from issue no.09 - 2009


The apostles did not begin to organize, they waited for God to act, they waited for the Holy Spirit



On 5 October, at the opening of proceedings of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, Pope Benedict XVI held a brief meditation after the prayer of Terce. These are the opening words: “With the invocation of the Holy Spirit we have now begun our Synodal Meeting, knowing full well that we cannot do at this moment what needs to be done for the Church and for the world: only with the power of the Holy Spirit can we discover what is right and put it into practice. And every day we shall start by invoking the Holy Spirit with the prayer of the Hour of Terce: ‘Nunc sancte nobis Spiritus’. I would therefore like to meditate with you briefly on this hymn with which we shall begin our work each day, now, during the Synod, and also afterwards in our daily life. ‘Nunc sancte nobis Spiritus’. We pray that Pentecost may not only be an event of the past, at the very beginning of the Church, but that it may be today, indeed now, ‘Nunc sancte nobis Spiritus’. Let us pray that the Lord may bring about the outpouring of his Spirit now and recreate his Church and the world. Let us remember that after the Ascension the Apostles did not begin – as might perhaps have been expected – to organize, to create the Church of the future. They waited for God to act. They waited for the Holy Spirit. They understood that the Church cannot be made, that she is not the product of our organization: the Church must be born of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Lord himself was conceived and born of the Holy Spirit so the Church must also be always conceived and born of the Holy Spirit. Only through this creative act of God can we enter into God’s activity, into the divine action, and cooperate with Him”.
In another passage the Pope dwelt on the significance for Christians, of the word confessio: “In Chapter 10 of his Letter to the Romans St Paul interprets the confession of Chapter 30 of Deuteronomy. In the latter text it would seem that in the Holy Land, upon entering into the definitive form of the Covenant, the Jews were afraid and could not really respond to God as they ought. The Lord says to them: do not be afraid, God is not far away. To reach God, a voyage across an unknown ocean is not required, nor is space travel through the sky, complicated or impossible ventures. God is not far away, he is not on the other side of the ocean or in these immense spaces of the universe. He is near. He is in your heart and on your lips, with the words of the Torah which enter your heart and are proclaimed by your lips. God is in you and with you, he is close. In his interpretation, St Paul replaces the word ‘Torah’ with the words ‘confession’ and ‘faith’. He says: God is close by, no complicated expeditions are necessary to reach him, nor spiritual or material adventures. God is close, with faith he is in your heart and with confession he is on your lips. He is within you and with you. With his presence, Jesus Christ really gives us the word of life. Thus, in faith, he enters our hearts. He dwells in our heart and in confessing him we bring the realtiy of the Lord to the world, to this time of ours. This seems to me a very important element: the close God. The things of science, of technology, entail great investments: spiritual and material ventures are expensive and difficult; but God gives himself freely. The most important things in life – God, love and truth – are free. God gives himself in our hearts. I would say that we should meditate often on God’s free giving: to be close to God there is no need for great material or even intellectual gifts. God gives himself freely in his love, he is in me, in my heart and on my lips. This is the courage, the joy of our life”.


“Man seeks God better and finds him more easily ‘in prayer than in discussion’”

The Abbey of Clairvaux in Milan

The Abbey of Clairvaux in Milan

At the general audience of Wednesday 21 October, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of St Bernard of Clairvaux. This is the conclusion: “Sometimes one claims to solve the fundamental questions on God, on man and on the world with the power of reason alone. St Bernard, on the other hand, solidly founded on the Bible and on the Fathers of the Church, reminds us that without a profound faith in God, nourished by prayer and contemplation, by an intimate relationship with the Lord, our reflections on the divine mysteries risk becoming an empty intellectual exercise and losing their credibility. Theology refers us back to the ‘knowledge of the Saints’, to their intuition of the mysteries of the living God and to their wisdom, a gift of the Holy Spirit, which become a reference point for theological thought. Together with Bernard of Clairvaux, we too must recognize that man seeks God better and finds him more easily ‘in prayer than in discussion’. In the end, the truest figure of a theologian and of every evangelizer remains the Apostle John who laid his head on the Teacher’s breast. I would like to conclude these reflections on St Bernard with the invocations to Mary that we read in one of his beautiful homilies. ‘In danger, in distress, in uncertainty’, he says, ‘think of Mary, call upon Mary. May she never leave your lips, may she never depart from your heart; and so that you may obtain the help of her prayers, never forget the example of her life. If you follow her, you cannot falter; if you pray to her, you cannot despair; if you think of her, you cannot err. If she sustains you, you will not stumble; if she protects you, you have nothing to fear; if she guides you, you will never flag; if she is favourable to you, you will attain your goal’”.


The Nobel to Obama, Niebuhr’s humility and political messianism

Obama with his family [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Obama with his family [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

“Obama often says that his ascent is the result of Americans like Reinhold Niebuhr, an author he esteems for having recommended to the country not political messianism but the humble awareness of one’s own limitations... Gestures and words can do a lot. They create new stories and paths. Willy Brandt who on 7 December 1970 suddenly fell to his knees in front of the memorial of the destroyed Warsaw Ghetto had not yet recognized the Oder-Neisse line between Germany and Poland. That gesture changed everything, before the rugged journey began. So Obama in Philadelphia, in Cairo, at Notre Dame University, at the United Nations”. This is the conclusion of the La Stampa editorial of 11 October by Barbara Spinelli, commenting on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, two days before, to the President of the United States Barack Obama.


Westerwelle: emancipate ourselves from 11 September

Guido Westerwelle, Foreign Minister in the new Merkel government  [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Guido Westerwelle, Foreign Minister in the new Merkel government [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

“After reunification, Germany found the first priority of its foreign policy in Europe, but from the end of the old order a new order was not automatically born. Let’s look at the debate in the U.S. then: the only foregone conclusion was that the U.S. would have shown the way. Isolationism, ‘world policeman’, cooperation or unilateral stance, all models were on the table. Then came 11 September 2001, and the question was soon answered. For eight years this date was the order of greatness of the international agenda. Today we have reached the moment when we must emancipate ourselves from 11 September as a turning point and anchor of international politics”. This is the passage from a speech by the leader of the German Free Democratic Party, and new Foreign Minister of Germany, Guido Westerwelle, published in la Repubblica of 30 September.

Benedict XVI with Riccardo Di Segni [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Benedict XVI with Riccardo Di Segni [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Riccardo Di Segni and Benedict XVI

“It is the continuation of a path of encounter”. So the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, in Corriere della Sera on 14 October, commented on the announcement of the Pope’s visit to the Synagogue in Rome, scheduled for next 17 January.

Bagnasco, the rabbis and the controversy over the prayer for the Jews

“ ‘The Italian Episcopal Conference reaffirms that it is not the intention of the Catholic Church to actively work for the conversion of Jews’. Here it is, black on white, the phrase that reconstructs the rift begun after the reintroduction of the Latin prayer of Good Friday, Oremus et pro Judaeis, with the invocation that the Jews ‘acknowledge Jesus’ ”. So an article in the Corriere della Sera of 23 September summarized an IEC note on the meeting between the President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, president of the Italian Rabbinic Assembly, and Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome. The article also records the satisfaction of the cardinal’s interlocutors at the successful conclusion of the dispute.

Obama happy for the canonization of Father De Veuster

“‘Jozef De Veuster is a good example also today in fighting AIDS’. So the U.S. President Obama wrote in a message to Pope Benedict XVI, for the canonization of the saint of Belgian origin who treated lepers in Hawaii”. The news appeared in la Repubblica of 12 October. Jozef Damiaan De Veuster (1840-1889), a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, was canonized on 11 October, along with Blesseds Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski, Bishop, Francisco Coll y Guitart, Dominican, Rafael Arnáiz Barón, Cistercian, and Marie de la Croix Jugan, foundress of the Congregation of Little Sisters of the Poor.

Messori, Blessed Faá di Bruno and little Bernadette

In Corriere della Sera of 12 October Vittorio Messori wrote an article about the importance of the saints in human history and in daily Christian life. And he spoke of his saints, those to whom he was entrusted at the act of Baptism (the various Victors, Victorinus, and George, his middle name), and those for whom he nurtures a particular devotion. With regard to the latter, after referring to Francesco Faà di Bruno, a saint contemporary of Don Bosco, he writes: “Here is Bernadette Soubirous, the poor illiterate Mary chose to entrust with the message of Lourdes. The dies natalis of this saint is the same as that of my birthday, a coincidence that has helped nurture trust and love toward her. Joseph Ratzinger was born on that same day and not by accident has confirmed several times that he too has that little one among his most influential patrons in Heaven, and thanks to her, to have Lourdes among the places dearest to him. The many saint Victors and the declassified George, although still the patron saint of Genoa and Great Britain, won’t hold it against me: Christian richness grants such freedom”.

Turkson President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

On 24 October Benedict XVI appointed African Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson new president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The newly appointed prelate takes the place of Italian Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, who turns 77 in November. Turkson, 61, a priest since 1975, was elected Archbishop of Cape Coast in Ghana in October 1992. John Paul II created him a cardinal in the consistory of 21 October 2003. Turkson’s appointment was announced at the close of the Second African Synod in which Turkson held the position of moderator.

Monteiro de Castro, Secretary of the Sacred College

On 21 October the Pope appointed Portuguese Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro Secretary of the College of Cardinals. The role is linked with that of Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, to which Monteiro de Castro was appointed on 3 July last.

Suriani papal delegate for the pontifical representations

On 24 September Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Luciano Suriani, from the Abruzzo region, delegate for the pontifical representations in the Secretary of State. Originally from Atessa, in the province of Chieti and the Archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto, Suriani was ordained priest in 1981.
Diplomat of the Holy See, he served in the papal representations in the Ivory Coast, Switzerland, in the second section of the Secretariat of State (for eight years as personal secretary to the archbishop, now cardinal, Jean-Louis Tauran, when he was Vatican “Foreign Minister”) in the apostolic nunciature in Italy. In February 2008 came the appointment as archbishop and apostolic nuncio in Bolivia. Consecrated in the following April, he took up service in La Paz where he remained for a few months. For health problems, now overcome, he had in fact to return to the Vatican as nuncio at the disposition of the First Section.

New Secretaries at the Councils for the Family and Justice and Peace

On 22 October, the Pope appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family the 57 year-old Frenchman Jean Laffitte, until now vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, raising him at the same time to the titular episcopal seat of Entrevaux. Ordained a priest in 1989 for the diocese of Autun, Laffitte is a member of the Community of Emmanuel. From 1994 he was a teacher and, for three years (1999-2001), deputy head of the Pontifical Institute “John Paul II” for Studies on marriage and the family. Since 2003 he has been a consultant of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Vice-President of the Pontifical Academy for Life from 2006, in 2005 for some months he was under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family itself.
Also on 22 October, the Pope appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace the Venetian Don Mario Toso, a 59 year-old Salesian, raising him at the same time to the titular episcopal seat of Bisarcio. Having entered the Salesians in 1967, Toso was ordained priest in 1978. He graduated in Philosophy at the Catholic University of the Sacro Cuore of Milan (1978); received his licentiate in Philosophy at the Pontifical Salesian University (1981); his licentiate in Theology from the Pontifical Lateran University (1982). Since 1980 he has been a teacher at the Salesian Pontifical University and in 1991 became full professor of Theoretical Philosophy; from 1994 to 2000 he was dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at the same University and from 2003 to 2009, he was Rector.

Moro, ransom prepared by the Church and symbols

Negotiations to free Aldo Moro from the Red Brigades? “When you can use money everything is easier. For Moro the Church had committed itself and the money was found, but issues of another nature prevailed, including symbolic ones ...”. This is the conclusion of an interview of the historic exponent of the Italian Socialist Party Rino Formica to Corriere della Sera on 21 October.

Ventura new nuncio in France

On 23 September, Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Luigi Ventura from Lombardy, 65 years old in December, the apostolic nuncio to France. The bishop, a native of Borgosatollo, in the province and diocese of Brescia, was ordained priest in 1969. In 1978 he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See. He carried out his mission in the nunciatures of Brazil, Bolivia and Great Britain. In 1984 he was called to work in the Second Section of the Secretariat of State, the one that handles relations with the States. He also collaborated in the personal secretariat of Cardinal Casaroli, Secretary of State until 1990. In 1995 came the appointment as Archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio to the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger. Appointed papal representative in Chile in 1999, he was nuncio to Canada from 2001.

New ambassadors of the Philippines, Netherlands and the United States to the Holy See

On 2 October, the Pope received, in separate audiences, the credentials of the new ambassadors of the Philippines, the Netherlands and the United States to the Holy See. The new representative of Manila is Mercedes Arrastia Tuason, 79 years old, a member of the Pro-Life Foundation Inc. and also vice-president of the board of directors of the Family Rosary Crusade.
The new ambassador of the Netherlands is 59 year-old Baroness H.J.C. Maria van Lynden-Leijten, former ambassador to Bulgaria and since 2005 director of the Department for North Africa and the Middle East at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
And finally came 46 year-old Humberto Miguel Díaz from Washington, Professor of Theology, President of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States and a member of the Karl Rahner Society and the Catholic Theological Society of America.

New delegate of the European Community to the Holy See

On 19 October, the Pope received the new head of the European Commission Delegation to the Holy See. He is 63 year-old Yves Gazzo, born in Algeria, of French nationality. Since 2003 he was head of the European Commission Representation in France.

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