from issue no.05 - 2008


The road of the humble experience of faith

Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI

In the catechesis of Wednesday 14 May, “delivered entirely impromptu”, as L’Osservatore Romano writes, Benedict XVI spoke about Dionysus the Areopagite. We report three passages from it:
“In appearance everything that Plato says and everything that great philosophy says about God is much more exalted, is much truer; the Bible appears quite “barbarian”, simple, pre-critical it would be said today; but he [Dionysus, ed .] observes that precisely this is necessary, because in this way we can understand that the highest conceptions of God never arrive at His true greatness; they are always inappropriate. These images make us, in truth, understand that God is above all conceptions; in the simplicity of the images we find more truth than in the great concepts... Dionysus was all but rediscovered in the thirteenth century especially by Saint Bonaventure, the great Franciscan theologian who in this mystical theology found the conceptual tool for interpreting the so simple, so profound legacy of Saint Francis: the Poor Man of Assisi with Dionysus tells us that in the end love sees more than reason. Where there is the light of love the obscurities of reason have no access; love sees, love is eye and experience gives us more than reflection. What this experience may be Bonaventure saw in Saint Francis: it is the experience of a very humble, very realistic journey, day by day, it is this going with Christ, accepting His Cross. In this poverty and this humility, in the humility that is lived also in ecclesiality, there is an experience of God that is higher than that reached through reflection: in it we really touch the heart of God... And in the end [Dionysus] tells us: take the road of experience, the humble experience of faith, every day. The heart then becomes large and can see and illuminate reason also for it to see the beauty of God”.

Bernardin Gantin

Bernardin Gantin

Sacred College
The death of Cardinal Gantin

On 13 May the African Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, created cardinal by Paul VI in 1977, Dean Emeritus of the Sacred College and Prefect of the Congregation for the Bishops, died. A few days before, 8 May, he celebrated his 86th birthday. With his passing the Sacred College is composed of 194 cardinals, of whom 118 are electors. There remain five cardinals created by Pope Montini, none of whom is an elector.

The secularity of the State, the temptations, the Catholics

“Secularity derives from the Gospel source that says: give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. It has to do with a value that the Church espouses both for the good of the State and for the good of the Church itself”. Thus Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, in the Corriere della Sera of 31 May. And to the question as to whether the temptation of power exists also for the Church, he answered: “Temptations are human, everyone must be very watchful”. Finally, when asked for an opinion about the absence of Catholics in the government, he replied: “Catholics or those only labeled as such are not necessarily on the inside of an organization”.

The rosary: repetition is typical of the heart

“Mary is the woman who interrupted the chain of nos that humanity has said and continues to say to God. The creature whose freedom was placed totally at the disposal of the action of God. As for the rest, Mary is the creature most involved in the work of the redemption of the world. We could say that the demon is the proud one par excellence. Mary the humble one par excellence, because of this Mary is the greatest adversary of Satan and because of this Satan has an enormous fear of Mary because in her he never had the possibility of touching a jot of her soul, a jot of her freedom. Mary is completely on the side of God”. Thus Cardinal Angelo Comastri the Pope’s Vicar General for Vatican City, in an interview published in Avvenire on 28 May. Afterwards, speaking about the rosary, the cardinal explained: “It is still a modern prayer because it is a Biblical prayer, it is a path taken within the history of salvation led by Mary’s hand. And it is also a prayer of the heart, because repetition is typical of the heart: to a mother you never tire of saying ‘I love you’”.

May prayer prevail over present activism

Avvenire of 29 May published a summary of the letter, signed by Cardinal Cláudio Hummes and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza (Prefect and Secretary respectively of the Congregation for the Clergy), addressed to all priests on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the sanctification of priests. The article says: “The letter reminds us of ‘the priority of prayer over action, in so far as acting depends on it. The mission of the Church depends on the personal relationship of everyone with the Lord Jesus’. And, therefore, Hummes recalls, citing the words of Benedict XVI in the Deus caritas est, ‘“The moment has come to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of activity and impending secularism”’”. The heading of the Avvenire, article reads, moreover: Hummes: “May prayer prevail over present activism”.

Corriere della Sera/1
Reale, Aristotle and John Paul II

On what would have been Pope Wojtyla’s 88th birthday, the University of Lublin asked Giovanni Reale to give a lectio magistralis on Eros and agape, a reflection on Greek and Christian love. The article that the Corriere della Sera devoted to the event, on 15 May, spoke of the long friendship between the philosopher and the Pope, the convivial meetings to which “Plato was no stranger, but Aristotle above all was not absent. And as for that, the two had met thanks to the latter Greek thinker: the Pope’s secretary – Reale recalls – ‘telephoned me to ask me for a copy of Aristotle’s Metaphysics that I had edited. I was astonished, but then he specified that His Holiness read this work after his long journeys, perhaps to arrange ideas and impressions, perhaps because in those pages solutions simplified themselves. He underlined it, he annotated it’”. The article concluded with a recollection by Reale: “The last time I met him he struggled to speak and I dared ask him if between the two Wojtylas of the writings that I was publishing, the Pope preferred the poet or the philosopher. He answered: ‘I prefer both of them’. Now however I understand that the poet was closer to love”.

Corriere della Sera/2
Sabra and Chatila and the Cannes Festival

The horror of Sabra and Chatila, where approximately three thousand Palestinians were slaughtered by the Christian militias with the complicity of Israeli soldiers, has arrived at the Cannes Film Festival. One of those soldiers, then nineteen years-old, was Ari Folman, director of a cartoon film on the massacre. The Corriere della Sera of 16 May devotes an article to him that ends like this: “‘I felt myself a Nazi’ confesses the Israeli soldier who ordered the ceasefire when only a small group was still alive: ‘Those children with hands raised evoked for me the celebrated photo of another small child, in the Warsaw ghetto’. And the shock ending, when from animation moves to reality, with flesh and blood women screaming their pain, is a heartrending echo of the director’s exhortation: ‘I made this film for the young people of today, so that they say no to every war, whatever it may be’”.

Roman Curia
New assistant secretary of Propaganda Fide

On 24 May Monsignor Piergiuseppe Vacchelli was nominated assistant secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President of the Pontifical Missionary Works. Vacchelli, 71 years old, originally from Longardore di Sospiro (Cremona), has been a priest since 1961 for the diocese of Cremona. Since October 1996 he has been Undersecretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference and President of the Committee for Charitable Interventions for the developing nations.
Vacchelli takes the place of Polish archbishop Henryk Hoser, a Pallotine, 66 years old in November, Assistant Secretary of Propaganda Fide since January 2005, who also on 24 May was nominated Bishop of Warszawa-Praha.

New nuncios to the Ivory Coast, Haiti, Costa Rica, Kazakistan, Bulgaria and Uruguay

On 8 May Monsignor Ambrose Madtha, an Indian, 53 years old in November, was nominated archbishop and apostolic nuncio to the Ivory Coast. A priest since 1982, a graduate in canon law, Madtha entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1990 and subsequently worked in the Pontifical Representations in Ghana, El Salvador, Georgia, Albania and, ultimately, as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim in the apostolic nunciature in China, based in Taiwan. He speaks English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Albanian and Chinese.
Monsignor Paul Fitzpatrick Russell, an American from Boston, counselor of the nunciature in Nigeria has been sent to Taiwan.
On 8 May also 49 year-old Monsignor Bernardito C. Auza, a Philippino, was nominated archbishop and apostolic nuncio to Haiti. A priest since 1985, a graduate in Theology, Auza entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1990 and subsequently worked in the Pontifical Representations in Madagascar, Bulgaria, Albania, in the Section for Relationships with the States of the Secretariat of State and, finally, in the Pontifical Representation at the UN in New York. He speaks Italian, English, Spanish and French.
On 13 May the 59 year-old Vietnamese Archbishop Pierre Nguyên Van Tot, apostolic nuncio to the Central African Republic and in Chad since 2005, was nominated pontifical representative in Costa Rica. From 2003 to 2005 he was nuncio to Benin and Togo.
On 19 May Monsignor Miguel Maury Buendía, a Spaniard from Madrid, 53 years old in November, was nominated archbishop and apostolic nuncio to Kazakistan. A priest since 1980, a graduate in Canon Law, Maury entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1987 and subsequently worked in the Pontifical Representations in Rwanda, Uganda, Morocco, Nicaragua, Egypt, Slovenia, Ireland and finally in the Section for the Relationships with the States of the Secretariat of State. He speaks English, Italian, French and Slovenian.
On 24 May Polish Archbishop Janusz Bolonek, 70 years old in December, apostolic nuncio to Uruguay since 1999, was nominated pontifical representative in Bulgaria. Previously Bolonek was nuncio in Africa and then to Romania.
Also on the 24 May the 62 year-old Archbishop Anselmo Guido Pecorari from Lombardy, was nominated apostolic nuncio to Uruguay. Pecorari was pontifical representative in Rwanda from 2004 until last January.

New ambassadors of Israel and Guatemala to the Holy See

On 12 May the new ambassador of Israel to the Holy See presented his letters of credentials. He is Mordechay Lewy, a career diplomat, formerly embassy minister to Berlin (2000-2004) and counselor of the mayor of Jerusalem for the religious communities (2004-2008). He is author of many articles of a historical character on Christians and Jerusalem. He speaks English and German and knows Swedish and Latin.
On 31 May the new ambassador of Guatemala then presented his letters of credentials. He is 62 year-old Acisclo Valladares Molina, who had already covered the same assignment from 2000 to 2004.

Nine new non-resident ambassadors in Rome

On 29 May the ambassadors of nine countries who will not reside in the City because also accredited to other European countries, presented their letters of credentials. They are the representatives of Tanzania (Ahmada Rweyemamu Ngemera, ambassador resident in Germany), Uganda (Nyine S. Bitahwa, ambassador resident in Germany), Liberia (Wesley Momo Johnson, ambassador resident in Great Britain), Chad (Hissein Brahim Taha, ambassador resident in France), Bangladesh (Debrapiya Bhattacharya, ambassador resident in the UN office in Geneva), Belarus (Sergei F. Aleinik, ambassador resident in the UN office in Geneva), Guinea (Alexandre Cécé Loua, ambassador resident in Germany), Sri Lanka (Tikiri Bandara Maduwegedera, ambassador resident in Germany), Nigeria (Obed Wadzani, ambassador resident in Spain).


On the relationship between religion and power

Questioned about the affirmations of Massimo D’Alema about the possibility of a “demonic pact of the Church with power” (a conference speech reported by the Corriere della Sera of 26 May), Nicola Latorre replied: “The relationship between religion and power is and has been object of discussion and great disquietude first of all in the Catholic world: from Monsignor Coda, president of the Italian theologians, up to Don Giussani, who was neither in the ranks of Italo-Europeans nor a radical secularist. Let me quote a passage from a book by Don Giussani to make things even clearer: ‘What we have said before about power is of value as a dizzying feature for authority as it could be lived in the Church. If it is not paternal, and therefore maternal, it can become a source of supreme equivocation, and a hypocritical and destructive tool in the hand of falsehood, of Satan father of lies’. And so I don’t understand why there is so much controversy about that phrase of D’Alema on the demonic pact. It is not orthodoxy that scares but the political use of orthodoxy”.
The interview with the vice group leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate was published in the Corriere della Sera of 30 May.


The applause in church and the silence of the Chinese

The silence of the Chinese

The silence of the Chinese

“Of the three minutes of silence observed by the Chinese for the victims of the earthquake one thing impressed above all: the silence. In the television images nothing seemed capable of removing the stiffness of those motionless bodies and those sealed lips. The comparison with the funeral of the girl from Niscemi assassinated by her contemporaries could not have been more depressing. Thunderous applause for the coffin, even during the rendering of “The last post” by a trumpeter. Applause in church or during commemorations in stadiums is a dramatic sign of decadence, much more so because few seem to attach any importance to it. It is the spawn of television’s diseducation and expresses the anxiety to fill a void. In civilizations in decline it has lost the original meaning of approval and has become the way to let others know of one’s existence. The dead are applauded so one may feel alive oneself, without indeed being so: only the living dead, in fact, can have so much fear of silence... The Chinese will begin to lose their grip the day they discover that moving their hands and mouths is an excellent way of silencing the heart”. Thus Massimo Gramellini on 21 May in his daily column in La Stampa under the heading: An ugly applause


The first parish church for the traditionalist faithful erected

The church of the Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims in Rome

The church of the Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims in Rome

L’Osservatore Romano of 16 May reported the fact that, by a decree of Cardinal Vicar Camillo Ruini, the “personal parish” of the Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims has been erected in the City, entrusted to the pastoral care of the Saint Peter Priestly Fraternity. It is the first “personal parish” in Rome for the faithful who follow the exceptional form of the Roman liturgy, that is the mass of Saint Pius V, in application of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of Benedict XVI. Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, explained how the creation of this “personal parish” is an “important act decided by the Pope for the diocese of Rome that has value in itself, in the progressive process underway of the application of the motu proprio on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform carried out in 1970. The making of a ‘personal parish’ has also an exemplary value for other dioceses, in Italy as well as elsewhere”.

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