from issue no.02 - 2004


Resignations of the Cardinals of Aparecida, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia

On 28 January the resignations of the three Brazilian cardinals at the heads of the archdioceses of Aparecida, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia were received contemporaneously. At the same time their successors were named.
In Aparecida, 67 year old Raymundo Damasceno Assis takes the place of Franciscan Aloisio Lorscheider, who will be eighty years old on 8 October next. Damasceno Assis, theological studies at the Gregorian and specialization in catechesis in Munich in Bavaria, a priest since 1968, auxiliary bishop of Brasilia since 1986, was Secretary General of CELAM (1991-1995) and of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference (CNNB) from 1995 until last year.
In Belo Horizonte, 50 year old Walmor Oliviera de Azevedo, substitutes Cardinal Serafim Fernandes de Araujo, who will be eighty on 13 August next. Oliveira de Azevedo, biblical studies at the Gregorian, a priest since 1977, auxiliary bishop of Sao Salvador da Bahia (headed at the time by Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves), has since last year been President of the Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith of the CNNB.
In Brasilia, 57 year old Joao Braz de Aviz succeeds Cardinal José Freire Falcao, who will be 79 on 23 October next. Braz de Aviz, theological studies at the Gregorian and the Lateran, a priest since 1972, was nominated auxiliary of Vitoria in 1994, bishop of Ponta Grossa in 1994 and was Archbishop of Maringa from 2002.
A curiosity: with the resignation of Lorscheider, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger remains the only Cardinal created by Paul VI who is still “in service”.


Where Bernadette was surprised by Our Lady

In La Stampa of 10 February Leonardo Zega wrote the following about Lourdes: «Here the little Bernadette Soubirous was surprised by Our Lady with her apparitions, here she saw gush out of the mud the spring of miraculous water which has made the grotto of Massabielle the center of attraction for millions of tourists, and amazed bishops and theologians by reporting that the Virgin had revealed to her, speaking in her humble “patois”, that she was the Immaculate Conception». Afterwards, having reminded us that it is the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma (1854), Zega referred to the apparitions of Lourdes (1858) as «the unexpected confirmation from on high of the solemn papal pronouncement from the mouth of a child with four scraps of catechism in her head and rosary beads in her hand. As Saint Paul says, God often chooses the small and the weak to ‘confound’ the wise and the mighty».

Audiences with Aznar, Cheney, Uribe, Kharrazi and Ahmad Qurei as seen by The Osservatore Romano

On 23 January the Pope granted an audience to the Spanish Premier José María Aznar. Four days afterwards the Pontiff received Richard B. Cheney, Vice President of the United States.
The visits of Aznar and Cheney received curious treatment in L’Osservatore Romano. In both cases no photo of the actual event was shown, nor was the complete version of the brief papal greeting published. The audience with the Spanish Premier was summed up in seventeen lines published on page 5 of the edition dated 24 January. The audience with the Vice President of the United States was reported in a note of thirteen lines on page five of the edition dated 28 January. In neither of the cases was the news given space, except in the official news item “Our Information”.
On 12 February, the Pope received in audience the Colombian President, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi and the premier of the Palestine Authority, Ahmad Qurei. In this case L’Osservatore Romano (13 February) devoted an entire page to the three audiences, publishing the photos and the complete version – with an Italian translation – of the three speeches of greeting pronounced by the Pope. In this case all the audiences were reported on the first page.

The Passion/1
«It’s just as it happened in reality». Or not?

«It’s just as it happened in reality.» This phrase of the Pope’s, referring to The Passion, by director Mel Gibson, has been at the center of a little international thriller. Sandro Magister, reconstructed the intricate event in L’Espresso of 12 February. It all began on 8 December when the Pope’s secretary, Stanislaw Dwiwisz, received Steve McEveety, the American producer of the film and his wife, Jan Michelini, assistant director to Gibson, and the father of Jan Alberto, the Forza Italia parliamentarian. The purpose of the meeting was to thank the four who had made it possible for the Pope to view the film in preview. And it was on that very occasion, according to the guests, that Dziwisz quoted the Pope’s words to them. The Pope’s alleged comment came after senior prelates had already commented in favor of the film, among them Darío Castrillón Hoyos and the right hand man of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Monsignor Augustine di Noia, as well as authoritative ecclesial movements, such as Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ. And it immediately circled the globe. Until 19 January, when Dziwisz denied it. Magister’s article ends like this: «And there was pandemonium. Jan Michelini reconfirmed his version. McEveety circulated an e-mail message from Navarro telling him not to worry and to continue using the fateful phrase of the Pope “again and again and again”. Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News requested further confirmation from Navarro who replied that no, his messages to McEveety and to others were never his, but were forged. And yet all of them turned out to be coming from the same Vatican website address, the one from which their denial had been issued. On 22 January the Director of the Vatican News Agency issued an official communiqué: “It is the Holy Father’s habit not to express public judgments on artistic works”. But in private? For sure, great lies took the public limelight».

The Passion/2
The passion of Jesus and the childrens’ catechism

In Repubblica of 11 February Vittorio Zucconi, commenting on the film The Passion, wrote that, for the ordinary Christian who is not much of an evangelizer, after seeing so much blood, the sequence in which the risen Christ emerges from the tomb «creates a yearning. The desire comes back for the affectionate, tranquilizing, somewhat simple Christ of our childhood catechisms, with all his open-heartedness».

Sacred College/1
The death of Cardinal Rossi. The 80th birthdays of Lourdusamy, Piovanelli, Deskur

On 9 February 93 year old Cardinal Opilio Rossi, the apostolic nuncio created cardinal by Paul VI in 1976, former president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, died. With the death of Rossi the members of the Sacred College nominated by Pope Montini are 17, four of whom are electors.
On 5 February the Indian Cardinal Simon Lourdusamy, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, was eighty years old; on the 21 it was the turn of the Italian Silvano Piovanelli, Archbishop of Florence from 1983 to 2001, and on the 29 of the Pole Andrzej Maria Deskur, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
At the end of February therefore the Sacred College was composed of 192 cardinals of whom 127 are electors.
In March two other cardinals will celebrate their eightieth birthdays: on the 11th the Slovakian Jozef Tomko, Prefect Emeritus of Propaganda Fide and president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, on the 18th the Franciscan Alexandre José Maria dos Santos, Archbishop Emeritus of Maputo.

Sacred College/2
A million euro for the Pope

The sum collected by the cardinals for the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of John Paul II on the initiative of the Dean of the Sacred College, Joseph Ratzinger, has reached a million euro.
The news was announced on 9 February by Vatican Radio. According to the wishes of the Pope the entire sum will be given to the Christians of the Holy Land.

United States/1
Kerry: counting on hope

«I think that the United States must go back to being just, rather than powerful. Bush counted on fear to win the last elections, and he will try to do so again now. He counted on social divisions, instead of on the hope of giving all the opportunity of realizing their possibilities.» Thus John Kerry, the probable challenger of George Bush in the next elections for the White House, in an interview reported in Italy by La Stampa on 27 January.

United States/2
Elections: the center and the radicals of right and left
An interesting analysis of the race for the White House appeared in La Stampa on 26 January. We quote a passage: «In brief, should a radical Democrat candidate such as Howard Dean prevail in the final challenge to Bush, the outgoing president would not only have an easy time, but he would be led to “radicalize” himself in the opposite direction, leaving ample space to the hawks who surround him, on the path towards a policy which is ever more inflexible and unilateral. If, on the contrary, one of the moderate or center candidates (such as John Kerry or John Edwards or even General Wesley Clark), that is one who does not wholly challenge the Bush strategy, including the war against Saddam Hussein, but severely criticizes the way in which it was carried out, the absence of a serious plan for the reconstruction of post-Saddam Iraq, and on those bases re-imposes the fight against international terrorism, accepting its political, and not just its military, implications, seriously involving the United Nations and so on, the debate would change. Bush would be forced to look to “the center” and not to “the right” for his electoral consensus, which could not fail to influence his policy in his second term. Without excluding that his very re-election could be questionable, once the center voters became decisive».

Stankiewicz new Dean of the Rota, Funghini Archbishop

On 31 January the Pope appointed the new Dean of the Court of the Roman Rota: he is 69 year old Polish Monsignor Antoni Stankiewicz, nominated Auditor of the Rota by Paul VI in February 1978. At the same time the Pope elevated to the dignity archbishop the outgoing Dean, the 75 year old (on January 1) Tuscan Raffaello Funghini, who retains the function of President of the Court of Appeal of the Vatican City State.

The Slovenian Rodé Prefect for the Religious, the Croatian Eterovic for the Synod of Bishops

On 11 February the 69 year old Slovenian Franc Rodé, Archbishop of Lubiana since 1997, was nominated Prefect of the Congregation for the Religious. He takes the place of the Spanish Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, 77 years old at the end of March. Rodé emigrated with his family to Argentina in 1945. He entered the Lazarist Congregation in 1952 and was ordained priest in Paris in 1960. He studied at the Gregorian and at the Institut Catholique in Paris where he graduated with a degree in Theology in 1968. Meanwhile in 1965, at the request of his superiors, he returned to Slovenia, where he was assistant parish priest, provincial of his order for all of Yugoslavia (1973-1981), professor in the theological faculty of Lubiana. In 1981 he began to work in the Secretariat for Non-Believers, where he became under Secretary in 1982. From 1993 to 1997 he was Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Also on 11 February, the 53 year old Croatian Nikola Eterovic was nominated Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. He takes the place of the Belgian Cardinal Jan Schotte, of the Missionaries of Scheut, who will be 76 years old at the end of April. Eterovic, a priest since 1977, entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1980 and carried out his duties in the Ivory Coast, Spain, Nicaragua and in the Section of Relations with States in the Secretariat of State. Since 1999 he has been archbishop and apostolic nuncio to the Ukraine.
On 12 February the Vatican Press Agency announced that the eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held in the Vatican from 2 to 29 October 2005 and will have as its theme: “The Eucharist as source and culmination of the life and mission of the Church”.

The Neo-catechumen Cantafora Bishop of Lamezia, Dettori of Ales-Terralba, Coccia of Pesaro. Lambiasi confirmed at CA

On 24 January 61 year old Monsignor Luigi Cantafora, originally from the province of Crotone, was nominated Bishop of Lamezia Terme. He takes the place of Vincenzo Rimedio, 76 years old last December. Cantafora, ordained priest in 1969, parish priest of San Domenico in Crotone since 1975, is the first neo-catechumen priest to be nominated bishop in Italy.
On 5 February 64 year old Giovanni Dettori, originally from the province of Sassari, was nominated Bishop of Ales-Terralba in place of the retiring Antonino Orrù, who will be 76 years old next April. Dettori, a priest since 1965, has been vicar general since 1983 and also rector of the diocesan seminary of Ozieri since 2002.
On 23 February 57 year old Francesco Lambiasi, Bishop emeritus of Anagni-Alatri, was confirmed as general ecclesiastical assistant of Catholic Action for another three years.
On 28 February the 58 year old priest Pietro Coccia, originally from Ascoli Piceno, was nominated Archbishop of Pesaro. A priest since 1972, with a degree in Theology from the Lateran and in Sociology from Urbino, founded and directed the “Mater Dei” Institute of religious sciences in Ascoli Piceno.
Also on 28 February the resignation of 75 year old Riccardo Ruotolo, auxiliary bishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo since 1995, was accepted.

New nuncios to Nigeria, Guatemala and Eritrea . New Observer in Strasbourg.

On 27 January 60 year old Archbishop Renzo Fratini, from the Marche, was nominated Nuncio to Nigeria. From 1998 he was Nuncio in Indonesia and from June of last year also in East Timor. In the Vatican diplomatic service since 1974, Fratini carried out his mission in the nunciatures of Japan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Greece, Ecuador, Jerusalem, France. In 1993 he was promoted archbishop and nuncio in Pakistan.
On 10 February 56 year old Archbishop Bruno Musarò, from Puglia, was nominated Pontifical Representative in Guatemala. He was nuncio in Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles from 1999, and apostolic delegate in the Comoran Islands and La Réunion. Musarò, a priest since 1971, in the diplomatic service since 1977, worked in Korea, Italy, the Republic of Central Africa, Panama, Bangladesh, Spain, the Secretariat of State. In 1994 he was made archbishop and nominated nuncio to Panama.
On 19 February the 52 year old Corsican Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, apostolic nuncio in Sudan and apostolic delegate in Somalia since 2002, was also nominated pontifical representative in Eritrea. Until now the nunciature in Eritrea was associated with that in Ethiopia and Jibouti. Mamberti, a priest since 1981, entered the pontifical diplomatic corps in 1986 and worked in Algeria, Chile, UN-New York, Lebanon and, before being promoted archbishop and nuncio in Sudan, in the Secretariat of State.
On 27 January, 51 year old Sicilian monsignor Vito Ralli was nominated Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Ralli, a priest since 1979, entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1988 and served in the nunciatures in Korea, Senegal, Mexico, Canada, Lebanon, and – most recently – Spain.

New ambassadors from China (Taiwan), Turkey, Mexico, Bosnia and Argentina

On 30 January the new Chinese (Taiwan) Ambassador presented his letters of credential in the Vatican. He is Chou-seng Tou, a 62 year old career diplomat, ambassador in Senegal from 1996 to 2002, vice minister of Foreign Affairs in 2002-2003. In his address of “welcome” the Pope, among other things, reiterated that “the well-being of society involves religious freedom being guaranteed by the law and protected in an effective manner”. (On his part, the Ambassador said: «We sincerely believe that with your brilliant leadership and generous interests, the relationships between my country and the Holy See will be lasting».)
On 21 February it was the turn of the new representative of Turkey: 57 year old career diplomat Osman Durak, formerly counselor at the Embassy to the Quirinal (1991-1992) and ambassador in Saudi Arabia since 2001. In his address of greeting Pope John Paul II remarked on the fact that «while Turkey is preparing to institute new relations with Europe, I unite myself with the Catholic population in the anxious wait for the recognition of the juridical “status” of the Church in your Country».
On 24 February the Mexican ambassador, 51 year old career diplomat Javier Moctezuma Barragán, Undersecretary for population, emigration and religious affairs in the Ministry of the Interior since 2000, presented his credentials. The Pope reminded him that «one must not give in to the claims of those who try to reduce religion to the merely private sphere of the individual».
On 27 February it was the turn of the new representative of Bosnia-Herzegovia, 55 year old Croatian Miroslav Palameta, professor at the University of Mostar, former Ambassador to the Quirinal and to FAO in 1998-2000. In greeting him the Pope said that he thought «in the first place of the unresolved question of the refugees and the exiles of the region of Banja Luka, of Bosanska Posavina and of other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovia who await reentry into their homes in the full security of living a dignified life”.
On 28 February then there was the new representative of Argentina, 65 year old Catholic trade union historian, Carlos Luis Custer, member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since 1996.

The fifty years of diplomatic relations between Iran and the Holy See

On the afternoon of 12 February the seminar “Iran and the Holy See: past, present and future” was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University, organized for the fiftieth anniversary of the setting-up of diplomatic relations between the two states. The Teheran Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, and the Vatican “Minister of Foreign Affairs”, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, were present at the meeting. In the morning Kharrazi was received in audience by the Pope and afterwards had a meeting with the Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and the vice-minister for Foreign Affairs Monsignor Pietro Parolin.
In the context of the seminar held at the Gregorian, Archbishop Lajolo told Vatican Radio: «The Holy See looks to Iran today, both because of its presence in the international situation – certainly a very important presence – and, in particular, because of the small community of Catholics who live in that country. There are about ten thousand faithful in a population of 80,000,000 inhabitants, almost all of whom are of the Islamic religion. The Holy See, therefore, is concerned with defending and protecting their freedom of conscience, of faith, of religion lived both individually and communally. On the Iranian part we are assured that there is full freedom of conscience and also of worship for the Catholics. We have some questions to resolve – in reality we are not talking of very large problems – concerning first of all freedom of worship, freedom of organization, the granting of entry visas to religious who come from abroad and whose presence is very necessary for the small number of Catholics in Iran. We also have some problems regarding schools, which at the beginning of the ’eighties were expropriated from the Catholic institutes which directed them. Our relations with Iran are, however, relations animated by a positive and mutual wish for understanding and by ever greater harmony”.

More civil than religious marriages in 2003

In the city of Milan the number of church marriages last year was for the first time overtaken by those celebrated with the mere the civil rite: 2,081 as opposed to 2,151. This is an “historic” overtaking for the metropolis of Saint Ambrose. The Repubblica of 5 February published the statistics on religious and civil marriage in the other main Italian cities. Thus in Bologna (568 against 665) the civil rite has prevails over the religious one already for a year now. In Turin instead (1,976 to 1,867) and Genoa (970 to 922) marriage in church is still, if only by a little, the kind preferred. In Naples (4,893 to 1,580) and Palermo (4,250 to 1,857) religious marriages are still largely in the majority. The statistics in Rome are more balanced: the last figure available, that for 2001, indicates 6,346 church marriages and 4,410 in the registry office.

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