.

Being there...
by Dr. Robert Moynihan
Reporting from Rome

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Today began with the unveiling of the restored Pauline Chapel in the Vatican.

This was an extraordinary moment, for the Vatican, for world art, and even, perhaps, for theology — if we are permitted to allow Michelangelo to affect our theological reflection (as I think we are).

Where is the Pauline Chapel, and what is it?

Imagine you are in the Sistine Chapel. Over your head is the great painting of the creation of man. On the wall in front of you is the Last Judgment. Behind you is the back wall of the chapel. There is a door in that wall. You go out through that door. Now you are in a huge hall. You turn and look to your right.

The hall is called the Sala Regia, the Royal Room, where Popes once consecrated the kings of Europe. Enormous frescoes cover the high walls, showing the battle of Lepanto in 1571, the return of Pope Gregory XIII to Rome from Avignon, France, in 1376 (you can remember the date of the return because it was 400 years before 1776, the founding of America through the Declaration of Independence), and Pope Alexander III's reconciliation meeting with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I.

At the far end of the hall, there is a door. The door opens into another chapel, not as large as the Sistine Chapel, but still the second-largest chapel in the Vatican.

It is the Pauline Chapel.

And for the last eight years, restorers have been cleaning it — after 400 years when hundreds of candles spread soot over the walls and ceiling.

And today, the chapel was opened again for the first time.

Inside the Pauline chapel are two enormous frescoes which Michelangelo did just after he finished the Sistine Chapel. One depicts the crucifixion of St. Peter. The other depicts the conversion of St. Paul.

And these two frescoes are among the most powerful works Michelangelo ever executed.

(Many artists would have depicted the death of St. Paul alongside the death of St. Peter; or the conversion of St. Paul alongside the calling of St. Peter; but Michelangelo chose to depict the conversion of Paul and the crucifixion of Peter — the beginning of faith, and its end in persecution and martyrdom.)

These are enlarged from the thumbnails Dr. Moynihan posted, so the reproduction is fuzzy. I am not sure, however, that they are necessarily the murals as they appear today because the color scheme for the Peter mural is different from that seen in the large chapel photo at the top of this post. The panel below comes from larger pictures of the pre-restoration murals (or rather, as they were restored in 1939, since when they fell into neglect until the recent chapel restoration project that began in 2002. An OR article gives details about these murals and how they were restored.

The striking thing is that Michelangelo painted the face of Peter in such a way as to have Peter's eyes look directly toward the doorway. When a Pope comes into that chapel, he has to look into Peter's eyes. And what does he see there?

Well, that is the question....

The director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, in this morning's press conference, spoke about the look in Peter's eyes.

He said the look was angry. And he said Peter's expression contained doubt about the meaningfulness of his sacrifice, his willingness to be executed for Christ.

I don't see any doubt in Peter's eyes.

I do see a challenge. The challenge is to those walking into the chapel, including every Pope. The challenge is: "Be ready to be as strong as I am, as I have to be, to die for the faith. Don't even think about holding back. Give everything, as I am doing."

In this regard, I was reminded of something which Pope Benedict said on the day he was crowned, in his homily on April 24, 2005.

I was in St. Peter's Square that day, and I listened very carefully as he spoke.

And there were only two sentences in his homily that really moved me, and have remained with me to this day.

The first was when he spoke about the deserts which can surround us and cause us pain, the deserts of confusion, the deserts of the loss of love. Benedict said:

"And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction."

And the second was when he asked for our prayers. He directly asked us, right out in the open, on the first day of his papacy, for our prayers, for one thing:

"My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves."

Those were the Pope's words: "Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves."


The fresco depicting the conversion of St. Paul is striking in a different way. It shows the descent of a divine light, from the hand of Christ, upon St. Paul. The light, which is depicted like a white cloud or mist, doesn't seem harmful, but it blinds Saul.

This depiction reminds me of the God on the Sistine Chapel ceiling creating the world, and the Christ of the Last Judgment. Both are visions of a divine realm which contacts this realm, brings it into being, judges it, and, in the case of Saul, blinds it — in order to open its eyes to new light.


The altar in the Pauline Chapel has been restored. Benedict made the decision in February this year.

Paul VI had selected a new, modern altar, and moved it away from the back wall of the chapel.

Benedict, when he came in to look at the nearly-finished restoration work in February, ordered that the old altar be put back closer to the wall, but leaving a small space so that the tabernacle could be reached (the tabernacle is directly behind the altar, and it would be too far for the priest to lean across the altar and open the tabernacle, so the Pope, instead of moving the tabernacle from the very center of the chapel wall, had the altar moved just about a yard away from the wall).

Mass will no longer be celebrated in this chapel with the priest facing toward the people, but with both priest and people facing the tabernacle, the cross above it, and the East.

Among the few photos of the restored murals so far are the two on the left below showing Paul and Peter as they are portrayed in the frescoes by Michelangelo. The panel on the right is a rarely seen detail showing Christ in the conversion mural, appearing near the top of the dramatic lightbolt that bisects the canvas - a somewhat older Christ than the Christ of the Last Judgment but just as muscular. This photo was probably a pre-restoration detail.

Below, I have a cropped the panel showing Christ from the presumably restored Paul mural, as well as the heads of Paul and Peter:

I posted previously available detail photos farther above on this page...

And yes, I must translate the two OR articles on the restoration

00Thursday, July 2, 2009 11:53 PM

Only in Rome, and only in the context of Christian tradition, can a number of history-making major cultural markers come in such awesome succession as we have 'witnessed' in the past few days.

First, the discovery of those 4th-century portraits of Peter and Paul in a Roman catacomb; then the news that the Vatican had sampled the interior of St. Paul's sarcophagus and received unbiased Carbon-14 dating that supports the unbroken traditional belief that the apostle was iindeed buried there; and then the unveiling of Michelangelo's last great frescoes after decades of virtual oblivion in a Vatican chapel that has now been restored.

Now, there's another historical twist to the last:

Michelangelo's self-portrait
seen in his fresco painting
of Peter's crucifixion

by Richard Owen in Rome

July 2, 2009

The restoration of frescoes by Michelangelo in the Vatican has revealed what is believed to be a self-portrait of the artist.

The face is in a wall mural in the Vatican’s Pauline Chapel or Cappella Paolina, according to Maurizio De Luca, the Vatican’s chief restorer. The chapel, which is used by the Pope and not open to the public, was unveiled this week after a restoration costing €3.2 million (£2.7 million).

Professor De Luca said that a figure on horseback in a blue turban in Michelangelo’s The Crucifixion of St Peter was clearly the artist. “This is an extraordinary and moving discovery,” he said.

He said that the resemblance to portraits by Giuliano Bugiardini and Daniele da Volterra, as well as to a bust by Giambologna, was striking.

The frescoes were painted by Michelangelo in the chapel beginning from 1542 to 1549, when he was 75. They depict the crucifixion of St Peter and the conversion to Christianity of the apostle Paul. The restoration began in 2004 and was funded by Vatican museum arts patrons.

Michelangelo is also said to have included a self-portrait in the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, hidden in the robes of St Bartholomew.

Michelangelo began work on the Pauline Chapel murals after he had completed the Sistine Chapel.

The two murals are the last Michelangelo painted. The chapel is named not after St Paul but after Pope Paul III, who commissioned it in 1537.

Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, said that the frescoes were “a kind of spiritual testament marked by vast sadness and deep pessimism. One has the impression that the mystery of grace offered to an unworthy humanity caused anguish in the soul of the artist, a Christian, who lived through and witnessed the religious crisis of his era, which was divided and lacerated by the Reformation.”

The paintings had profound importance for the Church, Professor Paolucci said, since they depicted St Peter, “to whom all popes trace their spiritual responsibility” and St Paul, “from whom they inherit the mission of preaching the Gospel to all peoples”.

Pope Benedict XVI will inaugurate the restored chapel with an evening prayer service on July 4.

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