from issue no.11 - 2010


Saint Francis, the Breviary and the Eucharist

IBreviarium sancti Francisci/I, c. 197r.

IBreviarium sancti Francisci/I, c. 197r.

On 9 November Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to the Italian bishops gathered in Assisi for the general assembly. We report the first part of the letter: “In these days you are meeting in Assisi, the town in which ‘a sun was born into the world’ (Dante, Paradiso, Canto XI). He was proclaimed Patron of Italy by Venerable Pius XII: St Francis, who keeps intact his freshness and relevance — Saints never fade! — the result of shaping himself totally on Christ, of whom he was a living icon.
The time in which St Francis lived was marked, like ours, by profound cultural transformations, encouraged by the birth of the university, by the development of the city states and by the spread of new religious experiences.
In that time, thanks to the work of Pope Innocent III — the Pope from whom the Poverello of Assisi obtained his first canonical recognition — the Church engaged in a profound liturgical reform.
An eminent expression of it was the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), that lists the ‘Breviary’ among its fruits. This book of prayers contained the riches of the theological reflection and life of prayer of the preceding millennium. By adopting it St Francis and his friars made the Supreme Pontiff’s liturgical prayer their own. So it was that the Saint assiduously listened to and meditated upon the Word of God, to the point of making it his own and introducing it into the prayers he composed, as well as generally into all his writings.
The Fourth Lateran Council itself, reflecting with special attention on the Sacrament of the Altar, introduced the term ‘transubstantiation’ into the profession of faith in order to affirm the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice. ‘His Body and His Blood are truly contained in the Sacrament of the Altar under the species of the bread and the wine, since through divine power the bread is transubstantiated into the body and the wine into blood’ (Denzinger, 802).
The evangelical life of St Francis and his vocation to walk the way of the Crucified Christ flowed from assisting at Holy Mass and from receiving Holy Communion devoutly: “The Lord”, we read in the Testament of 1226, “gave me so much faith in the churches that I simply prayed and said: ‘We adore you, Lord Jesus, in all your churches throughout the world and we bless you because with your holy Cross you redeemed the world” (Fonti Francescane, n. 111).
The great deference in which he held priests and the order he gave the friars to respect them always and anyway originated in this experience, “for I see nothing of the Most High Son of God corporally in this world other than his Most Holy Body and his Blood, which they [priests] alone consecrate and alone administer to others” (Fonti Francescane, n. 113).
Looking on this gift, dear Brothers, what life-responsibility derives from it for each one of us! ‘Take care of your dignity, brother priests’, St Francis recommended further, and ‘be holy because He is holy!’ (Letter to the General Chapter and to all the Friars, in Fonti Francescane, n. 220). Yes, the sanctity of the Eucharist demands that we celebrate and adore this Mystery aware of its greatness, importance and effectiveness for Christian life, but it also demands purity, consistence and holiness of life of each one of us, to be living witnesses of the unique Sacrifice of Christ’s love.
The Saint of Assisi never ceased to contemplate how ‘the Lord of the universe, God and Son of God, humbled himself to the point of hiding himself, for our salvation, in the meager appearance of bread’ (ibid., n. 221), and with vehemence asked his friars: ‘I beg you, more than if I did so for myself, when it is appropriate and when you deem it necessary, that you humbly implore priests to venerate above all the Most holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy names and words written of Him that consecrate the Body’ (Letter to all the Custodians, in Fonti francescane, n. 241)”.


Amos Oz, the fanatics and the good news

Amos Oz [© LaPresse]

Amos Oz [© LaPresse]

“The real clash of civilizations is not that alleged in the famous essay by Samuel Huntington. It is not between East and West, and indeed has no cardinal points. For Amos Oz it is the conflict between ‘the fanatics and everyone else’”. That is the summary of an interview given by the famous Israeli writer to La Stampa on 7 November, in which the novelist warns: “The problem is that the fanatic is always altruistic, acts on a public stage, is very interested in you because he wants to change you, make you better. So I say, be wary of those who devote their lives to seeking to change you”. And, concluding the interview, after referring to the many fanatics who fuel the tension in the Middle East, he said: “I could say that the situation is desperate, but also that there is good news: today both the Palestinians and the Jews have realized that there must be two States. They aren’t happy about it ... but they know that it is so”.

Benedict XVI in prayer before the coffin of Manuela Camagni
[© Paolo Galosi]

Benedict XVI in prayer before the coffin of Manuela Camagni [© Paolo Galosi]

“If we remember the Lord, it is because He first remembers us”

On 24 November, in an accident on the Via Nomentana in Rome, Manuela Camagni, consecrated layperson of the Pontifical Family who, along with three other women of the Lay Association Memores Domini, attended Pope Benedict XVI, lost her life. The Pope, on the occasion of the funeral, wished to send a message in which, commenting on the words of St Paul: “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39), he explained: “If we remember the Lord, it is because He first remembers us. We are Memores Domini because He is Memor nostri, He remembers us with the love of a parent, of a brother, of a friend, also at the moment of our death”.

Unexplained healing attributed to Cardinal Van Thuân

On 15 November, on his blog, the Vatican correspondent Marco Tosatti of La Stampa reported a news item circulated by the agency AsiaNews about a possible miracle attributed to the Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, who died on 16 September 2002 and whose cause of beatification is underway. The miracle involved the seminarian Joseph Nguyên, the son of Vietnamese immigrants in the US friends of the dead cardinal. In 2009, Tosatti writes, Joseph was suffering from “severe pneumonia, complicated by H1N1 ‘swine flu’”. After the first symptoms the boy fell into a coma. “The doctors said that Joseph was dead. The heartbeat had collapsed, beyond possible recovery, and there was no brain activity. But as the young man lay for days in coma, his parents asked the help of an old family friend, the Vietnamese cardinal whose cause of beatification is being examined. Since then Joseph has recovered and returned to the seminary”. When he awoke the boy said he didn’t remember anything except “two visions of Cardinal Van Thuân”. The case is now before the postulates of the cause.

Cardinals, fairy tales, children

Christmas fairy tales written by some Italian cardinals. Armando Torno reported the news in Corriere della Sera on 6 December. The details: the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, has published a booklet entitled Santi subito [Saints immediately], while Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini has published the book Una parola per te [A word for you]. The article also contains a summary of the Christmas gift of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, a letter addressed “to the boys and girls of the Catechism”. Corriere della Sera says: “In it there is a story that he [the Cardinal, ed] asks them to tell later – if you wish – to your parents and others you meet during the holidays”. There is first of all a man in a hurry looking for the latest model of mobile phone “to be admired, and why not, even envied”, and does not notice, nor has the spirit to heed, a poor mother clutching her little baby in her arms and asking for help. But another child does see them. Bagnasco notes: “The little heart hears little ones and leaps in astonishment”; then turns to the lady holding his hand, “Mommy, it’s Jesus with the Virgin Mary! Maybe they’re looking for shelter. Let them come to us!” The words heard at Catechism, the Cardinal recalled, “had remained in his heart and his mind”. Except that even the mobile-phone man hears them and “is shaken from his torpor”, or better, they bring him back “to awareness” and he remembers Christmas when he was little. It is a moment filled with the past, while the poor mother “has disappeared who knows where”. Now, the Cardinal points out, that return of those thoughts “has revived in his heart a yearning for beauty, for the simplicity of those who can look with wonder at the little things and understand their greatness”. This encounter and what he heard will enable him to spend a “different”, “true” Christmas, a feast ‘that is not only for the little ones but for all those who become little children’”.

Light of the World/1
Ferrara and the Pope Shepherd

According to Giuliano Ferrara, there has been a “paradigm shift” in the papacy of Benedict XVI. His thesis, set out in an editorial in Il Foglio of 27 November, comes from reading the Pope’s latest book, Light of the World. “Let’s be clear, Benedict confirms in his latest book, with his usual argumentative force, Christian dissent from some unsupportable features of modern existence, but the prescription changes in substance: the theologian and philosopher proposed that the world should behave ‘as if God existed’, a Pascalian formula, paradoxical and intellectualizing, half agnosticism and half faith, while the shepherd, who remains a peerless hunter of wolves, turns to his flock today with a more prudent appeal for faith in the living God. Benedict remains a teacher for the minority of his lay disciples, who are not part of the flock and respects and loves his faith, but the thrust of his pastoral teaching lose some of that defiant attraction, that provocative force and aura of challenge to the world, on its own treacherous terrain, which have until recently made us reason, maybe even become a little delirious, and in a certain sense, believe in being able to believe”.

Light of the World/2
Zizola and reform from Paul VI to Benedict XVI

“From one interview to another with forty-five years of fighting for the reform of the Church in between: on 3 October 1965 the Corriere della Sera opened with an interview by Alberto Cavallari of Paul VI, the first granted by a pope to a newspaper, on the changes needed in the Church, while the last session of the Council was taking place. Light of the World, the book-length interview with Benedict XVI, was released when the prospect of renewal appears to be languishing under the methodical blows of the restoration”. Thus, Giancarlo Zizola in an article in la Repubblica on 24 November.

Sacred College/1
The death of Cardinals Navarrete and Giordano

On 22 November, the 90 year-old Spanish Jesuit Cardinal Urbano Navarrete, former Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, created cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2007, died.
On 2 December, 80 year-old Cardinal Michele Giordano, Archbishop of Naples from 1987 to 2006, created cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1988, died.
After the creation of 25 new cardinals by Benedict XVI on 20 November, the College of Cardinals is now made up of 201 members of whom 121 are voters.

Sacred College/2
Resignation of Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa of Santiago

On 15 December, the Pope accepted the resignation of 77 year-old Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa as Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, a post he had held from 1998. In his place the 68 year-old Salesian Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, Archbishop of Concepción since 2006, was nominated.

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia: “Islam wants, and calls for peace”

“‘One of the most important characteristics of Islam is moderation, both in the practice of religion as in the behavior of its faithful; another essential aspect is the existence of a balance between the demands of soul, body and mind.’ That is why Muslims must reject violence and terrorism in all its forms; those who perform such acts are in fact betraying the principles of Islam, a religion that wants and calls for peace. That was the message that resonated loudly yesterday in the mosque of Namira, at the foot of Mount Arafat, during the Khutba-e-Hajj, the traditional sermon for the pilgrimage to Mecca delivered by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz.” Such was the opening of an article in L’Osservatore Romano on 17 November.

Iraq: the Shiites protecting Christians

“We have asked Christians not to abandon the country by emigrating abroad”, explains Sheikh Faid al-Shamri, president of the Regional Council in Najaf, Iraq. “Our administration has sent a circular to all provinces so that they enable all Christian citizens to find homes and jobs in the area. These are initiatives that do not conflict with the Constitution nor with Islamic teachings, which oblige us to work for the safety of Christians and protect them from all attack.” The declaration of the Iraqi sheik appeared in an article published by Il Giornale of 1 December, in which it is stressed that the initiative does not come from “any odd” region of Iraq, but from Najaf, “the holy city of the Shiites”.

Benedict XVI and China

“In the political argot of our time, Pope Benedict XVI is unquestionably a ‘conservative’... Precisely because of those credentials, however, the old American axiom that
‘only Nixon could go to China’ fits Benedict XVI like a glove. Because of who Benedict is and what he represents, every once in a while he can do things a more "liberal" pontiff either wouldn't dare or couldn't pull off without splitting the church apart”. The remark comes from a piece by John Allen Jr. in the National Catholic Reporter of 3 December, under the heading Only Benedict could go to China.

Bloomberg and China

“The New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, does not hide his skepticism toward the new Congress that emerged from the midterm vote a few weeks ago. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he said ... ‘I bet a lot of these people don’t even have a passport. If we are not careful in the United States, we risk triggering a trade war with China because of the mere fact that many do not even know what or where China is’”. This article appeared in La Stampa on 10 November.

Jaruzelski adviser to the Prime Minister

“For General Wojciech Jaruzelski it is almost a de facto rehabilitation. Former Polish President [at the time of the confrontation with the Solidarnosc union, ed] was invited by the present Head of State, the liberal Bronislaw Komorowski, to a private meeting of the National Security Council to prepare for the expected summit in Warsaw with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev”. So reports an article in la Repubblica of 25 November, in which the invitation is defined as “a sensational surprise”.

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