from issue no.12 - 2010


Mennini nuncio to Great Britain

Vladimir Putin and Antonio Mennini [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Vladimir Putin and Antonio Mennini [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

On 18 December Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Antonio Mennini new apostolic nuncio to Great Britain. Mennini is the only nuncio who is a native of Rome, where he was born 63 years ago. Ordained priest in 1974, he graduated in theology. He comes from a family of employees of the Holy See. In 1978 he entered the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, and on 3 April 1981 entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See with a posting to the nunciature in Uganda. In 1984 he was transferred to Turkey and in 1986 to the second section of the Secretariat of State, the one that deals with relations with the States, where he remained for fourteen years. In July 2000, he was appointed nuncio to Bulgaria. On 6 November 2002 he was appointed papal representative in Russia. On 9 December 2009 the establishing of full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Russian Federation was announced,with whom previously there had been only relations of a special nature. Mennini thus became the first real apostolic nuncio assigned to Moscow. Since 2008 he was also the representative in Uzbekistan.

Alcide De Gasperi during the works for the Constituent Assembly in 1946

Alcide De Gasperi during the works for the Constituent Assembly in 1946

The Italian Constitution and the “license for secularism”

In Corriere della Sera on 19 December Alberto Melloni wondered about the relationship between the Church and politics, condemning certain “half-baked” generalities in media, according to which “the Church” is seen to support a particular party or political project. A negative “landing place”, in his view, determined also by “convictions” and stances adopted by members of the Church itself. According to Melloni this landing place is shaped by “the withdrawal of the ‘license for secularism’ that the Republican Constitution – the only successful cultural project of Italian Catholicism, the last of politician Dossetti’s passions – had given Italy in its Christian Democrat period and of which (from Andreatta to Andreotti) the most diverse use was made”.

The lobby of values

The Church reduced to a “lobby of values”? This was the question posed in Gian Enrico Rusconi’s editorial in La Stampa on 28 December. The Turin newspaper stated: “There is no need to evoke the ‘return of religion in the post-secular era’ to see the strong public presence in our country of church-religion (that is of religious expression exclusively mediated by the structures of the Catholic Church). But the public relevance of religion, strong on the ‘ethically sensitive’ issues (as they say), is accompanied by considerable clumsiness in communicating the theological content on which these issues should be based. Or better, the theological contents are cited only if they are functional to the moral recommendations. We are faced with a de-theologized religion which seeks compensation in a new emphasis on ‘spirituality’. But this presents itself with a very fragile phenomenology, ranging from a totally subjective re-working of traditional religious motifs to therapies of psychic well-being. The content of theologically strong and identifying religious ‘truths’ – the concepts of revelation, salvation, redemption, original sin (not to mention other more complicated dogmas) – that in their dogmatic formulation have intimately influenced the intellectual and spiritual development of the Christian West, are removed from public discourse. For believers they remain a ‘narrative’ and illustrative background and support, in no way underpinning ritual practice. The Nativity which we have just celebrated is based on the theological dogma of Christ ‘true God and true man’. This is a ‘truth’ that has profoundly influenced and shaped generations of believers for centuries. Today it is repeated – engulfed by an atmosphere of superficial sentimentality – without the understanding of the meaning of a truth that can no longer be transmitted in the manner of public discourse. But the suspicion arises that what is particularly pressing today for the men of the Church in their public discourse is exclusively the defense of what they call ‘value’ tout court, coincident with the themes of ‘life’, the ‘natural family’ and the problems of bioethics, as understood by the official doctrine of the Church. And nothing more”.

Kamikaze paid like killers

“The ‘regular salary’ of the al-Qaeda brand of suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2006 was 50-100 thousand dollars, but could get up to ‘one million’...This emerges in the U.S. military dispatches from Iraq and Afghanistan released by Wikileaks in 2010”. Information relaunched by ANSA on 30 December.

New Secretaries of Propaganda Fide, Saints and the Clergy

On 23 December Benedict XVI appointed archbishop and secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples the Salesian Don Savio Hon Tai-Fai. So for the first time a Chinese has been nominated to a position of high rank in the Roman Curia. Father Hon was born in Hong Kong on 21 October 1950. After studying with the Salesians he made his first religious profession in 1969, his perpetual one in 1975, and was ordained priest also in Hong Kong in 1982. He received his BA in philosophy from the University of London in 1977 and his doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome in 1988. He also obtained diplomas in the French language in Paris and in German in Bonn. He also worked as visiting professor at various seminaries in mainland China. He is the author of numerous publications in Chinese, English and Italian. In an article in L’Osservatore Romano in 2008 he commented on the Letter of Benedict XVI to the Church in China. He was also responsible for the translation into Chinese of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He belongs to the Salesian Province of China (comprising mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan), of which he was Provincial from 2001 to 2006. Full professor of the Pontifical Academy of Theology since 1999, since 2004 he has also been a member of the International Theological Commission. He was until now professor of theology at the seminary in Hong Kong.
On 29 December then there was a series of appointments in the Roman Curia. Benedict XVI appointed 66 year-old Umbrian, Marcello Bartolucci, archbishop and new secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He succeeds Michele Di Ruberto who was 76 in August. A native of Bastia Umbra, in the province of Perugia and diocese of Assisi, Bartolucci has been a priest since 1968, receiving his doctorate in theology from the Lateran and a licentiate in Canon Law at the Angelicum. After ten years of pastoral activity, from 1977 he carried out his mission in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, of which he became under-secretary in 2007, when he succeeded the same Di Ruberto in that office.
The 46 year-old Pole Boguslaw Turek, was appointed new under-secretary of the Congregation. A priest of the Congregation of St Michael the Archangel since 1989, he has worked in the same department since 1994 (as office head since 2009).
Benedict XVI also nominated 63 year-old Spaniard Celso Morga Iruzubieta archbishop and new secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy. A priest since 1972, with a doctorate in Canon Law from the Opus Dei University of Navarra, he has worked in the department since 1987, as office head from 2000 and as undersecretary since 2009. Finally the Pope appointed 61 year-old Canadian, Monsignor Serge Poitras, deputy under-secretary of the Congregation for Bishops. Ordained a priest in 1973 for the diocese of Chicoutimi in Quebec, over the last ten years Poitras has been local collaborator of the nunciature in Ottawa and since last October an official of the department, called to the office by the Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who in his turn was appointed prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 30 June last.

Francesco Maria Greco new Ambassador of Italy

On 17 December Benedict XVI received the credentials of the new Italian Ambassador to the Holy See. He is 60 year-old Francesco Maria Greco, a native of Syracuse. He entered the diplomatic service in 1974, has worked in various offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in postings in Belgrade, Brussels, Bangkok (where he also served as regent of the embassy) and Madrid. From 2000 he was Adviser on International Affairs to the defense ministers Sergio Mattarella (D’Alema and Amato governments) and Antonio Martino (Berlusconi government) and from 2002-2006 he was ambassador in Indonesia. Since 2009 he has been Director General for Promotion and Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is author of Grande crisi e ordine internazionale. L’Italia fra Europa e Stati Uniti [Great crisis and international order. Italy between Europe and the United States] (ESI, Naples 2003), used as a textbook in several universities and by graduates preparing for the diplomatic entrance exam.

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