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11/11/2008 12:24 PM
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Pope Benedict and Patriarch Alexei II to meet in 2009?

There are reports in several news agencies today that the Pope and Patriarch Alexei are likely to meet during a summit of world religious leaders in October/November 2009 in Baku.

What shall we make of this? My own feeling is that Patriarch Alexei will find a way to torpedo the preparations or call the meeting off at the last minute. Maybe I'm too pessimistic...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I did see an item in the Anglophone media about that yesterday, but I have been sick as a dog with acute distemper and absolutely miserable - a really bad case of regular flu and stomach flu - that last night it took me several sessions at a time before I could finish one post. Ihe post right below, for example, is something I had started last night, but was unable to finish when I took time out and fell asleep all the way through to 10 o'clock today, when I did try my best to finish it.

As for the news itself, I will borrow from the Muslims to say 'Insh'allah!' but, as you know, no one is more skeptical about Alexei-II than I am, so, it's all in the hands of the Lord....


P.S. Here is the English release of the RIA-Novosti news item on which the German reports were based. Novosti was an official news agency in Soviet days, but I don't know if it still is.

Pope, Russian Patriarch
could meet in a year in Baku

BAKU, November 10 (RIA Novosti) - The heads of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches could meet in a year in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, church representatives said on Monday.

"Important issues are being discussed to ensure a historic meeting between Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and Pope Benedict XVI," Bishop Alexander of Baku and the Near Caspian said.

He said that the meeting could take place within the framework of an international religious forum slated for October 30-November 2, 2009 in Baku. Both Alexy II and Benedict XVI have been invited to attend.

Yan Chapla, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Azerbaijan, said serious preparations were needed to ensure such a meeting went ahead, adding that "we hope that the meeting in Baku will eventually take place."

Last month the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia said current disagreements between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches were preventing him from meeting the Pope.

He also said, however, that the two churches have run a number of successful projects as part of their UN activities and collaboration with other international organizations.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, earlier accused the Vatican of trying to win new converts in post-Soviet countries regarded by the Russian Church as historically Orthodox.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/11/2008 5:51 PM]
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11/11/2008 4:17 PM
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As the first part of the article says nothing new - it quotes chunks of Benedict XVI's address to the participants of the Catholic Muslim-Forum seminar and Fr. Samir's behind-the-scenes account - I am presenting it in small type.

Catholics and Muslims have signed
a charter of rights -
Now comes the hard part

How to move from theory to practice.
Words, silences, and background of the first meeting of the Catholic-Muslim Forum, born from Benedict XVI's
Regensburg lecture and the reply from 138 Islamic scholars

ROME, November 10, 2008 – In the photo, Benedict XVI is shaking the hand of Ingrid Mattson, a Canadian and the president of the Islamic Society of North America. Watching is Tariq Ramadan, the most famous and controversial of the European Muslim thinkers, an Egyptian with Swiss citizenship, a professor at Oxford, and grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The photo was taken on Thursday, November 6, in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace. The Pope received the two delegations, Catholic and Muslim, each composed of 24 members and 5 consultants, who participated in the first seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum, held on November 4-5 at the Vatican.

The seminar was organized by the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue (CIRD)and by representatives of the 138 Muslim leaders who signed the open letter to Christian leaders dated October 13, 2007, 13 months after the memorable lecture delivered by Benedict XVI in Regensburg.

The encounter with the pope opened with a greeting from Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Catholic delegation, and two addresses read by the head of the Muslim delegation, Shaykh Mustafa Cerić, a Sunni, the grand mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a Shiite, an Iranian immigrant to the United States and a professor at George Washington University.

Benedict XVI responded to all of them with a speech in which he said:

"There is a great and vast field in which we can act together in defending and promoting the moral values which are part of our common heritage. Only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike – only on the basis of this recognition, can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralized."

And again:

"My hope is that these fundamental human rights will be protected for all people everywhere. Political and religious leaders have the duty of ensuring the free exercise of these rights in full respect for each individual’s freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The discrimination and violence which even today religious people experience throughout the world, and the often violent persecutions to which they are subject, represent unacceptable and unjustifiable acts, all the more grave and deplorable when they are carried out in the name of God."

In the afternoon, the two delegations released a joint statement. The 15-point document states, among other things:

"Religious minorities are entitled to be respected in their own religious convictions and practices. They are also entitled to their own places of worship."

It is an important affirmation. Because it is well known that this twofold right is far from being fully implemented in Muslim states.

So much so that just a few hours earlier, on the morning of the same day, receiving the new ambassador from the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See, Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar, who was presenting her credentials, Benedict XVI felt the need to ask that there soon be "the possibility to pray to God properly, in adequate places of worship," for the Christian visitors crowding the tourist sites of the country.

This is just a small sign of the profound gulf that still separates, in the Muslim camp, the abstract recognition of certain rights and their effective practice.

The seminar of the Catholic Muslim Forum of November 4-6 was, in this regard, revealing. In its successes, as in its limitations.

The work took place behind closed doors. On both the first and second days, the discussion was introduced by two contributions of about half an hour each, one by a Catholic and the other by a Muslim. The topics of discussion were "theological and spiritual foundations," and "human dignity and mutual respect."

The authors of the letter of the 138 would have preferred to concentrate the discussion on the first of the two themes, while on the Vatican side the push was to get to concrete matters. The agenda of the work satisfied both.

In the final statement, the first of the 15 points registers the "specific genius of the two religions" in considering the love of God and of neighbor, while the other points specify the application of this theological and spiritual principle to the concrete life of individuals and societies.

Point 5 of the joint statement was one of the most hotly contested:

"Genuine love of neighbour implies respect of the person and her or his choices in matters of conscience and religion. It includes the right of individuals and communities to practice their religion in private and public."

The Jesuit Islamologist Samir Khalil Samir, a member of the Catholic delegation, reconstructed on "Asia News" on November 7 the discussion that preceded this final formulation:

"Some Muslims objected: 'If you write these words you put us in great difficulty. Freedom of religion in our countries is governed by state law. How can we publish a document that is against state law? We risk being disqualified and marginalized by our society'. Some Muslims suggested removing at least the words 'in private and in public'.

"There was also a formula that defended the right to spread one's own faith, as Da’wa (mission for Islam) or Tabshir (Christian mission). But it was held to be too strong, so we eliminated it.

"All of these difficulties were resolved by the grand mufti of Sarajevo. Mustafa Cerić recalled that the formula on religious freedom used in the joint statement 'is the same as in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Many Muslim governments signed this Declaration. Therefore they must accept it, even though perhaps they don’t practice it'. This argument allowed everyone to adhere to the final document."

Point 11 was also particularly controversial:

"We profess that Catholics and Muslims are called to be instruments of love and harmony among believers, and for humanity as a whole, renouncing any oppression, aggressive violence and terrorism, especially that committed in the name of religion, and upholding the principle of justice for all."

Fr. Samir says:

"Muslims wanted the word 'terrorism' removed and replaced with the more generic word 'violence'. This was because they feel attacked by everyone and accused of terrorism. One of them said: 'I am not Bin Laden. Why are you making me bear the burden of what Bin Laden does?' Some Muslims acknowledged that these attacks do not come from Christians, but from the secularized and atheistic world, which Muslims and Christians must resist together. They also expressed the desire to get past old disagreements. One Muslim said he no longer accepted the division between 'House of Peace', Dar-al-Islam, and 'House of War', Dar al-Harb, which involves a political-religious division of the world and foments the jihad against the West. He prefers the definition 'House of Witness': extended everywhere, to Islamic countries and Western countries, where the important thing is to witness to your faith, for both Muslims and Christians."

In addition to the things that were said in the joint declaration, there were the things left unsaid.

One of these concerns the freedom to abandon the Muslim faith and embrace another, including Christianity. In Islamic countries, this "apostasy" is severely punished, in some places with the death penalty. Or at the very least the apostate is ostracized, being expelled from his family and from civil society.

In point 5 of the final declaration, there is no explicit recognition of this freedom. And in presenting the statement to the public, in the name of the Muslim delegation, Seyyed Hossein Nasr justified this silence using historical and political arguments.

To two specific questions, one concerning the right to change faiths and the fate of those who convert, and the other regarding the persecution of Christians in Iraq and other Islamic areas, Nasr replied that "the difficulties of these Christians are nothing in comparison with what Muslim peoples have suffered over the centuries at the hands of Christians, and today especially at the hands of Israel and the United States." [I really do not trust this guy! Everything he is reported to have said so far is sheer posturing. What empirical evidence does he have to support the allegation he so sweepingly makes here? All his reported statements so far are marked by self-righteous bullying, paranoid whining, or specious 'justification' such as this statement is, all masked by an ostensibly academic presentation.]

And as an American citizen, he added: "In Texas as well, those who become Muslim suffer hostility and pressure." [Oh please, if there were any bit of substantial truth to this, the ACLU would be out there screaming it to the rooftops!]

After this first seminar, the Catholic-Muslim Forum committed to holding a second one "within two years, in a Muslim majority country."

[Magister then reprints the Final Declaration from the seminar.]

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I find Magister's premise a surprisingly naive and unrealistic view of the recently concluded seminar.

None of the Muslim participants is, in any way, individually or collectively, capable of changing Muslim social practices that have been petrified into a monolithic culture over the centuries according to what the Quran reportdly says - which is, to Muslims, literally, the Word of God (and therefore, not subject to human interpretation at all but to be followed literally).

It's not a simple question of 'moving from theory to practice' - it means changing a culture that has been embedded and perpetrated for 13 centuries now in what it considers divine law - sharia - which is anti-democratic and anti-human rights on the very points that we question about Islamic practice.

It is achievement enough that the Muslim participants signed off on the declarations that affirm democratic human rights-oriented principles.

But as we can see from what the Grand Mufti of Bosnia pointed out, the Muslim countries also signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - it hasn't made them live up to it when it comes to freedom of conscience, religion and worship.

On the other hand, people like Tariq Ramadan - who believe there can be a 'European Islam' that is fully consonant with democratic principles - may well begin with consolidating that ASAP and show that it is possible!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/11/2008 5:15 PM]
11/11/2008 5:37 PM
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As I had a very late start yesterday, I was able to post 'OR today' for 11/10-11/11 last night, but I will re-post it
since there has been a page change, and to account for today's Vatican news.

OR for 11/10-11/11:

The three-level banner headline tries to cover the main messages of the Holy Father after the Angelus prayer on Sunday,
starting with his lament over rising food prices resulting in tragic famine among the poorest nations, and his appeal
for peace in the Congo's North Kivu, but focusing on his words to mark the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht,
the event that marked Nazi Germany's open persecution of the Jews (photos show two synagogues burned that night):
'Never again horrors provoked by anti-Semitism and discrimination'

There is a featured editorial commentary on what Germans now call Pogromnacht instead of Kristallnacht, by Jewish writer Anna Foa,
and a longer inside story on the historical facts about the event. Other Page 1 stories: the Holy Father's address to Bolvian bishops
on ad-limina visit (photo below); and two Italian nuns kidnapped in Kenya and taken to Somalia.

The Holy Father has no scheduled events today, as it is Tuesday.

A news conference was held on the XXIII International Conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council
for Health Ministry which will take place at the Vatican Nov, 13-15. The theme this year is the care of
sick children.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/11/2008 5:53 PM]
11/12/2008 12:07 AM
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Jewish-Catholic body
urges calm on Pope sainthood

By Sandor Peto

BUDAPEST, Nov. 11 (Reuters)- Catholic and Jewish leaders on Tuesday asked believers not to use inflammatory language after the Vatican's plans to make Nazi-era Pope Pius XII a saint* provoked an outcry from Jewish groups. [The Vatican does not 'plan' to make anybody a saint. It is presented with a cause for sainthood of individuals or groups (such martyrs of a single event), and it then places this cause through a most rigorous process which may or may not prosper.]

"Disagreements between us...must always be expressed in a manner that reflects this spirit and not in language that only exacerbates tension," said the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC), which was holding a conference in Budapest.

"The ILC has expressed its deep regret over certain polemical and intemperate statements being made over the controversy concerning the role of Pope Pius XII during the Second World War."

Jews accuse Pius, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust, during which 6 million Jews were killed. The Vatican says Pius worked silently behind the scenes and helped save many Jews.

[Correct journalism requires that known objective historical facts about this be mentioned at this point, too, so that it does not appear as if the Vatican merely 'says' so, but that it happened!

It doesn't have to be comprehensive, but a simple statement of objective fact like - "Many historians have documented that at least 7,000 of Rome's Jewish population during the war were saved from deportation when Catholic churches adn convents opened their doors to shelter them."]

Last year Vatican officials voted in favour of a decree recognising Pius's 'heroic virtues', an important step in a long process towards possible sainthood that began in 1967.

Some Catholics have pressed the Vatican to speed up the sainthood process. But Jewish leaders have called for it to be put on hold until the Holy See opens its archives pertaining to World War Two.

The Vatican said six of seven more years of preparatory work would be needed before scholars could access the archives.

The American Jewish Committee reported the story very objectively:

AJC inter-Religious director co-chairs
Catholic-Jewish conference;
Pope Pius XII, Vatican archives discussed

BUDAPEST, November 11, 2008 – The International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC), holding its 20th conference in Budapest, has expressed deep regret over certain polemical and intemperate statements being made over the controversy concerning the role of Pope Pius XII during World War II.

Cardinal Walter Kasper and Rabbi David Rosen, co-chairs of the ILC, declared: “We reiterate our commitment to a relationship based on mutual respect and sensitivity. Disagreements between us which inevitably occur from time to time must always be expressed in a manner that reflects this spirit and not in language that only exacerbates tension.”

Cardinal Kasper noted that the concerns of the Jewish community have been clearly conveyed to the Holy See at the highest level.

Ten days ago, the International Jewish Committee on Inter-religious Consultations (IJCIC), at a Papal Audience with Pope Benedict XVI, requested that all archival material be made available for independent scholarly review before any far reaching decisions are made by the Holy See concerning persons and policies during World War II.

Rabbi Rosen is the American Jewish Committee (AJC) international director of inter-religious affairs, and chair of IJCIC. Cardinal Kasper is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

The ILC is the convened body of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC).

Here's a ZENIT story from March 2008 that gives a background on these Catholic-Jewish talks, which have not been as publicized as the Vatican-Israel bilateral talks on implementing a 1993 agreement.

Interview With Vatican aide
on Jewish-Catholic relations

By Viktoria Somogyi

ROME, MARCH 22, 2008 (Zenit) - The personal witness of Benedict XVI, and before him, Pope John Paul II, plays a key role in the advance of relations between the Church and the Jews, says a Vatican aide.

Father Norbert Hofmann is the secretary of the Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, within the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

We spoke with Father Hofmann about the Church's dialogue with the Jews, and particularly about an upcoming international congress to be held in Hungary and to focus on Catholic and Jewish perspectives on civil society and religion.

How does the congress in Budapest fit within the development of relations between the Holy See and the Jewish world?
The Holy See began systematic dialogue with the Jewish world after Vatican Council II, that is, starting in 1965. On the part of the Jews, the International Jewish Committee for Inter-Religious Consultations was founded in 1970. It is an organization that includes almost all the most important Hebrew agencies involved in interreligious dialogue.

From 1970 till now we have organized 19 encounters at the international level. The one we will have in Budapest, Nov. 9-12, will be the 20th. So it is an ongoing development, starting with the declaration from the Council, Nostra Aetate, and over these years we've arrived at quite a good spot.

Could you summarize for us the main stages of the journey that have led to this encounter?
The main purpose inspiring this conference in Budapest is to examine the situation of the dialogue between Catholics and Jews in the Eastern European countries. We chose Budapest because there is a fairly large Jewish community in this city and because the dialogue in this country has made a lot of progress.

We've covered so many important steps since beginning the official dialogue of the Catholic Church with the Jewish world. For example, Pope John Paul II was the first Pope to visit a synagogue, to pray at Auschwitz for the victims of the Shoah, and to go to Israel. He prayed at the Wailing Wall, visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust monument and museum.

Then, importantly, there is not only the Nostra Aetate document, but also the texts published by the various bishops' conferences. The living witness of John Paul II and now Benedict XVI are even more important.

Six weeks after his election, Benedict XVI received the first Jewish delegation. Then, four months later he visited the synagogue in Cologne; a year later he then visited Auschwitz to pray for the victims of the Shoah.

In addition, he intends to visit Israel as well, if the situation if favorable for organizing this visit. Dialogue with the Jews is close to Pope Ratzinger's heart.

After the steps taken in 2006, we organized an encounter in Cape Town, South Africa, to commit ourselves -- Catholics and Jews together -- to fight the AIDS epidemic.

In 2004, we were in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to do something for the poor of that country who were going through an economic recession at that time. Then we chose Budapest to be able to examine the situation of Eastern Europe. So Budapest is our door to the East.

Who will be participating?
For our part, half of the participants will come from Hungary, from the Hungarian bishops' conference; there will be cardinals, bishops, experts and professors who have a lot of experience in dialogue with the Jews.

On the part of the Jews, the local community will be involved, but I hope that they invite participants not only from the United States and Israel, but also from Europe and Eastern Europe. We've found that long term dialogue can be stimulated after conferences like these. [It is now known, of course, that among the Jewish participants are rabbis representing the Grand Rabbinate of Isarel, as well as Rabbi David Rosen, current president of the International Jewish Committee for Inter-Religious Consultations.]

What topics will be discussed?
The official topic will be: "Civil and Religious Society, Catholic and Jewish Perspectives." The purpose is to understand what point we are at in the dialogue with the Jews of Eastern Europe. In addition, we want to stimulate the situation in Hungary and in other countries of Eastern Europe in order to deepen Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

What are the major problem-areas of the debate?
The beatification of Pius XII; then the new prayer for Good Friday in the Tridentine Mass that has caused a bit of an uproar. We are now talking with our Jewish partners to clear it up, to balance out the situation.

But we should say that there are so many general problems. For example, we have a hierarchical structure, there's the Pope, the bishops' conference, cardinals; on the other hand, for Jews, there are different agencies. Therefore it is sometimes difficult for them to have a stable structure. We primarily have a religious interest, and sometimes the Jews want to talk about religion, but ...

Cardinal Dsiwisz recalls
rainbow at Auschwitz
at Benedict XVI's visit

CRACOW, Nov. 11 (Translated from PETRUS) - "We must not forget but we must also forgive", Cardinal Stanislaw Dsiwisz, Archbishop of Cracow, said today, refering to continuing polemics over the Holocaust, who spoke to 250 visiting Catholic students from Rome who were accompanied by the Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, and the president of the Jewish Community of Rome, Ricardo Pacifici.

Pacific, speaking earlier, said it was "necessary for Christians, Jews and Muslims together to construct a world of common values in Europe".

Cardinal Dsiwisz said: "We have to move ahead and not dwell on the tragic experience of the Shoah. A German Pope, benedict XVI, came here to Cracow and then to Auschwitz, and when he was there, a rainbow appeared. Someone has said it was a sign that we must not forget but we should also forgive."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/13/2008 5:06 AM]
11/12/2008 2:19 AM
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On November 9, La Stampa published an interview with the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, whose attitude towards Benedict XVI may be summarized in a statement he made in the interview: "The 'mea culpa'(s) made by John Paul II are now just a memory."

This is the same rabbi who had agreed early on to be the second Bible reader in RAI's recent Bible-reading marathon only to pull out two weeks before the event 'because the event has become too Catholic'. (It was always primarily a Catholic event!]

I just do not have the time now but if one looks back at Di Segni's statements in the past three years - starting with his scathing criticism of Benedict XVI's address at Auschwitz-Birkenau for not having mentioned the word 'anti-Semitism' at all - it is obvious that Di Segni is more interested in nursing his imaginary grievances and coddling Jewish paranoia than in advancing Catholic-Jewish relations.

Here is a reply to his recent broadside (which I will translate later) in the form of a Letter to the Stampa editor. Thanks to Lella

for the link.

Pius XII and the rabbis of Rome
by Lucio Casto
Theological Faculty of Turin
Letter to the Editor

I remain stunned after reading the interview of the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, published Sunday in La Stampa, who imagines a policy turnaround about the Jews on the part of the Roman Curia who are closest to Benedict XVI, compared to the time of John Paul II.

Well, we Catholics, too have noted for some time a decided reversal by this rabbi compared to his decisively more dialog-friendly predecessor, Rabbi Elio Toaff.

Today, every occasion is seized to stress the distance and remember only the injustices that Jews have suffered. But don't the Jews also have a 'severe and honest examination of conscience' about their own behavior during the centuries when they were in a position of power with regard to the Christians?

But do we even have to keep harping on these things? The eternal problem (it seems eternal although it only begin in the 1960s) appears to be the Pius XII.

One only needs to compare Di Segni's interview with the article of historian Arrigo Levi on Pius XII which also appeared in La Stampa a few days earlier [I have looked it up and have now posted a translation in POPES AFTER JOHN PAUL II.]

Where Levi, a Jew, writes a moving 'rehabilitation' of Pius XII and the work of the Catholic Church in Rome and Italy during the tragic years of World War II, Di Segni insists on claiming that the Vatican did nothing, that for instance, it did not stop a train full of Jewish deportees from leaving the station at Tiburtina for the concentration camps.

Is Di Segni sure of what he is is saying? On the other hand, he says nothing about the thanks expressed to Pius XII himself by so many Jews right after the war for what the Vatican and the Church did for them in those years.

And what about the Israeli Minister Herzog, who has mercilessly attacked Pius XII, forgets that his own great-uncle - who was chief Rabbi of Jerusalem during the war - was among those who publicly praised Papa Pacelli after the war ended,

Even these should also enter the 'memory of intangible historical truths' that Di Segni attributes to him and his people.

As should the memory of yet another predecessor of his as Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, who in February 1945, when Rome was finally in Allied hands, asked to be baptized in the Catholic Church and took the Christian name Eugenio as an act of gratitude to Pius XIII?

The Jewish community finds that particular episode anathema and deliberately would forget it, replacing it in the collective memory with a sort of damnatio ad silentium. And yet, that is historical truth.

Lucia Annunziata, a La Stampa columnist and former president of RAI, commented:

A very severe letter. But this is the tone which, ultimately, one must take. If we truly want to go deeply into true differences between us, first we must break down that wall of courtesy which merely covers indifference to truth.

I hope that Rabbi Di Segni - or someone in his behalf - will consider the merit of these questions.

Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Arch-Priest of the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, and the Vatican's first Nuncio to Israel after diplomatic relations were established, asked La Stampa for an opportunity to reply to Di Segni:

A reply from Cardinal Montezemolo
by Giacomo Galeazzi
Translated from

Nov. 10, 2008

Benedict XVI has by no means nullified the 'mea culpa' expressed by John Paul II with respect to past offenses by representatives of the Catholic Church against the Jews, and is proceeding with the 'purification of memory', according to Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo.

He also said "The Church cannot accept any interference in a question internal to the Church such as the beatification of Pope Pius II".

The Arch-Priest of the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls was reacting bluntly to an interview given to La Stampa by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, who stigmatized what he claims to be a turnaround' by Papa Ratzinger from the conciliatory approach of John Paul II to his 'elder brothers'.

"Pius XII saved a great number of Jews, the whole Church wants him beatified, and there is absolutely no opposition in the Curia," the cardinal said.

And is Benedict XVI going back on Papa Wojtyla's mea culpa's in a bid to absolve the Church of any blame in the past?
Absolutely not. I read Rabbi Di Segni's attack on Benedict XVI with stunned displeasure. Every Pope has his own character, personality and style, but on the question of inter-religious dialog and everything that is fundamental, there is absolute continuity between the two Pontificates.

Including the judgment on Pius XII's immense figure. Everything that Papa Pacelli achieved during 20 difficult years as Pope cannot be criticized.

The Rabbi specifically criticizes Pius XII's 'opportunistic silence' during the German search of the Jewish ghetto in Rome...
Such criticism involves areas of competence which are not those of the critics. In the same way that it is not for others to say whether the Church should beatify Pius XII. There is a canonical process for this that is rigorous, demanding and complex. And there are people with the necessary competence to make the judgements required at every step and to make the final decision.

Benedict XVI is speaking for the whole Church when he says it is time for all these attacks to stop.

We are accused of failing to open the Archives, but there are procedures and rules for this. To begin with, a certain time lapse is generally required before any archives may be opened, out of deference to persons named in the documents who may still be alive.

And it is not serious to simply consider one aspect of Papa Pacelli's multi-faceted work, much less through offensive attacks which cannot stand up to historical verification.

Is the Vatican truly split between those who are for or against the beatification?
Again, this statement by the rabbi is unfounded. We are all hoping to see Pius XII beatified, especially because the testimony of his deeds is very much present. His Curia was rich with exceptional personalities like Montini, Tardini, Ottaviani, etc - and you can judge a Pontiff very well by the quality of his collaborators.

Thousands of direct testimonials prove that he was a strenuous defender of the Jews during the Nazi persecutions. His accusers will be better served by calm reasoning rather than indulging in ideological rage.

Besides, every Pontificate gets to be judged by the criteria of his own time. In Pacelli's time, the concept of a Pope was very different from what it came to be in successive decades.

This is a sensitive question for us, and I must say it is annoying that others would presume to tell us what to do about a matter that is completely for the Church alone to judge.

Is Papa Ratzinger different from his predecessor in dealing with the Jews?
No! The purification of Church memory was carried on by John Paul II with Cardinal Ratzinger as his chief collaborator. The work continues, and it is evident in Benedict XVI's strong condemnations of anti-Semitism.

The criticisms against him by some Jews is are as ungenerous and unfounded in the same way that Israel's interference in the matter of Pius XII's beatification is unacceptable. In both cases, we are dealing with inopportune external judgments which appear to want to oblige the Pope to make choices as they want things to be.

Of course, the Pope takes all objections into account, but the attempts to tell him what to do are very disturbing.

Finally, here is the interview with Di Segni. You will see why I was not exactly rushing to translate it. It makes me so MAAAAD....:

Wojtyla's 'mea culpa'
is now just a memory,
says Chief Rabbi of Rome

Interview by Giacomo Galeazzi
with Riccardo Di Segni
Translated from

Nov. 9, 2008

Was Pius XII 'a gift of God' as the Pope says? [First of all, I cannot believe how unbelievably stupid the question is. It's like asking John McCain during the campaign "Do you believe George W. Bush was a good President?"]
He certainly was not for the Jewish people. There is no need to use the name of God in vain. [That sent me into apoplectic rage right away on my sickbed, and I am surprised neither the theologian from Turin nor Cardinal Montezemolo mentioned it! Imagine accusing the Pope of that! But it just gets worse...]

I think that in the entire Pacelli question, the only thing 'unilateral', to use the words of Benedict XVI, has been the campaign conducted by the Church to rewrite the historical profile of Pius XII. [Who is rewriting what? Who began the historical revisionism after Hochhuth's play came out?]

And yet, the evidence of the facts requires more prudence. [Tell that to yourself!]For example, after the Nazis' house-to-house search of the Rome ghetto, the rain with the Jews to be deported was in the train station at Tiburtina without Pius XII saying a word to stop it. There is indignation in our community about this. [I hope some historian comes out with the actual facts about this - I have no time to check this out. And if that is the only 'negative' incident he can mention, what about the thousands of positive testimonials from people who were helped by the Church?]

Every day there's something new from the Church hierarchy in favor of Pius XII's beatification, but what is happening is much more vast and has a much more ambitious objective.

What operation?
There is a fullblown confrontation within the Church between two factions on the question of Pacelli. [Really! He's privy now to what goes on inside the Vatican?]

The Curia officials who are closest to the Pope are using the controversy over Pius XII for a global apologetic plan, that is, to arrive at a total self-absolution of the Church. [The man is bonkers - and gets progressively more so, so I will stop commenting because he just plunges further into an abyss of absurdity!]

In effect, they want to tell the whole world that the Church is infallible, it is always right, and that there is nothing in the story of the Church that requires a 'mea culpa'. The climate, unfortunately, has radically and rapidly changed from the time of Karol Wojtyla.

In what way?
They are turning back from the path taken by John Paul II in a series of courageous speeches including the one he made to the Synagogue in Rome. Now the opposite orientation is prevailing, they are turning the picture upside down, they are saying the Church is always perfect, that it should not ask excuses from anyone. and that it has never betrayed its mission.

They are trying to erase in a single sweep everything that requires a sever and honest examination of conscience - the diplomatic accords with Hitler, the centuries of anti-Semitism, the entire responsibility of the Christian world during the Shoah.

And is there an anti-Pius XII campaign on the part of the Jews? [Another stupid question!]
We have only been spectators. It is a dispute within the Catholic world. We only wish that they would come to a balanced historical judgment without political, apologetical or hagiographic pressures. It is not for us to judge his santity, bit we note too much connivance and too little thought, whereas we preserve memories of undeniable historical truths. [AAAAAARGHHHHHHHH! Someone stop me from wanting desperately to strangle him!]

Should Pius XII have gone to the ghetto after the house-to-house search as he did to San Lorenzo after that neighborhood was bombed?
It was not necessary. All he had to do was to say 'Stop the train' going to the concentration camp, instead of being opportunistically silent, and silence was the Nazis' best ally.

God help the Jews of Rome if this is how their spiritual leader thinks. His venom is directed at the entire Church now, not just against Pius XII. And all out of paranoid prejudice. May the Holy spirit enlighten him.

P.S. I did not realize Richard Owen had written up Di Segni's interview and Cardinal Montezemolo's response in the Times of London, so here is his article for the record.

Chief Rabbi accuses Pope
of 'taking God's name in vain'

By Richard Owen

November 10, 2008

Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, has accused Pope Benedict XVI of "taking the name of God in vain" and reversing the policy of apologising for past Christian errors adopted by John Paul II, his predecessor.

Referring to Pope Benedict's support for the beatification of Pius XII, who is held by Jewish and other critics to have "turned a blind eye" to the Nazi Holocaust, Rabbi Di Segni said it had aroused "indignation in our community".

He said the Pope had described the wartime Pontiff as a gift from God, "but he certainly was not that for the Jewish people. There is no need to take the name of God in vain".

The chief rabbi accused the Vatican hierarchy - "especially those close to the Pope" - of using the Pius XII controversy to reverse John Paul's mea culpa policy of apologising for past Christian misdeeds, instead aiming at "a total self -absolution by the Church".

The prevailing tendency was to "paint a picture in which the Church was always perfect, has nothing to apologise for and has never betrayed its mission".

The aim of those around Pope Benedict was to "wipe out at a stroke anything which requires a severe and honest examination of conscience".

This included "the Vatican's diplomatic accords with Hitler, centuries of anti Judaism and the entire responsibility of the Christian world during the Shoah (Holocaust)". Not only had Pius XII not visited the Jewish ghetto during Nazi and Fascist persecutions, he had "failed to stop the trains taking Jews to the concentration camps".

His comments drew a rebuke from a former papal nuncio to Israel. Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, who is now archpriest of the Basilica of St Paul without the Walls, said he had read the chief rabbi's remarks with "astonishment and displeasure".

It was "absolutely untrue" that Pope Benedict had taken "a step backward" regarding past Christian errors. "Every Pope has his own character and way of doing things, but on the inter religious dialogue and the great questions there is no discontinuity between the two pontiffs," he told La Stampa.

John Paul II had embarked on a "purification of memory" with the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at his side as as his principle adviser as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the cardinal said.

The process of beatification and canonisation was "rigid, tough and complex", and those who accused Pius XII of being unworthy were "entering into a matter beyond their competence". Pope Benedict was speaking for whole Church when he indicated that "we are tired of these attack".

Those who accused the Vatican of not opening historical archives forgot that "there are rules. We do not open archives until a certain time has elapsed in order not to involve people who might still be alive."

Jewish criticisms of the beatification of Pius XII were "ungenerous" and motivated by the "inadmissable external interference" of Israel in an internal Vatican process, the cardinal said, adding: "We all hope to see Pius XII beatified."

He said there were "thousands of witnesses" who had testified that Pius had been "a strenous defender of the Jews during the Nazi persecutions".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/14/2008 2:24 PM]
11/12/2008 4:52 AM
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The Chief Rabbi of Rome

[AAAAAARGHHHHHHHH! Someone stop me from wanting desperately to strangle him!] Teresa

I just read the interview you translated, Teresa, of the Chief Rabbi of Rome and I have decided not to stop you. Prejudice is not "owned" just by white people or Christians or any one group. There are ignorant and mean-spirited people in every ethnic and religious group. The Chief Rabbi is a sad example of that. He is so full of hate for Catholics that he becomes completely irrational.

He seems to think the Catholic Church was totally responsible for Hitler's atrocities and that Pius did absolutely nothing but sit on his hands throughout the war. He is upset because he thinks Pope Benedict is reversing Pope John Paul II's apologies for past Church failings. He apparently prefers that the Church repeatedly apologize to the Jewish people for anything and everything imaginable. It seems to me that he wants Judaism to wallow in victimhood, with various groups bowing before it in abject repentance.

I've said it before and I will say it again here--World War II ended more than 60 years ago. The rabbi, and everyone else, needs to move on. If the Church, after careful investigation, decides that Pius was a saintly man, that is the Church's business. Rabbi Di Segni needs to tend to his own flock and get his own soul in order.

[Edited by benefan 11/12/2008 5:24 AM]
11/12/2008 7:38 AM
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Thank you Teresa for your comments about the Chief Rabbi. Accusing the Pope of 'taking God's name in vain' is outrageous beyond belief.

And I hope you will be feeling much better very soon!
Gute Besserung!!!

11/12/2008 1:09 PM
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Ditto from Mary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm reading a book about Pius XII at the moment, so it's all uppermost in my mind.
The Jews have an enormous chip on their collective shoulders about all this and it's time they just let it go. No one is asking them to forget the Shoah; it was the most outrageously inhumane thing that's ever happened in history. But don't blame Pius XII!!!!! Don't blame the Catholic Church!!!!!!!!! Got it????? Good!
The Vatican was neutral in World War II, yet Pius XII was always being blamed for this, that and the other. I feel really sorry for him.
He was a saintly man and the sooner he is beatified and canonised the better. The canonisation of a pope has absolutely nothing to do with the Jewish people.

11/12/2008 1:44 PM
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No papal news today. Main stories: European Union stalls on sending troops to North Kivu as epidemics threaten refugees;
a positive meeting between Preident Bush and President-elect Obama; Russia and the European Union resume negotiations over
strategic partnership suspended because of the Georgia conflict three months ago; the Catholic-Jewish meeting in Budapest;
and Cardinal Sandri visits India.

General Audience today.

The Vatican announced a news conference tomorrow on the observance of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights on December 10, to be marked with a concert with the presence of Benedict XVI.

In Munich, the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI
Foundation will be formally launched today

by members of the Ratzinger Schuelerkreis,
with Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna
as Chairman.

11/12/2008 2:14 PM
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In his continuing Pauline Year catecheses, the Holy Father today spoke of the 'second coming' of Christ - parousia - in St. Paul's preaching, saying Christian hope about the 'last things' does not mean disinterest in what happens in this world.

Here is how he synthesized it in English:

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now turn from his proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection to his teaching on the Lord’s second coming.

For Paul, the Lord’s return at the end of time will be accompanied by the resurrection of the dead and the consummation of his Kingdom, when all those who believed in him and trusted in his promises "will be with him for ever" in glory (cf. 1 Thess 4:17).

Christ’s victorious reign has in fact already begun. Yet we, who have received the Spirit as the first fruits of our redemption, patiently await the fulfilment of that plan in our lives.

Our life in this world, marked by trials and tribulations, must be inspired by the hope of heaven and the expectation of our resurrection to glory.

Paul’s rich eschatology, linking the "already" of Christ’s resurrection to the "not yet" of our life in this world, is reflected in his statement that "in hope we were saved" (Rom 8:24).

This same joyful expectation of the Lord’s return and the fulfilment of the Father’s saving plan is seen in the ancient Christian prayer with which he concludes his first Letter to the Corinthians: Maranà, thà! Come, Lord Jesus!

He ended the catechesis with an impassioned, largely extemporized prayer for the state of the world today:

In this sense we pray with St. Paul: Maranà, thà! - Come, Lord!

We must say, with great urgency, in the circumstances of our day,
come, Lord.

Come in your way, in the ways you know.
Come where there is injustice and violence.
Come to the refugee camps, in Darfur, in North Kivu, in so many parts of the world.
Come to a world where drugs can dominate, where you are not known.
Come to the rich who have forgotten you, who live only for themselves.
Come where you are not known.
Come in your own way and renew the world today.
Come to our hearts.
Come and renew the world today, renew our lives -
so that we ourselves may become the light of God, your presence.

Let us pray that Christ may be truly present in our world and renew it.

Here is a full translation of the catechesis:

Dear brothers and sisters!

The subject of the resurrection, on which we dwelt last week, opens a new prospect - that of awaiting the return of the Lord, and this brings us to reflect on the relationship between the time of the present, the time of the Church and the Kingdom of Christ, and the future (eschaton) which awaits us, when Christ will hand over the Kingdom to the Lord (cfr 1 Cor 15,24).

Every Christian discourse on the 'last things', called eschatology, always starts from the event of the resurrection: in that event, the last things have already begun, and in a sense, are already present.

It was probably the year 52 when Paul wrote the first of the letters - the first Letter to the Thessalonians - where he speaks of this return of Jesus, called parousia - a coming, a new and definitive and manifest presence (cfr 4,13-15).

To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote: "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep" (4,14).

He continues: "...The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord" (4,16-17).

Paul describes Christ's parousia in vivid tones and symbolic imagery that nonetheless convey a simple and profound message: in the end, we shall always be with the Lord.

It is this, beyond the images, that is the essential message: our future is 'to be with the Lord'. As believers, we are already with the Lord in life - our future, eternal life, has begun.

In the second Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul changes his perspective: he speaks of negative events, which must precede that which is final and conclusive. We should not let ourselves be deluded, he says, as though the day of the Lord were truly imminent according to chronological calculation:

"We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a 'spirit' or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no one deceive you in any way" (2,1-3).

This passages announces that before the Lord comes, there will be apostasy, revealing a 'lawless one', 'the one doomed to perdition' who is not identified farther (2,3), but which tradition has come to call the Anti-Christ.

But the intention of this letter of St. Paul was above all practical. He writes: "In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food" (3,10-12).

In other words, waiting for the second coming of Jesus does not excuse us from commitment to this world, but on the contrary, creates a responsibility to the divine Judge regarding our conduct in this world. That is why we have a growing responsibility to work in and for this world.

We will see the same ting next Sunday in the Gospel of the 'talents', in which the Lord tells us that he has entrusted talents to everyone and the Judge will ask us for an accounting - Have you borne fruit? Thus, awaiting the Lord's return implies responsibility for this world.

The same thing, the same connection between parousia - the return of the Judge/Savior - and our commitment in life appears in another context and with new aspects in the Letter to the Philippians.

Paul is in prison and awaits the sentence that could condemn him to death. In this situation, he thinks about being with the Lord in the future, but he also thinks of the community in Philippi who need a father, Paul, and he writes them:

"For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, (for) that is far better. Yet that I remain (in) the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.

"And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me when I come to you again." (1,21-26)

Paul does not fear death, On the contrary. It means to be completely with Christ. But Paul also participates in the feelings of Christ who did not live for himself but for us. To live for others becomes the program of his life, and therefore, he shows his perfect availability to the will of God, to the God who will decide.

He is available, above all, even in the future, to live on earth for others, to live for Christ, to live for his living presence and thus, for the renewal of the world.

We see that this being with Christ creates a great interior freedom for him: freedom in the face of the threat of death, but freedom, too, for all the commitments and sufferings of life. He is simply available to God and therefore truly free.

And so, after considering the various aspects of awaiting Christ's parousia, we go on to ask ourselves: What are the fundamental attitudes of a Christian towards the last things - death, the end of the world?

The first is the certainty that Jesus has risen, he is with the Father, he is with us. Therefore, we are secure, we are liberated from fear.

This was an essential effect of Christian preaching. Fear of spirits, of divinities, was widespread throughout the ancient world. Even today, missionaries find - along with so many good elements of natural religions - a fear of spirits, of nefarious forces that threaten man.

Christ lives, he conquered death, and he defeated all these forces. We live in this certainty, in this freedom, in this joy. And this is the first aspect of our living with respect to the future.

In the second place, the certainty that Christ is with us, with me. It is as though in Christ, the future world has begun - and this gives us the certainty of hope. The future is not darkness in which no one can orient himself. It is not so.

But without Christ, even today the future is dark for the world, and there is so much fear of the future. The Christian knows that the light of Christ is stronger, and thus, he lives in a hope that is not vague, rather a hope that gives certainty and courage to face the future.

Finally, the third attitude. The Judge who will return - he is judge and savior at the same time - has left us the task of living in this world according to how he lived. He has handed down to us his talents. Therefore, our third attitude is that of responsibility for the world, for our brothers before Christ, and at the same time, certainty of his mercy.

Both are important. We do not live as though good and evil were the same because God can only be merciful. That would be self-deception. In fact, we live a great responsibility. We have the talents and we are charged with working so that the world may open up to Christ, that it may be renewed.

But even as we work and know in our responsibility that God is a true judge, we are also sure that this judge is good, we know his face, the face of the resurrected Christ, of the Christ who was crucified for us. Thus we can be sure of his goodness and move ahead with great courage.

A last given of the Pauline teaching on eschatology is that of the universality of the call to faith, which united Jews and gentiles, that is, the pagans, as a sign and earnest of future reality, for which we can say that we already sit in heaven, as it were, with Jesus Christ, 'that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace' (cfr Eph 2,6ff). The 'after' becomes a 'before' to make evident the state of incipient realization in which we live.

This makes the sufferings of the present tolerable, which are, in any case, not comparable to future glory (cfr Rom 8,18). We walk by faith, not by sight, and even if it would be preferable to leave the body to dwell with the Lord, what counts definitely - whether we still dwell in the body or have left it, is that we please him (cfr 2 Cor 5,7-9).

Finally, a last point which perhaps may be a bit difficult for us. St. Paul, at the end of his second Letter to the Corinthians, repeats and even has the Corinthians say a prayer born in the first Christian communities in Palestine: 'Maranà, thà!' which literally means "Come, our Lord!" (16,22).

It was the prayer of early Christianity, and even the last book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse, closes with this prayer, "Lord, come!"

Can we too pray this? It seems to me that for us today, in our life, in our world, it may be difficult to pray sincerely that this world may perish, that the new Jerusalem may come, that the Last Judgment comes with the Judge, Christ.

I think that if we sincerely dare to pray that way, for many reasons, in a just and correct world, we can still say with the early Christians, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

Certainly, we do not wish for the end of the world to come now. But on the other hand, we want an end to this unjust world. We want the world to be fundamentally changed, that the civilization of love may begin, that the world becomes a world of justice and peace, without violence, without hunger.

All this we want. But how can it happen without the presence of Christ? Without the presence of Christ, a world that is truly just and renewed will never come. In this sense we pray with St. Paul:

Maranà, thà! - Come, Lord!
With great urgency and in the circumstances of our time:
Come, Lord!
Come in your way, in the ways you know.
Come where there is injustice and violence.
Come to the refugee camps, in Darfur, in North Kivu, in so many parts of the world.
Come to a world where drugs can dominate, where you are not known.
Come to the rich who have forgotten you, who live only for themselves.
Come where you are not known.
Come in your own way and renew the world today.
Come to our hearts.
Come and renew the world today, renew our lives -
so that we ourselves may become the light of God, your presence.

Let us pray that Christ may be truly present in our world and renew it.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/12/2008 7:56 PM]
11/12/2008 4:55 PM
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Obama calls the Pope and
other world leaders
to thank them for
for their good wishes

Washington, Nov. 12 (AP) - President-elect Barack Obama had a telephone conversation yesterday with Pope Benedict XVI, according to his transition office.

The call was to thank him for his congratulatory message the day after his election.

Throughout the day yesterday, the Obama camp says, the president-elect returned calls to Pope Benedict XVI, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and King Abdullah of Jordan.

NB: I will be away the rest of the day.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/12/2008 5:46 PM]
11/12/2008 9:18 PM
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Italy grounds pope choppers after crash in France

Nov. 12, 2008

ROME (AP) — Italy has grounded the helicopters it uses to carry Pope Benedict XVI, the air force said Wednesday, after a similar aircraft crashed in France last month.

An investigation of the Oct. 23 incident, in which eight people aboard were killed, showed that a blade of the helicopter's main rotor broke off, causing the aircraft also to lose its tail engine and crash, an air force statement said.

The HH-3F helicopter, used for search and rescue operations, went down in northeastern France while en route to a multinational training exercise in Belgium.

The air force said that until it becomes clear why the rotor blade broke off, its 35 HH-3F models will remain grounded, along with its two SH-3D helicopters, which have similar rotors and are used by the pope for short trips within Italy.

Experts are taking X-ray images of all rotor blades to look for possible structural faults, air force spokesman Col. Amedeo Magnani said.

He said this was the first incident of its kind in the model's 30 years of operation. The crashed helicopter had been refurbished in 2006 and the broken blade was at about half of its expected lifetime, Magnani told The Associated Press by telephone.

Benedict uses the SH-3Ds mainly to travel between the Vatican and his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo in the hills south of Rome, Magnani said.

The air force has been using other helicopters for its search and rescue service and Magnani said a different aircraft would also be found for the pontiff if necessary.
11/12/2008 9:27 PM
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More on the phone call and a bishop without courage.

Obama has first telephone conversation with the Pope

Richard Owen in Rome
From Times Online
November 12, 2008

It has emerged that US President-elect Barack Obama held his first telephone conversation with Pope Benedict XVI yesterday, the day a senior Vatican official made clear the Holy See would oppose any changes by Mr Obama in US policy on embryonic stem cell research.

The Vatican said the conversation on Tuesday formed part of the "normal exchanges" between a new American President and other world leaders. Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope's spokesman, said neither the Pope nor Mr Obama had made any reference to the stem cell issue during the call, in which Mr Obama had responded to the Pope's message congratulating him on his election win.

At a press conference on Tuesday the Vatican on infant mortality, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, the Pope's "health minister", strongly reiterated the Vatican's opposition to using embryos for research purposes when asked about signs that Mr Obama might reverse or relax the Bush administration's executive order banning the use of embryos and limiting federal spending for stem cell research. He said embryonic stem cell research "served no purpose".

Monsignor W. Francis Malooly, the Catholic bishop of Wilmington in Delaware, said he would not ban Joe Biden, the Vice President elect and a Roman Catholic, from taking Communion because of his stand on issues such as stem cell research and abortion. Mr Biden, a Senator from Delaware, lives in the Wilmington diocese.

The bishop was quoted as saying that "the Eucharist must not be politicised". He added that the job of a Catholic prelate was not to "alienate people" but rather to "change their hearts and minds". A number of Catholics in the senior ranks of the US Democratic Party take a liberal pro-choice stand on abortion, including Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, and John Kerry, the former Presidential candidate who has been tipped by some to become Secretary of State in the Obama administration.

Last month Bishop Malooly said Senator Biden had presented "a seriously erroneous picture of Catholic teaching on abortion" by saying on "Meet the Press" that the Church has "a nuanced view of the subject that leaves a great deal of room for uncertainty and debate."

The bishop said "This is simply incorrect. The teaching of the Church is clear and not open to debate. Abortion is a grave sin because it is the wrongful taking of an innocent human life. The Church received the tradition opposing abortion from Judaism. In the Greco-Roman world, early Christians were identifiable by their rejection of the common practices of abortion and infanticide."

He added: "The Didache, probably the earliest Christian writing apart from the New Testament, explicitly condemns abortion without exceptions. It tells us there is a "way of life" and a "way of death" and abortion is a part of the way of death. This has been the consistent teaching of the Church ever since."

This was also "the position of Protestant reformers without exception. It was the teaching of Pope John XXIII as well as Pope John Paul II. It is the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI and the bishops of the Church, including me as shepherd of this diocese."

He said he hoped Senator Biden "will carefully listen to the Church's 2000 years of testimony on abortion and that he will join in the defence and promotion of the sanctity of life." He intended "to build a supportive and trusting friendship" with Mr Biden and other public officials "to help them and all citizens understand how crucial the sanctity of human life is to a just society."

11/12/2008 9:35 PM
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The clarification and denial....

No summit between Alexy and Benedict XVI prepared in Baku – Bishop of Baku

Baku, November 11, Interfax - Bishop of Baku and Near-Caspian Region Alexander said he was perplexed with the information that he did not rule out a possible summit in Baku between Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II and Pope Benedict XVI.

"That is what journalists have ascribed me, I have never said that," he told Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.

Earlier some media outlets quoted an opinion that had been allegedly voiced by Bishop Alexander that a summit between Bishop Alexander and the Pope could take place in Baku in a year. Alexy II and Benedict XVI have been invited to Baku to take part in the forum of the heads of world religions scheduled to be held between October 30 and December 2.

However, today in his comments to Interfax-Religion Bishop Alexander said his alleged words on a possible meeting between the heads of two Churches in Baku were taken out of context and were his answer to the journalist's question on a basic possibility of a meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope.

"The Patriarch repeatedly said that a possibility of such a meeting was not excluded, but it should not be a show in front of the TV cameras, it should have a constructive nature. That is all I said," Bishop Alexander said.

He had asked the same question to the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Azerbaijan, Jan Capla, who said that the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church "have conducted a dialog for a long time, there exists a mixed Orthodox-Catholic theological commission that has operated for many years, that Vatican's high placed officials have been permanently visiting Moscow."

"Neither me, nor Jan Capla are responsible for a possibility of such a meeting. So how can this information come from us?" Bishop Alexander said.

He also said it was possible that his answer had been incorrectly translated into the Azeri language.

"It is one thing to say that a possibility of this meeting is not ruled out, and it is quite a different thing to say that I allegedly said that this meeting is planned in Baku next year," he said.

11/13/2008 1:32 AM
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A Pyrrhic propaganda victory in Rome?

By Spengler
Asia News
Nov. 12, 2008

On the face of it, Pope Benedict XVI seems to have handed an enormous propaganda victory to the Muslim scholars who met with Catholic leaders in Rome on November 4-7. Victories of this sort, though, are deceptive. Leonid Brezhnev left the 1975 Helsinki meetings on European security cooperation convinced that he had won an enormous concession - final recognition of the Soviet Union's postwar borders - in return for lip service to human rights that the communist regime never could or would provide. "Instead," wrote Cold War historian John Gaddis, the Helsinki Accords "gradually became a manifesto of the dissident and liberal movement ... What this meant was that the people who lived under these systems - at least the more courageous - could claim official permission to say what they thought."

The Jewish "refusenik" Natan Sharansky became a symbol of Soviet human rights violation, and president Ronald Reagan's personal support for the dissidents - often over objections of his diplomats - introduced hairline fractures into Soviet Power. (I reviewed Sharansky's most recent book Defending Identity on October 21, 2008).

After the fall of communism, the greatest barrier to freedom is the absence of religious liberty in the Muslim world. Free people everywhere have a profound interest in the outcome of the Church's encounter with the Muslim scholars. Is it possible that the meager concessions offered by the Muslim side to the Western notion of freedom may have something like an "Helsinki" effect?

Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" in a June 1982 speech before the British parliament. Many interpreted Pope Benedict's September 2006 Regensburg address, in which the pope quoted a Byzantine emperor's denunciation of Muslim violence as a similar challenge to Islam. Speaking to a Muslim delegation that met with him after the conference, Benedict's tone seemed quite different. "I am well aware that Muslims and Christians have different approaches in matters regarding God," the pope said. "Yet we can and must be worshippers of the one God who created us and is concerned about each person in every corner of the world. Together we must show, by our mutual respect and solidarity, that we consider ourselves members of one family: the family that God has loved and gathered together from the creation of the world to the end of human history."

This conciliatory tone must have come as a disappointment to the Italian journalist Magdi Allam, whom Benedict personally accepted into the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil this year. Allam contended in a letter announcing his conversion that Islam was inherently violent. In an October 20 open letter letter to the pope posted on his website, he admonished Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who heads the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, for arguing that violence is a betrayal of Islam. On the contrary, Allam insisted, "Terrorism is the mature fruit of Islam."

Presenting Islam as a valid alternative to Christianity, he added, represents "serious religious and ethical straying that has infiltrated and spread within the heart of the church". Allam added that it "is vital for the common good of the Catholic Church, the general interest of Christianity and of Western civilization itself" that the pope make a pronouncement in "a clear and binding way" on the question of whether Islam is a valid religion. He has made no public statement since the Rome meeting concluded November 6.

In his conversion message in March, Allam, wrote, "His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims." Yet the issue of proselytizing Muslims is one the Catholic side deliberately avoided at the just-concluded meetings, as noted below.

For the mainstream media, in any case, "the Regensburg affair is behind us", as the Italian news service Apcom wrote on November 6. "No one mentioned the baptism of Magdi Allam on Easter night in full view of the world," it added. On the website of the liberal Catholic daily Commonweal, Paul Moses wrote on October 29 that the conference was "further evidence that it was a bad idea for the pope to grant such a high profile to Magdi Allam's christening".

Church liberals were livid at the pope's action; as I reported on July 17 ( The Pope, the President, and the Politics of Faith) the Jesuit monthly Popoli published a lengthy screed against Allam and the pope's personal role in his baptism by the Syrian-based Jesuit Paolo dall'Oglio. Now, the liberals are claiming victory.

The dialogue between the Catholic and Muslim side - from the little that has emerged from what was a closed meeting - was so strange, however, that it does not make sense to speak of winners or losers, or conciliation and provocation. An especially Orwellian moment was reported by the Jesuit Samir Khalid Samir (as reported by the Italian service Asia News on November 7):

In the Joint Declaration, "the right of persons and communities to practice their faith in private and in public" emerged in point 5. Serious problems arose. Some Muslims said: "if you include those words you put us in great difficulty. Freedom of religion in our countries is governed by State law. How can we distribute a document that is against State law? We risk being disqualified and marginalized by our society". Some Muslims suggested omitting at least the words "in private and in public".

There was also a formula that defended the right to spread ones own faith such as "Da'wa" (mission for Islam) or Tabshir (Christian mission). But it was held to be too strong and so we eliminated it.

All of these difficulties were resolved by the grand Mufti [of Bosnia]. Mustafa Ceric recalled that the formula on religious freedom used in the joint statement "are those found in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Many Muslim governments signed this declaration. Therefore they must accept it, even though perhaps they don't practice it". This solved the problem and eased the path for all to adhere to the final document.

It takes a couple of readings to absorb the Alice-in-Wonderland quality of the discussion. The Muslim side could not accept the principle that individuals should have the right to practice their religion in public, because the law of the land in their own countries forbids it. However, these countries have signed the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which states the same thing, even though they violate it daily. Because the governments lie about permitting religious freedom, the Bosnian mufti argued, the Muslim scholars attending the conference also were entitled to lie. The fact that the Muslim side offered this argument in all seriousness reduces the Muse of Satire to startled silence.

The fact that the attending Muslim scholars - who have no authority over the laws of Muslim countries - piggy-backed on the UN Declaration of Human Rights does not augur well for the "Helsinki" strategy. After all, having signed the UN Declaration ofHuman Rights does not in the least inhibit Muslim governments from persecuting non-Muslims in their own countries; why should the affirmation of such rights by a group of Muslim scholars have any additional impact?

Benedict has another concern. From the vantage point of enlightened Western thinking, no form of violation of human rights is more onerous than the denial of free thought, speech and worship, and the suppression of such rights in the Muslim world constitutes the most egregious violation of human rights in the world today. In Benedict's view, there is an even more terrible violation of human rights, namely what he considers to be the mass murder of the unborn through abortion.

As he told the Muslim delegation on November 6, "There is a great and vast field in which we can act together in defending and promoting the moral values which are part of our common heritage. Only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike - only on the basis of this recognition, can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralized."

The issue of abortion is the focal point of the argument within the Church that Christians should make common cause with Muslims against Western secularism. Islam and Catholicism agree on abortion, although the former position stems from the fixed mores of traditional society, while the latter is founded on a theological doctrine of God's love for every individual. The second point of the Rome declaration reads, "Human life is a most precious gift of God to each person. It should therefore be preserved and honored in all its stages."

For Western Christians to look for Muslim allies on the "life issues" would be a calamitous error, I believe. Much as I sympathize with the Catholic position on abortion, Christianity (like Judaism) is founded on the premise that God offers grace to every human being. The offer of grace requires our freedom to seek it or accept it. To fall back on the compulsions of traditional society in order to contain the evil of abortion would unleash an even greater evil on the world, the evil that Judaism and Christianity were formed to resist.

Christianity and Judaism are religions of love, and the relationship they proclaim with God is one of espousal. God's love for His people as expressed in the rapturous nuptial hymns of the Song of Songs is the core of both religions. As a theologian, Benedict XVI has led the Church towards what some theologians call "nuptial mysticism" (see The inside story of the Western mind , Asia Times Online, November 6, 2007).

In this respect, the declaration issued by the Muslim and Catholic sides at the November 4 meeting conflated Christian and Muslim concepts of love in a misleading way. The document states, among other things:

God's love is placed in the human heart through the Holy Spirit. It is God who first loves us thereby enabling us to love Him in return. Love does not harm one's neighbor but rather seeks to do to the other what one would want done to oneself. Love is the foundation and sum of all the commandments (Cf. Gal 5, 14). Love of neighbor cannot be separated from love of God, because it is an expression of our love for God ... For Muslims, as set out in A Common Word, love is a timeless transcendent power which guides and transforms human mutual regard. This love, as indicated by the Holy and Beloved Prophet Muhammad, is prior to the human love for the One True God ... So immense is this love and compassion that God has intervened to guide and save humanity in a perfect way many times and in many places, by sending prophets and scriptures.

The great German-Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig showed that nothing resembling the Judeo-Christian concept of divine love possibly can exist in Islam (see my study of Rosenzweig in the October 2007 issue of First Things). "The path of Allah requires the obedience of the will to a commandment that has been given once and for all time. By contrast, in [Judeo-Christian] brotherly love, the spore of human character erupts ever anew, incited by the ever-surprising outbreak of the act of love," Rosenzweig wrote.

Love is humble, and God's love is embodied in divine humility. The creator God of the Universe suffers along with His creatures in the Hebrew Bible, and in the Christian Bible takes human form to sacrifice Himself to take away the sins of the world. An "absolutely transcendent" God - as Benedict qualified Allah in his September 2006 Regensburg address - is incapable of divine humility. Again, Rosenzweig: "Unlike the God of faith, Allah cannot go before his own [people] and say to their face that he has chosen them above all others in all their sinfulness, and in order to make them accountable for their sins. That the failings of human beings arouse divine love more powerfully than their merits is an impossible, indeed an absurd thought to Islam - but it is the thought that stands at the heart of [Jewish and Christian] faith.”

The Sufi current in Islam places a considerable emphasis on love, to be sure, but this finds expression in homoerotic pederasty, as I wrote in an August 12 essay on Sufism, sodomy and satan for Asia Times Online.

Cobbling together an agreement between Islamic and Catholic scholars on the presumption of a common view of divine love is the rough equivalent of an agreement between Soviet and American constitutional lawyers on the subject of human rights. Such declarations used to be issued by organizations friendly to communism, to be sure, although history does not look at them kindly. At best the conflation of the Islamic and Judeo-Christian concept of love is an exercise in self-deception. For those who find the theological arguments obscure, I suggest searching the word "love" in any of several online versions of the Koran, and doing the same in the online Bible, and comparing its frequency and context. Even more simply, try a Google search on the respect terms, "God loves you" and "Allah loves you".

The dean of Vatican-watchers, Sandro Magister of, took note of the unwelcome appearance of Professor Tariq Ramadan at the meeting. Magister wrote:

In accounts of the forum, the media have given disproportionate attention to Tariq Ramadan. He did not play any role in drafting the letter of the 138, but added his signature forty days after its publication. His inclusion among the delegates prompted a bit of surprise at the Vatican. He was not among the most active participants over the two days of discussions, but he stirred some interest with the article he published at the beginning of the seminar in various European newspapers, like The Guardian in England, Le Monde in France, and Il Riformista in Italy, for which he is a regular commentator. In the article, Ramadan begins by maintaining that Benedict XVI's lecture in Regensburg "had more positive than negative consequences".

Nonetheless, Ramadan managed to turn up for a photo opportunity with the pope at the November 6 reception. That is an unfortunate outcome, for Ramadan represents the steel fist of Islam hiding under a velvet glove. Paul Berman's exhaustive profile of Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, appeared in the June 4, 2007, issue of The New Republic; I summarized Berman's arguments here in The faith that dare not speak its name on June 12, 2007. Berman portrayed Ramadan as a purveyor of barely veiled totalitarian sympathies, adulated by Western journalists fearful of physical reprisal should they criticize him.

Ramadan, as Sandro Magister observed, portrayed the November 4-7 meeting as a rollback of Benedict's Regensburg speech. I hope the pope proves him wrong.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I have been checking Spengler every so often for his comments on the Bernardins lecture and on the US elections [especially since several months ago, he came out and flatly said Obama would lose, after attending the Democratic convention in Chicago], neither of which has come out, but he does have a thing about Islam - skeptical, to say the least, about so-called Islamic moderates, and unabashedly critical of the anti-democratic culture that the religion has produced and that it continues to promote singlemindedly.

So I am not surprised at his reaction to the Final Declaration from the recent seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum.

Of course, his frank analysis does not take into account that the Pope and the Catholic Church must, in a sense, keep up appearances, and publicly give their Muslim participants in dialog a presumption of good faith, even though in private, and as individuals, the Pope and his advisers on Islam may think exactly as Spengler does.

Even Father Samir, who has been very outspoken about Islam's anti-demcocratic and anti-human rights practices, has bent over backwards so far to give the Forum's Muslim interlocutors the benefit of the doubt.

The Pope and his advisers cannot really do otherwise, without being accused of bad faith themselves. They cannot very well say, "There's this Final Declaration, but...." That's for thinking Catholics and informed observers like Spengler to point out.

Even someone like me whose only acquaintance with these matters is through the news reports and commentaries I have been reading immediately jumped at 5 or 6 of the points in the Final Declaration for being unlikely to be translated into anything practical, precisely because they are very much against the culture of Islam which has been unilaterally shaped by the religion itself.

At the same time, I do not doubt that the Muslim participants in the Forum sincerely see reason and right in these democratic principles - and can probably rationalize each and everyone by citing the necessary chater and verse in the Koran and hadiths from Mohammed.

But they must also know that it cannot be the work of a few years or even of a generation to turn around a culture that has been petrified for 1300 years.

Their very insistence on discussing 'love of God and love of neighbor' primarily from the theological rather than the practical point of view - evident in the entire approach of the open letter A COMMON WORD - is proof of this. (Theological discussions between two religions are basically nothing more than rhetorical exercise and therefore pointless.)

But unlike Spengler, I do not see what 'propaganda victory' they gain by this, except among the uncritical Christian groups who fell over themselves gushing over the Muslims' 'openness' they find evidenced in A COMMON WORD.

It's definitely not something, for instance, they can take home with them to their respective Muslim homelands and publicize as a 'victory' - ort even simply 'publicize'. I read somewhere that one of the few practical things the Muslims can do with the Final Statement is to disseminate it throughout Islam through the media. DUH!!!

I have not read anything of Tariq Ramadan except the pre-seminar statement he published in three European newspapers, but I am inclined to take Spengler's assessment (biased as it may be), because the first reports I read about him [back in 2007 when a local councilman in Val D'Aosta questioned the region's welcome for Benedict XVI, when it had previously banned Ramadan from giving a lecture there because of openly anti-Semitic statements he had made] led me to read other reports indicating that he has been, at best, an opportunist who is able to deploy his considerable intellect in presenting arguments for a seemingly moderate Islam, thereby gaining many adoring acolytes among impressionable Western intellectuals.

But if he has, as reports say, advocated shaping a European Islam that follows democratic principles, then that certainly is the kind of practical initiative that the Muslim participants of the Forum could undertake, because they would be operating within democratic societies. Unless, of couse, their aim is to make Sharia accepted as a law valid for Muslims within those societies, which would be a contradiction of democracy itself any way you look at it.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/13/2008 6:22 PM]
11/13/2008 2:20 PM
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OR today,

The Holy Father talks about the second coming of Jesus in his Pauline catechesis:
'Without Christ, there cannot be a just and renewed world'

Right photo shows Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, presenting the Pope with a copy of the new Ambrosian Rite lectionary.
Other Page 1 stories: An essay on the genius of St. Paul; and the incubus of recession, as Wall Street and European stock markets continue to lose.


The Holy Father met today with
- H.E. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of tBrazil, his wife and delegation
- H.E. Sante Canducci, Ambassador of the Republic of San Marino, who presented his credentials
- Bishops of Bolivia (Group 4) on ad-limina visit

Benedict XVI tells San Marino envoy:

VATICAN CITY, 13 NOV 2008 (VIS) - Benedict XVI this morning received the Letters of Credence of Sante Canducci, the new ambassador of the Republic of San Marino to the Holy See.

In his address to the diplomat, the Holy Father pointed out that "the Christian faith has impregnated the life and history of the people and institutions of San Marino", and he expressed the hope that "today's civil and religious community in San Marino proves able to come together to write a chapter of progress and civilisation, recognising the indispensable role each family (as a place of education in peace) is called to play in forming the new generations".

Benedict XVI affirmed that, despite "the changed environmental and social conditions in which we live today, the final aim of all our daily efforts, both as individuals and as a community, remains unaltered: the search for the true wellbeing of the person and the creation of an open and welcoming society attentive to the real needs of everyone.

"The values and laws, the shared spiritual 'alphabet', that has made it possible for our peoples to write noble chapters of civil and religious history over the centuries, is a precious heritage that must not be squandered", the Pope added.

"A heritage to be augmented with the contribution of modern discoveries in the fields of science technology and communication, which must be placed at the service of the real good of mankind".

The Holy Father highlighted the fact that "a total separation of public life from any form of value or tradition would, in fact, mean starting down blind alley. This is why it is necessary to redefine the meaning of secularism, a secularism that highlights the real difference and autonomy between the various elements of society but that also protects their specific competencies, in a context of shared responsibility.

"Certainly this 'healthy' secularism of the State means that all temporal situations must be governed by their own norms; these, nonetheless, must never ignore fundamental ethical requirements the basis of which lies in man's very nature and which, precisely for this reason, lead back in the final analysis to the Creator".

The Holy Father concluded by recalling that "when the Church, through her legitimate pastors, appeals to the value that certain ethical principles rooted in the Christian heritage of Europe, have for private life, and even more so for public life, she is moved exclusively by the desire to guarantee and promote the inviolable dignity of the person and the authentic good of society".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/14/2008 12:40 AM]
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For all the news agencies who tried to make more of President-elect Obama's courtesy telephone call to the Pope Tuesday than what it was - just one of several return calls made by Obama to world leaders who had congratulated him - here instead is a realistic look by Giuliano Ferrara's Il Foglio at the prospects of Vatican-US relations in the new administration.

Obama's telephone call
and the prospects for
US-Vatican relations

Translated from

November 13, 2008

When Barack Obama called Benedict XVI Tuesday, it was a simple courtesy telephone call and stem cells research was not discussed, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican press spokesman, said yesterday.

At about the same time, news agencies around the world were reporting on the concerns expressed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on the 'pro-choice' stand of Obama and the Democratic Party which now controls both the White House and Congress.

"The common good can never be appropriately embodied by society if conceived beings can be legally killed", said Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and USCCB president.

Also making news around the same time were words by the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Ministry, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, who said embryonic stem cell research is
'unnecessary', considering that much more promising advances are taking place with adult stem cells and with reprogrammed cells.

Obama's courtesy telephone call was nonetheless an informal start to a relationship with Pope Benedict XVI. They will have time to know each other better in the coming four years.

But the dossiers on the most important common issues faced by the United States and the Catholic Church are well known, and the files are on Benedict's desk.

He will be discussing these with his secretary of state and his diplomatic representatives on US Territory - Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to Washington, DC, and Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations.

He will also have the input of American prelates in the Roman Curia, notably Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Segnatura, along with other American cardinals and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The last American 'snapshots' of Papa Ratzinger were from his April trip to the United States but that now seems to belong to a different historical era: the excellent welcome he got - meaning, the media success of the trip, the more than cordial relationship between Benedict XVI and George W. Bush and their shared views on many important issues, principally, the fate of the West, faith as a barrier to moral relativism, and their opposition to abortion and Frankensteinian bioethics.

With Barack Obama, there will be less in common. Or, perhaps, in the words of Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, professor of international relations at the Catholic University of Milan, would have the following differences:

"If one looks at the concept of international politics, there are some lines along which the new US administration and the Vatican could converge. For example, the definitive abandonment of the doctrine of preventive war, and a less 'muscular' US attitude in international relations.

"In general, Obama could favor a more multilateral leadership on the international scene, and this has been traditionally the preference of the Vatican."

And there will be changed viewpoints.

"For example, in Africa, a continent which is very important to the Church. Obama may well give it greater attention in terms of development, but his way of fighting AIDS, for instance, will certainly not be along the common view shared by Benedict and Bush."

At any rate, bilateral relations between the Vatican and the United States are optimal and there is no reason to see any deterioration.

More complex, however, is the internal relationship between the new administration and the Catholic Church in the United States.

The US bishops have been meeting in Baltimore, and the prospect of Obama signing a so-called Freedom of Choice Act which would, in effect, establish abortion as a universal right, has consolidated them into a clear opposition [See CULTURE & POLITCS for the USCCB's Final Statement on FOCA].

The bishops' stand also carries the risk of widening the rupture with the 54% of American Catholics voted for Obama in open disregard for Church admonitions against voting for politicians who advocate abortion.

But relations between the Vatican and the new administration will also depend a lot on the degree of attention that Obama gives to issues important to the Church, from social justice to funding for Catholic schools.

Very likely, Vatican diplomats will have more work to do in international organizations (particularly the United Nations and all its organisms such as the FAO, the UNESCO and the World Health Organization), Parsi points out.

The Democratic administration is likely to pursue policies 'less shared' by the Holy See on population policy and on development strategies, in which Obama's views are closer to the north European democracies and China.

In many respects, then, the tensions over ethically sensitive issues will be evident soon enough.

But Vatican diplomacy is not concerned only with bilateral relations with the United States and the great international issues. The new political phase after George W. Bush - for whom the conflict with radical Islam was a major and inevitable issue, with a consequent emphasis on the Christian matrix of Western civilization - is rather complex. Among other things, Benedict XVI has been called more 'Eurocentric' than his predecessor [though how that can be sustained, considering that John Paul II's major contribution to international politics was working to liberate Eastern Europe from Communism!]

But it must not be forgotten that the Catholic Church is not only a global entity - it is also supra-national in its very hierarchical and diplomatic structure, and Benedict XVI has not shown any tendency to change that!

Suffice it to point out that with his most recent nominations, for the first time the majority of the Vatican's 104 Apostolic Nuncios (its ambassadors to foreign countries) are no longer Italians - six are from India, six from the United States, and similarly well represented are bishops coming from French-speaking and Spanish-speaking nations [also, three from the Philippines, alone, I might add!]. Thus, the Church's viewpoint is increasingly more multilateral.

The most critical front is obviously the relationship with the Muslims. The first seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum has just concluded in Rome, and Cardinal jean Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialog, summed up its positive points in a long interview with Avvenire.

Tauran gave the interview before leaving for the UN in New York, to attend an inter-religious summit on peace and dialog promoted by Saudi Arabia.

The time seems certainly far removed from the tensions that followed the Pope's Regensburg lecture ("The repeated negative references to Regensburg sometimes gets to be nauseating", Tauran tells Avvenire), but Benedict XVI is very much concerned about the suffering of Christians in Iraq and India, both victims of anti-Christian persecution.

In his Angelus message on October 26, the Pope referred to both situations in a passionate appeal "so that the rule of law and civil coexistence may be restored as soon as possible" wherever "Christians are victims of intolerance and cruelties, where they are killed, threatened and forced to abandon their own homes".

But Iraq and India are only two of the sensitive situations for the Holy See.

Cardinal Oswaldo Gracias, president of the Indian bishops conference, commenting on Obama's election, underscored its supra-racial significance: "The historic election of an African-American reflects the effectiveness of democracy" and pointed out the multiracial situation of India, "a mosaic of different groups who accept each other in their cultural diversity and who live and work together" [Or should. And have, for the most part, till lately.]

In Asia, the past few months have seen an apparent new chill in Vatican-China relations, which had appeared on the way to a new phase, especially with the Pope's prudence about the Tibetan situation several months ago. But Chinese bishops were once again disauthorized form participating in the recent Bishops' Synod assembly.

The Chinese attitude probably reflects on the crisis with the Vietnamese government [over the return of Church properties confiscated by the Communists in Ho Chi Minh City 9formerly Saigon)], which has set back an anticipated opening of diplomatic relations.

In all these situations, the Church's pro-active international diplomacy has been able to count on the support of the United States because of a shared vision with George W. Bush, especially about religious freedom (which Bush last raised publicly in Beijing when he attended the opening of the Summer Olympics last July).

Equally clouded is the situation of the Church in Latin America, the 'backyard' of the United States. More than half of the world's Catholics live there, but most of the continent's leftist governments are not particularly interested in what the Vatican has to say.

Not just Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who is opposed by the country's bishops, or the 'indigenist' Bolivian President Evo Morales - both of whom prefer to coddle what is left of 'liberation theology' than to deal with the current Church hierarchy and its predominantly Wojtylian matrix.

In Paraguay, the fact of ex-bishop Fernando Lugo having been elected President could not be more explicit of the Church problem in South America. Chile and Mexico are advancing with anti-Catholic family and abortion policies which could become a model for other countries in the region.

Then, there is Africa, where the current figure of 150 million Catholics represent 17% of the population. A Special Synod on Africa will take place at the Vatican next October, and before that, the Pope will be visiting Cameroon and Angola.

But it is also the continent most 'fragile' for Catholicism, where both Islam and Protestant sects have actively penetrated. Barack Obama's father was Kenyan, and it is rather ironic that the Somali pirates who abducted two Italian nuns brought them to their enclave in Kenya.

Besides, it is Africa and Asia that have been most affected by the pro-active policies of multinational organizations, including the UN, on family planning, forced sterilization and abortion - policies which the Church has been fighting for some time.

This brings us back to the expected change in the United States position with Obama, after the years during which Bush blocked US participation in the UN's abortionist activities.

There is obviously great speculation on who the next US ambassador to the UN will be. For example, Caroline Kennedy has been mentioned, who happens to be Catholic, but also very much in line with the incoming President's views on abortion. [As would any ambassador named by Obama, for that matter.]

Also, Obama's transition team already said that among the many executive orders by Bush that Obama intends to revoke as soon as he takes office is that prohibiting US aid for international abortion-promoting activities - along with the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, to get back to the original premise of this report.]

Apropos the UN interfaith summit mentioned above:

Bush, other leaders to promote
interfaith dialogue at UN

The gathering follows a successful Muslim-Catholic forum at the Vatican.

By Jane Lampman

Nov. 12, 2008

After a groundbreaking meeting between Roman Catholic and Muslim religious leaders last week, world political leaders this week are meeting to heighten the visibility and broaden the commitment to interfaith dialogue.

Left, Pres. Bush arrives to address UN interfaith summit today;
right, former President Clinton meets Saudi King Abdullah and Foriegn Minister Prince Faisal.

On Nov. 12 and 13 at the United Nations, President Bush gathers with a dozen heads of state and other leaders to lend political backing to interfaith initiatives. The Prime Minister of Britain, leaders of several Muslim nations, and the Presidents of Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine are among those participating.

"The idea is to send a unified clear message that the world community is in consensus in promoting interfaith dialogue and speaking against extremism, intolerance, and terrorism," says Rayed Krimly, special envoy of Saudi Arabia, whose King, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, was the driving force behind this week's meeting.

Heading a nation that has restricted other religions, King Abdullah "felt very strongly he needs to put his moral and political authority on the line." The King began calling for interfaith dialogue at a Muslim summit in Mecca in June and organized a multifaith conference in Madrid in July.

Human Rights Watch called Tuesday for world leaders to press Saudi Arabia to end religious discrimination at home.

The meeting follows a separate interfaith initiative – the first Catholic-Muslim forum at the Vatican – hosted by Pope Benedict XVI. The talks on Nov. 4-6 led to a 15-point declaration that leaders of both faiths say exceeded their expectations (see

"We've turned an important page in the whole history of Christian-Muslim relations," says Fr. James Massa, head of inter-religious affairs for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. "What this conference has done is make the connection so clearly between core commitments of faith and respect for religious freedom and other human rights, and this is a remarkable achievement."

Among their commitments, the top leaders agreed on: the right of individuals to choose in matters of conscience and to practice their religion in private and public; that religious minorities are to be respected and are entitled to their own places of worship; that human dignity and respect should be extended on an equal basis to both men and women.

They agreed to hold a second forum in a Muslim-majority country and to explore "establishing a permanent Catholic-Muslim committee to coordinate responses to conflicts and other emergency situations."

Such a crisis-management effort could help deal with events like the Danish cartoon crisis or the recent attacks against Christian communities in Iraq, says Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for the Muslim delegation and director of SETA Foundation in Ankara, Turkey.

The Rome forum constitutes the third phase of meetings growing out of "A Common Word," the invitation to dialogue sent to all Christian churches in October 2007 by top clergy from across the Muslim world. The Muslims urged that dialogues be based on the shared principles of "love of God and love of one's neighbor."

Protestants met with Muslim leaders at Yale University in July. Anglicans hosted sessions at Cambridge University in Britain in October during which the participants read sacred texts together. Next spring, religious and political leaders will meet in Washington to consider political and social actions that might follow from the three dialogues.

The Catholic-Muslim interaction seemed most problematical. Two years ago, the Pope's speech at Regensburg, Germany – in which he seemed to suggest Islam was a violent and irrational faith – shocked the Muslim world. Though his subsequent visit to Turkey quieted concerns to some degree, the Vatican was slowest to respond to the Muslim invitation to dialogue. [Can you believe this? 'A Common Word' would never have been writte if the Regensburg lecture had not brought up the urgency for a reason-based dialog between religions!]

Under Pope Benedict, the Vatican had pulled back from the idea of theological discussion with Islam and emphasized "reciprocity," seeing that Christian churches got the same rights in Muslim countries as Muslims had in the West. Some Muslims worried the forum might be difficult. But participants were more than satisfied.

"The Pope's reception was very warm," says Dr. Kalin. "The consensus was we don't have to have uniformity [in theology] in order to develop common strategies to deal with problems of the world. Overall, it was a very successful event." [What a naive statement! You don't have to attend a Forum to see what is an obvious a priori condition, and something Pope Benedict always emphasizes - let us work together on the principles we agree about. Inter-religious dialog is most definitely not about convincing each other of one's theology, much less a quest for a universal religion!]

Bush tells UN that
religious freedom is central
to US foreign policy

By Margaret Besheer
'Voice of America'

13 November 2008

President Bush told the U.N. General Assembly that religious liberty is a central element of U.S. foreign policy and the rise of democracy is one of the best ways to protect religious freedom.

In what is likely his final appearance at the United Nations before he leaves office in January, Mr. Bush addressed a session of the General Assembly aimed at highlighting the importance of interfaith dialogue in solving the world's crises.

Mr. Bush spoke about how faith has been pivotal in his life.

"Many years ago, faith changed my life," Mr. Bush said. "Faith has sustained me through the challenges and joys of my presidency, and faith will guide me for the rest of my days."

He said the United States was founded by people seeking refuge from religious persecution and that freedom of religion is a right enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

"Freedom is God's gift to every man, woman and child," Mr. Bush said. "And that freedom includes the right of all people to worship as they see fit."

He said protecting religious freedom has always been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy.

President Bush said that although people may hold different beliefs or worship in different places, faith leads us all to common values such as loving our neighbors and treating others with compassion and respect.

Mr. Bush said one of the defining features of democratic governments is that they embrace people of all faiths and backgrounds, giving them the freedom to oppose those who use religion to justify violence or extremism.

"People who are free to express their opinions can challenge the ideologies of hate. They can defend their religious beliefs and speak out against those seeking to twist them to evil ends," Mr. Bush said. "They can prevent their children from falling under the sway of extremists by giving them a more hopeful alternative."

Before he addressed the assembly, President Bush met privately with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. Afterwards, the two leaders and their wives posed for photos, on what is probably Mr. Bush's last visit to the United Nations as President.

Mr. Bush was to meet with Saudi King Abdullah, who initiated the interfaith dialogue conference. The President would then go to the nearby financial district to make comments on the global economy, before returning to Washington, where he will host the G-20 financial summit this weekend.

Changing religion is a vital right: Bush

UNITED NATIONS. Nov. 13 (AFP) – US President George W. Bush on Thursday declared the ability to change religion a fundamental right, at a UN inter-faith conference that has highlighted tensions between the Muslim and Western worlds.

Bush praised his close ally, Saudi King Abdullah, for sponsoring the conference, but effectively challenged the strict Islamic kingdom's outlawing of apostasy, or change of religion.

Addressing representatives of 80 countries at the United Nations, Bush noted that the UN Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 60 years ago, enshrines "the right to choose or change religions and the right to worship in private or public."

"Freedom includes the right of all people to worship as they see fit," he said on the second and final day of the conference, billed as a dialogue on religious tolerance.

Security was tight at UN headquarters in New York, with heavily armed patrol boats cruising the banks of the East River. The embankment highway leading to the United Nations was briefly shut down for Bush's motorcade.

The conference issued a bland closing statement urging "dialogue, understanding and tolerance among human beings."

But the meeting revealed stark cultural and political differences over interpreting the definition of tolerance and freedom.

European speakers stressed the supremacy of individual human rights in speeches that amounted to veiled criticism of Muslim governments.

Meanwhile, representatives of Islamic states repeatedly stressed what they described as Western intolerance of Islam.

Pakistani President Asif Zardari warned of bias against Islam and rising "imaginary fear."

Iran's UN ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee, attacked "systematic, negative stereotyping of Islam."

He also used his speech to lambast Israel, whose "short history is marked with crimes such as aggression, occupation, assassination, state terrorism and torture against the Palestinian people."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown struck a conciliatory tone urging unity at a time of global economic turmoil.

"The way forward is not in countries working in isolation from or against each other, but countries working together," he said.

"The cooperation of peoples, whatever their faith, in each continent of the world will determine whether we can build a truly global society."

King Abdullah pushed for the UN conference as a follow-up to efforts at promoting inter-faith dialogue in Madrid last July.

His role has attracted criticism, notably from Human Rights Watch, which describes Saudi Arabia as repressing religious and other freedoms.

However, world leaders here praised the king as a pioneer in attempting to build bridges between the Islamic and Western worlds.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said critics of his country were wrong to argue that either "you ... transform yourself into something which you aren't now, or nothing else can be achieved."

Instead, different cultures should develop common ground, he told a press conference. Then "this will open the hearts and minds of people for further progress."

Bush thanked King Abdullah "for his leadership and convincing us all to come together and speak about faith."

A committed Christian, the outgoing US president struck a personal note, recalling that "many years ago, faith changed my life."

"Faith has sustained me through the challenges and the joys of my presidency and faith will guide me through the rest of my days," Bush said.

Cardinal Tauran to UN interfaith summit:
Religion must not be used
to justify violence or
restrict freedom of conscience

Translated from
the Italian service of

Nov. 13, 2008

"Religions, notwitstanding the weaknesses and contradictions of their followers, are messengers of reconciliation and peace", but "believers should be consistent and credible".

This was the core of the message delivered by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialog, on the first day of the United Nations interfaith summit promoted by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, with the participation of heads of state and government from more than 70 nations.

Cardinal Tauran pointed out the role of relgions in promoting the common good of society, but acknowledged that believers could alo use religion "to limit freedom of conscience, justify violence, spread hate and fanaticism, or to undermine the autonomy between politics and religion".

The cardinal said that the United Nations, by its nature and mission, should be a school for peace - where nations can learn to think and act with the aspirations and legitimate interests of everyone in mind.

"Here," he said, "all nations are equal in dignity" but "in order to foster the feeling of belonging to one single family", it is necessary "to overcome the simple logic of the balance of power in favor of the power of right".

Citing Benedict XVI, Cardinal Tauran said the Church is convinced that "peace is compromised by indifference to what constitutes the true nature of man" and which is the basis for "values common to everyone, believers or not, namely: the sacredness of life, the dignity of the human being, respect for freedom fo conscience and religion, welcoming all opinions in their diversity, the right use of reason, appreciation for the democratic way of life, and protection of natural resources".

It is necessary, he said, "to go beyond simple tolerance" and 'uncertain compromises" in order to "construct together, without renouncing one's cultural and religious patrimony, a more secure and fraternal world".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/14/2008 2:01 PM]
11/13/2008 7:33 PM
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VATICAN CITY, 13 NOV 2008 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today released the following declaration:

[IMG]This morning Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, president of the Federative Republic of Brazil, was received in audience by His Holiness Benedict XVI. The president subsequently went on the meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

The cordial meeting provided an opportunity for a fruitful exchange of opinions on matters concerning the current situation in the region and in the world.

Attention then turned to certain aspects of the situation in Brazil, and in particular to social policies that seek to improve the living conditions of the many people who live in circumstances of distress and marginalisation, and to favour the fundamental role of the family in the struggle against violence and social decay.

The discussions also emphasised collaboration between Church and State with a view to promoting moral values and the common good, not only in the country but particularly in favour of Africa.

In this context, having recalled the Holy Father's visit to Brazil in May 2007 for the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean in Aparecida, satisfaction was expressed at the conclusion of an agreement between the Holy See and Brazil. The agreement was later signed in the course of same visit. [/IMG]

A second communique explains that the new agreement, "which further consolidates the traditional bonds of friendship and collaboration between the two parties, consists of a preamble followed by 20 articles regulating various areas including the juridical status of the Catholic Church in Brazil, the recognition of qualifications, religious teaching in State schools, canonical marriage and the fiscal system".

Brazil and the Vatican
sign agreement on Church status

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY. Nov. 13 (CNS) -- Eighteen months after he visited Brazil and told the President he hoped a church-state agreement could be signed during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI welcomed President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to the Vatican for the signing ceremony.

The Pope and President spent almost 25 minutes speaking privately Nov. 13, before Da Silva introduced his wife, his foreign minister and other government officials.

When the papal meeting was over, the Brazilian president and his entourage where ushered to the Treaty Room of the Apostolic Palace where Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and Celso Amorim, Brazil's foreign minister, signed an agreement on "the juridical status of the Catholic Church."

When the Pope visited Brazil in May 2007 and held a private meeting with da Silva, the Pope told him he hoped the agreement would be signed during his pontificate and while Da Silva was still in office.

Pope Benedict did not attend the signing ceremony, but when he greeted da Silva at the door of his library he said, "Thank you very much for the agreement that will be signed."

The Vatican said it would not publish the text of the agreement until it had been ratified by the Brazilian Parliament.

However, the Vatican said, "it is composed of a preamble and 20 articles, which discipline various spheres, among which are: the juridical status of the Catholic Church in Brazil, the recognition of educational degrees, teaching religion in public schools," the recognition of church marriages and the access of chaplains to military bases, prisons and hospitals.

At the signing ceremony, Amorim said that, while "the separation of church and state was always respected" in Brazil, the bilateral agreement -- similar to those the Vatican has signed with dozens of other nations -- makes explicit the status of the church and its institutions in Brazil.

Amorim also praised the church for its contributions to Brazil, particularly in the fields of education, health care, assistance to the poor, the promotion of democracy and human rights and enlightening people's consciences about social inequalities.

Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, Vatican nuncio to Brazil, told Vatican Radio the agreement formally and solemnly guarantees the freedoms the church has had in Brazil to carry out its work.

On the issue of religious instruction in public schools, the archbishop said class attendance always will be voluntary and that the classes will be funded by the Catholic Church.

In addition, he said, "with this agreement, we open the door not only to Catholics but to other religious confessions" that want to provide religious instruction in Brazilian schools.

For the first time, he said, a Vatican agreement with a nation speaks explicitly of "the Catholic Church and other religious confessions" being able to provide religious education in public schools.

"This is extremely positive. It means that as the Catholic Church we affirm religious freedom, first of all," the archbishop said.

The agreement guarantees "greater freedom for other confessions," he said. "This spirit of religious freedom must be at the basis of human coexistence."

NB: You might have noted that among the accusations by Jewish critics against Pius XII was that he signed for the Vatican a diplomatic agreement with Hitler's Germany in the early 1930s - negotiated by himself as Apostolic Nuncio to Berlin. That agreement, or Concordat, is precisely similar to the agreement just signed with Brazil.

Why the Jewish critics should consider it a crime for the Church to enter into such an agreement is simply foolish and mean-spirited. As is evident from its main provisions, such an agreement gives the Catholic Church juridical status in a foreign country and guarantees the basic conditions it needs to do its work.

Perhaps not incidentally, the same type of agreement continues to be pending implementation by Israel - for reasons that are unclear except the obvious one of bad faith - although the agreement was signed in 1993. Why Israel signed it if it was unwilling to implement it is something I cannot understand.

By the way, Israel prides itself in being a Western-style democracy, but in terms of religious freedom, it does not seem to be much better than its Muslim enemies, at least in dealing with Catholics, whose priests even have trouble getting the proper visas from the Israeli government. Yet it is practical points like this that a bilateral agreement is intended to define

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/14/2008 5:46 AM]
11/14/2008 2:17 AM
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On November 30, Benedict XVI to visit
St. Lawrence outside the Walls

Translated from
the 11/14/08 issue of

On Sunday. November 30, Benedict XVI will make a pastoral visit to the Roman parish of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura and will celebrate Mass in the Basilica, where he will venerate the tomb of St. Lawrence on the 10th anniversary of his martyrdom.

After the Mass, he will also pay homage at the tomb of Blessed Pius IX, who chose to be buried in this basilica rather than at St. Peter's; and at the tomb of Alcide de Gasperi, Italy's most outstanding statesman in postwar Italy and one of the founders of the European Community.

The Pope will be welcomed to the parish by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, his Vicar for Rome, Vice-Regent Luigi Moretti who is also the abbot of St. Lawrence, and Auxiliary Bishop Enzo Dieci, for the Diocese of Rome; and for the Franciscan Order of the Capuchins, who are in charge of the Basilica, Fr. Mauro Jöhri, minister-general; parish priest Fr. Bruno Mustacchio, and the community's superior, Fr. Frumenzio Donato.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/14/2008 2:20 AM]
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OR today.

Main Papal story:
the Holy Father's meeting with the President of Brazil and the signing of a Vatican-Brazil agreement.

A commentary by Mons. Rino Fisichella on the debate on life issues argues it must be open to reason and avoid fundamentalism.
(But the issue came out before the decision on the Englaro case, which had prompted the editorial). Likewise, the main Page 1
story - that the US Treasury's decision to change the orientation of the federal recovery plan caused stock markets to plunge -
was overtaken by a dramatic 911-point recovery in the US market shortly thereafter.


The Holy Father met today with
- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
- Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
- Mons. George Panikulam, Apostolic Nuncio in Ethiopia and Apostolic
Delegate to Somalia.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/14/2008 1:17 PM]
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