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from issue no. 06/07 - 2004

UNITED STATES. Meeting with the Archbishop of Philadelphia

That time when Montini’s face lit up with joy

Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, who received the pallium from John Paul II in the presence of Patriarch Bartholomew, recalls Paul VI’s esteem and affection for Athenagoras. And discusses ecclesiastical and political topics of today

by Gianni Cardinale

John Paul II lays the pallium on Archbishop Rigali, Tuesday 29 June 2004

John Paul II lays the pallium on Archbishop Rigali, Tuesday 29 June 2004

Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, is one of the 44 metropolitans who received the pallium from the Pope at the liturgy for the feastday of Saints Peter and Paul, celebrated in Saint Peter’s Square in the late afternoon of 29 June. The ceremony was heightened by the presence, beside John Paul II, of the Ecumenic Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, come to Rome in a year dense with important anniversaries of events – happy and unhappy – in the relations between Rome and ancient Byzantium.
30Days asked Cardinal Rigali some questions about the significance of the pallium, the presence in Rome of Patriarch Bartholomew and about some matters that concern the Church in America in this year of presidential elections.

Your Eminence, what is significance of the gesture of receiving the pallium from the bishop of Rome?
JUSTIN FRANCIS REGALI: It is the second time that I receive it, ten years ago for Saint Louis, today for Philadelphia, but the significance of the pallium is the same. It is the sign of the unity of the archiepiscopal metropolitan with the bishop of Rome and then it is also the sign of union within a determined ecclesiastical provin­ce – and it is because of this that I received it again – between the metropolitan archbishop and the suffragan bishops. And this year there was an added element, marvelous …
I imagine you refer to the presence at the solemn liturgy of Ecumenic Patriarch Bartholomew, in Rome for the fortieth anniversary of the historic meeting in Jerusalem between Paul VI and the Patriarch Athenagoras.
RIGALI: Exactly. I very well remember, I was a young priest and I was here in Rome, the day Paul VI returned from Jerusalem. He was received triumphantly by the people. Afterwards I had occasion to witness the esteem and affection Pope Montini had for Athenagoras.
Paul VI on his return from the journey to the Holy Land the evening of 6 January 1964 at Ciampino airport, met by the President of the Italian Republic Antonio Segni and Giulio Andreotti, Minister of Defense

Paul VI on his return from the journey to the Holy Land the evening of 6 January 1964 at Ciampino airport, met by the President of the Italian Republic Antonio Segni and Giulio Andreotti, Minister of Defense

In what way?
RIGALI: When I served in the Secretariat of State I acted as interpreter for Paul VI. And I remember as if it were yesterday that, during a private audience, when the speaker evoked the great Ecumenic Patriarch the Pontiff’s face lit up with joy.
What struck you most about the presence of the Patriarch of Constantinople at the mass for the handing over of the pallia?
RIGALI: It was splendid that this anniversary was celebrated in a context of prayer. That the Pope and the Patriarch recited the Credo together and that each gave a homily. Even if, unfortunately, the moment has not yet come to celebrate the Eucharist together. All of this is undoubtedly the fruit of Vatican II which sensitized the Catholic world to the richness of the spiritual patrimony of the Eastern Churches, of those in communion with Rome and also of the Orthodox.
Bartholomew’s visit also coincided with two unhappy anniversaries. The 950th anniversary of the schism of 1054 and the 800th anniversary of the sack of Constantinople at the hands of the westerners in the Fourth Crusade.
RIGALI: What the Pope said regarding the latter is of importance: «How can we also not share, at a distance of eight centuries, the indignation and the sorrow that Pope Innocent III immediately showed, at the news of what had happened?»
The greatest obstacle perhaps in the dialogue between Rome and Orthodoxy is the question of the primacy of jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome. The Orthodox tend to perceive it as a hegemonic assault on them…
RIGALI: It’s true that way of looking sometimes exists. But the Pope really doesn’t want it to be like that, he doesn’t want the role of the successor of Peter to be, or be perceived as hegemony, but as a service to unity according to the will of Jesus Christ. The bishop of Rome is the servus servorum Dei, he is the servant of the whole Church.
Before coming to Rome you took part in a plenary assembly of the Episcopal Conference of the US, at which the main topic of dicussion was the attitude to adopt towards Catholic politicians who promote politics contrary to the teaching of the Church…
RIGALI: The gathering didn’t only discuss politicians, but also the conditions required for any member of the faithful whatsoever to take Holy Communion. And the bishops confirmed the doctrine of the Church, which is also that expressed by Saint Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, about the dispositions required of all. To receive Communion it’s necessary to be in the grace of God and to believe what the Church teaches. And politicians are no exception.
John Paul II concelebrates the solemn liturgy of Saints Peter and Paul with the 44 metropolitan archbishops in the presence of Patriarch Bartholomew I, on 29 June last.

John Paul II concelebrates the solemn liturgy of Saints Peter and Paul with the 44 metropolitan archbishops in the presence of Patriarch Bartholomew I, on 29 June last.

The problem is that this discussion occurs in an election year, in which one of the candidates for the presidency, the Democrat John F. Kerry, is a Catholic and is notoriously in favor of the right to abortion. Is there not a risk that the Catholic Church will be accused of playing a direct role in the race for the White House?
RIGALI: There is always a risk that the teaching of the Church will be wrongly interpreted. Over history the bishops of the United States have always made enormous efforts to avoid giving people indications about how to vote. But the Church has always confirmed and must always confirm the moral principles that all, politicians included, must follow. And the Church has always taught that abortion is intrinsically evil. Not only. The Church teaches that formal cooperation in abortion is also evil. And the faithful, legislators in primis, cannot promote laws that introduce, confirm or sustain something intrinsically evil such as abortion. They cannot do so without consequences.
And what should these consequences be? There are different positions among the US bishops. The archbishop of Saint Louis, Raymond L. Burke, has declared that obstinately pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be denied Communion. Others are not in agreement …
RIGALI: Those who practice abortion or who support the right to abortion are objectively in contrast to the teaching of the Church and must be, or ought to be, aware of not having a fitting disposition to receive Communion. As for the question of denying them Communion, the bishops said that this choice must be judged case by case, on the basis of the concrete situations which arise. The bishops, however, were unanimous in confirming the obligation of teaching not only that abortion is intrinsically evil, but that favoring it is also so, from the legislative point of view as well.
Kerry will be the first Catholic candidate to run for the White House since John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1960. What differences are there compared with 44 years ago?
RIGALI: At the time there was great discrimination against Catholics, so much so that the election of Kennedy seemed barely possible. Today there’s a new discrimination towards Catholics, in various sectors and for various reasons, even if at the political level the obstacles there were forty years ago have gone. The problem today is different. And it’s greater. If a politician declares himself Catholic, is he ready to follow the teaching of the Church to the very end?
The Vatican expert of the National Catholic Reporter John L. Allen jr, revealed that during his visit to the Vatican on 4 June, George W. Bush supposedly complained to Angelo Sodano that “not all the American bishops are with me” on questions such as the defense of marriage. On 24 June the president of the US episcopate, Bishop Wilton Gregory, wrote to every colleague asking them to put pressure on the senators of their own states to get them to vote in favor of a constitutional amendment – backed by the Republican majority – defining marriage as an exclusive bond between a man and a woman. Some peole such as the Vatican expert Sandro Magister of the Espresso saw a link between these two facts. Is there one?
RIGALI: Personally I don’t see any link. The Church is always in favor of everything that safeguards the institution of marriage as it was willed by God. And in this moment a constitutional amendment to safeguard the institution of marriage as a union between a man and a woman is necessary. It’s obvious therefore that the Church would favor such an amendment. And that’s all there is to it.
A last question. For ten years you have been archbishop of important US dioceses. Before that you spent many years in Rome in the service of the Holy See. How do you judge the accusations of anti-Americanism directed at the Holy See for the criticism expressed about the war in Iraq?
RIGALI: The Holy See is in no way and never was anti-American. The Holy see has its own very consistent position on war – which cannot be an instrument to resolve eventual international controversies – and expresses it freely and in all circumstances. On 4 October 1965, during his historic visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Pope Paul VI put it clearly: «Jamais plus la guerre, jamais plus la guerre!». Never again war, never again war! And in this the Church has remained consistent. That stance cannot be branded as anti-Americanism.

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