from issue no.01/02 - 2012


The center of confession is not our sin, but God’s mercy

<I>The Return of the Prodigal Son</I>, Rembrandt, etching, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt, etching, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York

In late January, at the Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto, the third symposium for penitentiaries was held, organized by the Centro Studi Lauretani. We publish excerpts from the talk of Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, regent bishop of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which appeared in L’Osservatore Romano on 28 January. “I was always struck by the attitude that the Saint Curé of Ars took with the various penitents. Those who came to his confessional drawn by a deep and humble longing for God’s forgiveness found in him the encouragement to plunge into the ‘flood of divine mercy’ which sweeps away everything in its vehemence. If someone was troubled by the thought of his own weakness and inconstancy, and fearful of sinning again, he would unveil to him God’s secret in a beautiful and touching expression: ‘The good Lord knows everything. Even before you confess, He already knows that you will sin again and yet He forgives you. How great is the love of our God who goes so far as to voluntarily forget the future, in order to forgive us!’. We know that the Curé of Ars, in his time, was able to transform the hearts and lives of many people because he enabled them to perceive, through the ability to listen, the merciful love of the Lord. What matters most in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the personal encounter with Christ the Savior and, in Him, with the merciful Father. In this light we should perhaps reconsider certain rigidities and incrustations in ways of understanding and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Is it not true that sometimes confession takes the form of a court of accusation, rather than a celebration of forgiveness? Is it not perhaps true that sometimes the penitential dialogue takes on an inquisitorial tone, or in any case a somewhat indelicate one? A certain way of understanding the Sacrament of Reconciliation has led, in fact, to overestimate unilaterally the moment of accusation and the list of sins, with the result of pushing into the background what is – instead – absolutely central in listening to the sins, that is the blessing embrace of the merciful Father. Too many times we consider first the sin and then grace. Whereas above all there is God’s gratuitousness, there is His boundless merciful love. It is not our sin that is at the center of the sacramental celebration, the sacrament is at the center of God’s mercy, which is infinitely greater than all our sins... The sacrament of Penance is not a ‘psychoanalytic session’; it is a sacrament, an efficacious sign of forgiveness to those who have repented, not to those who decided to undergo analysis or the treatment of their psyche. The confessor knows that God alone scrutinizes the heart to its very depths and that the objective judgment and the gift of mercy belong to Him, who initially absolves and of whose grace the confessor is only a carrier. What matters most is not the analysis and confession, but the repentance that dwells in the soul... One must always bear in mind that the confessor should never express surprise, whatever the gravity of sins the penitent accuses himself of; he must never utter words that sound like condemnation of the person, rather than of the sin, must never instill terror rather than fear, must never investigate aspects of the life of the penitent, knowledge of which is not required for the evaluation of his actions, must never use terms that violate also even the delicacy of feeling, even though, strictly speaking, they do not violate justice and charity; a priest must never show himself to be impatient and jealous of his time, mortifying the penitent with the invitation to be quick (except in the case where the self-accusation is made with unnecessary verbiage)... In conclusion ‘acceptance and truth’ should distinguish the attitude of the confessor – who is judge, doctor and teacher on behalf of the Church – in what is a moment of reconciliation with God. And every priest who sits in the confessional must be the image of the meekness of Christ, because, bringing the penitent into connection with the merciful heart of God, through his mild and friendly face, he will with joy and confidence rediscover this sacrament and understand more and more that the love God has for us does not cease in the face of our sin, or recoil before our offenses”.


The Church should not want to be the sun, but should be joyful to be the moon

Christ depicted as Helios (the Sun), Vatican Necropolis, near Peter’s tomb

Christ depicted as Helios (the Sun), Vatican Necropolis, near Peter’s tomb

“Also in the light of the foregoing, we can easily understand why, in the presentation that Cardinal Kasper makes of Catholic ecclesiology, the ecclesiological thought of Vatican II appears a little like a leading thread. This is apparent in particular from the fact that his ecclesiological approach takes seriously the title of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. In fact, according to the conciliar ecclesiology, Lumen gentium is not the Church, but is Christ, the light of peoples, and the Church is only His reflection, that is the sign and instrument of God, who revealed Himself definitively in Jesus Christ. The Church, therefore, should not want to be the sun, but must be glad to be the moon, to receive all its light from the sun and let it shine in the night. As the moon has no light of itself, but reflects the light that comes from the sun, so the Church can transmit and shine in the night of humanity only the light that it has received from Christ. The book on the Catholic Church by Cardinal Kasper is at the service of the coherent deployment of a lunar ecclesiology”. Thus Cardinal Kurt Koch (President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism) wrote in a review of the book by Cardinal Walter Kasper (President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) Chiesa cattolica. Essenza – Realtà – Missione [Catholic Church. Essence – Reality – Mission] (Queriniana, Brescia 2012), (584 pp., Euro 35.00), published in L’Osservatore Romano on 27 January. Cardinal Koch’s review concludes as follows: “Cardinal Kasper knows that the spiritual renewal of the Church, which we need so much today, is ‘only possible through a new Pentecost’. As happened then, when the disciples were reunited with the women who followed Jesus and they prayed incessantly and unanimously for the coming of the Holy Spirit, so also today a new Pentecost can be prepared only through intense prayer, because ‘the Church of the future will be mainly a praying church’ (p. 550). Indeed, prayer is the place where that joy for God that the Old Testament book of Nehemiah describes as ‘our strength’ originated. Only from this joy for God can the joy for the Church also grow, which is not that kind of joy that we procure for ourselves and which has therefore rare consistency. The joy experienced in the Christian faith is that joy that, ultimately, only the Spirit can give us. This joy is the distinctive hallmark of every Christian situation to the point that we can say: there where there is a lack of joy and depressed irritability, the Spirit of Jesus is certainly not at work”. The prelate’s article was published under the title Lunar Ecclesiology.


Don Luigi Giussani’s process of beatification initiated

Don Luigi Giussani

Don Luigi Giussani

On 22 February, the seventh anniversary of his death, the request to begin the process of beatification of Don Luigi Giussani was presented. Don Matteo Fabbri, vicar of the Prelature of Opus Dei, commented on the news with a note that we publish in full: “The announcement of the beatification of Monsignor Luigi Giussani is a source of great joy and makes us grateful to God. He knew how to show by his words and his example that all human aspirations find fulfillment in Christ, bringing many young people, families and people of all kinds close to the faith. There are many who owe the discovery of their vocation to Don Giussani. Still today his message, centered on the beauty of the Christian life, brings and continues to bring abundant apostolic fruit throughout the Church, as was evident in the wonderful concelebration last night, in Milan Cathedral, in which I had the honor of participating”.


<I>Allow the children to come to me</I>, Carl Vogel von Vogelstein, Gallery of Modern Art, Florence

Allow the children to come to me, Carl Vogel von Vogelstein, Gallery of Modern Art, Florence


Cardinal Dolan: to speak of the faith to the world like children


“What keeps us from the swagger and arrogance of triumphalism is a recognition of what Pope Paul VI taught in Evangelii Nuntiandi: the Church herself needs evangelization! This gives us humility as we confess that nemo dat quod non habet, that the Church has a deep need for inner conversion”. This is a passage from the talk given on 17 February by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, who introduced the day of prayer and reflection called by the Pope for the members of the College of Cardinals and the cardinals created in the Consistory of 18 February. Afterwards, pointing to the importance of Christian joy, he said: “A man dying of AIDS at the Gift of Peace Hospice, administered by the Missionaries of Charity in Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s Archdiocese of Washington, asked for baptism. When the priest asked for an expression of faith, the dying man whispered, ‘All I know is that I’m unhappy, and these sisters are very happy, even when I curse them and spit on them. Yesterday I finally asked them why they were so happy. They replied “Jesus”. I want this Jesus so I can finally be happy. A genuine act of faith, right?’”. And, finishing his talk, the prelate said: “Thank you, Holy Father and brethren, for your patience with my primitive Italian. When Cardinal Bertone asked me to give this address in Italian, I was worried, because I speak Italian like a child. But, then I recalled, that, as a newly-ordained parish priest, my first pastor said to me as I went over to school to teach the six-year old children their catechism, ‘Now we’ll see if all your theology sank in, and if you can speak of the faith like a child’. And maybe that’s a fitting place to conclude: we need to speak again as a child the eternal truth, beauty, and simplicity of Jesus and His Church”. The cardinal’s speech was reported in L’Osservatore Romano on 18 February with the title To speak of the faith to the world like children.



Mary and John at the foot of the Cross, detail of the <I>Crucifixion</I>, Giotto, the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Mary and John at the foot of the Cross, detail of the Crucifixion, Giotto, the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua


Cardinal Filoni: “It’s Jesus who puts us under the protection of Our Lady”


On 19 February, at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration with the new cardinals, created in the consistory of 18 February, Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, first on the list of new cardinals, addressed a greeting to the Pope on behalf of the other new cardinals. This is the conclusion reported in L’Osservatore Romano of 20-21 February: “We put our service as cardinals under the protection of Mary Mother of Grace; indeed it is Christ Himself who, from the Cross, places us under her maternal protection, ‘Woman, behold your son! (John 19, 26)’. And we ask you, our Mother, to come and live with us”.




The nuncio Viganò meets with Obama


L’Osservatore Romano of 6-7 February gave news of the “beginning of the mission of the apostolic nuncio to the United States”, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. The article explains that on 18 January, the new nuncio met US President Barack Obama at the Oval Office of the White House, who “received him very kindly, asking him immediately to convey his greetings to His Holiness along with best wishes for his lofty mission. The president then underlined his respect for the work of the Catholic Church, not only in the United States of America, but worldwide. In particular, he noted how the voice of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church’s attention to those afflicted by poverty, hunger and war, make the Holy See an important partner of the United States”.



Francesco Moraglia

Francesco Moraglia


The new Patriarch of Venice: prayer first of all


What are your plans for the new mission? “To pray first of all”. So said the new Patriarch of Venice, Monsignor Francesco Moraglia, in an interview given to Avvenire on 1 February. In the same interview, when asked how he had received the news of his appointment the previous day, he replied: “The first feeling was of finding myself ‘flung’ into a totally new situation, so that it was impossible even to ‘imagine for myself’ the future. Because of this I can say that I accepted the nomination with a little trepidation. But then, before the Lord, I said to myself, with Him, with His help, everything becomes possible”.



Middle East

Attacking Syria would be acatastrophe for Turkey


The rumors of a U.S. military attack on Syria? They’re just a bluff. So says Patrick Seale, British journalist and expert on the Middle East, and particularly on Syria, in an interview with Corriere della Sera on 9 February. Thus we read in the Via Solferino newspaper: “The withdrawal from Iraq, the commitment of ten years in Afghanistan, the continuing raids in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, East Africa. Washington cuts the cost of Defense and shifts the focus to the Asia-Pacific region to contain China. Believe me, those rumors are a bluff: no one is ready to put a finger into a conflict that would ignite the whole region. Turkey has also said so: it would be a real catastrophe”.




Deterrence is less disastrous than a preventive war


“Israeli officials tell us that we Americans cannot understand their fears: Iran poses an existential threat to their country. But in reality we understand them very well, because we too have faced a very similar experience. After the Second World War, when the Soviet Union equipped itself with atomic weapons, the United States was invaded by a panic that dragged on for years. Everything that Israel says now of Iran we said of the Soviet Union. The USSR represented in our eyes a radical and revolutionary regime, contrary to our values, determined to overthrow the Western governments to establish global communism. For us, Moscow was irrational, aggressive and totally contemptuous of human life. Just as Israel is now openly considering pre-emptive military action against Iran, many in the West called for similar action against Moscow in the late ’forties”. These are the words of the authoritative American journalist Fareed Zakaria in an article in Corriere della Sera on 19 February. The text concludes as follows: “Over the last decade, there have been thousands of suicide bombers of Saudi, Egyptian, Lebanese, Palestinian and Pakistani origin, but not a single attack was carried out by an Iranian citizen. Even if it could acquire a crude nuclear explosive device in the coming years, are we confident that Iran intends to launch a suicide attack first? ‘Israel finds itself faced with the choices that the United States and Britain were facing more than sixty years ago’, says Gideon Rose, Director of Foreign Affairs. ‘Israel will also admit, it is hoped, that it is impossible to guarantee absolute safety in the nuclear age, and that if it is not able to delay or damage the nuclear programs of her enemies, deterrence is less disastrous than a preventive war’”.



College of Cardinals

The death of Bevilacqua. The eightieth birthdays of Saraiva and Zen. Twenty-two new cardinals created


The 88 year-old Cardinal Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia from 1987-2003, died on 31 January. Cardinals José Saraiva Martins (on 6 January) and Joseph Zen (on 13 January) became eighty years old.




Appointments to the Penitentiary, Bishops, Religious and to the Roman Rota


On 5 January the 74 year-old Portuguese Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, was appointed Penitentiary Major; he had been secretary of the Congregation for Bishops since 2009.

On 11 January the 71 year-old Tuscan Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, was appointed secretary of the Congregation for Bishops; he had been nuncio to Brazil since 2002.

On 25 January the 52 year-old German Monsignor Udo Breitbach, was appointed undersecretary in the same department.

On 17 December 63 year-old Sister Nicoletta Vittoria Spezzati, a native of San Severo (Foggia), was appointed undersecretary of the Congregation for the Religious. Since 2006 she had been an official of the department.

On 30 December Benedict XVI appointed two new auditors of the Roman Rota Tribunal. They are the 40 year-old Italian Don Davide Salvatori, previously judicial vicar adjunct at the Ecclesiastic Flaminio Regional Tribunal in Bologna, and the 47 year-old German Salesian Markus Graulich, until now the promoter of justice at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signet.




Appointments in Venice, Cagliari, Cassano all’Ionio and Rome


On 9 December the 63 year-old Monsignor Nunzio Galantino was appointed bishop of Cassano all’Ionio, in Calabria. Originally from Cerignola in Apulia, in 1972 he was ordained priest for the diocese of the same name. From 2004 he was responsible for the CEI’s National Service for higher studies in Theology and Religious Sciences.

On 31 January the Bishop of La Spezia 54 year-old Francesco Moraglia, was promoted Patriarch of Venice.

Also on 31 January the Bishop of Sora 54 year-old Filippo Iannone, a Carmelite, was appointed vicegerent of Rome. On the same date the monsignors 56 year-old Matteo Maria Zuppi, and 56 year-old Lorenzo Leuzzi, were appointed auxiliaries of Rome.

On 25 February Monsignor Arrigo Miglio, 70 years old in July, Bishop of Ivrea since 1999 (and for the previous seven years Bishop of Iglesias), was promoted Archbishop of Cagliari.




New nuncios to the Netherlands, Armenia, Trinidad, Argentina, Brazil, Zambia, Rwanda and the Solomon Islands


On 15 December the 72 year-old French Archbishop André Dupuy was appointed apostolic nuncio to the Netherlands. From 2005 he was pontifical representative to the European Union and since 2006 at the Principality of Monaco.

Also on 15 December the 50 year-old archbishop-elect Marek Solczynski, appointed nuncio to Georgia on 26 November, was also nominated pontifical representative in Armenia.

On 21 December 54 year-old Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, appointed nuncio to various countries of the West Indies on 29 October, was appointed papal representative also in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

On 5 January the 65 year-old Swiss Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig was appointed apostolic nuncio to Argentina; he had been representative in Scandinavia since 2008.

On 27 January monsignors Julio Murat (a 50 year-old Turk, destined as representative in Zambia), Santo Gangemi (a 50 year-old Sicilian, destined for the Solomon Islands) and Luciano Russo (a 49 year-old Campanian), who on 16 February was appointed pontifical representative in Rwanda, were appointed nuncios.

On 10 February the 57 year-old Campanian Archbishop Giovanni d’Aniello, was appointed nuncio to Brazil; he had been the pontifical representative in Thailand since 2010.

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