from issue no.09 - 2011


‘Who’ or ‘what’ holds back the mysterium iniquitatis

St John Chrysostom

St John Chrysostom

In L’Osservatore Romano of 25 September Archbishop Enrico dal Covolo, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, commented on the words of the Apostle Paul in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, Chapter II, verses 6-7. In particular, the prelate stressed how the Antiochian tradition responded to the question of ‘who’ or ‘what’ holds back (tò katèchon) the mystery of iniquity.
“The fourth homily of John Chrysostom begins with two questions, going immediately to the heart of the issue: first, what is this katèchon; then why is it that Paul expresses himself in such an obscure way. In answering the first question Chrysostom evokes and rejects the interpretation of Severian of Gabala, who identified the katèchon with the grace of the Spirit. Theodore of Mopsuestia also agrees with Chrysostom in rejecting Severian’s notion. On the basis of their objections, for which we have no space to comment on here, we may deduce that Severian identified in a Church of charisms the best and most effective bulwark against the onslaught of the forces of evil. After rejecting Severian’s view Chrysostom offers a second, to which he says he himself adheres: identifying the katèchon with the Roman Empire. According to Chrysostom, Paul used obscure and enigmatic language to avoid exposing himself too much, precisely because he identified katèchon with the Roman Empire. The coming of the Antichrist would come about with the collapse of the Roman Empire, which, ceasing to ‘hold back’, would open the way for the parusìa, first that of the Antichrist, and finally that of the Lord Jesus. The empire ‘holds back’ through the fear it induces; as long as the fear lasts, no one can establish the anomia”.
The author also reports en passant a thought of Carl Schmitt’s: “I believe in the katèchon; for me it’s the only way to understand history as a Christian and find it meaningful”.


Putin’s surprises

Vladimir Putin [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Vladimir Putin [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

“Two surprises in the span of thirty days. After re-candidating himself for the position of President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin has already announced to his people and the world at large the great project he will promote immediately after the electoral victory of March that everyone takes for granted: the restructuring, with gradual and partial enlargement, of a portion of the geographical area that until 1991 was called the Soviet Union. Putin himself made the announcement as he waits to take the leap from head of government to the third presidency. He did so in a would-be charming, mild-toned, unalarming article in Izvestia, in which the political significance is softened by giving an economic slant to his terminology. Here is the crucial passage: ‘We propose a model of a powerful supra-national union, capable of becoming one of the poles of the modern world and of acting as an effective link between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region’”. So said Enzo Bettiza in La Stampa on 5 October.


“It is more important to teach humility to friends than to challenge enemies with the truth”

Aldo Maria Valli, <I>Storia di un uomo. Ritratto di Carlo Maria Martini</I>, Ancora, Rome 2011, pp. 208, €16.00

Aldo Maria Valli, Storia di un uomo. Ritratto di Carlo Maria Martini, Ancora, Rome 2011, pp. 208, €16.00

In Corriere della Sera of 14 September, Armando Torno reviewed the book by Aldo Maria Valli, Storia di un uomo. Ritratto di Carlo Maria Martini [History of a man. Portrait of Carlo Maria Martini]. After describing the cardinal as an extremely simple person, Torno writes: “In the end, and Valli recalls it in this very useful book, his style could be summed up with a quote from St Augustine: ‘It is more important to teach humility to friends than to challenge enemies with the truth’”. Title of the article: Martini, the courage of humility.


President Napolitano, 11 September and the clash of civilizations

Giorgio Napolitano [© LaPresse]

Giorgio Napolitano [© LaPresse]

“The 11 September led the international community to awareness of a threat and an unprecedented challenge, and it was well understood that that threat and that challenge were not directed only at America, at the United States. It had been realized well beforehand that the attack was aimed also at Europe, as then happened, at large European cities such as Paris, London, Madrid. And so what I can stress is that something profound changed in the way of conceiving security, but not only by some States. What was perhaps an effect unforeseen by those who hatched the attack on the Twin Towers, was a rapprochement between the members of the international community. And from that moment States very different from one another and unallied, from the United States to the EU countries, from Russia to China, realized that they had to face a common enemy together. This was essential for all the subsequent developments... Because during these ten years the world has changed in many ways. The basic fact was to understand that we especially, the western States, America and Europe, should not be lured into what al-Qaeda insisted on could be a clash of civilizations. It was necessary not to confuse the terrorist attack either with the Muslim religion or with Islamic culture; it was instead necessary to find a way to dissipate reasons for misunderstanding and conflict between different worlds, to reach a common understanding of security, of development. In sum, of peace and justice among nations”. So said Giorgio Napolitano, interviewed by Bruno Vespa on Porta a Porta [a prime time Italian current events TV program] on 10 September 2011, on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers.


Paul VI with Cardinal Ratzinger [© LaPresse]

Paul VI with Cardinal Ratzinger [© LaPresse]

Ecclesiam Suam

“Firmly anchored in faith to the cornerstone which is Christ, let us abide in him, like the branch that can bear no fruit unless it remains attached to the vine. The Church, the People of the New Covenant, is built only in Him, for Him and with Him. On this the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote:‘The first benefit which we trust the Church will reap from a deepened self-awareness, is a renewed discovery of its vital bond of union with Christ. This is something which is perfectly well known, but it is supremely important and absolutely essential. It can never be sufficiently understood, meditated upon and preached’ (Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, 6 August 1964: AAS 56 [1964], 622)”. So said Benedict XVI at the Angelus on Sunday 2 October.



Carlo Caffarra during the Mass for the feastday of St Petronius 4 October 2011

Carlo Caffarra during the Mass for the feastday of St Petronius 4 October 2011

Caffarra: the prime service of the Church to society is the celebration of the Eucharist

“Thus a section of the homily that the Cardinal of Bologna Carlo Caffarra gave, on 4 October for the feastday of St Petronius, obviously escaped most people’s attention. He too, as is the custom, spoke of the city on that occasion. He asked himself what might be the ‘prime service’ that the Church offers to the common life. He maintained that it doesn’t primarily consist in a contribution of moral doctrine or in social ethics, but in bringing about a true brotherhood in lived life. It does not demand space or contracts for itself, but sets itself as communion that receives from the Eucharistic table its non-normated normative norm [‘norma normans non normata’]. ‘The prime and fundamental service of the Christian community is thus the celebration of the Eucharist, the sacrament of the Lord’s Passion’”. So said Alberto Melloni, on 8 October in Corriere della Sera.


Sacred College
The eightieth birthday of Cardinal Mazombwe

On 24 September the African Cardinal Joseph Medardo Mazombwe, archbishop emeritus of Lusaka, created cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2010, became eighty years old. At the end of September therefore the College of Cardinals numbered 193 cardinals, of whom 113 are voters.


Ildefonso Schuster <BR>[© LaPresse]

Ildefonso Schuster
[© LaPresse]

The Ambrosian Church against Fascism

Avvenire of 4 October published an essay by Giorgio Rumi, who died in 2006, in which the authoritative Catholic historian recalled the conflicting relationships between the Fascist authorities in Milan and the then Cardinal Archbishop, Blessed Ildefonso Schuster: “In the late thirties, the relationship between the Church and the regime, in that Ambrosian territory which saw the beginnings of the three great challenges to liberal Italy (the Catholic, Socialist and finally Fascist challenge), there were clear and well-defined relations of force: the Fascist governor of Milan had no hesitation in recalling the path taken and in reaffirming his vision of things: ‘Five years ago I was called by your trust to guide the destiny of Fascism in Milan... The cardinal at that time [1933] was notoriously anti-Fascist, and hindered, sometimes openly, sometimes in hidden fashion, the course of Fascism in Milan ... while in determined fashion... I put my reliance on the people, I had behind my back the cardinal and the whole of Catholic Action busily working to dismantle...’”. The breaking point, the governor of Milan complains, was “the speech made by Cardinal Schuster in which he opposed our policy on race”. Following that speech the governor wrote to Mussolini: “Of course I broke all and every relationship with the cardinal”.



Ernesto Olivero

Ernesto Olivero

Ernesto Olivero wins the European citizen of the Year award

On 2 October the European Parliament awarded the ‘Civi Europaeo Praemium’ to Ernesto Olivero, the founder of SERMIG (Young Peoples’ Missionary Service), which has been working for some time as a voluntary organization in the field of integration and dialogue among peoples. He was proposed by the Northern League member Oreste Rossi and the prize was awarded to the winner by the Vice-President of the European Parliament Gianni Pittella. Avvenire reported the news on 6 October.


New heads at the Prefecture of Economic Affairs

On 21 September the Pope appointed the new president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See. Nominated as successor to 76 year-old Cardinal Velasio De Paolis was 68 year-old Monsignor Giuseppe Versaldi, bishop of Alexandria since 2007, who was also raised to the dignity of archbishop.
Also on 21 September the new secretary of the Prefecture was appointed. He is the 50 year-old Spanish priest Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda, director general of the bishopric of Astorga since 1991.


“Only Eurobonds can save the EU”

La Stampa of 11 October published an interview with Christopher Sims and Thomas Sargent, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize for economics the previous day. Asked about the European crisis, Sims said, “One of the studies we’ve made speaks precisely of the precarious premisses of the monetary union. There is a serious fundamental flaw: you have the central bank, but there is no authority that can decide fiscal policies or issue bonds. So, in situations of crisis like the present, it’s not clear who has the power to make the necessary decisions. The prospects for the euro are gloomy if an authority to issue Eurobonds and coordinate fiscal policies is not soon added to the central bank”. A similar reflection by Sargent followed that of Sims: “When the United States was created, at the end of the eighteenth century, conditions in America at the time were similar to those of Europe today. There were thirteen states which all had power to coin money, incur debt and decide their fiscal policies against an extremely weak federal government. These states could even decide their own rules in the foreign trade sector, exposing America to heavy penalties from London. The founding fathers, who were largely creditors of the various states, wrote the Constitution precisely to correct that original flaw. The central government took over the entire debt of the thirteen states, which thereby lost the absolute economic independence that they had up to then”. The title of the interview: “Only Eurobonds can save the EU”.

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