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1/19/2008 4:43 PM
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Posted earlier today in the preceding page:

A roundup of Anglophone reporting and commentary on the Sapienza episode -
including the full text of the 'lectio magistralis' that the Pope had prepared to deliver at La Sapienza.

Preceded by a small Italian news item on a proposal by the University of Florence to invite Benedict XVI
to its Galileo Year celebration in 2009!

A word from the 'devout atheists' - Giuliano Ferrara in Panorama and Marcello Pera in La Stampa
re-state their positions in the light of La Sapienza.


Left, Galileo statue at the Uffizi, Florence;
Right, Minerva (goddess of wisdom) statue at La Sapienza

In the frenzy of fast-moving developments this week, the media coverage has hardly given the proper background about Galileo, the scientist whose name has been taken in vain by those who profess to defend him against Cardinal Ratzinger.

Here, first, is a commentary - of the sort one usually does not expect to see in a populist TV channel's online offerings - that speaks for itself and sets the context for the misuse of Galileo as a stalking horse by the Sapienza 'scientists'.

The Messy Relationship
Between Religion and Science:
Revisiting Galileo's Inquisition

By Lauren Green
Religion Correspondent, Fox News

"The secular nature of science." The phrase evokes much praise by intellectuals and people of reason — but should it provoke fear?

The phrase is taken from a letter written by a professor at La Sapienza University in Rome and signed by 66 of his colleagues, protesting a scheduled visit on Thursday by Pope Benedict XVI.

This week, students joined the protest and have been on an "anti-clergy" campaign to voice their opposition to the Pope — over comments he made in 1990 about the church's inquisition trial of scientist Galileo, which a 20th century philosopher of science called "rational and just."

The Pope has sent his speech to the unviersity — and FOX News Channel Contributor Father Jonathan Morris says, "They misread his 1990 talk on Galileo, but they won't be able to misread this one. It will be rational and challenging, a call to recognize the unique and complimentary roles of faith and science."

The Catholic Church's trial of Galileo in the early 17th century is the stuff of real concern for anyone who believes religion and science operate in two different realms of world views. Galileo had found, through scientific observations, that the earth revolved around the Sun and not the other way around, which was what almost the entire world believed at the time. A few forward thinking scientists — and clergy — began to see that a geocentric system didn't fit what they observed, but that a heliocentric system did.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the earth is the center of the Universe. That is a man-made supposition, and helps prove one of the great themes you will find in the Bible, that man will always look for ways to glorify himself, instead of God.

Ironically, for scientists of the 17th century, including Galileo, their craft was about glorifying God. That if God is the creator of everything, the discoveries in science could only bring mankind closer to knowing him — not drive a wedge between them.

Pope Benedict's 1990 comments may have been sorely taken out of context. Benedict is a scholar, who speaks in deep scholarly talk that sometimes takes many paragraphs to unfold, and sometimes several reads to grasp. But his conclusions are usually thought-provoking, as is the case in his 1990 speech on Galileo.

Benedict quoted 20th century agnostic-skeptic and philosopher Paul Karl Feyerabend, who wrote about the trial: "The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism."

Benedict was illustrating that when he is asked about the Galileo trial he's not asked, "Why did the church try to get in the way of the development of modern science?" Instead he's asked, "Why didn't the church take a more clear position against the disasters that would inevitably follow, once Galileo had opened Pandora's box?"

Even though science has opened the door to advances in medicine — which has saved millions of lives and has created great opportunities for mankind — it has also opened the portals to weapons of mass destruction like the atom bomb, or tools of personal trauma like addictive drugs.

Benedict added after citing Feyerabend that "The faith doesn't not grow from resentment and the rejection of rationality, but from its fundamental affirmation and from being inscribed in a still greater form of reason."

In other words, science is a great gift, by which mankind has prospered. But as an all-encompassing worldview, science is a poor master. Science is great at telling us how to create, how to help, how to heal. It can't instruct us on why, why not, or who should benefit? That just may be the "greater form of reason" the Pope is referring to.

The small group of protesting professors and students at La Sapienza University are doing to the Pope what they claim the church did to Galileo ... silence him. In a world where the marketplace of ideas is heralded, they have tried to muzzle a man who, as FOX News Rome Correspondent Greg Burke says, "would like nothing better than to sit in a college seminar-type room with (smart) people of different ideas for a good wide-ranging debate among intellectuals."

You may not like the Pope's views, his doctrine, or even his wardrobe, but he does have a right to believe what he believes. And that is not a right that any man, or science, can give — or take away.


If the man on the street were asked what he knows about Galileo - assuming he knows about Galileo at all - he might say, "He was a medieval astronomer who was condemned by the Church for heresy because of his scientific views.' That is the reduction made in general history books used by those who acquire a basic education. But like all reductions, it does not tell the real story, and even distorts it somehow.

While I am aware that the protesting physicists at La Sapienza willingly fell victim to the 'Wikipedia syndrome', I still would use a Wikipedia entry here - which, as far as I can see, has no egregious errors - for a quick overview and context of what it calls the Galileo affair.

Galileo before the Holy Office, mid-19th century painting by Joseph Robert-Fleury.


Western Christian biblical references Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and 1 Chronicles 16:30 include text stating that "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." In the same tradition, Psalm 104:5 says, "[the LORD] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." Further, Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that "And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place, etc."[59]

Galileo defended heliocentrism [the theory that the earth moves around the sun], and claimed it was not contrary to those Scripture passages. He took Augustine's position on Scripture: not to take every passage literally, particularly when the scripture in question is a book of poetry and songs, not a book of instructions or history.

The writers of the Scripture wrote from the perspective of the terrestrial world, and from that vantage point the sun does rise and set. In fact, it is the earth's rotation which gives the impression of the sun in motion across the sky.

By 1616 the attacks on Galileo had reached a head, and he went to Rome to try to persuade the Church authorities not to ban his ideas. In the end, Cardinal Bellarmine, acting on directives from the Inquisition, delivered him an order not to "hold or defend" the idea that the Earth moves and the Sun stands still at the centre. The decree did not prevent Galileo from discussing heliocentrism hypothetically.

For the next several years Galileo stayed well away from the controversy. He revived his project of writing a book on the subject, encouraged by the election of Cardinal Barberini as Pope Urban VIII in 1623. Barberini was a friend and admirer of Galileo, and had opposed the condemnation of Galileo in 1616. The book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was published in 1632, with formal authorization from the Inquisition and papal permission.

Pope Urban VIII personally asked Galileo to give arguments for and against heliocentrism in the book, and to be careful not to advocate heliocentrism. He made another request, that his own views on the matter be included in Galileo's book.

Only the latter of those requests was fulfilled by Galileo. Whether unknowingly or deliberate, Simplicius, the defender of the Aristotelian geocentric view in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was often caught in his own errors and sometimes came across as a fool.

This made Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems appear as an advocacy book - an attack on Aristotelian geocentrism and defense of the Copernican theory. To add insult to injury, Galileo put the words of Pope Urban VIII into the mouth of Simplicius.

Most historians agree Galileo did not act out of malice and felt blindsided by the reaction to his book. However, the Pope did not take the suspected public ridicule lightly, nor the blatant bias. Galileo had alienated one of his biggest and most powerful supporters, the Pope, and was called to Rome to defend his writings.

With the loss of many of his defenders in Rome because of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was ordered to stand trial on suspicion of heresy in 1633. The sentence of the Inquisition was in three essential parts:

- Galileo was required to recant his heliocentric ideas; the idea that the Sun is stationary was condemned as "formally heretical." However, while there is no doubt that Pope Urban VIII and the vast majority of Church officials did not believe in heliocentrism, heliocentrism was never formally or officially condemned by the Catholic Church, except insofar as it held (for instance, in the formal condemnation of Galileo) that "The proposition that the sun is in the center of the world and immovable from its place is absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical; because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scriptures", and the converse as to the Sun's not revolving around the Earth.

- He was ordered imprisoned, but the sentence was later commuted to house arrest.

- His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.

According to popular legend, after recanting his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedy muttered the rebellious phrase 'And yet it moves' (Eppur si muove), but there is no evidence that he actually said this or anything similarly impertinent.

[The summary of the penalties imposed by the Inquisition of Galileo shows, at the very least, that the Inquisition did not just summarily condemn everyone to being burned at the stakee, as popular fantasy has it. But it also illustrates the delicate balancing act that the Church hierarchy sought to do, where Galileo was concerned, between upholding orthodoxy in the critical period of the Counter-Reformation, and acknowledging the possibility of a changing world-view because science was extending the frontiers of knowledge.]

After a period with the friendly Ascanio Piccolomini (the Archbishop of Siena), Galileo was allowed to return to his villa at Arcetri near Florence, where he spent the remainder of his life under house arrest, and where he later became blind. It was while Galileo was under house arrest that he dedicated his time to one of his finest works, Two New Sciences.

Here he summarized work he had done some forty years earlier, on the two sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials [basic courses for students of engineering even today]. This book received high praise from both Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. As a result of this work, Galileo is often called the "father of modern physics."

The Inquisition's ban on reprinting Galileo's works was lifted in 1718 when permission was granted to publish an edition of his works (excluding the condemned Dialogue) in Florence.

In 1741, Pope Benedict XIV [The Sapienza scientists would not appreciate this irony!] authorized the publication of an edition of Galileo's complete scientific works which included a mildly censored version of the Dialogue.

In 1758 the general prohibition against works advocating heliocentrism was removed from the Index of prohibited books, although the specific ban on uncensored versions of the Dialogue and Copernicus's De Revolutionibus remained.

All traces of official opposition to heliocentrism by the Church disappeared in 1835 when these works were finally dropped from the Index.

On Oct. 31, 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo affair was handled, saying:

Thanks to his intuition as a brilliant physicist and by relying on different arguments, Galileo, who practically invented the experimental method, understood why only the sun could function as the centre of the world, as it was then known, that is to say, as a planetary system.

The error of the theologians of the time, when they maintained the centrality of the Earth, was to think that our understanding of the physical world's structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scripture....

And here is a more explicit context for the Feyerabend statement cited by Cardinal Ratzinger, which makes it clear that what Feyerabend thought about the trial was distinct from what he thought about Galileo's science:

By the standards of his time, Galileo was often willing to change his views in accordance with observation.

Philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend also noted the supposedly improper aspects of Galileo's methodology, but he argued that Galileo's methods could be justified retroactively by their results.

The bulk of Feyerabend's major work, Against Method (1975), was devoted to an analysis of Galileo, using his astronomical research as a case study to support Feyerabend's own anarchistic theory of scientific method.

As he put it: 'Aristotelians [...] demanded strong empirical support while the Galileans were content with far-reaching, unsupported and partially refuted theories. I do not criticize them for that; on the contrary, I favour Niels Bohr's "this is not crazy enough.'

And here is how the New Scientist, the leading Anglophone journal of general science, reported the Vatican clarification at the time.

Vatican admits Galileo was right
07 November 1992
From New Scientist Print Edition

In 1633, the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo Galilei, one of the founders of modern science, to recant his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun. Under threat of torture, Galileo - seen above facing his inquisitors - recanted. But as he left the courtroom, he is said to have muttered, 'All the same, it moves'.

Last week, 359 years later, the Church finally agreed. At a ceremony in Rome, before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II officially declared that Galileo was right. [Of course, as the historical overview presented earlier shows, the Church officially conceded much earlier, and this manner of presenting John Paul II's statement is sheer melodrama!]

The formal rehabilitation was based on the findings of a committee of the Academy the Pope set up in 1979, soon after taking office. The committee decided the Inquisition had acted in good faith, but was wrong.

In fact, the Inquisition's verdict was uncannily similar to cautious statements by modern officialdom on more recent scientific conclusions, such as predictions about greenhouse warming. [Remember, this is the New Scientist saying this!]

The Inquisition ruled that Galileo could not prove 'beyond doubt' that the Earth orbits the Sun, so they could not reinterpret scriptures implying otherwise.

The verdict was not one to which the doctrine of papal infallibility applied, and the Vatican was never comfortable with it. Pope Urban approved it, but commuted Galileo's sentence from prison to house arrest. The Church finally admitted he was right in the 19th century.

But the Galileo affair still embarrassed the Church, which now maintains an astronomical observatory at the Pope's summer palace at Castelgandolfo. [The observatory is one of the oldest astronimcal institutions in the world, having been established by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 following three similar institutions dating back to 1774, but tracing its roots to 1582 - antedating Galileo's trial by 50 years - when Pope Gregory XIII created a committee to study the scientific data and implications involved in the reform of the calendar.]

Father George Coyne, who heads the observatory, says the affair was 'tragic, beyond the control of any one party'. It was the height of the Church's battle with Protestantism, says Coine, 'and here was a scientist saying he interpreted scripture better than they did.'

The trials were not a confrontation between science and faith, says Coine, because "Galileo never presented his science to the Inquisition. Science wasn't even at the trial."


As for the Vatican Observatory, this is the place to make clear once again the misconception fostered by recent Anglohpone reporting of the transfer of the Observatory from the Apostolic residence in Castel Gandolfo - implying that the Vatican was 'kicking it out' to provide 'more room for the Pope's diplomatic receptions' [as if the residence did not already contain more than enough rooms for such activities -which are, in any case, necessarily quite limited during the summer when the Pope is in residence].

As the official site of the Observatory states:

The Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world, has its headquarters at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, outside Rome. Its dependent research center, the Vatican Observatory Research Group, is hosted by Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA.

In fact, it was Cardinal Ratzinger who noted in the 1990s, after a visit to these headquarters in Castel Gandolfo, that the bright lights of the Rome metropolitan area at night had long made it impossible for important astronomical observations to be done from Castel Gandolfo, and that the observatory's main research activities had to be moved to a fairly uninhabited mountaintop in Arizona!

In short, what the Vatican did recently was simply moving the Observatory headquarters to a building of its own in Castel Gandolfo, not 'throwing out' a scientific laboratory!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/16/2011 3:31 AM]
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1/19/2008 7:01 PM
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The Holy Father met today with
- H.E. Faure Essozimna Gnassinbé, President of the Republic of Togo, his wife, and his entourage
- Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, President of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See
- The Apostolic Nuncios to Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates on ad limina visit
- Community of the Almo Collegio Capranica of Rome. Address in Italian.

The Vatican released the text of the Pope's Message for the 16th World Day for the Sick, and

The Vatican Office for Liturgical Celebrations formally announced the Pope's Vespers Service at St. Paul's
Basilica on Jan. 25.


VATICAN CITY, 19 JAN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office announced this morning that "the Holy Father Benedict XVI today received in audience Faure Gnassingbe, president of the Republic of Togo, who subsequently went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

"In the course of the cordial discussions satisfaction was expressed at the good relations that exist between the Holy See and Togo, with particular emphasis on the contribution Catholics make to the integral progress of the Togolese people. The need to achieve complete national reconciliation was underlined as was the urgent importance of bringing aid to the numerous refugees and victims of last October's floods".


VATICAN CITY, 19 JAN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received professors and students of the diocesan seminary of Rome, the "Almo Collegio Capranica", for the feast day of their patroness, St Agnes, which falls on 21 January.

In his talk to them, them Benedict XVI gave particular emphasis to the figure of Cardinal Domenico Capranica, who founded the institution 550 years ago and who, a century before the Council of Trent, was able to see "that the desired reform would not only have to involve ecclesiastical structures but, principally, the lives and choices of those people within the Church who were called to be ... guides and pastors of the People of God".

The same cardinal also drew up the "Constitutiones" of the "Almo Collegio" which regulate "the various aspects of the formation of the young students", said the Pope. With those "Constitutiones", the cardinal "demonstrated his concern for the primacy of the spiritual dimension, and his awareness that the profundity of a solid priestly formation - and its consequent durability - depend to a decisive degree on the completeness and overall structure of the educational syllabus.

"These aspects have even greater importance today", the Pope added, "considering the multiple challenges priests and evangelisers must face on their mission. In this context I have, on a number of occasions, reminded seminarians and priests of the urgent need to cultivate a profound interior life, a personal and constant contact with Christ in prayer and contemplation, a sincere longing for sanctity.

"In fact, without a true friendship with Jesus, it is impossible for Christians, and especially for priests, to carry out the mission with which the Lord entrusts them. For priests, it is clear that this also entails serious cultural and theological preparation".

The Holy Father stressed "the decisive impulse" a period spent in Rome can give to priests' educational itinerary, because of "the presence of the Cathedra of Peter, the work of the people and the institutions that assist the Bishop of Rome", and "a more direct knowledge of certain particular Churches".

"Your pastors", the Pope told his audience, "have sent you to the city of Peter's Successor in the hope that you return enriched by a markedly Catholic spirit, and a fuller and more universal awareness of ecclesial matters".

Life in the "Almo Collegio" enables its students, who come from all over the world, "to gain an intimate knowledge of that mix of cultures and mentalities which is so typical of modern life", the Pope concluded. "Furthermore, the presence of students from the Russian Orthodox Church represents a further encouragement to dialogue and fraternity, and gives nourishment to ecumenical hopes".


VATICAN CITY, 19 JAN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father's Message for the World Day of the Sick 2008, was made public today. Its theme is: "The Eucharist, Lourdes and Pastoral Care of the Sick". The World Day of the Sick is due to be celebrated on February 11, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

In the Message, which has been published in Italian and English, the Pope explains how this year's World Day is associated with "two important events in the life of the Church: ... The 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary Immaculate at Lourdes, and the celebration of the International Eucharistic Congress at Quebec, Canada, in June". This, he writes, "is a remarkable opportunity to consider the close connection that exists between the Mystery of the Eucharist, the role of Mary in the project of salvation, and the reality of human pain and suffering".

"There is an indissoluble bond", the Pope states, "between the mother and the Son generated in her womb by work of the Holy Spirit, and this bond we perceive, in a mysterious way, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist".

Benedict XVI highlights how "Mary 'Mater Dolorosa' is associated with the sacrifice of Christ, suffering with her divine Son at the foot of the cross. The Christian community feels her to be especially close as it gathers around its suffering members who bear the signs of the Lord's passion. Mary suffers with those who are afflicted, with them she hopes, and she is their comfort, supporting them with her maternal help".

The Pope mentions the theme of the Eucharistic Congress of Quebec, "The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World", then proceeds: "It is He who gathers us around the Eucharistic table, arousing in His disciples loving care for the suffering and the sick, in whom the Christian community recognises the face of its Lord".

"It thus appears clear that it is specifically from the Eucharist that health pastoral care must draw the necessary spiritual strength to come effectively to man's aid and to help him understand the salvific value of his own suffering. ... Mysteriously united to Christ, the man who suffers with love and meek self-abandonment to the will of God becomes a living offering for the salvation of the world".

The Pope invites diocesan and parish communities to celebrate the World Day of the Sick "with full appreciation for the happy concurrence of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes with the International Eucharistic Congress. May it be an occasion to emphasise the importance of Mass, and of the adoration and celebration of the Eucharist, so that chapels in our healthcare centres become beating hearts in which Jesus offers Himself unceasingly to the Father for the life of humanity! The distribution of the Eucharist to the sick, if performed decorously and in a spirit of prayer, is a true comfort to those who suffer".

Benedict XVI concludes his Message by inviting people to consider the World Day of the Sick as "a propitious circumstance to invoke in a special way the maternal protection of Mary over those who are weighed down by illness, over healthcare providers, and workers in health pastoral care. I think in particular of priests involved in this field, religious, volunteers, and all those who with active dedication are concerned to serve, in body and soul, the sick and those in need".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2008 2:59 AM]
1/19/2008 7:39 PM
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In synchronicity with the reflections Marcello Pera posted above about the importance of asserting Christian identity, this article from this week's issue of Britain's Catholic Herald surveys recent assertions of specifically Catholic identity and how Pope Benedict continuously makes the point not just through his Magisterium but through liturgy and his own personal observance of it.

A breath of fresh air
is wafting through St Peter’s

By James MacMillan
Catholic Herald (UK)
Friday January 18, 2008

James MacMillan is a Scottish classical composer and conductor who was appointed to lead the BBC Philharmonic in 2000, and is expected to continue working with them until 2009. He and his wife are lay Dominicans, and he has composed important liturgical music, including masses. A new work, the St John Passion, will be premiered by Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in London on April 27.

There is a bewildering array of American Catholic blog sites these days. Some are liberal, but the overwhelming majority seem to express an ever-more confident Catholic orthodoxy on matters of faith, morals and liturgy.

Many of the posters seem to be young, and take an apparent delight in winding up that generation of post-Vatican II Catholics still moaning about not getting their way in the contemporary Church.

One particular American blogger, Fr John Zuhlsdorf, has recently hailed what he calls “the return of triumphalism”. Ever since Vatican II this has been a taboo word in the Church, but he sees it as a good thing.

Is this yet more evidence that we are moving into a new, more confident era for the modern Church? That Catholics are more and more prepared to stand up for their identity and their core values? That liberal secularists and liberal Christians have failed in bullying orthodox Catholics into submission? Is it really time to become assertive about the faith in the public square?

To be honest, there is nothing particularly serious, scholarly or analytical about Fr Zuhlsdorf’s site. There is, however, a knowing lightheartedness in appearing to indulge some guilty pleasures. He is in raptures about recent liturgical developments in St Peter’s, and that “more and more, Pope Benedict’s intentions are being clarified in regard to the Church’s traditional liturgical expressions”.

There is great enthusiasm for the increased reappearance of Gregorian chant, flappable excitement at the use of the correct, ornate vestments, and at the good taste of medieval images of Mary chosen for the ceremonies.

The Holy Father is hailed for his “dedication to formal liturgical ceremony and also popular devotion, which is also of great importance in the life of the Catholic people. They strengthen each other, and the Holy Father understands that.

“He is giving a good example as Bishop and chief pastor of Rome to his city and to the world… his way of showing the bishops and priests of the world how this is to be done”. Confident, assertive, provocative stuff.

It is not just in the liturgical sphere that we see a new impatience with the comfy laxness of the previous generation. For many years successful professional Christians have sought to ingratiate themselves with their liberal secular associates by playing down the parts of the Church’s teaching that caused most offence. Nevertheless there was more at stake here than just their incorporation into trendy sophisticated company.

Secular liberals have gladly gobbled up all these concessions and now want more – the complete obliteration of religion from public life. In the process liberal Christians have lost the respect of their secular peers. They gave no indication of intellectual rigour or ethical integrity in their eagerness to ditch bits and pieces of the faith. Their faith has been caught in a cruel light – their Christianity is bland, sentimental and anaemic.

History will look back unkindly on the generation of Vatican II Catholics who were handed such a precious pentecostal gift of grace – a unique opportunity to purify the Church, only to squander it disastrously. They bent over backwards to accommodate the zeitgeist, rather than open a generational heart to the Heilige Geist.

This is not what John XXIII foresaw when he inaugurated his great reforming council. He would have been horrified to see how many Catholics fell prey to the trendy nihilism of the 1960s, duped by a destructive iconoclasm which has eroded so much of the West’s culture and morals.

This is the basis of the new positivist impulse among young Catholics, disdained and dismissed by some of their elders as conservative and reactionary.

In the new generation, we need to rediscover the optimism that lay at the heart of Vatican II. We need to confront the radical dissatisfaction that led many 1960s Catholics to turn away from or against the Church.

We need to challenge their disdain for tradition and that smug superiority that many Catholics of a certain age display towards the deep pieties of the ordinary, “old-fashioned” faithful.

Catholic liberalism has had its day, and the legacy of Vatican II requires us to understand the pernicious, corrosive effects of the pick-and-mix tendency.

The recent experience of our sister faith communities in the Reformed tradition has shown that those who strive to make their churches “acceptable” to the prevailing, but probably transitory zeitgeist, have triumphed.

There are those, within and without the Catholic Church, who have been encouraged by this and are forever pushing in the same direction. They see no problem in being fully communicant while urging the rejection of the most precious doctrines on faith and morals.

This rejection can sometimes cover the divinity of Christ Himself, can involve a campaign to legitimise abortion and euthanasia (there is an organisation in America called Catholics for a Free Choice), and the defeatist acceptance of the sexual hooliganism which has so harmed the position of marriage and the family in modern life.

The western world’s love affair with self may have taken off in the 1960s but it will only get worse. The Catholic Church must provide a counter-cultural challenge to this, and offer the alternative of Christ’s own way.

It is not triumphalist to say this, but it requires the Church to be happy and confident in its own skin. Catholics need to know what it means to be Catholic – to understand what our core values are, and to feel they are not just worth defending, but worth proclaiming from the rooftops.

The young generation of Catholics are right to be assertive about our beliefs in the public square. If we do not speak boldly and honestly to power in these contexts, if we run scared in the face of the new anti-religious elites, we will be expelled from the public square, never to return.

Perhaps American bloggers like Fr Zuhlsdorf know this. Our British reserve can make us cringe with embarrassment in the face of such brash self-confidence, but we may have to develop our own ways of being assertive.

We can begin with the liturgy. Nothing signals the weakened state of the modern Church more than the contemporary practice of Catholic liturgy in hundreds of churches throughout the land.

A breath of fresh air is wafting through St Peter’s, and in his own gentle way Pope Benedict is inviting the universal Church to taste the beauties and spiritual sustenance of true Catholic worship.

I am convinced that from the liturgy everything else will flow. We British don’t flap with excitement, but there may be good reason for us to pray for Christ’s Church with a warm glow of expectation and confidence as we look with hope to the future.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/19/2008 7:53 PM]
1/19/2008 8:33 PM
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In his weekly column that comes out Fridays, John Allen gave two brief paragraphs to the La Sapienza episode, i favor of an interesting short-term 'study' he conducted on how the Church communicates to the world today. The main point he makes is this:

For the most part, routine religious activity does not count as “news” for the secular press. Unlike politics, finance and sports, religion is news only when something out of the ordinary, controversial, or exotic happens, which means that mainstream media coverage of religion is episodic and random.

Even when it’s well-informed and balanced - which, to be fair to the American press, it often is {Really! That's news to those of us who live in the United States like Mr. Allen does!] - coverage rarely penetrates to the heart of religious experience.

Reporting on religion in the mainstream press is often like trying to display a three-dimensional object in a two-dimensional space -- only bits and pieces come into view, often producing a badly distorted impression of what the real object actually looks like. …

And what he had to say on the La Sapienza case:

The big Vatican story this week was the pope’s withdrawal from a scheduled appearance on Thursday at Rome’s La Sapienza University, a public institution, following protests from the physics faculty and some student groups over his alleged hostility to modern science.
The Vatican rarely cancels a papal event once it’s been made public, so obviously they took threats of disruption seriously.

An avalanche of commentary followed. No less a figure than Giorgio Napolitano, the President of Italy (and a member of the country’s center-left political forces), weighed in: “I consider unacceptable these exhibitions of intolerance and pre-announced offensives, which created a climate incompatible with a free and serene exchange,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Vatican released the address that Benedict would have delivered on Thursday at La Sapienza. In it, Benedict argues that it is not the role of the papacy, or the church, to impose religious faith upon the secular academy; at the same time, he calls upon the academy to see the church as a repository of moral and spiritual wisdom that can’t simply be exiled from the sphere of rationality.

Benedict acknowledges that a secular university must be “bound exclusively by the authority of the truth,” not by ecclesiastical or political powers, and says that modern society “needs institutions like this.”

Especially in light of those conciliatory remarks, one might regard the La Sapienza episode as a “made-in-Italy” case of overreaction. There are, however, at least two worthwhile lessons one might draw, which I develop in a daily update posting, "The pope, modern science, and a canary in the coal mine" [reproduced earlier ont his thread].

Allen makes up for this paucity by posting his translation of an article by Joaquin Navarro-Valls in La Repubblica - which saves me one translation of those I intended to do:

Navarro-Valls on the pope,
science, and La Sapienza

By John L Allen Jr
Jan 18 2008

Spanish layman Joaquin Navarro-Valls is no longer the Vatican spokesperson, but he remains a prominent voice in the broader Catholic conversation.

In yesterday’s edition of the Italian daily La Repubblica, Navarro-Valls commented on the protests which resulted in the cancellation of Pope Benedict XVI’s scheduled visit to La Sapienza University in Rome.

Scientific freedom
La Repubblica
Jan. 17, 2008

By now it’s certain that the pope will not go today to inaugurate the academic year at La Sapienza University of Rome. By now, it’s also certain that everyone has watched this regrettable episode with perplexity and consternation.

In fact, many political and academic authorities, quite diverse in terms of their point of origin and sensibilities, have at least officially exhibited the most explicit and direct disapproval for the protests that prompted Benedict XVI to withdraw from his scheduled visit to the university.

Regarding these events, it’s necessary to reflect with a certain prudence. In fact, the first observation to be made could be a bit misleading. Given that, when John Paul II inaugurated the academic year several years ago at another Roman university, Roma Tre, there was no show of hostility regarding his presence, we could be tempted to think that today the climate has changed and that we’re moving towards a more intolerant position.

In truth, however, the invitation to Benedict XVI wasn’t handled especially well, since it was issued by the Rector without being confirmed by the Academic Senate. In addition, the presence of the pope became caught up in a political struggle internal to the university itself, which would probably have erupted in some other way, but which was able to exploit this high-profile event that was ideally suited for obtaining its ends.

Even though the internal context of the university is highly complex, one still has to understand the reasons that were adopted in support of the dissent from the visit of the pope, on the part not only of a group of 67 professors, a modest three percent of the faculty, but also a noisy, albeit small, group of students.

In effect, it’s from this point of view that the most original elements of what’s happened can be found.

Particularly emblematic, for example, was one of the slogans put up by a protestor, who offered the saying: “science is secular!” [Note: in Italian, “la scienza è laica!”]

Indeed, because the use of an adjective such as “secular” is quite curious in defense of a value that’s been sacrosanct for at least seven centuries, which is the autonomy and freedom of research in the university. It’s not by accident that I use the temporal marker of seven centuries, because the autonomy of science has been constitutive fact of the university from its medieval foundations, not a sort of accessory gained today. Moreover, this autonomy has nothing to do directly with the presence or absence of religious values in society or with the presence of a religious authority at the opening of an academic year. The strikes at the University of Paris in the 12th century make the point, as well as the dissent of Chancellor Gerson from the official policies of the 14th century. Both were important moments of liberty, well before the rise of modern science.

Setting all this aside, it’s worthwhile to ask, however, what is meant by a free and autonomous science today. It seems evident to me that such an affirmation must make reference to the fact that science is not defined by an y qualifying adjective, even by that of secularity.

Science is science, period. This affirmation is not a tautology, because it defines the criterion which belongs to science, that is, its method. The scientific process, as Rudolf Carnap taught – the father of neo-positivism – is science itself, free of unnecessary attributes which are extrinsic to its way of working.

Learning to distrust adjectives is a way of protecting the non-ideological aspect of science, that is, the autonomy of science itself from every prior bias. This is exactly what was missing from the dissent on this occasion, i.e., the freedom to engage in reason apart from ideological exaltation.

In the second place, there’s a truly intolerable hypocrisy regarding the question of Galileo.

Not only are we at a sufficient historical distance today to render ridiculous the anachronistic retellings of the event associated with old polemics, but the organizers of these protests, apart from employing the very obscurantist and censorial methods of which they accused the pope, know very well that the Galileo episode was characterized in the first place not by an intervention of ecclesiastical authority, but a free cultural struggle between rival scientific visions. The epistolomologist Thomas Kuhn, for example, drew from the Galileo case the very important concept of a “shift in scientific paradigms,” an idea which is today regarded as at the basis of scientific freedom and the exchange of ideas.

The criticism of Galileo was promoted not only by a few “dirty obscurantists,” but by advocates of the Ptolemaic vision, who – we now know, erroneously – were sincerely convinced of the scientific merit of the Aristotelian system.

In this sense, the physicist Marcello Cini, a signatory on the petition against the visit of Benedict XVI, had already written in a book published in 1984: “Everyone says that the explanation of Galileo is right, whereas the Aristotelian is wrong. In a banal sense, that’s true, but it’s an affirmation that doesn’t take us very far. Indeed, it actually interferes with understanding clearly what it means to explain something in a way different than what’s commonly accepted.”

Perhaps there are those, today as yesterday, who instrumentalize science and the complexity of scientific progress; but those who do so, always do it by impeding someone else from expressing themselves and from speaking, in virtue of some religious or racial qualifications.

This is the truly grave aspect of what’s happened, which is part of an unfortunately widespread practice in the West: intolerance.

This is also the profound difference between the movements of 1968 and the events we’ve seen in these days: we’ve gone from that era’s motto, “it’s forbidden to forbid,” to that of today: “science is secular.”

It’s a change of connotation from those who sparked the protest, who, poorly following Voltaire, have forgotten his, and our, educative principles that should always animate those who work in science. This, it should be said, is a “qualitative difference.”

1/19/2008 10:19 PM
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By Giovanni Maria Vian

Translated from the
1/20/08 issue of

Will the Sunday Angelus prayer with Benedict XVI tomorrow be what it usually is? Yes and no.

Yes, because, every week, men and women, the faithful along with non-believers, Romans and tourists alike, come together in great numbers to listen to the Pope and to pray with him.

No, because this time, the event will have a special significance after the incidents that led to a cancellation of the visit by the Bishop of Rome to La Sapienza University, the city's oldest university, which was founded by a Pope in 1303 a pontifical university for over 500 years [until 1870 when the Italian state was born, the Papal states within Italy were abolished, and the new Italian State took over most church institutions all over Italy].

To listen to what Benedict XVI will say and to the ancient prayers addressed to Mary which marked the course of the day in Christian tradition, many more will be participating this time - and the reason is not difficult to see - to demonstrate in this way 'a gesture of affection and peace' that will balance out the sadness in the preceding week.

That is why the Cardinal Vicar of Rome Camillo Ruini has called on the faithful to be at St. Peter's tomorrow, making clear in the interview published here yesterday that the invitation is for a prayer assembly.

Therefore, far above any reading of the event which does not respect - but instead would exploit - its religious sense and an expression of closeness to Benedict XVI to show him he is not alone, but that with him are people whose confines are known only to God.

This Angelus together with the Pope is the expression of an impulse of the heart acting together with reason. In this sense, it is a secular gesture, one of freedom - as the Foreign Minister of Italy indicated in an interview - to the degree that it is impelled by that principle that should unite believers and non-believers alike: reason, distinct from rhe heart but not opposed to it.

The relationship between heart and reason was not by chance at the center o of the discourse that Benedict XVI would have delivered at La Sapienza.

A discourse that would have been inevitably obscured by the disconcerting events which accompanied it, but which deserves to be read, meditated on and discussed.

A discourse that is profoundly secular on the relationship between religious authority and the profane world, which makes an appeal to reasonableness.

A discourse that harks back to St. Augustine who reasoned about the prophet Isaiah's words and to St. Thomas on the autonomy of philosophy and the responsibility of reason - to the great thinkers of Christian tradition, but also to secular thinkers of today like John Rawls and Juergen Habermas.

Benedict XVI does not seek to impose the faith but to propose it , with gentle firmness, as he has been doing since the first day he served as Bishop of Rome. And as Paul VI did - concluding Vatican-II and during his entire Pontificate - and then John Paul II, in his incessant planetary preaching, repeating tirelessly : Men of our time, listen, be trustful, don't close yourself up, have no fear of

Almost as if to say: We, too, are reasonable and free, and so, do not close up your secularity and your reason to God, Logos - the rational principle that crated and rules the universe - who also knocks at the door of every man and woman, and therefore, knocks at the heart, which is not far from reason.

L'Osservatore Romano - 20 gennaio 2008


But wouldn't you know it? The 'contras' readily seized the occasion to avail of the publicity generated by tomorrow's Angelus-cum-show-of-support, in order to stage a 'sit-in' near St. Peter's Square, according to this item from Apcom, translated here - and look what they were protesting, a non-issue that is downright laughable, considering the notorious disinterest of MS in the Pope and the Church unless it is to report something controversial about them!:


ROME, Jan. 19 (Apcom) - A sit-in by the Paritdo Radicale to denounce the 'excessive presence' of the Pope and other representatives of the Catholic Church in Italian newscasts these days was organized this evening at Piazza Pio XII, not far from St. Peter's Square, where tens of thousands are expected to gather tomorrow to show their solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI.

Radical leaders Marco Pannella and Emma Bonino led their partisans carrying sandwich boards that carried the slogan "No Vatican, No Taliban", a motto they would chant together at the end of the sit-in. [Whatever it was they mean by it. The slogan is as silly as their sit-in!]

Present werre less than a hundred participants and some media representatives.

Bonino told the newsmen it was a 'hoax' to claim that the Pope was being prevented from speaking publicly. [First of all, no one has said that, only that his critics wanted to keep him from speaking at La Sapienza!]

"We are here to expose a hoax that appears to be gaining ground." she said.

[Whoa! Sit, b**** woman!

Bonino is the minister for European Community policies in Prime Minister Prodi's government. She has taken advantage of this role to campaign against the Church in the European Parliament, where she instigated the EU investigation into whether the Italian government was guilty of violating anti-trust law by granting tax exemptions to the Catholic Church. The woman gives women a bad name. And a minister of the Italian government wearing a sandwich board to lead a sit-in against the Pope is, to say the least, conduct unbecoming a cabinet minister and a lady! But see to what depths of asinine behavior anti-clericalism can lead to!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/20/2008 12:37 AM]
1/20/2008 3:18 AM
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Giuliano Ferrara's Il Foglio today reproduced parts of President Nicolas Sarkozy's address to the diplomatic corps in Paris yesterday. Here is a translation:

I ask you to convey to the Pope, whom we will have the honor of welcoming this year, my most sincere gratitude for having welcomed me so warmly at the Vatican...

I think there are two challenges which contribute to define the structure of international society in the 21st century, perhaps even more profoundly compared to the ideologies of the 20th century. The first is that of climate change...

The second is the conditions for the return of the religious element to a major part of our society. It is a fact , but one that the sectarians do not want to see. And it is was something foreseen by [Andre] Malraux who said "The 21st century will be religious or not at all."

In my speech at St. John Lateran in Rome, I described my concept of secularity in which the place for religion would be defined the most positive terms.

Before the consultative council of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh this week, I echoed the wise proposals of King Abdullah and declared myself for a open and tolerant concept of religion.

But some groups want to impose their fundamentalist, intolerant and hegemonic vision. The most extreme form is that of global terrorist networks like Al Qaeda which dream of a confrontation between Islam and the West in order to better lay down the law to peoples who do not want anything more than just to live their faith in peace.

President of France

But Avvenire takes the prize for the most enterprising story so far.


By Lorenzo Fazzini
Translated from
the 1/19/08 issue of

The Pope could not go to La Sapienza in Rome but his thought is being taught and studied at that most secular of institutions, the Sorbonne, as the University of Paris better known. What a paradox of contemporary culture!

Benedict XVI would be 'ostracized' at a Roman university founded by a Pope by a handful of professors and students who call themselves 'free thinkers'.

While in the country that is emblematic of 1968 and its countercultural upheavals, at the Sorbonne's faculty of philosophy, a young professor who is a non-believer, just dedicated a semester's course work to the philosophical thought of Benedict XVI!

"This Pope is simultaneously revolutionary and very conservative," says Jacob Schmutz, class of 1971, graduate of history and political sciences from the universities of Brussels, Cambridge and Paris. "He pursues a very daring interpretation, and quite symbolic, of the soul, defining it as something which can always be maintained by our existence."

Schmutz is a maitre de conferences [academic aide in charge of arranging lectures] at the Sorbonne's fourth unit, and in his course, he focused on the intellectual production of Joseph Ratzinger as professor in Muenster, Tuebingen and Regensburg in the 1970s and 1970s.

How did it happen that this lay intellectual - translator of Eric Voegelin, right-hand man of the philosopher Rudei Imbach (who is considered one of the major interpreters of Thomas Aquinas today) - managed to focus on Ratzinger?

"Through St. Bonaventure and St. Augustine, since I specialize in medieval philosophy," Schmutz said to the French newspaper La Croix. At the end of a course on philosophy and the Middle Ages in 2006, he had given a lecture on John Paul II and Benedict XVI as students of the Medieval theologians.

The enthusiasm of the students led Schmutz to decide he would dedicate an entire semester - February to June 2007 - to the philosophy of the German Pope, from the ecclesiastical perspective, as well as the interpretation of Catholicism advanced by the author of Introduction to Christianity.

Schmutz belongs to the Pierre Abelard [of Heloise and Abelard fame] Center of the Sorbonne, and is the webmaster of the site Scholasticon dedicated to scholastic philosophy. Another [paradox, since the Center was hosted in the past by the Free University of Brussels, one of the sanctuaries of European anti-clericalism.

Schmutz does not hide his irritation for what he calls 'the ignorance of the media' and their usual 'anti-Ratzinger vulgate'.

"Every time they report about him, it is to bring out the usual commonplaces about the cold intellectual and the opposition between faith and reason. But those are hardly his credentials."

Rather, in Schmutz's opinion, "Ratzinger is a true philospher. That is why he wins over students, even atheists."

And yet, Schmutz's academic interest is far from accommodating: "I find Ratzinger's thought fascinating and 'dangerous'. He believes that the only way to be rational is to be Christian." [That mis-states what Ratzinger says - not that the only way to be rational is to be Christian, but that it is the best way!]

But despite that, he has dedicated study to Ratzinger's thought with passion and intellectual rigor, without ostracism. With great respect for the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who, in 1999, was invited to give a lecture at the Sorbonne, and who chose to speak on "The truth in Christianity", in which Ratzinger stated, "In Christianity, rationality became religion and no longer its adversary."

Avvenire, 19 gennaio 2008


Someone else already mentioned it in one of the items posted earllier, but it is always good to point out - especially to the willfully ignorant dissenters at La Sapienza that the Academie Francaise - that exclusive citadel of 'the best and the brightest' intellects - elected Joseph Ratzinger in 1992 to fill the seat vacated by the eminent Russian physicist [what an irony for the Sapienza dissenters!] Andrei Sakharov upon his death. And they have the nerve to call an authentic 'academicien' - an Immortal, to use the term for them - obscurantist and retrograde!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/20/2008 3:32 AM]
1/20/2008 6:51 AM
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The true enlightenment
by Gianteo Bordeo
Translated from
Jan. 19, 2008

Benedict XVI is turning out to be, for our time, the true Enlightenment who is unmasking the comatose state of self-defined 'secular culture', especially in Italy.

The speech he was to have delivered at La Sapienza is a great defense of reason and its possibilities. And a great invitation to rediscover the university as a place to search for truth.

If, on the one hand, the Pope cites the extremely secular John Rawls to affirm the nexus between reason and religion, on the other hand, he goes back to Socrates to say that Christianity cannot do less than the 'radical self questioning' typical of philosophy from its very beginnings.

In Regensburg, he defended the encounter between Greek thought and Christianity. He has gone beyond that now to say that Greek thought served Christianity 'to disperse the fog of mythical religion' in order to 'make way for the discovery of that God who is creative Reason and at the same time, Reason-Love."

Such was the importance that Christianity gave to rational research that it was in the Christian environment where, in the Middle Ages, the university was born, "which should be linked exclusively to the authority of truth."

In particular, it was precisely in the university that philosophical knowledge, thanks to Thomas Aquinas, became an autonomous discipline, and its relation to theology could then be defined as 'without confusion and without separation."

These citations give a measure of the secular tenor of the discourse that the Pope would have delivered at La Sapienza, reaffirming that "the university finds its particular function in its freedom from political and ecclesiastical authorities, particularly in modern society, which needs an institution of this kind."

It needs it because it cannot dispense true knowledge, true philosophy, true science, if as often happens today, "the question of truth is shelved, truth which is the fount of all true research worthy of the name".

"The risk is that philosophy, no longer capable of its true mission, degenerates into positivism (and) theology, with its message addressed to reason, becomes confined into the private sphere of a group, small or large."

The measure of the challenge launched by Benedict XVI to the world of academe and culture on the terrain of reason is confirmed by the unseemly reactions of some representatives of Italy's so-called secular intelligentsia.

One above all - the usual Eugenio Scalfari [founder of La Repubblica, acknowledged mouthpiece of Italian liberal secularism]. Speaking Thursday on TV, Scalfari reiterated his judgment of Papa Ratzinger that he already wrote about in his Sunday 'sermon' on the newspaper he founded.

If last Sunday, he accused the Pope of 'sheer political and cultural inconsistency', now he also calls him inconsistent as a theologian because, in his view, before Ratzinger became Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, no one saw any intellectual value in him.

In sum, Scalfari's argument is this: At the Second Vatican Council, "Bishop" Ratzinger 'aligned himself' with the conciliar theses about modernity. "After which" - having become CDF Prefect - 'he started to support 'restoration' ideas which he continues to sustain, 'without any theological innovation whatsoever' after Aquinas.

Besides the fact that Ratzinger was not a bishop at Vatican-II, but a theologian consultant to Cardinal Frings; aht he was not simply 'aligned with' but was among the leading players in drafting some of the most important conciliar documents; that between the end of the Council and his nomination to e CDF Prefect, 18 years intervened; that there is no 'modern' Ratzinger to oppose to a 'restoration' Ratzinger but a single person with a complex career that helped develop his initial theological intuitions [all Scalfari needs to do is compare Ratzinger's first publications with the present ones); that the theological imprint that has principally marked Ratzinger's scholarly career was never Thomistic....

In short, besides all the above errors, why has Scalfari not deigned to respond to the merits of the propositions made by Benedict XVI? Why does he not oppose the perspectives offered by the Pope on the relationship between reason and faith with an alternative and well-defended perspective? Why does he entrench himself behind a string of commonplaces and glaring errors of fact and run the risk that he himself be accused on 'cultural inconsistency'?

If this is the level of our country's intellectual elite, then we truly have reason to be disconcerted. Moreover, we should understand these so-called 'illuminists' who see a Pope who instead of limiting himself to feel-good words and ordinary pastoral ministry, enters as a protagonist into the heart of the contemporary cultural debate as the bearer of true enlightenment which exalts reason and invites everyone to use it in order to grasp the most profound demands and exigencies above all of the truth.

In a time when the only direction taken by reason - the same direction taken by Repubblica - seems to be towards the dead end of weak thinking, a Pope who exalts reason in order to exalt man above technology and fragile private spirituality left to itself, would seem, to Scalfari and his ilk, an intolerable threat - bot to the so-called 'conquests of modernity', but to the cultural power exercised by that 'intellectual party' of which Charles Peguy prophetically spoke.

The dwarfism of the secularists
Translated from the
1/19/08 issue of

The 'rudeness' of pseudo-scientists who have shown themselves to be 'cultural adolescents', who have bought into the idea - propagated by the 'new atheists' like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens - that Christianity is essentially violent.

A position which appears to be an unconscious reaction to\
the threat of radical Islam, as a result of which these 'scientists' attack the Christian religion - the 'weakest' in the public arena because of its message of kindness and forgiveness.

The British philosopher Roger Scruton - who has been for some time a critic of post-modernity and enemy of all scientism which presumes to have an omni-comprehensive vision of the world - examines in depth the recent events of La Sapienza and sees the mix of cultural dwarfism and ideological aversion that would bar the doors of the Roman university to Benedict XVI.

The basis of all that happened, says Scruton - who was once a big supporter of the dissidents behind the Iron curtain in the years of true socialism - is non-acknowledgment of the cultural role of the Christian religion and an unconditionally adversarial reflex to faith.

Professor Scruton, what was your first reaction after the cancellation of the Pope's visit to La Sapienza University in Rome? And how do you evaluate what has happened?
I was not surprised, since it was yet another proof of the fact that universities have adopted an attitude of opposition to the cultural atmosphere around them. And that when these institutions are offered a chance to reinforce their spiritual heritage, they prefer to reject it.

The students who demonstrated against the Pope raised streamers with slogans like "Science is secular' and "Science has no need of priests'. Do you think this was like the 1968 movements and do these proclamations about science make sense?
Those slogans are nowhere near as cutting as those that were screamed around in 1968. But I don't think that this kind of petulant rudeness against a respected figure like Benedict XVI can be compared to 1968 which - even if, then as now, the protesters are equally committed to rejecting the past - the 1968 movement was truly dangerous and widespread.

Science is definitely secular, if it is understood as independent of religion and if one thinks that it can be carried forward by people of any faith whatsoever or by those who profess no faith at all. But science does not comprehend all of knowledge nor is it able to guide itself.

The protest against Benedict XVI on the part of these groupuscule of professors purportedly had the principal reason that it is not possible for a religious leader to take part in the inauguration of the academic year. Was that a sensible position or a hypocritical pretext? And are these protesting professors true scientists or traitors to science
Traditionally, universities were religious institutions, in which worship and prayer had important functions, as much as the study of theology. So it has always been considered appropriate to invite religious personalities, especially those who have achieved important things in the field of studies, to play important functions during events of an academic character.

I suspect that these professors simply wanted to show off, somewhat like boastful adolescents, their mentality as so-called 'free thinkers'.

Recently you wrote that the 'new atheists' like Hitchens or Dawkins ignore religious anthropology, for example, that of Rene Girard, and are wrong in attributing to religion a violent impulse. The protesters at La Sapienza also used Marx and Engels's statement that 'Religion is the opium of the people'. Was that a parody?
Certainly, I think there is still a kind of atheism that still reasons like Marx and Engels did. But as their writings clearly show, Marx and Engels had a profound consciousness of the religious instinct and sought, in their perverse strategy, to find political and other types of response to that instinct.

Now, this new species of atheistic scientists of our time imagine that the response to such a predisposition would be to dispose once and for all of the religious need inherent in man. The violent nature itself and the fanaticism of that position is a stunning proof that the need exists.

Not a few observers have noted this new wave of attacks against the Christians in the public space. What do you say?
People only attack what the consider weak, as Tocqueville said about the French Revolution. These atheist propagandists, disturbed by radical Islam and its growing strength, are directing their anger against Christianity which seems to them like a target easy to topple. After all, the Christian faith teaches humility and kindness, and asks us to forgive our enemies. So, Christians are the most inviting of targets.

Avvenire, 19 gennaio 2008

Earlier, Avvenire published an interview with the French philosopher Remi Brague, translated here:

The threat to universities is
the ideological perversion of knowledge

Reporting from Paris
Translated from the
1/19/08 issue of

"The university as a place of openness is not threatened by true knowledge - philosophical, scientific or philological. But by the ideological perversion of these disciplines, which is becoming more frequent these days."

The French philosopher Remi Brague says this is a problem all over Europe, when asked to comment on the La Sapienza issue involving Pope Benedict XVI.

A professor at the Sorbonne as well at the University of Munich, where he occupies the prestigious Romano Guarini chair, Brague said Europe cannot let down its guard in the face of new anti-religious extremism.

Professor, were you surprised with the intolerance shown at La Sapienza?
That the Church should be targeted by intolerance, no. It's not being attacked for its faults, real ones - which it admits and which it has rightly asked forgiveness for - or imaginary, but because it is the ideal target.

For two reasons. The first is superficial - There is no risk of being beheaded or annihilated for targeting it.

The second is more profound: we still believe blindly in progress and we see that evil does not disappear, rather it increases. So one puts all the blame on the past and finds a scapegoat. All institutions of the past have disappeared - except two human groups which can point to a bimillennasry continuity and can be blamed for every crime: Jews and Christians.

The thinking is that the Jews have already paid - and how! And the Protestant churches cannot be blamed for all of the Christian past. So that leaves the Catholic Church.

Some atheist intellectuals, like Michel Onfray in France or the Englishmen Richard Dawkins and Christoopher Hitchens, have now relaunched a virulent anti-clericalism. Is this a sign of the times?
I wouldn't put them all in the samebasket. Among the militant atheists, there are authentic intellectuals alongside the carnival wonder types. And if some are content with just spouting insults, others put up arguments, weak ones, but they need to be answered back.

The most interesting phenomenon is the influence of the most aggressive among them, well-orchestrated by the media, the logic of which accents even more the caricaturish character of their arguments. These cannot all be explained as personal delusions.

The success of gross books like these is a symptom of the need to hate which is an aspect of hatred of the West, especially of Europe, where the hatred is turned against itself.

The ideal of the university is associated with openness and tolerance. The events in Rome, in this perspective, appear paradoxical. Is this distortion linked to secularism and scientism?
The university is a phenomenon that was born in Europe, not elsewere. It must be pointed out that they owe their existence to the Popes. The medieval universities were corporations that brought together students and professors [under the aegis of the Church], much like the guilds that brought together people working in the same trade. At the time, a university could choose to take itself away from the jurisdiction of the local bishop and place itself directly under the Bishop of Rome, who was seen as the guarantee for the university's autonomy.

Additionally, it must be pointed out that science - the acquisition of scientific knowledge - is an indefinite process of approximations and corrections. Whereas scientism - an ideology - claims to possess total and definitive knowledge, and above all, claims that science is the only possible access to truth - an affirmation which is no longer science but philosophy, of the inferior kind.

The dissenters at La Sapienza appear to be motrivated by irrational fear. It's the very opposite of the reason that Pope Benedict XVI proposes, as he does in the speech he was to have given at the university. Why does a Pope who advocates the power and coherence of reason raise fear?
Stalin had asked in World War II, "How many [army] divisions has the Pope?", and of course, we know he has none. So why then does a Pope raise fear? Perhaps precisely because he is reminding our civilizstion of the way of reason.

The university is the supposed guardian of reason and wisdom. That is what 'La Sapienza' itself means. But is the university still faithful to its mission? Has it not perhaps already capitulated in thinking only about political and economic realities? I am thinking, above all, of a willing capitulation to the opinion that 'all things are equal' [the motto of relativism] the moment you start believing in it. Or capitulation to the pressure of so-called free thinkers who describe the world - or re-describe it - in arbitrary terms.

Behind the events in Rome, is democracy also in play?
The Pope was to have spoken at La Sapienza at the invitation of the university authorities. I suppose these university officials were democratically elected. The problem begins within the university. It should be able to impose its own decisions and not capitulate to agitators. If the university yields in this way, then the State, too, on a greater scale, may well be unable to have its laws and regulations respected.

Are these signs of secularist and scientistic intolerance a new thing or do they go back to historical analogies?
In France and in Italy, one can think of the 19th century Third Republic and the Risorgimento [movement of Italian unity that led to the formation of the Italian state in 1860], respectively. In both cases, the State sought to oppose the influence of the clergy on society. But it was also a strategy of the bourgeoisie to displace popular discontent from itself.

One could also cite - on a far more tragic scale - Mexico at the start of the 20th century, where a positivist and anti-Christian regime quenched popular uprisings in blood.

Nazism and Communism both wanted to put an end to Christianity. Both these ideologies considered themselves founded on science - economic, for the Communists, biologic, for the Nazis, historical and sociological for both. Both considered religion as an obstacle - social for one, racial for the other. The fact that both were using pseudo-science does not change the basic problem: fanaticism can pervert science as well as religion.

Avvenire, 18 gennaio 2008

Politics, not science,
behind protest to Pope's speech

By Nancy Reyes

ROME, Jan. 20 - From a philosophical standpoint, science is not a concrete Truth as much as a humble search for reality. Each experiment lets us get closer to the truth, but science is description, not Truth itself. And often that description is in the language of mathematics, or uses analogies of real world things (e.g. electrons being solid and wave at the same time) to enhance understanding.

Great scientists have a humility toward finding the truth, but also have the ability to know that we don’t know everything, and that “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absense”.

In constrast, there is a philosophy of scientism, that says only material things that we can measure are real. But scientifically this is nonsense: it might mean only that we are using the wrong approach to find out the answer.

When it comes to God, (or falling in love, or even Gaia), a true scientist would be an agnostic and say: I don’t know. Because so far, we can’t detect or measure God in our experiments. And so until there is a God detecting apparatus, much of religion comes down to philosophy, and scientists can only approach theology in the same way that Greek philosophers discussed atoms: as an interesting idea but not something they could measure.

So it is disturbing is that a communist/radical left wing students have artificially manipulated a protest of Pope Benedict who was to give a speech at the University of Sapienza as if it were a scientific protest. The Pope correctly has declined to give the speech ” in the face of protests by physicists and students who claimed his presence was inappropriate in a secular setting“.

But of course, this is nonsense. The Pope is a moral authority, and his speech was to be on the death penalty, not physics. [Correction: It was originally, when he was supposed to give the lectio magistralis to oepn the academic year; when he ws demoted, in a misguided compromise, to just giving a 'secondary' address, he obviously chose a different topic.] And nearly every secular human rights NGO in the world sees the Pope’s opposition of the death penalty as a major help in their fight to have states eliminate the death penalty.

The excuse used (that the pope attacked Gallileo) is also nonsense: the Pope’s enemies took one line out of one long speech given 18 years ago to prove he was “anti science”. What makes it worse is that in the offending paragraph, Benedict was quoting another scholar.

So why the protests by scientists? I suspect it is political manipulation. One doubts many of them read the entire speech, or had the philosophical background to understand it even if they read it.

If anything, cherrypicking an 18-year old quote resembles the Muslim outburst about the Pope’s Regensburg speech, where a single quotation was taken out of context to prove the Pope was Islamophobic.

At least those Mullahs had the excuse that the news reports were wrong, and many Islamic scholars withdrew their criticism once this was known.

So why are scientists acting like poorly educated Mullahs? Political manipulation, of course. If you doubt this, just review some of the news stories published about the protest. Here’s a sample:

The protest against the visit was spearheaded by physicist Marcello Cini, a professor emeritus of La Sapienza, who wrote to rector Renato Guarini complaining of an “incredible violation” of the university’s autonomy.

Sixty-seven professors and researchers of the sprawling university’s physics department, as well as radical students, joined in the call for the pope to stay away on Thursday, the start of the university’s academic year.

Students opposed to the visit kicked off “an anti-clergy week” on Monday…Cini also recalled a colloquium on Darwin held by Benedict in September 2006 in which the “intelligent design” movement was given precedence over the theory of evolution.

“The Church can no longer use pyres or corporal punishment,” Cini said in the communist daily Il Manifesto. “Today it uses the Enlightenment’s God of Reason as a Trojan horse to enter the citadel of scientific knowledge.”

The scientists’ revolt, initially discreet, snowballed after radical students took up the cause. On Tuesday they briefly occupied the rector’s offices seeking the right to demonstrate on Thursday.[/QUOTE}

In other words, this does not have anything to do with science. It’s politics, pure and simple, because unlike many of the empty headed “religious right” leaders who spout cliches, Pope Benedict is a deep thinker (George Weigel, a biographer of John Paul II, says he “speaks in paragraphs”) whose articulate and intricate writings don’t make easy sound bites, but don’t lend themselves to easy dismissal either.

Indeed, much of Benedict’s papacy is about fighting a materialistic philosophy that sees truth only in material things…

The 80-year-old pope also warned that people in the West had so much knowledge and power that they “capitulate before the question of truth” and place far too much emphasis on “usefulness.”

Ironically, by using the language of theology to oppose the death penalty, the Pope is indeed doing what his critics criticize him as doing: Inserting the language and ideas of religion into modern day ethical dilemmas.

As Benedict said: “The wisdom of great religious traditions … cannot be thrown into the dustbin of the history of ideas with impunity.”… Benedict rejected the idea that “theology, whose message is addressed to reason, be confined to a private sphere, whether big or small.”

And in discussions of the death penalty, along with discussions of cloning, experimentation on human beings, abortion, euthanasia, or matters of social justice, trying to marginalize the great religious traditions removes a barrier to the powerful or naive who wish to legislate utopian ideas and see the past (and religion) something that needs to be disposed of in the garbage cans of history.

The 20th century is full of examples of civilizations that did this. Is history repeating itself? Ah, now, that is a question for pundits and conspiracy theorists, not scientists.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/7/2008 5:21 AM]
1/20/2008 10:02 AM
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The BBC this morning!!!!!

This morning's edition of "Sunday" on Radio 4 carried a report on the La Sapienza incident. Go to the link above and scroll down to "Sunday". Although it says January 13th, it is today's edition you will hear. Skip all the Ian Paisley and Milingo bits and you get to the report we are interested in. Once again,being the BBC, our Papa was not openly defended and it was NOT pointed out that he was merely quoting from a German theologian in that earlier address - it was mentioned but NOT EMPHASISED. Much emphasis was placed on the way that JPII faced demonstrations in Holland and Berlin - and I suppose that he took it on the chin like the outdoor bloke he was. I don't think such comparisons are fair to our beloved Papa Ratzinger. There IS no comparison between the two popes and I'm not criticising JPII.

This report actually stated that Benedict is a "divisive pope" - what absolute balderdash !!!!!!!

I'm looking forward to reading all the reports on this page, but have to hurry now for our own Mass.


1/20/2008 11:58 AM
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Here are ten reasons to be at the Angelus with the Pope this Sunday. Some reasons may be very personal, some may apply to atheists, and for those who rejoice. Some very noble, others less so. Everyone will find his own reason. And we shall all see each other - preferably before 11.

1) Reparation for a wrong.

To place Benedict XVI in the position where he may not express himself was to deny him a fundamental human right. The Pope is a man, not a German shepherd!

The offense has direct culprits (those who accused him of having re-condemned Galileo and indirect ones (the political authorities of our nation who did not lift a finger in his defense). Whether it pleases us or not, they are an eminent and/or deficient part of our national community. An act of public amends is called for.

And we would invite President Napolitano to join us. In some cases, a head of state would do better to derive popular support, strong and simple, rather than simply through diplomacy or similar exercises.

2) Affection and acknowledgment

How can one not love this Pope? At a time of Islamic 'invasion' and fear of every kind, he re-proposes Christianity, through his own person and his teaching, with all the simplicity of tradition.

3) Western identity

As Oriana Fallaci taught us, our civilization, which was founded on individual freedom as well as responsibility towards freedom and the common good, is the daughter of Christianity, and In Italy, in particular, of Catholicism.

Even those who declare themselves atheist have a veneer of the values and sentiments that have come to us from a bimillenial history under the sign of the Cross.

4) Reason vs. infantilism

Our friend Marco Pannella (head of the Radical Party) rattled off figures for 10 minutes on Porta a Porta [popular current affairs talk show on RAI state TV that featured Cardinal Ratzinger a number of times].

His argument: That the Pope is always on TV, so if he is not made to speak in some places, that's not to say he is being prevented from speaking out. It's like those who would not allow Jews or Negroes into their bars- they would list all the other bars, restaurants, streets and parks where Jews and Negroes are welcome, the trams which they could freely take - many more than those reserved only for Aryans. A mad scientist's reasoning.

For liberals, freedom is usually indivisible. To censor one page out of a thousand pages is still censorship - that was my page, in it I put myself, all of me; If you cut off one of my arms, then I am still left with one with which I could cut off my head.

La Stampa also was on the same wavelength as Pannella, complaining that Ratzinger is more often seen on TV than Napolitano or any cabinet minister.!

5) Spite

It is not a good sentiment, but it gives some satisfaction. According to the sempiternal masters of public opinion, to go to the Bernini colonnades tomorrow would mean restoring the 'historic fence' between Catholics and seculars. At the same time, it would mean mixing religion and politics and aiming for a show of force against non=-believers.

What nonsense! What will be demonstrated here - not a show of force, but of kindness - is to distinguish us from the academic hooligans. Those who have made a mockery of the freedom of expression are not 'secular' - they belong to the family of cretins. It is OK if one is being a cretin on one's own account, but to use it in order to muzzle others, then you get intolerant cretins. And also, even if this is being uncharitable - a fence to keep violent asses from kicking others is a legitimate defense of democracy.

6) Atheist pride

My friend Feltri (the book publisher) is resigning from being an atheist for at least this day. Others like him, who will be with us beneath the windows of the Apostolic Palace, will help prevent the intentions of those who would characterize the assembly as the makings of a Catholic party. Politics has nothing to do with it.

And one can esteem and show affection for the pope even without being a pious mob. This won't be a Catholic event, but simply catholic, which means universal.

7) Unity

Whoever has already experienced a gathering when the Pope is present can testify to this. An atmosphere just builds around that tiny dot of white, without the neurasthenic tension of a faceless crowd that would be capable of any ribaldry. But everyone is mysteriously united.

We are not gathering to make noise or overturn a government or a regime. Very simply, it makes us leave behind our burden of hopes and desires, of sorrows and anxieties. It is inevitable, and it seems to happen to everyone who is there. More modestly, it is the one place where one can bring the family without fear of scuffles and punches, without having to hear any grandstanding slogans.

8) Sheer pleasure

Rome is always worth a trip. Sunday mornings particularly have a special enchantment. And going to see the Pope for Angelus does not require fasting. One can load up with energy - maybe even mystical - with a good breakfast, which insures one's good humor. That's before the Angelus. Afterwards, one has a choice of trattorias and restaurants. If you want to interrupt Giuliano Ferrara at lunch, then go greet him at Campana in the alley with the same name. And President Cossiga goes to the buffet at the Hotel de Russie near Piazza del Popolo.

9) Joseph Ratzinger

Him. The words he says. The way he explains the Gospel. With the clarity of a country parish priest and the finesse of a cherubim. All this is well worth going there - to refresh a tired mind and the desolate heart of believing sinners and incorruptible atheists.

10) The Angelus for itself

It is a very beautiful prayer. It is the essence of Christianity. It recalls the time, place and contemporaneity of Jesus who incarnated in the womb of Our Lady.

First, there are the bells - their concert brings joy. Then the benediction. And perhaps there may even be some miracle. Indeed, it is not irrational to expect one. After all, the supreme category of reason is possibility.

So off to Rome and St. Peter's we shall go.

Libero, 19 gennaio 2008

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/20/2008 12:04 PM]
1/20/2008 2:11 PM
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1/20/2008 2:15 PM
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The official estimate for the crowd at Angelus today was at least 200,000.

Italians throng Vatican
to support silenced Pope

By Stephen Brown

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 20 (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of students, politicians and ordinary Romans thronged the Vatican on Sunday in a major show of sympathy for Pope Benedict after protests led him to cancel a speech at Rome's top university this week.

"Thank you all for this show of solidarity," a smiling Pope told the cheering, clapping crowds who filled St. Peter's Square in much bigger numbers than usual. Some waved banners denouncing the "censorship" imposed by members of La Sapienza university.

The Pope called off a speech at the university scheduled for Thursday after a small group staged protests and sit-ins against what they called his antiquated views on science. The university was founded by a pope more than 700 years ago.

The episode provoked accusations of censorship in the Roman Catholic country. Even critics of the Church, like leftist Nobel laureate Dario Fo, defended the Pope's right to free speech.

Recalling his "long years" as a theology professor, Benedict told the crowd: "I encourage all of you dear university students to always respect the opinions of others and to seek, with a liberal and responsible spirit, truth and righteousness."

Since his election in 2005, the conservative Pontiff has fought what he sees as efforts to restrict the voice of the Church in the public sphere, particularly in Europe. But his stand on issues like abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia has led critics in Italy to accuse him of meddling in politics.

The protesters at La Sapienza criticized his views on science, saying a speech in 1990 showed he would have favored the Church's 17th century heresy trial against Galileo. The Vatican said the protesters misunderstood that speech, made some 17 years ago when the Pope was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The vicar of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, had urged Romans to come out on Sunday in support of the Pope, but senior clerics said it should not be seen as a political event.

"We only wish to unite in prayers with the Pope. This is not a political demonstration and must not be used for political ends," said Mons. Mauro Parmeggiani of the Rome diocese.

Fabrizio Cicchitto, a senior member of conservative opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, called the rally a "testimony against the barbarians" who silenced the Pope.

But leftist member of parliament Franco Grillini, a gay rights activist, said "politicians kissing the shoes of the Pontiff" showed "a painful lack of political autonomy."

Pope draws big crowd
after cancellation

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 20 (AP) - Tens of thousands of people packed Pope Benedict XVI's traditional noontime blessing Sunday in a show support after the Vatican canceled his visit to a university because of some protests by students and faculty.

The Pope's vicar for Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, had urged a high turnout for Benedict's weekly blessing, and St. Peter's Square overflowed under a brilliant sun for the pontiff's brief appearance at his studio window.

The Vatican estimated the crowd at 200,000, far larger than on a typical Sunday.

The Vatican canceled the Pope's planned speech last Thursday at Rome's La Sapienza university after 63 professors and some students said they opposed the religious leader speaking at a secular campus. The Vatican said it didn't want to create a pretext for further unpleasantness by going ahead with the visit.

Benedict referred to the issue on Sunday, saying he had put off the visit "against my will" but that the climate surrounding his appearance had made his presence at the school "inopportune."

He noted that he had a long history in academia — he taught theology in Germany for many years — and that he was greatly attached to the "love for the search for truth, for confrontation, for frank and respectful dialogue for reciprocal positions" found in university life.

"As a professor — shall we say, emeritus — who has met with so many students in my life, I encourage all of you, dear university students and professors, to always be respectful of other people's opinions and to search for truth and goodness with a free and responsible spirit."

In recent years, however, there has been a debate in the United States about whether Catholic universities should invite speakers, such as politicians, whose positions differ with Catholic Church teaching.

The Pope was interrupted several times by applause from the crowd, which included students carrying banners that read "University Students," "Sapienza" and "At University for Truth" as well as Italian politicians. Students were also out in force because Sunday marked the Diocese of Rome's celebration of the Day for Catholic schools.

The pontiff thanked them all for turning out in such large numbers.

Here is Corriere della Sera's initial report, posted online, and translated here:


RIOME - After a week of polemics over the Pope's cancelled visit to La Sapienza University, the Pope's voice was heard today at St. Peter's Square.

Benedict XVI thanked a crowd of 200,000 persons (by official estimate) that included "university students, professors, and all of you who have come in such numbers today to take part in the Angelus prayers and to express your solidarity with me."

Even after the noonday prayers hadf begun, people were still arrriving at St. Peter's Square adn the Via della Conciliazione to be part of what Romans were already calling Papa Day.

From the early morning, hundreds of members of Comunione e Liberazione were already on the Piazza singing religious songs.

Among the politicians who were there: House Speaker Casini, former President Cossiga, former Prime Minister Andreotti, recently resigned Justice Minister Mastella and two other ministers in the Prodi government.

The Pope's usual Sunday homily centered about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which started Friday and will end next Friday, Jan. 25, when, as he announced today, Benedict will preside at the traditional ecumenical Vespers Service at St. Paul's Outside the Walls.

After the Angelus prayers, he spoke in public about the La Sapienza episode for the first time. He said:

I wish above all to greet the university students, professors and all of you who have come here in such numbers to St. Peter's Square to take part in the Angelus prayers and to express your solidarity with me. And I extend this to all those who are with us in spirit.

I thank you all from the heart, dear friends. I thank the Cardinal Vicar who organized this encounter.

As you know, I had gladly accepted a courteous invitation for me to deliver an address at the inauguration of the academic year at La Sapienza University of Rome.

I know this university well, I esteem it and have affection for its students. Every year, on several occasions, many of them have come to visit me at the Vatican, along with their colleagues from other universities.

Unfortunately, as you know, the climate that had been created made my presence at the ceremony inopportune. Against my will, I have postponed the visit, but nonetheless, I sent on a copy of the text that I had prepared for the occasion.

I am linked to the university environment - which was for long years my world - by love of the search for truth, of confrontation, and of frank dialog that is respectful of reciprocal positions.

All of this is also a mission of the church, which is committed to faithfully follow Jesus, Master of life, of truth and love.

As a professor - one might say, emeritus - who has met so many students in my life - I encourage you all, dear varsitarians, to always be respectful of the opinions of others, and to search, in a free and responsible spirit, for the true and the good.

To all and to each one, I renew my expression of gratitude, and assure you of my affection and my prayers.

Next, the Pope also addressed representatives of Catholic Schools, as the Diocese of Rome observed a Day for Catholic Schools today. He said:

Now I greet the authorities, officials, teachers, parents and students of the Catholic schools of Rome, who have gathered today for the Day of Catholic Schools celebrated by the Diocese of Rome today.

In educating children and youth in the faith, an important task has been entrusted to the Catholic school. I encourage you to continue your work which oplaces the Gospel in the center, with an educative program that aims for the integral formation of the human being.

Notwithstanding the difficulties you may encounter, proceed with courgage and trust in your mission, cultivating an educative passion and generous commitment in the service of the new generations.

Cristiano Massacessi, spokesman for C&L, said, "We came in response to Cardinal Ruini's call - to show our closeness to the Pope and our support. The position of the 67 protesting professors and the students who joined them was absolutely ideological. Why is it that a Pope can travel to Cuba but will not be allowed to visit a university in the city of which he is the Bishop?'

In Milan, a crowd of at least 10,000 gathered in the Cathedral square where a giant TV screen had been set up. At the end of the Pope's remarks, they burst into thunderous applause.

La Repubblica kept a running chronicle of the day starting at 10:30 to 13:20. It reports the Pope's concluding words, which were extemporaneous, as follows, in translation:

The Pope appeared at his study window promptly at noon, to be greeted by an enormous wave of applause. He started speaking at 12:03 and said his last words extemporaneously at 12:26.

Thanks to you all, have a good week, and let us move ahead in this spirit of fraternita and love forfreedom and truth, and a common commitment for a fratenal and tolerant society.

The final applause lasted 3 minutes.

More than 100,000 back Pope
in row with scientists

by Gina Doggett

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 20 (AFP) - More than 100,000 people filled St Peter's Square on Sunday in a show of support for Pope Benedict XVI after protests by scientists forced him to cancel a university speech.

The pilgrims gave a roar of approval when the Pope Benedict, speaking after his weekly blessing, said: "I encourage all of you, dear academics, to always be respectful of the opinions of others, and to seek the truth and the good with an open and responsible mind."

The 80-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church cancelled a planned speech at Rome's La Sapienza university Thursday after dozens of professors and students protested his presence at the secular school.

"I want especially to salute university youths, professors and all of you who have come today in such large numbers to St Peter's Square to ... express your solidarity," the pope said.

In a rare unscripted exhortation at the end of the appearance from his apartment overlooking the iconic square, the pope said: "Let us go forward in this spirit of fraternity and love for freedom and truth, and common commitment for a brotherly and tolerant society."

The final burst of applause from the pilgrims, including La Sapienza students, lasted some three minutes.

A Vatican spokesman put at 200,000 the number of pilgrims at the event - billed in the Italian media as "pPope day" - holding up banners with slogans such as "Holy Father We Love You" and "Long Live Freedom of Thought."

Tens of thousands more supporters watched video links of the event outside the Milan cathedral and in Verona, Italian media reported.

The cancellation of the pope's speech drew criticism from across the political spectrum in Italy.

Deputy Prime Minister Francesco Rutelli attended Sunday's rally, as well as former justice minister Clemente Mastella, who resigned just last week to face corruption charges.

University Minister Fabio Mussi raised a dissenting voice, saying the politicians' presence at the event "smacked of exploitation."

Prime Minister Romano Prodi called late Sunday on Italy to "bring a definitive end to this tension" and not allow the Sapienza affair to become "an open wound."

The protest at La Sapienza, one of Italy's largest and oldest universities, was spearheaded by Marcello Cini, a professor emeritus of physics, who said that to have the pope preside over the start of a new academic year would be an "incredible violation" of the school's autonomy.

Sixty-seven professors and researchers of the university's physics department, as well as radical students, joined in the call for the pope to stay away.

The incident "was a shock for most Italians, whatever their opinions on other subjects," said Marco Politi, a Vatican expert at the Italian daily La Repubblica. "In Italy, to attack the pope's person ... is to violate a taboo," Politi told AFP.

But Paolo Flores D'Arcais, who writes for a prestigious philosophy magazine, MicroMega, said: "This is the world upside down. The pope ... is posing as a victim. He's the one who decided not to go to the university, where he could have spoken."

Students opposed to the pope's visit staged "an anti-clergy week" during which they showed a film on Galileo, the 17th-century physicist who fell foul of Church doctrine by insisting that the Earth orbits the Sun.

Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Inquisition - the predecessor of the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, that the pope formerly headed as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. [The Inquisition was not the predecessor of the CDF. The Holy Office was.]

The cancellation of the speech at La Sapienza, which has a student body of some 130,000, was the first in Benedict's diary since he became Pope in April 2005.

Benedict's predecessor John Paul II was loudly heckled when he spoke at La Sapienza in 1991.

Streamers read "Christ is the true wisdom' and 'Wisdom is from God"

Thousands flock to St. Peter's
in support of the Pope

Rome, Jan. 20 (dpa) - Ten times more people than usual flocked to St Peter's Square in Rome in a show of support for Pope Benedict XVI at Sunday's regular Angelus prayers following the cencellation of his visit to a local university.

Banners praising him were held aloft and repeated rounds of applauded ensued in solidarity with the pontiff after the row over his cancelled visit to Rome's La Sapienza University last Thursday.

The Vatican estimated 200,000 people had gathered in fine weather on St Peter's Square and in the vicinity compared to the average 20,000 faithful and tourists.

Tensions surrounding the pontiff's university visit had escalated throughout Thursday and around 100 students staged a sit-in at La Sapienza's main hall.

Leftist students had threatened to disrupt Benedict's speech by playing loud rock music and a group of academics had signed a letter requesting that university rector Renato Guarini withdraw his invitation to the pontiff, whom they described as an enemy of free scientific research.

Several right-wing and left-wing Italian politicians heeded a call Sunday by churches in Rome to take the opportunity of the Angelus prayer and demonstrate for freedom of speech and in favour of the pontiff.

Benedict XVI referred to Thursday's events in his speech and encouraged all university staff and students to "always respect the opinions of others," adding, they should "seek the truth and the good" in a responsible and free manner.

The pope's speech and prayer were followed by three minutes of applause.

For more pictures, see the photo series posted today by both Repubblica and Corsera.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/21/2008 1:29 PM]
1/20/2008 6:49 PM
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All the unseemly to-do about the Pope celebrating Mass 'ad orientem' in public for the first time last Sunday is an indication of how much the Church has neglected liturgical instruction of the faithful before and after Vatican-II. Perhaps things will begin to change with all the groundwork laid by this teaching Pope, but meanwhile, Vatican Radio thought it opportune to interview Mons. Guido Marini about the fallout from the Sistine Chapel Mass.

Translated from the
Italian service of

Last Sunday, the Pope said Mass in the Sistine Chapel using its own built-in-altar. This meant that in many parts of the Mass, he was facing the altar and not the congregation.

The 'innovation' had been pre-announced and explained by the Office of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations but despite that, the reporting on the Mass still used terms like 'pre-conciliar' or that the "the Pope said Mass with 'his back turned to the people'.

Fabio Colgrandi spoke to Mons. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, about the reactions.

MONS. MARINI: First of all, it is important to point out the orientation that the liturgical celebration has always been called on to have. I refer to the centrality of the Lord, the Savior crucified and resurrected. This orientation determines the interior disposition of the entire assembly, and consequently, even the external celebratory form.

Placing the Cross in the center of the altar conveys this fundamental element of liturgical theology. We can look at particular circumstances, as for instance, because of the artistic features of the sacred place and its singular beauty and harmony, it becomes more appropriate to use the old altar, where the proper liturgical orientation can be observed.

And that's what happened in the Sistine Chapel. This is something that is allowed by the post-conciliar liturgical norms.

Public opinion seemed to have been much impacted by this gesture, in which the Pope turned his back on the assembly. There are those who see this as a return to the past, and outright closing-off the assembly on the part of the celebrant. What is the true meaning of this liturgical practice?
In the celebrations that follow this modality, it is not about the priest turning his back to the people, but about orienting himself with the people toward the Lord. Instead of 'closing the door to the assembly,' the priest is opening it and leading them to the Lord.

The Eucharistic celebration is not about us looking at each other, but all of us looking towards him who is our 'East', the Savior.

It is also important to point out that the total time during which the priest has 'his back turned to the people' is relatively brief. For instance, the entire liturgy of the Word takes place, as in the Novus Ordo, with the celebrant facing the people, indicating the dialog of salvation that God carries on with his people.

So, this is not at all a return to the past, only the recovery of a celebrative norm which does not in any way take issue with the instructions of Vatican-II.

There are also those who, following the debate provoked by Summorum Pontificum, read some gestures by Benedict XVI as an intention to abandon the post-conciliar liturgical reform. What would you say to deductions?
That they are just incorrect deductions and interpretations, both about the Motu Proprio as well as all of Benedict's Magisterium on the liturgy.

The liturgy, like everything else in the life of the Church, is about continuity, or I would say, development within continuity. This means that the Church goes forward along its historical path without losing sight of its roots and its traditions .

This could mean, in some cases, the recovery of certain precious and important elements which may have been lost or forgotten in the course of time. or that time has made less luminous because of losing its authentic significance.

I think the Motu Proprio worked in this direction, reaffirming with great clarity that there is continuity without rupture in the liturgical life of the Church.

So this is not a question of a return to the past, but of enriching the present with a view to the future.

1/21/2008 12:51 PM
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Just a note here to say that yesterday's L'Osservatore Romano (1/20/08) carried a virtual mini-special on Joseph Ratzinger and his 'Habilitation' thesis, Die Geschichtstheologie des heiligen Bonaventura (St. Bonaventure's theology of history), first published in German in 1959, and to be published in Italian this month. [It appears an American edition was published in 1969.]

It consists of four articles. The first and lengthiest is drawn from Chapters 2 and 3 of the book, giving an overview of Bonaventure's life and the significance of his work for the Church (he offered the first complete study of how the New Testament played out what the Old Testament pre-announced about Jesus Christ).

The other three articles are from Fr. Ratzinger's Preface to the 1969 edition; a review of the book as Ratzinger's attempt to show the evolution of Christian thought between Augustine and Bonvaenture, passing through the mystic Joachim of Fiore; and a brief backgrounder on how Fr. Ratzinger came to decide to undertake a study of St. Bonaventure.

I will post translations as soon as I can in BOOKS BY AND ON BENEDICT.

St. Bonaventure, 1221-1274, was a Franciscan contemporary to Thomas Aquinas, who was his intimate friend and colleague at the University of Paris. At age 35, he became Superior-General of the Fransciscans and remained so to the end of his life, although the Popes offered him other positions. Like St. Thomas, he too is a Doctor of The Church, and where Thomas has been called Doctor Angelicus, Bonaventure's analogous honorific is Doctor Seraphicus.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/25/2008 9:13 PM]
1/21/2008 11:37 PM
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Among all the stories in the Italian papers today about yesterday's big event, I've chosen to translate first Renato Farina's because he recounts it as his personal experience of the event:

Freedom and tolerance:
Papa Ratzinger's lesson on secularity

Libero, 1/21/08

Yesterday, the world's most religious public square - and to the malicious, the most clerical - became a citadel of freedom, a giant cradle where all the faithful and right-minded seculars in all the world could find repose, unite in principle and prepare for future battles.

Those who were there could testify: it was a strange alliance of truly free men, Catholic or not, gathered round a German 'stranger' who brings to mind another 'stranger' who lived in Galilee 2000 years ago, not to mention Socrates. This is not to confuse their essences, of course.

Yesterday, we all got together for Ratzinger Day. There we were at the Piazza long before noon. Near the obelisk with the Nativity scene and the Christmas tree which will stay up till Candlemas.

But although the season of the Christ's Nativity is over, something important was born in Italy yesterday. How silly it seemed to speak about new fences between believers and non-believers! Yesterday was a moment of communion, or, to put it in lesser terms, at least an alliance to defend the right to be, in the guise of the need for individual respect. These seem to be small things and obvious. But not these days.

Which came first - the events or the concepts? It has not been easy to distinguish between the significance of things, their political impact and the chronology of events therefrom. Ideas and facts, reason and passion, are mixed up as they often are in life, but yesterday, to a much greater degree.

Down there, on the cobblestones, among a thousand streamers and flags, one could see the sky over Rome, bright and blue - the miracle that is the air of Rome.

And all eyes turned towards him. Tens of thousands of eyes. At 11:50, the shutters were thrown open and the red drape with the Papal coat of arms was unrolled. And at 12 on the dot, a white figure with two arms thrown apart, moving slower and wider than the arms greeting him wildly from below.

The Pope appeared with arms wide open - maybe he did not know what to do with his hands because he has no sense of theater - but love, yes.
Several moments passed before the microphone transmitted the familiar Bavarian cadences of the Pope.

It was unique. And I write as a decades-long veteran of papal encounters. Yesterday was different from any other. It was not the usual celebration associated with seeing the Pope. Nor did it have any of the sorrow we felt for an ailing Pope or for tragic events of mankind.

Above all, it was full of expectation and desire. Of waiting for good news, for a beautiful message. It was an expectation that united believers, for whom prayer is a practice, and the non-believers, embarrassed perhaps about being 'at prayer' but not alien to the assembly.

Then there was his voice. It wasn't the usual one with his familiar irony. It was the voice of someone moved, almost to tears, one might say. For the effort people had made to be there. For the empathy he feels for every man, woman and child. For those who have hurt him and still don't understand how much they have wronged him.

And how did it affect us? We, down in the piazza. You before your TV. It was like a shake-up.

It is impossible, when you are before the Pope, close to tens of thousands other Christians, not to ponder the question: "What are we here on earth for?" Well, to begin with, not to be alone.

Benedict XVI started with his usual "Dear brothers and sisters"...But going forward, he added, "Dear friends..." to all those below who were drinking his presence in. And he said, "Thank you. We want to pray together now. We must never stop praying." An invitation which nothing moralistic or bigoted about it.

In that appeal was the essence of our being human: Atheist or not, we are all miserable beings who need everything, mendicants of destiny even as we are gathered under a smiling sun in Rome.

After the homily, a chorus rose from the crowd, starting from the zone where the streamers of Comunione e Liberazione stretched 50 meters wide. "LI-BER-TA! LI-BER-TA!' Which soon changed to 'VIVA IL PAPA!' and then to 'TI VOGLIAMO BENE, BENEDETTO!'

Then came the solemn Latin verses and prayers of the Angelus, followed by the ever-fresh words of the Pontifical benediction. And then the sign of the cross.

Many in that gathering, including many who carried this newspaper under their arm, were clearly not at home with this gesture. But no one failed to be respectful during the ancient liturgy which retains its fresh tones of hope in the chaos of Italy today.

"Thanks to all friends," the Pope said again afterwards, in what was truly the 'political' part of the meeting: about civil coexistence, the common good, being together with reciprocal respect, even of confronting each other in the sense of keeping each other brotherly company. If possible, helping to carry each other's burdens. Or if this should be a utopia, at the very least, not to add to those burdens.

Twice he used the word 'solidarity' referring to what he was receiving, and three times he said thank you, one to his 'Cardinal Vicar'. He made us understand that he was not only there at that window above us, but down among us, among those who had elected to come and be with him today. Among those who see things as they are and say so. Among people like the mayor of a town from far-off Brianza, wearing his tricolor sash of office, or an entire firemen's unit that had been sent over by their town council.

Those who did not come and considered yesterday's Angelus arbitrarily orchestrated would be those who call themselves 'adult Catholics' or 'adult seculars', those who interpose ideology between their eyes and reality. And who, if the Pope were wounded, would not help him but ask, "Who would gain by it?" A spectacle of scribes and Pharisees.

Benedict XVI, with his timid and reserved manner, did not look on this assembly as something personal and gratifying. He gave it a missionary weight, a gesture with which he identified insofar as we all need to go forward together as men of goodwill, especially when an offense has been committed against freedom.

He did not, out of false modesty, avoid acknowledging that he experienced an affront nor did he minimize it. He could have remained neutral - in order not to divide Prodi's supporters (who were hostile to this meeting) from Rutelli's (who approved - Rutelli himself was present), in order not to implicitly give his blessing to a large part of the center-right (Cossiga, Andreotti, the labor unions CISL and UGL, or Walter Veltroni's reformists).

No, he chose not to be cunningly neutral. But to be in favor of the right of everyone to speak out, even a Pope. And this protest was about that. A lesson in democracy. And yet, that some quarters would keep a Pope from speaking out is in the category of things-no-one-would-think of doing!

Ratzinger is not the type who would simply make allusions. He said, without dramatizing, how he has experienced these days. "I know this university well...I had gladly welcomed the invitation to speak...I worked on the address... Unfortunately a climate was crated that made my presence inopportune... Against my will, I had to postpone my visit."

In that phrase, 'against my will', one reads "I was prevented, my right was taken away, my freedom was violated."

What interests him most is, not a political victory for the Vatican, but to meet other persons, as people do in life - to meet, to speak, to dispute, then drink coffee, think of one's work and one's family.

Thus, the lesson in democracy, or better and simpler, in civics. "As a professor - emeritus, one might say - who has met so many students in his life, I encourage you all to always be respectful of the opinion of others, and to search, with a free and responsible spirit, the true and the good."

Respect, freedom, responsibility, truth, goodness. It is not easy for the Pope. How often does the world reward courage and gentleness?

But we, on our part, are happy that you are courageous and kind, Pope Benedict, and that you are who you are. More cultured, more timid, more intelligent, and more a believer than we are. But you have called us friends, and you are one of us.

Libero, 21 gennaio 2008

This is from a commentator who has been critical of the Pope in the past - for one, he wrote a commentary on the Brazil trip as having been a fiasco because he claimed Benedict XVI did not draw the crowds John Paul II, though he was not exactly quite right about his numbers, but that's beside the point. But even in this story, he can't help making a reference to JP-II. Here's a translation:

A challenge from the Pope
La Stampa, 1/21/80

Yesterday morning, shortly after 9 a.m., the first flags to appear on St. Peter's Square were those of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were brought by two families of immigrants who together made up 15 persons.

That was still 3 times the number of participants in the 'frocessione' [gay procession] with which the barricaders of La Sapienza had 'celebrated' their anti-Papal victory last Thursday. [Ha-ha! So 5 people turned up for the 'frocessione'!The protesters were being delusional, of course, thinking they would have the participation they expected even if the person they were protesting would not be there!]

The first streamer from Comunione e Liberazione to appear by the colonnade was happy, colorful and brief: 'NO PAPA? NO PARTY!'

But the first poster from the Neo-Catechumenals seemed to remind everyone urbi et orbi that the ex-'68ers sre not all inside the state universities; "CHIESA PURA E SENZA PAURA' [A pure Church without fear).

But Benedict XVI himself would summarize the day this way: "Let us move forward with this spirit of fraternity, of love for the truth and for freedom, in a common commitment for a fraternal and tolerant society."

He spoke extemporaneously at the end of the encounter, after having seen and heard, with evident emotion, everything that a piazza teeming with people succeeded to communicate to him in the half hour that came with the Sunday recital of the Angelus.

Comparisons are always dangerous, but how could one avoid it yesterday? As the crowd slowly emptied from St. Peter's Square, I thought of John Paul II's trip to Paris in 1997 for the 12th World Youth Day.

In the weeks preceding his visit, the Reseau Voltaire [Voltaire network], the leading French secularist forum, had been profaning Catholic Masses by sending out a militant from one of its participating organizations to throw a cake at the face of the priest at the moment of Consecration. [One of the organizations in the network is an 'anti-racist' group that that used churches in the past as temporary refuge for undocumented aliens].

Ending his address to the one million and a half who had assembled for the WYD concluding Mass in Paris at the Champs de Mars, Papa Wojtyla said, "Liberty, fraternity, equality - and solidarity". As if to say, "Others say it and claim to defend it, but we in the Church live it, as we have given witness during this week, despite our differences in language and culture."

Thus, the 'Catho-rupture' of secularism that President Nicholas Sarkozy sought to effect last month with his address at St. John Lateran has roots that go back at least 11 years.

"It must be us who have to be tolerant and free," Benedict XVI suggested yesterday to the 200,000 who were at St. Peter's and to so many others in Italy and elsewhere who have seen the La Sapienza episode as an offense to intelligence and to the freedom of the Church.

Never before, in fact, have Italian Catholics been able to observe how thin are the reasons - and the ranks - of those who think it is socially impossible to make the powers in Parliament converge for the common good in favor the individual, of humanism and of solidarity - that is, the elements that are common to all the political cultures in Italy.

With his habitual gentleness, Papa Ratzinger yesterday sowed a formidable idea in the minds and hearts of the faithful of Rome. He suggested to those who came to St. Peter's with nostalgia for a Catholic party - as well as those who were there although they are in flight from the Catholic church itself, perhaps - to be the custodians of that idea of freedom and tolerance, with friendship for all, which together they experienced on a beautiful Sunday morning in Rome yesterday.

It is a proposition that the Church of Papa Ratzinger wants to share with every sincere seeker of truth.

This afternooon, the permanent council of teh italianbishops conference has its regular meeting. Their president, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, met with the Pope a few days ago.

It will be a good test to see what signal the Italian bishops will send that they are ready to counteract the overdose of ignorance and arrogance with which seculars and Catholics alike, in every part of Europe, have been reciprocally knocking each other out for the past 15 years at least.

The Church knows, since Pascal's time, that every epoch in history always has "enough light to believe and enough darkness to doubt."

La Stampa, 21 gennaio 2008

By Massimiliano Scafi
Il Tempo, 1/21/08

At least 200,000, the industrious Pontifical police certify at mid-morning. 200,000 people, gathered between Castel Sant'Angelo and the Bernini colonnades, with their attention centered at noon on a man in white who speaks from his window, prays with them and invites them to tolerance and dialog.

Long-haired young men with guitars. Priests and monks gingerly lifting their tunics as they make their way across the piazza. Children waving little Papal flaglets. Tourists with their cameras or cellphone cameras. Politicians of all colors, except the extreme radicals.

Under the sun of St. Peter's was the part of Italy that wants to 'embrace' Benedict XVI. This was not 'an army of God' nor a new Catholic Party of Italy. "This", Cardinal Camillo Ruini said, "is an answer from the people who love the Holy Father."

They insist politics had nothing to do with it. The man who organized it all, Cardinal Ruini, said earlier: "This is not a rally. It's a prayer assembly."

And so did Deputy Prime Minister Rutelli, who said, "It's true. This is not politics at all. What's happening today is something much greater. It's a gesture of reconciliation, and a show of friendship and affection for the Pope from the people of Rome. If faith is transformed into a a derby, we won't get anywhere."

Of course, "Illiberal barbarism must be denounced", says one politician, and "We must defend the freedom of thought," says another. And also, "One must affirm the values of Italy's Christian identity."

But, at least in words, no crusade, and no nostalgia for the Pope as sovereign. The crowds at St. Peter's were not the troops of the Pope, but, in the words of Juan Carlos, spokesmen for a group of pilgrim from Brazil, "persons who want to show their affection fot Benedict XVI."

It is clear the La Sapienza episode has left its mark. One only had to read the streamers and posters. "The dream of reason generates monsters", quoting Goya. "Free to listen to you". "Christ is the true Wisdom".

Or listen to Carmelo Lentino, secretary of Giovani Insieme (Youth Together): "This is our response to intolerance, a ransom for the entire student world to cancel out the dark image offered in recent days."

Or to Mons. Rino Fisichella, rector of the Lateran University: "The sign we want to give is that when the Pope speaks, wherever he speaks, he deserves to be heard."

And so, everyone listened attentively as the professor-Pope said: "You must be respectful of the opinions of others, and search for truth and goodness." Ratzinger's words were welcomed with applause and roars of acclamation, and followed on giant TV screens.

Conspicuous in the swaying crowd were Miister Mastella's red scarf, an American flag, a few Italian flags, the yellow-and-white Vatican flaglets agitated by student groups, the black hats of priests, a preponderance of blue jeans among the youth, and the green-and-white kerchiefs of the Confederation of Italian Labor Unions.

There were groups of Pakistanis, students from La Sapienza and the Gregorian and other Pontifical universities, legionaries of Regnum Crhsti who had come from Busto Arsizio, even a delegation of some 500 monarchists with titles granted by Vittorio Emanuele.

There were families, balloons, discalced friars, delegations of nuns decked with flags, C&L, Legionaries, Sant'Egidio, FUCI (the federation of Italian Catholic universities) and the parents' associations from Catholic schools.

And a spectrum of Italian politicians. Walter Veltroni sent his two depuites - his vice mayor and the #2 of his new Partido Democrata. Berlusconi sent the entire major line-up of Forza Italia. The so-called theodem bloc from Parliament was there in force. The Populists and Alleanza Nazionale, Lega Nord and UDC. And those two emeritus leaders, ex-President Cossiga and ex-Prime Minister Andreotti. Was this the rebirth of the Christian Democrats?

Il Giornale, 21 gennaio 2008

Finally, this commentary from the online journal Affari Italiani:

A lesson in culture from Benedict XVI
By Antonino D'Anna

As a professor, "emeritus, so to speak, who has met so many students in his life", the Pope gave a lesson in culture Sunday to that part of Italian culture which did not want his presence at La Sapienza University last week.

Onbviously the message is directed to those who demonstrated in the name of 'secular culture', leading to the cancellation of the Pope's visit.

What does it mean to be a university professor? For Joseph Ratzinger - who in the turbulent year of 1968 - had few students to lecture to in Tuebingen - it is "love of the search for truth, for confrontation, for frank dialog with reciprocal respect".

In a way, the 80-year-old man who is now Peter's Successor and the Vicar of Christ on earth, reminded everyone of who he was in his years as professor. The 'enfant prodige' of German theology in his time, he was chosen at age 35 by Cardinal Frings of Cologne to be his theological 'expert' (meaning consultant) at the Second Vatican Council. A choice that led him eventually to being one of the founders of Concilium, the magazine inspired by progressivist ideas which also counted Ratzinger's friend/foe Hans Kueng among its leading lights. [From which Ratzinger broke off to become one of the founders of Communio, the theological journal dedicated, in effect, to a conservative interpretation of Vatican-II, and which continues to thrive today in more than a dozen autonomous editions in various languages. And for the record, Prof. Ratzinger's university teaching years lasted from 1951 to 1977, when he was named Archbishop of Munich.]

In short, Benedict XVI has lived through years that were very trying for Western culture and for Catholic thought. Those were the years of "Jesus Yes, the Church No" and the unhappiness of Paul VI, who had hoped for the advent of better times for the Church after Vatican-II.

It was a period of torment for the Church and society which are now experiencing in many ways something of what was taking place in the late 1960s. With the difference that perhaps, society in the early years of the third millennium is even more confused than it was then.

It is because of this that a man like Joseph Ratzinger is 'inconvenient' to many: in a epoch of weak thinking, of a 'supermarket of cultures' although without that 'fantasy of power' that the 1968 rebels had, of a society bureaucratized by readymade slogans and commonplaces, a courageous intellectual who is able to express himself firsthand - not with second-hand ideas and words - with clear roots and well-rounded thought, inevitably ends up being branded absolutist and obscurantist.

His critics forget that this intellectual Pope is, above all, a witness. He speaks of what he has experienced in his own skin to offer others important points of reflection. Which a trite and continually rehashed anti-clericalism (where are the clericalists, if any?) consider to be 'interference' in 'secular' culture.

Which leads us to the question: If culture is a product of man for the use of man, how can it be exclusively 'secular'? And how, in the name of freedom of thought, can the right to speak be denied to an intellectual because he happens to be Joseph Ratzinger?, 21 gennaio 2008

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2008 1:03 PM]
1/22/2008 2:25 AM
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THE POPE'S DAY, 1/21/08

The Holy Father met today with
- H.E. José Ramos-Horta, President of the Republic of East Timor, and his entourage
- Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid
- Members of the Ordinary Council, General Secretariat of the Bishops' Synod.
Address in Italian.
- Participants of the Plenary Assembly, Congregation for Catholic Education
(Seminaries and Study Institutes). Address in Italian.

The Holy Father also blessed two lambs to mark the Feast of St. Agnes.

The program of the Pontifical Basilica St. Paul outside the Walls for the Year
of St. Paul (June 28, 2008-June 27, 2009) was announced at a news conference today.


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, in keeping with the tradition for today's feast of St. Agnes, the Pope today blessed two lambs, the wool of which will be used to make the palliums bestowed on new metropolitan archbishops on June 29, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

The pallium is a white woollen band embroidered with six black crosses which is worn over the shoulders and has two hanging pieces, front and back. Worn by the Pope and by metropolitan archbishops, the pallium symbolises authority and expresses the special bond between the bishops and the Roman Pontiff.


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

"This morning, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, president of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, accompanied by his entourage. The president subsequently went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

"During the discussions, mention was made of the cordial relations between the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of East Timor, and of the co- operation between the Catholic Church and the State in the fields of education, healthcare, and the struggle against poverty.

"The political and social situation of the country was also examined, with particular emphasis given to the process of national reconciliation and to the support of the international community for the consolidation of democratic institutions".


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope received participants in the Sixth Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, who are meeting to prepare the Synod's General Assembly, due to be held from 5 to 26 October.

After expressing his thanks for a speech by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father mentioned his own recent Encyclical "Spe salvi". The "social character of hope", he said, is evident in the "'connection between love of God and responsibility for others', which makes it possible not to lapse into selfish desires of salvation".

"It is my belief that the effective application of this fruitful principle is evident in the Synod, in which encounter becomes communion and the solicitude for all Churches is expressed in the shared concern of all.

"The forthcoming General Assembly of the Synod will reflect on the 'Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church'", he added. "The great tasks facing the ecclesial community in the modern world (and among the many I particularly stress evangelisation and ecumenism) are centred on the Word of God and, at the same time, draw therefrom their justification and support.

"Just as the Church's missionary activity ... finds its inspiration and its goal in the Lord's merciful revelation, so ecumenical dialogue cannot base itself on the words of human wisdom or on skilful strategies, but must be animated exclusively by constant reference to the original Word, which God consigned to His Church to be read, interpreted and lived in communion".

"In this context, St. Paul's doctrine reveals a particular strength, clearly founded on divine revelation but also on his own apostolic experience which, ever and anew, made it clear to him that not human wisdom and eloquence but only the force of the Holy Spirit builds the Church in faith".

The Pope went on to remark that the Synod will coincide with the celebration of the Pauline Year and that the meeting will provide pastors of the Church with an opportunity to reflect on "the witness of this great Apostle and Herald of the Word of God. ... May his example be an encouragement for everyone to accept the Word of salvation and to translate it into daily life, in faithful discipleship of Christ".

Benedict XVI concluded his talk to the participants in the Sixth Ordinary Council by telling them: "yours is a meritorious service to the Church" because the Synod is the institution best-qualified "for promoting truth and unity of pastoral dialogue within the mystical Body of Christ".


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Pope received participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Catholic Education, to whom he said: "It is highly appropriate that, in our own day, we should reflect on how to render this apostolic task of the ecclesial community incisive and effective", a task "entrusted to Catholic universities and, in particular, to ecclesiastical faculties".

The Holy Father then referred to reforms in the ecclesiastical study of philosophy, reforms that "will not fail to highlight the metaphysical and sapiential dimensions of philosophy". He also mentioned the possibility of "examining the suitability of reforming the 1979 Apostolic Constitution 'Sapientia christina', ... the 'magna charta' of ecclesiastical faculties which serves as the basis upon which to formulate criteria to assess the quality of those institutions, an assessment required by the Bologna Process of which the Holy See has been a member since 2003.

"The ecclesiastical disciplines", he added, "especially theology, are today subjected to new interrogations in a world tempted, on the one hand, by a rationalism which follows a false idea of freedom unfettered by any religious references and, on the other, by various forms of fundamentalism which, with their incitement to violence and fanaticism, falsify the true essence of religion ".

Faced with the educational crisis, Benedict XVI proceeded, "schools must ask themselves about the mission they are called to undertake in the modern social environment". Catholic schools, "though open to everyone and respecting the identity of each, cannot but present their own educational, human and Christian perspective". In this context, he said, they face a new challenge, that of "the coming together of religions and cultures in the joint search for truth". This means, on the one hand, "not excluding anyone in the name of their cultural or religious background", and on the other "not stopping at the mere recognition" of this cultural or religious difference.

The Pope went on to refer to another theme being examined by the plenary assembly, that of reforming the document "Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis" for seminaries, issued in 1970 and updated in 1985. Any reform, said the Pope, "will have to highlight the importance of the proper correlation between the various dimensions of priestly formation in the perspective of Church-communion, following the indications of Vatican Council II. ... The formation of future priests must, furthermore, offer them guidance and help to enter into dialogue with contemporary culture.

"Human and cultural formation must, then, be significantly reinforced and sustained also with the help of modern sciences, because certain destabilising social factors that exist in the world today (such as the situation of separated families, the educational crisis, widespread violence, etc.), render new generations fragile".

The Pope concluded his talk by highlighting the need for "adequate formation in spiritual life so as to make Christian communities, particularly in parishes, ever more aware of their vocation, and capable of providing adequate responses to questions of spirituality, especially as posed by the young. For this to happen, the Church must not lack qualified and responsible apostles and evangelisers".


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office this morning, the presentation took place of the programme of events for the forthcoming Pauline Year, and in particular of initiatives to be held at the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. The Pauline year will run from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009.

Participating in today's press conference were Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, Fr. Johannes Paul Abrahamovicz, prior of the basilica's abbey, and Piero Carlo Visconti, of the administrative offices.

Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo remarked how Pope Benedict had called the Pauline year during the celebration of first Vespers for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul on 28 June 2007, in order to commemorate the second millennium of the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles.

On that occasion, the Pope had highlighted the ecumenical dimension of the event because St. Paul "was particularly committed to bringing the Good News to all people, and made prodigious efforts for the unity and harmony of all Christians".

The cardinal explained how the Pauline year "will provide an occasion" to undertake various activities: "rediscover the figure of the Apostle; reread the numerous Letters he sent to the first Christian communities; relive the early years of our Church; delve deeply into his rich teaching to the 'gentiles'; meditate on his vigorous spirituality of faith, hope and charity; make a pilgrimage to his tomb and to the numerous places he visited while founding the first ecclesial communities; revitalise our faith and our role in today's Church in the light of his teachings; pray and work for the unity of all Christians in a united Church".

Scheduled activities include a pastoral programme (daily ordinary and extraordinary liturgical celebrations, meetings for prayer and the Sacrament of Penance); a cultural religious programme (catecheses on St. Paul, conferences, congresses, concerts); pilgrimages (to the basilica and to other Pauline sites in and outside Rome); a cultural artistic programme (exhibitions, publications, postage stamps, the coining of a special medal, the issue of a stamp and a two euro coin by the Governorate of Vatican City State); a publishing programme (a guide to the basilica of St. Paul's Outside- the-Walls to be published in various languages, a new edition of the Acts of the Apostles and of the Letters of St. Paul, and the opening of a site constantly updated with information relating to the event).

Finally, the cardinal turned his attention the ecumenical programme, ecumenism being an important aspect of the Pauline Year. He announced that the chapel currently used as the baptistery, located between the basilica and the cloister of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, will become the "Ecumenical Chapel, maintaining its characteristic baptismal font but designated as a place in which to offer our Christian brethren a special place for prayer, either within their own groups, ... or together with Catholics, without the celebration of the Sacraments".

This chapel will also be used to house the remains of St. Timothy of Antioch and of other unknown forth century martyrs, which were discovered in the hypogeum of St. Paul during restoration work on the basilica in 2006.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2008 2:36 AM]
1/22/2008 3:18 AM
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Thank you for all the coverage of 'Papa Day,' Teresa. The article by Renato Farina is excellent.
1/22/2008 1:46 PM
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A major event yesterday for the Italian Church was Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco's opening address to the winter session of the Permanent Council of the Italian bishops conference (about which more later).
But in it, he made an assertion that was then contested by the Italian government - and AFP filed the first report of it in the Anglophone media:

Italian government rejects
Vatican claims in Pope university row

ROME, Jan. 22 (AFP) - A row over a cancelled university speech by Pope Benedict XVI has taken a fresh twist as the Italian Government rejected church suggestions it had advised him to pull out, officials say.

The 80-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church cancelled a planned speech at Rome's La Sapienza University last week after dozens of professors and students protested his presence at the secular school.

Speaking to bishops gathered in Rome, the head of the Catholic Church in Italy, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, says the decision to scrap the visit was taken by the Vatican "necessarily taking into account suggestions [made by] the Italian authorities."

However, the Italian Government has categorically denied that claim, saying in a statement issued shortly after that it "never suggested to the Vatican authorities that it cancel [last Thursday's visit]."

On the contrary, it says, government officials including the Interior Minister had issued guarantees of security "and the smooth passage of the pope's visit."

The Vatican judged delaying the event "opportune," despite strong criticism against the protesters on the part of the Government, the Vatican said in a statement.

Several top politicians, including with Deputy Prime Minister Francesco Rutelli and former justice Minister Clemente Mastella, joined over 100,000 supporters at a Saint Peter's Square rally on Sunday on behalf of the Pope.


My question: When the cancellation - more properly, postponement - of the Pope's visit was reported in the Italian media, every report stated what Cardinal Bagnasco said yesterday, attributing to the Interior Ministry the assertion that it could not guarantee no incidents could develop if the Pope's visit went through. Why did it take the Italian government all this time to refute those reports?

In today's issue, Il Giornale came out with this item signed 'By the Editors', translated here, to refute the government counterclaim:

In fact, the Interior Ministry
had suggested that the Pope feign illness
on the day of the speech

By the Editors
Il Giornale, 1/22/08

By some calculations, the presidency of the Italian bishops conference (CEI) was supposed to have a lower profile after the departure of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, in order to leave the management of relationships with Italian politicians to the Secretariat of State.

But with his address yesterday to the Permanent Council of the CEI, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and successor to Ruini at CEI, emerged as a true protagonist in his own right.

He did so with an explosive intervention that appeared to have been delivered in agreement with the Papal apartment. It is as if, with the speech delivered yesterday, Cardinal Bagnasco had closed the Ruini era by inaugurating his own which would be just as strong and fully in tune with the previous as far as content, with the assertion of freedom to intervene whenever fundamental values or choices which concern the life of every Italian are in play.

Bagnasco refuted daily accusations of Church 'interference' while reiterating that the Church has "no bellicose intention whatsoever" on ethically sensitive issues, nor does it have a 'hegemonical plan' nor does it 'seek or want power'.

At the start of his address, in a paragraph dedicated to the Pope's cancelled visit to a Sapienza University, Bagnasco authoritatively confirmed previous unofficial reports: The decision was taken by the Pope and his closest associates after a telephone call from the Interior Minister in the afternoon of Monday, January 14.

Speaking to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, Minister Giuliano Amato, with the agreement of Prime Minister Prodi, had suggested that it would be better to recommend to the Pope to cancel his visit, because 'incidents' could not be ruled out.

Beyond this, Il Giornale also learned, the minister had even suggested that the Pope cite a 'diplomatic' indisposition, that is, to announce only on Thursday morning that a flu-like ailment would keep him from giving his lecture that day.

Therefore, those who had consulted with the Pope about the cancellation (Bertone, Ruini and Bagnasco) were taken aback on Tuesday with news reports of Amato's public statements saying he had assured not only the personal safety of the Pope (a risk no one had ever thought to question) but seemed to belie as well the existence of any concern for the ability of the police forces to maintain public order.

It had been precisely because of Amato's suggestion that the Vatican had taken the decision to cancel in order to avoid any incidents that would put at risk - not the Pope - but the demonstrators and the police.

Yesterday, Palazzo Chigi (the Prime Minister's office) issued a note contesting the statement made by Cardinal Bagnasco - an unprececented act [in the relations between the Holy See and the Italian government].


Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops conference, had this to say:

Cancellation was done
on the basis of facts

Translated from
the 1/22/08 issue of

"The Italian government never suggested to Vatican authorities o cancel the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to La Sapienza University on Thursday, Jan. 17," according to an official note issued by the office of the Prime Minister, which took a stand on the matter yesterday.

Earlier yesterday, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, in his opening address to the Permanent Council of the Italian bishops conference, recalled the 'serious episode of intolerance' and the 'climate of hostility' which 'although created by an absolutely tiny minority of professors and students', had led the Pope to 'postpone' his visit to the university.

In fact, on January 16, the Cardinal Secretary of State had explained, in a letter to the rector of La Sapienza accompanying the text of the address the Pope was to have delivered, that "lacking the conditions now for a dignified and peaceful welcome" for the Pope, "it was decided to postpone the scheduled visit in order to take away any pretext for demonstrations which could prove unpleasant."

[Read back also on
which is a round-up of reports on Jan. 15 in various Italian MSM newspapers about how the Vatican arrived at the decision because of suggestions made by the Interior Ministry. Why did it take the government all this time to issue a denial

The 'renunciation' by the Pope, Caridnal Bagnasco said yesterday, "was made necessary at the suggestions of the Italian government" and was born out of "an act of love by the Pope for his city."

Observations which are certainly not new for our readers. Avvenire, on Jan. 16, the day after the 'difficult' decision by the Pope, reported on Page 1 about the 'unrecommended' visit [the Italian term 'sconsigliata' does not have a one-word English translation, but it means 'that had been advised against'], explaining with its very headline, "The risk of disorders prevents the Pope's visit".

The story was written on the basis of information we gathered and the facts that had happened during the day (Tuesday, Jan. 15), among these, the occupation of the Rector's office by student demonstrators and the concerns expressed by the forces of law and order, as reported by various news agencies.

In reporting about it in the news pages, we referred to the decision taken by the Holy See as a result of information transmitted to it during the day by relephone calls from the Interior Ministry.

And we concluded that report by saying that Vatican authorities "had taken into account the concerns expressed on the part of the Italian government."

Avvenire, 22 gennaio 2008

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2008 3:00 PM]
1/22/2008 2:22 PM
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Sandro Magister, on his blog, was the first in the Italian media to take note of Cardinal Bagnasco's opening address yesterday afternoon to the Permanent Council of the Italian bishops conference, but in a general way.

Magister led off, as Il Giornale did, about Bagnasco proving to be a strong proponent of Church initiatives in his own right - but did not remark in particular about his statement on the La Sapienza episode. Here is a translation of Magister's blog entry, posted 1/21/08

A vigorous Cardinal Bagnasco
promotes a moratorium on abortion

Translated from

All those who thought that the 'new' president of the Italian bishops conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, would be a listless leader with his head in the clouds - therefore, more yielding than his predecessor Cardinal Ruini - take note!

The opening address which he read to the Permanent Council of the CEI this Monday, January 21, feast of St. Agnes, should blow up all their illusions.

In his gentle but firm manner, a la Ratzinger, Bagnasco did not spare strong and direct words on any of the most controversial questions: the Pope's cancelled visit to La Sapienza, the family and de facto unions, the attempt to give total parity to genders [i.e., no differentiation between male and female roles],natural law, the moratorium on the death penalty and the one proposed for abortion, Law 194 [Italy's 1981 law that legalized abortion in certain cases], the increasing incidence of work-related deaths, the continuing garbage collection Crisis in Naples, the duties of Catholic parliamentarians on questions that are morally non-negotiable, secularity, and fears about the Church's supposed 'hegemonical' designs.

On the issue of abortion, the CEI president did not hesitate to pay a tribute to non-believer Giuliano Ferrara [who staged a well-publicized pre-Christmas hunger strike to advocate a moratorium on abortion, after the UN issued its worldwide moratorium on the death penalty] : "How can we not consider beneficial the discussion which has been opened in our country these last few weeks and not be grateful to those, on the part of seculars, who have given public testimony of the contradiction between a moratorium on the death penalty without a moratorium on abortion...?"


Il Giornale, in another story today, quoted a member of Parliament, Maurizio Lupi, who belongs to former Prime Minsietr Berlusconi's Forza Italia, commenting on the statement from Prime Minister Prodi's office:

The shamelessness of Palazzo Chigi [office of the Prime Minister] has reached the point of implying that Cardinal Bagnasco lied. The paradox is obvious. It is absolutely clear that the government had 'un-recommended' [sconsigliata] the visit because it could not guarantee the security not of the Pope but of the demonstraots. The government has lost another opportunity to come out of this in a dignified way.

Will translate more about Cardinal Bagnasco's speech later, including excerpts of his address in today's issue of L'Osservatore Romano.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2008 3:39 PM]
1/22/2008 3:25 PM
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Here's a news release from the World Council of Churches:


Pope Benedict XVI and Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), along with high-level representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC, will meet in Rome on Friday, 25 January 2008, at the centennial of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

On Friday morning, the WCC general secretary will meet the Pope in a private audience along with members of the Joint Working Group ( www. between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC.

The group, a "think tank" advising the parent bodies on areas of common concern, is holding its annual plenary meeting in Rome from 21-26 January.

Pope Benedict XVI will preside at an ecumenical Vespers serviceat the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls at 5:30 pm that same day. During the service, Kobia will bring greetings on behalf of the fellowship of 347 churches constituting the WCC.

The ecumenical service concludes the 18-25 January period during which the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is traditionally observed in the northern hemisphere, while in the global south the days around Pentecost are favoured.

2008 marks the 100th anniversary of the week of prayer, which every year is celebrated by millions of Christians all over the world.

An ecumenical award will be presented to the two bodies which, for 40 years have jointly prepared and promoted the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity ( )(PCPCU) and the Faith and Order Commission ( )of the WCC.

The Paul Wattson Christian Unity Award will be presented by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the PCPCU; Rev. Dr John Gibaut, WCC director of Faith and Order; and his predecessor, Rev. Dr Thomas F. Best.

The ceremony on Thursday, 24 January, 4:30 pm, at the Centro Pro Unione, includes a lecture by Kasper and an ecumenical service at which Gibaut will preach.

The award takes its name from one of the initiators of the first Octave of Prayer for Church Unity held in January 1908 in Graymoor, New York, by the Society of the Atonement, a small religious community in the Franciscan tradition.

The first celebration of the octave 100 years ago is recalled as the foundational moment of the week of prayer in this year's centennial celebrations.

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 347 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

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