from issue no.07/08 - 2011


Movements and de-christianization

Roberto Cartocci, <I>Geografia dell’Italia cattolica</I> [Geography of Catholic Italy], il Mulino, Bologna 2011, 182 pp., 15€

Roberto Cartocci, Geografia dell’Italia cattolica [Geography of Catholic Italy], il Mulino, Bologna 2011, 182 pp., 15€

On 25 August Corriere della Sera reviewed a detailed study of Catholicism in Italy by Roberto Cartocci published by il Mulino. The statistics in the study give a view of an Italy divided between a de-christianized north and a south where Catholic devotion is still widespread. Thus in the Corriere’s review: “Cartocci then notes that secularization is accompanied by an opposite process, through the presence of movements that strengthen Italian Catholicism, ensuring the Church a decisive political influence. Is this really so? Research indicates an acceleration of secularization in the mid-eighties. At the Loreto Convention in 1985, the Italian Church shifted the focus from the traditional parish-based organizations (Catholic Action, ACLI, Scouts) to the new movements (Communion and Liberation, Sant’Egidio, among others). It put an end to a period of great ramification in Italian Catholicism, which, at the cost of some conflicts, covered a wide spectrum of sensibilities and, because of the national dimension of the associations, the entire peninsula. The movements on the other hand show limited geographical roots, not affecting the characteristics of the southern Church noted by Cartocci. While on the one hand it has created an impression of the strength in the hard core of Italian Catholicism, on the other the reduction of its internal ramification has led to an acceleration of secularization particularly in those areas where the presence of the movements is stronger (the case of Communion and Liberation and Lombardy is indicative). Resisting secularism is not easy, probably not even possible. One may rightly ask whether different choices would have mitigated the fracture pointed out by Cartocci”.


Constructors of the Islamic enemy

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, visited by Benedict XVI on 30 November 2006 <BR>[© Associated Press/LaPresse]

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, visited by Benedict XVI on 30 November 2006
[© Associated Press/LaPresse]

“Forty-two million dollars. That is the sum that seven U.S. foundations have allegedly assigned over the last ten years to fund the construction of the fear of Islam, a network of activities designed to discredit Muslims and generate in the public a real terror of the followers of Mohammed. The accusation is contained in a 138 page report written for the ‘Center for American Progress’ by a team of six researchers. The report denounces growing US Islamophobia, defined as ‘an excess of fear, hatred and hostility towards Islam and Muslims perpetuated by negative stereotypes which create prejudice, discrimination, marginalization and the exclusion of Muslims from American social, political and civil life’. Striking examples are the campaigns against mosques, and the Sharia, the Islamic law. According to the report, ‘Fear Inc.’ has five aspects: funding, Islamophobic experts, the organizations of militants linked mostly to the religious right, the media and politicians’. Thus in Corriere della Sera of 29 August.


Totti is not just about football

Francesco Totti [© LaPresse]

Francesco Totti [© LaPresse]

Summer controversy for Francesco Totti. Giovanni Bianconi also wrote about it in an article published in the Corriere della Sera, explaining how the Roma captain is not just a footballer, but also a symbol of the Rome football team and of Rome itself, “something of Pasquino, something of a Marchese del Grillo. And a little like Cato the Censor acted by Vittorio Gassman and warning Marcello Mastroianni in the role of ‘Scipio known as Africanus’: ‘This is not Plato’s Republic, but the muddy city of Romulus. You gotta chill out, dude’”. The article was published on 4 September  with the title: From Cato to Pasquino. Why Totti is not just football.


The Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in Aquileia [© Romano Siciliani]

The Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in Aquileia [© Romano Siciliani]


First millennium. Methodological notes


Seventh Heaven, a blog edited by Vatican expert Sandro Magister for Espresso magazine, hosted a debate on Catholic Tradition and Vatican Council II. This is the beginning of a paper by Professor Enrico Morini, Professor of the History of Christianity and the Churches at the University of Bologna, published on 15 July: “The problem, if anything, is not what is meant by tradition, but if there was a moment when something happened in the West that caused this vital flow, which has never ceased – far be it from me to question this fidelity of my Church to tradition! – to become so to speak sluggish. In my opinion this happened precisely at the end of the first millennium, hence my identification of a pattern of interpretation of Vatican II, namely in the return to the common experience of the undivided Church. The Orthodox Church would be equally in need of such a ‘reform’ of its Church life – albeit considerably less than the Western Roman Catholic – always following the same criterion. Indeed, it has already begun to do so (think of the ‘return to the Fathers’ theology initiated by Russian emigrant theology) and should this return to tradition also reach the sources of Orthodox ecclesiology – stripping them of spurious elements accumulated over centuries of contention – then even the tremendous problem of the Roman primacy would perhaps be capable of an outcome still unimaginable today. How far there is still to go in this area in the Catholic Church... was demonstrated in recent days by the pre-announced succession to the episcopal throne of Milan: without the slightest objection to the substance of choice – given the elevated personality of the one chosen – the method left me dumbfounded. To transfer a bishop from a great Church that boasts apostolic roots (Aquileia – Grado –Venice) to another great Church, that boasts, alongside a great present, a no less glorious past (think of the Ambrosian tradition) evokes too closely the transfer of a well-deserving official, from a prefecture to another more prestigious and challenging one. The incident seemed to me symptomatic of a strong ecclesiological lack of balance”.


Paul VI during the mass in memory of Aldo Moro, 13 May 1978, in St. John Lateran

Paul VI during the mass in memory of Aldo Moro, 13 May 1978, in St. John Lateran


As in the days of Moro’s assassination (9 May 1978)


In Corriere della Sera on 28 August, Alberto Melloni reflects on the introduction of the 8 per thousand (the contribution of the Italian State in support of the Church): “The money given to the CEI (Italian Episcopal Conference), in fact, was spent (almost always) well: it put back on track a patrimony that the Ministry of the Interior’s Fund for places of worship could not maintain; it has funded a great deal of solidarity. But there are also dark spots: it has nurtured pockets of interest and bought acclaim cheaply, given support to financial or cultural mediocrities, covered petty operations (after all, as explained by a great Italian cardinal, in matters of money “criminal priests always trust criminals, because they too are criminals; good priests trust criminals because they are good”)... That money has eroded, however, something much deeper in the Italian Church: namely, its belief in poverty as a necessary way of the Church, according to the clear wording of the Conciliar Constitution Lumen gentium 8. Because – as the emergence of crimes of pedophilia showed – every evangelical counsel can be lived in a superficial or profound way: and just as superficiality highlights turpitude, even weak sincerity nurtures virtue. So the lack of belief, so to speak, in poverty has taken away a credibility from the Church that it needs today, to be a factor of profound unity of the country in the changing situation we are going through.Something clear and impolitic as an act of faith – with all the consequences in terms of rigorousness and transparency that it implies – would give the bishops, or would at least increase, that authoritativeness that they have need of, lookers-on at regrets and shameless struggles for ecclesiastical careers: and which the country has even greater need of. In the most difficult days of its post-Fascist history – 8 September 1943, 9 May 1978 – Italy found irreplaceable support in the Church and in those acts of courage the Church gained a credibility it capitalized on for decades. No one can rule out that such days, fortunately different in form but no less demanding in substance, lie now before the country”.




Messori: the first millennium and the Church that is not ours but His


Vittorio Messori, in the Corriere della Sera on 31 August reflects on the decline in vocations that is affecting various religious congregations. This is his conclusion: “It is naturally painful to witness the decline of institutions that were deserving and the cradle of so many saints and to witness the suffering of Christians who gave their lives to congregations they loved and which they now see fading away. But, in the perspective of faith, there can be nothing truly unsettling. The Providence that guides history (and even more the Church, the very body of Christ) knows what it is doing: “Everything is Grace”, to quote the last words of Bernanos’ country priest. The Church is not a fossil, but a living tree where, always, some branches sprout and flourish while others wither. Those who know its history know that in it, following the Founder’s example, death is followed by resurrection, often in humanly unforeseen forms. One must not forget that during the first Christian millennium, there were only secular priests and monks: all the religious congregations appeared only after the beginning of the second millennium. There were no brothers or sisters for many centuries, thus while leaving a fond and glorious memory, they may not be in the future (it is an extreme hypothesis) or, at least, have ever less weight and influence. What is certain is that, in every generation, many Christians will continue to feel the need to live the Gospel sine glossa, in its radicalism. What new features will the life consecrated wholly to personal perfection, and to the service to others, now take? Well, knowledge of the future is foreclosed for us, it is the monopoly of Him who, through weak men, leads a church that is not ours but His”.



Sacred College

The deaths of Cardinals Noè, Ambrozic and Deskur


On 24 July the 89 year-old Cardinal from Lombardy, Virgilio Noè, archpriest emeritus of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, died. On 26 August the 81 year-old Canadian Cardinal Aloysius Matthew Ambrozic, archbishop emeritus of Toronto, died. On 3 September the 87 year-old Polish Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, also died. On that date the Sacred College was composed of 193 members, 114 of whom are voters.



Giuseppe Bertello <BR>[© Romano Siciliani]

Giuseppe Bertello
[© Romano Siciliani]

Holy See/1

Bertello and Sciacca at the head of the Vatican Governatorate


On 3 September Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of 76 year-old Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo as president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and President of the Governatorate of the same State, “asking him to remain in office until 1 October 2011, with all the faculties inherent in that office”. At the same time the Pope appointed as successor to Archbishop Lajolo the 69 year-old Piedmontese Giuseppe Bertello, from 2007 apostolic nuncio to Italy and the Republic of San Marino, “who will assume these aforementioned offices on 1 October this year”. Also on 3 September Benedict XVI appointed Monsignor Giuseppe Sciacca as Secretary of the Governatorate, elevating him to the titular episcopal see of Vittoriana: born in Catania, Sicily, 56 years ago, ordained a priest for the diocese of Acireale in 1978, Sciacca was prelate auditor of the Roman Rota court since 1999.



Holy See/2

O’Brien Pro Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre


On 29 August the Pope accepted the resignation of 76 year-old Cardinal John Patrick Foley from the post of Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and appointed as Pro Grand Master 72 year-old Archbishop Edwin Frederick O’Brien, who has been Archbishop of Baltimore since 2007.



Middle East/1

Israel and the terror of peace


“Israeli politicians are terrified of peace. They tremble in terror of the possibility of peace. Because without war and without a general mobilization, they do not know how to live. Israel does not see the missiles falling on towns along the borders as an absolute evil. On the contrary, politicians would be concerned, even alarmed, if this fire didn’t rain down”. These are the words of Zygmunt Bauman, the Polish Jew who went through the horror of the Holocaust and Stalinist purges, in a controversial interview with the Polish weekly Politika, and reprinted, in Italy, by the Corriere della Sera on 2 September.



Palestinian children in Gaza <BR>[© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Palestinian children in Gaza
[© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Middle East/2

Grossman, messianism and the narrow path of peace


“‘War is not our destiny’. With a heartfelt appeal, the Israeli writer David Grossman continues to think that there is a narrow path to peace, even now that the winds of war have again begun to blow strongly. ‘Today it seems awfully hard to imagine because it would mean finding painful compromises’... ‘Obviously’, he continues, ‘there will always be the risk of fresh fanatics on both sides who will do anything to kill the nascent peace’.” Such is the opening of an article in la Repubblica of 21 August that continues by presenting another consideration by the Israeli writer: “If we are smart, brave and lucky enough to arrive at peace, the world will be surprised to see how Israelis and Palestinians can work together and use their talents to start a normal life”. Then, pointing to the domestic situation of his country, the writer concluded: “There is a constant retreat of democracy. A group of Messianic Jews has hijacked the whole state. A small minority dictates our system of values, our politics, our future... I have no confidence in the goodwill of the Arab countries. But the army cannot be the only way of staying here”.



A branch of Lehman Brothers <BR>[© Associated Press/LaPresse]

A branch of Lehman Brothers
[© Associated Press/LaPresse]


Finance and organized crime do not want shackles


“States have always been based on two foundations: power (that is doing things) and politics (that is imagining and organizing them). Globalization works without politics. It needs speed. It hates constraints. A little like the underworld. Rules are an obstacle. So the most thriving markets in the world are the criminal and financial ones. It doesn’t matter whether they are dirty or clean. Doesn’t it make you think?”. Thus Zygmunt Bauman, sociologist and philosopher, in La Stampa of 7 August.



Warren Buffet <BR>[© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Warren Buffet
[© Associated Press/LaPresse]


The New York Times and doubts about rating agencies


The day after the downgrading of the United States by the Standard & Poor’s rating agency, which has had tragic consequences for the world economy, Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winner and prominent columnist in the New York Times, wrote: “America’s large budget deficit is, after all, primarily the result of the economic slump that followed the 2008 financial crisis. And S.& P., along with its sister rating agencies, played a major role in causing that crisis, by giving AAA ratings to mortgage-backed assets that have since turned into toxic waste. Nor did the bad judgment stop there. Notoriously, S.& P. gave Lehman Brothers, whose collapse triggered a global panic, an A rating right up to the month of its demise. And how did the rating agency react after this A-rated firm went bankrupt? By issuing a report denying that it had done anything wrong. So these people are now pronouncing on the credit-worthiness of the United States of America?” The article was reprinted in la Repubblica on 9 August.



United States

When the State protects the strongest


“While most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks... These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species”. The words are those of American tycoon Warren Buffett in the New York Times, republished in la Repubblica of 17 August, which aroused debate in the U.S. and worldwide.




Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Malaysia


On 27 July the decision of the Holy See and Malaysia to establish full diplomatic relations was officially announced.




New nuncios in Cuba and Japan


On 6 August 63 year-old Archbishop Bruno Musarò was appointed nuncio to Cuba; he was pontifical representative in Peru since 2009. On 15 August the 68 year-old Indian Archbishop Joseph Chennoth was appointed nuncio to Japan; he was pontifical representative in Tanzania since 2005.

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