from issue no.08 - 2009


Messori, ethics and the disappearance of faith

ICalling of St Matthew/I, Caravaggio, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

ICalling of St Matthew/I, Caravaggio, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

“The obsession with ethics grows when faith declines, and today the faith itself seems to vanish, as the Pope reports”. So Vittorio Messori wrote in an article in Corriere della Sera on 20 September. The reference is to a sentence of Benedict XVI contained in the letter to the bishops in March 2009: “In vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel”.


Pope Wojtyla, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the wall between Rome and Moscow

Solidarity demonstration, Warsaw, 1982 [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Solidarity demonstration, Warsaw, 1982 [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

In a letter to the Corriere della Sera, 8 September, a reader asked Sergio Romano to shed light on the role played by Pope John Paul II in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Romano replied that the pontificate of Karol Wojtyla had shaped the course of events in two ways. One positive, in as much as his repeated visits to Poland and his “not only moral support of Solidarity”, encouraged liberalizing institutional reforms in that country. One less positive, because of the policy of the papacy toward Orthodoxy. Romano explained: “Wojtyla believed that the defeat of Communism would make the end of the schism possible at last, the return to unity and, of course, the recognition of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. He asked Gorbachev, and was granted, that the Catholics of the Greek Rite of Western Ukraine (the Uniates) regain possession of ecclesiastical property lost at the time of Stalin. He asked and obtained that the Holy See be authorized to create in Russia four large episcopal dioceses, a privilege that the Tsars had strongly refused. And he entrusted the task of evangelization to a large group of Polish bishops and priests. He did not realize that those Polish priests would be perceived in Russia as the vanguard of an imperial project and that from that time a new cold war would break out between Moscow and Rome. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall another wall has long divided the two major European Christian groupings. The man who has done most work to bring it down, in recent years, is Benedict XVI”.


The comfort that came from Paul VI

Paul VI in the Vatican Gardens

Paul VI in the Vatican Gardens

In an article published in La Stampa on 12 September, entitled ‘A certain idea of the country’, Arrigo Levi analyzed the current Italian situation and that of the recent past. This is the conclusion: “We are not unaware of the dangerous tensions that manifest themselves, but we are confident in the solidity and wide popularity of our major institutions, and we also discern many positive events, much social progress, civil and economic, even political, that give backing to our confidence in the idea of Italy that we have always carried in our hearts”. In the article, also a tribute to Pope Montini: “And let us not forget how strong was the comfort that came to the defenders of our democracy from a great pope, Paul VI, a man of strong anti-fascist beliefs, always attentive to Italian affairs”.

Pope Benedict XVI [© Cristian Gennari/Siciliani]

Pope Benedict XVI [© Cristian Gennari/Siciliani]

“The Church does not work to extend her power”

“I strongly reiterate what was so frequently affirmed by my venerable Predecessors: the Church works not to extend her power or assert her dominion, but to lead all people to Christ, the salvation of the world”. Thus Pope Benedict XVI in the Message for the eighty-third World Mission Day which is celebrated on Sunday, October 18th.

“Avoid the secularization of priests and the clericalization of lay people”

“With her faithful and with her ministers, the Church is the priestly community on earth. She is organically structured as the Body of Christ to carry out effectively her historic mission of salvation... The specific identity of the ordained faithful and lay people may be understood through the fundamental difference between the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood. This is why the secularization of priests and the clericalization of lay people must be avoided”. So Pope Benedict XVI, Thursday 17 September, to the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Brazil (Nordeste 2) in Rome on a visit ad limina apostolorum.

Something that comes first

“Today, for the customary Sunday Reflection, I am drawing inspiration from the passage of the Letter of James which is offered to us in today’s Liturgy (3, 15-4, 3), and I linger in particular over a phrase whose beauty and timeliness are striking. It is the description of true wisdom, with which the Apostle counters false wisdom. Whereas the latter is ‘earthly, unspiritual, devilish’, and can be recognized by the fact that it provokes jealousy, disputes, disorder and every vile practice (cf. 3, 16), on the contrary, ‘the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity’ (3, 17). These seven qualities are listed in accordance with Biblical usage; among them stand out the perfection of authentic wisdom and the positive effects it produces. St James mentions ‘purity’, that is, holiness, the transparent reflection – so to speak – of God in the human soul as the first and principal quality, placed almost as a premise of the others”. So Pope Benedict XVI at the Angelus on Sunday 20 September. In conclusion of this brief meditation, the Pope said: “Dear friends, once again Holy Scripture has led us to reflect on the moral aspects of human existence, but on the basis of a reality that precedes morality itself, that is, on the basis of true wisdom. Let us ask God with confidence for wisdom of heart, through the intercession of the One who welcomed and conceived in her womb Wisdom Incarnate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us”.

Tettamanzi, the economic crisis and Pius XI

On 14 September, in an article published in La Stampa, the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi analyzed the causes of the current economic crisis. In the article, after referring to the parallels between the current crisis and that of 1929, he quoted a passage from the encyclical of Pius XI Quadragesimo anno (1931): “The right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching which, through forgetting or ignoring the social and moral character of economic life, holds that public authority must consider and treat it altogether free to itself”.

Monsignor Parolin new nuncio to Venezuela

“For my part I wish my heart, on that day, to be filled with gratitude, humility, love, spirit of service.” This is a passage from the letter written on 17 August by Monsignor Pietro Parolin, former Undersecretary of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, on the occasion of his episcopal ordination, which occurred the following 12 September, in view of his new appointment as nuncio to Venezuela. The letter continues: “In gratitude, because I have always experienced the merciful goodness of God... Humility, because the more one advances in years, the more one feels one’s misery and inadequacy before the incalculable gift of God: ‘Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us’. Love, because I would like every day I have left to live, each moment, each breath to be just a repetition of the impulse of Peter, my patron saint, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee: ‘Lord you know everything, you know I love you’ (Jn 21, 17).”

Biffi, Purgatory is where souls “go to become beautiful”

“As for Purgatory, it is something, from a certain point of view, very simple. In God’s plan it is necessary to be purified, it is not enough to say: I was wrong. But the trends of popular piety and of a certain theology that has interpreted Purgatory as a little hell are however to be considered erroneous. The climate of Purgatory is serenity. The souls are in God’s grace. Cardinal Schuster said that Purgatory is like a course of spiritual exercises... In this sense I find agreeable Dante’s description of souls ‘going to become beautiful’.” So the archbishop emeritus of Bologna, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, in an article published in the L’Osservatore Romano, 6 September.

Raúl Castro authorizes the celebration of the Eucharist in Cuban jails

From September on in all the Cuban prisons, where there are prisoners who request it, Mass can be celebrated and other Christian rites performed. The decision of the Cuban authorities was made known by the evangelical pastor Miguel Hernández, president of the Cuban Council of Churches. The news was confirmed by the Cuban Bishops’ Conference.

The Secretary General of NATO: a “new beginning” with Moscow

On 17 September the President of the United States Barack Obama announced that the U.S. will not build the so-called space shield, a defense system perceived as a threat by the Russian authorities. Russia responded the following day by freezing its military response to the system. Thus in the summary in La Stampa of 19 September: “The flash of serenity in international relations is reflected in the tones of NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who in his first public outing since his appointment spoke about the possibility of a ‘new beginning’ in relations between the Alliance and Moscow”.

Balestrero Undersecretary of Relations with States

On August 17, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero was appointed Undersecretary of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, in practice, “Vatican Deputy Foreign Minister”. He replaces Monsignor Pietro Parolin, appointed nuncio to Venezuela (see below). Balestrero, 43 years old in December, was born in Genoa and was ordained a priest for the diocese of Rome in 1993. A student of the Capranica College, he received his licentiate in theology and a doctorate in Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University. Having exercised his pastoral ministry in the parish of Sancta Mater Ecclesiae in Rome, he attended the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. In 1996 he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See and served in the Korean nunciature until 1998 and in that of the Netherlands for the next three years. Since 2001 he has worked in the second section of the Secretariat of State.

An African Undersecretary of the Council for Pastoral Health

On 1 September, Monsignor Jean-Marie Musivi Mpendawatu was appointed Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Health Workers. Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 54 years old, he has worked in the department since 1991 where he was called by the then president, Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini.

New Nuncios in Serbia, Venezuela and Spain

On 8 August the Abruzzese Archbishop Orlando Antonini, 65 years old in October, was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Serbia. Ordained a priest in 1968, archbishop since 1999, from 2005 he was papal representative in Paraguay.
On 17 August 54 year-old Monsignor Pietro Parolin, seven years Vatican “Deputy Foreign Minister”, was promoted archbishop and apostolic nuncio in Venezuela.
On 20 August 65 year-old Archbishop Renzo Fratini, from the Marche, was appointed nuncio to Spain and Andorra. Ordained a priest in 1969, an archbishop since 1993, from 2004 he was papal representative in Nigeria.

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