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00Monday, October 27, 2008 6:53 PM

It's more than overdue to open a thread for previous Popes, so I will start this now and go back later to consolidate all the previous reporting on the Forum in 2008 alone - which has been considerable - on the Popes since Pius XII. (We have always had a separate thread for John Paul II.) I remember a couple of posts on Pius IX, Pius X and Benedict XV, as well.

But for now, I will start with a memoir on Blessed John XXIII, written by his private secretary on the occasion of the 50th anniversary tomorrow of his election to the Papacy, on a lead from Lella on her blog

John XXIII borne on the sedia [portable Papal throne] on his formal inauguration:
He was the last Pope to wear the Papal tiara

Mons. Capovilla recalls
'the day they elected Roncalli'

by Giorgio Malavasi
Translated from 'GENTE VENETA'
(Diocesan organ of the Patriarchate of Venice)

October 27, 2008

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli had been Pope for a few hours. Less than an hour earlier, he faced the crowd at St. Peter's Square for his first greeting urbi et orbi, and he had just received the affectionate and festive homage of the cardinals in the Hall of Vestments.

Then, one by one, the cardinal-electors left, and only three persons remained behind in the great hall: the new Pope, his secretary, don Loris Capovilla, and his longtime driver and aide during his years as Patriarch of Venice, Guido Gusso.

It was a singular moment, and in many ways, magical and out of this world. Don Loris was quite preoccupied in the midst of his disorientation - his mind teemed with a thousand things he must now do, organize, get under way...

"Holiness, should I call someone? You have to make a radio address, we need to call a Latinist to help us, but then there's also...."

The new Vicar of Christ stopped him and said calmly: "My son, for now, leave me in my evening peace, I will pray the Rosary, and then we shall speak."

Those words and that attitude manifest one of the highlights of that extraordinary day 50 years ago as seen behind the scenes by a privileged observer.

But it is also one of the basic traits in the personality of Angelo Roncalli who, even in those clamorous hours, was not about to change his daily routine nor the hierarchy of his values: before any effort, or any festivity, prayer first!

Mons. Capovilla, at a distance of half a century, recalls that day with a lucidity and sharpness hardly undermined by age - he is 93.

From Sotto il Monte [the village near Bergamo where John XXIII was born], where he has lived of years after having been Archbishop-Prelate of Loreto, Capovilla recounted for GV all the moments of that day.

"From 6 a.m., when I told him, 'Eminence, I wish you a good and blessed day' to the evening when I knelt before him in the sacristy of the Sistine Chapel and said, "This time, I greet you as the Most Holy Father: Please bless me'. And he said some beautiful words to me which I have never told anyone and which I will bring with me to the grave".

A secret which recalls, in some ways, that maintained by Roncalli himself when, as a new priest in August 1904, he was received for a greeting and blessing by Pope Pius X the morning after the first Mass don Angelo said at St. Peter's Basilica.

On that occasion, Papa Sarto, whose footsteps Roncalli himself would follow decades later as Patriarch of Venice and then as Pope, addressed words to him that now seem premonitory.

Mons. Capovilla himself now recalls it, as his bishop told it to him: "Pius X said, 'I hope that that your priesthood will be a comfort for the universal Church." But there were other words that the young Roncalli kept in his memory but did not reveal to anyone.

But to go back to that October 28 fifty years ago.

"I remember very well," Capovilla says, "the white smoe at 17:05, and then at 18:08, the announcement 'Habemus papam...' After 15 minutes, the new Pope appeared at the Loggia. He was very happy to face the crowd, because he loved meeting people and speaking to them."

He had a moment of disorientation, nonetheless. At first, he could not see anything. The fierce glare of TV lighting blinded him so he could not see the Square nor the crowd, and for a while, he did not know what to do.

But the master of ceremonies prompted him to give his blessing to the crowd.

"Later, he recalled to me that upon turning to listen, he saw the Crucifix which seemed to tell him, 'Angelo Giuseppe, you have changed your name and your vestments. But remember that if you are not kind and humble of heart like me, you will see nothing: you will be blind!' ...And so, I think that humility and kindness were the other grace notes of the day."

Afterwards, John XXIII proceeded to the Hall of Vestments where all the cardinals had gathered to greet him.

"It was a very informal encounter, affectionate and festive. They surrounded him and almost suffocated him with their embraces. To the point that the dean of cardinals remarked, 'Look out - don't kill him now that he has just become Pope!'"

It was after the cardinals left that the Pope asked his secretary to leave him in peace for a while for his evening prayer.

"He prayed the Rosary three times a day," says Capovilla.

"Around 20:30, he ate something, and proceeded to draft his first radio message to the world as Pope," he continues. "He went to bed around 22:30, but woke up early the next day to write down the radio message in his notebook.

"I think that those words represent another decisive trait of that extraordinary man."

Roncalli, who had made it a habit to write down spiritual notes, as well as notes about the events of his day, wrote that day: "Since last night, I have asked to be called Joannes, and today, they will be talking about me, my name and person. Oh my venerated parents, o Mamma mia, Papa, grandfather Angelo, uncle, where are you? Who can bring you to share this honor?"

In those lines, Mons. Capovilla says, Roncalli paid tribute to how essential it is to venerate one;s roots, one's family.

"It was as if he was placing the papal tiara on the land that his forefathers had humbly worked, now that he had been called to 'farm' all of God's land on earth. It was a return to those roots from which he drew not only his daily bread, but also the 'holy fear' of God."

P.S. The Vatican has just posted its online summary of important articles in its issue for 10/27/-10/28/08, which contains four items about John XXIII - a front-page editorial, a memoir by Mons. Capovilla, a reportage by his journalist-nephew Marco Roncalli, and the eulogy delivered by then Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini in the Cathedral of Milan on the death of John XXIII, whom, it turns out, he would succeed as Pope a few weeks later.

I will post the items as soon as translated.

00Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:15 AM
Pius XII and Paul VI
Teresa - would it be possible for you to transfer our posts on Pius XII and Paul VI to this thread? Then they would all be in one place.
I would certainly like to contribute to a thread about these and earlier popes - it's a good idea.
00Tuesday, October 28, 2008 3:03 AM

OR pays homage to Blessed John XXIII, on the 50th anniversary today of his election as Pope
with a front-page editorial, and three articles inside, including the eulogy given by Cardinal Montini in Milan after the late Pope's funeral.
Translations of all four articles follow.

Half a century ago,
John XXIII became Pope

by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from
the 10/27-10/28/08 issue of

On October 28, 1958, half a century ago, the election of the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, was seen to be that of a 'transitional' Pope.

The term 'transitional', first employed in diplomatic circles, soon filtered to the public because of the age of the new Pope (he was 77) and because of an expected 'transition' to a new situation after a long and important Pontificate like Pius XII's. [Exactly the same reasons, mutatis mutandis, many commentators immediately dismissed Benedict XVI as 'transitional' in 2005.]

A product of the Bergamo countryside, the new Pope - who, after six centuries, chose the name most used by earlier Popes because of his devotion to Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist - was born on November 25, 1881, in Sotto il Monte.

Despite his family's modest means, he received an optimal cultural and spiritual formation in Rome, in the middle of the modernist wars, from which, he would say later, he emerged 'unharmed in the midst of such ferment and agitation of brains and tongues", a situation he would also define as 'a temptation to everyone'.

Ordained a priest in 1904, he became the secretary to an important bishop, Giacomo Radini Tedeschi, who was military chaplain during the First World War. Afterwards, returning to Rome, he had responsibilities working with overseas missions.

In 1925, he was ordained a bishop and chose the motto, 'oboedientia et pax', a theme that would accompany him all his life.

As pontifical representative in Bulgaria and then in Istanbul, he had to face the epochal changes that followed the Great War, in contact and in confrontation with difficult environments such as Orthodox Christianity, and later, the new Turkey, where he was caught up in the tragic consequences of the war and its horrors.

In 1945, he was transferred to the key Nunciature of Paris. Eight years later, he was named Patriarch of Venice, becoming cardinal in the Consistory of 1953. This seemed to be the crowning honor in an ecclesiastic career that was already very significant.

Then came his election as Pope, and the 'transition' forecast according to conventional and myopic thinking did indeed become true in a different sense from what was intended.

Upon his election, John XXIII immediately thought about convening an ecumenical Council - the first in a century - which he announced in 1959 and which opened after 4 years of preparation. That was Vatican-II which became the most important religious event of the 20th century.

Meanwhile, the Pope, who had said he wanted to be 'the shepherd of the entire flock', had become 'the good Pope' in the eyes of the public because of his actions and words which were unusually 'popular' for a Pope. But he also began to suffer a public agony from failing health [stomach cancer], which led to his death on June 9, 1963.

Before concluding Vatican-II, which he immediately resumed, Paul VI introduced the cause of beatification of his two immediate predecessors, Pius XII and John XXIII.

In 2000, John Paul II beatified John XXIII along with Pius IX, whom Papa Roncalli himself had wanted to beatify.

Thirty-seven years had passed since his death, the same interval between the death and beatification of Pius X, another figure venerated by John XXIII.

With his life and pontifical service, 'the good Pope' has shown how Catholic tradition is a reality that is both uninterrupted as well as open to the future.

Here is the tribute written by journalist-historian Marco Roncalli, a grand-nephew of the late Pope (his grandfather was the Pope's brother), who has spent the past 25 years specializing in John XXIII's life and work.

'Since last night,
I have chosen to be called Joannes'

by Marco Roncalli
Translated from
the 10/27-10/28/08 issue of

Fifty years ago, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was elected Pope, and that night he wrote in his journal:

28 October, Tuesday (...) Third day of the Conclave (...) Holy Mass at the Matilde Chapel: with great devotion on my part. Invoked with special tenderness my Protector Saints: St. Joseph, St. Mark, St. Lawrence Justinian, St. Pius X, so that they may instill me with calm and courage ...

I did not think it would be right to go down and dine with the cardinals. I ate in my room. Followed by a brief rest and great abandon.

On the 11th balloting, there I was, named Pope. O Jesus, even I say like Pius XII did when he was elected Pope, 'Miserere mei Deus secundum magnam misericordiam tuam' (Have mercy on me, God, in your great mercy'.

One would say it's a dream. Before death, this is the most solemn reality in all of my poor life. Here I am, Lord, ready, ad convivendum et ad commoriendum ['to live together and to die together', as St. Paul tells the Corinthians in the Second Letter](...)

From the Balcony of St.Peter's, some 300,000 people applauded. The spotlights kept me from seeing anything other than an amorphous mass in movement.

It was said that - between the options for continuity versus discontinuity after the long Pacelli pontificate - the conclave was inclined to find a 'Pope of transition'. But Roncalli was already predicted before the cardinals entered the Sistine Chapel.

Even if he was forced to note 'a great fluttering' around my 'poor person', as he wrote in his diary on October 25; or was capable of asking Mons. Angelo D'Acqua at the Secretariat of State, "My name is being mentioned as a possible Pope. What should I do?", to which his friend answered, "Don't say No! Let it be done and face the sacrifice you are asked to do"; and even if he was quick to confess on October 24, to the Bishop of Faenza, Giuseppe Battaglia,"I am going through some concerns. I am writing you in haste to invoke you to come and pray with me (...) I have been told I should yield to the will of the Holy Spirit..."

Indeed, he was called 'ad majora', to higher things. And how did it happen? It appeared that it was a toss-up between him and Cardinal Gregory Peter Agagianian, pro-Prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.

John XXIII himself confided after the elections, when he addressed students at the Collegio Armeno (Agagianian was Armenian): "Do you know that your cardinal and I were more or less paired together in the Conclave last October? Our names took turns being up or down (in the successive ballotings) like chickpeas in boiling water".

"Since last evening, I have chosen to be called Joannes": That, in any case, was how, with great seriousness, began the diary of a Pontificate that was greeted as 'transitional'.

But subsequent events immediately gave the lie to the low expectations built into the adjective 'transitional'. It's enough to think of certain real and symbolic actions of the new Pope - like his visits to hospitals and the Regina Caeli jail; or other immediate decisions, like the 'normalization' of the Curia, with nine new nominees; or his full assumption of the role of Bishop of Rome, symbolized in his 'taking possession' of the Lateran Basilica.

And there was more to come shortly. There was the papal decision, incubating since November 1958, that swept away all hypotheses of a transitional papacy. Or which would cause it to be read in a different way.

That of course was his decision, announced on January 25, 1959, to call the Second Vatican Council. All of a sudden, the transition took on the sense of a turning point. And the Pontiff from rural Bergamo would gradually reveal himself to be a great diplomat - even if it was not immediately apparent; a great communicator - even if he used no 'techniques'; but above all, a man of faith as firm as a rock, a pastor in the great tradition of the Church but confidently forward-looking.

And someone capable of seeing the signs of the times; of the urgency of updating the ways of announcing the Gospel; of disagreeing with the prophets of doom to seek an open dialog with the contemporary world. All of this, precisely, consistent with his decision to convoke Vatican-II.

To think back on the man who on October 28, 1958, took upon his shoulders "with simplicity, the honor and the weight of the Pontificate", as he wrote later in his Journal of a soul, "with the joy of being able to say that I did nothing to cause it", means to embrace a human and spiritual trajectory lived in the commitment, as Boris Pasternak said, of being 'alive, alive and nothing else, to the very end', without which one cannot explain the significance of the last stage of his life.

This can easily be done in view of the endless mountain of Roncallian sources that have been published - youthful writings, diaries, notebooks, letters, homilies, discourses, messages, interviews, private and official writings - all of them material useful to understand the mind and heart of the young priest and the mature churchman, his background, his knowledge of history and historical criticism, his choices - and by reflection, even his role as collaborator and interlocutor.

Which is possible as long as one recognizes that very often, each excerpt is marked by the harmonious synthesis and essential simplification of someone who felt himself profoundly 'pastor et pater', who devoted his entire life, especially as Peter's Successor, to priestly service.

One must take into account his continuous and responsible attention to the needs of the Church and 'of man as such', in an existential course distinguished by normality even in virtue, public as well as private.

Only then can one take away the myth and be left with history. Only then can one be free of worn stereotypes that fail to account for underlying complexities.

The fourth of 13 children, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, born and baptized on November 25, 1881 in Sotto il Monte (Bergamo), cannot, for example, be considered the exclusive fruit only of peasant culture, considering that for decades, his true 'family' was the seminary. In Bergamo and in Rome, it was the institution that forged the man of the Church, but even the man himself, the cleric who survived the tempest of modernism, and the young priest who matured in the school of the great bishop Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi.

That is why one of the interpretative keys to fully understand the figure of Roncalli, his vocation, his testimony, is the spirituality that he assimilated during his adolescence, and then regenerated in the day-to-day routine of every experience, primarily as trust in God and in man who is his image.

This is the real thread that runs through his writings and his decisions, without limiting itself to certain fields, even in his highest exercise of governing the Church.

Roncalli always assessed historical relationships, even the political, in the light of the faith. It wasn't by chance that he wrote among his Pontifical notes, citing Rosmini: "The task (...) of the Pope for the whole Church and of Bishops for each one's diocese, is to preach the Gospel and to lead men to eternal salvation, not allowing any earthly affair to hinder or interfere with this primary mission."

And it was in the attractive presence of God, in always keeping himself "with God and the things of God", that his life unfolded. Thus, too, his consciousness of universal brotherhood and his preference for building bridges instead of putting up barriers.

It is what he did in spending his first 40 years in the service of his diocese, and the successive decades in the service of the universal Church. This took place when Benedict XVI called him to Rome to serve in the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (1921-1925) in order to promote the movement for missionary support in Italy; when Pius XI, after promoting him to bishop, sent him as the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria - a decade of solitude in the land of roses and thorns - and then, from 1935-1944, to the Nunciature in Istanbul, as apostolic administrator of the Latins of Constantinople, and contemporarily, Apostolic Delegate to Greece.

Twenty years in the Near East allowed him to experience an ecumenism ante letteram [before the expression was born], of getting to know the variety of rites and traditions of the Catholic Oriental Churches and the Orthodox churches, but also the Islamic context and secularism of Ataturk; of exerting himself in behalf of Jews in flight and Greeks starved under Axis occupation, of saying, as he did in Istanbul, on Pentecost Day 1944: "Jesus came to bring down these barriers; he died to proclaim universal brotherhood. The central point of his message is charity, the love that binds all men to him as the first among brothers, and which binds him with us to the Father".

He must be remembered also for those years in the Nunciature in postwar Paris - where he was promoted by Pius XII to resolve the problem of the collaborationist bishops; his attitude towards the problems of the New France permeated by so many cultural ferments.

Then there were his Venetian years as Patriarch - where he is remembered for his pastoral urgings on Sacred Scriptures and re-launching the Bible during the celebrations in honor of St. Lawrence Justinian in 1956.

When we remember all this, then we can begin to perceive the man of loyalty and renewal who had 'obaedientia et pax' in his heart; who, upon being elected, asked for prayers in order that he, too, like Jesus, could be a good shepherd.

The man who, with prudent realism, began the era of dialog and thaw; who in the encyclical Ad Petri Cathedram del 1959, invited the Church to consider "not what divides souls, but that which can unite them in mutual understanding and reciprocal respect"; who in the 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris underscored the difference between the error and the erring perso;, or who, after his election, drew up for himself a robust work program to reclaim "some ancient forms of doctrinal affirmation and wise provisions for ecclesiastical discipline' which, in the history of the Church, gave fruits of extraordinary efficacy towards clarity of thought, the compactness of religious unity as the most ardent flame of Christian fervor".

With this vision in his heart, he announced the Second Vatican Council on January 25, 1959, a Synod for the Diocese of Rome, and an updating of the Code of Canon Law.

In the past few days, at Sotto Il Monte, where I am writing this, Bishop Bruno Forte recalled that in fact, the Johannine Pontificate, through the Council, bridged history and eternity, giving value to the theological renewal of the 20th century and the return to Biblical, Patristic and liturgical sourcess which nourished such a renewal.

He had a vivid sense of history that, in him, was never separate from an openness to mystery, careful to measure the transience and contingency of time against eternity.

A motto handed down to him when he was a seminarian accompanied him all his life: "God is everything, I am nothing".

Speaking to Jean Guitton when he was Pope, he said: "Astronomers, in order to guide others, use very complicated instruments (...) Like Abraham, I am happy walking by night, one step after the other, by the light of the stars". A metaphor to recall the 'father of all believers' who was guided by 'the Word of the living God'.

In short, the divine Word at the root of human history. That to which the rcently concluded Synod assembly was dedicated.

Last week, even Frere Alois, prior of Taize, came to Sotto il Monte from the Bishops synod in Rome. He confided: "Listening these past few days to the bishops of the world, I told myself, 'If the bishops are able to experience through the Synod such a beautiful expression of collegiality, it is one more thing that they owe to John XXIII'. Even in this, he opened a path that the Church has not done exploring."

Mary, if you will read the first line of my 'introduction' to this section, I did say I will go back later to consolidate everything. I just can't do everything all at once. I am still translating the John XXIII articles from tomorrow's OR.

00Tuesday, October 28, 2008 5:52 AM

Observer of the present
and sower for the future

by Loris Francesco Capovilla
Titular Archbishop of Mesembria
Translated from
the 10/27/-10/28/08 issue of

I have just seen a preview on TV on the film documentary John XXIII.

It brought me back to last September 11 - 46th anniversary of the radio message "Church of Christ - light of peoples" sent in 1962 as a sort of calling card by the Pope to all the bishops of the world coming to Rome for the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which was intended for the sanctification of the Catholic communities (the Church ad intra) and for the renewal of a more vigorous evangelization and service to the whole world (the Church ad extra).

On that day, I watched a special showing of the film in Camaitino, on the slope of Colle San Giovanni, just above the hometown of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. This is a place which he occupied during vacations in the years between 1925-1958, one of those made available by the Holy See to its diplomatic representatives around the world.

In one of the film sequences, I saw once more the family Scotti Guffanti (which donated Camaitino), the attaches from Secretariat of state, and the Poor Clare sisters, surrounding the Pontiff for the drafting of the notarial act of donation.

And I remember what the Pope said: "It goes without saying that while he lives, my secretary will occupy these rooms when he wants to", and my timid objection: "Holy Father, no, I already have too much to do. I won't be able to cope with all the visitors who will come."

And he asked me, surprised, 'But after I die, who do you think will be coming to Sotto di Monte, anyway?" A bit of silence, and then, the remark, "But... one never knows..."

I thought back to that episode while watching the film with the documentary director Salvatore Nocita and its producers from the Communications Office of the city of Bergamo.

Forty-five years since the Pope's departure, and half a century since his election, as a guest of the Institute of the Blessed Luigi Maria Palazzolo, I sat in admiration of these carefully chosen sequences, eloquent and convincing, presented briskly and illustrated with pictures that look as if they have just been taken - they look so warm and dynamic - a presentation that is devoid of artificial rhetoric, depending on simple testimonials that are superior to any eulogies, alien to the canons of publicity - as are my reflections, whose ardor is tempered by my awareness that all this is about a Church generated by the blood of Christ.

The film's message is direct, and unwinds like a ball of yarn from the core of an arcane event: "A man named John was sent from God" (John 1,6).

The spectator is invited to see this man who, from the dusty cobblestones of Sotto di Monte, with a peasant's pack slung on his shoulder - a pack filled with every good thing from God - left the confines of this small village, and with measured step, a humble sense of himself, and happy obedience which, without reining in his freedom, placed himself in the service of the highest ideals, bent his head to the will of the Most High who would make him pursue, as he recounted it, "the roads of the world in the East and in the West, bringing me close to people of different religions and ideologies, in contact with acute and threatening social problems, preserving in me the calm and the equilibrium for inquiry and appreciation, and always concerned - while standing firm on the principles of Catholic creed and morality - more for what unites than what divides us or raises conflicts" (Address on coming to Venice, March 15, 1953).

The film does not highlight his 'success' as much as it does how he sowed the message of Christ and his testimony of action. It does not exalt the man, but leads one to admire his obedience to God and to the Church, his shrewd choice of evangelical strategies, his attitude of mercy towards all mankind, the announcement of his integral message with its rigorous respect for human rights.

Comments from prelates and scholars allow the spectator to grasp the traits of Roncalli as man, priest and bishop, a Pope who did not 'form' himself but was shaped by Christ, and allowed himself to be shaped, until he was worthy to be called a disciple, a custodian of tradition, an attentive observer of the difficult road followed by some of his peers, a calm chronicler of his times, a confident and ardent sower of the good seed.

One of the notes he wrote in Paris at age 77 summarizes previous experiences and shows us luminous glimpses of the five years he would spend in Venice and his Petrine service: "The more I mature with the years and experiences, the more I realize that the sure way for my personal sanctification and the best success of my service to the Holy See is the vigilant effort to reduce everything - principles, directions, positions, business affairs - to the maximum simplicity and calm, attentive to pruning my vineyard of everything that is simply overgrowth and excess tendrils, going directly to what is truth, justice, charity - above all, charity. Any other way is nothing but looking for personal affirmation which soon betrays and becomes burdensome and ridiculous" (Journal of a Soul, par. 828).

With the sharp sense and immediacy of simple folk, I watched a film that brought me to the territory of serenity, that rewarded my long-held intuitions, so much that I wanted to express myself with youthful enthusiasm, to bring my hands together and bow with reverence and gratitude to the director and his co-workers.

I am not a film critic, which does not matter, as no one asked me to be. Nor am I a writer or an expert in anything. I am a thousand miles away from saints and heroes, from the 'eternal children' of Georges Bernanos. And I would not even dare to touch the hem of the immaculate garments of John XXIII or his five successors.

I love the adjective 'contubernalis', which I owe to the late Pope - which refers to someone like a nameless domestic who, even from a due distance, has shared his master's bread, his prayer, his work and his suffering.

I am happy to have given testimony and to recount what I heard, what I saw with my own eyes, what I contemplated, and what my hands touched (cfr 1 Jn 1,1). All this - almost all, any way - I found in Nocita's film. That is why I can only speak well of this film which, however it may be evaluated, carries the seal of a profound knowledge of its subject, of wise research into the Roncallian 'proprium' (individuality), and 0f a genuine sympathy - all of which should inspire the viewer to emulate, in some way, the splendid testimony of this beloved father, and by adapting it, enrich himself.

The memory of so many enchanting moments crowd my imagination and my heart. I will cite just two.

The last greeting of Papa Giovanni to his secretary of state, Cardinal Cicognani, is one of the most vivid memories that throb in me: "I rejoiced when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD." (Psalm 121[122],1). There was no regret, no tears, just a serene joy. [Pardon my Biblical ignorance - but John Paul II was therefore referencing the Psalm when he said 'Let me go to the House of the Lord' on his own deathbed.]

To those who ask me if having lived near him has changed my life, I say yes, but with regret that I have not always succeeded in "putting my 'ego' under my feet", as he always exhorted.

Still, the last words he said to me on May 31, 1963, after he had received the Holy Viaticum, will always exult in the depths of my being, sometimes as a reproach, often as comfort: "We have not stopped to pick up the stones that from one side of the road or the other have been thrown at us during our journey, in order to throw them back. But we have prayed, obeyed, worked and suffered. We have forgiven and loved."

While in prayerful meditation, I relive various moments of his life, and I remember well what Giuseppe Marotta wrote in 1963 after watching a documentary on the Council:

I contemplated John XXIII, and I felt tenderness. The ornate ritual vestments, the jeweled tiara and the golden scepter - they all vanish in the eyes of whoever sees his face - the face of the poor and the laboring man, of the heavenly peasant.

They incensed him, as ritual required, but the aromatic smoke around him makes one think of the mist that wraps a meadow at dawn - it is as natural as breeze and grass together, and suggests the idea (perhaps not so bizarre) that the Creator of the universe, even if he had placed skeins of light years between and among galaxies, sees Paradise in hectares, to the earthly measure of the being born from his breath.

Do you understand me? Nothing can distance John XXIII from us - even if they raise him above our heads. Yes, they carried him on the sedia gestatoria and placed him on the papal throne, but it still feels like I am sitting next to him in a farmhouse when, at dusk, the women stop shelling the corn, and he is there, smiling, 'Now, listen to me, my children!'

He is truly the Pope who carries on the Gospel parables of elevated meanings expressed in terms of sheep and seeds, of seasons and trees, of small and common human events. Oh, the imperceptible irony and the gracious patience with which he lived with protocol!
- Giuseppe Marotta, 'An unforgettable film which will last longer than us', L'Europeo, March 1963)

The Pope who, on the 50th anniversary of his election, is presented to us by this new film from the Bergamo Office of Communications, is the same Pope described by Marotta.

The setting is solemn and severe, and the face of the leading player and his words and actions are authentic. The themes it touches with masterful sensitivity are the bright points and tragedies of our days, and convince us that the commitment (we can even say success or merit) of the Christian is the perennial novelty of the voice that echoed in the Cenacle: "This is my commandment: that you love each other as I loved you" (Jn 15,12).

Moved by the film, which gives me back inexpressible memories of a long life, part of which was lived alongside John XXIII, who does not cease me to amaze me, I dare to tell my brothers and friends:

"You who have heard the call of the Lord and are determined to adhere to it, perhaps it will allow you to penetrate the silence of night, in its weariness and disquiet, and end up by rejoicing. That is the faith that Jesus asks of us in every page of the Gospel. 'Men of little faith' (Mt 8,25), he sighed, looking at his disciples. But the Canaanite and the centurion touch him. Their faith is bound up in their love.

"As an old pilgrim who am coming to the end of my itinerary, I set up once again my tent in the heart of the land circumscribed by these sentence: "You exist since I love you. To believe is to love". (Francois Mauriac, Ce que je crois [What I believe], Paris, Grasset, 1962).

The 'Angel' of the Roncallis, elected Pope at age 77, believed in God, he saw God. With assiduous prayer, severe self-control, and joyful ecclesiastical discipline, he succeeded in having the three celestial gifts, without which the graces one receives in Baptism are sterile: he listened to God, he spoke to God, he spoke of God.

Gripped by the images of the candles that lit up St. Peter's Square the night the Council began, enchanted by the Pope who abnegated himself in his simple address to his people, moved by his greeting to the suffering, the kiss he sent to children at home, his invitation to concord and brotherhood - the sequence which closes Nocita's film -Marotta expressed the very emotions I have, when he wrote of that evening: "I dare anyone to listen to these words and not cast himself, ideally, in tears at the feet of the Pope".

Last September 11, once again similarly moved, I would have wanted to be alone, look within me and around me, stammer my gratitude to Papa Giovanni, to the personages in the film, to director Nocita and to all who worked and work in the immense workplace of constructing and reconstructing the city of man, designed by the Almighty, with the certainty that 'in the fields of the poor, there is food in abundance" (Prov 13,23) - there grows and matures the bread of life, of religion, of disinterested service, of pure intentions; the bread prepared by men and women, most of them unknown and neglected, who walk in the furrows of history unarmed and with hearts ardent with mercy and love, believers who are prepared to face the 21st century with their eyes fixed on the North Star of the Council, as John Paul II recommended in his spiritual testament; ready and willing, in close communion with the Successor of Peter, as Benedict XVI stated, to a renewal of the Church, the reform of its structures, and necessary changes to liturgy - which were the three initial proposals of Vatican II - whose realization will certainly redound to the benefit of the entire human family.

I tried to get a photo online of Mons. Capovilla and this is the first thing I found, from the blog of an Augustinian priest

Fr. Gavotto writes:
'Patricia Treece and I went over last year (2006) to interview Pope John's private secretary,
Monsignor Loris Capovilla. Patricia is writing a biography of Pope John. In the picture, from
left: Bob Gavotto, OSA - Patricia Treece - Mons. Capovilla - Marialda Brambilla (my cousin from Lecco)'.

The monsignor sure looks sprightly for his age.

00Tuesday, October 28, 2008 7:18 AM

In trying to look for online photos of John XXIII, I came across the TIME reportage of his election as Pope in the Nov. 10, 1958, issue. It is a good contemporary account that gives us surprising glimpses of a past that seems remote even it it was only 50 years ago. How devoid of skepticism the reporting was at the time!

"I Choose John . . ."

"Tu es Petrus" (Thou art Peter) sang the choir, and the ancient hymn set off a roar that swept across St. Peter's Square and down Via della Conciliazione to the Tiber's banks: "Viva il Papa! Viva il Papa! Viva il Papa!" His Holiness John XXIII, Bishop of Rome, 262nd Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, paused at the entrance to the Basilica of St. Peter, a square, strong rock of a man beneath the jeweled miter and glistening white robes.

Twelve silver trumpets sounded, and the procession entered the vast church. Behind representatives of the ancient orders — Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, Cistercians — walked dignitaries of Rome's churches, breastplated Swiss guardsmen, velvet-clad chamberlains of honor, honorary privy chaplains, patriarchs, mace-bearers and scarlet-mantled cardinals, fan bearers and Noble Guards.

In the chapel of St. Gregory, the cardinals made obeisance to the Pope, kissing his right hand. Then John XXIII was vested to celebrate his solemn papal Mass.

Three times during the procession to the main altar the Pope was halted by the master of ceremonies to receive a small brazier of glowing coals and a handful of flax that the Pope threw upon the fire. Then, as the flax flared up and was gone in a puff of smoke, the master of ceremonies looked into the Pontiff's eyes and intoned the ancient warning: "Pater sancte, sic transit gloria mundi" (Holy Father, thus passes the glory of the world).

In the course of the Mass, an assisting cardinal placed on the Pope's shoulders the pallium, a white wool band symbolizing his authority as Bishop of Rome, and the sacristan performed the grim ritual of tasting the wine to be used, as reminder of the days when Popes often died by poison. At the conclusion of the Mass a silk purse containing 25 ancient coins was presented to the Pontiff, traditional payment for "a Mass well done."

Outside St. Peter's all Rome seemed to be assembled, kneeling and praying. Finally the new Pope appeared on the balcony and the papal tiara — the jewel-studded triple diadem that symbolizes the sanctifying, ruling and teaching powers of the church — was placed on the large, rugged peasant head of Angelo Roncalli.

He heard the ancient Latin formula: "Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art the father of princes and of kings, Pontiff of the whole world, and vicar on this earth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory, world without end."

Not on Tiptoe. Angelo Giuseppe Cardinal Roncalli, Patriarch of Venice, was elected as a compromise candidate, at least compared to Pius XII, who was chosen unanimously in less than 24 hours.

Vatican insiders are reconstructing the three voting days of the conclave, with their suspenseful smoke signals, this way: two main groups faced each other, one faction under archconservative Cardinal Ottaviani, the other (including the French cardinals) supporting liberal, reform-minded Cardinal Lercaro of Bologna.

In the middle, fitting neither the "political" nor the "pastoral" label completely (since they had ample experience of both kinds), were Roncalli and Patriarch of the Armenians Agagianian. The fact that Agagianian is non-Italian, and too young (63) in the view of some cardinals who would prefer a shorter reign, finally swung the decision to Roncalli.

But if anyone expected Roncalli to be a mere caretaker Pope, providing a transition to the next reign, he destroyed the notion within minutes after his election — so much so that some Romans fondly recall the story told of Sixtus V (1585-1590), who in conclave seemed decrepit and ailing but, as soon as elected, threw away his cane, rose to his full height and announced in a vigorous voice: "Now I am Caesar."

Angelo Roncalli has no Caesarean ambitions, but he did not tiptoe into his reign; he stomped in boldly like the owner of the place, throwing open windows and moving furniture around.

When the portly Pope (robed in the too-tight papal vestments excited chamberlains had selected for him) appeared in a blaze of searchlights last week on St. Peter's balcony to administer his first Urbi et orbi blessing, he noticed many clerics who had left the sealed-off conclave area to watch the occasion.

Later he jokingly told them: "You have all just incurred excommunication. But I shall use my new authority to relieve you of it." Nevertheless he broke tradition by sending word to the astonished cardinals that instead of leaving the conclave, as is customary after the new Pope's election, he wanted them to remain there overnight.

First Message. Presumably, Pope John joined his cardinals that night — perhaps he addressed them, perhaps asked their views on some of the problems ahead. Instead of spending the next 24 hours in seclusion as had been expected, he was on the air next day with his first message to the world, broadcast by Vatican Radio in 36 languages. Appealing to "leaders of all nations," he asked:

"Why must the resources of human ingenuity and the wrath of nations be turned more and more to the preparation of arms — pernicious instruments of death and destruction — instead of improving the welfare of all classes, particularly the poorer classes? We know, it is true, that to bring about so laudable, so praiseworthy a proposition and to level the differences there are grave and intricate difficulties in the way, but they must be victoriously overcome, even if by force: this is, in fact, the most important undertaking, connected with the prosperity of all mankind."

Precedents Broken. Virtually everyone at the Vatican, of whatever faction, wants an overhauling of the Vatican's administrative machinery, which Pius XII allowed to grow rusty, and Pope John wasted not a second. Among other steps, he:

- Appointed Monsignor Domenico Tardini Pro-Secretary of State. Under Pius XII, who acted as his own Secretary of State, sagacious Diplomat Tardini had been merely Pro-Secretary of State for Extraordinary Affairs: the new appointment carries with it the virtual assurance of promotion to full Secretary of State and a red hat at the next consistory.

- Restored the practice of giving regular weekly audiences to the Curia cardinals, even if they have no pressing business. The custom was discontinued four years ago by Pius XII.

- Restored the tradition, abandoned by the last two Popes, of placing his red cardinal's zucchetto on the head of the secretary of the conclave, Monsignor Alberto di Jorio, thereby making him a cardinal.

- Designated a coronation date five days earlier than had been anticipated. Popes are traditionally crowned on a Sunday, but the Pope selected Tuesday, Nov. 4, instead of the following Sunday, because it is the feast day of St. Charles Borromeo, to whom the Pope is especially devoted.* [He has written a five-volume history of the 16th century saint, who spent years as archbishop of Milan, near Pope John's own town of Sotto il Monte.]

- Received non-Italian cardinals in a daily round of special audiences to take advantage of their presence in Rome. One of the first and most cordially received was the cardinal in the hottest spot of all — Poland's Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, a close friend of the Pope.

- Instructed Count Giuseppe della Torre, editor of the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, to eliminate honorific phrases about the Pope, e.g., "The Highest Pontiff," "The Illuminated Holy Father," "As we gathered from the august lips." Said John: "It would be much better if you simply said 'The Pope has done this' and 'The Pontiff has said that.' "

- Announced his hope of traveling abroad (the last time a Pope left Italy was 1804, when a reluctant Pius VII went to Paris to crown Napoleon emperor). Last week the auxiliary bishop in Venice quoted the Pope as saying casually: "You know, I hope I'll be able to attend the closing of the centenary celebration of Lourdes, and I also hope to pay a visit to my beloved Venice."

The new Pope was also energetically shouldering his way through a massive cumulus of routine and ritual — reopening the papal study, which had been sealed on Pius XII's death, selecting his living quarters (the same three sparsely furnished rooms occupied by the last three Popes), meeting the household staff, learning his way around his tiny temporal kingdom of 108.7 acres, some 1,000 inhabitants.

Sanctity & Strength. Perhaps one of the Pope's most appealing and characteristic actions last week was his detailed explanation to the cardinals of why he had chosen the name John.

Said he: "I choose John ... a name sweet to us because it is the name of our father, dear to me because it is the name of the humble parish church where I was baptized, the solemn name of numberless cathedrals scattered throughout the world, including our own basilica [St. John Lateran]. Twenty-two Johns of indisputable legitimacy have [been Pope], and almost all had a brief pontificate. We have preferred to hide the smallness of our name behind this magnificent succession of Roman Popes.

"We love the name of John because it reminds us of John the Baptist, precursor of our Lord . . . and the other John, the disciple and evangelist, who said: 'My children, love one another, love one another because this is the grand precept of Christ.' Perhaps we can, taking the name of this first series of holy Popes,* have something of his sanctity and strength of spirit, even — if God wills it — to the spilling of blood."

*[John II (533-535) was the first Pope to take a different name on acceding to the papacy. The reason: his original name was the inappropriately pagan one of Mercury.]

John XXIII was born in a grey stone farmhouse on a November night in 1881. A couple of hours later, his mother rose from her bed and hurried with her husband and her first son to the little parish church of St. John.

The sleepy priest grumbled at the lateness of the hour, but they insisted — "Do you want us to take him all the way home again without baptism?" — and that night Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli became a member of the church he would rule one day.

For 500 years, the Roncallis have been working in the vineyards and wheat fields around the village of Sotto il Monte (Beneath the Mountain), eight miles from the Lombardy town of Bergamo.

Like his brothers and sisters, Angelo grew up to the life of a farmer — "At the age of ten," the 86-year-old church bell ringer remembered last week, "that boy worked in the fields with the sobriety of a grown man."

Angelo carried the same sobriety into his work at school; he was only eleven when he decided to be a priest, and though the expense meant a sacrifice for his parents, Angelo went to study at the seminary in Bergamo, the quiet, medieval "town of 100 churches." He won a scholarship to the Pontifical Seminary in Rome, was ordained at 25, and said his first Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Pope's Mirror. "I never aspired to be more than a country priest in my diocese," said Cardinal Roncalli later, but when he returned there it was as secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo, aristocratic Monsignor Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, to whom he still refers as "my spiritual father."

Roncalli's ten years with the bishop gave him some of the polish that later helped make him a successful diplomat, and some of the intellectual zeal that turned him into a teacher and scholar. In addition to his secretarial duties, he organized Catholic Action groups, taught church history and apologetics at the Bergamo seminary.

Father Roncalli also organized a center for the guidance and protection of young students, and last week crowds thronged its old quarters in Bergamo's Palazzo Asperti to see "the Pope's mirror," beneath which is inscribed in Latin "Know Thyself," to remind students to check up on their appearance before going out.

For, though he wore plain priestly black on all occasions, Roncalli has always been sensitive to appearance. During his summer vacations in Sotto il Monte as a bishop and cardinal, he would receive the priests of the region dressed as they were, and noticed that one of them was habitually unshaven and another's collar was usually askew.

With characteristic diplomacy, Roncalli made no direct comment, but one day he casually produced a razor with the words: "I happen to have this extra razor — would you like it, Reverendo?" And on the other he pressed some collars: "These are getting a bit tight for me, Reverendo, but I think they'll do very well for you."

Father Roncalli was drafted into the Italian army during World War I, and turned up in Sotto il Monte one day in 1916 as a balding, bulky medical corps sergeant sporting a dashing cape and a fiercely bristling military mustache.

"I grew it in a moment of weakness," he confessed later, shaved it off when he became a lieutenant and a chaplain. At war's end he was back teaching at the seminary until Pope Benedict XV summoned him to Rome to help reorganize the administration of missionary work in the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.

Fancy Footwork. In 1925 Pope Pius XI made him an archbishop and gave him his first diplomatic assignment: Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria.

Five years later the Pope promoted this promising envoy to Nuncio, and in 1935 sent him to Turkey and Greece as Apostolic Delegate. For ten years Archbishop Roncalli lived in Istanbul, became a recognized expert on the Middle East and an adept at diplomatic fancy footwork, e.g., in neutral Turkey, during World War II, he managed to keep the respect and good will of both the Allies and the Germans.

One night in Istanbul, near war's end. Nuncio Roncalli received a coded cable from the Vatican, decoded it himself because his secretary was out. and decided at first that he must have made a mistake: he was ordered to proceed immediately to Paris as Nuncio to France.

When the order proved to be correct. Roncalli is said to have stopped off in Rome at the Secretariat of State. "Are you out of your minds?" he asked. "I can't handle a job like that." "It wasn't our idea." they replied. "It was the Holy Father's."

When he arrived in Paris January i, 1945, Nuncio Roncalli found the country in postwar ferment. Gaullists were unforgiving toward Vichyites and at odds with the Catholic-oriented M.R.P. The Communists were riding high.

Yet during his eight years' stay. Nuncio Roncalli became one of the most popular men in Paris. One example of his talent for smoothing out differences: only three Vichy archbishops lost their jobs, despite the Gaullists' bitter feelings about them as collaborationists.

In addition to respecting his ability, the French also liked his cuisine. Roncalli is known as what the Italians call "a powerful fork" (his filling favorites: raviolini, polenta with small birds, hare in salmi, chamois in salmi, deviled chicken, tripe Bergamasque).

Gondola Greeting. In 1953 came news that the Pope had made Archbishop Roncalli a cardinal. The heads of Catholic states have the privilege of awarding the red biretta to nuncios created cardinals while abroad, and Cardinal Roncalli received his biretta from his friend Socialist French President Vincent Auriol. thus underlining the good relations between church and state. Three days later the Pope appointed Roncalli Patriarch of Venice.

Venice welcomed its 44th patriarch and 139th bishop with a gala flotilla of gondolas, and Cardinal Roncalli welcomed Venice with something that sounded like a sigh of relief. In his first sermon from the pulpit of St. Mark's he said: "Do not look upon your patriarch as a politician, as a diplomat, but find in him a priest."

The Venetian clergy, smarting from the autocratic patriarchate of the late Cardinal-designate Agostini, called Roncalli "calm after the storm."

Venice was soon used to seeing his square, black figure almost everywhere, riding in the motor-launch buses and stopping for a chat in the cafes. His door was always open, and his secretaries disapproved of the amount of time he gave to visitors ("Let them come in," he would say. "They may want to confess").

At the Venice music festivals in 1953 and 1956, he filled St. Mark's with music such as the great cathedral had not heard since the 16th and 17th centuries, including the world première of Stravinsky's moving Sacred Canticle to Honor the Name of St. Mark.

Crocodiles & Tourists. Though an ardent supporter of Catholic Action and the Demo-Christian Party, Cardinal Roncalli won the admiration of many a Venetian leftist for his progressive outlook. He shocked conservatives by proposing that some marble panels be removed from the interior of St. Mark's to give worshipers a better view, but he was dead against a proposal to set up gambling facilities in St. Mark's Square.

Once he aimed a shaft of wit at the scantily clad tourists who swarm the city in the summertime: "People need not come to Italy in furs or woollens. They can come dressed in that modern American silk, fresh and soft, which is a veritable refrigerator at low cost. Italy, on the other hand, is not on the equator, and even there, by the way, lions wear their coats, and crocodiles are lined with their most precious hides."

Roncalli was often compared to St. Pius X (1903-1914), who like him came from a peasant family and like him was Patriarch of Venice. When Roncalli's friend Auriol visited him in Venice, the cardinal showed his guest the small, modest room where Pius had lived before his election.

"Maybe it is from here also that the successor to Pius X will come," said Auriol. Last week he recalled: "The cardinal smiled but did not answer."

Formidable Legacy. All over Venice, decked in flags to celebrate the second of its patriarchs to be elected Pontiff in 55 years, the word went round last week: "He will be a great Pope!"

In Sotto il Monte the three remaining Roncalli brothers. Zaverio, 75, Alfredo, 69, and Giuseppe, 64, were having supper after a hard day's work when the big news came over their old radio. The rice soup grew cold while they listened; then as excited neighbors poured from their houses, the brothers hurried upstairs to dress up for the occasion.

And in Sesto San Giovanni, a little town near Milan, Angelo Roncalli's sister Assunta was out buying bread when the news reached her. "My God, little Angelo!" she gasped.

"What's the matter?" asked the baker, and Assunta explained: "My brother's just been elected Pope. He will have to work so hard."

Everyone was aware of the burdens a septuagenarian was shouldering. The Pope's doctor, Paolo Venchierutti, has announced that the somewhat overweight Pontiff (205 Ibs.) "has a robust stamina unweakened by the years."

He generally sleeps no more than six hours a night — retiring at 10 and rising at 4. But however strong his body and short his sleep, the problems that confront his reign are a formidable legacy.

NEW CARDINALS. Most pressing matter before the new Pope is the need for more cardinals to shoulder the work of the church. Of the 53 present members of the college, twelve are more than 80, and only six are less than 60. England is without a red hat, and the U.S., which once had five, now has only two. Africa, The Philippines and Mexico would each like a cardinal.

So complex and widespread have the church's affairs become that many Vatican officials feel that the Pope should expand the college beyond the present limit of 70 (the Pope can raise the limit to any figure he sees fit).

Whether he chooses to fill up the college in one or two big consistories, or does it piecemeal in a series of small ones, Vaticaners feel that the new Pope, a clean-desk administration man without the procrastinating tendencies of his predecessor, will make this his first order of business.

THE CHURCH OF SILENCE. The church is responsible for 52,552,000 Catholics behind the Iron Curtain. Should it encourage religion there — and so increase the risk of persecution and torture —or should it do nothing and let the Communists try slowly to freeze Christianity? Or is there a possibility of compromise? Several third-hand feelers from the Soviet side were extended during the reign of Pius XII, and ignored.

SCHISM IN CHINA. Pope Pius XII was fearful of forcing the Catholics in China into deeper schism by excommunicating the Chinese bishops who are making valid but unauthorized consecrations, hence went no farther than deploring their action in one of his last encyclicals. Insiders are waiting to see whether. Pope John will take a tougher line.

LATIN AMERICA. With one-third of the world's Catholics (172,271,000), Latin America has the smallest number of priests per capita in the world — one to every 4,810 Catholics. In addition to the relatively low educational level of the churchmen there (even including bishops), the Catholic Church is threatened in Latin America by a major development of Protestant missions. Protestant missionaries in Latin America have increased since 1916 from 1,689 to 6,303, and the number of Protestants has gone up from 169,880 to 4,614,000.

Formidable as may be the new Pope's problems, they shrink somewhat when measured against past challenges to the papacy — an institution that spans Christian history from persecution under Nero to persecution under Khrushchev, has dealt with inimical philosophies from stoicism to existentialism, has survived dangers from its own corruption during the Renaissance to physical attack during the Italian Risorgimento.

Whatever threats Christianity will face under Pope John's reign will not necessarily be greater than the invasion of the Lombards from whom Gregory the Great (590-604) saved Rome. Whatever tests await Pope John's diplomacy will recall that behind him lies the record of Hildebrand (Gregory VII, 1073-1085), who kept Henry IV of Germany waiting barefoot in the snow for three days and established the spiritual authority of the church over the temporal power of monarchs.

And no schismatic efforts of the Chinese Communists to divide Chinese Catholics from the Church in Rome could result in a more apparently hopeless tangle than the Schism of 1378, which reached a climax with three competing Popes* three Colleges of Cardinals, three sets of bishops, priests and tax collectors.

*[In 1378 the College of Cardinals elected Urban VI Pope, but a large number repudiated him five months later and elected Clement VII. Nations took sides, positions became entrenched, no one knew who was rightful Pope. To break the deadlock, cardinals from both camps convened on their own (hence invalidly) in 1409, "deposed" both Popes and elected a third, who died within a year, was succeeded by Balthazar Cardinal Cossa, who called himself John XXIII. Neither "deposed" Pope recognized the new one. Four years later, the Council of Constance met, made itself valid by having Urban's successor, Gregory XII, convene it and immediately abdicate. Thereupon the council deposed the other two Popes and started things off on the right foot again with Martin V (1417-31).]

To judge from his record so far, Pope John XXIII will face the dangers and confusions of his era with the patience expressed by his favorite maxim of government, and probably with more force than it suggests.

The maxim: Omnia videre, multa dissimulare, pauca corrigere — to see everything, to turn a blind eye on much of it, to correct a little.

00Tuesday, October 28, 2008 9:56 AM

Cardinal Montini greeted by John XXIII.
[Undated photo, thanks to Lella on her blog]

He showed us the lesson of St. Paul:
To profess the truth with love

Eulogy for John XXIII
by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini
Archbishop of Milan
Cathedral of Milan, June 7, 1963
Translated from
the 10/27-10/28/08 issue of

The death of Pope John XXII has so saddened the Church, it has so touched the world, that a thousand voices have described it, commented it, and celebrated it.

The press, radio and television have made us participate in this great and mournful event, virtually putting it before our eyes for our reflection.

From every part of the world there have come expressions of lament, of praise, of piety, of remembrance. And prayers, unanimous and sorrowful, but also serene and confident, have been raised not just in the whole Catholic Church but among other Christian confessions and members of other religions who have added their reverent voices.

Tonight, we ourselves add to the universal chorus the tribute of our our admiration, our mourning, with our spirits gripped by the majesty and tenderness that such a death represents for all.

The association of the two terms - majesty and tenderness - which all the world has used to define our departed Pope, 'the good Pope', makes our hearts vibrate with a rare liveliness and surprise, to find greatness and goodness joined in one person, though we are then pained that this singular and most dear figure has been taken away from our earthly conversation.

Everything has been said about the personality of the late Pope, on his direct, simple and natural adherence to our human experience, on his always heartfelt sincerity, on his acute and often amusing subtlety, on his profound and authentic spirituality.

And everything has been said about the work of John XXIII - of the memorable episodes that brought him close to the people, to children, to the suffering, in a special way; and to the solemnity of his encyclicals and calling the Second Vatican Council.

We know this all and we remember.

But the religious meditation which brings us together tells us that there remains much more to say and meditate on this Pope who, according to our human sentiment, has been taken away too soon from our world.

For instance, we must inquire into and specify the reasons for such a universal mourning. Why do we all mourn his death? What phenomenon of spiritual convergence has been produced on earth not before seen in history, at least not in this measure and in this form? And why?

Each of us has felt the attraction of this man, and have understood that the sympathy he aroused was no deception, not an enthusiasm of the moment, not a futile sentiment - he was a mystery who revealed himself, a mystery that drew us in.

But another very simple binomial perhaps irradiated our wonder with its magic power - the combination of truth with charity. He gave us an elementary lesson, but something so rare and so difficult to express in reality - of St. Paul's words: to profess the truth with love - veritatem facientes in caritate.

He made us see that the truth - above all, religious truth - so delicate, so difficult, so demanding, in its inexorable precision of language, concept and belief, is not meant to divide men and to inspire conflicts, but to attract everyone to a unity of thought, to serve everyone with pastoral solicitude, to instill in our hearts the joy of conquering evil and of divine life.

We may have known all this, but he made us enjoy the experience, he gave us hope of it, he promised us its fulfillment.

In following this line of thought, our regret is redoubled - his appearance among us like his disappearance was like lightning - but it also releases ineffable comfort to our spirit.

So I say that it is along this thought that another perspective opens up to us, illuminated by the bright figure of Papa Giovanni - we no longer look backwards to him, but to the horizon that he has opened for the Church and for history.

If we still wish to look at his tomb, now sealed, then we can speak of his legacy which the tomb cannot contain, and by the spirit that he impressed on our age which death cannot stifle. Then we will be obliged to describe not his past, but to look forward to the future that he has made possible.

What has John XXIII left the church and the world which cannot die with him? Prophecy is a difficult art, but at this moment, it seems to be made easy and almost obligatory by the evidence of some premises left by the Pope whose death we mourn.

John XXIII marked out paths for our journey forward that it would be wise to follow and not just recall. Could we ever forget the demonstration he himself made and in some way embodied in the most human spontaneity of his blessed lif,; of the profound and essential capacity of the Christian religion always to recharge the spiritual resources of the modern world?

Let me cite at least one statement from him. He once said, "In the modern age, in a world with a profoundly changed face, that is barely above to keep itself together between the fascinations and dangers of the almost exclusive search for material goods, in the forgetfulness or weakening of the principles of natural and supernatural order which have characterized the penetration and expansion of Christian civilization through the centuries, more than one point or the other of doctrine and discipline must be brought back to the pure origins of Revelation and Tradition, in order to restore the value and splendor of the substance of Christian and human living, of which the Church has been the depository and teacher for centuries."

"Deploring the misdirection of the human spirit, tempted and pushed towards mere exploitation of the goods of the earth - which modern scientific research now provides the children of our time the facility to do so - is certainly serious and even dutiful. But God help us from exaggerating the proportions to the point of thinking that God's heaven has now closed up definitively above us, that truly, tenebrae factae sunt super universam terram - shadows have been cast on the whole earth - and that we are left with nothing else but to irrigate our path with tears. No. We should instead show courage!" These are words that cannot die.

Can we then deviate from the path he opened up for the history of religion, the path of universality for the Catholic faith? That of Roman ecumenism?

Pope John has so personified and expressed this essential character of the Catholic Church as to draw forth its latent energies in both directions, within the Church itself and outside the Church.

Not only did he favor the process already taking place of internationalizing the Church - with the expansion of missions, the opening up of relations with old and new nations of the world, the admission of persons from every origin to the upper hierarchies of the Church and the central organs of the Holy See.

But in spontaneously convoking the Second Ecumenical Council, he took on the great subject of the Church's constitutional law - whose doctrinal elaboration was interrupted by the abrupt interruption to the First Vatican Council - and this predisposed the spiritual and practical conditions for the comforting collaboration of the episcopal corps, not in the exercise of governance of the Church (which remains personal and unitary) but in the responsibility for such governance.

He therefore gave a canonical increment and a spiritual consciousness to the internal ecumenism of Catholicity, even in this, using two terms which have been paired for centuries - the urbe and the orbe - which hand in hand can release surprising virtuousness, presaging a new history for Rome, for the Papacy itself perhaps, and for the world.

To this internal ecumenism, John XXIII added - to the essence and to the actual work - the external one, also a double effort - to recompose all the many Christian factions into an organic unity of faith and charity, of the mother Church which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic; and to diffuse as widely and as stably as possible, peace among peoples and social classes, civilian peace throughout the world.

Can we then stray from this path so masterfully traced for us and for the future by Pope John? We must believe that we cannot. It is this loyalty to the great canons of his Pontificate that will perpetuate his memory and his glory, and that will make us feel that his paternal presence continues to be close to us.

Two weeks after this eulogy, on June 21, 1963, Cardinal Montini was elected Successor to Peter and John XXIII, and took the papal name Paul VI, in honor of the Apostle of the Gentiles.

00Tuesday, October 28, 2008 7:33 PM


Translated from
the Italian service of

On October 28 fifty years ago, John XXIII's Pontificate began. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone celebrates an afternoon Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the presence of some 3,000 pilgrims from the late Pope's home province of Bergamo.

Pope Benedict XVI was to pay his homage at before the body of Blessed John which is inside a glass coffin in one of the front chapels of St. Peter's, after which he would address the assembly.

John XXIII's Pontificate was brief, lasting only 5 years (October 28, 1958 - June 3, 1963), but it profoundly changed the life of the Church and the faithful.

Suffice it to cite two epochal actions which bore his imprint: calling the Second Vatican Council and the encyclical Pacem in Terris.

The 'good Pope', as he came to be known, was quick to come to the aid of those in difficulty and to give a smile to those in search of affection. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli's goodness was not an end in itself but rooted in his conviction that without mercy, the Gospel message would be empty of meaning. Alessandro Gisotti reports:

A kind heart in the service of the Gospel. When the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, was elected Supreme Pontiff in October 1958, many already knew him for his humility and a pastoral gentleness of someone who had been born to a rural family in Bergamo, northern Italy.

His simple humanity was the most evident trait of John XXIII, as well as the 'style' of his Pontificate that everyone, believers and non-believers, would come to admire and love.

Even as a young priest, Roncalli has his work method clear: "To be in contact with everyone" and "not to allow oneself to be overcome by difficulties". It was a commitment he would maintain when he became Pope and which led him to make courageous and far-sighted decisions,, belying predictions that he would simply be a 'transitional Pope' because of his age (77 when elected).

Equally surprising were many unexpected acts, such as on December 26, 1958, barely two months after his election, when he decided to visit the Regina Caeli jail in Rome. It was almost analogous to the parable of the merciful father who goes forth to welcome back his prodigal son.

"I have come - as you see me now - my eyes looking into yours, to place my heart next to yours. rest assured that this meeting will remain profoundly in my soul, and at the start of a new year, that is, the first year of my Pontificate, it is indeed my pleasure to take part in an act of mercy. Following these words, I give you a blessing that is a sign and symbol of that which the Lord has given us through his sacrament of love, and I wish it will be an encouragement for all of you."

One month later, on January 25, 1959, John XXIII announced that he was convoking the Second Vatican Council (the first met in 1869-1870 under Pius IX). A historic event that, according the Pope, was intended to 'update' the Church in order to make it more effective in announcing the Gospel of Christ to modern man, and opening a new phase of dialog with the world.

He spoke of the hopes for the Council, whose opening date he set for October 11, 1962. "Beloved children ! The Second Vatican Council carries the desires and hopes of one might well say the whole world. Let us trust in the Lord."

Unforgettable for multitudes were the pilgrimages he made to Loreto and Assisi in October 1962 to entrust the Council to the patronage of the Virgin Mary and St. Francis. It was the first time since Italian reunification in 1870 that a Pope had left the confines of Lazio province (where Rome is located).

By his express wish, Vatican-II was designed to have a an ecumenical dimension. The re-unification of Christians was always one of his concerns since the 1930s and 1940s when he was the Vatican Nuncio to Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, where he made extensive contacts with the Orthodox world.

In 1960, he had a historic encounter with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, bringing to an end 400 years of estrangement from the Anglican Church that had broken off from Rome under Henry VIII.

Christian unity and concord among peoples. The cause of peace was interwoven into the the life and Magisterium of John XXIII, starting with his episcopal motto which was “Oboedientia et pax”.

During the Cuban missile crisis - which marked the peak of the Cold War - he spared no effort to work for a peaceful solution. Nor did he fail to denounce the terrible conditions in which the 'Church of silence' found itself in the countries under the influence of the Soviet Union.

This is what he said in a radio message in 1961:
"Let us all together pray to the Father of light and graces so that he may enlighten the minds and move the will of those who are most responsible for the life or ruin of their peoples. Let us pray for the peoples themselves, that they may not let themselves be dazzled by exaggerated nationalisms and pernicious rivalries, and so that, as we exhorted in the cyclical Mater et Magistra (The Church as mother and teacher), they may succeed in restoring relationships of social coexistence in truth, in justice, and in love."

This inspiration would be translated in his most famous encyclical, Pacem in terris, published in 1963. For the first time, a Pope addressed himself not only to the faithful, but to all men of good will, asking each and everyone to become peacemakers. A peace, he said, that in order to be well-founded, should rest on four pillars: truth, justice, love, and freedom.

Among the many innovations he introduced was his direct contacts with his diocese as Bishop of Rome, with numerous visits to the parishes and neighborhoods of Rome, and by his calling of a diocesan Synod.

Of humble origins, Angelo Roncalli would always have a special dedication to the poor and the needy. Attentive to the problems of laborers and working people, he would dedicate his encyclical Mater et Magistra to the social doctrine of the Church.

Among the most beautiful images of his Pontificate were his encounters with children in which the Pope, who appeared the very image of a kindly grandfather, felt particularly at ease. His visit to the Bambino Gesu hospital for children was very moving:

"Here we have this institution on this hill... How did it get started so many years ago, and who knows how many anxieties and uncertainties it must have meant in order for it to happen. But now, see what comfort and joy it brings. What is most beautiful is that the beneficiaries are those who will be the masters of tomorrow, about which it is not true, as we often hear it said, that a poor future awaits them. Not at all! They are being prepared instead for a beautiful future.

"Of course, they will each have their own experiences, but through these experiences, having been brought up in the practice of charity, they will find a way to be honorable before heaven and on earth, before their families, their own consciences, now and in the future."

In Journal of a Soul, the diary which allows us to come close to the heart of the Pope, he wrote: "I should not be a teacher of politics, or strategy or any human science. There are more than enough of those. I am a teacher of mercy and of the truth."

00Tuesday, October 28, 2008 9:25 PM


I started out trying to put together as many photos as I could get (outside of the Vatican photo archives which is not at all an easy or quick thing to search!) of John XXIII - which is, not very much online, of him or any other Pope, not even John Paul II.

I ended up with an assortment that partially lent itself to a presentation of the Popes in formal finery, because it was Fr. Jim Tucker's long-dormant Dappled Things photoblog on liturgical vestments that yielded the most interesting pictures, mainly because of the 'cappa magna' that appears to have two versions - the cape that ends in a long train, and the great cope such as we have seen Benedict XVI wear on a couple of occasions.

The pictures show that papal (and cardinalatial) finery have indeed become greatly simplified in the past 50 years, and that Papal vestments are not so much a question of personal choice but of going with the accepted criteria of the moment.

The first panel shows John XXIII as Nuncio in Paris dressed in a silk moire great cape, whose flare and flair contrast with the simpler cape of the French archbishop he is greeting; his rank as Nuncio dictated the style of his cape. Indeed, it very much resembles the cappa magna worn by France's 17th-century Cardinal Richelieu (center portrait), And on the right, Cardinal Montini is dressed in a similar cape as he greets John XXIII.

These photos show cardinal-electors each wearing the long-train cappa magna as they pay their first homage to their newly-elected Pope inside the Sistine Chapel. The left and center photos are from Pius XII's election in 1939; and the tradition continued when his succesor, John XIII, was elected 19 years later (right photo). I have no information whether it was still followed for John Paul I.

I have not found a similar picture for Paul VI's election, but the left photo shows him in a cappa magna and a regal setting, with John XXIII, center, in a similar photograph taken at the Lateran. And just for comparison, Benedict XVI in a 'great cope' at the Vespers for St. Peter and Paul at St Paul outside the walls.

Paul VI, of course, was the one who eventually did away with the papal tiara, the sedia gestatoria, and other 'monarchical' ceremonial features at the Vatican. But I have hardly seen any photos of him saying Mass, so I have no idea at what point he discarded the Roman chasuble that had been de rigueur for decades in favor of the so-called Gothic chasuble of the Novus Ordo.

Finally, a formal photograph and a painting of John XXIII in papal wear.
00Friday, October 31, 2008 5:20 AM

Posted 10/28/08 in NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT.


Pope Benedict XVI paid homage before the body of Blessed John XXIII in the chapel at St. Peter's Basilica
where his remains are venerated.

Afterwards, he greeted more than 3,000 pilgrims who had come from Bergamo, the late Pope's home province
for the Golden Jubilee celebration in Rome.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s address:


Lord Cardinal Secretary of State,
Venerated brothers in the Episcopate and priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters!

I am happy to be able to share with you this act of homage to Blessed John XXIII, my beloved predecessor, on the anniversary of his election to the Chair of Peter.

I rejoice with you at this initiative and give thanks to the Lord who has allowed us to relive that announcement of ‘great joy’ (gaudium magnum) that resounded 50 years ago on this day and at this hour from the Loggia of this Basilica.

It was a prelude and a prophecy of the experience of paternity which God would offer abundantly through the words, acts and ecclesial service of the “good Pope’. The grace of God was preparing a demanding and promising season for the Church and for society, and found - in the obedience to the Holy Spirit that distinguished the entire life of John XXIII - good ground for concord, hope, unity and peace, to germinate for the good of all mankind.

Papa Giovanni showed that faith in Christ and belonging to the Church, mother and teacher, is a guarantee of fecund Christian testimony in the world. Thus, in the strong conflicts of his time, the Pope was a man and pastor of peace, who opened in both East and West unexpected horizons of brotherhood among Christians and dialog with all.

The diocese of Bergamo is celebrating and cannot be absent at this spiritual encounter with its most illustrious son, “a brother who became a father through the will of our Lord”, as he himself used to say.

His venerated mortal remains rest beside the Confessional Altar of the Apostle Peter. From this place dear to all baptized persons, he repeats, “I am Giuseppe, your brother”.

You have come to reaffirm your common links and the faith that has opened you to a truly catholic dimension. Because of this, you have wanted to meet the Bishop of Rome, who is the universal Father, led by your pastor, Mons. Roberto Amadei and his Auxiliary Bishop.

I am grateful to Mons. Amadei for the kind words that he addressed in the name of all, and I extend to each of you my gratitude for the affection and devotion which inspire you. I am encouraged by your prayer, even as I exhort you to follow the example and teaching of the Pope who was your countryman.

The Servant of God John Paul II proclaimed him blessed, recognizing that the marks of his sanctity as father and pastor continue to shine before the entire human family.

In the Holy Mass presided by the Cardinal Secretary of State, the Word of God has welcomed and introduced you, in the perfect grace of Christ, to the Father. In him we meet the saints and the blessed ones, and those who have preceded us in the sign of faith. Their legacy is placed in our hands.

A truly special gift, offered to the Church with John XXIII, was the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which was decided, prepared and started by him. We are all engaged in adequately receiving that gift, continuing to meditate on its teachings and to translate its operative indications in life.

It is what you yourself have been seeking to do these years, as individuals and as a diocesan community. In particular, you have recently been engaged in the diocesan Synod, dedicated to the parish: in this you returned to the conciliar sources to draw that supplement of light and warmth that have been shown to be necessary to make the parish a vibrant and dynamic articulation of the diocesan community.

It is in the parish that one learns to concretely live one’s faith. This allows us to keep alive the rich tradition of the past and to re-propose its values in a secularized society which is often hostile or indifferent.

Precisely thinking of situations of this sort, papa Giovanni said in his encyclical Pacem in Terris: the believer “should be a spark of light, a center of love, a vivifying ferment in the mass: and the more he is, the more that in intimacy, he lives in communion with God (No. 162).

This was the program of life of the great Pontiff and this can become the ideal of every believer and every Christian community who can draw, in the Eucharistic celebration, from the source of the love that is freely given, the faithful and merciful love of the Crucified and Risen Lord.

Allow me to refer particularly to the family, the central subject of ecclesial life, cradle of education in the faith, and irreplaceable cell of social life.

In this respect, the future Pope John wrote in a letter to his relatives: “The education which leaves the most profound traces is always that received at home. I have forgotten much that I have read in books, but I still remember very well everything that I learned from my parents and from older people” (December 20, 1932).

In particular, it is in the family that one learns to live daily the fundamental Christian precept of love. It is on the family that the Church counts, which has the mission to manifest everywhere, through its children, “the greatness of Christian charity, of which nothing else is more valid to uproot the sprouts of discord, nothing is more effective to favor concord, just peace and the fraternal union of everyone” (Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 33).

In conclusion, to return to the parish, the theme of your diocesan Synod, you know the concern that Pope John XXIII had for this organism so important in the life of the Church. With great confidence, Papa Roncalli entrusted to the parish, family of families, the task of nourishing among the faithful sentiments of communion and fraternity.

Formed by the Eucharist, the parish can become, he thought, a ferment of healthy unease in the widespread consumerism and individualism of our time, reawakening solidarity and opening in faith the eyes of the heart to recognize the Father, who is love, and desirous of sharing his own joy with his children.

Dear friends, you have been accompanied to Rome by the image of Our Lady that Pope John received as a gift when he visited Loreto, a few days before the Council opened. He wanted the statue to be installed in the diocesan seminary named for him in his native diocese, and I see with great joy that there are so many seminarians here who are enthusiastic about their vocation.

I gladly entrust to the Mother of God all the families and parishes, proposing to them the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth. May they be the first 'seminary' that will allow to grow, in its natural sphere, vocations for the priesthood, mission, religious consecration, and familial life according to the heart of Christ.

In a famous visit during the first month of his Pontificate, the Blessed John asked his audience what, according to them, was the sense of the meeting, and he answered it himself, “The Pope has looked you eye to eye and placed his heart next to your hearts.” (Visit to Regina Caeli jail, Rome, 1958). I pray to Pope John that he may allow us to experience the closeness of his attention and his heart so that we may truly feel ourselves to be the family of God.

With these wishes, I gladly impart my affectionate Apostolic Blessing to all the pilgrims from Bergamo, particularly those from Sotto il Monte, the native town of the Blessed Pontiff, which I had the occasion to visit many years ago, as well as to the authorities, to the Roman and Oriental faithful present here, and all those dear to them.

Earlier, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone presided at a Mass to celebrate the anniversary.

00Friday, October 31, 2008 5:34 AM

One month ago, it was Pius XII whom Benedict XVI honored, celebrating a Mass at St. peter's basilica to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.

10/9/2008 1:27 PM
Post: 15,270


At the Mass this morning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII, Pope Benedict XVI
was unequivocal in praise of his predecessor's wartime decisions and activities. In his homily, he expressed the hope
that the beatification process for Pius XII continues successfully.

The Mass has just ended, with the Holy Father descending to the Vatican Grottoes to pray at the tomb of Pius XII.

The initial news bulletins are inadequate, especially as the full homily is available on Vatican Radio.
Here was the first brief bulletin from AFP:

Benedict backs beatification
of Nazi-era Pope

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 9 (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday backed the beatification of his controversial World War II predecessor Pius XII, defending his actions during a "complex historical moment."

The first Apcom bulletin strangely does not bring up the beatification question.

Benedict XVI says debate over
Pius XII's wartime role
has obscured positive aspects
of his Pontificate

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 9 (Translated from Apcom) - Benedict XVI today said that "the historical debate over the figure and work of Pius XII has not always been calm" and has unfortunately obscured "bringing to light all the aspects of his polyhedric Pontificate", in his homily during a Mass at St Peter's Basilica to mark the 50th anniversary of his predecessor's death.

He pointed out, for instance, that "He gave so many discourses, allocutions and messages to scientists, doctors, representatives of the most diverse fields of work, some of which continue to have extraordinary relevance and cure points of reference."

The German Pope also recalled the love that Papa Pacelli had for his native Rome. "The war," he said, "proved the love he had for his 'beloved Rome', a love he manifested by the works of charity which he promoted in defense of all those who were persecuted, regardless of religion, race, nationality or political affiliation."

Apcom did file this separate story:

Fr. Lombardi explains why the Pope
has not signed the decree
on Pius XII's 'heroic virtues'

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 9 (Translated from Apcom) - Pope Benedict XVI has not yet signed a decree that will allow the next stage towards the beatification of Pope Pius XII, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, said today.

In a note commenting on the Pope's homily today, Lombardi said:

"With the words said at the homily regarding the cause for beatification of the Servant of God Pius XII which is under way, the Pope intended to express explicitly his spiritual union with a widespread desire among the People of God.

"But he did not express himself about the next steps in the process nor the timing - that is, signing the decree on the recognition of the candidate's heroic virtues, which would be the prerequisite for introducing the next step, which is to authenticate and recognize one miracle (attributed to Pius XII after his death)".

Lombardi recalled that the cardinals and bishops making up the Congregation for the Cause of Sainthood had unanimously approved the decree of Pius XII's 'heroic virtues' in May last year, "but the Pope has not signed the decree, considering that a time for reflection is appropriate".

Pope hopes Nazi-era predecessor
moves towards sainthood

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 9 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Thursday he hoped his Nazi-era predecessor Pius XII, who some Jews have accused of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust, can proceed on the road to Roman Catholic sainthood.

In a homily at a Mass commemorating the 50th anniversary of Pius' death in 1958, Benedict defended Pius, saying he worked "secretly and silently" during World War Two to "avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews possible."

Some Jews say Pius did not do enough to save Jews. The Vatican and his Jewish defenders say he worked behind the scenes to help because more direct intervention would have worsened the situation.

Benedict said he prayed the process leading to Pius's beatification, the last step before sainthood, "can proceed happily."

On Monday, the chief rabbi of Haifa, Israel, Shear-Yashuv Cohen, told Pope Benedict during a synod that Jews "cannot forgive and forget" that some major religious leaders during World War Two did not speak out against the Holocaust.

Cohen separately told reporters Pius "should not be seen as a model and he should not be beatified."

The papacy of Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, is one of the most difficult issues in Catholic-Jewish relations.

Many books have been written about it, with most defenders saying the situation would have been worse for Jews if he had spoken out forcefully, prompting retaliations by Hitler.

"He often acted in a secret and silent way precisely because, given the real situations of that complex moment in history, he realized that only in this manner could the worst be avoided and greatest number of Jews be saved," Benedict said.

Defenders of Pius says he ordered churches and convents throughout Italy to hide Jews and that Vatican diplomats in Europe also helped give many Jews false passports.

Some have estimated that Pius's interventions may have helped save several hundred thousand Jews.

In his homily, Benedict quoted a tribute from then Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir when Pius died saying: "When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims."

Last year, the Vatican's saint-making department voted in favor of a decree recognizing Pius' "heroic virtues," a major step in a long process toward possible sainthood that began in 1967.

But Pope Benedict, who prayed at Pius's tomb after the Mass, has so far not signed the decree and has opted for what the Vatican has called "a period of reflection."

Asked about the part of the homily where Benedict speaks of Pius's beatification, chief Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Pope wanted to show his support for a desire among many Catholics to see Pius move toward sainthood.

But he added that Benedict was not pronouncing himself on how long the sainthood procedure could take.

Urged by historians to open up all its archives from World War Two, the Vatican says some are closed for organizational reasons but that most of the significant documentation regarding Pius is already open to scholars.

Some Jewish groups say the Vatican should freeze the process of beatification until more research can be done but others say it is an internal Church matter.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's homily:

Eminent Cardinals,
venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
dear brothers and sisters:

The passage from the book of Ecclesiastes and the prolog to the First Letter of St. Peter, proclaimed as the first and second readings today, offer us significant points of reflection for this Eucharistic celebration during which we commemorate my venerated predecessor, the Servant of God Pius XII. Exactly 50 years have passed since his death during the early hours of October 8, 1958.

Ecclesiastes, as we heard it, reminds those who intend to follow the Lord that they should prepare themselves for trials, difficulties and sufferings.

In order not to give in to these, it advises, one needs a heart that is upright and constant, one needs faithfulness to God, and patience united with an inflexible determination, to proceed along the path of goodness.

Suffering refines the heart of a disciple of the Lord, as gold is purified in the furnace. "Accept what happens to you," writes the sacred author, "and be patient in sorrowful events, because gold is tried in fire as men are tried in the crucible of sorrow" (Eccl ?,4-5).

St. Peter, on his part, in the excerpt proposed to us, goes even farther when addressing the Christians of the communities of Asia Minor who were 'afflicted by various trials' - he asks them, notwithstanding, to 'rejoice' (1 Pt 1,6).

In fact, trial is necessary, he observes, "so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pt 1,7).

Then, for the second time, he exhorts them to rejoice, indeed to exult 'with an indescribable and glorious joy' (v. 8). The profound reason for this spiritual joy is love for Jesus and the certainty of his invisible presence. It is he who makes the faith and the hope of believers unshakable even in the most complicated and difficult phases of existence.

It is in the light of these Biblical texts that we can read the earthly experience of Papa Pacelli and his long service to the Church begun in 1901 under Leo XIII, and continued under St. Pius X< Benedict XV and Pius XI.

These Biblical texts help us to understand the source from which he drew courage and patience in his pontifical ministry, which took place in the tormented world of the Second World War, and the postwar era, not less complex, with reconstruction and the difficult international relations that have passed into history described significantly as the Cold War.

"Miserere mei Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam" - Have mercy on me, Lord, according to your great mercy. With this invocation from Psalm 50(51), Pius XII began his spiritual testament, continuing: "These words, which I am conscious of being undeserving and unequal, were those I said at the moment when, trembling, I accepted my election as the Supreme Pontiff. With greater reason, I repeat them now". He wrote this two years before his death.

To abandon himself in the merciful hands of God: this was the attitude that this venerated precedessor of mine cultivated constantly. He was the last of the Popes who had been born in Rome and came from a family linked for many years to the Holy See.

In Germany, where he was the Apostolic Nuncio, first in Munich then in Berlin till 1929, he left grateful memories behind, above all for having worked with Benedict XV in the attempt to stop the 'useless massacre' of the Great War, and for having grasped since its emergence the danger represented by the monstrous National-Socialistic ideology with its pernicious anti-Semite and anti-Catholic roots.

Made cardinal in December 1929, and soon after Secretary of State, he was a faithful collaborator of Pius XI for nine years, in an era marked by totalitarianisms: Fascist, Nazi and Soviet Communist - condemned respectively in the encyclicals Non abbiamo bisogno , Mit brennender Sorge and Divini Redemptoris.

"He who listens to my word and believes... has life eternal" (Jn 5, 24). This assurance by Jesus that we heard in today's Gospel makes us think of the more difficult moments in Pius XII's Pontificate when, taking note of the disappearance of every human certainty, he felt the need, through a constant effort at asceticism, to cling to Christ, the only certainty that never fades.

The Word of God became a light for his path, along which Papa Pacelli had to comfort the homeless and the persecuted, to wipe tears of sorrow and mourn the innumerable victims of the war.

Christ alone is the true hope for man - only by trusting in him can the human heart open itslf to the love that conquers hate. This awareness was ever with Pius XII in his ministry as the Successor of Peter, a ministry that started precisely when the menacing clouds of a new global conflict gathered over Europe and the rest of the world, a conflict that he tried his best in every way to help avoid: 'The danger is imminent, but there is still time. Nothing can be lost with peace. Eveything can be lost with war", he cried out in a radio messagge on August 24, 1939 (AAS, XXXI, 1939, p. 334).

The war placed in evidence the love that he felt for his 'beloved Rome', a love proven by the intense work of charity that he promoted in defense of the persecuted, regardless of religion, race, nationality or political affiliation.

When he was repeatedly advised, after the (German) occupation of Rome, to leave the Vatican for safer ground, his resolute response was always the same: "I will not leave Rome and my duty, even if it means I should die" (cfr Summarium, p.186).

His relatives and other witnesses attest to how he voluntarily deprived himself of food, heating, clothing, conveniences, in order to share the condition of people who were sorely tried by the bombings and other consequences of war (cfr A. Tornielli, 'Pio XII, Un uomo sul trono di Pietro').

And how can we forget his Christmas message in December 1942? In a voice torn with emotion, he deplored the situation of "hundreds of thousands of persons who, without any fault of their own, except for reason of nationality or race, are destined to death or progressive wasting away" (AAS, XXXV, 1943, p. 23), with a clear reference to the deportation and extermination being perpetrated against Jews.

He acted secretly and silently precisely because, in the light of concrete situations in that complex historical moment, he sensed that only thus could he avoid the worst, and be able to save as many Jews as possible.

Because of his interventions, numerous and unanimous messages of gratitude were sent to him at the end of the war, and later when he died, from the highest authorities of the Jewish world. For example, the then Foreign Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, wrote: "When the most frightening martyrdom struck our people, during the ten years of the Nazi terror, the voice of the Pontiff was raised in behalf of the victims", and she concluded movingly, "We weep for the loss of a great servant of peace".

Unfortunately, the historical debate on the figure of the Servant of God Pius XII, has not always been calm, and has neglected bringing to light all the aspects of his polyhedric Pontificate.

He gave so many discourses. allocutions and messages to scientists, doctors, representatives of the most diverse fields of work, some of which still retain an extraordinary relevance today and continue to be a valid refernece point.

Paul VI, who was his faithful co-worker for many years, described him as erudite, an attentive scholar, open to modern ways of research and culture, with ever firm and consistent faithfulness both to the principles of human rationality as well as to the intangible deposit of truth in the faith.

He considered him a precursor of the Second Vatican Council (cfr Angelus of March 10, 1974). In this perspective, many of his documents deserve to be recalled, but I will limit myself to citing only a few.

With the encyclical Mystici Corporis, published on June 29, 1943, while war was still raging, he described the spiritual and visible relationships that unite man to the Word incarnate, and proposed, in this context, to integrate the principal themes of ecclesiology, offering for the first time a dogmatic and theological synthesis that would be the basis for the Dogmatic Cosntitution of Vatican-II, Lumen gentium.

A few months later, on Sept. 20, 1943, with the encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu, he established the dotrinal norms for the study of Sacred Scripture, highlighting its importance and its role in Christian life. It is a document that shows great openness to scientific research on Biblical texts.

How can we not remember this encylical precisely when the Bishops Synod is meeting to consider the topic of "The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church"?

It was Pius XII's prophetic intuition that opened the way for serious study into the characteristics of ancient historiography in order to better understand the nature of sacred books, without weakening them nor denying their historical value.

A deeper look into 'literary genres' that mean to understand better what the sacred author meant to say had been looked at with suspicion before then (in the Church), if only because of abuses that had been made.

The encyclical acknowledged their correct application, declaring their legitimacy to be used for the study not only of the Old Testament but also of the New.

"Today, this art, which is usually called textual criticism," he explained, "and employed very fruitfully and to great praise by secular authors in their publications, should be rightly applied to Sacred Books, precisely because of the reverence due the Word of God".

He added: "The purpose in fact is to restore with all possible precision the sacred text in its original sense, purging it of the deformations introduced by shortcomings of copyists, and ridding them of glosses and gaps, of the transposition of words, repetitions and similar defects of every kind, which infiltrated the texts as they were manually handed down for centuries." (AAS, XXXV, 1943, p. 336).

The third encyclical I wish to mention is Mediator Dei, dedicated to liturgy, and published on November 20, 1947. With this document, the Servant of God gave new impulse to the liturgical movement, insisting on 'the essential element of worship' which 'must be internal'.

In fact, he wrote, it is necessary "always to live in Christ, dedicate oneself totally to him, so that in him, with him, and through him, we give glory to the Father. The sacred liturgy requires that these two eklements be intimately joined... Otherwise, religion becomes a formalism without foundation and without content".

We cannot fail to point to the noteworthy impulse that this Pontiff gave to the missionary activity of the Church with the encyclicals Evangelii praecones (1951) and Fidei donum(1957), which highlighted the duty of every Christian community to announce the Gospel to the people, as the Second Vatican Council would do with courageous vigor.

Papa Pacelli had shown his love for the missions from the start of his Pontificate when, in October 1939, he personally consecrated 12 bishops from missionary countries, among them an Indian, a Chinese, a Japanese, the first African bishop, and the first bishop of Madagascar.

Finally, one of his constant pastoral concerns was the promotion of the role of lay faithful so that the ecclesial community could avail itself of all available energies and resources. For this, too, the Church and the world are grateful to him.

Dear brothers and sisters, as we pray that the cause for the beatification of the Servant of God Pius XII may proceed happily, it is well to remember that sanctity was his ideal, an ideal he never missed proposing to everyone.

Because of this, he also encouraged the cause of beatification and canonization for persons belonging to different peoples, representing all walks of life, all roles and professions, and not forgetting women.

Indeed, it was Mary herself, our Lady of Salvation, that he indicated to mankind as the sign of sure hope, proclaiming the dogma of the Assumption in the Holy Year of 1950.

In this world today which, like then, is assailed by concerns and anxieties for its future, in this world where, perhaps more than before, the distancing of many from the truth and from virtue raises scenarios devoid of hope, Pius XII invites us to turn ourelves to Mary who was assumed to heavenly glory.

He invites us to invoke her trustingly, so that she may make us appreciate better the value of life on earth and help us look towards the true goal to which we are all destined: that eternal life which, Jesus assures us, he who listens and follows his Word already has.

Unusual picture shows the Holy Father descending to the Vatican Grottoes from the Altar of the Confession at St. Peter's.

As mentioned in the preceding post, L'Osservatore Romano today carries a front-page editorial and two major articles on Pius XII. Here is a translation of the editorial:

In memory of Pius XII
by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from
the 10/09/08 issue of

In the first hours of Thursday, October 9, 1958, half a century ago, Pius XII passed away. Death came after a long and intermittent illness, as he was about to complete the twentieth year of his pontificate, a great and difficult one which encompassed the darkest time of the twentieth century - the affirmation of totalitarianisms, of the extermination of the Jewish people in the heart of Europe, of the most horrifying war the world had ever known, and the subsequent division of the world in two camps diametrically opposed in a Cold War.

The Roman Pope, whose tall hieratic figure had become familiar to the whole world, thanks to the new means of communications, died in nocturnal solitude at the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, betrayed by his own doctor who ignobly sold pictures of his agony.

Eugenio Pacelli was born on March 2, 1876, in a Rome that had recently become Italian [i.e., part of the new unified Italian state], while the long Pontificate of Pius XI was ending. As a young priest, he entered the service of the Holy See, following his Roman family's tradition.

From then on, his life became increasingly linked closely to the Church of Rome, to pontifical diplomacy, and to his works of peace - first in various Vatican offices; then at the Nunciature in Germany during that dark time following the Communist Revolution in Russia when National Socialism was born and matured; and then finally, for good, back to Rome.

He became the Cardinal Secretary of State for Pius XI, and was subsequently elected his successor in 1939 following a very brief Conclave - the first Roman in two centuries (and the first Vatican secretary of state) to become Pope.

A man of peace, Pius XII soon found himself a wartime Pope, the helpless Bishop of Rome. But he faced the tragedy of war as no other leader in his time did. In the face of the monstrous persecution of Jews by the Nazis [and their Italian Fascist allies], he was constrained to a deliberate but pained silence to mask and maximize an indisputable work of assistance and charity to potential victims.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini (later Pope Paul VI) would write in The Tablet, commenting on the worldwide denigration campaign against Pius XII launched by a German play about his wartime activities: "An attitude of condemnation and protest [towards Nazi treatment of the Jews], which this play claims the Pope never adopted, would have been - besides being futile - dangerous: that is all."

The government of the Church had to go on. It must be remembered, for instance, Divino afflante Spiritu, the encyclical which authorized the renewal of Biblical studies by Catholic scholars, was published during the war.

His work of peace and leadership of Catholicism continued tirelessly during the war, expressed symbolically by the Holy Year at mid-century - when he proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary - and by the two great consistories which started the internationalization of the College of Cardinals for a Church that was increasingly global, while important reforms proceeded in doctrinal, liturgical and ecumenical areas.

At the same time, the Pope supported both democracy and opposition to Communist totalitarianism, on the one hand, and on the other, the reconstruction of Europe.

The weight of the war and the desire to erase memories of it soon fell on the image of Pius XII and facilitated the spread after his death of a black legend - that of a Pope who was insensitive to the Holocaust or worse, as a Nazi sympathizer, a fabrication that is inconsistent with history even more than it is denigratory.

Analogously, the undeniable differences between him and his successor do not authorize - not even from a historical angle - an unfavorable comparison with John XXIII that was artificially constructed and which still weighs on the Church, undermining its continuity - the same Church that Pius XII served to the very end and which has the duty to uphold his memory.

00Friday, October 31, 2008 5:49 AM

I'm now in the process of consolidating previous material about Pius XII into this thread....

2/6/2008 1:41 PM
Post: 11,745

Sainthood for Pius XII
will get more study in '08,
Vatican official says

New York, Feb. 5, 2008

Probably the most delicate cause for sainthood currently working its way through the Vatican system will be further studied this year, according to the Holy See’s top official for saints, but he offered no projection of when Pope Pius XII might be formally beatified and, eventually, canonized.

Portuguese Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, spoke in a Feb.1 interview with the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, Avvenire.

The cause of Pius XII is particularly explosive because of lingering debate over his role during the Second World War, and specifically whether he did enough to condemn the Nazis and to resist the Holocaust. Many observers believe that beatifying Pius XII would have serious repercussions for Catholic/Jewish dialogue.

One reminder of those tensions came last May in Israel, when the papal nuncio, or ambassador, briefly threatened to boycott an annual memorial at Yad Vashem, Israel’s leading Holocaust museum, because of a dispute over how Pius XII was depicted. In the end, museum officials agreed to review the critical photo caption in question and the nuncio attended the memorial, but the standoff nevertheless suggested the intensity of feeling on both sides.

Last May, the cardinals and bishops who make up the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted in favor of a “decree of heroic virtue” for Pius XII, one of the preliminary stages towards sainthood. Upon approval by the pope, the decree would entitle Pius XII to be known as “venerable.”

In the nine months since that vote, however, Benedict has not issued the required approval, leading to speculation that the Vatican has decided to put the cause on a temporary back burner. In his L’Avvenire comments, Saraiva seemed to indirectly confirm that hypothesis, while also insisting that the cause has not been abandoned.

The following is the question put to Saraiva and his response, in an NCR translation from the Italian.

Has the cause of Pius XII, after the positive vote expressed unanimously by the ordinary congress of the congregation on his heroic virtue, really been delayed or shelved?

Saraiva Martins:: “Technically it has not been delayed, much less shelved. This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pacelli [Pius XII], and for this reason various initiatives will be promoted, including deeper research in the Vatican Archives. This will certainly contribute to the cause of Pius XII.”

2/29/2008 2:11 AM
Post: 12,121

The 'miracle of the sun'
replayed itself for him

by Andrea Tornielli
Translated from
Il Giornale, 2/28/08

The tireless Tornielli, who recently related to us John Paul II's newly-discovered correspondence with Padre Pio, now has a new papal 'scoop', this time on Pius XII, about whom he recently published a definitive biography.

"I saw it - and that is the pure truth".

In 1950, shortly before proclaiming the dogma of the Assumption, Pope Pius XII writes that while walking in the Vatican Gardens, he witnessed several times the 'miracle of the sun' similar to what had been seen in Fatima in 1917 at the Virgin Mary's last apparition there, and he considered it a celestial confirmation of the momentous step he was proposing to take.

This was something that up to now had only been referred to in public by Cardinal Federico Tedeschini in a 1951 homily delivered in Fatima.

Now, an exceptional, previously unpublished document about the Pope's visions has emerged from the Pacelli family archive - a note handwritten in pencil by the Pope himself, in which he recounts what he saw.

The document will be displayed in a November exposition at the Vatican this year to mark the 50th death anniversary of Papa Pacelli.

The account is bare, almost notarial, without any attempt to sensationalize.

"It was October 30, 1950," Pius XII explains - two days before he would proclaim the dogma of the Assumption, that is, that Mary was 'assumed body and soul into heavenly glory' when she died.

He had consulted bishops worldwide beforehand, and had received unanimous approval for what he planned. Only six out of 1,181 expressed some reservations, but did not oppose it.

Around 4 p.m. that day, he took his "habitual walk in the Vatican Gardens, reading and studying." He recalls that as he started up the Piazzale named for Our Lady of Lourdes, "towards the top of the hill, on the right pathway which ran near the peripheral wall," he looked up above the treeline.

"I was struck by a phenomenon that I had never seen before. The sun, which was still quite high, appeared like an opaque yellow globe, surrounded by a luminous circle," which, however, did not prevent staring at it "without the least trouble. Before it was a very light cloud veil".

"The opaque globe," he continues, "moved out lightly, whirling, as well as moving from left to right and vice-versa. But within the globe itself, one could see clearly and without interruption very strong movements."

The Pope says he saw the same phenomenon the next day, Oct. 31, then on Nov. 1, the day the dogma of the Assumption was proclaimed, and again on November 8. "After that, not again."

He remembers trying afterwards 'several times' on different days, at the same time and in similar atmospheric conditions, "to look at the sun to see if the same phenomenon would manifest, but in vain. I could not even look at the sun directly for an instant, because my eyes would be blinded immediately."

In the days following, Pius XII recalled the incidents "to a few intimates and a small group of cardinals (perhaps 4 or 5), among the Cardinal Tedeschini."

Tedeschini would represent the Pope in Fatima in October 1951 to close the celebrations of the Holy Year. Before leaving for Fatima, he was received by the Pope in audience and he asked whether he could mention the incidents in Fatima.

"I answered, 'No. Let it be. Don't make a case of it'....But he insisted, pointing to the timeliness of the occasion, and that was when I explained to him the details of what happened," Pius XII writes.

He concludes, "This is, in short and simple terms, the pure truth."

"Pius XII was very convinced of the reality of that extraordinary phenomenon which he saw four times," said Sr. Pascalina Lehnert, who was the Pope's housekeeper.

The so-called 'miracle of the sun' was first seen on October 13, 1917, in Fatima, at the end of the Marian apparitions to the three shepherd children Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta.

Avelino de Almeida, a journalist for the newspaper O Secolo, and a non-believer, described it in his news report: "What happened was a unique spectacle which would be incredible to anyone who did not see it...The immense crowd all turned their faces up to look at the sun in a cloudless sky, in full daylight. The sun looked like a silver disc, and one could stare at it without the least trouble. It didn't burn, it didn't blind. One would have said it was an eclipse!"

Pius XII was very much 'linked' to Fatima. The first apparition to the three children took place on May 13, 1917, the day on which Pacelli was consecrated archbishop in the Sistine Chapel.

It is known that Pius XII later was in constant communication with Sr. Lucia dos Santos, the only surviving seer, and in the last days of his life, the Pope kept with him in the Papal apartments the document containing the so-called Third Secret of Fatima.

"At different times," according to the testimony of the Marchioness
Olga Nicolis di Robilant Alves Pereira de Melo, at the beatification process for Pius XII, "I transmitted messages from the Holy Father to Suor Lucia, and from her to him, but since I had promised not to reveal any of it to anyone, I did not feel authorized to say so before now."


From Wikipedia (the entry on the "miracle of the Sun" appears to be properly footnoted with sources), here is an account of what happened in Fatima:

A page from Ilustracao Portugueza, October 29, 1917,
showing the crowd looking at the Miracle of the Sun.

The most widely-cited descriptions of the events reported at Fatima are taken from the writings of John De Marchi, an Italian Catholic priest and researcher. De Marchi spent seven years in Fatima, from 1943 to 1950, conducting original research and interviewing the principals at undisturbed length.

In The Immaculate Heart, published in 1952, De Marchi reports that, "their ranks (those present on 13 October) included believers and non-believers, pious old ladies and scoffing young men. Hundreds, from these mixed categories, have given formal testimony. Reports do vary; impressions are in minor details confused, but none to our knowledge has directly denied the visible prodigy of the sun."

Some of the witness statements follow below. They are taken from John De Marchi's several books on the matter.

"Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws — the sun 'danced' according to the typical expression of the people." ― Avelino de Almeida, writing for O Século (Portugal's most widely-circulated[19] and influential newspaper, which was pro-government and anti-clerical at the time. Almeida's previous articles had satirized the previously reported events at Fatima).

"The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceeding fast and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat."
Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, writing for the newspaper Ordem.

"…The silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds… The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands… people wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they."
― Reporter for the Lisbon newspaper O Dia.

"The sun's disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body, for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl, when suddenly a clamor was heard from all the people. The sun, whirling, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was terrible."
― Dr. Almeida Garrett, Professor of Natural Sciences at Coimbra University.

"As if like a bolt from the blue, the clouds were wrenched apart, and the sun at its zenith appeared in all its splendor. It began to revolve vertiginously on its axis, like the most magnificent firewheel that could be imagined, taking on all the colors of the rainbow and sending forth multi-colored flashes of light, producing the most astounding effect.

"This sublime and incomparable spectacle, which was repeated three distinct times, lasted for about ten minutes. The immense multitude, overcome by the evidence of such a tremendous prodigy, threw themselves on their knees."
― Dr. Formigão, a professor at the seminary at Santarem, and a priest.

"I feel incapable of describing what I saw. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt my eyes. Looking like a ball of snow, revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zig-zag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment."
Rev. Joaquim Lourenco, describing his boyhood experience in Alburitel, eighteen kilometers from Fatima.

"On that day of October 13, 1917, without remembering the predictions of the children, I was enchanted by a remarkable spectacle in the sky of a kind I had never seen before. I saw it from this veranda…”
― Portuguese poet Alfonso Lopes Vieira.

Many years after the events in question, Stanley L. Jaki, a professor of physics at Seton Hall University, New Jersey, Benedictine priest and author of a number of books attempting to reconcile science and Catholicism, proposed a unique theory about the supposed miracle. Jaki believes that the event was natural and meteorological in nature, but that the fact the event occurred at the exact time predicted was a miracle.[38]

There follows a "Critical Evaluation of the Event' which summarizes theories pro and con, scientific and otherwise, to explain or question the 'miracle'.
It ends with this paragraph:

The event was officially accepted as a miracle by the Roman Catholic Church on 13 October 1930. On 13 October 1951, papal legate Cardinal Tedeschini told the million gathered at Fatima that on 30 October, 31 October, 1 November, and 8 November 1950, Pope Pius XII himself witnessed the miracle of the sun from the Vatican gardens.

2/29/2008 4:32 PM
Post: 12,129


Pius XII 'assisted Zionist cause'
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Editor
on her blog in
The Times of London
February 28, 2008

Was Pope Pius XII an anti-Semite or not? He has variously been branded Hitler's Pope and the Nazi Pope, and Benedict XVI has slowed down the beatification process and requested a review of the 3,500-page dossier.

The relevant Vatican post-1922 archives have not yet been made available to scholars. Will they ever be? What has the Roman Catholic Church to fear?

But while our own dear Cardinal Newman moves closer and closer to canonisation and, possibly, becoming a Doctor of the Church at the same time, it seems unlikely now that Pius XII will be beatified in the near future.

Conservative Catholic Chris Gillibrand, of Cathcon, has this week unearthed evidence that gives further indication of how complex the questions around Pacelli are. He's kindly allowed me to publish details of his find.

In a book published by Collins in 1953, Chris has found a passage that indicates that in 1917, the future Pius XII facilitated the meeting of Nihon Sokolov, the leading Zionist publicist, with Pope Benedict XV.

The friendly reception of the Zionist leader together with support for a Palestine run by the British loosened the grip of the policies of the party run by Flandin who had believed that he could count on the support of the Church and who wished for a French presence in the Middle East, specifically excluding a Jewish homeland.

The Vatican also trusted the British more than the French with the holy sites in Israel.

The politics is quite complicated, but it does seem to be the case that if Pius XII was anti-semitic, he would have been unlikely to have arranged a meeting for Sokolov with Pope Benedict XV.

Pacelli was extremely hostile to the anti-Catholicism of France at the time.

Bear in mind also that Herzl, founder of 'Zionism', had an audience with Pope St Pius X, Benedict XV's predecessor, and got nowhere.

Their conversation went like this:

Herzl to Pius X
'The sanctuaries of Christendom would be safeguarded by assigning to them extra-territorial status such as is well known in the law of nations. We should form a Guard of Honour about these sanctuaries, answering to the fulfilment of this duty with our existence.'

Pius X to Herzl
'We are unable to favor this movement …. The Jews have not recognized our Lord; therefore, we cannot recognize the Jewish people... I can only tell you that if you succeed in settling your people in Palestine, we on our side shall prepare churches and priests to baptise you.'

This prompted his Secretary of State, Cardinal Merry de Val, incidentally born in England, to attempt to soften the line: 'If the Jews might greatly ease their lot by being admitted to the land of their ancestors, then we would regard that as a humanitarian question. We shall never forget without Judaism we would have been nothing.'

The book in question is Two Studies in Virtue by Christopher Sykes, about the travels and work of his father Mark Sykes.

Here is the relevant passage:

As soon as he had arrived in Rome, Sykes sought an interview with a Vatican official who was of the same rank and influence as himself, someone not a cardinal who had the Pope's ear. He found his man in Monsignor Pacelli, Assistant Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. 'I spoke to the Monsignor,' recorded Sykes, 'of the immense difficulties which surrounded the question of Jerusalem, the Arab Nationalist movement, the Moslem Holy Places, Zionism, and the conflicting interests of the Latins and Greeks, beside the aspirations of the various powers. ... Although he did not say as much, the Monsignor, by certain turns of speech, let it be easy to see that the idea of British patronage of the Holy Places was not distasteful to Vatican policy. The French I could see did not strike him as ideal in any way. I also prepared the way for Zionism by explaining what the purpose and ideals of the Zionists were, and suggested that he should see M. Sokolov when the latter came to Rome. Of course one could not expect the Vatican to be enthusiastic about this movement, but he was most interested and expressed a wish to see Sokolov when he should come to Rome.'

Sykes then obtained a brief private audience of the Pope. This was of a formal kind and nothing was said of Zionism. The next day Sykes left for Egypt.

Sokolov arrived in Rome about three weeks later, and on the 10th May, after conferring with Monsignor Pacelli, he was received by Benedict XV. It was as though Herzl's audience was being annulled. 'Have I correctly understood Zionism?' asked the Pope when the opening formalities were over. 'What a reversal of history! Nineteen centuries ago Rome destroyed Jerusalem, and now, desiring to rebuild it, you take the path to Rome!'

In his reply Sokolov recalled the fate of the Empire and compared it to that of the Jewish nation: one had vanished, the other was reclaiming its land.

'Yes, yes,' agreed Benedict with enthusiasm, 'this was providential. God willed it.'

The Pope then asked Sokolov to explain the Zionist project in detail. Sokolov answered as follows: 'Our programme is twofold. It aims first to create in Palestine a spiritual and cultural centre for Jewry, and secondly to establish a national home for oppressed Jews. Our desire is to build up in that country a great centre where Jews will be able to develop their culture freely, to educate their children in the spirit of their ideals, and to devote all their energies to making their National Home a model of Jewish civilisation and morality.'

The Pope was deeply impressed. 'That is a wonderful idea,' he said. Then he wanted to know whether this plan had been contrived with a view to preventing persecutions. Sokolov answered in the rhetorical terms which came naturally to him. He referred to the right of the Jews 'to a place in the sun—in our land.'

' We look forward,' he said, 'to the rebirth of historical Judaism, to the spiritual and material revival of the homeland that personifies our national genius and our Biblical tradition in its purest sense. We claim the right of Freedom which cannot be denied to any people.'

'But is there enough space,' asked the Pope, 'in Palestine, to carry out your plan?'

To this question which was to be asked so often not only then but in the course of the next thirty years, and on which so much depended, Sokolov returned a skilfully evasive reply. 'There is the possibility of reaching our goal,' he said, 'but first we must prepare the ground.' The conversation turned to the small number of Jewish colonists in Palestine at that time, only twelve thousand; and to the different days ahead when British influence would introduce civilised rule in place of Turkish domination. 'Great Britain,' the Pope interjected, 'is the greatest and most experienced colonising power in the world.' Then they discussed Zionist intentions regarding the Holy Places, before the Pope returned to the original question, which he posed afresh: 'Are many Jews likely to settle in Palestine?'

Sokolov again replied with a skilful and grandiloquent evasion. 'The best - and those who have suffered most,' he said, and then led the conversation away from that subject to the great agricultural work of the pioneers, and from there to a dis­cussion of the Jews in Eastern Europe.

The last words of Benedict at this audience were spoken in answer to Sokolov's request for moral support, and were to be long remembered by Zionists. He said: 'Si, si, io credo che noi saremo buoni vicini' - 'Yes, I believe that we shall be good neighbours.'

Shortly after this Sokolov returned to Paris.

00Friday, October 31, 2008 5:57 AM

1/27/2007 1:56 PM
Post: 5,904


Thanks to Gerald Augustinus for leading us to this article published by National Review online on 1/25/07 at http://article.nationalreview.com/print/?q=YTUzYmJhMGQ5Y2UxOWUzNDUyNWUwODJiOTEzYjY4NzI=
which confirms the hypothesis that the smear campaign against Pope Pius XII and his supposed indifference to the fate of the Jews in Nazi Germany originated with the Communists through the publication of German playwright Rolf Hochhuth's play The Deputy in the early 1960s which perpetrated - and seemingly perpetuated - the idea.

Moscow’s Assault on the Vatican:
The KGB made corrupting the Church a priority

By Ion Mihai Pacepa

[Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc. His book Red Horizons has been republished in 27 countries.]

The Soviet Union was never comfortable living in the same world with the Vatican. The most recent disclosures document that the Kremlin was prepared to go to any lengths to counter the Catholic Church’s strong anti-Communism.

In March 2006 an Italian parliamentary commission concluded “beyond any reasonable doubt that the leaders of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate the pope Karol Wojtyla,” in retaliation for his support to the dissident Solidarity movement in Poland.

In January 2007, when documents disclosed that the newly appointed archbishop of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus, had collaborated with Poland’s Communist-era political police, he admitted the accusation and resigned.

The following day the rector of Krakow’s Wawel Cathedral, the burial site of Polish kings and queens, resigned for the same reason. Then it was learned that Michal Jagosz, a member of the Vatican’s tribunal considering sainthood for the late Pope John Paul II, has been accused of being a former Communist secret police agent; according to the Polish media, he had been recruited in 1984 before leaving Poland for an assignment to the Vatican.

Currently, a book is about to be published that will identify 39 other priests whose names have been found in Krakow secret police files, some of whom are now bishops.

Moreover, this seems to be just scratching the surface. A special commission will soon start investigating the past of all religious servants during the Communist era, as thousands more Catholic priests throughout that country are believed to have collaborated with the secret police.

And this is just Poland — the archives of the KGB and those of the political police in the rest of the former Soviet bloc have yet to be opened on the subject of operations against the Vatican.

In my other life, when I was at the center of Moscow’s foreign-intelligence wars, I myself was caught up in a deliberate Kremlin effort to smear the Vatican, by portraying Pope Pius XII as a coldhearted Nazi sympathizer. Ultimately, the operation did not cause any lasting damage [I don't know about this, because it certainly planted a myth that has been circulating as 'fact' about Pius XII for almost 50 years now!], but it left a residual bad taste that is hard to rinse away. The story has never before been told.

In February 1960, Nikita Khrushchev approved a super-secret plan for destroying the Vatican’s moral authority in Western Europe. The idea was the brainchild of KGB chairman Aleksandr Shelepin and Aleksey Kirichenko, the Soviet Politburo member responsible for international policies.

Up until that time, the KGB had fought its “mortal enemy” in Eastern Europe, where the Holy See had been crudely attacked as a cesspool of espionage in the pay of American imperialism, and its representatives had been summarily jailed as spies. Now Moscow wanted the Vatican discredited by its own priests, on its home territory, as a bastion of Nazism.

Eugenio Pacelli, by then Pope Pius XII, was selected as the KGB’s main target, its incarnation of evil, because he had departed this world in 1958. “Dead men cannot defend themselves” was the KGB’s latest slogan.

Moscow had just gotten a black eye for framing and imprisoning a living Vatican prelate, József Cardinal Mindszenty, the primate of Hungary, in 1948. During the 1956 Hungarian Revolution he had escaped from jail and found asylum in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, where he began writing his memoirs. As the details of how he had been framed became known to Western journalists, he was widely seen as a saintly hero and martyr.

Because Pius XII had served as the papal nuncio in Munich and Berlin when the Nazis were beginning their bid for power, the KGB wanted to depict him as an anti-Semite who had encouraged Hitler’s Holocaust.

The hitch was that the operation was not to give the least hint of Soviet bloc involvement. The whole dirty job had to be carried out by Western hands, using evidence from the Vatican itself. That would correct another mistake made in the case of Mindszenty, who had been framed with counterfeit Soviet and Hungarian documents.

(On February 6, 1949, just days before Mindszenty’s trial ended, Hanna Sulner, the Hungarian handwriting expert who had fabricated the “evidence” used to frame the cardinal, escaped to Vienna and displayed microfilms of the “documents” on which the show trial was founded. Hanna demonstrated, in an excruciatingly detailed testimony, that all were forged documents, “some ostensibly in the cardinal’s hand, others bearing his supposed signature,” produced by her.)

To avoid another Mindszenty catastrophe, the KGB needed some original Vatican documents, even ones only remotely connected with Pius XII, which its dezinformatsiya experts could slightly modify and project in the “proper light” to prove the Pope’s “true colors.”

The difficulty was that the KGB had no access to the Vatican archives, and that was where my DIE, the Romanian foreign intelligence service, came in. The new chief of the Soviet foreign intelligence service, General Aleksandr Sakharovsky, had created the DIE in 1949 and had until recently been our chief Soviet adviser; he knew that the DIE was in an excellent position to contact the Vatican and obtain approval to search its archives.

In 1959, when I had been assigned to West Germany in the cover position as deputy chief of the Romanian Mission, I had conducted a “spy swap” under which two DIE officers (Colonel Gheorghe Horobet and Major Nicolae Ciuciulin), who had been caught red-handed in West Germany, had been exchanged for Roman Catholic bishop Augustin Pacha, who had been jailed by the KGB on a spurious charge of espionage and was finally returned to the Vatican via West Germany.

“Seat-12” was the code name given to this operation against Pius XII, and I became its Romanian point man. To facilitate my job, Sakharovsky had authorized me to (falsely) inform the Vatican that Romania was ready to restore its broken relations with the Holy See, in exchange for access to its archives and a one-billion-dollar, interest-free loan for 25 years.

(Romania’s relations with the Vatican had been severed in 1951, when Moscow accused the Vatican’s nunciatura in Romania of being an undercover CIA front and closed its offices. The nunciatura buildings in Bucharest had been turned over to the DIE, and now housed a foreign language school.)

The access to the Papal archives, I was to tell the Vatican, was needed in order to find historical roots that would help the Romanian government publicly justify its change of heart toward the Holy See. The billion (no, that is not a typographical error), I was told, had been introduced into the game to make Romania’s alleged turnabout more plausible. “If there’s one thing those monks understand, it’s money,” Sakharovsky remarked.

My earlier involvement in the exchange of Bishop Pacha for the two DIE officers did indeed open doors for me. A month after receiving the KGB’s instructions, I had my first contact with a Vatican representative. For secrecy reasons that meeting — and most of the ones that followed — took place at a hotel in Geneva, Switzerland.

There I was introduced to an “influential member of the diplomatic corps” who, I was told, had begun his career working in the Vatican archives. His name was Agostino Casaroli [who would later become Vatican Secretary of State], and I would soon learn that he was truly influential. On the spot this monsignor gave me access to the Vatican archives, and soon three young DIE undercover officers posing as Romanian priests were digging around in the papal archives.

Casaroli also agreed “in principle” to Bucharest’s demand for the interest-free loan, but he said the Vatican wished to place certain conditions on it. (Up until 1978, when I left Romania for good, I was still negotiating for that loan, which had gone down to $200 million.)

During 1960-62, the DIE succeeded in pilfering hundreds of documents connected in any way with Pope Pius XII out of the Vatican Archives and the Apostolic Library. Everything was immediately sent to the KGB via special courier.

In actual fact, no incriminating material against the pontiff ever turned up in all those secretly photographed documents. Mostly they were copies of personal letters and transcripts of meetings and speeches, all couched in the routine kind of diplomatic language one would expect to find. Nevertheless, the KGB kept asking for more documents. And we sent more.

In 1963, General Ivan Agayants, the famous chief of the KGB’s disinformation department, landed in Bucharest to thank us for our help. He told us that “Seat-12” had materialized into a powerful play attacking Pope Pius XII, entitled The Deputy, an oblique reference to the pope as Christ’s representative on earth.

Agayants took credit for the outline of the play, and he told us that it had voluminous appendices of background documents put together by his experts with help from the documents we had purloined from the Vatican.

Agayants also told us that The Deputy’s producer, Erwin Piscator, was a devoted Communist who had a longstanding relationship with Moscow. In 1929 he had founded the Proletarian Theater in Berlin, then sought political asylum in the Soviet Union when Hitler came to power, and a few years later had “emigrated” to the United States. In 1962 Piscator had returned to West Berlin to produce The Deputy.

Throughout my years in Romania, I always took my KGB bosses with a grain of salt, because they used to juggle the facts around so as to make Soviet intelligence the mother and father of everything. But I had reason to believe Agayants’s self-serving claim. He was a living legend in the field of desinformatsiya.

In 1943, as the rezident in Iran, Agayants launched the disinformation report that Hitler had set up a special team to kidnap President Franklin Roosevelt from the American Embassy in Tehran during the Allied Summit to be held there. As a result, Roosevelt agreed to be headquartered in a villa within the “safety” of the Soviet Embassy compound, which was guarded by a large military unit. All the Soviet personnel assigned to that villa were undercover intelligence officers who spoke English, but, with few exceptions, they kept that a secret so as to be able to eavesdrop.

Even given the limited technical capabilities of that day, Agayants was able to provide Stalin with hourly monitoring reports on the American and British guests. That helped Stalin obtain Roosevelt’s tacit agreement to let him retain the Baltic countries and the rest of the territories occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939-40.

Agayants was also credited with having induced Roosevelt to use the familiar “Uncle Joe” for Stalin at that summit. According to what Sakharovsky told us, Stalin was more elated over that than he was even over his territorial gains. “The cripple’s mine!” he reportedly exulted.

Just a year before The Deputy was launched, Agayants had pulled off another masterful coup. He fabricated out of whole cloth a manuscript designed to persuade the West that, deep down, the Kremlin thought highly of the Jews; this was published in Western Europe, to great popular success, as a book entitled Notes for a Journal.

The manuscript was attributed to Maxim Litvinov, né Meir Walach, the former Soviet commissar for foreign affairs, who had been fired in 1939 when Stalin purged his diplomatic apparatus of Jews in preparation for signing his “non-aggression” pact with Hitler.

(The Stalin-Hitler Non-Aggression Pact was signed on August 23, 1939, in Moscow. It had a secret Protocol that partitioned Poland between the two signatories and gave the Soviets a free hand in Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Bessarabia, and Northern Bukovina.)

This Agayants book was so flawlessly counterfeited that Britain’s most prominent historian on Soviet Russia, Edward Hallet Carr, was totally convinced of its authenticity and in fact wrote an introduction for it. (Carr had authored a ten-volume History of Soviet Russia.)

The Deputy saw the light in 1963 as the work of an unknown West German named Rolf Hochhuth, under the title Der Stellvertreter. Ein christliches Trauerspiel (The Deputy, a Christian Tragedy).

Its central thesis was that Pius XII had supported Hitler and encouraged him to go ahead with the Jewish Holocaust. It immediately ignited a huge controversy around Pius XII, who was depicted as a cold, heartless man more concerned about Vatican properties than about the fate of Hitler’s victims.

The original text presents an eight-hour play, backed by some 40 to 80 pages (depending on the edition) of what Hochhuth called “historical documentation.” In a newspaper article published in Germany in 1963, Hochhuth defends his portrayal of Pius XII, saying: “The facts are there — forty crowded pages of documentation in the appendix to my play.”

In a radio interview given in New York in 1964, when The Deputy opened there, Hochhuth said, “I considered it necessary to add to the play a historical appendix, fifty to eighty pages (depending on the size of the print).”

In the original edition, the appendix is entitled “Historische Streiflichter” (historical sidelights). The Deputy has been translated into some 20 languages, drastically cut and with the appendix usually omitted.

Before writing The Deputy, Hochhuth, who did not have a high school diploma (Abitur), was working in various inconspicuous capacities for the Bertelsmann publishing house. In interviews he claimed that in 1959 he took a leave of absence from his job and went to Rome, where he spent three months talking to people and then writing the first draft of the play, and where he posed “a series of questions” to one bishop whose name he refused to reveal. Hardly likely!

At about that same time I used to visit the Vatican fairly regularly as an accredited messenger from a head of state, and I was never able to get any talkative bishop off into a corner with me — and it was not for lack of trying. The DIE illegal officers we infiltrated into the Vatican also encountered almost insurmountable difficulties in penetrating the Vatican secret archives, even though they had airtight cover as priests.

During my old days in the DIE, when I would ask my personnel chief, General Nicolae Ceausescu (the dictator’s brother), to give me a rundown of the file on some subordinate, he would always ask me, “For promotion or demotion?”

During its first ten years of life, The Deputy leaned toward the Pope’s demotion. It generated a flurry of books and articles, some accusing and some defending the pontiff. Some went so far as to lay the blame for the Auschwitz atrocities on the pope’s shoulders, some meticulously tore Hochhuth’s arguments to shreds, but all contributed to the huge attention this rather stilted play received in its day.

Today, many people who have never heard of The Deputy are sincerely convinced that Pius XII was a cold and evil man who hated the Jews and helped Hitler do away with them. As KGB chairman Yury Andropov, the unparalleled master of Soviet deception, used to tell me, people are more ready to believe smut than holiness.

Toward the mid 1970s, The Deputy started running out of steam. In 1974 Andropov conceded to us that, had we known then what we know today, we would never have gone after Pope Pius XII. What now made the difference was newly released information showing that Hitler, far from being friendly with Pius XII, had in fact been plotting against him.

Just a few days before Andropov’s admission, the former supreme commander of the German SS (Schutzstaffel) squadron in Italy during World War II, General Friedrich Otto Wolff, had been released from jail and confessed that in 1943 Hitler had ordered him to abduct Pope Pius XII from the Vatican. That order had been so hush-hush that it never turned up after the war in any Nazi archive. Nor had it come out at any of the many debriefings of Gestapo and SS officers conducted by the victorious Allies.

In his confession Wolff claimed that he had replied to Hitler that his order would take six weeks to carry out. Hitler, who blamed the pope for the overthrow of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, wanted it done immediately. Eventually Wolff persuaded Hitler that there would be a great negative response if the plan were implemented, and the Führer dropped it.

It was also during 1974 that Cardinal Mindszenty published his book Memoirs, which describes in agonizing detail how he was framed in Communist Hungary. On the evidence of fabricated documents, he was charged with “treason, misuse of foreign currency, and conspiracy,” offenses “all punishable by death or life imprisonment.” He also describes how his falsified “confession” then took on a life of its own.

“It seemed to me that anyone should at once have recognized this document as a crude forgery, since it is the product of a bungling, uncultivated mind,” the cardinal writes. “But when I subsequently went through foreign books, newspapers, and magazines that dealt with my case and commented on my ‘confession,’ I realized that the public must have concluded that the ‘confession’ had actually been composed by me, although in a semiconscious state and under the influence of brainwashing… (T)hat the police would have published a document they had themselves manufactured seemed altogether too brazen to be believed.”

Furthermore, Hanna Sulner, the Hungarian handwriting expert used to frame the cardinal, who had escaped to Vienna, confirmed that she had forged Mindszenty’s “confession.”

A few years later, Pope John Paul II started the process of sanctifying Pius XII, and witnesses from all over the world have compellingly proved that Pius XII was an enemy, not a friend, of Hitler.

Israel Zoller, the chief rabbi of Rome between 1943-44, when Hitler took over that city, devoted an entire chapter of his memoirs to praising the leadership of Pius XII.

“The Holy Father sent by hand a letter to the bishops instructing them to lift the enclosure from convents and monasteries, so that they could become refuges for the Jews. I know of one convent where the Sisters slept in the basement, giving up their beds to Jewish refugees.” On July 25, 1944, Zoller was received by Pope Pius XII.

Notes taken by Vatican secretary of state Giovanni Battista Montini (who would become Pope Paul VI) show that Rabbi Zoller thanked the Holy Father for all he had done to save the Jewish community of Rome — and his thanks were transmitted over the radio.

On February 13, 1945, Rabbi Zoller was baptized by Rome’s auxiliary bishop Luigi Traglia in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. In gratitude to Pius XII, Zoller took the Christian name of Eugenio (the pope’s name). A year later Zoller’s wife and daughter were also baptized.

David G. Dalin, in The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews From the Nazis, published a few months ago, has compiled further overwhelming proof of Eugenio Pacelli’s friendship for the Jews beginning long before he became pope. At the start of World War II, Pope Pius XII’s first encyclical was so anti-Hitler that the Royal Air Force and the French air force dropped 88,000 copies of it over Germany.

Over the past 16 years, the freedom of religion has been restored in Russia, and a new generation has been struggling to develop a new national identity. We can only hope that President Vladimir Putin will see fit to open the KGB archives and set forth on the table, for all to see, how the Communists maligned one of the most important popes of the last century.


Notwithstanding the recent books cited by the general that document how Pius XII helped the Jews and denounced Nazism, the state of Israel, for one, is sticking to the Hochhuth-KGB image of Pius XII when it asked the Vatican recently to suspend all work on beatifying the late Pope because of his supposed 'anti-Jewish' activity in World War II.


Many Jewish leaders and Jews or Israelis who have easy access to the media have been driving the campaign against Pius XII since the KGB and Hochhuth managed their incredibly successful propaganda coup. More in general, there are Jews for whom the Holocaust is something they will never forgive the world for - not the Nazis and Hitler, but the world.

While this fixation about the Holocaust may be understandable - and I have no idea how many of the world's 14 million Jews share it - the point is not to dwell on a past grievance - even a catastrophe like the Shoah - but to work tirelessly that it may not happen again.

Inveighing against the Church and Pius XII is not going to bring back a single life that was sacrificed in the Shoah. Such negativity is unworthy, even, of those 6 million Jews who perished, and worse, completely unproductive if not counter-productive.

The following is about a book that documents how Christians, non-Christians and non-believers alike, who came to be aware of what was happening in Nazi Germany - even if many may not have known the full extent of it - may have kept silent (mostly for pragmatic reasons - dead or in prison, they would have been unable to help anybody!), but whose actions were far more meaningful than simply speaking out at the time.

ROME, FEB. 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address given by Lisa Palmieri-Billig, liaison of the American-Jewish Committee to the Holy See, and Rome correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, on the occasion of the presentation of the Italian translation of Martin Gilbert's book, "The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust."

Gilbert's book, originally published in English in 2002, has just been translated into Italian under the title: "I Giusti, gli eroi sconosciuti dell'Olocausto," by the publishing house Città Nuova. The presentation took place Jan. 24.

The Righteous Heroes of the Holocaust:
"Persons Who Simply Followed a Call of Conscience"

When the black clouds of Nazism covered the skies of Europe and sank to earth as a poisonous fog that infiltrated the privacy of people's lives in the form of near total physical and spiritual dominion, everywhere and despite everything -- single stars of disobedience began to shine, of resistance to the mad orders aimed at exterminating the Jewish people.

These stars to which we pay tribute today, were individuals, persons who simply followed a call of conscience: Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Evangelical, Baptist, Lutheran Christians, but also Muslims, non believers and atheists. They came from all social levels and all nations. They were farmers, doctors, diplomats, princesses and kings. They were simple religious and papal nuncios. They came from the political left and the fight, even from the fascist right.

And perhaps we could add a category that is never mentioned - the Jews themselves who consciously offered their lives to save those of the brothers and sisters of their people, and sometimes even the lives of non-Jews. According to the Jewish tradition these were acts of "Kiddush Hashem," the sanctification of the name of the Lord. Here are three examples, but most certainly there are many others to be found. Research in this field has yet to be done.

Janus Korczak, a Warsaw physician and educator, stayed with the orphans of the Warsaw ghetto until the very end. He refused offers to escape into security in order to stay with "his" children and go with them on the train to Auschwitz so they would not be left alone with their desperation. The same choice was made by the chief rabbi of Genoa, Riccardo Pacifici, grandfather of today's spokesman of Rome's Jewish community, who bears his name.

In full awareness that he was risking his own life, Rabbi Pacifici chose to stay on in Genoa to take care of the last Jews of his community, rather than escape in time. And then there was that soldier of the Jewish Brigade who landed up in Naples. Finding that the Nazis were holding a little boy hostage in retaliation for a partisan action, he organized an ambush and freed the child - who was the father of a friend of mine. These are stories that are yet to be told.

What all these people had in common was the capacity to choose, to react against injustice out of conviction. They refused to close their eyes and hearts to the suffering around them. At the cost of risking their own and their families' lives, they refused to succumb to conformity or to the dulling of the soul through the drumming of evil. "It is better that our children grow up as orphans rather than with the knowledge that their parents did nothing," said one of the righteous women in Gilbert's book.

Martin Gilbert writes that these men and women were fully aware of the dangers they were facing "often of the execution of their relatives and themselves" but "they made their choice with serenity, deliberately, in full awareness of the risks - risks they faced and accepted for months and even years."

When, later, they were asked why they did what they had, they replied with great simplicity and some amazement at the question. "But it was the normal, decent thing to do. Wouldn't you have done the same?"

This was the reply given by Giorgio Perlasca, the Italian who found himself in Budapest working on the exportation-importation of meats in 1944. A magnificent impostor, he presented himself as the new Spanish consul when Ángel Sanz-Bris fled, to continue his life-saving work of producing identity cards and false Spanish passports for Jews who were suddenly transformed into "Sefardis" - of Spanish origin - finding rooms for them in protected housing.

There were about 25,000 of these apartments set aside through the influence of the papal nuncio, Archbishop Angelo Rotta, and administrated by the consulates of Switzerland (Carl Lutz), Sweden (the famous Raoul Wallenberg who later disappeared into thin air), and Portugal.

Through this strenuous and desperate work, Giorgio Perlasca, with unique bravado, succeeded in rescuing at least 5,000 Jews. Once he even managed to tear two twins off a train destined for Auschwitz. That day, Perlasca growled loudly at the SS commander - who he realized only later was Adolph Eichmann in person - shouting that these twins were his and if anyone dared to prevent him from saving them from this deportation there would be extremely unpleasant consequences for the Nazi army in Spain.

I had the great honor and pleasure of having known Giorgio Perlasca, and become a friend of his and his family at the beginning of the 1990s when an American-Jewish organization, which I then represented, gave him special awards in recognition for his courageous and selfless deeds. I recall how his wife told me that when he returned from the war, no one would believe him, and it was only when the survivors, mostly women, began to seek him out to thank him nearly 45 years later, that his story slowly became public and he was named "a righteous gentile" by Yad Vashem.

It must be remembered that Holocaust survivors could not face speaking about the trauma they had lived through for decades after the war, which is why "the righteous" were honored so late.

Enrico Deaglio has written a moving book based on his interviews with Giorgio Perlasca, and a television documentary based on two long conversations was also produced. A few years ago, the well-known film about his life appeared, and today Giorgio Perlasca's son, Franco, heads a foundation in Padua that works with schools to tell this remarkable story and teach the new generations about the Holocaust.

Among the righteous, there are also a great number of Muslims - Muslims from Bosnia who disobeyed the orders of the SS and the Bosnian Muslim collaborationists, Muslims from Turkey whose embassies all over Europe gave protection to Turkish Jews, Muslims from Kosovo and Albania.

Glbert writes, "When the German army occupied Sarajevo in 1941, the city's new commandant asked Dervis Korkut, the Muslim director of the city museum, to head the collaborationist Muslim community - which was to provide a Bosnian Muslim SS division. Korkut refused.

"Not long afterward, one of the receptionists at the museum announced that a high-ranking German officer wished to view the famous 14th-century 'Sarajevo Haggadah,' a priceless ancient manuscript describing the Jews' flight from Egypt.

"Sensing danger, Korkut hid the document under a display. 'Alas,' Korkut told the German colonel, 'I regret to tell you that the book vanished two yeas ago.'"

One year later, the Korkut family, well aware that their lives would be at stake if they were discovered, followed the call of their consciences and love for the other, offering refuge in their home to a young Jewish girl without a family, a home or a document of identity. When one of the righteous from Bosnia asked why he had helped the Jews, he replied, "Because I love them."

It is nice to know that 50 years later, during the war in ex-Yugoslavia, the small remnant of the Sarajevo Jewish community was able to reciprocate to a degree by returning some of the heroic kindnesses of those who had helped them a half century earlier.

The Bosnian Jews were neutral during the interethnic conflict and offered the offices of their community as a safe haven for all sides, while members of the community crossed the lines of fire to deliver badly needed medicine, in cooperation with a Palestinian doctor who worked in the main hospital.

There were also many righteous among the Serbians, including representatives of the Orthodox Church. In Greece too, the Orthodox Church worked actively to save lives. "In Athens, General Stroop summoned Archbishop Damaskinos, and asked for his cooperation in deporting the Jews. Damaskinos left Stroop's office and immediately ordered the Greek Orthodox religious leaders to hide Jews, and to not turn them over to the occupiers. The Jews were also helped by many Italian soldiers in the city, who were regarded by the Germans as traitors to the Axis. Thanks to their support, and that of the archbishop and his church, most of Athenian Jewry was saved."

Then there is the story of Princess Alice of Greece, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria (and the mother of Prince Philip). She gave refuge in her own house in the center of the city - opposite that of the archbishop - to Rachel, the widow of Haimaki Cohen, and to Rachel's young daughter and son Michel. Princess Alice also helped Rachel Cohen's other three sons, Jacques, Alfred and Elia, to escape from Greece and join the Allied forces.

Bulgaria was another country where courageous actions by the Orthodox Church, including public protests, took place. When the deportations began, Metropolitan Stefan wrote at once to the king: "'The cries and the tears of the slighted Bulgarian citizens of Jewish origin are a lawful protest against the injustice done to them. It should be heard and complied with by the king of the Bulgarians.' In the northern part of Bulgaria, farmers threatened to lie down on the railway tracks to prevent passage of the deportation trains…."

Metropolitan Stefan, Metropolitan Kiril, and "eight other senior churchmen including the highly respected Neofit of Vidin, signed a formal protest to the king on behalf of all the Jews of Bulgaria." Bulgaria was exceptionally compact in its defense of the Jews. The Orthodox Church, the parliament itself, the people and their king, were all solidly and publicly against the deportations.

Help Given by the Catholic Church,
the Vatican and Pius XII

It is clear without the slightest doubt that not only Catholic religious institutions, but also the Vatican itself helped to save the lives of Jews - as well as those of deserters of the German, American, Italian, French, British armies and politicians in danger.

In addition to the many stories told in this book, I can personally testify through the research I have done that new documents continue to be found that prove the extent to which religious institutions and people networked to save lives. I recently saw a document that gives evidence to the fact that Father Pancrazio here in Rome had the approval and help of members of the Vatican Department of State in saving prisoners of the SS headquarters in Via Tasso.

Political prisoners and Jews were jailed there. The French College (Seminary) at the Vatican was also able to hide Jews with the help of an official letter bearing the Vatican stamp stating that the college was Vatican property and in Vatican territory, which meant it was off grounds for the SS.

However, the Vatican's official policy in its totality is more complex and touches on highly sensitive issues for both sides. So many righteous individuals without means or power - Muslims, nuns, priests and clergy of all religions, as well as non believers risked their lives to heed an inner calling to moral integrity.

In view of this, one could legitimately raise the question of whether anything less could have been expected from a moral authority guiding the consciences of hundreds of millions of people in Europe, and whether an authority as portentous as the Holy See could have remained inert.

No, the Holy See did not remain inert. As stated, within so many Catholic institutions, and even within the Vatican itself, the persecuted, including Jews, who knocked at their doors, found refuge. Yet the strategic choices made by Pope Pius XII still seek historical evaluation.

I recall what was said to me by Father Pierre Blet, the last of the four Jesuit scholars who edited the series of volumes of documents on "The Holy See and World War II." When he presented his successive book summarizing the topic, he told me that the Holy See's main priority was to help the Allies win the war, while at the same time, for the Catholic Church, fear of the rise of Communism was another major factor in determining policy.

Efforts were made to save lives wherever possible, including those of Jews, but the thrust of Vatican diplomacy was, above all, focused on strategies for winning the war. "The Jewish question, at the time, did not exist as a separate problem," Father Blet told me.

In Martin Gilbert's opinion, Pius XII could not have spoken out more strongly against the Nazis' persecution of Jews without exposing Catholics, as well as Jews, to even greater dangers.

In a recent interview published by the monthly Inside the Vatican, Gilbert refers to the Reich security main office's fury at Pius XII after the Pope's 1942 Christmas message in which he stated his concern "for those hundreds of thousands who without any fault of their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race, are marked down for death or progressive extinction."

The Nazi bureau in Berlin responsible for the deportation of Jews "noted angrily, 'In a manner never known before, the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order.… Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice toward the Jews and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals.'"

But there were no subsequent declarations by Pius XII. And the disappearance of the encyclical prepared by Pius XI a few months before his death and never pronounced, remains a mystery. Opposing and contradictory conjectures over what might have become the consequences of a firmer public papal condemnation of the Nazi murders, persecutions and deportations of Jews feed this controversy.

Holocaust survivors, with their personal memories, are still alive, and despite this - or perhaps because of this - historians are still far removed from a shared and common evaluation.

The debate becomes high-pitched with emotions at times, and further complicated, by the lack of access to the Secret Archives of Pius XII's papacy. There are both Jews and Christians who dissent from Martin Gilbert's appraisal regarding the wisdom of the Pope's decision not to go public, and hold that an explicit and authoritative condemnation by Pope Pacelli could have halted the genocide in time.

Amos Luzzatto, the former president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities said recently, "I am not aware of any public acts regarding the gas chambers and the mass murders in occupied Europe," and Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, recalled that "nothing was done to stop the train of Jewish deportees to Auschwitz from leaving Rome in 1943."

We must above all take into account the context of the times of World War II. The kindnesses, and above all the heroic deeds listed in Gilbert's book, were the stars that shone in the black sky of World War II, while a thick and poisonous fog permeated into the skins of an overwhelming majority of the European population.

The terrifying, indescribable horrors of the systematic extermination of innocent families, defenseless babies and children, women, young people and the old, dragged out of their homes and sent to death for the sole reason that they were born of the Jewish faith or heritage, took place in every town and city of occupied Europe.

As the historian, Henry Huttenbach, quoted by Gilbert, stated, the few that were saved "had the good fortune of encountering brave and decent people who sheltered them in an otherwise overwhelmingly unfriendly and disinterested Europe. It must be remembered that those who did escape camps, ran away into societies poisoned by anti-Semitic sentiments. The vast majority perished at the hands of collaborators with Germany's scheme to exterminate the Jews, whether Swiss border guards refusing entrance to anyone over 16, or the French police arresting foreign Jews, or Poles refusing to hide escapees from ghettos, or Russian partisans who killed Jews seeking to join them in their fight against the Germans."

I quote this statement not in any way to belittle the marvels of the magnificent deeds of all the righteous - estimated at a total of at least 20,000 by Mordecai Paldiel, director of the Yad Vashem Museum-Monument - where a forest of trees commemorating the righteous are planted.

Rather, on the contrary, Huttenbach's appraisal is useful in helping us to realize what extraordinary courage was possessed by the righteous, living as they did, amid a sea of indifference and widespread, diabolic mass hysteria.

The great Pope John Paul II, who personally experienced the horrors of World War II, recognized the negative role played by centuries of anti-Jewish teachings by a part of the Catholic Church - "the teaching of contempt," as defined by Jules Isaac, the historian and Holocaust survivor, during his significant encounter with Pope John XXIII.

This erroneous teaching prepared the ground of the mass subconscious where Nazi anti-Semitism took root making hatred of Jews acceptable and legitimizing or "justifying" their extermination. Despite pre-war Catholic declarations against anti-Semitism, disdain of Jews permeated sections of the Catholic hierarchy (as can be seen, for example, in pre-Vatican II issues of the authoritative periodical, Civiltà Cattolica) right up to the times of the ecumenical council and the historic Nostra Aetate document promulgated in 1965.

Surviving vestiges of anti-Judaic contempt in catechetical teaching and in the popular culture of certain anti-Semitic Catholic folk festivals (some of which were abolished only decades after Vatican II) centering around child "martyr saints" supposedly murdered by Jews who "used their blood for baking Passover matzot" (the Ritual Murder Canard that often provoked massacres of Jews as, for example, in the case of the St. Simonino Martyr festival in Trent) led Pope Wojtyla to call an International Theological Colloquium in the year 2000, on the history of "Anti-Judaism in Catholic Circles."

It was presided over by Cardinal Georges Cottier, theologian of the Pontifical family. This colloquium was followed by John Paul II's unforgettable and deeply moving act of requesting pardon of the Lord for the sins and errors "of the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church."

It is all true. It is true that the Catholic Church and the Vatican itself, hordes of priests and nuns, common people, Muslims and Orthodox Christians, believers and non believers alike, with extraordinary courage, risked their own lives to save those of Jews.

It is also true that the poison of anti-Semitism on the continent thrived on and was nourished by centuries of the teaching of contempt. And therefore we must all the more appreciate the enormous moral contribution of these righteous, recognizing them as rare lights that shone in the darkness of an epoch.

In conclusion: I believe the times are not yet ripe for an objective, historic evaluation of Pius XII's papacy in the period of the Second World War for two reasons in particular:

- As already stated, the historical sources, the famous Secret Archives of Pius XII's papacy, are not yet available - and even when they will be, we will have to await the elaboration of the new data by respected and trusted historians and researchers of diverse backgrounds.

Perhaps, and in all likelihood, a definitive conclusion will never be reached. But with the passing of time, even the conclusion that no absolute conclusions can be found, will be less problematic and other, related, decisions will be less painful for all parties involved.

- It should always be remembered that for survivors and their families, the torment of memories of the Shoah is still vivid and acute. These people rightly hold that had there been more righteous in the entire world at the time, and had the governmental and religious authorities had more moral courage, millions of lives could have been saved and the war won sooner.

But today we must look toward the future and grasp the many occasions offered to nourish reciprocal understanding. The multitude of beautiful and touching stories in Gilbert's book strengthen our hope and our faith in the human soul's capacity for goodness.

I would like to suggest two projects for the new generations.

- Introduce the study of civic education in school programs to strengthen personal consciences and the critical capacities of individuals based on the ethical values of humanism and the highest values common to all religions. This could be supplemented by the teaching of the art of dialogue and of communicating with respect and without fear of the other.

- Reading and teaching books such as this in school, pursuing further historical research on the rise and fall of totalitarian regimes in the past century, unveiling responsibilities, commemorating the victims, but also searching for the righteous yet to be discovered in this and other contexts, that they may continue to serve as examples and models of the possibilities for human choice under all circumstances.

These are some of the strategies that might effectively impede a future repetition, under a different guise, of the horrors of World War II, and the Shoah in particular.


...had there been more righteous in the entire world at the time, and had the governmental and religious authorities had more moral courage, millions of lives could have been saved and the war won sooner...

As someone who devoted at least half of my outside reading during my university years to devouring books about the Second World War, in general, and the Holocaust, in particular, who followed the Eichmann trial from that perspective, and who am marked forever by Hannah Arendt's "The Banality of Evil" and Raoul Hilberg's "The Destruction of the European JewRY", I must say that while I can fully understand why Shoah survivors (perhaps not all of them though) would think the way Lisa Palmieri describes it above, it is necessarily (and why not?) a very self-centered view.

When the whole world is up in flames, and the realities of war are a concern of every living moment, it is only human that individuals will worry first of all about their survival, and having that, worry next about making things as easy as possible, under the circumstances, for them and their families.

For the governments and leaders of the time who were fighting Hitler as Allies, the immediate and most overriding concern was to win the war, because the fastest way to put an end to Hitler and his plague was to defeat him. But to win the war means they had to place much of their resources into it, necessarily depriving their own people in many material ways. Between their obligations to the war effort and their obligations to their domestic populations (difficult enough in times of peace!), it is perhaps unnatural to have expected them to have occasion to do anything else. Even assuming they were aware of the magnitude of the ongoing catastrophe.

It wasn't as if the deportations and the concentration camps were the stuff of news reports during the war years! It wasn't as if the documents on the 'Final Solution' were made public, even in Germany, at the time! Outside of a few scholars and researchers, the world had never heard of the Wannsee Conference [January 1942, at which time the directives were spelled out for the so-called Endloesung (Final Solution) to the question of Jews in Europe] until Eichmann's trial. There was so much else going on directly related to the war - and the media were either genuinely ignorant of what was happening, or failed to see the implications if they were.

It is very well to hope that all men can be 'righteous' in the Jewish sense of the word at all times, but alas, most of us are not heroes. We should instead be inspired that in a sea of humanity that is mostly made up of non-heroic individuals, so many heroes do emerge when they are needed.

The other thing to consider, much as many Jews are outraged by the very idea, is how much the mindset of the European Jews - who had been assimilated into their national societies for centuries - contributed to their victimization.

As much as Hilberg's history was universally (not unanimously) acclaimed when it came out in the 1960s, that particular idea was of course hotly contested. In fact, this question is brought up in the fairly short Wikipedia entry available on him, which also quotes from his 1996 memoir about his work as a Holocaust historian:

"What is most contentious about Hilberg's work is his assessment that elements of Jewish society beyond the Judenräte (Jewish Councils) became complicit in the Genocide and that this was partly rooted in longer-standing attitudes of European Jews, rather than attempts at survival or exploitation.

"In his words: 'I had to examine the Jewish tradition of trusting God, princes, laws and contracts [...] Ultimately I had to ponder the Jewish calculation that the persecutor would not destroy what he could economically exploit. It was precisely this Jewish strategy that dictated accommodation and precluded resistance.' (R. Hilberg, "The politics of memory", 1996, pp. 126-127).

The attitude was certainly that of people who were so used to civilized norms of society that they could not see they were no longer dealing with a civilized society in Hitler and his thugs, or could not accept that a civilized society could disappear overnight as it virtually did in Nazi Germany.

For those who may be interested, I found this very useful historical timeline of how the Nazi policy against the Jews evolved (even while on the practical level, actions oustripped the policy).

Hilberg himself described that practical evolution into genocide on an unheard-scale, as a bureaucratic consequence that is hair-raisingly vivid:

"As the Nazi regime developed over the years, the whole structure of decision-making was changed. At first there were laws. Then there were decrees implementing laws. Then a law was made saying, "There shall be no laws." Then there were orders and directives that were written down, but still published in ministerial gazettes. Then there was government by announcement; orders appeared in newspapers. Then there were the quiet orders, the orders that were not published, that were within the bureaucracy, that were oral. Finally, there were no orders at all. Everybody knew what he had to do." (The banality of evil, in Arendt's memorable phrase!)

As for Pius XII, secret archives or not, he obviously chose to be prudent - he had to walk a practical tightrope. Historians and theologians may question whether he was morally right to do so, but would anyone even doubt that he did not have 'the greatest good for the greatest number' in mind in doing what he had to do - or in not saying what he could have said, as most of his critics assail him for?

And what can be cited to show that if he had taken the bully pulpit, things would have gone better for Hitler's victims? To my knowledge, Winston Churchill, who certainly spared no one his tongue, did not once speak about the Jewish problem during the war years, in terms of seeking action to address the problem. And we can understand that. He, more than any other Allied war leader, had to balance the demands of the war and the needs of his own people, while virtually leading the war effort single-handedly at the start.

There can be no starker episode in the world's recent history than the Shoah. But as stark as it is, its victims and their advocates must also grant that it is not always possible to decide simply in terms of black and white, and to admit that in judging human reaction and action (or inaction), one must allow for every shade of gray.

00Friday, October 31, 2008 7:02 AM

5/14/2008 3:29 PM
Post: 13,478

Saint Pius X (June 2, 1835—August 20, 1914)
Born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto
257th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church (1903-1914)
Succeeded Pope Leo XIII (1878–1903)
Canonized 1954 - First Pope since Pope Pius V (1566–72) to be canonized.

Pius X after his election in 1903; right, he consecrates the fture Benedict XV as bishop at the Vatican in 1907.

On the contrary, he was an unprecedented
'cyclone of reform'

A 1300-page study treatise written by a great scholar overturns conventional judgments of the 'anti-modernist' Oope.
The new Code of Canon Law he created had tremendous effects - reinforcing the public role and freedom of the Church with respect to the world.

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, May 13, 2008 – Vatican Council II was not the only pivotal moment in the history of the Catholic Church in the 20th century. Another important transformation took place half a century earlier, with the pontificate of Saint Pius X.

This is the conclusion of an imposing two-volume treatise just published in Italy, entitled Chiesa romana e modernità giuridica [The Roman Church and juridical modernity], written by an illustrious scholar of ecclesiastical law, Carlo Fantappiè, and dedicated to a grandiose undertaking of Pope Pius X (Giuseppe Sarto), the new Code of Canon Law.

Pius X is remembered for his tenacious battle against "modernist" Catholics. His image has been that of a Pope of regression and anathemas. Not so. New studies are reinterpreting this pontificate in a different light, much more forward-thinking and innovative.

For example, his famous encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, the centenary of which fell in 2007, was prophetic in its treatment of questions that are still relevant and central in the life of the Church.

And so was the new Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Benedict XV in 1917, but desired and conceived above all by Pius X. This did not represent the Church falling back on the defensive, but was an audacious work of modernization. It reinforced the public figure and freedom of the Church with respect to the world.

Pius X rejected the philosophical modernization proposed by modernist Catholics. He saw this as a surrender to the secular culture that was eroding the truths of the faith.

But he was a decisive modernizer of the juridical and institutional form of the Church, taking from the liberal states of the time the structures that he believed were compatible with the theological nature of the Church itself.

Professor Fantappiè shows how the juridical reform ordered by Pius X was not an isolated case, but was connected to all of his other innovations: in the Roman curia, in the dioceses, in the seminaries, in the catechism, in the liturgy, in sacred music. From these various changes emerged the form of the Church that dominated until Vatican Council II, and to a great extent even after it.

In his review of Fantappiè's two volumes for L'Osservatore Romano, the historian Gianpaolo Romanato summarized the transformation as follows:

"What was still in the second half of the 18th century a federation of national Churches was transformed into a unified international organization, directed by the Pope in discipline and theology."

The Code of Canon Law ordered by Pius X is the juridical skeleton of this Church gathered around the bishop of Rome.

In effect, before the promulgation of the code in 1917, the Church was regulated by an immense and disordered profusion of laws, which often overlapped or conflicted with each other: from the Decretum Gratiani of the 12th century to the collections of Gregory IX, of Boniface VIII, of Clement V, of John XXII, plus the scattered decrees of many other pontiffs.

The new Code of Canon Law recodified everything in a coherent and unified way, on the model of the Napoleonic codes adopted by the European states. It was promulgated in 1917, and in 1959, John XXIII announced its revision, with his announcement of a new ecumenical council. The second edition of the Code, which is in effect now, was released in 1983.

Without this juridical and institutional modernization of the Church, ordered by Pius X, it would have been impossible to imagine a global role for the papacy like the one embodied by John Paul II, and, today, by Benedict XVI.

Carlo Fantappiè is a professor of canon law and the history of canon law at the University of Urbino, in addition to being the author of many highly regarded publications on this subject.

What follows here is a review of his two-volume work written for the May 4, 2008 edition of L'Osservatore Romano by Gianpaolo Romanato, a professor of Church history at the University of Padua and a member of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences:

The revolution of the modernizing Pope
by Gianpaolo Romanato

The study that Carlo Fantappiè, professor of canon law at the University of Urbino, has just released through the publishing house Giuffrè – Chiesa romana e modernità giuridica [The Roman Church and juridical modernity] – represents a scholarly achievement that does not concern only the students of law, but also historians of the Church and of Christianity.

In the two volumes of this truly imposing work of some 1300 pages, the author demonstrates that the Code of Canon Law mandated by Pius X and promulgated by Benedict XV in 1917 was much more than a technical reorganization and simplification of juridical norms.

It was, in fact, a profound reflection on the past, on the present, and on the future of the Church of Rome, and directed to a plan for Church reform within which law was the means, not the end.

The study begins with the Council of Trent, but dwells above all on the traumatic events following the French Revolution and the Napoleonic empire.

It was during the 19th century, in fact, that the need for reform took shape. The birth of nation states and the emergence of the system of liberal government modified at its root the juridical and institutional relationship between Church and state.

The Holy See no longer had to grapple with the absolute sovereigns of the 18th more century, who subordinated ecclesiastical organization but also fostered it and recognized its public character. It found itself facing modern nation states, directed by representative systems that aimed at reducing the religious sphere to the private sector, to confining the Church within civil law.

It was a revolution that forced ecclesiastical institutions to take cover around the papacy, the only point of reference that survived the collapse of the old powers. No longer opposed by alternative forces, internal or external, the Roman Pontiff regained full sovereignty in the areas of both doctrine and discipline.

This produced a monopoly of jurisdiction, as Fantappiè defines it, never before seen in the history of the Latin Church. At the same time, the Roman seminaries and universities took the place of educational institutions, especially the French and Austro-German ones, which had disappeared in the revolutionary vortex.

The Romanization of Catholicism could not have been more rapid and complete. In the span of just a few decades, what was still in the second half of the 18th century what amounted to a federation of national Churches was transformed into a unified international organization, directed by the Pope and by the offices of the Roman Curia in matters of discipline and theology.

Rome became at the same time the source of power, the center of the elaboration of theological-canonical thought, and the place of formation for executive personnel.

Fantappiè reconstructs this historical process with extraordinary breadth of reference, but always with attention to the consequences that this had on the Church's juridical self-understanding.

In 1870, this self-understanding had to come to grips with another decisive shift: the proclamation of papal infallibility, which took place during Vatican Council I and brought to a conclusion the process of centralization previously outlined; and the end of the Pontifical States, effectively, the loss of temporal powers for the papacy.

The conjunction of these two events – the Pope becoming 'infallible' at the moment in which he ceases to be a Pope-king – is much more than an accidental coincidence.

In this situation, the demand for reform of canon law became increasingly pressing. There was an urgent need to bring order back to a centuries-old codification, adapting it to the transformations that had taken place, and above all, it was indispensable to rethink the nature of the Church in the international community.

But there was a problem to be addressed before this: did the endless canonical material that had accumulated since the Middle Ages need to be catalogued by topic, while simply pruning away what had fallen into disuse, or should the entire code of laws be refounded and rethought in an organic and synthetic manner, following the path traced by the Napoleonic reforms and imitated by all modern states?

Preference went to the second option, but not without strong resistance, above all in Rome, which was anything but persuaded that it had to fall into line, at least methodologically, with liberal culture. In any case, the undertaking appeared so immense that neither Pius IX nor Leo XIII dared to begin it.

The task fell on the shoulders of Pius X, elected Pope in 1903, after the veto of the government of Vienna had removed Cardinal Rampolla from the running. Paradoxically, the responsibility fell to a Pontiff born as an Austrian, entirely foreign to the Vatican Curia, who had not studied in Rome, but in a provincial seminary, and who owed his appointment as Pope to the most antiquated and anachronistic institution of the old system of canon law, the "ius exclusivae," the veto right of the Catholic monarchs.

Pope Giuseppe Sarto distinguished himself by breaking through the inertia, not allowing himself to be frightened by the infinite difficulties, by choosing the right person for the supervision of the work, which would involve the entire Catholic universe.

This was Pietro Gasparri, in his early fifties at the time and secretary of extraordinary ecclesiastical affairs, previously a professor of canon law in Paris and a diplomat in Latin America. He was a politician and a man of government, but above all a seasoned jurist of boundless loyalty to the Apostolic See.

Fantappiè dedicates 200 pages to Gasparri, almost a book within the book, without forgetting other figures who played decisive roles, in particular Cardinal Casimiro Gènnari, a figure overlooked until now by historiography, who from 1908 was prefect of the Congregation of the Council, and before this the founder of the "Monitore Ecclesiastico," the journal that before the birth of the "Acta Apostolicae Sedis" was the semi-official organ of the Holy See.

The magnum opus of the codification, as it was defined, was completed in just 13 years – the bull that inaugurated the work, Arduum sane munus, is from 1904, while the promulgation of the code took place in 1917 – thanks to the constant urging of Pius X, who followed the work on a daily basis, intervening in every phase, until his death in the summer of 1914.

He was also responsible for selecting the path to follow – codification rather than compilation – with a peremptory handwritten letter to the commission of cardinals, which was in favor of the other solution.

* * *

What are the new features of this study? Leaving aside the strictly legal terrain, two of them stand out.

Fantappiè places the renewal of canon law at the center of the Church at the time, demonstrating that the code was the axis of equilibrium around which Catholicism rediscovered its own identity.

The assessment of the pontificate of Pius X – which until now had appeared as a moment of stasis or even of regression because of his condemnation of modernism [not modernity] – emerges overturned.

It was not a desire for condemnation, but the insistence on reform and modernization, that motivated his decade-long Pontificate, an insistence so energetic that the Pope preferred to advance it through his own private secretariat, the well-known "segreteriola," rather than through the offices of the Curia.

Fantappie's dense and reflective pages have the merit of reminding us that history is always complex, that the early years of the 20th century – subdued on the theological level, but extraordinarily creative on the juridical level – laid the foundation for the modernization of the Church on the associative, social, political, and international level.

From the suppression of the veto right to the reform of the conclave, from the reorganization of the seminaries to the rethinking of parish, diocesan, and missionary structures, from catechetical renewal to the renovation of the curia and of all the central government offices, Sarto's pontificate represented a cyclone of reform such as had rarely appeared before in the entire history of the papacy.

A cyclone that had the effect of universalizing the Church's law, of reinforcing disciplinary and administrative uniformity on all levels precisely when the season of totalitarianism was approaching, and globalization was on the horizon.

Without the Code, which began the debate on the international status of the Holy See and reproposed it before the state as a counterpart on equal footing, the concordats of the 1920s and '30s would not have been possible.

Of course, as with all great reforms, much was gained and something was lost. Roman centralization, the verticalization of authority, the formalization of the life of faith quenched the dynamism of the charisms. But at the same time, they confirmed with the greatest possible force that the Church is a public institution, and not a private one, that it stands before the state as an autonomous and fully sovereign entity.

The low profile of the entire pontificate of Giuseppe Sarto – with the hushing of the "Roman question," of the territorial claims and of the "non expedit," meaning the ban on Italian Catholics from participating in political elections – were part of this strategy, aimed at strengthening the Church "ad intra" more than "ad extra," and restoring its role and prestige not on the level of political immediacy, but on the more solid and lasting level of law, of juridical foundation.

The second new feature regards, more generally, the chronological placement of Church reform in the 20th century.

The moment of transformation and detachment from the past is generally identified in Vatican Council II, with greater or lesser emphasis according to the different historiographical schools.

Without taking anything away from the value of the conciliar event, the argumentations of this work demonstrate that a no less important transformation took place at the beginning of the 20th century with the Pius-Benedictine codification of canon law.

This event was much more than a mere juridical fact. It cut the ties with the ancien régime, renewed and centralized on all levels the forms of ecclesiastical government, restored the Church's self-awareness and certainty as a free institution, capable of presenting itself to the world almost in the unprecedented form of "a polity of souls."

00Friday, October 31, 2008 7:20 AM

6/6/2008 7:11 PM
Post: 13,788

The Credo of Paul VI:
Who wrote it, and why

The Church had a 1968 upheaval of its own, expressed for example in the Dutch Catechism.
The response of Papa Montini was the "Credo of the People of God." It has now come to light
that it was written by his friend, the French philosopher Jacques Maritain.

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, June 6, 2008 – At the end of this month, Pope Benedict XVI will inaugurate a jubilee year dedicated to the apostle Paul, on the occasion of the 2,000th anniversary of his birth. The celebration will begin on Saturday, the vigil of the saint's feast day, and will end one year later.

Forty years ago, between 1967 and 1968, Pope Paul VI did something similar. He dedicated a year of celebrations to the apostles Peter and Paul, on the occasion of the nineteenth centenary of their martyrdom. He called it the "Year of Faith." And he concluded it in Saint Peter's Square, on June 30, 1968, with the proclamation of a solemn profession of faith, the "Credo of the People of God."

The text of this Credo retraced the one formulated at the Council of Nicea, which is recited at each Mass. But with important expansions and developments.

How, and why, did Paul VI get the idea to coronate the Year of Faith with the proclamation of the Credo of the People of God? And how was the text produced?

The answer to these two questions is in a book soon to be published in France, the sixth volume of the "Correspondence" between the Swiss theologian and cardinal Charles Journet and the French philosopher Jacques Maritain, the 303 letters that the two exchanged between 1965 and 1973.

Paul VI and Maritain.

Because it was Maritain who wrote the outline of the Credo of the People of God that Paul VI later recited. In the upcoming volume, the two texts will be printed side by side, with the few variations highlighted.

Meanwhile, however Cardinal Georges Cottier – a disciple of Journet, and theologian emeritus of the pontifical household – has already revealed the background of the Credo in the international magazine "30 Days," in the cover story of the latest issue.

* * *

Maritain was 85 years old in 1967. He was living in Toulouse, with the Little Brothers of Charles de Foucauld. He had just published "Le paysan de la Garonne [The peasant of the Garonne]," an unsparing criticism of the post-conciliar Church "on its knees before the world."

On January 12, Cardinal Journet wrote to Maritain to tell him that he would soon be meeting with the pope, in Rome. Neither of them knew that Paul VI intended to enact the Year of Faith. But Maritain confided to Journet that a few days before, "an idea had come to me," which he describes this way:

"The Sovereign Pontiff should draft a complete and detailed profession of faith, in which everything that is really contained in the Symbol of Nicea would be presented explicitly. This will be, in the history of the Church, the profession of faith of Paul VI."

Although Maritain did not ask him to do so, Journet photocopied the philosopher's letter and gave it to the pope, when he met with him on January 18. On that occasion, Paul VI asked the theologian for his judgment on the state of the Church's health. "Tragic," Journet answered. Both he and the pope were in shock over the publication in Holland, one year earlier and with the blessing of the bishops, of a new Catechism aimed at nothing less than "substituting one orthodoxy for another in the Church, a modern orthodoxy for the traditional orthodoxy" (a comment from the commission of cardinals instituted by Paul VI to examine the Catechism, of which Journet was a member).

On February 22, 1967, Paul VI announced the Year of Faith. And two days later, Maritain noted in his diary:

"Is this, perhaps, the preparation for a profession of faith that he himself will proclaim?"

That same year, from September 29 to October 29, the first synod of bishops met in Rome. The final report of the doctrinal commission submitted to the pope the proposal of issuing a declaration on the essential points of the faith.

On December 14, Paul VI again met with Cardinal Journet, who told him about Maritain's idea. And Paul VI reminded him that others had already suggested, at the end of Vatican Council II, the promulgation of a new symbol of faith. He himself, the pope, had asked the famous Dominican theologian Yves Congar to prepare a text, but he wasn't satisfied with it, and set it aside.

Then, suddenly, Paul VI said to Journet, "You two, prepare for me an outline of what you think should be done."

Back in Switzerland, Journet told Maritain about the pope's request. And at the beginning of the new year, while he was in Paris, Maritain drafted a profession of faith. He finished it on January 11, 1968, and on the 20th he sent it to Journet. The following day, he sent it on to Paul VI.

It emerges from the correspondence between the theologian and the philosopher that Maritain intended his text to be simply a guide, to assist Journet. But Journet decided to send the text to the pope without adding anything. In his view, it already answered all of the doubts raised by the Dutch Catechism and by famous theologians on dogmas like original sin, the Mass as sacrifice, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, creation from nothing, the primacy of Peter, the virginity of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption.

On April 6, a letter arrived from Rome from the Dominican theologian Benoît Duroux, an adviser for the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. It praised Maritain's text and supplied a few comments, which Journet interpreted as having come from Paul VI, who had sent the cardinal a brief message of thanks.

Then nothing. On June 30, 1968, Paul VI solemnly proclaimed the Credo of the People of God in Saint Peter's Square. Maritain found out about this only on July 2, when he read about it in the paper. From the citations, he surmised that the Credo that the pope had presented closely matched the one he had written.

And he was right. The few variations include one regarding the Jews and Muslims.

In one passage, Maritain had explicitly cited the common witness that the Israelites and Muslims give to the one God, together with Christians. But in his Credo, Paul VI gives thanks to the divine goodness for the "many believers" who share faith in the one God with Christians, without specifically mentioning Judaism and Islam.

During the 1950's, Maritain came close to being condemned by the Holy Office for his philosophical thought, suspected of "extreme naturalism." One reason why the condemnation was not issued was that he was defended by Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Paul VI, who at the time was substitute secretary of state and had a longstanding friendship with the French thinker.


The complete text of the Credo of the people of God, solemnly proclaimed by Paul VI on June 30, 1968, in the official English translation:

"We believe in one only God..."

We believe in one only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator of things visible such as this world in which our transient life passes, of things invisible such as the pure spirits which are also called angels, and creator in each man of his spiritual and immortal soul.

We believe that this only God is absolutely one in His infinitely holy essence as also in all His perfections, in His omnipotence, His infinite knowledge, His providence, His will and His love. He is He who is, as He revealed to Moses; and He is love, as the apostle John teaches us: so that these two names, being and love, express ineffably the same divine reality of Him who has wished to make Himself known to us, and who, "dwelling in light inaccessible," is in Himself above every name, above every thing and above every created intellect. God alone can give us right and full knowledge of this reality by revealing Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose eternal life we are by grace called to share, here below in the obscurity of faith and after death in eternal light. The mutual bonds which eternally constitute the Three Persons, who are each one and the same divine being, are the blessed inmost life of God thrice holy, infinitely beyond all that we can conceive in human measure. We give thanks, however, to the divine goodness that very many believers can testify with us before men to the unity of God, even though they know not the mystery of the most holy Trinity.

We believe then in the Father who eternally begets the Son; in the Son, the Word of God, who is eternally begotten; in the Holy Spirit, the uncreated Person who proceeds from the Father and the Son as their eternal love. Thus in the Three Divine Persons, coaeternae sibi et coaequales, the life and beatitude of God perfectly one superabound and are consummated in the supreme excellence and glory proper to uncreated being, and always "there should be venerated unity in the Trinity and Trinity in the unity."

We believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. He is the Eternal Word, born of the Father before time began, and one in substance with the Father, homoousios to Patri, and through Him all things were made. He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was made man: equal therefore to the Father according to His divinity, and inferior to the Father according to His humanity; and Himself one, not by some impossible confusion of His natures, but by the unity of His person.

He dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. He proclaimed and established the Kingdom of God and made us know in Himself the Father. He gave us His new commandment to love one another as He loved us. He taught us the way of the beatitudes of the Gospel: poverty in spirit, meekness, suffering borne with patience, thirst after justice, mercy, purity of heart, will for peace, persecution suffered for justice sake. Under Pontius Pilate He suffered—the Lamb of God bearing on Himself the sins of the world, and He died for us on the cross, saving us by His redeeming blood. He was buried, and, of His own power, rose on the third day, raising us by His resurrection to that sharing in the divine life which is the life of grace. He ascended to heaven, and He will come again, this time in glory, to judge the living and the dead: each according to his merits—those who have responded to the love and piety of God going to eternal life, those who have refused them to the end going to the fire that is not extinguished. And His Kingdom will have no end

We believe in the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and Giver of life, who is adored and glorified together with the Father and the Son. He spoke to us by the prophets; He was sent by Christ after His resurrection and His ascension to the Father; He illuminates, vivifies, protects and guides the Church; He purifies the Church's members if they do not shun His grace. His action, which penetrates to the inmost of the soul, enables man to respond to the call of Jesus: Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

We believe that Mary is the Mother, who remained ever a Virgin, of the Incarnate Word, our God and Savior Jesus Christ, and that by reason of this singular election, she was, in consideration of the merits of her Son, redeemed in a more eminent manner, preserved from all stain of original sin and filled with the gift of grace more than all other creatures.

Joined by a close and indissoluble bond to the Mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption, the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate, was at the end of her earthly life raised body and soul to heavenly glory and likened to her risen Son in anticipation of the future lot of all the just; and we believe that the Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ's members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed.

We believe that in Adam all have sinned, which means that the original offense committed by him caused human nature, common to all men, to fall to a state in which it bears the consequences of that offense, and which is not the state in which it was at first in our first parents—established as they were in holiness and justice, and in which man knew neither evil nor death. It is human nature so fallen, stripped of the grace that clothed it, injured in its own natural powers and subjected to the dominion of death, that is transmitted to all men, and it is in this sense that every man is born in sin. We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, "not by imitation, but by propagation" and that it is thus "proper to everyone."

We believe that o ur Lord Jesus Christ, by the sacrifice of the cross redeemed us from original sin and all the personal sins committed by each one of us, so that, in accordance with the word of the apostle, "where sin abounded, grace did more abound."

We believe in one Baptism instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Baptism should be administered even to little children who have not yet been able to be guilty of any personal sin, in order that, though born deprived of supernatural grace, they may be reborn "of water and the Holy Spirit" to the divine life in Christ Jesus.

We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, built by Jesus Christ on that rock which is Peter. She is the Mystical Body of Christ; at the same time a visible society instituted with hierarchical organs, and a spiritual community; the Church on earth, the pilgrim People of God here below, and the Church filled with heavenly blessings; the germ and the first fruits of the Kingdom of God, through which the work and the sufferings of Redemption are continued throughout human history, and which looks for its perfect accomplishment beyond time in glory. In the course of time, the Lord Jesus forms His Church by means of the sacraments emanating from His plenitude. By these she makes her members participants in the Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, in the grace of the Holy Spirit who gives her life and movement. She is therefore holy, though she has sinners in her bosom, because she herself has no other life but that of grace: it is by living by her life that her members are sanctified; it is by removing themselves from her life that they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for these offenses, of which she has the power to heal her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Heiress of the divine promises and daughter of Abraham according to the Spirit, through that Israel whose scriptures she lovingly guards, and whose patriarchs and prophets she venerates; founded upon the apostles and handing on from century to century their ever-living word and their powers as pastors in the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him; perpetually assisted by the Holy Spirit, she has the charge of guarding, teaching, explaining and spreading the Truth which God revealed in a then veiled manner by the prophets, and fully by the Lord Jesus. We believe all that is contained in the word of God written or handed down, and that the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed, whether by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal magisterium. We believe in the infallibility enjoyed by the successor of Peter when he teaches ex cathedra as pastor and teacher of all the faithful, and which is assured also to the episcopal body when it exercises with him the supreme magisterium.

We believe that the Church founded by Jesus Christ and for which He prayed is indefectibly one in faith, worship and the bond of hierarchical communion. In the bosom of this Church, the rich variety of liturgical rites and the legitimate diversity of theological and spiritual heritages and special disciplines, far from injuring her unity, make it more manifest.

Recognizing also the existence, outside the organism of the Church of Christ, of numerous elements of truth and sanctification which belong to her as her own and tend to Catholic unity, and believing in the action of the Holy Spirit who stirs up in the heart of the disciples of Christ love of this unity, we entertain the hope that the Christians who are not yet in the full communion of the one only Church will one day be reunited in one flock with one only shepherd.

We believe that the Church is necessary for salvation, because Christ, who is the sole mediator and way of salvation, renders Himself present for us in His body which is the Church. But the divine design of salvation embraces all men; and those who without fault on their part do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but seek God sincerely, and under the influence of grace endeavor to do His will as recognized through the promptings of their conscience, they, in a number known only to God, can obtain salvation.

We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real and substantial presence.

Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into His body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into His blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine, as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body.

The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.

We confess that the Kingdom of God begun here below in the Church of Christ is not of this world whose form is passing, and that its proper growth cannot be confounded with the progress of civilization, of science or of human technology, but that it consists in an ever more profound knowledge of the unfathomable riches of Christ, an ever stronger hope in eternal blessings, an ever more ardent response to the love of God, and an ever more generous bestowal of grace and holiness among men. But it is this same love which induces the Church to concern herself constantly about the true temporal welfare of men. Without ceasing to recall to her children that they have not here a lasting dwelling, she also urges them to contribute, each according to his vocation and his means, to the welfare of their earthly city, to promote justice, peace and brotherhood among men, to give their aid freely to their brothers, especially to the poorest and most unfortunate. The deep solicitude of the Church, the Spouse of Christ, for the needs of men, for their joys and hopes, their griefs and efforts, is therefore nothing other than her great desire to be present to them, in order to illuminate them with the light of Christ and to gather them all in Him, their only Savior. This solicitude can never mean that the Church conform herself to the things of this world, or that she lessen the ardor of her expectation of her Lord and of the eternal Kingdom.

We believe in the life eternal. We believe that the souls of all those who die in the grace of Christ whether they must still be purified in purgatory, or whether from the moment they leave their bodies Jesus takes them to paradise as He did for the Good Thief are the People of God in the eternity beyond death, which will be finally conquered on the day of the Resurrection when these souls will be reunited with their bodies.

We believe that the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in paradise forms the Church of Heaven where in eternal beatitude they see God as He is, and where they also, in different degrees, are associated with the holy angels in the divine rule exercised by Christ in glory, interceding for us and helping our weakness by their brotherly care.

We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are attaining their purification, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion the merciful love of God and His saints is ever listening to our prayers, as Jesus told us: Ask and you will receive. Thus it is with faith and in hope that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Blessed be God Thrice Holy. Amen.

Paul PP. VI

00Friday, October 31, 2008 7:25 AM

6/18/2008 1:50 PM
Post: 13,968

Vatican to mark anniversary
of death of Pius XII


VATICAN CITY, June 17 (AP) - The Vatican said Tuesday it will mark the 50th anniversary this year of the death of Pope Pius XII, describing the controversial World War II Pontiff as a great pope who spoke out when necessary.

The Vatican has often defended Pius from charges that he remained largely silent in the face of the Holocaust.

Officials told a news conference that a convention to discuss Pius's teaching and influence on the Church will be held Nov. 6-8 in Rome.

The Vatican also plans a photo exhibit Oct. 21-Jan.6 in the colonnade of St. Peter's Square, covering highlights of Pius' 19-year pontificate. He assumed the papacy in 1939 and died Oct. 9, 1958.

The photo exhibit will include pictures from his childhood, his travels — including a visit with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 as Vatican secretary of state — and Vatican help for the homeless and refugees during World War II.

"It is our hope that this solemn commemoration of such a great Pope can give rise to further in-depth research, free of prejudices concerning his actions," said Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historic Sciences.

Jewish groups and others say Pius should have done more to save European Jews from Nazi persecution. But his defenders say that any bolder public moves would only have angered the Axis powers, accelerating the extermination of Jews while endangering the Vatican.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella said that Pius "never failed to make his voice heard in a clear and explicit way, in different circumstances when it was needed, and when there was exact information about the facts and one could see the consequences."

In May 2007, the Vatican recognized what it called Pius's "heroic virtues," a step toward possible beatification.

But the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said any beatification was still "in the realm of the future."

Note the bias in the headline in the Times of London:

Pope Pius XII who was 'silent on Holocaust
is on the road to sainthood

Richard Owen in Rome

June 17, 2008

Pius XII in 1945.

The Vatican today launched initiatives to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Pius XII, seen as part of a campaign to counter a persistent image of the wartime Pope as a world leader who "remained silent" during the Nazi Holocaust.

Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said there was "no direct connection" between planned exhibitions and conferences in the autumn commemorating Pius XII's life and times and controversial proposals to put him on the road to sainthood by beatifying him, the step before canonisation.

However, Monsignor Salvatore Fisichella, rector of the Lateran University, which is co-hosting the commemorations, said the aim was to "clarify the complexity" of his career.

Monsignor Fisichella, who today replaced Monsignor Elio Sgreccia as head of the Pontifical Academy for Life and was promoted to archbishop, said the image of Pius XII as indifferent to Jewish persecution by the Nazis persisted "depite the evidence" because of "collective inertia".

Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, head of the pontifical historical committee, said Pius XII's career was "too often seen in terms of politics rather than his Petrine ministry".

Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said he hoped a "more rounded" picture of Pius XII would emerge.

The Pius XII conference in November, organised by the Lateran and Gregorian Pontifical Universities, will focus on the pontiff's 43 encyclicals and his spiritual and doctrinal teachings, or Magisterium, rather than his wartime role.

Vatican officials said that the emphasis will be on the "continuity" between his thought and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council convened by his successor, Pope John XXII.

Father Lombardi said that Pave the Way, a New York-based Jewish organisation, was to bring a group of Jewish Holocaust survivors to Rome to thank Pope Benedict XI for Pius XII's efforts to save Jews during the Second World War.

A new book by Gerard Noel, a former editor of the Catholic Herald, said that far from being anti-Semitic, Pius XII performed exorcisms on Hitler in the middle of the night, believing the Nazi dictator to be possessed by the Devil.

In Pius XII: The Hound of Hitler, Mr Noel said that Pius XII was "neither anti-Jewish nor pro-Hitler", but motivated by "huge ambition for the Catholic Church, which he believed to be the one true Church".

"Pius XII was a disaster for the Jews, not because he was anti-Semitic, but because he had great political ambitions," Mr Noel told The Jewish Chronicle. "His attitude was also moulded by the fact that he was a product of the pre-Vatican Council Church, which believed in the conversion of the Jews to Christianity."

He said that the Holy See's Concordat with the Third Reich in 1933, negotiated by Pius XII when he was Secretary of State as Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, led directly to Hitler's ascent to power the same year.

"In return for widespread material concessions for the Catholic Church in Germany, the Holy See guaranteed that German Catholics would refrain from all partisan political activity. This involved the disbandment, by papal directive, of the German Centre Party. The party held the balance of power, and without them, Hitler was able to assume supreme power."

Within days of the Concordat, "Hitler began his round-up of the Jews. And once he had signed the Concordat, Pius was afraid that if he criticised Hitler or Nazism, he would split the Catholic Church in Germany," Mr Noel said.

The book also describes the relationship between Pius XII and Sister Pasqualina, his German housekeeper, who was at his side for 40 years.

"She was a very powerful and very enlightened woman, and was fervently against the Pope's alliances with Hitler and Mussolini, but he disregarded her advice over Hitler," Mr Noel said.

Pope Pius XII, who reigned from March 1939 until his death in October 1958, began his diplomatic career as papal nuncio in Munich and later in Berlin. He was made a cardinal and Secretary of State in 1929 by Pius XI, and drafted Pius XI's celebrated encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge which condemned the "idolatrous exaltation of race", a clear but indirect reference to Nazi ideology.

He was elected Pope after the death of Pius XI in February 1939, on the eve of the Second World War. In his wartime Christmas broadcasts on Vatican Radio Pius XII offered support for "those who, although personally blameless, have simply on account of their nationality and origin been killed or reduced to utter destitution."

However allegations that he failed to speak out explicitly against Hitler have dogged his beatification cause, opened in 1967. In May last year the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared he had "heroic virtues", a step towards beatification, but the process remains stalled.

Both Jewish and Catholic scholars have complained that Vatican archives on Pius XII are only full accessible for the years up to 1939.

Studies of the Pius XII controversy include John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII, published in 1999, and Rabbi David Dalin's The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis, published in 2005.

Pius XII gives a blessing while standing on the platform carrying the papal throne.
The practice of carrying the Pope on the 'sedia gestatoria' stopped after John XXIII

50 years since Pius XII died,
Vatican recalls his life and teachings

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA)- The Holy See has announced that it will undertake two initiatives to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII: a Congress on his Magisterium and a photographic exhibition of his life.

At a press conference this morning, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, highlighted the Italian Pope’s 1939 – 1958 pontificate as one characterized by his "great stature, especially in spiritual terms, but also intellectually and diplomatically."

The archbishop continued by recalling that several significant historical situations occurred during the pontificate of Pius XII: “the genocide of the Jews, the communist occupation of various Christian nations, the Cold War, new advances of science, and the innovations of certain schools of theology."

The prelate also noted that although many aspects of the pontificate have already been studied, "what remains largely unknown is Pius XII's influence on Vatican Council II." The bishop brought to mind the 43 Encyclicals "which marked his pontificate, and the many discourses in which he examined the most controversial questions of his time.”

In these teachings, Archbishop Fisichella added, one can identify certain features that can be summarized into three points: “firstly the promotion of doctrine, the definition of the dogma of the Assumption in 1950 being particularly memorable; ... secondly defending doctrine and indicating errors." He also recalled that the Encyclical "Humani Generis" (1950) confronts “the serious problem of theological relativism. Lastly, the prelate added, “Pius XII never failed to make his voice clearly and explicitly heard when circumstances required it."

Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda S.J., rector of Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, spoke of the congress due to take place at the Gregorian and Lateran Universities from November 6 - 8.

The congress, which will be attended by professors from both universities, will be held over two days: the first “will be dedicated to four introductory lectures on the general views of Pius XII and the cultural and historical context in which that great Pontiff developed his Magisterium."

The themes will include: "the development of biblical studies, evangelization, religious freedom and Church-State relations, and the social communications media."

The second day will focus on "Pius XII's teaching in the fields of ecclesiology, liturgy and the role of the laity. The afternoon will be dedicated to his vision of relations between the Church and the world, Mariology, medicine and morals and, finally, questions of canon law."

The commemorative photo exhibition entitled “Pius XII: the Man and the Pontificate,” according to Msgr. Walter Brandmuller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, “will illustrate the life of this great and exceptional Pontiff who was already an object of admiration among his contemporaries.”

The exhibit reconstructs the Pope’s life “from boyhood to death, using images (many of them unpublished), as well as documents, personal objects, gifts and clothes: his formation at the Pontifical Roman Athenaeums, his training for a diplomatic career at the Secretariat of State; his mission to Germany (first in Bavaria then in Berlin); his return to the Vatican as secretary of State and, finally, his election to the Pontifical throne."

The exhibition, which will be held in the Charlemagne Wing off St. Peter’s Square October 21 – January 6, 2009, will follow the Pontiff’s life "through contemporary photographs, largely supplied by L’Osservatore Romano, documents and personal effects, provided by his family and by the 'Famiglia Spirituale Opera'."

Vatican wants access
to Israeli archives

VATICAN CITY, June 17 (AFP) — A Vatican representative on Tuesday expressed regret that some 15 Israeli archives do not allow access to documents relating to Pope Pius XII and his attitude during the Holocaust.

Walter Brandmuller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, one of the organisers of a meeting due to take place in Rome in November on the 50th anniversary of the death of Pius XII, cited in particular the World Jewish Congress.

"I do not understand some critics as most of the Vatican documentation is accessible... while others do not make their documents available," he told reporters at the Vatican.

Historians are demanding that they be allowed to freely consult all of the Vatican archives concerning World War II. Only parts are currently accessible.

According to Brandmuller, however, 15 Israeli archive collections keep documents to which they do not allow access.

Pius XII served as pope from 1939-1958 and his role during the war is viewed as controversial.

Many historians accuse him of staying silent and doing little to intervene during the Holocaust, when Nazi Germany killed some six million Jews in Europe. The Vatican however has highlighted Pius XII's efforts to shelter Jews during the occupation of Rome by Hitler's troops.

Pope Benedict XVI last December created a special panel to study the possible sainthood of Pius XII.

Vatican sources told one news agency the pope did not want to proceed and saw the creation of a special commission as the best way of postponing a decision. [THIS DOES NOT SOUND RIGHT! The usual unnamed 'Vatican sources' are making malicious mischief against the Holy Father by peddling such specualtion.]

The possible sainthood of Pius XII is a source of tension with Jewish organisations.

Jewish groups deny
they have any restricted-access
archives on Pius XII

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, June 17 (Reuters) - Jewish groups have no cause to complain of the Vatican restricting archives on Pope Pius XII, accused by some of ignoring the Holocaust, and should open all their own files, a Vatican official said on Tuesday.

Jewish organizations expressed surprise and said there was nothing secretive about their archives.

Critics accuse Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to Nazi persecution of the Jews and have asked that more Vatican archives for the period before and during World Wart Two be opened up.

The Vatican maintains Pius did not speak out more forcefully because he was afraid of provoking Nazi reprisals and worsening the fate of Catholics and Jews.

"More research is absolutely indispensable even with documentation from outside the Vatican," Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Committee on Historical Sciences, told a news conference.

Brandmuller, speaking at a news conference presenting Vatican initiatives to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pius's death, said Jewish groups and Israel should look at their own archives of the period.

"So far, some 15 Israeli and Jewish archives have not been used. For example, the archives of the World Jewish Congress have not been used yet. So, I don't understand these complaints about the lack of access to the Vatican (archives)," he said.

Brandmuller did not name any other archives.

A spokesman for the World Jewish Congress said: "All of our archives of that period were transferred to the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem and I don't think they have any special restrictions.

"Lots of those documents are already quoted in books."

Jerusalem-based Rabbi David Rosen, a leading member of several world Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, said he was very surprised by the comments.

"Many documents are either in organizations' archives or in Jerusalem and as far as I know there is nothing secretive or restricted about them," he told Reuters.

The Vatican says while some of archives of the period are still closed for organizational reasons, most of the significant documentation regarding Pius is already open to scholars.

"The most important things have already been published," Gian Maria Vian, editor-in-chief of the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, told the news conference.

Last year, the Vatican's saint-making department voted in favor of a decree recognizing Pius's "heroic virtues," a major hurdle in a long process toward possible sainthood that began in 1967. But Pope Benedict has so far not approved the decree. [I must check this out - I remember a Vatican bulletin about it, and the Press Office would not release anything from the Congregation for the Cause of Sainthood unless approved by the Pope!]

Some Jewish groups have said the Vatican should freeze the beatification process.

00Friday, October 31, 2008 7:33 AM

6/21/2008 5:52 AM
Post: 14,007

I did not realize until I was googling around tonight on the topic how much material there is online about the topic and how many books have been written about it. Nor that Christopher Blosser, who of course originated the Ratzinger Fan Club, has been compiling a lot of material about Pius XII and the Holocaust on this site, which is a great one-stop resource.
Meanwhile, here's some new material from Vatican Radio:

'Pave the Way' on Pius XII:
He saved more Jews than
anyone else in history

Translated from the
Italian service of

"Pius XII saved more Jews than anyone else in history," says Gary Krupp, an American Jew who is the president of the Pave the Way Foundation. He was at the Vatican Wednesday, and met with Pope Benedict XVI briefly after the General Audience, in the company of some Holocaust survivors.

Krupp told the Holy Father about the Symposium to be sponsored by Pave the Way in Rome this September on the 50th anniversary of the death of Pius XII. The intention is to reaffirm the documented facts about what the wartime Pope did in behalf of the Jews during the Second World War, to counteract the black myth that had grown about him, starting in the 1960s.

Krupp was interviewed by Susan Hodges.

KRUPP: Our Foundation has been going around the world to seek out and interview eyewitnesses, people who met Pius XII personally. They have given us wonderful accounts, and they are all accessible on our website

Many accounts show how wrong the myth is. I have asked officials of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Israel if they had ever heard any of this testimony - and they claim no they had not heard any of it at all - not about Hitler's plan to abduct Pius XII, eliminate the Roman Curia and 'conquer' the Vatican, that General Karl Wolff as given explicit orders to this effect. Well, we have a Jewish journalist who has written a book about this, and he will be one of our speakers at the Symposium.

So you are optimistic that this Symposium will banish every shadow cast on the Pope for this...
Far more than optimistic. I am very sure it will be so. We have assembled a group of intellectually brilliant Jews. We need to be impartial, because only then can one judge properly.

We have put together a systematic genesis of pertinent events, since Eugenio Pacelli (Pius XII) was a boy. He grew up with a Jewish boy, Guido Mendes, as his best friend. He ate kosher meals with him. When he was the Apostolic Nuncio in Germany, he intervened in behalf of many Jews who had been arrested under the anti-Jewish laws. An anti-Semite would not have bothered. And there are all the things he did as Pope - all this will be recounted at the Symposium, there will be a great deal of documented information presented, and one can only arrive at one conclusion: that this man, Pius XII, had saved more Jews than anyone else has done before or since.

But the problem is that all that activity was behind the scenes...
All behind the scenes and in silence. And not just because he wanted to avoid raising suspicions or because he knew that Hitler had given orders to try and abduct him. What he was afraid of was negative consequences, as when he sympathized publicly with the Archbishop of Utrecht on behalf of Dutch Jews.

The Nazis responded very clearly: "This intervention by the Roman Church will not save a single life. It will only make us intensify our arrests. Up to this point, we have not been arresting Jews who converted to Roman Catholicism. Now we will target them first."

It was around that time, for instance, that Edith Stein was arrested and sent to concentration camp. the Postulator of Pius XII's cause of beatification, the Jesuit Fr. Peter Gumpel, who will be in the Symposium, was in Holland at the time and can testify to what he saw and heard.


There's more on Krupp and what he does to promote inter-religious dialog on

It is significant that he was knighted as Commander of the Equestrian order of St. Gregory the Great by John Paul II back in 2000 for having put together the medical equipment that made Padre Pio's Casa di Sofferenza in San Giovanni Rotondo one of the best-equipped hospitals in Europe. The honor inspired him to start Pave the Way in 2003.


While I was at it, I found two unusual photographs of Pius XII that soften his generally stern image. So the story about his keeping goldfinches in the Vatican was not a myth (though I really don't know whether the bird in the picture is a goldfinch).

00Friday, October 31, 2008 11:18 AM

7/25/2008 2:39 PM
Post: 14,445

Forty years ago today, Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae. The English text may be found on
It is a very moving and compelling document.

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40 years of 'Humanae vitae':
A sign of contradiction

by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from
the 7/25/08 issue of

Forty years ago today, on July 25, 1968, Paul VI signed Humanae vitae, the encyclical which rejected artificial contraception, and expressed itself strongly against sexual hedonism and the politics of family planning generally imposed on poorer nations by the more powerful.

As soon as it was published on July 29, the encyclical raised unprecedented opposition within the Catholc Church itself, to the point that the Pope decided not to use again the solemn form of the encyclical - most probably in order not to expose the Pontifical authority to pointless abuse.

"Rarely has a text in the recent history of the Magisterium," wrote Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1995, "become such a sign of contradiction as this encyclical which Paul VI wrote after making a decision that he profoundly suffered through."

To explain the controversial reaction and dissent provoked by the encyclical, many factors concurred, from the overall cultural climate of those years (it was the fateful summer of 1968) to the enormous economic interests affected by the encyclical.

But Papa Montini never changed his stand on this crucial issue. A few weeks before his death, speaking to the College of Cardinals on June 23, 1978, he reiterated that "after reviewing the most serious conclusions from science," the decision he made in 1968 - consistent with Vatican-II which affirmed the principle of respect for natural law - was squarely for "a conscientious and ethically responsible parenthood".

In his subsequent homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, which was explicitly presented as a balance sheet of his Pontificate, Papa Montini cited Populorum progressio and Humanae vitae as expressions of that defense of human life that he defined as an integral element of service to the truth of the faith.

Described mockingly by its critics as 'the encyclical against the pill', this papal document - in clear continuity with the Magisterium of Pius XI and above all of Pius XII, which were subsequently cited in this respect in Vatican-II's pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes - as well as consistent with the important conciliar statements on the concept of matrimony - was nonetheless submerged in controversy.

Today, in the face of the disquieting developments in genetic engineering, Humanae vitae appears lucid and prophetic in its statement that "if one does not wish to expose to man's arbitration the mission of generating life, then unbreachable limits must be recognized to the possibility of man's dominion over his own body and its functions - limits which are not licit for any man, as a private individual or as someone in authority, to breach."

The storm that raged against Paul VI's encyclical obscured its teaching on matrimony, which it described not as "an effect of chance nor the evolutionary product of unconscious natural forces" but instituted by God.

A sacrament for those who have been baptized, matrimony is, "above all", Humanae vitae affirms, "a love that is fully human, that is to say, sensitve and spiritual", as well as "a very special form of personal friendship in which the spouses share everything."

The preparation of the text was preceded by the work of a Pontifical Commission for the Study of Populations, Family and Natality, which, as is known, concluded with a consensus - far from unopposed, which is not as well-known - in favor of contraception as licit within the context of 'responsible parenthood'.

Paul VI, as he states in the encyclical, did not feel himself bound by this conclusion, and was criticized and assailed for that decision.

But one must not forget the other consensi that emerged. On September 6, 1968, Jean Guitton defined the encyclical as 'ferme mais non fermee'(firm but not closed), in that "while it speaks of the narrow path", it also shows that "it is the open way towards the future", and the Jesuit Cardinal theologian Jean Danielou underscored that the encycloical "makes us feel the sacred character of human love" and expresses "a protest against technocracy".

As an authentic sign of contradiction, not many recall Humanae vitae gladly. Certainly not for its demanding and countercurrent teaching. But even because it is not useful to play the recurrent game of pitting one Pope against another - perhaps useful for historians to underscore obvious differences - but which must be rejected when used exploitatively which is the case most often in the media.

Indeed, among Pope Paul VI's strongest supporters in this matter were Cardinal Karol Wojtyla - the Archbishop of Cracow who had an important role in the enlarged commission of inquiry, and who later innovated much about the issue in his Pontifical Magisterium on the body and sexuality; and theologian Joseph Ratzinger, whom Paul VI would make a cardinal nine years later.

Which goes to show the vital continuity of the Christian proposition evene= on the question of birth control, which as early as June 23, 1964, Paul VI had defined as 'an extremely serious issue' because "it touches the sentiments and interests nearest to the experience of being man and woman".

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Catholic critics ask Pope
to lift contraception ban

By Philip Pullella

Clearly a publicity stunt. They know, as Catholics, the Pope will never 'lift the ban on contraception' nor indicate in any way that artificial contraception is acceptable to the Church. The natural way of birth control only involves abstaining during the woman's fertile days - that's three days at most out of 28 days every month when conception is possible, which covers the time period when the woman is likely to ovulate. Is 3 days abstention once a month too much to ask of Catholics who should regard their religion the way one should?

ROME, July 25 (Reuters) - More than 50 dissident Catholic groups published an unusually frank open letter to Pope Benedict on Friday saying the Church's ban on contraception has been "catastrophic" and urging him to lift it.

[They think contraception is 'catastrophic'. But these are the very same people who also advocate and practice abortion on demand - and they don't see that as catastrophic at all!]

The letter was published as a paid half-page advertisement in Corriere della Sera, Italy's largest newspaper, on the 40th anniversary of the late Pope Paul VI's controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae, which enshrined the ban.

While criticism of the Vatican and its views is fairly common in articles and editorials in Italian newspapers, it is unusual for a group to take out paid advertising against the Pope, particularly in a large-circulation mainstream newspaper. [Big deal! As if it was not bound to come sooner or later! And as if what they have been saying against the Pope - in print, in demonstrations, on radio and TV - were any less vitriolic or dissident! So they paid for it - big deal again! Split up among 50 groups, the cost to each individual could hardly be a burden to these usually affluent dissidents!]

The letter, written in Italian, said the Church's anti-contraception policy "has had a catastrophic impact on the poor and powerless around the world, endangering women's lives and leaving millions at risk of HIV." [They obstinately ignore the documented results of abstinence in countries like Uganda where the Church's abstinence campaign has demonstrably brought down the rate of HIV infection, in contrast to other places in Africa which rely exclusively on condoms! The AIDS virus is transmitted by body fluids - any normal-thinking unbiased person will see that a condom will not and cannot prevent other body fluids from being transmitted to other persons!]

It also said that 40 years on, the encyclical continued to be "a source of great conflict and division in the Church" and because most Catholics use contraception and feel they are not sinning, the policy has been "an utter failure."

Pope Paul's encyclical, written in 1968, has been defended by his successors John Paul and Benedict.

The Church teaches that nothing should block the possible transmission of life and approves only natural methods of birth control such as the rhythm method, in which a couple abstain from intercourse during a woman's fertile time.

Paul's encyclical, written at the height of the 1960s sexual revolution, is perhaps the most controversial and divisive in modern Church history.

As recently as last May, Benedict defended the encyclical as far-sighted and said it was "all too often misunderstood and misinterpreted."

At the time, Benedict said love between a married couple could not "remain closed to the gift of life."

The letter was signed by groups such as Catholics for Choice, which is U.S. based, We Are Church, which has branches in numerous countries, and New Ways Ministry, which helps minister to gay Catholics.

"We thought the establishment in Rome and the Vatican pay close attention to the Italian media and the letter would be seen by the people to whom we want to deliver this message," Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, told Reuters by telephone from Washington.

The Vatican said it would likely issue a statement on the letter later on Friday.

"It is clear to us that the Catholic church cannot move forward until it honestly confronts the paradox of Humanae Vitae," the letter said.

"Most Catholics use modern contraceptives, believe it is a moral choice to do so and consider themselves Catholics in good standing, yet the Catholic hierarchy completely denies this reality, forcing the clergy into silence on this and most other issues related to sexuality," it said.

The letter concluded:

"Pope Benedict, we call on you to use to use this anniversary as an opportunity to start the process of healing by being true to the positive aspects of Catholic teachings on sexuality and lifting the ban on contraception to allow Catholics to plan their families safely and in good conscience."

Call on! What about asking yourselves and others to make the small and reasonable sacrifice of abstention during the woman's fertile days instead?

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vaitcan Press Office, issued this statement today to the 'open letter to Benedict XVI' published as a full-page ad in Corriere della Sera.

The Vatican comments
on 'open letter' ad

Translated from the
Italian service of

The anniversary of the publication of Humane Vitae has earned the attention of some media outlets. In particular, Corriere della Sera today hosts a full-page paid advertisement, 'An O[pen Letter to the Pope" with a list of signatory associations calling themselves collectively 'Catholcis for choice.'

Our director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, has made some observations in this regard:

First of all: The signatorIEs are a number of groups well known for their opposition, not limited to Catholic teaching on conjugal morality but many other issues (such as ordination of women as priests) and have therefore presented themselves in the past against the Magisterium of the Church.

Therefore, there is nothing new.

Besides, one must not be impressed by the number of groups mentioned because most of them are different regional sections of the same group, and many others are not significant.

Moreover, the most severe accusation (in the letter) - that is, that the Catholic stand against the use of condoms is the ereason for the spread of AIDS, and theerfore, of pain and death, by beign an obstacle to 'enlightened policies' on public health - is manifestly unfounded.

The spread of AIDS is completely independent of the religious affiliation of those affected and of the influence of the Church hierarchy; and the policy of responding to the AIDS epidemic mainly by distributing condoms has largely failed.

The asnwer to AIDS requires much more profound and detailed responses, in which the Church has been active on many fronts.

Above all, the letter does not even remotely touch on the true question which is at the center of Humanae vitae, that is, the link between the human and spiritual relationship of spouses, and the exercise of their sexuality as its expression and its fruitfulness.

In the entire letter, the word 'love' is never mentioned. It would seem that this is of no interest at all to the signatories.

It would seem that for them, the only hope for couples and for the world lies in artificial contraception.

But to understand the meaning of the encyclical and its 'prophetic' value, it would be well for them to re-read Pope Benedict XVI's speeh on May 10 to the participants of the international congress held at the Pontifical Lateran University to mark the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae.

It is evident that this (advertisement) is not an article that expresses a theological or moral position, but is simply a propaganda piece to advocate the use of contraceptives. We must ask who paid for it and why.


Clementine Hall
Saturday, 10 May 2008

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome you with great pleasure at the conclusion of your Congress which has involved you in reflecting on an old and ever new problem: responsibility and respect for human life from its conception.

I greet in particular Archbishop Rino Fisichella, Rector Magnificent of the Pontifical Lateran University, which organized this International Congress, and I thank him for his words of welcome.

I then extend my greeting to the distinguished Speakers, the Lecturers and all the participants who have enriched these busy days of work with their contributions.

Your papers fittingly contribute to the broader output on this topic - so controversial, yet so crucial for humanity's future - which has increased in the course of the decades.

In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council was already addressing scientists, urging them to join forces to achieve unity in knowledge and a consolidated certainty on the conditions that can favour "the proper regulation of births" (n. 52).

My Predecessor of venerable memory, the Servant of God Paul VI, published his Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae on 25 July 1968. The Document very soon became a sign of contradiction.

Drafted to treat a difficult situation, it constitutes a significant show of courage in reasserting the continuity of the Church's doctrine and tradition. This text, all too often misunderstood and misinterpreted, also sparked much discussion because it was published at the beginning of profound contestations that marked the lives of entire generations.

Forty years after its publication this teaching not only expresses its unchanged truth but also reveals the farsightedness with which the problem is treated.

In fact, conjugal love is described within a global process that does not stop at the division between soul and body and is not subjected to mere sentiment, often transient and precarious, but rather takes charge of the person's unity and the total sharing of the spouses who, in their reciprocal acceptance, offer themselves in a promise of faithful and exclusive love that flows from a genuine choice of freedom.

How can such love remain closed to the gift of life? Life is always a precious gift; every time we witness its beginnings we see the power of the creative action of God who trusts man and thus calls him to build the future with the strength of hope.

The Magisterium of the Church cannot be exonerated from reflecting in an ever new and deeper way on the fundamental principles that concern marriage and procreation.

What was true yesterday is true also today. The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change; on the contrary, precisely in the light of the new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more timely and elicits reflection on the intrinsic value it possesses.

The key word to enter coherently into its content remains "love". As I wrote in my first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united.... Yet it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves" (n. 5).

If this unity is removed, the value of the person is lost and there is a serious risk of considering the body a commodity that can be bought or sold (cf. ibid).

In a culture subjected to the prevalence of "having' over "being', human life risks losing its value. If the practice of sexuality becomes a drug that seeks to enslave one's partner to one's own desires and interests, without respecting the cycle of the beloved, then what must be defended is no longer solely the true concept of love but in the first place the dignity of the person.

As believers, we could never let the domination of technology invalidate the quality of love and the sacredness of life.

It was not by chance that Jesus, in speaking of human love, alluded to what God created at the beginning of the Creation (cf. Mt 19: 4-6). His teaching refers to a free act with which the Creator not only meant to express the riches of his love which is open, giving itself to all, but he also wanted to impress upon it a paradigm in accordance with which humanity's action must be declined.

In the fruitfulness of conjugal love, the man and the woman share in the Father's creative act and make it clear that at the origin of their spousal life they pronounce a genuine "yes" which is truly lived in reciprocity, remaining ever open to life.

This word of the Lord with its profound truth endures unchanged and cannot be abolished by the different theories that have succeeded one another in the course of the years, and at times even been contradictory.

Natural law, which is at the root of the recognition of true equality between persons and peoples, deserves to be recognized as the source that inspires the relationship between the spouses in their responsibility for begetting new children.

The transmission of life is inscribed in nature and its laws stand as an unwritten norm to which all must refer. Any attempt to turn one's gaze away from this principle is in itself barren and does not produce a future.

We urgently need to rediscover a new covenant that has always been fruitful when it has been respected; it puts reason and love first. A perceptive teacher like William of Saint-Thierry could write words that we feel are profoundly valid even for our time: "If reason instructs love and love illumines reason, if reason is converted into love and love consents to be held within the bounds of reason, they can do something great" (De Natura et dignitate amoris, 21, 8).

What is this "something great" that we can witness?

It is the promotion of responsibility for life which brings to fruition the gift that each one makes of him or herself to the other.

It is the fruit of a love that can think and choose in complete freedom, without letting itself be conditioned unduly by the possible sacrifice requested.

From this comes the miracle of life that parents experience in themselves, as they sense the extraordinary nature of what takes place in them and through them.

No mechanical technique can substitute the act of love that husband and wife exchange as the sign of a greater mystery which (as protagonists and sharers in creation) sees them playing the lead and sharing in creation.

Unfortunately, more and more often we see sorrowful events that involve adolescents, whose reactions show their incorrect knowledge of the mystery of life and of the risky implications of their actions.

The urgent need for education to which I often refer, primarily concerns the theme of life. I sincerely hope that young people in particular will be given very special attention so that they may learn the true meaning of love and prepare for it with an appropriate education in sexuality, without letting themselves be distracted by ephemeral messages that prevent them from reaching the essence of the truth at stake.

To circulate false illusions in the context of love or to deceive people concerning the genuine responsibilities that they are called to assume with the exercise of their own sexuality does not do honour to a society based on the principles of freedom and democracy.

Freedom must be conjugated with truth and responsibility with the force of dedication to the other, even with sacrifice; without these components the human community does not grow and the risk of enclosing itself in an asphyxiating cycle of selfishness is always present.

The teaching expressed by the Encyclical Humanae Vitae is not easy. Yet it conforms with the fundamental structure through which life has always been transmitted since the world's creation, with respect for nature and in conformity with its needs.

Concern for human life and safeguarding the person's dignity require us not to leave anything untried so that all may be involved in the genuine truth of responsible conjugal love in full adherence to the law engraved on the heart of every person.

With these sentiments I impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.

'A prophetic and courageous document
in defense of life and responsible love'

Interview with Mons. Rino Fisichella

Translated from the
Italian service of

Alessandro Gisotti interviewed Mons. Rino Fisichella, recently named president of the Pontifical Academy of Life and rector of the Pontifical Lateran University:

MONS. FISICHELLA: Paul VI fulfilled a desire expressed by Vatican-II. Above all, we must see a continuation in the teaching of Humanae vitae with that of the Council Fathers. They had wanted a teaching on what should be an honest regulation of procreation.

In my opinion, the teaching of Humanae Vitae takes up two fundamental principles in depth: The first is that of natural law, which is the true acknowledgment of equality among human beings according to the natural order, without reference to technology. Transmission of life can be given in full freedom and is a gesture of authentic love.

The second principle is the appeal for responsible parenthood. Let us not forget that Humanae Vitae speaks of responsible parenthood, and therefore of a choice that is not left to chance, but a choice freely made, a choice to be responsible in preparing oneself to be a parent. From this point of view, I believe that even if it has been bitterly opposed, its teaching has been very farsighted.

And we should not forget the year of its publication: 1968. It really took great courage on the part of Papa Montini who suffered widespread derision and opposition to it, but never stepped back...
Before the encyclical, Paul VI had asked a commission to study the question in depth. The Commission came back with two reports - a majority report and a minority one.

Paul VI reflected a lot on his decision, and in the solitude that characterizes the life of every Pontiff, especially at such dramatic moments when one must make a painful choice, he chose - and I don't think he could have chosen otherwise - to promulgate a teaching which was in full continuity with what the Church has always and everywhere believed and affirmed.

And yes, one must not forget that it came out in 1968 - so that Humanae Vitae was immediately seen as a sign of contradiction. But the Pope reaffirmed - with great courage, with unparalleled courage, I might even say - the continuity of tradition, the continuity of doctrine, and most of all, he demondtrated a fundamental principle: truth is not determined by majority vote. Truth comes from faithfulness to the Gospel and to the teaching of the Church.

Man is fully himself when he is received into the world in a profound unity - the body cannot be detached from the soul, the experience of love cannot be dissociated from the sexual experience. When there is a dichotomy instead of profound unity, then even the value of the individual is debased, the body becomes an object, and the partner in the relationship becomes nothing more than a tool for one's self-gratification. And none of that is right.

Humanae vitae also shows the danger of technological invasion into the most intimate sphere of human life. Was Paul VI prophetic in this respect?
Not only was he prophetic. Today, his teaching has been taken up unequivocally by many scientists and philosophers who have been able to evaluate it in the light of scientific and technological developments.

Thus, we can say that the anthropological bases and the ethical foundations that underlie Humanae Vitae live on in their profound truth, namely, the dignity of the human being and the freedom to act responsibly.

Science should make progress, but in matters that affect human life, it should always consider that life is a gift from God, and that each of us owes this gift to him.

Please turn to READINGS
for an excellent article from FIRST THINGS that documents the aftermath of Humanae Vitae.

NB: I adapted the graphics used here from the site of
on a conference to be presented August 8-9 in Oakland by the St. Anthony of Padua Institute and the Diocese of Oakland on Paul VI's historic encyclical.

The papal encyclical Humanae vitae was published on July 25, 1968, provoking a dramatic response.

Today, many Catholics know only of the encyclical’s proscription against contraception. Very few properly understand the beauty or the full range of Paul VI’s prophetic teaching, as an essential element
of the consistent defense of life and the joyful celebration of married sexuality, later elaborated in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

This conference will present an explanation of the encyclical, with attention to the primacy of conscience, the Theology of the Body, ‘reproductive’ technologies and women’s health, and the intimate
connection between contraception and abortion.

Also posted on 7/25/08 in READINGS (top of Page 6 of the thread)- a MUST-READ:

7/25/2008 3:34 PM
Post: 14,446

The Vindication of Humanae Vitae
by Mary Eberstadt

August/September 2008


00Sunday, November 2, 2008 11:27 AM

7/29/2008 4:02 PM
Post: 14,481

The Pope vs. the pill
By John L. Allen Jr.

Published: July 28, 2008

Forty years ago last week, Pope Paul VI provoked the greatest uproar against a papal edict in the long history of the Roman Catholic Church when he reiterated the Church's ban on artificial birth control by issuing the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

At the time, commentators predicted that not only would the teaching collapse under its own weight, but it might well bring the "monarchical papacy" down with it.

Those forecasts badly underestimated the capacity of the Catholic Church to resist change and to stand its ground.

Down the centuries, Catholics have frequently groused about papal rulings. Usually they channeled that dissent into blithe disobedience, though occasionally a Roman mob would run the Successor of Peter out of town on a rail just to make a point.

In 1848, Pope Pius IX was driven into exile by Romans incensed at his refusal to embrace Italy's unification.

Never before July 25, 1968, however, had opposition been so immediate, so public and so widespread. World-famous theologians called press conferences to rebut the Pope's reasoning.

Conferences of Catholic bishops issued statements that all but licensed churchgoers to ignore the encyclical. Pastors openly criticized Humanae Vitae from the pulpit.

In a nutshell, Humanae Vitae held that the twin functions of marriage - to foster love between the partners and to be open to children - are so closely related as to be inseparable. In practice, that meant a resounding no to the pill.

The encyclical quickly became seen, both in the secular world and in liberal Catholic circles, as the papacy's Waterloo. It was so out of sync with the hopes and desires of the Catholic rank and file that it simply could not stand. [Did nyone know this as a fact? Were the world's hundreds of millions of Catholics ever polled, or was this not just the Westerner's presumptuous projection because of the prvailing culture around him?]

And in some ways, it didn't. Today, polls show that Catholics, at least in the West, dissent from the teaching on birth control, often by majorities exceeding 80 percent. [There you go! The Catholics of the Third World far outnumber Western Catholics now, and yet Westerners always presume to speak for all the Catholics of the world.]

But at the official level, Catholicism's commitment to Humanae Vitae is more solid than ever. [Not 'more solid than ever' - but 'as solid as ever'. That's the nature of religous doctrine.]

During his almost 27-year papacy, John Paul II provided a deeper theoretical basis for traditional Catholic sexual morality through his "theology of the body."

In brief, the late Pope's argument was that human sexuality is an image of the creative love among the three persons of the Trinity, as well as God's love for humanity. Birth control "changes the language" of sexuality, because it prevents life-giving love.

That's a claim many Catholics might dispute, but the reading groups and seminars devoted to contemplating John Paul's "theology of the body" mean that Catholics disposed to defend the Church's teaching now have a more formidable set of resources than they did when Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae.

In addition, three decades of bishops' appointments by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, both unambiguously committed to Humanae Vitae [as if a Pope could ever not be committed to it - or be 'ambiguously committed'!], mean that senior leaders in Catholicism these days are far less inclined than they were in 1968 to distance themselves from the ban on birth control, or to soft-pedal it. A striking number of Catholic bishops have recently brought out documents of their own defending Humanae Vitae.

Advocates of the encyclical draw assurance from the declining fertility rates across the developed world, especially in Europe. No country in Europe has a fertility rate above 2.1, the number of children each woman needs to have by the end of her childbearing years to keep a population stable.

Even with increasing immigration, Europe is projected to suffer a population loss in the 21st century that will rival the impact of the Black Death, leading some to talk about the continent's "demographic suicide."

Not coincidentally, Europe is also the most secular region of the world, where the use of artificial contraception is utterly unproblematic. Among those committed to Catholic teaching, the obvious question becomes: What more clear proof of the folly of separating sex and childbearing could one want?

So the future of Humanae Vitae as the teaching of the Catholic Church seems secure, even if it will also continue to be the most widely flouted injunction of the Church at the level of practice.

The encyclical's surprising resilience is a reminder that forecasting the Catholic future in moments of crisis is always a dangerous enterprise - a point with relevance to a more recent Catholic predicament.

Many critics believe that the Church has not yet responded adequately to the recent sex-abuse scandals, leading to predictions that the church will "have to" become more accountable, more participatory and more democratic.

While those steps may appear inevitable today, it seemed unthinkable to many observers 40 years ago that Humanae Vitae would still be in vigor well into the 21st century. [These observers being the same dissidents who think that all their media bluster can and should pressure the Church into changing its 2000-year-old teachings.]

Catholicism can and does change, but trying to guess how and when is almost always a fool's errand. [That's a fence-straddling statement allowing for the possibility of doctrinal change!]

John L. Allen Jr. is the senior correspondent for The National Catholic Reporter and the author of The Rise of Benedict XVI.

I would have hoped that Allen might have devoted at least a paragraph to the Church's advocacy of natural birth control which makes eminent sense - except to anyone who believes that instant gratification at all times should be the rule (and does not see the virtue in self-abnegation at least for those three days of the month when the woman is not fertile)! Religion is also a discipline, and the exercise of self-discipline can only be salutary for the soul. Three days out of 28 - is that such an unthinkable sacrifice?

I bet that if natural birth control were presented in this way to all those young people who were in Sydney for WYD (it probably was in some of those hundreds of catecheses given), they would get the message without any difficulty.

It may not be representative, but I heard a number of interviews during WYD-week where teenagers spoke proudly about abstaining until marriage! That's an even greater discipline, and they did not seem to find any problem with it. Indeed, it used to be the traditional discipline - it still was in my generation in the Philippines (born in the mid-20th century), and it still is, among traditionally devout Catholics.

P.S. L'Osservatore Romano in its July 28-29 issue carries two articles that I must translate - Pope Paul VI's Angelus message about HV the day after the encyclical was published in 1968, and a lengthy article by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla for OR, five months after HV was published. MUSTS!

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 11:45 AM

7/25/2008 4:30 PM
Post: 14,447


From Andrea Tornielli's blog today, I'd like to share this vignette about Pope Paul VI:

Translated from

July 25, 2008

Dear friends, starting tomorrow I will be on vacation. I wish you all a happy summer with these words written bg Giovanni Battista Montini when he was 17:

Once, walking at night, I looked at the stars in the firmament and my mind was seized by the immensity of creation: I understood that all the stars were nothing more than wbirling specks of dust in the vastness of space.

Paul VI as a young priest.

But the thought of being confined to this earth - for man, so immense, but in relation to other stars and space, a mere atom - and seeing above me those thousands of unknown worlds, representing for me beauty and fantastic attarction beyond any other - I felt a vivid desire for happiness that is not mired in the mud of this world. Then I answered myself: "You are (each man is) destined to be a prince in the Kingdom of Heaven."

8/1/2008 6:18 AM
Post: 14,512

Paul VI, the first modern Pope
by Anthony Symondson SJ

August 1 2008

No pope of the 20th century has been more eclipsed by his predecessors and successors than Pope Paul VI.

Blessed Pope John XXIII is remembered for his goodness, large heart and radiant humanity. His predecessor, Pius XII, is seen by those who remember him as the last Counter-Reformation Pope and was thought by many in his lifetime to be a living saint. John Paul I's memory is effaced by the brevity of his reign. John Paul II holds a monolithic place in people's memories that only time will decrease.

Between these longer serving pontiffs, Paul occupies an almost spectral presence entirely divorced from the fame of the rest. He never became victim to a personality cult, yet no Pope of the second half of the 20th century had a more decisive influence on the modern Church. During Paul's reign of 15 years (1963-78) more changes were introduced in the Church than in all previous centuries combined.

Giovanni Battista Montini was born in Concesio, near Brescia in Lombardy, on September 29 1897. He came from a privileged, intellectual family.

His father Giorgio was a prosperous lawyer and landowner, editor of a local Catholic newspaper and a parliamentary deputy with a strong desire for social reform. His mother Guiditta Alghisi came from a family of local nobles and was a leader of the Catholic women of Brescia. Montini had two brothers, Lodovico, who followed a political career and became a senator, and Francesco, who became a doctor.

Educated by the Jesuits, Montini began studies for the priesthood in Brescia in 1916 and was ordained in 1920. His bishop sent him to Rome for further studies at the Sapienza University but a combination of parental, political and ecclesiastical influence saw him admitted to the Vatican as a student at the College for Noble Ecclesiastics in the Piazza Minerva, the school for Vatican diplomats.

In 1923 he embarked upon his Roman apprenticeship in the Secretariat of State, at the age of 26, as the chaplain to the Catholic students of Rome, to be followed six years later by his appointment as national chaplain.

In 1922 Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy. Montini's appointment to the Federazione degli Universitaria Catolica Italiano (FUCI), part of Catholic Action, quickly made him the covert leader of the intellectual opposition to Fascism.

He had to meet the needs of Catholics who for the first time in their lives found themselves invited to choose between an anti-Christian ideology and a personally appropriated Christian faith.

Montini was an intellectual. He believed that intellectual activity was in itself deeply spiritual and was inspired by the French Dominican periodical, La vie intellectuelle, which developed a spirituality of intellectual work.

In addition to exercising profound spiritual influence on the students, in 1927 he and Igino Righetti, the national president of FUCI, founded a small publishing house, and Montini became the editor and main contributor to the monthly intellectual review Studium. They developed the programme and organisation of FUCI through study groups, retreats, regional conventions and national congresses.

Fascist attacks on FUCI and Catholic Action intensified in 1931 and on May 29 all Catholic youth movements in Italy were dissolved and their property confiscated. FUCI premises were violently attacked throughout Italy, public gatherings were suspended and members were physically beaten.

In 1930 Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was appointed as Secretary of State. In 1933 Montini was relieved of his post as national chaplain to FUCI and thereafter he not only became Pacelli's closest colleague but a skilled diplomatic technician whose work became indispensable.

In 1937 Montini was appointed Pacelli's substitute and on his election to the papacy in 1939 Pius XII quickly became dependent on him and he discharged his duties without any intervening Secretary of State.

He organised and directed the Holy See's extensive relief work; he helped to hide political refugees, especially Jews, and help them with means of escape. He was in charge of the Vatican Information Office which brought news of vanished prisoners of war and relayed to them messages from their families.

After the war he took a leading part in founding Caritas Internationalis and the Catholic Migration Commission. He was largely responsible for organising the Holy Year in 1950 and the Marian Year four years later. In 1953 he was appointed pro-Secretary of State.

His intellectual gifts inspired envy and distrust among his curial colleagues. In 1952 Pius put Montini at the top of a list of new cardinals, yet when the list was published he was not included. The reason was that Montini declined the honour because he knew that he would have lost whatever influence he had in the Secretariat of State. There is no truth in the surmise that Pius excluded him because he did not want him as his successor.

In 1954 Montini was appointed Archbishop of Milan, after Rome the most prestigious see of Italy. His work there was outstanding. He embarked on a massive programme of post-war reconstruction, culminating in 1957 in the Mission to Milan, the greatest experiment of its kind in the history of the Church. He built many new churches but also schools, community centres and dispensaries for the poor.

His energy was consistently on the side of the workers and the underprivileged. He preached the social message of the Gospel and strove unceasingly in the Communist stronghold of Milan to win the labouring classes back to the Church.

In 1958 Pius XII died and was succeeded by Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII. Though not a cardinal, Montini was wanted by many as Pius's successor. If that had happened there would have been no Second Vatican Council. The Church appeared so well-structured and secure that it seemed better to let well alone. But he loyally supported the Pope's decision and played a major part in the preparations.

On John's death in 1963 Montini was elected his successor and took the name Paul because it was indicative of an outward-looking approach. He gave the Council direction by clarifying its goals: the renewal of the Church, the promotion of Christian unity, and dialogue with the modern world. He declared that his entire pontificate would be devoted to the Council and its consequences.

The aftermath of the Council took place at a time when an age of political dissent unforeseen by the Council Fathers marked the life of entire generations; no climate could have been more difficult for the implementation of the decrees.

Two consequences need identification. The promulgation of Paul's most radical encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and the revised Roman Missal of 1970 should be seen against this background when all authority figures were called into question.

Humanae Vitae is the most prophetic encyclical of Paul's reign and led to permanently divisive consequences in the Church. The availability of the contraceptive pill led to one of the profoundest social changes in the evolution of human society and Paul's prediction of the consequences lie all around in the unbalance of nature created by a contraceptive mentality.

Catholic opposition to the encyclical appealed to a responsible approach to birth control but that fades into insignificance in the light of subsequent developments in secular society, developments that have also profoundly affected later generations of Catholics.

Not least, Humanae Vitae led to the expansion of dissent to the authentic voice of the Church's Magisterium and the emergence of polarised doctrinal positions which remain with us still.

The revised Roman Missal was the fruit of the 20th-century liturgical movement and was promulgated by Paul in the name of tradition. Paul explained to Jean Guitton: "Not only have we maintained everything of the past but we have rediscovered the most ancient and primitive tradition, the one closest to the origins."

After the Council the historic appeal was soon obscured in the desire for liturgical creativity and the distortion of the traditional canons and liturgy of the Eucharistic ceremony. These were defended by some on pastoral grounds.

Benedict XVI's present liturgical reforms should be seen in the context of celebrating the Roman Rite in the way that the original reformers intended, a style of celebration quickly subsumed in the general tumult that swept society from 1968 onwards. This disruptive interval postponed the authentic implementation of the Council for many years and explains recent papal initiatives.

There is infinitely more to Paul's reign than these two overshadowing developments and their consequences but both influenced the lives of Catholics at the profoundest level.

Paul's great achievement, secured as much by travel as teaching, was to put the Catholic Church and the papacy itself into the centre of the world stage. His pontificate defined the papacy's new role. He suffered acutely during his reign and the consequent confusion and his humanity was as great as John XXIII's.

His other signal achievement was that he kept the Church together at one of the most disruptive periods of world history and he safeguarded the substance of the Catholic faith intact. Later popes have built on his legacy.

Paul's reforms bemused and antagonised many and led to false hopes in others but even the most cursory study of his life points to the likelihood that history will be kinder to Paul VI than his critics would like.

Paul VI, a short biography by Anthony Symondson SJ, is to be published by the Catholic Truth Society on September 1, priced £1.95

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 11:54 AM

8/3/2008 2:27 PM
Post: 14,534

Benedict XVI praises Paul VI
for carrying on and bringing
Vatican-II to a happy end

Translated from

BRESSANONE, August 10 (ANSA) - At the Angelus today, Papa Ratzinger paid tribute to the memory and merits of Papa Montini (Paul VI) and his vision of the Second Vatican Council.

Remembering his predecessor on the 30th anniversary of his death (August 6, 1978), Benedict XVI said during his Angelus message today that "Paul VI's merit appears ever greater, and almost superhuman, in presiding over Vatican-II, in carrying it to a happy ending and in governing the agitated post-Conciliar years."


It was thanks to Paul VI that the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) proceeded unhindered, Benedict XVI underscored today, a few days before the 30th anniversary of Papa Montini's death, praising the key role of the Pontiff - less popular than John XXIII, who had convoked and opened the Council - but nonetheless responsible for its prosecution.

"Divine Providence," said Benedict XVI, "called Giovanni Battista Montini from the See of Milan to that of Rome at the most delicate moment for the Council, when the inspiration of the blessed John XXIII risked not taking shape."

"As we look back at the past with a wider and more knowing perspective," he added, "Paul VI's merit appears ever greater, almost superhuman, in presiding over the Council, in leading it to a happy ending, and in governing the agitated post-Conciliar phase."

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 12:33 PM

8/6/2008 1:56 AM
Post: 14,561

Benedict XVI's tribute:
Paul VI's superhuman work
kept the Church on course
during the post-Conciliar storm

By Gianteo Bordero
Translated from

August 5, 2008

Papa Ratzinger is never banal. Not even when, following protocol, he remembers a predecessor on the 30th anniversary of his death.

This happened Sunday during the Angelus prayers he led in Bressanone, where Benedict XVI decided to spend his annual summer break this year (as he did every three years while he was cardinal).

And he was paying tribute to Paul VI, who died on August 6, 1978, at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo at age 81 - after 15 years as Pope.

With just a few words, Papa Ratzinger provided a new key to interpret one of the most difficult and controversial papacies in the history of the Church.

Difficult because it unfolded in the wake of the Second Vatican Council and everything, good and bad, that derived from it.

Controversial because the figure of Giovanni Battista Montini paradoxically finds its most severe critics within the Church itself, both from the 'left' and the 'right'.

The first accuse him of having prevented the Church from evolving in terms of sexual morality, particularly because of the encyclical Humanae Vitae; and the second fault him for an excess of 'opening to modernity', taking specific aim at the resulting liturgical reform in 1969.

Actually, Paul VI was very much outside the categories usually employed to judge his pontificate - certainly not with the customary, tired and really inappropriate labels of 'progressive' or 'conservative'.

As Benedict XVI said on Sunday, Paul VI was the man "sent by Divine Providence to Rome at the most delicate moment of the (Second Vatican) Council, when the inspiration of the Blessed John XXIII risked not taking form."

The Pope does not get down to details, does not state what that 'most delicate moment' was.

But it may be correct to hypothesize (based in part on the critical reflections of this Pope about the Council, which he started to enunciate in the first years after Vatican-II) that he is referring to the moment when some of his fellow theologians at the Council, along with some bishops, sought to unhinge papal primacy itself - and with it the Petrine essence of Catholicism - through a document on collegiality which they intended to have the Council vote on.

It was then that Paul VI (though new to the job) - understood the extreme delicacy of the situation and the dangers of self-destruction that such a move could mean for the Church. To preempt it, he decided to formulate a Nota praevia to accompany Lumen gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution that the Council had framed for the Church in the modern world.

In the note, he reaffirms that the word 'collegio' should not be understood in the 'narrow juridical sense'(namely, 'a group of equals who have demanded power from their presiding officer'] and that there is 'no equality between the head and the members of this particular college' (i.e., between the Bishop of Rome and the rest of the world's bishops).

Papa Montini also specified that the Pontiff, "in ordering, promoting and approving the exercise of collegiality, proceeds according to his own discretion, bearing in mind the good of the Church. The Supreme Pontiff, as the Supreme Pastor of the Church, can exercise his own power at any time, at his discretion, as required by his very office."

This Nota praevia constituted an authentic rescue operation on the Boat of Peter, which risked being submerged in the waves of a mentality that intended at all costs to transform the Church into a modern and mundane institution like any other, relegating the mystery of the presence of Christ in the Church to the background.

Paul VI himself, some years later, indicated how difficult and dramatic those moments were for him when, to everyone's surprise, he said "it was thought that the Council would be followed by a sunny day for the history of the Church. What came instead were clouds, storms, darkness.... Through some crack, the fumes of Satan had entered the Temple of God."

It was June 29, 1972, feast of St. Peter. Feast of the first Pope. That 'crack' through which the Demon had entered - could that have been the intended text on 'collegiality' that the Pope succeeded to contain?

In any case, it is from such high drama that one must start in order to understand the figure and the Magisterium of Paul VI. That is why Benedict XVI in Bressanone ended his commemoration of Papa Montini by saying, "As our perspective grows wider and more knowledgeable with the passing years, the merit of Paul VI appears greater than ever - almost superhuman, I might say - in presiding over the Council sessions, in bringing the Council to a happy end, and in governing the agitated post-Conciliar phase."

'Almost superhuman'! These are words that finally render justice to a Pope who governed the Church through a raging storm and knew - through his own infinite spiritual pain and suffering - how to keep firm the helm of the Church that had been entrusted to him as the Vicar of Christ.

Paul VI created Joseph Ratzinger a cardinal at his last conistory in June 1977.

I have always wondered what was the extent of direct relations between Paul VI and the man whom he would name Archbishop of Munich 12 years after the end of Vatican-II. I have only seen the few pictures of them together taken at the consistory such as the two above, and would appreciate anyone contributing more pictures and information in this regard.

The fact that the formal commendation of Joseph Ratzinger read at the Consistory referred primarily to his work as a theologian proves, among other things, that Paul VI appreciated - or came to appreciate - the German's positions during and after Vatican-II; and that Ratzinger's kind of robust traditional but informed Catholicism was what Paul VI must have felt the Church needed at the time. I have alsowondered whether he ever had a glimmer in his mind that the shy German had it in him to be a potential Pope.

In any case, it is one of the things for which we Benaddicts can be thankful to the Servant of God Paul VI.

8/6/2008 4:34 PM
Post: 14,563

L'Osservatore Romano today contains 4 major articles on Paul VI to mark
the 30th anniversary of his death today, including a front-page editorial on
the late Pontiff as a "Witness to Christ for our time'

The other articles include John Paul II's tribute on the first anniversary of Paul VI's death; a look at the 1968
'Creed of the People of God', the Profession of Faith pronounced in his homily on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul,
as one of Papa Montini's significant legacies; an interview about the surprising range of activities of the Istituto Paul VI,
a study center based in the Pope's hometown of Brescia; and an article about Paul VI and his words about Sacred Scripture.
Photo above shows Paul VI in the gardens of Castel Gandolfo, where he died in 1968. Another inside photo (below) shows
Paul VI with his friend, the French philosopher Jacques Maritain, whom he consulted in drafting the 1968 Credo.

As an ordinary onlooker to events, who gets information only from the little I can access of what is publicly available out there, I am obviously in no position to hold an informed brief for Paul VI or any other Pope, for that matter.

And although I will always have personal affection for him as the first Pope I had the privilege to meet, and even more, for having taken Joseph Ratzinger out of academe into the mainstream of the Church, I have expressed myself on this Forum before on my inability to understand why he decided on the form that his Novus Ordo took in 1969.

But I also realize that none of us can know what goes into the crucial decisions made by persons sui generis like the Pope (or on the secular level, the President of the United States) - because none of us can get into the mind and heart of the individual at the moment of the decision and all the other moments that led up to the decision.

What seems clear to me, however, from the disclosures made more public, in recent months is that the Church would have indeed begun to 'self-destruct' critically if the progressive document on collegiality had passed Vatican-II, or if Paul VI had not decided to promulgate Humanae Vitae despite the majority recommendation of the study commission to slacken Catholic teaching on artifiial contraception. He stood firm where it mattered most - on essential doctrine.

The forms of liturgy can and do change - in different ways which may be right or wrong, as history has shown - and fortunately, the misguided overnight imposition of a deliberately devised Novus Ordo instead of organic changes in the traditional liturgy is even now being corrected.

Also, the experience thus far with Summorum Pontificum - not to mention with updated Church guidelines on dealing with sex offenses by priests - shows that it is not within a modern Pope's powers to impose obedience on dissenting bishops, priests and laymen, much less to 'discipline' them in any concrete way. If one would fault Paul VI for failing to do that, then let us fault Benedict XVI himself, and John Paul II as well - after all, 27 of those 40 post-conciliar years of dissent were under the great and sainted Polish Pope.

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 12:41 PM

8/23/2008 10:05 PM
Post: 14,702

John Paul I: The smiling pope
who connected with everyday Catholics

By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY, August 23 (CNS) -- Thirty years ago on Aug. 26, a conclave of 111 cardinals elected Italian Cardinal Albino Luciani as Pope John Paul I, the "smiling pope" who served only 34 days before dying of a heart attack.

It was one of the briefest pontificates, but it left a lasting impression. Many inside and outside the Vatican felt that a man of extraordinary humility and goodness had passed their way - like a meteor that lights up the sky and quickly disappears, as one cardinal put it.

Only five cardinals who voted in that conclave are still alive. Among them is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict XVI - who at the time was one of the youngest cardinal-electors.

Along with the rest of the College of Cardinals, he watched as Pope John Paul immediately introduced a new style of papacy, more simple and less formal than many at the Vatican were used to.

His first speech to the world, delivered from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, was personal and direct, like a heart-to-heart talk.

He asked Catholics to "have mercy on the poor new Pope who never really expected to rise to this post." He joked about having to pick up the Vatican's thick yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, to study how the Roman Curia worked.

The new Pope made no secret of the fact that he sometimes felt a bit intimidated by the Church structure he was supposed to be running. On the other hand, in his public events he made connections with everyday Catholics, adopting a storytelling form of preaching and bringing a parish atmosphere to the Vatican.

He explained the concept of free will with a metaphor about prudent car maintenance. He spoke sympathetically about those who can't bring themselves to believe in God. He once jokingly compared marriage to a gilded bird cage: "Those on the outside are dying to get in, while those on the inside are dying to get out."

In one of his most quoted remarks, he said God "is a father, but even more, a mother" in the way he loves humanity. He backed up his statement by quoting the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: "Could a mother forget her child? But even if that were to happen, God will never forget his people."

Most Church commentators have looked back on this abbreviated pontificate as a time of grace and joy. Other analysts, however, have characterized Pope John Paul as out of his depth, and as a man who was overwhelmed by the burdens of his new position.

How does Pope Benedict see it?

"Personally, I am totally convinced that he was a saint, because of his great goodness, simplicity, humanity and courage," then-Cardinal Ratzinger said in an interview with the magazine 30 Giorni in 2003.

Cardinal Ratzinger said he felt very happy after their two-day conclave elected Cardinal Luciani. He said it seemed that "to have as pastor of the universal church a man of such goodness and luminous faith was a guarantee that everything was going well."

In 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger traveled to the province of Belluno, the native land of Pope John Paul, and said he was praying for his beatification.

He said of the late Pope: "Speaking with him, one perceived that he was an essential man. He concentrated on the simple but was in no way simplistic."

Indeed, even as the possible beatification of Pope John Paul II has attracted much of the church's attention in recent years, Pope John Paul I's sainthood cause has been slowly working through the system.

The vice postulator of the cause, Msgr. Giorgio Lise, told Catholic News Service that the diocesan phase of the documentation recently has been given formal acceptance by the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

Meanwhile, the local approval of a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul I - the healing of a malignant lymphoma - is expected to be completed in September.

But among those promoting the cause of "Papa Luciani," there seems to be no rush to sainthood.

"The (Vatican) congregation has to do its work, and of course that takes much time," Msgr. Lise said. Beatification can occur only after the Vatican declares the "heroic virtues" of a candidate and completes its own study confirming a miracle through the intercession of the prospective saint.

The death of Pope John Paul Sept. 28, 1978, was a shock for the church and for the cardinals who elected him.

Cardinal Ratzinger, in the 2003 interview, said it came as a real blow. At first, he said, it left him feeling rather depressed, "as if providence would say 'no' to our choice."

He later came to see, however, that this brief pontificate "was not an error" but instead had a real meaning in the history of the Church.

"It was not only the testimony of his goodness and joyous faith. His unexpected death also opened the doors to an unexpected choice: that of a Pope who was not Italian," he said.

Gabriella has contributed this beautiful prayer:

8/26/2008 11:16 AM
Post: 1,437

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 12:44 PM

8/26/2008 7:12 PM
Post: 14,772


Translated from the
Italian service of

The smiling Popes: The Patriarch of Venice sees similarities between the two Pontiffs, starting with the smile.

Thirty years ago today, Cardinal Albino Luciani, Patriarch of Venice, was elected Pope and took the name John Paul I, to honor his two immediate predecessors.

He had a very brief Pontificate - only 33 days - but it was very intense and remembered affectionately by the faithful.

In October 2006, Benedict XVI spoke his appreciation of Papa Luciani after watching a film on the 'Pope of Smiles'. He remembered him as "a master of truth and passionate catechist (who) reminded all believers - with his habitual simplicity - of the commitment and the joy of evangelization".

Here are some beautiful statements made by Papa Luciani during his brief Pontificate:

"This is what faith is: to submit to God, thus transforming one's life", he said at the General Audience on September 13, 1978, the second of only four that he held.

This submission to the will of God had always marked his life from childhood, along with his reaching out to others.

"We must love our neighbor - the Lord urged this all the time," he said. "I have always urged not just 'great' charities but small ones too."

At the Angelus on September 10, 1978, John Paul I famously described the love of God in these words:

"We are the object of God's timeless love. We know he always has his eyes open about us, even when it seems the darkest of nights to us. He is a father; even more, he is a mother. He will never want to do us wrong - he only wants what is good for all of us. When children get sick, they earn new favor for being loved by their mother. So to with us, when we are sick with evil, when we lose our way, then we have greater favor for being loved by the Lord nonetheless."

What was most striking about Papa Luciani was his sweet gentleness, his simplicity and his humility. Qualities which the faithful learned to appreciate when he was Patriarch of Venice.

His motto was "Humilitas', taken from St. Charles Borromeo. A Pope who projected the image of 'pastor of the world' in his ability to speak to everyone, to make himself understood even by his youngest listeners. An example was his Angelus message on September 17, 1978:

"Even the Pope (himself) has been a student at school, primary, secondary, upper secondary and university. As a student, all I thought about was my youth and my parish activities. No one came to say, 'You will be Pope one day!' If only someone had said so! I would have studied more, I would have prepared myself. But now I am old, and there is no more time."

The 'numbers' of his Pontificate, which lasted a month are all in single digits - 4 general audiences, 5 Angelus, 2 homilies, 9 addresses. But he cannot be reduced to only these figures.

In that time, he did what Popes do for world peace. He wrote letters to the bishops of Chile and Argentina, two nations who were on the brink of war against each other. A commitment that his successor, John Paul II, was able to bring to completion.

And he followed closely the negotiations for Middle East peace that were taking place that month in Camp David between Israel and the Palestinians, encouraging the participants to reinforce the way of dialog.

Among his official acts was naming the then Archbishop of Munich-Freising, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, to represent him at the third Marian Congress in Ecuador.

In his last Angelus message on August 24, Papa Luciani, in effect, left his final message for the faithful - an invitation not to allow themselves to be conquered by evil, entrusting themselves with hope to the love of Christ:

"People sometimes say, 'We live in a society that has broken down, that has become very dishonest.' That is not the case. There is so much good left, so many honest people. Rather, we must ask, 'What can we do to improve society?' I would say, that each of us should simply seek to be good and to infect others with this goodness which comes with the obedience and love taught by Christ."

This afternoon, the current Patriarch of Venice, will preside at a concelebrated Mass with other bishops of the Triveneto area in memory of John Paul I in his native town of Canale d'Agordo in the province of Belluno, northeastern Italy.

Alessandro Gisotti interviewed Cardinal Scola about his predecessor:

CARDINAL SCOLA: John Paul I was truly a great surprise from the Holy Spirit, because he allowed, through his brief but intense teaching, but above all through his person, the catholic universal expansion of the Papacy. He marked the transition from a customarily Italian Pope to a Pope who can come from any place and any continent. He paved the way for the extraordinary emergence of John Paul II, and even of Benedict XVI, who has so many traits in common with John Paul I.

How can we best remember Papa Luciani today, beyond his remarkable sweetness of spirit and his proverbial smile that captivated the faithful so much?
First, it must be said that Papa Luciani's smile cannot be taken for granted. I think it is the product of two virtues which he practiced since infancy and which he spoke about often - humility and obedience, which always go together.

So it was not simply a facile smile. Nor was it a do-gooder's smile. For Papa Luciani, conjoining humility and obedience was the result of a freedom that is always vigilant and ready to say Yes in every act or circumstance, favorable or unfavorable, that Providence demands.

Your description also fits Papa Ratzinger quite well...
Exactly! In fact, I believe Benedict XVI had a most profound and sensitive admiration for Papa Luciani, who, we recall, as Patriarch of Venice, had gone to see him in Bressanone the first summer he visited there as cardinal of Munich. At that meeting, Papa Ratzinger grasped the extraordinary culture and evangelizing depth of the man who would become the next Pope.

One simply has to read Papa Luciani's book Illustrissimi to realize his spiritual refinement and how amply evolved he was, not to mention what literary sensibility he was gifted with.

Again, his communicative power was the result of the patient effort of simply feeling oneself to be a servant of the people of God, and to that end, he always sought to adapt his way of communicating. It would have been beautiful to have learned more from him.

What did Patriarch Luciani give to Venice, to his diocese? What remains today from his years as Patriarch?
Patriarch Luciani led the diocese during a time of great turmoil for the whole nation and also the whole Catholic world. It was the immediate post-Conciliar era, and there were quite a few tensions in the diocese at the time - which the Patriarch faced , with a combination of loving attention and the sense of authority that was characteristic of him.

He had a strong sense that the task of the pastor is to unite the people of God. And so, he was very demanding on himself in terms of obedience, just as he demanded obedience from his priests, even though this was not without its problems.

His legacy was his testimony of the beauty of giving one's life totally to Christ, which one sees consistently in reviewing all his teachings. I think most of all of his homilies at St. Mark's [Cathedral of Venice], but also of his meetings with priests. And then, his passion for evangelization through catechesis which he had since he was a child - and in this, he revived the great tradition of another Patriarch who became Pope, Pius X.

The following editorial in today's OR further shows the ways in which John Paul I and Benedict XVI were alike.

Thirty years ago -
the brief trajectory
of John Paul I

by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from
the 8/25-26/2008 issue of

The Conclave that began on August 25, 1978, was very brief, but in the joyous surprise over the new Pope, no one could have imagined the brevity of the pontificate that would begin the following day, in the fading light of a warm Roman sunset.

The chosen one was Albino Luciani, the Patriarch of Venice, first to introduce a double name to the papal series, with the intention of taking up both the legacies of John XXIII and of Paul VI.

It was an attempt to contradict the false juxtaposition between his two immediate predecessors - first made during the years of Vatican-II even if historically unfounded as well as exploitative - who had, respectively, made him bishop then cardinal.

Little known until the 'sede vacante' (interregnum between the death of Paul VI and the election of the new Pope) that summer, the new Pope was able to conquer public attention instantly by his simple and unassuming manner, his soft way of speaking which was capable of touching the heart of his listeners. [If Cardinal Ratzinger's election as Pope had not been preceded by more than two decades of misrepresentation in the media, he might have been welcomed by everyone in exactly the same way in April 2005!]

Above all, during the four general audiences he gave that September, each one with an inreasingly larger audience - calling to mind the historic meetings that one of his predecessors in both the Patriarchate of Venice and Peter's Chair, Pius X, who, in both situations, gave memorable catecheses in the manner of a parish priest - John Paul I started to explain the basic truths of the Christian faith.

He did so with scrupulously prepared texts that he delivered with surprising spontaneity - he spoke of faith of hope and of charity, after having devoted his first audience, significantly, to humility, certainly in reference to his episcopal motto 'Humilitas' which he had taken from St. Charles Borromeo.

Those discourses that flowed clearly and enchanted his listeners reflected a traditional and solid formation, united with ancient wisdom and a rare ability to communicate the simple nucleus of the Christian faith.

At his first general audience on September 6, he recalled Paul VI and his Wednesday catecheses, telling the faithful: "I will try to follow him, in the hope that I, too, may in some way help people to become 'more good'."

And people immediately saw into the heart of the new Successor of Peter, perhaps impressed as well by his continuous evocation of the mother figure, which was constant in all of his four audience catecheses.

Then suddenly, on the night of September 28, came the end of the new Pope's trajectory, so unexpected as to raise the imagined and implausible theory of an unnatural death in fictional and far from disinterested 'reconstructions'.

But in those days, what was recalled was the last similarly brief and promising pontificate - that of Leo XI, a disciple of St. Phillip Neri who became Pope for less than a month in 1601 - Ostensum magis quam datus, shown to us rather than given - according to the tombstone on his sepulcher in St. Peter's Basilica.

It was an expression that John Paul II later used to refer to his predecessor on the first anniversary of his death. Yes, even John Paul I was 'shown but not given' to the Church and to the world. It's a definition that summarizes his Pontificate in the historical view, but also situates him within God's mysterious and providential plan.

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

The two other articles on John Paul I in the 8/25-26 issue of OR are a historical summary of those 33 brief days as Pope, and a wonderful tribute and memoir by John Paul II delivered on the first anniversary of John Paul I's death. I will post translations as soon as I can.

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 12:47 PM

9/24/2008 3:28 AM
Post: 15,088

The Two Sides of Pacelli:
Courageous as Pope,
too cautious as Secretary of State

Benedict XVI praises Pius XII for helping the Jews during the war.
But 'La Civiltà Cattolica' criticizes his actions as cardinal, when he reacted feebly to the racial laws.
The journal is published with the imprimatur of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

ROMA, September 23, 2008 – Receiving the representatives of the Jewish foundation Pave the Way – in Rome for a symposium on Pius XII – last Thursday, Benedict XVI expressed a very positive view of the person and work of Pope Eugenio Pacelli, and especially about what he did "to save the Jews persecuted by the Nazi and Fascist regimes."

This is the first time that Joseph Ratzinger, as Pope, has spoken out so directly about his great and controversial predecessor. He will speak about him again next October 9, at the Mass that will be celebrated on the 50th anniversary of his death.

The address by Benedict XVI made an even greater impact, in that his judgment of the actions of Pius XII coincides with the relatively positive views expressed by the Jews of the Pave the Way Foundation.

Also during these same days, a book has been released in Italy by Andrea Riccardi, a professor of Church history and the founder of the Community of St. Egidio. His book is also very positive, and documents the actions of Pope Pacelli to help the persecuted Jews. The 424-page volume, published by Laterza, is entitled L'inverno più lungo. 1943-44: Pio XII, gli ebrei e i nazisti a Roma [The longest winter. 1943-44: Pius XII, the Jews, and the Nazis in Rome].

But on the same Thursday, September 18, on which Benedict XVI expressed himself in such favorable terms about Pius XII, an article was published in the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica that portrays Pacelli – in his role as Secretary of State under Pope Pius XI – in a less positive light.

La Civiltà Cattolica isn't just any journal. By statute, all of its articles are reviewed line by line by the Vatican Secretariat of State before they are printed. And this supervision has been even more stringent since Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone became Secretary of State.

It was therefore somewhat startling that the author of the article, the Jesuit historian Giovanni Sale, attributed to Pacelli in 1938 – the year of the promulgation of the anti-Jewish racial laws in Italy – a diplomatic prudence that is "embarrassing to defend" today.

More precisely, this is what Sale says in one passage of his reconstruction:

"It now seems embarrassing for the Catholic historian, especially after the openness of Vatican Council II in this matter, to defend this kind of viewpoint and manner of proceeding in moral or religious categories."

The article in La Civiltà Cattolica does not directly criticize secretary of state Pacelli. But it demonstrates how the caution of Vatican diplomats at the time, in reacting to the racial laws, not only exposed the Vatican to legitimate criticisms, but didn't even produce the results hoped for.

The article highlights Pius XI's desire to defend the Jews more energetically and condemn the racial laws more drastically. Pius XI, nonetheless, found himself muzzled twice over.

His most incisive words and writings never saw the light of day, both because of the censorship of the Fascist regime, which banned the Italian Catholic press from publishing the Pope's speeches against racism, and because of the caution of the Secretariat of State, which prevented L'Osservatore Romano itself – the newspaper of the Holy See – from printing any papal texts that were believed to be too imprudent.

As proof of this, Sale has gathered numerous documents from the Vatican archives and from those of La Civiltà Cattolica. For example, from an unpublished memoir by Monsignor Domenico Tardini, at the time a close collaborator of Secretary of State Pacelli, it emerges that Pius XI was extremely irritated over the fact that L'Osservatore Romano did not publish, on November 15, 1938, a strongly worded protest that he had written against the racial laws, addressed to the King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele III, together with the reply from the king.

Instead of these two documents, there was only a listless article that said little or nothing. A few days later, the Pope also failed to have published in Osservatore a text that he had dictated seeking to revive the essence of his protest. In both cases, it was Pacelli who blocked the printing of the papal tetxs in the newspaper of the Holy See.

Sale will recount these and other actions on the part of Vatican authorities at the time in other articles scheduled for publication in La Civiltà Cattolica, for the 70th anniversary of the anti-Jewish laws of 1938.

But here are the principal passages of the article published in the latest issue of the authoritative journal, dated September 20, 2008:

The first anti-Jewish measures
and the Declaration of the Fascist Grand Council

by Giovanni Sale S.I.
Chiesa translation from

[...] It is sometimes said that the anti-Jewish legislation adopted in Italy beginning in September of 1938 was, in comparison with that in force in other totalitarian countries, more mild and perhaps more humane. This is a myth that must be debunked.

On the contrary, some of the measures enacted by the Fascist government were even more severe and persecutory than the ones in effect in Nazi Germany: for example, Germany did not have a law on the generalized expulsion of Jewish foreigners; moreover, the wholesale expulsion of Jewish students from the public schools was enacted by the government in Berlin two months after it came into effect in Italy, and it was put into effect gradually. [...]

The anti-Semitic legislation, especially regarding schools, was received by the majority of Italians, especially by the Catholics, with great regret and sometimes with anger; many letters were sent to the Vatican by private individuals or by groups and associations (including non-Jewish associations), calling upon Church authorities, and upon the pope in particular, to intervene with the Duce in defense of the "beleaguered Jews." [...]

The day after the adoption of the decree-law on the schools, September 6, 1938, Pius XI delivered a memorable address against racism and anti-Semitism: it was the first time that this had been done in such an explicit and direct manner.

Unfortunately, it was not released in Italy – in fact, on August 5, Minister Alfieri had instructed the prefects to prevent the Pope's statements against racism from being published in Catholic journals and newspapers – and this tremendously favored the racist cause and gave the impression that the Pope, for political reasons, was not taking a position on such a grave matter. Many Catholic intellectuals, including Dossetti, learned about this by reading Catholic journals from outside of Italy.

The famous address was delivered in Castel Gandolfo, where the Pope had been staying for some time, before a group of Belgian pilgrims, many of whom worked in the media. The complete text, published by "Documentation Catholique," was transcribed by a member of the group while the Pope was speaking.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published the text but removed the part concerning the Jews, while the "current events" section of La Civiltà Cattolica didn't even mention it.

The Pope's words are reported by the Belgian Catholic journal in a rather lively manner: "At this point, the Pope was unable to contain his emotion . . . and, weeping, he cited the passages from Paul that demonstrate our spiritual descent from Abraham [...] Anti-Semitism is incompatible with the sublime thought and the reality evoked in this text. Anti-Semitism is a hateful movement, with which we Christians should have nothing at all to do [...] It is not permissible for Christians to participate in anti-Semitism. We recognize that everyone has the right to self-defense, and can take the necessary action to safeguard his legitimate interests. But anti-Semitism is inadmissible. Spiritually, we are all Semites."

The Pope's words condemning anti-Semitism, spoken in an emotional voice, were strong and clear.

The Secretariat of State took a rather prudent approach to this matter, thinking that in this way it could obtain some sort of concrete benefit for the Jews, especially for the ones who had converted to Catholicism.

Fr. Pietro Tacchi Venturi, the Pope's emissary to Mussolini, was charged with handling the delicate matter of the Jews with the governing authorities.

A note from the Secretariat of State dated September 8, 1938, suggested that the Jesuit draw the attention of the authorities to the Jews who had converted to Catholicism and had been baptized.

"Would it not be fair," asked the writer, "that, independently of their origin, Jewish converts who have entered mixed marriages in keeping with canon law [...] should be considered Catholics, and not Jews always and no matter what, simply because their parents were Jewish?"

In other words, they were asking the Fascist government to make its criterion of discrimination not biological-racial, but religious, meaning membership in a particular religious faith, in this case Judaism.

It now appears embarrassing for the Catholic historian, especially after the openness of Vatican Council II in this matter, to defend this kind of viewpoint and manner of proceeding in moral or religious categories.

But the task of the historian is to reconstruct, as much as objectively possible, the historical narrative, seeking to understand the mentality and culture of the subject in question, without ideological bias.

According to the Catholic culture of the time, although not everyone agreed with this principle, it seemed that the Church's duty was to protect its own faithful first of all, but without neglecting the sense of justice and charity due to all human beings.

In the light of this principle, one can better understand the later interventions by Church authorities in this matter. Fr. Tacchi Venturi's efforts on behalf of the Jews did not achieve much success, in part because Mussolini was strongly determined to carry forward his racial policy, and he did not want to be second to his German ally in this.

In an audience on September 9, before the first anti-Jewish decree-laws, the Pope explicitly told the Jesuit to send Mussolini the following message: "As an Italian, the Pope is truly saddened to see an entire history of Italian good sense forgotten, in order to open the door or the window to a wave of German anti-Semitism."

Two days before this, on September 7, Fr. Tacchi Venturi had told the Duce that "because of news and information that, unfortunately, is reliable, the Holy Father is very concerned that this aspect or appearance of anti-Semitism attributed to the measures taken in Italy against the Jews could provoke the Jews and the entire world to retaliations that may not be insignificant to Italy." [...]

The fact remains that, beginning with the publication of the "Race manifesto," relations between the Italian government and the Holy See – or better, between Mussolini and Pius XI – gradually deteriorated, so much so that the Duce said in private that the Pope was a disaster for Italy and for the Church.

For its part, the international press made an exaggerated caricature out of this antagonism, to the point of speculating that the Pope might leave the Eternal City and Italy.

"Following the recent conflict of ideas," the Nuncio to Paris, V. Valeri, wrote to the Secretariat of State, "that has manifested itself between the authorities of the Italian Fascist regime and the Holy See concerning racism, certain French press outlets, which have followed the episode widely and up close, have gone to the point of forecasting nothing less than the future possibility of an exile of the papacy from Rome, and, even more frequently, the election of a non-Italian Pope."

This fact, which was also reported by the Parisian Catholic newspaper La Croix, demonstrates the seriousness of the conflict between the Fascist government and the Holy See because of the racial question and the anti-Jewish legislation universally condemned by Catholics.

But for reasons of prudence, the Holy See organized its attack against the new discriminatory legislation not by making reference to motivations of a rational character, founded on natural law – like, for example, the right of all men not to be discriminated against for reasons of race or religion, in the same way in which Pius XI had done on various occasions – but by resorting to its own legal firepower, in particular canon law and the Concordat of 1929, in order to defend first of all the rights of Jewish Catholics, without pre-judging those of the others. What was gained by following this approach?

Very little, although the Holy See hoped to obtain much more. Through the work of Fr. Tacchi Venturi, with the circular issued by the national education ministry dated October 23, 1938, baptized children of the Jewish race were permitted to attend private Catholic schools, even state-certified ones.

"As far as unbaptized Jews are concerned," a Vatican note says, "the Rev. Fr. Tacchi Venturi has revealed that, as far as he remembers, in the past Catholic schools usually did not admit Jewish or unbaptized students, for obvious religious and moral reasons. This norm seems all the more compelling now that acting differently could seem like opposition to government policy."

The Jesuit's mediation was also able to bring a few baptized Jewish teachers to teach in state-certified Catholic schools, prompting a sharp warning from the authorities. This provision had previously been granted by Minister Bottai for religious sisters of Jewish origin. The Fascist government already considered this a very special concession, in that it impinged upon the biological principle underlying the legislation.

More conflict between the Fascist government and the Holy See was created by certain statements made by R. Farinacci while he was in Nuremberg on the occasion of the national Nazi congress.

In remarks published on May 15 in the newspaper of the SS, "Das Schwarze Korps," Farinacci criticized Pius XI's frequent speeches on racism. [...] The interview was received with great displeasure at the Vatican; Pius XI was personally offended by it [...]

On September 21, 1938, the cardinal Secretary of State sent to the Italian ambassador to the Holy See a note of protest over Farinacci's disrespectful and offensive comments toward "the august person of the Holy Father."

Meanwhile, the Vatican was receiving dozens of requests from Jews affected by the government regulations, asking the Pope to do something for them. The Vatican documentation now made available shows that the Holy See did what was possible, frequently intervening through its own intermediary with the governmental authorities to meet the needs of the Jews, especially those who had been baptized.

It should be remembered, in fact, that from the humanitarian point of view, baptized Jews were in dire need of papal support, because they no longer benefited from the protection of their community of membership, which had rejected them, nor from the support given by international Jewish communities.

The soul of this action on behalf of the Jews, now facing social discrimination, was Fr. Tacchi Venturi, who in spite of his limitations – above all his propensity to understand and often accept the "reasons" of the regime – exerted himself with great generosity for this cause.

After the government measures of September 5 and 7, the second step in the journey toward the introduction in Italy of legislation apparently discriminatory toward Jewish citizens was constituted by the deliberations adopted by the Fascist Grand Council of October 6-8, 1938, destined to establish the fundamental pillars of later anti-Jewish legislation. [...]

For the moment, the Holy See decided not to intervene directly: it is known, in fact, that any public intervention, in addition to exasperating Mussolini, who was now completely unsympathetic toward the elderly Pope, would certainly have harmed the cause of the Jews, and not only those who had been baptized.

So the decision was made to wait for the legislative measures that would follow the declarations of the Grand Council, in such a way as to be able to intervene practically with the government authorities for the mitigation of the anti-Jewish legislation, which was already promising to be harsh and oppressive.

We are convinced that at that moment, an intervention by the Holy See and by the Pope against the declarations of the supreme body of Fascism would have unleashed an open conflict between the regime and the Vatican, thereby playing the game of those who, like Farinacci, may have wanted a sort of reckoning between the two institutions, to show the world "who's really the boss in Italy."

We also know that at that time, Mussolini was determined to block any maneuver by the Vatican on behalf of the Jews, and to oppose the Pope's appeals forcefully: the problem of race, or better of the Jews, had to be resolved with determination, as his Nazi colleague had done in Germany, without caring about the opposition of the Christian confessions, and in particular of the Catholic Church.

For this reason, the prudence that the Holy See demonstrated at that moment was determined by the desire to save what could be saved, and in any case, not to make the anti-Jewish legislation even more strict while it was still being finalized.

It must be added to this that the dominant mentality regarding the Jewish problem in part of the Italian Catholic world at that time was marked by a certain anti-Judaism rooted in past and even recent religious and political-cultural differences: we recall that for many, it was not easy to shed this mindset and pass directly to the other side, seeing the Jew as an "elder brother" to be loved and, especially at that delicate moment, to be helped.

So the only question that was presented to the authorities at the time was that of "mixed marriages" [between Catholics and Jews], because this matter directly concerned the rights of the Church and the Concordat: in this matter, in fact, the Holy See could intervene without the fear of provoking a backlash from the public authorities.

It was noted that the disposition of the Grand Council concerning this matter introduced into the Italian legal system a new and absolute impediment to the celebration of marriage, harming one of the rights of the Church, in particular that of granting dispensations for disparity of worship, considered absolutely necessary for the salvation of souls.

So the legislators were asked not to establish an absolute and general ban on the celebration of mixed marriages, but if anything to work with Church authorities on how to keep these under control, through a special joint permit from the government and the Holy See.

In any case, it is not true, as is sometimes repeated, that the Holy See responded passively to the anti-Jewish legislation, or that it intervened only, as in the matter of mixed marriages, to protect specifically Catholic and confessional interests: instead, albeit with discretion, it sought to prepare hearts for the future battle against the new regulations issued by the regime.

A Vatican document drafted immediately after the statements from the Grand Council informs us in this regard about the "secret" directives from the Secretariat of State.

The action of the Holy See, the document says, should follow two directions: "Persuasive action toward the government. By means of suitable persons equipped with the right qualities, it would be good to try to sway influential persons in the regime – and not only the head of the government – to make them understand the sad consequences of an exaggerated racial policy that does not limit itself to measures intended to fortify the populace, but goes to the excess of racism with provisions that harm justice and the Church's rights. [...] It should also be explained that in the case of discord with the Holy See, fascism would be at the greater disadvantage."

The other direction concerns action toward the clergy. First of all, it was asked that all metropolitan archbishops should be sent special private instructions, to be communicated to the other bishops, "to see that the clergy not show any support for the magazine La Difesa della Razza [The Defense of the Race]," considered harmful and not in keeping with the Church's teaching on this matter.

In particular, all of the Italian clergy were urged "not to pass up any opportunity to emphasize, with the appropriate prudence of course, the harm and the consequences of extreme nationalism and racism. This could be done with special meetings of the clergy, without giving the impression that any action against the government is intended. [...] This seems necessary above all at the present moment, when there is no freedom of the press, and often even the few and feeble Catholic newspapers are obliged to publish certain foolish things about racism."

It was also asked that the same action be carried out in the major seminaries, being attentive however not to violate the letter of the agreement signed on August 16 by the Holy See and the Fascist government.

As has already been said, the Holy See, at that time, chose to act against the new anti-Jewish regulations by discreet means, and relying on the effectiveness of its "domestic diplomacy," a choice not shared by many, but one that in the near term seemed the only one possible, and even the most effective.

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I don't know if the full article carries more examples of Cardinal Pacelli's 'lack of courage' as Secretary of State. But the only example cited was 'censoring' Pius XI's statements on anti-Semitism from L'Osservatore Romano. And apparently, Sale will have other articles citing other examples.

There's a fine line between prudence and lack of courage, and sometimes the decisive factor is judgment. So maybe, Eugenio Pacelli as Secretary of State could be faulted for both wrong judgment and lack of courage, the latter resulting from the first.

But like any human being, and like most saints, even, Eugenio Pacelli had his share of faults and made mistakes - and all of that will definitely be brought out by devil's advocates and genuine opponents during any beatification/canonization processes that may be held about him.

However, Magister's direct juxtaposition of Benedict XVI's praise of Pius XII's wartime actions in behalf of the Jews, and the appearance of the Sale article in La Civilta Cattolica, appears to imply a 'split' in the Vatican between what Benedict XVI thinks and what the Secretariat of State thinks about Pius XII.

But that implication is misleading and falsely alarmist. Obviously, it is not for Benedict XVI to make any criticism of his predecessors - it just isn't done! And the Secretariat of State's imprimatur on the Sale article does not mean it is contradicting the Pope, but simply authorizing a report on historical fact that is bound to come out in any case, whether there is a beatification process or not, and more imperatively so, if there is one.

At the same time, the subhead that says Pacelli 'reacted feebly to the racial laws' is belied by the accounts of Sale about the apparently sustained activities carried out by Pacelli's liaison man with the Fascist government!

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 12:57 PM

9/6/2008 4:05 PM
Post: 14,910

1800 years of history:
The Popes on Sard territory -
from Poncianus to Benedict XVI

by Mons. Pietro Meloni
Archbishop of Nuoro
Translated from


Pope Callistus, a little over a century after the martyrdom of St. Peter, lived on Sardinia during his exile before becoming Bishop of Rome in 217.

Pope Poncianus, also exiled to work in the mines of Sardinia, died a martyr on the islet of Morala in 235.

And two Popes were natives of Sardinia, Hilarius (461-468) and Simmacus (498-514).

The testimony of martyrs has made faith in Christ and devotion to the Mother of God grow on our island.

Pope Gregory the Great revived the life of the Church in Sardinia with his letters 1400 years ago, urging Sards to love Mary, a message Sards have taken to heart because today on the island, there are hundreds of churches dedicated to Mary.

Benedict XVI's visit to Sardinia will gather Sards together to thank St. Pius X, who a hundred years ago, proclaimed Our Lady of Bonaria as the Supreme patroness of Sardinia.

On the 50th anniversary of the proclamation, Pius XII encouraged Sards through a radio message broadcast to the faithful, saying "Sardinia may be considered the legacy and domain of Mary Mother and Queen".

And Paul VI, celebrating Mass on the hill of Bonaria on April 24, 1970, recognized Sardinia as a 'Marian island' reminding the faithful that "if we wish to be Christians, then we must be Marians."

The emotional anticipation for Benedict XVI's visit recalls the visit of John Paul II, who was a pilgrim to the shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, and for three days - from October 18-20, 1985 - encompassed with his paternal affection the entire territory of our island.

We were all able to see him 'close' and exulted with hosannas that great celebratory encounter with the Successor of Peter. His words, proclaimed with a warm resounding voice, reached all families and all civilian and ecclesiastical circles, through 18 official addresses, as well as more familiar conversations.

He spoke to miners and all workers, the sick and their caregivers, students and teachers in schools and universities, social workers and volunteers, prisoners, priests and consecrated persons, lay ecclesiastical movements, parents and educators, and finally, the youth of Sardinia.

His message to the youth could be the synthesis and emblem of all his messages: "Take your own life in your hands and make of it an authentic and personal masterpiece."

Benedict XVI, 'humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord'. will renew his call to life, love, faith and hope with the same enthusiasm as John Paul II, and will bring the youth of Sardinia the freshness of his message to the youth of all the world which resounded from Sydney during the recent World Youth Day celebrations.

The world has changed, and Sardinia is no longer what it was at the time of John Paul's visit. New clouds of uncertainty and discouragement beset our people, especially the young. But the men of our time, including young people, still have a thirst for hope.

Pope Benedict XVI, indicating Mary Mother of Jesus as the Star of Hope, will make us face the wind of the Holy Spirit, and from our own Gulf of Angels, he will lead our hearts to the light of hope to rekindle in Sardinia the flame of harmony, progress and peace.

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 1:27 PM

9/19/2008 2:54 PM
post: 15,035

Wartime Pope 'spared no effort'
to save Jews, says Benedict XVI

by Richard Owens in Rome

Sept. 19, 2008

Pope Pius XII appears closer to being put on the road to sainthood after Pope Benedict XVI said the controversial wartime pontiff had "spared no effort" to save Jews from the Nazis.

Pius XII (Pope from 1939-58) is accused by critics of having remained silent during during the Nazi Holocaust because of pro German sympathies acquired during his time as papal nuncio to Berlin and then as Vatican Secretary of State, before he was elected Pope.

However Pope Benedict told Pave the Way, a US-based interfaith group which promotes Catholic-Jewish understanding, that "prejudice" against Pius XII must be overcome.

Praising Pius's "courageous and paternal dedication" toward Jews, the Pope said: "Wherever possible, he spared no effort in intervening in their favour either directly or through instructions given to other individuals or to institutions of the Catholic Church".

Benedict said that Pius's interventions were "made secretly and silently, precisely because, given the concrete situation of that difficult historical moment, only in this way was it possible to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews."

The process of Pius XII's beatification, the penultimate step before canonisation, has been held up by the controversy. However last year the Vatican recognised his ''heroic virtues'', a key requirement for beatification.

Benedict said: "So much has been written and said of him during these last five decades and not all of the genuine facets of his diverse pastoral activity have been examined in a just light....One can also come to appreciate the human wisdom and pastoral intensity which guided him in his long years of ministry, especially in providing organised assistance to the Jewish people".

The German-born Pope noted that Pius's efforts on behalf of the Jews in Italy had been acknowledged by Jewish leaders and communities during and after the Second World World War, citing a meeting Pius had in the Vatican in November 1945 with 80 death-camp survivors "who thanked him personally for his generosity".

He said that he hoped commemorations next month marking the fiftieth anniversary of Pius's death would provide an opportunity for further study "in order to come to know the historical truth, overcoming all remaining prejudice."

Supporters of Pope Pius XII claim that while he helped Jews discreetly he refrained from denouncing Hitler and the Holocaust publicly in case this made the plight of Jews and other victims of Nazism even worse.

Owens has verbalized the thought that struck me right away when reading the Pope's statements yesterday about Pius XII - that the Vatican may finally be going ahead with the beatification process for the wartime Pope. About time.

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John Allen gives some useful background on the organization behind the Pius XII symposium and the American Jew with the ironic last name Krupp [Nazi German's armaments maker] who was behind its establishment.

American Jew comes to the defense of Pius XII

Sept. 17, 2008

Defenders of Pius XII, whose alleged silence on the Holocaust is a source of tension between Jews and Catholics, met in Rome this week to project a more positive image of the wartime pope.

While that’s perhaps not remarkable, the aegis under which they gathered certainly is – a foundation called “Pave the Way,” dedicated to interreligious understanding and led by an American Jew.

The organizer of the Sept. 15-17 conference at Rome’s Palazzo Salviati, which included a number of Jews in the audience, is New York businessman and philanthropist Gary Krupp.

While making his living as a medical developer, Krupp became a benefactor of a hospital in southern Italy founded by the legendary Capuchin stigmatic Padre Pio, and is today one of just a handful of non-Catholics to belong to the papal Knights of St. Gregory.

Improbably, Krupp, who says he grew up “hating” Pius XII, has emerged as a passionate defender of the Pontiff once famously excoriated as “Hitler’s Pope.”

It’s our obligation to recognize somebody who saved more Jews than all the other world leaders and religious leaders combined,” Krupp said in an interview with NCR. “This man should be raised up as righteous among the nations, not demonized."

Krupp referred to the negative portrayal of Pius XII in some Jewish circles -- including a critical placard at Yad Vashem, the main Holocaust memorial in Israel -- as a shonda, the Hebrew word for "shame."

While Krupp represents a distinctly minority view within Judaism, he is not alone. Sir Martin Gilbert, the distinguished Jewish historian in England, has praised Pius XII’s efforts to save Jews, and American Rabbi David Dalin has proposed that Yad Vashem recognize Pius as “righteous among the nations.”

Probably no one, however, has devoted more time and energy –including his own financial resources – to the defense of Pius XII.

Krupp argued it’s in the best interests of Judaism and Israel to pursue better relations with the Catholic church.

“Today, we’re faced with people such as the President of Iran who want to see us wiped off the map,” Krupp said. “Don’t you think that 1.2 billion friends might be good to have?”

The lineup at Krupp's symposium featured a “who’s who” of leading defenders of Pius XII, including Filippini Sr. Margherita Marchione of Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey; Ronald Rychlak, a Catholic law professor at the University of Mississippi; William Doino, author of The Pius War; Andrea Tornielli, a prominent Italian journalist [who has written an important new book on Pius XII with new documentation about his wartime activities]; and Fr. Peter Gumpel, relator for the sainthood cause of Pius XII.

Ironically, the conference was held in the location where slightly more than 1,000 Roman Jews were brought before their deportation to Nazi concentration camps on Oct. 16, 1943. Several participants argued that the reason just 1,000 of some 6,700 Jews in Rome were rounded up that day was the personal intervention of Pius XII.

Organizers published a 200-page glossy book offering documentation of Pius’ efforts to save Jews, including transcripts of eyewitnesses and previously secret material culled from diplomatic archives in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The case for the defense of Pius XII, as presented during the conference, is highly complex, but in essence it pivots on three claims:

• Charges that Pius XII was “silent” are false, because he spoke on numerous occasions in defense of Jews, in ways that were abundantly clear to everyone at the time and for decades afterwards;
• If he did not directly and dramatically condemn Hitler or National Socialism, it was because he had well-founded fears that doing so might unleash greater persecution upon both Catholics and Jews;
• Behind the scenes, he mobilized church resources in multiple ways to save Jews.

To take an example of the kinds of stories told at the conference, Rychlak recalled that the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo was turned into a sanctuary for refugees during the war, including scores of Jews. Pius’ own bedroom was converted into a makeshift nursery, and some 40 babies were born there. [This also is recounted in the recent OR article posted in POPE-POURRI by the superintendent of the papal properties in Castel Gandolfo about the modern-day Popes who resumed the practice of making it their summer residence.]

A June 1944 article in the Palestine Post records a group of Jews who had taken shelter in Castel Gandolfo passing on their thanks to the pope.

Gumpel also reported that during his official investigation for Pius’s sainthood cause, he discovered that the pope had placed his housekeeper, Sr. Pasqualina Lehnert, in charge of the Vatican storerooms during the war, and personally directed her to drive trucks with food and other supplies out to religious houses around Rome where Jews were being sheltered.

“These are the kinds of things that anti-Semites just don’t do,” Krupp said.

Eugene Fisher, former expert for the U.S. bishops on Catholic/Jewish relations and another speaker at the Rome conference, said this sort of information has a hard time competing with the critics in the court of public opinion.

“The books attacking Pius get major reviews, but those defending him are ignored,” Fisher said. “All people ever hear is the negative side, because it’s all that filters through the press.”

In his address, Fisher proposed one step he feels the Vatican could take to bolster the pro-Pius argument: Opening its archives from his papacy, at least up to the end of the war and the immediate post-war years.

“The sooner the archives up to 1948 are open, the better,” Fisher said. “It would ease an enormous amount of pressure.” The fact that the archives have only been selectively released, Fisher said, is a “symbolic issue for the organized Jewish community.”

At least some in the audience seemed impressed.

“Prior to coming to this conference, I had heard negative things about Pius XII for 50 years,” said Howard Graff, a Jew from Chicago who serves chairman of the Illinois Masonic Charities Fund.

“I’ll go home with a more open, balanced view, and I believe that’s good,” he said.

Allen also writes about this topic in his Friday column, much of it a rehas of the above:

Pius XII and the Jews
All Things Catholic
by John L. Allen, Jr.

Friday, September 19, 2008

This week, I covered a conference in Rome devoted to Pope Pius XII, whose record during the Holocaust has long been a subject of controversy, especially between Catholics and Jews.

The 50th anniversary of Pius's death in 1958 falls this year on Oct. 9, which, ironically, also happens to be the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.

The Sept. 15-17 conference was held at Rome's Palazzo Salviati, on the Tiber River near the Vatican. It was the location where slightly more than 1,000 Roman Jews were incarcerated on Oct. 16, 1943, before being deported to the Nazi death camps. Of that group, only 16 survived.

The conference brought together a number of leading defenders of Pius XII, such as Filippini Sister. Margherita Marchione of Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey; Ronald Rychlak, a Catholic law professor at the University of Mississippi; William Doino, author of The Pius War; Andrea Tornielli, a prominent Italian journalist; and Fr. Peter Gumpel, relator for the sainthood cause of Pius XII.

In brief, the case for the defense amounted to:

- Pius was not "silent" on the Nazis or the Holocaust, because he spoke on numerous occasions in ways both public and private.
Defenders point out, for example, that Adolph Eichmann's diary, released by Israeli authorities in 2000, claims that protests from
Pius XII resulted in suspension of the round-up of Jews in Rome.

-Pius XII avoided more direct and dramatic statements because they could have unleashed even worse persecution.

Behind the scenes, he mobilized church resources to save lives, including Jewish lives. To take just one example, the pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo became a sanctuary for refugees, with the pope's own bedroom converted into a makeshift nursery where 40 babies were born during the war. Afterwards, Jews who had taken shelter at Castel Gandolfo thanked the Pope.

Gary Krupp, founder and president of Pave the Way Foundati0n(CNS photo/Emanuela De Meo, Catholic Press Photo)
What made the gathering remarkable was that it took place under the aegis of the "Pave the Way" foundation, an inter-faith group founded and led by an American Jew named Gary Krupp. A number of Jews, including a handful of rabbis from different parts of the world, were present at the conference, and Krupp plans to turn over materials the defenders have unearthed to Holocaust museums in order to try to correct impressions of Pius XII.

On Thursday, I took part in an audience at Castel Gandolfo in which Benedict XVI addressed participants in the conference. It amounted to the first time this Pope has come to the defense of his controversial predecessor. [Was it? I have to check back on that. I think he did so on two previous occasions.]

Benedict insisted that Pius "spared no effort" to help people, and that many of the Pope's humanitarian initiatives were "made secretly and silently," because "in that difficult historical moment, only in this way was it possible to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews."

The cause to declare Pius XII a saint is currently at something of an impasse. In May 2007, the Vatican's Congregation for Saints voted to endorse his "heroic virtue," the first formal step in the process, and a document confirming that verdict is now awaiting a papal signature. [I think it has been confirmed, because in his speech yesterday, Benedict XVI referred to him as 'the Servant of God Pius XII', giving him the tite reserved for those who have 'passed' the first step to beatification - like Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II.]

Only when that occurs can officials move forward with investigation of a miracle, which is required for beatification. Another miracle would be required for eventual canonization.

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 1:34 PM

9/25/2008 11:39 PM
Post: 15,104

The case for the beatification of John Paul I is almost ready to be elevated from the diocesan level to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 30 GIORNI has this reportage in its August issue.

God truly works in mysterious ways. Why a miracle happens, and to whom, is just as mysterious as why any child dies at all... Yet every miracle confirms a Transcendence one can only be in awe about, even when the story is rather 'simple' as in this case. Perhaps, that makes it more awesome - that miracles take place quietly, suddenly, where they are least expected, and in fairly unspectacular manner....

Papa Luciani's 'miracle'
by Stefania Falasca
Translated from
the August 2008 issue of

He goes into a bar to drink a cup of coffee then goes to market, as he does every day, now that he is retired.

Then we reach his house, passing through millennia of history - narrow alleys paved with white stone which speak of past Greek and Moorish inhabitants from the noble past of Altamura which has known fierce battles for its independence.

But Giuseppe Denora's story was of the most ordinary and routine. Home, family, children, made up his tranquil days, about which he speaks with reserve.

He is 60, a former bank employee, and the beneficiary of prayers to Papa Luciani. Sixteen years ago, he was healed of stomach cancer.

The healing was sudden, complete and lasting, and so it became the subject of a diocesan inquiry that will now be elevated to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints towards the possible beatification of John Paul I.

It is the first time Denora speaks to anyone outside the diocesan investigators about his case, now that the diocese is formally ending its inquiry.

"We are just a family like many others," he says as he opens the gate to his house. "I have two pictures of Papa Luciani, both of them clipped from the newspapers. One is in the garage..."

That is how he starts his account. Without frills. In the garage, he says "There it is. It has the date on it, September 3, 1978."

"My wife and I were at the baths in Chianciano [a small town north of Rome]. On that Sunday, Sept. 3, we decided to visit Rome, and so we got to St. Peter's Square just in time for Angelus with the new Pope.
He came to the window and we watched him speak. I said to my wife, 'You can see this is a beautiful person'. I was impressed. I bought a copy of Avvenire with his photo and took it home. And I put it up there."

What happened then?
He died, suddenly!

And what were you doing in the meantime?
Work, trying to make ends meet, three children to raise... I got married when I was 37, an I worked in the bank until 2000... In short, it was an ordinary life, with its sacrifices."

What about the other photo?
That's upstairs. Come.... See, he is wearing the red mozzetta and the stole, one of his first photographs as Pope - it's not one of the better-known ones, not even among the nicest.

I also got it from a newspaper clipping that I found one day on my desk in 1990. I don't know who left it, and how it got there, I have no idea. At that time, no one spoke of this Pope any more. But I took the clipping, I had the picture enlarged, and I put it on the bedroom wall, between the window and a closet on the side of the bed near me. And it has always been there. But not out of any particular thing I had about religion...

Did you do it out of devotion?
No. I just did it. That's all. It had come my way discreetly, like a faithful friend. Then, after I got sick, it was him that I looked at from my bed. But I must be honest - I did not pray to him as one does to the great saints... I started talking to him as one man to another.

When did you get sick?
At the start of 1992. I went to the doctor here in Altamura. They did a gastroscopy, then they told me, "It looks bad, very bad - you must see this cancer specialist at the hospital in Bari". The oncologist ordered another gastroscopy. The same diagnosis: non-Hodgkin's gastric lymphoma. So I went home and started chemotherapy.

They did not operate?

You were 44 then...
Yes, I had just turned 44, and my youngest daughter was 4. In two months, I was reduced to a shade of myself. I could not eat, I could not even manage to get up from bed. I just lay there, facing the wall and this man's photograph.

I would look at him, setting him apart from my concerns, and I spoke to him in silence, like: "Look what has happened to me. I can no longer work. What should I do? Cecilia is just a baby... my children need me"... Or "I am down here, and you are up there. You know them well, those who are there with you, those who are higher than you. Ask them what I ought to do, and if they will help me, if they can help me. Tell them, please".

On the night of March 27, I felt as if I would die of pain. Like I had a torch burning in my stomach. But what burned more was the thought that I had to leave my family. I looked at him and I said, "If I should die now, who will provide for my children?"

That night, the street lights reached my room as usual... Then, at the foot of the bed I saw a dark shape which came towards me with its hand held out. A hand, a touch, an instant - but at that very instant, it felt as if the fire within me had suddenly been put out by water. I fell asleep, and the next day I woke up feeling rested, reborn.

I heard my wife calling to me, shaking me up a little, "Peppe, Peppe. do you have fever?" I got up and asked for breakfast. The next day, I went back to the bank. And nothing - no more pain. I felt exactly as I do now - in full health. And that's how it was.

Were you tested by the doctors?
Of course. After all the testing, every doctor wrote, "Complete remission".

Did you tell them anything about it?
No. I had no reason. They could see that I had recovered.

Not even to your family?
To my wife, of course. Three months later, we both went to Rome. I went down to the grottoes below St. Peter's, and at Papa Luciani's tomb, I left a little note: "I am Giuseppe. I am here to thank you". Since then, I have done it every year.

In 2003, it was the 25th anniversary of his election, and I sent a letter of thanks to the church in his hometown. It was that letter that led to all this 'iter' [process] which I never dreamed of.

Have you been to Canale D'Agordo [Papa Luciani's hometown]?
I first went there two years ago, in 2006. I stayed a week. That was the first time that I really looked at the life of this man who became Pope, and the dignity of his family in the trials they had undergone to go forward... I saw the house where he was born. I got to know one of his nephews, and his brother Berto.

What did his brother say to you?
He said, "I am very happy that you are well."

Listen, I do not know, I have no idea how I came to gain this favor, Certainly not out of merit. Perhaps the way I asked him? I don't know... I still ask myself: Why me?...."


Walking me back afterwards, Denora goes into a bakery and comes out with a package of taralucci (lemon cookies).

"Taste them," he says, "they are very good - made with white wine. Bring some to Rome."

Then he adds, "I do want to say something else. Please do not write anything that I did not say. You know how people are... Sometimes they get the wrong idea...."

The process of verifying a presumed miracle
for beatification or canonization

by Stefania Falasca
Translated from
the August 2008 issue of

The diocesan investigation of the presumed miracle attributed to the intercession of Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I, is expected to end in October.

The closing session will be held in Altamura, province of Bari, and will be presided over by Mons. Mario Paciello, bishop of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti, the diocese in which the unexplained healing took place.

Participating will be the members of the ecclesiastical tribunal of the diocese along with the Salesian priest, don Enrico dal Covulo, postulator for the cause for canonization of the late Pope.

The acts of the diocesan inquiry will then be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, which must give canonical validity to these documents by recognizing their procedural correctness.

Based on these acts, as recognized and sanctioned by a Decretum on their juridical validity, the second, more complex phase of the process begins in Rome.

The healing of Giuseppe Denora came to the attention of the postulator in 2003, among so many other letters recounting graces received through the intercession of John Paul I. It presented those elements required in order to start an inquiry.

After preliminary investigations and evaluation of clinical documentation , the formal inquiry began on May 14, 2007. But the inquiry's positive findings must await the next stages in the process that the Church requires in order to declare a miracle.

The diocesan hearing establishes not only the facts of the claimed miracle itself, but that it is indeed attributable to the intercession of the Servant of God John Paul I.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints then carries out its independent evaluation of the clinical facts and attribution before recommending to the Pope that an event may be considered a true miracle, unexplainable by science and present knowledge.

It is therefore important to understand what the Congregation defines as a miracle and to emphasize the importance of the verification process for purposes of eventual beatification or canonization.

What is a miracle?

In his Summa theologiae, Thomas of Aquinas defines it as "that which God does outside of the natural order". Therefore, anything that is beyond human powers, that can be worked by God through the intercession of one of his chosen instruments.

The miracle must be something that is beyond human or natural possibility both in the nature of the happening or its subject, or even in how it takes places.

The need for miracles in the causes for sainthood

A canonization cannot be decreed by the Pope without the establishment that at least two miracles have happened through the intercession of the candidate saint.

A servant of God who is not a martyr requires one verified miracle for beatification. Both martyrs and blessed ones then need another verified miracle for canonization.

However, only the presumed miracles attributed to the intercession of a martyr, a servant of God or a blessed one and obtained after their death, may be be considered for verification.

Through the centuries, verification of such miracles and their recognition as such by the Church has always had a central relevance.

After the first few centuries, when bishops could grant recognition of public veneration for non-martyrs before establishing the candidate's excellentia vitae (excellence in life) and virtues,
they also considered proof of excellentia signorum (excellence with the Lord) in miracles as a work that only God can produce, a sure sign of revelation that is intended to inspire and strengthen the faith, as well as a confirmation of the sanctity of the candidate.

Thus, a cause for canonization represents divine sanction and human judgment, both of which together can give certitude to approving the candidate saint as an object of veneration.

The process to verify a miracle is a separate and independent investigation from that which is conducted earlier on the martyrdom or the 'heroic virtues' of a candidate for beatification.

What is the juridical process of verification?

This is governed by the norms established in 1983 by the Apostolic Constitution Divinus perfectionis Magister. The law establishes two procedural periods - the diocesan phase and the so-called Roman phase under the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The first must take place in the diocese where the presumed miracle took place. The bishop opens the inquiry, gathering testimony and depositions from eyewitnesses who are then cross-examined by a duly-constituted tribunal, as well as the complete clinical documentation of the case.

In the Roman phase, the Congregation examines all the materials submitted from the diocesan phase and any supplementary material they may require. The facts are reviewed from two points: medical and

The medical verification is done by the Consulta medica, a commission composed of five physicians who specialize in the branch of medicine involved and by two official medical experts. They may seek consultation with other doctors or call in more specialist members if necessary. Their judgment is strictly limited to the medical aspect.

The medical judgment is based on a precise establishment of the diagnosis, the prognosis, the treatments received, and the resolution or cure observed.

In order to be considered by the Congregation as a possible miracle, the cure must be determined by the medical panel to be rapid, complete, lasting, and unexplainable by present medical and scientific knowledge.

If the inquiry should at any time present puzzling aspects, the commission suspends its evaluation and asks for further documentation and expert opinions.

The case will pass to a theological consulting commission only after the Consulta medica arrives at a majority or unanimous decision on the 'supra-naturality' of the cure.

The theological consultants, based on the conclusions of the Consulta medica, must identify the links between the prayers offered to the candidate and the event of healing, and express their opinion whether the supra-natural unexplainable event may be considered a miracle.

After the theologians have decided and expressed their opinion, the evaluation is subjected to the ordinary congregation composed of bishops and cardinals who will examine and discuss every aspect of the presumed miracle. Their opinions will be included among those submitted to the Pope who will then decide whether to promulgate certification or canonization.

This decree closes the juridical process to ascertain a miracle. It is the juridical act by which the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood, with the approval of the Pope, recognizes an event to be definitively called a true and proper miracle.

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 1:37 PM

10/4/2008 2:25 AM
Post: 3,341

Tiny nun takes on tall task
of defending Pope Pius XII

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
Oct. 3, 2008

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Nearly 50 years after the death of Pope Pius XII, one of his strongest supporters thinks the beatification of this controversial wartime pontiff may be just around the corner.

The optimism of Sister Margherita Marchione, a member of the Religious Teachers Filippini, stems from her desire to see her tireless campaign to reveal the truth about this pontificate finally bear fruit.

She has spent the past decade gathering eyewitness evidence and documentation showing claims that Pope Pius did little or nothing to save the Jews from Nazi atrocities are based on ignorance, error or lies.

Of the 60 books she has authored, nine are dedicated to Pope Pius' heroism before, during and after World War II.

She still spans the globe participating in countless speaking engagements and meetings. But this 86-year-old self-described "fighting nun" from New Jersey said she is finally feeling the toil wearing down on her small 5-foot frame.

"I don't know what more I can do. But sooner or later the truth will be known," she told Catholic News Service in Rome.

She said she has a hunch Pope Benedict XVI will declare Pope Pius venerable Oct. 9, during a Mass commemorating the death of Pope Pius on the same day in 1958.

The fact Pope Benedict has chosen to celebrate the Mass, along with positive remarks made to her by the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, have led her to believe Pope Pius' canonization process is progressing.

The sainthood cause for Pope Pius hit a roadblock last year just months after the Congregation for Saints' Causes unanimously recommended that Pope Benedict declare Pope Pius heroically lived the Christian virtues.

But Pope Benedict set up a special commission to study new archival material about Pope Pius, and to examine how his possible beatification would impact Catholic-Jewish and Vatican-Israeli relations.

The commission is headed by Cardinal Bertone, another outspoken defender of Pope Pius' wartime role. This led some to believe the commission was not a tactic to delay beatification indefinitely but a way to study new evidence.

Sister Marchione agreed, saying the commission "wants the truth." She said the cardinal told her it has combed "through all these documents trying to find something against him, and there's nothing."

Based on her recent conversation with Cardinal Bertone, she said she believes the commission's work of investigating new evidence is finished.

The pope's Sept. 18 speech to participants of an international symposium highlighting the heroic efforts of Pope Pius was his strongest yet defending Pope Pius' legacy.

Speaking to rabbis, Jewish scholars and members of the U.S.-based Pave the Way Foundation, the pope said Pope Pius "spared no effort in intervening" on behalf of the Jews and courageously worked behind the scenes to save thousands from the Nazis' "criminal plan."

Pope Benedict said many of Pope Pius' efforts to support the Jews were "made secretly and silently" because "in that difficult historical moment, only in this way was it possible to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews."

Sister Marchione said that during the war many Jews urged the pope to refrain from harsh statements against the Nazis since vocal opposition often "boomeranged" and resulted in even more persecution.

In her new book to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the pope's death, Sister Marchione condenses decades of controversy and historical research into a 100-page volume for people to learn about the charges levied against the pope and his heroic acts that had once brought him worldwide praise.

In the foreword of the book titled "The Truth Will Set You Free," Cardinal Bertone recounts several occasions where he "strongly defended Pope Pius XII against critics" and gave testimony of why he thinks this pope "is worthy of beatification."

Right after the war, Jews, world leaders and large media outlets such as The New York Times and The Palestine Post praised Pope Pius for his courageous efforts and calls for peace.

But that legacy was slowly replaced over the years by an insistent propaganda program orchestrated by Soviet communists, Sister Marchione and other scholars have said.

After surviving World War II and brutal nationalism, Italy had been ready to embrace an apparently more benevolent and fraternal state under communism.

But the same moral principles that underpinned the pope's fierce opposition to Nazism and fascism also drove his disgust with communism, the sister said.

She said the Soviets' smear campaign launched by government agents was payback for the pope helping convince Italy to keep the communists on the sidelines and put centrist Christian democrats in power.

Today's negative opinions are based on the same biased, unfounded judgments that started with the KGB-funded fictitious play, "The Deputy," which depicted the pope as a Nazi collaborator, she said.

But despite efforts to get accurate historical proof out to the public, especially Jewish communities, there is a lot of hesitancy by some to change their preconceived notions, Sister Marchione said.

"Each Jewish synagogue is independent of the other; they have no tie-in. So a big, universal topic like this (Pope Pius being an anti-Semite) seems to unite them unfortunately," she said.

Another reason Pope Benedict wanted to delay Pope Pius' beatification last year was fear that honoring a pope who is still controversial in the eyes of many would jettison decades of building up friendly relations with Israel and the Jews.

But Sister Marchione said, "It's time for us to have a little bit of courage and just fight the issue like I'm trying to fight the issue."

The record must be set straight, she added, because "it's the truth that will set you free."

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 1:47 PM

8/27/2008 5:40 PM
Post: 3,294

Informal atmosphere marks stays
at papal villa, says longtime staffer

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope John XXIII used to duck out incognito and visit surrounding towns. Pope John Paul II played hide-and-seek with employees' children. And Pope Benedict XVI fills the evening air with notes from his piano.

It's all part of the informal family atmosphere that reigns at the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, said Saverio Petrillo, director of the villa since 1986 and a staff member there for the last 50 years.

Each pope has had a different style, Petrillo told the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, in an interview published Aug. 26.

Pope John Paul was the first to really use the villa as a second home. Especially in the early years, he hosted evening meetings with young people where the youths would light bonfires, sing songs and tell stories about their lives.

Pope John Paul would pay frequent visits to the families of the 50 or so employees who live and work on the villa grounds, accepting a cup of tea and chatting casually with them, Petrillo said.

The employees' children, whenever they would see the pope walking in the gardens, would hide behind the bushes and jump out at him when he passed. The pope loved the game and played along, Petrillo said.

It was Pope John Paul who had a swimming pool built at the villa so that he could exercise, on the advice of doctors, the director said. When some critics objected to the expense, the Polish pope joked: "A new conclave would cost a lot more."

Petrillo said Pope Benedict impresses the villa staff with his extraordinary sensitivity and spirituality. The German pope finds the quiet villa a perfect place to write, and every evening the staff hears the pope at his piano, playing his favorite works of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.

"It makes us happy because it means he really feels at home here," Petrillo said.

The 50-acre villa, built on the grounds of a Roman emperor's country residence, is perched in the Alban Hills south of Rome. Petrillo began working there in 1958, in the waning days of Pope Pius XII.

He learned that during World War II, Pope Pius had not only opened the doors of the villa to thousands of people fleeing the Nazi army, but on many occasions gave up his bedroom to expectant women among the refugees.

"Fifty babies were born in that room," Petrillo said.

Pope John liked the villa in part because he could slip out so easily.

"Every now and then he disappeared. He would go out one of the gates without telling anyone and without an escort," Petrillo said. The pontiff would make his way to nearby towns and just hang out with people.

One Sunday morning the staff received phone calls placing the pope at the sea town of Anzio, then at Nettuno and then at the lake below Castel Gandolfo. As his aides panicked, the pope returned calmly in time to lead the Angelus prayer at noon.

Pope Paul VI came to pray at the villa as a cardinal for a week before the 1963 conclave that elected him pope. When it came time for the cardinal to leave the residence for Rome, the villa's doorman said goodbye with the words, "Best wishes, Holy Father!"

By using the words reserved for addressing a pope, the doorman had, of course, violated the age-old rule of never wishing a cardinal good luck as he went into a conclave. The doorman received a burning glare from the villa's director.

When Pope Paul visited the villa, it was always for spiritual sustenance, Petrillo said.

"He prayed and that's all," he said.

Like Pope Pius, Pope Paul died at Castel Gandolfo, and his body remained there three days for public viewing before a simple funeral procession carried him back to Rome.

When Pope Pius died in 1958, Petrillo said he was surprised and saddened to see how the reduced number of papal aides at the villa made for a lonely death.

"Before I began working there, I thought the pope would always be surrounded by a big crowd of people, ready to respond to his every desire. But when I saw Pius XII dying, I realized how alone he was. No one was there," he said.

8/28/2008 12:28 AM
Post: 14,784

Here is a translation of the full interview in OR on which the CNS item above was based:

The Vatican Observatory (below) is housed in the rear part of the main building complex at Castel Gandolfo.

With five Popes at their summer home:
Interview with the superintendent
of the Pontifical Villas in Castel Gandolfo

By Mario Ponzi
Translated from
the 8/27/08 issue of

"Pius XII died in solitude, I remember the sadness that assailed me when I saw his body in the evening before it lay in state for the public."

"From time to time, John XXII would disappear. Nobody knew where he went" (until later).

"Paul VI always spent the first week (of the summer sojourn at Castel Gandolfo) without ever leaving the building - all he did was pray."

"Papa Luciani was a cause of great regret for the entire family of the Pontifical Villas, because we never got to host him, not even as a cardinal."

"John Paul II often played hide-and-seek with the children of the staff employees. They waited for him along the paths he took when he came out for his afternoon walks."

"Benedict XVI, generally in the evening hours, adds a touch all his own to the peace of this place, playing Bach, Mozart and Beethoven on the piano."

These glimpses come from the faithful custodian of a majestic place, where art and nature are in perfect harmony. But when he lets his memory roam or speaks of his 'large family', Saverio Petrillo, superintendent of the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo, becomes a compelling narrator, who manifests emotions which are impossible to recreate in writing.

For 50 years, he has lived within the walls of one of the most famous 'villas' of antiquity, the Albanum Domitianum, residence of the Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.) in the Alban Hills. The complex was built on an area of 14 square kilometers stretching from the Via Appia and including Lake Alban.

Today, the Pontifical Villas are found in the central part of that ancient complex, particularly the Arx Albana, the hill in Castel Gandolfo on which the the present Pontifical Palace is built.

The history of the place is rich and lengthy, as told in a book by Petrillo (Le Ville Pontificie di Castel Gandolfo, Vatican City, Edizioni Musei Vaticani, 2000, 125 pp.), as an ideal sequel to the classic book of one of his predecessors (Emilio Bonomelli, I papi in campagna (The Popes in the countryside), Rome 1953).

But what the book does not contain are the memories that Petrillo confides to Osservatore Romano in this interview.

When did your adventure begin in this rather unique world?
I entered the Pontifical Villas for the first time 50 years ago in June 1958. I must say that it was not the most auspicious of beginnings.

On October 9, Pius XII died. It was an event that saddened me a great deal and which is still impressed in my mind. Before entering this special world, I had thought that a Pope would always be surrounded by a crowd of persons each ready to fulfill his every desire.

But when I first understood that Pius XII was dying, I realized instead that he was basically alone. There was no one else. There was no Secretary of State, no Papal Chamberlain - who was not chosen until after he died, during the sede vacante.

To my great surprise, I saw how the body of that great Pope was treated sort of in an improvised way. His doctor, Riccardo Galeazzi Lisi, carried out some kind of embalming, using some ointments. Then the body was provisionally laid out in the Swiss Hall. But it was only the next day, before the public viewing, that he was dressed in the right Pontifical vestments. I really felt very bad about that.

I was consoled by the great river of persons who filed past him from the moment the public viewing began. I remember such a splendid popular manifestation of grief and respect. So many came back more than once.

As you know, Pius XII had opened the doors of the Pontifical villas to give refuge to all those who tried to escape the German round-ups after the Allies had landed in Anzio. So many mothers remembered how the Pope had given up even his own bedroom to accommodate those who were pregnant at the time. Fifty babies were born in the papal apartments. Many of them, now older men, were baptized Eugenio [for Pius XII's given name) or Pio.

For two of them, twins, there is a charming anecdote that the woman who took care of them inadvertently took off the bracelets that identified the babies after baptism, so it was impossible to tell who was Eugenio and who was Pio. Their mother had to step in, deciding who should be called what, sort of re-baptizing them.

What do you remember best about John XXIII?
It was a time that I would call innovative! Papa Giovanni would disappear from time to time. He would leave by one of the gates without telling anyone and without an escort. It turns out he liked going out among the townspeople.

One Sunday, we got a telephone call that he was in Anzio! [Which is located quite a few kilometers from Castel Gandolfo]. Imagine our surprise, since all along we thought he was in his apartment in the Palace. Later, we were told he was in Nettuno, and next, that he was at the lakeside. Can you imagine what we had to live through that morning? But he returned calmly in time to lead the noonday Angelus.

Another time, he turned up in Genazzano where he was almost crushed by the crowd when someone recognized him. It might have gotten out of hand except for the happenstance that there was a captain of the carabinieri who was able to bring him back to the Villa in his car. But for the Pope, it was as though nothing was out of the ordinary. He never missed out on contacts with the local folk.

Then came the era of Paul VI.
About Papa Montini, I remember one thing best. The week before the conclave that elected him, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan (which Montini was) was a guest at the Papal villas of one of his old friends, Emilio Bonomelli, who was the superintendent at the time.

He sought refuge here to escape the curiosity of the newsmen who were besieging him because he was widely believed to become the next Pope. I remember perfectly that morning of June 9, 1963, when he left Castel Gandolfo to go to the Opening Mass of the Conclave. We were all lined up by the gate to bid him farewell. The gatesman, who had a certain degree of familiarity with him, said to him: "Holy Father, best wishes!"

Bonomelli glared at him - woe to whoever expresses such a wish to a cardinal about to enter a conclave! You know the saying... But this time, when Montini came back to us next, he was the Pope.

I remember his great reserve. Whenever he came here for the summer, he would spend the first week dedicated to his own very personal spiritual retreat. All he did was pray, that was all. And after a week, he resumed his normal activity.

I remember the feast of the Assumption in 1977 when the Pope inaugurated the Church of the Madonna of the Lake. On that occasion, at the end of his homily, he said extemporaneously, "Who knows if I will have another chance to spend this beautiful feast with you? I take this occasion to embrace you all and to thank you for all you have given me." He became very emotional, and he transmitted that emotion to all of us.

In fact, it was the last Assumption he spent here - he died on August 6 the next year. Then, we thought of what he had said the previous year.

His impending death was evident from the morning of that Sunday. Obviously, he no longer had the strength to get up and lead the Angelus. We were not much surprised. There was much coming and going by doctors and nurses, some carrying oxygen tanks from the nearby hospital. Of course, we were hoping up to the last minute that our fears would be proven wrong. But then, the comings and goings stopped - and we all started to pray aloud. And that is how we accompanied him at his death.

For three days, his body was exposed to public viewing here. There was a continuous flow of people....until finally, a simple hearse of the commune marked with black ribbon brought the body to Rome.

Papa Luciani, on the other hand, never visited here, not even as a cardinal?
No, John Paul I was for us a cause for great regret - that we never had a chance to show him our affection.

Then it was the turn of Papa Wojtyla.
My experience with John Paul II started even before his election. On the Sunday before the conclave that would elect him, I got a telephone call from Mons. Andrzej Deskur. He asked if he could come to the Villas with the Archbishop of Cracow - "a brilliant cardinal, great worker", he said - who wanted to spend a few hours of solitude to pray. And so they arrived together.

They lunched at the trattoria which is right next to the Apostolic Palace - later, in one of his audiences with some local folk, the Pope recognized the trattoria owner and thanked her again for "that exquisite fettucine", recalling the episode - then they spent some time in walking in the gardens, praying.

When his election was first announced, many here thought that the name was African, and I felt proud to inform them who he was actually!

With him, the uses for the residence changed a bit. In the sense that it became truly the Pope's alternate residence. He came at different times of the year, especially after returning from a trip or during holidays. He even came here for brief stays when he had to prepare documents or speeches.

Particularly in the early years, he revitalized this place. In the evenings, he would meet with young people, trying to get to know better the different Catholic youth movements. They were festive times. They had bonfires, they sang, they recounted their lives and their experiences. The young people learned what it was to vivere cum Petro, with the Pope.

Do you remember anything in particular of your experiences with John Paul II?
He was a very lively presence. In the sense that when he was here, he really seemed to go out all the time. Sometimes even in the late evening. In the winter, even when it was cold, he would still go out. He would wrap himself in a black coat, sometimes he wore a hooded cloak, always black.

Then I remember how he enjoyed himself with the children of our staff. When they would see him coming, they would hide behind the shrubs, and when the Pope passed by, they would come out shouting to meet him. It was like playing hide-and-seek with him. He was very pleased with this and he always gladly got into their playful spirit. For the children, it became sort of a regular thing.

For one thing, the Pope also liked to visit the houses of those staff members who live within the walls. They would offer him coffee, tea, some pastry, just as they would a friend who comes to visit. Everyone here cherishes beautiful memories of how he found time to be with them.

Do you remember the controversy that followed his decision to have a swimming pool built here?
It was a made-up controversy. The Pope needed it for health reasons. He was already having problems, and he had been prescribed a number of hours swimming to improve, or at least, control some of his symptoms. Of course he had always been an athletic man, but that had nothing to do with the pool.

For one, it was only 18 meters long - and by the way, it is still functioning. Papa Wojtyla used it a lot. I remember his humorous response to one of the comments about the supposed expense of building the pool. "A new conclave would cost more". He wanted it understood how much physical exercise helped him to better support the demands of his exhausting Pontificate.

He loved to joke about his sports interests. He liked to tell the cardinals that the Polish cardinals were more sports-minded that the Italians, since 50 percent of the Polish cardinals practised at least one sport. Of course, there were only two of them.

It was during his Pontificate, in 1986, that I was named superintendent, at the death of Carlo Ponti, who had managed the place since 1971.

And now, Benedict XVI.
What is most impressive about him is his extraordinarily delicate spirit, his extreme sensitivity to others, his profound spirituality.

He already knew the Villas quite well because as a cardinal, at least once a year - usually on his name day - he gave himself a day off and would come here. So this facilitated his return to this place as Pope - and he took an immediate affection for it.

It made us happy to hear him say from the very beginning, "Castel Gandolfo is my second home". He does a lot of work here, with its quiet atmosphere.

And for us, it is very lovely to hear him play the piano. He's not the first Pope to play a musical instrumen. Pius XII played the violin, but he never played it here, or at least, no one remembers hearing him.

But now, it is our privilege to be able to hear, usually in the evenings, Mozart, Bach or Beethoven performed by the Pope. It fills us with joy because it means that Benedict XVI truly feels at home here.

The Villas not only host the Pope but also provide him with farm products. Can you tell us about the small farm in the complex?
It is an institution. And an old one at that. When the Villa Barberini came into the possession of the Holy See in 1929, Pius XI acquired the adjoining land to use for agricultural purposes. The idea was to underscore the interest of the Church in the rural world.

Since he wanted to do everything the best way possible, he wanted the farm, even if it was small, to have up-to-date equipment. For example, one of the first milking machines was introduced here during his time, as well as the very first chicken incubators.

Now, the farm has grown to some twenty hectares. The nucleus is composed of some 26 milch cows who produce 500-600 liters of milk daily.

What happens to all that milk?
Besides what we provide to the Apostolic household, the rest is sold at the Vatican supermarket. But also to the cafes in town, so the local citizens and visitors can enjoy it. In the past, we also provided milk to the Bambino Gesu hospital, but that has stopped because hospitals now have catering services that provide everything.

You referred to provisioning the Apostolic Palace. Does that mean there is a daily marketing list to satisfy?
The tradition of provisioning the Pope goes back to 1929. Everyday, we get requests for the products that we have and we send them.

Are provisions sent to the Vatican daily?
Yes, every day.

Let me tell you a story. One day during the war, the superintendent became apprehensive that the van which brought the provisions to the Vatican daily would be unable to get there because of the fighting - though that never happened - but to make sure that the Pope would never miss his morning milk, the superintendent sent seven milch cows to the Vatican. They had to set up a cow stall inside the Vatican Gardens for this.

The cows were brought to the Vatican late at night in a truck. When the truck got to the gate, the problem was to convince the Swiss Guards to let it through, since everyone was fearful of an ambush. But then the sound of the cows lowing - because they were tired from the trip and were not exactly comfortable in the truck - that convinced the Guards there was no danger, and they let the truck through. Those cows remained in the Vatican from January 1944 until the liberation of Rome.

What else do you produce at the Villas?
Eggs, about a hundred daily. Olive oil - some 1000-1500 kilos a year; fruits and other agricultural produce. The surplus is sold at the Vatican supermarket.

But our flower production is very important as well. All the plants and flowers in the gardens and rooms of the Villas come from our greenhouses. At Christmastime, we have an exceptional crop of poinsettias - from the profits we make selling them, we are able to cover the cost of heating the greenhouses.

How many persons work here?
All in all, we have a staff of 56. Half of them are for regular maintenance work in every sector, and half work in the farm. It is one big family which, if I must say so myself, work together in full harmony.

A few views of the famous gardens of Castel Gandolfo, one of the most impressive formal gardens in the world:

00Sunday, November 2, 2008 1:52 PM

9/28/2008 3:03 PM
Post: 15,131


The Holy Father led the noontime Angelus from the balcony overlooking the inner courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo.

After commenting on the Gospel and readings of the day, he paid tribute to John Paul I, who died unexpectedly 30 years ago today, just 33 days after he was elected Pope.

He recalled that John Paul I had adopted the episcopal motto of St. Charles Borromeo as his - 'Humilitas'. "A single word", he said, " that summarizes the essence of Christian life and indicates that indispensable virtue which, in the Church, is called service to authority... Thanks to that humility, 33 days sufficed for Papa Luciani to enter the hearts of the faithful".

Benedict XVI called his predecessor 'an unequalled catechist in the footsteps of St. Pius X' (who was his predecessor as Patriarch of Venice and as Peter's Successor): "His simplicity was the vehicle for a solid and rich teaching, which, thanks to an exceptional memory and vast culture, he enriched with numerous citations from ecclesiastical as well as lay writers."

He concluded: "As we thank God for having given him to the Church and to the world, let us cherish his example as a treasure, committing ourselves to cultivate the same humility."


In the thread IN HIS OWN WORDS, I posted a translationn of then Cardinal Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger's eulogy of John Paul I delivered as a homily at the Mass he offered in the Cathedral of Munich on October 6, 1978, in memory of the late Pope. It is an exceptionally great eulogy and very original.

9/29/2008 5:53 PM
Post: 15,148

Thanks to Rocco Palmo for his post today that led me to the multilingual site

from which the following translation was taken of the eulogy delivered by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Archbishop of Munich in October 1978 at a Mass for the John Paul I who died one week earlier. Translation is credited to Mother Teresa, OCD.

It is another sterling example of how Joseph Ratzinger is able to weave in so many disparate strands of inspiration into a beautiful, elegant and original synthesis that is far from generic. It certainly ranks with his eulogies for Don Luigi Giussani (a completely extemporaneous one delivered in the Cathedral of Milan in February 2005) and for John Paul II, both of which were equally original in every sense.

Now, I must search for the Cardinal Archbishop's eulogy for Paul VI which he must have given in August 1978!

Homily by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Pontifical Mass in suffrage for Pope John Paul I

October 6, 1978
Cathedral of Munich

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have come together for the Eucharist in sorrow at the sudden death of our Holy Father John Paul I, and in this liturgy we bring our sorrow to the light of the love of Jesus Christ, which is stronger than death. We want to draw close to this love, to purify ourselves in it and to prepare ourselves for the resurrection and eternal life.

Brothers and Sisters! It has not yet been a month from the day in which we were together, filled with joy, in this cathedral, to thank God for having given us the new Pope John Paul I. Then we couldn’t foresee how soon he would be taken and we still cannot understand the reason.

“God gave, God has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord”, we can say with Job. In the history of the popes there is a person similar to him in his destiny and who could help us to bear this better; this is Marcellus II, next to whom John Paul I has now found his final resting place.

It was the year 1555: The Council of Trent had been interrupted without concrete results and there did not seem any possibility of it beginning. Thus the Church remained torn between renewal and reform, as if sunk in a deep depression, unable to pull itself out.

Thus in one of the shortest conclaves in history, Cardinal Cervini was elected by acclamation. He was one of the presidents of the Council of Trent, a person who even in that obscure period had tried to live the Gospel in a credible way to bring to fulfilment the “Christian reality” from his deepest center, as a goal of greatest importance.

He began immediately with actions that attracted attention and brought a refreshing breeze. He refused the ostentation of the papal coronation and began with a very simple ceremony, which saved enormous sums which ordinarily would have been spent for such ceremonies.

He decided that half of it would be used to cover papal debts and the other half would be distributed to the poor so that the day of his installation would be above all a day of joy for the poor.

Rome was, at that time as now, stamped with the sign of violence. But she changed her face, men put down their arms and turned over a new page. The general of the Augustinians, Father Serepando, said that he had prayed for a Pope who could renew and restore honour to three words fallen into disrepute: church, council, reform, and he considered that with this election he had been heard.

There were no preferences for his relatives. Rather he let them know that they needn’t come to Rome. He did not meddle in the disputes of the factions, but he called all to peace and he lived his mission, from the heart of the Eucharist, in a manner which had long since become unknown.

After 22 days he died. And another Augustinian, Parvenio, applied to him with sorrow the words which Virgil had once written for another Marcellus: Ostensus est nobis, non datus. (He was only shown to us, not given.)

In spite of this, historians of the papacy affirm that this pontificate of only 22 days represented a true turnabout, a point of departure, a great step from which there would be no return. The door was thrown open. The reform had turned into a reform; that is, there could no longer be a return to a comfortable existence, but rather an aiming towards the center of the faith, and the church began again to live.

Ostensus non datus: shown to us but not given. This is what we would like to say about Pope John Paul I, whose smile conquered the attention and gaze of the world.

“The Pope of the Smile” the Italians called him with affection and the whole world agreed. The morning of his death, when Cardinal Confalonieri entered the room of the dead man, his face was only slightly inclined and in his expression was still present that inimitable smile which had made this man stand out in a particular way.

This smile was not a mask, behind which a person can hide himself nor was it a studied gesture to obtain something, but the expression, unconscious and natural of a soul transparent and luminous to its very depths.

Yes it is not a question of a gift received from nature, but rather something acquired from Jesus Christ, living at an ever-deeper level.

We can glimpse a part of his spiritual journey from his letters, gathered together in this very beautiful book, Illustrissimi, which in its simplicity, serenity and greatness has remained as his enduring testament.

Particularly moving is his letter to Therese of Lisieux with whom he had a special intimate affinity. He says to her:

“Love in little things. Often this is the only kind possible. I never had the chance to jump into a river to save a drowning man; I have been very often asked to lend something, to write letters, to give simple and easy instructions. I have never met a mad dog; instead I have met some irritating flies and mosquitoes. I have never had persecutors beat me but many people disturb me with noises in the street, with the volume of the television turned up too high or unfortunately with making noise in drinking soup. To help, however, one can not take it amiss, to be understanding; to remain calm and smiling (as much as possible) in such occasions is to love one’s neighbour without rhetoric in a practical way”.

He also remembers the name which Dante gave Our Lord, “Lord of all courtesy”. He finds this Lord in Sacred Scripture, speaking of the faults and stubbornness which he had to put up with in his apostles. He finally told them, “You are those who have borne with me in my trials”. What! There came to his mind the saying of the great Teresa of Avila. “A sad saint is a sorry saint”.

He also tells a little parable in which he himself is reflected.

“An Irishman died whose life had not been overflowing with good works. At the time of judgment he stood in line waiting his turn. He looks and sees the Lord turning over the cards of the various people and he says to the first: ‘I was hungry, you gave me to eat. Heaven!’ To the second, ‘I was thirsty, you gave me to drink. Heaven!’ To the third, ‘I was naked, you gave me clothes. Heaven!’ The Irishman’s heart was more and more uneasy because he had never done any of that.

Trembling, he stepped before the judge, not daring to look at him. But glancing up timidly he noticed in his eyes something like a hidden furtive smile. The Lord took out his card and told him, “well, there’s not really much here. But once I was sad and you told me a joke which made me laugh. On your way to Heaven!”’

Such was John Paul I. That’s how he was. He didn’t just tell us a story, he made us a gift of his smile; he allowed us to get a glimpse into the depth of the “human essence” to guess something of paradise lost.

However, he was certainly not a simple-minded, good little old man, unaware of the gravity of life and the reality of today. I have personally seen, in Latin America, with what gratitude and relief his words on the theology of liberation were received – that it is not a theology because it is not founded on God but rather on the struggle between the classes, and it does not aim at liberty but rather the dictatorship of the party.

How simple and great are his words: “It is not true, Ubi Lenin, ibi Jerusalem – where Lenin is, there is Jerusalem”.

And what was our gratitude when he condemned that false creativity in the liturgy which does not celebrate the common mystery of the Church, but honours one’s own “creativism” precluding and harming in the way for many, access to the renewed liturgy.

What importance there was to have broken the deadly silence of the West concerning Lebanon! We were convinced quite willingly that there were only a few privileged people, probably fascists, defending their interest.

A Lebanese once told me sadly, “For you oil is more important than the spirit”. We have turned our gaze elsewhere, in order not to see because we didn’t want to risk our interests. But he stripped the veil away and made us see that between the pan-Islamic aspiration to power and the social utopia of the Palestinians, there was a small Christian minority which was trampled on.

Ostensus, non datus – he was shown to us, not given, Can we truly say that? No, I hold that the correct formulation should be: Ostensus et datus – he was shown to us and he gave himself to us, with his soul, to the limits of his strength.

On the death of Cardinal Dopfner he mentioned the consoling figure of St. Christopher who carried Christ across the rivers of history. On the death of Pope Paul VI there shone the light of the transfiguration of Christ.

Pope John Paul I departed during the night of the feast of St. Michael called by tradition the “Psychopomp” - the escort of souls, who escorts it through the night of death to the light of the Lord. He was buried on the day of St. Francis of Assisi, the amiable saint that he resembled so much.

For us believers it is not foolishness. It was the authentic expression of the fact that faith has transformed time, which is no longer the sum of anonymous days, the empty net of death in which some day or another we will be caught without escape.

Time has been transformed. By the action of the Lord it has become the history of God, men who proceed from that history and who accompany us, consoling us, acting as our guides, as symbols of hope and faith.

Time is no longer the net of death, but rather the hand of God’s mercy held out, who supports and seeks us. His saints are the columns of light who show us the way, transforming it certainly into the path of salvation while we pass through the darkness of earth.

From now on he too will belong to that light. The one who was given us for only 33 days; from him, however, there shines a light which can no longer be taken from us. It is for this that we know want to thank the Lord with our whole hearts. Amen.

More information about John Paul I can be found on the site of the John Paul I center in Belluno:


and on the site lovingly maintained by our own Paparatzifan


Both sites are multilingual.

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