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00Tuesday, May 26, 2009 12:32 PM

Fr. Lombardi: Six strikes
but he's still not out

Commentary by Deal Hudson

May 25, 2009 ( - On July 11, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Rev. Federico Lombardi, S.J., to be the director of the Vatican Press Office.

Father Lombardi took over a position held for 22 years by Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, a numerary of Opus Dei. It is possible, however, that Father Lombardi may not even make it to the third anniversary of his appointment.

After the Vatican was pelted in the media for its handling of the Bishop Richard Williamson affair and the Pope's comment about condoms in Africa, there were press reports that Father Lombardi would resign following Benedict's trip to the Holy Land.

But the Pope has been home from Israel for ten days, and there has been no change in the press office. Will Father Lombardi resign? Should he resign?

It is surprising that Father Lombardi, given his experience, would have allowed such high-profile blunders. He worked for the influential Jesuit-run magazine La Civiltà Cattolica and served as superior of the Jesuits' Italian province.

In 1991, he was named program director, and later general director, of Vatican Radio, and was also made general director of the Vatican Television Centre in 2001. He continues to hold all three directorships (though he does not manage L'Osservatore Romano).

In the beginning, Father Lombardi viewed his role at the press office differently from his predecessor. He explained that he does not want to be called the papal "spokesman": "I don't think my role is to explain the Pope's thinking or explain the things that he already states in an extraordinarily clear and rich way."

But, ironically, Lombardi's stumbles began in 2007 when he began to do exactly what he said he would not: interpret.

What follows is an overview of the six major gaffs that have occurred during Father Lombardi's directorship of the press office, and that may well lead to his departure.

1. On the way to Brazil on May 9, 2007, Benedict was asked by journalists whether he supported the excommunication of the Mexican politicians who had voted in April to legalize abortion.

He answered: "Yes, this excommunication was not something arbitrary, but is foreseen by the Code [of Canon Law]. It is simply part of Church law that the killing of an innocent baby is incompatible with being in communion with the body of Christ."

"The Mexican bishops," he continued, "did not do anything new, surprising, or arbitrary."

The next day, the Vatican Press Office released the official transcript of the Pope's session with reporters. The Pope's opening "yes" to the direct question about excommunication had disappeared, and so had the references to the Mexican bishops.

CNS reported on the "tweaked version of the Pope's remarks," with Father Lombardi explaining "that it was routine for the Vatican Secretariat of State to review the Pope's extemporaneous remarks and clean them up a little for publication." He justified the changes on the basis that no actual excommunication had occurred.

2. In November 2008, the Holy Father gave an address to the highly controversial international Organ Transplant Conference that had been co-sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life. The conference had been criticized by members of the Academy and prominent leaders in the international pro-life movement for its failure to critically examine so-called brain death, its accuracy as a death criteria, and its widespread use in the organ transplant trade.

The Pope gave an address that was seen by the international press as a strong rebuke to the assembled organ transplant experts and, by extension, to the Academy itself.

He strongly cautioned the scientists, "There must not be the slightest suspicion of arbitrariness. Where certainty cannot be achieved, the principle of precaution must prevail."

The Monday following the Pope's speech, the Vatican Web site, under Father Lombardi's supervision, published a dissenting "minority report" from a January 2005 meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

The majority of members at the 2005 meeting had agreed that the brain death criterion was not sufficient for purposes of organ transplants, but the Web site posted only the opinion of the minority of dissenters, who had argued that brain death was acceptable.

This posting was seen as a refutation of -- or at best a deliberate effort to soften -- the Pope's caution of the previous Friday.

3. Father Lombardi's reputation was further damaged by the uproar following the lifting of the excommunications of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X in January 2009, when the anti-Semitism of Bishop Williamson was revealed in the media.

In the aftermath, it appears that Father Lombardi attempted to shift the blame from himself by publicly criticizing the Pope and Castrillon Cardinal Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei." In an interview with the French daily newspaper La Croix, Father Lombardi said, "Undoubtedly, the people who managed this situation were not aware of the gravity of the opinions of Msgr. Williamson," adding, "If there was someone who should know it, it is Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos."

The London Times ran a headline identifying Cardinal Castrillon as the "Vatican's scapegoat for the Bishop Richard Williamson controversy."

The popular Catholic Web site Rorate Coeli pointed out the problem with this defense:

"Father Lombardi is being disingenuous. If the pope did not know, many may be blamed; but if Lombardi did not know, even though his office was in charge of preparing the note presenting the decree, then he should blame himself. He is the pope's leading man in all media-related matters. He, personally, or the scores of employees... could have just searched Google for any of the several problematic texts written by Bishop R.Williamson."

In the same article in La Croix, Lombardi appeared to fail to understand that, as head of the Vatican's communications apparatus, he himself was responsible for Vatican communications. He said, "We didn't control the communications."

4. The latest round of Fr. Lombardi's stumbles began in March on the plane taking the Pope on the first leg of his trip to Africa. Father Lombardi allowed a reporter to ask a question on the use of condoms in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. The Pope's response, that condoms only made the problem worse, ignited another firestorm reaction from the world's media.

Later media coverage, however, gave conflicting reports on the actual words of the Pope, and it was revealed that the Vatican had issued a different version that "softened" the statement. Journalists present on the plane to Cameroon reported that the Pope had said that the problem of AIDS "cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it."

Later versions of the comment, however, had changed the sentence to say that condoms "risk increasing" the problem of AIDS. Father Lombardi later denied having changed the Pope's comments on condoms, telling Zenit News Service that it had been done by an official of the Secretariat of State.

5. A few days later, on the same trip to Africa, Benedict met with government officials of Angola and said, "How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of maternal healthcare! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health!"

At a press conference later, Father Lombardi appeared to distance the Pope from an absolute condemnation of "therapeutic abortion." Instead, he insisted, "The Pope absolutely was not talking about therapeutic abortion, and did not say that this must always be rejected."

Father Lombardi was attempting to keep the Pope's statement from being applied to a situation in Brazil where an archbishop had excommunicated all those responsible for procuring an abortion for a pregnant nine-year-old girl.

Why? The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, had just published an editorial by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, strongly critical of the Brazilian archbishop.

[Unfortunately, Mons. Fisichella has never bothered to clear up the situation and at least explain why the president of the Pontifical Academy of Life indicated by his article that it was wrong of the local Brazilian prelates to speak out agianst the abortion, and to acknowledge he was wr5ong to charge that the local prelates paid no attention at all to the welfare of teh 9-year-old mother.

It was a very messy, hasty article by Fisichella written without full possession of the facts and in canonical disrespect for the local clergy who have the responsibility and authority in the matter - for which he owes them an apology.

It is shocking that someone with Mons. Fisichella credentials and reputation - rector of the Pontifical Laterna University, no less , and co-drafter with Cardinal Ratzinger of John Paul II's Fides et ratio encyclical).]

Italian media picked up on the theme. Il Giornale ran the headline, "The Vatican does not condemn abortion for therapeutic purposes." Under Corriere della Sera's headline, which read, "Vatican, Benedict XVI does not condemn abortion," the paper reported, "The clarification comes from Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press Office."

6. The Pope's recent trip to the Holy Land was probably the last place on earth where the Vatican would want to launch a news cycle dedicated to Benedict and the Hitler Youth, but that is precisely what happened. In a May 12 press conference, responding to media commentary on the Pope's visit and speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Father Lombardi vehemently denied that the young Joseph Ratzinger had been enrolled in the Nazi Hitler Youth program. "The Pope has said he never, never was a member of the Hitler Youth, which was a movement of fanatical volunteers," he said.

[This is a monstrous and unforgivable factual blunder that I could not believe someone like Fr. Lombardi could make! Perhaps he never read Milestones, or the interview books in which Cardinal Ratzinger refers to his unfortunate Hitler Youth membership, which was imposed by the state at the time.

After Fr. Lombardi's hooter of a blooper was first quoted gleefully by the MSM, I was expecting he would at the very least come forward and correct himself, but he did not. Perhaps he did not want to draw further attention to it during the visit, but it was already reverberating back and forth anyway in the global echo chamber of the mass media. Nor has he made any apologies for it afterwards. Press secretaries who make that kind of factual blunder would not last a minute longer in any place outside the Vatican!]

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger himself, however, in a 1996 book of interviews, Salt of the Earth, said that he had been drafted into the Hitler Youth, because membership in the movement had been made compulsory by the Nazi regime.

Father Lombardi's clumsy attempt to deny something that the Pope himself had already conceded long ago reawakened the story, prompting media agencies around the world to rehash the details. [I think it was sheer ignorance of the facts, not a 'clumsy attempt to deny' which would make Fr. Lombardi's blunder even more appalling!]

Finally, there is the question of the editor of L'Osservatore Romano -- Gian Maria Vian -- and his recent comment in the Vatican paper that President Barack Obama is not pro-abortion.

In my mind, there is no question that he should resign or be removed from the paper, but Father Lombardi has not yet released a statement correcting Vian's comments, as he has done in the past.

{In this case, he can't, because he, Lombardi, has nothing to do with the OR or Vian at all, both being directly under Department 1 of the Secretariat of State, as Lombardi and his departments - radio, TV and press office - also are. It's just another anomalous fact in the great anomaly that the Vatican communications media is. It's a patchwork of little fiefdoms that have no coherent and integrating leadership, and it's a crying shame. The Pope deserves the best staff, and he doesn't have it in this area.

Who, exactly, in the Secretariat of State do Lombardi and Vian report to? Cardinal Bertone directly, or Mons. Filoni and Parolin (who are in charge of Department #1 that deals with Vatican internal affairs, as opposed to Department #2, for foreign relations)?

BTW, both Filoni and Parolin have been identified as among the pro-Sodano insiders who are undermining the Pope himself by their manipulation of the Vatican organisms over which they do have administrative control.]

This silence is disappointing, given the damage the Vatican newspaper is doing to the Church, but it may well presage a major announcement about the Vatican Press Office.

00Friday, May 29, 2009 4:02 PM

As luck would have it, the second entry on this thread is also on Fr. Lombardi, who is, at the moment, the most 'embattled' of the Pope's men. Nice to know he is handling it all quite equably!

'I try to serve the Pope
with all my heart'

by Andrew Brown

29 May 2009

The thing you immediately notice about the Pope's press officer, Fr Federico Lombardi, is his kindliness. Arriving for our interview, I say I had got into a panic.

"Panic," he inquires, concerned. "Why?" And he really seems relieved that I was only worried that my Dictaphone wasn't working.

Fr Lombardi, born in 1942, is the shrewd and charismatic Jesuit who heads La Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, the Vatican Press Office. He's also relentlessly good-humoured. In fact, the more awkward the question, the more he appears to bubble over with jollity.

What causes this - whether it's just his unflappable nature, or a practised defensive mechanism, or a sign of complacency - I can't say for sure.

I find this good humour, for example, when I ask questions, reluctantly, about rumours that he is soon to be replaced at the Sala Stampa as a result of recent communications hiccups. Far from objecting to my impertinence, he can hardly contain his amusement. It is impossible to ruffle his feathers.

"I understand your question," he laughs. "I am ready to continue my service. I have no personal projects. I have never had. I am a Jesuit. I am always doing what my superiors have said to me."

Then he sums up in good, Italian-accented English his life of obedient service. "[My superiors] have said to me: go to Germany to study theology: I went. Study mathematics in Turin: I have studied. Go to Civiltà Cattolica [the magazine run by Jesuits] to write articles: I went. Now my superiors have said to me, please, be director of the Vatican radio: I do. Please be director of the Vatican Television Centre: I do. If they say [to] me: please go because we have another, I go [laughing]! It is absolutely not a problem!"

They haven't said "please go", have they?

"No, I think, now, no one has said that," he says, again laughing.

Still, there's bound to be the odd slip-up. Whereas his predecessor, the formidable Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who was in the job for 22 years, tended always to sign statements with his name and generally push himself forward confidently as an interpreter of the Pope's thinking, Fr Lombardi has, since his appointment on July 11 2006, tried for a more self-effacing style.

He recently found himself in the uncomfortable vortex of a news story, however, when he blurted out that Pope Benedict had not been a member of the Hitler Youth. "Never, never, never," he insisted, sounding like King Lear.

Within hours John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter and other journalists had dug up the evidence of the Pope's own words, in the book Salt of the Earth (1997), confirming that Joseph Ratzinger had indeed been forced to join the Nazi youth organisation for a time.

['Dug up'? There was no need to 'dig it up', for anyone who purports to report on the Pope regularly. It is part of his biography, and he reported it in his autobiographical memoir MILESTONES years before Salt of the Earth. That is why it was shocking to find out the Vatican's own press director apparently did not know it and made his emphatic denial in Israel, of all places.]

"I know that there was and there is criticism about me," Fr Lombardi says. "This is for me not a particular problem in the sense that I think that everyone has the right to criticise! I am in a situation which it is difficult to do in a perfect way. But I do what my superiors desire. My principle is I do what I can with all my heart in the service of the Church and the Pope, and then if someone comes and is doing this better and my superiors say: 'Please we have a better solution', this is for me no problem."

But what was in his mind when he said the Pope was "never, never, never" a member of the Hitler Youth?

"It was not an important thing. The Pope came to Israel. In the Holy Land there were some contributions... in the local press... which gave the impression that the Pope in his youth was under the influence of the Nazi ideology. Then was named rather often the fact that he was in the Hitlerjugend. My idea was to say the Pope as he was young was never under the influence of or was never formed in a Nazi ideology.

"Someone noted correctly that the Pope himself said in one of his interviews that he was inscripted against his will to the Hitlerjugend because all the youths were inscripted. I have accepted that what I have said was not exact, but the sense of what I had said remains: he was never a young man of a Nazi [ideology]. I had not the books - I was in Israel - to verify. This was a very, very little point of the conversation... I don't feel it is worthy of a long discussion." [No, not a long discussion, but how about a frank "Sorry, I got that wrong! Gee, what a boo-boo of the kind I hope never to make again!" and a self-deprecating chuckle?]

And there was the affair of the lifting of the excommunication of the Holocaust-denying Bishop Williamson. Couldn't someone in the Vatican have looked up Williamson on Google and discovered his poisonous opinions?

"I don't know if it was so easy because, do you know Joan Lewis? [Rome Bureau Chief for Eternal Word Television Network]. Joan Lewis is a sympathetic lady. She said to me: people say it was enough to Google, and I have tried, she says to me, but all the Williamson stories are after [the lifting of the excommunications]. I have found absolutely nothing before."

[Thank you, Joan Lewis. I have been saying that all along, in my comments on the post-January 21 fracas. But how is it that no other major journalist - even among the Vaticanistas - who has glibly written sanctimonious accusations against the Vatican, has bothered to check out the Web for himself/herself?

The one great advantage of the Internet is that it date-stamps every entry, so it is easy enough to show when any Williamson negationist statement was first reported on the Web. I found only one - a 2008 Catholic Herald report, to which there was virtually (and literally) no reaction at all from the media-and-liberal-Catholic lynch mob who would pop out fullblown like Jack-in-the-box after January 21!]

In any case, Fr Lombardi recommends reading the Pope's letter to the bishops. In it the Pope expresses how, as Fr Lombardi explains it, he was "touched" and "suffered much" that he should receive so much hostile criticism when he had personally worked so hard for reconciliation among Christians and Jews.

Fr Lombardi insists that he can manage the three jobs - Vatican radio, television and Press departments. "It is rather easy for me to do every day," he says breezily. He has "very good collaborators" and name-checks his assistant Fr Ciro Benedettini several times.

He spends only one or two hours at the television centre and then attends the press office from 10 in the morning "until 13.30 or 14". The office closes, according to long custom, at 2.30 in the afternoon.

But he denies that journalists find it hard to reach a spokesman after that time: "The journalists can call us, me and my substitute. All the journalists have my telephone. It is not difficult to talk with me - if I am not at another telephone!" He mimes answering two telephones at the same time.

Fr Lombardi thanks me for a compliment on the quality of his English speaking, but he concedes that "there is a real problem" with language in the Vatican.

I wonder if the Vatican is ever slow to grasp the meaning of statements written or spoken in English. Not really, is the gist of his reply: most of his staff have perfectly good English and a selection of other languages too.

Still, "the problem with languages is one of the important issues that we have to see in the Vatican" and "a real problem" is translating Italian documents, with all their last-minute adjustments, into English quickly enough for the world's media.

[Tsk-tsk, Fr. Lombardi. You know better than that. Someone like me, who never had to translate anything outside my exercises in language classes before joining a forum on the Pope, have found it fairly easy to translate from the languages I know, as promptly as I can, despite having to do it irregularly in between my real job and my personal chores!

As for last-minute adjustments to prepared texts, all secular press offices get around that by releasing teh translation promptly but adding a standard caveat that the translation is 'unofficial' until after the text has been delivered and the Press Office determines that no substantive changes were made, and if so, the final 'official' translation of the text will carry those changes.]

He aims "to organise better our resources" for rapid translation both in the press office and the radio department, which translated the texts for the Holy Land visit into Arabic.

He doesn't favour a return to Latin as the language of the Church. "Latin is interesting and important," he says, "but it is not a working language."

Fr Lombardi had to prepare to address "media professionals" later that evening at Allen Hall seminary in London.

With only a few minutes of our interview remaining I ask Fr Lombardi to describe the Pope's character. He points to his humility.

"He is a person that listens to the other very much. If you personally speak with him, you see that he looks to you with interest to understand what you are saying because he feels he has something to learn from you."

For himself, Fr Lombardi cherishes this humble reminder: "The Pope says: 'I am the servant of the servants of God.' I say: I am the servant of the servant of the servants of God."

00Tuesday, June 2, 2009 7:34 PM

Translated from
the 6/3 issue of

By a happy coincidence, both of Pope Benedict's private secretaries marked the 25th anniversary of their ordination as priest within a few days of each other - Mons. Alfred Xuereb on May 26 and Mons. Georg Gaenswein on May 30.

It was a 'family celebration' at the Vatican on Monday to mark the silver jubilee of the ordination to priesthood of Mons. Georg Gaenswein, the Pope's private secretary since 2003.

In the late afternoon of Monday, June 1, some 80 persons, including family and friends, attended a votive Mass for the Holy Spirit celebrated by the jubilarian at the Church of St. Stephen of teh Abyssinians inside the Vatican.

Fr. Herman Geissler, of the L'Opera spiritual family, delivered the homily, underscoring the significance of the priestly ministry and of Mons. Gaenswein's particular service.

Along with the Pope's other close aides in the Apostolic Palace, including Mons. Alfred Xuereb, the other papal secretary (named in 2007) and several representatives from the Secretariat of State, the guests included Archbishops James Harvey (prefect of the Pontifical Household) and Rino Fisichella (rector of the Pontifical Lateran University), the Pope's brother Mon. Georg Ratzinger, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Mons. Guido Marini and Guido Pozzo, Mons. Giuseppe Siacca, the German ambassador to the Holy See, the commanders of the Swiss Guard and the Pope's Gendarmerie, the superintendent of the Pontifical villas, and the editor of the German weekly edition of L'Osservatore Romano.

After the Mass, Benedict XVI arrived to greet the guests and to join a dinner held at the Casina di Pio IV located in the Vatican Gardens.

The Pope and his two secretaries photographed in Kenthurst, Australia in July 2008.

Some background info From ZENIT on the two secretaries:

Mons. Gaenswein was ordained a priest in Freiburg on May 31, 1984. Born July 20, 1956, in Rieden-am-Wald (state of Baden-Wuerttemberg), he obtained his doctorate in Canon Law from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

After working briefly at the Congregation for Divine Worship, he was assigned in 1996 to work with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During that time, he was also a professor of canon law at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce in Rome.

He became Cardinal Ratzinger's private secretary after his longtime secretary, Mons. Josef Clemens, was promoted to be Secretary of the Congregation for the Laity in 2003.

Mons. Gaenswein chose the motto “Omnia possum in eo, qui me confortat” (I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me) (Phi 4,13).

Mons. Alfred Xuereb was ordained a priest in Gozo, Malta, on May 26, 1984, and was named to be the Pope's second private secretary after the nomination of Mons. Mietek Mocryczki to be Archbishop Coadjutor (now the Archbishop himself) of Lvov in the Ukraine.

For his jubilee motto he chose a line from Benedict XVI's teaching: "I seek not to be understood by the world, but to be with Christ in the truth."

00Thursday, June 4, 2009 5:34 PM

Many thanks to Beatrice, from her site

for the following pictures - they are delightful! - that she took of Fr. Lombardi in Bressanone last August. She used them to illustrate her posting and translation of the Catholic Herald article on Fr. Lombardi earlier this week (see the post before last, above).

00Saturday, June 13, 2009 2:22 AM

Here is a most interesting follow-up to one of those cases that have gone cold when they shouldn't be - involving Mons. Rino Fisichella, one of the few Roman prelates often mentioned as particularly close to the Holy Father.

BTW, the only reason perhaps that Fisichella's faux pas did not have greater repercussion in the media - outside of France where it was a cause celebre alongside the condoms issue - is that it came shortly after the Pope's statement on condoms and AIDS.

Distinguished philosophy prof
accuses Mons. Fisichella
of 'total relativism'

By Hilary White

ROME, June 11, 2009 ( – Michel Schooyans, a professor emeritus of philosophy at the Université Catholique de Louvain, in Belgium has issued a stinging assessment of the situation between Brazil’s Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho and the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV). Schooyans wrote that what he has called the “Recife Affair” is one of “utmost gravity” for the Church.

Mgr. Schooyans bluntly says that Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the head of the PAV, justified the abortion of twins of the nine year-old girl in Brazil “on the grounds of compassion towards the little girl and compassion towards the doctors.”

The morality expounded in the article, he said, “is a situational morality. According to him, moral principles ought to be taken into consideration in so far as they respect freedom of choice in concrete circumstances. Here we have total relativism.”

What Fisichella failed to do in his March 15th article in L’Osservatore Romano, was to “recommend compassion towards the aborted twins.” “Let it simply be established,” Schooyans wrote, “that [Fisichella] is here admitting direct abortion.”

Schooyans, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences who has written twenty books on political philosophy, contemporary ideologies and international population policies, wrote, “In objective terms, ... [the] article provides formidable backing to all who, in Latin America (Brazil, Santo Domingo, etc.) and elsewhere, are waging a campaign to legalise abortion, with the support of President Obama, the European Union, the IPPF and other NGOs.”

After the announcement by Archbishop Cardoso in March that those who had procured the abortion of twins on a nine-year-old rape victim in Recife, Brazil, were under the penalty of automatic excommunication, the world’s press attacked the archbishop, and by extension the Catholic Church, for “insensitivity” and lack of compassion.

On March 15th, the pro-life world was shocked to read an article by Archbishop Fisichella that supported not his fellow bishop, but the conclusion of the pro-abortion media that the action had been “hasty” and lacking in compassion. In his article, published by the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Fisichella blasted Cardoso for having failed to provide all possible pastoral care for the girl and her family.

Since then, despite the case gaining international attention, Archbishop Cardoso has said that L’Osservatore Romano has bluntly refused to publish his rebuttal and correction, in which, he says, many factual errors by Archbishop Fisichella are revealed. A refutation of Fisichella’s attack, published on the website of the archdiocese, revealed that neither Archbishop Cardoso nor any other official of the archdiocese of Olinda and Recife had been contacted prior to its publication.

Moreover, Fisichella’s article was highly praised by the secularist media and by abortion campaigners as a signal that the Vatican is “softening” its stand on the total inadmissibility of procured abortion.

Schooyans wrote that “crucial questions” remain unanswered about the affair, including whether the article was vetted before publication by the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“[Fisichella] has himself stated that ‘the article was written on request’. At the request of whom? It is being insinuated in some quarters that it was written at the request of the office of the Secretary of State. This is the crucial question.”


I am really surprised and very disappointed that Mons. Rino Fisichella has done nothing so far - not in public anyway where he needs to explain himself, to begin with - to straighten out the mess he left behind, after what I can only describe aas an ill-advised and rash editorial commentary in L'Osservatore Romano last March.

It's bad enough that the OR has refused to publlish the side of the Brazilian bishops wronged in Fisichella's article, but I should think the Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University and recently-named President of the Pontifical Academy for Life would have the intellectual honesty to face up to his misstep.

It is very painful to watch someone like Mons. Fisichella - who otherwise has such sterling credentials [most notably, he is credited to have worked with Cardinal Raztinger on drafting John Paul II's encyclical Fides et ratio, to the point where the document was jestingly referred to in the Curia as 'Fisi et Ratzi'] - commit such a lapse of judgment in public and not bother to account for it.

There are three notable personages reputed to be among Pope Benedict XVI's most loyal friends who have erred inexplicably in this regard in recent months - led by the Archbishop of Vienna, for what I still consider a terrible act of treason for his weak-kneed acquiescence with dissident Austrian prelates in the question over Mons. Wagner's appointment and the Williamson case; Fisichella for the Brazilian contretemps; and lately, Regensburg Bishop Gerhard Mueller who has been making a federal case about new FSSPX ordinations.

Mueller is a respected theologian in his own right, and is in fact one of the bishops who is currently a member of the CDF, and according to Italian media reports, he has been pressing the Vatican to come out in the open and support him on the matter. All he has to do is ask a canon law expert to answer his objections which have nothing to do with theology, merely a right understanding of canon law!

Since his previous requests to the Vatican for a public statement of sorts went unanswered [DUH! Perhaps the conspicuous silence is the answer!], he is said to have brought up the question at last week's meeting of the CDF hierarchy, which did make known later that it was moving towards the anticipated doctrinal talks with the FSSPX but pointedly did not say a word about the ordinations.

How is it possible that these three men - whose combined intellectual wattage could probably light up a small city - can miss the very core of Benedict XVI's - and indeed of Christ's - message, charity? Why on earth are they engaging in such very open uncharitable actions towards their fellow priests, of all people?

As for Bishop Mueller, I wonder how many seminarians he has in Regensburg compared to what the FSSPX has in Zaitkofen. I would pose the same challenge to Archbishop Zollitsch in Freiburg.

They only have to remember that at a time when the FSSPX continues to attract record numbers of young Catholics who want to become traditinal priests, the dioceses of Germany which have been bending over backwards to pander to their liberal constituencies in the mistaken notion that that is the way to strengthen the faith - or improve numbers in ther local Churches - have empty churches and empty seminaries.


P.S. Since I mentioned Cardinal Schoenborn in the above comment, look at the monstrosity that a parish in Linz - the diocese where poor Mons. Wagner labors to keep orthodoxy and tradition alive - put on display yesterday to represent the Blessed Sacrament for a Corpus Domini procession!

A brief videoclip can be seen on GloriaTV at

How can anyone in his right mind possibly think that a round bread loaf held aloift in a giant wooden clip is an appropriate way to venerate the Lord?

But alas, Cardinal Schoenborn himself has participated in a Mass that used similar 'props', as though the solemn liturgy of the Church were a stage production that a creative director could choose to depict from whatever perspective strikes his fancy.

Excuse the language, but what the hell is wrong with this people?

00Monday, June 15, 2009 1:26 AM
Archbishop Raymond Burke:
The Vatican's overseer of justice

Pope Benedict XVI one year ago ago called an American, Archbishop Raymond Burke, to head the Apostolic Signatura,
the office which oversees the correct administration of justice in the Church. Here, after one year at his post,
Burke discusses his work in Rome, but also the controversial shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe he established in Wisconsin,
and President Obama's speech at Notre Dame...

By Andrew Rabel, reporting from Rome

Editor's note: Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, recently invited Andrew Rabel, Australian ITV correspondent, to a friendly lunch nearby his offices at the Palazzo della Cancelleria (photo). Never to be outdone, Andrew always carries his dictaphone with him.

So the former archbishop of St Louis, with his typical graciousness, consented to an interview, despite the noise in the crowded restaurant. It is the second interview ITV has conducted with His Excellency in less than a year

"It is through our union with the heart of Mary, that she brings us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus."
— Archbishop Raymond Burke


Pope Benedict is continuing the tradition of his predecessors, John Paul II and Paul VI, in being a pilgrim Pope, as shown by his recent trip to the Holy Land. Do you feel he is reaching the people just like John Paul did?

Archbishop burke: Very much so. Surely Pope Benedict is of a different personality. He is a more reserved person than John Paul II, who seemed to thrive on contact with many people. But Pope Benedict reaches people in a similar way. I would like to cite two examples.

On his visit to the United States in April of 2008, which the media had predicted would be a disaster, he won the hearts of the American people, even the critical media personnel. Some were overcome with emotion because they could not fail to perceive his holiness, the beautiful paternity of the Pope for the whole world.

My second example is the Wednesday audiences. Many people thought that, with the death of Pope John Paul II, the numbers attending them would drop. But the fact of the matter is that they have only increased. People are uplifted attending them, not because he is teaching anything that is innovative, but he is so good at being a teacher of the faith.

Since taking over the helm of the Apostolic Signatura last year, can you explain what your work in this dicastery has been like?

The Apostolic Signatura has several areas of responsibility which I will describe.

(1) It treats certain matters regarding the Roman Rota, for example, a complaint of nullity against a definitive decision of the Roman Rota, or a recourse against the denied new examination of a case, or an exception of suspicion against a Rotal judge.

In this area, the Apostolic Signatura also handles conflicts of competence between tribunals which are not subject to the same tribunal of appeal. The amount of activity in this area of responsibility is somewhat limited.

(2) As the Church’s only administrative tribunal, the Apostolic Signatura handles recourses against individual administrative acts taken by the offices of the Roman Curia or approved by them.

Normally, the recourses are against an administrative act of a Bishop or other administrative authority in the Church, which an office of the Roman Curia has approved. The administrative recourse before the Apostolic Signatura must contend that the Church’s law was violated either in the deciding of the act or in the procedure by which the act was made.

For example, the Apostolic Signatura has handled recourses involving the suppression of a parish or the dismissal of a religious from his or her institute, or the alienation of temporal goods of a diocese or institute of consecrated life. There is a large volume of activity in this area of responsibility.

(3) The Apostolic Signatura also serves as a kind of department of justice for the Church, in the sense that it has the responsibility of overseeing the correct administration of justice in the Church.

The supervision of the tribunals of the universal Church clearly constitutes a great deal of work. There is always more that could be done. Apart from responding to questions regarding officials or advocates of the tribunals, it also responds to petitions of a dispensation from the academic title required for various tribunal offices or of the extension of the competence of a tribunal.

(4) Finally, the Apostolic Signatura fulfills certain responsibilities given to it through concordats between the Holy See and certain nations, for example, the examination of declarations of nullity of marriage for which effects in civil law are sought. There is a steady amount of activity in this area.

In August 2008, you dedicated the church of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at La Crosse, Wisconsin, where you were bishop for several years, before being transferred to St. Louis, and then Rome. Did your decision as bishop of La Crosse to erect a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe have any connection to the unapproved Marian cult at Necedah, also in Wisconsin?

Interestingly, the town of Necedah is in the same diocese, that of La Crosse, and when I was made the bishop there, I saw that as late as 1995, pilgrims were still going there, long after the death of the alleged seer, Mrs. Mary Ann Van Hoof.

I judged that one of the reasons why unapproved seers like Mrs. Van Hoof gained so much power was the failure to promote fully authentic Marian devotion.

I was inspired to found the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, first of all, as a means of fostering genuine Marian devotion in the Church. In that way, I wanted also provide a place of true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Diocese of La Crosse.

The devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe has a long history and belongs especially to the continent of America, but it is not as well known in North America as it is in Central and South America. The devotion speaks especially to the apostolate of the respect for human life.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is, therefore, more recently and rightly known as the Mother of the Unborn. Her intercession on behalf of all human life was a particular inspiration to me in founding her shrine at La Crosse.

One of the things which struck me as a newly ordained priest and has continued to strike me throughout my entire life as a priest and a bishop is simply the radical decline of the devotional life in general.

We know that our faith in the Sacraments needs to have ways to express itself in our everyday living, and at times when we are not, for instance, participating in the Holy Mass or praying before the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Devotions provide precisely very concrete ways to express our love of Christ, of the Blessed Mother and of the saints in our homes and places of work, throughout the day.

When I was named a Bishop, I understood that I needed to do something to renew the devotional life. Being Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, in which there was a false shrine to the Blessed Mother, it seemed particularly fitting to establish a Marian shrine.

I thought that Our Lord wanted very much an authentic devotional life, and seemingly He has blessed the work of the Shrine.

It has not been easy to establish and develop the Shrine, and there is still more to do. There has been, for example, a fair amount of negative reaction from people who erroneously think that the Second Vatican Council wanted to do away with all devotions and who were of a mind that devotional life was not important.

Then there have been others who objected to it because they said that the money which has been used for the Shrine should instead haven been given to the poor.

These have been the objections which have been raised, but through it all Our Lord has sustained the work.

Now that President Obama has completed the visit to Notre Dame, and delivered his address, what lessons can be learnt from the event?

We all have witnessed the compromise and, indeed, betrayal of the Catholic identity of Notre Dame University. Thoughtful Catholics cannot help but reflect upon the great danger for a Catholic institution in pursuing a kind of prestige in the secular world, which leads to a betrayal of the sacred aspect of its work, namely the fidelity to Christ and His teaching.

So I think everybody now realizes the gravity of the situation. Also I believe that the whole situation has sensitized more people with regard to the gravity of the practice of procured abortion in our nation, that is, they realize even more how far we have gone away from God’s will for human life.

That the premiere Catholic university in the United States would give an honorary doctorate of law to one of the most aggressive pro-abortion politicians in our history is profoundly shocking.

Now, we cannot forget what has happened at Notre Dame. We need to take the measures that are necessary so that this is not repeated in other places. If it could happen at Notre Dame, where else could it happen?

We have to give witness to the Gospel of Life in a way that people can receive it. Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, the diocese in which Notre Dame University is located, has given a very powerful witness.

He knows the good things that are happening at Notre Dame, for example, a very strong participation in sacramental life among the students, daily Mass, regular confession and so forth. As a Bishop, he wants to save these good things, while at the same time correcting what is gravely wrong.

I have friends who are professors or students at the university who tell me that there are a great number of the students are very devout in their practice of the Catholic faith, and strive in every way to live their faith and grow in it. We certainly want to save that and promote it.

Why did you take umbrage at the conduct of Mr. Randall Terry of Operation Rescue in playing at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, an interview he videotaped of you on a visit to Rome?

The only thing I would say is what I said it in a public statement which I made after I became aware of how Mr. Terry used the video. I think it bears repeating that I consented to the video as a means of encouragement of people who are involved in pro-life work.

I thought that Mr. Terry was making the little home video to show it to his pro-life workers at one of their meetings. But in no way did I understand that it was it to be used to criticize my brother bishops. That is the part I consider reprehensible.

I stand by everything I said in the video, but when you put the two things together, that is, his public criticism of two bishops at a press conference during which he also played the video, one could not help but think I was joining him in criticizing these bishops. That was gravely wrong.

Recently you participated in an ordination to the priesthood of some Franciscans of the Immaculate at Tarquinia, north of Rome, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (the old rite). It is not very often that one sees a senior Churchman celebrating so solemn a ceremony according to the extraordinary form. What was your reason for doing this?

First of all, I have celebrated a number of priesthood ordinations according to the extraordinary form. One very beautiful one took place in Saint Louis in June of 2007, on the feast of the Sacred Heart.

When the Friars of the Immaculate requested that I celebrate the ordinations according to the extraordinary form, I was happy to accept because I have known them for a long time, and they staff the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at La Crosse.

To put it another way, I have never tried to downplay or hide in any way my strong support of what Pope Benedict XVI has asked the Church to do in Summorum Pontificum, and what his predecessor, the servant of God John Paul II asked us to do in Ecclesia Dei adflicta, but rather to accept their liturgical direction fully and wholeheartedly.

In responding to a request like this from the Franciscans of the Immaculate, do you have any sympathy with the Kolbean Marian theology which is their charism, and its current manifestation, in pushing for a final Marian dogma of Our Lady as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix?

I certainly am very sympathetic to the Kolbean theology by which I have been enriched for many years. The first papal ceremony that I ever attended, as a first-year seminarian at the Pontifical North American College, was the beatification of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and I have had the blessing over the years to get to know his writings and to visit the sacred places of his heroic life and death in Poland.

I am certainly very steeped in the whole spirituality of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as the way to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is through our union of heart with Mary, and our striving to imitate her, that is, our making our hearts like hers, that she brings us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

With regard to the fifth Marian dogma as it is often called, for my part, I believe it to be part of the ordinary teaching of the Church. Although I have no special competence in the area, I certainly am supportive of such a declaration. The teaching is part of my faith.

Some devotees of Our Lady of America, are rather critical of the letter you wrote when you were Archbishop of St. Louis, claiming that the devotion had now been approved. They say that because Sister Mary Ephrem Neuzil (the seer who initiated and encouraged this devotion until her death in the year 2000) came from Ohio, it was not within your authority to write the letter?

I was simply asked to give a canonical opinion as to whether the devotion had ever been properly recognized. It was perfectly proper to ask me to write the letter because I have a certain knowledge of canon law and was provided all of the necessary documentation to reach a conclusion about the question of the approval of the devotion.

After studying the documentation, I was able to write the letter. The letter was sent to my brother Bishops in the United States; it was not written to a wide audience. Before sending the letter, I sent a draft of it to the Archbishop of Cincinnati and the Bishop of Toledo, in whose jurisdiction Sister Mary Ephrem lived a good part of her religious life.

So what the letter simply says is that, yes, Archbishop Paul Leibold [a previous archbishop of Cincinnati] knew of this devotion from its beginning, when he was a priest, and eventually approved it.

I am sad there are these divisions in regard to the devotion, because I think it is a very beautiful devotion and especially fitting for our time. Our Lady’s message on the living of the Holy Trinity within us, and its manifestation in the purity of the young is so much needed in our culture, today.

I was not in a position to approve anything. You can criticize me for many things, but what I did in writing the letter was correct.

Well because of the position you have now in Rome, can you expedite Mary’s request to have the statue of Our Lady of America enshrined at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC?

No, there is nothing I can do here. That decision entirely rests with the competent bishops in the United States.

00Tuesday, June 16, 2009 5:17 AM

I posted this on my starter post this morning in NEWS ABOUT BENeDICT but it really belongs here primarily.

Dar Dr. Polisca, you know you are possibly the most important man to have on hand around our beloved Pope! Please make him watch the calories, and can you get him to use his stationary bike too?

Pope has new personal physician;
Dr. Buzzonetti retires

June 15, 2009

Dr. Polisca with the Pope enroute to Cameroon last March.

The Holy Father has named Dr. Patrizio Polisca, 55, to be vice-director of the Vatican State's Department of Health and Hygiene, sas well as his new personal physician.

In the latter position, Dr. Polisca succeeds Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, 84, who is retiring after serving as personal physician to four Popes, starting with Paul VI (he was also Cardinal Ratzinger's personal physician).

Left photo: Drs, Polisca and Buzzonetti in Jordan last month during the Pope's trip; and right, Dr. Buzzonetti watching the late John Paul II pass by.

Dr. Polisca. along with Dr. Buzzonetti, has accompanied Benedict XVI during all his trips abroad so far.

Dr. Buzzonetti will have the title of Emeritus Archiatra [archiatra is a Greek term which means 'lead physician'].

He was coauthor of a book, with John Paul's longtime private secretary Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, on John Paul's suffering and how he dealt with his infirmity. He signed the Pope's death certificate.

More on Dr. Polisca from CNS:

Pope chooses cardiologist
as new personal physician

VATICAN CITY, June 15 (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has chosen as his new personal physician a cardiologist with strong ties to the Vatican.

Dr. Patrizio Polisca, a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Rome's Tor Vergata University and president of the commission of physicians who serve as consultants to the Congregation for Saints' Causes, was named personal physician to the Pope and vice director of the Vatican health service June 15.

Dr. Polisca, 55, succeeds 84-year-old Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, who became personal physician to Pope John Paul II in 1978 and continued as the personal physician to Pope Benedict.

The personal physician travels with the Pope on all his foreign trips; for the past nine years, Dr. Polisca has joined Dr. Buzzonetti on the papal flights as his assistant.

Buzzonetti, a specialist in gastroenterology and hematology, served as director of the Vatican health service from 1979 until 2005, when Pope Benedict named Dr. Giovanni Rocchi, a professor specializing in infectious diseases at Tor Vergata University, to the position.

New papal physician explains
doctors' role in sainthood process

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, June 15 (CNS) -- The path to sainthood passes through a team of physicians, who pore over medical texts, patient charts and test results to make sure a healing is medically inexplicable.

That does not mean the medical experts declare a miracle, because "the recognition of a miracle is not a matter for medical science," said Dr. Patrizio Polisca, president of the group of physicians who serve as consultants to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes.

The doctor wrote about the physicians' role in the sainthood process in the June 13-14 edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. The Vatican announced June 15 that Polisca, a cardiologist, was named Pope Benedict XVI's personal physician.

Writing about sainthood causes, Polisca said that while medical science and knowledge have changed enormously in the past few decades, the criteria for miraculous healings still follow those laid out 275 years ago by Cardinal Prospero Lambertini, the future Pope Benedict XIV.

The cardinal had insisted that the illness or defect be serious, incurable or extremely difficult to treat; that spontaneous cures were not known to occur in similar illnesses; that no medical intervention used in the case could explain the cure; that the cure was unexpected and instantaneous; and that it was complete and lasting.

Polisca said the role of the physicians is not to declare a miracle, but rather to determine whether an alleged healing could have a natural or a medical explanation.

If the absolute majority of the members of physicians' commission vote that a healing has no natural or scientific explanation, the case is passed on to a commission of theologians who determine whether the healing could have been the response to a prayer request for the intercession of the sainthood candidate.

In the case of Catholic martyrs, only one miracle is needed for canonization. For sainthood candidates who were not killed out of hatred for the faith, one miracle is needed before beatification and a second is needed before canonization.

Polisca said the Vatican's medical consultants represent a wide variety of specialties because it is essential that they are able to understand the patients' medical records, the medical tests performed, the diagnosis and original prognosis, the normal course of the illness in question and any therapies attempted.

The fact that a person is healthy in the end does not guarantee a judgment in favor of a miracle if the medical consultants believe the diagnosis was wrong or that the cure was a result of a medical intervention, he said.

In addition, he said, the testimony of medical personnel and family members who assisted the person before the healing also may be examined to confirm the original diagnosis and the unexplainable nature of the cure.

"All of this is done in order to examine the compatibility of the healing with what is known of the natural course of the illness being studied" or of the therapeutic measures taken before the healing was reported, Polisca said.

His piece was part of a collection of articles in the Vatican newspaper marking the 40th anniversary of the current structure of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

00Wednesday, June 17, 2009 12:39 AM

On the occasion of Georg Gaenswein's recent silver jubilee as a priest, Alessandra Borghese wrote a profile of him for GENTE, a PEOPLE-style Italian weekly. Here is a translation of the article as published on Alessandra's website.

But the illustrations are thanks to Beatrice who scanned them from the magazine and posted them on her site

25 years of priesthood:
A portrait of Mons. Gaenswein

by Alessandra Borghese
Translated from
Issue of June 3, 2009

I have known Mons. Georg Gaenswein from when he was working at the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith - before he became the private secretary to then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

This to say that my sympathy and esteem for this young and cultured priest goes back some time. Over the years, I have had many occasions to meet him informally, if only because we have friends in common.

What fascinates me most about don Georg is his beautifully open face with its reassuring smile.

The other day, I received an e-mail invitation. In his usual quiet, spare and essential style, he informed me that on June 1 at 7 p.m., he would be celebrating Holy Mass in the Church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians in the Vatican, and that afterwards, friends and relatives would gather together for dinner at the Casina Pio IV in the Vatican Gardens.

A simple statement explained the reason for the invitation, and it struck me because, brief as it was, it seemed laden with emotion: "Twenty five years ago, I was ordained a priest!"

For don Georg, this anniversary is a moment for thanksgiving and reflection. His decision to become a priest had developed consistently - it was not a lightning bolt out of a clear blue sky.

Left photo, Georg at 18; right photo, with his fellow ordinands when he was ordained a deacon at age 24.

By the time he was 18, those who knew him already saw in his clear and transparent ways the roots of his confrontation with the priestly vocation.

"They were roots which just kept growing with the years and bearing good fruit," as he himself likes to say.

Initially, his family was not convinced about his choice, but they changed their mind after he showed that he did have a true and sincere vocation.

With his parents in a photo taken two years ago.

His relationship with his mother, which continues to be very strong, was decisive and fundamental in this. Don Georg describes her as "a lady who never asked or imposed anything, but who, above all, always knew how to answer her children's questions."

It would be easy to try and draw a balance sheet of don Georg's first 50 years of life - 25 of them as a priest - as he is one of the most high-profile monsignors in the Vatican.

Knowing him, I would say that he looks on this anniversary as a take-off point rather than a point of arrival. The young Gaenswein certainly never planned to end up in Rome and become the closest collaborator of the Pope. Indeed, he has never hidden his emotion and surprise to find that 'his' cardinal had been elected Pope.

On more than one occasion, I have heard him say that he never made any specific plans for himself but always simply followed orders from his superiors.

I remember once when he had to address a group of young men who were still intimidated by the thought of eventually choosing the priestly vocation.

Don Georg, in a direct way and without skirting around, simply told them: "As the Lord taught, we can only gain life if we lose it!"

He added: "The moment of deciding what to do with one's life is, of course, most important - so if you decide something, you must do it with all your heart, from the depth of your soul. For this, one must know how to give oneself totally, not just a piece. Only then, you can achieve fullness".

I thought listening to him that he certainly had doctrinal clarity!

In the past few years, his external behavior has changed by force majeure, as it were. At the start, his open and cordial attitude to everyone was perhaps too ingenuous for someone in his position, leaving himself open to superficial criticisms. And so, he has become much more prudent.

But he has never hidden from friends his surprisingly constant emotion at being with the Pope, no matter how difficult his job is. To be with the Pope is not just a 'glamorous' task - he sees it above all as service, humility and total devotion.

Everything he does is for another person, which means he must renounce himself and his own desires. And yet, despite the pile of work to the done and the many commitments and appointments on the Pope's agenda, he does share intimate moments with the Pope - the daily morning Mass, praying the rosary together in the afternoons,
small talk over meals or while they take a daily walk in the gardens or on the roof terrace of the Apostolic Palace.

In the popular imagination, don Georg is often compared to Father Ralph in the famous novel and TV series The Thorn Birds: beautiful but 'impossible'.

He knows that the physical aspect - which is a gift one receives gratuitously - may nonetheless be useful for pastoral work and announcing the Gospel. But certainly not as a source of pride nor arrogance. However, because of this, he has been the object of envy and victim of petty jealousies at the Vatican.

So, he tries to act in such a way that distinguishes who he is from the image that people wish to see in him. He bases his own discernment on the sincerity of his inter-personal relationships. He believes that "sincerity is proven with time and cannot be hidden".

Perhaps the aspect of him that is least-known to the public is his academic credentials. A doctor of Canon Law from the University of Munich [also the Alma Mater of Joseph Ratzinger] , he was a professor of Canon law at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce in Rome, during which time he published 17 studies on canonical and theological subjects.

But I also think his sports personality had much to do with his human formation. He says "sport offers the possibility of competing with others in a positive way - it is a healthy way to relate to others and to measure oneself against others".

Obviously, he misses his beloved Black Forest native land, and when he speaks of it, his eyes do not hide his nostalgia.

His principal traits are seriousness, obstinacy and perseverance. And if we have to name a failing, it would be his lack of patience - in the sense that he is so determined to do things and see them realized as perfectly as possible that he cannot wait to see the outcome of his efforts.

In conclusion, Mons. Gaenswein is a completely realized man and even if he says he has no secret wishes, he will continue being talked about, and certainly, to distinguish himself in his service to the Church.

00Wednesday, June 17, 2009 12:43 AM

Pope Benedict names
ex-CDF aide to be #2 man
at the Congregation for Divine Worship

Translated from

June 16, 2009

The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Joseph Augustine Di Noia O.P., until now undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop.

At CDW, he replaces Archbishop Malcom Ranjith who has been named to be the new Archbishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka).

Archbishop-designate Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P., was born in New York City on July 10, 1943 to Italian parents.

He was ordained as a Dominican priest in 1970. After earning his Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Faculty of Theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., he taught for 3 years at Providence College (Rhode Island).

He earned a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1980, after which he taught theology for 20 years at his Alma Mater, the Dominican House of Studies. he also edited the Dominican magazine The Thomist.

He was named Founding Director of the John Paul II Cultural Center's Inter-Cultural Forum in D.C., and for seven years, he was secretary of the Doctrinal Commission of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In 1998, the Dominican order conferred on him the title of 'Magister in Sacra Theologia'.

From 1997-2002, he was a member of the International Theological Commission [under then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger], and from 2002-2009, he was undersecretary (third-ranking official) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology and the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas.

He has written the book The Diversity of Religions and co-authored The Love that Never Ends. He has been a prolific writer of articles, commentaries adn reviews as well as a much sought-after theological lecturer in the United States.

Michael Sean Winters wrote this about Fr. DiNoia in his blog for

Father DiNoia was hired by then-Cardinal Ratzinger to be the under-secretary at CDF in 2002. DiNoia had served at the USCCB’s doctrine committee for years before that.

If I may be permitted a personal note, Father DiNoia is one of the smartest people I have ever met. Even when we disagree, which was not infrequent, his arguments and his depth of learning made such disagreements a learning experience for me.

He inhales literature and has always read the most recent journals of ideas, not just of theology but of politics and literature. I remember my mother once spending an entire brunch discussing novels with the good father while my Dad and I discussed the Red Sox. He is unfailingly gracious.

DiNoia’s selection for a post dealing with an issue that is near and dear to the Holy Father’s heart makes sense. The two have collaborated closely in the past. They know each other’s mind.

It is not every day that you encounter news from Rome that is thrilling, but this is thrilling.

Even if Archbishop Ranjith is leaving the Vatican yet again, this time to go back to his native land, I will post a story about his new appointment on this thread - after all, Pope Benedict thought highly enough of him to bring him back to the Vatican in 2005 from Indonesia (to which he had been 'exiled' as Apostolic Nuncio after having been Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization fo Peoples) to be #2 at the Congregation for Divine Worship.

He has been named Archbishop of Colombo in time to receive his pallium from the Pope as a Metropolitan Bishop in the annual ceremony on June 29. His CV is truly impressive.

Pope appoints Malcolm Ranjith
as Colombo archbishop

By Gerard O'Connell
Special Correspondent in Rome

June 16, 2009

VATICAN CITY, June 16 (UCAN) -- Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don -- one of his most trusted collaborators in the Vatican and a forceful advocate for justice and peace -- to head the archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka.

A strong leader, he returns as head of the Sri Lankan Church in what many observers see as a particularly difficult moment. A bloody 25-year civil war has just ended with the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers rebels but which has raised many questions about the conduct of the final phase of the war and, more importantly, has not resolved the root causes of that conflict.

One of only two Asians in top positions in the Roman Curia -- the other being Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples -- he succeeds Archbishop Oswald Gomis, who reached the official retirement age of 75 over 18 months ago.

The Vatican made the announcement on June 16, confirming rumors that have circulated in Rome for almost a year.

The Pope has appointed the American Dominican, Father Joseph Augustine ("Gus") Di Noia to succeed Archbishop Ranjith as Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and has promoted him to the rank of archbishop.

Father Di Noia is well known to the Pope as they worked together in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when the future Pope was head of that Vatican office and the Dominican priest was under-secretary.

Archbishop Ranjith was born in Polgahawela, Sri Lanka, on Nov. 15, 1947 and completed his early studies in Colombo and Kandy, before going on to the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, where he obtained a degree in theology.

Pope Paul VI ordained him priest in St. Peter's Basilica on June 29, 1975.

He then went for higher studies and gained a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a special certificate in Biblical studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

After various pastoral and academic appointments in Colombo archdiocese, and having served in various roles at national level, Pope John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Colombo in 1991 and appointed him bishop of Ratnapura in 1995.

From 1995-2001, he served as secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka and chairman of the National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development.

In the latter role, he became heavily involved in the search for a solution to the country's civil conflict. The government appointed him as its emissary on peace negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

Pope John Paul II brought him to Rome on Oct. 1, 2001, as adjunct secretary at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and on April 29, 2004, appointed him apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and Timor Leste.

Archbishop Ranjith was among the first of the new appointments to the Roman Curia made by Pope Benedict XVI after his election. On Dec. 10, 2005, the pontiff designated him secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a post he has held until now and which has given him considerable international experience and a wide understanding of the universal Church.

The archbishop speaks English, French, German, Italian, Sinhalese and Tamil fluently, and has a fair knowledge of Indonesian and Spanish. He has also studied Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Arabic.

Many in Rome believe his new appointment puts him in line for a red hat. Sources expect Pope Benedict to make him a cardinal either in the forthcoming consistory, probably in 2010, or in the next one, about two years later.

Pope Paul VI gave Sri Lanka its first cardinal in 1965 when he gave the red hat to the Archbishop Thomas Benjamin Cooray of Colombo.

Archbishop Ranjith could be Sri Lanka's second cardinal.

00Wednesday, June 17, 2009 9:32 PM
Photos and monstrance
Thank you for the photos of Dr Polisca - now I shall be able to look out for him.
Good photos and reporting of Monsignor Gaenswein's 25th anniversary too.

That monstrance - now the pic is a long way up the thread! - looked to me at first glance like a part of the anatomy one would only see in medical text books. Hmm - don't think much of that AT ALL!!!!
00Friday, June 19, 2009 2:17 PM

SORRY! I posted this yesterday mistakenly in thw CHURCH&VATICAN thread.

Mons. DiNoia hailed by
US colleagues as
'an incredible theologian'

By Dennis Sadowski

Mons. Di Noia, O.P., in Dominican 'whites'.

WASHINGTON, June 16 (CNS) -- Colleagues of Archbishop-designate J. Augustine DiNoia said they were pleased with his new appointment at the Vatican, calling him an "incredible theologian" and a man with a "brilliant mind" who can engage others in liturgical and theological discussions.

Pope Benedict XVI named the U.S.-born Dominican an archbishop and the next secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments June 16. He has worked at the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 2002.

Archbishop-designate DiNoia, known for his expertise in liturgical and doctrinal affairs, was praised for his knowledge as well as his warm personality.

News of the Vatican announcement spread quickly in the Dominican order's St. Joseph province, based in New York, to which Archbishop-designate DiNoia belongs.

Dominican Father Brian Mulcahy, provincial vicar, said he and his fellow Dominicans were "absolutely thrilled" by the appointment.

"We see it as not just an honor for us, but for the order as a whole," said Father Mulcahy, who studied systematic theology under the archbishop-designate at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington.

Father Mulcahy, who worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1992 to 1994, described his former professor as a man with a brilliant mind who engaged his students "with great ease and great love" in the "theological patrimony of the church."

"When he is on, he is one of the finest teachers of the Catholic faith that one would ever want to meet," he told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview. "As a preacher, a teacher of the faith, he is almost without parallel."

Father Pius Pietrzyk, parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Zanesville, Ohio, said he had heard rumors in recent weeks that his fellow Dominican would be named to the secretary's position and become an archbishop.

"We've all known that Father DiNoia, because of his work with Cardinal Ratzinger and now Pope Benedict, was a very trusted adviser to him and a good and faithful servant in the congregation. It was no surprise that he was named secretary," he said.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the appointment of Archbishop-designate DiNoia is a "matter of pride" for the U.S. Church and the Dominican order.

Noting that the archbishop-designate formerly worked in the Secretariat for Doctrine at the USCCB, Cardinal George said in a statement that the bishops are grateful that the Dominican is bringing his talents to the Vatican for the benefit of the church around the world.

Archbishop-designate DiNoia left his position at the bishops' conference to become director of the Intercultural Forum for Studies in Faith and Culture, a Catholic think tank at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington.

In 2002 he was named undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2002, where he worked under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, welcomed the appointment and said in a statement that the new secretary's experience in serving the Church both in the U.S. and at the Vatican "more than adequately prepares him for his new work."

His expertise also will help in the months ahead as the Church prepares to implement the third edition of the Roman Missal, Bishop Serratelli said.

The U.S. bishops are expected to vote on the remaining sections of the missal, which will contain new English translations of the prayers in Mass and other formal liturgies, at their June and November meetings.

Afterward, the Vatican congregation where Archbishop-designate DiNoia will become secretary must give its "recognitio," or confirmation, of the final translation.

Archbishop-designate DiNoia will assume his new responsibilities after his episcopal ordination July 11 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.


Editor's Note: Several of Archbishop-designate DiNoia's lectures have been posted online at

00Saturday, June 20, 2009 2:00 AM

Thanks to Shawn Tribe at

for the photo of the Pope's letter, and to Gloria for the picture of the Pope and the archbishop....

The Pope's letter of thanks
to Archbishop Ranjith

Here's a translation of a letter written by Benedict XVI to Archbishop Ranjith earlier this week:

To my Venerable Brother
Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don
Archbishop of Colombo

At this time when, with your nomination to be the Metropolitan Archbishop of Colombo, your service to Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments has come to an end, I wish to express my sincere thanks for the faithfulness, commitment and competence with which you carried out your role.

As you prepare to start this important new mission in your homeland, may the good that you could accomplish among the beloved people of your land be an encouragement to you.

I gladly accompany you with my fervent prayer hat the Lord may fill your ministry with abundant fruits, even as I entrust you to the special protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and as I impart to you and the entire Archdiocese of Colombo my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican
June 16, 2009

A visit to the site of the Archdiocese of Colombo shows a very well-organized site that is so up-to-date it already had a report on Colombo's opening ceremony for the Year of the Priests, as well as the full text of the Pope's Letter to all Priests.

We are informed that the Most Rev. Dr. Malcolm Ranjith will be installed as the ninth Archbishop of Colombo August 5, 2009, at St. Lucia's Cathedral, Kotahena.

There's a good biographical article on Mons. Ranjith that shows he broke a lot of ground in the Curia for Sri Lankan archbishops - first as Adjunct Secretary to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 2001, and concurrently international president of the Pontifical Mission Societies; then as Apostolic Nuncio to Indonesia in 2004.

Benedict XVI recalled him to the Curia as #2 man in the Congregation for Divine Worship in December 2005.

00Sunday, June 21, 2009 12:44 AM
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I've been kicking this 'stone' out of the way since I first came upon it yesterday because it sort of sickens to me to have Giovanni Maria Vian himself confirm his blindly rose-colored view (excuse the mixed metaphor) of Barack Obama. The most charitable thing one can say about him is that he is being willfully naive, trying hard to fit the square peg of facts about Obama into the round hole of Vian's idealized vision of an Obama who will agree that abortion is killing!

I don't care so much about Vian's wholesale espousal of Obama's economic policies, for instance [even if those could prove far more disastrous for the planet than anything else!] as as his blatant rationalization of Obama's never-hidden and unabashedly pro-abortion legislative record that he promptly confirmed as soon as he became President by overturning the Bush-era policy against US funding for international abortion programs.

And how will Vian rationalize Obama's statement earlier this week that he will do his best to have the Defense of Marriage Act repealed?

Vian is being just as deluded as Obama himself when he maintains that if the Vatican newspaper is supportive of Obama, he can be influenced about abortion! He's just as deluded as Obama thinking that because he tells North Korea and Iran, "Hey, I want to be friends with you", that will make them stop their nuclear-arms program!

What planet are they living on that they believe sheer wishdful thinking will change human nature? If that were so, the world perhaps does not even need religion at all!

'Osservatore' editor says Obama
is not pro-abortion

By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

The editor-in-chief of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has drawn fire from some conservative Roman Catholics in the United States for allegedly going too soft on President Obama.

"Obama is not a pro-abortion president," the editor, Gian Maria Vian, said in a recent interview. Of course, many conservative U.S. Catholics say Obama is exactly that.

In a new interview with the National Review Online, Vian explains his bullishness on Obama as part of a plan to influence the President on issues like abortion by giving him the benefit of the doubt. [What doubt???? There has never been any doubt where Obama stands on abortion. Vian is living in a state of denial to accommodate his ideological delusions!]

The conciliatory posture represents another challenge to the many conservative American Catholics taking a confrontational tack toward the White House.

Highlights from the interview:

You were quoted as saying, "It is my clear conviction: Obama is not a pro-abortion president." On what basis do you hold this conviction?
I made that statement in an interview to an Italian journalist of Il Riformista who called me on the day the president was at Notre Dame for the controversial ceremony of the conferring of the law degree honoris causa.

I was in Barcelona; I gave the interview over the phone and based my observation primarily on the speech President Obama gave on that occasion — a speech which demonstrated openness. In this sense, I said that he didn't seem a pro-abortion president.

What do you mean?
He considered abortion, at least in his speech at Notre Dame, as something to prevent and, above all, he said, we must proceed in the attempt to widen the consensus as much as possible because he realizes that it is a very delicate issue.

Of course, Senator Obama made decisions that certainly cannot be defined as pro-life, to use the American term. He was, rather, pro-choice. Yet I believe that the senator's activity prior to his presidential election is one thing, and the political line he is following as President of the United States is another.

[EXCUSE ME??? Why is Vian ignoring that Obama promptly overturned the Mexico City ban against funding itnernational abortion programs on Day 2 of his presidency? Why is he ignoring all the active pro-abortionists Obama has been appointing to high-level positions including a Health Secretary who flaunted her support of the late George Tiller who performed about 60,000 abortions of babies nearing term delivery - and from whom she took campaign contributions and other funding? I do fault the interviewer in this case - ex-CNN correspondent Delia Gallagher for not making the obvious follow-up questions!]

We have noticed that his entire program prior to his election was more radical than it is revealing itself to be now that he is president. So this is what I meant when I said he didn't sound like a pro-abortion president. Besides, he stated that the Freedom of Choice Act is no longer a top priority of the administration.

[Oh yeah! And you believe a statement made out political expediency??? Dear Lord, if one catalogued all the statements Obama said during the canpaign and reversed once he became President, or even statements he made as President adn then reversed a few days later, the man would be exposed to the bare bone - no farther, to the very marrow - as the very model of a facile lying for poliical expediency!]

Naturally, it is also a sort of wishful thinking. Let's hope that my conviction is confirmed by the political actions of the administration. This is basically the same attitude of watching, waiting, and hope of the Catholic bishops of the United States.

Did you hear from the Pope or the Secretary of State about your comment that Obama is not a pro-abortion president?
No. It was an interview on the fly. As usual, I didn't ask permission from either the secretariat of state or the Pope. It was an impression that I communicated based on the speech he had just given. President Obama said we should try to confront this question without too much division, that it is a tragedy, a frightening drama, let's look for common ground—I think his words should be appreciated.

Some would say they are only words and it is his voting record and actions which speak more loudly.
I admit that it is legitimate to be diffident in the face of the words of a president who previously has demonstrated a pro-choice line, but I hope that he changes. I hope that he understands that a politics of pro-life is good politics, not because it is religious, not because it is Catholic, but because it is human.

[But no self-respecting journalist should wield editorial judgment on the basis of what one would like to be - one has to confront what is!]

This is what the Church repeatedly says, and in particular Pope Benedict XVI. The appeal to natural law is important because it is not based on religious principles, it is based on human principles which can be agreed on by all.

So you were fully aware of the record of the senator, the criticisms of the U.S. bishops, and the political situation in the U.S.?
When we published the infamous article on the first 100 days, we wrote that the moderation that President Obama had so far demonstrated compared to what was expected in no way eliminated the reasons for criticism that the U.S. Bishops Conference expressed many times. . . . [Oops, early revisionism here! The statement about the US bishops only came way after the Notre Dame speech, and therefore, way after the '100 days' puff piece.]

Should a reader interpret the editorial line of the newspaper to be also that of the Pope and the secretariat of state?
Well, we need to distinguish something here. The paper is not official: It is not the expression, in every single part, of the point of view of the Vatican, that is, of the secretariat of state.

But it is obvious that it is an authoritative point of view of the Holy See, because ours is the only newspaper of the Holy See and has a century and a half of history. We were started during the American Civil War. We were started in 1861. It's a paper with a very long history and it has always been rightly interpreted as the expression of the thought of the Holy See, without a doubt, but that is not to say that every word that comes out in the paper is exactly the thought of the Pope or the secretary of state.

But the average reader would assume that he will find in the Vatican's newspaper an editorial line that is in agreement with the Pope.
Let's say that L'Osservatore Romano expresses a line generally in agreement with the Holy See. This is obvious because the paper is owned by the Holy See. My editor, in the Italian sense of the owner of the paper, is the Pope, via the secretariat of state. I could not possibly create a paper in disagreement with the owner, just as no newspaper director could create a paper in dissension with the owner. If I ran the newspaper like that, I would have already been fired.

[I don't know. Very likely, the Pope, who believes in freedom of speech, thinks that as long as an article or editorial commentary in the OR is bylined, it means that the opinions expressed therein are not necessarily those of the newspaper. Which doesn't meanthat the editor should see it as license to publish articles that directly contradict what the Pope is teaching - without clearly labelling it as an opposing view!

There was that questionable article by Mons. Fisichella in which the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life seemd to be saying that abortion was justified for the Brazilian girl.

And only this week, on the eve of the start of the Year of the Priest, Vian published an article by a priest who described "The post-conciliar priest" who is everything but Pope Benedict's idea and personal example of priesthood! But that too is another 'stone' Vian has plunked out there that makes me gag!]

Gilgoff gives the link to the full interview.

00Friday, July 17, 2009 3:10 AM

I've decided to cross-post this item here, because I believe Bishop Marx is one of the bishops who are truly with the Pope, and who has his confidence as a fellow German, priest and friend.

Catholicism as antidote
to turbo-capitalism


Published: July 11, 2009

MUNICH — The collapse of Communism in the East two decades ago did not provide much of an opening for the Catholic Church to influence economic policy, but perhaps the near-collapse of Western capitalism will.

Two German authors — one named Marx, the other his patron in Rome — are certainly hoping so.

The Archbishop Marx Das Kapital was published in October last year, and is subtitled 'A Plaidoyer for Mankind', the French-derived legal term plaidoyer meaning 'a speech in defense of'. The prelate's beard and hair are not quite as bushy as his namesake Karl's.

The first is Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, who has written a best seller in Germany that he cheekily titled Das Kapital (and in which he addresses that other Marx — Karl — as “dear namesake”).

The second is Pope Benedict XVI, who last week published his first papal encyclical on economic and social matters. It has a more gentle title, Charity in Truth, but is based on the same essential line of thinking.

Indeed, Archbishop Marx had a hand in advising the Pope on it, and a reading of the archbishop’s book helps explain the intellectual context in which the encyclical was composed.

The message in both is that global capitalism has raced off the moral rails and that Roman Catholic teachings can help set Western economics right by encouraging them to focus more on justice for the weak and closely regulating the market.

Unlike the 19th-century Marx, who thought organized religion was a trick played on the impoverished in order to control them, Archbishop Marx and other Catholics yearn for reform, not class warfare.

In that, they are following a long and fundamental line of Church teaching. What is different now is that some of them see this economic crisis as a moment when the Church’s economic thinking just may attract serious attention.

Archbishop Marx has already drawn a following in Germany by arguing that capitalism needs, in a grave way, the ethical underpinnings of Catholicism. The alternative, he argues, is that the post-crisis world will fall back into furious turbo-capitalism, or, alternatively, experience a renaissance of Marxist ideology based on atheism and class divisions.

“There is no way back into an old world,” Archbishop Marx said in a recent interview, before the encyclical was issued. “We have to affirm this world, but critically.”

Catholic voices have long had influence on the debate in the West about social justice, but never as much as the Church would have wished. That reflected the enduring challenge of devising alternative policies, rather than simply criticizing secular authorities.

Pope John Paul II, a Pole with an intuitive feel for Communism’s injustices, was an important voice in bringing that system down. But he had to watch in the 1990s as Eastern Europe embraced Communism’s polar opposite — a rather pure form of secular capitalism, instead of any Catholic-influenced middle way.

“John Paul II was often very clear what he was against: He was against unbridled capitalism and the kind of socialism of the Soviet sphere,” said John Allen, the National Catholic Reporter Vatican watcher. “What he was for was less clear.”

Now Archbishop Marx, who at 55 occupies an ecclesiastical perch once held by Benedict, is trying to wriggle out of that intellectual straitjacket.

With his talent for turning a provocative phrase, he has more in common stylistically with the evangelist St. Paul or the philosophes, who popularized Enlightenment thought, than with Karl, who ground out his dense texts from exile in London.

After beginning his book puckishly by addressing Karl Marx personally, the archbishop races through 200 years of Western economic history in a way that pays tribute to Karl’s core analytical conclusion — that capitalism embodies contradictions that threaten the system itself.

But he also makes it clear he is no Communist. He admires Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, a 19th-century writer who put Catholic theory into practice as a member of Germany’s first national Parliament in 1848, and later became a bishop and a fervent critic of Karl Marx.

The gregarious Archbishop Marx has cut a profile in the German business community for his willingness to walk into a roomful of executives and raise the roof. (“Are you marionettes?” he once asked a manager who protested that markets sometimes dictate unethical actions.)

In his book, which was published last fall, he offers a vision of a world governed by cooperation among nations, with a vibrant welfare state as the core of a market economy that reflects the love-thy-neighbor imperatives of Catholic social thought.

On the first point, Archbishop Marx is in good, cosmopolitan company; many officials, from New York to London to Beijing, are calling these days for a world in greater regulatory harmony, though the specifics may be hard to agree upon.

He sounds considerably more German when exhorting the world to create, or recast, the welfare state. People need the welfare state before they “can give themselves over to the very strenuous and sometimes very risky games of the market economy,” Archbishop Marx said. The burdens of aging, illness or unemployment “need to be borne collectively,” he added.

In support of his argument, the archbishop calls for a “global social market economy,” based on a concept familiar to Germans as the model for their own postwar system.

Of course, the archbishop says he realizes that a European’s ideal of welfare states and border-straddling institutions might not have universal appeal.

At the end of his book, he quotes Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, who has said, “I approve of the notion that Europe sees itself, unpretentiously, as a model for the world, but the consequence of that is that we would have to constantly change that model because we are not the world.”

Neither, he might have added, is the Roman Catholic Church. [Which is nonetheless almost a quarter of the 'world' in terms of number - and more than one-third Christian, counting the orthodox and Protestant denominations].

As the Wikipedia entry of Archbishop Marx is rather sketchy, I turned to the site of the Munich-Freising Archdiocese for a bit more background on him and what made the Pope turn to him as one of his consultants on CIV.

About Archbishop Marx
Translated from

Born Sept. 21, 1953, in North Rhineland-Westphalia, Reinhard Marx studied philosophy and theology in Paris and Paderborn, where he was ordained a priest in 1979.

In 1981, he was named spiritual director of the Kommende ['coming forth'], the Social Institute of the Diocese of Dortmund. (This might have kindled his interest in this aspect of Church doctrime and activity.)

In the same year [the year Cardinal Ratzinger left Munich to become Prefect of the CDF], he started working for a doctorate in theology in Muenster and then Paderborn.

He finally earned the doctorate in 1989, with a dissertation on "Is the Church different?: Possibilities and limitations of a sociological viewpoint". In the same year, he was named director of the Kommende.

In 1996, he started to teach Christian social doctrine at the Theological Faculty in Paderborn. In 1999, he was named chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission of the German bishops' conference.

In 2001, he was named Bishop of Trier, where he served until Benedict XVI named him Archbishop of Munich-Freising in November 2007.

He published his Das Kapital in October 2008.

Here is what Deutsche Welle wrote about him at the time:

Catholic archbishop writes
his own 'Das Kapital'

October 30, 2008

Archbishop Reinhard Marx of Munich is not related to 19th-century communist founding father Karl Marx, but the clergyman's surname draws wonderment and wisecracks wherever he goes.

Despite the similar nomenclature, Marx says readers should not expect a defense of communism in this new book.

Instead, the Roman Catholic archbishop who is the most outspoken of Germany's 27 diocesan leaders in his criticism of big business, says that his work is to some extent "an argument with Marxism."

The book begins as a letter addressed to his "dear namesake."

"The consequences," he tells the 19th-century ideologist, "of your thinking were disastrous."

The modern-day Marx demands that the whole world adopt a market economy that is kinder to the weak and downtrodden instead of "heaping even more rewards on those who behave immorally."

"That's not utopia. It's a necessity for the sake of humans," said Marx in Munich.

The 300-page book, "Das Kapital: A Plea for Man", deliberately borrows its title from the "bible" of communism in which Karl Marx claimed 140 years ago that capitalism would automatically collapse.

With this new book, however, Marx intends to highlight the value of Catholic social teaching in a globalized world.

"Capitalism without humanity, solidarity and justice has no morals and no future," Marx writes.

He said we need to take a fresh look at social justice, or the world might veer back to dangerous ideologies such as Marxism.

The Holy Father obviously read Archbishop Marx's book and thought he would be an appropriate consultant for his social encyclical - or knowing his background, which he must have studied before naming him to Munich, he must have consulted him even earlier.

00Sunday, July 19, 2009 1:35 PM

From one of the many stories preparatory to the Pope's visit to Cardinal Bertone's hometown today, did we know before this that he is also a good pianist?

The cardinal played host to the Pope today in his hometown and in his family home.

Cardinal Bertone in the eyes
of his townmates

Adapted and translated from

While awaiting the Pope's visit, the people of Romano Canavese are also telling stories about their most illustrious citizen, Cardinal Tarcisio Beertone, starting with his brother Valeriano.

"We have always been a very united family, and since Papa and Mamma died, Tarcisio has become our reference point," says the cardinal's younger brother with great emotion.

On Sunday, the family - about 40 altogether, including nephews, nieces and grandchildren - will have the privilege of welcoming the Pope to their home after the Sunday Angelus.

Valeriano says that June 29 was always a big family celebration "because "Papa's name was Pietro, mamma was Pierina, and our oldest brother, Paolo. Papa, who was an excllent organist, although a self-taught one, would play, the cantors would come, and we had a really good time."

"It will not be the first time that we have the opportunity to meet a Pope. When my brother was named a cardinal, John Paul II received us all at Castel Gandolfo. But of course, there's profound emotion for this new opportunity [with a different Pope] even if there is the regret that Papa is no longer here.

"he was very religious. he would have deeply felt the visit of the Holy Father - and that goes for Mamma adn our brothers who have gone. And Paolo, our eldest will not be here, either, because he has been in the hospital for three months now."

Pride for the achievement of one of their own is evident from those who went to school with the cardinal.

"There is pride and joy particularly because he is one of us - a great Salesian," says Don Conrado Bettiga of the Comunita Maria Ausiliatrice in Valdooco, and Don Aldo Bertolino, a Salesian from Cunea, who both shared years of study with Bertone.

"We were Salesians attending the Faculty of Canon Law". says Don Bettiga. "Even then his intelligence was evident, with a great intuitive ability, but he also had this great affability and accessibility, so everyone found him 'simpatico'. And this was typical for Salesians, since we are used to spending most of our time with young people. He was always a great sports lover, which is also typical of Salesians."

Don Bertolino points out Bertone's passion for music.

"He is a very gifted musician. He plays the piano very well - possibly he inherited this gift from his father who was an excellent organist," says the Salesian who was with him for two years of high school, 3 years of theology, and a few months of their novitiate in 1950.

Almost everyone asked who knew Bertone when he was growing up described him as "bright, intelligent, sensible, a great person even then".

"As a young boy, my father says he already had great charisma and diplomacy," says Teresina Donato, who, with sister Paola, owns the pastry show La Rosa Antica, which will provide the desserts to be served to the Pope on Sunday - they won't say what.)

"My father was at school in Valdocco with him, and he says that he was very good at straightening out petty troubles and diffficulties, so other boys often turned to him to help get them out of trouble. For instance, they would ask him to go to the rector and speak up for them because they knew that with his diplomatic ways, he would make their case best. An excellent mind, charisma and diplomacy - those who knew him as a boy say those were already evident in him. He is an exquisite person," Teresina concludes.

"The cardinal is a most affable person," says Mayor Oscarino Ferrero, whose father and an aunt wnet to school with Bertone. "Whenever he comes home, which is as often as his schedule permits, I often see him walking around town. He is loved by the townspeople, many of whom call him Don Tarcisio or simply Tarcisio, and he generally stops to exchange small talk in the Piemontese dialect."

The people of Romano are very proud of their townsmate and particularly thankful for asking the Holy Fahter to visit the town - the first time a Pope has ever visited this little town of 3,000.

00Monday, July 20, 2009 6:27 PM

Cardinal Bertone talks
about his vocation

Interview by
Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, JULY 17, 2009 ( For this week's contribution to "God's Men," the column with which ZENIT is celebrating the Year for Priests, we present an exclusive interview with Benedict XVI's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

* * *

When did you discover your vocation to the priesthood?

I discovered it precisely when I was studying the fifth year of gymnasium -- what would today in Spain be the first year of bachillerato, or in Mexico or the United States, the second year of preparatory or high school -- in the Salesian Institute of Turin, in Valdocco, which is the first institute founded by Don Bosco.

There, I studied secondary school and bachillerato (liceo) and honestly, before that, I had not felt any desire to be a priest, despite living among exemplary priests who were my professors and educators. Instead, I wanted to study languages and dedicate myself to seeing the world, and thus, something very different -- something like international relations, in a certain sense.

Later on, a Salesian priest who was my Greek professor, made a proposal to me: "We are organizing a three-day priestly discernment encounter. You can come and think about your future." I accepted and after these three vocational discernment days, I decided that inasmuch as it depended on me, I would become a priest and join the Salesian congregation.

On May 24, 1949, I gave this news to my parents, who traditionally made a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Help in Turin. They were somewhat surprised, given that they had never heard me speak of plans to be a priest.

They told me, "If the Lord wants this, we will not object. Indeed, we are quite happy. But remember that it will depend on you to be faithful and therefore, it is you who has made this decision."

That's how I began the path of my vocation, with the novitiate and then, with the whole program of studies, etc.

And who helped you to follow this path?

In a special way, the Salesian educators, and particularly at the beginning, the master of novices. I lengthened the novitiate four months because I was so young. Theoretically back then, the novitiate began at age 15 and ended at 16, with the first profession.

I still hadn't turned 15 when I entered on Aug. 16, 1949, and therefore, I extended the novitiate until I turned 16 in December of 1950. That's when I made my religious profession. Afterward, the Salesians and excellent confessors accompanied me.

I should mention that at the beginning I asked advice regarding this decision from a confessor -- an 84-year-old priest -- who heard confessions behind the main altar of the Basilica of Our Lady of Help, and to whom I regularly went to confession. He gave me his counsel.

He told me: "Look, this is a very large task. You will have to prepare yourself very well. But remember that I have been a priest for 60 years and I have never regretted it."

So, encouraged by this testimony too, I followed this path, though in visiting home, I had a bit of a problem, a bit of nostalgia. But my parents told me: "Finish the whole testing period and the study program, because it was you who made this decision. And after that, you can make a more mature choice."

And in the end, I made the decision to continue to priestly ordination, which happened July 1, 1960.

Along this path, what was the role of the Salesians' founder, Don Bosco?

Certainly Don Bosco was an extraordinary model of a priest, and his followers, his spiritual sons, who were my professors and educators, represented him very well. They offered me beautiful testimonies that sparked in me the desire to follow this path and encouraged me in it.

In my life, Don Bosco has always been present. He has guided me in my growth toward the priesthood and afterward as a priest, in the missions that I have had as a Salesian, from being major rector of the Pontifical Salesian University, here in Rome, and formator of many candidates to the priesthood -- very many.

Later on he has guided me in my life as a bishop: first as the archbishop of Vercelli and then in Genoa and now, as the secretary of state, as the closest collaborator of the Pope.

Don Bosco taught me to be faithful to the Pope, to give my life for the Pope and for the Church, something which I try do with my limits, but with all my strength.

What have been the greatest difficulties and the most beautiful satisfactions?

As I mentioned, I had some difficulties during my formation, as I felt a certain nostalgia for the past, for life with my companions and friends. But I stayed strong in following my vocation.

Those who were my age, who didn't think that I would follow this path, especially my classmates from liceo -- I studied liceo as a Salesian but with 30 companions who now have professions and a beautiful role in Italian society and have supported me -- they told me: "If you are a priest, you should be like Don Francesco Amerio."

He was our great professor of liceo, of history and philosophy and also religion. For me, he was a model, one who has supported me -- and I've still got my notes from his religion classes. That is proof of the influence had by this priest, this professor, who my companions presented to me as a model.

Afterward I had difficulties, especially in the years from 1968 to 1972. I was here in Rome -- I was a professor at the Salesian University and also a formator for candidates to the priesthood. We had a large number of theology students in what was then the Pontifical Salesian Atheneum: 140 theology students who felt the pressure and the influence of the changes of '68, of the debate and the whirlwind of opinions.

It was after the [Second Vatican] Council. We had had moments of a lot of friction and of clashes of opinions and people, and as the superior, I had to make decisions on these students' admission to holy orders. We kept up a very intense dialogue with the students. Those were times of great student meetings, with discussions that lasted hours, even late into the night. Thus, moments of tension, but also of overcoming these tensions.

Then as a bishop, and as an archbishop of the two dioceses that I have guided, both of them by appointment of Pope John Paul II, I also had moments of confrontation, sometimes taxing situations, with this or that problem that arose in the local Church.

When I was secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, there were also some doctrinal problems given us to analyze and judge, and sometimes they were very grave problems at the doctrinal, moral or disciplinary level.

But in this role I have also had very beautiful satisfactions: The fact of having guided and of having had a fraternal community, I would say relationships of fraternal communion, of strong friendships, which continue even to today, when I run into old students or bishops from all over the world.

I have had moments of authentic communion, of fraternal friendship in the joy of fidelity to the Pope, in the joy of fulfilling our priestly and episcopal ministry, or because of the fact of having led many youth to the priesthood.

Then there is the episcopal fatherhood in priestly ordinations and in episcopal ordinations, which now are more and more frequent in my role as secretary of state, with the ordination of many collaborators of the Pope and also of many local bishops.

This is a great satisfaction: The great people of God is made up as well of the pastors of the Church, with their various responsibilities, with their diverse roles, according to the vocation and charism that the Holy Spirit distributes.

This people journeying in profound unity is truly a beautiful sign of the benevolence of God for the Church and all of humanity. I experience this in the meetings I have with the local Churches, with the pontifical representatives all over the world, and with the leaders of states who come to visit the Vatican and express their appreciation, their recognition of the Church's work, of the testimony the Church gives, whether it be in the field of formation, above all in the area of education, or in the field of promotion of the human person, social promotion, or special assistance to the weakest classes of society.

Thus, I give thanks to the Lord for the gift of the priesthood and also for the gift of the episcopacy. And I wish everyone a good Year for Priests!

00Tuesday, July 21, 2009 5:04 PM

I should have posted this yesterday, which was the actual birthday, on which occasion Vatican Radio's Italian service had a beautiful interview with Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, emeritus Archbishop of Ravenna.

The fesity and outspoken Tonini, who was made a cardinal by John Paul II after he had turned 80, is best known to Benaddicts for his affectionate greeting to Pope Benedict XVI (right photo) at one of his very first General Audiences in 2005. He has proven very loyal, speaking up on the side of the Pope whenever there's a controversy. The left photo was taken when Cardinal Tonini introduced his group of pilgrims from Emilia-Romagna at a general audience in 2007.

I will post the RV interview when translated.

00Thursday, July 30, 2009 2:33 PM
The “Coupist” Cardinal
By Mark D. Tooley
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cardinal Maradiaga is not strictly one of the 'Pope's men' but hE is the current president of Caritas International - so I am posting this here, for lack of a NOTABLES thread in this forum [as I have not made up my mind how much I should report of the world outside the Church here to give a well-rounded context to the Pontificate of Benedict XVI]....

It is so ironic that Cardinal Maradiaga, who has been a consistently outspoken and passionate advocate of 'the preferential option for the poor' but without espousing liebration theology, is now the object of criticism from bleeding-heart liberals, including Catholic prelates, whose ideology trumps their common sense, as ideology often does.

In his day and age, the cardinal shows unusual courage in standing up for what is objectively the right thing, even against institutionalized ideology as that of the OAS and the Obama administration.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tegucgalpa, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, has been steadfast in denouncing intervention by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez into Honduras on behalf of now ousted leftist President Manuel Zelaya.

For his exertions, the international left has labeled Rodriguez the “cardinal golpista” or coupist cardinal. The prelate also reports regular death threats against himself.

Undeterred, Rodrigues insists he is not necessarily a supporter of every aspect of Zelaya’s ouster, especially his deportation. But he is adamant that the Honduran Congress, Supreme Court and military, backed by most Hondurans, accurately saw Zelaya as subverting the constitution, with support from Chavez.

“You must know that we are struggling against a very powerful, very well-financed, campaign, which is being steered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez -- to the extent that agents of the Venezuelan secret services are active in the country and are organizing the supposed popular protests against the removal of President Manuel Zelaya,” Rodrigues told a German newspaper.

“Weapons have also been brought into the country. Thank God that up to now more blood has not been shed. But not a day goes by without my receiving a death threat.”

For this kind of defense of Honduras, Cardinal Rodriguez has been accused of following his “gods” of “economic power and the armed forces.”

One leftist El Salvador journal berated him for having “set himself against the people” and “against the poor,” and for blessing “those who shoot and kill the people.”

It further intoned: “The preferential option for the poor is certainly not new, nor it is exclusive to the theology of liberation, it is simply the nature of Christianity.”

“Preferential option” was the buzz phrase for church revolutionaries back in the 1970’s and 1980’s who discerned God’s will in the Sandinista insurgency and other Marxist rebel groups throughout Latin America.

Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, and its political saplings throughout the region, including Zelaya, have revivified old church leftists in North and South America anxious for a cause.

Naturally left-leaning U.S. church officials, with support from some missionaries, have demanded Zelaya’s return. They set themselves against Cardinal Rodrigues and most Catholics and Evangelicals in Honduras.

The alignment is not dissimilar to the 1980’s, which U.S. church leftists inspired by Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega aligned against Nicaragua’s anti-Marxist Cardinal Obando y Bravo, who courageously resisted the regime.

Evidently, Cardinal Rodrigues does not want to wind up like Obando, struggling to uphold the church against a hostile revolutionary government supported by outside forces.

The Catholic Church is “determined to resist foreign powers again taking control of this country: this time, in order to "Bolivarize" it,” Rodrigues told the German newspaper.

“The agents are already working against the church, using the same methods that we have come to know from Venezuela. Last Sunday, holy mass could not be held in any of the three churches in downtown Tegucigalpa, because gangs had ransacked the churches and threatened the faithful.”

Of course, similar Sandinista-mobs had disrupted Nicaragua’s churches 20 years ago. Then, Fidel Castro and, ultimately, the Soviets, were the patrons of Latin revolution. Today it is Venezuela’s Chavez.

“There passes no day in which the Venezuelan government does not spread such hints on television, on radio and in the internet,” Cardinal Rodrigues warned about direct intervention into Honduras.

“Here in Central America the recollection of the 70’s and 80’s is still very alive: civil wars, guerrilla battles, hundreds of thousands dead persons.”

The Cardinal would prefer not to return to those days, though they were halcyon times for church activists who celebrated Marxist revolution as salvation for the poor.

Rodrigues called the OAS “completely discredited” for backing Zelaya, and said “nobody can explain” why the U.S. has backed Zelaya.

Argentine peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel publicly denounced Cardinal Rodrigues. “The road you have chosen of being an accomplice to the military dictatorship is not the way of the Gospel,” he proclaimed. “The shepherd who abandons his sheep and allows atrocities and supports dictatorship to defend his economic and political interests, is not worthy of being acknowledged as a Pastor of Christ and for His people.”

Meanwhile, Cardinal Rodrigues told an Argentine newspaper that Zelaya had withdrawn $2 million in cash from government reserves for his planned referendum to prolong his rule.

“Why so much money for a poll?” Rodrigues asked. “Since when do governments do business in cash? This initiative was plagued by rampant corruption. There was no money for the victims of the earthquake, but there was to buy votes."

Rodrigues said Zelaya’s regime had been “maintained by money from Hugo Chavez and that’s that."

Leftists like Adolfo Pérez Esquivel evidently do not object to Chavez or Zelaya purloining from the people on behalf of revolution. But critics of that kind of revolutionary thievery are chastised for surrendering economic “interests.”

Seemingly, Cardinal Rodrigues will not be intimidated by angry, pseudo-Marxist rhetoric. He’s probably heard it all before.

00Tuesday, August 4, 2009 2:13 PM
How the Holy Father
talks to GG when in flight

I can't enlarge it more because it comes from a Catholic Press Photo thumbnail,
and the standard size has CPP marked all over.

Note that the Italian air force thoughtfully installed a nice comfortable seat
for the Holy Father on the chopper.

00Sunday, August 9, 2009 10:35 PM

Mons. Ranjit is installed
as Archbishop of Colombo:
"Let us build together peace
and reconciliation in Sri Lanka'

by Melani Manel Perera

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, August 6 (AsiaNews) – During the ceremony of installation as 9th archbishop of the diocese of Colombo, Mgr Malcom Ranjit urged Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, political leaders and ordinary people to remain united to build together “true peace and reconciliation in the country”.

The solemn ceremony, which took place yesterday, saw the presence of thousands of faithful, representatives of the diocese’s various parishes as well as members of other Christian Churches, and Hindu and Buddhist communities.

The country’s bishops and Apostolic Nuncio Joseph Spiteri were also present. The ceremonial Mass was held in Sinhalese, Tamil and English.

The Archdiocese of Colombo has 657,000 members out of a total population of 5.7 million.

The nuncio read the apostolic letter that announced the appointment of the new archbishop, followed by the installation ceremony.

The outgoing archbishop, Mgr Oswald Gomis, delivered the homily in Sinhalese. In it he stressed that the diocese of Colombo had a long history, and that it was established some centuries before the Portuguese reached the island.

Mgr Thomas Savundaranayagam from Jaffna delivered the homily in Tamil.

At the end of the Mass Mgr Ranjit addressed the assembly in Sinhalese and Tamil before an audience that included a number of political leaders.

In his speech the new archbishop called on everyone to pray that he be able to perform his duties as shepherd.

He thanked Pope Benedict XVI for the tie that bound him to the Holy Father, based on “obedience, loyalty, and pastoral care” but also on a “deep personal friendship.”

He said he hoped that such a bond “between the supreme shepherd and the archdiocese of Colombo may grow further for the joy of the entire Church.”

Mgr Ranjit then addressed priests, young people and all the faithful and spoke about the country’s situation, stressing his wish that entire diocese and all Catholics work for peace in the country.

“Our beloved motherland has suffered too much from the ill effects of sectarianism, narrow mindedness, and divisiveness in the past 50 years,” he said.

He also explained that the Church wants to work with the president, with political and religious leaders as well as all citizens to build a just, free and democratic society where differences in religion, race or language do not become a cause of division but rather one of unity.

A number of Buddhist monks came to the ceremony even though it fell on a day that is important to the Buddhist religion, namely the day of Poya, the full moon.

Speaking to them Mgr Ranjit said: “I want to express my total solidarity with the members of the Maha Sangha (Buddhist monks). As the majority religious groups they want to work for true peace and reconciliation in the nation.”

Mgr Malcom Ranjit, 62, was appointed Colombo’s auxiliary bishop in 1991. In 1995 he was made bishop of Ratnapura. In 2001 he became assistant secretary in the Congregation for the Evangelisation of peoples.

Between 2004 and 2005 he was nuncio in Indonesia before returning to the Vatican to be secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship. The Pope appointed him archbishop of Colombo last June and bestowed the pallium upon him last 29 June.

Before leaving Rome, Mons. Ranjith gave an interview to Avvenire which published it on the day of his installation in Colombo:

Catholics can be a bridge for peace
between Sinhalese and Tamils

'Benedict XVI shows the intimate link between
liturgical renewal and renewal of the Church'

Interview in Rome
Translated from

August 5, 2009

"I am very homored that Pope Benedict chose me to be the new Archbishop of Colombo, which is the capital of my country, at this particular moment in our history. Likewise, I was very nonored when he called me three and a half years ago back to Rome to be among his co-workers in the Curia, and in the field which is very close to his heart, the liturgy."

Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don was named to his new position on June 16, and on July 10, he had a private audience with the Pope. Today, he takes possession of his diacese.

Avvenire interviewed him the day before he left for Sri Lanka.

Excellency, your nomination to be Archbishop of Colombo does come at a crucial time for your country...
Indeed. The civil war that has afflicted our country for almost 30 years has just officially come to an end.

Because of the intransigence shown by the Tamil rebels [who want a separate state] and the difficulty of reaching a solution acceptable to both sides, the government decided to go in and liberate the territory that had been under rebel control.

The country was sick and tired of the conflict and it was certainly not going to allow a 'parallel' illegitimate government to rule part of it.

So I understand the pride and the euphoria that the government, the president, and the whole country feels. There is a feeling that a tragic era has ended.

At the same time, everyoen understands that this does not necessarily mean a true and lasting peace. It's one thing to win a war, another to win the hearts of everyone. This will urgently require a process of reconstructing harmony between two races - the Sinhalese and the Tamils [who come from southern India].

You have known the Sri Lankan President for some time, and you have relations of reciprocal esteem...
Yes, and I believe that he needs the support and spiritual guidance of the representatives of the various religions in order to effect the necessary cultural change, so that different races and religions can live together pecaefully in a new society. You see, there are several fundamentalist groups who do not want to see a pluri-cultural society - they are rather powerful and well organized.

What role can the Catholic Church play in this process of pacification?
It already has an important role because it is present among the Sinhalese who are the majority of the population, though most of them are Buddhists; as well as among the Tamil minority, who are mostly Hindu religionists.

That is not to say that the civil war had a religious nature - it was political - although the religious element is significant. So the religions face this challenge of first overcoming the ethnic barrier. The Church has been quite successful in this, and therefore it could help as an inter-racial bridge between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.

Is this mediating role by the Church acknowledged by the civilian authorities?
Yes, the government and political leaders have always appreciated the peacemaking role of the Church.

And the other religions?
Normally, even the Hindu and Buddhist leaders seem to appreciate our role as peacemaker and mediator. But I won't deny that certain Buddhist circles look at me with suspicion - the same ones that have been proposing legislation against conversions. They would be annoyed to see any increase in Catholic prestige because it can play a mediating role between the two races.

You are leaving after three years and a half at the Congregation for Divine Worship...
I will always be deeply grateful to the Holy Father for having called me to Rome to work with him in such an important field as that of the liturgy. I have therefore had the joy of being able to experience closely the activities of the Pope and his insistence on a renewal of the Church which is intimately linked to the renewal of liturgical life.

What was it like working in the CDW?
I had the chance to work with two cardinals - Cardinal Arinze and then, with Cardinal Canizares for several months - both excellent, especially under the particular circumstances.

For my part, I tried to make sure there was enough discussion and reflection on those aspects of liturgy which unfortunately had been marginalized, although they are essential, as we see in Pope Benedict's various writings before he became Pope.

I believe that with Cardinal Canizares, the liturgy of the Church is in truly good hands.

What about the Roman Curia?
As you know, I have spent eight years in the service of the Holy See. The experience has enriched me greatly, widening my horizons and enabling me to taste more directly the mystery of that intimate link between the Church and the Lord, and his sanctifying action through the Church - an action that often takes place silently, inspite of teh difficulties, obstacles and differences of human experience which afflict his own disciples.

Do you not regret any of the statements you made that seemed to be too critical of the liturgical situation in the Church and perhaps too positive with regard to the so-called pre-conciliar rites?
Perhaps I may have come on a bit too strong at times, but I sincerely do not regret anything I said. History and the Lord will judge me.

After your Roman experience, with what spirit are you going back home?
With great hope, because I believe that the Catholic Church has a great mission for the future of the world, and for Asia, in particular.

In the mission entrusted to us as a local Church, the role of the Pope is fundamental. He is Peter, and for Catholics, he is the Vicar of Christ. He represents for us the guiding role of Christ himself in history, his concern for the salvation of the world. That is why the faithful, particularly the regular folk, love the Pope and wish him well.

It is with such certainty that I return joyfully to my country where Catholics love the Pope and pray hor him all the time. With the hope, as well, that we will be able to welcome him if, as it has been said, he will be making a pastoral visit to Asia.

00Monday, August 10, 2009 2:24 AM

In the preceding page is an article on Mons. Ranjith's installation as Archbishop of Colombo and an interview he gave to Avvenire before he left Rome.


On the website of the Archdiocese of Colombo, I found a number of pictures taken upon the arrival of Mons. Ranjith in Colombo on 7/31/09, and I thought I would post some of them here, because it was apparently a big local event - doubly significant and remarkable because Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist.

And yet, Archbishop Ranjith got the works - an airport news conference, Vatican flags alternating with the national flag along the way, streamers to welcome him, flag-waving crowds. (Not even in my country, the Philippines - at least 80% Catholic and Asia's most Catholic country - did we put on such a show to welcome home any of our three bishops who became cardinals after they got back from their respective consistories.]

It's a testimony to what he said in the earlier interview about the important role that the Catholic Church is perceived to have in Sri Lanka.

The first person to welcome Mons. Ranjith home is his predecessor, Mons. Oswald Gomis.

Another item of interest from the diocesan site is a 2006 interview with Mons. Ranith by 30 GIORNI a few months after he was called to Rome by Pope Benedict XVI to serve at the CDW. It's a lengthy one, but I will post the part where he talks about his relations with Cardinal Ratzinger then Pope Benedict, and about the liturgy; and later, where he talks about what he did during the Dec. 2005 tsunami (he was the Nuncio in Jakarta, and he happened to have Cardinal Schoenborn as his house guest at the time, and they both ended up helping mobilize international Catholic adi from Bandar Aceh.)

Interview with Mons. Ranjith
Translated from


How did you meet Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger?
In connection with a question concerning Sri Lanka, that of the theologian Fr.Tissa Balasuriya, who had written a book, Mary and Human Liberation, which contained a theological analysis hardly compatible with Catholic doctrine.

I was a young bishop then, just appointed. I took an interest in the book and an episcopal commission specially created to scrutinize the text was set up by the Bishops. In 1994, at the conclusion of the Commission’s work, the Bishops’ Conference released a communiqué in which the faithful were told that the book did not mirror the doctrine of the Church. This communiqué provoked a worldwide press campaign against us and in favor of Father Balasuriya.

The controversy was so loud that Rome also began to investigate. And so I was summoned to the Vatican to explain what was happening to the Pope and to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger.

Father Balasuriya’s errors were so serious that in January 1997 they were formally condemned by the Congregation, and he himself, since he wouldn’t withdraw them, suffered excommunication latae sententiae. An excommunication that was withdrawn the following year, after a solemn public declaration by Father Balasuriya.

So it was in that context that your acquaintance with Cardinal Ratzinger began
Yes, and subsequently, I met him several times. On those occasions I had the chance to tell him of my impressions and my concerns as bishop especially with regard to the question of inter-religious dialogue and also liturgical questions.

When I was later called to Propaganda Fide [the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to which John Paul II named him secretary], I had the opportunity of meeting Cardinal Ratzinger more frequently, even for the everyday business of the dicastery, to which he also belonged.

So, apart from being an avid reader of his books, I learned in person to esteem his human gifts. I’ve always seen a great theologian in him and in his words, not a pedant at all, but a person close to the Lord.

So you were in Jakarta [as Apostolic Nuncio - his assignment after Propaganda Fide] a little less than two years. On 10 December 2005, your nomination as Secretary of Divine Worship was made known. Were you expecting the new call to Rome?
I remember that Benedict XVI summoned me to an audience in Castel Gandolfo during the summer of 2005, it was mid September, and he asked me whether I would accept to be the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship. It was his request and so I said yes.

I’ve always had an interest in the liturgy, which I’ve considered the key to understanding the relationship between faith and life, because I believe that as the liturgy is celebrated, so the Christian faith is lived.

On the one hand, the liturgy externalizes faith; on the other, it feeds it. To be able to offer my modest contribution on this point, which is something close to the heart of Pope Benedict, has filled my heart with joy.

Your Excellency, your first public utterance as Secretary of the Congregation for the Divine Worship was a speech in April 2006 at the launching of the book by Uwe Michael Lang, an Oratorian of German origin who lives in London [Last year, the Holy Fahter asked Fr, Lang to come to Rome to work in teh CDW]. The book is Rivolti al Signore. L’orientamento nella preghiera liturgica [Turned to the Lord. Orientation in liturgical prayer] (Cantagalli, Siena 2006, pp. 150, Euro 14.90). First published in German in 2003, it has a preface by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. What struck you most about the book?
I had already read the book and the very fine preface by the then Cardinal Ratzinger. Then when I received the invitation, I immediately accepted. Because it was the occasion to create a very positive debate within the Church.

There’s a lot of talk about the participation of the faithful in the liturgy.

But do the faithful participate more if the priest celebrates versus populum or if he celebrates toward the altar? It’s not at all certain that participation is more active if the priest celebrates toward the people; it may be that people become more distracted.

Is it real participation when, at the sign of peace, a great confusion is created in the church, with some priests at times going down to give their greetings even to those in the rear pews?

Is it actuosa participatio, as intended by the Second Vatican Council, or simply a big distraction that doesn’t help at all in creating the sense of meditation and devotion necessary for the moment of communion. Besides, at times even the recitation of the Agnus Dei is forgotten…

I repeat, Father Lang’s book has been and is a most useful provocation, starting from the introduction in which Cardinal Ratzinger reminds us that the Council never asked for the abolition of Latin nor the revolutionizing of the direction of liturgical prayer…

An interview of yours in La Croix of 25 June 2006, entitled 'The liturgical reform of Vatican II has never taken off', attracted a lot of attention. Can you clarify your views on the liturgical reform put into effect after Vatican Council II?
Those words have been taken out of context. It isn’t that I judge negatively everything has happened after the Council. I said instead that the results expected from liturgical reform are still not manifest.

One wonders whether liturgical life, the participation of the faithful in sacred functions, is greater and better today compared to that of the 1950s.

There has been criticism of the fact that before the Council the faithful didn’t really participate in the Mass, but were passively present or engaged in personal devotions. But do the faithful today really participate in a more spiritually elevated and personal way?

Did the many who had left the Church start queuing up to get into our churches when the new liturgy was introduced? Or hasn’t it happened instead that many more have stopped going to Mass and that the churches have emptied? What reform are we talking about therefore?

The result of secularization?
Certainly, but the situation is also the outcome of the way in which the liturgy has been treated or, rather, mistreated … In practice, I think the sacrosanct expectations of the Council for a better understood and therefore more spiritually fecund liturgy have still not been realized. And so there is still much to do, so that the churches may fill up again with new faithful who really feel touched by the grace of the Lord during the sacred liturgies.

In a secularized world, instead of seeking to raise hearts toward the greatness of the Lord, the effort has been to reduce the divine mysteries to a trivial level.

When you were nominated secretary of Divine Worship, it was expected that you would have excellent relations with the Lefebvrian world. Is that so ?
I never met Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre because of the age difference - he belonged to another era. I certainly have had contact with some of his followers. But I’m not a fan of the Lefebvrians. Unfortunately they still haven’t re-entered into full communion with the Holy See, but what they sometimes say about the liturgy, they say for good reason. And therefore they’re a goad that should make us reflect on what we’re doing.

That doesn’t mean that I can be described as an adherent or a friend of the Lefebvrians. I share some points with the so-called No-globals on social justice, but that doesn’t mean I’m one of their adherents

On the other hand the Tridentine mass is not the private property of the Lefebvrians. It is a treasure of the Church and of us all. As the Pope told the Roman Curia last year, Vatican Council II was not a break, but a renewal in continuity. One does not throw away the past, but one grows on it.


About the tsunami:

It was precisely during your stay in Jakarta that Southeast Asia was hit by the terrible tsunami. What was that experience like?
The archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, a dear friend of mine, was staying with me at the time. When we heard of the tragedy, we abandoned the program already arranged for him and we went to Banda Aceh.

It was an extremely difficult journey, but we managed to arrive and visit the stricken areas. It was a terrible spectacle: death and destruction everywhere. We spent two days with missionaries, we slept where we could, without running water and without electricity.

But we were content to be near the small Catholic community of Banda Aceh and also of the island of Nias. The voice of Cardinal Schönborn speaking on the European media from the area and telling of his experience was also decisive for the solidarity shown from all over the world.

Later through the Caritas network and the help of the Holy See we managed to set up a solid aid program for the people. The Indonesian Caritas was inactive, and so with the help of the Cardinal Archbishop of Jakarta and of Caritas Internationalis we managed to reactivate that ecclesial body and to set up aid projects for the rebuilding of those areas.

I remember that we took part in endless but important meetings with civilian authorities, thanks to which we were able to make our contribution as Catholic Church to the people stricken by this monstrous tragedy.

Mons. Ranjith gave this interview in 2006. I wonder if he saw the Mahony-like circus Mass that his good friend Cardinal Schoenborn celebrated in Vienna two years later - and what would he have said to him?

00Tuesday, August 11, 2009 2:47 PM

Here's a great enterprise story by the enterprising editors of NLM - a revelation to most us, really, who had not even been aware there was such a position as this at St. Peter's.

From Sandro Magister's articles on the topic, it seemed that whoever was director of the Sistine Chapel Choir also had the musical direction for liturgies at St. Peter's. Happily, Benedict XVI apparently went about that touchy problem with this evidently felicitous appointment

Music at St. Peter's:
The transformation -
and the man responsible for it

by Jeffrey Tucker

August 10, 2009

It was my pleasure to enjoy a long chat with Fr. Pierre Paul, director of music at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He has held this position since 2008, having been director at the North American College.

After leaving that position, he came back to home in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, only to be called back to head the music program at St. Peter's under the guidance of Benedict XVI.

Since then, he has embarked on a spectacular program that amounts to the musical application of the principle of the hermeneutic of continuity. What was holy then is holy now.

He has infused the entire program at the Vatican with a new love of excellence and idealism by embracing the program legislated by the Second Vatican Council, taking seriously the call for Gregorian chant to assume the primary role in liturgy.

This has meant, in the first instance, and above all else, using Gregorian ordinary settings for all Masses. For ordinary time, he is using Mass XI or Obis Factor. For Advent and Lent he is using Mass XVII (Kyrie Salve), switching out the Kyrie for respective seasons.

For Easter, he chooses Mass I (Lux et Origo), along with Mass IV (Cunctipotens Genior Deus) for the Feast of the Apostles. He also uses Credo I, III, and IV, and, periodically, the whole of Mass IX (Cum Jubilo). He is trying minimize the use of Mass of the Angels, though it is still programmed for large international Masses since this is the one that most people know.

These are all huge advances, and he is thrilled to hear that people are singing with gusto! Actually, people are singing as never before. He is careful to print large booklets for every Mass with translations.

He is dedicated to making sure that he does not use modern notation in the booklets. He believes in neumes, the notation of the Church, because he regards them as easier to sing than modern notes and because they convey the sense that the music of the Church is different from other forms of music

The biggest advances have been made in the area of propers, which had long been displaced by hymns that are extraneous to the Mass. The Introit of the day is sung at every Mass as the celebrant approaches the altar, following a hymn or organ solo. The communion chant is always sung with Psalms from Richard Rice's editions posted at

This is a major step and a restoration of a very early practice for Papal Masses. The offertory antiphon is also sung periodically and increasingly so, as more and more singers can handle the material.

For the Psalm, St. Peters is alternating the use the of the Gradual Psalm from the Graduale Romanum and the simpler Psalms from the Graduale Simplex.

Just now, the choirs are moving into the polyphonic repertoire of the Italian masters such as Palestrina and Victoria, and will be increasingly exploring polyphonic propers along with new compositions.

Other major changes made by Fr. Paul include instituting rehearsals on Wednesday nights. Yes, you read that right. The choir didn't used to rehearse. Now they do.

What's more, he invites Dom Saulnier from Solesmes, now living in Rome and teaching at the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music, to teach weekly chant training seminars. This is a complete switch from the past.

The new closeness between Solesmes and St. Peters will intensify later this year when Solesmes releases an in-print version of the first volume of the Antiphonale for the Liturgy of the Hours, which will then be used in published form for Vespers at the Vatican.

Fr. Paul has instituted new standards for visiting choirs. As he says, "it cannot be just any choir. It must be a liturgical choir." This means the he listens to recordings of their work before any guest choir sings at St. Peters.

They must clear the repertoire in advance. And whatever they sing must fit in with the musical structure as it is developing at St. Peters. So if there is a motet to sing, it can only be sung following the propers of the Mass.

This change has made a huge difference in not only advancing the music in the Vatican but in encouraging the right trends in all parts of the world. It is an honor to sing at St. Peter's, and Fr. Paul's work to raise the standards are having an effect.

Several aspects of this extended talk surprised me. One was how much time Fr. Paul spends doing programs. He is constantly online download material, scanning material, and dragging and dropping graphics and worrying about things like image resolution and spacing. He has nowhere near the level of help one might expect. In other words, his job is pretty much like that of every parish musician.

Another surprise to me is how he, in an entirely humble way, seems not entirely sure about the influence of what he is doing at St. Peter's and what the long-term implications are.

But of course the truth is that what happens here serves as a model for parishes and cathedrals around the world. The trends at the Vatican eventually come to pervade the whole Church, and this is where his long-term influence is going to be felt most profoundly.

Essentially, what he is doing is progressing toward a unity of the present with the past heritage of Catholic music, preserving while re-invigorating, and innovating toward the restoration of an ideal.

For his wonderful work in this area, all Catholics the world over are very much in debt to Fr. Paul!

There are surely bumps along with the way and some opposition to deal with, though Fr. Paul doesn't speak about these aspects. For his part, what inspires him is that it is a well-known fact that the Pope himself is thrilled with the great progress he is making and can't be happier about the direction of change.

He works every harder toward the goal, hardly ever going to sleep before midnight and then rising at the crack of dawn to work some more.

The singers are excited by the new emphasis on excellence above all else, and are willing to work harder than ever. They are coming to rehearsal ready to sing and happy for the privilege of doing what they are doing. The same is true of the cantors, who are given new responsibilities and are held to higher standards.

The glorious thing that is happening here comes down to this: the program is giving back to Catholic their native music and freeing up the universal musical voice of the faith. This amounts to a major step toward the unity of the faith all over the world.

Nothing could be more essential in a secular culture defined by its aesthetic fracturing. We need this major step to help us pray together and come together in one faith. He is not only a humble visionary but a man of great courage with an eye to the future of sacred music.

00Friday, August 14, 2009 10:56 PM


Translated from

Since he arrived in Castel Gandolfo two weeks ago, the only picture I have seen of Mons. Ratzinger was a brief shot from a Rome Reports videoclip of the chamber orchestra concert in Castel Gandolfo on August 2.

ANAGNI, August 14 - A private visit away from the glare of publicity and news cameras - to enjoy in peace the treasures of the cathedral and its crypt, and to speak with the bishop of this ancient town also known as 'the city of popes' because it gave birth to four Popes.

Anagni traces its history to 700,000 years B.C. and survives as a walled medieval town with well-preserved buildings and many art treasures. It is 65 kms. east-southeast of Rome and some 40 kms east of Castel Gandolfo.

Shortly after 9:30 yesterday morning, Mons. Georg Ratzinger, older brother of Pope Benedict XVI, arrived in Anagni for a private visit. As has become customary since his brother became Pope, Mons. Ratzinger, 85, spends the month of August with his brother in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo. It was one of his rare solo outings.

"it was really a lightning visit, a bit over an hour in the Cathedral," said Mons. Lorenzo Loppa, Bishop of Anangi-Alatri. "He said he had always wanted dto see our cathedral [dedicated to Santa Maria Annunziata, the Lady of the Annunciation], particularly its crypt. He expressed his appreciation and wonder, much more than the usual tourists when confronted with such beauty."

After the visit to the Cathedral, he also visited the diocesan seminary and then met briefly with the Mayor of Anagni, Carlo Noto.

"I found him to be a truly beautiful person," said Mons. Loppa, "A very simple and kindly man."

Despite the short notice of the visit, the mayor and most of the town's council members turned up to welcome the guest.

before leaving Anagni, the Pope's brother took time out to chat briefly with newsmen and wellwishers. He left Anagni shortly before noon, with the local police and state carabinieri escorting his car to the Anagni-Fiuggi exit towards Catel Gandolfo.

00Tuesday, August 18, 2009 9:27 PM

Sulmano in the Abruzzo region is about 170 kms east of Rome, and is best known as the birthplace of the famous classical poet Ovid.

For this item, thanks to Lella's blog

We really know very little of Georg Ratzinger's World War II experience except that he did his war service on the Italian front - in the Naples area - and that he came back home later than his younger brother did.

Today, he made a day trip from Castel Gandolfo to a POW camp site in Sulmano, a town in the Abruzzo. It appears that on his slow way back home from the front, Georg Ratzinger and his fellow Germans made a stop of several hours in Sulmano.

Story and photos from the Abruzzo regional newspaper, Il Centro. The photos also show us Mons. Ratzinger's nurse.

Georg Ratzinger revisits
Italian POW camp site
65 years after 'his' war

The Pope's brother, Mons. Georg Ratzinger, visited Sulmano, a city where 65 years ago, he passed through 65 years ago as a Wehrmacht soldier during the retreat of German forces from the Gustav line in central Italy.

In Ovid's hometown, he was received with full honors by Mayor Fabio Federico and the Bishop of Valva-Sulmona, Mons. Angelo Spina.

A band welcomed his arrival by playing the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

"I am truly moved by your welcome," the 85-year-old monsignor said, thanking his hosts, "even if I am not the Pope".

Recalling his transit through Sulmona, he said, "I was here in 1944 just for a few hours, but I have always wanted to come back and visit the city in peacetime conditions."

The Pope's brother visited the abbey, the cathedral and what is now a military logistics base at Fonte d'Amore, site of a POW camp in both world wars.

There's a bit more detail in this story in Il Messaggero today:

The Pope's brother gets
an affectionate welcome
in Sulmano

Translated from

August 19, 2009

SULMONA - It has been all of 65 years since he first saw these mountains which he always dreamed of coming back to visit.

Yesterday, Mons. Georg Ratzinger, older brother of Pope Benedict XVI, came back to Sulmona in very different circumstances.

Whe he first passed through this mountain city, he had just turned twenty, and he was wearing a different kind of uniform. He was with the German troops who retreated from the Naples area in 1944 after the Allied landings in central Italy.

"I was here for just a few hours, but I always kept in mind that I would want to come back and visit the city in peace time," Mons. Ratzinger said yesterday. "I thank the Lord for having given me this opportunity."

Sister Cristina, who accompanies Mons. Ratzinger, also served as his interpreter.

The 85-year-old prelate now walks slowly, aided by a white cane. He has a ready smile for every well-wisher.

Welcoming him to the city were the bishop of Valva-Sulmona, Mons, Angelo Spina; the mayor of Sulmona, Fabio Federico; the city council president Nicola Angelucci; and cultural counselor Lorenzo Fusco, along with the priests of the diocese.

The local band from Introdacqua played the Ode to Joy from betthoven's Ninth Symphony to welcome the guest.

"It was a big surprise, and I was truly moved by the welcome," Mpns. Ratzinger said. "I thank everyone, with special mention for the band who really played very well. I accept the welcome as a sign of your good wishes towards the Pope.

"I am a humble priest who deserves none of this. But you have good, kind and industrious people who do honor to Sulmona."

After seeing the historical monuments in the town center, the Pope's brother was taken to Fonte D'amore, now a military logistical base, on what was the site of the POW camp where he stayed a few hours back in 1944.

The delegation then proceeded to the Celestinian Abbey, asssociated with St. Celestine V, the Pope whose remains are kept in teh Cathedral of L'Aquila to the north; then to the monument to the civilian victims of a Nazi bomb raid that claimed 120 victims during the war.

The final stop was at the Basilica of St. Panfilo, where he venerated a relic of St. Celestine V.

In greeting Mons. Ratzinger earlier, Mayor Federico rrecalled that in July he had visited Marktl am Inn with his family.

"We took photos before your house in Marktl," he told the Pope's brother, "and my daughter remarked that it would be nice if the Pope or his brother could come to Sulmona and be photographed before our house. And the day has come. Truly, the ways of the Lord are infinite".


Didn't realize before this that Joseph has rather curly hair compared to brother Georg!

00Tuesday, August 25, 2009 12:45 AM
Don Giorgio marks silver jubilee
of ordination in his hometown

From the
8/24-8/25/09 issue of

In tomorrow's issue, the OR takes note, in a brief item with photo, of Mons. Gaenswein's personal milestone. He took his annual vacation after coming back from Les Combes with the Holy Father.

A family celebration for Mons. Georg Gaenswein, private secretary of Benedict XVI, who on August 23, in his hometown of Riedern in Germany, celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a priest.

At the Mass he celebrated at the local Church of St. Leodegar, many friends, relatives and townsfolk took part, including his mother Gertrud, shown in the photograph.

We have details of Mons. Gaenswein's Jubilee Mass from the blog of Angela Ambrogetti, and pictures are now available from two regional German newspapers:

From his Silver Jubilee homily:
The priest is like a lighthouse keeper

Translated from

August 25, 2009

At the grand celebration last Sunday in his Black Forest hometown of Riedern am Wald to mark the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, Mons. Georg Gaenswein, the Pope's private secretary, gave a homily on the function of priests.

He cited a well-known anecdote. One night, the captain of a warship found himself on what seemed to be a collision course with another ship. He called out orders for the other to change course and was enraged when it seemed he was being ignored. Finally, an answer came back from an ensign who called out, "I am the lighthouse keeper!"

That, Mons. Gaenswein said, was the function of a priest. "He is not a ship's captain who gives orders. Our strength does not come from external temporal sources of power. We annhounce an ideal which we ourselves strive to live up to all our life."

He added that on the sea of life, there are also cruisers and luxury ships occupied by 'those who forget God", as well as 'submarine Catholics" who only surface during major holidays and celebrations.

Mons. Gaenswein said Mass for more than 1500 of his townspeople, most of them assembled on the meadow surrounding the parish church of St. Leodegar in Riedern.

No cameras were allowed in the church, but the Mass was televised to a jumbo screen under a tent outside.

The church could only hold 200, most of them his relatives and friends, led by his mother Gertrud. His father, who has been ill for months, was unable to attend.

Photo shows a similar homecoming in 2007, with both parents leading the townsfolk to church.

Among his special guests were the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela and Princess Gloria Thurn und Taxis.

Concelebrating the Mass were his 'Doktorvater' Winfried Aymans, who was his adviser for his doctoral dissertation in canon law from the University of Munich, along with a friend from the Roman Curia, Wilhelm Inkamp, who is a consultant to both the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood.

They said the Mass in Latin, and ad Orientem, although the Mass booklet for the occasion was bilingual. The choir sang Mozart.

After the Mass, local authorities paid tribute to their hometown celebrity, who said he was overwhelmed by the emotions of the day "in the place where I have my roots".

The town had prepared for the occasion for days, and local traffic virtually stopped that day. Afterwards, everyone proceeded to the Kreuz restaurant where the chef is a a cousin of the jubilarian priest.

Pictures below from 2007.

Over lunch, Mons. Gaenswein spoke of the year just past, recalling important episodes that he had shared in his position as the Holy Father's secretary, citing particularly the revocation of the Lefebrian bishops' excommunication and the Pope's pilgrimage to teh Holy Land.

His anual summer vacation, which started after he returned from Les Combes, ends this weekend. he was scheduled to spend four days in Salzburg for the summer music festival, then come back to Riedern to his parents; home before going back to Castel Gandolfo this weekend.

He may perform some baptisms at the monastsery near his home, where he usually says daily Mass at 9 a.m. when he is in Riedern.

00Wednesday, August 26, 2009 3:47 PM
Thank you!
Two very interesting reports with amazing photos! I loved the report of Monsignor Georg Ratzinger's visit to Sulmona and those photos especially.

Is Sister Cristina one of the four Memores Domini???? I've forgotten all the names.

Mary, one of the Papino's Memores is named Cristina, but the Sr. Christina with Mons. Georg is apparently his German nurse-companion.


00Thursday, August 27, 2009 6:01 AM
The cloistered nuns whose job is to serve the Pope directly

Nuns by vocation, they also raise
veggies for the Pope and keep
the papal clothing at Sunday best

There's a Benedictine cloistered order in the Vatican with their own convent called Mater Ecclesiae -
and besides their life of prayer (ora) for the intentions of the Church, they do quite a lot of work (labora)
in direct service to the Holy Father.

Translated from
the 8/24-8/25 issue of

It's a time of first assessments for the tiny Benedictine community of nuns in the Mater Ecclesiae convent at the Vatican after their first five years there. Years that they see as a call to serve the Holy Father directly in the Benedictine spirit of 'ora et labora'.

The lifestyle is the age-old Benedictine rule based on prayer and lectio divina, as well as manual labor: from the little tasks of gardening in and around the Apostolic Palace, to keeping the apparel worn by the Holy Father in public in Sunday-best condition, from embroidering his miters and stoles, to making parchment paper and miniatured, to cultivation of the Pope's 'backyard garden'.

Faithful to the Benedictine spirit, the nuns actually work the land. With a straw hat, am apron and lots of goodwill. The fruits of their labor are evident daily: fresh vegetables for the Pope's meals, and even special jams prepared with a secret recipe that they jealously guard, not to mention fresh flowers for the Pope's rooms every day.

And everything they grow is 'organic' - no chemical fertilizers but compost that comes to them from the pontifical farm in Castel Gandolfo, according to their Abbess, Maria Sofia Cichetti, who spoke to L'Osservatore Romano:

Can you give us an assessment of the five years so far of the Mater Ecclesiae convent at the Vatican?
It has been a grace and a privilege for us to be here at the center of the Church, especially near the Pope and his co-workers. It has been an experience of getting to look at the heart of the Universal Church.

It is true that in all monasteries and convents, priests and nuns, continually pray for the Pope and the Church, but here, we are in the physical presence of who we pray for.

We are nonetheless a monastic, cloistered presence, and we seek to live ever more fully our consecration to the Lord, above all, in offering our daily prayers for the Pope, for his ministry, for his intentions, for the needs of the Church and of all the world.

In our case, it has been a most enriching and joyful experience, because since we arrived here on October 7, 2004, we have been able to meet with the Pope three times, when he came to say Mass in our chapel: the first time on July 2, 2005; the next time on march 21, 2006; and then again last July 3. Each time we were able to speak to him afterwards, and of course, to receive his blessing.

Do you have any particular memories of these five years?
Our little community is composed of seven Benedictine nuns coming from different continents: a Filipino, an American, two French sisters, and three Italians.

Our communal life has been very beautiful, but not entirely problem-free, because even if we share the same Benedictine spirit, the same rule, the same ideals, we still have different mentalities because we come from diverse nations adn cultures.

We have had to work particularly on being in true communion. Of course, we believe the Holy Spirit brings unity, but he needs our cooperation.

The other beautiful experience is receiving persons who knock on our doors. Because even if we are cloistered, and deliberately cut off from the world, we are never spiritually detached from our fellowmen. Rather, we are here for their good. Everything we offer is for others, and since we are Benedictines, hospitality is something structural, essentially built into us. So every guest is seen as Jesus who has come to visit us.

We mean first of all, a hospitality of the heart, which keeps us open to the needs of others, in our prayers and in our affections. But we also receive guests in the parlor, not inside the convent itself, where we have very little space, and because of cloister rules.

Many people come to seek advice and prayers, but above all, to find a listening ear. In our world today, there's little time for anyone to listen to anybody: everyone is always running, everyone is in a hurry. Many times, people just need to find someone who can listen to their problems and their difficulties kindly. This has led to new friendships which we cultivate in prayer.

The other hospitality we offer is to all the various groups from different countries who come to pray at our chapel. They stay for Eucharistic Adoration, for the rosary, and after the prayers, they stay to share a word.

What is the importance of a monastic community within the Vatican?
We see it, first of all, as a vocation, because we were called here by the Pope. Which is a grace and a privilege. To give ourselves and live our life of consecration in a most special environment, at the Vatican, virtually in the Pope's household, where we try to do everything with love and with joy.

What are your sources of support for carrying on the monastic life?
The Pope's assistance, above all. Then, what we 'earn' with our work, because it is right that we should be able to contribute to our own subsistence, like the Holy Family of Nazareth. This is also required by our own Benedictine rule of 'ora et labora'.

Our main manual labor is what we do in the Pope's 'backyard garden' where we raise vegetables for the Pope's table and our own community.

Then we do translation work, we embroider liturgical objects for the church, and we make parchments and miniatures on commission. All of this brings income for the community.

The other work that we love to do, and which is an honor for us, is to take care of the Pope's cassocks, the gsarments that he wears in public.

Left photo, Abbess Sophia presents the Pope with some linens for the Church; right, caring for the Pope's garments.

Have you established a network of friendships during this time?
Yes. Very much. Including those with generous patrons, whose goodness is really quite moving. They send us provisions, furniture and other useful objects. And since we cannot accumulate superfluous things, we are able to share a lot of these with the poor.

We have two special beneficiaries right here in the Vatican: the Casa Dono di Maria run by the sisters of Mother Teresa, where they welcome many needy persons daily; and the Santa Marta pediatric clinic, which takes care of sick babies and children.

In these days of crisis, there are families among those we have come to know who need a helping hand, and we are glad that we can help somehow by sharing what we have - food, clothes. toys. We do not think of this as 'doing charity' but rather as sharing things with our brothers and sisters.

What kind of work do you do in the garden?
It's a beautiful experience for us because we are in contact with nature, adn therefore with its author, God. Tilling the soil is praying with one's hands, as well as a way of praising the beauty of Nature and of the Creator. To see the seeds germinate, to watch the seedlings grow, then see the first flowers and later the fruits - just following plant life in all its stages is fascinating. And it all helps us for prayer and contemplation.

Hoeing, digging and watering plants can be tiring, but it's all worth it when we harvest our tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cabbages, saslad vegetables, mint and other herbs. And all of it is raised organically - with compost and cattle wastes that we get from the Pontifical Villas in Castel Gandolfo.

We don't have an orchard except for a few orange and lemon trees, from which we prepare marmalades according to a traditional recipe. This we do not sell - we give it to the Pope, who appreciates it a lot, and to our benefactors.

We also tend a flower garden for liturgies in our chapel. We grow most especially two varieties of roses - the Beatrice d'Este, which is red, and the Giovanni Paolo II, which is white and very fragrant. During the flowering season, we send roses to the Pope every week because we know he loves them.

What do you say to those who think that cloisters are anachronistic?
That cloistered life is a calling. It's a special vocation that comes to us from God, who calls us to live more intimately with him. It's not a separation or an escape from the world, but a retreat that allow us to live in greater unity with the Lord and all our fellowmen through prayer and spiritual charity.

The essence of Christianity is love, and we know this can be expressed in so many ways. This is how we live it. We associate ourselves with Christ in thr Eucharist, but hidden away, in silence, offering ourselves to the Lord for the life of the world.

Not however for selfish reasons, because it is more restful to live in quiet and tranquility - that would be selfishness. Our lifestyle enables us to give ourselves more and in better ways to God, and to offer our love to everyone with missionary fervor.

The monastic life is a true calling, a most beautiful one, which brings peace, joy and happiness.

Does the Year for Priests also involve a contemplative community like yours?
Yes, we feel that we are called on by the Pope to help bu prayer and even more intense offerings for priests and seminarians. For ourselves, this year, we intend to strengthen our spiritual motherhood - a nun is a consecrated person who loves God sincerely but loves him with a human heart which is also consecrated to our fellowmen, including priests.


In December 2007, the Prefect of the Congrgation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, wrote to all the bishops of the world, requesting them to encourage Eucharistic adoration for the holiness of priests and to recruit "spiritual mothers" to pray for priests and for vocations to the priesthood.

The letter was accompanied by a 40-page brochure (cover above) from which the following pictures concerning the Mater Ecclesiae community were taken:

At the heart of the Vatican, in the truest sense of the word, in the shadow of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, lies the convent consecrated to “Mater Ecclesiae”, Mother of the Church.

This simple building, previously used for other purposes, was remodelled some years ago to fit the needs of a contemplative order. John Paul II intentionally had the inauguration date set on 13 May 1994, the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.

In these quarters the nuns consecrate their lives for the needs of the Holy Father and the Church.

Every five years this responsibility is assumed by a different contemplative order. The first international community was composed of Poor Clares from all over the world (Italy, Canada, Russia, Bosnia, Nicaragua, and the Philippines).

The Carmelites took their place in 1999 and continued to offer their prayers and their lives for the intentions of the Pope.

Since October 7, 2004, the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Benedictine nuns from four different countries came to live in the convent.

The Benedictines met John Paul II in his private library in December 2004.

[It is surprising that the OR says nothing about whether the Benedictines are moving out as their 5-year term comes to a close. Or will an exception be made in their case?]
00Wednesday, September 2, 2009 12:09 AM

I am posting this article - and took the trouble to translate it - only because it represents a secular point of view, that may or may not be valid, about what is taking place within the Vatican. It is very much in the style of the facile speculations that the Italian weekly magazine Panorama usually indulges in. Il Sole 24 Ora is Italy's equivalent of the Financial Times and is widely read.

Bertone goes full steam ahead
towards full power in the Curia

by Carlo Marroni
Translated from

Sept. 1, 2009

The 'junk', or the 'information', depending on your viewpoint, about Avvenire editor Dino Boffo, has certainly accelerated consolidation of Ratzingerian power within the Leonine walls. ['Certainly'? Or 'appears to have...'?]

Management of the crisis brought about by Boffo's case has made evident that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has consolidated his power in the Roman Curia within three years of his nomination as Secretary of State. [But Bertone power is not necessarily always 'Ratzingerian power'!]

There are still dissenting voices - as, for instance, a longtime diplomat who thinks that cancelling Bertone's dinner appointment with Berlusconi was an error, because it confused the institutional aspect of the job with a political issue. [But Berlusconi decided he wouldn't show up, and the dinner host decided there would be no dinner.]

The political-juridical-mediatic affair involving Boffo will have the same effect as a storm at sea: it doesn't last long but it stirs up the depths of the sea and turns up all sorts of things.

But the Boffo case has served in the short term to bring together various lines of thought among Italian prelates who move between the Curia and the Italian bishops' conference (CEI); and it has made visible the chaos that still reigns in the relationship of the Church, in general, with the political world, and with the normalization of such relations that had so far been achieved by Papa Ratzinger's Curia.

The Church is universal, but in Italy, questions affecting the Italian Church naturally take center stage. This can be seen in the 'interventionism' of high Church circles in the affairs of government [When the Church enunciates its doctrines on social issues, that is not interventionism at all, and certainly not in 'affairs of government'. Unless the writer means the individual opinions expressed by some Curial prelates critical of specific actions by the government, such as a perceived lack of compassion for the plight of illegal immigrants], or the reaction of L'Osservatore Romano to comments on the Church in the secular media, or the level of confrontation on events and issues that are even more concerning in other countries, also Catholic.

Until two years ago, dealing with Italian politics and politicians had been entrusted by John Paul II to his faithful Vicar, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who led the CEI for more than 15 years (two years of it under Benedict XVI).

Ruini skillfully steered the Church in the post-Christian Democrat era with quite striking results, dealing setbacks to the center-left, splitting them over issues several times, then practically drew a line for a compliant Berlusconi when the latetr came back to power.

But times have changed, the pastoral and apolitical Cardinal Bagnasco replaced Ruini, and Bertone promptly took upon himself the role Ruini used to play, even saying so in writing so that the CEI and Bagnasco would be clear about it.

Bertone, a Salesian who has become quite close to Ratzinger, has progressively taken the Curia in hand over the past three years, giving it a stamp different from the diplomacy and politics long followed at the Secretariat of State dating back to Cardinals Casaroli and Silvestrini down to Cardinal Sodano.

A style, however, that proved rather weak, especially at the start of the year with the FSSPX fiasco, which showed a failure of governance that strengthened the hand of Bertone's opponents in the Curia.

Now there's a new climate. The success of the Pope's trip to the Holy Land and of his encyclical Caritas in Veritate gave a fresh coat of paint to Bertone's leadership [Excuse me, but that was all thanks to the Pope, not to Bertone or anyone else in the Curia!], who has also now positioned his own people in strategic positions within the Curia, starting with the young Ettore Balestrero, the new undersecretary for foreign relations. [Are the new Curial nominations Bertone's people primarily, or Pope Benedict's people?]

He has also re-launched relations with his deputy for internal affairs, Mons. Fernando Filoni, who headed those who rooted for the American Brian Wells to be named general counsel for internal affaits replacing the Sodanist Mons. Gabriele Caccia.

But the central given is that Bertone has definitely assumed full powers, which until recently, did not seem to be the case. [How does Marroni know this for a fact?]

The currents that worked against him were all traceable to the so called 'Sodanists' - effectively, all the diplomats in the Secretariat of State who resented the fact that Bertone had no prior experience in Vatican diplomacy, and to the 'Ruinians' who are still influential in the CEI and in the dioceses - the sector that has been most involved in the Boffo case.

Bertone has expressed his maximum solidarity with Boffo - who was named editor of Avvenire by Ruini and who remains very faithful to Ruini and his former #2 man, Mons. Giuseppe Betori, now Archbishop of Florence - in the current controversy, although it is a setback to the line that Bertone has assumed lately in regard to attacks by the Church against the Italian government and its Prime Minister.

When Bertone said, in the interview given to L'Osservatore Romano last week, that everything individual prelates say cannot be attributed to the Vatican or the Pope, he was making it clear that the Church should speak with one voice (unless perhaps the prelate is named Veglio or Fisichella) [references to prominent prelates who in recent months have taken positions that can be described at the very least as equivocal or confusing with respect to the official Church line, but which, for some reason, Bertone has sanctioned], and automatically revaluing those who generally work quietly, such as the Pope's current Vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini.

Moreover, Bertone denounced 'maneuverings and gossip' in the Curia, sending a clear warning to those who are working surreptitiously who still do not understand that a sea change has occurred.

When the Pope went to Bertone's hometown of Romano Canavese during his vacation last July, it was a vote of confidence in his 'prime minister' that gave the lie to many rumors that Bertone was in hot water, especially when he was not among four cardinals (Ruini, Bagnasco, Scola and Schoenborn) whom the Pope summoned to Castel Gandolfo recently for a consultation.

Of course, Bertone's consolidation of power - which may soon include changes at the Vatican bank IOR, in which Cardinal Sodano maintains some influence - has taken place incrementally, and the effective 'emptying out' of any direct political role for the CEI has not been taken lying down: many bishops still insist on expressing their personal positions, contributing to create an impression of confusion to the outside world - a confusion with Bertone's Curia wishes to correct.

Also, bishops are marking out their personal niches, such as the Patriarch of Venice, Angelo Scola, who appears to eschew Italian affairs in favor of promoting dialog with the Muslim world through his Oasis Foundation.

Or Archbishop Carlo Cafarra of Bologna, who holds a firm conservative line on bioethical issues, the field in which Church influence is most likely to be challenged these days, starting with the campaign to disallow widespread use of the abortifacient RU-486.

Berlusconi and his ministers are now trying to regain ground and consensus from the Church hierarchy, so the Church may have a good hand for now. But it may have to fight for retaining government funding for Catholic schools. [It is perhaps to Berlusconi's credit that he does not see 'good relations' with the Church as a political disadvantage.]

The editor of L'Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Gian [Bertone's man], said yesterday that the relations between the Holy See and the Italian government are 'excellent', presumably articulating the line from the Third Loggia [refers to the physical location of the Secretariat of State in the Apostolic Palace]

Moreover, Vian also criticizes the CEI newspaper Avvenire for its editorial denunciations of government policy on immigration - and given what is happening, this too is significant. [Namely, that Bertone does not want Avvenire to attack the government?]

I dislike the entire premise of this article which implies that Bertone is really the decisive power in 'running' the Church. Yes, he is administratively responsible for the government of both the Holy See and the Church - just as the Prime Minister of a secular government is.

But the Church is not a democracy, and the Pope has no 'Deputy Vicar of Christ' or "Deputy Successor of Peter'. He is absolute sovereign of both the Holy See and of the Roman Catholic Church.

Bertone's role is to assist the sovereign in practical matters, which means, to execute actions which the sovereign wants and intends. Not to carry out initiatives of his own for the sake of consolidating power. Power is not necessarily defined by how many key positions he is able to fill with his own people. What he does with it is what matters.

I will believe he has consolidated power in the Curia when he is able to stop heads of dicasteries, like Cardinal Kasper, or prominent cardinals like Cardinals Schoenborn and Lehmann, from publicly expressing opinions which are openly critical of the Pope.

Or better yet, when he is able to mobilize all of the Curia, the major cardinals and the bishops of Italy, at the very least, to promptly express support for the Pope when he is under fire from the media and secular leaders - something that has not happened in the past, and Bertone himself was conspicuously missing in action in the days immediately following the recall of the FSSPX excommunications!

If Bertone can do that, then that is the best test of how much power he has
. Not whether he can prevent other Catholic media from criticizing the Italian government - an unworthy and crass objective when bluntly expressed.

Cardinals Ruini and Bagnasco beat back the Prodi government on its proposed legislation to recognize homosexual marriages by relentlessly pushing the Catholic position - not by being friendly to them. But also without Avvenire making any personal attacks against Prodi and his fellow 'adult Catholic' ministers.

And to his credit, Silvio Berlusconi, for all his questionable morals, has been sensitive enough not to force himself on the Vatican.

When the media began speculating that he planned to be in Viterbo to represent the Italian government, so he could have an opportunity to meet with the Pope, he promptly announced he had no plans to go to Viterbo.

When the media reported that it was bad form for him to go to L'Aquila on the day of the observance of the Celestinian Pardon, given his current moral problems, he promptly cancelled going to L'Aquila.

And even last March, before the new round of scandals arose about him, he did not try to take advantage of the Pope's visit to L'Aquila to share the spotlight, even though as Prime Minister, he had every business to be there as often as he could after the earthquake [as he has been].

And as I pointed out, he has never been reported to openly seek receiving Communion, because he is a divorcee. He attended the Pope's Mass in Cagliari this time last year - because he has a summeer home in Sardinia - but did not present himself for Communion.

All that does not excuse his questionable behavior with young women, but at least, he has been proper in his relations with the Vatican and the Church.

Here is Sandro Magister's take on the issue. He actually ties in the case of Obama and the Catholic bishops with the Berlusconi case, but a) I do not believe the situations are comparable at all; and b) this discussion is all about the Italian situation, so I shall not include the first part of the article which may be seen in full on

The Church, Berlusconi and Obama:
Confusion among the powers-that-be

ROME, August 31, 2009 – For a few months, two political leaders of the highest order have been under critical observation by the Church hierarchy in two key countries for worldwide Catholicism: Barack Obama in the United States, and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy.

In both cases, the Holy See and the respective national episcopacies are not taking the same approach. The Vatican authorities appear more inclined to a peaceful and conciliatory relationship, while the national episcopacies appear more critical and combative.

And in both cases, two Church newspapers are also participating in the conflict: L'Osservatore Romano, an organ of the Vatican, and Avvenire, the newspaper owned by the Italian bishops' conference.



With Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, there have been two main causes of friction with the Church in teh past two months.

The first is immigration. The Berlusconi government applies very strict rules in deciding admission and keeping out illegal immigrants. And this has provoked criticism from many Church organizations, for which "welcome" is the first precept, if not the only one.

The official stance of the Italian bishops' conference CEI), according to which welcome must be accompanied and balanced always by legality and security [also the posotion that pope Benedict XVI publicly advocates], is therefore considered – by the Catholic clergy and laity most involved in social assistance, and by some of the bishops themselves – as being excessively moderate, or worse, subservient to the Berlusconi government. The same thing with the newspaper owned by the bishops, Avvenire. [The bishops' newspapere contradicts and criticizes the bishops, is that it????]

But if one compares Avvenire with L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper appears by far more respectful of the government's decisions on immigration.

Giovanni Maria Vian, the history professor who edits the Vatican newspaper, said in an interview with Corriere della Sera today that some of the articles in Avvenire have been so "exaggerated and imprudent" in criticizing the government so as to cause concern at the Vatican. [And I maintain Vian has no business commenting on the editorial policy of Avvenire! It's bad form, unprofessional, improper and a lapse of taste on his part.]

He denounced two of these in particular: an editorial comparing the apparent indiffrence of everyone to the shipwreck of African migrants in the Mediterranean with the extermination of Jews in the Shoah [an erroneous accusation has textually shown not to have been in her editorial at all!]; and another article contesting the statement of the Italian foreign minister that Italy is the European country that has helped the most immigrants at sea.

But even at the Vatican itself, there is no lack of dissenting voices. [You cannot be serious! That has to be the understatement of the decade!]

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for migrants, is extremely critical of the stance of the Italian government on illegal immigrants, and is understandably quite a favorite with the anti-Berlusconi media, even if the Secretary of State has said more than once that when individual prelates in the Curia express their personal views, they do not speak for the Holy See or the Pope.

Another loose cannon against the government's immigration policy in the Curia is Cardinal Renato Martino. But he was recently replaced as president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants by Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, who comes from the world of diplomacy and is prudence personified.

In short, "relations between the two shores of the Tiber are excellent," Professor Vian said in the same interview, meaning by the two shores the Italian government and the Holy See.

The OR editor cited and defended his newspaper's total silence on the second element of the current clash between Berlusconi and the Church.

This second element concerns the Prime Minister's private life, in particular, reported sexual escapades that Berlusconi has dismissed with the words, "In Italy there are so many pretty girls, and I'm not a saint."

The campaign of accusations against Berlusconi's private life was ignited in mid-June by his second wife – from whom he is separating – and above all by La Repubblica, the leading newspaper of the Italian left, which, paradoxically, has always preached liberation from the bonds of Catholic morality.

Since then, this curiosity about Berlusconi's sex life has occupied the pages of many newspapers, not only in Italy, but also around the world. Not, however, in L'Osservatore Romano, which has not printed a single line.

And "for excellent reasons," Vian says, refusing to get the Pope's newspaper mixed up with a journalism "that seems to have become an extension by other means of political infight5ing".

At first, Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops, also kept silent. Or at the most, it prudently expressed the wish that the prime minister could eliminate "shadows" and "situations uncomfortable for all."

But in the meantime, more and more, many bishops, clergy, and laity expressed outrage at Berlusconi's behavior that Avvenire joined the fray.

At the end of June, two days in a row, the newspaper published a pair of opinions side by side: in the first case, by two editorialists for the newspaper, Marina Corradi and Piero Chinellato; in the second case, by two outside commentators, Antonio Airò and Professor Pietro De Marco.

Only Chinellato sided with a public denunciation "ad personam." The others, with different arguments, maintained that although one should denounce the sin but not the sinner, a politician must be judged for what he does politically.

And what about the Italian bishops' conference, publisher of Avvenire? On July 6, the feast of Saint Maria Goretti, a young martyr who died in defense of her virginity, the secretary of the CEI, Mons. Mariano Crociata, lashed out against "the display of a gleeful and irresponsible libertinism," which all of the media interpreted – without any denial – as alluding to Berlusconi.

This homily was like the breaking of a dam. What many bishops, priests, and laity had already been doing on their own - criticizing the prime minister's sex life – was now carried out from that point on by the editor of Avvenire, Dino Boffo, apparently responding to increasing pressure from readers, some of them highly placed.

Boffo would say something, and immediately someone else would tell him that he had to say more. A perfect specimen of this relentless pressure was the letter from a priest in Milan, published on August 12 with the umpteenth response from Boffo.

This display – unintentionally staged by Avvenire itself – appeared to show that the Italian bishops lacked an authoritative and vigorous leader, and that control appeared to be with who shouted loudest against Berlusconi. Even if his government has been quite attentive to the Church's interests in the defense of life and the family.

Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone sought to impose some control and arranged a meeting with Berlusconi in L'Aquila on August 28, on the occasion of the annual pardon instituted by Pope Celestine V.

Before the meeting, Cardinal Bertone gave an extensive interview to L'Osservatore Romano, in which he was very reassuring in discussing relations between the Church and the Italian government.

On the same day, in La Repubblica, lay theologian Vito Mancuso accused the Bertone of wanting to dine at the table of Herod, instead of denouncing his misconduct.

L'Osservatore Romano immediately responded [in a front-page editorial the next day] that the Church does not accept "partisan involvement in contingent political matters," because its concern is for "the individual care of consciences," not public condemnation of the sinner.

At the last moment, the meeting between Berlusconi and Cardinal Bertone was scrapped because of an unexpected attack against Boffo by teh editor of Il Giornale, the newspaper owned by Berlusconi's brother.

In the August 28 issue, Il Giornale had a front page story headlined: "Sexual incident involving 'Avvenire' editor. The supermoralist has been charged with harassment. Dino Boffo, at the helm of the Italian bishops' newspaper and involved in a fiery press campaign against the transgressions of the prime minister, intimidated the wife of the man with whom he had a relationship."

In the following days, the attack was revealed to be dubious and falsely founded. Boffo declared his innocence. [He did not, exactly. He admitted paying a fine to the court for the 'telephone molestations' that he claimed were made on his cellphone by a teenage drug addict whom he was trying to rehabilitate. And frankly, he has yet to contest the claim that he is homosexual. Because if he is homosexual, he will always be a target for the enemies of the Italian bishops and the Church, and would therefore be untenable in his high positions.]

The current president of the CEI, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, defended him completely. And so did his predecessor, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who had named Boffo to be editor of Avvenire and had confirmed his trust in him when rumors began to circulate against Boffo in 2002.

The accusations have been made in anonymous fliers that have been distributed any time there was a desire to attack, through Boffo, the presidency of the CEI.

For example, during the dispute over the appointment of the rector of the Catholic University of Milan, when Ruini's man, Lorenzo Ornaghi, faced stiff opposition from then-secretary of state Cardinal Angelo Sodano, former president of the Italian Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, former prime minister Emilio Colombo, and the director of the university at the time, Carlo Balestrero, all members of the Istituto Giuseppe Toniolo that oversees the university and of which Boffo is also a member.

Recently, these anonymous fliers were circulated again, with the avowed intention of displacing Boffo from all his CEI positions - as editor of Avvenire and as director of teh CEI radio and TV stations. [The flier, in the form of an anonymous letter, was the basis for Feltri's most defamatory accusation against Boffo, that he has a long-standing reputation as a homosexual, with prior complaints received by the police.]

On August 31, the bishop of Mazara del Vallo, Domenico Mogavero, former undersecretary of the CEI and now president of its legal affairs council, said that "for the good of the Church and of his newspaper... Boffo might consider whether it is appropriate for him to resign."

The attack against Boffo in Il Giornale – which is counter-productive for Berlusconi who wants good relations with the Church -
was acknowledged by Osservatore only with a brief indirect quote from Cardinal Bagnasco's homily which touched on the issue.

As for the confusion in the Italian Church, Cardinal Bertone may now be tempted to take back the letter that he wrote on March 25, 2007, to Cardinal Bagnasco, on the occasion of his appointment to as president of the CEI, in which he asserted "the respectful guidance of the Holy See, as well as my own [. . .] concerning relations with political institutions."

Written when the extraordinary leadership of Cardinal Ruini was still at its peak, that letter was interpreted by the CEI as a slap in the face. Cardinal Bagnasco did not reply.

Now it has become strangely relevant again.

[But why would Magister think that Bertone would want to take back the letter? On the contrary, if the CEI were as confused and leaderless as Magister says, it would seem to prove that Bertone was 'right' about wanting to arrogate all political dealings with the Italian government to himself and away from the CEI!

Magister was very critical of the letter then, claiming it was an unwarranted attempt at a power grab by Bertone. Even if not a naked power grab, it was certainly unwarranted, to say the least, considering that the CEI represents the Church of Italy, not the Vatican.

And confusion is hardly the right word to apply to the CEI! Rather there is outright division, with the anti-Curia bishops - sometimes openly anti-Benedict - being among the most outspoken, particularly in the matter of the liturgy and the FSSPX.

The accusation of confusion also ignores that Cardinal Bagnasco has always been clear, firm, unequivocal and prompt about expressing the official position of the CEI on the side of Benedict XVI!

00Tuesday, September 15, 2009 1:10 AM

I had been meaning to do a post on Cardinal Ruini because in the recent brouhaha over Avvenire, and I had set aside a long article by him published last week in Il Sole 24 Ore on the subject of secularism in liberal democracies today.

Thankfully, Sandro Magister has now provided the translation to that article, plus an appropriate introduction for context. I feel this is particularly important after all the recent careless commentary, even by normally sensible reporters, that appeared to minimize or even denigrate the role Cardinal Ruini played to keep the Catholic presence felt on the Italian political scene in the years following the collapse of the Christian Democrats.

From the commentary, one would have thought he had acted out of bounds or to the detriment of the Church, or even that he was acting on his own without the approval of the Primate of Italy, whether he was John Paul II or now, Benedict XVI! How different from the all-around hosannahs that acclaimed his retirement back in 2007 after 15 years as president of the Italian bishops conference!

Early on in Benedict XVI's Pontificate, I was drawn to Cardinal Ruini not only for his record as CEI president and for his obvious loyalty and affection for the Pope, but because reading the texts of his speeches and writings, it was clear that he has a first-rate intellect which he uses entirely at the service of spreading and strengthening the faith. In short, very much in the model of Joseph Ratzinger. I must not forget to thank Sandro Magister, through whose constant and tireless agency, we outsiders got to see Ruini's texts.

Well, after the week that saw Ruini's beloved CEI - and himself and his successor Cardinal Bagnasco - put through the merciless meatgrinder that mass media can be, lo and behold, here is the cardinal launching a new book and relaunching a new stage in the "Cultural Project' of the Italian Church, a project he started ten years ago, and to which, even following his retirement, his fellow bishops elected him to a new five-year term in 2008 as president

A free Church in a free state:
How Ruini sees it

With a book and with a major conference in Rome on God,
the cardinal re-introduces the "cultural project" of the Italian Church -
which emphasizes the priority that Benedict XVI has designated for his pontificate.

ROME, September 14, 2009 – The storm that in recent days has rocked the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, Avvenire, has reignited the discussion on relations between the Church and political power.

During the same period, a circular letter from the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education sent to the bishops all over the world, on the teaching of the Catholic religion in the schools, has again broached one of the issues most commonly protested by secularists.

The relationship between religion and politics is a classic "borderline" question, as expressed in the title of a dialogue, CONFINI (Limits), which has now been published as a book, between the secular historian Ernesto Galli della Loggia and Cardinal Camillo Ruini.

Presenting the book at Palazzo Marino in Milan last September 9, Ruini gave a synopsis of how he views the public role of religion in modern democracies, and the points of agreement and disagreement between the Church and the secularist vision.

His speech, presented in its entirety below, is all the more interesting in that it goes to the "foundations" of the controversy over secularism.

It is a controversy that inevitably touches on the supreme question, about God.

Because "God or no God - that changes everything," in the words of the cardinal, who has dedicated a major conference to the question of God, to be held in Rome from December 10-12, organized by the Italian bishops' conference and in particular by its committee for the "cultural project," of which Ruini himself is president.

'GOD TODAY: With him or without him: it changes everything'

The conference will not be narrowly focused on the Church. It will range from philosophy to theology, from art to music, from literature to science.

And the speakers will be of absolute international prominence in their respective fields: whether Catholic or not, believers or agnostics, from Robert Spaemann to Aharon Appelfeld, from Roger Scruton to Rémi Brague, from Martin Nowak to Peter van Inwagen.

Nor will it be a parade of contrasting opinions, much less a sort of "forum for nonbelievers" of the kind organized years ago by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.

The objective is clear. It is aimed squarely at highlighting that "priority" which for Benedict XVI "stands above all the rest," at a time when "in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel."

The priority – as Papa Ratzinger wrote in his letter to bishops dated March 10, 2009 – is "to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses 'to the end' – in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen."

A conference of this magnitude is an absolute first for the Italian bishops' conference. It is one of the highest expressions of the "cultural project" that Ruini conceived.

Because this project is none other than "an effort to transform the Church's message for popular culture," as the rector of the Catholic University of Milan, Lorenzo Ornaghi, said in commenting on the book by Ruini and Galli della Loggia. An effort that has had, and still has, one of its most important platforms in Avvenire.

But it's time to let the cardinal speak.

A positive secularism for the future
by Cardinal Camillo Ruini

Secularism ["laicità"] is one of the great issues that has been discussed for years with seemingly inexhaustible interest. For this reason, it is difficult to propose "innovative ideas" concerning it, as we hope do in this encounter.

In relation to the emergence of something new, I would like to point out in the first place the risk inherent in the word "laicità," not in itself, but because, in Italian cultural and political discussion, it tends to reflect its descent from the French term "laicité," which historically has carried a fairly precise meaning - one that, in my view, is rather narrow, compared to the current problems as well as the influence of the other strand, which for the sake of clarity we will call "North American."

In order that a "new" secularism may be formed conceptually, and above all, that it may take shape in reality, the American foundation seems to me much more useful than the French one.

But first, one must take serious stock of the prominence taken on by the presence of the different religions on the public stage, in addition to the questions posed both by the transformation of customs and lifestyles and by scientific and technological developments, particularly in the field of biotechnology.

I also feel it is important to add a consideration that is not ordinarily talked about, but seems indispensable to me for a correct or intellectually honest framing of the entire issue of secularism and the public role of religion.

This consideration is contained in the subtitle of the international conference on God, organized for next December [in Rome] by the committee for the Cultural Project [of the Italian bishops' conference]: "With Him or without Him, that changes everything."

In 2001, Robert Spaemann illustrated in a very cursory but masterful way the meaning of this statement, specifying that the answer to the question: Does it make any difference whether God exists or not? profoundly changes depending on whether it is given by believers or nonbelievers, by atheists or agnostics.

Authentic believers answer that the difference not only exists, but it is great and radical – in fact, it is the first and greatest – concerning both the manner of understanding reality and the orientation to be given to our lives: for them, in fact, God is the origin, the meaning, and the end of man and the universe.

Nonbelievers, on the other hand, may respond differently depending on whether they believe that faith in God is negative, positive, or irrelevant for the life of man and of society. But in teh strict sense, they are referring only to our belief in God, not to the actual reality of God, since according to them God does not exist, or in any case, we cannot know anything about him, not even whether or not he exists.

Recognition of this profound difference of approach between believers and nonbelievers clears the field of misunderstandings of false uniformity, but it does not at all imply the impossibility of coming together on concrete objectives that are not only important, but, under the current historical circumstances, essential. I will point out some of these later.

Returning to the question of secularism, I would distinguish between the aspects about which there is substantial agreement today, even if it is often obscured by opportunistic controversies, and the points on which disagreement is profound, and even tending to deepen.

Following on the one hand the entry "Laicismo" edited by Giovanni Fornero in the third edition of the Dizionario di filosofia from Abbagnano, and on the other the documents Gaudium et Spes and Dignitatis Humanae from the Second Vatican Council, we can identify the aspects on which there is agreement, above all on the principle of the autonomy of human activities, meaning they develop according to rules that are their own, not imposed on them from the outside.

Behind this agreement, there also remain the differences between believers and nonbelievers - with believers saying that this autonomy has its origin and ultimate condition for legitimacy in God the creator (Gaudium et Spes 36).

A second element of agreement is constituted, despite appearances to the contrary, by the affirmation of religious freedom as an unalienable right of every person, and, at least according to the Catholic Church, of every community.

Decisive in this regard was the work carried out by Vatican II with the declaration Dignitatis Humanae, compared to the Church's previous positions on this matter. But compared to the widespread view in the secular world about the ultimate foundation of this freedom, the Council intended it to exclude a relativistic approach incompatible with Christianity's claim of truth.

I would add that Dignitatis Humanae (no. 7) clearly states that the freedom of man in society must be recognized in the broadest way possible, limiting it only if and as much as necessary. (No. 7)

On the basis of the two shared principles of the autonomy of human activities and freedom, particularly religious freedom, there is also widespread consensus – again, contrary to appearances – on the basic norms or criteria that should regulate relations between the state and religious communities, including those between the state and the Church in Italy.

In concrete terms, this refers to their distinction from each other and their reciprocal autonomy, as well as the pluralistic openness of the structure of the democratic and liberal state to the most diverse positions – including those of a religious and confessional nature – all of which have equal rights and equal dignity before the state.

The reasons for this openness and its dimensions are, however, fairly diverse, according to the viewpoint of the other side, as we will soon see.

The obstacle in Italy, which still survives to a certain extent in other countries, even in Europe, was that of a 'state religion', but this was institutionally overcome with the agreement in 1984 to revise the Concordat 'between the Vatican and the state of Italy]. The protocol added to Article 1 states: "The principle originally recalled in the Lateran Pacts, of the Catholic religion as the only religion of the Italian state, is considered to be no longer in effect."

As everyone knows, the basis for this revision was twofold - the Constitution of the Republic of Italy, on the one hand, and Vatican-II with its recognition of religious freedom on the other.

The objection that the very existence of the 1929 Concordat represented a privilege, contrary to the principle of the pluralistic and equal openness of the state to different religious confessions and cultural positions, did not seem insuperable after the revised agreement.

Concrete relations between a state and the different religious confessions present in the social body cannot, in fact, fail to take history into account, according to which the state may recognize a public character, and not only a private one, for the various confessions, with the concrete effects that follow from such recognition.

As for the aspects of secularism about which there are profound divergences - evident in the problems that have opened up in our time - these are mainly focused, in the liberal democracies to which I will limit my remarks, on the public role that religion can or cannot exercise, and on the conditions under which it can possibly exercise it.

The spectrum of opinions and positions in this regard is broad and varied, but it seems possible to identify two basic orientations, or, I would say, two sensibilities.

One of these tends to reduce the public role of religion, sometimes even to the point of suppressing it, justifies itself by emphasizing, on the one hand, the personal, spiritual, and intimate character, rather than social and institutional, of authentic religiosity; and on the other hand favoring, in the life of a nation, the properly political sphere over the social.

The other orientation tends instead to favor, or in any case to accept without mental reservations, the public role of religion, maintaining also that the social and institutional dimensions are essential for religion, and insisting on the autonomy and irreducible relevance of the social sphere.

It must be clearly stated here that these differences of orientation today appear tangential compared to the distinction, which is commonly made in Italy, between Catholics and secularists, as also between believers and nonbelievers.

Among Catholics, in fact, there are not a few supporters of a practice of religion concentrated on its spiritual aspect, who are quick to criticize the public role of religion and of Catholicism in particular, while among the secularists, especially after the emergence of the new and great ethical and anthropological questions, and after the renewed presence of the non-Christian religions on the world stage, there are many who willingly acknowledge such a role, and often hope for it.

I will now try to present my point of view on this issue in summary form.

Religious phenomena - that is, all of the religions, evidently including Christianity - have no less standing than any other social reality or phenomenon to influence the public sphere, including the specifically political dimension.

Naturally, religions must do this with respect for the rules of democracy and the rule of law, or, to use terminology currently in vogue, "the procedures through which political decisions are formed and expressed".

There is therefore no reason to impose special conditions for religion to exercise a public role: for example, conditions concerning the rationality of its arguments.

In a democratic society, the decision of whether a way of arguing is rational - better yet, plausible and convincing - rests ultimately and solely on the judgment made by citizens collectively in the appropriate forums, usually electoral.

Finally, I would like to indicate the reasons why the public role of religion – in particular of Christianity – is important, and can render a positive service to the life of society.

In other words, I would like to indicate the practical reasons for that "healthy" or "positive" secularism of which Benedict XVI has spoken repeatedly, meaning that it is open to the fundamental ethical demands and the religious meaning that we bear within ourselves.

One fairly significant reason was pointed out by E.-W. Böckenförde years ago, in his classic essay on "The formation of the state as a process of secularization".

The secularized liberal state, in fact, lives according to presuppositions that it cannot guarantee by itself, and among these, as Hegel had maintained, a particular role seems to be played by the moral impulses and limitations arising from religion.

Very recently, Rémi Brague, in a commentary on "Faith and democracy" published in the magazine Aspenia in 2008, proposed an interesting, and in my view an essentially acceptable, updating of Böckenförde's thesis.

In the first place, he extended this thesis from the state to the man of today, who to a great extent has ceased believing in his own value, because of the tendency to reduce man himself to a phenomenon of nature and the total relativism that are at the basis of the current interpretations of secularism - contrary to the openness solicited by Benedict XVI.

It is man, therefore, and not only the state, who needs today – but, in my view, substantially always – a support that he is not capable of guaranteeing by himself.

In the second place, religion is not only, and not even primarily, a source of ethical impulses and limitations. Today, before establishing limits and boundaries, the task is to find reasons to live.

Precisely this has been, from the beginning, the function, or better yet, the mission most proper to Christianity: it, in fact, tells us first of all not "how" to live, but "why" to live, why to choose life, why to rejoice in it and why to transmit it.

The book Confini [Limits], as the subtitle makes clear, is an exercise of "dialogue about Christianity and the contemporary world," which seeks to explore the motivations and restore the concreteness of a secularism which is not hostile to Christianity, but on the contrary, draws much of its strength from it.

Professor Galli della Loggia and I, despite our different points of view, agree on identifying Christianity as an essential guardian of the humanistic inspiration of our civilization.

To give Cardinal Ruini his full due, I am re-posting the most unusual letter to him by Benedict XVI on the day he retired as Vicar for Rome last year. This post originally appeared in the PRF.

Benedict XVI's tribute
to a retiring cardinal

The Vatican today (6/22/08) published the full text of the Holy Father's letter to Cardinal Ruini, following the editorial about it. Here is a translation.

Venerated Brother
Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome

Twenty-five years have passed since that 29th of June, 1983, solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, when in the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia, you received episcopal ordination with the imposition of hands by the late Bishop Mons. Gilberto Baroni.

You have praiseworthily chosen to celebrate this jubilee with priests of the Diocese of Rome who are also celebrating significant anniversaries this year.

Therefore, in this happy occasion, I wish to unite myself with you, dear and venerated brother, in giving thanks to God, recalling the stages of your fruitful episcopal ministry.

First of all, the first three years in your Diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, as Auxiliary Bishop, and titular to the ancient Church of Nepte. Having already been a well-known and respected priest to them, the faithful of Reggio Emilia and Guastalla rejoiced to see you as the primary collaborator of Mons. Baroni in the pastoral leadership of that Church, with the particular assignment of overseeing the formation and promotion of the lay apostolate and the celebration of a diocesan Synod whose theme was "The announcement of the Gospel today in Reggio and Guastalla".

In those years, you were also intensely committed to your work as vice president of the organizing committee for the national convention of the Italian Church that was to be held in Loreto.

Seeing in you a bishop who is faithful and wise, intelligent and far-sighted, my venerated predecessor John Paul II named you to be secretary-general of the Italian bishops conference (CEI) in 1986. Since then till March 7 last year, you have served the Italian episcopate uninterruptedly, particularly since 1991, when you became the president of the CEI.

As I had occasion to note in the letter I sent you on March 23, 2007, you have transmitted with courage and tenacity the magisterial and pastoral instructions of the Successor of Peter, showing great concern to help our brothers in order to receive them correctly and make them operational.

The reason above all which urges me to thank you at this time, Lord Cardinal, is your commitment in the service of the Church of Rome. It was on January 17, 1991, when the Servant of God John Paul II called you to succeed the late Cardinal Ugo Poletti, entrusting to you, as the beloved Pontiff wrote then, "that which is most my own and most dear to me: apostolic Rome, with its incomparable treasures of Christian spirituality and Catholic tradition; with its living strength in its priests, religious communities, and committed laymen, but also with its numberless human experiences, its thousand ferments, its materializations and its expectations."

He knew he would find in you "an expert collaborator who is trusted and generous" (ibid.), one who has known how to subordinate every other interest to the assiduous and affectionate care of the Diocese. You have offered the very same collaboration to me in these last three years.

In the Church of Rome, everyone could observe your great capacity for work, your simple and direct faith, your intelligent pastoral creativity, your faithfulness to the living identity of the Institution through union with the Pope even in the midst of difficulties, your trustful and smiling optimism.

Thus I extend to you, venerated brother, a fervent gratitude for all that you have done in this beloved Diocese. Above all, for having brought to fulfillment the diocesan Synod in 1993.

After the first phase led by your predecessor, you carried out the second stage, promoting the widest involvement of the parishes and all the other ecclesial entities present in the Urbe, particularly through the pre-synodal assemblies at the prefecture level, and through the initiative called 'Encounter with the City', working out an open dialog with the entire citizenry on the most important and complex problems of Rome today. Finally, you led the celebration of that Synod up to the publication of the Book of the Synod.

That book, which owes so much to you, continues to be relevant today to identify the ways suitable for favoring a real encounter with Christ in the areas of pastoral activity that the Church of Rome favors: the family, youth, social, economic and political responsibility, culture.

In order to carry out these pastoral indications, many occasions for reflection and dialog on the principal themes of faith and of pastoral programming continue to take place at the Basilica of St. John Lateran [the Cathedral of Rome]. I think, for instance of the 'Dialogs in the Cathedral' and to the annual church conventions, at which I have personally participated since I was called to Peter's Chair.

Among the commitments of these years of your episcopate in direct service to the Bishop of Rome, how can I not mention the preparation and celebration of the city's mission in preparation for the Great Jubilee of 2000? It was a mission in which the People of God were not only the beneficiaries but also its active protagonists.

Then, there was the Jubilee itself, whose high point was the 20th World Youth Day - an unforgettable experience for the universal Church, for which much is owed to the Diocese of Rome.

But one owes a special word of appreciation for your ordinary episcopal ministry. In the course of years, you have accompanied to ordination 484 diocesan priests, and have favored with various initiatives the establishment of 57 new parochial churches, of two subsidiary places of worship, and of the Church of the College of the Holy Korean Martyrs.

It is also thanks to you, Lord Cardinal, that numerous Catholic communities from other nations of the world have been able to have at their disposal in Rome a church for their celebrations and for keeping alive relationships among fellow countrymen and their lands of origin.

I wish to thank you, too, for what you have done for priests, deacons, religious men and women, seminarians, lay associations and all the People of God in the Diocese of Rome. In these years, the diocese has grown in communion and awareness of the urgency of mission.

In this respect, I must express to you my personal recognition of the dedication with which, during these years, you have introduced me to the complex reality of this beloved Church, accompanying me in my parochial visits, in encounters with the clergy, with the poor, with the sick, with the young.

Thank you for having supported my invitation for a serious commitment to education and for having convoked many times in St. Peter's Square so many faithful to listen, support and encourage the ministry of the Roman Pontiff.

In all these circumstances, you have been a faithful exemplar of your episcopal motto, "Veritas liberabit nos" - Truth frees us. In the name of this Truth, which is Christ himself, you have continually given yourself for the people of God who live in Rome.

For so many other services that you have rendered to the Church and to society in these 25 years of episcopate, one must thank you, venerated brother.

May the Lord, who knows the hearts of men, in particular, the joys and sufferings of pastors, reward you as only he knows, and continue to fill you with his gifts.

I entrust your beloved person to the Virgin Mary, Salus Popoli Romani, to St. Joseph, to the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to the virgin and martyr Agnes who watched over the years of your formation at the Almo Collegio Capranica and whose Basilica on via Nomentana you are the titular bishop.

With great affection, invoking a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I extend gladly to your family, to your co-workers and everyone dear to you.

From the Vatican
June 19, 2008

00Thursday, October 1, 2009 3:56 PM

The Vatican bank has a new president

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi is a staunch proponent of a capitalism inspired by Christianity.
For him, a high birth rate is the main engine of the economy.

ROME, October 1, 2009 – At the same time when in Italy, between August and September, a dramatic ouster was underway for Dino Boffo, who headed the tri0media set-up owned by the Italian bishps conference (CEI), there were silent, subdued preparations for a change at the top of another key organization, the IOR, the Istituto per Opere Religiose (Institute for Works of Religion), better knwon as the Vatican bank.

The IOR itself is going through stormy times. A book describing its misconduct, with indisputable documentation, has for months been at the top of the best-seller lists. But in it, the villain is not so much the IOR as such, but its black sheep of former times, bishops Paul Marcinkus and Donato De Bonis.

The banker Angelo Caloia, president of the IOR over the past fourteen years, is instead depicted in the book as a knight in shining armor, the hero who kicked out the crooks, cleaned out the stalls, and brought a virtuous image back to the Pope's bank.

His resignation, and his replacement by Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, were announced on the morning of September 23, in a climate of peace and mutual esteem.

That same day, the executive board of the Italian bishops' conference – its thirty most prominent cardinals and bishops – started meeting in Rome for their autumn sessions behind closed doors to discuss many issues, including the successor to Boffo. But apparently, the meetings have failed to produce a consensus.

Boffo was much more than a media professional: he represented the "cultural project" of Cardinal Camillo Ruini as implemented in the field of communications - the bridge by which the Church's message became part of "popular culture."

Ruini was president of the CEI for sixteen years, from 1991 to 2007, and with him the Church had become a participant in the public sphere as never before. His project was the perfect application in Italy of the global vision of John Paul II.

With him gone, latent opposition to the Ruini leadership model gained strength among the bishops, the clergy, the Catholic laity, as well as in the Vatican secretariat of state. Boffo was there to hold the line of resistance, at the editor's desk of the newspaper Avvenire, at the television station Sat 2000, with the radio network InBlu,

Now that he is gone too, mowed down by Vittorio Feltri and Silvio [Paolo, the brother, not Silvio!] Berlusconi's Il Giornale, not to mention being sidelined by influential Catholics who were among his best writers, from Vittorio Messori to Giovanni Maria Vian, the latter being the editor of L'Osservatore Romano, the choice of his successor will also reveal the strategy of the Italian Catholic hierarchy for the future.

At the IOR it's a completely different tune. There the replacement has already taken place, and in full transparency, at the wishes of the secretariat of state and with the consent of Benedict XVI.

If Angelo Caloia revealed little about himself, made only rare public appearances, and kept his thoughts hidden, the exact opposite is the case with his successor as head of the Vatican bank. With Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, we know his life and legacy, friends and acquaintances, agenda and ideas.

His most recent appearance, before his appointment, was on September 19 at the Palazzo della Borsa in Genoa. Together with the archbishop of the city and president of the CEI, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, he discussed the encyclical Caritas in Veritate by Benedict XVI.

He said that the current global economic crisis "originated in the failure to follow the guidelines of Humanae Vitae, that is, in the rejection of life and the suppression of childbirth."

Gotti Tedeschi had expressed the same idea in an editorial in L'Osservatore Romano last June 6. If the economic hegemony of the world passes from the West to China, he wrote, it will be because of their different birth rates and population densities. Demographic trends determine the increase or decrease of an economy's productive capacity.

Gotti Tedeschi has five children, "all from the same mother," he specifies. He lives in the countryside of Piacenza, where he was born 64 years ago, in Pontenure, not from from the Po river.

He gets up very early in the morning, like a monk. In his BMW, he gets to Milan by dawn. He reads the newspapers in his office as president for Italy of Banco Santander, the biggest private bank in Europe, owned by a lay Spanish family, the Botíns. Then he goes to Mass, every morning, without fail.

He teaches financial ethics at the Catholic University of Milan. But he is also a board member of Banca San Paolo in Turin and of the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, the operational wing of the treasury ministry.

On September 23, while the Vatican was making public his appointment as the new president of the IOR, Gotti Tedeschi was in Rome for a decisive meeting of the Cassa, to approve a 50 billion euro infrastructure and residential construction project.

The Cassa Depositi e Prestiti is the pet project of treasury minister Giulio Tremonti, for whom Gotti Tedeschi is an advisor "on economic, financial, and ethical problems in international systems," a post instituted specifically for him.

Before his appointment, Gotti Tedeschi had never set foot in the IOR, or even paid any attention to it. But he had already been at home at the Vatican for some time. Secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone had asked for his help last year, to straighten out the financial management of the Vatican's central administration, which had a shortfall of more than 15 million euro in 2008.

The cure seems to have worked. The main culprit of the mismanagement, the secretary general of the administration, Bishop Renato Boccardo, was sent away to be bishop of Spoleto and Norcia. He had aspired to one of the top nunciature positions, and because of this had even turned down the See of Vienna. [How could he be considered for that, when he is Italian not Austrian? Did Magister perhaps mean the Nunciature in Vienna, which is not considered a top post? It was reported Boccardo wanted Paris.?]

In his place now is Carlo Maria Viganò, from Lombardy, who will soon rise to the highest position of the central administration, replacing Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo [as president of the Governatorate of Vatican City State].

Gotti Tedeschi was trained in the American McKinsey school of international finance. As a Catholic, he converted from "superficial" to fervent in the 1960s, under the spiritual direction of the traditionalist thinker Giovanni Cantoni.

The books that revealed his thought to the general public are Denaro e Paradiso [Money and Paradise]," published in 2004, with a preface by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, and Spiriti animali. La concorrenza giusta [Animal Spirits: The Right Kind of Competition]," published by Università Bocconi and with a preface by Alessandro Profumo, president of the largest Italian bank, Unicredit.

But after this there were other publications that were less prominent, but no less revealing. In 2007, Gotti Tedeschi, the most Catholic of bankers, signed an ultraliberal manifesto in 13 points, spearheaded by the former secretary of the highly secularist radical party, Daniele Capezzone.

The manifesto proposed a single 20 percent "flat tax," presidential government according to the American or French model, tax credits for health care and education, the requirement that the public administrator pay for all damages incurred, the changing of the retirement age to 65, tax exemption for overtime work, the abolition of professional associations and of the legal status of study certificates.

Years ago, Gotti Tedeschi proposed awarding the Nobel prize in economics to John Paul II, for his encyclical Centesimus Annus. More recently, he nominated Benedict XVI for Caritas in Veritate, which he participated in writing.

He also wished the Nobel prize for English prime minister Gordon Brown, for supporting his ambitious proposal in L'Osservatore Romano, "advantageous" for all, of investment in poor countries, on behalf of the two or three billion people who are only waiting to improve their lives.

The IOR seems too narrow for a new president with such vast and explosive proposals. But the adventure has just begun.

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