from issue no.10 - 2004


The Rosary is a simple prayer

Paul VI in prayer at the Holy Sepulcher

Paul VI in prayer at the Holy Sepulcher

«Given the definition of prayer (elevatio… petitio…) given the recommendation of Jesus Christ (“non multiloquium…” [cf. Mt. 6.7]), given the liturgical art of prayer commonly varied and immediately expressive, the Rosary turns out to be a strange prayer, difficult, quite capable of being maligned as tough to understand. Why? How should the Rosary be understood? The Rosary is instead a simple prayer: the repetition is none other than a rhythm; a rhythm of souls immensely humble and intimately simple; but the rhythm supposes a poetry, a content that is, and this is the elevatio …this also is easy and varied: the mysteries pondered. And this thinking while repeating an invocation, made almost naive and childlike by the continuous repeating of itself, is morally a self-convincing that the biography of Jesus is the prototype of human life, that its events, some so human and common, others so grand and divine, are still living, concrete models, near to us, ours; and it is spiritually a desire to approach these events in a practical way as She who was closest to them did, Mary. We must understand this prayer as a poem, and then one understands why it is called Rosary (The quantity is nothing but the outline, the quality is very tender contemplation)». From the Notiziario n. 47, published by the Paul VI Institute, June 2004, containing unpublished notes by Montini on the Rosary written in the years 1928, 1934, 1937.


Augustine’s doctrine is that of the Bible, of theChurch

Ambrose baptizing Augustine, Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Troyes, France

Ambrose baptizing Augustine, Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Troyes, France

The magazine Humilitas, a quarterly published by the Pope Luciani Center for Spirituality in Belluno, printed a speech of Luciani’s in the issue of July 2004 from which we quote a brief excerpt: «Augustine said: “Without you he created you; but he will not save you without your agreement”. But then he added: “You cannot give your agreement unless He first helps you”. And he prayed: “Grant me, O Lord, what you command me; then command me as much as You want”. Augustine’s doctrine is that of the Bible, of the Church».

The urn with the mortal remains of Saint Augustine was transferred from the church of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia to the church of Sant’ Agostino in Rome, where they rested from Sunday 7 until Sunday 14 November 2004.


A Christianity without Christ

In La Repubblica of 15 October an interesting editorial appeared, written by Ezio Mauro, in which the editor of the Roman daily discusses a new Christian fundamentalism within the Church. We quote the conclusion of the article: «It is a new Christian fundamentalism, unheard of formerly, simply because it is without God. It is in fact a sort of Christianity without Christ, a conversion without faith, the false adoration of a tabernacle which is judged empty, and the precepts of which are bestrode by calculation. The real fundamental Catholics, those for whom Christianity is a “happening” which took place in time and space, concretely, have always opposed its reduction to philosophy, ethics, culture and a practical handbook of precepts without soul. Theologians, indeed, would define this modern paganism of an atheistic religion as a return of Pelagianism. But such it is, the latest miracle of ‘Berlusconianism’ is underway, and it is this. All that is lacking is a new pope, not a pastor, nor a helmsman nor a prophet, but a warrior: the flock is ready».


Youth for peace

On October 3 last Asti was the object of a peaceful invasion: that of the 20,000 young people of SERMIG, the Youth Missionary service, founded and led by Ernesto Olivero. The young people who came from Italy and abroad (280 from the diocese of Iasi and the city of Baia, in Romania; but also from Uganda, Georgia, Jordan, Brazil, Africa, Beslan…) met in the Piemontese town for the II World Gathering of Young People for Peace. They set up ten “dialogue tents” in the various squares of the town (Francesco Rutelli also took part in the one on “politics”), they organized parties on the streets, they listened to the accounts of eight young people (the “8G”, “G8 reversed” of course) with particularly meaningful stories (a fourteen-year-old from Beslan, who escaped the massacre of 1 September, read, without appearing, a letter and the list of a hundred of the victims of the slaughter in the school). The appeal “Pre-emptive justice is pre-empted peace”, signed by “Ernesto Olivero and his friends” (which begins with these words: «We live in a cruel and tragic period, characterized by pre-emptive wars and terrorist fanaticism, by deaths from starvation, sicknesses, environmental disasters. This is our time»), was also signed by, among others, Giulio Andreotti, Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Severino Poletto, Ersilio Tonini, Massimo D’Alema and Alex Zanotelli.
At the end of the day, concluded by mass in the Cathedral celebrated by Bishop Francesco Guido Ravinale, about sixty tons of provisions and scholastic material donated by the citizens of Asti were collected. The material was sent to Georgia and Romania the same night.

Inauguration of the Year of the Eucharist

On 17 October the Pope presided over the solemn liturgy in Saint Peter’s Square for the inauguration of the Year of the Eucharist. At the same time in Guadalajara in Mexico the works of the XLVIII International Eucharistic Congress concluded. On 8 October the apostolic letter of John Paul II Mane Nobiscum Domine, devoted specifically to the Year of the Eucharist, was published. Then on 14 October the Congregation for Divine Worship published a document of suggestions and proposals for the celebrations of the year.

The question of the fate of children who die without baptism

«The subjects chosen for the study of the Commission during the coming years are of the greatest interest. First of all the question of the fate of children who die without baptism. It’s not simply an isolated theological problem. Many other fundamental subjects are closely interwoven with it: the universal salvific will of God, the unique and universal mediation of Jesus Christ, the role of the Church, universal sacrament of salvation, the theology of the sacraments, the meaning of the doctrine on original sin … It will be up to you to examine the nexus between all these mysteries, with a view to offering a theological synthesis which can serve as a help towards a more coherent and enlightened pastoral procedure». Thus the Pope during the course of an audience granted to the International Theological Commission on 7 October last. Apart from the question of children who die without baptism the Commission will also deal with that of natural moral law. The commission, which has a consultative function, is presided over by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and its secretary is 60 year old Spanish Jesuit Luis Ladaria, professor in the Theology faculty of the Gregorian since 1979.

Putin sends the Russian Army to the Vatican

That was the heading of La Stampa’s 16 October report of the concert given by the Choir of the Russian Army in the Vatican, in the context of celebrations for the twenty-sixth anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Wojtyla. We quote the report of the Turin daily: «In the audience hall the Va’ pensiero resounded. But also some pieces decidedly less in tune with the place and the person being celebrated, among which The holy war. It is a popular song which Stalin particularly appreciated. These are the words: “Wake up great country, arise and fight to the last drop of blood the dark fascist force and its cursed horde, here’s the war of the people, the holy war. Let us drive out the oppressors, assassins and thieves of ardent ideals. The slayers of the people” […]. The Pope was entertained: he also followed the dance of the Cossacks, who went through their traditional duel with swords, with great attention, showing his real appreciation in smiles and gestures. “Spasibo, spasibo”, thank you, thank you, Pope Wojtyla repeated several times and implored the blessing of the Madonna of Kazan on the Choir and “on the beloved Russian people”».

Lajolo: the war in Iraq is not leading to a more secure world

«And then there is the Iraqi conflict. The position of the Holy See on the military action of 2002-2003 is well known. It is apparent to all that it has not led to a more secure world either within or outside of Iraq. The Holy See holds that the actual government must be sustained in its effort to restore the country to normal living conditions and to a political system substantially democratic and conforming to the values of its historical traditions». Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican “Foreign Minister”, affirmed this in his official speech at the 59th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, held on 30 September in New York.


The subject of the World Day of Peace 2005 made known

«Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good» (Rm.12.21): that is to be the subject of the XXXVIII World Day of Peace which will be celebrated on 1 January 2005. The Vatican press Office made the announcement on 28 September.

Saraiva Martins: the writings attributed to Emmerick not authentic

«The Blessed [Anna Katherina Emmerick, 1774-1824] left us only three letters of which we can be sure. The other writings, which have been erroneously attributed to her, have a different origin: The “visions” of the Passion of Christ were annotated, re-worked with great freedom and without any checks, by the German writer Clemens Brentano (1778-1842) and were published in 1833 under the title The bitter Passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. […] Therefore the works in question cannot be considered either written or dictated by Emmerick nor authentic transcriptions of her statements and narratives, but a literary work by Brentano containing such amplifications and manipulations that it is impossible to establish the true and real core that can be attributed to the Blessed. It follows that the writings in question are not a true mirror of the thought and mystical experiences of the Augustinian nun. The single affirmations, both those that express a healthy religiosity, and those that present oddities and anti-semitic feelings, sprang from the creativity and artistic fantasy of Brentano». Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, confirmed this in an article published in L’Osservatore Romano on 7 October. Emmerick’s beatification on 3 October had raised argument in the international Jewish community. A curiosity: among the writings officially judged spurious by the Vatican, there are also some – such as The bitter passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ - that inspired scenes in the well-known film The Passion by Mel Gibson.

Ratzinger: «I hope Pope Luciani will soon be beatified»

That was the heading of the Avvenire article on 19 October reporting the words of Cardinal Ratzinger at the Pope Luciani Center in Col Cumano in Belluno, a year after the initiation of the cause for beatification of John Paul I.


Afghan opium finances Al Quaeda

«The real battle against terroris­m is fought there where the terrorists get their financing. In Afghan­istan, by cutting the drug money Al Quaeda funds will dry up». Thus former law officer Stefano Dambruso, for years engaged in fighting terrorism in Italy and now Diplomatic Counselor at the United Nations in Vienna, in an interview granted to Il Tempo on 2 October 2004. In particular, during the interview Dambruso said that: «As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Al Quaeda makes the traffickers in the areas controlled by them pay protection money. According to UN estimates we are talking about tens of billions of dollars changing hands in that area».

Delly: I ask only to pray

On the night of Saturday 16 October mortars devastated five Iraqi churches. No one died in the attacks. Contacted by Avvenire, the Patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldees, Emmanuel Delly, said: «Why should we leave? This is our land; at this moment it is covered by black clouds, but they will certainly pass. Peace will return to this tormented land». And he added: «I wish to make an appeal: I ask you to pray for Iraq. The only thing I ask is prayer, because nothing else can prevent such acts re-occurring in the future».

The death of Cardinals Fresno and Hickey, Lorscheider’s eightieth birthday

On 14 October ninety-year-old Chilean cardinal Juan Francisco Fresno Larraín, Archbishop of Santiago from 1983 to 1990, cardinal since 1985, died .
On 24 October 84 year-old US cardinal James A. Hickey, Archbishop of Washington from 1980 to 2000, died.
On 8 October the Brazilian cardinal Aloísio Lorscheider, a Franciscan, Archbishop of Fortaleza from 1973 to 1995, cardinal since 1976, was eighty. From 1995 until last January he was Archbishop of Aparecida.
The Sacred College is therefore composed of 187 cardinals, of whom 122 will be electors in an eventual conclave.


Social Weeks praised by the English Independent

The hundredth anniversary of the Social Weeks of France was held in Lille from 23 to 26 September, and Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and of the Pontifical Council «Cor Unum», attended as special envoy of the Pope. The English daily The Independent gave an extremely flattering judgment about this important gathering of French Catholics on 27 September with a comment by Andreas Whittam Smith. The article in question was taken up by Courier International of 7-13 October with the title: France, studious firstborn daughter of the Church, and the summary: «French Catho­lics do not participate openly in political life, but they do think deeply on questions about society. An activity that surprises The Independent».

More than half of the Milanese choose cremation

This was the heading of a front-page article in Corriere della Sera of 3 October. The article began: «For the first time ever, in the first eight months of the year, the number of cremations in Milan outnumbers that of burials. A vanguard. In Italy as a whole only 7% ask to be cremated».

Resignation of Krenn accepted

On 7 October the Pope accepted the resignation presented by 68 year old Kurt Krenn, Bishop of Sankt Pölten since 1991. The diocese in question – Vatican Radio recalled - «was shaken in the last months by a sex-based scandal which struck the diocesan seminary. A scandal in which the rector and the vice-rector of the institute and some seminarians were involved. In some of the seminary’s computers paedo-pornographic material was found. The institute was closed on 12 August last after an investigation conducted by the apostolic visitor, nominated by the Pope, Monsignor Klaus Küng». And Küng was chosen as successor to Krenn. Sixty-four year old Küng, of the Opus Dei clergy, has been Bishop of Feldkirch since 1989. Also on 7 October the resignation of Heinrich Fasching, 75 years old in May, auxiliary of Sankt Pölten since 1993, was accepted.

Semeraro now Bishop of Albano, Rabitti of Ferrara

On 1 October 57 year-old Marcello Semeraro was nominated bishop of the suburbican diocese of Albano. Originally from the province of Lecce, a priest since 1971, Semeraro taught theology in different institutes and faculties until he took the chair of Ecclesiology in the Pontifical Lateran University. From 1998 he was Bishop of Oria (Brindisi) and in 2001 he was nominated special secretary of the tenth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops by the Pope.
On 2 October 68 year-old Paolo Rabitti was nominated bishop of Ferrara-Comacchio. Originally from the diocese of Reggio Emilia, a priest since 1960, Rabitti was general ecclesiastic vice-assistant of Catholic Action from 1984 to 1988 and afterwards held the office first of under-secretary and then of secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. From 1995 he was Bishop of San Marino-Montefeltro.

New nuncios in the Antilles and in Scandinavia

On 2 October the 54 year old American Thomas E. Gullickson was nominated archbishop and apostolic nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Santa Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadine. Gullickson, a priest since 1976, entered the diplomatic service in 1985 and served in Ruanda, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Jerusalem and Germany, where he worked alongside the actual Vatican “Foreign Minister” Giovanni Lajolo.
On 16 October the 63 year-old bishop Giovanni Tonuc­ci from the Marche was nominated apostolic nuncio to the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway). He takes the place of 67 year-old Sardinian archbishop Piero Biggio, who resigned “for health reasons”. Tonucci was nuncio in Kenya from 1996 and formerly, from 1989, was pontifical representative in Bolivia.

DIPLOMACY/2 The thirty five years of Holy See-Canada relations
The Vatican “Foreign Minister”, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, attended a reception given by the new Canadian ambassador Donald Smith to celebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Canada. The ceremony took place the evening of 13 October in the beautiful residence of the ambassador. On the occasion both Smith and Lajolo gave brief speeches. The head of Vatican diplomacy said among other things: «As Raymond Lemieux of Laval University points out in his study Le catholicisme blessé, Catholicism in Canada was one of the prominent agents in French-Canadian civilization, through the institutions that it created and the moral and intellectual armature it promoted, but after the so called “Révolution tranquille” [a period in which a profound socio-cultural change took place in the Canadian francophone milieu, ed.], because of secularization, there were many socio-cultural changes, and they are not lacking now – as indeed in different countries of the western world – and notable difficulties in living and spreading the faith occurred».

DIPLOMACY/3 New ambassadors of Egypt, Portugal and Brazil
On 18 September the new ambassador of Egypt to the Holy See presented her letters of credential. She is 56 year-old Mrs. Nevine Simaika Halim Abdalla, a career diplomat since 1971, formerly consul general in Paris and for the last two years assistant of the Foreign Ministry for cultural, scientific affairs and technical cooperation. The Pope’s speech to Cairo’s new representative was given particular emphasis in L’Osservatore Romano, which indeed dedicated its front-page headline to the text in its issue of 19 September: Iraq and the Holy Land: to favor a return to reason and negotiation, the only possible way out of the conflicts between men. The new ambassador, on her part, affirmed that her nomination is «a proof of the evolution of Egypt. The promotion of woman and the rejection of all career discriminations are two aspects of modernization of tradition …».
On 21 September it was the turn of the new ambassador of Portugal. He is 59 year-old João Alberto Bacelar da Rocha Paris, a career diplomat since 1968, formerly ambassador to Angola, Brussels and the United States, and lately secretary general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In his speech the Pope,said among other things: «The authorities of the Portuguese government did not hesitate to recognize and make known their Christian convictions when collaborating in the preparation of a European Constitution. I wish to make use of this occasion to express my gratitude for the action undertaken by your government in underlining the Christian identity of Europe …». The new ambassador recalled the centuries-old relations between Rome and Lisbon which go back to 1179, when Alexander III recognized the independence of Portugal with the Bull Manifestis probatum. And he also recalled having had «the honor of kissing the hand of Your Holiness» during the pastoral visit to Luanda in 1992, where he was posted on his first mission as ambassador.
On 11 October then it was the turn of the new Brazilian representative to the Holy See. She is 58 year-old Mrs. Vera Barrouin Machado, a professional diplomat since 1968, and ambassador to India for the past five years. In his speech, the Pope confirmed «the unconditioned support of the Holy See» for the recent initiative launched by Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva for the elimination of hunger and poverty in the world. The Pope further said: «It pleases me to underline the convergence of principles between the Holy See and your government on threats to world peace … I pray that the Brazilians will continue to foment and spread the values of the faith, especially when it is a matter of recognizing in an explicit manner the sanctity of family life and the protection of the future child from the moment of its conception». Mrs. Barrouin Machado, on her part, mentioned that she was the first woman to hold this post in more than a century and a half of diplomatic relations between Rome and Brazil, and requested of the Pope «the special favor of a blessing for the members of my family who, obedient to the precepts of the Catholic faith, are with me on a day so special for them also».

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