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00mercoledì 22 agosto 2007 16.50

Sandro Magister tackles today one of the more outrageous propositions made lately about the Vatican. How can even the United Nations deny that the Vatican is a sovereign state, so how can a magazine as 'prestigious' as The Economist even think of proposing that it be reduced to an NGO (non-governmental organization) in the UN?

Mission Impossible:
Eject the Holy See from the United Nations

Many are trying, most recently The Economist.
But the papal delegation is there, and it will stay.
And almost all the countries that have diplomatic ties with the Vatican are on its side.
The view of the Vatican foreign minister, Dominique Mamberti.

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, August 21, 2007 – “In cauda venenum,” the Latin saying goes. And there’s poison in the tail of the July 21 article on Vatican diplomacy in The Economist. After two pages full of pleasantries, the article in the English weekly – which is widely read in government foreign offices – ends with this advice for the Holy See:

“It could renounce its special diplomatic status and call itself what it is – the biggest non-governmental organisation in the world.” On a par with Oxfam or Doctors without Borders.

The Vatican was not pleased, and decided to react. The response came on August 9, from the head of Vatican diplomacy, the French archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states, in an interview with the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, Avvenire.


Here is his complete reply to the conclusion of The Economist:

This is certainly not an acceptable invitation! It may have arisen from an imprecise understanding of the Holy See’s position in the international community: a position that can be traced back to the beginning of the international community itself, and has been reinforced above all since the end of the nineteenth century.

With the disappearance of the Papal States, it has, in fact, become increasingly more clear that the Holy See’s international juridical personality is independent of the criterion of territorial sovereignty.

This situation is accepted tranquilly by the international community both on the bilateral level – I recall that there are almost 180 countries that maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See – and on the multilateral level, as shown in particular by the UN general assembly resolution 58/314 of 2004, which expanded the range and prerogatives of the Holy See’s action as a permanent observer at the UN.

Behind the invitation to reduce itself to a non-governmental organization, apart from a lack of understanding of the Holy See’s juridical status, there is probably also a reductionist vision of its mission, which is not sectarian or linked to special interests, but is universal and inclusive of all the dimensions of man and humanity.

This is why the Holy See’s activity within the international community is often a ‘sign of contradiction’, because it does not cease to raise its voice in defense of the dignity of each person and of the sacredness of all human life, above all the most vulnerable, and in defense of the family founded upon marriage between one man and one woman.

It does not cease to assert the fundamental right to religious freedom, and to promote relations among individuals and peoples founded upon justice and solidarity.

In carrying out its international role, the Holy See is always at the service of the comprehensive salvation of man, according to Christ’s commandment. It comes as no surprise that there are some who seek to diminish the resonance of its voice!”

Archbishop Mamberti’s response deserves some illustration.

The idea of expelling the Holy See from the concert of nations is not new. Since 1995, “Catholics for a Free Choice” has tried to do this through petitions signed by various countries. The American group is led by a former religious sister, Frances Kissling, but it’s Catholic in name only – more than that, it’s been officially excommunicated by the bishops of the United States.

The campaign was called “See Change,” and it was aimed at expelling the Holy See from the United Nations.

The reasons advanced in support of expulsion were the same ones that The Economist has now brought back to light: the Catholic Church is the only religion in the world that sits at the UN as a permanent observer, with “privileges” similar to those of sovereign nations; it thus represents an anomaly that moreover foments disagreement; if the Church strives to bring peace to Burundi, that’s unobjectionable, but when it opposes abortion and euthanasia, no, it is not right that in order to support its own interests it should make use of an international juridical status that doesn’t truly belong to it.

It is no accident that the campaign for the expulsion of the Holy See from the UN heated up after the international conference in Cairo in 1994, on population, and the following conference in Beijing, on women. At both conferences, the Vatican delegation played an effective role of opposition to the pro-abortion policies promoted by the UN itself, and by the major Western powers.

Apart from life and the family, another issue on which the Holy See becomes a “sign of contradiction” – as Archbishop Mamberti recalled – is religious freedom.

In the bureaucracies of the UN and of the other major international organization that is the European Union, in which the Holy See has the rank of observer, the desire to expel it is fairly widespread. But when it comes down to action, the opposite is true.

In July of 2004, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution that not only confirmed, but even reinforced the Holy See’s presence in the organization.

The Holy See has been at the UN since April 6, 1964 with “permanent observer status”: a rank that until a few years ago it shared with Switzerland, until this became a full-fledged member state.

In its capacity as an observer, the Holy See does not vote in the General Assembly, but has a right to address the body and to reply. But it is a full member in various subsidiary bodies of the United Nations, for example in the commission for refugees.

But the strongest element that serves to confirm the recognition of the Holy See as an international juridical personality similar to a sovereign nation is the network of bilateral diplomatic relations that it maintains: a network that has become increasingly large with the passing of the centuries, and above all in recent years.

The first permanent papal nunciature was established in 1500, in the republic of Venice. The first Protestant state that sent an ambassador to Rome was Prussia, in 1805. The first non-Christian state that established diplomatic relations with the Holy See was Japan, in 1942.

When John Paul II was elected pope in 1978, the Holy See had diplomatic relations with 84 states.

Today, it maintains relations with 176 states. The most recent was added last May 31: the United Arab Emirates.

Special diplomatic relations have been established with Russia, and with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Furthermore, the Holy See is present in 16 international organizations, including the UN, the African Union, and the Organization of American States.

Essentially, it is easier to count the countries with which the Holy See still does not have relations. There are seventeen. Nine of these are Muslim: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Comoros, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritania, Oman, and Somalia. Another four are run by communist regimes: China, North Korea, Laos, and Vietnam. The remaining four are Bhutan, Botswana, Myanmar, and Tuvalu.

With such a high number of states that maintain bilateral relations with the Holy See – and thus acknowledge its juridical personality – it is unthinkable that these same states would refuse to recognize its right to a place in a multilateral organization.

It follows that the campaign to eject the Holy See from the UN is not motivated by what the Holy See is, but by what it does.


The Vatican diplomatic corps today consists of 101 nuncios in service. 51 of these come from Italy, 7 from the United States, 6 from Spain, 5 each from France, India, and Poland, 3 each from the Philippines, Great Britain, and Switzerland, 2 each from Germany and Lebanon, and 1 each from South Korea, Croatia, Ireland, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovenia, Taiwan, Uganda, and Vietnam.

, the Vatican 'foreign minister', was born in 1952, in Marrakech in Morocco, to a family originally from Corsica. As a Vatican diplomat, he has served in Algeria, in Chile, at the UN, and in Lebanon, and as an apostolic delegate in Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. He has been secretary for relations with states since September 15, 2006. ____________

The article on Vatican diplomacy in the July 21, 2007 edition of The Economist:

> God's ambassadors

The page on the UN website with a link to resolution 58/314 of 2004, on the Holy See’s juridical status in the organization:
> Participation of the Holy See in the work of the United Nations

The campaign promoted by "Catholics for a Free Choice," for the expulsion of the Holy See:
> See Change

On this website, on the hostility toward the Holy See within the major international organizations:
> For the UN and the European Union, the Enfant Terrible Is in Rome (7.7.2005)

00giovedì 23 agosto 2007 18.57

When this was first reported recently, I commented that apparently, Patriarch Alexei II, who is 'obsessed' with alleged Catholic proselytism among Orthodox Christians, was not aware there was such an initiative going on. This story only specifies associations that are made up of evangelical Protestant Churches, and I wish it had more information as to whether the Orthodox Christians are involved in this at all. If not, why not?

An Evangelizer's Code of Conduct:
Leaders Making Guidelines on Sharing the Faith

TOULOUSE, France, AUG. 22, 2007 ( A code of conduct on Christian evangelization is one step closer to being established after ecumenical leaders honed suggestions for the guidelines.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Council of Churches began the project of establishing the code last May, seeking to develop a set of guidelines that could help maintain the balance between freedom of religion and freedom to explain and promote one's faith.

As a further step, some 30 representatives of various Christian denominations gathered in France from Aug. 8-12 to discuss the code of conduct, the World Council of Churches reported.

Archbishop Robert LeGall of Toulouse, a participant in that meeting, says he hopes the code will ensure the "mutual respect of those who are engaged in a religion" while at the same time preserving the "right to spread and explain one's faith."

When the Vatican met with the World Council of Churches in May 2006 to begin the establishment of the code, certain conclusions were reached.

"Freedom of religion is a fundamental, inviolable and nonnegotiable right of every human being in every country in the world," states the report of that meeting.

"Freedom of religion connotes the freedom, without any obstruction, to practice one's own faith, freedom to propagate the teachings of one's faith to people of one's own and other faiths, and also the freedom to embrace another faith out of one's own free choice," the report continues.

According to the World Council of Churches, the report included some concrete suggestions, such as "discouraging and rejecting 'unethical means,' avoiding taking advantage of 'vulnerable' people like children and disabled persons, and doing humanitarian work 'without any ulterior motives.'"

In Toulouse, the World Evangelical Alliance, an association of organizations and churches that reports a membership of some 420 million Christians worldwide, said they were ready to join the Vatican and the World Council in supporting the code.

The World Council of Churches said that certain elements were identified in Toulouse as key concepts upon which the code of conduct should be based. They include "common understandings of conversion, witness, mission and evangelism, and concern for human dignity; a distinction between aggressive proselytizing and evangelism; the balance between the mandate to evangelize and the right to choose one’s religion."

Organizers expect the code to be finalized by 2010. The next step of the process will be a meeting in 2008, when the code of conduct will be drafted.

00giovedì 23 agosto 2007 19.17
Catholic bishops refuse to sign onto 'flawed' Afghanistan peace letter

By Michael Swan
The Catholic Register (
August 23, 2007

TORONTO, Canada (The Catholic Register) – The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has declined an invitation to sign a letter from faith leaders to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Afghanistan because it doesn't go far enough. The letter from a dozen church leaders asks Harper's government to engage in negotiations with willing representatives of the Taliban and change the focus of Canadian operations in Afghanistan to diplomacy and aid.

Questions of "substance as well as nuance" prevented Canada's Catholic bishops from joining with 12 Christian church leaders in signing the Aug. 14 letter to Harper, said CCCB associate general secretary Bede Hubbard.

Where the ecumenical letter lauds the international peace process for Afghanistan set up in 2004, the Catholic bishops believe the Afghanistan Compact is seriously flawed, said bishops' spokesman Sylvain Salvas.

"It does not include anything like a meaningful peace process," said Salvas.

While the bishops' commission for social affairs wants to support a political solution based on reconciliation in Afghanistan, the bishops are worried the ecumenical letter endorses the Afghanistan Compact, which fails to establish a substantive peace process, he said.

The letter was drafted by the Canadian Council of Churches, but is not the position of the Council, which represents most Christians in Canada. Because not all 21 members of the CCC signed, it remains the position of only those 12 churches which signed the letter.

Council general secretary Rev. Karen Hamilton said she did not doubt the Catholic bishops want peace and reconciliation, aided by democracy and development, for Afghanistan.

"The commitment to care for the people of Afghanistan is absolutely foundational and fundamental for all the CCC member denominations," she said.

"After discussion and reflection, it was agreed that the CCCB not sign with the various other church leaders — in part because of recognition of the honest differences of opinion on this important question among Catholics and all Canadians," said Hubbard in an e-mail. "But even more, because the bishops wish it to be especially evident at this particular moment that their primary role is to use this occasion to teach the principles of Catholic social justice doctrine. There is concern that pastoral teaching on this question could be made more difficult at the moment if they were to become involved in the more technical aspects of the debate on Afghanistan."

"I don't want to interpret their lack of action on this (ecumenical letter) as a lack of action altogether," said Catholics for Peace-Toronto spokesman Steve Barringer. "My first question would be, if you’re not signing that what are you doing?"

The Toronto deacon and peace activist said holding back on the ecumenical statement puts the ball in the bishops' court.

"I have not seen a lot coming out of the CCCB. We should be a leading voice in this area, not one sitting back being too cautious about what we say," said Barringer.

The letter from church leaders was prompted in part by the involvement of Canadian Forces chaplains, and the increasing death toll among Canadian soldiers. Sixty-seven Canadian soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan since 2002. The latest was Pvt. Simon Longtin, killed by a roadside bomb Aug. 19.

"The Canadian Forces should focus on enhancing protection of vulnerable Afghans rather than on aggressive engagement with insurgents in areas where the local population is suspicious or alienated from the central government," said the faith leaders.

The group also urged Harper to decouple development aid from military operations.

"Aid must be delivered without compromising internationally recognized principles of development and humanitarian assistance," said the letter.

The bishops and moderators who signed the letter also urge the government to spend more on schools, wells, roads and other development projects.

"We believe a significant shift in Canada's concentration of financial resources toward long-term human development is necessary," they said.

The letter also applauds the government for recent increases in Canada’s diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. It urges "a strong truth and reconciliation approach," including “discussions with Taliban insurgents willing to participate in peaceful negotiations."

The bishops and other leaders who signed the letter represent the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church, the Quakers, the Disciples of Christ, the Christian Reformed Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Mennonites, the Polish Catholic Church in Canada, the Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Church in America, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the United Church.

00giovedì 23 agosto 2007 19.26
In the 21st century,
Catholic ecumenism is learning to push back

New York
Aug 23, 2007

When the Vatican recently widened permission for celebration of the old Latin Mass and reaffirmed that Catholicism is the one true church, both moves set off alarms in ecumenical and inter-faith circles, prompting some to wonder if the Catholic Church is re-evaluating its approach to other Christian bodies and to other religions.

(The Latin Mass is swept up into this discussion largely because of prayers in the Good Friday liturgy for the conversion of Jews, heretics and pagans, language from a decidedly pre-ecumenical age.)

In truth, the future of Catholic ecumenism and inter-religious relations is less likely to be determined by declarations from Rome, whatever one makes of them, than by shifting demographics on the ground. In the Catholicism of the 21st century, the tone on many matters will be set more by the global South, where two-thirds of all Catholics today live, a transition which is producing a new ecumenical psychology.

In the immediate post-Vatican II period, the architects of Catholicism’s relationships with other churches and other religions were mostly Europeans, many of whom carried a sense of historic guilt for sins of the past, from the Crusades to the Wars of Religion, and in particular they were haunted by the Holocaust. Their approach was therefore dominated by the need for an examination of conscience, and a spirit of reconciliation.

Tomorrow’s trailblazers will be Africans, Latin Americans and Asians, who are often more likely to regard themselves as victims rather than perpetrators of religious intolerance. In the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia today, Catholics suffer under aggressive forms of Islamicization, while Catholics in India are reeling from militant Hindu nationalism. In Latin America, Catholics often see themselves as targets of aggressive proselytism from Pentecostal and Evangelical movements.

In such contexts, self-defense rather than deference becomes the leitmotif. Two stories this week, both from the Indian subcontinent, help make the point.

The first is set is Faisalabad, the third largest city in Pakistan, where two Christian girls – aged 11 and 16, respectively – were recently kidnapped from their families in separate incidents, forcibly converted to Islam, and then married to their kidnappers, according to a report by the AsiaNews service.

According to that report, in both cases the families of the victims reported the abductions to the local police, who declined to intervene.

AsiaNews quoted Khalil Tahir, chairman of a free legal aid organization in Pakistan and a Christian lawyer: “The growing number of attacks against Christians is worrying,” he said. “We try to aid the victim’s families and at the same time help those who are subjected to this violence legally and practically, but the government must intervene with force if this is to be stopped”.

The other story is from India, where thousands of leaflets distributed in the southern Karnataka state by Hindu nationalists tell Christians they “must immediately abandon Indian territory, or return to the mother religion which is Hinduism.” Otherwise, the leaflet bluntly warns, “They will be killed by all good Indians, who, by doing so, will show their virility and their love of the country.”

Perhaps most chillingly, the leaflets openly carry the names of their sponsoring organizations, the nationalist movements Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagrutika Samiti.

Written in the local Kannada dialect, the leaflets accuse Christians of seducing converts through offers of food, education and medical care, and of subverting Indian traditions by ignoring the caste system. (Conventional estimates are that somewhere between 60 and 75 percent of the Catholic church in India is composed of Dalit “untouchables,” who often turn to Christianity as a protest against the caste system, which some experts describe as the most vicious remaining system of apartheid in the world.)

Again, a local activist reports that such intimidation is par for the course.

“These handbills are being widely circulated, but it is only the last in a series of anti-Christian acts that have long plagued the state,” said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians. “All right-thinking persons, the media and the government must cry a halt to the violent hate-mongering being engaged in the name of religion.”

Collectively, such experiences fuel a tougher line on ecumenical and inter-faith matters in the Catholic South. For example, the Christian Association of Nigeria is an ecumenical body to which the Catholic Church belongs, formed as a self-defense league when anti-Christian violence by Islamic radicals broke out in the late 1970s.

Earlier this year, I asked the group’s general secretary, S.L.S. Salifu, if the pugnacious spirit of his organization is consistent with Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek.

“Of course it is,” Salifu said. “You can’t turn the other cheek if you’re dead.”

None of this means that ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue is headed for extinction under Southern leadership. On the contrary, the Catholic bishops of Asia have pioneered a flourishing “triple dialogue” with the cultures and religions of Asia and with the continent’s poor.

In much of Africa and the Middle East, relations among Christians are close, in part because they face a common threat vis-à-vis radical Islam. Anglican/Catholic relationships in Africa may be stronger than anywhere else on earth, as both share a sense of revulsion about liberal moral tendencies among their co-religionists in the North. In Latin America, Catholics and Pentecostals are making common cause against the stirrings of secularization, especially in the legislative arena.

Demographic shifts in Catholicism are nevertheless reorienting the ecumenical and inter-faith outreach of the Catholic Church in two important ways.

First, reconciliation and mutual theological understanding are yielding pride of place on the inter-faith agenda to reciprocity and religious freedom. If the top post-Vatican II question was how Catholicism can be reformed to make space for a positive view of others, the question more likely to drive the 21st century is how other religions, and the societies they shape, can be reformed to make space for Christianity.

Second, the monopoly of 'dialogue' as virtually the only way Catholicism relates to other Christians and other religions is giving way to more complex forms of engagement.

Dialogue will remain important, but the 21st century is also seeing a comeback of apologetics, meaning a principled defense of the faith, and proclamation, meaning explicit efforts to invite others to conversion. Both are a reflection of the fact that many Southern Catholics are less inclined to tip-toe around the sensitivities of others, because they don’t feel responsible for creating those sensitivities in the first place.

Both trends are also reinforced by the impulse in the global North towards a strong reassertion of traditional Catholic identity, reflected in recent Vatican documents, which in its own way is related to a growing sense of victimization here too. Many Catholics in Europe and North America these days feel like an aggrieved minority up against hostile secularism, rather than as part of a powerful institution needing to make amends for its past.

Benedict XVI recently said that the genius of Catholicism is its penchant for “both/and” [et-et, in the Latin term] solutions. In that light, perhaps the key question is whether the humility and passion for unity of post-Vatican II ecumenism, which were undeniably historic achievements, can be creatively combined with today’s greater willingness to push back when the other side doesn’t play fair. Such a blend may be precisely what it means to think in a global key.


Quite apropos to this is what Cardinal Ratzinger says about Christian mission in the November 2003 TV interview I just translated [see the thread IN HIS OWN WORDS].

Religions are not static with respect to each other - they are in a historical dynamic in which they can challenge each other.

In the end, there is only one Truth, there is one God, so all these expressions, that are so different, born in different historical moments, are not equivalent. They each represent a way in which one asks: where am I going? But one cannot say they are equivalent ways, because each is an interior dialog, and of course, it seems obvious to me that contradictory things cannot all be means of salvation. Truth and lies cannot be at the same time means of salvation.

So this idea simply does not correspond to the reality of religions and does not respond to man's need to find consistent and coherent answers to his great questions.

00giovedì 23 agosto 2007 23.06
Chinese bishop arrested:
For disseminating Pope's letter?

Rome, Aug. 23 (AsiaNews) - Chinese authorities this morning arrested Mgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, underground bishop of Zhengding (Hebei), to prevent him from disseminating Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Chinese Catholics and organising meetings in which the letter’s contents would be explained to the faithful.

AsiaNews sources confirmed that at 9 am this morning (Beijing time) policemen and members of the Religious Affairs Bureau picked up the prelate and took him to an undisclosed location.

The bishop, who is not recognised by government authorities, was preparing a pastoral letter and organising meetings for the faithful of his diocese in order to explain what the papal letter said.

Whilst expressing profound respect for China’s authorities, the Pontiff’s June 30 letter called for total religious freedom for the mainland’s Christian community, slamming any interference by political organisations in the internal life of the Church, explicitly singling out the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association or CPCA whose raison d’être is to establish a national Church separate from the Holy See.

The CPCA seal was placed on the entrance to Mgr Jia’s residence and to the building he and members of his congregation use for meetings, a clear sign that his arrest was “anti-papal” in intent.

Unlike the CPCA the Chinese government’s response has been quite muted. The CPCA has instead blocked sites that contain the letter and prohibited its dissemination. It also had some priests arrested and made their detention even harsher than usual. AsiaNews sources are aware of at least 11 priests arrested in various regions of China.

The diocese of Zhengding is about 270 kilometres south of Beijing with about 110,000 people affiliated with the underground Church.

Mgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, 73, has spent more than 15 years in prison. Since 1980, when he became an underground bishop, he has been subject to endless arrests and detention where he has been forced to undergo political (brainwashing) sessions so that he may bow to CPCA demands.

The last time he was arrested was on June 5 of this year, but was eventually released on June 22.

00giovedì 23 agosto 2007 23.20
Kolkata to pray for
Mother Teresa’s canonisation

by Nirmala Carvalho

Ms. Carvalho at Mother Teresa's tomb.

Kolkata, Aug. 23 (AsiaNews) – The canonisation of Mother Teresa is one step closer. Kolkata Catholics feel it and starting today, for two weeks, will pray and conduct celebrations that the Blessed may become a saint.

The Catholic Association of Bengal (CAB), the largest lay Catholic organisation in the archdiocese of Kolkata, has decided to make the year 2007 the “Year for the Canonisation of Mother Teresa.”

Celebrations will begin with the triduum and the novena leading up to September 5, tenth anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, and will continue till September 23. The Blessed’s birthday on August 26 will also be celebrated.

“More than three years have passed since the title of ‘Blessed’ was conferred on our beloved Mother Teresa. During her life Mother was a living saint to many. There is no doubt that she is already a ‘saint’ to many more around the world,” CAB Chairman Eugene Gonsalves told AsiaNews

“Sainthood for Mother Teresa in a real sense may not be far away as many miracles are happening by her intercession. However, the time has come to identify and list these miracles so that the process of canonisation is completed as soon as possible,” he added.

“Starting with today’s Eucharistic function, the year for Mother Teresa’s canonisation begins. The entire year will include special prayer services and celebrations of the Holy Eucharist in different churches and institutions in the coming months.”

According to the organisers, this year’s events will included reflecting upon the Blessed’s simple but joyful life.

“We shall welcome everyone, poor and rich alike, as she did, without distinctions of faith, nationality or caste,” the CAB chairman said.

What is more, he expects the initiative to “bring thousands of people together” as “a sign of harmony, unity and devotion to Mother Teresa.”

On the margins of Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s state visit to India, his wife Akie today visited Mother Teresa's Home in Kolkata.


I'm ashamed to say I hadn't realized Calcutta was now called Kolkata (just as Bombay is now Mumbai). I still have a problem with changes to historic placenames that have been out there for centuries.
00venerdì 24 agosto 2007 19.05
PETRUS has an 'exclusive' story by Bruno Volpe who spent several years in Mexico as the correspondent for an Italian paper, implicating a former Mexican President in the murder of a Mexican bishop 14 years ago. Here is a translation:


It was a crime of state. Two dossiers compiled by Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez indicate that former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (president from 1988-1994) was the mastermind of the killing of Cardinal Jesus Posadas Ocampo on May 24, 1993 at the parking lot of the airport in Guadalajara, the city of which the Cardinal was the Archbishop.

The files include a detailed memorandum by Cardinal Sandoval himself, who was never satisfied with the official version of the killing and proceeded to order a private investigation to uncover the facts, as well as testimony given to the Vatican commission established in October 2006 under his chairmanship for the same purpose.

Two weeks ago, Sandoval, who succeeded the murdered cardinal as Archbishop of Guadalajara, announced at the Knight of Columbus convention in Nashville, Tennessee, that he knew the name of the mastermind behind the killing of Posadas.

To begin with, official 'reconstructions' of the killing always raised a lot of doubts. According to the official report made by federal investigators, Posadas was simply caught in the crossfire of a gunbattle between two rival bands of drug traffickers. Subsequently, gunmen belonging to these rival gangs were tried and convicted.

The federal explanation never satisfied the Church nor a great part of the Mexican public. First, it was inconceivable that the presence of men armed to the teeth could have been missed in the heavily-guarded and watched parking lot of Guadalajara airport.

Next, for a supposed crossfire victim, the cardinal had 14 gunshot wounds, whereas not one of the gunmen showed not even the slightest scratch.

But why would the Mexican President order the killing of the cardinal?

Cardinal Sandoval's reconstruction shows that Posadas apparently learned about Salinas's involvement in drug trafficking from the president's ex-wife. Accordingly, Posadas put together an apparently great deal of documentation to support the accusation and on the day he was killed, he was on his way to Mexico City to deliver the file to the Apostolic Nuncio.

Posadas's briefcase, presumably containing the files, disappeared from the crime scene almost immediately and has never been recovered.

Sandoval's investigation also shows that on the day of the killing, some men known to be sharpshooters from the Presidential Guard, were spotted at the parking lot, and that a small plane carrying some federal agents, possibly of the Mexican secret service, had also landed in the airport earlier without an explanation of their presence.

Further, the coroner assigned by the court to examine the cardinal's corpse testified later that he had received a direct order from President Salinas not to perform an autopsy.

Salinas was previously associated with another violent death. Donaldo Colosio, his principal rival in his party primaries for the presidential nomination, was killed by a pistol shot. The gunman was tried and convicted but the mastermind of the crime was never revealed.

Sandoval's investigation also showed that Posadas's telephone lines were tapped, that he was closely tracked and under the eye of suspicious characters.

Salinas allegedly detested Posadas so much that a few months before the assassination, he had ordered the cardinal assaulted by some federal security agents right in the Presidential Palace.

The official investigations kept clear of involving the Office of the President in any way, concentrating on their working hypothesis of accidental killing by getting caught in a crossfire between rial gangs.

Sandoval's investigation show, however, unexplained dollar deposits in the name of prosecutor Jorge Carpizo McGregor, who was in charge of the federal investigation which was eventually closed until reopened in 2003 at the request of the Church and some Mexican politicians.

[The PETRUS report does not indicate if there has been any reaction from Salinas, or if the information carried here has been publicly reported in Mexico.]


Salinas, who holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, has a checkered career. His election in 1988 is widely believed to have been fraudulent because on election day, unaccountably, Mexico's computerized voting system had a shutdown on Election Day, and when it 'recovered', Salinas was declared the winner although national and international tracking polls had it otherwise. Later, the Congress he controlled voted to destroy all other documentation that could shed light on the electoral vote.

In fairness to Salinas, Wikipedia points to one of his many accomplishments in office

He reformed the Clerical Laws which had forbidden Catholic priests from their citizen's right to vote, and established a new relationship between State and Church, which had been severely damaged after the Cristero War. The new laws also allowed the Catholic churches to own their own buildings (which had been nationalized).

His final year however was marked by a rapid collapse of the Mexican economy blamed on huge spending projects he undertook to maintain his popularity. But he left office in such disgrace that he exiled himself to Ireland where he now lives.

After Salinas's presidency, his brother Raul was convicted for masterminding the assassination of a party colleague and committing fraud during his brother's presidency.

In December 2004, his youngest brother Enrique was found murdered inside his car with a plastic bag tied around his head. He was said to have provided financial cover for his brothers with Swiss bank accounts, and at the time of his death was being investigated by Interpol and European police for alleged money laundering.

Sounds like something out of a blockbuster thriller.

00sabato 25 agosto 2007 00.57

You know, this article sounds unreal. Like Teresa said it sounds like its from a movie thriller or mabye a crime novel. But its completely possible considering the man's history and fact that his world would have crumbled around him if the Cardinal had been able to deliver the papers. People get desperate & do crazy things. Very interesting, thanks for posting.
00sabato 25 agosto 2007 00.59
Chinese 'underground' bishop missing again, other prelates pressured

August 24, 2007
UCANews (

HONG KONG (UCAN) – Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding was taken away on Aug. 23, just two months after his last detention, church sources said.

At 9 a.m. that day, public security officers of Hebei province took the 73-year-old prelate from his cathedral in Wuqiu village without stating reasons or saying how long the bishop would be detained, sources told UCA News Aug. 23.

The village is near Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital, which is 270 kilometers (about 170 miles) southwest of Beijing.

According to an Aug. 23 press release from the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, the number of security police keeping a round-the-clock watch on the bishop had increased markedly in the preceding few days.

The statement said police vehicles were parked outside the cathedral and anyone going to visit the bishop was summarily arrested. A priest and a layperson were arrested and interrogated for eight hours before they were released, it added.

It also reported that religious affairs officers had placed a sign reading "Catholic Patriotic Association" (CPA) at the side of the cathedral gate.

Sources told UCA News that Bishop Jia had firmly opposed their action and removed the sign. He had also refused officials' demand that he not publicize Pope Benedict XVI's June 30 letter to mainland Catholics.

Bishop Jia belongs to the "underground" Catholic community, which refuses to accept the authority of the CPA, a government-approved administrative structure for the "open" church in mainland China.

Since July, a priest told UCA News, underground Catholics from various dioceses had sought Bishop Jia's advice on how to respond to the papal letter and were interrogated by the security officers at the cathedral.

Bishop Jia's recent detention is his second in three months. On June 5, public security officers took him away "for traveling to some places for about 10 days." He was released from house arrest at a military barracks near a reservoir in Yuanshi county, south of Shijiazhuang, on June 22, sources told UCA News the following day.

The prelate had no idea why he was detained in June, they added.

Meanwhile, sources say other members of the underground church hierarchy in Hebei, from Tianjin and Xiwanzi Diocese, have also faced pressure recently.

A Church source told UCA News that around Aug. 22, some security officers visited Bishop Stephen Li Side of Tianjin, who lives on a mountain, and Coadjutor Bishop Melchior Shi Hongzhen and ordered them to join the CPA. The officers took away a priest at Bishop Shi's place in the Tianjin area.

Sources in Xiwanzi Diocese told UCA News Aug. 24 that Bishop Leo Yao Liang of Xiwanzi, who has been missing since July 2006, and three of his priests, who were taken away on July 24 this year, have not returned and their whereabouts are unknown.


00sabato 25 agosto 2007 02.02
Guatemala bishops denounce campaign disguised as 'post-abortion care'

August 24, 2007
Catholic News Agency (

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (CNA) – Sharply criticizing the anti-life policies of the World Health Organization, the Bishops' Conference of Guatemala denounced the existence of a veiled pro-abortion campaign that is being portrayed by the nation’s Ministry of Health as "post-abortion care."

"Our Constitution projects human life from the moment of conception," the bishops note in their statement released Aug. 22, warning against the danger of the campaign promoting post-abortion care, and including the training of medical and paramedical personnel in the use of suction machines on women who are in a "post-abortion situation."

"The move from post-abortion care to facilitating an abortion through the use of a suction machine" would be the practical outcome, "even though it would not be an official policy, as it would encourage the use of this method clandestinely in places away from health- care facilities that don't have the minimum standards of hygiene, much less the necessary medical equipment to address complications that may arise," the bishops said in their statement.

"In addition," they continued, "trained personnel, if they are unscrupulous, could offer this service especially to teens, which would cause themselves great moral and physical harm."

The bishops call on Guatemalan authorities "to study in depth the grave consequences that result from the application of the post-abortion care program."

"We agree," they said, "that the best care possible should be given to women who have gone through such a situation, but not by suctioning the uterus in order to implant an intra-uterine device afterwards, as health officials are promoting."

"We urge therefore that the funds or resources earmarked for these activities be used for the promotion of ethical and moral values among young people," the bishops continued, "as we are convinced that we must get to the root of the problem inviting young people to live their lives based on principles of chastity and abstinence and not on the promotion of irresponsible sexual conduct that goes hand in hand with the consumption of contraceptives."

In addition, the bishops said they would insist that the Guatemalan constitution "not be modified in its respect for the fundamental right to life of the unborn."

"We urge authorities not to support anything that could harm, in any way, the physical integrity of Guatemalans, especially those who are the weakest, as is the case of the unborn, who cannot defend themselves at all or avoid the actions that are taken against their lives," the bishops said in conclusion.

00sabato 25 agosto 2007 02.57

Australian racetrack officials
unhappy with World Youth Day plans

Sydney, Aug. 23, 2007 ( - Organizers for the World Youth Day (WYD) celebration remain locked in a dispute with the Australian racing officials over plans to use the Randwick race track as the site for a papal Mass.

WYD officials announced this week that they would only need to use the Randwick track for 3 days during the event, which will be held in July 2008. But racing officials argue that the WYD organizers are under-estimating the difficulties involved in closing down stables where 700 horses are kept and regularly exercised. The Randwick management is also concerned about the damage that may be done to the race course by the 500,000 people expected to attend the WYD celebration.

Racing officials were caught by surprise when WYD organizers said they would only need the track for a 3-day period; previous reports had suggested that the track could be closed for as long as 10 weeks. Horse owners and trailers are asking for compensation for millions of dollars in lost revenues and expenses incurred in moving their horses to other locations.

Peter V'Landys, the head of Racing New South Wales, told an ABC radio audience that WYD officials had failed to take into account the difficulties involved in keeping the track open while preparations for WYD are being made. Construction of an altar for the papal Mass and installation of security systems for the crowd would interfere with regular racing operations, he said.

V'Landys said that the latest WYD proposal was an "uninformed announcement," and Church officials would have to reconsider their plans.


I haven't checked what the official WYD-SYD site has to say about this.

00domenica 26 agosto 2007 03.20

Religious communities notice more young women open to religious life

By Andrea Slivka
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Girls often dream of saying "I do" at the altar to their future spouse.

Katrina Gredona hopes she'll be saying those words to Jesus as a religious sister.

"When I look at a community of religious women, I see women who contribute fruitfully to the church and to the world in a very special way and in a very essential way, and I think that's exciting," said Gredona, a student at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

Ten years ago, Gredona's interest in religious life would have been unique in comparison with the majority of other Catholic girls, as reports indicated a decline in the number of religious sisters in the United States. But recently campus ministers and the vocations directors of some women's religious communities have been noticing a new trend of more young women looking into religious life.

Many vocation directors, in interviews with Catholic News Service and in responses to a survey by Vision Vocation Guide, reported a notable increase in the number of women contacting them for information. A small number of communities reported a stable increase in young entrants.

At the same time, more campus ministries are helping young women learn about discernment and religious life.

The cloistered Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, N.J., is one community with a significant increase in interest in the order. Founded in 1919, the community has had 15 aspirants spend time with the sisters in the past three years to discern whether to enter the community.

That number is much higher than in previous years, when the community would be lucky to have one aspirant each year, said Sister Mary Catharine of Jesus, novice mistress.

"The Lord is giving these young women the grace to respond to him and he is so powerful and irresistible that they want to say yes to him," she said. "Given our culture, the fact that so many women are feeling that God is calling them to this life and that they want to respond is nothing short of a miracle."

Of the 15 aspirants, more than half entered the Dominican or other communities and two continue to discern whether they are called to the Dominican community.

Sister Mary Scholastica Lee, vocations director for the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, said the change is more than just an increase in numbers -- she has noticed more commitment by young women to follow through on their initial interest in her community.

"This year, the desire for religious life seems more deeply rooted," she said.

In a recent survey sent to 165 communities' vocations directors, 71 percent said more people inquired about their community recently. Nineteen percent said they have had more candidates preparing to enter in the past three years than in previous years. However, 41 percent said they currently have no women in formation.

The survey was conducted by Vision Vocation Guide, a magazine for those discerning vocations to the religious life and priesthood, and 80 percent of respondents were for women's communities.

Secular news organizations have recently highlighted rapidly growing communities, such as the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia in Nashville, Tenn., and the Sisters of Life in New York, that have up to 15 young women entering each year.

But other communities recently have had a steady inflow of three to seven young postulants, according to Michael Wick, executive director for the Institute on Religious Life in Libertyville, Ill.

Those communities include the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich., founded in 1970; the Sisters St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in Illinois, founded in 1869; the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, based in St. Louis and founded in 1891; and the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Missouri, founded in 1874.

Sister Mary Gabriel, vocations director for the Sisters of Life, said the girls she talks with want more than what the society and culture have to offer and are drawn to the freedom they find in religious life through living the vocation to which they are called.

"It's not a kickback to the '50s. It's so different. Young women have seen it all," she said.

In answer to questions sent to them by CNS, young women shared the reasons they're open to and discerning religious life.

"I think it's my responsibility as a faithful young person to seriously discern whether or not God is calling me into direct service of the church through religious life," said Lindsay Wilcox, a student at Boston College.

"I am considering religious life because God has placed that inclination on my heart -- to totally give my life back to him, who laid down his life for me," said Stephanie Ray, who is preparing to enter the Sisters of Life.

The late Pope John Paul II plays a large role in the new trend, according to several vocation directors and campus ministers interviewed by CNS.

At World Youth Days, the pope challenged young people to live their Catholic faith in a radical way and to not be afraid to seek out God's will for their lives, said Sister Mary Emily Knapp, vocations director for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville. Many of the sisters have told her they first started thinking about vocations at a World Youth Day.

The congregation has 228 sisters, the highest number in its history. In early August, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, cited the community as an example of the vitality of the Catholic Church in the United States. The cardinal was in Nashville to attend the Knights of Columbus annual national convention.

Another reason for the increase in the interest in religious life, according to vocation directors and young sisters, is more campus ministries nurturing and promoting vocations.

Sister Mary Gabriel said not long ago it was a "rarity and oddity" to be a college student discerning a vocation. But now she sees girls coming from campus ministries, particularly at public schools, that have eucharistic adoration, Scripture study and daily Mass.

"If you put these together, it's a recipe for falling in love with the Lord," she said.

At the University of Illinois, campus minister Sister Sarah Roy, a young Sister of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception, said religious vocations weren't talked about much when she attended the university. Now the campus ministry makes the option more visible, and she sees how the students themselves are more willing to consider it.

Likewise, a discernment group at Boston University provides young women with the opportunity to discuss religious life, visit nearby communities and participate in retreats at the end of each semester.

Sister Olga Yaqob, an Iraqi who is a member of the Missionaries of the Virgin Mary who leads the group, said the overall purpose is to help the girls become familiar with the will of God and prepare them to respond with a "yes" to whichever vocation they are called by God.

Other contributing factors to the increase, according to those interviewed, include:

-- Web sites making information on discernment and religious communities easily accessible.

-- Dioceses working with religious communities to promote vocations.

-- More general interest in spirituality among a growing number of young adults.

It's uncertain still whether the current increase in interest will lead to a significant increase in the number of those entering, according to Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, an organization in Chicago serving vocation directors.

"It's still too soon to say; however, this is very good news," he said.

00domenica 26 agosto 2007 15.15

Sorry I don't have the time to translate the items now, but there's
nothing good in the Italian papers today.

A 41-year-old parish priest in the province of Padua admitted in the pulpit that he has a young son and is cohabiting with a woman - and his flock reportedly back him 780 against 8!

But the Archbishop of Padua has asked him to vacate his parish by September 10 and take on his family responsibilities. The priest is holding a new conference Tuesday to point out that the Church is wrong to demand celibacy of its priests...

There is a beautiful open letter written by another priest about the whole question of priestly celibacy, which I will translate as soon as I can.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Verona, who has been in his position only a ferw months, has publicly backed as legitimate the anti-Summorum Pontificum dissent published by two leading Verona priests who said they would not follow the Motu Proprio [though one of them is a parish priest].

Moreover, the bishop has also withdrawn the years-long permission given by his predecessor to the local representative of the Fraternity of St. Peter to celebrate the traditional Mass. He says unless he authorizes it, such celebration is illicit, therefore, since a bishop is supposed to be "one with our Pope Benedict XVI and our brother bishop Joseph", anyone contradicting the bishop is contradicting the Pope!

I have never seen a more outrageous, completely illogical and wrong statement by any bishop!

00domenica 26 agosto 2007 15.49

A former ranking member of the Australian bishops conference has written a book which is bound to make media waves for some time to come. If it hasn't so far, it's only because Australia isn't the US or the UK, but this is serious dissent - with far greater influence than the actions of a few Italian bishops and priests, because of the worldwide reach and influence of the Anglophone MSM.

He makes some outrageous arguments, and somehow, one cannot help feel that his mindset is conditioned by the sexual abuse he claims to have experienced as a child.

To read what is quoted from his book, one would almost think he has not kept up with what Pope Benedict is doing - both about sexual offenses by priests and about 'collegiality', but within the limits allowed by the unparalleled responsibility of being the Vicar of Christ on earth and the Successor of Peter.

I think this bishop has forgotten that those are, above all, the main 'titles' - and therefore the primary mission - of the Pope, of any Pope

Here are two major articles about it from the Australian press.

An Australian Luther?
by Barney Zwartz
The Age blogs
August 25, 2007

A Sydney Catholic bishop has written what strikes me as one of the bravest and most important challenges to the church in generations. He says until the church gets serious about two key areas - power and sex - it can't be taken seriously over sexual abuse.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, the former head of the Australian church's anti-abuse efforts who was himself an abuse victim, has called for radical reforms, including cutting papal power and rethinking some ancient attitudes.

He would put sex outside marriage, homosexuality, women priests, celibacy, the idea of a special status for priests and much more back on the agenda for discussion by the whole church.

In an article today, I compare him with Martin Luther, father of the Protestant Reformation. This is slightly mischievous - Bishop Robinson remains a devout Catholic - but it's intended to show the ambition and extent of his suggested reforms. A much longer analysis of the book was dropped from today's edition of the newspaper at the last minute, so - enjoying the luxury of a blog - I produce it below.

Is Bishop Robinson right? If you are a practising Catholic, what - if anything - bothers you about church dogma and practice? If you are lapsed, would Robinson's reforms attract you, or what further changes might be needed? Do other churches or religions need to rethink various issues too, and if so which?

The missing article

In English, it's only a tiny preposition, two little letters, but it has helped the Catholic Church get its power relationships wrong for centuries

Dissident Sydney Bishop Geoffrey Robinson shows how in the translation from Greek to Latin the church took a serious wrong turn that gave priests an inflated view of their special status and helped create a climate in which abusers could flourish.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Bible talks of a priest being "chosen". The Greek word means "taken" but in Latin it became "taken up". The "up" implies they are lifted to a higher level than laypeople, which allows an element of "messiah complex", and eventually a mystique.

It's an example of the close reasoning and broad scholarship behind Robinson's call in an explosive new book for perhaps the most radical and all-embracing reform ever suggested by a Catholic bishop, re-examining centuries of carefully guarded doctrines.

"Spiritual power is arguably the most dangerous power of all," writes Robinson, a retired Sydney bishop, in Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, to be launched tomorrow.

"If the governing image of how to act as a priest is tied to the ideas of lordship and control then, no matter how benevolently ministry is carried out, an unhealthy domination and subservience will be present." It also adds to the pressure on priests.

"It was not a healthy idea, and it must now be confronted," writes Bishop Robinson . But it's not the only serious problem he thinks needs correcting.

He believes the church needs to ditch its traditional thinking about sex - in which all sex apart from a married couple who must not use contraception is an offence against God - in favour of a relational model. This has implications for sex outside marriage, contraception, homosexuality and women priests.

And there's much more, ranging from the sort of God Catholics worship - wrongly focusing on an angry God [When was the last time the Church prezached an 'angry God', Bishop Robinson? Have you read or listened to nay of Pope Benedict's teachings at all?]
made the lives of millions sadder and poorer, he says - to curbing the power of the Pope and Curia, down to the sort of clothes bishops wear.

Carefully reasoned and presented [Oh yeah! From the point of view, perhaps, of a determined anti-clerical reporter], the book is set to electrify the Catholic Church. Such is the significance of the changes he seeks, Robinson could be likened to a modern Martin Luther, the 16th century theologian whose challenge to key doctrines and the authority of the papacy gave birth to Protestantism.

It's a thought, naturally, that a Catholic bishop is not entirely comfortable with. "It's not quite as dramatic as that," he says. "I don't have inflated ideas that the book will change the world, but if no one speaks out nothing will happen. I think if you asked an out-and-out Protestant to read this book he would say `that's not my church'. For a start, there's a pope in it."

Little in his past would suggest that Robinson might break ranks so spectacularly. Indeed the full force of the tradition and the institution and an oath of fidelity to the pope are used to prevent bishops doing so. Robinson outlines the way this works, and writes "please believe me that all of the above and more have been in my mind as I have written this book".

He is well regarded in the Australian church as a careful and scholarly thinker, an excellent canon lawyer who was a sensible head of the Marriage Tribunal, a pastoral bishop who was good with priests, well versed in Scripture and author of devotional studies. Those who know him say he never courted popularity or power, but was well liked.

He ruffled legal feathers in 1990 by asking a series of pointed questions about lawyers' fees and their links with big business at a Mass for the opening of the law year.

As chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference professional standards committee, Bishop Robinson headed the drive for a national protocol that served victims better, the Towards Healing program.

He finally convinced all but two of the 180 bishops and leaders of religious orders whose assent was needed to introduce the protocol, but one of the pair was then Melbourne Archbishop George Pell, who broke ranks to introduce a separate protocol. (To this day, Melbourne has a different protocol from the national one.)

When Archbishop (now Cardinal) Pell, the chief bastion of conservative orthodoxy in Australia, became Archbishop of Sydney he and Robinson were not natural allies. Robinson does not mention Pell at all in his book but admitted to The Age that the pair had differing views of the church.

But it wasn't Cardinal Pell who led Robinson to resign: it was a deep disillusionment over the response by church and pope to the abuse crisis. "I felt I could not continue to be a bishop of a church about which I had such profound reservations," he wrote, so he retired to write this book.

Bishop Robinson himself was the victim of abuse while young, and he says it took him 50 years and his role in tackling abuse to come to terms with it. When in 1996 he answered a victim's question by saying he wasn't happy with the level of support from Rome, he received a letter from the Vatican saying he had been reported to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (once known as the Inquisition).

The Catholic Church is still not truly confronting the abuse problem, he believes. "I have a serious fear that many church leaders are now feeling the worst of the problem is now behind them, that it has been successfully `managed' and hence that they do not need to look at deeper issues," he writes.

Pope John Paul II failed his duty of responsibility and therefore failed to hold the church together. Even now, no pope has apologised to victims or promised to study the causes of abuse and ruthlessly change factors that contribute.

Abuse is most likely when three factors come together to create a "murky" climate: an unhealthy psychological state, unhealthy ideas about power and sex, and an unhealthy environment, according to Robinson.

Compulsory celibacy can contribute to abuse - especially of adult women - by fostering an unhealthy psychological state such as depression and unhealthy ideas such as misogyny or homophobia. A church serious about tackling abuse would at least re-examine celibacy, Robinson writes, but both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have forbidden any discussion.

Papal power has gone too far, Robinson writes, "and there are quite inadequate limits on its exercise. The authority of the college of bishops has been marginalised and the faith of the whole church has been rendered powerless."

The pope is caught in a vicious circle. The more he insists on authority the less people will listen and the more he will insist on authority. Papal infallibility - the 1870 doctrine that the Pope is preserved from error when he rules ex cathedra on doctrine - was a bad idea, he argues, and was based on claims that were known to be mistaken at the time. Even though it has formally been applied only once, he says, there has been a process of "creeping infallibility" in which statements by popes are increasingly seen as definitive and not open to discussion or change. [A complete misrepresentation of the nature of papal authority!]

On sexual issues, Robinson asks rather than states, but his opinions are pretty clear. Traditional church teaching is that sex is designed to express love between a married couple and the means of bringing new life, and sex is proper only when it serves both these God-given purposes. All other sexual acts are offences against God.

Robinson suggests this argument is inadequate and misunderstands God. He recognises that sex can be misused and can damage people, but wants a sexual ethic based on the good and harm done to people and their relationships. This understanding would leave room for both sex outside marriage and homosexual sex.

He writes: "The church's task in the field of sexuality is to present to people an insight into the depth of all that is involved in sex and love, reminding them of the many factors that people ought to bear in mind. It is then individuals who must make their own decisions and take responsibility for them."

Robinson says the search for meaning which religion answers concerns love, and it is his developing understanding of God's love that underpins his book. But the Catholic Church for the last 1000 years has reflected far too much an angry god, a view responsible for "many of the worst pages in church history".

"At its worst people were ordered to perform the impossible task of loving a most unlovable god under pain of damnation. Millions of people were affected by these ideas and their lives were made sadder and poorer."

Catholics have no monopoly on the angry God, he told The Age, but "where that happens you will have a pretty angry sort of religion with lots of rules and lots of thundering from the pulpit".

A related problem is that the church has tried to constrain the beliefs of its members too rigidly in too many non-essentials. He cites the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven, declared an infallible truth in 1950 so that to deny it is to deny the Catholic faith. As it happens Robinson believes the doctrine, but admits it is not in the Bible, it is not an early tradition,
the arguments are weak and if it's wrong, the essentials of the Christian faith are untouched. It should not be made a test of faith.

Bishop Robinson makes some interesting proposals for restructuring the church, from the top down. The pope's authority should be reduced, partly by requiring far wider consultation and partly by setting up regional "patriarch-presidents". The Latin church already has patriarchs of the Melkites and Copts, a model the church knows and accepts.

The pope should function like a prime minister - more than a rubber stamp, but less than a dictator - and should speak on behalf of the church only after he has consulted it.

The Curia (Vatican bureaucracy) also needs to be reformed, because it spends too much energy protecting and exercising papal power and privileges. Its members should not be bishops or cardinals, which would help clarify roles and show that not everyone important to the church must be a bishop.

The synod of the world's bishops should be given more authority, which would be helped by limited Curia appointments to three and getting the bishops, rather than the Curia, to appoint its staff. Other groups within the church, including lay groups, could also hold synods.

Bishops must go further in reversing the 1000-year history of clothes and ornaments that speak of power and riches, for example consigning the mitre to the dustbin of history. A hat that makes one the tallest person present sends the message "I am more important than anyone else here", not the message of Jesus, he believes.

Only such reforms, and a concentration on the liberating power of love, can restore the church. "Only a truly radical reform can give the church credibility again," Robinson writes. "I strongly believe that the future health of the church depends upon it being set free from the prison of the past. Only then can the church as a whole have the freedom to grow."

Revisiting the darkest hours
By Linda Morris
Sydney Morning Herald
August 25, 2007

During the darkest days of the priesthood, when the Australian church was wrestling with the scandal of sexual abuse, Sydney's Catholic auxiliary bishop, Geoffrey Robinson, was coming to terms with his own demons.

Only now, three years after his retirement, has Robinson has gone public with an extraordinary and personal disclosure: he was the victim of an abusive stranger. He had kept the secret hidden "in the attic of my mind" for 50 years until hearing the stories of victims began to stir "strong echoes within my own heart and mind".

But the church leader who could have become archbishop of Sydney did not reveal the abuse, and the indelible mark it left, to anyone outside a small circle of friends.

But this week Robinson, shy and guarded, broke his lifelong silence in an explosive critique of the church's use and misuse of power which outlines a radical vision for the church that questions the very nature of its power and sexual ethics and slays the sacred cow of papal infallibility.

Robinson, 70, was a teenager at the time of the abuse, the nature of which he does not fully disclose. The offender was neither a family member nor a priest.

Even now he finds it hard to tackle the topic and prefers his book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, to speak for him. "Neither in my age at the time it happened nor in the duration of the abuse was it as serious as much of the abuse I have encountered in others, and yet, if the man had been caught in any one of his acts against me, he would have been sent to prison," he writes in the book's introduction.

"It was never a repressed memory but for most of my life it was, as it were, placed in the attic of my mind. That is, I always knew it was there but I never took it down to look at it."

When he was appointed in 1994 to the church's national professional standards committee to help develop procedures to respond to sex abuse complaints he made a vow to himself to "never defend the indefensible". He strove to act as a "decent human being, a good Christian and caring priest" and listened to the complaints of as many victims as possible so he could to learn from their experiences.

"It was talking with victims and some of the things they said aroused feelings and memories in my own mind. With the help of counsellors, I became conscious of some of the effects it had had on me." The memories not only inform his compassionate response to fellow victims but have fed his growing disenchantment with church authorities.

Robinson has written two other books but neither is as close to his soul as the latest.

His book sets out fearlessly and with faith what others have thought for a long time: that instituting legal and pastoral procedures is not enough to beat the crisis of sexual abuse in the church. More fundamental changes are needed to make the church relevant and credible today and to re-establish the message of Jesus Christ at it core.

Robinson says his writing was in development for almost 50 years, from the age of 12, when he entered the rarefied atmosphere of a seminary.

In his description of seminaries and novitiates as unhealthy places to grow into maturity, there is a sense of the wounded boy. He laments the absence of parents and other nurturing figures, the lack of intimacy and the perception of women as threats to vocation rather than as a positive and essential influence.

"At the time I wouldn't have found seminary life impossibly difficult but looking back I observe absences," he says now.

"I never wish to see any boy taken into the seminary at that age again."

Even in retirement Robinson is a leading church figure, which is why his open questioning of papal authority, compulsory celibacy for priests and the Vatican's "extreme" position on sexual ethics is so startling and explosive. This is usually lonely territory trod by the likes of progressives such as the assistant Bishop of Canberra, Pat Power.

Papal power has gone too far and there are inadequate limits on that power, Robinson says, and bishops and the faithful have been marginalised. He calls for a new parliament, a new hierarchical system for the local church, even new attire for priests and bishops, and raises for discussion the church's prescriptive attitude towards committed couples having sex before marriage.

He was studying in Rome when the winds of change blew from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and he believes it has been unfairly blamed for all the church's ills; the hierarchy should look beyond St Peter's Square for explanations for the massive changes and upheavals which have marked the modern world, he says.

The mobile phone, television and car had robbed Catholic parishes of their role as a powerful social centre.

"This is a very unusual book," says the church historian Ed Campion. "Bishops normally keep dissident thoughts to themselves but Bishop Robinson has gone public with his disquiet about how church authorities responded to sexual abuse scandals. He calls for change at the highest levels of the church, including the papacy. His compassion for abused victims is remarkable and welcomed.

"This grew out of his hard years of caring for injured people. Beyond this, the book is a fresh look at the fundamentals of Christian faith. When a Catholic bishop does this he surprises many people. Others will be grateful that Bishop Robinson has now joined in an ongoing conversation about what it means to be a Christian today."

Father Michael Whelan, of the church reform group Catalyst for Renewal, says Robinson's lifetime of service in the Catholic Church, including 20 years as auxiliary bishop of Sydney, has been one of intelligence, fidelity and generous commitment.

"He is a man beyond reproach. He is also a man of considerable intellect and substantial scholarship. No one who knows him could doubt his love for the church. Indeed, those of us who knew something of his personal struggles with the Vatican in the late '90s will be always grateful for the faith-filled and humble manner in which he continued with his duties as a pastor during that time.

"This, above all else, has shown him to be a leader of the Catholic Church in Australia."

Robinson probably raises more questions than he answers, but he turns his searching gaze and reforming zeal to every corner of the church. His message of love to the church is that it must take its role to tackle sexual abuse more seriously, not simply manage the scandals.

Whelan says Robinson is urging all Catholics to dare to imagine a new way of being a church, a way that is more obviously rooted in the gospels and less obviously beholden to the Roman Empire and the historical circumstances of the fourth and fifth centuries. "Geoffrey Robinson has written a gracious book about a graced institution that too often forgets grace," he says.

"In its forgetfulness, that institution becomes prey to the 'absolutising instinct' and means become ends. Relative rules and relative teachings and relative roles and relative customs mysteriously become absolutes.

"Robinson asks us to remember the gospel and the reality of Jesus and common sense and humility. If this book has one message for us Catholics - and it is addressed primarily to us - it is simply this: Remember who you are. Remember why you are church. Remember Him."

A fellow member of the national committee for professional standards, Sister Angela Ryan, remembers Robinson for being dogged in his pursuit of a just church response to abuse claims.

In Australia, a country of 5 million Catholics, a nationally binding response to sexual abuse required the unanimous consent of more than 160 people, including bishops and religious superiors. When Robinson had finished cajoling and crafting the document only two refused their consent.

As a result of Robinson's persistence, the Towards Healing protocols is a "standout document" that has no peer in any other Australian religious denomination, says Patrick Parkinson, a professor of law at the University of Sydney.

"The first version of Towards Healing was a victim-centric document. He was adamant that victims of abuse should hear the church cared for them, wanted to help the victims and that they would not tolerate the abuse in future, and Towards Healing was, and is, still full of that," he says.

Robinson concedes the document will never satisfy everyone but says it succeeds in encouraging priests to confess their misdeeds, sparing the victims more pain and adversarial criminal proceedings where convictions are rare.

But the Vatican has at times been far from impressed with Robinson's championing of victims' rights.

Robinson discloses that he was reprimanded by the Vatican bureaucracy after he told an abuse victim he was unhappy with Rome's response. The comment, a response to a question from the victim, was made at a public meeting, in front of several journalists.

He received an official letter expressing the "ongoing concern of the Congregation for Bishops" that his public position was "seriously critical of the magisterial teaching and discipline of the church".

Two months later he received a further letter, informing him that his case had been forwarded to the church's doctrinal watchdog, implying he was suspected of some form of heresy.

Robinson was hurt by the criticism. The church was not perfect, but sometimes there was "only a fine line between accepting that I must work within an imperfect church and becoming complicit in the harm that those imperfections are causing to people", he later wrote.

He felt let down: "Here was the perfect opportunity for the papacy to fulfil its most basic role of being the rock that holds the church together but this did not happen, and the church fractured. I found it impossible to accept that I must give submission of mind and will to most words written by a pope but a failure to give leadership in a crisis seemed to count for little."

Like every bishop, Robinson takes seriously his oath of fidelity to the Pope. Rebellion is like breaking an oath to God. He eventually resigned, and Pope John Paul II accepted his retirement in July 2004, due to ill health. It was true that Robinson was battling a coronary condition that brought on bouts of pneumonia.

But it was also disenchantment that finally drove him out of ecclesiastical office.

Some of Robinson's supporters had wanted him to succeed Edward Clancy as archbishop of Sydney.

Perhaps Robinson's blackened copy book with the Vatican and his chronic shyness ruled him out of contention but, in any event, he never coveted the job. George Pell did.

"I was aware a number of people wanted that to happen and I was aware that was not going to happen, and I would not have wanted that to happen because it would have created intolerable pressure for someone who was as disenchanted as I was," Robinson says carefully.

Campion says anyone who has studied the church's response to sexual abuse is entitled to feel disheartened. "They were just unprepared because the mind-set is to think of these things as a sin that could be forgiven rather than as a crime that should be punished and the victims cared for. I think Robinson's book is a sign of that, surely a sign of change in itself."

Robinson says: "The most loyal person in the kingdom is the person who tells the truth. It's like the emperor with no clothes, I thought now had come the time to speak the truths."

Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church
by Geoffrey Robinson (John Garratt Publishing, $34.95).

Robinson's CV:


Auxiliary Roman Catholic bishop of Sydney (retired) 1984-2004
President, Canon Law Society Australia and New Zealand 1976-83 (secretary 1969-76)
Director, Regional Tribunal Catholic Church NSW and ACT 1972-84
Lecturer, Canon Law Catholic Institute Sydney 1967-83
Assistant priest 1965-84
Ordained priest 1960

Marist Bros School (NSW), St Columba's College (NSW), Pontifical Urban Uni (Rome)

Marriage Divorce and Nullity 1984
A Change of Mind and Heart 1994
Travels in Sacred Places 1997

00domenica 26 agosto 2007 16.23

The Church has long held up the Uganda experience in support of its advocacy abstinence and monogamous sex instead of condoms to fight AIDS. It has been derided or ignored for this.

African expert asks other countries
to follow Ugandan model of abstinence
in order to stop AIDS

Washington DC, Aug 23, 2007 (CNA).- The website has published an opinion piece by an African expert who is calling on leaders to follow the successful model of Uganda in the effort to stop AIDS, placing emphasis on abstinence and conjugal fidelity instead of the use of condoms.

The article entitled, “Uganda: ABC Aids Strategy is the Way to Go,” warns that by the year 2010, 100 million people will be HIV-positive, with most of them living in Africa and Asia.

According to the author, Uganda's success story of reducing HIV prevalence from 30% to 6% “will soon be a gone case.”

“Uganda's point was clear: Aids kills, abstain from sex before marriage and be faithful in marriage. Hope was restored and Uganda became a universal focal point on the Aids issue,” the expert said.

The author pointed out, however, that the “consequences of Uganda's approach were not business-friendly because condom-makers would lose sales. Secondly, some organizations earn their daily bread from HIV/Aids. These [organizations] advocate the change of the prevention strategy to anything other than ABC.”

In response to those who view abstinence as a “primitive and religious act,” the expert notes that what is at stake is a person’s life, and he said that entities like UNAIDS do not appreciate the Ugandan model or invest in promoting abstinence.

He said the Uganda Aids Commission has bowed to pressure from donors and has begun distributing condoms. This has caused some of the achievements in Uganda’s fight against AIDS to be lost, he noted, calling on Ugandans to remember that money is not worth risking
one's life.


I checked out the site, and this is what it says of itself:

AllAfrica Global Media is a multi-media content service provider, systems technology developer and the largest electronic distributor of African news and information worldwide. Registered in Mauritius, with offices in Johannesburg, Dakar, Lagos and Washington, D.C., AllAfrica is one of a family of companies that aggregate, produce and distribute news from across Africa to tens of millions of end users.

This website,, is among the Internet's largest content sites, posting over 1000 stories daily in English and French and offering a diversity of multi-lingual streaming programming as well as over 900,000 articles in our searchable archive (which includes the archive of Africa News Service dating from 1997). Strategic alliances with media and information technology companies, such as Comtex News Network, Radio France Internationale, and the BBC, extend AllAfrica's global reach. Content agreements with over 130 African news organizations generate steady revenues for the content partners and give them, in turn, access to the prize-winning reporting of the AllAfrica team.

So it is good that an article like the above is disseminated and syndicated through the site. May there be many more similar articles.

00domenica 26 agosto 2007 17.02
Amnesty Loses U.S. Bishops' Support:
Prelates Say Human Rights Work Must Favor Life

WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 24, 2007 ( The U.S. bishops condemned Amnesty International's recent decision to support abortion, and said that it will only work with organizations that promote the right to life from conception to natural death.

The bishops also urged the organization to reverse its policy, which they said "undermines Amnesty's longstanding moral credibility and unnecessarily diverts its mission."

Their position was outlined in statement sent Thursday from Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"In promoting abortion," said Bishop Skylstad, "Amnesty divides its own members - many of whom are Catholics and others who defend the rights of unborn children - and jeopardizes its support by people in many nations, cultures and religions who share a consistent commitment to all human rights."

The bishop said that while the "essential work of protecting human life and promoting human dignity must carry on ... we will seek to do so in authentic ways, working most closely with organizations who do not oppose the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death."

"True commitment to women's rights," he continued, "puts us in solidarity with women and their unborn children. It does not pit one against the other but calls us to advocate on behalf of both."

Bishop Skylstad added: "We call upon Amnesty International once again to act in accord with its noblest principles, reconsider its error, and reverse its policy on abortion."

South African Prelates Oppose
New Abortion Bill

PRETORIA, South Africa, AUG. 24, 2007 ( The right to life is an inalienable and constitutive element of civil society and its laws, according to the secretary-general of the Southern African Bishops' Conference.

Father Vincent Brennan said this in a statement issued today that responds to the proposed legislation that would amend South Africa's 1996 act legalizing abortion.

The bill exempts maternity clinics from a 24-hour waiting period to perform abortions, and allows nurses to perform the procedure. Until now, abortions have been restricted to only doctors and midwives.

The bishops' statement said: "Society and the Church cannot profess to support the right to life and yet allow thousands of women to experience the distress and need which causes them to contemplate abortion."

It continued: "The genuineness of convictions about the right to life of the unborn child must be measured by our willingness to give the necessary support.

"Those who are in a position to help, and who do not, cannot escape their responsibility. No woman should feel that she must face an unhappy pregnancy alone."

"The Catholic Church," the statement added, "exercising this consistent life ethic, is committed to various initiatives that provide vulnerable women with alternative choices to abortion, such as adoption."


The more basic problem is that abortion is already legal in South Africa. One feels helpless when the Church can only put up doctrinal objections to a law already in force, but increasingly this is becoming the situation in many previously Catholic countries, particularly in Latin America.

00domenica 26 agosto 2007 18.29
Here are two items from PETRUS, translated here:

Saint Augustine is also the patron saint of the Roman Lido (beach area), particularly the ancient port city of Ostia, titular seat of the Dean of the College of Cardinals, currently Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and before him, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

By a coincidence. St. Augustine's feast day, comemmorating his death, is August 28, whereas that of hsi mother St. Monica, is on August 27.

Two conferences about the City of God, the saint's second most famous work after his Confessions, were held this weekend, with the participation of political and civil officials.

A Mass in honor of St. Augustine will be celebrated tonight by Cardinal Sodano at the church of Sant'Aurea, preceding a Mass tomorrow on the feast day of St. Monica.

Concerts, theatrical presentations, a historical procession are on the program, as well as fireworks to conclude the festivities on Tuesday, August 28.

In Rome, celebrations are centered in the Basilica of St. Augustine in Campo Marzio, where St. Monica's remains are kept.

The observance began Friday with Eucharistic Adoration, Vespers and Mass. There will be Mass tonight, dedicated to all mothers, followed by a concert of sacred music on the historic church organ which was recently completely restored after more than 10 years of work.

St. Monica's feastday on Monday will begin with a Mass for spouses and widows, and at midday, a special prayer meeting for St. Monica.

In the evening, the parish will screen Rossellini's film "Augustine of Hippo".

On Tuesday noon, Augsutine's feastday, Archbishop Luigi Moretti, auxiliary bishop of Rome, will preside at a concelebrated Mass with all the parish priests of the district.

At 6 pm, there will be Vespers to be attended by Augustinian priests and nuns, led by Fr. Robert Provost, prior-general of the Augustinian order.

A church of great historical and artistic value, the Basilica of St. Augustine is now the property of the Italian Ministry for Artistic and Cultural Assets. It is undergoing urgent repair and reconstruction of dangerous structural weaknesses that have developed after centuries.

A private fund-raising drive called Adopt A Church is also underway
to enable the faithful to contribute to the effort, which has been repeatedly postponed in the past due to lack of funds.

The sea at Ostia and the immensity of God
in the life of St. Augustine

By Angela Ambrogetti

VATICAN CITY - The hagiography tells us that it was while wlaking along the beach in Ostia that Augustine confronted the immensity of God.

Whether that is true or not, Augustine and his mother spent some time in Ostia, where she died eventually, and Augustine tells of the conversations with his mother in the pages of Confessions called "The ecstasy of Ostia."

But for many decades, Ostia - a suburban city of 400,000 - appeared to have largely forgotten this. Only in 2004 was Augustine declared its patron saint, thanks to the efforts of the ASsociazione Culturale Sant’Agostino, which has been in charge since then of promoting Augustinian celebrations.

At the two conferences scheduled this year, the themes were
Augustine's most 'political' - the City of God and the City of Man - about the values for building the common good, the community of man according to the saint's concept of the City of God.

Participants included Andrea Riccardi, head of the Sant'Egidio community, and Marcello Pera, former Senate President, to explain to the citizenry what Augustine's political philosophy was.

Augustine was also the father of European identity, according to Prof. Rosa Caccioppo, secretary-general of the Association:

"Augustininan thought, which has had a renewal thanks to Pope Benedict XVI, integrates perfectly into the European perspective. St. Augustine helped effect a transformation in the fifth century of a Europe that was thoroughly convulsed by the dissolution of the Roman Empire. He imposed a new sense of history and in this sense, he was very modern. In today's context, Augustinian thought can be an important and fundamental force in the reconstruction of a Christian identity for Europe."

The Association is headed by Rinaldo Raganato, who has spent the past 50 years trying to promote Augustine in Ostia. In November 2004, Augustine's relics were taken from Pavia to Ostia for the first time for the city's veneration. Cardinal Ratzinger, as titular Archbishop, celebrated Mass for the occasion.

In his homily, he chose to read Augustine's life from a European perspective. He compared Europe to the progidal son in the parable.

"It is the situation of Europe, which has gone to a place very remote from God, so remote that the name of God may not even appear on the European Constitution, as if to do that were to take a risk that is not allowed in that distant country."

00lunedì 27 agosto 2007 15.55

Here is a translation of an item from PETRUS today:

VATICAN CITY - Father Tadeusz Rydzyk's position as head of the ultra-conservative Radio Maryja may be at stake.

The Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita claims tat the Polish bishops conference has decided to request Rydzyk's Redemptorist superior-general to remove him as well as his staff from the management of
Radio Maryja [which Rydzyk founded and presumably owns].

The newspaper claims the decision on Rydzyk was taken by the Polish bishops at a meeting in Jasna Gora last Saturday, and that they have decided to formally request the superior general of the Redemptorist order, Josef Tobin, for the dismissal of Rydzyk and his board of directors from management of Radio Maryja.

The newspaper also said that a survey it commissioned shows that 2 out of 3 Poles polled want Rydzyk out as head of the embattled radio station.

The survey reportedly shows only 20% approval for Rydzyk, which the newspaper describes as being at the head of 'an army of old people...rural folk and Catholic fundamentalists' who consider Radio Maryja and its ultra-nationalist editorial line as a 'source of redemption for the Polish people.'

Rydzyk's popularity has gradually eroded as the Polish church hierarchy distanced itself from him because of his compromising statements.

Lately, he has even turned against his chief political patron, President Lech Kaczynski, whom he called a 'charlatan' and 'friend of Jewish lobbies'. He also reportedly referred to the President's wife as 'a witch' and said she should have euthanasia.

00lunedì 27 agosto 2007 18.25
Media misinterprets “spiritual desert”
of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Since this story is really about media reaction to the letters of Mother Teresa expressing her ongoing 'crisis of faith', I am posting it here rather than in THE SAINTS... where previous reports about it
are posted.

CNA STAFF, Aug 27, 2007 (CNA).- With headlines such as “Did Mother Teresa lose her faith?” or “Mother Teresa of Calcutta did not believe in God,” the media has by and large misinterpreted the letters of Mother Teresa that have been published in a new book, outlining the difficult spiritual struggle she endured for decades.

The Associated Press, Time Magazine and a host of other news organizations, have sensationalized the new book entitled, “Mother Teresa: Come be my Light,” which consists of a collection of letters the nun wrote over the years chronicling her spiritual journey.

Although the media has portrayed the book as “evidence” that Mother Teresa did not really believe in God and even considered herself a hypocrite, her spiritual darkness was no secret to the Church.

Mother Teresa had requested that her letters be burned after her death, but they were conserved by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, who was the postulator for her cause of beatification. Father Kolodiejchuk considers the letters further proof of her sanctity because they allow people to have “a new understanding, a new window into her interior life, which in my view is the most heroic possible.”

Among the passages quoted by the media include paragraphs such as: “I feel that God does not love me, that God is not God, and that He truly does not exist.” In one letter from 1958 she wrote: “My smile is a mask that hides a multitude of sorrows.”

In 2002, when her beatification was announced, Father Kolodiejchuk gave an interview to Zenit in which he spoke of this phase of Mother Teresa’s life. “Before the inspiration for her work, she had already experienced darkness,” he said. “However, it is important to keep in mind that this ‘night’, this interior suffering, is the fruit of her union with Christ, as happened with St. Teresa of Jesus or Paul of the Cross.”

“On the one hand, there is union with Jesus and love unites. In being united to Christ, she understood the suffering of Jesus when he shouted from the Cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Father Kolodiejchuk said. The darkness experienced by Mother Teresa was also the result of the apostolate, he continued, and her love for others. “Loving Christ, she understood as well the suffering of others, their loneliness and also their estrangement from God.”

“The ‘dark night’ of Mother Teresa was due, therefore, to the double dimension of love that religious live out: in the first place, the ‘spousal,’ her love for Christ, which leads them to unite their sufferings to Him; and secondly, ‘redemptive’ love, which leads them to share in redemption, to proclaim to others the love of God so that they can discover salvation through prayer and sacrifice,” Father Kolodiejchuk explained.

“More than a trial of faith,” he continued, “it was a trial of love. More than suffering for the experience of not feeling the love of Jesus, she suffered because of her desire for Jesus, her thirst for Jesus, her thirst for love. The goal of the Congregation is precisely to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the cross through our love of Him and our service to souls.”

“Mother shared not only the physical and material suffering of the poor, she felt the thirst, the abandonment that people experience. In fact, the greatest poverty is to not be loved, to be rejected,” he said.

The ex-director of the Holy See's press office, Joaquin Navarro Valls, also commented on the apparent controversy in an article published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. In his article he points that "those moments of crisis aren't a sign of lack of faith, but they're normal and in her [Mother Theresa's] case, heroic."


The near-unanimous media 'shock and sensation' reaction to the nun's letters illustrate more than ever that 1) secular media refuses to report religious news, particularly Catholic news, within the context of Catholicism, 2) they will use any pretext to create a 'sensation' where there isn't any - anthing for headlines! and 3) secular media don't even bother to do background research on 'new' material - not one of those that have reported on the letters ever referred to stories published in 2002 and 2003 about these very letters in connection with Mother Teresa's beatification process.

00lunedì 27 agosto 2007 19.40
Anger rises to the papal court
By Julia Duin
Washington Times
August 24, 2007

Thanks to for the lead to this story.

The Rev. Joseph J. Clark, an Irish-Catholic bartender turned priest, never planned to be in the middle of a fracas involving him, the Vatican and the Diocese of Arlington.

But since he was suspended from the priesthood by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde two years ago this month for arguing with a deacon, he has waged a quiet battle to win back his right under church law to preach and teach in the 400,000-member diocese.

His is the second case in five years in the Arlington Diocese to make its way into the papal court system. The first case, involving the Rev. James R. Haley — who was silenced in 2001 after he accused Bishop Loverde of sheltering homosexual priests — remains unresolved at the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy.

Father Clark's case is now before the Signatura, the highest Vatican court.

Two cases at one time from one medium-sized diocese "is pretty rare unless there's a new trend starting," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, former editor of the Jesuit magazine America. "Maybe bishops have gotten these ideas on how to deal with troublesome priests" from the new zero-tolerance rules on sex abuse.

Like all clergy in the Arlington Diocese, Father Clark, 49, cannot talk to reporters without permission from the diocese. He did not respond to requests for an interview.

The story of his suspension — according to diocesan documents and interviews with several laity and priests — began with an 11 a.m. Mass on July 24, 2005, at Holy Family Church in Dale City, Va. Sometime after Mass ended, the priest got into an argument with a deacon, Gerald Moore, saying he improperly handled the consecrated Holy Communion wine, which the church teaches is the blood of Christ.

An Aug. 1 letter sent to the diocese by Julie Wheaton, Mr. Moore's daughter, said her father went into cardiac arrest a day after being "assaulted" by the priest in front of "dozens" of people.

"I have encouraged my father to press criminal charges as well as file a civil lawsuit," wrote Mrs. Wheaton, after identifying herself as a Denver police detective. "I ask you ... to immediately remove Clark from Holy Family and do not place him in any other parish where some other poor person would be subject to his uncontrollable anger."

On Aug. 6, Father Clark was summoned to the bishop's home in Arlington — "just for a chat," said Fairfax resident Dan Graham, a friend of the priest. "He figured the bishop just wanted to hear his side of the story."

But Father Clark was confronted by the bishop and two other priests, presented with a decree condemning him for "verbal assault and physical intimidation," told to vacate his residence within a few hours and spend a "month of penance" at a local monastery.

"He lost his temper in dealing with a deacon," another diocesan priest told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity. "There is some dispute about exactly what happened there, but he does have a problem with his temper. However, the bishop should have sent him to anger management. The bishop does have the tendency to handle things with an iron club."

Contacted by The Times in September 2005, diocesan spokesman Soren Johnson said the incident with the deacon was "investigated thoroughly," and the bishop was working with the priest to resolve the issue "with the hopes of returning him to ministry as soon as possible."

But Father Clark never went to the monastery, Mr. Graham said. Instead, he sought an evaluation from an anger-management specialist in Philadelphia "and got a clean bill of health," Mr. Graham added. The priest then flew to Rome to seek out a canon lawyer to help him appeal to the Congregation for the Clergy.

Meanwhile, "all the priests were really disgusted by the Joe Clark incident," said a layman active in the diocese on the condition of anonymity. "One of the senior priests got up at a priests meeting and read Loverde the riot act."

The Arlington priest agreed local clergy were put off.

"The bishop doesn't realize what he does is alienate clergy," he said. "The morale is low in the diocese."

The Arlington priest said Bishop Loverde was summoned to the Vatican to discuss his handling of the case, in which he limited Father Clark's role without defrocking him.

In June 2006, the Congregation for the Clergy issued a split decision: that Bishop Loverde didn't follow the proper procedures and Father Clark should not have dressed down the deacon, according to several sources.

"They said Loverde was right to remove [Father Clark] from the parish and preaching, but that he could celebrate Mass in the diocese and hear confessions," the Arlington priest said. "Basically, Loverde had gone beyond his authority because Clark had not done anything wrong to be suspended."

The Vatican will side with a bishop in most such cases, said Monsignor Thomas Green, a canon law professor at Catholic University, but not if the bishop failed to follow due process.

"If the bishop suspended the guy and didn't talk to him before that; if he didn't give the priest a chance to seek counsel, then the Holy See could say you didn't proceed correctly," he said.

00lunedì 27 agosto 2007 20.00
Because of a page change in the middle of the news day, here are the 3 items posted earlier today in the preceding page:

Polish newspaper claims Polish bishops will ask for removal of Fr. Rydzyk from direction of
Radio Maryja - Translated from PETRUS.

How the media 'misinterpret' Mother Teresa's crisis of faith - A CNA story on the headline-seeking
spin placed by secular media on a natural and frequent occurrence even among - and perhaps, especially
with - saints.

84-year-old Milwaukee Jesuit joins Protestant group sending medical aid to Cuba - He protests
US embargo and says he intends to lead an ecumenical service at Che Guevara's tomb in Havana.


Portrait could be second miracle
needed to create Australia's first saint

By Liam Houlihan
Sunday Herald Sun
Melbourne, Australia
August 26, 2007

A RELIGIOUS picture weeping oil in a Dromana home could point the way to the beatification of Australia's first saint.

Julie Zammit, 75, claims drops of oil have been emerging from a wall near a picture of Mary MacKillop for more than a year.


She initially thought the liquid leaking from near her home altar was the result of recent rains.

Now she believes it could be the second miracle needed to make Mary MacKillop Australia's first saint.

"I realised it wasn't coming from the ceiling but from around the picture," Ms Zammit, a devout Catholic, said.

"When I touched it I thought, that's not water it's oil. And I freaked," she said.

Ms Zammit said the oil had been inexplicably leaking out of the wall around the picture since May last year.

"I can't explain it. There was another fresh cluster of spots this morning," she said.

"And for many weeks I have felt something around me."

Ms Zammit said she had long prayed to MacKillop.

"Sixteen years ago I walked away from an unhappy marriage of 42 years," she said.

"Since I've been by myself I've been blessed in my life. I'm poor in money, but rich in blessings."

Ms Zammit said flowers on her home altar also stayed fresh while those elsewhere in the house drooped and died.

She does not plan to open her house to public tours of "the miracle of Dromana".

She also does not intend to alert the Vatican to her weeping wall for investigation as an official miracle.

MacKillop was beatified in 1995, but to be made a saint a second miracle must be proved.

There is speculation Pope Benedict XVI could announce MacKillop as Australia's first saint when he visits Sydney for the World Youth Day festival in July.

00lunedì 27 agosto 2007 22.26

This is a summary of various news items from La Stampa, PETRUS and korazym. org.

A news item in today's La Stampa by Galeazzo Galeazzi ran a supposed interview with a Curia official under the headline 'The Church is ready to re-negotiate the Concordat and its fiscal provisions'.

According to, in a story by Mattia Bianchi this afternoon, a denial statement has been issued in behalf of the Curia official, Mons. Karel Kasteel, a Dutch bishop and secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, by the Council.

The statement points out that Kasteel was simply answering some questions asked of him by the reporter on the telephone, that the questions had to with the charitable activities of the Church, and that the printed answers were totally taken out of context.

More important, it was pointed out that Cor Unum certainly does not have the competence or jurisdiction to speak about the issue at all.

The Concordat is the 1984 agreement between the Vatican and the state of Italy which updated the Lateran Pacts of 1929. These agreements had settled most outstanding juridical issues between the two states following dissolution of the former Papal states with the reunification of Italy in the 1860s.

Earlier, PETRUS reported that the vice-director of the Vatican press office, Fr. Ciro Benedettini, when asked about the Stampa story, said Mons. Kasteel may have been expressing his own personal opinion, which was not the Church's position.

Here is how La Stampa reported the supposed interview with Kareel:

"We are certainly not closed to the idea - the Holy See is ready to sit down with the government to update the Concordat and adjust the question over taxes."

This was declared in an interview given to La Stampa by Mon. Karel Kasteel, secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and observer of the Holy See [to where?], responding to recent polemics on the issue.

"A generation has passed since the Concordat was singed," the prelate said. "The text of 1984 applied to its time and therefore, some modifications to the question of taxes may be possible for example where it concerns Catholic schools or the juridical status of church institutions. The 1929 Lateran Pacts themselves were replaced because they had become anachronistic. And now, the State and the Church, being both sovereign entities in their own fields, can negotiate other changes.

"Taxes and similar fiscal issues can be discussed. For instance, the case of religious 'hotels'. These are places that offer lodging to those who cannot afford a hotel. The Church has been doing this for 2000 years for pilgrims and families who visit Rome. Any financial profit earned by religious institutions [which are supposed to be non-profit] goes to missions in Africa. So I think we should do as Craxi (Prime Minister then) and Casaroli (then Vatican Secretary of State) did in 1984 - sit down together instead of unilateal protocols."

The Cor Unum statement said that Mons. Kasteel "did not intend to give an interview but simply limited himself to answering specific questions asked on the telephone, which were not about the fiscal question, but rather the charitable aid given by the Church, including that given through Cor Unum, to whoever requires assistance."

"Isolated from that context," the Cor Unum statement continues, "the statements attributed to him do not express his opinion [about the fiscal issue in general] on a matter which is, moreover, beyond the competence of the dicastery in which he works.

[The question of the Church and taxes was ignited in the Italian media when Prime Minister Prodi suggested that priests should preach from the pulpit against tax evasion, claiming that at least 30% of Italians are tax evaders.

Any mention of Church and taxes touches off a Pavlov reflex in leftist politicians who object to the 0.0008% share of Italian tax revenues that the 1984 Concordat grants to the Church in Italy. What they ignore is that it was a formula agreed upon to compensate the Church for all the properties confiscated from it by the Italian government after the unification of the 1860s and the dissolution of the former Papal states.

Other politicians then questioned the tax-exempt status of non-profit Church organizations, an exemption accorded not only to the Catholic Church but, as in most Western nations, to all religious organizations.

Cor Unum is affected by the debate because it administers much of the Church's funds for charitable assistance - funds which are tax-exempt under the law

00martedì 28 agosto 2007 01.35
By Barbara J. Fraser
August 28, 2007
Catholic News Service (

PISCO, Peru (CNS) – A subdued crowd of several hundred residents and rescue workers gathered in the main plaza of Pisco to pray with a top Vatican official who had come to remember victims of the mid-August earthquake.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, presents a rosary from Pope Benedict XVI in honor of earthquake victims during an Aug. 24 prayer service in Ica, Peru. (CNS)

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, conveyed "greetings, solidarity and blessings" from Pope Benedict XVI to worshippers in Pisco, as well as a crowd of more than 5,000 people at an earlier prayer service Aug. 24 in Ica, about 42 miles south of Pisco.

The mood was more subdued in Pisco, the city closest to the epicenter of the quake, than it was in Ica. More than 300 of the more than 500 quake victims died in Pisco – at least 100 of them when the roof of St. Clement Church collapsed during a memorial Mass for a parishioner who had died a month earlier.

The cardinal urged residents not to give up hope and to remember that God is present even in the midst of tragedy.

After the service, Cardinal Bertone waded through the thick adobe dust on the site of the church and led prayers for those who had died and for their families. He then viewed the remains of collapsed buildings near the plaza and visited a shelter housing about 700 people left homeless by the quake, where he was greeted by a crowd of children.

Peruvian officials say the magnitude 8 quake that hit southern Peru Aug. 15 left tens of thousands homeless and seriously injured at least 1,200 people.

At the service in Ica, Cardinal Bertone conveyed a greeting from the pope "especially to the children" and gave Bishop Guido Brena Lopez of Ica a $200,000 check for relief efforts. In both cities, he presented rosaries sent by the pontiff.

The service in Ica was held outside the shrine that normally houses the image of the Lord of Luren, the site of a popular religious devotion. The church was heavily damaged in the earthquake when part of the bell tower fell through the roof.

The image – a dark-skinned crucified Christ, with Mary kneeling by his side and Mary Magdalene embracing the foot of the cross – was unscathed in the disaster and was carried in procession to the site of the prayer service Aug. 24.

During the service, the cardinal said the fact that the image was undamaged was a reminder that "the Lord has not abandoned us. He is here among you. The Lord wants to remain with you and accompany you."

While waiting more than an hour for the service to begin, the crowd of worshippers prayed and sang hymns, clapping as the cardinal arrived with a delegation that included Archbishop Passigato Rino, the papal nuncio to Peru; Cardinal Juan Cipriani Thorne of Lima; Archbishop Hector Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, president of the Peruvian bishops' conference; and Bishop Miguel Irizar Campos of Callao, president of the Catholic charitable organization Caritas Peru.

In Pisco, several hundred residents, rescue workers, firefighters, civil defense workers, doctors and nurses gathered in the plaza, surrounded by emergency shelter tents and portable toilets. The makeshift altar at the foot of a statue of South American liberator Jose de San Martin held a crucifix rescued from a damaged church and was flanked by a colonial-style statue of Christ that was also undamaged by the quake.

The two towers of St. Clement Church – all that remain now that the rubble has been cleared – loomed in the background. At the end of the service, Cardinal Cipriani pledged the Archdiocese of Lima's support to rebuild the church as quickly as possible.

Cardinal Bertone was in Peru to preside over a five-day national eucharistic congress that began Aug. 25 in Chimbote. Upon arriving in Lima Aug. 23, he said, "Everyone is in solidarity with the Peruvian people," and he called for "a new hope, a new force of moral reconstruction and material reconstruction" in Peru.

On Aug. 24, he met with Cardinal Cipriani and President Alan Garcia before traveling to Ica and Pisco.

Meanwhile, in Rome, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, celebrated a memorial Mass for the earthquake victims Aug. 23 at the Basilica of San Camillo de Lellis. Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, concelebrated the Mass, which was attended by Latin American diplomats and members of the fraternity of the Lord of the Miracles, the most popular religious devotion in Peru, as well as by members of religious congregations and Peruvian Catholics living in Rome.


Another picture from

00martedì 28 agosto 2007 03.44
Vatican flights offer heavenly prices for pilgrims

Richard Owen in Rome
Times Online
August 28, 2007

For once, the phrase “on a wing and a prayer” could be taken literally. Yesterday 140 pilgrims lifted off from Fiumicino airport, Rome, on the Vatican’s first low-cost charter flight service to Lourdes, in a Boeing 737 with the papal logo and a crew trained “in voyages of a sacred nature”.

Vatican City does not have its own aircraft, let alone an airport. Instead, it has struck a deal with Mistral Air, an Italian cargo carrier that is owned by the Italian post office.

For the inaugural flight the exterior was painted white and yellow – the papal colours – and the interior, including the headrests, was decorated with the inscription “I search for your face, Lord”. “As we take off we will say a prayer for pilgrims dating back to mediaeval times,” Father Caesar Atuire, of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ORP), the Vatican organisation for pilgrims, told The Times as the passengers boarded. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Vicar of Rome, and head of ORP, said that whereas in the past pilgrims went on foot and train, now people were “short of time” yet needed “spiritual solace” more than ever. The Lourdes trip will be followed next year by other routes such as Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain and Czestochowa in Poland, as well as the Holy Land and eventually Guadalupe in Mexico.

Mistral Air said it expected to transport about 150,000 pilgrims annually when charter services start in earnest next year. It has a fleet of three Boeing 737-300s and two BAE 146 aircraft and the stewardesses wear outfits designed by Gattinoni, the Italian fashion house. Francesco Pizzo, the head of Mistral Air, said it had signed a five-year agreement with the Vatican.

Father Atuire said that seat prices had yet to be fixed but would be “at least 10 per cent lower” than those currently charged by ORP for its package tours using scheduled airlines. “This is not a money-making operation” he said. “The aim is to make pilgrimages more affordable.”

Ryanair, which runs a service from Rome Ciampino to Santiago de Compostela, said that it already offered trips at “a heavenly price”. But Father Atuire said that the Vatican flights were “a religious experience from the moment the pilgrim leaves home to the moment he or she returns”.

Cardinal Ruini said there were no plans for Pope Benedict XVI to use the low-cost airline, “though I shall give him a full account of this first trip”. When the Pope travels by air he uses an aircraft leased from Alitalia, the Italian national carrier.

This picture, courtesy of PETRUS.

00martedì 28 agosto 2007 22.27
Papal mass now 'out of the question'
By Jill Rowbotham and Tony Arrold
The Australian
August 28, 2007

EQUINE influenza could be the final blow to World Youth Day organisers' hopes of staging the religious festival's vigil and papal mass at Sydney's Randwick racecourse next July.

Holding the centrepiece events there was now out of the question because the cost of disruption and damage would multiply the financial effects of the equine influenza crisis, trainer John O'Shea said.

"If we go through both World Youth Day and equine influenza that would be the death knell for training at Randwick," said Mr O'Shea, vice-president of the Randwick Trainers' Association.

"We are going to take a massive financial hit now," he said of the effect equine flu would have on this season's racing.

Relations between trainers and World Youth Day organisers are at a low ebb after the trainers, led by Mr O'Shea and association president Anthony Cummings, said last week they would no longer negotiate with Catholic church and state Government organisers.

Both sides confirmed there were no meetings planned this week because of the equine flu crisis, but Mr O'Shea said trainers would meet the Australian Jockey Club, which leases the course from the NSW Government, and representatives from regulator Racing NSW today to explain their position.

A World Youth Day spokesman said organisers hoped to meet Racing NSW and possibly the AJC later in the week and had yesterday provided details each had requested about the plans for preparing the racecourse for July.

"We hope the crisis is over as soon as possible," the spokesman said of the equine flu outbreak.

"We do not believe it will significantly delay negotiations with the racing industry about World Youth Day."

Organisers had hoped about 300,000 visitors to the six-day festival would be able to sleep at Randwick on the night of Saturday 19th July, with more arriving the next morning for the papal mass and some spilling over into nearby Centennial Park to watch the event on screens. In all, up to 500,000 will see Pope Benedict XVI conduct the mass.

Mr O'Shea said trainers walked away when they discovered that while they had been in discussions about a plan to vacate the course for 10 weeks, transferring hundreds of horses to other sites, World Youth Day organisers had, without telling them, come up with an alternative which would require only three days off the course.

When they examined the "three-day plan", they decided it was not viable.

Part of the speculation about the future of the event has been whether the NSW Government would legislate to hold it there despite the objections of the AJC.

The chief executive of the regulatory body, Racing NSW, Peter V'Landys, has already expressed grave reservations about the occupational health and safety risks involved in modifying the grounds and tracks at the course to accommodate the events.

He said the three-day plan was "totally unworkable".

Mr O'Shea said the so-called three-day plan would involve at least 24 days of disruption.


The WYD-SYD organizers should have seen this coming and should have been working on Plan B. Maybe they are. They have some 10 months-plus to work it out.

00martedì 28 agosto 2007 22.36

I really do hope they have a plan B. My friend mentioned to me that there is alot of open space in Sydney, Australia. Perhaps they can have it in a field like they did in Germany in 2005.

"In all, up to 500,000 will see Pope Benedict XVI conduct the mass."

Hmm...I don't think so. More like close to a million or more.

00martedì 28 agosto 2007 22.37
For the Pilgrim on a Budget, the Vatican Has Air Charters
A report from The New York Times on the new air charters provided by the Vatican.

Nuns arrived in France on Monday on the first flight of the Vatican’s charter airline. The airline will take pilgrims to holy sites around the world.

Published: August 28, 2007

PARIS, Aug. 27 — It already has its own postal service, its own bank and even its own Internet domain. On Monday, the Vatican inaugurated its latest venture: a low-cost charter airline to ferry thousands of Catholic pilgrims from Italy to popular religious sites around the world.

The service’s slogan, “I’m Searching for Your Face, Lord,” is imprinted on headrest covers throughout the 150-seat cabin.

The carrier’s first flight — a one-day visit to the shrine at Lourdes, France — departed Monday morning using a Boeing 737 owned by the Italian cargo airline Mistral Air. At less than half a square kilometer, or 109 acres, the Holy See is too small to support its own runway, so the plane took off from Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome.

“The way to make pilgrimages can change over time, but their deepest meaning remains the same: to look for a deeper contact with God,” Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar of Rome, told reporters before boarding the flight, The Associated Press reported. Cardinal Ruini, a former head of the Italian Bishops Conference, was also expected to serve as the official guide for the tour group, which included Italian notables and church leaders.

The Vatican pilgrimage office, the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, has signed a five-year agreement with Mistral Air to fly passengers from seven Italian airports, including ones in Rome, Verona and Brindisi. Planned destinations include the shrine of Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, and the Holy Land. The airline expects eventually to transport 150,000 pilgrims a year.

It was not immediately clear how much the flight and tour packages would cost. But the Rev. Cesare Atuire of the pilgrimage office told La Repubblica this month that fares would “bear in mind that the customers will be pilgrims and do not have a great deal of money to spend.”

The Vatican may still find it tough to compete with established low-cost rivals, however. Ryanair, based in Dublin, for example, already offers cheap flights to Santiago de Compostela from Rome.

“Ryanair already performs miracles that even the pope’s boss can’t rival, by delivering pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela for the heavenly price of 10 euros,” Ryanair said in a statement.

Aboard Monday’s flight, the airline’s official slogan, “I’m Searching for Your Face, Lord,” was imprinted on headrest covers throughout the 150-seat cabin. The carrier said that its flights would be staffed with a cabin crew “specialized in voyages of a sacred nature” and that instead of standard movies, the in-flight entertainment system would play religious videos.

“We want to create the conditions to enable pilgrims to live their pilgrimage starting at their city’s airport and even before they arrive at their destinations,” Father Atuire said.

Founded in 1981 by the Italian action film star Bud Spencer, Mistral Air runs parcel transport services for the Italian post office and other logistics companies like TNT of the Netherlands. The airline is controlled by the Italian post office, but the Vatican pilgrimage office also owns a minority stake.

Press officers for the Vatican could not be reached for comment on whether Pope Benedict XVI planned to use the airline. The pontiff traditionally charters a plane for himself and his entourage for his foreign visits.



For the record, here's the eutes report yesterday - notable for the picture of Cardinal Ruini on his way to baord the plane:

Vatican airline takes to the skies
By Cristiano Corvino

ROME, Aug. 27 (Reuters) - While some passengers only turn to prayer when jolted by turbulence, the Vatican made it standard on Monday by launching the world's first airline for Catholic pilgrims.

Complete with Vatican logos on headrests and air hostesses' uniforms, the inaugural flight traveled from Rome's Fiumicino airport for the shrine of Lourdes in France.

The charter flight's slogan spoke volumes about what its clients are doing above the clouds: "I'm Searching for Your Face, Lord."

"It is a spiritual journey," explained Francesco Gherra, one of the pilgrims who boarded Monday's inaugural flight hosted by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the former head of Italy's bishops.

Cardinal Ruini, rarely seen without a cassock,
prepared to board the inaugural flight

The Vatican aims to serve 150,000 pilgrims a year on its chartered Boeing 737, run by Italy's Mistral Air.

Destinations range from the shrine of Fatima in Portugal to Mount Sinai in Egypt, where Moses is said to have received the 10 Commandments from God.

In-flight entertainment on the way to the world's holy sites will, somewhat predictably, be religious in nature, the Vatican said.

"The crew has been informed that there are (religious) messages that will be transmitted, that films will be shown during the flight," said Father Cesar Atuire at the Vatican office coordinating pilgrimages.

Keeping costs for pilgrims low is another Vatican priority, Atuire said.

The Vatican's venture into the airline industry did not go unnoticed by competitors, including Ryanair, Europe's biggest low-cost carrier.

The Vatican hopes to fly pilgrims from Rome to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a route already serviced by the low-budget carrier.

"Ryanair already performs miracles that even the Pope's boss can't rival, by delivering pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela for the heavenly price of 10 euros," Ryanair said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Paul Hoskins in Dublin)

00mercoledì 29 agosto 2007 01.52

The anti-Church bureaucracy of the European Union has found a possible new way to 'get at' the Church -
a truly depressing constant fact of life these days. Here is the translation of a report taken by Lella from
Repubblica online tonight:

EU may investigate tax exemptions
enjoyed by the Church in Italy

BRUSSELS - The European Union will ask the Italian government for 'additional information' about 'certain fiscal advantages of the Italian churches' although it has not yet decided whether to open an investigation.

This was stated by Jonathan Todd, spokesman for the EU Commission on Fair Competition, who said that an investigation in the context of the European anti-trust law would look into 'illegal aid' provided by the state.

"We have not yet decided whether to open an inquiry," Todd said, saying the Italian government already responded to the Commission's initial request for information, but Brussels needs 'a surplus of information, which we are asking to be provided in written or verbal form."

He said the Commission wants to examine a provision in a 2006 financial law passed by the Berlusconi government which granted tax exemption to the Church's real estate properties being used for commercial purposes. The same exemption is given to all other religious and non-profit organizations in Italy.

Brussels also wants to investigate a 50% reduction in taxes on the Church's commercial enterprises.

Todd explained Brussels requested the information after 'some Italians', whom he did not identify, called the Commission's attention to the provisions of the 2006 law.

Coincidentally, Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishop's conference (CEI), published today a statement by Mons. Giuseppe Betori, CEI secretary-general, in which he points out that "The tax exemption applies only to those activities that are religious and/or social in nature, and are exactly identical to that given to other non-commercial entities. Those who question the State's concessions to non-commercial entities are expressing a mistrust of so many social organizations of diverse inspiration who are particularly active in fighting poverty and need."

[NB: One rationale for tax exemptions given to religious and charitable organizations is that they are carrying out necessary activities that provide services which the government cannot.]

00mercoledì 29 agosto 2007 13.22
Yahoo has posted this Reuters filephoto with a story caption, in which the Russian Patriarch has apparently
sounded off again about his insistence that Catholic proselytism among Orthodox is an obstacle to meeting with
the Pope. No separate news story as yet.


Reuters - Wed Aug 29. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexiy II leads a service at Tatiana Day
in Moscow January 25, 2007. Alexiy II told an Italian paper that a first meeting with Pope Benedict would only make
sense if the Vatican gave up any missionary ambition to spread Catholicism in his country. (A.Natruskin/Reuters)

P.S. Andrea Tornielli in Il Giornale has a brief interview with Alexei in Moscow, where indeed the Patriarch
restates his usual concerns about supposed Catholic proselytism, but also praises the 'restoration' of the traditional
Mass by the Pope.

Will translate later.

00mercoledì 29 agosto 2007 14.27
Italian priest says he's in love,
wants to be a 'chaste fiancé'

New York
Aug 29, 2007

John Allen updates us about this Italian soap opera with a new twist!

No Roman summer would be complete without a Catholic soap opera, and this year it has been provided by Fr. Sante Sguotti, a priest of the Monterosso diocese near Padua. Sguotti has acknowledged falling in love with a 40-year-old local woman, separated from her husband, and helping her name her one-year-old child. He has made conflicting statements, however, about whether he is the child’s father.

Sguotti told a crowded press conference inside his parish church yesterday that he intends to become a “chaste fiancé” of the woman on December 2, the first Sunday of Advent. He said he won’t get married, and plans to stay within the limits on priests imposed by the Code of Canon Law, albeit at the edge of those limits.

The local bishop has reportedly asked Sguotti to resign the priesthood and barred him from celebrating Mass.

Sguotti also said that he hopes to meet with rebel Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, no stranger to Roman theater himself. Milingo broke with the church in 2001 to marry a Korean acupuncturist and member of the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Milingo later reconciled with the church, only to break away again and found a movement called “Married Priests Now!” campaigning for the abolition of mandatory clerical celibacy.

Sguotti told reporters yesterday that falling in love with a woman is actually a boon to his priesthood.

“A person can’t be a good priest or nun or anything else in life unless he has experienced love at least once,” he said.

“Life in the seminary, where all contact with women is forbidden and you are banned from going to bars, swimming pools and movies, is wrong because it warps your personality,” Sguotti said. He also argued that the Church's celibacy requirement meant that “only the most closed and narrow-minded priests, the least humane ones, get ahead.”

Sguotti called upon all priests who are in similar relationships to step “out of the shadows” and to acknowledge their situation publicly.

The Bishop of Padua, Antonio Mattiazzo, told reporters he was profoundly saddened by Sguotti’s comments, and that he shared the suffering of the faithful as well as Sguotti’s parents.

“Mercy is a great Christian virtue, but it doesn’t remove the need to shine light on the truth,” he said.

Last weekend, Sguotti informed his 800-member congregation of his situation from the pulpit. According to local media reports, most lined up in support of Sguotti. Some began to sport T-shirts with the slogan, “Don Sante is my Father” – under the circumstances, some wags observed, an potentially ambiguous expression.


Allen has a couple of other items today of local interest, so I'll leave it for someone else to post it, as I have to leave now.

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