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00Wednesday, January 6, 2010 3:07 AM
See preceding page for earlier posts on 1/5/09.

Bishop Yao Liang, 87, imprisoned in China
for loyalty to the Vatican, dies


Published: January 5, 2010

BEIJING — Leo Yao Liang, a Roman Catholic bishop who spent 28 years in Chinese prisons during Mao’s rule for his refusal to renounce his allegiance to the Vatican, died on Dec. 30 in Xiwanzi, a town in north China’s Hebei Province.

Bishop Yao was 87 and had been ill with a severe cold for about two weeks before his death, according to Song Feng, the president of the Catholic Association of Xiwanzi Church.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation, which is based in Connecticut and advocates religious freedom for Catholics in China, stated on its Web site that the report of Bishop Yao’s death had apparently been delayed because Chinese authorities sought to withhold the news.

Short and stout, with a shock of white hair and a booming voice, Bishop Yao presided almost up to his death over daily open-air Masses that drew hundreds of worshipers, and Sunday Masses that often attracted a thousand people. The Chinese authorities forbade him to carry out his administrative duties as bishop but did not overtly interfere with his clerical activities.

China’s government does not recognize the Roman Catholic Church or its bishops. Instead, it promotes a government-affiliated faith, the Patriotic Catholic Association. But millions of Chinese are believed to remain loyal to the Vatican and attend so-called underground churches like those that Bishop Yao led. There are reported to be 15,000 Catholic worshipers in Xiwanzi diocese, where he was secretly made an auxiliary bishop in 2002.

For years after his release from prison in 1984, Mr. Song said, Bishop Yao urged his parishioners to follow a course of quiet but steadfast opposition both to the Patriotic Catholic Association and to government restrictions on their right to worship. But after Pope Benedict XVI made improved relations between the Vatican and Beijing a priority, he said, Bishop Yao began working to repair relations with the government.

The mourners at his weeklong funeral, which concludes with his burial on Wednesday, have included a number of local government officials, Mr. Song said.

Yao Liang was born in Hebei in 1923 and became a priest in 1946, according to the Kung Foundation. But after the Communist Party took power in 1949, Catholicism was outlawed, and Bishop Yao’s religious work became more and more circumscribed. In 1956 the government sent him to a labor camp, and in 1958 he was sentenced to prison for life after refusing to abandon his allegiance to the Vatican.

Bishop Yao said little about his 28 years of imprisonment.

“Only sometimes he would complain to close friends about the unspeakable experience,” Mr. Song said. “He personally witnessed people being killed by the P.L.A.” — the People’s Liberation Army — “when he was taken to prison, and he was very traumatized.”

His 1984 release came as the Chinese government relaxed many of the restrictions of the Mao era. While many Catholic priests were still persecuted and Catholicism was strongly discouraged, worshipers were tacitly allowed to congregate at underground churches.

Mr. Song said that Bishop Yao was assigned by the government to be the pastor at a remote rural church in a mountainous area 25 miles from Xiwanzi. In 1997 he came to Xiwanzi, a town of about 7,000 people about 160 miles north of Beijing, close to the border with inner Mongolia.

Even at an advanced age, his problems with the government did not end. In 2006 the authorities ordered Mr. Yao to spend two and a half years in isolation from outsiders, studying Chinese religious laws, after he was held responsible for two conflicts between the government and underground churches.

Bishop Yao was directly involved in the first incident, in which worshipers built a new Catholic church and staffed it with priests not certified by the government, Mr. Song said. But he had no role in the second, in which angry Catholics laid siege to local government offices for three days during a dispute with a Patriotic Catholic organization.

Bishop Yao’s death, not quite a year after he was released from detention, leaves mainland China with 94 Vatican-approved bishops. The authorities are reported to have stepped up security for his burial in the Xiwanzi church graveyard, a ceremony that is expected to attract thousands despite record snows in the area.

00Thursday, January 7, 2010 12:27 PM

Mons. Guido Marini, the master of pontifical liturgical ceremonies, addressed a Clergy Conference at the Vatican Wednesday evening on the liturgy - much of it based on applying the principles and ideas of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI in keeping both with Church Tradition and the Vatican litrugical constitution Sacrosanctum concilium.

The Clergy Conference is sponsored by the Australian and American Confraternities of Catholic Clergy as their first joint annual event and decided to hold it in the Vatican in the Year of Priests. The conference venue is the Domus Sancta Marthae.

Thanks to

for this document.

Vatican City, January 6, 2010
A Conference for the Year of the Priest

by Msgr. Guido Marini,
Pontifical Master of Liturgical Ceremonies

I propose to focus on some topics connected to the spirit of the liturgy and reflect on them with you; indeed, I intend to broach a subject which would require me to say much. Not only because it is a demanding and complex task to talk about the spirit of the liturgy, but also because many important works treating this subject have already been written by authors of unquestionably high caliber in theology and the liturgy. I’m thinking of two people in particular among the many: Romano Guardini and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

One the other hand, it is now all the more necessary to speak about the spirit of the liturgy, especially for us members of the sacred priesthood. Moreover, there is an urgent need to reaffirm the “authentic” spirit of the liturgy, such as it is present in the uninterrupted tradition of the Church, and attested, in continuity with the past, in the most recent Magisterial teachings: starting from the second Vatican council up to the present pontificate.

I purposefully used the word continuity, a word very dear to our present Holy Father. He has made it the only authoritative criterion whereby one can correctly interpret the life of the Church, and more specifically, the conciliar documents, including all the proposed reforms contained in them.

How could it be any different? Can one truly speak of a Church of the past and a Church of the future as if some historical break in the body of the Church had occurred? Could anyone say that the Bride of Christ had lived without the assistance of the Holy Spirit in a particular period of the past, so that its memory should be erased, purposefully forgotten?

Nevertheless at times it seems that some individuals are truly partisan to a way of thinking that is justly and properly defined as an ideology, or rather a preconceived notion applied to the history of the Church which has nothing to do with the true faith.

An example of the fruit produced by that misleading ideology is the recurrent distinction between the preconciliar and the post conciliar Church. Such a manner of speaking can be legitimate, but only on condition that two Churches are not understood by it: one, the pre- Conciliar Church, that has nothing more to say or to give because it has been surpassed, and a second, the post-conciliar church, a new reality born from the Council and, by its presumed spirit, not in continuity with its past.

This manner of speaking and more so of thinking must not be our own. Apart from being incorrect, it is already superseded and outdated, perhaps understandable from a historical point of view, but nonetheless connected to a season in the church’s life by now concluded.

Does what we have discussed so far with respect to “continuity” have anything to do with the topic we have been asked to treat in this lecture? Yes, absolutely.

The authentic spirit of the liturgy does not abide when it is not approached with serenity, leaving aside all polemics with respect to the recent or remote past. The liturgy cannot and must not be an opportunity for conflict between those who find good only in that which came before us, and those who, on the contrary, almost always find wrong in what came before.

The only disposition which permits us to attain the authentic spirit of the liturgy, with joy and true spiritual relish, is to regard both the present and the past liturgy of the Church as one patrimony in continuous development.

A spirit, accordingly, which we must receive from the Church and is not a fruit of our own making. A spirit, I add, which leads to what is essential in the liturgy, or, more precisely, to prayer inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, in whom Christ continues to become present for us today, to burst forth into our lives. Truly, the spirit of the liturgy is the liturgy of the Holy Spirit.

I will not pretend to plumb the depths of the proposed subject matter, nor to treat all the different aspects necessary for a panoramic and comprehensive understanding of the question.

I will limit myself by discussing only a few elements essential to the liturgy, specifically with reference to the celebration of the Eucharist, such as the Church proposes them, and in the manner I have learned to deepen my knowledge of them these past two years in service to our Holy Father, Benedict XVI.

He is an authentic master of the spirit of the liturgy, whether by his teaching, or by the example he gives in the celebration of the sacred rites.

If, during the course of these reflections on the essence of the liturgy, I will find myself taking note of some behaviours that I do not consider in complete harmony with the authentic spirit of the liturgy, I will do so only as a small contribution to making this spirit stand out all the more in all its beauty and truth.

1. The Sacred Liturgy, God’s great gift to the Church.

We are all well aware how the second Vatican Council dedicated the entirety of its first document to the liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. It was labeled as the Constitution on the sacred liturgy.

I wish to underline the term sacred in its application to the liturgy, because of its importance. As a matter of fact, the council Fathers intended in this way to reinforce the sacred character of the liturgy.

What, then, do we mean by the sacred liturgy? The East would in this case speak of the divine dimension in the Liturgy, or, to be more precise, of that dimension which is not left to the arbitrary will of man, because it is a gift which comes from on high.

It refers, in other words, to the mystery of salvation in Christ, entrusted to the Church in order to make it available in every moment and in every place by means of the objective nature of the liturgical and sacramental rites. This is a reality surpassing us, which is to be received as gift, and which must be allowed to transform us.

Indeed, the second Vatican Council affirms: “...every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others...” (Sacrosanctum concilium, n.7)

From this perspective it is not difficult to realise how far distant some modes of conduct are from the authentic spirit of the liturgy. In fact, some individuals have managed to upset the liturgy of the Church in various ways under the pretext of a wrongly devised creativity.

This was done on the grounds of adapting to the local situation and the needs of the community, thus appropriating the right to remove from, add to, or modify the liturgical rite in pursuit of subjective and emotional ends. For this, we priests are largely responsible.

For this reason, already back in 2001, the former Cardinal Ratzinger asserted:

“There is need of, at the very least, a new liturgical awareness that might put a stop to the tendency to treat the liturgy as if it were an object open to manipulation.

We have reached the point where liturgical groups stitch together the Sunday liturgy on their own authority. The result is certainly the imaginative product of a group of able and skilled individuals.

But in this way the space where one may encounter the “totally other” is reduced, in which the holy offers Himself as gift; what I come upon is only the skill of a group of people. It is then that we realise that we are looking for something else.... something different.

The most important thing today is to acquire anew a respect for the liturgy, and an awareness that it is not open to manipulation. To learn once again to recognise in its nature a living creation that grows and has been given as gift, through which we participate in the heavenly liturgy.

To renounce seeking in it our own self-realisation in order to see a gift instead. This, I believe, is of primary importance: to overcome the temptation of a despotic behaviour, which conceives the liturgy as an object, the property of man, and to re-awaken the interior sense of the holy.” (from ‘God and the World’, translation from the Italian edition).

To affirm, therefore, that the liturgy is sacred presupposes the fact that the liturgy does not exist subject to the sporadic modifications and arbitrary inventions of one individual or group.

The liturgy is not a closed circle in which we decide to meet, perhaps to encourage one another, to feel we are the protagonists of some feast. The liturgy is God’s summons to his people to be in His presence; it is the advent of God among us; it is God encountering us in this world.

A certain adaptation to particular local situations is foreseen and rightly so. The Missal itself indicates where adaptations may be made in some of its sections, yet only in these and not arbitrarily in others.

The reason for this is important and it is good to reassert it: the liturgy is a gift which precedes us, a precious treasure which has been delivered by the age-old prayer of the Church, the place in which the faith has found its form in time and its expression in prayer.

It is not made available to us in order to be subjected to our personal interpretation; rather, the liturgy is made available so as to be fully at the disposal of all, yesterday just as today and also tomorrow.

“Our time, too,” wrote Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist.” (n. 52)

In the brilliant Encyclical Mediator Dei, which is so often quoted in the constitution on the sacred Liturgy, Pope Pius XII defines the liturgy as “...the public worship... the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members.” (n. 20)

As if to say, among other things, that in the liturgy, the Church “officially” identifies herself in the mystery of her union with Christ as spouse, and where she “officially” reveals herself.

What casual folly it is indeed, to claim for ourselves the right to change in a subjective way the holy signs which time has sifted, through which the Church speaks about herself, her identity and her faith!

The people of God has a right that can never be ignored, in virtue of which, all must be allowed to approach what is not merely the poor fruit of human effort, but the work of God, and precisely because it is God’s work, a saving font of new life.

I wish to prolong my reflection a moment longer on this point, which, I can testify, is very dear to the Holy Father, by sharing with you a passage from Sacramentum Caritatis, the Apostolic Exhortation of His Holiness, Benedict XVI, written after the Synod on the Holy Eucharist.

Emphasising the importance of the ars celebrandi also leads to an appreciation of the value of the liturgical norms... The eucharistic celebration is enhanced when priests and liturgical leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts and norms...

Perhaps we take it for granted that our ecclesial communities already know and appreciate these resources, but this is not always the case. These texts contain riches which have preserved and expressed the faith and experience of the People of God over its two-thousand-year history.” (n. 40)

2. The orientation of liturgical prayer

Over and above the changes which have characterised, during the course of time, the architecture of churches and the places where the liturgy takes place, one conviction has always remained clear within the Christian community, almost down to the present day. I am referring to praying facing east, a tradition which goes back to the origins of Christianity.

What is understood by “praying facing east”? It refers to the orientation of the praying heart towards Christ, from whom comes salvation, and to whom it is directed as in the beginning so at the end of history.

The sun rises in the east, and the sun is a symbol of Christ, the light rising in the Orient. The messianic passage in the Benedictus canticle comes readily to mind: “Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the Orient from on high hath visited us”.

Very reliable and recent studies have by now proven effectively that, in every age of its past, the Christian community has found the way to express even in the external and visible liturgical sign, this fundamental orientation for the life of faith.

This is why we find churches built in such a way that the apse was turned to the east. When such an orientation of the sacred space was no longer possible, the Church had recourse to the Crucifix placed upon the altar, on which everyone could focus.

In the same vein many apses were decorated with resplendent representations of the Lord. All were invited to contemplate these images during the celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy.

Without recourse to a detailed historical analysis of the development of Christian art, we would like to reaffirm that prayer facing east, more specifically, facing the Lord, is a characteristic expression of the authentic spirit of the liturgy.

It is according to this sense that we are invited to turn our hearts to the Lord during the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy, as the introductory dialogue to the Preface well reminds us. Sursum corda - “Lift up your hearts” - exhorts the priest, and all respond: Habemus ad Dominum - “We lift them up unto the Lord.”

Now if such an orientation must always be adopted interiorly by the entire Christian community when it gathers in prayer, it should be possible to find this orientation expressed externally by means of signs as well. The external sign, moreover, cannot but be true, in such a way that through it the correct spiritual attitude is rendered visible.

Hence the reason for the proposal made by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, and presently reaffirmed during the course of his pontificate, to place the Crucifix on the center of the altar, in order that all, during the celebration of the liturgy, may concretely face and look upon Lord, in such a way as to orient also their prayer and hearts.

Let us listen to the words of his Holiness, Benedict XVI, directly, who in the preface to the first book of his Complete Works, dedicated to the liturgy, writes the following:

The idea that the priest and people should look at one another during prayer was born only in modern Christianity, and is completely alien to the ancient Church. The priest and people most certainly do not pray one to the other, but to the one Lord.

Therefore, they look in the same direction during prayer: either towards the east as a cosmic symbol of the Lord who comes, or, where this is not possible, towards the image of Christ in the apse, towards a crucifix, or simply towards the heavens, as our Lord Himself did in his priestly prayer the night before His Passion (John 17.1)

In the meantime the proposal made by me at the end of the chapter treating this question in my work The Spirit of the Liturgy is fortunately becoming more and more common: rather than proceeding with further transformations, simply to place the crucifix at the center of the altar, which both priest and the faithful can face and be lead in this way towards the Lord, whom everyone addresses in prayer together. (Trans. from the Italian.)

Let it not be said, moreover, that the image of our Lord crucified obstructs the sight of the faithful from that of the priest, for they are not to look to the celebrant at that point in the liturgy! They are to turn their gaze towards the Lord!

In like manner, the presider of the celebration should also be able to turn towards the Lord. The crucifix does not obstruct our view; rather it expands our horizon to see the world of God; the crucifix brings us to meditate on the mystery; it introduces us to the heavens from where the only light capable of making sense of life on this earth comes. Our sight, in truth, would be blinded and obstructed were our eyes to remain fixed on those things that display only man and his works.

In this way one can come to understand why it is still possible today to celebrate the holy Mass upon the old altars, when the particular architectural and artistic features of our churches would advise it. Also in this, the Holy Father gives us an example when he celebrates the holy Eucharist at the ancient altar of the Sistine Chapel on the feast of the Baptism of our Lord.

In our time, the expression “celebrating facing the people” has entered our common vocabulary. If one’s intention in using this expression is to describe the location of the priest, who, due to the fact that today he often finds himself facing the congregation because of the placement of the altar, in this case such an expression is acceptable.

Yet such an expression would be categorically unacceptable the moment it comes to express a theological proposition. Theologically speaking, the holy Mass, as a matter of fact, is always addressed to God through Christ our Lord, and it would be a grievous error to imagine that the principal orientation of the sacrificial action is the community.

Such an orientation, therefore, of turning towards the Lord must animate the interior participation of each individual during the liturgy. It is likewise equally important that this orientation be quite visible in the liturgical sign as well.

3. Adoration and union with God

Adoration is the recognition, filled with wonder, we could even say ecstatic, (because it makes us come out of ourselves and our small world) the recognition of the infinite might of God, of His incomprehensible majesty, and of His love without limit which he offers us absolutely gratuitously, of His omnipotent and provident Lordship.

Consequently, adoration leads to the reunification of man and creation with God, to the abandonment of the state of separation, of apparent autonomy, to loss of self, which is, moreover, the only way of regaining oneself.

Before the ineffable beauty of God’s charity, which takes form in the mystery of the Incarnate Word, who for our sake has died and is risen, and which finds its sacramental manifestation in the liturgy, there is nothing left for us but to be left in adoration.

“In the paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present throughout the centuries,” affirms Pope John Paul II in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “there is a truly enormous capacity which embraces all of history as the recipient of the grace of the redemption. This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist.” (n.5)

“My Lord and my God,” we have been taught to say from childhood at the moment of the consecration. In such a way, borrowing the words of the apostle St. Thomas, we are led to adore the Lord, made present and living in the species of the holy Eucharist, uniting ourselves to Him, and recognising Him as our all. From there it becomes possible to resume our daily way, having found the correct order of life, the fundamental criterion whereby to live and to die.

Here is the reason why everything in the liturgical act, through the nobility, the beauty, and the harmony of the exterior sign, must be condusive to adoration, to union with God: this includes the music, the singing, the periods of silence, the manner of proclaiming the Word of the Lord, and the manner of praying, the gestures employed, the liturgical vestments and the sacred vessels and other furnishings, as well as the sacred edifice in its entirety.

It is under this perspective that the decision of his Holiness, Benedict XVI, is to be taken into consideration, who, starting from the feast of Corpus Christi last year, has begun to distribute holy Communion to the kneeling faithful directly on the tongue.

By the example of this action, the Holy Father invites us to render visible the proper attitude of adoration before the greatness of the mystery of the Eucharistic presence of our Lord. An attitude of adoration which must be fostered all the more when approaching the most holy Eucharist in the other forms permitted today.

I would like to cite once more another passage from the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis:

During the early phases of the reform, the inherent relationship between Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient clarity. For example, an objection that was widespread at the time argued that the eucharistic bread was given to us not to be looked at, but to be eaten.

In the light of the Church's experience of prayer, however, this was seen to be a false dichotomy. As Saint Augustine put it: ‘nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; peccemus non adorando – no one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.’

In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church's supreme act of adoration.

Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy.” (n.66)

I think that, among others, the following passage from the text I just read should not go unnoticed: “[The Eucharistic celebration] is itself the Church's supreme act of adoration.”

Thanks to the holy Eucharist, his Holiness, Benedict XVI, asserts once more: "The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realised in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God's presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus' self-gift, sharing in his body and blood.” (Deus Caritas est, n.13)

For this reason, everything in the liturgy, and more specifically in the Eucharistic liturgy, must lead to adoration, everything in the unfolding of the rite must help one enter into the Church’s adoration of her Lord.

To consider the liturgy as locus for adoration, for union with God, does not mean to lose sight of the communal dimension in the liturgical celebration, even less to forget the imperative of charity toward one’s neighbour.

On the contrary, only through a renewal of the adoration of God in Christ, which takes form in the liturgical act, will an authentic fraternal communion and a new story of charity and love arise, depending on that ability to wonder and act heroically, which only the grace of God can give to our poor hearts. The lives of the saints remind and teach us this.

“Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians.” (Deus caritas est, n. 14)

4. Active Participation

It was really the saints who have celebrated and lived the liturgical act by participating actively. Holiness, as the result of their lives, is the most beautiful testimony of a participation truthfully active in the liturgy of the Church.

Rightly, then, and by divine providence did the second Vatican Council insist so much on the necessity of promoting an authentic participation on the part of the faithful during the celebration of the holy mysteries, at the same time when it reminded the Church of the universal call to holiness.

This authoritative direction from the council has been confirmed and proposed again and again by so many successive documents of the magisterium down to the present day.

Nevertheless, there has not always been a correct understanding of the concept of “active participation”, according to how the Church teaches it and exhorts the faithful to live it.

To be sure, there is active participation when, during the course of the liturgical celebration, one fulfills his proper service; there is active participation too when one has a better comprehension of God’s word when it is heard or of the prayers when they are said; there is also active participation when one unites his own voice to that of the others in song....

All this, however, would not signify a participation truthfully active if it did not lead to adoration of the mystery of salvation in Christ Jesus, who for our sake died and is risen. This is because only he who adores the mystery, welcoming it into his life, demonstrates that he has comprehended what is being celebrated, and so is truly participating in the grace of the liturgical act.

As confirmation and support for what has just been asserted, let us listen once again to the words of a passage by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, from his fundamental study “The Spirit of the Liturgy”:

What does this active participation come down to? What does it mean that we have to do?

Unfortunately the word was very quickly misunderstood to mean something external, entailing a need for general activity, as if as many people as possible, as often as possible, should be visibly engaged in action.

However, the word ‘part-icipation’ refers to a principal action in which everyone has a ‘part’...By the actio of the liturgy the sources mean the Eucharistic prayer. The real liturgical action, the true liturgical act, is the oratio....This oratio — the Eucharistic Prayer, the “Canon” — is really more than speech; it is actio in the highest sense of the word.
(pp. 171-2)

Christ is made present in all of his salvific work, and for this reason the human actio becomes secondary and makes room for the divine actio, to God’s work.

Thus the true action which is carried out in the liturgy is the action of God Himself, his saving work in Christ, in which we participate.

This is, among other things, the true novelty of the Christian liturgy with respect to every other act of worship: God Himself acts and accomplishes that which is essential, whilst man is called to open himself to the activity of God, in order to be left transformed.

Consequently, the essential aspect of active participation is to overcome the difference between God’s act and our own, that we might become one with Christ. This is why, that I might stress what has been said up to now, it is not possible to participate without adoration.

Let us listen to another passage from Sacrosanctum Concilium:

The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.

They should be instructed by God's word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all. (n. 48)

Compared to this, everything else is secondary. I am referring in particular to external actions, granted they be important and necessary, and foreseen above all during the Liturgy of the Word.

I mention the external actions because, should they become the essential preoccupation and the liturgy is reduced to a generic act, in that case the authentic spirit of the liturgy has been misunderstood.

It follows that an authentic education in the liturgy cannot consist simply in learning and practicing exterior actions, but in an introduction to the essential action, which is God’s own, the paschal mystery of Christ, whom we must allow to meet us, to involve us, to transform us.

Let not the mere execution of external gestures be confused with the correct involvement of our bodies in the liturgical act. Without taking anything away from the meaning and importance of the external action which accompanies the interior act, the Liturgy demands a lot more from the human body. It requires, in fact, its total and renewed effort in the daily actions of this life.

This is what the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, calls “Eucharistic coherence”. Properly speaking, it is the timely and faithful exercise of such a coherence or consistency which is the most authentic expression of participation, even bodily, in the liturgical act, the salvific action of Christ.

I wish to discuss this point further. Are we truly certain that the promotion of an active participation consists in rendering everything to the greatest extent possible immediately comprehensible?

May it not be the case that entering into God’s mystery might be facilitated and, sometimes, even better accompanied by that which touches principally the reasons of the heart?

Is it not often the case that a disproportionate amount of space is given over to empty and trite speech, forgetting that both dialogue and silence belong in the liturgy, congregational singing and choral music, images, symbols, gestures?

Do not, perhaps, also the Latin language, Gregorian chant, and sacred polyphony belong to this manifold language which conducts us to the center of the mystery?

5. Sacred or liturgical music.

There is no doubt that a discussion, in order to introduce itself authentically into the spirit of the liturgy, cannot pass over sacred or liturgical music in silence.

I will limit myself to a brief reflection in way of orienting the discussion. One might wonder why the Church by means of its documents, more or less recent, insists in indicating a certain type of music and singing as particularly consonant with the liturgical celebration.

Already at the time of the Council of Trent the Church intervened in the cultural conflict developing at that time, re-establishing the norm whereby music conforming to the sacred text was of primary importance, limiting the use of instruments and pointing to a clear distinction between profane and sacred music.

Sacred music, moreover, must never be understood as a purely subjective expression. It is anchored to the biblical or traditional texts which are to be sung during the course of the celebration.

More recently, Pope Saint Pius X intervened in an analogous way, seeking to remove operatic singing from the liturgy and selecting Gregorian chant and polyphony from the time of the Catholic reformation as the standard for liturgical music, to be distinguished from religious music in general.

The second Vatican Council did nothing but to reaffirm the same standard, so too the more recent magisterial documents.

Why does the Church insist on proposing certain forms as characteristic of sacred and liturgical music which make them distinct from all other forms of music?

Why, also, do Gregorian chant and the classical sacred polyphony turn out to be the forms to be imitated, in light of which liturgical and even popular music should continue to be produced today? The answer to these questions lies precisely in what we have sought to assert with regard to the spirit of the liturgy.

It is properly those forms of music, in their holiness, their goodness, and their universality, which translate in notes, melodies and singing the authentic liturgical spirit: by leading to adoration of the mystery celebrated, by favouring an authentic and integral participation, by helping the listener to capture the sacred and thereby the essential primacy of God acting in Christ, and finally by permitting a musical development that is anchored in the life of the Church and the contemplation of its mystery.

Allow me to quote the then Cardinal Ratzinger one last time:

Gandhi highlights three vital spaces in the cosmos, and demonstrates how each one of them communicates even its own mode of being.

Fish live in the sea and are silent. Terrestrial animals cry out, but the birds, whose vital space is the heavens, sing. Silence is proper to the sea, crying out to the earth, and singing to the heavens.

Man, however, participates in all three: he bares within him the depth of the sea, the weight of the earth, and the height of the heavens; this is why all three modes of being belong to him: silence, crying out, and song.

Today...we see that, devoid of transcendence, all that is left to man is to cry out, because he wishes to be only earth and seeks to turn into earth even the heavens and the depth of the sea.

The true liturgy, the liturgy of the communion of saints, restores to him the fullness of his being. It teaches him anew how to be silent and how to sing, opening to him the profundity of the sea and teaching him how to fly, the nature of an angel; elevating his heart, it makes that song resonate in him once again which had in a way fallen asleep.

In fact, we can even say that the true liturgy is recognisable especially when it frees us from the common way of living, and restores to us depth and height, silence and song.

The true liturgy is recognisable by the fact that it is cosmic, not custom-made for a group. It sings with the angels. It remains silent with the profound depth of the universe in waiting. And in this way it redeems the world.
Ttrans. from the Italian)

At this point I would like to conclude the discussion. For some years now, several voices have been heard within Church circles talking about the necessity of a new liturgical renewal. Of a movement, in some ways analogous to the one which formed the basis for the reform promoted by the second Vatican Council, capable of operating a reform of the reform, or rather, one more step ahead in understanding the authentic spirit of the liturgy and of its celebration; its goal would be to carry on that providential reform of the liturgy that the conciliar Fathers had launched but has not always, in its practical implementation, found a timely and happy fulfillment.

There is no doubt that in this new liturgical renewal it is we priests who are to recover a decisive role. With the help of our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of all priests, may this further development of the reform also be the fruit of our sincere love for the liturgy, in fidelity to the Church and the Holy Father.

Msgr. Guido Marini
Pontifical Master of Liturgical Ceremonies

00Thursday, January 7, 2010 11:18 PM
US appeals court dismisses
Holocaust survivors' suit
against Vatican bank

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 7 (AP) -The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last week dismissed a lawsuit by Holocaust survivors who alleged the Vatican bank accepted millions of dollars of their valuables stolen by Nazi sympathizers.

The court on Dec. 29 upheld a lower court ruling that said the Vatican bank was immune from such a lawsuit under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign countries from being sued in U.S. courts.

Holocaust survivors from Croatia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia had filed suit against the Vatican bank in 1999, alleging that it stored and laundered the looted assets of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Gypsies who were killed or captured by the Nazi-backed Ustasha regime that controlled Croatia.

They sought an accounting from the Vatican, as well as restitution and damages. The court didn’t rule on the allegations, saying in its decision that the Vatican bank was a sovereign entity entitled to the protections of the foreign sovereign immunities act, and that therefore U.S. courts had no jurisdiction.

“The reason we’re disappointed is the court found that dealing in gold teeth from concentration camps was not a commercial act,” said Jonathan Levy, who represents the survivors.

Levy said he didn’t plan to appeal the judgment. The victims are also suing the Franciscans, the Roman Catholic order, on identical charges, and that portion of the lawsuit is going ahead, he said.

00Friday, January 8, 2010 4:13 PM
Jews move to halt spitting
at Christians in Jerusalem

Jan. 5, 2010

Globally speaking, the most serious new tension dividing Jews and Catholics is Pope Benedict XVI’s decision just before Christmas to advance the sainthood cause of Pius XII, the wartime pontiff whose alleged “silence” on the Holocaust has long been a subject of polarizing historical debate.

On the ground in Jerusalem, however, Jewish/Christian animus has a much more prosaic cause: Spitting.

Recently, the Jerusalem Post carried a piece quoting Rabbi David Rosen, a veteran of Catholic/Jewish dialogue, acknowledging that incidents of ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting at priests, nuns and other Christian clergy is “a part of life” in Jerusalem.

[When was the last incident - if any in modern times - that Christians committed any such overt anti-Semitic acts? And did Christian anti-Jewish feeling in the past, say in the Middle Ages, ever include spitting at them?]

Such incidents have been occurring for the last twenty years and are now on the rise, according to the story, although they appear to be limited to Jerusalem.

The piece quoted a Texas-born Franciscan, Fr. Athanasius Macora, who heads the Christian Information Center inside the Jaffa Gate, who said that he’s been spat upon by ultra-Orthodox Jews as much as fifteen times in the last six months – not only in the Old City, but also outside his Franciscan friary.

The Rev. Samuel Aghoyan, an Armenian Orthodox cleric, said he’s been spat upon fifteen to twenty times, most recently in November.

“I was walking back from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and I saw this boy in a yarmulke and ritual fringes coming back from the Kotel, and he spat at me two or three times,” Aghoyan said.

“Every [Christian cleric in the Old City] who’s been here for awhile, who dresses in robes in public, has a story to tell about being spat at,” Macora said. “The more you get around, the more it happens.”

Israeli authorities have taken these reports seriously enough that the Foreign Ministry convened a meeting with municipal officials in Jerusalem and representatives of the ultra- Orthodox Haredi Community.

In a sign that the Israelis are worried about possible international repercussions, that meeting was announced in a press release issued this morning by the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See in Rome.

The press release contained a letter denouncing the harassment of Christian clergy from the Beth Din Tzedek, the tribunal of the Orthodox Jewish Community and the highest instance of the Jewish ultra orthodox community in Jerusalem.

The text of that letter appears below.

Recently, repeated complaints have been made by gentiles regarding recurring harassment and insults directed at them by irresponsible youths in various places in the city, especially in the vicinity of Shivtei Yisrael Street and adjacent to the grave of Shimon the Just.

Besides desecrating the Holy Name, which in itself represents a very grave sin, provoking gentiles, according to our sages – blessed be their holy and righteous memory – is forbidden and is liable to bring tragic consequences upon our own community, may God have mercy.

We hereby call upon anyone who has the power to end these shameful incidents through persuasion, to take action as soon as possible to remove these hazards, so that our community may live in peace.

May the Holy One, blessed be He, spread the tabernacle of a merciful life and peace upon us and on the House of Israel and Jerusalem, as we look forward to the coming of the righteous Messiah speedily and in our time, Amen.

Signed this day, the 13th of Tevet 5770 (30/12/2009) by the Haredi Community Tribunal of Justice, in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

The words of the tribunal are clear and simple, and all who hear them and can prevent these deeds will hopefully do so.

00Saturday, January 9, 2010 3:31 AM

Coptic bishop real target
in Christmas attack in Egypt

Cairo, Jan. 8 (AsiaNews) – Coptic bishop Anba Kirollos was the real target in last Wednesday's drive-by shooting against a Coptic church in Nag Hammadi.

Meanwhile, police found one of the cars used by gunmen in the attack on the Eve of Orthodox Christmas, but thousands of Christians attending the victims' funeral slammed law enforcement and pelted police cars with rocks.

"I was the one intended to be assassinated by this plot, and when it failed the criminals turned round and started shooting and finishing off the young ones," Bishop Kirollos of the Nag Hammagi Diocese told Middle East Christian Association (MECA) today in an interview.

In the evening of 6 January, at the end of the Christmas vigil, at least three gunmen began spraying bullets from two cars against people filing out of the church.

A security guard and six Christians were killed, mostly young men in their early 20s. A young couple and a 14-years-old boy were also among the dead.

Bishop Kirollos said there had been threats in the days leading up to the Christmas Eve service, a reason he decided to start Mass an hour earlier than normal. "For days, I had expected something to happen on Christmas Eve," he said.

The bishop left the church minutes before the attack. "A driving car swerved near me, so I took the back door," he said. "By the time I shook hands with someone at the gate, I heard the mayhem, lots of machine-gun shots."

For the prelate, Egyptian security forces were negligent. Even though that they had been warned of the tense situation, they did not provide adequate protection to the church.

Tensions between Christians and Muslims in Nag Hammadi have been rising in the past few months after a young Christian man was accused of raping a 12-year-old Muslim girl.

For Copts, the rape charges are a pretext, and point to the fact that police has not arrested the accused. However, because of the accusations, which were made in November, Christians have been attacked in Farshout, Abu Shusha, Aerky and Alshokeify, which are part of the parish of Nag Hammadi.

According to Egypt's official news agency, police have recovered one of the two cars used in the drive-by shooting and identified the three perpetrators.

However, during yesterday's funeral, attended by at least 5,000 faithful, police had to use tear gas to stop people from stoning them. Some ambulances were also attacked.

"People are angry and worried," Bishop Kirollos said. Some Copts point out that for years TV, radio and newspapers have preached intolerance towards Copts.

Copts, who account for nearly 10 percent of Egypt's population of 80 million, are the Middle East's largest Christian community but complain of routine harassment and systematic discrimination and marginalisation.

Six Egyptian Copts killed
in Christmas Eve attack

Mourners of the Copts killed early Jan. 8 (Christmas Day in the Orthodox world); right, interior of the church the victims attended.

CAIRO, Jan. 8 (AFP) – Attackers in a car raked a crowd of shoppers in a south Egypt town with gunfire, killing a policemen and six Coptic Christians on the eve of their Christmas celebrations, a security official said on Thursday.

The drive-by shooting took place late Wednesday in the southern Egyptian town of Nagaa Hammadi as Copts were preparing for Christmas which they celebrate January 7 along with other Orthodox communities, the official said.

Witnesses however gave a conflicting account of the attack, saying the gunmen struck as worshippers emerged from midnight mass at the main church in Nagaa Hammadi.

"Three unidentified individuals in a car opened fire on Christians in a shopping district as they were making purchases for Christmas," the security official said, as cited by state-run MENA news agency.

Nine other Copts were wounded in the shooting, he added.

The gunmen also opened fire "in front of a convent located in an rural area" near the town, in the province of Qana, 700 kilometres (435 miles) south of Cairo, the official said.

Witnesses, cited by local officials, said the main gunman, a Muslim, is wanted by police and linked the incident to the abduction of a 12-year-old Muslim girl in November who was allegedly raped by a Coptic youth.

"The first elements of the investigation, based on testimony of people on the ground, indicate that the main shooter is a town resident identified as Mohammed Ahmed Hussein, who is wanted by the police," one official said.

This was the deadliest since 20 Copts were killed in sectarian clashes in 2000, also in southern Egypt.

In November, hundreds of Muslim protesters torched Christian-owned shops in the town of Farshut, near Nagaa Hammadi, and attacked a police station where they believed the suspected rapist was being held.

That incident was the latest in a string of sectarian tensions in 2009 between Muslims and Egypt's Copts -- the Middle East's largest Christian community who represent roughly 10 percent of Egypt's 80-million population.

Copts have complained over the years of frequent discrimination, harassment and that they are the targets of sectarian attacks. They also allege they are overlooked in top jobs in the army, police and judiciary.

Christmas Eve services at the St. Mark Church in Cairo's Abbassiya district (seen in top panel, with its spire framed between two mosques) with Pope Shenouda.

On Wednesday, the head of the Coptic minority, Pope Shenuda III, led a Christmas midnight mass at the Abbassiya church in Cairo which was attended by thousands of worshippers.

Gamal Mubarak, the son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who has been widely tipped as being the next head of state, was among several prominent figures who attended the mass, an AFP photographer said.

Earlier today, Cardinal Kasper, as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, sent a letter of condolence and solidarity to Coptic Orthodoc Pope Shenouda III. The letter is in English:

His Holiness Shenouda III
Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark

Your Holiness,

With sadness I have heard the tragic news of the death and injury of several Coptic Christians after a Christmas midnight Mass in Nag Hamadi in Upper Egypt.

Please know that I am united in prayer with Your Holiness and with the Coptic Christian Community at this time. Whenever our Christians suffer unjustly it is a wound to the Body of Christ in which all believers share.

Together we share this sadness, and together we pray for healing, peace and justice. All Christians must stand united in the face of oppression and seek together the peace that only Christ can give.

I pray for the happy repose of the souls of the deceased and the healing of the injured, as well as comfort for the families of the victims.

With esteemed respect, I remain yours in Christ,

Walter Cardinal Kasper

00Saturday, January 9, 2010 4:05 AM

Vietnam archdiocese condemns
crucifix attack as 'sacrilege'

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Hanoi has condemned a recent police attack on Catholic parishioners and the destruction of a cemetery crucifix by the city police as a “sacrilege.”

“Blowing up the crucifix in the cemetery of Dong Chiem Parish with explosives is the most severe form of sacrilege. It's insults the Catholic faith,” said Fr. John Le Trong Cung, Vice Chancellor of the Hanoi Archbishopric in a statement on Friday.

An estimated 600 to 1000 heavily armed police officers and a large number of trained dogs were deployed to the area to protect the army engineering unit assigned to destroy the stone crucifix. The troops and police reportedly claimed they were acting on a policy that requires all religious symbols to be inside a religious premise, J.B. An Dang told CNA.

“Facing such an extreme act of sacrilege, parishioners of Dong Chiem begged the police to stop destroying their crucifix. But in response they were shot at close range with tear gas canisters. Around a dozen brutally beaten, two of them were seriously injured and hospitalized,” claimed Fr. John Le.

According to J.B. An Dang, the two seriously injured victims were transported by police after the attack to a clinic where they received no medical attention. It was only until later in the day when the priests and parishioners found them and brought them to another hospital that they received proper care.

“We are now coping with severe grief and shock, for what happened to the crucifix was an act of sacrilege to the Christ, our Lord,” lamented Fr. John Le. “To desecrate the crucifix is to desecrate the most sacred symbol of the Christian faith and of the Church. To brutally assault the unarmed, innocent civilians is a savage and inhumane act as human dignity is severely hurt.”

“This gross conduct should be condemned!” he insisted.

Following the attack, priests and leaders of deaneries in the archdiocese swarmed to the area to offer support and sympathy. “They consoled the victims and concelebrated Mass, praying for the injured and for Dong Chiem parish as a whole,” said Fr. John Le.

Though the attack took place on the parish cemetery mount, the Vietnamese government has denied the Church's ownership of it, citing the Communist land policy which claims that all land belongs to the people and to the state, as acting manager for the people.

Fr. John Le refuted this, saying “the mount has always been in the ownership of the parish since its establishment more than a hundred years ago.”

Concluding his statement with a plea, Fr. John Le asked for “fervent prayers from all priests, religious, seminarians, and all faithful, for Dong Chiem parish to be steadfast in bearing our Christ's cross. Let us pray for our country to become just, democratic, and civilized, where sacred values are respected and human rights protected.”

00Saturday, January 9, 2010 6:21 AM

For 5 billion people,
religious freedom
is a forbidden dream

Because of rounding, totals may be >100%.

The Pew Forum has shown this with the biggest study ever conducted on the issue.
Government restrictions are compounded by social hostilities.
Even the most liberal countries are not immune.

ROME, January 8, 2010 – The chart above classifies the fifty most populous nations in the world on the basis of their respective restrictions on religious freedom: both the restrictions imposed by governments, increasing from left to right, and those produced by violence on the part of persons or groups, increasing from bottom to top.

Violations of religious freedom will be a major theme in the speech that Pope Benedict XVI will give on January 11 – as at the beginning of every year – to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

The theme is not a new one. But never before has it been analyzed with the scientific precision achieved by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington, in the study from which the chart is taken.

The study includes 198 countries, leaving out North Korea, because of the insurmountable scarcity of data, and covers the two-year period from the middle of 2006 to the middle of 2008.

A summary of the study and the complete 72-page report can be downloaded for free from the website of the Pew Forum:

> Global Restrictions on Religion, December 2009

In the chart, the size of the circles is proportional to the population of each country. As can be seen, among the countries with more restrictions on religious freedom, a huge impact is made by India and China, each with a population of well over one billion.

With the addition of other densely populated, illiberal countries, it ends up that 70 percent of the 6.8 billion people in the world live in countries with severe or extremely severe limitations on freedom of religion.

Conversely, only 15 percent of the global population lives in countries with acceptable levels of religious freedom.

Naturally, religious freedom encounters different obstacles in the various countries.

In China and Vietnam, for example, the populations do not show hostility toward one religion or another. It is the government that imposes severe limitations on expressions of faith. In China, the restrictions affect the Buddhists of Tibet, the Uyghur Muslims, the Christians without government recognition, and the followers of Falun Gong.

The opposite happens in Nigeria and Bangladesh. There, the governments opt for moderation, while it is in civil society that acts of violence are exploding against one religion or another.

In India as well, hostility is more the work of social factions than of the authorities, although they also impose heavy restrictions.

Among the 198 countries, there is only one in which the levels of hostility against "enemy" religions reach the highest points both on the part of the government and on the part of the population. And it is Saudi Arabia.

But Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, and Iran also have overall levels that are very negative, on a par with India. In Egypt, restrictions of religious freedom mainly affect the Coptic Christians, who are about ten percent of the population.

Half of the countries in the world prohibit or severely limit missionary activity. Some governments support only one religion (in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Cambodia, Buddhism) repressing all of the others.

In some countries, the hostility is between factions of the same religious sphere. In Indonesia, the most populous Islamic country on the globe, it is the Ahmadi Muslims who suffer. And in Turkey, the Alevi Muslims, although they number in the millions.

On a map of the world included with the report, with the individual countries colored according to the level of restriction of religious freedom, it is immediately clear that the areas with greater freedom are those in which Christianity is more present: Europe, the Americas, Australia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

But there are some restrictions even here. In Greece, only Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims can organize as such and own property. The Christians of other confessions cannot.

In France, the law that prohibits Muslim girls from wearing the veil in schools also bans Christians from wearing a cross that is too visible, and Sikhs from wearing the turban.

In Great Britain, even though the head of state is also head of the Church of England, a ruling has permitted a company to require its Christian employees to conceal the symbols of their faith in the workplace, while leaving members of the other religions free to wear their symbols.

And in Israel? In 2009, for the first time in ten years, not a single killing of Jews by Muslim suicide terrorists was recorded.

This development is beyond the time frame of the Pew Forum study. But the study did find other restrictions on religious freedom in Israel: above all with the privileges granted, for example in marriage legislation, to Orthodox Jews, although they are only a small segment of the Jews living in the country.

[Magister then recaps the recent story about Ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting at Christians in Jerusalem.]

00Saturday, January 9, 2010 7:29 PM

The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Vienna has communicated with Lella's blog and with the editors of Il REsto del Carlino, the Bologna newspaper which published what was described as an interview with Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, which leads off with the Cardinal saying unequvocally that he believes the Virgin Mary appeared to the 'visionaries' in Medjugorje. [See note in preceding page of this thread, after the text of the statement by the Bishop of Mostar saying the cardinal's visit to Medjugorje has made things more difficult for him and his diocese.]

The spokesman said the cardinal never gave the interview nor authorized any statements made in his name other than what he told the Coatian newspaper Vecernji list, which the German news agency kath.net published under the headline "The Church has not made a judgment about Medjugorje". (I will try to translate it when I have the time.)

More importantly, the spokesman pointed out, the cardinal never said that Benedict XVI may one day visit Medjugorje.

In the interview with the Croatian newspapeer, Cardinal reiterated the position of the Yugoslav bishops' inquiry in the 1990s, concurred in by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that nothing supernatural was proven to have occurred in Medjugorje.

But in three other kath.net stories published before the Croatian interview, Schoenborn was quoted as saying, "I would gladly return to Medjugorje"; "The events at Medjugorje conform to the 'grammar' of Marian apparitions"; and in a news conference in Vienna after coming back from a well-covered 'private visit' to Medjugorje, he expressed the wish that the "Medjugorje 'phenomenon' be integrated into the normal pastoral ministry".

While I am happy indeed that Schoenborn has belied the extreme statements attributed to him in the 'Carlino' article - apparently fabricated out of thin air - it seems nonetheless that he himself personally believes in the apparitions, and that the circumstances of his visit as narrated by the Bishop of Mostar in the latter's January 4 statement were less than proper, to say the least. Especially for someone with his rank who is known to be a close associate of the Holy Father.

I do not know if his spokesman has seen fit to reply to the various specific 'reproaches' in Bishop Peric's statement, but if he has not, then he should. At the very least, the cardinal is being disingenuous to claim he stands by the position of the Vatican while indicating by his actions and other statements that he does not share it.

Which is quite clear from the following story about the Schoenborn visit to Medjugorje and its repercussions:

Schoenborn defends visit
to Medjugorje

By Anna Arco

Issue of January 10, 2010

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has defended his decision to visit Medjugorje after he was criticised by the local bishop who does not believe claims that the Virgin Mary is appearing there.

[No one is questioning his right to visit wherever he wants to go. It is the manner of the visit which is questionable and somehow, dishonest and arrogant. Why did he not have the elementary courtesy to inform the local bishop, to begin with? Probably because he wanted to do what he wanted to do without having to owe any courtesy to the bishop.]

The Archbishop of Vienna said his visit to the Bosnian town was an attempt to "de-dramatise" the "Medjugorje phenomenon".Cardinal Schönborn said the alleged Marian apparitions, which were first reported in 1981, had taken a secondary place in Medjugorje to the emergence of a "school of normal Christian life".

He said: "[Medjugorje] is about faith in Christ, prayer, the Eucharist, about lived love of neighbour, about the essentials of Christianity and the strengthening of Christian daily life."

The cardinal, who leads the Austrian bishops' conference and is a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said he did not intend to make a decision on Medjugorje ahead of the universal Church.

He said he wanted to stick to the guidelines set up by the 1991 Zadar Declaration, the last formal statement about the apparitions, which forbids official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, and which he described as "wise and directing".

The declaration, issued collectively by all the bishops of the former Yugoslavia after three lengthy investigations into the claims of apparitions, ruled that the apparitions were "non constat de supernaturalitate" which roughly translates as "not established as supernatural" . It remains the official position of the Church.

Cardinal Schönborn had come to Medjugorje, he said, to see the tree that had borne such fruits as Cenacolo, a community which helps to rehabilitate drug users, and Mary's Meals which helps feed starving children around the world.

He celebrated Midnight Mass in St James's church in Medjugorje as well as meeting Franciscans and hearing confessions. He also joined one of the six seers, Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti, in climbing "Apparitions Hill", the hillside where the Virgin Mary is alleged to have appeared.

Later Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno issued a statement heavily criticising Cardinal Schönborn.

He said he "regretted" the cardinal's visit which, he said, contributed to new suffering to the local Church and did not contribute to "peace and unity [that is] so necessary".

Bishop Peric said Cardinal Schönborn's public appearance at Medjugorje gave "some believers the erroneous impression that the cardinal's presence acknowledged the authenticity of the Medjugorje 'apparitions'".

Bishop Peric said the cardinal's visit could be "interpreted as supportive" to "a growing number of new communities and disobedient associations of the faithful in Medjugorje which can be read as an encouragement for their ecclesiastical disobedience".

[One would think that someone like Schoenborn would have empathy for the pastoral problems arising from disobedient clergy and parishioners!]

He said that the diocese was riddled with problems, including schismatic Franciscans in parishes associated with the "Medjugorje phenomenon", who have been suspended from the priesthood but continue to celebrate Mass.

He also drew attention to the fact that the two priests most closely linked to the alleged apparitions have been disciplined. Fr Tomislav Vlasic was expelled from the Order of Friars Minor last year and laicised at his own request by the Holy See. Fr Jozo Zovko has been denied priestly faculties in the diocese since 2004.

Bishop Peric also said that Cardinal Schönborn had not notified either the diocese or the parish that he planned to make a visit to the place where six children witnessed the alleged apparitions.

The bishop said: "I understand that a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church enjoys the right to profess and preach the Gospel throughout the Catholic Church. But with regard to public appearances outside their own diocese there exists also among bishops a certain ecclesiastical code of conduct; the bishop or cardinal who intends to come to another diocese and appear publicly, announces himself in first instance to the local bishop, which is encouraged also by ecclesiastical prudence. I hold that such ecclesiastical prudence and such a rule should have been especially applied in this case."

During his homily at St James's church Cardinal Schönborn said: "These days, we have all come to Medjugorje to be especially close to the Mother of the Lord. To be more exact, we have to say that we have come here because we know that the Mother of the Lord wants to be close to us."

He compared the Medjugorje apparitions with the angels at the Nativity, which are mentioned by the shepherds in the Gospel but are not described at the scene. Mary and Joseph, he said, had to hear about the angels from the shepherds.

Cardinal Schönborn said: "We also didn't see the Gospa. But there are people here who told about it. And we trust that the Mother of God really is close to us. Belief comes from hearing. And it impresses me that first, in the Gospel of today, there is talk about hearing. We have to listen to the Good News first. We have two ears, two eyes, and only one mouth. That means we have to listen much, watch much, and then talk also.

"And what are we supposed to say? We are supposed to report what we have seen and heard. The world needs a new evangelisation and that is only possible through people for whom it is impossible to keep silent about what they have seen and heard." [WOW!]

In 1981 six children reported seeing the Virgin Mary on a hillside outside the town of Medjugorje. Since the first sighting, she has reportedly appeared to the seers over 40,000 times and imparted hundreds of messages to them.

00Saturday, January 9, 2010 8:43 PM
Four Christian churches attacked
in Malaysia over controversy
on the use of 'Allah'

Three Protestant places of worship, and one Catholic church attacked by Islamic fundamentalists.
Offices and cars are vandalized by those who do not want non-Muslims to use the word 'Allah'
despite a Supreme Court ruling allowing it.

Kuala Lumpur, Jan. 8 (AsiaNews) - "There is no immediate danger, but the situation is still worrying."

This was the comment to AsiaNews by Fr Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Catholic weekly Herald, on last night’s attack of "three Protestant and one Catholic church ".

The priest also confirms "a national propaganda campaign" of the Muslim majority, so that "the name of Allah can only be used to refer to the God of Islam."

Around midnight on Wednesday an explosion damaged the administrative offices of Metro Tabernacle Church, a Protestant church in Kuala Lumpur. Three other Christian places of worship, including the Catholic Church of the Assumption in Petaling Jaya, were also attacked.

The assailants threw a Molotov cocktail inside the building, which caused minimal damage. Fr. Lawrence reported that in addition to places of worship some "cars owned by Catholics” were attacked, with “bodywork damaged and broken windows, but there are no injuries."

The anger of the fundamentalist wing in the country was unleashed by the December 31st decision by High Court judges allowing Christians to use the word "Allah" in reference to God, contrary to a government ban. The government has announced it will appeal the ruling.

Today a protest rally, sponsored by 58 Muslim NGOs, was held on the streets of the capital which was attended by about 300 people.

"There have been no reports of incidents during the protest - confirmed Fr Lawrence to AsiaNews - because the police did a good job. The security forces have are committed to keeping the peace and preventing calm an escalation of violence".

The priest said that there is a campaign of propaganda in Malaysia that seeks to "put pressure on the Government": Islam is the state religion, it must maintain a dominant position, and the rules must be in accordance with Islamic law.

"We are worried - says the priest - but the situation is not dangerous as of yet. We have established close cooperation with the government to help restore peace in the country”.

In order to avoid further violence, Fr. Lawrence confirms that "we will not use the word Allah in the editions of our newspaper until the judiciary issues the final ruling."

"Today the TV has broadcast the Friday prayers all over the country - concluded the priest - During the sermon it was repeated several times that Allah is the God of Muslims and they alone can use it. It is an attempt to put pressure on judges, to cancel the ruling of the High Court. With a climate like this, it is not possible to carry out a fair and just trial".

Personally, I do not see why the Christians in Malaysia would insist on using the term 'Allah' for God. What is wrong with the term 'God'? Everyone understands it.

Sure, out of principle, anyone should be able to call 'God' anything appropriate. But if using 'Allah' when you are not Muslim in a country that is so bigoted as to limits its use only to Muslims, then why insist and provoke trouble unnecessarily? God is not any less God if he is not called Allah! C'mon, already!

Besides, if you follow the extremists' logic, Christians who use the word 'Allah' for God would then have to speak of Jesus as the 'Son of Allah' - which would really constitute blasphemy, and high-octane fuel to the fundamentalist fire, because a) they believe Jesus is only a prophet, and one less than Mohammed; and 2) their 'Allah' does not have a 'Son'.

Vietnamese bishops say destruction
of a cemetery cross is typical of
government action to end disputes

by J.B. An Dang

The brutal attack on the crucifix of the cemetery in Hanoi and the destruction of sacred symbols
are "ingredients of the policies" of Communist regime to resolve disputes.
The bishops call for dialogue to find a peaceful solution.
The faithful build a new bamboo cross; the police arrest five Catholics and close down the site.

Hanoi, Jan. 9 (AsiaNews) - The bishops of North Vietnam, in solidarity with the Archbishop of Hanoi, have expressed dismay at the destruction of sacred symbols of faith and for the brutal attack on the Catholic community.

At the end of a meeting held yesterday in the office of the archdiocese in the capital, the 10 bishops declared that the destruction of the crucifix in the churchyard of the parish of Dong Chiem, on 6 January, and violence against the faithful are "two ingredients of government policy in resolving disputes with religions".

Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, archbishop of Hanoi, along with the North Vietnamese bishops, personally visited the faithful of the parish of Dong Chiem, victims of the brutal police attack.

In a gesture of defiance toward the government, the faithful erected a new cross in bamboo (see photo), in the same place where the cross destroyed in recent days was located. They want to affirm the right of ownership of the land that "has belonged to the parish for more than 100 years and will not be abandoned."

In response, the police arrested five Catholics and prevented access to the area. The place where they were conducted is currently unknown. The officers have so far not destroyed the new bamboo cross. The state media, however, have taken over the smear campaign against Catholics, accusing them of "fostering hatred" in the country.

Following Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet’s visit to the Vatican and his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, there were signs of hope that the pending conflict between the Church and the communist government could find "a peaceful solution through dialogue."

However, the attack against the faithful of the parish of Dong Chiem recalls the methods used against the faithful in Tam Toa and Bau Sen (in the diocese of Vinh) and Loan Ly (Archdiocese of Hue).

The two dioceses were the scenes of violence by government officials and police, which destroyed the symbols of faith, beat and arrested faithful and priests and seized the properties of Catholics last year.

The North Vietnamese bishops have warned the government not to use measures that might create "further discontent, anger and mistrust among the people" and reiterated the previous statements of the Bishops Conference, which call for a change "in the laws governing the possession of land and property".

Hanoi denies these rights, because "the land belongs to the people" and "the State administers it". The bishops respond that the right to own private property is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and must be respected.

At the end of their message, the bishops confirm their willingness to "collaborate with the government" for the good of the country and the construction of a "big family" where all members can coexist peacefully.

00Saturday, January 16, 2010 5:37 AM

The Holy See's diplomatic net:
Russia is the latest acquisition

In the past half century, the Pope's ambassadors in the world have doubled.
Bilateral diplomatic relations have tripled.
Still not 'related' are China, Saudi Arabia, and a few other states.

ROME, January 14, 2010 – Speaking three days ago to the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, Benedict XVI said that the Church of Rome "keeps its doors open to all, and wants to have with all relations that may contribute to the progress of the human family."

He recalled with satisfaction that lately, full diplomatic relations have been established with Russia.

And it is hoped that the same thing will happen soon – the Pope implied – with Vietnam (in spite of the episodes of anti-Catholic violence that have taken place there in recent days, diplomatically silenced by L'Osservatore Romano).

On the same day as the pope's address to the ambassadors, the Vatican Secretariat of State released a brief informational note with the new developments over the past year in the field of diplomatic relations.

With Russia as the latest arrival, there are 178 countries that today have full diplomatic relations with the Holy See. To these must be added the European Union, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and in a special form, the Palestinian Liberation Organization. And also: the many intergovernmental organizations and international programs in which the Holy See participates as an observer or member.

The Holy See has established concordats, accords, or conventions of various kinds with many of these states and organisms. For example, over the past year, with the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with Austria, and with Brazil.

So there are very few countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the Church of Rome. Among these, in addition to Vietnam, are the People's Republic of China and Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday, January 10, on the eve of the Pope's meeting with the ambassadors, the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference Avvenire published a detailed overview of the Vatican's global diplomatic network by one of the most seasoned Vatican watchers. Here's what he wrote:

The 16 states who have no relations with the Holy See
and the latest information on ambassadors and nuncios

by Gianni Cardinale

In 1978, the Holy See had full diplomatic relations with 84 countries. In 2005, there were 174. With Benedict XVI, they have risen to 178.

During his pontificate, relations were established in 2006 with newly independent Montenegro, in 2007 with the United Arab Emirates, and in 2008 with Botswana. Finally, last December 9 it was the turn of the Russian Federation, with which relations of a special nature were already in place, like those that continue to exist with the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

The countries with which the Holy See has diplomatic relations also include China-Taiwan, but since 1979 there has not been a nuncio there, but only a simple "interim chargé d'affaires." And this in anticipation of finally being able to transfer the nunciature to Beijing.

The People's Republic of China, in fact, is the largest of the countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the Holy See. But it's not the only one.

Apart from Kosovo – whose international status is still controversial – the Holy See does not yet have relations with sixteen countries, most of them in Asia, many of them with majority Muslim populations.

There is no Vatican representative in nine of these countries: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bhutan, the People's Republic of China, North Korea, the Maldives, Oman, Tuvalu, and Vietnam. While in seven other countries there are apostolic delegates, pontifical representatives to the local Catholic communities but not to the government. Three of these countries are African: the Comoros, Mauritania, and Somalia. And four of them are Asian: Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar.

Nonetheless, the Holy See has had formal contact with some of these countries. At the Mass for the inauguration of Benedict XVI's pontificate, there were representatives from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Oman, and Vietnam. While at the solemn funeral for John Paul II, representatives from Brunei and Somalia were present.

Formal negotiations over full diplomatic relations have begun with Vietnam – and the visit of President Minh Triet to the Vatican last December 11 was encouraging in this sense – while with China there are semi-official contacts between members of the secretariat of state, the Chinese ambassador to Italy, and the authorities of the office for religious affairs of the Chinese regime.

Pontifical diplomacy has also started work to establish relations with Oman. But discussion seems to be completely off-limits for Muslim states like Saudi Arabia – where Catholic worship is still officially prohibited, although the Pope's audience with King Abdullah on November 6, 2007, was a positive sign – or like the Maldives, where priests are not even allowed to come to assist the many Catholic tourists present in the archipelago.

Currently there are about eighty countries with ambassadors to the Holy See residing in Rome. The others are diplomats living in other European capitals. The Holy See does not accept ambassadors who are simultaneously accredited to Italy.

A further signal of the growing diplomatic interest in the Holy See comes from the fact that with Benedict XVI, ambassadors from Australia, Cameroon, the Seychelles, and East Timor have established themselves in Rome.

At this moment, there are 101 apostolic nuncios active all over the world, some of them covering multiple countries. Almost half of them, 50, are Italian, a percentage sharply lower than in the past (in 1961, the Italian nuncios were 48 out of 58, 83 percent; and in 1978, 55 out of 75, 73 percent).

This reduction is destined to continue, seeing that with Benedict XVI, 26 first-time nuncios were elevated to the episcopate, only ten of them Italian (38 percent).

However, Italian pontifical representatives are still appointed for ecclesiastically and politically important countries like France, Spain, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Israel (Jerusalem and Palestine), Russia, and Italy itself.

Most of the other nuncios come from the rest of Europe (27, of whom seven are Spanish, six Polish, five French, three Swiss), but also from Asia (14, of whom six come from India and four from the Philippines), from North America (six, all from the United States), from Africa (three) and from Latin America (one).

With Benedict XVI, the network of nunciatures has been reinforced in Africa, where two new offices have been opened: in Burkina Faso in 2007, and in Liberia in 2008. Libya has decided to give the green light to the construction of the nunciature in Tripoli. Further signs of interest – reciprocated – that the Holy See is fostering in a continent that is sometimes forgotten by the great powers.

00Saturday, January 16, 2010 4:38 PM
This article saves me having to post anything on Mary Daly or Edward Schillebeeckx, as I had meant to do at the time they died recently. I knwo I do not have to post anything ever more about Daly, who from the little I have read, appears to have been completely out of bounds, but I think there is an article or two that presents Schillebeeckx's life and theological record fairly that I should translate and post for the record.

As the flame of Catholic dissent dies out...

Jan. 14, 2010

Mary Daly, a retired professor at Boston College who was probably the most outré of all the dissident theologians who came to the fore of Catholic intellectual life in the years right after the Second Vatican Council, died on Jan. 3 at age 81.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, which might be called the golden age of Catholic dissidence, theologians who took positions challenging traditional church teachings — ranging from the authority of the Pope to bans on birth control, premarital sex, and women's ordination —dominated Catholic intellectual life in America and Europe. They seemed to represent a tide that would overwhelm the old restrictions and their hidebound adherents.

Now, 45 years after Vatican II concluded in 1965, most of those bright lights of dissident Catholicism — from the theologian Hans Küng of the University of Tübingen to Charles Curran, the priest dismissed from the Catholic University of America's theology faculty in 1987 for his advocacy of contraception and acceptance of homosexual relationships — seem dimmed with advanced age, if not extinguished. They have left no coherent second generation of dissident Catholic intellectuals to follow them.

Prof. Daly certainly pushed the envelope. In 1968, she published "The Church and the Second Sex," a book that accused the Catholic Church of oppressing and "humiliating" women by excluding them from its "patriarchal" hierarchy. The title of her most famous work, "Beyond God the Father" (1973), is self-explanatory.

At some point afterward, Prof. Daly, despite being raised Catholic and earning degrees in theology and literature from three different Catholic colleges plus the University of Fribourg, left the hurch to embrace ever more belligerent brands of feminism.

She got into trouble with Boston College, the Jesuit institution where she had taught since 1966, for barring men from her advanced classes in women's studies.

In the wake of a sex-discrimination complaint launched by a male student, Prof. Daly and her employer engaged in a round of litigation during the late 1990s that culminated in her voluntary retirement in 2001.

She spent her last years promoting vegetarianism, anti-fur activism, a protest of Condoleezza Rice's 2006 commencement speech at Boston College, and the coining of male-baiting neologisms (an example: "mister-ectomy"). [DIM]8pt[=DIM][Ms Daly, from excerpts of her writings I read in other articles, including laudatory ones, shortly after her death, appears to have been severely afflicted with anti-Catholic derangement syndrome in its most vicious form. Her language was unbelievably nasty!]

The trajectory of her life story is not unusual among Catholic dissidents. The Young Turk of Vatican II — and pet of the progressive Catholic media of the time — was Hans Küng. A Swiss-born, movie-star-handsome priest whom Pope John XXIII had made a peritus, or theological adviser, to the council, Father Küng swept through a tour of U.S. Catholic universities to accolades in 1963.

And his 1971 book questioning papal infallibility — which got him stripped of his license to teach Catholic theology in 1979 — turned him into a living martyr among progressives. He is still at Tübingen (last heard from in October blasting Pope Benedict XVI's overtures to conservative Anglicans as "angling in the waters of the extreme religious right"), but he's 81.

The Belgian Dominican priest Edward Schillebeeckx, who had worked unsuccessfully to persuade the assembled bishops of the Second Vatican Council to downgrade the authority of the Pope — and who was condemned in 1986 for holding that there was no biblical support for the ordaining of Catholic priests — died in December at age 95.

The Rev. Charles Curran, who was a controversial figure at Catholic University as early as 1967, when he was temporarily removed from his tenured position over his views on birth control, and who moved to Southern Methodist University after his final dismissal from Catholic two decades later, is now 75.

Another prominent figure in liberal Catholic intellectual circles is Sister Sandra M. Schneiders, who is famous for her assertions that Jesus was a feminist and that God should be referred to as "she" as well as "he," as well as for her advice that progressive orders of nuns treat representatives of a planned Vatican investigation like "uninvited guests." [Another prime example of un-Christian, not to say uncivil, behavior! Hardly a role model for anyone. The epitome of the nun mae nasty by narcissistic arrogance and unfounded female chauvinism.]

She is also past retirement age and is listed as "professor emerita" at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif.

So where is the second generation of brilliant progressive Catholic theologians? There are plenty of liberal lay Catholics.

The Church's ban on artificial birth control is nearly a dead letter, a majority of Catholics say they believe their church should ordain women, and 40% have no moral objections to abortion, according to a 2009 Gallup poll.

But dissident Catholicism seems to have lost steam as an intellectual movement, and not only because the issues relating to sex and papal authority that originally sparked Catholic dissidents have not changed in nearly 50 years.

The first-generation dissidents were products of a strong and confident traditional Catholic culture against which they rebelled, one whose intellectual standards grounded them in the faith they later came to question.

Sister Schneiders, for example, earned four degrees from Catholic institutions, including the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Yet most Catholics of her generation have not passed on the tenets of their faith to their children — the offspring of the Vatican II generation tend either to be churchless or not to go to church — or, in the case of academics, to their students. It's hard to rebel when you don't even know what you are rebelling against.

Not that conservative Catholicism is in any better straits; it's a vibrant but niche branch of the religion, and its leading intellectuals — Robert George, Mary Ann Glendon — aren't theologians.

[I do not know what Ms. Allen's background is, but how can she ignore intellectuals like Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver and Archbishop Raymond Burke at the Vatican whose advocacy of Catholic orthodoxy has been significant and brilliant in recent years? Or George Weigel, who is a theologian, even if he is not a priest.]

But it is fair to note that when Prof. Daly died, she left behind no young Mary Dalys to continue waging her quixotic war against the faith that shaped her, whether she liked it or not. [Not that the 'shaping' did her any good, judging from the disgraceful self-deconstruction she subsequently underwent.]

And thank God, if it is a fact that Catholic dissidence in our time has passed its peak and is in decline, even if only in the United States, which is the context for the above article.

I disagree that it is dying out. Not in Europe, and not in the United States. There is a whole crop of dissidents publishing ultra-liberal Catholic magazines in the USA like America, Commonweal and the National Catholic Reporter, with a constellation of aspiring Kuengs and Schneiderses, whose attacks on Catholic orthodoxy are no less vicious if with far less 'star power'.

00Wednesday, January 20, 2010 1:29 PM
Arab Christians try to revive Cana -
site of Jesus's first miracle


KUFR KANA, Israel, Jan. 20 (AP) – In this small Galilee town where tradition says Jesus turned water to wine, an ambitious priest hopes to perform his own miracle — revive a shrinking flock.

Father Masoud Abu Hatoum, nicknamed "the bulldozer" for his enthusiasm, has come up with a few ideas, like re-enacting the New Testament story of Jesus transforming the water for guests at a wedding in the Galilee hamlet of Cana, now this northern Israeli town of Kufr Kana.

"We have to attract people," said Abu Hatoum, who looks as much rock star as priest with his trim beard and large wrap-around sunglasses.

But he will have a tough time slowing the hemorrhage of Christians from this bleak, economically depressed town, as the young move away to cities like nearby Nazareth, which offer bigger Christian communities, more jobs and better marriage prospects.

"Our youths leave the village, they tell us: 'We don't want to die here.' We get old, and they leave," said 65-year-old Said Saffouri, a parishioner whose two sons have moved out of town.

Migration and low birth rates have diminished Christian populations across the Middle East. Israel's community of 123,000 Arab Christians is one of the few in the region whose numbers have held steady — it grew slightly by 2,000 in 2009. But it does face a problem of rural flight to big cities, which leaves traditional small Christian towns like Kufr Kana to waste away.

Kufr Kana was entirely Christian at the beginning of the 20th century, but Muslims began settling in the village first as traders, and then as refugees fleeing fighting during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, locals said. Now the village is home to 16,000 Muslims and 4,000 Christians.

The remaining Christians are already discussing what happens when their community dies out completely: Would local Muslims one day have to oversee the Christian holy sites or would members of the clergy stay behind to do so?

Relations with Muslims tend to be cool but polite. Some Christian residents describe warm friendships with Muslims — while others claim Muslims want them banished from town. Mostly, Christians said they just felt outnumbered.

From a distance, the town reflects its overwhelmingly Muslim population. Visitors can see three minarets spiking up amid the jumble of concrete block houses, with not a church spire in sight.

On a recent Sunday, the Roman Catholic service at the stone-and-marble Cana Wedding Church only drew about 20 worshippers, most of them middle-aged. Another couple of dozen turned out at the smoky, dim and ornate Greek Orthodox church nearby in the old village center, where volunteers built a display for stone jars the church says held the water Jesus turned into wine.

Abu Hatoum's Greek Catholic church attracted some 40 worshippers. That turnout is a tribute to the energetic priest. Before he was sent to the village from Nazareth in the summer of 2009, the church had about 10 regular worshippers, residents said.

Since taking the job, Abu Hatoum announced a series of events he hopes will revive community spirits and encourage the young to stay in town.

For Christmas, Abu Hatoum erected a scaffolding strung with blinking lights around 90 feet (27 eters) high over his church and he billed it the tallest Christmas tree in the Holy Land.

"I would have made it higher," he said laughing, "but I would have needed a license for that."

The gimmick was enough to attract an Israeli television crew, and a spot for the priest on local radio, pleasing parishioners who said nobody had expressed interest in their church before.

In July, Abu Hatoum plans to put on a play depicting Jesus' miracle at Cana. He hopes to pull off a Cana marriage miracle of his own in October with a mass wedding ceremony.

But the grim economics of the town work against his bid to resuscitate the community. With no local industry, the few jobs in Kufr Kana are in schools, the municipal administration, grocery stores, hair salons and mechanic shops.

A few souvenir shops stocked with wine cater to the thousands of Christian tourists who breeze through every year. But the village is only a brief stop on most itineraries, and tourists contribute little to local coffers, said Islam Amara, of the Kufr Kana municipality.

Most Arab towns in Israel have the same concrete-block bleakness and appear impoverished compared to Jewish communities nearby — a legacy of decades of budgetary discrimination by Israeli governments and mismanagement by local municipalities.

Christians are a tiny part of Israel's Arab minority of some 1.4 million, or 20 percent of the country's population of 7.4 million. Another 50,000 Christians live in the West Bank and Gaza, among nearly 4 million Muslims.

The relatively more prosperous cities of Nazareth and Haifa, both with large Christian minorities, give Kufr Kana's young Christians an escape route from boring village life.

The more they leave, the stronger the feeling of isolation among those who remain.

"We just don't feel welcome here," said Janette Elias, 60. Two of her three sons now live in Nazareth, Jesus' traditional boyhood city, about a 10-minute drive away.

Church volunteer Ihab Mukabal, 31, says his brother hopes to find an apartment in a nearby Jewish town. "There's nothing to attract people to stay here," Mukabal said.

The unkempt cemetery behind Abu Hatoum's modest church highlights the community's decline.

The oldest marked graves belong to twins Fadel and Fadil Dbayeh, born in 1899 when Kufr Kana was entirely Christian. By the time they died, in 1965 and 1966, Christians and Muslims were equally numbered, locals say.

The number of those buried in the cemetery was double those who attended church that Sunday.

00Wednesday, January 20, 2010 3:04 PM

Vatican issues preliminary document
on agenda for the Middle East Synod

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - The Vatican Press Office presented on Tuesday the "Lineamenta" document in preparation for the convocation of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Middle Eastern Bishops.

The document aims to stimulate discussion for the creation of a "working document" that will provide guidelines for the upcoming synod, which will be held in the Vatican from Oct. 10 - 24 of this year.

"The initiative concerns the 'anxiety' of the successor of St. Peter 'for all the Churches' and is an important event demonstrating the interest of the Universal Church in the Churches of God in the Middle East," reads the introduction of the document.

To ensure that the synod is based on current issues and addresses the needs of the Middle Eastern Churches, the Pre-Synodal Council for the Middle East composed the "Lineamenta," which provides draft guidelines for the meeting.

Between the introduction, three chapters and conclusion, the document provides participating dioceses with 32 questions regarding themes based on personal religious practice, church life, ecclesial communion and Christian witness.

Answers to these questions will be gathered by the general secretariat of the synod by Easter to be compiled into an "Instrumentum laboris," or working document to be presented by Pope Benedict XVI to the Eastern Catholic Churches when he visits Cyprus at the beginning of June.

One question sure to draw attention is the interaction between Christianity and Islam.

The bishops plan to look at the role of the internet in spreading radical branches of the region's religions. "In response to this situation (growth of the Internet), Islamic fundamentalist groups are becoming widespread," the preparatory document stated.

Governments that abide by Sharia law were also mentioned as creating a situation that "always constitutes discrimination and, therefore a violation of a person's human rights."

In a press conference at noon on Tuesday at the Holy See Press Office, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, gave an overview of specific issues included in the document.

The first chapter covers "The Catholic Churches in the Middle East," which offers a brief history of the Eastern Churches and current challenges they face, such as "political conflicts in the region (Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon); ... and freedom of worship and of conscience, lamenting the considerable number of obstacles to exercising this fundamental right of individuals and of all religious communities."

"Ecclesial communion" is the theme of the second chapter, which touches on Eucharistic communion with the Universal Church, communion with the Successor of Peter and communion among bishops, clergy and lay-faithful. Chapter three looks at the "Christian witness" to the Gospel through faith and works and relations with other religions. This section also looks at the contribution of Christians in each region.

Touching on the theme brought up in the final chapter of dialogue between Churches and Christians in the Middle East, the archbishop said that it exists, "but it needs to be increased." He also commented that some Christian-Jewish dialogue exists between Palestine and Israel through various associations, but that their rapport is still conditioned by politics.

Regarding Muslims, the document proposes the "need to promote dialogue, also in order to know one another better, ... and as the best way to resolve problems."

The conclusion of the "Lineamenta," added Archbishop Eterovic, "re-proposes the reasons - not so much political reasons as those of faith - why it is essential that Christians remain in the Middle East and continue to make their specific contribution for a more just, peaceful and prosperous society."

00Wednesday, January 20, 2010 5:59 PM

Did Schoenborn have to be told by the Holy Father to reply to the Bishop of Mostar? To have ignored the Bishop's personal letter to him as well as the statement released to the press was an unseemly show of discourtesy to the bishop and arrogance (he did not think the Bishop's strong statement was worth answering). And to have waited until January 15 when he was in the Vatican to fax his reply to the Bishop would seem to indicate he acted only when prodded, one can only think, by the Pope himself!

Cardinal Schoenborn's belated reply
to Bishop Peric's January 2 statement

The diocesan Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, Msgr. Ratko Perić, sent a personal letter on 2 January, to His Eminence Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, after his stay in Medjugorje for the New Year 2010, and on the same day a communique was released expressing his surprise regarding the Cardinal's statements and his visit to Medjugorje.

Upon his return to Vienna, the Cardinal has had several interviews in various media. In an interview with Orientierung, on 10 January, he expressed his opinion „that he did not violate the right of a Bishop and of a Cardinal!“

In mid January, the Cardinal participated, as a member, at the Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and on the morning of 15 January he was received in a private audience by Pope Benedict XVI.

On the afternoon of the same day, the Cardinal sent a letter in German from Rome to the Bishop of Mostar by fax

The part of the letter which refers to the Cardinal's visit to Medjugorje follows:

Rome, 15 January 2010
Excellency! Dear brother in Christo,
I have received your recent letter dated 2 January. I regret if you have the impression that my pilgrimage to Medjugorje did a disservice to peace. Rest assured that this was not my intention.

The Cardinal ends his letter with the following words:

The Mother of God and her divine Son will certainly lead all things towards that which is good. In this trust, I greet you fraternally united in the Lord and remain,
+ Christoph Card. Schönborn O.P.

00Thursday, January 21, 2010 12:23 AM

CDF and FSSPX theologians
hold second meeting

Adapted and translated
from Italian news reports

ROME, January 18 - Discreetly, almost secretly, the second meeting between theologians of the FFSPX and their counterparts at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith/Ecclesia Dei took place on Monday at the CDF offices, according to I-Media, the French news agency that specializes in Vatican news.

The meeting took place the day after Benedict XVI's visit to the Rome Synagogue [and during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity). Two of the Vatican II teachings about which the FSSPX seeks clarification during these talks are dialog with other religions, including Judaism; and relations with the other Christian churches.

The meeting also took place a few days before the first anniversary of the Vatican decree that lifted the excommunication of the four FSSPX bishops, which the Vatican announced last year at the conclusion of the Week for Christian Unity.

The first meeting for the doctrinal discussions took place on Oct. 26.

00Sunday, January 24, 2010 1:37 PM

The National Catholic Reporter takes a gloating view of this development, as if 'widesprfead non-compliance' [the 'widespread' may not necessarily be true - it could simply be wishful thinking on the part of the NCReporter] were to be hailed and praised. Unfortunately, this dissident magazine appears to be the only Anglophone periodical following up this visitation story - and that is because they are a platform for the dissident nuns.

Obedient orthodox nuns appear not to have a voice in the media at all. It has become such that I dread seeing the word 'sister' or 'nun' in any news story, because I can almost be 100% certain that it will be about one of these Chittister-like harpies who are no longer women nor nuns but genderless, aggressive macho activists who have lost all sense of Christian love.

Yet, one can only feel ashamed and outraged by the incredible arrogance and flagrant disobedience of many nuns to the Church and their legitimate superiors therein, in this, as in so many other matters. It is so wrong when so-called consecrated persons set up their own rules as though they had consecrated themselves to their own self-aggrandizement rather than to genuine service - which is always humble and obedient - to Christ and his Church.

Mother Millea urges U.S. religious
to comply with study:
First official recognition
of widespread noncompliance
to questionnaire request

By Thomas C. Fox

January 22, 2010

Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and charged by the Vatican with directing a three-year study of U.S. women religious congregations, has sent letters to religious leaders asking once again for their full cooperation in filling out questionnaires, which are part of the process.

The questionnaires, sent last year to the heads of some 325 religious communities, were to have been returned by Nov. 20. A substantial number of the religious communities -- some women religious leaders saying the "vast majority" of the communities [Aha! A self-serving statement, but why does the magazine use 'widespread' in its headline without the quotation marks?] -- refused to comply with an initial Millea request to fill out all the questions on the questionnaire and instead filled out only some or none.

A number of religious communities chose, instead, to return to Millea their order's Vatican-approved constitutions. [What does that mean? Is it formal notice that they have no intention of abiding by those constitutions anymore?]

The decisions by congregation leaders not to comply followed nearly two months last fall of intensive discussions both inside and across religious congregations. They followed consultations with civil and canon lawyers, and come in the wake of what some women religious see as widespread support by laity for their church missions.

Effectively, the acts of noncompliance were mechanisms by U.S. women religious to signal their collective displeasure at what they view as an unnecessary and ill-formed investigation of their religious communities. [That is not for them to say. The Vatican has a right to inspect any religious community under its supervision.]

Millea's letter, dated Jan. 12 and placed this week on the official apostolic visitation web site , was the first official acknowledgement of the failure of religious communities to fully comply with the Vatican request for information about the religious communities.

In her letter, Millea said she had returned recently from a meeting in Rome with Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect for the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the cleric who first initiated the study, formally called an apostolic visitation.

"When I recently met with Cardinal Rodé, he assured me that the Holy Father continues to show his interest in and support of the apostolic visitation," Millea stated.

"The cardinal was pleased to hear about the wholehearted and genuine responses of many congregations to the questionnaire. However, I also shared with him my sadness and disappointment that not all congregations have responded to this phase of dialogue with the Church in a manner fully supportive of the purpose and goals of the apostolic visitation.

"He encouraged me to ask those who have not yet fully complied to prayerfully reconsider their response. I take this opportunity, then, to once again invite all major superiors who have not responded fully to the questionnaire to do so.

"I make this request in light of the fact that the questionnaire serves as an integral part of the visitation process. It offers you and your sisters a privileged opportunity to present to the apostolic see your congregation's unique charismatic identity, as well as your communal and ministerial expression of religious life.

"It likewise affords the apostolic see a way to listen to the joys, accomplishments, hopes and concerns of your sisters and to seek, together with you, strategies for enhancing the vitality of your institute."

Millea said she is aware of the "questions and concerns" women religious have concerning the questionnaire and her staff is eager to resolve these issues.

"It would be helpful for us if you would inform the apostolic visitation office if you intend to amend your response to the questionnaire," she wrote

The Vatican initiated the study one year ago, saying its purpose is to determine the quality of life in religious communities, given the decline in vocations in recent decades. From the outset, women religious complained they were never consulted before Vatican officials announced the investigation and there is no transparency in the process. Some called the effort demeaning and intrusive.

"For nearly a year now, we women religious have been engaged in a communal seeking of love in truth, a dialogue with the Church," the Millea letter states, reaffirming that the purpose of the study is to "enhance the vitality of our congregations, to affirm our sisters and to encourage new membership."

Millea said that in the Phase 1 of the process she engaged in dialogue with superiors general and listened to their hopes and dreams, convincing her of their "love for and pride in their sisters."

"During Phase 2 of the apostolic visitation, you were asked to complete a questionnaire regarding fundamental aspects of your congregation's identity, present life style and future projections. As I reflect on the fine input submitted by many major superiors in response to the questionnaire, I see that the process is generating much self-evaluation and dialogue between congregational leaders and their sisters. I commend and thank those of you who have shared your stories and hopes, an expression of an authentic search for growth in charity, illumined by the light of truth."

Millea stated that the Phase 3 of the apostolic visitation will begin in April 2010 with on-site visits to "a representative sample of institutes, conducted by teams of religious who will act individually and collectively in the name of the apostolic see." She said visitors were chosen from among religious nominated by superiors general and others "and represent a variety of congregations and areas of expertise."

"Prior to conducting the on-site visits, all potential visitors will participate," she reiterated, "in an orientation workshop during which they will pronounce a public profession of faith and an oath of fidelity to the apostolic see. This profession carries with it a special grace which will strengthen the visitors in their delicate and important task."

The on-site visitors, Millea explained, will engage primarily with the members of leadership teams and a representative group of the sisters. The visitation team members will then formulate a report for her in which they will seek to articulate "the accomplishments, the key strengths and challenges" of each visited community, making appropriate recommendations.

Phase 4 of the visitation process, Millea wrote, will draw from the data gathered in the previous phases and she will prepare for Rode's congregation a summary report of each institute, whether or not an on-site visit has taken place. "Each institute will subsequently receive feedback from the Vatican "for the purpose of promoting its charismatic identity and apostolic vitality in ongoing dialogue with the local and universal church."

Finally, Millea said she was pleased to have received an invitation to the Jan. 14 reception for the opening of the Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America exhibit, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Millea attended the event.

00Wednesday, January 27, 2010 3:17 AM

Archbishop Nichols praises papal decree
for encouraging Catholic-Anglican dialogue

Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said this week that the publication of the Apostolic Constitution allowing Anglicans the option of entering into full communion with the Catholic Church “will have important consequences” in England.

The Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus, was issued by Pope Benedict last November.

In an interview with Vatican Radio in Rome, where the archbishop is with other English prelates for their ad limina visit, Archbishop Nichols said, “The reaction to this document is, in a certain sense, measured. There was a strong reaction at first, which was inflated by the media. Now we are in a phase of evaluation, reflection and prayer.”

In order for there to be a “complete assessment of the Pope’s initiative,” the archbishop said, “one must consider the important announcement of the start of the third phase of ARCIC talks, the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission. In my opinion, the two are related.”

“The response of the Holy Father has given a positive stimulus to ARCIC's debates,” he continued adding that the coinciding of the launch of ARCIC III and Anglicanorum coetibus is not a coincidence.”

“In our joint declaration,” Archbishop Nichols stated, “the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and I have said that this move by the Holy See will end a period of uncertainty, and consider this to be a positive contribution to a wider dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole, which will have important consequences for the country.”

Irish bishops meet to discuss
priest abuse issues before
February meeting with the Pope


January 23, 2009

Irish bishops met in a day-long extraordinary meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference Friday in Maynooth.

In a statement after their meeting the bishops said they had been listening to the “widespread and justifiable anger and frustration from survivors, priests and laity across their dioceses” since publication of the Murphy report.

They have also said they recognise that “in the critical area of safeguarding children, people want accountability and transparency in terms of policy and procedures”.

They said that since their winter meeting last month they had “asked the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to explore with statutory authorities, North and South, ways of ensuring that the Church’s policies and practices in relation to the safeguarding of children represent best practice and that all allegations of abuse are being handled properly”. Such discussions were “ongoing.”

The welcomed the invitation from Pope Benedict to meet them in the Vatican on February 15th and 16th next. The Pope’s request “was made in the context of the very serious situation that prevails in the Irish Church”, they said.

They discussed preparations for the Pope’s pastoral letter to the faithful of Ireland, which he indicated he would prepare after his meeting at the Vatican on December 11th with the Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Martin.

The letter is expected to be addressed to Ireland’s Catholics during Lent, which begins this year on February 17th, Ash Wednesday.

The bishops said last night that this letter would be followed by a “listening and consultation process which will take place with the lay faithful, clergy and religious”.

They encouraged support for the people of Haiti and offered their sympathy and prayerful support to the people of Ardagh and Clonmacnois following the fire which gutted St Mel’s Cathedral there on Christmas Day. The meeting was attended by 18 bishops from Ireland’s 26 dioceses.

At the same time, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin expressed surprise at claims made last month by the Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan that he had attacked the latter’s integrity.

It followed a call by Archbishop Martin, following publication of the Murphy report on November 26th last, for all current and former Auxiliary Bishops of Dublin to be accountable for their actions on child protection issues.

He said that bishops mentioned in the report should either admit their mistakes over the handling of priests who abused and step down, or stand over their claim that theyd done nothing wrong.

Bishop Drennan had been an Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin for seven of the years investigated by the Murphy Commission. He was one of 18 bshops present at the Maynooth meeting.

In a radio interview, after the Archbishop made his comments, Bishop Drennan said last month: “I dont know if Archbishop Martin intended it or not but it has put a question mark over my integrity, yes, Now that Ive responded to him and given him the evidence he needs he might want to reflect on that and see what response he should make to it.

Archbishop Martin said: “Im surprised that anybody would say that by asking people to be accountable, to stand up and explain themselves, that was an attack on anyones integrity.” He said he had received lots of correspondence supporting him for saying people should be accountable, which didnt mean heads should roll, he said.

00Wednesday, January 27, 2010 4:11 AM

It is convenient to use the CNS story for now because I don't have to do any translating, but I think the Italian news reports were more to the point when they chose to lead with Mons. Oder's disclosure of Jobn Paul II's efforts to deal with the possibility of resignation if he became incapacitated - in which he sought the theological input of Cardinal Ratzinger. After all, John Paul's self-mortification was already public knowledge before this book and news conference.

Postulator confirms that John Paul II
practiced self-mortification

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 26 (CNS) -- Pope John Paul II always took penitence seriously, spending entire nights lying with his arms outstretched on the bare floor, fasting before ordaining priests or bishops and flagellating himself, said the promoter of his sainthood cause.

Msgr. Slawomir Oder, postulator of the late Pope's cause, said Pope John Paul used self-mortification "both to affirm the primacy of God and as an instrument for perfecting himself."

Right photo, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, emeritus Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood, was with Oder at teh news conference.

The monsignor spoke to reporters Jan. 26 at the launch of his book, "Why He's a Saint: The Real John Paul II According to the Postulator of His Beatification Cause."

Earlier in the day, two Italian news Web sites reported that an October date had been set for Pope John Paul's beatification, but Msgr. Oder said nothing could be confirmed until physicians, theologians and cardinals at the Congregation for Saints' Causes accept a miracle credited to the late Pope's intercession and Pope Benedict formally signs a decree recognizing it.

Msgr. Oder's book, published only in Italian, is based largely on what he said he learned from the documents collected for the beatification process and, particularly, from the sworn testimony of the 114 people who personally knew Pope John Paul and testified before the Rome diocesan tribunal investigating his fame of holiness.

Because of the reticence surrounding the process, the witnesses who served as the source for particular affirmations in the book are not named, although some are described loosely as members of the papal entourage or the papal household.

"When it wasn't some infirmity that made him experience pain, he himself would inflict discomfort and mortification on his body," Msgr. Oder wrote.

He said the penitential practices were common both when then-Karol Wojtyla was archbishop of Krakow, Poland, as well as after he became pope.

"Not infrequently he passed the night lying on the bare floor," the monsignor wrote, and people in the Krakow archbishop's residence knew it, even if the archbishop would mess up the covers on his bed so it wouldn't be obvious that he hadn't slept there.

"As some members of his closest entourage were able to hear with their own ears, Karol Wojtyla flagellated himself both in Poland and in the Vatican," Msgr. Oder wrote. "In his closet, among the cassocks, there was a hook holding a particular belt for slacks, which he used as a whip and which he also always brought to Castel Gandolfo," the papal summer residence south of Rome.

In the book, Msgr. Oder said Pope John Paul firmly believed that he was doing what St. Paul professed to do in the Letter to the Colossians: "In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ."

He also said the Pope, who had a notorious sweet tooth, was extremely serious about maintaining the Lenten fast and would lose several pounds before Easter each year, but he also fasted before ordaining priests and bishops and for other special intentions.

Msgr. Oder's book also marked the publication for the first time of letters Pope John Paul prepared in 1989 and in 1994 offering the College of Cardinals his resignation in case of an incurable disease or other condition that would prevent him from fulfilling his ministry.

For years there were rumors that Pope John Paul had prepared a letter instructing cardinals to consider him resigned in case of incapacity.

But even a month before his death in April 2005, canon law experts in Rome and elsewhere were saying the problem with such a letter is that someone else would have to decide when to pull it out of the drawer and apply it.

Church law states that a Pope can resign, but it stipulates that papal resignation must be "made freely and properly manifested" -- conditions that would be difficult to ascertain if a Pope were already incapacitated.

Msgr. Oder wrote that in Pope John Paul's 1994 letter the stressed syllables in spoken Italian are underlined, making it appear that the Pope had read it or was preparing to read it to the College of Cardinals.

The 1989 letter was brief and to the point; it says that in the case of an incurable illness that prevents him from "sufficiently carrying out the functions of my apostolic ministry" or because of some other serious and prolonged impediment, "I renounce my sacred and canonical office, both as Bishop of Rome as well as head of the holy Catholic Church."

In his 1994 letter the pope said he had spent years wondering whether a Pope should resign at age 75, the normal retirement age for bishops. He also said that, two years earlier, when he thought he might have a malignant colon tumor, he thought God had already decided for him.

Then, he said, he decided to follow the example of Pope Paul VI who, in 1965, concluded that a Pope "could not resign the apostolic mandate except in the presence of an incurable illness or an impediment that would prevent the exercise of the functions of the successor of Peter."

"Outside of these hypotheses, I feel a serious obligation of conscience to continue to fulfill the task to which Christ the Lord has called me as long as, in the mysterious plan of his providence, he desires," the letter said.

00Thursday, January 28, 2010 4:09 PM
2 Jesuit priests in a Berlin college
committed serial rapes in the 1980s-1990s

BERLIN, Jan. 28 (Translated from Apcom) - A new scandal has come to light that casts another shadow on the Church's already badly damaged image with regard to priests committing sexual offenses against minors, this time in Germany.

Fr. Klaus Mertes, rector of one of the most prestigious high schools in Berlin, the Jesuit-run Canisius College located in Berlin's Tiergarten (Zoo) district, has presented his apologies in a statement to the newspaper Berliner Morgenpost for a 'systematic series of sexual violence" committed against their students by two teachers in the 1980s and 1990s.

The rector said that testimony by several students have convinced him that these offenses were not isolated or sporadic but systematically committed for more than a decade.

At least two priests were alleged to be responsible for the offenses but both have reportedly left the order and no longer teach at Canisius College.

Fr. Mertes said that after he heard from some of the victims, he has written to some 600 students of Canisius in that time period - many of whom now occupy high positions in politics and finance.

"I was overwhelmed by the violence of the assaults recounted," Fr. Mertes said. "I assured the victims of my total discretion, and that it was up to them to decide whether to go to the police or seek public opinion".

In this Year for Priests, and even afterwards, we all owe our priests and religious a daily prayer that they may all seek to be holy, and for those who have erred to find conversion and some way to make up for their offenses.

00Thursday, January 28, 2010 8:21 PM

The Traditional Anglican Communion is not only the largest organized group of Anglicans intending to cross over en masse to Roman Catholic church - it was also the group whose leadership actively pursued the initiative with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for almost a quarter century. Nor has the TAC been any less diligent, after the Vatican issued the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.

Consider this recent pastoral letter from the TAC primate. It was perhaps the most notable ecumenical gesture preparatory to this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is also a remarkable summary of the developments that led to this point, and it annotates the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus as it affects the members of TAC. It is also very revealing of how the TAC early on accepted the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the most complete and authentic compendium of the Christian faith. It is a most beautiful document!

On the Gathering of the Anglicans:
The Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum Coetibus'

A Pastoral Letter to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful
of the Traditional Anglican Communion

20th January 2010

My Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,

Introduction: The dreams of Christian unity

Few things could be expected to excite more controversy than the reunion of churches that have long been living in animosity.

Europe, and the world that Europe colonised, has been shaped in its languages, its politics, its law, as well as its religion, in large part by those animosities. The identity and culture of people and nations have been significantly shaped by religious conflict and division.

The healing of religious division has been one of the most welcome features of 20th century Christianity. The great conflicts of the last century between Christianity and communism, and between Christianity and Fascism, that turned that century into one of the most persecuting since the great persecutions of the Roman Empire, diminished the sense of division and emphasised the wisdom of unity.

In the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church embraced the vision of unity. For Anglicans, dramatic meetings occurred between Archbishops of Canterbury and Bishops of Rome. With great optimism the two churches embarked on theological examinations of the issues that had divided them for centuries and began what at first were tentative and awkward steps in cooperation. Even praying in each other’s churches demanded a confrontation with the habits and assumptions of generations.

At the same time, Christians in Europe and in the Third World began to experience the challenges of a militant and fundamentalist Islam. Confrontation and persecution began afresh. In Europe and the developed world, a renewed interest in pagan and humanist philosophy, combined with a diminished sense of identity of Christians with their churches led to a dramatic diminishing of religious practice and belief.

It was against this background that the Anglican/Roman Catholic dialogue took place. At first optimistic, the dream of full organic unity – what Pope Paul VI described as the supreme grace of true and perfect unity in faith and communion – faded from reality.

I raise these issues because it is of great importance now that people in our Communion clearly understand why Archbishop Falk, Bishop Crawley of Canada and myself stood in St Peter’s Square, Rome some 17 years ago.

We had spent the day with the Pontifical Council for Christian unity, briefing it on the developments within the Anglican Communion that had led to the formation of the Traditional Anglican Communion and of our yearning for the unity that was even then becoming improbable between the Anglican Communion and Rome.

The publication by Pope Benedict XVI of the Apostolic Constitution is the culmination of the prayers, dreams and efforts of Traditional Anglican Communion bishops for a quarter of a century, and of the prayers, dreams and efforts of many other Anglicans around the world.

In his recent letter to our bishops, Cardinal Levada spoke to us of the delicate process of discernment that will no doubt need to be embarked upon by many of our Anglican brothers and sisters, and no less of the many difficult practical issues that will need to be faced.

I speak to you now, as the one whom my fellow bishops elected to carry through the work of unity between the Traditional Anglican Communion and the Holy See, to assist and deepen that delicate process of discernment.

Our Petition

As is normal in such circumstances, our petition to the Holy See has remained confidential until a formal response has been received. The letters to those who signed the petition mark that formal response. As a result, in order to deepen our understanding and promote discussion, I am releasing the petition with this pastoral letter.

The petition notes the history of recent Roman/Anglican conversations, and the extraordinary note of optimism in the 1960s. It then notes the abandonment by the Anglican Communion of those things held by Rome and Holy Orthodoxy as essential to Apostolic Faith.

It then notes the development of the Anglican resistance and the faithfulness that began with the conference at St Louis. The teaching of the Affirmation of St Louis is set out, particularly as it relates to the sacramental life of the Church and the nature of the Church itself.

The petition particularly notes the words of the Affirmation where it states we declare our firm intention to seek and achieve full sacramental communion and the visible unity with other Christians who worship the Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity and who hold the Catholic and apostolic Faith in accordance with the foregoing principles.

Our Communion has always understood that those words apply most significantly to the Catholic Church. (I might add, lest there be any confusion, that I use the word Catholic Church as the formal entity headed by the Bishop of Rome, and which consists of a number of Rites, some in the East and some in the West, of which the Roman Rite is the most populous. In common conversation, of course, it is called the Roman Catholic Church in many parts of the world. In a part of the petition where we quote a Roman authority, the words Roman Catholic Church are actually used.)

The petition then notes the formation of the Traditional Anglican Communion and its spread. It indicates the way in which its growth has been shaped by the advice given at that first meeting 17 years ago in Rome. It notes the expansive process of consultation and synodical debate that had already taken place as a precondition for the petition being submitted.

Then comes the heart of the petition. Firstly, it knowledge the wide consultation with Roman Catholic people throughout the world. One observation was particularly influential in the 12 months during which the petition was being prepared. It accurately describes the founding purpose of our Communion, and then goes on to acknowledge the four great aspects of the Anglican heritage that we desire to be cherished in any unity:

Because the Lord has not yet returned in glory, the complete unity and communion of believers for which He prayed has not yet been achieved, but each believer and each church and ecclesial community, recognising the life-changing unity engendered by our shared baptism, is called to make Christian unity a lifelong commitment, just as we are called to spread the Gospel to the whole world.

Recognising that obligation, and with great confidence in the Lord and in the power of the Holy Spirit, a worldwide community of Anglican Christians has united under the name “The Traditional Anglican Communion” for three main purposes:

•To identify, reaffirm and consolidate in its community the elements of belief, sacraments, structure and conduct that mark the Church of Christ, which is one throughout the world:
•To seek as a body full and visible communion, particularly eucharistic communion, in Christ, with the Roman Catholic Church, in which it recognises the fullest subsistence of Christ’s one Church; and
•To achieve such communion while maintaining those revered traditions of spirituality, liturgy, discipline and theology that constitute the cherished and centuries-old heritage of Anglican communities throughout the world.

The Bishops and Vicars-General who assented to the petition and solemnly signed it on the altar then make four solemn declarations.

The first concerns the Ministry of the Bishop of Rome. The late Pope John Paul II wrote to the churches that are not in communion with the Bishop of Rome, setting out in fresh language and in the light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council the ministry exercised by that Bishop, and seeking the views of those churches on the way in which they could use his ministry of unity and authority.

Unity and authority are the two qualities that have most eluded the churches of the Reformation. Anglican history is riddled with the problems caused by lack of authority. Recent Anglican history has seen the creation of one instrument of unity after another, but no one has discovered an instrument by which authentic teaching can be given to God’s Anglican people.

The bishops in their petition described the limits on their exercise of authentic apostolic authority that is created by their lack of communion (especially Eucharistic communion) with catholic bishops throughout the world.

The second declaration concerns the nature of the Church. It is fundamental to the life of the church that its bishops and the churches they lead be in Eucharistic Communion with the See of Rome to which bishops of the ancient church looked as the instrument of unity and Catholic authenticity.

At the same time, reflecting the Second Vatican Council, the bishops did not deny the unity that already exists among Christian communities. This petition is about more perfect unity – a unity so deep that the Eucharist can be shared.

The third declaration concerns the teaching of the Church as it has been received from Jesus through the Apostles and their writings, confirmed by the authentic tradition of the Church and proclaimed to the world at this time.

The fullest statement of contemporary Christian belief, the bishops believe, is to be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is deeply biblical and patristic, and addresses matters that puzzle and confront Christians at the present moment.

The bishops understand that not everything in the Catechism is of equal authority, and also understand that the faith must be proclaimed to every generation in language that accurately portrays what the Church has received.

Therefore they acknowledge that the Catechism is the most complete and authentic expression and application of the Catholic faith in this moment of time, and that they signed a copy on the altar as attesting to the faith they aspire to teach and hold.

None of the bishops would claim to understand every aspect of the faith with perfection, and none would claim to teach perfectly at all times. But they do claim to aspire to teach and to hold the faith that is set forth in the Catechism.

The fourth declaration is in effect the actual petition. The Bishops state that we seek a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See, at once treasuring the full expression of catholic faith and treasuring our tradition within which we have come to this moment. We seek the guidance of the Holy See as to the fulfillment of these our desires and those of the churches in which we have been called to serve.

The petition concludes with an act of trust and faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Response: the Apostolic Constitution

You may recall that Cardinal Levada wrote to me in July 2008 acknowledging that the situation within the Anglican Communion in general had become markedly more complex since the submission of our proposal.

At the same time the Cardinal assured me of the serious attention which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was giving to the prospect of corporate unity raised in our petition.

An Apostolic Constitution is a document of the highest authority, making a permanent addition to the body of Canon Law. There is also a set of norms, which are in effect the regulations for implementing the Constitution. There is also provision for norms unique to each place where the Constitution is implemented.

It requires and deserves detailed and careful study. As with any body of law, the Constitution must be interpreted accurately and carefully.

Before discussing sections of this document, I would draw your attention to the title. It speaks of Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. There at the outset are the three critical factors: Anglicans, full communion, and Catholic Church.

Section 1: the Church

Everything else flows from this section. Once we are clear about the Church that Jesus founded and left to us “until the end of time”, our duty becomes clear. False understandings of the nature of the Church have encouraged the endless creation of new “churches”.

In the second paragraph of the Constitution, there are three statements that set out the reason why the Pope felt bound to respond positively to the petitions of the Anglicans.

•The first statement is that of the Church as a people gathered into the unity of God. It is the unity of the Trinity that is the unity of Christian people. Founded by Jesus Christ, the Church is an instrument of communion with God and of unity among all people. Unity is therefore of the sacred essence of our relationship with God. It is not in any way a political option that can be taken or left.

•The second statement is that every division among the baptised wounds the very nature of the Church itself and distorts its ability to fulfil its purpose. There is a telling quotation from the Second Vatican Council (reflecting Saint Paul at his most passionate) that disunity “openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature.”

•The third statement reminds us all that at the most sacred part of his ministry, Jesus prayed to the Father for the unity of his followers.

In the light of this understanding of the Church, the Constitution goes on to speak deeply of the way in which our unity as Christians in the Church is manifested, particularly in the Breaking of Bread. It then speaks, and this is important for Anglicans, of the governments of the Church by the College of Bishops united with the head of the College, the Bishop of Rome.

It then speaks of the many elements of sanctification and of truth – note sanctification, not just truth – that are beyond those visible confines of the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome. And it states that these gifts which belong to the Church of Christ are forces “impelling” towards Catholic unity.

In other words, where we have cherished our traditions and been faithful to the Gospel, we have created a force that drives the unity of the Church!

The gathering of all Christians into a single Eucharistic communion is the imperative of all unity. This section concludes, once again, with a reference to “Anglican faithful who desired to enter into full communion in a corporate manner”.

Section 2: “Ordinariates”

The instrument by which the Constitution creates communities of Anglicans in full communion with the Catholic Church is the “Ordinariate”. This is essentially a new structure created for this purpose, but with some affinity with structures created for military personnel.

The integrity of Anglican communities is protected (among other things) by the fact that each of these structures is equivalent to a diocese. Each of these structures is ruled by an “ordinary”.

Section 5 of the Constitution spells out the powers of the Ordinary. The Ordinary exercises these powers jointly with the local diocese in Bishop or Bishops. Not under or over, but jointly.

In section 6, these powers are amplified. It is the Ordinary who accepts candidates for Holy Orders, including those who have exercised the Ministry of Deacon, Priest or Bishop as Anglicans. It is the Ordinary who can apply to ordain married men to the priesthood. It is the Ordinary who can receive clergy from other Rites of the Catholic Church. It is the Ordinary and the local Diocesan Bishop or Bishops who can create agreements for common pastoral and charitable activities with other local catholic clergy. It is the Ordinary who establishes seminary programs and houses of formation for the particular needs of students to be formed in the Anglican Patrimony. It is the Ordinary who can establish religious houses and other institutes of consecrated life.

The Ordinariates will have governing structures designed to replicate the structures of Anglican dioceses. The governing council, comparable to a standing committee, has the right to nominate the ordinary.

This is a major change to the practice in the Western Church, a safeguard to Anglican identity, and an important part of Anglican ways. The election of a bishop has an important bearing on the pastoral relationship of a bishop and his people.

Finally it has provided that admission to an Ordinariate is by application in writing, or by receiving the sacraments of initiation (baptism and confirmation) within the Ordinariate.

The Standard of Belief

The wording of the Constitution is very significant. The Statements of Faith that have previously been used for people coming individually into communion with the Catholic Church have been replaced in this case by Catechism.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate.

This reflects the statement made by the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion in their petition. It is a deeply pastoral solution to the question of statements of faith. Many members of our community have been using the Catechism as a reference and a sourcebook for years. Its language is contemporary and its methodology, based on the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, and the liturgical Creeds, is already familiar to Anglicans.

Many of the things being denied at this moment in the world have been taken for granted for centuries. The nature of God, the revelation of God in Christ, the nature of holy scripture, the authority of Christian moral teaching about life and sexuality, the attack on the nature of marriage, and the widespread abandonment of holiness of life (especially among some of those consecrated to religious and priestly life), have all posed enormous problems for those who seek to teach and understand the Christian faith.

The Catechism is a contemporary document addressing contemporary problems of contemporary unbelief.


The Constitution has a particularly beautiful passage when it speaks of the liturgy that will be practiced within the Anglican Ordinariates.

Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.

In the norms, it is further explained that clergy will have the right to celebrate not only the Anglican liturgy but also both current forms of the Roman rite.

A great deal of work has already been concluded in the updating and expanding of Anglican service books. The calendar of saints for instance in the Prayer Book of 1662 has no additions since then, in spite of the manifest sanctity of so many Christians since that date. Much more work needs to be done and will be a very high priority for those engaged in implementing the Constitution.


Over the past several months a number of questions have been raised. Some of these have been raised in a spirit of controversy and denial of the actual provisions of the Constitution and its norms. I regret this.

Each of our communities, and each person within them, must address the very profound issues that the Constitution raises. These issues include their relationship to Christ in his Church, the needs of the church in our present world of intense difficulty for Christians, the long-standing policy concerning unity of the College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion, which has often been publicised in the official organs of our Communion, the state of global Anglicanism and the possibility of it returning to some resemblance of catholic order which might allow a person professing catholic faith to maintain with a clear conscience life within it.

We also need to be aware of the very close way in which the Constitution addresses our petition. As I stated recently, we ought not to rush into a rash or hasty decision, but equally we ought not to delay what is clearly the will of Christ for his Church.

Does the Constitution adequately protect the heritage of Anglicans?

The structures proposed for Anglican Catholics are entrenched in canon law, are governed by Anglican pastors and Ordinaries, and protected by governing councils that have specific rights to give consent to the Ordinary and in some cases to determine matters of policy and to nominate the Ordinary. The clergy elect half the members of the governing councils.

Matters of the formation and admission of clergy, liturgical matters, the establishment and regulation of parishes, and the maintenance and deepening of Anglican spirituality, history, theology and pastoral practice are all within the competence of the Ordinariate.

The establishment and ongoing support of these structures has been left with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, where we have already found a warm and understanding reception.

The Ordinaries will meet as a college since they will visit Rome at five-year intervals as a distinct group to report on their progress, to find mutual support, and to pray at the tombs of the Apostles. I would hope that the Concordat of the Traditional Anglican Communion could be adapted to provide a meaningful structure that supports the Anglican Catholic Ordinaries.

What of those who are not yet ready to make this decision?

I have been discussing this question with national groups of our bishops and with some of those whom Catholic Bishops Conferences have appointed to liaise with us. There is no time limit on the acceptance of this Constitution. It is designed to have a lifetime of centuries.

Some people are ready and anxious to move now; others are seeking more time for prayer and reflection. Others are confused by the surge of public argument about the Constitution. We are committed to the pastoral care of all our people, those who will quickly move into full communion and those who are not yet ready. We are already discussing the structures for this.

The Traditional Anglican Communion will not disappear, but will endure for the same purpose that it was created to fulfil, and which is so clearly described in the text of our petition.

What of the re-ordination of clergy?

One of the most controversial aspects of the Anglican/Roman relations in the past century has been that of Anglican orders. Rome ruled in 1896 that Anglican orders were null and void.

The Anglican response at the time was a beautifully written argument. More significantly, Anglicans began to seek the involvement in their Episcopal and priestly ordinations of bishops whose orders Rome recognized. This was a tacit admission that there might be value in the Roman argument, while arguing against the Roman argument. A very Anglican position!

In more recent times, because of this involvement of others in Anglican ordinations, some Anglican clergy entering into full communion with the Catholic Church have been conditionally ordained rather than ordained absolutely. In very recent years, this practice has been abandoned and absolute re-ordination has been adopted.

There are several reasons for this. The first is the practical abandonment of apostolic practice and belief in the Anglican Communion in the matter of the sacrament of Holy Order. Not only the ordination of women to all three sacred orders, but the redefining of the Anglican understanding of itself as part of the “Church Catholic” that the ordination of women has necessitated, has introduced more than grave doubt about the validity of any Anglican Communion ordinations.

It is now difficult to determine whether any particular Anglican Bishop has any intention to do as the Church has always done, when he (or she) specifically intends to do that which the Church has never done. The almost complete elimination of what was once a dominant Anglo-Catholicism from many provinces of the Anglican Communion has removed the clearest statement of Catholic belief about Holy Orders from the Anglican consciousness.

Our own Traditional Anglican Communion has been very careful to do the best that was available. At that original meeting in Rome, we were encouraged to use consecrating bishops from the Polish National Catholic Church. We already had, and we received an assurance that Rome recognised their orders. We have used Anglican Rites for ordination that have been submitted by Anglican authorities to Rome in the early days of ARCIC.

We have done our best, in the context of an ecclesial body actively seeking catholic unity. Our conversations about the situation regarding Orders that we have conferred are serious and continuing.

The following points are important:

•For some 30 years, Rome has required Anglican priests who are ordained as priests in full communion with the Catholic Church to date their ordination from the Anglican ordination.

•Re-ordination is an issue because the Church requires absolute certainty in the matter of future sacramental life. I have been told that the TAC should understand this because we ourselves moved beyond the Anglican Communion in order to ensure the validity of sacramental life. Rome is now seeking the same assurance.

•The present Pope has written meaningfully of the situation of the sacramental life within churches separated from fullness of communion with the Catholic Church. There is no denial of the fact that God acted through our ministry to confer sacramental grace.

•There is quite deliberately not a judgement on the past, which is left to God and His Providence, but there is a demand for certainty in the future.

It is my wish, and I believe the wishes of my fellow bishops, that every deacon and priest in our Communion has a certainty of validity that rests, not on the winning of a theological argument, not on the best that was available at the time, but on the indisputable certainty of Catholic practice.

I have said to a number of priests that when they are saying Mass in the crypt of St Peter’s on the tombs of the Apostles, I want them to be able to look to one side and the other and to know with absolute certainty that their priesthood has the same objective reality as the priesthood of those on either side.

Finally, I commend this development to your prayers and the deepest parts of your conscience. I believe with all my heart that this is a work of God and an act of great generosity by Pope Benedict.

The Anglican tradition that we treasure will only survive, I believe, across the generations yet to come if it discovers the protection of apostolic authority.

It is my cherished wish that each of us can stand at the altar with our fellow Christians and receive the same Eucharistic Christ. That is the ultimate test of unity. In the centuries since the church in the West became fractured there has been no offer such as the one that is now before us.

For Anglicans, Unity has been a dream beyond reach. Now it is a dream that can be fulfilled. I understood when I became a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion (in a dark period of my life when it became impossible to practice my priesthood in a diocese about to ordain women) that this was a Communion heading towards a goal.

It had separated from the Anglican Communion. Instead of drifting at the whim of wave and wind, it had chosen to head towards the only realistic destination, that from which Anglicans had separated centuries before. I was grasped by that vision of those who founded this Communion.

We are now in the waves just beyond the harbour entrance. Pray God that we have the courage to enter and make our homes there.

May God bless and cherish each one of you.

Archbishop John Hepworth

00Friday, January 29, 2010 2:50 PM

The difficulty of
reconciliation in China

Translated from

January 29, 2010

Center, parishioners after Sunday Mass in Beijing's cathedral. Right photo, a Chinese edition of a 30 GIORNI book of prayers [He who prays, saves himself], originally published in Italian with an introduction by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and which has now been translated to Chinese.

The December 2009 issue of the magazine 30 GIORNI which comes out today carries a dossier that should be of interest to understand something of the situation in the Church in China two and a half years since Benedict XVI's unprecedented pastoral letter to the Catholics of China.

The dossier, edited by Gianni Valente, includes some documents that have not been published before which contribute to clarify many errors that have characterized reporting on the issue by the news agencies, as well as many Web sites, which tend to present a negative view of the work of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and more generally, the Holy See itself, and claim that for reasons of Realpolitik, the Vatican is abandoning the so-called 'underground Church' in China to its own fate.

As a necessary premise, it must be remembered that
1. There is only one church in China, not two.
2. Almost all the 'official' bishops recognized by the Beijing government are also recognized by the Vatican.
3. Both Catholic communities - 'underground' and 'official' - have been the object of persecution over the past six decades.
4. In his 2007 letter, Benedict XVI suggested a precise way towards reconciliation and overcoming the division between the two communities.

An emblematic case, presented by the magazine, is Bishop Francis An Shuxin, who was detained for 10 years by the Communists, and is now facing opposition by some of his own brothers in the faith.

Earlier auxiliary bishop and now coadjutor of Baoding, a city some 150 kms from Beijing, An was detained in isolation from 1996 to 2006, and after his release, decided to go 'above ground' in order to exercise his mandate, following procedures imposed by civilian authorities.

Today, some priests and faithful in the underground Church accuse him of betrayal and do not recognize his authority.

In documents published by the magazine, An explains his reasons for emerging from clandestinity, agreeing to register himself with the civilian authorities, but without any compromise in his faith (for instance, not signing a provision regarding election of bishops without Vatican approval, and adding an eloquent explanatory note "on the ground of not violating Catholic faith", to the provision referring to the principles of self-management and autonomy of the Church in China).

30 GIORNI also discloses that the Holy See, in 2006, had sent the diocese various documents recognizing An's legitimate authority as a bishop as soon as he became 'official' - but the documents have been ignored by underground priests opposed to An's decision.

The legitimacy of An's ministry was reiterated in a June 2008 letter from Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, with appropriate references to Benedict XVI's June 2007 letter: "Everyone should know that the esteemed bishop (An) enjoys the approval and total confidence of the Holy See. Therefore, no one should doubt his sincerity nor oppose his authority".

Bishop An, says the dossier, testified that "After the publication of the Holy Father's Letter in 2007, many priests [among them, those who oppose An] kept the faithful from reading the pastoral letter, saying that the Pope was confused".

Therefore, it was not by chance that last November, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone wrote a letter to all Chinese priests on the occasion of the year for Priests, reiterating the Holy Father's urging for reconciliation within the Catholic community, along with respectful and constructive dialog with civilian authorities, following the 'guidelines' in the Pope's letter.

So, the reality of the Chinese situation is far more complex than it is usually presented in Western reporting, and distortions and resistances can be found even in the 'underground' community which seems, on the whole, to be interpreting the Pope's letter as they see fit.

I have done a cursory reading of the articles in the 30 GIORNI dossier, a journalistic enterprise which, I understand, was made possible when magazine editor and publisher Giulio Andreotti travelled to Tibet last fall to take part in an international symposium on the Tibet question.

What struck me was the failure on the part of 30 GIORNI to get some direct input from Cardinal Joseph Zen, who is an advocate of the underground Church and often speaks up for them - and which 30 GIORNI writer Gianni Valente points out - but was also entrusted by the Holy Father to 'monitor' the consequences of the papal letter on the two Catholic communities in China.

Speaking of Cardinal Zen, Carlos Antonio Palad at

calls attention to the last traditional Latin Mass offered by the Cardinal in Hongkong on December 29:

The cardinal offered a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form last Easter. Palad also informs us that the Cardinal "has actually volunteered to be part of the line up of priests who alternate in celebrating Hong Kong's Sunday TLM. To my knowledge, he is the only cardinal who frequently celebrates the TLM in a fixed site".


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote the Introduction for the prayer book
published by 30 GIORNI in 2005 just three months before he was elected Pope.

Here is a translation of the Introduction:

Since man was man, he has prayed. Always and everywhere, man has realized that he is not alone in the world, that there is someone who listens. He has always realized that he needs Another much greater than he, to whom he should address himself so that his life may be what it ought to be.

But the face of God had always been hidden, and only Jesus has shown us his true face, Whoever sees Him sees the Father (cfr Jn 14,9). Therefore, if on the one hand, praying comes naturally to man (to ask in times of need and to thank in times of joy), on the other hand, there is also man’s inability to pray and to speak with a hidden God. We do not know what we should ask, St. Paul writes (cfr Rm 8,26).

And so, we should always ask the Lord, as the disciples did: “Lord, teach us to pray!” (Lk 11,1). The Lord has taught us the ‘Our Father’ as a model for authentic prayer, and has given us a Mother, the Church, who helps us to pray.

The Church has received from Sacred Scripture a great treasury of prayers. In the course of centuries, there have also emerged, from the hearts of the faithful, numerous prayers with which, ever anew, they address themselves to God. In praying with Mother Church, we ourselves learn to pray.

I am therefore very happy that 30 GIORNI is publishing a new edition of this little book containing the fundamental prayers of Christians, as these have taken form through the centuries. May they be with us in all the events of our life and help us to celebrate the liturgy of the Church in prayer.

I hope that this little book can be a traveler’s companion to many Christians.

Rome, February 18, 2005

00Friday, January 29, 2010 8:11 PM

Furor over Paris Nuncio's
advocacy letter sent privately
to some European parliamentarians

by Andrea Tornielli
Translated from

January 28, 2010

Last January 8, the Apostolic Nuncio in France, Mons. Luigi Ventura,
wrote a letter accompanied by a 'memorandum' to some representatives of the Partita Popolare Europea (PPE) in the European Parliament asking them, in the name of the Holy See, to commit themselves to amending a resolution on sexual discrimination and suggesting that they should oppose its approval if the text remains 'unacceptable'.

The letter also proposed that they support the candidacy of Riccardo Ventre and Luca Volonte, respectively, to be the Italian judge in the European Court of Human Rights, and to be president of the PPE delegation in the European Council.

The letter was disclosed on the floor of teh European parliament by the Luxembourg Socialist representative Lydia Err, who denounced it as 'scandalous and unacceptable Vatican intervention".

The vote on the resolution against sexual discrimination, which requires, among others, a guarantee of legal recognition for homosexual couples, was scheduled to take place Wednesday, but it has been postponed to April because of 80 amendments presented mostly by PPE parliamentarians.

"At the behest of the Secretary of State," Mons. Ventura writes, "I would like to share with you the concerns of the Holy See with regard to two proposed resolutions whose texts are in open violation of natural law and the values promoted by the Catholic Church, and of the need to participate actively in the vote."

"Some members of the PPE," the letter goes on, "like Volonte, Farina and Gatti, have already been informed of the concerns of the Holy See and have submitted amendments to improve the proposed resolutions. In sending you a memorandum in this respect, allow me to request your support for the wishes of the Holy See".

The Nunciature in Paris would not comment on the news, while Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi merely remarked that "it is normal for the Church to intervene in defense of its moral principles".

"I am taken aback. I know nothing of this", said the head of the Italian parliamentary delegation to Strasbourg, Luigi Valente. "I am astonished at an initiative that was neither requested nor agreed upon, I hope teh Nuncio will make a clarification".

Pietro Mercenario, a senator from the Partita Democrata (center left), said the Nuncio's letter was "a serious institutional interference".

His colleague, Vannino Chiti, said the action was 'unbelievable', adding: "The Catholic Church, like any other religious confession, has the full right to publicly express its positions on every issue in society. Precisely because of this, it is unbelievable that a private letter should have been sent only to selected parliamentarians and that it gets down to the details of which amendments to approve or reject, and that specific candidates are endorsed".

The Nuncio, Mons. Ventura, was recently assigned to Paris after serving as Nuncio in Canada, and is considered to be one of the Vatican's most experienced diplomats. The question here is the ill-advised action of writing private letters to selected Parliamentarians, openly urging them to specific actions.

An open letter to all the Parliament members publicly expressing the Church's position on disputed parts of the proposed resoluti0n(s) would have been more appropriate.

Which is what the Russian Orthodox Church did:

Moscow patriarchate sends message
to European Parliamentarians
opposing resolution that would
validate homosexual unions

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 29 (Translated from ADNkronos) - The patriarchate of Moscow, through its minister for foreign relations, Archbishop Hilarion, has sent a message to the participants of the last session of the European Council's parliamentary assembly, to express its opposition to a resolution that condemns sexual discrimination and would require recognition of same-sax unions, in an open letter dated January 26.

The Vatican had earlier chosen to dot his by means of private letters sent by the Apostolic Nuncio in Paris to a selected group of parliamentarians belonging to the Partita Popolare Europea (PPE), including French, Dutch and Italian representatives.

00Friday, January 29, 2010 10:12 PM

Interesting comments here on revelations made in a book published earlier this week by the postulator of John Paul II's cause for beatification. I knew there was a reason why I was queasy about all the emphasis on self-flagellation! Not that I don't believe John Paul II was incapable of it, but he would have been the last person to 'advertise' his acts of self-mortification, since by its very nature, it should concern no one but the person making the sacrifice.

Some troubling questions
about Mons. Oder's revelations

by Salvatore Izzo

VATICAN CITY, January 29 (Translated from AGI) - The Vatican newspaper has not said a word about the book. And in Vatican circles, there is much criticism.

From Poland, especially from Cracow, there appears to be widespread disapproval among those who were close to Karol Wojtyla of the book Perche e santo (Why he is holy) written by Mons. Stanislaw Oder, the postulator of the late Pope's cause for beatification.

"The first reason to be disconcerted," says Gianfranco Svidercoschi, formerly deputy editor of L'Osservatore Romano, co-author of one book with the late Pope and of Cardinal Stanislaw Dsiwisz's memoir about the Pope, "is that for the first time in memory, the postulator of a cause has revealed a considerable part of the testimonies given by clergy and laymen behind closed doors during a canonical process".

Even worse, he said, is to have the disclosures made even before the process has been completed

[I would agree that for both reasons, publication of the Oder book was at the very least, premature, and ultimately improper.]

"We are still awaiting the verification and approval of the miracle and after that, the final approval by Benedict XVI," he explained.

He also cites Oder's statement in the book that, "Thinking back, the fact that the Pope had wanted to meet me when he was alive was a sort of 'precognition'. Perhaps he wanted to know better the man who would represent him before the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood."

Svidercoschi said it was like saying that John Paul II was certain he would be made a saint, and so he wanted to get to know the man who would be his postulator. "That was not John Paul II at all!"

What about the previously unpublished documents included in the book?

"It is not made clear that some texts were simply drafts, preparatory notes. So without such an explanation, it would seem that John Paul II had seriously thought of resigning. What he did was to ask experts in canon law if - like bishops who must retire at age 75 and cardinals who can no longer vote in a papal conclave after they turn 80 - there could be an automatic age limit for a Pope".

In the end, Svidercoschi points out, although John Paul II knew that Paul VI had laid down certain guidelines for what should be done if a Pope were incapacitated and unable to carry out his functions, he decided that he would stay for as long as God wanted him to".

As quoted in all his other biographies, Svidercoschi says, the Pope remarked, "Did Christ come down from the Cross?"

More generally, Svidercoschi raised the question of whether it was proper to publish drafts which the Pope had decided not to use - such as a handwritten letter to his would-be assassin Ali Agca - since obviously, the Pope had a reason for not using these drafts.

"Perhaps he did not think these discarded texts really expressed what he wanted. So how can we consider them significant if he himself did not?," the writer says. "I think that seeking to make a media 'scoop' at any cost ends up falsifying the image of this great Pope".

As for the late Pope's acts of self-mortification, Svidercoschi said, "I do not believe he self-flagellated". [Though I do not see why his opinion should matter in this respect.]

He thinks that the testimony of the nun during the investigative part of the beatification process was most likely a mistaken interpretation.

"The sounds that she claims to have heard coming from the Pope's room could well have been due to physical affliction from his illness," he notes. "We must not forget that the assassination attempt in May 1981 left serious and recurrent physical problems even in a man who was very strong and loved sports."

Out of thousands of pages of testimonies collected, he said, there are so many details that acquire a different and perhaps equivocal sense when isolated and emphasized - in the process, he said, the late Pope's personality can tend to be distorted.

He questions particularly Oder's interpretation of John Paul II's statements about Medjugorje.

"If he had said that he would want to go to Medjugorje some day, it cannot be interpreted to mean he approved of the so-called Marian apparitions reported by the Bosnian seers. If he had been convinced of it, he would have done something concrete about it [like have the CDF investigate the so-called apparitions, after the local bishop had carried out due investigation and concluded 'nothing supernatural had happened'].

"If he wanted to go there, he had more than enough time, since he reigned for at least 20 more years after the apparitions were first reported. [He also visited Bosnia some time during then and did not include Medjugorje in his itinerary, nor meet with the 'seers'.]

"He would have taken responsibility even in such a sensitive matter, as he did when he decided to disclose to the world the 'third secret' of Fatima."

Svidercoschi deplored that "the episodes cited and repeated in the media these days - some of them coming from the testimony of just a single person - end up being 'absolutized' and tailored to a particular interpretation."

Such as, he said, "John Paul II's attitude about Medjugorje (which was far more cautious than the Oder book makes it appear); his relationship with Padre Pio (which the Pope had clearly explained in our book together, Dono e mistero); and the inference about his self-flagellation (was it witnessed at all by the nun who recounts it, or merely 'heard'?)"

Likewise, he said, the hypothesis of a supposed plot by the Red Brigade to kidnap the Pope (about which at the time referred to, there was not a hint heard in the Vatican), or the account of the Pope's confrontation with General Jaruzelski [the Polish Communist leader at the time of a visit to Poland by John Paul II in 1983) - in which it should at least have been pointed out that twice during that visit, the Pope had threatened to go back to Rome if the Communist government tried any undue pressure on him."

In short, Svidercoschi says, a clear differentiation must be made between the investigative process for beatification, in which "everyone who testifies recalls what he remembers, what he understood, what he sensed or what he thinks he saw or simply deduced about the candidate. Not everything a witness says has the same weight or significance" - and reporting these details selectively in a book.

The cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood, he pointed out, "do not approve the final 'positio' recognizing the heroic virtues of the candidate on the basis of individual details and testimonies, but on the overall person that emerges from these testimonies - his historical reality as well as his true personality - and if from these testimonies as well as the candidate's writings, from his acts, practices and beliefs, there do not emerge any shadows that are out of line with Christian doctrine, then they will not look further into details because doing so will not gain them any more knowledge to act upon".

00Saturday, January 30, 2010 4:27 PM

Was the OR editor behind
the campaign that resulted
in Boffo leaving 'Avvenire'?

In his blog entry today, Sandro Magister reproduces much of an article in today's Il Foglio, in which Il Giornale editor Vittorio Feltri tells the newspaper edited by Giuliano Ferrara that his Page 1 accusation against the then-editor of Avvenire Dino Boffo in September last year - which Feltri subsequently retracted on December 3 in his newspaper, three months after his false accusation had forced Boffo to resign his three positions as the head of the Italian bishop's conference newspaper, radio and television network - was based on information he received from an 'institutional' source in the Church whom he had 'no reason to doubt'.

Neither Feltri nor Il Foglio identifies this source by name - except to say the emissary who provided the documents Feltri based his charges on represented "a lobby that availed of the naivete of the editor of L'Osservatore Romano".

But Magister's headline to his blog entry reads: 'Feltri strikes again: Yesterday, it was Boffo, now it's Vian', editor of L'Osservatore Romano. [Quite a concatenation of newspapers involved! Not to mention that Magister writes for L'Espresso, under which he publishes both www.chiesa and his blog.]

In a blog last December, Magister had also claimed that Vian was the real author of a Sept. 19, 2009, article written for Il Giornale, Feltri's paper, under the pseudonym Diana Alfieri, more than two weeks after Boffo's resignation, in which the writer defended Feltri's accusation and attacked the Italian bishops conference not only for standing up for Boffo, but for having kept him on for 15 years 'despite questions about his moral qualifications'. [Feltri's allegations openly called Boffo a homosexual and falsely attributed a homosexual basis to a minor court case for which Boffo was fined.]

Magister's claim has never been denied by Vian, Il Giornale or any representative of Vian. But perhaps they just did not want to be further involved in the polemics.

Magister concludes today's blog entry with these words:

Readers of www.chiesa and 'Settimo cielo' have been able to follow the developments in this case. Including the revelatory account of the article signed by 'Diana Alfieri' in the 9/19/09 issue of Il Giornale whose real author was Vian.

What Feltri tells Il Foglio in today's article thus confirms that the anti-Boffo operation, which was also against Avvenire and definitely against the line followed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini (during his 15-year-long presidency of the CEI) was born inside the Church itself, to strike against targets within the Church.

Now we have come to the final 'accounting' for this whole episode. The Pope's newspaper is on the carpet, in the person of its editor, and Vatican officials, especially the Secretariat of State [under which L'Osservatore Romano is a department], cannot continue pretending as if they were out of this.

The countdown has started and a TKO appears to be the most logical outcome.

Magister also refers in his blog entry to an article by Il Foglio's Vaticanista Paolo Rodari on Jan. 23, who claimed that when Cardinal Ruini had a private audience with the Pope last January 8, he took the opportunity to give the Pope a comprehensive background on the Boffo case and what came afterwards. And that this background information included all the pressures and 'lobbying' efforts on the part of some in the Vatican itself to undermine the CEI and its media outlets. Of course, as expected, Cardinal Ruini issued a statement next day denying the account of what he had discussed with the Pope.

It is true that Magister has not always been happy with certain moves and decisions taken by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as Secretary of State (beginning with an article back in 2007 entitled 'The man who should be helping the Pope but isn't'), particularly his seemingly high-handed and unwarranted attempt at a 'power grab' from the Italian bishops conference the moment a new president was named by the Pope to replace Cardinal Ruini.

But, as I noted about Cardinal Bagnasco earlier this week, he hasn't proven to be a pushover for Bertone and has managed to run his ship autonomously so far, and that Bertone himself has apparently stopped pushing, not overtly, at least.

Of course, Bertone has been responsible - on the principle of 'The buck stops here' - for egregious failures by the Secretariat of State such as the failure to do their duty to properly vet Mons. Wielgus in Poland before the Pope named him Archbishop of Warsaw, and failing to do due diligence on backgrounding Mons. Williamson for the Pope before the Vatican announced the recall of the FSSPX bishops' excommunication.

In both cases, I believe he did the Pope a great disservice, even without meaning to, by sheer negligence and taking things for granted. The Pope recently wrote him a very warm letter to confirm him as Secretary of State after he turned 75 - but that should be all the more reason for him to do all he can to avoid such dreadful embarrassments for the Pope as the Wielgus and Williamson affairs.

It is hard to attribute Magister's charges against Vian to a similar prejudice because until he blogged on the 'Diani Alfieri' article, Magister was a very enthusiastic supporter of Vian and how he has been doing his job at OR. Nor can anyone who follows Magister's reportage possibly think Magister is simply stirring up trouble by pointing out these apparent missteps by Vian.

At the very least, it is time for Vian to speak up, if only because the 'Diani Alfieri' article was truly scurrilous and calumniatory to Boffo, Avvenire and the leadership of the Italian bishops conference! I do wonder, too, why Magister could not have picked up the phone back in September to ask Vian directly about the 'Alfieri' article. Perhaps the fact that Vian did not rebut him was enough for him.

About Vian's editorial shortcomings and recurrent journalistic transgressions at OR, I could write a kilometric essay myself, with an abundance of objective examples to support my case. But being a sub-optimal editor is not as grievous as the sin of indulging in petty schemes that could reflect negatively on the Church. Vian owes the Pope - his employer, in effect - a public disclaimer, explanation or whatever of his seeming negative involvement in the Boffo case.]

00Saturday, January 30, 2010 7:27 PM

New media test Vatican's digital fluency
by John Thavis

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 30 (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI recently urged the world's priests to make better use of new media, but in his own backyard the digital revolution is still seen as a mixed blessing.

The Vatican Web site remains largely a repository of printed texts, displayed on pages designed to look like parchment. And despite more than a decade of discussion about making the site interactive, www.vatican.va continues to provide information in one direction only: from them to you.

Some Vatican agencies have embraced the digital possibilities, notably Vatican Radio, which offers online broadcasts, podcasts and RSS feeds along with photos and print versions of major stories.

Other departments prefer to fly below the radar. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, for example, has posted exactly one new piece of information on its Web page over the last three years. {That's not fair, and it's also false - since the Congregation operates the FIDES news agency which can be accessed from their pages!

The more valid reproach is that most of the Curial organizations, including the Secretariat of State and the CDF, do not yet have their own websites, when even the Prefect of the Pontifical Household has its own subsite on the main Vatican site.]

The impression that the Vatican is slow on the draw when it comes to Internet possibilities was confirmed recently when a "Vatican" Twitter feed turned out to be someone impersonating the Vatican. It was a fairly innocent case of Twitterjacking, but begged the question: Why doesn't the Vatican have a real Twitter feed?

Among the few Vatican officials willing to tackle these issues head-on is Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He met with reporters to present the Pope's World Communications Day message Jan. 23, which called for better use of new media, and said it held lessons for everyone engaged in Church ministry.

"The risk is that our sites will merely be places where information is posted, and not a real meeting ground," he said.

Archbishop Celli has helped prod the Vatican toward more interactivity. Last year, his council designed and launched a special Vatican Web site, www.pope2you.net, to bring the Pope closer to a younger audience. It includes iPhone and Facebook applications, and visitors have used the site to send nearly 300,000 e-cards to their friends, each bearing a snippet of Pope Benedict's teaching.

Last Christmas, pope2you.net invited people to send personal photo-and-text Christmas greetings to the Pope, which were then posted to a linked Flickr account. The response was overwhelming, with messages from believers and nonbelievers all over the world.

In January, Archbishop Celli was busy putting together a representative selection in dossier form for the Pope.

When the Pope released his communications day message urging priests to take advantage of digital media, Archbishop Celli did something that reversed the usual hierarchy of communication in the church: His site encouraged young people, after reading the papal message, to click on a link and send it directly to their pastors.

[What about someone in the Vatican Press Office with a master list of all available e-mail addresses of priests, bishops, parishes and dioceses - who can do a mass e-mailing everytime there is a papal text or Church message to be shared with the universal Church?]

Archbishop Celli, a 68-year-old Italian who has spent his entire career in the Roman Curia, knows that communication novelties are usually introduced very gently at the Vatican. He readily concedes that at his age, when it comes to new media he may be part of the problem.

[On the other hand, there are a few cardinals who became Web-savvy early on, like Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos, now 80, and Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, who was president of the Pontifical Council for Ministry to Health Care workers. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston has been blogging since 2007, and Cardinals Angelo Scola of Venice, and Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna, have very active personal websites different from their diocesan sites.]

"We have our own digital divide. I think of myself. I was not born 'digital'. I belong to a certain era that feels more at home with a book," he told reporters.

He said, for example, that he was amazed at the Kindle but found it hard to imagine himself "sitting in a chair and watching the pages of a book stream past on a small screen."

The challenge for the Church is not to encourage young priests and seminarians to use digital media, because they're already doing so, he said. The bigger problem is convincing middle-aged and older priests to embrace these possibilities.

Archbishop Celli said his council is also willing to tackle an even more sensitive issue -- in many ways, the core issue -- of Vatican communications: the question of language.

"This is a topic we need to face in an explicit manner. Many times we speak, but in a language that is no longer comprehensible," he said. He said that's something that may be the focus of an upcoming plenary session of his council.

Speaking the language of new media is a delicate issue precisely because many Vatican officials do not trust these media to get it right about the Church, or to engage people at a more than shallow level. They doubt whether the language of the Internet is compatible with the beauty and depth of Catholic theology and liturgy.

Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the communications council, launched what might be called a trial balloon on the question of language in a recent article in Cultures and Faith, a publication of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

While acknowledging the risks of superficiality, he said people should remember that the language of the digital culture would not substitute for dogma or theology, but would be employed primarily to make an initial point of contact with those who are far from the faith.

[Precisely! There is a hierarchy (or pyramid) of communications levels in any field. In the Church, the Pope's messages rank at the top of that pyramid. Fortunately for us, we have a Pope who is distinguished for the clarity of his message. But it then becomes the duty of the lower levels in that pyramid to spread it downward promptly and effectively - and that is the great deficiency so far in the Church's communications structure. That, and the fact that many bishops and priests continue to act and speak as though they know better than the Pope and the Church in general!]

As things stand, he said, the Church relies too much on texts, which often use a vocabulary and forms of expression that are experienced as "unintelligible and off-putting even by sympathetic audiences."

[You can't change the 'language of the Church' overnight. Besides, there is a place for that 'official language' - in the original documents, and in the official Acts of the Apostolic See (where everything is reported in Latin as the official basis for any textual references]. And it is right that the original documents should be made available ASAP.

It then rests with the Vatican Press Office to make clear and understandable news reports - also ASAP - based on those texts and documents, but mostly with the news agencies and Vatican correspondents who are primarily responsible for the version, often quite reductive, of the texts and documents that gets to be disseminated among the general public - with all the errors, distortions, shortcomings and generally unappetizing language we are familiar with, from which even the Catholic news agencies are not exempt.]

He said the Church needs to recognize that today's younger audience is fluent in "a language rooted in the convergence of text, sound and images," and will quickly move on if their attention is not immediately engaged.

Msgr. Tighe said that, ultimately, the church should look to the example of Christ, who spoke to his contemporaries with words, stories and parables, as well as deeds and actions. The Church can also turn to its rich heritage of art and music, he said.

"Just as the stained-glass images of medieval cathedrals spoke to an illiterate audience, we must find forms of expression that are appropriate to a generation that has been described as 'post-literate,'" he said.

[One way to do that right away is to introduce - systematically as well as adjunctively - the most attractive elements of Church tradition in art, sculpture, architecture, music and literature through the Web! Many bloggers already do so, to some degree, but the Vatican communications structure itself has to devote an organized effort to it.

The possibilities are infinite. The Vatican interactive sites devoted to the Pope could have daily vignettes featuring, say, a saint, a church, a work of art, the Gospel of the day, a poem, a hymn, a religious festival, local religious folklore, etc - all lend themselves to illustration with existing visuals from the Church tradition and with the appropriate passages from 'music by the masters' to accompany any kind of visual! And you would never run out of subjects or content! It is also important, of course, to identify (and provide relevant information)every illustration or piece of music used, because nothing is so frustrating as to be struck by a visual or a piece of music and not know what it it is!

For instance, illustrate the Pope's homilies or catecheses with visuals that amplify and enhance - but do not distract from - the message.]

There's also a problem of the great damage that could result from mis-translation - in this case, an Italian website mis-translating a statement made by a Polish bishop and causing great uproar unnecesearily:

Polish bishop calls Holocaust article
a 'complete misunderstanding'
of what he actually said

Krakow, Poland, Jan 29, 2010 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Tadeusz Pieronek of Sosnoviec, Poland, has roundly denied having referred to the Holocaust as “a Jewish invention.”

Calling it “a complete misunderstanding,” he explained that the Italian website Pontifex, which quoted him in an article this week, clearly failed to get his meaning.

“I was referring to the fact that the Jews have created the term ‘Shoah’ to define the tragedy that didn’t have a precedent in history,” Bishop Pieronek told ANSA news agency. “The journalist interpreted my words as if I said that the Jews had invented the Shoah.”

The bishop asked increduously, “How could I have said something so absurd?”

“Everyone who knows me knows my position on the crimes of the Nazis and on the horror of what happened,” added the 75-year-old former spokesman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, who has previously publicly condemned anti-Semitism.

The original article posted on Pontifex last Monday, reported under the title of “The Shoah, an invention of the Jews,” that Bishop Pieronek had made other incendiary statements, including, “undoubtedly, the majority of those who died in the concentration camps were Jews, but also on the list were Poles, Gypsies, Italians and Catholics. So do not steal this tragedy in the name of propaganda.” The article has since been pulled from Pontifex.

The article also quoted him as saying that “they, the Jews, have a good press, because the powerful have the financial resources - extremely powerful with the unconditional support of the United States. And this promotes a kind of arrogance, which I consider to be unbearable.”

[I don't know how the bishop actually expressed himself in Polish - was he as combative as the translation sounds? - but he does make valid though highly 'politically incorrect' points in the above two paragraphs:
1) That the Jews were not the only victims of Nazi barbarism. In a recent post about the Pius XII controversy, I pointed out that the total killed in World War II was as many as 62-78 million by the latest historical data, of which 20-25 million were military dead from both sides, which still leaves 37-53 million civilian victims. Germany itself lost 6.5-8 million of its citizens, of which 5.5 million were soldiers. The figures do not excuse the planned extermination of a whole race in any way, but they do provide some perspective, at least, and show that the Nazi bloodlust was not confined to the Jews. In this case, the Poles themselves lost six million citizens in the war, half of whom were Jews.
2) American Jews did have, and probably still have, vast influence on the US media simply by owning most of the big names, like the New York Times. But this may help them insofar as Holocaust-related stories are concerned - no MSM outlet in the US would dare be politically incorrect about the Shoah in any way - but not about Israel, where the liberal media are generally pro-Palestinian.]

Upon being informed of the Pontifex article, the bishop criticized the site for “the manipulation of (his) words in an unauthorized interview.”

Following the Polish bishop’s reaction and the disappearance of the article from their website, Pontifex rebutted by posting a message on Thursday calling for Bishop Pieronek to publicly recognize the alleged comments as true within 10 days or face “legal action for defamation.” [???? Something's not right there!]

00Tuesday, February 2, 2010 12:05 PM

In June 2008, Andrea Tornielli published a 682-page biography of Pius XII entitled Pio XII: Un'uomo sul trono di Pietro (Pius XII: A man on Peter's Chair) which is the definitive biography so far on the late Pope.

His comments about 'new' information relating to Pius XII's actions in World War II are therefore informed by the research he did for the book.

False scoop on Pius XII
by 'historians' who have
not read previous books

by Andrea Tornielli
Translated from

In Corriere della Sera and La Stampa today, ample space is dedicated to supposedly new documents relative to the 'silence' of Pius XII in World War II.

Even Il Giornale [where Tornielli writes], alas, has used it, though fortunately in much more minor time, reporting it as a news brief, trusting in the Italian news agency ANSA which published Sunday afternoon the 'revelations' of two scholars who are not new at reporting false scoops.

They are Giuseppe Casarrubea and Mario Cereghino who have been researching British archives, and in the past few years - supported by ANSA - they have been presenting their 'discoveries' describing them as previously unknown and unpublished.

And yesterday, on their blog, they even mocked the postulator of Pius XII's beatification cause, Jesuit Fr. Peter Gumpel, to read their documents first before going any farther.

Thus, through a major news agency, quickly taken up by all the major newspapers in Italy, they cite a report made by the American charge d'affairs Harold Tittman to his government about a conversation in October 1943 with Pius XII, during which the Pope reportedly said that up till then [it was the month when the Germans sent off the only train of Jewish deportees from Rome to Auschwitz], the Germans had always respected the Holy See.

And do you know how 'previously unpublished' the document is? It was published in 1964 in the series Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), Vol. 2 (on events in 1943), on page 950.

This text was published in the USA the year I was born, 45 years ago. So how could the two researchers not have known this? Basically, because they were researching British archives, in which they found a copy of the Tittman report, which the British had because Tittman had no diplomatic status and had to send his report through the British Embassy in Rome.

Even in Italy, it had been published much earlier by Ennio Nolfo in his book Vaticano e Stati Uniti: dalle carte di Myron Taylor (Vatican and the USA: From the letters of Myron Taylor), Milan 1978, reissued in 2003.

And of course, the so-called 'previously unpublished' document has since been used and discussed in biographies and many books on Pius XII.

In the words of Prof. Matteo Luigi Napolitano, who has published a few books on the Pius XII issue, Casarrubea and Cereghini "did not bother to look up, as they continue to pass off as 'new' and 'previously unpublished' data which serious historians have known and discussed for years".

John Allen reported the Casarrubea-Ceseghini 'discoveries' in his blog February 1, 2010 blog entry, in which he seeks out the opinion of another historian, Prof. Andrea Riccardi [better known as the founder of the Sant'Egidio Community], who also wrote a recent book about Pius XII's wartime activities:

The title translates as The longest winter, 1943-1944: Pius XII, the Jews, and the Nazis in Rome
... Allen takes the Cassarubea-Ceseghini line that the documents are 'new', obviously writing his log before Tornielli's was published:

New documents fuel debate over Pius XII

Feb. 01, 2010

Two new documents concerning Pius XII and the Holocaust unearthed in an English archive seem destined to add fuel to the fire of an already polarized debate about the World War II-era Pope’s alleged “silence.”

Italian news agencies are reporting today that the first document is a brief account of an Oct. 19, 1943, meeting between Pius XII and the American Ambassador to the Holy See, Harold Tittmann. Although that session came just three days after the deportation of Roman Jews by the Nazis, the subject apparently did not arise.

Instead, Tittmann reported that Pius XII urged the Allies to ensure that the city of Rome did not become a battleground.

Pius XII also expressed concern, according to the document, about “small bands of Communists” operating around the city which might commit acts of violence between the departure of German occupying forces and the arrival of the Allies. Reportedly, he also stated that up to that point, the German occupiers had demonstrated respect for the Holy See.

The second document, apparently much longer, is a report of a November 1944 conversation between Pius XII and British Ambassador Francis D’Arcy Osborne. According to that text, D’Arcy Osborne pressed the Pope to denounce the Nazi deportation of Jews then unfolding in Hungary.

Pius replied that he was also under pressure to denounce Soviet war crimes in Poland and the Baltic states, something D’Arcy Osborne urged him not to do because of its possible impact on public opinion. At the time, the Soviets were an ally of the United States and Great Britain.

According to today’s reports, Pius XII said he was still considering what to do, but that in any event, a papal condemnation would be “anonymous,” meaning that he would denounce abuses without mentioning the guilty parties by name.

When D’Arcy Osborne insisted that Soviet conduct could not be compared to the mass extermination of Jews in gas chambers by the Nazis, according to his report, Pius XII agreed.

Some commentators in the Italian press have predicted that the new documents put Pius XII in an unflattering light, confirming his general reluctance to speak out directly against the Nazis.

However, Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio as well as a lay Catholic historian and a veteran of Catholic/Jewish dialogue, argued that they can be read in a different light.

The first document, Riccardi said, simply confirms Pius XII’s already well known concern for keeping Rome safe. The second, he said, illustrates his larger approach to crimes against humanity during the war – “to denounce the sin, but not the sinner.”

Pius’s agreement with D’Arcy Osborne that the Nazi campaign against the Jews could not be compared to other war crimes, Riccardi argued, is a “sign that the Pope was aware of the historical enormity of the Shoah as a crime without precedents.”

The two documents were revealed by Italian researchers Mario J. Cereghino and Giuseppe Casarrubea, best known for their work on the Mafia.

Back in 1999, there was this article in Catholic Insight about Tittman's reports on Pius XII - which I just stumbled on while googling 'Tittman' [presumably Casarrubea and Ceseghini never bothered to google Tittman, who, in fact, wrote a book called Inside the Vatican of Pius XII that was published posthumously in 2004.

The following is an excerpt from the 1999 article written soon after the publication of the late Fr. Blet's one-volume summary of the 12-volume compilation he adn three other historians made of the Vatican Archive documents concerning Pius XII's wartime activities:

Pius XII under attack

... The latest "revelation" from Washington, "kept secret until now," it was said, is the charge that Harold Tittman, specially appointed presidential delegate to the Vatican during World War II, had reported that in an audience on December 30, 1942, Pius XII told him "that he believed the news of the Nazi atrocities against the Jews were exaggerated" and that he would "denounce the Allies if they bombed Rome."

Tittman, in turn, told a "surprised" Pope that his Christmas message condemning the Nazis was insufficient in the eyes of public opinion.

First, the document has been known for 35 years, and was printed in Saul Friedlander's hostile book Pius XII and the Reich (1964) and Owen Chadwick's more nuanced Britain and the Vatican (1986).

Secondly, the Tittman report should be seen in the light of the impatience of Roosevelt, who had been in the war for only a year, who portrayed new-found ally Josef Stalin as a lovable Uncle Joe, and who was building pressure on the Pope to make unconditional flaming statements on behalf of the Allies.

When Pius XII maintained his independent judgement about Allied (including Bolshevik) motives and goals, Tittman was none too pleased and his account of what the Pope actually said should be treated with caution.

Much better yet is a 2004 review of the Tittman book (the memoir was edited and published posthumously by his son, who lived with his father in Rome during the war years) in First Things
which says at the outset:

...In works from Saul Friedlander’s 1966 Pius XII and the Third Reich to John Cornwell’s 1999 Hitler’s Pope, the occasional criticisms expressed in Tittmann’s dispatches have been quoted against Pius. Now we have the dispassionate postwar reflections of Tittmann himself, which paint a very different picture.
... Given Tittmann’s importance in the debate about the papacy during the war, these memoirs may be the most important document to be published on Pius XII in over twenty years. And they prove to be, far from an indictment, an overwhelming defense of the Pope and the Catholic Church...

00Wednesday, February 3, 2010 5:47 AM

Pius XII: 'The Pope cannot speak
if it means making things worse'

by Cardinal Paolo Dezza
Translated from
the 2/1-2/2/10 issue of

Editor's Note: On June 28, 1964, the Sunday Osservatore published the testimony of the then rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University [the Jesuit university in Rome] - who in 1966, became the confessor of Paul VI and John Paul I, and was made a cardinal in 1991 by John Paul II - regarding a confidential conversation he had with Pius XII. [NB: Cardinal Dezza died in December 1999].

In December 1942, I conducted the spiritual exercises at the Vatican for the Holy Father. At that time, I had the occasion for a long audience with the Pope, during which he spoke to me of Nazi atrocities in Germany and in the occupied countries, and expressed his pain and anguish because, he said, "They complain that the Pope does not speak. But the Pope cannot speak. If he did, it would only make things worse".

He told me he had recently sent three letters, one of them to 'the heroic Archbishop of Cracow", as he referred to him, the future Cardinal Sapeha, and to two other Polish bishops about their experiences with the Nazis.

He said they wrote back to thank him, but they also wrote they could not share the letter with their faithful "because it would aggravate the situation".

He recalled the example of Pius XI who in the face of vexation from the Russians, remarked: "You have to learn to keep silent to prevent worse evils".

It became clear that those who accused him of keeping silent about the Nazis because he supported them over the Russian Communists were simply wrong. He said, "Yes, the Communist peril is there, but for now, the greater danger is Nazism".

He spoke about what the Nazis would do if they were triumphant. "They want to destroy the Church and grind it underfoot like a toad. There will be no room for a Pope in their Europe. They have said 'Let him go to America'. But they cannot intimidate me. I will stay here".

He said it calmly, surely and firmly. If he did not speak up, it was not out of fear nor self-interest, but simply out of concern not to worsen the situation of those who were being oppressed.

When he spoke about the German threats to invade the Vatican and take it over, he was absolutely calm and trustful of Providence, but when he spoke about having to speak out, he sounded anguished. "If I speak, I make things worse."

So even if, historically, one can dispute whether he would have done better to speak out more, or in stronger terms, there should be no question that if he did not do so, it was only for that reason - not to make things worse for the victims and potential victims - not out of fear or other motives.

The other part of the conversation that was fascinating was when he started to tell me the things he had put into motion or had already done to help those he could. He also recalled his attempts to make contacts with Hitler, as agreed on with the German bishops, shortly after he became Pope, but he was unsuccessful. Then [Foreign Minister] Von Ribbentrop came to Rome, but that too came to nothing, although he tried his best not to get into political or military issues, but keep to what directly affected the Church and the Holy See.

In this respect, I remember that when the Germans occupied Rome in 1943, I was rector of the Gregorian at the time, and I welcomed those who came to seek refuge from the Nazi dragnet. But the Pope warned, "Father, try to avoid getting involved with the military, because the Gregorian is a pontifical institution. Everybody else, yes, as long as they are civilians, and the Jews". In fact, I did take in many Jews.

As to what the Pope did for the Jews in those years, one of the best testimonials was Grand Rabbi Israel Zolli of Rome, who took refuge with a worker's family during the Nazi occupation. After the danger had passed and the Allies came, he became a Catholic, and his conversion was sincere.

I remember he came to visit me on August 15, 1944, and he revealed to me his plan to convert. "Look," he said, "there is no quid pro quo. I want to be baptized, that's all. The Nazis have taken everything away. I am poor, I will live poor, I will die poor. It doesn't matter". [In fact, Dezza himself baptized Zolli.]

And when he was baptized, he chose the name Eugenio precisely to honor Papa Pacelli for what he had done to help the Jews. I myself accompanied him to see the Pope after his baptism in February, and I remember Zolli asked the Pope to remove the words 'perfidi iudaeis' from the liturgy [the Good Friday prayer]. Since changing the Missal was not something that the Pope could do right away, what Pius XII did was to publicize the fact that in Latin, 'perfidi' does not mean perfidious or treacherous as in 'perfidious', but 'non-believing'.

During the war, Pius XII wanted to be certain not to say anything that could lead to reactions that could worsen the situation for those the Nazis were targetting.

Did he decide correctly not to speak out, or would he have done more good by speaking? That's a question that can be debated historically. Perhaps Pius XI, who had a different temperament, may have acted differently. Objectively, this can be debated. Subjectively, I have no doubt that Pius XII sincerely sought to do what was best for all.

However, the following rebuttal of the 'non-news' regarding supposedly newly-discovered documents tending to show Pius XII was guilty of failing to do anything about the persecution of Jews, is. to say the least, rather lame and not adequately researched.

News that is not news
by Raffaele Alessandrini
Translated from
the 2/1-2/2/10 issue of

"In the face of the Shoah, the Allies and everyone else kept silent, but only Pius XII has been called to account - the rest have never been called to question", Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, who was for a long time in the forefront of Vatican diplomacy, said in an interview February 1 with La Stampa's Giacomo Galeazzi, concerning the latest 'new' accusation levelled at Papa Pacelli.

This time, the 'new' evidence is supposed be in two documents taken from the British Archives in Kew Gardens: a telegram dated October 19, 1943, and a letter dated November 10, 1944.

In the first, the United States charge d'affaires Harold Trittman in Rome describes the formal caution of Pius XII who reportedly failed to say anything about the deportation of Roman Jews to Auschwitz, when meeting with the Pope the day after the deportation.

[What this report does not point out is that the Trittman meeting with Pius XII took place three days before the deportation, as reported in the Osservatore Romano of that time, so Pius XII could not have commented about something that had not yet happened - and obviously, the roundup for deportation was sudden and unannounced.]

"During that tragic time," Cardinal Silvestrini points out, "the Pope was concerned that the Germans should leave Rome undisturbed, out of respect for the sacred character of the Eternal City".

Nor was this a choice militating against the Jews? On the contrary, Silvestrini say, "It was Pius XII's prudence that allowed him to act in effective and concrete ways not obvious to the Germans. For the Jews and others who were persecuted, any showy gesture of protest or opposition would have been counter-productive."

"At the same time, the Pope did all he could so that churches and Catholic institutions could accommodate as many Jews as they could.... Any explicit protest on their behalf would have caused more harm than good".

"Papa Pacelli knew the Germans better than most," Silvestrini says, "since he had been Nuncio in Munich and Berlin from 1917 to 1929, when he was an advocate of the Weimar Republic [the democratic post World War I government that the Nazis defeated in the elections of 1933.]He knew exactly what Nazism was."

The other document from the autumn of 1944 refers to a conversation between the British ambassador Francis D'Arcy Osborne and Pius XII, concerning the massacre of Jews in Hungary at a time when persistent denunciations of Stalinist crimes in the Baltic nations and Poland were reaching the Vatican,

But while the ambassador was advocating a public denunciation of Nazi atrocities, he suggested silence about those committed by the Soviets, who were now with the Allies.

The Pope chose to be consistent with his policy of prudence, 'o condemn the sins and not the sinners', as historian Andrea Riccardi put it in an interview with Antiono Carioti of Corriere della Sera on February 1.

Moreover, Cardinal Silvestrini recalls, "Pius XII considered what had happened earlier with the Dutch bishops a warning. In July 1942, the Dutch bishops wrote a pastoral letter read in all the Dutch churches which condemned the "merciless and unjust treatment of the Jews' by the Nazis. Their intentions were for the best, of course, but the consequences were disastrous. Immediately thee were more deportations of Dutch Jews and Catholics than there were from any other country of Western Europe".

One must thank ZENIT for publishing a separate news item about the big difference made by the mistaken date of Tittman's October 1943 conversation with Pius XII, referred to in a parenthetical in the first story above].

Incorrect date on Pius XII document:
Pope couldn't be 'indifferent' about
1943 Jewish deportation from Rome
as it had not happened yet

By Jesús Colina

ROME, FEB. 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Pope Pius XII was again in the news this week, as researchers presented two documents that were interpreted as putting the Pope in a negative light regarding his response to the Holocaust.

As ZENIT reported Monday, a brief document was presented as a new find dated Oct. 19, 1943. The document is a telegram from American diplomat Harold Tittmann on his meeting with the Pope.

The document does not mention the Oct. 16 raid on the Jews of Rome, when than 1,000 of the city's Jews were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz.

Given that Tittmann's report does not mention the raid (though theoretically it had happened just three days before), and instead reports Pius XII's concern about Communists in Rome and his desire to keep the Eternal City in peace, headlines reported this was proof of the Pope's "indifference" to the Holocaust.

However, there is a basic problem.

In a statement sent to ZENIT, Professor Ronald Rychlak of the University of Mississippi explains that Pius XII could not have expressed concern about the roundup of Roman Jews because it hadn't happened yet.

Rychlak is the author of "Hitler, the War, and the Pope."

He explained: "The transcribed message to Washington from Harold Tittmann is dated Oct. 19, but this is a mistake. Vatican records show that the meeting between Pius and Tittmann took place on Oct. 14.

"In fact, L'Osservatore Romano of Oct. 15, 1943, reported on page one -- top of the first column -- that Tittmann was received by the Pope in a private audience on Oct. 14, 1943.

"Apparently a handwritten '14' was misread as a '19' when the documents were typed. The Pope did not mention the roundup of Jews because it had not yet happened!"

Rychlak noted that what the Pope did express to Tittmann was his concern "that a group of Communists would commit a violent act and this would lead to serious repercussions. Of course, he proved to be exactly correct the following spring."

Moreover, though the Oct. 14 document was presented as a new find, historians were already aware of it because it was published in 1964, with the incorrect date.

It is in the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) collection, in Volume II of 1943, on page 950.

In his blog, Andrea Tornielli, Vatican expert of the Italian daily Il Giornale, points out that the researchers who presented this "new document," Giuseppe Casarrubea and Mario Cereghino, have already made such "revelations" in the past.

"In October of 2008," he reported, "they presented as unpublished a document to use it against Pius XII (it was also referred to by ANSA [news] agency) and later they had to apologize."

00Thursday, February 4, 2010 11:16 PM

New repercussions from
postulator's book on the late Pope

In an article in La Repubblica yesterday, 2/3/10, Vaticanista Orazio La Rocca reports more disapproval of the publication of a book on John Paul II by the postulator of his cause for beatification, the Polish priest Stanislaw Oder.

It's rather long, so I'll just summarize what he says - although I think his attention-getting headline was unduly alarmist: 'Wojtyla's postulator under a cloud; puts beatification at risk'. Why should the beatification be penalized for an apparent offense by the postulator, an offense that does not bear on the candidate in any way but only on the postulator?

He says the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood, Arthbishop Angelo Amato is not too happy at the publication of documents used to support the cause for beatification.

And that Cardinal Stanislaw Dsiwisz, Archbishop of Cracow and John Paul II's private secretary for 40 years, had called Fr. Oder to a meeting in Cracow.

A third person who had been close to the late Pope in his lifetime was more explicit in his disapproval. Fr. Adam Bonecki, who was editor of the Polish edition of L'Osservatore Romano during John Paul's Pontificate and is now editor of Cracow's diocesan paper, saying it was improper to divulge "episodes, documents and confidential information about the late Pope's private life" at this time, before the beatification process has even been completed.

Bonecki added, "It is unthinkable and serious that this breach should have been committed by the postulator himself", a view he says is shared by Cardinal Dsiwisz, who also disapproved of the publication last year of a book by a Polish woman doctor about her decades of correspondence with Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II who considered her a sister.

Earlier, Gianfranco Svidercoschi, who co-wrote the autobiographical Memory and Gift with John Paul II (and Cardinal Dsiwisz's memoir My Life with Karol), pointed out that in divulging material used during the beatification investigations, the postulator had clearly violated Art. 220 of the new norms for the beatification process promulgated by Benedict XVI in 2007 to regulate and better control procedures followed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Oder co-wrote the book with Savino Gaeta, editor of the magazine Famiglia Cristiana, who defended the book by saying that the book "reveals the true face of the Pope like no one has known him".

Even if there had been no specific canonical provision violated in publishing the book at this time, I do find it in poor taste, to say the least, and quite obviously opportunistic. It is not right that a postulator should use confidential material in his possession in a book that could, at the very least, have awaited the completion of the beatification process.

To have published it at this time is a ploy to take commercial advantage of the renewed public interest in John Paul II in anticipation of his imminent beatification. For all I know, Fr. Oder may have pledged all the proceeds from the book to a deserving cause, but he could have done that, too - and the book would sell just as much - if he had waited a decent period.

To use the pretext that the book intends to show the 'true face' of Karol Wojtyla is disingenuous. It is not as if the face he presented to the world during his 27 years as Pope was not his true face, or that the general public needs to be convinced about his saintliness - they already are, without need of the gratuitous and appparently conjectural account of his self-flagellation!

P.S. I think, perhaps, the Diocese of Rome, the Diocese of Cracow and the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood should consider naming a new postulator - one who is not self-serving - for the rest of John Paul II's cause.

00Friday, February 5, 2010 2:09 AM

Over the past few days, the soap opera has gone on in the Italian media with respect to the re-opening of the 'Boffo case' - in which it appears the former editor of Avvenire was dealt a low blow and that his resignation following the media melodrama last summer was both unnecessary and undeserved.

The media narrative is that the whole 'affair' was the result of ongoing rivalry over political influence in Italian affairs between the Secretariat of State and the Italian bishops' conference, in which the Vatican side has been the aggressor.

Rodari's title comes from St. Ambrose who described the Church as a "chaste whore, since many lovers frequent her because of the attractions of love; yet she is free from the contamination of sin." In the article, Rodari quotes Vittorio Messori who uses the term to describe the ongoing intramurals in Rome.

The Church as 'chaste and whore'
Translated from

February 4, 2010

"They are quaking with apprehension at the Vatican," says an eminent Curial prelate about the revived controversy of the 'Boffo case'. "They are trying to get the right answers but they have not found it".

And they are quaking because of a statement made by Vittorio Feltri to Il Foglio last Saturday - that he had received the false information he used last September against Boffo from "a Church figure in whom one must have institutional trust".

Yet there has been no official denial or rebuttal from the Vatican. Just as no one from the Vatican has denied what Il Foglio wrote about recently in this connection, namely: "It appears from reliable sources that some telephone calls were made to Feltri from the editor of L'Osservatore Romano Giovanni Maria Vian, for the purpose of accrediting the false document".

When push comes to shove, an official denial can be ordered, but is that not too late now?

The silence from the Vatican says a lot. And give much food for thought. Because it is not a simple "No comment". Rather, it seems like an unsaid "No comment" for the simple reason that verification and investigation are under way.

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has spoken out promptly on far less significant things. It may well be that the current hustle and bustle at the Vatican will end up with a decision to make a strong official statement for the benefit of the public.

But the fact that 12 days have passed since Il Foglio published its first background story on this case without an answer from the parties named makes one think that things are not clear at the Vatican itself.

For instance. Mons. Domenico Mogavero - who last September had been the first to call for Boffo's resignation as editor of Avvenire and his other jobs as director of the radio and TV networks of the Italian bishops conference [on the basis of an accusation that the accuser has since denounced as false and apologized for] - indicated to Corriere della Sera yesterday that he now regrets having acted in haste, and was concerned that our reconstruction of events may indeed prove to be correct.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, had a generic comment, telling La Repubblica that he found the idea of an internal plot in the Vatican against Boffo, and through him, the CEI, to be "unthinkable".

In an apparent attempt to further muddy the water, some have even tried to involve external elements like Comunione e Liberazione, which was immediately denied by Bishop Luigi Negri of San Marino-Montefeltro who was indignant that his name had once again been used by the media without any basis.

The Vatican is rather fearful of what could happen on February 22. That is when Vittorio Feltri faces a hearing by the Press Association of Lombardy which has started a disciplinary process against him for the false accusations he made against Boffo last summer.

Feltri will tell them what he told Il Foglio - and what he had written in his own newspaper, Il Giornale, when he admitted last December that he had accused Boffo on the basis of a document that proved to be false.

Would you trust a document like this no matter who sent it to you - and on its 'strength' alone, accuse a most respectable man of being a homosexual and concluding that the telephone molestation he was fined must have had to do with a homosexual affair?

[It's difficult to credit Feltri for the simple reason that the photocopy he published of the supposed 'supplemental information' (to a court document showing Boffo had been fined by a local court for 'telephone molestation') was very clearly a cheap tawdry-looking anonymous flier! Just as it is hard to believe someone like Vian would send or cause to be sent such a tawdry document - at the very least, he could have had it re-typed and presented cleanly!]

What the Vatican fears is that Feltri may feel compelled to name names to the press association - just who had sent him the documents, and who had brought it to him personally [earlier said to have been someone from the Vatican police force]. He could give them names, on condition that the press group keeps them secret.

But his only defense would be to reiterate that he believed the documents sent to him because they came from someone 'institutionally reliable' in the Vatican.

Writer Vittorio Messori told Il Foglio that he himself is not 'scandalized' even if he feels the Vatican must be "embarrassed because it seems the whole brouhaha came from within its walls". But he adds:

"The Vatican has always been a court rife with intrigues and conspiracies, fists and knives and vendettas. In the time of the Borgia Popes, they resolved their disputes through literal backstabbing. These days, they have other ways. History repeats itself.

"And the Church has always had two faces: it is an institution made up of humans who happen to hold on to a mystery: the mystery of faith. The Church is both chaste and whorish, but this fact should not be cause for horror. Alexander Borgia, for instance, was a good Pope - despite the known misdeeds, he never deviated from correct doctrine.

"What really matters is that the Pope is a master of the faith, as the great Benedict XVI is, and not a heretic. The Pope's faith is what should inspire the believer and draw his interest. Everything else is the way life is, and the person who has faith knows that.

"For as long as God's Church is run by men, we will have a sinful Church full of internal fights. Of course, the Curia seems to have a lot of problems, but I think it is paying the price for a lack of governance under Papa Wojtyla, who was a great Pope but left the Curia to their own devices".

00Saturday, February 6, 2010 10:58 PM

Every year should be a Year for Priests if that is what it takes for all Catholics to pray daily for the priests and consecrated persons to have the strength and the grace to stand firm by their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Jesuit sex-abuse scandal
shakes German Church

by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

6 February 2010

A child sex-abuse scandal that was uncovered at an elite Jesuit school in Berlin last week has spread to at least two other schools in Germany, causing deep embarrassment to the Church.

The Jesuit provincial leader, Stefan Dartmann, conceded that the order had had evidence of the sexual-abuse cases in question since 1981, but had never informed parents, students or authorities.

It has emerged so far that more than 25 pupils – boys around the age of 13 at the time – were subjected to abuse at the hands of two Jesuit priests in the three schools in the 1970s and 1980s.

The abuse started at Berlin’s Canisius College, one of Germany’s most prestigious high schools, in 1975. The two teachers concerned, Fr Wolfgang Stab, now 65, and Fr Peter Riedel, 69, left the Jesuit order of their own accord, in the 1990s.

The current headmaster of Canisius, Fr Klaus Mertens, who has been in his post since 1994, was first approached by two of the victims in 2004 and 2005 but both begged him not to tell anyone about the abuse and so he did not report it.

But when five more pupils turned to him after an alumni reunion in December last year, and several more in January, he decided to write to 500 alumni.

“I am deeply shocked and shamed by these appalling assaults which took place systematically over several years,” he wrote, and asked any pupils concerned or who had observed anything to come forward.

Twenty-two pupils wrote to say they had been abused. Fr Stefan Dartmann rushed to Berlin from the Jesuit headquarters in Munich on Monday to hold a press conference on the scandal.

“I beg forgiveness for the fact that those responsible in the Jesuit order failed to do their duty and did not look into the matter more closely and react accordingly. We are faced with the gnawing question why these incidents did not come to light at the time. The correct thing to do would have been to notify the prosecuting authorities,” he said.

The second school involved is St Blasien, another well-known Jesuit school, in the Black Forest. Fr Hans Joachim Martin, a former headmaster of St Blasien, told the KNA news agency that there had been “serious abuse” at the school and in the Jesuit order in the 1970s that had been “swept under the table”.

Wolfgang Stab had moved from Berlin to St Blasien but the school had not been informed of his “criminal past”, Fr Martin said.

There are reported indications from church files that Stab may have also sexually abused children in Chile and Spain until 1990.

In a statement addressed to his victims over the weekend, the 65-year-old former sports teacher, who left the order in 1992, said it was “a sad fact that I abused children and young people for years under pseudo-educational pretexts”. He said there was “no excuse”.

Stab, who now lives in South America, claimed that he had informed his Jesuit super­iors of his past in 1991. Fr Dartmann said that the order has hired a lawyer “to ascertain what the Jesuits specifically knew at the time, and what steps were taken”.

According to Fr Dartmann, Stab taught between 1975 and 1979 at Canisius College before moving on to the St Ansgar School in Hamburg between 1979 and 1982. He then went to St Blasien before moving on to Chile in 1985.

The other former Jesuit, Riedel, taught religion at Canisius between 1972 and 1981, before he moved on to Göttingen to work with young people between 1982 and 1989. He was suspended from 1989 and left the order in 1995.

Fr Mertens, the Canisius headmaster, blamed “homophobia” in the Church for the scandal. “Priests with a homosexual orientation are not sure that they will be accepted if they admit to being homosexual,” he said. [EXCUSE ME???? I fail to see the logic in that statement. It's not a question of admitting one's homosexu

In an interview with Domradio on Tuesday, the former head of Vatican Radio’s German section, Fr Eberhard von Gemmingen, said: “I fear that there are still a lot of cases of abuse to be uncovered.”

That night, his words were already appearing prophetic. Fr Dartmann revealed to domradio that a new unnamed perpetrator had presented himself to Ursula Raue, the Jesuit order’s lawyer for abuse affairs.

Faced with accusations by three victims, the man had admitted his guilt. “I told him to present himself to the police and he has done so. I immediately suspended him from his priestly duties,” Fr Dartmann said.

A more extended account can be found in

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