from issue no.05 - 2004


The Orthodox Encyclopedia presented in Rome

Alexis II and Vladimir Putin

Alexis II and Vladimir Putin

«The pontiffs John XXIII and Paul VI stopped looking only to the West and showed interest in dialogue with the USSR on the various problems of international life». The quotation comes from the entry “Vatican” in the seventh volume of the Orthodox Encyclopedia, the 30 volume work in progress «under the aegis of the patriarch of Moscow Alexis II and with the patronage of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin». A summary of the entry, made by the secretariat of the Embassy of the Russian Federation to the Holy See, was distributed during the presentation of the work on 1 June last at the Villa Piccolomini in Rome, organized by the Dionysia Center for the arts and culture. According to the summary the same Encyclopedia entry mentions the Vatican condemnation of «the bombings in Yugoslavia in 1999» and the criticisms by Vatican representatives «of the United States intervention in Iraq in 2003». But the interpretation offered for years now by the patriarchate of Moscow of recent ecumenical problems is also reiterated. («Relations with the Russian Orthodox Church are shadowed by the recurrent proselytism by the Catholic Church in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Churches, and likewise by the aggressive activity of the Greek-Catholics, especially in Galicia, where the temples were expropriated. These acts did not provoke any condemnation by the Holy See»).


Message to Cardinal Angelini for the inauguration of an Assistance Center in Romania

Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Health Workers, presided at the opening of a new social health center in Bacau, in Romania, created by the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters Protectresses of the Holy Countenance.
For the occasion on 13 May John Paul II sent a message to the Roman cardinal in which he expressed his «deepest appreciation for you, Lord Cardinal, for the Superior General of the Benedictine Sisters Protectresses of the Holy Countenance of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as to all those who backed and concretely created this helpful charity». «It stands», the Pope continues in his message, «as a significant help to the poor, the sick, and the old, testifying in a practical way to that “imagination of charity”, to which I invited the Church in the apostolic letter Novo millennio ineunte (cf. no. 50)». The Pope’s message was published in L’Osservatore Romano of 24-25 May along with a detailed account of the inauguration written by Father Gianfranco Grieco, leading correspondent for the Holy See’s newspaper.

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Cardinal Law, Archpriest of Saint Mary Major

On 27 May Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, 73 years old next November, was named Archpriest of the patriarchal basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. Law was archbishop of Boston from January 1984 to December 2002, when he resigned as a consequence of the scandal relating to priests accused of pedophilia which involved his diocese. On the day of his nomination, as mentioned in the Rome news section of the Corriere della Sera (28 May), Law paid a visit to the Liberian Basilica and said: «I’m very happy, it’s beautiful here».

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The death of Cardinal Thiandoum

On 18 May 83 year old Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiandoum, archbishop of Dakar from 1962 until 2000, a figure of great importance in the African Church, died. The prelate was made cardinal by Paul VI in 1976.
The funeral ceremonies were celebrated by Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, Dean Emeritus of the Sacred College, on 27 May in the cathedral of the Senegalese capital. The homily delivered during the funeral rite, attended by more than three thousand people, was published in its entirety by L’Osservatore Romano of 29 May with the significant title : Fidelity to God, to the Church and to Africa. The missionary spirit and the evangelical spirit of a luminous presence for the Continent. (On the contrary, when a few months ago the Cardinal Dean Joseph Ratzinger celebrated the funeral of another illustrious figure of the Sacred College, Franz König, the Vatican newspaper did not dedicate any space to the event).
With the death of Thiandoum the College of Cardinals is now composed overall of 190 cardinals, of whom 125 are electors. The papal senators created by Paul VI are now 16, of whom 4 are voters.

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Stafford:Moral failure of the United States

The 72 year old US cardinal James Francis Stafford accused the Bush administration of «moral failure» for the war in Iraq and stressed that the war had seriously compromised relations with the Arab world.
In an interview with the monthly Inside the Vatican Stafford – High Penitentiary since last October – also states that the torture of the Iraqi prisoners was a “barbarity”. The «moral failure» of the United States administration in Iraq derives, according to Stafford, from the fact that no evidence was found for the existence of weapons of mass destruction, and this while the «President, Vice-president and Secretary of Defense were saying that there was an immediate danger for the peace of American society» because of such weapons, linked to Al Qaeda. «Why did they say it when they didn’t have certain proof?» is the question.
The cardinal further fears that the business of the torture will have «long term consequences for relations with Arabs and the Muslims»: «the Muslims are outraged and truly shocked because we have subjected them to the very same kinds of things from which we said we wanted to liberate them», he observes.


Washington intensifies the blockade. Reactions of the ambassador to the Holy See, of the US and Cuban episcopates

American president George W. Bush announced on 6 May a tightening of the embargo against Cuba so as to accelerate “the liberation from tyranny of the Cuban people”. Bush approved the recommendations of a commission he had set up to provide measures designed to put an end to the «communist dictatorship».
This announcement provoked the criticism of the Havana government, and of the US and Cuban episcopates.
On 20 May Isidro Gomez Santos, Cuban ambassador to the Holy See, called a press conference because of «the gravity of the measures announced by the United States which will affect Cuban families in a particular way and impinge on the human rights of the Cuban people».
On 21 May the US Episcopal Conference made public the letter of its president, Bishop Wilton Daniel Gregory to George Bush which stated that «along with Pope John Paul II and the Cuban bishops we consider the economic embargo morally unacceptable and politically counter-productive… In fact the embargo affects the ordinary people of Cuba – the poor, the old and the sick. The additional restrictive measures proposed by the Commission – limiting the visits of Cuban-American families and the amount of money they can send to Cuba – will serve only to exacerbate the internal situation in the country».
Finally on 26 May the Permanent Committee of the Conference of Cuban Catholic Bishops published a note in which the block condemnation is reiterated, quoting a declaration of the Episcopate of 1969, in which it was affirmed: «We denounce this unjust situation of the blockade which contributes to increase unnecessary sufferings and makes efforts for development more difficult». In the note the bishops then affirm: «We consider it unacceptable that the future of Cuba should be shaped on the basis… of interventions conceived abroad».


The neocons and Christian movements

La Repubblica of 14 May anticipated a section of a chapter – dedicated to cultural hegemony - from the book by Federico Rampani (All the President’s men. George Bush and the new American right) which goes over the history of the relationship between neo-conservatives and Christian movements. We reprint the passage in which the thought of the neocons ideologue Daniel Bell is analyzed: «In order to guarantee its development capitalism has need of social stability, it cannot prosper in a jungle in which the mentality of “everyone for himself, everyone against everyone” prevails. So paradoxically capitalism requires moral and social values of a pre-capitalistic stamp to remain in being; typically these values are a mixture of obedience to constituted authority, of altruism and dedication to the common good produced by religion. In invoking a battle against the secularization and the laicization of society, in recommending the return to practical religion as an antidote against the decadence of liberal Western democracies, Bell since the ’seventies has been laying down the theoretic foundations of that alliance between the neo-conservatives and the new Christian movements which was to become one of the distinctive features of the America of today».


«Even the Catholic Church has its neo-conservatives»
So claims Sandro Magister in an article which appeared on 20 May on “”, the research section of the internet site L’Espresso on line. Magister continues: «This is a high profile moment for them. In the past days three of them have spoken publicly in Rome and Italy attracting considerable attention. The trio are a bishop, a philosopher and a theologian. They have decreed that Europe is sick, afflicted with a mortal sickness of the spirit, and has lost contact with truth and reality. And along with the diagnosis they prescribed their cure». According to the columnist, not only the trio (respectively the Bishop of Bologna Carlo Caffarra, the President of the Senate Marcello Pera and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith Joseph Ratzinger), but the President of the Italian Bishop’s Conference, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Cardinal Emeritus of Bologna, Giacomo Biffi, and the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Scola are part of this cultural current. «The next Pope», continues the L’Espresso journalist, «will likely emerge from this team». Magister’s piece was taken up and amplified by the Il Velino agency, whose note was in turn published in Il Tempo of 24 May.


Asor Rosa: rivers of blood irrigate the new world order
In Unità of 25 May, Alberto Asor Rosa quoted a passage from one of his earlier works Fuori dall’Occidente [Outside the West], published in 1992. The passage runs: «The “new order” will be tempestuous and terrible. It is entirely wrong to think that the Unum imperium, unus rex will found a principle of peace. The essential singleness of power on a world scale is destined, on the contrary, to upset the already fragile world balance. The world will split away and be ever more contrary, replacing universal principles by defense of one’s own identity against that of all the rest. The Unum imperium, unus rex – founded on an invincible economic and technological supremacy, which constitutes the modern “authority principle” – will be accompanied by ever increasing disintegration and separation of single individuals, generalized decline, natural chaos, which reemerges from the purely formal (and in reality merely constrictive) “harmony” imposed by the most powerful… Rivers of blood will run, there will be no pity for anyone. War… will be a founding element and continuous premise of the new order».

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Lapid and the pointless slaughter of Rafah
«The head of the Justice department, Yosef Tommy Lapid, has harshly criticized the incessant work of the bulldozers south of Gaza, asking for the immediate interruption of the operation: “It is inhuman – he told his colleagues – it is not Jewish. The world is looking at us and we risk being expelled from the United Nations and brought before the Hague Tribunal”. Had he not added that the television image of an old Palestinian woman rummaging through the rubble in the hope of finding her medicine reminded him of his grandmother, the issue might have remained within the four walls of the Council of Ministers. But everyone in Israel knows that Lapid’s mother died in the Auschwitz concentration camp». That was how Corriere della Sera of 24 May reported the comment of Minister Lapid on the bloody Israeli military intervention in the Palestine refugee camp in Rafah, specifying that the minister later denied that his words were intended to allude to the Holocaust.

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The death of Palestinian children
«Every condemnation for the killing of Palestinian children, even if pronounced by friends of Israel, is immediately branded an expression of anti-semitism». Zeev Sternhell, one of the most prestigious Israeli intellectuals, was so reported in an article in La Repubblica of 20 May, under the heading Sharon’s blackmail in a distracted world, in which Israel’s military policy towards the Palestinians was criticized.

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The human sacrifice filmed
An article by Vittorio Zucconi which appeared on 12 May in La Repubblica, analyzed the emotional impact of the video-shock of the decapitation of the young American Jew Nick Berg. We reprint a passage from it: «The sequence of the human sacrifice of Nick Berg, guilty only of being American, as 90% of those impounded in Guantanamo and in Abu Ghraib are guilty only of being Arab, struck the eyes of an America which had begun, thanks to the photos of the torture, to understand the price demanded of one’s own dignity by exporting democracy by shellfire, in the Biblical banner of Good against Evil». The end of Nick Berg will be «read and sold by the crusaders of the “clash of civilizations” as absolution for every sin and as authorization to go on unrestrained. That is what Nick’s executioners want».


Vallini prefect of the Apostolic Signet
On 27 May Agostino Vallini, until now bishop of Albano, was nominated prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signet. He replaces Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda who was 75 years old on 18 April last. Vallini, 64 year old native of the province of Rome, was ordained priest in 1964 for the archdiocese of Naples. Auxiliary of Naples in 1989, he was head of the Lazio diocese from 1999. The suburbicarian Church of Albano has as titular cardinal the Vatican Secretery of State Angelo Sodano, Vice Dean of the Sacred College.


Legionary of Christ head of office at Internet service
On 22 May a head of office was nominated for the first time to the Internet service of the Holy See, which comes under APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See. He is Father Fernando Vergez Alzaga, of the Legionaries of Christ, a 59 year old Spaniard from Salamanca, until now on the staff of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Father Vergez is a great enthusiast of computers, has worked in the Roman Curia since 1972 and was for many years private secretary to the late lamented Cardinal Eduardo Pironio.


Italy: new bishops in Adria-Rovigo and Belluno-Feltre
On 29 May two new bishops were nominated in the Veneto. Lucio Soravito De Franceschi, originally from the province of Udine, 65 years old next December, a priest since 1963, to the diocese of Adria-Rovigo. He was parish priest of the cathedral and urban vicar of Udine from 1999.
To the diocese of Belluno-Feltre, 64 year old Giuseppe Andrich, originally from Canale d’Agordo, the birth place of John Paul I. Andrich, a priest since 1965, was vicar general of the diocese from 1998. His nomination took place in record time: the untimely death of the late lamented Vincenzo Savio, bishop of Belluno-Feltre took place in fact on 31 March last.


New Concordat signed between the Holy See and Portugal
On 18 May the Concordat between the Holy See and the Portuguese Republic which regulates matters of common interest between the Church and the State was signed in the Vatican. The Act was signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and by the Portugese premier José Manuel Durâo Barroso. The new Concordat, which replaces that of 1940, will come into effect after the exchange of the instruments of ratification.


New nuncios in Sri Lanka and Korea
On 10 May the Venetian archbishop, 58 year old Mario Zenari, was nominated nuncio to Sri Lanka. A priest since 1970, in diplomacy since 1980, he worked in the nunciatures of Senegal, Liberia, Colombia, Germany, Romania. Nominated permanent observer to OSCE and the UN office in Vienna, he was nuncio to the Ivory Coast, Niger and Burkina Faso from 1999.
On 22 May the 57 year old Swiss archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig was nominated nuncio to Korea. Ordained priest in 1974, he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1978, and served successively in the pontifical representations in Uganda, Korea, Bangladesh and in the Secretariat of State. In 1996 he was nominated archbishop and apostolic nuncio to Burundi. He was nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago and to other countries of the West Indies from 2000.


New Ukrainian ambassador
On 7 May the new ambassador from the Ukraine presented his letters of credential. He is 57 year old Grygorii Fokovych Khoruzhyi, a graduate in philosophy, in diplomacy since 1992, for the last four years embassy counselor to the Russian Federation in Moscow. In his speech the Pope said, among other things, that «today the responsibility of the Ukraine is great in understanding, defending and promoting its own Christian heritage, a distinctive trait of the nation, untouched in its depth even by the disastrous dictatorship of communism».
A curiosity: L’Osservatore Romano of 8 May reported the ceremony of the consigning of the letters of credential; and also gave ample coverage (two pages and a headline on the front page) to another ceremony: that of the handing over of the residence of the archbishops of Leopolis of the Latins by the Ukrainian authorities on 5 May, in the presence of the substitute Secretary of State, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri.


New non-resident ambassadors
On 27 May the Pope received the letters of credential of seven ambassadors who will not, however, reside in Rome. They are the new representatives of Surinam (Edgar Stephanus Ragoenath Amanh), Sri Lanka (Sarala Manourie Fernando),Mali (Mohamed Salia Sokona), Yemen (Yahya Ali Mohamed Al-Abiad), Zambia (Anderson Kaseba Chibwa), Nigeria (Kingsley Sunny Ebenyi), Tunisia (Afif Hendaoui).


Message to our “beloved brothers” on the hundredth anniversary of the Rome Synagogue

The Rome Synagogue

The Rome Synagogue

«We greet you as our “beloved brothers” in the faith of Abraham, our patriarch, of Isaac and Jacob, of Sara and Rebecca, of Rachel and Leah. Already Saint Paul, writing to the Romans (cf Rm 11, 16-18), spoke of the holy root of Israel, on which the pagans were grafted into Christ; “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rm 11, 29) and you continue to be the firstborn people of the Covenant (liturgy of Good Friday, universal prayer, For the Jews). You have been citizens of this city of Rome for over two thousand years, even before Peter the fisherman and Paul in chains joined you». The passage comes from the message of the Holy Father on the occasion of the celebrations of the centenary of the building of the Synagogue of Rome. In his message the Pope traced the history of the relations between the two religions. And, alluding to the sufferings undergone by the Jewish community in Rome under Nazism, added: «Nor can one forget, alongside the official pronouncements, the action, often hidden, of the apostolic See, which in many ways went to the aid of Jews in danger, as has been recognized also by their authoritative representatives (cf. We remember: a reflection on the Holocaust, 16 March 1998)». There was also a reference to the sufferings of the Holy Land: «Unfortunately, thought of the Holy Land arouses preoccupation and pain in our hearts because of the violence that continue s to mark that area, because of the too much innocent blood shed by Israelis and Palestinians, which darkens the rise of a dawn of peace in justice».


The sanctuary collapses, the statue of the Madonna intact

The landslide that destroyed 
the sanctuary of the Madonna della Grotta in Ardore (RC)

The landslide that destroyed the sanctuary of the Madonna della Grotta in Ardore (RC)

On the 28 May a sudden landslide destroyed the sanctuary of the Madonna of the Grotto in Bombile D’Ardore (Reggio Calabria). The church, a place of pilgrimage, was entirely dug out of the rock. Less than an hour before the collapse, the rector of the sanctuary, Don Alfredo Valenti, had celebrated a mass attended by pupils of the local school and students arrived from Malta on a twinning project. Avvenire reported the following day: « About 7pm a fireman managed to make a hole through the fallen rubble and check with a probe whether there were any signs of life. He then succeeded in looking into the sanctuary: at the far end of the central nave the altar was still standing and the sixteenth-century white marble statue of Our Lady was intact, the fall of earth had stopped just at its feet. The happy news rapidly made the rounds of the parish church where the community of Bombile had gathered to pray».

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