His body may not have cooperated always, but it never stopped Jean-Louis Tauran from working ceaselessly, travelling the world in the name of cooperation and goodwill between the world’s religions. The 75-year-old prelate, who earlier this month became the highest ranking Catholic cardinal to meet with the Saudi king on his home turf, raising hopes that the Arab kingdom would become more open to other faiths in the future, died unexpectedly last night. He had recently been undergoing treatment for Parkinson’s disease in the United States.
To the world, Cardinal Tauran became best known in 2013 when he announced, With a shaky voice due to his condition, the election of Pope Francis from the balcony of St. Peter’s.
A priest of the French Archdiocese of Bordeaux, Cardinal Tauran entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1975, working in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Lebanon and Syria. He was called to Rome in 1989 as undersecretary for Relations with States in the Secretariat of State, being promoted to full secretary in 1990. In 2003 he was one of St. John Paul II’s last 30 cardinals to be created, and at the same time he was appointed as librarian and archivist. Since 2007 until his death he held the offices which characterised his final years: president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and prefect of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims. In 2011, Cardinal Tauran became the senior cardinal-deacon, which bestowed upon him the duty of announcing the name of a newly-elected pontiff, which he did in 2013. In 2014 he was elevated to the rank of cardinal-priests and in the same year Pope Francis chose him as his camerlengo, the prelate to manage the affairs of the Holy See upon the death of the pope. Cardinal Tauran was the Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Apollinare alle Terme Nerionane-Alessandrine.
Although Cardinal Tauran reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in April, there was no sign of it being accepted anytime soon. The new head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue needs to be an experienced diplomat, able to walk the tightrope between different systems of belief and morality without losing sight of his own roots. Whoever his successor will turn out to be, he will have large shoes to fill.
In the meantime, those who met him mourn a humble man of dialogue and truth and a tireless servant of the Gospel.
Coming full circle, Lorenzo Cardinal Antonetti passed away today in Romagnano Sesia, the town where he was born more than 90 years ago.
A lifelong diplomat and Curial prelate, Cardinal Antonetti obtained doctorates in theology and canon law (from the Angelicum and the Gregoriana, respectively) before moving on to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains the diplomats in service to the Holy See.
Antonetti was ordained a priest for his native Diocese of Novara, in the north of Italy, by the bishop of that diocese at the time, Msgr. Leone Ossola in 1945. In 1951, he moved to Rome and started working at the Secretariat of State.
Fr. Antonetti worked at several nunciatures across the globe: in Lebanon from 1952 to 1955, and in Venezuela from 1956-1959. Following another four years at the Secretariat of State, he was also attached to the nunciature in France, from 1963 to 1967. The following year, he was deemed ready for his own assignment as a Nuncio.
In 1968, Cardinal Cicognani consecrated him as bishop, with the titular see of Roselle. Archbishop Antonetti was sent to Central America to serve as the Apostolic Nuncio to Honduras and Nicaragua. Five years later, in 1973, he was moved to Zaire, where he served another four years as Pro-Nuncio.
Recalled to Rome in 1977, Archbishop Antonetti was appointed as secretary to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which oversees and manages all properties of the Holy See. Following another assignment as Nuncio, this time to France from 1988 to 1995, Archbishop Antonetti returned to the Administration as its Pro-President. In 1998, after his creation as cardinal, he would become President.
Cardinal Antonetti was given the deaconry of Sant’Agnese in Agone. Ten years after his creation, in 2008, he opted to be elevated to the dignity of Cardinal-Priest.
Less then a year after his creation, well after his age of retirement, Cardinal Antonetti became the Pontifical Delegate for the Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a function he would perform until his retirement in 2006.
With the passing of Cardinal Antonetti, there are now 205 cardinals, of whom 113 are electors.
It’s been quite the year for the Church in the world, in the Netherlands and here on the blog. In this post, I want to look back briefly on what has transpired. What happened before will, in many cases, have its effect on what will happen in the coming year.
The variety of events has been great, but if we had to characterise 2012, we can of course list the major stories: the two consistories for the creation of new cardinals, the ongoing abuse crisis and the efforts in the Netherlands and Rome to deal with it, the Synod of Bishops, the start of the Year of Faith, the retirements, appointments and deaths, the local stories in my neck of the woods and the (mis)representation of the Church in the wider world. These can all characterise the year for the Catholic Church. But since there are as many interpretations as there are readers, I’ll limit myself to presenting the major stories on my blog per month.
For this blog, it has been a good year. With 87,017 views it has been the best year yet, and I am happy to note that I have been able to provide stories, opinions and translations that have been picked up well by other bloggers and media. The pope’s letter to the German bishops on the new translation of the Roman missal, for which I was able to create an English working translation; the Dutch translation of the Christmas address to the Curia; a German interview with Archbishop Müller and my list of surviving Vatican II Council Fathers are examples of this. Both local and international media picked these up, resulting in increased interest for my blog. For that, thank you.
But now, let’s once more go over 2012 and look back on what happened in that year:
Bold headlines in the news yesterday. A brief selection from the ones I came across: “Pope wants to unite religions against gay marriage“, “Pope: Homosexuals destroy human nature“, “Pope: Gay marriage bad for future of family” and “Pope considers gay marriage threat to world peace“.
What was the reason for this flood of headlines? Pope Benedict XVI’s annual Christmas address to the Roman Curia, often considered to be the Holy Father’s ‘State of the Church’ address. In it, he looks back on the past year, summarising some of the high points and expounding on the general trends and topics that he considers significant. This year, the pope spoke about his visits to Cuba, Mexico and Lebanon, the International Meeting of Families in Milan, the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation and the Year of Faith. The bulk of the text, however, is a reflection of gender and the family, and how the understanding of both is interconnected and how they have changed in recent years. Rather than the male and female nature of humanity as a God-given reality, gender is now treated as something we can decide for our own. “Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will,” the Holy Father writes.
A second topic is that of the dialogue between religions and what form it should take, and a third issue is that of the proclamation of the Good News. Especially the latter passages can be considered good food for meditation and prayerful reflection.
Upon reading the text, something which I strongly suggest you do (be it in English via the link above, or in Dutch) you will find that not once does the pope raise the topic of homosexuality or marriage, or any combination of both. The headlines I mentioned above are therefore strongly deceptive, the product of willful ignorance, laziness or suggestive reporting.
This is a very serious issue. When the media so easily chooses pandering to what they perceive the masses should think about a topic, in this case the pope, over reporting what was actually said and done, they have become unreliable sources, little better than paparazzi and gossip magazines. The text of the address in question was available online on the very same day it was read out, in seven languages no less, and although it requires some concentration, it is not a difficult one to understand. There is really no excuse for reporting these untruths. Sadly, many readers will accept what these media write without question, assuming they write what is true.
It is up to as, as Catholics faithful to the Church and the magisterium, to correct these wrongs, because, quite simply, no one else will. That is why I worked hard to present a Dutch translation so soon, and publish it quite visible on Facebook on Twitter. The truth not only deserves, but also must be known. What the media failed to do yesterday not only hurts us and the Church, but also the truth.
More than two years ago, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, then of Denver, suggested in a different context that we should not rely on what the secular media tell us if we can read what the pope himself actually said. That is no less true in this case.
While fog hides the view from my window, a red dawn rises over Rome as Pope Benedict XVI gets ready to create six new members of the College of Cardinals. Who are these princes of the Churches again, in the smallest crop since the 1977 consistory which, among others, saw one Joseph Ratzinger made a cardinal?
Archbishop James Michael Harvey was, until yesterday, the Prefect of the Papal Household. As was announced earlier, he was moved yesterday to become Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls. In many eyes, this is a classic promotion out of the limelight for Cardinal-designate Harvey’s role in the Vatileaks case. Under his watch, papal documents were stolen and published, with the archbishop defending the convicted papal butler Paolo Gabriele before his actions became clear. While he was never even implicated, it is said that Archbishop Harvey submitted his resignation to the pope after Gabriele’s arrest. While prefects of the Household are usually eventually made cardinals, this happens when they were past retirement age. Cardinal-designate Harvey is 63.
As archpriest of a papal basilica, he has certain custodial and liturgical functions (which are worthy in their own right), but very few, if any, well-defined duties in the Roman Curia.
Cardinal Harvey will be a Cardinal-Deacon.
Patriarch Béchara Pierre Raï is the head of the Maronite Catholic Church of the Middle East, especially Lebanon. His three predecessor were also cardinals, so his creation is not a surprise. And perhaps the pope’s recent visit to Lebanon also played a role in cementing his nomination. Patriarch Raï is 72 and will be made a Cardinal-Bishop by virtue of his position at the head of a Catholic Church in union with Rome. He will not be given a title church, as he is outside the hierarchy of the Latin Church, but not outside the world Church.
Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal also heads a separate Church in union with Rome, the Syro-Malankar Church of India. He will be the youngest cardinal of all, and will be the first archbishop of Trivandrum to be made a cardinal. During the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation his bearded presence was already much noticed. Cardinal Thottunkal will be a Cardinal-Priest.
Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan is the much-respected archbishop of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Most recently, he unequivocally spoke against the terrorist actions of Boko Haram in the north of Nigeria, while at the same time seeking relations with Muslims in Nigeria. He is also strongly against a proposed division of the country into a Christian south and a Muslim north. Nigeria’s old capital, Lagos, is also headed by a cardinal, but the value of the western country in the Church is surely reflected by this appointment if a second one, who will be a Cardinal-Priest.
Archbishop Jesús Rubén Salazar Gómez is the archbishop of Bogotá, capital of Colombia, a nation which, considering its Catholic population, was long overdue for the appointment of a second cardinal. Clearly pro-life, Cardinal-designate Salazar Gómez will also be a Cardinal-Priest.
Archbishop Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, is the rising star of the Church in Asia. Heading the major Archdiocese of Manila in the Philippines, Cardinal-designate Tagle will be the second-youngest cardinal of the bunch. He has his critics, but in general he is enormously popular, not least because of his use of social media. Affectionately referred to as “Archbishop Chito”, Cardinal-designate Tagle is a very welcome addition to the Asian part of the College. He, too, will be a Cardinal-Priest.
With the elevation of this international group, the first since 1924 to include no Europeans, the group of cardinals who are eligible to vote in a conclave reaches 120.
As for today’s ceremony, which will be conducted according to the exact same norms as this year’s previous one, it can be viewed via the Vatican Player, while the booklet for the celebration may be found here. Things are set to get rolling at 11am local time, which is 10am GMT.
With 5,448 visits last mont, the summer slump didn’t really end until the last week of September. But now that the pope is back in the Vatican and the work in the local dioceses is really starting up again, I expect the coming months to be busier. Not least because of the Year of Faith and the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation set to begin this month.
Anyway, on to the past month’s top 10 of most read blog posts!
Again some old and some new, with some interesting trends when it comes to search terms used to find my blog. Bishop Jan Liesen has been much searched for, as has Belgian Cardinal Julien Ries, the late Cardinal Baldelli and the first lines of chapter 13 of the Gospel of John, which relate the foot washing of the Apostles by Christ.
Meanwhile, my gratitude remains for the continuous readership my blog draws, which is an indispensable form of support. Another form of support may be give via the button below, for those so inclined. Be assured of my gratitude and prayers for all those who choose to do so.
“Is it not true that in a very short time the Lebanon will become productive ground, so productive you might take it for a forest?” (Isaiah 29:17)
With his return yesterday from a successful three-day visit to Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI concluded what may, beforehand, have seemed like a very risky trip indeed. The ongoing protests (staged or otherwise) in Muslim countries, including some in Lebanon itself, formed a disturbing backdrop, and at times I caught myself wondering if the papal visit would end without incident. Luckily, and thank God for it, it did.
In contrast to the heated emotions and violent outburst in other parts of the Middle East, the Holy Father brought a message of peace, respect and encouragement, not just to the Catholic and other Christians in Lebanon, but to people of faith in the entire Middle East and the whole world.
Below I share some interesting passages from the various addresses and homilies given by the pope. You may read the full texts, which often include further expositions on what I have quoted, here.
On not cancelling the visit, and the reason to go ahead:
“I can tell you that no one advised me to cancel this journey, and for my part I never considered doing so, because I know that as the situation becomes more complex, it is all the more necessary to offer this sign of fraternal encouragement and solidarity. That is the aim of my visit: to issue an invitation to dialogue, to peace and against violence, to go forward together to find solutions to the problems.” [Interview during the flight to Lebanon, 14 September]
“Fundamentalism is always a falsification of religion. It goes against the essence of religion, which seeks to reconcile and to create God’s peace throughout the world… [T]he essential message of religion must be against violence – which is a falsification of it, like fundamentalism – and it must be the education, illumination and purification of consciences so as to make them capable of dialogue, reconciliation and peace.” [Idem]
On the Exaltation of the Cross:
“Are not Christian communion and witness grounded in the Paschal Mystery, in the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ? Is it not there that they find their fulfilment? There is an inseparable bond between the cross and the resurrection which Christians must never forget. Without this bond, to exalt the cross would mean to justify suffering and death, seeing them merely as our inevitable fate. For Christians, to exalt the cross means to be united to the totality of God’s unconditional love for mankind. It means making an act of faith! To exalt the cross, against the backdrop of the resurrection, means to desire to experience and to show the totality of this love. It means making an act of love! To exalt the cross means to be a committed herald of fraternal and ecclesial communion, the source of authentic Christian witness. It means making an act of hope!” [Address at the signing of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 14 September]
On peace through human dignity:
“Our human dignity is inseparable from the sacredness of life as the gift of the Creator. In God’s plan, each person is unique and irreplaceable. A person comes into this world in a family, which is the first locus of humanization, and above all the first school of peace. To build peace, we need to look to the family, supporting it and facilitating its task, and in this way promoting an overall culture of life. The effectiveness of our commitment to peace depends on our understanding of human life. If we want peace, let us defend life! This approach leads us to reject not only war and terrorism, but every assault on innocent human life, on men and women as creatures willed by God. Wherever the truth of human nature is ignored or denied, it becomes impossible to respect that grammar which is the natural law inscribed in the human heart (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 3). The grandeur and the raison d’être of each person are found in God alone. The unconditional acknowledgement of the dignity of every human being, of each one of us, and of the sacredness of human life, is linked to the responsibility which we all have before God. We must combine our efforts, then, to develop a sound vision of man, respectful of the unity and integrity of the human person. Without this, it is impossible to build true peace.” [Address to members of government, diplomats, religious leaders and cultural representatives, 15 September]
The workings of evil:
“We need to be very conscious that evil is not some nameless, impersonal and deterministic force at work in the world. Evil, the devil, works in and through human freedom, through the use of our freedom. It seeks an ally in man. Evil needs man in order to act. Having broken the first commandment, love of God, it then goes on to distort the second, love of neighbour. Love of neighbour disappears, yielding to falsehood, envy, hatred and death.” [Idem]
Freedom of religion:
“The freedom to profess and practise one’s religion without danger to life and liberty must be possible to everyone. The loss or attenuation of this freedom deprives the person of his or her sacred right to a spiritually integrated life. What nowadays passes for tolerance does not eliminate cases of discrimination, and at times it even reinforces them. Without openness to transcendence, which makes it possible to find answers to their deepest questions about the meaning of life and morally upright conduct, men and women become incapable of acting justly and working for peace. Religious freedom has a social and political dimension which is indispensable for peace!” [Idem]
The challenges of youth
“The frustrations of the present moment must not lead you to take refuge in parallel worlds like those, for example, of the various narcotics or the bleak world of pornography. As for social networks, they are interesting but they can quite easily lead to addiction and confusion between the real and the virtual. Look for relationships of genuine, uplifting friendship. Find ways to give meaning and depth to your lives; fight superficiality and mindless consumption! You face another temptation, too: that of money, the tyrannical idol which blinds to the point of stifling the person at the heart. The examples being held up all around you are not always the best. Many people have forgotten Christ’s warning that one cannot serve both God and mammon (cf. Lk 16:13). Seek out good teachers, spiritual masters, who will be able to guide you along the path to maturity, leaving behind all that is illusory, garish and deceptive.” [Address to young people, 15 September]
“I understand, too, that present among us there are some young people from Syria. I want to say how much I admire your courage. Tell your families and friends back home that the Pope has not forgotten you. Tell those around you that the Pope is saddened by your sufferings and your griefs. He does not forget Syria in his prayers and concerns, he does not forget those in the Middle East who are suffering. It is time for Muslims and Christians to come together so as to put an end to violence and war.” [Idem]
In closing, here is the rendition of Panis Angelicus that was sung during the public Mass in Beirut:
A week from today, on 14 September, Pope Benedict XVI will depart on what is, in some ways, one of the most risky apostolic journeys of his papacy. He will be returning to the Middle East for the fourth time – after Turkey (2006), Jordan, Israel and Palestine (2009) and Cyprus (2010) – and this time the ever-looming spectre of local tensions is very concrete in the form of the civil war raging in next-door Syria. And with Lebanon’s recent history firmly tied up with that of Syria, the papal journey has been in limbo until recently.
Lebanon is the most Christian country in the Middle East, with almost 40% of the population belonging to several Christian churches, with the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch being the largest of these. Other Churches in union with Rome that have a significant presence in Lebanon are the Greek Melkites, the Armenian, the Chaldean, the Syrian and the Roman Catholic Church. All these Churches have their own circumscriptions, which makes for an intricate landscape of dioceses, patriarchates and vicariates. There are 33 active bishops and patriarchs in the country, headed by the Patriarchs Béchara Pierre Raï (Maronite), Nersès Bédros XIX Tarmouni (Armenian) and Ignace Youssif III Younan (Syrian). Also of note are Lebanon’s only cardinal, Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir (Maronite emeritus) and Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad (Syrian emeritus).
The upcoming papal visit will be a three-day affair, with major events careful spaced over the available time. On 14 September, the Holy Father will obviously be welcomed in Beirut, and he will sign the Post-Synodal Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops (which he himself kicked off during his visit to Cyprus two years ago). On 15 September, Pope Benedict will meet with representatives of the government, diplomats, religious leaders (always interesting in a country with a strong Muslim presence) and the world of culture. He’ll also meet with young people, another staple of papal visits abroad, at the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerké. The last day, 16 September, will see a public Mass and the presentation of the Post-Synodal Exhortation, as well as the recitation of the Angelus and the departure ceremony.
A fairly short visit, but an important one, as its impact will not be limited to Lebanon. Countries like Syria and Iraq, which also have fairly significant Christian minorities, are no doubt also a focal point of this visit.
In the meantime, let’s pray for safety for the Holy Father during his journey to a place where tensions run high, and for a fruitful apostolic journey, for Christians in Lebanon and abroad.
Yesterday, the summer for the Church truly began as Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican for his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. While we may see some news and appointments trickle out of the Holy See until the middle of the month, things will only really start picking up until late August, as the papal return to Rome comes closer. Last summer was an anomaly in that respect, as Benedict travelled to Spain for the World Youth Days in the middle of his summer vacation. The first major event this year will be his visit to Lebanon in September.
Let’s use this time, which will undoubtedly be reflected in a rather less frequent posting routine here, as a time of rest, reflection, prayer and recharging for the coming year. And as we do so, let’s add a prayer for our Holy Father, that his summer at Lake Albano may offer him enough rest, so that we may soon see the joyous pope which we have too often had to trade for a tired-looking pontiff in recent months.
On Friday, Pope Benedict will be departing on his 24th apostolic journey, during which the total number of countries he has visited will rise to 23. It will be the first of as many as five journeys the almost 85-year-old pontiff may undertake over the course of this year*. The weeklong journey to Mexico and Cuba will be the first time that the Holy Father visits these countries, and only his third visit to the New World.
The visit to Mexico and Cuba will start on Friday, with the papal plane expected to arrive in the afternoon at Guanajato International Airport, which will be the only official event of that day. The pope will remain in Guanajato and nearby Léon until Monday morning. Besides the regular courtesy visit to the president and the celebration of public Mass (on Saturday and Sunday respectively), the Holy Father will greet children on Saturday evening and celebrate Vespers with the bishops of Mexico and other parts of Latin America on Sunday.
On Monday morning, the papal plane will depart for Cuba, with a scheduled arrival at the international airport of Santiago de Cuba at 2pm. In that city, the pope will celebrate an early evening Mass to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the ‘Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre’, the patroness of Cuba, whose shrine he will visit on Tuesday morning, just before his departure for Cuba’s capital, Havana. There, the Holy Father with meet with the president and the council of ministers of Cuba, as well as the Cuban bishops later in the afternoon. A meeting with Fidel Castro is also said to be expected, depending on the latter’s health. On Wednesday, the last full day of the visit, Pope Benedict will be celebrating a public Mass, while the rest of the day is spent on preparation for the return home.
The visit to Cuba, especially, is rather politically charged, since the country is officially Communist. While the pope will be meeting with president and government, there is no planned meeting with dissidents scheduled, although the latter have been calling for it. But, as we have seen in previous papal journeys, there is always the possibility that time will be made for unscheduled events.
*Other apostolic journeys this year may be a visit to Ireland in June, although that seems highly unlikely; to Lebanon and possibly Syria in September (Lebanon is already confirmed, and a visit to Syria depends on the situation in that country); and to Monaco and the Ukraine.