from issue no.01/02 - 2009


Dante, Augustine and completion in the tributes of praise of infants

ILet the little children come to me/I, Carl Vogel von Vogelstein, Gallery of Modern Art, Florence

ILet the little children come to me/I, Carl Vogel von Vogelstein, Gallery of Modern Art, Florence

In a review in Domenica of Il Sole-24Ore of 22 February (p. 25) of a new illustrated edition of The Divine Comedy, Carlo Ossola writes [of the Paradiso]: “From that canto (XXI) on Dante multiplies similes of ineffability, he presents them – from the beginning of the next canto – as “fantolin” infans, i.e. incapable of speech, in need of a mother and of shelter: “Weighed down with wonder, to my guide / I turned, like a child runs / to where it most trusts; / and she, as a mother who succours / immediately the pale and panting child /... ” (XXII, 1-5). The image unfolds even further in the following canto with the celebrated triplet: “And as the speechless babe stretches toward the mother / its arms, once the milk is taken in, / with the love that flames forth, / each of those bright lights strove upwards / with its flame, so that the deep affection / they had for Mary was clear to me” (XXIII, 121-126).
“Little ones” appears again in Paradiso XXVII and “speechless babe” and “wet nurse” will appear at the end of canto XXX: Dante makes himself small, as if he applied to himself, having entered the path of salvation in full maturity – “Midway on the passage of our lives” – the Gospel maxim: “Nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli non intrabitis in regnum caelorum” (Mt 18, 3). The last canto of the Paradiso rounds off these similes of the suckling’s speechlessness: “From this point my speech will be more curt, / even about what I remember, than an infant’s / which bathes its tongue still on the nipple” (XXXIII, 106-108). And yet that is the Canto in which Dante, as Curtius has pointed out, sums up all the authorities of the classics of which he was heir and fulfilment, not only St Bernard, who raises the wonderful prayer to the Virgin (“Virgin Mother, daughter of your son”) but the Virgil of the Aeneid (“thus, light leaves in the wind, / is lost the wisdom of the Sybil”: XXXIII, 65-66), and the Argonauts of Greek tradition (“A sole instant caused me greater forgetfulness / than twenty-five centuries of the undertaking / that made Neptune admire the shadow of the Argo”: 94-96). Is it at all possible that the Dante, who claims to be the ultimate synthesis of all classicism, presents himself biologically as a “little one”?
Here also – and up till now it has never been noted by critics – Dante convokes the highest authorities of the Church Fathers, that St Augustine whom he places at the summit of Paradise: “Francis, Benedict and Augustine” (XXXII, 35). And indeed St Augustine himself, in the last book of the Confessions, celebrates the praise of the creation and invokes the vision of ultimate beatitude, assigning “to babes and sucklings” the innocent thrill of that supreme praise: “O Lord, make it so that we can see the heavens, the work of your hands! Clear from our eyes the clouds with which you have veiled them. There lies your witness that gives wisdom to children. Make perfect your praise from the mouth of babes and sucklings” (“Perfice, Deus meus, laudem tuam, ex ore infantium ac lactantiumConfessions XIII, 15). Perfice, perfect: Dante thus brought to completion the long “tributes of praise” of humanity, infant in simile and Father of the Church of the Last Days”.


The most holy and most humble Sacrament

IProcession from San Lorenzo/I, Church of San Lorenzo, Milan

IProcession from San Lorenzo/I, Church of San Lorenzo, Milan

During his homily at Holy Mass on the Epiphany, Benedict XVI touched on how we can speak of an “epiphany of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist”. He added: “The Church celebrates all the mysteries of the Lord in this most humble and most holy Sacrament, in which at the same time He both reveals and conceals His glory. ‘Adoro te devote, latens Deitas’. Adoring, let us pray in this way with St Thomas Aquinas”.


Salvation is Jesus

ISt Paul/I, Caravaggio, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

ISt Paul/I, Caravaggio, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

At the Sunday Angelus of 25 January, Benedict XVI explained Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus in these words: “In that moment Saul realized that his salvation depended not on good works done in accordance with the law, but on the fact that Jesus had died for him too – the persecutor – and was, and is, risen”.


Grace is in God's hands

INoah and the rainbow/I, Marc Chagall

INoah and the rainbow/I, Marc Chagall

We publish an excerpt from Arrigo Levi’s article Church-Jews, the Tiber tighter that appeared in La Stampa on Wednesday 18 February: “Sometimes, if you take a false step, the rectification that follows may be particularly illuminating. After the return, in the reinstated Good Friday prayer, of the wish for the conversion of the Jews, the task of clarifying that these words were not a call to missionary action toward the Jews was entrusted to a long essay by Cardinal Kasper that we reported at the time. Kasper had taken the opportunity of taking up a theological concept dear to Wojtyla, explaining that “the inscrutable mystery of grace” lies solely in the hands of God: the Church “cannot in any way” presume to direct it. This acknowledgment has significance not only for relations between the Church and the Jews. It seems to me that it implicitly reopens the doors to a dialogue not only cultural but religious with non-Catholics, and perhaps even to us secularists, who admit we do not believe in God. A believer, convinced that we are wrong, certainly cannot exclude that God believes in us and, in His inscrutable judgment, grants us Grace”.


“What is needed is a loving touch from the Nazarene”

Enzo Jannacci [© LaPresse]

Enzo Jannacci [© LaPresse]

“What is needed is a loving touch from the Nazarene”: So said Enzo Jannacci about the Englaro affair in an interview published in Corriere della Sera on Friday 6 February. Faced with Eluana and those in her condition, “people alive only in appearance, but alive”, the famous singer-songwriter and Milan doctor, who has always professed himself a “very imprudent secular atheist”, confessed that in such circumstances he could only raise his arms and invoke Christ. “In these recent years the figure of Christ has become fundamental to me: it’s the thought of his end on the cross that makes even the very idea of helping someone to die impossible for me. If the Nazarene came back he would slap all of us in the face. We deserve it, and how, but we have so much need of a loving touch from him”.

Timothy Michael Dolan and Edward Michael EganBR [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Timothy Michael Dolan and Edward Michael EganBR [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

New archbishops in Detroit, Valencia and New York

On 5 January, the Pope accepted the resignation as Archbishop of Detroit of 79 year-old Cardinal Adam Joseph Maida, a post he held since 1990. In his place was appointed 60 year-old Henry Allen Vigneron, bishop of Oakland since 2003 and previously, from 1996, auxiliary of Detroit.
On 8 January the resignation of 78 year-old Cardinal Vicente Agustín García-Gasco as Archbishop of Valencia, a post he held since 1992, was accepted. In his place 64 year-old Carlos Osorio Sierra, Archbishop of Oviedo since 2002 and previously, from 1996, bishop of Orense, was nominated.
On 23 February the resignation of 77 year-old Cardinal Edward Michael Egan as Archbishop of New York, a post he held since 2000, was accepted. In his place 59 year-old Timothy Michael Dolan archbishop of Milwaukee since 2002 and previously from 2001, Auxiliary of Saint Louis, was nominated.

United States/1
Obama and the realism of Niebuhr

In the editorial of La Stampa on Sunday 18 January, Barbara Spinelli expressed the hope that the new president of the United States will be able to fulfill his mandate without the help of bad advisers. The article concludes as follows: “The historian Andrew Bacevich wrote that great Americans are rarely listened to at home, because they say realistic, and thereby unwelcome, things that get little following (The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, New York 2008). Detoxification includes recovering this tradition. It is in solitude that Obama can recover the realism of Reinhold Niebuhr, the prophetic theologian who in the aftermath of the Second World War denounced American exceptionality and “the dream of manipulating history, born of a peculiar combination of arrogance and narcissism: a potentially fatal threat to the United States”.

United States/2
Hillary Clinton and the poet Terence

“In any undertaking the right path taken by the wise is to seek persuasion first of all”. This unusual quotation from the Latin poet Terence used by Hillary Clinton on the occasion of her speech to the Senate for approval as Secretary of State of the U.S. The quote was reported in La Stampa on 14 January in an article entitled: Hillary, goodbye to brute force.

Middle East
Sabra and Chatila and a future of hope

“‘I hope that one day the children of the Middle East look at this film as an old videogame that they have nothing more to do with’. Such were the words with which the Israeli director Ari Folman accepted the Golden Globe for best foreign film awarded to Waltz with Bashir”. This was the beginning of an article in la Repubblica of 13 January. Waltz with Bashir is an animated cartoon on the massacre of Sabra and Chatila in which about three thousand Palestinians were killed.

Sacred College/1
Deaths of Laghi, Ghattas, Kim and Pham. Kitbunchu’s 80th birthday

On 11 January 87 year-old Cardinal Pio Laghi from Romagna, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Catholic Education, created cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1991, died. On 20 January 89 year-old Egyptian Cardinal Stephanos Ghattas II, Patriarch Emeritus of Alexandria of the Copts, created cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001, died. On 16 February 87 year-old Korean Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, Archbishop Emeritus of Seoul, created cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1969, died. On 22 February 90 year-old Vietnamese Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, Archbishop Emeritus of Hanoi, created cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1994, died.
On 25 January Thai Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu, Archbishop of Bangkok since 1972, created cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1983, was eighty years old.
On 23 February the Sacred College was made up of 187 cardinals, of whom 115 are electors in the case of an eventual conclave. There remain four Cardinals created by Pope Paul VI, all non-voters.

Sacred College/2
Saraiva Martins promoted to the Order of Bishops

On 24 February the Portuguese Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints from May 1998 to July 2008, until now cardinal deacon titular of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, was promoted to the Order of Bishops and made titular of the suburbicarian Church of Palestrina. He succeeds the late lamented Cardinal Bernardin Gantin who died on 13 May 2008. This is the first time, at least in recent times, that a cardinal deacon was promoted directly to the Order of Bishops without first going through the Order of Priests.

Eastern Catholic Churches
New Patriarch of the Siro-Catholics

On 23 January, the Pope recognized in ecclesiastical communion the new patriarch of the Siro-Catholics, elected by the Synod of the Siro-Catholic Church, held in Rome from 18-20 January. The new Patriarch is 65 year-old Ignace Youssif III Younan, a native of Hassaké in Syria, bishop since 1995 of the newly constituted Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark of American and Canadian Siro-Catholics.

New Director General of the Vatican Publishing House

On 31 January the Secretary of State appointed as new director general of the Vatican Publishing House - L’Osservatore Romano Publications, the 59 year-old Salesian Don Pietro Migliasso, from Piedmont, who since 10 January has been the superior of the Salesian community in the Vatican. Don Migliasso succeeds his fellow-brother 77 year-old Don Elio Torrigiani, a Tuscan, who held the above-mentioned posts since 1991.

The Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family becomes bishop in Poland

On 4 February, 45 year-old Monsignor Grzegorz Kaszak, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family since 2007, was appointed Bishop of Sosnowiec in Poland.

Revocation of Lefebvrian bishops’ excommunication

On 24 January a decree of the Congregation for Bishops was made public. It revokes the excommunication of the four bishops illicitly ordained in 1988 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

African Synod
The chairmen and the general spokesman appointed

On February 14, for the second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in the Vatican from 4 to 25 October 2009, on the subject The Church in Africa at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace. “You are the salt of the earth ... You are the light of the world “ (Mt 5, 13.14), the Pope has appointed: presidents delegate Cardinals Francis Arinze, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Théodore-Adrien Sarr, Archbishop of Dakar (Senegal) and Wilfrid Fox Napier, Archbishop of Durban (South Africa); general spokesman Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Archbishop of Cape Coast (Ghana); special secretaries Damião António Franklin, Archbishop of Luanda (Angola) and Edmond Djitangar, Bishop of Sarh (Chad).

New nuncios to Peru, Panama, Honduras, Austria, Botswana and Sri Lanka

On 5 January 61 year-old Archbishop Bruno Musarò from Puglia, was appointed nuncio to Peru. From 2004 he was pontifical representative in Guatemala and previously had been nuncio to Madagascar and Panama.
On 12 January the 54 year-old Spanish Archbishop Andrés Carrascosa Coso, was appointed as the new nuncio to Panama. From 2004 he was pontifical representative in the Republic of Congo and Gabon.
On 12 January also the 49 year-old Luigi Bianco from Piedmont, was appointed archbishop and apostolic nuncio to Honduras. Ordained in 1985, in the diplomatic service since 1989, Bianco had served in the nunciatures of Italy, Egypt, Argentina, Croatia, and – most recently – Spain.
On 14 January the 66 year-old Swiss Archbishop Peter Stephan Zurbriggen was appointed as the new nuncio to Austria. From 2001 he was the pontifical representative in the Baltic Countries and previously had been nuncio to the Caucasus and Mozambique.
On 7 February the 59 year-old American Archbishop James Patrick Green, pontifical representative in South Africa and Namibia since 2006, was also appointed first nuncio to Botswana, with which the Holy See established full diplomatic relations on 4 November last.
On 21 February, the 50 year-old Maltese Joseph Spiteri, was appointed archbishop and apostolic nuncio to Sri Lanka. Ordained in 1984, in the diplomatic service since 1988, Spiteri served in the nunciatures in Panama, Iraq, Mexico, Portugal, Greece, Venezuela and, most recently, in the second section of the Secretariat of State.

New ambassadors of France, Hungary, Brazil and Australia

On 26 January, the Pope received the letters of credential of the new Ambassador of France to the Holy See. He is 63 year-old Stanislas Lefebvre de Laboulaye, career diplomat, formerly Consul General in Jerusalem (1995-1999) and lastly, Ambassador to Moscow.
On 2 February the new Ambassador of Hungary was received: 58 year-old János Balassa, career diplomat, formerly department head at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On 9 February it was the turn of the new Ambassador of Brazil: 64 year-old Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa, career diplomat, formerly ambassador to Spain, Argentina and Germany.
On February 12 came the new ambassador of Australia, the first to be resident in Rome. He is 63 year-old Timothy Andrew Fischer, from 1996 to 1999 Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.

Holy See – Schleswig-Holstein Agreement

On 12 January 2009 an Agreement between the Holy See and the Schleswig-Holstein Land was signed in Kiel (Federal Republic of Germany), which regulates relations between the Catholic Church and the Land. For the Holy See, Archbishop Jean-Claude Périsset, apostolic nuncio to Germany, signed as plenipotentiary, for the Land Minister-President Peter Harry Carstensen. The agreement, which consists of 24 articles, regulates the legal position of the Catholic Church in the Schleswig-Holstein Land. Among other things, it lays down rules about the teaching of the Catholic religion in public schools, the State recognition of schools in ecclesiastical administration, university education, the activities of the Church in pastoral, social health and charitable areas, ecclesiastical tax and the care of ecclesiastical buildings listed as monuments.

Italiano Español Français Deutsch Português