Benedetto XVI Forum Luogo d'incontro di tutti quelli che amano il Santo Padre.


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    00 3/7/2011 8:39 PM

    So sorry I have been unable to keep up this thread lately as I should, but my recent Internet virus problems have set me back even more, and I still have not regained my stride, so to speak. Never easy to get used to a new computer and different settings, especially if it is the third one in the space of two months! Anyway, here is AP's 150th anniversary story on the OR, and since I have been doing a running critique of the OR - not that it matters to anyone except me and my journalistic scruples/standards - I won't bother to comment on this at all...

    At 150 years,
    the Pope's newspaper raises eyebrows


    VATICAN CITY, March 4 (AP) - The headline was an eye-grabber: "Homer and Bart are Catholic."
    That this homage to The Simpsons was splashed across the Vatican's newspaper was odder still, hinting that as it nears its 150th year of publication, L'Osservatore Romano was trying to be relevant, hip, even a bit controversial.

    It wasn't always so, and the pope's newspaper still is full of dense treatises on obscure 15th century saints, papal discourses and appointments of bishops around the world - the stuff that makes L'Osservatore the Vatican's official newspaper of record.

    But thanks to editor Giovanni Maria Vian who took over in 2007, the once sleepy, eight-page imprint has become a must-read for anyone curious about the papacy and its unique world view.

    It always has been a newspaper not so much of news but ideas. As the future Pope Paul VI wrote in 1961 to mark L'Osservatore's centenary - "It's not enough to report the facts as they occurred: It wants to comment on them to show how they should have happened, or not."

    The new popular slant, however, remains a radical departure from tradition.

    And while circulation and advertising are up despite the global downward trend for newspapers, not everyone is pleased - especially on the other side of the Atlantic.

    American Catholic conservatives have trashed L'Osservatore's editorial changes under Vian, saying the newspaper disserves the faithful.

    "All the confusion fit to print," commentator Michael Novak wrote in the conservative National Review about what he said was the newspaper's ignorance of the abortion debate in the U.S. after its sympathetic coverage of President Obama's 2009 speech in which he asked for common ground on abortion.

    Most recently it was L'Osservatore's handling of Pope Benedict XVI's book "Light of the World" that riled the American right.

    In the book-length interview that came out in November, the pope said male prostitutes who use condoms to prevent HIV might be showing a first step toward a more moral sexuality because they're looking out for the welfare of another.

    L'Osservatore ran excerpts of the book four days before the Vatican's own release date, sparking a media frenzy. It didn't help that translation errors made it seem like the pope was justifying condom use for heterosexual couples. He wasn't.

    But it all outraged the right, which said the newspaper was trying so hard to be relevant that it was no longer serving its publisher: the pope.

    Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver accused L'Osservatore of wronging Benedict by breaking the Vatican's own embargo and publishing the condom quotes without context or commentary.

    Philip Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, called for Vian's resignation.

    "In past months, L'Osservatore Romano has often embarrassed the Vatican, with puerile articles gushing about the merits of Michael Jackson, The Beatles and The Simpsons," he wrote. "But this editorial blunder is far more serious."

    Even Edward Peters, the Vatican's expert witness in U.S. sex abuse cases and an adviser to the Holy See's high court, wrote: "If this media fiasco isn't enough to bring sweeping changes to L'OR than I don't know what ever will."

    Vian, 58, dismisses the criticism and says Americans don't actually read the newspaper, but just media reports about it.

    He acknowledged that L'Osservatore was in part to blame, because it's only a daily in Italian (it has weekly editions in English and seven other languages). But he said the paper did nothing wrong in running the excerpts.

    "This is something I absolutely reject with great tranquility," Vian said in a recent interview inside L'Osservatore's newsroom, inside the walls of Vatican City. "It's a text that speaks for itself. You don't need any context. You understand that he's talking about the fight against AIDS."

    He noted the controversy helped sales: The pope's American publisher said the first 30,000 English editions of the book sold out immediately and a second run of 30,000 is nearly gone.

    And Vian's changes are paying off for L'Osservatore's own numbers: circulation for its weekly imprints is jumping from 350,000 to 400,000 this year thanks to a deal to include a weekly insert in an Italian paper.

    Advertising in 2010 was up 68 percent from a year earlier for the Italian daily edition, which has a circulation of about 13,000 to 15,000, Vian said.

    Like other Vatican-owned media such as Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore is a net drain on the Holy See's finances, though Vian said its losses were contained. In all, it employs about 90 people, lay and religious.

    And Vian expressed no concern for his job. He comes from a family with solid Vatican connections: his father and grandfather were both friends of popes. His own credentials include historian, journalist and professor in the study of early Church writers at Rome's La Sapienza University.

    As a result, Vian seems to have the trust both of Benedict and his No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to whom he reports. Vian said he had never once run an editorial by Bertone's office and had never been asked to submit an article for clearance.

    He said he knew what his editorial limits were: L'Osservatore tends not to write much about the Catholic Church in China, for example. Too touchy. Yet it writes frequently about Pope Pius XII, the World War II-era pope criticized by Jews for having stayed too silent on the Holocaust.

    The German-born Benedict has made clear he thinks Pius has gotten a bad rap and that history will prove he did everything possible to save Jews.

    "We aim for confrontation, for debate, but always with moderate tones," Vian said of his editorial vision. "We don't fear polemics, but we don't look for them, either."

    Vian said Benedict had asked for three things when he named him to the job in 2007: a more global outlook, greater attention to the Orthodox and churches of the eastern rite, and more space to women's issues and female writers.

    For the first time, L'Osservatore has a woman on staff in its Italian daily edition, a culture writer. Women also make up the bulk of the staff for the English and Polish editions, and the German edition is headed by a woman.

    "It's no mystery that if the pope had found the right person he would have named a woman as editor of L'Osservatore Romano," Vian said.

    The new focus on popular culture responds to Benedict's express request that L'Osservatore be relevant to contemporary readers and show that there can be an "opening to God" even in secular, contemporary culture, he said.

    "Certainly we're interested in Shakespeare and Gregorian chant," Vian said. But it's equally important to write about The Beatles, the Blues Brothers and, yes, The Simpsons since they too can have a Christian message.

    The Simpsons headline, he acknowledged, was a bit over the top even though the story was legitimate: It described the recurring story lines in the cartoon of the Christian faith, religion and the question of God.

    "We exaggerated it a bit," Vian said, breaking into English. "We 'sexed up' the news a bit. We had fun doing it. But the argument was not banal."

    Hving fun at the expense of common sense does not excuse the Simpson lapse, in particular!

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 3/11/2011 8:01 PM]
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    00 3/11/2011 8:45 PM

    I do not understand this despicable toadying-to-Israel article by an Italian journalist whom I do not recall to have been so virulently anti-Vatican and pro-Israel before. He's perfectly within his rights, obviously, but as a journalist, he also has a duty to be honest and fair, which this thoroughly one-sided article is not!

    Even worse, it fails to mention that Israel has been 'punishing' the Vatican for more than 14 years now by finding every reason not to move forward on implementing a 'fundamental agreement' with the Vatican. And yet, Israeli leaders openly declare that they count on the Pope to stand up for the nation's legitimacy in the court of world opinion - especially now when, for the first time, they have an American President who considers Israel almost expendable in his totally unproductive politics of accommodation with America's most rabid opponents!

    The Church and Israel
    by Giulio Meotti

    Mqrch 11, 2011

    Who killed Jesus two thousand years ago is simply not the question at hand. What is happening now is what matters.

    Pope Ratzinger, in a new book, exonerates the Jews of allegations they were responsible for Jesus Christ’s death.

    Israel’s relationship with the largest Christian group is different from Israel’s relationship with, say, Albania or Lesotho, because the Catholic Church has more than one billion adherents.

    In 1948, the Vatican described Zionism as a “new Nazism”. This was a forerunner of the infamous UN resolution – “Zionism is Racism”. The repudiation of Israel after the Shoah is an everlasting stain on the Christian’s conscience. [I imagine a whole book can be written to point up the fallacy and falsehood in these statements.] Since then, the Holy See has taken positive steps toward Israel, like the formal recognition in 1993.

    However, Ratzinger’s teaching on Christ sharply contrasts with the latest Vatican’s stances against the State of Israel. This is the real issue in the relations between the Church and the Jews. For example, the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, appointed by the Pope in 2008, just joined a Christian-Muslim workshop in Doha.

    The meeting of the Arab League was focussed on “interreligious conflict regarding Jerusalem”. No Jews were invited.

    La Civiltà Cattolica is a very special Vatican magazine. Every one of its articles is reviewed by the Vatican Secretary of State before publication, so the magazine reflects his thoughts faithfully. [I doubt that Bertone himself personally reviews the articles, which may reflect the official diplomatic position of the Vatican or at least, other positions which the Vatican does not necessarily endorse or oppose.]

    The January edition of this magazine opens with a large editorial on the Palestinian refugees. Adopting the Arab propagandist word Nakba, the magazine declares that the refugees are a consequence of “ethnic cleansing” by Israel and that “the Zionists were cleverly able to exploit the Western sense of guilt for the Shoah to lay the foundations of their own state”. [This statement reflects all that is objectionable about the open partisanship not just in favor of Palestine, but deliberately hostile to Israel, that is evident in some statements from the Vatican and among Catholic bishops in the Middle East.]

    Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric rants on the Holocaust are not very different. “A recent Vatican Synod on the Middle East marked a great regression in attitudes towards Israel”, writes the historian Sergio Minerbi in the Jerusalem Report.

    The Vatican’s instrumentum laboris, a document for the synod on the Mideast just hosted in Rome, blamed Israel as uniquely responsible for the Middle East crisis. The synod was carefully prepared for a year, and it produced a rash of anti-Jewish statements on both political and theological issues. [This is a totally biased and one-sided statement.]

    This ungenerous expression was particular harsh, because whoever goes to Jerusalem sees it filled with crowds of pilgrims, processions, the religious faithful, ethnic groups and all faiths. Religious freedom, freedom of access and belief is total, as it has never been since the time of Islamic conquest. [That may be so, but why does Israel continue to restrict visas to Catholic priests sent to Israel on mission?]

    At the synod, the archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, a cleric chosen by Ratzinger to draft the synod’s conclusions, denied the Jewish people’s biblical right to the Promised Land. [A deliberate mis-statement of facts. Boutros was elected by the Synod not by the Pope, who does not make the minor appointments. And his controvesial statement was an expression of his personal opinion, which the Vatican underscored at the time, and is obviously not part of the Synod's conclusions, as Meotti maliciously implies.]

    “We Christians cannot speak about the Promised Land for the Jewish people. There is no longer a chosen people”. Bustros revived the “replacement theology”, the most ancient calumny that says that because of their denial of the divinity of Christ, the Jews have forfeited G-d’s promises to them, which have been transferred to Christians.

    This idea was reinforced in the synod’s final message, which argues that “recourse to theological and biblical positions, which use the Word of G-d to wrongly justify injustices, is not acceptable.” [While this statement, read in full, can be seen to refer more to Islamist misuse of God's name, it can be offensive to Israel as well, as are the following statements by various prelates, which I find objectionably and senselessly partisan:]

    Edmond Farhat, a Maronite Apostolic Nuncio, described Israel’s place in the Middle East in terms of a rejected “foreign implant” which has no specialists “capable of healing it”.

    The former patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, named by Benedict XVI to work on the conclusions of the synod in a Vatican-owned building run by the Custodian of the Holy Land, presented a document against Israel called “Kairos”. Among the signators are the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, Armenian Torkon Manougian and Copt Anba Abraham, as well as Lutheran Manib Yunan and Anglican Suheil Dawani.

    The document says: “The military occupation is a sin against God and against man”, actually excommunicates Christian supporters of Israel, takes sides against the very presence of Israel, likens the defensive barrier that has blocked suicide terrorism to apartheid, attacks the Jewish settlements invoking the name of God and conceptually cancels the Jewish state. It even legitimizes terrorism when it talks about the “thousands of prisoners who languish in Israeli jails” and which are “part of the society around us”. In fact, “resistance to the evil of occupation is a Christian's right and duty".

    At the synod, Monsignor Twal said that Israel should be replaced by a new state for Muslims, Jews and Christians, ignoring the problem that Arab refugees and birth rates might sweep away the Jews. Secondly, he said that "100%" of the reason that Palestinians are running away is Israeli occupation.

    A century ago, Europe was the center of Jewish life. More than 80 percent of world Jewry lived there. In the near future, the same percentage of world Jewry will live in Israel. That is why the Vatican’s stance on the Jewish State is much more important for the fate of the Jewish people than the old hat question “Who killed Jesus?”.

    Under atomic and Islamist existential threats, today the remnant of the Jewish people risks being liquidated before the centennial of Israel in 2048.

    Six years ago, the Pope prayed for God to stop the “murderous hand” of terrorists, referred to the “abhorrent terrorist attacks” in Egypt, Britain, Turkey and Iraq, but left out the suicide bombing that had just killed five people in a shopping center in Netanya. [This was an unfortunate omission from a statement made by Benedict XVI at Angelus that then Vatican-spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, then about to step down, tried his best to explain.]

    The future of the Jews doesn’t lie in the question on Jesus Christ, but on the fate of two best friends, Rachel Ben-Abu and Nofar Horowitz, both 16, both killed in Netanya during the terror attack that the Vatican “forgot” to mention.

    Their funerals were punctuated by wails of “Why, God, why?”. Their graves covered with wreaths and flowers. This is the living cross that the tiny State of Israel has had to carry for the last fifteen years.
    [Please spare the melodrama! The tragedy of Arab intolerance and fatal hostility towards Israel is bad enough. To accuse the Vatican of anti-Israeli intentions because of the regrettably partisan personal opinions of Catholic bishops sympathetic to the Arabs is, to say the least, not kosher.]

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 3/11/2011 8:57 PM]
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    00 3/16/2011 5:05 PM

    A martyr for the faith:
    The Honorable Shahbaz Bhatti
    (1968 – 2011)

    by Raymond J. de Souza, S.J.

    March 14, 2011

    We have become familiar with Fr. De Souza for his insightfull commentaries in various publications. This,however, was a homily delivered at a St. Thomas More Society memorial Mass for assassinated Pakistani cabinet minister Shabaz Bhatti, held in Parliament Hill, Ottawa on March 7. He is the chaplain of the St. Thomas More's Society, which is an association of Catholic members in the Canadian Parliament.

    We come today to pray for a righteous man, the Honorable Shahbaz Bhatti, who died early, at age 42. The words of the Book of Wisdom comfort us: “Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years.” He was “pleasing to the Lord [who] took him quickly from the midst of wickedness.”

    There is much wickedness in Pakistan today. The Christian disciple is not asked to pretend otherwise. We pray with eyes wide open in the words of the Psalmist, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, no evil do I fear.” The Psalms teach us an ancient wisdom, namely that the righteous man is often opposed, and that in this world the wicked often prosper.

    The martyr’s death of Shahbaz Bhatti is not something unique to our time or to his country. Christian disciples of every time and place have followed their Master to the Cross and shared in His passion and death.

    A few months ago there was a ceremony to mark the twentieth anniversary of this Sean O’Sullivan Chapel, and Msgr. Liam Bergin, Rector of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, gave an address. He spoke of two alumni of the Irish College. The first, Saint Oliver Plunkett, was Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. He was brought to Westminster Hall in London and tried for being a Roman Catholic, or treason as it was called then. He was hung, drawn and quartered on July 1, 1681—the last Catholic martyr to be executed in England. The second alumnus was Father Ragheed Ghanni, who graduated from the Irish College in 2003 as an international student, a native Iraqi. On June 3, 2007, after celebrating Mass at Holy Spirit Chaldean Church in Mosul, Iraq, he was murdered along with three subdeacons, killed in his car by a hail of gunfire.

    Catholics are no longer killed by the British Crown. They are today killed by jihadists in Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and elsewhere. One day, God willing, that too will stop, but there will be others who hate Christ and His Church and will visit violence upon her. Between Oliver Plunkett in 1681 and Ragheed Ghanni in 2007 there were martyrs aplenty, especially the mountains of them piled up during the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. In just a few weeks we shall mark the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt on the soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II—a near martyrdom of the Successor of Saint Peter only yards away from the martyrdom of Saint Peter himself. The question of the Risen Christ to Saul on the road to Damascus never ceases to echo in the world: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

    Much later that same man, now Paul, the great evangelist of the nations, would write the words of our second reading: For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

    The one who persecuted the Church reached the point of sacrificing himself to the end for that same Church. What changed the one who presided over the stoning of the Church’s first martyr, Saint Stephen, into the courageous witness who would suffer martyrdom himself? It was precisely the encounter with the Risen Christ.

    In the face of death the Christian proclaims the truth of the Risen Christ. The Risen Christ was not an abstraction, or mere theological doctrine, to Shahbaz Bhatti. He knew that the Lord Jesus was at work in his life. He had a personal relationship with Him. He believed that his life was proceeding under the Lord’s Providence. He knew that the Risen Christ is the Lord of History. He knew that the time of his departure was close at hand; he knew that he had fought the good fight; he knew that his race was almost finished. He knew that his service in the cabinet would not be long; he knew that his enemies were already planning to send him to his grave. He knew all this, and yet faced it with serenity and courage. Why? Because he knew that the tomb does not have the final word, that the grave is not the final destination, that the Risen Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that all who belong to Him will rise to eternal life.

    He knew all this, and so on the day before his own assassination he was able to write the following to a friend: I personally believe that it is Jesus Christ who has once again bestowed unto me this responsibility and position with a special purpose and mission to serve suffering humanity, and I am determined to carry on defending the principles of religious freedom, human equality and the rights of minorities.

    Yesterday in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that this good Catholic died as a martyr for religious freedom, speaking of him by name: "I ask the Lord Jesus that the moving sacrifice of the life of the Pakistani minister Shahbaz Bhatti may arouse in people’s consciences the courage and commitment to defend the religious freedom of all men and, in this way, to promote their equal dignity".

    The Church, even amid tears, rejoices in the courage and commitment of this latest martyr. Pakistan needs a government with this courage and commitment to defend religious liberty. The Muslim world desperately needs leaders with this courage and commitment, to listen to what every conscience must know, that to kill the innocent in the name of Islam is not only an offense against the sanctity of life but against the holiness of God.

    We mourn Shahbaz Bhatti as a fellow Christian disciple, and for us Catholics, as a brother in the Church. You who serve in Parliament mourn too in a particular way for one who shared your vocation. To my friends who serve in public office I have said that the most important thing to decide—even when being sworn into office—is on what grounds you would resign. The politician who does not know his grounds for resignation has lost sight of what contribution he might make, what cause he might serve, what witness he might offer. The case of the martyred cabinet minister makes the point with solemn force: On what ground would you stand firm, if it were to cost you your life? The Christian disciple who does not know for what he would die cannot know for what he lives.

    The patron saint of politicians is the sainted martyr Thomas More, the patron of our Society. Thomas More died under the law when the law became lawless; Shahbaz Bhatti died at the hands of lawless men for his efforts to establish religious liberty in law. The laws of men are meant to serve justice, but even at their best can only achieve it imperfectly. The laws of God are just indeed, and the justice of God will not be mocked. So we pray for that moment of which Saint John’s Gospel speaks: Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. We pray that the Lord will bring down His terrible, swift justice upon those who murdered Minister Bhatti, and that his blood be avenged.

    Yet the same passage of Saint John’s Gospel teaches us that our justice is not divine justice; God’s answer to the shedding of blood is not to shed blood anew, but to offer the redeeming blood of His only Son: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.

    The Lord Jesus speaks of the mystery of the Cross, and the mystery of the Cross was lived to its fullest by Shahbaz Bhatti last Wednesday. The Lord is on the Cross, and there also must be His servant. The grain of wheat has now died. It is planted in the ground along the other grains of wheat, from Paul of Tarsus to Oliver Plunkett, from Thomas More to Ragheed Ghanni.

    The ground of Bhatti’s grave is now watered by the tears of his fellow Christians, and those who thirst for justice in Pakistan. Those who weep shed tears of sorrow and tears of fear. In God’s own time, and according to His Providence, the fruit will come. For us it remains to keep faith with the fallen. It remains for us to fight the good fight, for our race is not yet finished.

    The Lord Jesus speaks of His death as the hour of glory, the manifestation of His love in the work of redemption. For Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian disciple, the hour of glory has come. We pray now that whatever sins he committed be forgiven him, that whatever purification remains be accomplished quickly, and that his eyes, which closed upon the violence of this world, may open upon the glory of the Crucified and Risen Jesus, in that special company of the saints reserved for the martyrs.

    St. Thomas More, welcome him home.
    St. Thomas More, pray for us.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 3/16/2011 5:05 PM]
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    00 4/1/2011 7:34 PM

    Catholics and Jews discuss
    the challenges of secularism

    April 1, 2011

    Representatives of the Holy See and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel issued a joint statement Thursday summarizing the contents of the meeting of the Bilateral Commission for Religious Relations with Jews held in Jerusalem March 29 to 31 between the two delegations led by Card. Jorge Mejia and Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen.

    The Bilateral Commission of the delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews held its tenth meeting to discuss the Challenges of Faith and Religious Leadership in Secular Society. The meeting opened with a moment of silence in memory of Chief Rabbi Yosef Azran who had been a member of the Chief Rabbinate’s delegation for many years. Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, co-chairman of the Bilateral Commission, welcomed the participants and reaffirmed the historic nature and importance of these meetings. His counterpart Cardinal Jorge Mejia brought the greetings of the Cardinal Kurt Koch, recently appointed President of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, to the delegates. The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yona Metzger, graced the meeting and expressed his strong support and encouragement for the work of the Bilateral Commission, acknowledging its impact on the positive change in perceptions of Jewish-Christian relations in Israeli society.

    Deliberations sought to define the challenges that modern secular society faces. In addition to its many benefits; rapid technological advancement, rampant consumerism, and a nihilistic ideology with an exaggerated focus on the individual at the expense of the community and collective wellbeing, have led to a moral crisis. Together with the benefits of emancipation, the last century has witnessed unparalleled violence and barbarity. Our modern world is substantially bereft of a sense of belonging, meaning and purpose.

    Faith and religious leadership have a critical role in responding to these realities, in providing both hope and moral guidance derived from the awareness of the Divine Presence and the Divine Image in all human beings. Our respective traditions declare the importance of prayer, both as the expression of awareness of the Divine Presence, and as the way to affirm that awareness and its moral imperatives. In addition, the study of the Divine Word in Scripture offers the essential inspiration and direction for life. The Biblical description of Moses (Exodus 3:1-15) was presented as a paradigm of religious leadership who, through his encounter with God, responds to the Divine call with total faith, loving his people, declaring the Word of God without fear, embodying freedom and courage, and an authority that comes from obeying God always and unconditionally, and listening to all, ready for dialogue.

    The responsibility of the faithful is accordingly to testify to the Divine Presence in our world, (Isaiah 43:10) while acknowledging our failures in the past to be true and full witnesses to this charge. Such testimony is also to be seen in education, focus on youth and effective engagement of the media. Similarly, in the establishment and operation of charitable institutions with special care for the vulnerable, sick and marginalized, in the spirit of ‘tikkun olam’ (healing the world). In addition, the religious commitment to justice and peace also requires an engagement between religious leadership and the institutions of civil law.
    Modern secular society has brought with it many benefits. Indeed, if secular is understood in terms of a broad-based engagement of society at large, this is likely to provide for a society in which religion can flourish. Furthermore the abovementioned focus on the individual has brought much blessing and led to an overwhelming attention to the subject of civil rights. However, in order for such a focus to be sustainable, it needs to be rooted in a higher anthropological and spiritual framework that takes into account “the common good”, which finds its expression in the religious foundation of moral duties. Society’s affirmation of such human duties, serves to empower and enshrine the human rights of its constituents.

    Resulting from the discussion on the practical implications for religious leadership in relationship to current issues, the Bilateral Commission expressed the hope that the outstanding matters in the negotiations between the Holy See and the State of Israel would soon be resolved, and bilateral agreements speedily ratified for the benefit of both communities.

    The Catholic delegation took the opportunity to reiterate the historic teaching of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Nostra Aetate (No.4) regarding the Divine Covenant with the Jewish People that “the Jews still remain most dear to God because of their Fathers, for He, does not repent of the gifts He makes, nor of the calls He issues (cf. Romans 11:28-29)”; and recalled the prayer for peace of Pope Benedict XVI when receiving the Bilateral Delegation in Rome on March 12 2009, quoting Psalm 125 “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people, from this time forth and for evermore.”

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    00 4/1/2011 10:28 PM

    Veaakh is the major Buddhist holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of Siddartha Gautama, the Supreme Buddha (enlightened one), born in Lumbini (Nepal) around 583 BC, and died in Kushinagar (India) at age 80 (463 BC). Vesakh is a moveable feast celebrated according to the full moon, generally in May. Japan and the countries adhering to the Theravada or Mahayana branches of Buddhism observe it on different days.

    Extreme left icon shows all three events in one image, and the subsequent icons represent the events separately.


    Here is the annual message written in all the official Vatican languages to Buddhists of the world

    Dear Buddhist Friends,

    1. On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue I am happy once again to offer heartfelt good wishes to all of you on the occasion of Vesakh/Hanamatsuri. I pray that this annual feast may bring serenity and joy to Buddhists throughout the world.

    2. In the light of an exchange of mutual friendship, as in the past, I would like to share with you some of our convictions in the hope of strengthening relations between our communities. My thoughts turn first to the relationship between peace, truth and freedom.

    In the pursuit of authentic peace, a commitment to seek truth is a necessary condition. All persons have a natural duty to seek truth, to follow it and freely to live their lives in accordance with it (Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, no. 1).

    This human striving for truth offers a fruitful opportunity for the followers of the different religions to encounter one another in depth and to grow in appreciation of the gifts of each.

    3. In today’s world, marked by forms of secularism and fundamentalism that are often inimical to true freedom and spiritual values, inter-religious dialogue can be the alternative choice by which we find the "golden way" to live in peace and work together for the good of all.

    As Pope Benedict XVI has said, "for the Church, dialogue between the followers of the different religions represents an important means of cooperating with all religious communities for the common good" (Message for the World Day of Peace 2011, no. 11).

    Such dialogue is also a powerful stimulus to respect for the fundamental human rights of freedom of conscience and freedom of worship. Wherever religious freedom is effectively acknowledged, the dignity of the human person is respected at its root; by the sincere search for what is true and good, moral conscience and civil institutions are strengthened; and justice and peace are firmly established (Cf. ibid., no. 5).

    4. Dear Buddhist friends, we pray that your celebration of Vesakh will be a source of spiritual enrichment and an occasion to take up anew the quest of truth and goodness, to show compassion to all who suffer, and to strive to live together in harmony. Once again allow us to express our cordial greetings and to wish all of you a Happy Feast of Vesakh/Hanamatsuri.

    Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran

    Vesakh celebrations last year; below, colorful lanterns are part of Vesakh celebrations in Sri Lanka.

    World religions at a glance (2010 estimates):

    Isn't it shocking that the non-religious now make up the fourth largest group, and that thei rnumbers are more than double the Buddhists?

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    00 4/4/2011 4:40 PM

    The truth about
    the Spanish Inquisition

    Thomas F. Madden

    April 4, 2011

    The article was first published in the September 2003 issue of Crisis magazine, but its information about one of the enduring Black Myths about Catholicism needs to be far better propagated and transmitted....

    Because it was both professional and efficient, the Spanish Inquisition kept very good records. These documents are a goldmine for modern historians who have plunged greedily into them. Thus far, the fruits of that research have made one thing abundantly clear -- the myth of the Spanish Inquisition has nothing at all to do with the real thing.

    The scene is a plain-looking room with a door to the left. A pleasant young man, pestered by tedious and irrelevant questions, exclaims in a frustrated tone, "I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition." Suddenly the door bursts open to reveal Cardinal Ximinez flanked by Cardinal Fang and Cardinal Biggles. "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Ximinez shouts. "Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope.... Our Amongst our weapons...amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again."

    Anyone not living under a rock for the past 30 years will likely recognize this famous scene from Monty Python's Flying Circus. In these sketches three scarlet-clad, inept inquisitors torture their victims with such instruments as pillows and comfy chairs. The whole thing is funny because the audience knows full well that the Spanish Inquisition was neither inept nor comfortable, but ruthless, intolerant, and deadly. One need not have read Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum to have heard of the dark dungeons, sadistic churchmen, and excruciating tortures of the Spanish Inquisition. The rack, the iron maiden, the bonfires on which the Catholic Church dumped its enemies by the millions: These are all familiar icons of the Spanish Inquisition set firmly into our culture.

    This image of the Spanish Inquisition is a useful one for those who have little love for the Catholic Church. Anyone wishing to beat the Church about the head and shoulders will not tarry long before grabbing two favorite clubs: the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. I have dealt with the Crusades in "The Real History of the Crusades." Now on to the other club.

    In order to understand the Spanish Inquisition, which began in the late 15th century, we must look briefly at its predecessor, the medieval Inquisition. Before we do, though, it's worth pointing out that the medieval world was not the modern world. For medieval people, religion was not something one just did at church. It was their science, their philosophy, their politics, their identity, and their hope for salvation. It was not a personal preference but an abiding and universal truth. Heresy, then, struck at the heart of that truth. It doomed the heretic, endangered those near him, and tore apart the fabric of community. Medieval Europeans were not alone in this view. It was shared by numerous cultures around the world. The modern practice of universal religious toleration is itself quite new and uniquely Western.

    Secular and ecclesiastical leaders in medieval Europe approached heresy in different ways. Roman law equated heresy with treason. Why? Because kingship was God-given, thus making heresy an inherent challenge to royal authority. Heretics divided people, causing unrest and rebellion. No Christian doubted that God would punish a community that allowed heresy to take root and spread. Kings and commoners, therefore, had good reason to find and destroy heretics wherever they found them -- and they did so with gusto.

    One of the most enduring myths of the Inquisition is that it was a tool of oppression imposed on unwilling Europeans by a power-hungry Church. Nothing could be more wrong. In truth, the Inquisition brought order, justice, and compassion to combat rampant secular and popular persecutions of heretics. When the people of a village rounded up a suspected heretic and brought him before the local lord, how was he to be judged? How could an illiterate layman determine if the accused's beliefs were heretical or not? And how were witnesses to be heard and examined?

    The medieval Inquisition began in 1184 when Pope Lucius III sent a list of heresies to Europe's bishops and commanded them to take an active role in determining whether those accused of heresy were, in fact, guilty. Rather than relying on secular courts, local lords, or just mobs, bishops were to see to it that accused heretics in their dioceses were examined by knowledgeable churchmen using Roman laws of evidence. In other words, they were to "inquire" -- thus, the term "inquisition."

    From the perspective of secular authorities, heretics were traitors to God and king and therefore deserved death. From the perspective of the Church, however, heretics were lost sheep that had strayed from the flock. As shepherds, the pope and bishops had a duty to bring those sheep back into the fold, just as the Good Shepherd had commanded them. So, while medieval secular leaders were trying to safeguard their kingdoms, the Church was trying to save souls. The Inquisition provided a means for heretics to escape death and return to the community.

    Most people accused of heresy by the medieval Inquisition were either acquitted or their sentence suspended. Those found guilty of grave error were allowed to confess their sin, do penance, and be restored to the Body of Christ. The underlying assumption of the Inquisition was that, like lost sheep, heretics had simply strayed. If, however, an inquisitor determined that a particular sheep had purposely departed out of hostility to the flock, there was nothing more that could be done. Unrepentant or obstinate heretics were excommunicated and given over to the secular authorities. Despite popular myth, the Church did not burn heretics. It was the secular authorities that held heresy to be a capital offense. The simple fact is that the medieval Inquisition saved uncounted thousands of innocent (and even not-so-innocent) people who would otherwise have been roasted by secular lords or mob rule.

    As the power of medieval popes grew, so too did the extent and sophistication of the Inquisition. The introduction of the Franciscans and Dominicans in the early 13th century provided the papacy with a corps of dedicated religious willing to devote their lives to the salvation of the world. Because their order had been created to debate with heretics and preach the Catholic faith, the Dominicans became especially active in the Inquisition. Following the most progressive law codes of the day, the Church in the 13th century formed inquisitorial tribunals answerable to Rome rather than local bishops. To ensure fairness and uniformity, manuals were written for inquisitorial officials. Bernard Gui, best known today as the fanatical and evil inquisitor in The Name of the Rose, wrote a particularly influential manual. There is no reason to believe that Gui was anything like his fictional portrayal.

    By the 14th century, the Inquisition represented the best legal practices available. Inquisition officials were university-trained specialists in law and theology. The procedures were similar to those used in secular inquisitions (we call them "inquests" today, but it's the same word).

    The power of kings rose dramatically in the late Middle Ages. Secular rulers strongly supported the Inquisition because they saw it as an efficient way to ensure the religious health of their kingdoms. If anything, kings faulted the Inquisition for being too lenient on heretics. As in other areas of ecclesiastical control, secular authorities in the late Middle Ages began to take over the Inquisition, removing it from papal oversight. In France, for example, royal officials assisted by legal scholars at the University of Paris assumed control of the French Inquisition. Kings justified this on the belief that they knew better than the faraway pope how best to deal with heresy in their own kingdoms.

    These dynamics would help to form the Spanish Inquisition -- but there were others as well. Spain was in many ways quite different from the rest of Europe. Conquered by Muslim jihad in the eighth century, the Iberian peninsula had been a place of near constant warfare. Because borders between Muslim and Christian kingdoms shifted rapidly over the centuries, it was in most rulers' interest to practice a fair degree of tolerance for other religions. The ability of Muslims, Christians, and Jews to live together, called convivencia by the Spanish, was a rarity in the Middle Ages. Indeed, Spain was the most diverse and tolerant place in medieval Europe. England expelled all of its Jews in 1290. France did the same in 1306. Yet in Spain Jews thrived at every level of society.

    But it was perhaps inevitable that the waves of anti-Semitism that swept across medieval Europe would eventually find their way into Spain. Envy, greed, and gullibility led to rising tensions between Christians and Jews in the 14th century. During the summer of 1391, urban mobs in Barcelona and other towns poured into Jewish quarters, rounded up Jews, and gave them a choice of baptism or death. Most took baptism. The king of Aragon, who had done his best to stop the attacks, later reminded his subjects of well-established Church doctrine on the matter of forced baptisms -- they don't count. He decreed that any Jews who accepted baptism to avoid death could return to their religion.

    But most of these new converts, or conversos, decided to remain Catholic. There were many reasons for this. Some believed that apostasy made them unfit to be Jewish. Others worried that returning to Judaism would leave them vulnerable to future attacks. Still others saw their baptism as a way to avoid the increasing number of restrictions and taxes imposed on Jews. As time passed, the conversos settled into their new religion, becoming just as pious as other Catholics. Their children were baptized at birth and raised as Catholics. But they remained in a cultural netherworld. Although Christian, most conversos still spoke, dressed, and ate like Jews. Many continued to live in Jewish quarters so as to be near family members. The presence of conversos had the effect of Christianizing Spanish Judaism. This in turn led to a steady stream of voluntary conversions to Catholicism.

    In 1414 a debate was held in Tortosa between Christian and Jewish leaders. Pope Benedict XIII himself attended. On the Christian side was the papal physician, Jerónimo de Santa Fe, who had recently converted from Judaism. The debate brought about a wave of new voluntary conversions. In Aragon alone, 3,000 Jews received baptism. All of this caused a good deal of tension between those who remained Jewish and those who became Catholic. Spanish rabbis after 1391 had considered conversos to be Jews, since they had been forced into baptism. Yet by 1414, rabbis repeatedly stressed that conversos were indeed true Christians, since they had voluntarily left Judaism.

    By the mid-15th century, a whole new converso culture was flowering in Spain -- Jewish in ethnicity and culture, but Catholic in religion. Conversos, whether new converts themselves or the descendants of converts, took enormous pride in that culture. Some even asserted that they were better than the "Old Christians," since as Jews they were related by blood to Christ Himself. When the converso bishop of Burgos, Alonso de Cartagena, prayed the Hail Mary, he would say with pride, "Holy Mary, Mother of God and my blood relative, pray for us sinners…"

    The expansion of converso wealth and power in Spain led to a backlash, particularly among aristocratic and middle-class Old Christians. They resented the arrogance of the conversos and envied their successes. Several tracts were written demonstrating that virtually every noble bloodline in Spain had been infiltrated by conversos . Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories abounded. The conversos, it was said, were part of an elaborate Jewish plot to take over the Spanish nobility and the Catholic Church, destroying both from within. The conversos, according to this logic, were not sincere Christians but secret Jews.

    Modern scholarship has definitively shown that, like most conspiracy theories, this one was pure imagination. The vast majority of conversos were good Catholics who simply took pride in their Jewish heritage. Surprisingly, many modern authors -- indeed, many Jewish authors -- have embraced these anti-Semitic fantasies. It is common today to hear that the conversos really were secret Jews, struggling to keep their faith hidden under the tyranny of Catholicism. Even the American Heritage Dictionary describes "converso " as "a Spanish or Portuguese Jew who converted outwardly to Christianity in the late Middle Ages so as to avoid persecution or expulsion, though often continuing to practice Judaism in secret." This is simply false.

    But the constant drumbeat of accusations convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that the matter of secret Jews should at least be investigated. Responding to their request, Pope Sixtus IV issued a bull on November 1, 1478, allowing the crown to form an inquisitorial tribunal consisting of two or three priests over the age of 40. As was now the custom, the monarchs would have complete authority over the inquisitors and the inquisition. Ferdinand, who had many Jews and conversos in his court, was not at first overly enthusiastic about the whole thing. Two years elapsed before he finally appointed two men. Thus began the Spanish Inquisition.

    King Ferdinand seems to have believed that the inquiry would turn up little. He was wrong. A tinderbox of resentment and hatred exploded across Spain as the enemies of conversos -- both Christian and Jewish -- came out of the woodwork to denounce them. Score-settling and opportunism were the primary motivators. Nevertheless, the sheer volume of accusations overwhelmed the inquisitors. They asked for and received more assistants, but the larger the Inquisition became, the more accusations it received. At last even Ferdinand was convinced that the problem of secret Jews was real.

    In this early stage of the Spanish Inquisition, Old Christians and Jews used the tribunals as a weapon against their converso enemies. Since the Inquisition's sole purpose was to investigate conversos, the Old Christians had nothing to fear from it. Their fidelity to the Catholic faith was not under investigation (although it was far from pure). As for the Jews, they were immune to the Inquisition. Remember, the purpose of an inquisition was to find and correct the lost sheep of Christ's flock. It had no jurisdiction over other flocks. Those who get their history from Mel Brooks's History of the World, Part I will perhaps be surprised to learn that all of those Jews enduring various tortures in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition are nothing more than a product of Brooks's fertile imagination. Spain's Jews had nothing to fear from the Spanish Inquisition.

    In the early, rapidly expanding years, there was plenty of abuse and confusion. Most accused conversos were acquitted, but not all. Well-publicized burnings -- often because of blatantly false testimony -- justifiably frightened other conversos. Those with enemies often fled town before they could be denounced. Everywhere they looked, the inquisitors found more accusers. As the Inquisition expanded into Aragon, the hysteria levels reached new heights. Pope Sixtus IV attempted to put a stop to it. On April 18, 1482, he wrote to the bishops of Spain:
    In Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, and Catalonia the Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls but by lust for wealth. Many true and faithful Christians, on the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves, and other lower and even less proper persons, have without any legitimate proof been thrust into secular prisons, tortured and condemned as relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and property and handed over to the secular arm to be executed, to the peril of souls, setting a pernicious example, and causing disgust to many.
    Sixtus ordered the bishops to take a direct role in all future tribunals. They were to ensure that the Church's well-established norms of justice were respected. The accused were to have legal counsel and the right to appeal their case to Rome.

    In the Middle Ages, the pope's commands would have been obeyed. But those days were gone. King Ferdinand was outraged when he heard of the letter. He wrote to Sixtus, openly suggesting that the pope had been bribed with converso gold:
    Things have been told me, Holy Father, which, if true, would seem to merit the greatest astonishment.… To these rumors, however, we have given no credence because they seem to be things which would in no way have been conceded by Your Holiness who has a duty to the Inquisition. But if by chance concessions have been made through the persistent and cunning persuasion of the conversos, I intend never to let them take effect. Take care therefore not to let the matter go further, and to revoke any concessions and entrust us with the care of this question.
    That was the end of the papacy's role in the Spanish Inquisition. It would henceforth be an arm of the Spanish monarchy, separate from ecclesiastical authority. It is odd, then, that the Spanish Inquisition is so often today described as one of the Catholic Church's great sins. The Catholic Church as an institution had almost nothing to do with it.

    In 1483 Ferdinand appointed Tomás de Torquemada as inquistor-general for most of Spain. It was Torquemada's job to establish rules of evidence and procedure for the Inquisition as well as to set up branches in major cities. Sixtus confirmed the appointment, hoping that it would bring some order to the situation.

    Unfortunately, the problem only snowballed. This was a direct result of the methods employed by the early Spanish Inquisition, which strayed significantly from Church standards. When the inquisitors arrived in a particular area, they would announce an Edict of Grace. This was a 30-day period in which secret Jews could voluntarily come forward, confess their sin, and do penance. This was also a time for others with information about Christians practicing Judaism in secret to make it known to the tribunal. Those found guilty after the 30 days elapsed could be burned at the stake.

    For conversos, then, the arrival of the Inquisition certainly focused the mind. They generally had plenty of enemies, any one of whom might decide to bear false witness. Or perhaps their cultural practices were sufficient for condemnation? Who knew? Most conversos, therefore, either fled or lined up to confess. Those who did neither risked an inquiry in which any kind of hearsay or evidence, no matter how old or suspicious, was acceptable.

    Opposition in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to the Spanish Inquisition only increased. Many churchmen pointed out that it was contrary to all accepted practices for heretics to be burned without instruction in the Faith. If the conversos were guilty at all, it was merely of ignorance, not willful heresy. Numerous clergy at the highest levels complained to Ferdinand. Opposition to the Spanish Inquisition also continued in Rome. Sixtus's successor, Innocent VIII, wrote twice to the king asking for greater compassion, mercy, and leniency for the conversos -- but to no avail.

    As the Spanish Inquisition picked up steam, those involved became increasingly convinced that Spain's Jews were actively seducing the conversos back into their old faith. It was a silly idea, no more real than the previous conspiracy theories. But Ferdinand and Isabella were influenced by it. Both of the monarchs had Jewish friends and confidants, but they also felt that their duty to their Christian subjects impelled them to remove the danger. Beginning in 1482, they expelled Jews from specific areas where the trouble seemed greatest. Over the next decade, though, they were under increasing pressure to remove the perceived threat. The Spanish Inquisition, it was argued, could never succeed in bringing the conversos back into the fold while the Jews undermined its work. Finally, on March 31, 1492, the monarchs issued an edict expelling all Jews from Spain.

    Ferdinand and Isabella expected that their edict would result in the conversion of most of the remaining Jews in their kingdom. They were largely correct. Many Jews in high positions, including those in the royal court, accepted baptism immediately. In 1492 the Jewish population of Spain numbered about 80,000. About half were baptized and thereby kept their property and livelihoods. The rest departed, but many of them eventually returned to Spain, where they received baptism and had their property restored. As far as the Spanish Inquisition was concerned, the expulsion of the Jews meant that the caseload of conversos was now much greater.

    The first 15 years of the Spanish Inquisition, under the direction of Torquemada, were the deadliest. Approximately 2,000 conversos were put to the flames. By 1500, however, the hysteria had calmed. Torquemada's successor, the cardinal archbishop of Toledo, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, worked hard to reform the Inquisition, removing bad apples and reforming procedures. Each tribunal was given two Dominican inquisitors, a legal adviser, a constable, a prosecutor, and a large number of assistants. With the exception of the two Dominicans, all of these were royal lay officials. The Spanish Inquisition was largely funded by confiscations, but these were not frequent or great. Indeed, even at its peak the Inquisition was always just making ends meet.

    After the reforms, the Spanish Inquisition had very few critics. Staffed by well-educated legal professionals, it was one of the most efficient and compassionate judicial bodies in Europe. No major court in Europe executed fewer people than the Spanish Inquisition. This was a time, after all, when damaging shrubs in a public garden in London carried the death penalty. Across Europe, executions were everyday events. But not so with the Spanish Inquisition. In its 350-year lifespan only about 4,000 people were put to the stake. Compare that with the witch-hunts that raged across the rest of Catholic and Protestant Europe, in which 60,000 people, mostly women, were roasted. Spain was spared this hysteria precisely because the Spanish Inquisition stopped it at the border. When the first accusations of witchcraft surfaced in northern Spain, the Inquisition sent its people to investigate. These trained legal scholars found no believable evidence for witches' Sabbaths, black magic, or baby roasting. It was also noted that those confessing to witchcraft had a curious inability to fly through keyholes. While Europeans were throwing women onto bonfires with abandon, the Spanish Inquisition slammed the door shut on this insanity. (For the record, the Roman Inquisition also kept the witch craze from infecting Italy.)

    What about the dark dungeons and torture chambers? The Spanish Inquisition had jails, of course. But they were neither especially dark nor dungeon-like. Indeed, as far as prisons go, they were widely considered to be the best in Europe. There were even instances of criminals in Spain purposely blaspheming so as to be transferred to the Inquisition's prisons. Like all courts in Europe, the Spanish Inquisition used torture. But it did so much less often than other courts. Modern researchers have discovered that the Spanish Inquisition applied torture in only 2 percent of its cases. Each instance of torture was limited to a maximum of 15 minutes. In only 1 percent of the cases was torture applied twice and never for a third time.

    The inescapable conclusion is that, by the standards of its time, the Spanish Inquisition was positively enlightened. That was the assessment of most Europeans until 1530. It was then that the Spanish Inquisition turned its attention away from the conversos and toward the new Protestant Reformation. The people of Spain and their monarchs were determined that Protestantism would not infiltrate their country as it had Germany and France. The Inquisition's methods did not change. Executions and torture remained rare. But its new target would forever change its image.

    By the mid-16th century, Spain was the wealthiest and most powerful country in Europe. King Philip II saw himself and his countrymen as faithful defenders of the Catholic Church. Less wealthy and less powerful were Europe's Protestant areas, including the Netherlands, northern Germany, and England. But they did have a potent new weapon: the printing press. Although the Spanish defeated Protestants on the battlefield, they would lose the propaganda war. These were the years when the famous "Black Legend" of Spain was forged. Innumerable books and pamphlets poured from northern presses accusing the Spanish Empire of inhuman depravity and horrible atrocities in the New World. Opulent Spain was cast as a place of darkness, ignorance, and evil. Although modern scholars have long ago discarded the Black Legend, it still remains very much alive today. Quick: Think of a good conquistador.

    Protestant propaganda that took aim at the Spanish Inquisition drew liberally from the Black Legend. But it had other sources as well. From the beginning of the Reformation, Protestants had difficulty explaining the 15-century gap between Christ's institution of His Church and the founding of the Protestant churches. Catholics naturally pointed out this problem, accusing Protestants of having created a new church separate from that of Christ. Protestants countered that their church was the one created by Christ but that it had been forced underground by the Catholic Church. Thus, just as the Roman Empire had persecuted Christians, so its successor, the Roman Catholic Church, continued to persecute them throughout the Middle Ages. Inconveniently, there were no Protestants in the Middle Ages, yet Protestant authors found them anyway in the guise of various medieval heresies. (They were underground, after all.)

    In this light, the medieval Inquisition was nothing more than an attempt to crush the hidden, true church. The Spanish Inquisition, still active and extremely efficient at keeping Protestants out of Spain, was for Protestant writers merely the latest version of this persecution. Mix liberally with the Black Legend, and you have everything you need to produce tract after tract about the hideous and cruel Spanish Inquisition. And so they did.

    The Spanish people loved their Inquisition. That is why it lasted for so long. It stood guard against error and heresy, protecting the faith of Spain and ensuring the favor of God. But the world was changing. In time, Spain's empire faded away. Wealth and power shifted to the north, in particular to France and England.

    By the late 17th century, new ideas of religious tolerance were bubbling across the coffeehouses and salons of Europe. Inquisitions, both Catholic and Protestant, withered. The Spanish stubbornly held on to theirs, and for that, they were ridiculed. French philosophers like Voltaire saw in Spain a model of the Middle Ages: weak, barbaric, superstitious.

    The Spanish Inquisition, already established as a bloodthirsty tool of religious persecution, was derided by Enlightenment thinkers as a brutal weapon of intolerance and ignorance. A new, fictional Spanish Inquisition had been constructed, designed by the enemies of Spain and the Catholic Church.
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    00 9/2/2011 7:18 PM
    Our Culture Is Saturated In Negativity And Cynicism
    The Irish Times - Friday, August 26, 2011

    By John Waters

    THE THEME of the 32nd Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples is the concept of certainty, as conveyed in the provocative title: “And Existence Becomes an Immense Certainty”. Since Italy has so recently joined us in the economic doghouse, I had half-expected to encounter here an unravelling similar to that experienced by Ireland since 2008. I have been surprised.

    Here in Rimini, in harmony with the challenge of that uncompromising title, there is a recognition that a crisis is under way, but no sense of fatalism, no acceptance that what is happening is definitive for human aspiration or hope. Life is a process tangentially related to economic prospects, not married to them. Life goes on.

    At the meeting this week, thousands of people have been turning out for all kinds of encounters: to hear philosophers and scientists speak about the nature of certainty; to peer at the exhibits depicting the extraordinary life of Blessed John Henry Newman; to learn about the thinking that led generations of physicists to gaze into the atom; to engage with journalists in discussion of the future of the printed word; and to attend some of the innumerable events marking 150 years of Italian unity. The Rimini meeting is essentially a creation of Catholicism, yet acknowledges no bounds within the conventional understandings summoned up by the word “religion”.

    So removed are such phenomena from anything that might be imagined for the mainstream of Irish life that it is difficult to avoid the sense that some quite shocking impoverishment has descended on our own culture, and that this has arisen from the collapse of the religious dimension.

    We live in an age when the desire for certainty seems to exist in inverse to its availability. But, instead of risking more to know more, we reduce the terms and ratchet down the framework of potential understanding so as to make it appear that we have come to know almost everything. Thus, present uncertainties seem to accompany an almost overwhelming desire that all matters be settled once and for all. And the more intense becomes our preoccupation with pinning everything down, the more the uncertainty grows.

    One of the insights that surfaced again and again this week in Rimini is that human certainty is not what our cultures have decided: a definitive clarity concerning facts and meanings. Rather, it has to do with the determination of the stride along a particular path. Every understanding, every discovery, is contingent. Several leading scientists, including Lucio Rossi, who worked on the Large Hadron Collider, and John Polkinghorne, former president of Queens’ College, Cambridge, spoke about the tentative nature of scientific voyaging. Because science constantly contradicts itself, they seemed to agree, it is not possible to “arrive” anywhere, but only to move forward with a confidence that supplies its own, provisional, certitude.

    If asked to put one word on the mood of Ireland, I might until this week have proffered “rage”. Now I glimpse that the point is really that the dominant emotion is reactive and negative rather than creative or constructive. What, for example, has been the most acclaimed political speech of the past year? Not some visionary call-to-arms or invocation of the Irish spirit, but the Taoiseach’s denunciation of the pope and the Vatican last month. The urge is to denounce everything rather than announce anything.

    This goes a long way towards explaining the difficulty we experience throwing up a plausible successor to President Mary McAleese, who wowed the Rimini meeting this time last year. Our culture is too saturated in negativity and cynicism to yield a “leader” other than one who represents a two-fingers to itself.

    I believe these deficiencies of Irish culture arise overwhelmingly from the nature of two key edifices of our culture: education and journalism.

    The neglect of philosophy in our schools is one dimension of the problem. More serious is that our education system works on the development of retention rather than reason. The fragmented nature of what we call education, as Cardinal Newman diagnosed 150 years ago, imparts packets of information under various headings with no overarching code by which to join things up.

    Journalism, itself the product of the stunted mode of education, reduces everything a little further so as to confine the description of reality within its control.

    Dictating and informing the daily menu of mainstream thinking, our media commentary is overwhelmingly shallow, reactive and driven by simplistic and unacknowledged ideologies that work off citizens’ negative emotions to promote a sense of destination that is a mirage. Scepticism, the most vital element of a healthy journalism, has gone out of control, so that the dominant energies tend towards demolition rather than construction.

    The culture thus nurtured is angry at, and uncomprehending of, its disintegration, but, lacking any solid ground to stand on, cannot summon up a coherent response directed at saving itself. Patriotism is inexpressible other than as a sideways attack on the unpatriotic actions of others; “values” means the denunciation of inherited ideals; “hope” is a circular sentimentality, expected to generate itself out of nothing.

    Everything unravels, while the commentary implies a certain progress.


    You can check out more of his opinion pieces on the Irish Times website. Click on the link below.

    Irish Times Archive - By John Waters
    [Edited by DavidInc 9/2/2011 7:39 PM]
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    Very interesting item but very peripheral to Benedict XVI, since it concerns events long before his time at the Vatican, even if it has to do with Fr. Maciel, so I am posting it on this thread...

    Connecticut judge upholds key elements
    of a lawsuit against the Legionaries by man
    claiming to be Fr. Maciel's illegitimate son

    The Hartford Courant
    Sertp. 7, 2011

    A state judge has upheld key elements of a lawsuit claiming that for years the Vatican ignored allegations of child sexual abuse by a priest who founded the Legionaries of Christ, a secretive Catholic order based in Connecticut.

    The suit is being pressed by Jose Raul Gonzalez Lara, a Mexican who claims that he is the illegitimate son of his abuser, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

    In one of the odder twists in the still-emerging story of Maciel, Gonzalez claims that he was one of two children Maciel fathered with a woman in Mexico. Gonzalez said that Maciel was known to his family in Mexico as Raul Rivas and claimed to be a CIA agent and oil executive,

    Gonzalez has said he did not learn that his father was a priest until 1997, when he was about 17. He said his abuse by Maciel began when he was 7 and continued for nine years. The victim was 30 when he filed the suit in June 2010. Maciel died in 2008.

    In the legal decision last week, Superior Court Judge Grant Miller rejected arguments by the Legionaries and its affiliated organizations to dismiss the suit in its entirety.

    Miller dismissed counts in the suit that claimed that the Legionaries knew or should have known of Maciel's abuse. But the judge let stand counts in which Gonzalez claims that negligence by the order contributed to his abuse by Maciel.

    New Haven lawyer Joel Faxon, who represents Gonzalez, said that he will issue subpoenas for senior Vatican officials in an effort to support the negligence case.

    The suit claims that Maciel's sexual abuse of children was widely known in the church for decades, beginning in the 1940s and '50s, but was not stopped.

    [The suit is against the order, not the Vatican, so why does this Jeffrey-Anderson copycat wish to subpoena Vatican officials? If, as the suit claims, the reports ignored by the Vatican were made in the 1950s-1970s, what is the likelihood that any responsible official at the time is still in office, or even alive? This is sheer grandstanding, and the judge a willing participant in it.]

    In 1976 alone, according to the suit, the Legionaries' national director accused Maciel by letter of abusing 20 seminarians, and a U.S. bishop reported Maciel to the Vatican and Pope Paul VI, but no action was taken. Another complaint was made to the Vatican two years later, according to the suit, but there was no response.

    Craig Raabe, the lawyer representing the Legionaries, had no immediate response Wednesday to the decision in court. Previously, the Legionaries have declined to discuss the suit.

    The Legionaries operate the Legion of Christ College in Cheshire and the Legion of Christ in Hamden.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/9/2011 3:55 AM]
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    00 9/26/2011 8:00 PM
    Our vision for the Catholic Voices Academy
    23 September 2011 - University of Notre Dame in London

    by Austen Ivereigh

    The Catholic Voices Academy, which we’re proudly launching tonight, honoured and encouraged by the presence of His Grace, the Archbishop of Westminster, takes seriously two of Pope Benedict XVI’s most emphatic invitations on his historic visit last year.

    The first was made at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, when he spoke of evangelising our culture at a time when there is an active movement to exclude religious belief from public discourse or to privatise it in the name of equality and freedom. “I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful,” he said, “to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum”; and he told us not to be afraid to take up this service. In that same passage he also spoke of the need for “clear voices” which “propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility”.

    Perhaps because of use of the word “voices”, it seemed to us at the time - I think we were in the press centre in Parliament Square - that this was an invitation being addressed very directly to us, one that suggested a path to follow after his historic visit. It suggested that Catholic Voices could be not just about equipping Catholics to put their case effectively in the fast-flowing environment of 24-hour news, but about helping Catholics to develop a new public language, one that could bring the depth of insight of church teaching to bear on contemporary questions.

    The other moment when the idea for the Academy took root was next day, when I was in Westminster Hall to hear Pope Benedict address parliamentarians and civic leaders. Something happened that day in that great place which is hard to name; it was as if the message that the Pope had come to bring - a call for reason and the public square to open to faith - actually occurred, even before he arrived. It was not just that the myth of the British nation-state as Protestant had died: after all, here was the entire British political establishment sitting waiting patiently to be addressed by the Successor of St Peter. It was also that a new kind of a space in British public life had been opened up. It was fleeting, it was a glimpse. And you might say we’ve seen no more of it since then. But I came away convinced that it was real, and that, as a Church, we must help make it so.

    In that Westminster Hall speech, just as in Pope Benedict’s thrilling address to the Bundestag yesterday, was the genesis of what I want to dare to call a new Christian humanism – one that breathes the insights of our faith into the national public conversation, to bolster what the Pope called “the ethical foundations of civil discourse”. In what is the most widely-quoted part of his Westminster Hall speech, Pope Benedict described the benefits of political thought and faith entering into dialogue – benefits not just for reason, but also for faith. “This is why”, he said, “I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilisation”.[1]

    This fruitful exchange – which is the direct opposite, of course, of the secularist ambition of excluding or privatising faith as an individual matter of personal belief – is the best way, the only way, of overcoming the temptations to sectarianism and fundamentalism, whether of religion or of political creeds; and it is the foundation of authentic pluralism. Only when we as Catholics have developed a clearer understanding of what is necessary for true pluralism - namely, religious freedom, the foundation of all our other freedoms - can we make a compelling, universal case against gay marriage, assisted suicide, or whatever the news issue of the moment is that brings us into the studios. For at stake in these questions is not what we, as Catholics, believe, as one group among many in society; it is about what is good for the whole of society – the common good. We, as Catholics, need to be part of that discernment of that common good.

    Last year, when the Pope left us those precious, challenging words in Westminster Hall, they seemed prophetic. Now, a year later, they have taken on a sudden urgency, especially in the wake of the eruption of disorder in early August, which lifted in the veil on chronic unemployment, alienation, family breakdown and criminality among vast numbers of people who are poor, purposeless, and angry, while the rest of Britain has enjoyed unprecedented wealth. The riots, coming in the wake of scandals in banking, journalism and politics, have led to call for a way of “re-moralising” society with values and virtues. What we are living through is, in essence, a crisis of the liberal project. Britain’s liberalism has long shown itself capable of managing and reconciling different interests. But the respect for autonomy which is the cornerstone of this philosophy is unable to meet the very different challenge of this new time, which is essentially cultural: it is the culture on which politics, economics and society depend which has proved deficient. The liberal project, so successful in expanding the freedom of some, often at the expense of many, has reached its limits; it cannot generate the virtues and values necessary for a healthy democracy and economy. A society will break down when progress is defined as the endless expansion of opportunities for the exercise of personal autonomy.

    Who can generate sobriety, frugality, and self-restraint? Who can muster the energies for a common purpose of social regeneration? Culture needs scrutiny according to ethical criteria which are not of its own making, criteria based on a coherent philosophical overview, on universal tenets accessible to reason, that can supply its own answers to questions of human motivation and human destiny. Answering such questions has always been the business of the major faiths. The renewal of culture has to come from civil society, not the market and the state; and it was for us as Catholics among other faiths to be allowed to do so that the Pope appealed in Westminster Hall. It was a twin appeal: to the public square to open up, and to Catholics to take their place in the national conversation.

    We have, after all, great gifts to share: the tremendous body of Catholic social teaching, culminating in Caritas in Veritate, and the witness and experience, here in England and Wales, of the Catholic charitable sector – especially through Caritas and Cafod; we have the Pope’s own very deep thinking about religious freedom, laid out in his historic speech in January this year; and, of course, the many teaching documents of our bishops –the tradition and witness of our Church, the depth of its teaching, and her institutional presence among all races and classes, which makes her the most significant actor in civil society across the world today.

    As Catholics, we do not “possess” this tradition. Andrew Brown, editor of the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ site, who is here tonight, is a Protestant atheist; he gave many reasons in a recent piece entitled ‘Why I am not a Catholic’. But he said that “Catholic social teaching, and the attempts to produce an economics centred around the needs of humans, rather than of money, look like the only thought-through alternatives to unbridled market capitalism – and certainly the only ones which have a chance of widespread popular support.” It is striking, in fact, that among the most influential channels of Catholic Social Teaching in Britain today are non-Catholics. The Government’s Big Society idea owes much to Phillip Blond’s immersion in Catholic social teaching via Professor John Milbank, just as some of the most interesting new thinking in the Labour Party is the result of Lord Glasman’s own insights from that same tradition. We have all learned much from London Citizens and CitizensUK, under the leadership of Neil Jameson, also here tonight, which puts into practice the politics of civil society called for in Catholic social teaching, and in which Catholic schools and congregations here in London play a key role. Phillip Blond is Anglican; Lord Glasman, Jewish; Neil Jameson, a Quaker. So while the Catholic Voices Academy will be a place for unwrapping the Church’s gifts and insights, we will find that some of the best teachers of those insights will be from other traditions.

    Providentially, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales are celebrating the papal visit anniversary by launching a five-year plan to help Catholics be more courageous and confident in expressing their faith. They want us to grasp that at the root of what they call a “truly human, just and free society” is the Gospel and the core moral truths about human beings – truths that respect what Pope Benedict in his address to the German Parliament yesterday described as a “human ecology”. The bishops invite us, a year on from his visit, to be inspired by Pope Benedict’s model of confidence combined with gentleness; and we’d like to think that was an excellent description of the Catholic Voices approach. In both of the books being launched tonight you will find our “10 Catholic Voices principles of good communication”, at the end of which we note how the Pope never falls into the role of persecuted victim. We write: “What did he do, after landing in Scotland? He praised Britain, gave thanks for the hospitality, kissed babies and melted hearts. He had strong words – scandalous words – for his listeners; but they were words of reason, compassion and conviction. He did not command, but appealed. He showed compassion, empathy and real love. And because he had first witnessed, the British people were ready to listen. That was his victory, and it is the only kind we should seek.”

    What we developed last year in Catholic Voices– although we didn’t perhaps realise it at first -- was an approach, a method, a language for putting the Church’s case, one that was appropriate to the media and the public square, a language that was universal and accessible, confident but not aggressive. We did this, as you’ll see from the books we’re publishing tonight, by developing techniques and habits of preparation, tips and principles such as you’ll read about, and a certain mindset. These emerged from the Briefings we held every two weeks over the six months before Pope Benedict arrived; the Catholic Voices who did all those interviews last year, and continue to, say it was the thinking-through time in those sessions which gave them the chance to make their case effectively – by understanding the values behind the criticism, by understanding the need quickly to undermine the preconceptions of the Catholic position imposed by the existing frame. Our “white book”[2] is the fruit of all those sessions – taking each “neuralgic issue” and working it through, so that, we hope, ordinary Catholics need no longer pray for the ground to swallow them up when a dinner party freezes over.

    The Academy seeks to continue, and widen, that thinking-through space, with the aim not just of preparing for interviews, but with the broader ambition of equipping lay Catholics to evangelise our culture. We might think of the Academy as the means by which we translate the wisdom and insights of our Church into the language of the public square. So our links with church organisations and many experts and intellectuals will, of course, be vital. We are delighted to be assisting the Margaret Beaufort Institute in Cambridge, for example, in the lectures they are putting together on Catholic social teaching next year. It has been great to be part of the meetings organised by Caritas and the bishops on deepening social engagement. The Catholic Voices book is, of course, fruit of so many people who helped us last year and I hope will support the Academy by continuing to make available to us their skills in distilling and applying the gifts of our tradition to contemporary questions.

    The Academy is being launched at an exciting and propitious time - a time of crisis in the liberal project, a time of a national search for values and virtues capable of revitalising civic life. It has happened before. As the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has been pointing out in many articles since August, this current time has great similarities to the early nineteenth century, an era of tremendous dislocation, grotesque inequality, social violence, egotism and greed – a high noon, as now, of liberal individualism. Yet the late nineteenth century saw a rapid growth in charities, schools, associations, political campaigns – most of it driven by faith. Within a single generation, crime rates came down, social order was restored, and politics was revitalised by great moral campaigns against slavery, child labour, and so on; what has been done before can be done again. The energy and vision then came from civil society; and the principal engine of civil society, then as now, is faith. The Pope calls us to take our place, in other words, just at the moment when history begs us to.

    When we talk of the Academy developing a new ‘Christian humanism’, this is not an attempt to develop an ideology, still less any kind of political or parliamentary movement. Professor Vera Negri Zamagni, professor at Bologna and wife of Stefano Zamagni, one of the principal thinkers who contributed to Caritas in Veritate, has argued that European Catholics have spent too long focussed on the state and political parties. The same could be said of Catholics here. Zamagni says that Catholics need to come together to develop common ideas, rethinking from scratch the application of Catholic social teaching, and to form what she calls a “critical mass”, creating forums outside and across parties, and exerting pressure on politics from civil society – in other words, holding state and market to account to civil society.[3]

    The first step in that direction, then, is the creation of a forum, a zone of friendship, as John Allen has kindly described[4] Catholic Voices, where Catholics of different tendencies - with others outside the Church who can articulate our own tradition sometimes better than we can - come together with the shared purpose of developing common responses to the challenges of our time. It is a space for bringing to bear the gifts of the Church on major contemporary questions. Over time, if it is fruitful, and it may take years, Catholics disappointed with what is currently on offer from our spent ideologies, whether of left and right – all variants of an exhausted liberalism – can look to the Academy, and the new Catholic humanism which has emerged from it, for inspiration, and say: “yes, this is what I believe”. I was looking for that, as a young Catholic, and did not see it around me – only abroad, or in history. Our contact with young Catholics through Catholic Voices suggests that they, too, are looking for it.

    That set of beliefs and principles, that habit of thinking, we are calling “Catholic humanism”, because it is about criteria for all, for the common good, rather than merely a defence of a minority view. The term will remind some of you of the phrase “integral humanism” associated with Jacques Maritain and Emmanuel Mounier and others in 1940s France, and which would prove so influential on the creation of postwar Christian democracy.[5] But the term is not fixed; it may change; perhaps we should call it Christian humanism or spiritual humanism, or a specific Catholic contribution to the emergence of these. But for now, it is a useful shorthand for what we think could be a major long-term fruit of the Catholic Voices Academy.

    This, then, is the vision. The practical questions of format and membership are not as clear; we want to leave room for the Holy Spirit to act. We have booked three meetings in the next few months – all here at Notre Dame. The first, on 13 October, will consider the topic: “How the Church can help mend broken Britain”. There will be a panel of speakers, who will speak for 10 minutes each; we will grill them; and we will deduce from this some ideas and principles, which will then be shared. Future Academy events may be lectures, or debates. Between now and Christmas, there will be no formal membership or fees to pay; we will supply the wine, and the venue - -which you’ll see downstairs. And by Christmas, we hope, we will have some clearer idea of how to organise these sessions; and how to give it some more permanent footing.

    I want to give the last word to Pope Benedict, in his address yesterday to the German Parliament:

    The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people’s responsibility for their actions. Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. To ignore it or dismiss it as a thing of the past would be to dismember our culture totally and to rob it of its completeness. The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. This three-way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history.

    [1] Pope Benedict XVI, ‘Address to politicians, diplomats, academics and business leaders’, 17 September 2010.

    [2] Austen Ivereigh & Kathleen Griffith, Catholic Voices: putting the case for the Church in an era of 24-hour news (Darton, Longman & Todd), available from Amazon and all good bookshops.

    [3] Vera Negri Zamagni, ‘The political and economic impact of CST since 1891: Christian Democracy and Christian Labour Unions in Europe’, in Daniel K. Finn (ed.), The True Wealth of Nations: Catholic social thought and economic life (Oxford UP 2010) pp 109-110.

    [4] John Allen, ‘Thoughts on post-tribal Catholicism’, (15 April 2011)

    [5] Jacques Maritain, Integral Humanism (1936).

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    00 10/19/2011 12:08 AM

    Ukrainian patriarch discusses
    Church situation in the Ukraine



    Last March a bishop who had not yet reached his 41st birthday was appointed head of the largest Eastern-rite Church in communion with Rome. Only recently appointed a bishop to serve the South American Ukrainian Catholic faithful, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, was elected major archbishop of Kiev-Halychna, thus taking the helm of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, who had already served three years past normal retirement age.

    With some 10 million faithful worldwide, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church holds a unique position within the Catholic Church. It bridges Eastern and Western Christianity, tracing its roots to the Church in Kiev, which broke with Rome during the Great Schism but reunited with her in 1595.

    Acknowledging papal authority and learning from the Western Church, it also retains the Byzantine liturgy and the spiritual heritage of Orthodoxy. Within this rite, the Church truly breathes “with both lungs,” as Pope John Paul II was wont to say: the tendency toward reason in the Latin Church coalescing quite naturally with the Orthodox emphasis upon faith, so often manifested in mysticism.

    Archbishop Shevchuk (center) with Bishop Richard Seminack of the Chicago Eparchy (left) and Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, at a Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Chicago last Sunday, Oct. 16.

    Register correspondent Matthew A. Rarey spoke with Archbishop Shevchuk during his visit to Chicago last month to preside at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas, a diocese of the Ukrainian Church which has jurisdiction over the entire western United States, all of the Midwest (except Ohio), Alaska and Hawaii.

    Especially given your age, one is reminded of two of your 20th-century predecessors: Andrei Sheptytsky and Josef Slipyj. Both became head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church when they were young, and both led the Church through difficult years: World War II, Soviet occupation and Stalin’s brutal clampdown on the Church, which was forced to function underground as the so-called “Church of the Catacombs.” What challenges do you face, and do they in any way compare with theirs?
    I think the biggest challenge our Church faces now is her existence as a global Church. Our center is in Ukraine, throughout its different parts, but we have eparchies and parishes throughout the world. The challenge is how to be one Church in different countries and cultures: how to maintain our internal unity and be pastorally efficient in very different contexts.

    The second challenge — or perhaps I should say: main task of each parish — is how to be efficient in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is especially true in Ukraine, a post-communist country. Church life can be very intensive in one part of our country and in another part completely absent.

    How to fulfill this important task of preaching the Gospel, sharing our faith with all those people who need to be evangelized? — that is a primary challenge right now.

    What is the general state of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church today?
    The Church has been experiencing a big explosion ever since the fall of the communists and our Church coming out from her underground existence in 1989. We are restoring our structures: from parishes to creating new eparchies. And now we are creating the patriarchal structures which can provide the head of the Church the possibility to have a special care for the Ukrainian Catholics in and outside Ukraine. The Church is developing herself.

    We also are focusing on creating new Church structures in central and eastern Ukraine, first of all because a lot of our faithful live there, whereas they might not have lived there in the past. Today, we have three exarchates in those territories.

    What is an exarchate?
    It is like an embryonic eparchy: the basic structures needed to provide good and efficient care to all of our faithful. So we are developing our presence in different parts of Ukraine.

    [The majority of Ukrainian Catholics have long resided in the western third of Ukraine, which was ruled by westward-looking Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the long Soviet occupation of 1946 to 1991. The eastern two-thirds, on the other hand, were long ruled by Russia, which enforced Orthodoxy, and then the Soviet Union, which enforced Russification in order to undermine Ukrainian national identity. The result is that much of Ukraine is virtually missionary country for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.]

    But besides building Church structures, I think it is important to emphasize that we still have many vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

    There was an influx of seminarians in those first exciting years after the Church emerged from underground. Some, however, may have been inspired by religious and patriotic ardor rather than a true calling.

    And, evidently, some men have chosen the priesthood for reasons that don’t exist in America: The priesthood in Ukraine carries social status and offers a good income upon which to support a family in a country whose economy is far from stable. (In the Eastern Churches, married men can be ordained priests, but married priests cannot become bishops.)

    What is the seminarian situation in Ukraine today?
    It’s a very difficult question. Because when a young man asks to be received into the seminary, it is hard to say what kind of motivation he has. But I would say, as a former seminary rector, that we have very authentic vocations. Maybe some 2% or 3% leave after the first year. Thank God we have really good, authentic vocations among the overwhelming majority of seminarians.

    Approximately how many Ukrainian Catholic priests and seminarians are there in Ukraine? Are there enough to serve the faithful?
    We are experiencing a shortage of priests. Right now, in Ukraine, we have 2,500 faithful per priest. It’s too much for a priest to give proper personal care. And we have 2,300 priests serving the faithful. Before the Second World War and the destruction of our Church, however, we had 3,200 priests. So, 20 years after the liberation of the Church, we have not achieved pre-persecution levels.

    Right now in Ukraine, we have five seminaries. Just recently, we opened one in Kiev, just beside my residence. [In 2004 the archepiscopal see of the Church moved from Lviv, the Church’s cultural capital in western Ukraine, to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine and historic center of Ukrainian Christianity.]

    In all, we have about 600 seminarians. We are happy for this, but it is still not enough. In Ukraine we have nine seminarians per 100,000 faithful. But compared to Spain, for example, which has 4.2 per 100,000, we still have a good number of vocations. And a certain percentage of potential seminarians are still being turned away — not accepted for various reasons. Even though we need more vocations, it is not possible to receive everybody.

    Taras Antoshevsky, director of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, told me that “the status of religious freedom in Ukraine has changed for the worse” under President Viktor Yanukovych (elected in February 2009). According to Antoshevsky, the president “sympathizes only with the UOC-MP” [the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, versus the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church centered in Kiev], and he has “found no time to meet with the members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations,” to which the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church belongs. Have things become harder for your Church under an administration viewed as pro-Russian, perhaps in religion as well as politics?
    Right now we are in a different situation than maybe two years ago. Is it worse or better? It’s hard to say. Definitely our president has declared himself to be a faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate.

    We [religious leaders] used to have common prayers in the past, especially on the anniversary of Ukraine’s freedom. This year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of an independent Ukraine. All the leaders of the different churches and denominations asked for the possibility to pray together for Ukraine [at an official government function]. It was not allowed.

    What role does the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in particular play in the life of Ukraine, all Ukrainian churches, in general? And is their job hard, given Ukraine’s long national nightmare under communism, which produced a secularized society with rampant atheism and false ideologies?
    In Ukraine the largest part of society is not evangelized. Right now the Church — or Churches — present a unique social structure which has credibility in society. No one among the politicians or political parties has that same credibility.

    In today’s society, the Churches play an important role as the moral authority. We have an organization called the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations. For over a year the president [Yanukovych] would not meet with its leaders. Finally, this past Holy Thursday, he met with us for the first time.

    But this council plays a very important role in society. When we make a declaration on a specific issue in social life, it has very big repercussions — more than any governmental structure. It’s why we all together are playing a very important role.

    Maybe some politicians don’t know how to deal with the moral authority of the Church. Many people would predict that some political parties or governmental structures will try to discredit the moral authority of the Church: inventing false reports, for example — a new form of persecution toward the Churches in Ukraine.

    What would be the motivation to discredit the Church or Churches? And can you give an example of this discrediting, what we would call a smear tactic?
    The goal may be to eliminate those Churches who would not be easily manipulated by the government, obeying its directives. Those Churches who want to have the freedom to pronounce the truth publicly would be under threat of political persecution.

    For example, recently there have been TV shows that have tried to represent the “true lives” of religious leaders to discredit them in the minds of the faithful. Of course, some of these representations might be true. We’re just humans. But some of them have been done falsely, simply to discredit the Church.

    Ukraine’s birthrate of 1.2 children per woman is one of the lowest in the world. If it persists, the country’s population of 47 million will be cut in half by 2050. What is the Church doing to restore a culture of life?
    There is a whole bloc of activities the Church is promoting. Generally speaking, the Church is trying to protect family values and promote social morality. For example, we have a special Church program to prepare young couples for the sacrament of marriage: to educate them about the Church’s pro-life positions against abortion and contraception. We also have different movements of young Christian couples.

    It is interesting that those parents who were well prepared for the sacrament of marriage — they ask the pastors to help with the program after they are married. Those young people, they themselves are developing this culture of life, sharing their own family values.

    Technically speaking, the government is doing some very positive things regarding the family: supporting the family when a child is born, such as by giving financial support. But, generally speaking, the economic situation in Ukraine is not so favorable for young families.

    Sadly, we are witnessing the destruction of the middle class in Ukraine. There are different reasons why this has happened. Politicians say that the country will become more happy and wealthy if more reforms take place, but the last reforms they did have, they only created more problems; people lost their jobs, their savings; small businesses went under. It’s not so easy today for young couples to rear children.

    Rome recognizes the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church as a “major archbishop,” despite granting him all the prerogatives of an Eastern patriarch as head of a self-governing Church in full communion with Rome. Is this lack of formal titular recognition motivated by Rome’s concern not to rile relations with the Orthodox, especially the Moscow Patriarchate?
    The whole issue of the patriarchate is not a political issue, though, very often, journalists like to speak of it as such. It’s an issue of Church life. I would like to move this issue from the field of politics to the field of pastoral care. I would say that I, as the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, have the same rights as each Eastern patriarch, but I do not have the honorific title. I think the most important thing is the growth of the Ukrainian Church, which definitely is growing toward patriarchal dignity. Right now we do live in a [de facto] patriarchal Church, however.

    [The question was rather petty and I am glad Archbishop Shevchuk answered it well. Not having the formal title of Patriarch never seemed to bother Cardinal Husar, who was even considered papabile in the last two conclaves. In any case, chances are Archbishop Shevchuk will be named a cardinal sooner of later.]

    Please explain that.
    Let me explain by giving an example of a patriarchal Church in action. A few weeks ago we had a patriarchal sabor in Brazil: that is, a general assembly of the whole Ukrainian Catholic Church, with representatives of all the eparchies throughout the world, including monks, nuns and laymen. Not a synod, which would only include all the bishops, but a patriarchal gathering of the whole Ukrainian Catholic Church.

    This is the sign of an existing patriarchal Church. Why? Because this sabor gathered people not only from Ukraine, but from Ukrainian Catholic communities throughout the world, in order to discuss matters important to the whole Church, not just the Church within Ukraine. This is the way of existing for a patriarchal Church.

    Your predecessor, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, stressed the need for a unified Church in Ukraine, erasing the Orthodox divide. Is that your focus as well? And have relations with Russia improved under Kirill, the new patriarch of Moscow?
    To answer your first question, there are two different levels of unity: unity of action and unity of structure. I think the latter is not an imminent goal. Cardinal Husar understands very well that we do not presume to create a unified structure for all the different Churches in Ukraine. First of all, we must have communion [i.e., unity in action]. It is very important to distinguish.

    Maybe it is not imminent, but would you envision a “unified Church in Ukraine” as one being in communion with Rome? Is that the ultimate goal?
    Unifying the Church doesn’t mean uniformity of Church: building a unique structure under the Pope. It’s not like that. Christ’s Church is the communion of the different local Churches. That communion doesn’t mean the dissolution of one Church inside of another.

    From our point of view, we need to restore the life of the Church of the first millennium of Christianity: one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Not a uniform, unifying Church, but one in communion with Rome — and also restoring regional ways of being Christians.

    Before the division of the Great Schism in the 11th century, the Church of Kiev had double communion — with the See of Constantinople and the Pope of Rome — so it was united with East and West. The Church of Kiev, you see, existed before that division.

    So, in order to restore the communion with the Churches in Ukraine, we don’t have to invent something strange or different, but restore the original unity of the Church of Christ.

    And this process, this ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox: Is it easier now when the Patriarch of Moscow is Kirill? That is hard to say. I would say it is different, because he is a different person. But we are trying, first of all, to restore this unity of action, not the unity in structure.

    Unity of action meaning …?
    The common Christian witness of traditional values in today’s society. There is so much that Orthodox and Catholics can do together to restore a society so in need of Christ. That is why I am speaking mostly about strategic alliance now: stressing unity of action, not unity of structure.

    This very terminology [an Orthodox/Catholic strategic alliance on social issues] was announced by the Russian Orthodox Church. I think it can be easily adopted in Ukraine as well. We have to be Christian in today’s secularized world. Orthodox and Catholics, first of all, have to be Christian and commonly witness for Christ and preach the Gospel.

    Does the Russian Orthodox Church continue to view the Ukrainian Catholic Church with suspicion: as an arm of Rome, reaching in to proselytize Orthodox territory?
    There is a lot of prejudice among Orthodox, but also among Catholics: You mention only one of them. I think that developing these simple relationships between the Churches can help overcome these prejudices.

    Prejudices born of history, born of communist ideology and the ideology of the Russia in the time of the czars. It’s something that came from the past. It has nothing to do with the present. I think we need to liberate ourselves from those prejudices of the past.

    Is there still the problem of the Orthodox refusing to return to Ukrainian Catholics the churches that were put under Moscow’s control when Stalin banned the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1946? Does that continue to be a sticking point in Catholic/Orthodox relations?
    It’s not a problem, because today in western Ukraine we use those churches which we built, that belong to us. I think the biggest problem for the Russian Orthodox Church is the fact that many Ukrainians who belonged to it have decided to return to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

    Understandably, Abp. Shevchuk downplays the political exploitation of the Ukrainian situation by the Patriarchate of Moscow as their perennial and most persistent excuse - among many others - for ruling out any possibility of a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch 'until all these problems' are resolved. The Russians claim two main 'problems': 1) They want properties now held by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to revert to the Moscow-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the ground that the properties belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church before the Greek Orthodox 'Uniates' professed their union with Rome in modern times. 2) Abp. Shevchuk referred to the other problem - Moscow resents that these Orthodox Christians chose to be joined to Rome rather than Moscow, and has constantly accused the Roman Catholic Church - in Russia as in the Ukraine - of 'proselytizing' among the Orthodox.
    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/19/2011 12:10 AM]