Rumor: Tornielli, new papal spokesman?

RORATE CAELIrumorSpanish blog Rumores de Ángeles mentions Italian religious journalist Andrea Tornielli as a possible replacement of current papal spokesman (officially, head of the Holy See Press Office) Father Federico Lombardi.
It would certainly be good both for the Pope and for Tornielli – and, though far from being a Traditionalist, he at least understands what Traditional Catholics care about (well, at least more than Lombardi…).

Spanish blog Rumores de Ángeles mentions Italian religious journalist Andrea Tornielli as a possible replacement of current papal spokesman (officially, head of the Holy See Press Office) Father Federico Lombardi.

It would certainly be good both for the Pope and for Tornielli – and, though far from being a Traditionalist, he at least understands what Traditional Catholics care about (well, at least more than Lombardi…).

Goldman Sachs Executive Claims New Encyclical is the Best Analysis of the Economic Crisis

Brian Griffiths, Lord of Fforestfach and vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs International, says Pope Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate offers the single best analysis of the current global economic crisis.

The language may be dense, but the message is sufficiently rewarding. The encyclical analyses modern capitalism from an ethical and spiritual perspective as well as a technical one. As a result it makes the Government’s White Paper on financial reforms published two days later look embarrassingly one-dimensional and colourless.

It is highly critical of today’s global economy but always positive. Its major concern is how to promote human development in the context of justice and the common good. Despite heavy competition from some of the world’s finest minds, it is without doubt the most articulate, comprehensive and thoughtful response to the financial crisis that has yet appeared. It should strike a chord with all who wish to see modern capitalism serving broader human ends.

High praise. Griffiths combs through the encyclical, and identifies Benedict’s six strategies for balancing capitalism and human dignity. Jason Farago of Newser has helpfully summarized them:

  1. Reform of global institutions, including the UN, for “the management of globalization.”
  2. More widespread sources of wealth: not just banks but mutual societies, credit unions, and other new forms.
  3. Strengthened trade unions to protect workers in the global market.
  4. Greater aid to developing nations to combat the “scandal of inequality.”
  5. Action on climate change, for economic and religious reasons.
  6. Much more attention to the moral consequences of finance. For Benedict, “development is impossible without upright men and women.”

This is an interesting list, but it raises questions. Catholic Social Teaching is a collection of principles, which are then applied by the individual to concrete situations. The pope is certainly free to make his own policy suggestions — he’s a head of state and a brilliant man — but they don’t carry the weight of the principles themselves.

For example, we who live in the First World are required by our faith to recognize our solidarity with those languishing in less developed countries, and work to help them. But increasing foreign aid to those nations may not be the best way to express that solidarity, and might actually do more harm than good (see Dambisa Moyo‘s work on the question).

Likewise, while we have an absolute moral obligation to treat workers humanely and pay them fair wages, increasing the power of trade unions may not be the best way to do that (and might very well have unintended consequences that are worse than the original problem).

Of course, it’s tough to make these points in a Catholic venue without being waved off as a “dissenter from the right.” Nevertheless, these are open questions and faithful Catholics are free to debate them, so long as they’re genuinely commited to the social doctrine, and not acting out of political partisanship.




2009 Ordinations for the Institute of Christ the King

THE NEW LITURGICAL MOVEMENT – In early July, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest had its ordinations at its motherhouse in Gricigliano near Florence, Italy. There is a full image gallery at the Institute’s website. Here is a selection:
This year’s new seminarians:

Tonsures and minor orders (the officiating prelate is H.E. Msgr. Basil Meeking, Bishop emeritus of Christchurch, New Zealand):

Subdiaconate (also conferred by bishop Meeking):

Priesthood (these ordinations were not celebrated at the Institute’s house in Gricigliano, but in the church of Ss. Michael and Cajetan in Florence. The ordaing bishop was H.E. Msgr. Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Bishop Meeking and Bishop Joseph Cordileone of Oakland attended in choro:

First blessings of the new priests:

After the ordinations, Te Deum was sung in Gricigliano by H.E. Msgr. Giuseppe Betori, the new Archbishop of Florence and thus ordinary of Gricigliano. It was Msgr. Betori’s first visit there:

First Mass of one of the new priests:

The Little Green Book

The Pope gave a little book to US President Barack Obama after their meeting today in the Vatican. “This is a document about bioethics,” the Pope said. And the president replied, “Oh, what we discussed earlier. I’ll have some reading to do on the plane”…

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome


“Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly color. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.” — Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932), Chapter 2 (a description of five types or “levels” of human beings being created in test tubes in a future society in which biotechnology is far advanced and triumphant)
“Human cloning is dangerous, profoundly wrong.” —US President Barack Obama, March 9, 2009  (See:

 “When human beings in the weakest and most defenseless stage of their existence are selected, abandoned, killed or used as pure ‘biological matter’, how can it be denied that they are no longer being treated as ‘someone’ but as ‘something’, thus placing the very concept of human dignity in doubt?”—Pope Benedict XVI, January 31, 2008 (See:


This morning, I wrote a newflash in which I imagined a conversation between Pope Benedict XVI and President Barack Obama during their meeting this afternoon.
This evening, after hearing reports about the contents of the meeting, I think it unfolded almost as I imagined it would.
As the quotes above suggest, on some bioethical issues, like the cloning of human beings, the positions of Obama and Benedict (that is, of Obama and the Church) are not far apart. And their views on many issues in the social and economic sphere also are not in grave conflict.
But on some issues concerning human life, and the dignity and inviolability of that life, the positions of the two diverge quite sharply.
The Vatican, officially, was at pains after the meeting to emphasize the areas of convergence.
That explains why, in the official communique issued about an hour after the meeting by the Pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J. (see below), there is no mention of any areas of difference whatsoever.

But there were areas of difference.

And those areas were discussed frankly by the two men. We know this from hints received just after the meeting, as I will explain below.
But we do not know precisely what was said. That remains a mystery.
US President Barack Obama arrived in the San Damaso courtyard, at the heart of Vatican City, at 4:02 p.m. Rome time, just after the bells tolled 4 o’clock. (His wife, Michelle, and two daughters, Malia and Sasha, along with other family members and staff, had arrived earlier in the afternoon, and were inside the Vatican on a private tour of the Sistine Chapel.)
I was standing in the corner of the cortile with about 25 other members of the press corps — actually, a surprisingly small group considering the importance of this visit.
Only three journalists were chosen to be present in the “pool” in the Pope’s library (where I am scheduled to be tomorrow morning, with the Prime Minister of Canada, which should give me a moment to greet the Pope). There were also a handful of photographers.
This is because the Pope’s library would become too crowded if a huge group of 30 or 40 journalists came along with each visitor.
I was happy simply to be present in the courtyard. I didn’t particularly wish to meet Obama, or talk to him. I just wanted to see him, and to be physically present, in order to try to gauge the mood of the moment.
And so I watched Obama closely as he got out of his black limousine with the license plate 800-007 (oddly, the other vehicles in the convoy all had the same license plate number).
He unfolded his lanky frame, strode over to the line of 12 “gentlemen” of the Pontifical Household who had lined up to greet him and then, after just a moment’s pause, politely shook hands with each man.
There was a simplicity and spontaneity about him in seeming contrast to the fact that he is the leader of the greatest temporal power in the world.

He seemed quite slender. His head bent slightly as he greeted each gentleman. When a little breeze came across the square and unfurled the yellow Vatican flag above the cortile, I thought his slender form swayed a bit with the wind.

Archbishop James Harvey, an American from Milwaukee, then turned with Obama to go into the Apostolic Palace. With large, vigorous steps, the president walked up the red carpet and inside…
Obama met with Pope Benedict for 35 minutes. There is no record of what was said during that time — just a few hints.
Here is the Vatican statement issued after the meeting:
“This afternoon, Friday 10 July 2009, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI received in Audience the President of the United States of America, His Excellency Mr. Barack H. Obama. Prior to the Audience, the President met His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, and also His Excellency Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

“In the course of their cordial exchanges the conversation turned first of all to questions which are in the interests of all and which constitute a great challenge for the future of every nation and for the true progress of peoples, such as the defence and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience.

“Reference was also made to immigration with particular attention to the matter of reuniting families.

“The meeting focused as well upon matters of international politics, especially in light of the outcome of the G8 Summit. The conversation also dealt with the peace process in the Middle East, on which there was general agreement, and with other regional situations. Certain current issues were then considered, such as dialogue between cultures and religions, the global economic crisis and its ethical implications, food security, development aid especially for Africa and Latin America, and the problem of drug trafficking. Finally, the importance of educating young people everywhere in the value of tolerance was highlighted.”



Father Lombardi was at pains to say that this communique did not reflect the chronologial order of the conversation. So, even though the communique uses such words as “then” and “finally,” we are not to understand that this was the order of topics discussed; they could have been in a different order.

But the strange things about this Vatican communique is that it leaves out the most important thing that happened at the meeting.
And, in leaving it out, the communique misses the sense of the meaning entirely.

The Little Green Book

The Pope gave Obama a book.

A little green book.
No, it wasn’t the social encyclical he just published on July 7, Veritas in Caritate, which was the planned gift, announced in another press office bulletin. (The Pope did give him the encyclical, as planned, in a special white leather cover edition.)
Rather, it was an Instruction published on December 12, 2008, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled Dignitas Personae — “The Dignity of the Person.”
This gift was evidently added at the last minute, because it was not mentioned in the pre-visit press communique.
However, it is not clear whether it was added to the “gift list” during the last hours or days prior to the visit, or at the very last moment — during the visit itself…
What is Dignitas Personae?
It is a Vatican document which makes the philosophical and theological argument that human beings have a profound, inalienable dignity.
It is a book which lays out the philosophical and theological basis for a just society, beginning with the defense of the most innocent of human beings, the unborn.
It is not a definitive statement of the Church’s position, and some in the Church have been critical of certain aspects of the document.
“Its arguments are not well-developed and it does not address important counterarguments that have been advanced by critics of the Church’s teaching,” one such critic has written. “It contains notable ambiguities and, on some points, vulnerabilities that will be exploited by liberal bioethicists if they are asked to comment publicly on the document in the context of the Pope’s having given it to Obama. Even if Obama were open-minded (which he manifestly is not) there is very little chance that he would be challenged much in his thinking by the presentation of the Church’s positions in Dignitas Personae.”
Nevertheless, the document is an authoritative statement of the Church’s pro-life position, and one wonders whether Obama has ever read such a document with real attention.
Its Latin title, Dignitas Personae, comes from the first line and summarizes its focus, “the dignity of a person,” that is, of each and every person.
The instruction builds upon a prior instruction, Donum Vitae (February 22, 1987) which it notes was “particularly significant” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was the major author of the text).
Dignitas Personae makes four main points:
Point #1: the dignity of each human being. Simply because they are very young, embryos, for example, may not be sacrificed or manipulated to help other, older human beings (i.e., those who are already born). Human dignity forbids not only the killing but also the “manipulation” of the human being. “Hybrids” of human and animal genetic material should not be created (though this is already legal in some countries).
Closely allied to this first principle is the fact that human life should always and solely be conceived within the married love of husband and wife, “the fruit of marriage.”
Point #2: the Church is on the side of true science. Science is knowledge that serves humanity. But science must be subject to ethical principles designed to protect the dignity and equality of all human beings. 
Point #3: the Church is on the side of wisdom. The document argues that we must be sure we are not overstepping ethical boundaries before we go forward with new approaches and techniques.

Point #4: the duties of politicians. Elected representatives are obliged to take ethical principles into account in making policy.

The document stresses the need to protect innocent human life from the moment of conception. “The human being,” it says, citing Donum Vitae, “is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.'” (Paragraph 4)

The document also, at least implictly, offers a strong defense of marriage as something which must be between a man and a woman, and not between individuals of the same sex: “Marriage, present in all times and in all cultures, ‘is in reality something wisely and providently instituted by God the Creator with a view to carrying out his loving plan in human beings. Thus, husband and wife, through the reciprocal gift of themselves to the other – something which is proper and exclusive to them – bring about that communion of persons by which they perfect each other, so as to cooperate with God in the procreation and raising of new lives.'” (Paragraph 6)

(Here is a link to the text of Dignitas Personae:
Brief Reflection on Science and Biotechnology
From the time I first read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley almost 40 years ago, I have been wary of the use of science and technology to create human beings: to make babies in test-tubes, to mass produce them.
And over the years, as we have moved closer to the horrifying vision of Huxley (expressed in the quote at the beginning of this newsflash), I have wondered what the real reason is for this seemingly inexorable slide toward an evident dystopia (the opposite of a utopia).
And I think the answer goes back to the story of Faust.
Faust or Faustus (Latin for “auspicious” or “lucky”) is the protagonist of a classic German legend who makes a pact with the Devil in exchange for knowledge.
The Faust of the early Faust-books—and of the ballads, dramas and puppet-plays which grew out of them—is irrevocably damned because he prefers human to divine knowledge (“he laid the Holy Scriptures behind the door and under the bench, refused to be called doctor of Theology, but preferred to be styled doctor of Medicine”).
Men desire to know, and there seem to be no limits to this desire. Men desire to be omniscient, to know everything there is to know. 
But to be a man is by definition to be limited, both in physical and in intellectual ways.
Still, men seek to surpass these limits. In fact, in doing so, they seek to become God, or God-like — and they are often willing to make a pact with the Devil, it seems, to reach this goal.
Those who wish to play God with human life, to build new human beings, better human beings, may not intend to do evil. They may wish to do only good things. They may wish for better human health — a better human race!
But there is a problem here, a problem and a trap.
The problem is that “science” is often just “ignorance” with a veneer — perhaps one step removed from complete ignorance, containing some new knowledge, yes, about DNA organization, for example, but still far short of a complete, and true, knowledge.
We can see this when we look at the “science” of past centuries: it has never been definitive; it is a slow process of building up knowledge, with breakthroughs and setbacks, never completed. 
It is a process, not an end.
But in our age, the admittedly dramatic successes of “science,” despite its limitations — in communications, in computing, in nanotechnology, in biochemistry, in nuclear energy, to mention just a few — have given “science” the veneer of divinity.
This, many think, our modern science, our modern knowledge, is the “true hope of mankind.”
This, they think, is what will provide us someday with healing, with health, with (some dare to think) immortality — and woe to anyone who would stand in the way of “knowledge” or “progress” or “research” toward this noble end!
So this has become the secular religion of our age, lacking in humility… lacking in wisdom… disdainful or morality…
And like other religions in more primitive times, many are willing to pay any price, make any sacrifice, to please this new “god,” this rapacious desire for “knowledge” at all costs — including human sacrifice…


Obama came down from the meeting just after 5:14 p.m, got into his limousine with his wife and children, and drove out of the Vatican to catch a flight to Ghana, where he was expected at a state dinner this evening. He had been in the Vatican for a little more than one hour.

How the meeting went

Father Lombardi, speaking in the press office at about 6 p.m., said the meeting and the atmosphere were “very cordial and serene.”
He said “the president clearly has charisma and this was noted by the people around the Pope, from the prefecture (of the papal household) as well as the Gentlemen of His Holiness. He has a great capacity for treating people well.”

Fr. Lombardi said the Pope told him afterwards he was “extremely satisfied, content and serene” with how the talks went between the two.

The Pope noted that the president spoke of his commitment to reduce the number of abortions and noted his attention to the position of the Church and her position on moral issues, Lombardi said.
The Pope said Obama was an attentive interlocutor and a willing listener, Lombardi said.

In the area of international politics, Lombardi referred to the Middle East situation, saying, “here there is a convergence of views,” especially with regard to the fact there must be two independent States (Palestine and Israel), that settlements be stopped, and that all sides – Israel, Arab states and Palestine – be disposed to talk and to stop violence and agree to peace.

He said both men highlighted the role of education in the commitment to peace, especially in order to create a new mentality of peace. The Pope spoke of the role of the Church in education and President Obama recalled his early education in a Catholic school, Lombardi said.

Father Lombardi stressed the importance of the meeting between two leaders, one – the Pope – a moral leader, saying that when two people meet personally and get to know each other, this is always a great step forward.

He said Pope Benedict and President Obama spoke English to each other, although two other people were present – Msgr. Peter Wells of the Secretariat of State and an interpreter from the Obama delegation.

When asked about the Pope’s gift to Obama of Dignitas Personae, Fr. Lombardi said “this was not foreseen, but its meaning is clear.”

Repeating himself, Lombardi said the Pope did not wish to stress differences, but rather to place topics and viewpoints on the table with “clarity and objectivity.”

He again defined the meeting as cordial, serene and very productive.


Hints of what happened

The reporters on the scene today said this is what they saw:
When the president and Pope met, Benedict said, “Mr. President, welcome,” and Obama responded: “Thank you so much. It is a great honor for me. Thank you.”

As they were both seated at the Pope’s desk, surrounded for a few minutes by TV, photographers and journalists Obama said to the Pope: “You must be very used to having your photo taken… I am still getting used to it.”

While the pictures were still being taken, Benedict XVI asked the president about the just-concluded G8 summit in L’Aquila. “You must be tired after all these discussions,” Benedict said.

The president responded that the meetings marked “great progress” and “something concrete,” although the precise topic they were discussing at that point was unclear.

Then, the President and Obama went into a separate room, and the reporters could not hear or see any more of the conversation.

The pool of three reporters waited in a small adjoining closet while the Pope and president spoke privately.

At a certain moment, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, the Pope’s private secretary, opened the door and handed them three copies of a little green book.
He said to them, they reported: “Together with the autographed copy of the encyclical, there will be another gift for the president, a copy of Dignitas personae. Reading it might help the president understand the position and teaching of the Church on these issues.”

The reporters were then allowed to see the very end of the Pope’s meeting with the president.

They said that when Pope Benedict gave Obama the encyclical, and then the little green booklet Dignitas personae, he said, “This is a document about bioethics,” and the president replied, “Oh, what we discussed earlier. I’ll have some reading to do on the plane.”

President Obama’s entourage also included Gen. James Jones, national security adviser; Mona Sutphen, White House deputy chief of staff; Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications; Robert Gibbs, White House press secretary; and David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president.

Pope Benedict gave Obama a mosaic showing St. Peter’s Basilica and Square, an autographed copy of the encyclical Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”) and a medal marking the fifth year of his pontificate.

The president told the Pope the mosaic, which was made in the Vatican’s mosaic studio, “was very beautiful” and would have “a place of honor” in the White House.

The president gave the Pope a liturgical stole that had been on the remains of St. John Neumann, the first U.S. male citizen to be proclaimed a saint.

Then Pope Benedict told the president: “A blessing on all your work and also for you.”

The president responded, “Thank you very much. We look forward to a very strong relationship… It was very productive, especially today.”


A Benedict-Obama Alliance?
Many observes are perplexed by the way the Vatican seemingly has embraced a US president (Obama) who is evidently very strongly committed to the idea of legalized abortion and homosexual marriage.
Some pro-life Catholics have told me they are scandalized that the Pope has even agreed to meet with Obama.
But there is no doubt that the Pope has attempted to engage Obama in a conversation, a dialogue.
First, the Pope spoke with Obama right after he was elected last November.
“I’ve had a wonderful conversation with the Pope over the phone right after the election,” Obama told a group of Catholic journalists in Washington before he left for Europe. “And in some ways we see this as a meeting with any other government — the government of the Holy See. There are going to be some areas where we’ve got deep agreements; there are going to be some areas where we’ve got some disagreements.”  
L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s daily newspaper, gave Obama a positive review after his first 100 days in office. In a front-page editorial, it said that even on ethical questions Obama hadn’t confirmed the “radical” direction he discussed during the campaign.

Tensions grew when Obama was invited to receive an honorary degree at the leading U.S. Catholic university, Notre Dame. Dozens of U.S. bishops denounced the university and the local bishop boycotted the ceremony.

Former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, who now heads a Vatican tribunal, accused Obama of pursuing anti-life and antifamily agendas. He called it a “scandal” that Notre Dame had invited him to speak.

Yet L’Osservatore concluded that Obama was looking for some common ground with his speech, noting he asked Americans to work together to reduce the number of abortions.

Some American Catholics then criticized the Vatican newspaper for its accommodating stance.

This week, Cardinal Justin Rigali, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, complained that the final guidelines of the National Institutes of Health for human embryonic stem cell research are broader than the draft guidelines.

As a child in Indonesia, Obama’s Muslim father enrolled him in Catholic school for a few years. Obama is a Protestant.

Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats, told Catholic News Service in Rome today that with Obama’s visit and the nomination of Miguel Diaz, a theologian, as ambassador to the Holy See, “I think there is a new era about to be launched — a positive, productive one.”

“I think people at the Vatican realize he has some grounding in Catholic social teaching” and that he is able to mobilize and motivate young people for good, Whelan said.

On the issue of abortion, “Obama has taken a third way — the whole abortion-reduction strategy is not just window dressing,” he said. “I think they (Obama administration officials) are very committed to doing something to reduce abortions without resorting to criminalization.”

Whelan said studies have shown that poverty has a huge impact on abortion rates and “I think the best thing for the unborn was Obama’s economic stimulus package.”

McDonough said Obama had been influenced by Catholic social teaching and by Catholic social service programs, particularly when he worked with Catholic-funded programs as a community organizer in Chicago.

In the early July issue of the Italian Catholic magazine 30 Giorni, Cardinal Georges Cottier, the former theologian of the papal household, said the criticism from the U.S. bishops over Obama’s support of legal abortion was justified.

But, he said, Obama’s expressed commitment to reducing the number of abortions and guaranteeing conscientious objection rights for health workers shows that “his words go in the direction of diminishing the evil.”
After the meeting was over, but before Father Lombardi’s press briefing, I went over to a little cafe below the building where Cardinal Ratzinger used to live before he became Pope.
There I ran into Cardinal John Foley of Philadelphia, who used to be the head of the Vatican’s Social Communications office. We sat down together for a brief chat.
“Have you heard anything about the meeting with the president?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I’ve heard it went very well. Very serene. The Pope was very frank… There was a very good spirit.”
“How was the Pope frank?” I asked.
“He explained the Church’s position on pro-life and biotechnology issues to the president,” Foley said. “I think President Obama has to have been impressed by this Pope. He is a kind, learned, gentle, very deeply spiritual man…”
“But does this have political implications?” I asked. “Does it mean the Church is tilting toward the Democratic Party?”
“No, not at all,” Foley said, shaking his head. “No, you should look at what Cardinal George of Chicago just said at the meeting of the US bishops in Dallas in 2004. He said the Democratic Party, which used to be so close to ordinary Catholics and in harmony with so many Catholic principles, has lost its soul with some of its positions today.”
“And the Republican Party…?”
“Well,” Foley said, smiling a little, “what Cardinal George said was, ‘Of course, the Republican Party never had a soul.'”

Final reflection

Evidently, Benedict feels he can appeal to Obama to reconsider his position on abortion and homosexual marriage.
Most serious pro-life Catholics in America would believe that this is naive — that it is silly to think that Obama will make even a slight change in his position in favor of legalized abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
Nevertheless, it appears that the Pope made the argument to Obama today that all of the president’s social policies will ultimately fail and leave no enduring good fruit unless he takes up a position in defense of human dignity — of the dignity of the human person — in all cases, at all times, from the beginning to the end of life.
And, as astonishing as it seems, Obama has apparently agreed to at least study the arguments of the Church on this point.
That is the meaning of the words: “Oh, what we discussed earlier. I’ll have some reading to do on the plane.”
Of course, we do not know whether Obama actually read the book while on the plane tonight…

St. Anthony on the Judgments of God

“When Abba Anthony thought about the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, ‘Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men prosper and why are the just in need?’ He heard a voice answering him, ‘Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not to your advantage to know anything about them.'” —St. Anthony of Egypt


Statement by House GOP Leaders Boehner & McCotter on Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate

Washington, July 10, 2009 – House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) today issued the following joint statement regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

“Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, is neither an indictment of capitalism nor an endorsement of any political or economic agenda, and ideologues and politicos hoping to spin it as either are destined to be unsuccessful.”


“The Holy Father’s central point in Caritas in Veritate is that at times of economic challenge, the inherent dignity of the individual must be preserved and sustained through genuine charity and compassion.  This message is clearly distinct from efforts to ‘remake’ government into a soul-crushing centralized welfare state in which independent citizens are remade into dependent servants.  In the encyclical, the Pope stresses that the human being must remain as the center of our free-market system.  He warns that individuals, families, churches, communities, and businesses must never become subservient to the state.  He emphasizes that the sanctity of all human life must always be protected.  And he advocates conservation, not radical environmentalism.”


“Caritas in Veritate is not a political document, but rather a complex work that warrants careful and thoughtful contemplation by American Catholics and non-Catholics alike at this time of economic anxiety.” 





Obama’s Gift

The city of Rome is waiting for the meeting today of US President Barack Obama with Pope Benedict XVI

By Robert Moynihan, INSIDE THE VATICAN
reporting from Rome


“True humanism in Christianity… true Christianity — we repeat — is the sacrifice of self for others, because of Christ, because of God. It is shown by signs; it is manifested in deeds. Christianity is sensitive to the suffering and oppression and sorrow of others, to poverty, to all human needs, the first of which is truth.” —Pope Paul VI, Homily at the Mass for the Canonization of St. John Neumann, June 19, 1977


In about three hours, US President Barack Obama will arrive in the Vatican to meet Pope Benedict XVI.
The leader of the world’s greatest temporal power will carry a gift for the leader of the world’s greatest spiritual power.
He will drive in his limousine into Vatican City, and into the Cortile San Damaso (photo, left, taken in 1930), the little square at the very heart of the Vatican.
He will get out of his car (parked more or less where the single car in this photo is parked), go into the door at the far end of the square, and, accompanied by American Archbishop James Harvey, the head of the papal household, take the elevator up to the fourth floor.
He will walk down a marble corridor to the Pope’s private library, overlooking St. Peter’s Square (the third window from the right on the top floor in this photo).
The Pope will greet him, and Obama will greet the Pope, and hand him a gift.
What gift will that be?

A relic from St. John Neumann (1811-1860), the first American saint.

Who was St. John Neumann? 
He only lived 48 years, so he died when he was not much older than Obama, who is now 47.
He was born in Bohemia, and decided in his 20s to come to America as a missionary.
He arrived in New York on June 6, 1836 with one suit of clothes and a dollar in his pocket.
He joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, commonly known as the Redemptorists, in Pittsburgh, then came to the attention of Archbishop Kenrick of Baltimore who suggested to Rome that Neumann be appointed as the Bishop of Philadelphia. Neumann wrote a letter to the Vatican requesting that another man be chosen.

However, Pope Pius IX decided he was, by far, the best person for the job and declared him a Bishop in 1852. The poor people affectionately called him “Our Little Bishop” because of his short stature. He was five feet and two inches tall. 

The poor, especially the new immigrants, loved him.

Among Bishop Neumann’s accomplishments were the organization of a Catholic diocesan school system. He had many new schools and churches built in his diocese.

Bishop Neumann died of a sudden stroke as was doing errands on January 5, 1860. On the day of his death he told Father Urban, the visiting Redemptorist Superior, that he had a strange feeling about today and then added “One must always be ready. Death comes when and where God wills it.”

He was beatified 1963 and canonized in 1977.

(Here is a link to a biography of Neumann:

When Pope Paul VI canonized Neumann in 1977, he had this to say about the saint:
“We ask ourselves today: what is the meaning of this extraordinary event, the meaning of this canonization? It is the celebration of holiness. And what is holiness? It is human perfection, human love raised up to its highest level in Christ, in God…

“He helped children to satisfy their need for truth, their need for Christian doctrine, for the teaching of Jesus in their lives. He did this both by catechetical instruction and by promoting, with relentless energy, the Catholic school system in the United States.

“John Neumann bore the image of Christ. He experienced, in his innermost being, the need to proclaim by word and example the wisdom and power of God, and to preach the crucified Christ. And in the Passion of the Lord he found strength and the inspiration of his ministry: Passio Christi conforta me!

“But to accomplish his task, love was necessary. And love meant giving; love meant effort; love meant sacrifice. And in his sacrifice, Bishop Neumann’s service was complete. He led his people along the paths of holiness. He was indeed an effective witness, in his generation, to God’s love for his Church and the world…

“Our ceremony today is indeed the celebration of holiness. At the same time, it is a prophetic anticipation-for the Church, for the United States, for the world-of a renewal in love: love for God, love for neighbor.

“And in this vital charity, beloved sons and daughters, let us go forward together, to build up a real civilization of love.”

I repeat: “And in this vital charity, beloved sons and daughters, let us go forward together, to build up a real civilization of love.”
The Pope and the President will have a scheduled time together of about 20 minutes, face to face, with no translators.
The Pope speaks excellent English. I have spoken with him many times over the years, usually in Italian, but sometimes in English and German. His English is excellent, although he prefers either German or Italian.
He does speak English with his German accent, but Obama should be able to understand him well, I think.
And the Pope undefrstand English perfectly.
So the two should have no problem speaking together.
But what will they say?
If I were to guess, I would say they will begin with the “latest news.” What is that?
It is the G8 meeting on the world economic crisis, and the Pope’s new social encyclical, Veritas in Caritate, released on July 7, three days ago (copies of the encyclical were given to all the leaders meeting in Aquila, Italy, at the G8 summit).
Can we imagine what the two men will say?
Perhaps we can, in hopes of understanding what the fundamental natire of the conversation will be.
We know that many issues may be raised, but what will be the essence of the meeting?
Perhaps Obama will say something like this:
“Your Holiness, as you know, I am coming directly from our important and constructive meeting in Aquila on the world economic crisis, and I wanted to tell you personally how happy I was to have the contribution of your encyclical, your statement of the underlying principles which should guide us as we strive to build a more just and prosperous world.
“It is a lofty vision of social justice which I will study and take into consideration.”
A way for the President to “break the ice” by saying something nice about the Pope’s work and ideas, without saying anything controversial.
Something innocuous, but profound at the same time.
And then the Pope might reply:
“Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your kind words.”
And then the Pope may pause for a moment.
Then he might then say something like this:
“I want to tell you personally that you are in my prayers. I pray that you will find the strength and wisdom to carry out your task.”
Something like that, perhaps.
Something very positive, to make clear to Obama that the Pope wishes him well, that he understands that Obama’s responsibilities as president of the US are very great, and, in human terms, a heavy burden.
(If you will look closely at the photographs of Obama in recent months, you will see that his hair is rapidly turning grey after less than half a year in office.)
But what will the two men then say? Will they talk about global politics, about Israel, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, and such things?
I have no idea, but, personally, I doubt it. Those are matters Obama might possibly speak about with Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State, but not with the Pope.
One can only speculate, of course — and perhaps specualtion is unwise.
But it does not seem impossible that the two will organize the rest of their conversation around two main “threads”: the areas in their vision of human life which they share in common, and the areas in that vision on which they disagree.
In this regard, it is correct to say, I think, that the Pope does agree with some aspects of the political and social vision Obama has articulated.
I believe he will make this point clear to the president.
There will be an attempt to find “common ground” where common ground is possible.
But I also believe the Pope may take this opportunity to point out to the President, in a quiet, thoughtful way, that there is nothing ignoble about reflecting once again, even in mid-life, on the great moral questions of human existence.
And I think Benedict may use the opportunity provided by his new encyclical to raise at least two fundamental issues: the issue of abortion, and the issue of genetic manipulation of embryos.
For, in his new encyclical, the Pope makes quite clear that a truly just society, and a truly coherent humanism, must take a radical position in defense of the dignity of human life.
I think the Pope will not avoid this delicate issue, because I think, for the Pope, it is fundamental.
The defense of the life of the unborn is something deeply rooted, not only in the Christian tradition, but also in the religious traditions of all mankind. It has been rejected only by the modern secular age during the past 50 or 75 years. I think the Pope will make this point.

So, it is my view that Pope may, at some point in a conversation  — which I believe will begin by emphasizing friendship, prayer, and mutual support — say something like this:

“I am gratified to know that you have received my encyclical, and have been reading it. I realize that is difficult for you to find even a moment to read such a text. But if you could take a moment to look at my arguments about the use of technology, and how a wrong use, a reckless use of this technology can harm all of us, and all future generations, perhaps you might find there arguments worthy of consideration.”
Something like that.
A proposal that Obama consider seriously the arguments set forth, for example, in Chapter 74 of the encyclical.
Here is ths text of that chapter in full:
“74. A particularly crucial battleground in today’s cultural struggle between the supremacy of technology and human moral responsibility is the field of bioethics, where the very possibility of integral human development is radically called into question. In this most delicate and critical area, the fundamental question asserts itself forcefully: is man the product of his own labours or does he depend on God? Scientific discoveries in this field and the possibilities of technological intervention seem so advanced as to force a choice between two types of reasoning: reason open to transcendence or reason closed within immanence. We are presented with a clear either/ or. Yet the rationality of a self-centred use of technology proves to be irrational because it implies a decisive rejection of meaning and value. It is no coincidence that closing the door to transcendence brings one up short against a difficulty: how could being emerge from nothing, how could intelligence be born from chance?[153] Faced with these dramatic questions, reason and faith can come to each other’s assistance. Only together will they save man. Entranced by an exclusive reliance on technology, reason without faith is doomed to flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence. Faith without reason risks being cut off from everyday life[154].”

In short — and of course I do not know this — I expect the Pope’s meeting with President Obama will have two themes, two “valences,” to speak in chemical terms: a focus on the vision that the two men share, and a discussion, or at least the proposal of a discussion, on the question of transcendence, of true reason, of the ultimate “irrationality” of the self-centered use of technology, and the neglect of the defense of the right to life of the most vulnerable.

In this sense, the conversation could be one of the most profound Obama could engage in, because it will raise the fundamental questions of human life, in the Apostolic Palace, with the Successor of Peter…
Here are selections from an article in the Washington Post about Obama’s gift.
The Scoop on Obama’s Gift to Pope Tomorrow
By William Wan

What do you get for a man who already possesses leadership over one-sixth of the world’s population not to mention the highest earthly authority in the church?

When President Obama’s staff went searching for the perfect gift for Pope Benedict XVI, they called Louis DiCocco, owner of a religious gift shop in Philadelphia, for advice….

At first, DiCocco suggested an antique chalice his family had in their shop that could be traced back to the 1920s — a parish priest style gold-plated cup with a highly engraved base. Written around the mouth of the chalice were the words, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Santus,” meaning “holy, holy, holy.”

The cup had history and character but they kept looking.

DiCocco reached out to friends and contacts in the American Catholic community. Some of them at the Redemptorist order mentioned a sacred relic from the saint, John Neumann, in their possession.

The Redemptorists, an order of Catholic priests and brothers that originated in 1732 at Naples, traced their roots in the U.S. to 1842, when Neumann became the first Redemptorist to profess vows in America. Neumann, helped build up the U.S. Catholic school and parish system and ministered especially to German immigrants in Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The Redemptorist order had a stole that had been draped on top of his remains at a Philadelphia shrine to Neumann, who was declared a saint in 1977. The stole, a long scarf-like garment that is worn around a priest’s neck, had lain with Neumann’s body for 18 years until it was removed in 2007.

When DiCocco suggested the stole to the state department, “it was just kind of a no-brainer,” he said. “It was just the right touch of American Catholic history and relevance. I mean, here was this saint, an immigrant who came to America and did so much beautiful work.”

(Here is a link to the complete story:


Here are excerpts from a useful background report by Cindy Wooden.
Presidents and popes: Obama is 12th US president to visit Vatican
By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When President Barack Obama steps into the pope’s private library in the Vatican July 10, he will become only the 12th U.S. president to do so…

The fact that Obama is coming to the Vatican directly from the Group of Eight meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, and is leaving immediately afterward to fly to Ghana means timing is tight.

The time constraints mean the Vatican and the White House have not made plans for an exchange of formal speeches — an optional part of papal receptions of presidents.

But there is always time for an exchange of gifts.

The Baltimore province of the Redemptorists announced that it had given Obama a stole that had been placed on the remains of St. John Neumann, a 19th-century Redemptorist and the first male naturalized U.S. citizen to become a saint. Obama will give the stole to the pope.

While the gifts presidents and prime ministers give popes are quite varied — but tend heavily toward old books, statues and vases — Pope Benedict always gives heads of state a gold medal marking the current year of his pontificate…

In former U.S. President George W. Bush’s three Vatican visits to Pope John Paul II, he presented an 1849 first edition of an anthology of American poetry; a silver medallion with a hand-painted image of Mary; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Bush met Pope Benedict at the Vatican twice. In 2007, he gave the pope a walking stick into which the Ten Commandments had been carved by a formerly homeless man. And in 2008, the pope and the president gave each other photographs taken during Pope Benedict’s April 2008 visit to the White House.

Some may find it interesting that Obama, who is not Catholic, chose a very Catholic gift for the pope while Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, a Catholic, gave the pope a digital video recorder during a similar audience July 7…

The Obama visit is considered private, but with a bit of flair. He will be met in the St. Damasus Courtyard by U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household, and a small contingent of Swiss Guards.

In a reversal of the usual order of things, the president will meet with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, before going to meet the pope.

After a private discussion with Pope Benedict, Obama will introduce his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Sasha and Malia, to the pope.

A group photo will be taken, then the pope and president will exchange gifts and the first family will leave for the airport.

(Here is a link to the complete story:

In this brief report below, the Australian Prime Minister, who met the Pope yesterday, is reported to have said to the Pope, “I’m reading your encyclical.”

It was partly because I read of these words that I concluded that President Obama could possibly open his meeting with Benedict with similar words, allowing the Pope the opportunity to repsond as I have imagined above.
World leaders attending G-8 summit squeeze in visits to pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Group of Eight summit in L’Aquila, Italy, offered some world leaders the opportunity to squeeze in a visit to meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The pope then used the occasion to present leaders with a special copy of his first social encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), which the Vatican released July 7, the day before the G-8 summit began.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd met with the pope in a 25-minute closed-door meeting July 9. Australia is not part of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, but was among the other countries Italy invited. Rudd, who was raised Catholic but attends an Anglican church, told the pope, “I’m reading your encyclical.” Rudd has written about the role of a Christian in contemporary politics and wrote in a 2005 essay that he sees the Gospel as “an exhortation to social action.”
In a customary exchange of gifts, the pope gave Rudd a signed, white leather-bound copy of his new encyclical and a pen shaped like a column of the famous baldacchino, or canopy over the main altar, in St. Peter’s Basilica done by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Rudd gave the pope a black leather-bound copy of the Australian government’s apology to Aborigines for the wrongs committed against them.

The Homily of Pope Paul VI
(Here is a link to the complete text of Pope Paul VI’s homily at the canonization Mass for St. John Neumann:
The Prayers for the Feast of St. John Neumann
Here are the English translations of the prayers for January 5, the Feast of St. John Neumann (photo), Bishop and Confessor:

O God, who willed blessed John, thy confessor and bishop, to shine in pastoral works; graciously grant that, following his teachings and examples, we might obtain eternal life.

Look down favorably, O Lord, upon the sacrifice we offer in honor of blessed John, bishop: and enkindle in us the fire of thy love with which he burned.

Refreshed, O Lord, by the Precious Body and Blood of thy Son, we humbly implore thee: that by the merits of blessed John, we who followed him as a shepherd of shepherds on earth might arrive at eternal pastures.


The New Ecclesia Dei

Pope Benedict XVI has merged the Ecclesia Dei commission into the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith. It happened today, July 8, 2009, in Rome. What will it mean for the old Mass, for the Society of St. Pius X, for Bishop Williamson, and for the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council?

By Robert Moynihan, INSIDE THE VATICAN
reporting from Rome

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”—Jesus Christ, Gospel of John, 4:24
“Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself.” —Irenaeus (AD 120-202), Against Heresies, Book I, Preface 2
“Corruptio optimi pessimum est” (“The corruption of the best is the worst”). —Ancient proverb
Something important happened in Rome this morning.
I don’t fully understand what it means, but I know it is important, and very interesting.
The Pope merged an entire Vatican office, lock, stock and barrel, an office which had been separate and on its own for the past 21 years, the Ecclesia Dei (“Church of God”) commission, set up to work with traditional Catholics, especially those desirous of preserving the old Mass, into the most important Vatican Congregation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
The CDF is No. 1 Vatican office in terms of doctrinal authority, after the Pope himself.
It is the chief doctrinal office in the Roman Catholic Church, and as such the final arbiter of Catholic orthodoxy and heresy, truth and error.
The CDF is the Congregation which, prior to the Second Vatican Council, was known as the “Holy Office of the Inquisition” — the office which, believing that doctrinal truth is of supreme importance, and deserving of extraordinary intellectual and legislative energy to defend it, became the “sentinel” or “watch-dog” over orthodoxy throughout the world.
After Vatican II, Paul VI ordered the name of the Congregation changed from “Holy Office of the Inquisition,” which seemed to have a negative connotation, to “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” because that seemed to him to have a more positive connotation.
And the mission was revised to emphasis more clarifiation and “promotion” of doctrinal truth rather than investigation and condemnation of doctrinal error.
This is the first time any external office has been merged into the CDF. There is no precedent for it that I know.
Why did the Pope do it?
I was in the Press Office, watching “the wives” on television (photo), when the news broke. (By “the wives” I mean the wives of all the presidents and government leaders who are meeting in Aquila, Italy, not far from Rome, at the G8 world economic summit. Many of the wives will not meet with the Pope when their husbands meet with him, so a special meeting was set up at noon today, just after the regular Wednesday general audience. A group of 10 or 12 wives, all wearing black, with black head coverings, were received by Pope Benedict XVI in audience…)
“They’ve released the Ecclesia Dei motu proprio,” my colleague, Martin Zoeller of German television, said to me.

“Ah!” I said. “Do you have a copy of the text?”

“Yes,” he said. “It’s on the Vatican Radio website. Hasn’t it been published here yet?”
“No,” I said. “Can I see your copy?”
A few minutes later, the Vatican Press Office itself released the news in a press bulletin, and then Father Federico Lombardi came out from his office to explain the text and answer questions.

The text was released in Latin and Italian.

Essentially, what it said was this:
The Ecclesia Dei commission would not longer have a separate head, but would be under the Cardinal Prefect of the CDF, currently the American Cardinal William Levada. The old head, the Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos, who has passed the retirement age of 75 in any case, would retire.
The Secretary, or #2 man, would change from the Belgian Monsignor Camille Perl, who had been with Ecclesia Dei since the beginning, for 21 years, to Italian Monsignor Guido Pozzo, a staff member of the CDF. The aml Ecclesia Dei staff would remain in place.

My first thought was: What are Cardinal Levada’s intentions? What has the Pope instructed him to do with Ecclesia Dei?

My second thought was that Monsignor Perl might feel a bit mistreated, as he was confirmed just last year “ad quinquennium,” that is, for another five years…
I decided I should try to visit the Ecclesia Dei offices.
As I walked across St. Peter’s Square, I noticed that the fountains were not working.
They had been turned off for cleaning (photo).
I saw a worker spraying a hose to dislodge all the lichens and moss which grows on the inside of the fountain basin.

Then, up ahead, as I looked up at the saints along the top of the colonnade, I noticed that only two of them are white.

The rest are all dark with soot and grime.
But there are two which have been cleaned in recent weeks, and I suppose all of the 153 statues all along the top of the colonnade encircling the Square will be cleaned in the next year or two.
When I reached the Holy Office, I rang the bell, and the doorman let me in.
“May I speak with Monsignor Perl?” I asked.
“Monsignor Perl is in a meeting and can’t see you now,” he said.”You’ll have to wait.”
He indicated a room next to the foyer. “You can wait in there…”
I sat down in the empty office.
“Whose office is this?” I asked the doorman.
“It is Monsignor Mario Marini‘s old office,” he said. “He died just a month ago, on May 24.
“Here is the card from his funeral Mass. (photo)
“He died rather suddenly. No one knew he was ill. But he had a cancerous tumor in his lung, and it metasticized. He learned of it about seven months ago, but he didn’t tell any of us. In fact, up until three weeks before his death, he was in here every morning at 8:30, laughing and joking and wishing all of us good morning. He was a saint…”
“Did you know him well?” I asked.
“I was with him at the end,” the man said. “I would go to the Policlinico Gemelli those last three weeks when he was bed-ridden, and bring him whatever he needed. And I was with him, along with his brother, the night he died.”
I looked around the office. There were only two things on the wall: an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and a wooden crucifix. 
“He loved Mexico,” the doorman said.
“Who is Monsignor Perl meeting with?” I asked.
“It’s a big meeting,” the doorman said. “Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, Cardinal Levada, Monsignor Pozzo, and the staff of Ecclesia Dei…”
I waited for 20 minutes, then the meeting ended.
I could see Monsignor Perl coming down the corridor. He looked tired.
“Monsignor,” I said.
“Oh,” he said. “Hello.”
“I wondered if I could talk to you…”
“No,” he said. “Some other time.”
He turned, his shoulders bent as if under a heavy load, his face grey with suppressed emotion, and went out the door of the office where he has worked for 21 years for the last time…
Here is the story that Cindy Wooden, a very experienced Vatican journalist, wrote today:
Pope says doctrinal congregation will dialogue with traditionalists

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has placed the commission responsible for relations with traditionalist Catholics under the authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

With a brief apostolic letter issued “motu proprio” (on his own initiative), Pope Benedict said he wanted to “demonstrate paternal care toward the Society of St. Pius X,” founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, so members could return to full communion with the church.

The apostolic letter, dated July 2 and published July 8, was titled “Ecclesiae Unitatem” (“The Unity of the Church”).

In a brief note published separately, Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of 80-year-old Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos as president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” which since 1988 has been charged with outreach to the Society of St. Pius X and assistance to Catholics attached to the pre-Vatican II liturgy.

As president of the commission, the pope named U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In addition, the pope named Italian Msgr. Guido Pozzo, assistant secretary of the International Theological Commission and a staff member of the doctrinal congregation, to serve as secretary of “Ecclesia Dei.”

“The task of safeguarding the unity of the church, with concern for offering everyone assistance in responding to this vocation and divine grace in appropriate ways, is expected particularly of the successor of the apostle Peter, who is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity of both bishops and faithful,” the pope wrote.

He said that after Archbishop Lefebvre ordained bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II in 1988 and the bishops were excommunicated, the pope established “Ecclesia Dei” to “facilitate the full communion” of the priests, religious, seminarians and laypeople who had a bond with the traditionalist archbishop and an attachment to the liturgy as it was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council.

Pope Benedict said his 2007 decision to allow Catholics greater and easier access to the older liturgy was motivated by the same concern.

And, he said, his decision in January to lift the excommunications of the four bishops was done to help overcome “every fracture and division within the church and to heal a wound experienced as increasingly painful”…

The pope’s July letter said that while the president of “Ecclesia Dei” will be the prefect of the doctrinal congregation, the commission would have its own staff. However, the doctrinal questions that arise during the commission’s work and in its contacts with the Society of St. Pius X will be handled by the cardinals and bishops who are members of the doctrinal congregation….

In a March letter to the world’s bishops explaining why he had lifted the excommunications, Pope Benedict already announced his intention to place the commission under the guidance of the doctrinal congregation.

Placing “Ecclesia Dei” under the doctrinal congregation, he said, “will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the popes.”

(Here is the link to the full story by Cindy Wooden:

Here is a photo of the two columns in St. Peter’s Square which have been cleaned, and the two white angels at the top.
The cleaning of the Michelangelo frescoes in the Paoline Chapel took almost seven years.
There is no indication that the cleaning of the saints’ statues, and of the columns of Bernini’s colonnade, will take any less time. But the work has begun, and one wonders already how the Square will look when all the columns are as white as these two, and all the saints’ statues gleam under the Roman sun.

FSSP Superior General and Benedict XVI


Thanks to John Sonnen for keeping us always abreast of the goings on in Rome:

On Monday, July 6 the Holy Father met in private audience the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, Fr. John Berg. The meeting took place in the Holy Father’s private library in the Apostolic Palace. After the meeting the Holy Father had the pleasure to greet some of the founding members of the F.S.S.P. and he thanked them for their labors while giving each a small gift.


Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei Attached to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Pope Benedict XVI today issued the motu proprio Ecclesiæ Unitatem, attaching the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Prefect of the CDF is now ex offcio President of the PCED (Ecclesiæ Unitatem, no. 6 a). The PCED, however, preserves its own staff, consisting of a Secretary and officials (Ecclesiæ Unitatem, no. 6 b). The text of the motu proprio Ecclesiæ Unitatem has only been published in Latin and Italian, the NLM will endeavour to bring you an English translation as soon as possible.

In agreement with the dispositions of the motu proprio Ecclesiæ Unitatem, the Holy Father appointed the Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Levada, new President of the PCED. He also named a new Secretary for the Commission, who is an official of the CDF. From today’s bollettino of the Holy See Press Office:

The Holy Father has thanked His Eminence Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, who has reached the term of his service as President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, and has named President of the same Commission His Eminence Card. William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Pope has appointed Secretary of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” the Rev. Msgr. Guido Pozzo, until now Adjunct Secretary of the International Theological Commission and Aiutante di Studio of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Msgr. Pozzo works at the CDF since 1987. He is also a professor at the Lateran University. Msgr. Pozzo is a priest of the diocese of Trieste.

The Pauline Chapel Reopened for Worship. With Two New Features

It is the pope’s private chapel, in the Vatican buildings. Subjected to a complete restoration, it again has the altar turned toward the tabernacle. But also new is the interpretation that Benedict XVI has given to the two frescoes by Michelangelo, especially concerning the expression of the apostle Peter…

by Sandro Magister


ROME, July 6, 2009 – The illustrations reproduced above are two details from two frescoes by Michelangelo, facing each other in the Pauline Chapel: the conversion of Paul, and the crucifixion of Peter.

The Pauline Chapel is not open to visitors. Situated in the Vatican buildings just a few steps from the Sistine Chapel, it is a place of prayer reserved for the pope. After undergoing a complete restoration, it was reopened for worship on Saturday, July 4, by Benedict XVI, who presided over vespers there.

The news of the reopening of the Pauline Chapel for worship received scant coverage in the media, being overshadowed by the imminent publication of the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” and by the meeting between the pope and Barack Obama.

But at least two new developments must be noted.


The first is that the renovation included a restructuring of the sanctuary, in fidelity to the liturgical tradition.

In 1975, Paul VI had replaced the altar turned toward the tabernacle with an oval-shaped altar detached from the wall, to be used while facing the faithful.

He had also eliminated the wooden communion rail, and replaced it with an ambo in carved marble. The floor was covered with a red carpet. So were the side walls, up to the level of the frescoes.

Benedict XVI has put the previous altar back in its place, although still a short distance from the tabernacle, restoring the celebration of all “facing the Lord.” He has had the ambo removed, and the communion rail put back in its place. The red carpet has disappeared from both the floor and the walls, which have been restored to their original appearance.


The second important new development concerns the interpretation of the two frescoes by Michelangelo dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, in particular the interpretation of Peter’s expression.

The traditional interpretation says that Peter – while he is about to be crucified upside down – is turned to look at everyone who enters the chapel, to remind him that martyrdom can be the fate of those who follow Jesus.

In support of this interpretation, it is recalled that until 1670, many conclaves were held in the Pauline Chapel. Peter was looking into the eyes of the cardinals preparing to elect his successor. And the newly elect, who from then on would go into that chapel to pray, would exchange glances each time with the first of the apostles.

Those in charge of the restoration, in presenting the renovated chapel to the public on June 30, also adhered substantially to this interpretative tradition.

So then, the new development is that Benedict XVI has distanced himself from it. In the homily for vespers with which he reopened the Pauline Chapel for worship, he gave a new interpretation of Peter’s expression in the fresco by Michelangelo.

The pope said that Peter’s gaze, instead of being directed at the visitor, is instead intended to be directed at the face of Paul on the opposite wall: at Paul, who bears within himself the light of the risen Christ. “It is as if Peter, in the hour of the supreme trial, were seeking that light which gave the true faith to Paul.”

Naturally, the pope added, this does not change the fact that this dialogue of gazes between the two apostles is a great lesson for those who enter to pray in the Pauline Chapel, and in particular for the successors of Peter.

The following is the central passage of Benedict XVI’s homily at vespers on July 4, 2009, in the Pauline Chapel, dedicated to the two apostles frescoed by Michelangelo:

“The two faces of Peter and Paul are across from each other . . .”

by Benedict XVI

[…] The eyes are drawn first of all by the faces of the two apostles. It is already clear from their position that these two faces play a central role in the iconographic message of the chapel. But, beyond their placement, they draw us immediately beyond the image: they question us, and prompt us to reflect.

First of all, let us examine Paul: why is he represented with such an old face? It is the face of an old man, while we know – and Michelangelo also knew this well – that the call of Saul on the road to Damascus took place when he was about thirty years old. The decision of the artist already brings us beyond pure realism, it makes us go beyond the simple narration of events in order to usher us into a more profound level. The face of Saul-Paul – which is actually that of the artist himself, elderly, restless, and in search of the light of truth – represents the human being in need of a light from above. This is the light of divine grace, indispensable for acquiring new vision with which to perceive the reality oriented to the “hope that waits for you in heaven” – as the apostle writes in the opening salutation of the letter to the Colossians, which we have just heard (1,5).

Having fallen to the ground, Saul’s face is illuminated from above, by the light of the Risen One, and, in spite of its dramatic nature, the depiction inspires peace and infuses trust. It expresses the maturity of the man who is illuminated inside by Christ the Lord, while around him turns a disarray of events in which all of the figures look like they are caught up in a whirlwind. The grace and peace of God have enveloped Saul, they have conquered and transformed him from within. He will proclaim this same “grace” and this same “peace” to all of his communities on his apostolic voyages, with a seasoned maturity not of age, but of spirit, given to him by the Lord himself.

Here therefore, in the face of Paul, we can already perceive the heart of the spiritual message of this chapel: the miracle of Christ’s grace, which transforms and renews man through the light of his truth and his love. This is what constitutes the novelty of conversion, of the call to faith, which finds its fulfillment in the mystery of the Cross.

From the face of Paul we move to that of Peter, depicted at the moment in which his inverted cross is being raised, who turns to look at those who are observing him. This face also surprises us. Here the age represented is correct, but it is the expression that amazes and puzzles us. Why this expression? It is not an image of suffering, and the figure of Peter communicates surprising physical vigor. The face, especially the forehead and the eyes, seem to express the interior state of a man facing death and evil: there is a sense of confusion, an expression reaching outward intently, almost as if seeking something or someone in the final hour. And the faces of the people around him are also remarkable for their eyes: a chain of restless expressions, some of them even fearful or dismayed.

What does all of this mean? It is what Jesus had told this apostle in advance: “when you are old, another will take you where you do not wish to go”; and the Lord had added: “Follow me” (John 21:18,19). And here it is, at this very moment is the culmination of discipleship: the disciple is not greater than his Master, and now experiences all of the bitterness of the cross, of the consequences of sin that separates from God, all the absurdity of violence and deceit. If one comes to meditate in this chapel, one cannot escape the radical nature of the question that is posed from the cross: the cross of Christ, head of the Church, and the cross of Peter, his vicar on earth.

The two faces that we have stopped to consider are across from each other. One could even believe that Peter’s face is turned toward Paul, who, for his part, does not see, but bears within himself the light of the risen Christ. It is as if Peter, in the hour of the supreme trial, were seeking that light which  gave the true faith to Paul.

And so it is that in this sense, the two icons can become two acts in a single drama: the drama of the Paschal mystery: cross and resurrection, death and life, sin and grace. The chronological order of the events represented may have been overturned, but what emerges is the plan of salvation, that plan which Christ himself realized in himself by bringing it to fulfillment, as we have just sung in the hymn from the letter to the Philippians.

For those who come to pray in this chapel, and for the pope first of all, Peter and Paul become teachers of faith. With their testimony, they invite us to go to the depths, to meditate in silence on the mystery of the cross, which accompanies the Church until the end of time, and to welcome the light of the faith, thanks to which the apostolic community can extend to the ends of the earth the missionary and evangelizing action entrusted to it by the risen Christ. Here there are no solemn celebrations with the people. Here the successor of Peter and his collaborators meditate in silence and adore the living Christ, present especially in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist. […]

The complete text of the pope’s homily on July 4, 2009: