from issue no.04/05 - 2011


The death of bin Laden and that of Hitler

Osama bin Laden <BR>[© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Osama bin Laden
[© Associated Press/LaPresse]

“The death of Osama bin Laden brings back in some way a memory of sixty years ago, of a man barricaded in a bunker amid the ruins of Berlin. Adolf Hitler killed himself on 30 April 1945 and the announcement of his end was given on May 1. Bin Laden’s death was also announced on 1 May”. From La Stampa on 3 May.


Pisapia and Don Giussani

Giuliano Pisapia while voting at Berchet high school, in the recent administrative elections in Milan, 29 May 2011 [© LaPresse]

Giuliano Pisapia while voting at Berchet high school, in the recent administrative elections in Milan, 29 May 2011 [© LaPresse]

Pisapia, as a student, fascinated by Don Giussani. Such was the title of a small article that appeared on 14 May in the Milan news section of the Corriere della Sera. In the article, the new mayor of Milan tells of his relationship with Don Giussani, his religion teacher in the Berchet high school; especially of the lunches at home with the Milanese priest, during the high school years, everyone around the table – mom, dad and the other (six) brothers and sisters – “talking about God, the world, the role each of us would play”.
Pisapia had already spoken of his relationship with Don Giussani in an interview given to Giuseppe Frangi for the weekly Vita on 28 February 2005. Pisapia began by speaking of the first, surprising encounter: “He came into class and asked us if we felt it right that Catholic parents educate their children according to those principles. One of us turned the question around: do you think it right that a communist parent educate his child according to the principles he believes in? Don Giussani had not a moment’s hesitation. And he said yes”. From then on, Pisapia continues in the Vita interview, he began to see a lot of the priest and the group of lads that centered on him: “Every Sunday we visited the outskirts of Milan, economically depressed areas. On the farms we shared in their communal life, ate and played with them. Then we also talked about faith, but without any effort at indoctrination... Don Giussani had an enormous sense of humanity. And he forbade all formalities. His strength lay in dialogue. He wanted us to be ourselves, to have the courage to defend our thinking, even when it was contrary to his own. He never started out from dogma, as did the other priests. He wanted us free. So with him we could talk about everything, even concerns of our own that had nothing to do with the faith”. The young man then went in other directions: the student unrest of 1968, involvement in politics, especially in the Italian Left. Yet Pisapia attaches fundamental importance to that youthful encounter, as he acknowledges in the interview with Giuseppe Frangi: “Without Giussani I don’t know whether I would have understood what it means to be on the side of the weak. And then he taught me that experience counts more than any amount of reading. It’s a value that I found again on the Left. But the first time it was clear to me was in those farmyards on the outskirts of Milan”.


Napolitano, Obama and the ‘moment of opportunity’

Giorgio Napolitano and Barack Obama in Warsaw,  27 May 2011 [© Presidency of the Italian Republic]

Giorgio Napolitano and Barack Obama in Warsaw, 27 May 2011 [© Presidency of the Italian Republic]

“Europe must face up to new realities and new challenges and demonstrate its capacity to cope with its responsibilities in a globalized world. Among these responsibilities, there are those arising from the events of revolutionary importance occurring in North Africa and the Middle East. In this regard, important stimuli, and serious questions have been set to us by the recent address of President Obama ‘A Moment of Opportunity’, and by his speech here tonight. It is essential that as Europeans we also see in the changes in Africa and the Middle East ‘a moment of opportunity’, not merely a source of uncertainty and concern.” So said the President of the Italian Republic in reference to a meeting with US President Barack Obama, which took place in the context of the Summit of Central European Heads of State of in Warsaw. President Napolitano’s words were reported by Corriere della Sera on 28 May.



Etchegaray, Pope Benedict XVI and the new beginnings of Christianity


“Sometimes there is the feeling of knowing everything about Pope Benedict, beginning with his enormous and dense theological output. But to be honest we are just starting to discover him, or rather to discover what a Pope is in the exercise of his pastoral function, in that he is a shepherd who leads his flock especially in rough weather. Elected Pope, Benedict became a parish priest; the Church found a pastor and not only a theologian, and the world one of its indispensable landmarks... Yes, that’s how it was. Did he not perhaps start out by calling himself a ‘worker in the vineyard of the Lord’? His Palm Sunday homily was, in that sense, exemplary: he spoke of the humility of God, who chose the way of the Cross to show His love in an extreme form. The pontificate of Pope Benedict follows those paths”. The words are those of Cardinal Roger Etchegaray in Avvenire of 19 April. The Cardinal continued: “In the ‘Conversation with Peter Seewald’ there’s a fundamental passage: ‘The Pope now wishes that his Church should submit itself to purification in depth... This is a matter of showing God to men, of telling them the truth. The truth about the mysteries of Creation. The truth about human existence. And the truth of our hope, beyond our only earthly life’ ... Everything could be summarized in this thought: ‘Christianity is in a constant state of new beginning’.”



Bartholomew I <BR>[© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Bartholomew I
[© Associated Press/LaPresse]


Bartholomew I, natural disasters and spiritual perversities


“The destruction of nature caused by earthquakes and tidal waves, along with the threat of devastation from a nuclear explosion, like the human sacrifices resulting from military conflicts and acts of terrorism, show that the world is undergoing terrible torment and anguish from the pressure of the natural and spiritual forces of evil ... . Nevertheless, the Resurrection of Christ is very real and guarantees to Christian faithful certainty, and to the rest of humanity the possibility of transcending the adverse consequences of natural disasters and of spiritual perversity”. This is a passage from the Easter Vigil homily of His Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenic Patriarch of Constantinople, reported in Avvenire on 26 April.



Sacred college

The death of Cardinals Saldarini and García-Gasco


On 18 April Cardinal Giovanni Saldarini, Archbishop of Turin from 1989 to 1999, died, aged 86. On 1 May Spanish Cardinal Vicente Agustín García-Gasco, Archbishop of Valencia from 1992-2009, died aged 80. Having reached the age of 80, Cardinals Bernard Panafieu (on 26 January), Ricardo J. Vidal (on 6 February), Camillo Ruini (on 19 February), William H. Keeler (on 4 March) and Sergio Sebastiani (11 April) all retired, so that on 31 May the Sacred College numbered 198 cardinals, of whom 115 are voters.



Fernando Filoni

Fernando Filoni

Holy see

Filoni has been appointed Prefect of Propaganda Fide and Becciu as substitute at the Secretariat of State


On 10 May, 65 year-old Archbishop Fernando Filoni from Puglia was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in place of the Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, who has turned 75. Ordained in 1970 in the diocese of Nardò, he entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1981 and in 2001 was elected archbishop and apostolic nuncio to Jordan and Iraq. He became nuncio to the Philippines in 2006, and in 2007 substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State. Again on 10 May, 63 year-old Sardinian Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, a priest in the diocese of Ozieri since 1972, was appointed to the latter position. A member of the Vatican diplomatic service since 1984, Becciu was elected archbishop and apostolic nuncio in Angola in 2001. Since 2009 he has been pontifical representative in Cuba



Giorgio Napolitano and Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, 15 May 2011. The President of the Italian Republic received the Dan David Prize [© Presidency of the Italian Republic]

Giorgio Napolitano and Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, 15 May 2011. The President of the Italian Republic received the Dan David Prize [© Presidency of the Italian Republic]

Middle east/1

Peres, the agreement between Hamas and Fatah and the peace between Israelis and Palestinians


According to Shimon Peres it is possible to negotiate with Hamas. In a series of interviews given to the Israeli press, the Head of the Jewish State commented on the agreement signed last 4 May in Cairo between the two main Palestinian parties: Hamas, which rules Gaza and is defined by the Israelis as a terrorist organization, and Fatah, in power in the West Bank. “If they want to unite, let them unite. When I started to negotiate with Arafat”, Peres recalled, “everybody said to me: ‘It’s hopeless’. Today the same is true of Hamas. The name does not interest me, it’s the contents that matter. Anything can happen”. It is better, however, that negotiations take place out of the spotlight: “In public each party must show its supporters that it’s strong and aggressive, but in their hearts the leaders know there is no alternative to peace. For this we need to keep the appearances apart from the hidden potential”.



Middle east/2

The end of the embargo in Gaza and the policy of the United States


“Gaza, the Palestinian strip of the landless, since yesterday is a prison no longer. After four years, the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt has been reopened. Hosni Mubarak’s Cairo had closed it in retaliation for the revolt of the Hamas fundamentalists against the Palestinian Authority of secular President Abu Mazen. Yesterday, the Egyptian military junta, born of the so-called “Arab spring” decided to cancel the ban.” So began an article in Corriere della Sera on 29 May, which concluded: “It is also clear that the Gaza signal combines with the international pressure, led by Obama, for the creation of two States, Israel and Palestine, that live in peace and security”.




Bettiza and the neo-colonial war in Libya


“However things may end, history cannot but remember the dreadful outcome of the neo-colonial intervention in Libya, cloaked in the phraseology of the Elysée court-functionary ‘do-gooder’ Bernard-Henri Lévy, a great proponent in every sense of “humanitarian bombs”. The earlier Franco-British intervention in Suez in 1956 was counterproductive, strengthening the pan-Arabist Nasser and giving a great excuse for Khrushchev’s armed suppression of the Hungarian Revolution and essentially favoring the Soviet settlement in the Middle East”. So said the editorial of La Stampa on 11 April by Enzo Bettiza.




Todorov: the war in Libya, political messianism and original sin


“I think that war unfortunately has its own internal logic that prevents it remaining as limited and surgical as claimed by those who advocate it. Before 19 March, Gaddafi’s troops were about to commit a massacre in Benghazi, President Sarkozy told us repeatedly, in order to convince the West to intervene. So the first bombings were legitimate, those that stopped the advance of the regime. But then the pseudo-humanitarian intervention became something else”. So declared the philosopher Tzvetan Todorov in Corriere della Sera on 12 April, adding: “We are facing a new phase in political messianism. The first was, indeed, the Napoleonic one, painted by Goya. The second messianic wave was that of Communism... .And now we’re seeing a third awakening of political messianism: the first Gulf War was a trial run, the intervention in Kosovo without a UN mandate, the dress rehearsal, and now Afghanistan, Iraq”. And, when asked if there is a possibility of an absolute no to war, he replied: “No, and I don’t think it would be a good thing. The ambition to totally eradicate Evil would be even more damaging: it is the function of original sin to remind us, as Romain Gary said, that an ‘inhuman part of humanity’ exists. But we must do our utmost to limit non-inevitable wars. Such as the one in Libya, for example”.



The flags of Turkey and the European Union in front of the Nur-u Osmaniye Mosque in Istanbul

The flags of Turkey and the European Union in front of the Nur-u Osmaniye Mosque in Istanbul


Patten, the European Union’s crisis and Turkey


A lucid analysis of the situation of the European Union appeared in La Stampa on 5 April in an article by Chris Patten, former British governor of Hong Kong, a former European commissioner for foreign affairs and rector of the University of Oxford. The subject was the fragility of the European Union in international politics. How to respond to this crisis, Patten asked? “For me the answer”, he says in the article, “lies with Turkey. A Europe with Turkey as a member would of course have a more dynamic economy. Turkey is a regional powerhouse. It has weight and respect in its own region thanks to formidable combat forces. And, above all, Turkey is a model today for other Islamic societies that are trying to come to terms with democracy, civil liberties, the rule of law, an open economy, pluralism and religion. As an EU member Turkey would add a new dimension of enormous historical importance. Europeans would demonstrate that it is possible to embrace a Muslim democracy and build a solid bridge between Europe and western Asia. This, in turn, could create a new European identity and image, give the EU a new reason to exist in this century, a way to reject the politics of division of the old.”



Vladimir Putin <BR>[© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Vladimir Putin
[© Associated Press/LaPresse]


Putin cites St Francis


In a public speech, the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that it was not yet time to declare his candidacy for the next presidential election, not for him nor for the current President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev, because, he explained, “if we now give the wrong signals, half of the administration and more than half of the government would stop working pending the changes”. Instead, he added, “all in their own particular place, must cultivate their garden daily, as Saint Francis did”. Putin’s statement was reportedi by Avvenire on 14 April.

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