from issue no.12 - 2011


“Our eternal happiness is determined by the acceptance of a historical fact”

The star marking the place where Jesus was born in the Grotto of the Nativity, the Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem [© Archivio ETS Milano]

The star marking the place where Jesus was born in the Grotto of the Nativity, the Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem [© Archivio ETS Milano]

“The underlying reason of the fact that on this night, because of the birth of that child, the abode of man ceased to be ‘a land of darkness’, is stated by the Apostle Paul in the second reading. Let’s listen again: ‘The grace of God appeared, the bearer of salvation for all men’. In the baby born in Bethlehem ‘the grace of God appeared’”. These are the words of Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, in the homily of the Christmas Midnight Mass. The Cardinal then said: “God has ceased to dwell in inaccessible light. He revealed to us what his thoughts about man are: they are ‘grace and mercy’. On this night the true name of God was revealed to us: ‘the grace of God bearer of salvation appeared’. He came to take care of each one of us, to take us by the hand to lead us to true life”. In the homily at the Mass on Christmas Day, the Archbishop added: “Dear brothers and sisters, even the healthiest eye needs to be illuminated by a luminous source in order to see: it cannot by itself produce the act of vision. So our reason is a very uncertain guide if it is not illuminated by the light of the Word made flesh... ‘To all who received him’, says the Holy Gospel, ‘he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name’. This is the real change in the human condition: ‘He gave power to become children of God’. It establishes a new relationship with God, based on the fact that, by becoming man, the Word made mankind participant in His divine status. ‘Oh, great benevolence! Great mercy’, exclaims St Augustine. ‘He was the Only Son, and He did not want to remain alone... The Only Son that the Father had generated and through whom He had made all things, this Son he sent into the world, so that He would not be alone, but would have adoptive brothers’ [Commentary on the Gospel of John 2, 13]. Dear brothers and sisters, that our eternal happiness is determined by the acceptance of a historical fact, is the permanent scandal of the Christian message. But today a presentation of the Christian message is taking place that is devoid of any scandal. This happens every time Christianity is reduced to a religious or moral doctrine, relegating the person of the Incarnate Word to second place... . Dear friends, the true, unique, final question comes down in the end to just one: is it true or not that the child born today of Mary is God?”.


The Anglican Primate spoke to the House of Lords of his fears for Christian presence in the Middle East

Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams

“The continued presence of Christians in the region is essential to the political and social health of the countries of the Middle East”. So Rowan Williams, Primate of the Anglican Communion stated in a speech in the House of Lords and summarised in L’Osservatore Romano on 12-13 December. “At the present moment”, Williams continued, “the position of Christians in the region is more vulnerable than it has been for centuries.” A dramatic situation is causing a constant migration of Christians, “most troubling” among the Palestinians, “as a result of the tragic situation in the West Bank”. The Anglican Primate, the Vatican newspaper summarizes, also made himself spokesman of the fears of Christians in the Middle East: “one of their real grievances is what they experience as the twofold undermining of their identity that comes from a new generation of Muslim enthusiasts treating them as pawns of the West and, on the other hand, from a western political rhetoric that either ignores them totally or thoughtlessly puts them at risk by casting military conflict in religious terms”.


Cardinals in the Clementine Hall presenting Christmas greetings to the Pope <BR>[© Osservatore Romano]

Cardinals in the Clementine Hall presenting Christmas greetings to the Pope
[© Osservatore Romano]

Sacred College
The resignation of Sandoval. The eightieth birthday of Cheong. The death of Foley

On 7 December the resignation of the Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñi­guez from his post as Arch­bishop of Guadalajara, was accepted. Sandvoval was 78 years old in March and had held the post since 1994. In his place Benedict XVI appointed 62 year-old Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, who was Archbishop of Monterrey since 2003.
Also on 7 December the Korean Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-Suk, Archbishop of Seoul since 1998, was eighty years old.
On 11 December 76 year-old American Cardinal John Patrick Foley, former Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and a former president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, died.
At the end of 2011 then the College of Cardinals was made up of 192 members, of whom 109 are voters. On 6 January 2012 Portuguese Cardinal José Saraiva Martins became eighty, as did the Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen on 13 January.


Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow, was elected Pope on 16 October 1978

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow, was elected Pope on 16 October 1978

The CIA, the end of the Soviet Union and the election of Karol Wojtyla

“Twenty years after the end of the USSR, which was announced at Christmas 1991 and took place before 31 December of that year with the dissolution of all Soviet institutions, the CIA has declassified documents that confirm that the Reagan administration and that of Bush father had anticipated it, and how they contributed to it with their support of Pope John Paul II. The collapse of the USSR, the documents state, took place earlier than expected, thanks to the implosion of its empire and the refusal of Mikhail Gorbachev, its last president, to prevent this by force. But from 1978, on the election of the Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla as Pope, the CIA had considered the implosion as likely”. So Ennio Caretto in Corriere della Sera of 30 December.


The battle of Amoy in China, 26 August 1841, during the first Opium War

The battle of Amoy in China, 26 August 1841, during the first Opium War

The rhetoric of liberalism began with The Opium War

“There are many curious parallels between the situation in the early nineteenth century and now. Then as now the Western world had a large trade deficit with China. This was the reason why the British East India Company began to export opium to China on a large scale, with catastrophic consequences for the country. When at last the British went to war against China they said that they did so in the name of free trade, even if the main product they exported, opium, was produced under the State monopoly. Today the Western powers cannot resort to the same means, but they are building up rhetoric on such topics as liberalism. They have decided to forget that this rhetoric was used for the first time to defend opium – but if there is a nation that is in a position to remember it better than others it is China. This is why the Chinese are totally impervious to these discussions.” This is a passage from an interview with Amitav Ghosh, the American novelist of Indian origins, which appeared in the Espresso on 15 December. The writer went on to explain: “There is a parallel between the Iraq War and the Opium War, especially in the discourses that have surrounded them. All the feel-good reasons, the fake piety: we are doing it for the good of the world, it was said. But underneath there is the most terrible violence, the most terrible greed. When I started writing, this kind of capitalist ideology was on the rise, it was thought that the market really was god. It amazed me that no one could see that the first testing ground for the advocates of free trade was the opium market”.


China, the US and the temptation of a new Cold War

“The Western Pacific is facing a difficult problem: reconciling the growing aspirations of China in a region where the US has maintained primacy since the end of the Cold War. Is the US intent on maintaining dominance in the region? Or are they willing to work through multilateral forums to reset the rules? The choice will be decisive for understanding whether peace will continue to reign in the Pacific.” This is the opening of an article by former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in La Stampa published on 20 December, commenting on the US decision to increase its military presence in the Pacific Ocean. The article goes on: “From the other side of the Asian-Pacific region, the rise of China is seen as positive, but requiring Beijing to operate within internationally agreed rules. Somehting which, of course, should apply to everyone. But tensions are inevitable if China does not participate in the creation of these rules... China has shown no interest in emulating the European imperialist powers of the nineteenth century or the imperialist efforts of Japan in the first half of the twentieth century. The history of China shows no urge towards such ambitions”. Fraser concludes: “Today, Asia presents a completely new and unique series of circumstances. The dilemmas arising from these circumstances require new solutions, not outdated Cold War concepts”.


Middle East
The Mossad chief: Iran’s nuclear weapon does not threaten Israel’s existence

“A nuclear-armed Iran would not necessarily be a threat to the existence of Israel. So said Tamir Pardo, the head of Mossad, speaking to an audience of a hundred Israeli ambassadors. It was reported today by the Ha’aretz daily, citing three diplomats present”. Adn­kronos news agency report of 29 December.


Latin America
Free trade agreement between MERCOSUR countries and Palestine

On 20 December in Montevideo, Uruguay, the countries of MERCOSUR (Common Southern Market) signed a free trade agreement with the representatives of the Palestinian National Authority. The news was reported by the International Agency France Presse. During the negotiations preceding the signing, said the agency, the four countries of the organization (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) indicated that the agreement also aims to strengthen the Palestinian government’s request to obtain recognition as a member of the United Nations. In 2007, MERCOSUR signed a similar agreement with the State of Israel.


The real rating agency is China

“Within a short time all the major economies of the world (except Canada) will probably have lost their triple A rating. London included. The benchmark for the market will not be the little ‘A+’ formula, stupid in itself, but a more comprehensive analysis of each country. Perhaps it will be a good thing. Surely what matters, that is interest rates on debt, will be determined by a different factor: the willingness of large Asian creditors to finance the Western debt. The real rating agency is not S & P, but China”. So said an article in the Corriere della Sera on 16 December entitled: But the real rating agency is China.


Tents of the homeless in Sacramento after the subprime financial crisis [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Tents of the homeless in Sacramento after the subprime financial crisis [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

Robert Fisk and the crimes of international finance

On 11 December, il Fatto Quotidiano translated an article, taken from The Independent, by Robert Fisk, one of the most respected of British journalists. The article states: “The banks and the rating agencies have become the dictators of the West. Like the Mubaraks and Ben Alis... I didn't need Charles Ferguson's Inside Job on BBC2 this week - though it helped - to teach me that the ratings agencies and the US banks are interchangeable, that their personnel move seamlessly between agency, bank and US government. The ratings lads... who AAA-rated sub-prime loans and derivatives in America are now... clawing down the people of Europe by threatening to lower or withdraw the very same ratings from European nations which they lavished upon criminals before the financial crash in the US... Why don't my journalist mates in Wall Street tell me? How come the BBC and CNN and - oh, dear, even al-Jazeera - treat these criminal communities as unquestionable institutions of power? Why no investigations... into these scandalous double-dealers?”. The article’s title: The West’s new dictators.

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