from issue no.05 - 2009


Relations between Israel and the Church: the three steps that made the history and the priorities of diplomacy

Benedict XVI and Shimon Peres in the presidential palace, Jerusalem, 12 May [© Osservatore Romano]

Benedict XVI and Shimon Peres in the presidential palace, Jerusalem, 12 May [© Osservatore Romano]

The visit of Benedict XVI to Israel? “It was important, I would say. But not all that important... Other steps were essential, and I refer in particular to the document Nostra Aetate, issued by the Second Vatican Council in 1965, which put an end to the culture of scorn for the ‘perfidious Jews’. The first visit by a pope – Pope Paul VI – to Israel, in 1964. The opening of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican, thanks to Pope John Paul II. Those were historic steps”. So said Avraham Burg, the son of one of the founders of the State of Israel, the President of the Israeli Parliament and also founder of the Israeli “Peace Now”, in an interview with Elena Loewenthal, that appeared in La Stampa of 13 May. In the concluding part of the interview, Burg focused on the most significant features of Benedict XVI’s visit, namely the meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres and the visit to Yad Vashem, in these words: “This time, therefore, the foreign visitor was first taken to the residence of the President of the nation, and afterwards to the Holocaust memorial... When one thinks that since ancient times, with the conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by the Romans and the affirmation of Christianity, Israel as a national entity has constituted a theological and dogmatic challenge, the order of precedence established by diplomatic protocol assumes an absolutely fundamental importance. It bodes well, both for Israel and the boundaries of its identity, as well as for inter-religious dialogue”.


Amato, the Church and Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni

“For those who have it, faith is an additional advantage, now more than ever, at a time when we are suffering the loss of the ethical center of gravity. The Catholic Church has allowed itself to be conquered by fundamentalist notions whereas we need a Christianity of dialogue. It was Manzoni who made me understand, through Don Rodrigo and the Unnamed, much in matters of faith. And then the figure of Mary, also prominent in the Koran, makes me proud of the Catholic religion, somewhat as an Italian is of the national team or of Totti”. Words from the former Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, in an interview in La Stampa of 23 May.

Barack Obama, Cairo, 4  June 2009 [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Barack Obama, Cairo, 4 June 2009 [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Middle East/1
Grossman and the al-Qaeda-settlers pairing

“The only people who have disapproved of Obama are al-Qaeda and the Israeli settlers. And I must admit that I feel somewhat embarrassed by the pairing”. Such was the comment by David Grossman – published in la Repubblica of 5 June – on the historic speech given the day before by US President Barack Obama in Cairo.

Middle East/2
Yehoshua: peace or the disappearance of Jewish identity in Israel

“What is difficult to accept, and is a source of concern, is that if those settlements [of Israeli settlers, ed.] continue to expand the solution of two states for two peoples will be compromised and, sooner or later, between Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea a single state populated by two ethnic groups will extend which, because of Palestinian population growth, will little by little change into a State with a Palestinian majority. A certain recipe for the end of Israel”. Thus Abraham B. Yehoshua, in an editorial in La Stampa of 5 June, after the speech of US President Barack Obama the prvious day.

Holy See
Baldelli Grand Penitentiary

On 2 June, the Pope accepted the resignation of US Cardinal James Francis Stafford, 77 years old in July, as Grand Penitentiary. In his place Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, an Umbrian, 74 years old in August, Apostolic Nuncio in France since 1999, was nominated.

Sacred College
The resignation of Cardinal Kitbunchu

On May 14 the Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu as archbishop of Bangkok. In his place 60 year-old Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, Bishop of Nakhon Sawan since 2007, was appointed. Kitbunchu, eighty years old in January, was archbishop of Thailand’s capital since 1972 and was created cardinal in 1983.

Roman Curia
A Slovak Jesuit Secretary for the Eastern Churches

On 7 May, Benedict XVI appointed 44 year-old Slovak Jesuit Cyril Vasil’, the new secretary of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. Father Vasil’, ordained priest in 1987, entered the Society of Jesus in 1990 and in 2001 made his solemn profession. In 1994 he received a degree in Canon Law at the Pontifical Oriental Institute (POI), where in 2002 he became dean of the law faculty and pro-rector. In 2007 he was appointed rector.

SIPRI, the financial crisis and the boom in military expenditure

“Military expenditure has increased by 4% throughout the world to a record 1,464 billion dollars, more than 900 billion euros. This represents an increase of 45 percent on the figures of ten years ago.” The passage comes from a front page article in L’Osservatore Romano summarizing the contents of the report of the International Institute of Research for Peace (SIPRI), the most authoritative body in this area of analysis, stressing how this increase in military expenditure has occurred in a world gripped by a particularly dramatic economic downturn.

Israel refuses to adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

“Friction between Israel and the United States on the nuclear issue. The authorities of the Jewish State have tersely dismissed a call from Washington to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the international agreement limiting the use of atomic weapons”. From a report that appeared in Avvenire of 7 May.

Eight new ambassadors to the Holy See non-resident in Rome

On 29 May, the Pope received the letters of credential from eight new ambassadors non-resident in Rome since they are also accredited to another European country. These are the representatives of Mongolia (Danzannorov Boldbaatar, resident in Switzerland), India (Chitra Narayanan, resident in Switzerland), Benin (Charles Borromée Todjinou, resident in Belgium), New Zealand (Robert Carey Moore-Jones, resident in Spain), South Africa (George Johannes, resident in Switzerland), Burkina Faso (Beyon Luc Adolphe Tiao, resident in France), Namibia (Neville Melvin Gertze, resident in Germany), Norway (Rolf Troll Andersen, resident in Switzerland).

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