3ODAYS In the Church and in the World

Concordat with Holy See at last

     The Holy See and the Republic of Poland ratified their concordat on March 25 in the Vatican. This final step came all of five years after the Concordat's signing in July 1993 and, in an exceptional gesture, Pope John Paul II himself ratified the pact for the Vatican.
     Meanwhile, the accord between the Holy See and the Republic of Hungary has proved to be less slow. It was signed in June last year and ratified in early April in Budapest.

Latin Patriarch makes first ever visit to Rabbis' Headquarters

     Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jersualem, made an unprecedented visit to the Headquarters of the Holy City's Rabbis. On the occasion on March 23, he met with the two Chief Rabbis Meir Israel Lau, a Hashkenazite, and Eliahu Bakshi-Doron a Saphardi.

Third International Meeting of Priests

     "Let us convert in order to convert others" is the theme of the third international meeting of Catholic priests worldwide to be held between July 7 and 12 in Mexico. The two previous conferences of world priests had been held in 1996 in Fatima, Portugal, and in 1997 in the Côte d'Ivoire.

Number of Catholic Bishops doubles

     The Vatican has named an auxiliary bishop for each of the two Catholic ecclesiastical authorities in Russia - the apostolic administrations of European Russia and Siberia. To flank Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz in Moscow, the Pope has summoned the 36-year-old German Klemens Pickel. At Novosibirsk in Siberia, the Polish Verbite Jerzy Mazur will assist Jesuit Joseph Werth in his pastoral mission. The Vatican said it was just a coincidence that these appointments were announced on the same day that Boris Yeltsin ordered the resignation of the Chernomyrdin Government. The Orthodox Church authorities had been advised of the auxiliary appointments and so there was no adverse reaction. Seven years ago, however, the unannounced appointments of Kondrusiewicz and Werth had provoked angry Orthodox protests.

South Africa
Clinton makes his "First Communion"

     The Clintons' First Communion was the sardonic headline in Our Sunday Visitor in reporting that the Baptist President and his Methodist wife had illegitimately taken Communion during a Catholic Mass. The "sacrilege", as the Rome-based daily Il Messaggero described it, took place on Sunday March 29 in the Regina Mundi Church in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto during the Clintons' African tour. Clinton was immediately photographed by the press receiving the consecrated Host from a Catholic priest. Nuncio Manuel Monteiro de Castro, appointed to Pretoria only months before, has been inundated with requests for clarification by various Vatican offices. Those who protested the famous couple's "first communion" included the American Cardinals John Joseph O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, and Anthony Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia. Father Moholomi Magubane, who administered the "first communion" to the President and his wife, claimed he was justified by the latest recommendations on ecumenism issued by the South African Episcopal Conference. But the Conference has denied all responsibility. Archbishop Geraldo Majella Agnelo, Secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, told the US Bishops' Catholic News Service that "as a non-Catholic, a person may not be admitted to Eucharistic Communion. This is a canon law ... therefore, no Episcopal Conference may promote any other kind of regulation".

Viet Nam
Government looks to religion for help

     Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung told a March 19 conference of his government's Religious Affairs Commission that "religion helps lessen the social problems born of the country's opening up to a market economy". He added that "Karl Marx described religion as the opium of the people, but with the use of this drug, we might say that religion could give us a hand to emerge unscathed from the current situation of prostitution and the other plagues afflicting Viet Nam".

Accord between Beijing University and American Jesuit Counterparts

     An agreement was signed on March 13 between the University of Beijing and the Fordham University of New York and its 23 Jesuit-run sister institutes in the United States. The accord, unprecedented for China, marks the launch of the first foreign action program ever officially acknowledged by China. Called the Beijing International Management Program (BIMP), its 24 American partners include Washington's Georgetown University, Boston College, the University of Marquette in Milwaukee and the Universities Loyola of Los Angeles, of Baltimore, of New Orleans, of San Francisco and Seattle.

Three-meter Statue of John Paul II in Madrid

     A three-meter statue of John Paul II "as a young man, his arms open wide as he preaches animatedly" will be erected in front of Madrid's Almudena Cathedral. According to the newly-elevated Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela in a statement on March 31, the monument will be surrounded by four fountains and was sculpted by Juan de Ayala at a cost of about $110,000.

Holy See
Journalist becomes Panama's ambassador

     Panama's new ambassador to the Holy See is the journalist and political commentator Antonio Velásquez Fernández, a 69-year-old father of six. He had served as Special Ambassador on occasions in the past.

Church confirms rejection of female diaconate

     In two joint publications of 140 pages, the Vatican Congregations for Catholic Education and for the Clergy have reiterated the incompatibility of women for the roles of deacon or priest. In presenting the publications on March 10, the Congregations' Prefects and Secretaries, respectively Cardinals Pio Laghi and Dario Castrillón Hoyos, and Archbishops José Saraiva Martins and Csaba Ternyák, said that the deaconesses mentioned in the New Testament "are not deacons in our understanding of the word". The publications are entitled Fundamental Norms for the Training of Permanent Deacons and Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons.

Ratzinger stays on

     Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has denied speculation widespread since February that he is about to abandon his post. He confirmed his intention to stay on. He was speaking at the March 23 presentation of the German edition of his book Dalla mia vita. Ricordi 1927-1977 (On My Life. Memoirs 1927-1977), published last year in Italy by the Edizioni San Paolo. The book was presented at the Monastery of Andechs in Bavaria where Ratzinger was born.

North Italian bishops appeal for invalids' priest

     In a February 3 letter to John Paul II, the bishops of the North Italian region of Lombardy appealed for an acceleration of the process for the beatification of Fr. Carlo Gnocchi, who died in 1956 after devoting his life to assisting war invalids. Father Gnocchi was also the founder of a network, now nationwide, of rehabilitation centers for the handicapped.

Regulations for the Way's Masses

     The latest issue of Notitiae, published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, reiterates the regulations to be followed by Neo-Catechumenates in Eucharistic celebrations. Notitiae (No. 375-377, page 519) is replying to "questions from various regions" and it reminds faithful that the directives issued in 1988 stand. The Congregation confirms that Neo-Catechumenates "may take Communion in the two species, always using unleavened bread, and may shift 'ad experimentum' the rite of the peace to follow the universal prayer". The Vatican's liturgy Congregation adds that the "Ordinary will have to be kept informed either habitually or 'ad casum' of the time and place of such celebrations; they may not be held without his authorization".
     In comparison with the 1988 directives the Congregation, now headed by Chilean Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez, has issued a further restriction: "Besides this, liturgical celebrations within the Neo-Catechumenate movement 'must faithfully follow the liturgical books approved by the competent authority; therefore, nothing may be added or detracted on personal initiative' (Code of Canon Law, 846, §1). As regards the liturgical books, everything that is prescribed by the rubrics must be followed accurately".

Sant'Egidio Community
Under Fire

     The ecclesial movement, the Sant'Egidio Community, has been attacked in a seven-page dossier in one of Italy's leading weekly news magazines. The April 3 dossier - complete with publicity on the cover - by the Vatican correspondent of Espresso, Sandro Magister, is particularly virulent though the movement, founded by Professor Andrea Riccardi, usually enjoys a good press. This broadside came as the Espresso rival Panorama was praising the Community for playing a positive role in the Kosovo crisis and it follows allegations last year by the Rome-based daily Il Messaggero in a long article that Riccardi and friends were secretly campaigning against Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State. These allegations were denied within days by the Community's spokesman Mario Marazziti. In the latest attack, Espresso accuses the Community's leadership of moral shortfalls, which it lists in an insert significantly entitled "Odd Couples ... Arranged Marriages, Divorces, Zero Birth Rates, Contraception and Other Heresies".
     The article, however, has done nothing to lessen the esteem which the Community enjoys in ecclesiastical and political circles. The April 6-7 edition of Osservatore Romano, for example, announced a prayer meeting promoted by Sant'Egidio and chaired by the Community's supporter Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. A measure of the Community's political clout was illustrated on April 15 when the Italian Ambassador to Algiers was removed in what was described by the press as a political decision. The diplomat, however, was known to have opposed the Sant'Egidio Community's strategy of dialogue with Algeria's Islamic fundamentalists. Three days later, Riccardi was asked by the Italian People's Party (PPI) to provide an historical overview to mark the Party's official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Christian Democracy's 1948 election victory under Alcide De Gasperi. The day before, the Community's ecclesiastical assistant, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, received a visit from American deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott confirming the now consolidated convergence of the Community line with Washington diplomacy. In March, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in person made an unprecedented visit to the Community's Trastevere headquarters in Rome. In January, the provisional report by the State Department's Consultative Committee on Religious Liberty Abroad explicitly pointed to the Sant'Egidio Community as an example of a religious movement engaged in peace processes.

Italian Bishops' Daily versus Gregorian Professor

     It's not every day that the Italian Episcopal Conference daily Avvenire hosts an attack on a book by a professor - albeit emeritus - of the Pontifical Gregorian University. The aim of the lengthy polemical article by theologian Inos Biffi was to pick holes in the "debateable theories" formulated in the book Verso una teologia cristiana del pluralismo religioso (Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, published by Queriniana) by Jesuit Jacques Dupuis. Dupuis is Professor Emeritus of Dogmatic Theology at the Gregorian and, until 1996, he was a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue.

Roman Curia
New Appointments always on a Saturday

     It now seems to be a tradition to announce new appointments on a Saturday (see 30DAYS No. 3 1998). The promotion of Marcello Zago, Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, as Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, was announced on Saturday March 28. On the same day, Dutch Monsignor Karel Kasteel was promoted from under secretary to secretary of the Pontifical Cor Unum Council. The next Saturday, April 4, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganň was delegated as Pontifical Representative to the Secretariat of State.
     Marcello Zago, replacing the late Croat Archbishop Joseph Uhac who died on the very day John Paul II was to name him a cardinal, was born in Villorba, Treviso, North Italy. He will be 66 in August. A Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate since 1955, he was ordained priest in 1959. He served as a missionary in Asia and became so expert in dialogue with other religions that the Vatican summoned him to Rome in 1983 as secretary of the then Secretariat for non-Christians, which later became the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. He was one of the masterminds of the October 1986 inter-religious encounter at Assisi and that same year he was elected superior general of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In this role, he mediated in the dispute between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and his Sri Lankan confrčre Tissa Balasuriya, excommunicated last year for alleged unorthodoxy and rehabilitated in January. So within months, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate with 5,000 members in 68 countries have been rewarded with the elevation of one of their number to the College of Cardinals - the Archbishop of Chicago Francis Eugene George in February - and now with this important appointment in the Roman Curia.
     Archbishop Viganň, summoned to the Secretariat of State to serve as "inspector" of nunciatures worldwide, was born 57 years ago in Varese, North Italy, and belongs to the diocese of Pavia. He joined the Holy See's diplomatic service in 1973 and was delegated to the Pontifical Representation in Iraq and the United Kingdom. In 1978, he was recalled to the Secretariat of State where he served until 1989. During this time, he was also special secretary of then substitute Secretary of State, now Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo. In 1989, Viganň was sent to Strasbourg as observer to the Council of Europe. Appointed archbishop, then nuncio in Nigeria in 1982, he learned of his new prestigious appointment in the Roman Curia days after hosting the Pope on his visit to this African country.

Vatican Foreign Minister visits Yemen

     A Vatican delegation paid a brief visit to Yemen at the end of March. The mission, led by Vatican "Foreign Minister" Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, included the Middle Eastern affairs expert of the Secretariat of State, Monsignor Luigi Gatti, and the Apostolic Delegate for the Arab peninsula, Antonio Maria Vegliň, who is also Nuncio in Lebanon and Kuwait. It was an official visit, the first by a Vatican delegation to this Arab country which remains one of the few not to have diplomatic relations with the Holy See. The Vatican Press Office issued a statement announcing the delegation's departure but made no further declarations on its return. One of the issues the delegation addressed with Yemeni authorities was "the possibility of creating a Catholic center in the capital of Sana'a, where there are no places of Christian worship". In Sana'a the delegation had to celebrate Mass in an oil company's conference hall/auditorium. "The handing back of a church in Aden" was also discussed. "It had been seized in 1973 by the government of the then Democratic Republic of Yemen".

Secretariat of State
When Sodano quotes Küng

     The Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano surprised the press and some Vatican circles on March 24 when he quoted the theologian Hans Küng. He was addressing a press conference on the occasion of the Rome City Mission. Sodano cited numerous famous thinkers such as Tertullian, Antonio Rosmini, Yves Congar, Saint Vincent Lerin, Saint Ignatius Loyola and Saint Gregory the Great as well as the Catechism of Saint Pius X. But the most striking quotation came from the book Cristianesimo. Essenza e storia, published by Rizzoli last year and written by the German Swiss theologian who was stripped by the Vatican of his licence to teach Catholic Theology in the University of Tübingen. Sodano, however, did not quote Küng in criticism but to praise what he said were "some moving pages (on) the mystery of Christianity".
     Days later on April 6, Küng had told the German Suedwestfunk radio station that some things he had said in the past "may have seemed harsh" though they were not unjust or wrong. The "dissident" theologian added that he had perceived a "new tone" aspiring to renewal of the Church in a message to him for his 70th birthday on March 19 from the President of the German Episcopal Conference Karl Lehmann and from Cardinal Sodano. But Sodano had not sent birthday greetings. His message was to thank Küng for sending him the book and which had been so appreciated - at least in part - that he had quoted from it at the Rome conference. Sodano and Küng, however, have written to each other before. It is not common knowledge that they have known each other since the 1950s when they were both at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Faculty extended to all priests to absolve of excommunication for abortion

     On the occasion of the Shroud exhibit, the Cardinal Archbishop of Turin Giovanni Saldarini extended the faculty to all Turin priests to absolve of excommunication for abortion. This power is usually only vested in ecclesiastics specifically authorized by their bishop. The announcement sparked wide-ranging debate in the Italian press with focus on the Church's alleged contradictory attitude - firmly condemning abortion but offering a "facile" possibility by means of confession during a pilgrimage. The Milan-based Corriere della Sera commentator Francesco Merlo was bitterly sarcastic about the Turin archbishop's initiative, accusing Saldarini of "marketing Redemption". Such was the controversy that the Osservatore Romano intervened with an article by the theologian Gino Concetti who wrote that Francesco Merlo's comments were insinuating and designed to mislead and distort the truth. "They have no historical, juridical or religious foundation". To be absolved of excommunication for the sin of abortion, Concetti warns, "the Code of Canon Law establishes a procedure which is not odious at all, in that a person may seek recourse to the canonical penitentiary or to an authorized priest or to priests of religious orders and institutes with this faculty, or by direct privilege or communication". He added that in Rome, for example, "all priests who are habitual confessors also have the faculty to absolve of excommunication for abortion".

Rotary Prize for Cardinal Biffi

     The Italian Rotary West Club has awarded its "Paul Harris Fellowship" to the Cardinal Archbishop of Bologna Giacomo Biffi. At the March 31 ceremony sealing the Cardinal's friendship with Rotary, Biffi spoke of Saint Ambrose and of the Emperor Theodosius, explaining that because of their relationship "absolute statism was rejected for the first time and thus totalitarian political power was contested".

Cardinals 1
Do you speak English?

     "My English pronunciation is not so good but I'm taking lessons", the Italian Cardinal Ersilio Tonini confessed in an April 20 interview with the Milan-based daily Il Giornale. The Church's official language remains Latin and French is still used by Vatican diplomats but English now seems to be the tongue of the future even in the Holy See. In view of the Jubilee, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome Camillo Ruini has also deigned to have two English lessons a week.

French International Studies Center comes to Rome

     The French International Liturgical Studies Center (CIEL) has held its first conference in Rome. On March 24, it presented the proceedings of its III International Discussion on the theme "Sacrifice and Altar" held last year in the diocese of Versailles in France. The presentation ceremony was chaired by the elderly Cardinal Alfons Maria Stickler while Monsignor Rudolf Michael Schmitz, a member of the Pontifical Theology Academy, was rapporteur. Those present included Bishop Luigi De Magistris, Regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Monsignor Camille Perl, executive of the Pontifical Ecclesia Dei Commission, Monsignor Karel Kasteel, Secretary of the Pontifical Cor Unum Council, and Father Ferdinand Pratzner, Secretary of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Conferences. According to its president Loďc Merian, "CIEL was founded in 1994 by a group of lay Catholics to organize conferences under the direction of the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities and designed to enhance knowledge and understanding of the Roman liturgy of the Latin (pre-1969) Church, in total fidelity to the Holy See". During their Roman incursion, CIEL leaders were received by Cardinal Angelo Felici, Ecclesia Dei President, Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and by Cardinal Lorenzo Antonetti, President of the Administration of the Holy See's Patrimony (APSA).

Press Office
Vatican spokesman denies Le Monde claim

     In a rare denial of a press report, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls took the Paris-based daily Le Monde to task on April 18 over an article claiming that as a cardinal in Cracow, John Paul II once described the Shoah as an expiatory sacrifice which the Jews had to make to be forgiven for the death of Jesus. The article had been written by Jean Kahn, President of France's Central Israelite Consistory, and published by Le Monde on March 20. He was commenting on the Vatican document on the Shoah published a few days before. Kahn wrote: "When he was still Bishop of Cracow, Karol Wojtyla said in 1972 that the Shoah was an expiatory sacrifice which the Jews had to make to be forgiven for the death of Jesus and that Auschwitz was their Golgotha". Navarro-Valls strenuously denied the allegation: "I can state that His Eminence Karol Wojtyla, Bishop of Cracow at the time, never issued the statement groundlessly attributed to him by Mr. Kahn. It goes without saying that there is no text from which such an opinion may be deduced, opinion which in no way reflects the thinking of the Supreme Pontiff and, indeed, which proves to be in complete contrast".

Cardinals 2
Deaths of Ribeiro and Bovone

     The deaths of the Patriarch of Lisbon Antonio Ribeiro on March 24 and of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints Alberto Bovone on April 17 bring the number of cardinals in the College to 161, 118 of whom are under 80 and so eligible to vote in conclave. Ribeiro, who was 80 and who had been elevated by Paul VI in 1973, was the only Portuguese member of the College. Paul VI's cardinals now total 28, 15 of whom may still vote. All the remaining 103 voters were named by John Paul II. Bovone's death brings the number of Italians to 40, only 21 of whom are voters. The most recent Consistory, announced on January 18 and celebrated on February 21, has proved unfortunate. One candidate, the Croat Joseph Uhac, died just hours before the announcement and two newly-elevated cardinals, Bovone and the French-born Jean Balland, after the February 21 Consistory.

Next Encyclical, Fides et ratio, will not address New Age

     Contrary to press reports that the next imminent Papal document will address the New Age movement, the new encyclical letter will deal with the relationships between faith and reason. The title is expected to be Fides et ratio, preferred to the original title proposal of Veritatis cognoscendae studium (Yearning for the Truth). Although no part of it will address the New Age and the expression did not even appear in the first proofs, a Vatican office is currently drafting a document on the subject. The new encyclical will not be addressed directly to all the faithful but to "episcopal confrčres", a precedent established by the Veritatis splendor of 1993. The new text, John Paul II's 13th encyclical, is scheduled to be published some time after the summer to coincide with the inauguration of the Pontifical Universities' academic year. The Pope last issued an encyclical in May 1995 - Ut unum sint.
     Also imminent is the document on the theological status of the Episcopal Conferences. In this case it will be a Pontifical motu proprio. Awaited for 13 years (the 1985 Synod of Bishops commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council had expressed its hope for such a text), it will establish the doctrinal competence of Episcopal Conferences.
     Also expected, according to Italian State TV Vatican correspondent Lucio Brunelli, is the publication of an Apostolic Letter on keeping the Lord's Day holy.

Why justice needs reviewing, according to Martini

     In a long interview with the Rome-based daily La Repubblica, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan Carlo Maria Martini called for major changes in the field of crime and punishment. Under the significant headline "Why justice needs reviewing", the cardinal said: "I don't want to go on about our prisons or even to remind you of the very high percentage of unpunished crime. What I do wish to say is that there is need of major changes, new structures, new training procedures, the participation of the whole community in a great new effort of rehabilitation". He added that "peace is not restored, justice is not reconstituted or victims redeemed by sadistic punishments. We must promote social redemption as an alternative to imprisonment".

Cardinal Cé's "White Thread"

      "I cannot say when I first had this feeling which led to my ordination, but I think I was very, very young. I could say that there is a 'white thread' leading everything in this direction", said 73-year-old Cardinal Marco Cé, Patriarch of Venice. He was being interviewed by his diocesan weekly Gente Veneta and his remarks were reproduced by the Italian bishops' daily Avvenire to mark the 50th anniversary of the cardinal's ordination.
     This century alone, three patriarchs of Venice have ascended Peter's throne: Giuseppe Sarto (Saint Pius X) in 1903, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (John XXIII) in 1958 and Albino Luciani (John Paul I) in 1978.

Bologna celebrations for 1948 Christian Democrat election win

     The archdiocese of Bologna, North Italy, was the only cardinalate to celebrate in style the 50th anniversary of the April 18, 1948 Christian Democrat election victory under Alcide De Gasperi. The commemoration took the form of a convention on the theme "The Church for Italy and Freedom", held on April 18. Organized by the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, guests of honor were Mario Agnes, Editor of the Osservatore Romano, former Italian Foreign Minister Emilio Colombo and Maria Romana De Gasperi, daughter of the Trento-born statesman. Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna was also present.