from issue no.11 - 2004


The consignment of the relics

Bartholmew I, Ecumenic Patriarch of Constantinople, and Pope John Paul II

Bartholmew I, Ecumenic Patriarch of Constantinople, and Pope John Paul II

On Saturday 27 November, in the Vatican Basilica, an ecumenical celebration took place during which John Paul II consigned to Bartholomew I a part of the relics, venerated for centuries in Saint Peter’s Basilica, of Saints Gregory of Nazianzen and John Chrysostom, bishops of Constantinople and doctors of the Church. During the celebration, along with chants in Greek, Latin and Italian, among the biblical and patristic readings, the poem To Christ by Gregory Nazianzen was read, which we give here: «What tyranny ever is this? / I came to life - good, - / but why does it sha­ke me with its violent waves? / I want to say a bold word, yes bold, but I want to say it: / were I not yours, O my Christ, what injustice! / We are born, we waste away, we reach the end. / I sleep, I rest, I awake, I walk. / Now we are sick, now in health, / now among pleasures, now among anxieties. / We have a part of the sunny seasons and of the fruits of the earth. / We die and our flesh rots: / this is the lot of beasts, / who, however ignoble, are without fault. / What then do I have more than them? / Nothing, if not God: / were I not yours, O my Christ, what injustice!».


Tettamanzi and Don Gnocchi

Don Gnocchi with his little disabled ones

Don Gnocchi with his little disabled ones

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi wrote the introduction of Giorgio Cosmacini’s book on Don Gnocchi, My hut. Story of the Don Gnocchi foundation. (Laterza, € 29). Some of the introduction appeared in Corriere della Sera on 23 November under the title On the side of the children. We publish an extract from it: «It is always moving to read the page in which Don Gnocchi radically understood how precious and necessary was his offering of himself for little orphans and the mutilated. He had gone to hospital and met “Marco, the only survivor of the four children who, unaware and without thought, were playing in the mined field”. The child had been devastated… Don Carlo had gone to visit him in hospital and asked him what he was thinking about as they administered the painful treatment. “About nobody” the little one replied. And when Don Carlo had insisted a little, hinting of God to him, Marco had replied fearful and confused: “I don’t understand, I don’t understand”. Then Don Carlo understood: “It was in that moment that I had the precise, almost material sensation of an immense irreparable disaster: of the loss of a treasure, more precious than an original painting or a diamond of inestimable value”. How to harvest it? For Don Carlo – for the priest, the believer, the saint that he was – there was only one answer: “Christ crucified, in whom the pain of an innocent can take on value and find justification”».


The figure of Mary

The Immaculate Conception painted by Silvio Capparoni donated to the Conceptionist fathers by Pope Pius IX

The Immaculate Conception painted by Silvio Capparoni donated to the Conceptionist fathers by Pope Pius IX

On the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception made by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854 an exhibition has been organized of contemporary art (works on paper) on the figure of Mary. During the exhibition a lecture will be given by the Monfortian Father Basilio Gavazzeni on the subject: “The figure of Mary in The Passion of of Christ by Mel Gibson”. The exhibition, sponsored by the archiepiscopal Curia of Matera-Irsina, will be open the 4 to the 27 of December in the parochial hall of the Immaculate in Matera in Via Cererie. Opening hours are from 9.00-11.00 – 16.00-19.00.


Scalfari and the Our Father

A small image taken from the booklet of the Catechism of Christian Doctrine

A small image taken from the booklet of the Catechism of Christian Doctrine

In the Venerdi of 9 November, the weekly magazine of La Repubblica, Eugenio Scalfari replies on the letter’s page to a Catholic reader: «Instead I found your memory of the prayers which I also recited with fervor in childhood touching. I know then what you are talking about. Particularly the Our Father. In which, after transcendence is affirmed, two morally essential “invocations” are contained. The first is that about the remission of trespasses: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us; and here in few words is condensed the principle of solidarity and love of our neighbor. The second invocation is the final one: libera nos a malo, deliver us from evil, sustain us in that battle which we must undertake with our own strength knowing that You, Lord, will be our support. If Catholics, individual Catholics, are made of this stuff, dialogue even with non-believers is not only possible but desirable and fruitful».

SACRED COLLEGE Ratzinger: «The Church cannot identify itself within the category of “Western”»
«The Church cannot substantially identify itself within the category of “Western”. It would be mistaken historically, empirically, theologically. Historically, we know that Christianity was born at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, and this indicates something of its inner essence… At the start, the expansion of Christianity went equally eastwards, towards China, India, Persia, Arabia, and westwards. Unfortunately, after the rise of Islam, a large part of this eastern Christianity disappeared. But not completely, because historical elements of this Christianity which testify to its universality exist, and European Christianity also divides into western and eastern… Empirically, not only do we have this great historical heritage, but Christianity is present, in minorities of recognized spiritual force, on all the continents. The axis of Christianity is moving ever more towards the new continents, towards Africa, Asia, Latin America. Europe is still an essential source for the development of Christianity, nevertheless it is beginning to sideline itself through the very discussion of its own identity. Theologically, because the Church, on account of its essence, must transcend cultures, the fact being that it is not tied to a determined culture but helps the exodus from the prison of a culture and the communication of cultures». Thus Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, during a dialogue-encounter with professor Ernesto Galli della Loggia, which took place in Palazzo Colonna in Rome on 25 October. The debate was refereed by engineer Gaetano Rebecchini, president of the Center for Political Orientation, the foundation which organized the evening.

SACRED COLLEGE/2 López Trujillo: «Bush’s victory a very important moment for us»
«This is a very important moment for us because Bush’s victory is based solely on moral values». The Colombian cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo said so during the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family (the department which he has presided since 1990) held in the Vatican from the 18 to 20 November. Trujillo’s statements were reported by the Catholic News Service, the press agency of the US episcopate, of 18 November.

SACRED COLLEGE/3 The death of Cardinals Joos and Aramburu
On 2 November the 81 year old Belgian cardinal Gustaaf Joos, a longtime friend of Karol Wojtyla, who made him a cardinal in the last Consistory of 21 October 2003, died.
On 18 November the Argentine cardinal 92 year old Juan Carlos Aramburu, archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1975 until 1990, created cardinal by Paul VI in 1976, died.
At the end of November therefore the Sacred College was composed of 185 cardinals, of whom 122 would be electors in an eventual conclave because less than eighty years old. Cardinal Giovanni Saldarini, archbishop of Turin from 1989 to 1999, will reach this age on 11 December.

CURIA/1 Archbishop Sardi vice-chamberlain
On 23 October Archbishop Paolo Sardi, apostolic nuncio with special responsibilities in the Secretariat of State, was nominated vice-chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church. He takes the place of 99 year old Ettore Cunial, formerly deputy administrator of the Roman Vicariate. Therefore 70 year old Sardi, a Piedmontese from the diocese of Acqui, in effect the Pope’s ‘ghost-writer’, will also be deputy of the cardinal chamberlain, the 77 year old Spaniard Eduardo Martínez Somalo, formerly prefect for the Congregation of the Religious. Article 171 of the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus speaks of the figure of the vice-chamberlain and states the following in paragraph 1: «The apostolic Chamber, of which the cardinal chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church is appointed head, with the collaboration of the vice-chamberlain and the other prelates of the Chamber, carries out in particular the functions assigned to it by the special law relative to the vacant Apostolic See».

CURIA/2 New prelate auditor of the Roman Rota
On 24 November Monsignor Abdou Yaacoub, a Lebanese Maronite, was nominated prelate auditor of the Roman Rota. He takes the place of the Spaniard Francisco López-Illana, who was 75 years old on 18 November.

DIPLOMACY New ambassadors of Iran and Iraq to the Holy See
On 29 October Mohammad Javad Faridzade, the new ambassador of Iran to the Holy See, presented his letters of credentials to the Pope. The 51 year-old Teheran representative studied law and literature in his homeland and philosophy in Germany, and for the last three years was special representative of the President of the Republic for international cultural and political questions. In his speech the Pope – along with other things – said: «The Holy See counts on the support of the Iranian authorities to allow the faithful of the Catholic Church present in Iran, as other Christians, the freedom to profess their religion and to encourage the recognition of the juridical personality of ecclesiastical institutions …». The new ambassador, for his part, said among other things: «Religious thinkers, basing themselves on the Sacred Books, can not only acquire a profound understanding of human rights, but are indeed capable of explaining the theological and theosophical causes of them». An unusual fact, about both speeches, that of the Pope and of the Teheran diplomat, was that L’Osservatore Romano (30 October) published the translations in Italian.
On 15 November it was then the turn of the new ambassador of Iraq. He is Albert Edward Ismail Yelda, a 45 year old Christian of the Ancient Assyrian church, who from 1987 until 2003 dedicated himself to the legal counsel and assistance projects for the Iraqi immigrants in London. To him the Pope, among the rest, said: «May your government work tirelessly to resolve contrasts and conflicts through dialogue and negotiation, having recourse to military force only in extreme cases». On 4 November John Paul II had received the Iraqi Prime Minister as well.

IRAQ The flight of Christians
«It would be at least paradoxical if under the consulate of George W. Bush, who does not begin a Council of Ministers’ meeting without a prayer, one of the most ancient Christian communities of the East should disappear». Thus concludes an article in the Parisian Le Figaro (29 November) devoted to the “disturbing flight of Christians” from post-Saddam Iraq.

KOSOVO Monasteries still under attack
On 13 October the documentary Enclave Kosovo by Elisabetta Valgiusti was presented in Rome, an initiative proposed by the association “Save the monasteries” (internet site Among those present were Cardinal Tomás Spidlík, the ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro to the Holy See Darko Tanaskovic, deputies Gustavo Selva (AN, president of the Foreign commission of the Chamber of Deputies) and Luana Zanella (Greens-L’Ulivo) and French professor Marie-Paule Roudil, director of the UNESCO Office in Venice dealing with the Balkans. Present also were Fathers Sava and Xenofon of the Orthodox monastery of Decani, and Monsignor Miguel Maury Buendía, who has recently been given responsibility for dealing with the Balkans in the Second section of the Secretariat of State. The documentary in question is an impressive fresco of the systematic destruction of the Orthodox monasteries in the province of ex-Yugoslavia currently administered by the UN. In March 2004 alone, 35 monasteries and convents were devastated by Albanian extremists.

ITALY Monsignor Marino nominated bishop of Avellino
On 13 November 49 year old Monsignor Francesco Marini, of the Aversa clergy, was nominated bishop of Avellino. Born in the province of Caserta, Marino, a priest since 1979, held the positions of parish priest, of external vicar and diocesan assistant of Catholic Action.

POLITICS/1 Bertinotti and Saint Francis
«When the Church is in crisis Saint Francis is needed. A sweet, non-violent revolution is called for, but still radical nevertheless, which re-proposes to you with force the issue of the poor and equality». Thus Fausto Bertinotti in an interview on the identity of the left, which appeared in La Repubblica of 9 November.

POLITICS/2 Baptism in the Lazio Region
On 16 November in the chapel of the Lazio Region a singular baptism was celebrated. A baby was baptized thanks to the interest of the association “Save mommies”, a body that occupies itself with bringing to term, anonymously, mothers in difficulty who cannot, or do not want to, continue with the pregnancy. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops baptized the little one; Francesco Storace, president of the Region, was the unusual godfather. The report of the celebration appeared in La Repubblica the following day, in an article with the title: Baptism in the Region. Storace plays the papal supporter.

POLITICS/3 Pannella, solidarity and necrophilia
The highly imaginative Marco Pannella, during the course of a discussion with Giuliano Ferrara, denied that Rocco Buttiglione, whose candidacy for European Commissioner was blocked, was the victim of an “anti-catholic prejudice”. Pannella then asked of the secularists: «How did you manage to sign» in solidarity «in the blood shed by Buttiglione? Necrophilia is a fascist characteristic». The words of the Radical leader were reported in L’Unità of 9 November.

BOOKS/1 Bianchi: «In the Church more militants than disciples»
This the title of a review which appeared in La Stampa of 6 November, inside the Allbooks section, signed by Enzo Bianchi. The book reviewed is by Alberto Melloni and is called Mother Church, Stepmother Church (Einaudi, 7 euro) of which Bianchi praises in particular the part dedicated to forgiveness. He writes: «The real knot that needs undoing seems to be that of a Church which, after surprising everyone by its capacity to ask forgiveness for the errors committed in the course of the centuries by “some of its sons”, even very eminent ones, nevertheless labors ever more to forgive, and announce the good news of God’s mercy to the men and women of our time. Too often believers, and not just them, are left alone with their weaknesses and anguish in the face of categorical imperatives… And here the author, denouncing the limits of today’s pastoral care, perhaps more intent on creating militants than training disciples, declares that “the experience of the Church as an active mother – the Church by which one is accompanied through the seasons of life, is initiated into the inner life – is ever rarer”».

BOOKS/3 When the devil conquers Saint Peter
This is the title of a long review, which appeared in Corriere della Sera on 25 November, of the novel Angels and Demons, the latest work by Dan Brown, a thriller with a symbolic-religious background set in Rome during a conclave. Brown is the author of the bestseller The da Vinci Code.

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