from issue no.11 - 2005


Augustine, the citizens of Babylon and the Heavenly Jerusalem

Benedict XVI during the general audience of 21 December 2005

Benedict XVI during the general audience of 21 December 2005

We publish part of the meditation which the Holy Father gave on 30 November, on the occasion of the Wednesday audience: «We wish to entrust ourselves to Saint Augustine for a further meditation on our psalm. In it the great Father of the Church introduces a surprising and very topical note: he knows that even among the inhabitants of Babylon there are persons who are committed to the peace and well-being of the community, though not sharing the biblical faith, not knowing therefore the hope of the Eternal City that we aspire to. They carry in themselves a spark of desire for the unknown, for what is greatest, for the transcendent, for a true redemption. And he says that even among the persecutors, among the non-believers, people with this spark are to be found, with a type of faith, of hope, in so far as it is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live. With this faith also in an unknown reality, they are really heading for the true Jerusalem, towards Christ. And with this opening of hope for the Babylonians also – as Augustine calls them - for those who don’t know Christ, and not even God, and yet desire the unknown, the eternal, he admonishes us also not to fixate ourselves simply on the material things of the present moment, but to persevere on the path towards God. Only with this greatest of hopes can we also, in the proper way, transform this world. Saint Augustine puts it in these words: “If we are citizens of Jerusalem… and we must live on this earth, in the confusion of the present world, in the present Babylon, where we do not reside as citizens but are held prisoners, it is necessary as is said in the Psalm not only that we sing it but that we live it: something that is done with a profound aspiration of the heart, fully and religiously ardent for the eternal city”.
And regarding the “earthly city called Babylon” he adds: it “has people who, moved by a love of it, work to guarantee its peace – temporal peace – nurturing no other hope in their heart, rather reposing all their joy in this, without expecting other. And we see them making every effort to make themselves useful to earthly society. Now, if they operate with pure conscience in these responsibilities, God will not permit them to perish along with Babylon, having predestined them to be citizens of Jerusalem: on the condition however that, living in Babylon, they do not aspire to pride, fleeting ostentation and irksome arrogance… he sees their enslavement and will show them that other city, for which they must truly yearn and direct all their effort”. (Expositions on the Psalms, 136,1-2: Nuova Bibliotca Agostiniana, XXVIII, Roma 1977, pp.397-399)».


Sharon, “Forward” and the advocates of Greater Israel

Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon

Rays of hope from the new Israel: in mid November, following the victory of the trade-unionist Peretz in the Labor primaries, Ariel Sharon (who on 20 December suffered a slight indisposition that made the world anxious) decided to abandon the Likud to found a new party: Kadima (Forward). We report the words of Yossi Beilin, leader of the Zionist left Meretz, that appeared in an article of La Repubblica on 21 November: «A great victory for those who believe in the necessity of territorial compromise with the Palestinians compared to the advocates of Greater Israel. The split is a chance to create a new coalition in which the political exiles from Likud who have realized that they have been fooling the Israeli people for thirty eight years and only now understand that the dream of a Greater Israel was a dangerous chimera, can take part».

The Church with only one voice

Giuseppe de Rita

Giuseppe de Rita

The Church with only one voice. Such was the title of an interview with Giuseppe De Rita by Marco Politi, published in La Repubblica, on 1 December. We report a reply from the Secretary General of CENSIS: «I have said and written it many times. The institution has become vertically structured, but it is no use blaming only the leadership, which speaks for all. The quality of ecclesiastical personnel has deteriorated. Among the bishops there are those who speak for all. Among the bishops there are people selected in a way incompatible with the polycentric presence of the Church in actual society… Once we had prelates such as Del Monte, Ablondi, cardinals such as Ballestrero in Turin, Cè in Venice, Piovanelli in Florence, bishops such as Riva in Rome. Today we have to say that Wojtyla’s pontificate has led to an impoverishment of the Church in speaking with several voices».


The Greco-Catholic Church elevated to a senior archiepiscopal Church

On 16 December the Press Office of the Holy See announced that the Pope had elevated the sui juris Greco-Catholic Romanian Metropolitan Church to the grade of senior archiepiscopal Church and had promoted Lucian Muresan to the dignity of senior archbishop of Fagaras and Alba Iulia.

New Secretary of Divine Worship

On 10 December 58 year-old Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, originally from Sri Lanka, was nominated new Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Nominated auxiliary of Colombo in 1991 and bishop of Ratnapura in 1995, he was called to Rome in 2001 as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. On 29 April 2004 he was nominated nuncio to Indonesia and Timor East. On 28 April 2004 L’Osservatore Romano published an article by Patabendige Don commenting on the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum concerning what should be observed and avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, which was published on 23 April 2004 under the editorship of the Congregation for Divine Worship in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Giertych theologian of the Pontifical Household

On 1 December the Dominican priest 54 year-old Wojciech Giertych was nominated new Theologian of the Pontifical Household. Giertych, born in London of a famous Polish family, was an “associate” of the Master General of the Dominican Order in matters of the intellectual life. He speaks seven languages, including Russian.

Piovanelli and Compline

Advent, hope finds a home. This is the title of an interview with Cardinal Silvano Piovanelli on the period of Advent published in Avvenire on 26 November. We publish an excerpt from it: «It’s true, attempts are often made to hide the reality of death […] Even the liturgy at times uses translations that we can say are attenuated. Such is the case with the final prayer of Compline: Noctem quietam et finem perfectum concedat nobis Dominus omnipotens which was translated by “May the Lord grant us a serene night and a tranquil rest”. But it is not a faithful translation because whereas “noctem quietam” is alright as “a serene night”, “tranquil rest” does not translate “finem perfectum”, which is a holy end, a holy death».

Visit of the Prefect of Propaganda Fide

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, visited Vietnam from 28 November to 6 December. During his pastoral mission, undertaken at the invitation of the Episcopal Conference of the Asian country, Sepe visited the archdioceses of Hanoi, Hue and Hochiminhville and the dioceses of Hung Hoa and Ba Ria. During his stay in Vietnam, the cardinal also met various civil authorities including the Prime Minister Phan Vai Kai. During the visit, on the 29 November, the Prefect of Propaganda Fide ordained 57 deacons as priests in Hanoi Cathedral.

Sacred College
The death of Cardinal Scheffczyk

On 8 December the 85 year-old German cardinal Leo Scheffczyk, theologian, created cardinal in February 2001, died. With his death the Sacred College consists of 179 cardinals of whom 111 are electors.

Middle East/1
Peretz and children’s games

«At night the children of Sderot don’t sleep for fear of the Qassam Palestinian rockets and the children of Gaza don’t sleep because our combat planes break the sound barrier. In my dreams there will one day be an industrial zone between Gaza and Sderot and our children will play with Palestinian children». This is a passage from the speech that the new leader of the Israeli Labour Party, Amir Peretz, made at a demonstration in memory of the former Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin, killed in 1993. A summary of the speech appeared in La Stampa on 14 November.

Middle East/2
Peres and a new hope

«I am sorry to split with the past but I am happy to share in a new hope». So said Shimon Peres (reported in La Repubblica of 5 December) on joining the new political grouping of Ariel Sharon.

The new bishop of Trivento is consecrated

On the evening of 8 December 53 year-old Angelo Scotti, originally from Pollutri (Chieti), former rector of the regional Abruzzo-Molisano Pontifical Seminary San Pio X and, since April 2005, vicar general of Chieti-Vasto, was consecrated bishop of Trivento, in Molise.

New bishops for Forlì, Lodi, and Assisi

On 12 November Lino Pizzi, 63 year-old rector of the diocesan seminary of Modena, was nominated bishop of Forlì-Bertinoro.
On 14 November 67 year-old Giuseppe Merisi, auxiliary in Milan since 1995, was nominated bishop of Lodi.
On 19 December Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino was nominated bishop-archbishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino. Sorrentino, a 57 year-old from Campania, was Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship from August 2003.

New nuncios to Paraguay, Bosnia and the USA

On 16 Novemebr 61 year-old Archbishop Orlando Antonini from the Abruzzo was nominated nuncio to Paraguay. He was nuncio to Zambia and Malawi since 1999.
On 21 November 55 year-old Archbishop Alessandro D’Errico from Campania was nominated apostolic nuncio to Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was nuncio in Pakistan since 1999.
On 17 December Archbishop Pietro Sambi was nominated nuncio to the United States, where he will replace the Colombian Gabriel Montalvo who was 75 years old last January. 67 year-old Sambi from Emilia Romagna was nuncio to Israel and Cyprus from 1998, as well as apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine.

New ambassadors from USA, France and Great Britain

On 12 November the new US ambassador to the Holy See presented his credentials to the Pope. He is 52 year-old Francis Rooney, a Catholic, president and director of the Manhattan Construction Company and of the Rooney Holdings Inc. group.
On 19 Decemebr it was the turn of the representative of France: he is 52 year-old Bernard Kessedjian, a career diplomat from an Armeno-Catholic family, formerly ambassador to Algeria (1992-1994) and Greece (1995-2000), and permanent representative at the UN Office in Geneva for the past five years.
On 23 December then it was the turn of the new ambassador from Great Britain. He is the young, 35 year-old, Francis Martin-Xavier Campbell, a career diplomat originally from Northern Ireland, private secretary to the premier Tony Blair from 2001-2003 and from 2003-2005 first secretary at the Rome Embassy to the Quirinal. Campbell is the first Catholic to hold this position since the time of the Reformation.

New non-resident ambassadors to Rome

On 1 December the Pope received the credentials of eleven new ambassadors to the Holy See who do not reside in Rome. They are the representatives of Tanzania (55 year-old Ali Abeid, ambassador to Germany also), Nepal (51 year-old Madan Kumar Bhattarai, also ambassador to Germany), Finland (59 year-old Pekka Ojanen, ambassador to Switzerland also), Santa Lucia (59 year-old Gilbert Ramez Chagoury, also ambassador to UNESCO in Paris), El Salvador (60 year-old Francisco A. Soler, resident in London), Denmark (62 year-old Sten Erik Malmborg Lilholt, ambassador to Switzerland also), South Africa (54 year-old Konji Sabati, ambassadress to Switzerland also), Algeria (69 year-old Idriss Jazary, also ambassador to the UN Center in Geneva), Eritrea (59 year-old Petros Tseggai, ambassador to Germany also), Togo (55 year-old Felix Kodjo Sagbo, also ambassador to Belgium), and Andorra (54 year-old Antoni Morell Mora, resident in the homeland).

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