Cardinal watch: Cardinal Cheli passes away

cheli_g_cpf_2Called a “zealous pastor” by Pope Benedict XVI, Giovanni Cardinal Cheli swapped the temporal for the eternal last night, after 94 years of life spent for the most part in service to “the Gospel and to the Church”. The College of Cardinals, of which Cardinal Cheli was a non-voting member, now number 209, with 118 of them electors.

Giovanni Cheli was born in Turin and was ordained for the Diocese of Asti in 1942, after obtaining a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University. In Asti, he worked as chaplain to the youth section of Catholic Action, and also taught at the diocesan seminary. In 1952, after a time working in Rome and earning a licentiate in theology, Fr. Cheli entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1952.

His first posting was in Guatemala, followed by Spain and Italy. In Madrid, he performed pastoral work in addition to his duties in the nunciature. In 1967, Fr. Cheli was assigned to the Council for Public Affairs of the Church. In 1973, he became permanent observer to the United Nations, an assignment which was confirmed again in 1976. In 1978, he was once of the few bishops consecrated by Pope John Paul I. Archbishop was renowned as an expert on the Church’s issues in relations with the Communist nations.

Archbishop Cheli was appointed as Pro-President of the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which would became a pontifical council in 1988, still under the leadership of Archbishop Cheli.

Shortly before his retirement in 1998, Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal, with the deaconry of Santi Cosma e Damiano. Ten years later, Cardinal Cheli became a cardinal priest with the same title church.

Outspokenly critical on many issues, Cardinal Cheli protested the US invasion of Iraq in 2001, the age limits for cardinals and some of the curial appointments of Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Cheli was among the five oldest cardinals of the Church.

The right to be abandoned?

baby hatchThis is a so-called “Window of Life”, or, less prosaic, a baby hatch in Warsaw, Poland. There are about a hundred or so in eleven European countries, and in the past decade they have saved the lives of about 500 babies, CNS reports.

But he UN Committee on the Rights of the Child wants them closed, because they violate the rights of the child to know his or her parents and to preserve his or her identity.

The baby hatches were installed to help mothers who, for some reason, could or would not take care of their newborn children, without endangering those same children. For some mothers, even a hospital is too frightening or seemingly dangerous a place to bring their child, and some would resort to leaving their children somewhere outside. In the ideal situation, this would be in a place where the child would soon be found and taken care off, but it is all to conceivable that this was not always the case. The baby hatches are places where the children can be left without the mother being known.

They do not solve the problem of mothers abandoning their child. They merely look out for the child’s safety, providing a warm shelter for the short time that the child is alone, and people to take care of him or her afterwards.

Are rights being violated? Perhaps, but not by the sisters taking care of the babies. By the mothers then? Perhaps so, but in most cases there will be extenuating circumstances. Simply looking at the facts of these cases – a mother is unable or unwilling to care for her baby and is looking to leave it in the care of someone else, without going through the proper channels of, say, adoption – it is clear that the baby hatches are the best option for the babies. It protects them from weather and other dangers, not to mention the chance of not being found until it is too late.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is simply wrong. Sure, a child has every right to know his or her parents and to be part of a loving family. But when parents or family are lacking, should these rights be preserved over a child’s immediate safety? I would think not.

The baby hatches, and the (often religious) organisations staffing them, are a form of charity in difficult situations, and they should be dismantled the moment they are no longer necessary. But for now, they sadly are necessary.

Photo credit: CNS/Jonathan Luxmoore

Cardinal watch: Cardinal Martino turns 80

One day before the admission of six new members to the group of cardinal electors, the number of that group drops with one to 114. Renato Raffaele Martino reached the age of 80 today and has thus became ineligible to vote in a future conclave.

Hailing from the southern Italian town of Salerno, Renato Martino entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1962, five years after his ordination to the priesthood. He earned a doctorate in canon law in that time. Fr. Martino served in various countries, among them Nicaragua, the Philippines, Lebanon, Canada and Brazil.

In 1980, he was consecrated to bishop and made titular archbishop of Segermes in modern Tunisia. Archbishop Martino was sent to head the diplomatic missions in Thailand, and Laos. In 1981, he also became such in Singapore in addition to his other positions. Brunei and Malaysia followed in 1983.

In 1986, he was reassigned to the high-profile position of Permanent Observer to the United Nations. In his time at the UN in New York, Archbishop Martino was an outspoken critic of the American invasion of Iraq in 1991. Another important call, related to his future functions in Rome, was his call for a safe heaven to be created for Tutsi refugees in Rwanda, to prevent the death of 30,000 people.

Archbishop Martino would continue in this position until 2002, when he was recalled to Rome to become president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. With that position came the red hat, and Cardinal Martino was created in 2003, in Blessed John Paul II’s last consistory. He became cardinal deacon of San Francesco di Paolo ai Monti. As head of Justice and Peace, Cardinal Martino intervened, to no avail, on behalf of Terri Schiavo, in the widely-covered case of her euthanasia. He also spoke out against the death sentence against Saddam Hussein and called for a international peace conference for the Middle East. He was once again openly against American interventions in Iraq. Later, he was involved in peace conferences between Israel and Palestinians, and likened Gaza to a “huge concentration camp”. In another example of his strongly pro-life position, Cardinal Martino  urged Catholics to stop donating to Amnesty International when that organisation decided to advocate abortion in 2007.

From 2006 until his retirement in 2009, Cardinal Martino was also the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

Following his retirement, Cardinal Martino remained a member of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People, the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State. His pro-life attitude was rewarded in 2009 with the awarding of the title of Honorary President of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute in Rome. In 2011, in his last major diplomatic endeavours, Cardinal Martino visited Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, where he met with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Welcome to the new nuncio

Via an official communique the press service of the Dutch bishops’ conference today published the name of the new Apostolic Nuncio to the Netherlands. He is the highly experienced Archbishop André Pierre Louis Dupuy.

Like his predecessor, Archbishop François Bacqué, whose resignation was accepted today, Archbishop Dupuy also hails from France. For the past six years, he represented the Holy See at various European Communities and since 2006 also in Monaco, where he was the first Nuncio. Msgr. Dupuy is almost 72 (reaching that age next February), so there is no change that he will match the long service of his predecessor. But that does not mean that he will be a footnote. As I mentioned above, the new Nuncio is highly experienced. As a priest, he worked in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See in Venezuela, Tanzania, the Netherlands (he’s no total stranger here then), Lebanon, Iran, Ireland en at the United Nations. In 1993, Msgr. Dupuy was consecrated to bishop and assigned as Apostolic Nuncio to Togo, Benin and Ghana. In 2000, he was sent to Venezuela, where he had repeated clashes with that country’s President Hugo Chavez. In 2005, then, he was assigned as the highest diplomatic representatives to a number of European Communities, with his offices in Uccle, Brussels. A year later, he became the same in Monaco. All in all, Archbishop Dupuy brings 37 years of diplomatic experience to The Hague’s Carnegielaan.

As bishop, Archbishop Dupuy holds the titular see of Selsey, located on England’s south coast. He is a doctor in history and canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Considered a confidant of Blessed John Paul II, Archbishop Dupuy wrote a book about the development of diplomacy under this pope, titled Giovanni Paolo II e le sfide della diplomazia pontificia, published in 2004.

As canon lawyer, historian and experienced diplomat, Archbishop Dupuy can do good work here with the bishops and the entire Church in this country. Closely tied to Rome and with an eye on the international community, he will be a good fit for the Dutch situation and hopefully bring fruitful solutions to some of the problems we are facing here.

The exact details of when Archbishop Dupuy will start his work here are as yet unknown. On Tuesday, retiring Nuncio Bacqué was received by Her Majesty the Queen and decorated as Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau. Cardinals Simonis and Willebrands hold or have held the same rank in that order.

For now, a heartfelt welcome to the new Apostolic Nuncio. May his years here, while understandably short, bear much good fruit.

Photo credit:Council of the European Union [cropped]