Holy See Urges U.S. to Seek Peaceful Resolution to Syria Crisis

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BY EDWARD PENTIN 08/29/2013

VATICAN CITY — The Holy See is using diplomatic channels to convince the U.S. government and its allies not to take military action against Syria and to pursue a political solution to the conflict instead.

Pope Francis said during his Sunday Angelus Aug. 25 that he was disturbed by the “terrible images” coming from Syria and stressed it is “not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but, rather, the ability to meet and dialogue.”

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Syrian city of Homs

The Holy See is taking the Pope’s line to diplomats in Rome, contending that any military operation won’t solve the situation. “Both sides will have to renounce something, but military action will cause more problems,” a Vatican diplomat told the Register.

Instead, the Holy See would like to see more pressure exerted on the U.N. Security Council to implement a peace process, as well as more attention placed on the dire humanitarian situation caused by the conflict.

Pope Francis is expected to continue voicing his concerns until the situation improves, the official said, and although the Holy Father has no intention yet of sending a peace envoy to the region, the Holy See is “open to doing everything it can to find a political solution.”

In a meeting today between the Pope and King Abdullah II of Jordan “the promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East” was at the top of the agenda.

“Special attention was reserved for the tragic situation in which Syria finds itself,” a Vatican statement said. “In this regard, it was reaffirmed that the path of dialogue and negotiation between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international community, is the only option to put an end to the conflict and to the violence that every day causes the loss of so many human lives, especially amongst the helpless civilian population.”

Over the past week, Church leaders in Syria and the Middle East have spoken out forcefully against the West’s approach to the Syrian conflict, especially over the possibility of military intervention following the recent chemical-weapons attack on Damascus.

Syrian Catholic Patriarch Youssef III Younan told Terrasanta.net Aug. 26 that Syrian Christians “have been betrayed and sold by the West,” and that they are “disillusioned by the cynical, Machiavellian” policies of Western nations, the Gulf states and Turkey. Over the past two and a half years, he said, these states have armed the rebels, only to realize there can be no military solution to the crisis.

Gregorios III, Melkite Greek Catholic Church Patriarch of Antioch, said yesterday any Western intervention would be “disastrous,” and he also criticized U.S. policy towards Syria.

“You should not accuse the government one day and then accuse the opposition the next. That is how you fuel violence and hatred,” he told Aid to the Church in Need. “The Americans have been fuelling the situation for two years.”

Speaking to Vatican Radio Aug. 27, Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo warned that Western intervention could lead to “a world war,” but he said he hoped both sides would heed Pope Francis’ call for dialogue.

Other Catholic leaders have expressed similar concerns about a possible U.S. airstrike. Father Jacques Mourad, abbot of the monastery of Deir Mar Musa (The Monastery of Saint Moses the Ethiopian) in northern Damascus, told Fides news agency yesterday that Syrian Christians are “in a phase of extreme suffering” and that he hopes Western countries “take the right position, reject[ing] all forms of violence, putting an end to aiming weapons at one another and defending and protecting human rights.”

The monastery was re-founded by Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, kidnapped a month ago in the area of Raqqa. The religious there have just held a “special day of prayer and fasting” for the release of Father Paolo and for peace in Syria.

Catholic bishops in the region are thought to be appealing to President Barack Obama directly to avoid military action. Many Syrians fear the conflict descending into another Iraq War.

The patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Louis Raphael I Sako, said any U.S.-led military intervention against Syria would be “a disaster” and would be “like a volcano erupting with an explosion meant to destroy Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine.”

“Maybe someone wants this,” he told Fides. “Everyone is talking about democracy and freedom, but to reach those goals, one must pass through historical processes, and one cannot think of imposing them in a mechanical way or with force. The only way, in Syria, as elsewhere, is the search for political solutions.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/holy-see-urges-u.s.-to-seek-peaceful-resolution-to-syria-crisis/#ixzz2dSfU20kd

Fr. Samir on Syria and Egypt – Full Interview

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Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, a professor of philosophy, theology and Islamic studies based at St. Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon, gave a long and very interesting interview to the Register August 27th. Alas I couldn’t include it all, so I reproduce the unedited version here:

Fr. SAMIR 3 oui

What are your main concerns about the current situation in Syria?

The situation is really very bad. We don’t see any solution, and there is none as far as I can see because both sides have decided to take this as far as they can. Why? For Assad, defeat could mean defeat not only for him or the regime, but for the Alawite community. Today the problem is not simply internal to Syria. The Syrian people began by reacting against dictatorship and calling for democracy and liberty. In the meantime, and quickly, elements came from outside, from all over the world, and these elements are essentially fundamentalist Sunnis. The problem became a confrontation between the Sunni on the one side and the Shia on the other, represented by Alawites.

So we have two groups: the army which is geared to fighting and is often brutal, and the other are many groups who have decided to fight in the name of Islam – Sunni Islam. It’s no more a question of democracy and liberty, so that’s the general situation of Syria as we see it.

What do we know about the bigger problem of ‘proxy’ powers?

Syria is at the centre of a larger strategy in the Middle East, involving Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan a little bit, and the West. As the conflict has evolved, Iran has been supporting Assad, as has Hezbollah. This is one side. The Arab peninsula is supporting the opposition, as is Turkey, and other individuals from abroad. Israel is observing the situation but I suppose if Iran enters the conflict, Israel will react. If the West enters the conflict, then we have a conflict between Russia on one side, and the United States on the other. Europe is not unified, thank goodness.

What is your view of the chemical weapons attack? How certain can we be that it came from the Syrian army, as the United States government says?

It could be from both sides. Personally, I would never decide on such an important point without proof. We have seen what happened with Iraq 10 years ago. And those who will pay the price are not the West but the Syrians … The situation in Syria now is very bad, very evil, but how can we be sure that an intervention will result in something better? This is the question. It’s not a kind of game where we succeed or don’t succeed. It is a matter of life or death for tens of thousands of Syrian people.

It’s not clear what the goal is.

It’s not clear at all, and for me what makes the situation more unclear is that there are too many interested parties involved who are not unified. Some have a religious interest. For the Sunni, they view the Shia as Kuffār (plural of Kāfir = infidels), worse than Jews and Christians. We hear this from many Sunni leaders. You have small groups terrorizing others.

What is the solution?

The only solution is to say: OK, we have two Syrians positions: we have the government, with people supporting the government, and we have the opposition with people supporting the opposition.  The only people who can decide are the Syrians themselves, but cannot do so without the help of the world community. Now what is the aim? It’s to come to a common decision, respecting both positions – to find an honest compromise between the two. If one party wins, either Assad or the opposition, we will have war, or we will have a prolongation of the war.

So this is the most important point to make clear: there cannot be one winner, there must be a compromise with both sides placing on the table their criticisms and demands. You cannot put a precondition on it, that this or that group will not take part, or this person won’t take part. Then there must be a neutral arbiter as well, such as the United Nations. It’s not easy but I don’t see any other possibility.

Pope Francis has called on all parties to meet and dialogue. That is your view, too?

Certainly. There is no other way, and with no condition on who represents each other, each party must decide for themselves. One party cannot exclude Assad, for example, or anything like that.

Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronites, recently said he believes there is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests, and to achieve this, various groups are stirring up Sunni and Shia conflicts. What is your view on this?

Personally, I think the conflict between Shia and Sunni is something very bad and it’s not good for Islam. It’s not helping Christians either. We are one people in the Middle East. Whether I’m Jew, Christian, Muslim, secular or atheist, is a personal issue, it’s not a political one. We have to move towards a more secular society, not in the negative sense, but one that is open-minded to religion. As Pope Benedict said in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Synod on the Middle East (no. 30), when he spoke of a positive secularism, there must be a distinction, not a separation, between Church and State. Religion gives principles to the State, and at that level, Christians, Muslims and Jews can find a common ethic. But if we go deeper into the more ethical details, then we are divided. So there is nothing positive about the fact that Shia and Sunni are fighting. It is a primitive vision to think that this would be “good” for Christians. Again, we are one people.

How much is this violence to do with Islam itself, and that certain Muslims have always believed in the use of force?

There is something of this in Islam. Pope Benedict made the point, in his famous Regensburg lecture on 12 September 2006, when he was speaking generally, that any religion that uses violence to defend its position, or pretending to defend God, is wrong. We can never ever use violence for a good reason. Violence is bad in itself, so it cannot be used to convince people and so forth. Everyone would agree with that.

What the Pope didn’t say, but in fact what we find in the foundation of Islam, is that violence was used. This is a fact. If anyone denies this, they’re not a historian. We know that, thanks to Muslim sources and to the oldest source that has survived, the Kitāb al–Maghāzī  written by Al-Wāqidī (745-822) , which means the “The Book of Campaigns (or Battles)”. He is describing around 60 battles (ghazwah) led by Mohammad in the years 623-632 against other groups.

I explain this by saying it’s an historic situation, not a principle to be applied everywhere at every time. This is the point. What is happening today is that almost all extremist and fundamentalist groups are using this model – forever. Mohammed was able to unify a great many Arab tribes under the common name of Islam, which was a cultural, social, political and religious reality. This fact, this reality could be understood in two different ways: either, to be taken as a model to be applied forever; or to be taken as a practical situation valid for that time.

We have the same problem with the Jewish Bible, where culture, religion and politics are mixed, and were we read in Exodus how the Jews conquered the Holy Land against the people who were there, following the order of God. But it doesn’t mean that we have to take this as a model and apply it today. It is written in the mentality of that time and reflects their understanding of the prophet. As long as Muslims won’t read their holy Scriptures critically and historically, and as long they will believe it is to be forever applied literally in the world at all times, there will be a problem.

When I look at the history of any religion, I find things which were considered absolutely God’s will, which we consider today as not being so. We have to recognise that humanity – and this is one of the aims of religion – is growing, not only in number but in spirit. And to discover the meaning of a holy document takes time. But we have to do this.

For that reason, I say that at the moment violence is unfortunately widespread in all fundamentalist Islamic movements. Also fundamentalism has spread a great deal in the last 50 years in the Muslim world, but this fundamentalist interpretation is not the official Islam. We can see that in Egypt for instance. Al Azhar university [Islam’s foremost center of learning] which represents the majority of Muslims in Egypt and even perhaps in the world, was against the Muslim Brotherhood and former President Mohammed Morsi and they still are.

So you cannot say the Brotherhood represent the majority of Muslims – on the contrary. So I say fundamentalist Islam is certainly a part of Islam, as opposed to those who say: “This has nothing to do with Islam, Islam means tolerance” and so on. This is blah, blah, blah. This [violence] was always a part of Islam as it is understood. It’s not the whole Islam and the majority of Muslims obviously don’t support terrorism. But those who do support it are doing so not in their name, or in the name of politics, but in the name of God and Islam. They always have a mufti giving a fatwa, saying you must fight this group in the name of God, following the Koran.

You are a native Egyptian – what are your current concerns about your homeland?

I must say, as I’ve said elsewhere: what I hear from the West is absolutely wrong. When I hear “Finally, Morsi is the first democratically elected president” – this is a nonsense! If you take it juridically, he was elected democratically, but juridically so was Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak elected. Since the 1952’s revolution, we had an elected president. So to say this statement, that he’s the first democratically elected president, is one only a non-Egyptian can make.

Secondly, we know there are reasons to explain why Mohammad Morsi was elected: because the youth [the main drivers of the 2011 revolution] were not organised as a party, and because those associated with Mubarak and the old system, were excluded. So finally the only group who was organised politically and who had the right to be elected was the Muslim Brotherhood. But where is the democracy?

The democracy means, etymologically, the power (kratos) of the people (demos). When you see that 22 million adults sign a petition to remove Morsi, saying after a year he’s not worthy to be president – 22 million adults! – this is a number we never reached before. Then there were around 30 million people on the streets a week after. This is the voice of the people, this  is democracy.

The military, traditionally in the last decades, were always with the people, whether the government or the opposition. During the revolution of January 2011 and the weeks after, the army were supporting the opposition. So why didn’t we speak of a military coup? Because the coup was from the people and the military came and said, “OK, the people don’t want this government, and the Brotherhood refused.” So they said, “OK, we’ll nominate a provisional government,” and they nominated a magistrate, not a military, who was already nominated by Morsi himself! And when they asked all parties to take part in the government, the Brotherhood were the only party who refused, but the Salafists, who are more extreme than the Brotherhood, entered into this provisional government. Nobody said anything.

So this means it’s democratic, and it’s provisional. They didn’t make a joke, and say we create a constitution in one month and in one week people will vote for it [as the Muslim Brotherhood did]. I couldn’t read the constitution in one week – I tried. To write a constitution also takes years. To make a constitution in one month – now, that is a coup d’etat. And all we’ve seen, in the so-called democratic government [of the Muslim Brotherhood], is that they put their own people in all the important ministries of the state. They put their own governors into nine provinces before the end of the government, at once!

What they did was to worsen the economy. There was a shortage of food, they sold the petrol or gave it to Gaza. I was there in April and you’d see queues of one 1km of cars waiting 3, 5, or 8 hours to get provisions. They gave to Hamas and Gaza free access to 40 percent of the Sinai to train their mujāhidīn … and they killed a Coptic priest and some Christians, plus 27 soldiers. So it’s good that people threw them out. The people did their part, they expressed themselves, and the army protected the people and did their part.

What are your hopes going forward. Should the Brotherhood be banned?

Not banned, but we should simply say we need a new government. We will give time to all parties, without excluding anyone, and that means some months. We could apply some conditions, such as no terrorist could be accepted, and similar conditions.

And no to Sharia law?

Yes certainly! And then to give time to prepare a well-studied constitution. When they are approved and recognised, they need to decide on a reasonable time for the election and for it to be observed internationally. This is very important to avoid any criticism afterwards. We start with those who are elected by the people, and the parliament and so on, without excluding anyone, even the Muslim Brotherhood, on the condition that everyone signs and is obliged to follow the rule that violence is absolutely excluded.

Why is it, as Cardinal Rai said recently, that Christians must always pay the highest price in the Middle East? Why is this when they the most peaceful of all the people in the region?

First, it’s obviously easy to attack a minority. Second, it’s easier when the minority is peaceful and not armed. You could have a fighting minority, but it’s not the case with Christians.

But these are secondary reasons. The main reason is ideological. Who are fighting Christians, destroying churches and so on? Not my Muslim neighbour, but groups who are excluding the others. If you have Sunni excluding the Shia, they will obviously exclude Jews, Christians and so on. Any exclusivist group is a terrorist ‘in potentia’ – he becomes one when the occasion rises. We have seen this in Egypt for instance. Where were the biggest attacks? In two provinces: Minya and Assiut. These two are well known as centres of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood also did a lot of things there which were against the law, for example, taking a large plot of land in Assiut, which was an agrarian area, and building their Islamic university there. So anything illegal must be excluded.

But what we are asking as Christians – actually I don’t say as Christians, but as citizens – is not to put the word religion in the constitution. We should not put man or woman, rich or poor, or make any distinction. Just put “citizens”. As a citizen I can build a house of prayer, on condition that the same rules are applied to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus etc.. This is the only acceptable solution – that we speak only of citizens, and do not distinguish between them. What we are asking is to apply honestly and totally the “Universal Charter of Human Rights”, including the liberty of conscience and the right to choose its religion and to change it, if you want.

So for these reasons I think Christians are attacked in Egypt spontaneously. In Syria, under the Assad regime, they were protected no more no less than Muslims, because the regime adopted the Baath Party ideology, which was considered secular. Religion was a positive thing, and seen, by the government, as helping citizens to do good and so on.

So I think this must be the goal, but on one condition: if we want to reach this point in ten years, then we have to start today. But if we say Egypt is not ready for that, and we don’t start making some steps, it’s a joke. We have to start making the necessary steps, like when you start on a construction. If you say it takes a lot of time but never start, you’re not serious. So we have to set rules and put them into practice at this point.

I am sure that Egypt and the Egyptians are willing to start a new stage in their political life. They are willing to have a more democratic government. They are willing to ban discrimination between men and women, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor, etc. This is the true revolution, and I am convinced this is the wish of the people. The army should help people to realize this “dream” until a new government is elected and finally organized. Insha’ Allah!

Still Learning From Pius X, 100 Years Later

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Foe of Modernist Heresy Has Many Lessons for Today

On Tuesday, the Church began commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of Pope St. Pius X. But despite nearly a century since his passing, his writings continue to be consulted to this day.

Pope St. Pius X in 11905

Pope St. Pius X in 1905

Born in 1835 to a poor family in northeast Italy, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto was elected Roman Pontiff in 1903 and served as Successor of Peter until his death on Aug. 20, 1914, the day Germany invaded Belgium at the beginning of World War I.

The first pope to be canonized since the 16th century’s Pope St. Pius V, he had a strong devotion to Our Lady, was deeply pastoral, and had a fervent love for the poor. Today, he is best known for his rejection of modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine and his promotion of traditional devotional practice and orthodoxy.

Commemorating the anniversary, L’Osservatore Romano this week paid tribute to his life with text and pictures. One reflection proposed some similarities between him and Pope Francis. It noted Pius’ disdain for ecclesiastical triumphalism, his sober and modest style, and it claimed that, like Francis, he had a “more pastoral than magisterial interpretation of the role of Peter.” It recalled how Pius XII paid tribute to him at his canonization, describing him as a “country priest” – a label also given to Pope Francis.

The newspaper also pointed out that both popes were elected under extraordinary circumstances: Pope Francis after the retirement of Benedict XVI, and Pius X after Austria-Hungary Emperor Franz Joseph vetoed, via proxy, the election of the favourite in the 1903 conclave, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla.

The Vatican newspaper contended that the similarities between the two popes end there, adding that the times in which Pius X lived are “too distant with respect to those of today.”

But many continue to refer to Pius’ prolific writings, which they continue to see as relevant as ever to today’s relativist and increasingly secularist societies. His most famous encyclical, “Pascendi Dominici Gregis” (Feeding the Lord’s Flock), promulgated in 1907, was enormously influential in its condemnation of modernism, a movement that had evolved via currents in 19th-century Protestantism.

The document aimed to counter the movement’s belief that even solemnly defined Church teachings could change over time, and its sympathy with secularist conceptions of the separation of Church and state.

Pascendi Dominici Gregis has many striking passages, not least his solemn warning that modernists wish to “lay the axe not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fires.” Then, having struck at this root of immortality, he adds, “they proceed to disseminate poison through the whole tree, so that there is no part of Catholic truth from which they hold their hand, none that they do not strive to corrupt.” He stresses that agnosticism is the movement’s “philosophical foundation”, and one whose natural end is relativism and atheism.

Three years later, in 1910, St. Pius required all priests, religious superiors and seminary teachers to take an oath against the modernist heresy, a requirement that Pope Paul VI abolished in 1967.

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A less well-known though still often-quoted text of Pius X is from a 1910 letter to French bishops titled, “Our Apostolic Mandate”. Also a powerful rebuttal of modernism, today it is sometimes cited not only to counter today’s post-modernist culture but also to shed light on what many see as secularist thinking that has entered parts of the Church.

Written primarily as a response to “Le Sillon”, a French political and religious modernist movement that tried to bring Catholicism into greater conformity with French socialist ideals, the papal letter takes a stand against ideas that modern society holds inviolable: an erroneous concept of human dignity, liberation from authority, and democratization of the Church. Regarded as both wise and uncompromising, it serves as a rallying cry to French bishops to guard their flock in staying true to the Church’s teaching in the face of doctrinal error.

“Catholic doctrine tells us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be,” Pius X explains, adding that although Jesus was “kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared.”

“He loved them all,” Pius says, “but He instructed in order to comfort them.”

Jesus, he continues, “was as strong as he was gentle” and “He reproved, threatened, chastised.” He lifted up the lowly, but “not to instil” rebelliousness and disobedience. Jesus did not announce a “reign of an ideal happiness from which suffering would be banished,” Pius adds. “He traced the path of the happiness which is possible on earth and of the perfect happiness in heaven, the royal way of the Cross.”

Such teachings are “eminently social” he says, and show Jesus Christ as someone “quite different from an inconsistent and impotent humanitarianism.”

St. Pius X doesn’t hold back from reprimanding Catholics who seek to establish “the reign of love and justice” on earth based solely on the uniting influence of a “generous idealism and moral forces drawn from whence they can.”

He reminds them that establishing the “Christian City” needs much more than a “vague idealism and civic virtues”, and instead requires “the sufferings of millions of martyrs, and the light given by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and the self-sacrifice of all the heroes of charity, and a powerful hierarchy ordained in heaven, and the streams of Divine Grace – the whole having been built up, bound together, and impregnated by the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God, the Word made man.”

He goes on to deride the values derived from the French Revolution – “Liberty, Justice, Fraternity, Love, Equality” – so favoured by the Sillon movement. Such values rest on “an ill-understood human dignity”, he says, leading to a “seductive confusion,” a “tumultuous agitation” and a “sterile” end that brings “socialism in its train.”

He expresses concern that such thinking among Catholics aims to create a “One World Church” which shall have “neither dogmas nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb the passions, and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity, would bring back to the world [the] reign of legalized cunning and force, and oppression of the weak and of all those who toil and suffer.”

He addresses the problem of democracy, and while his thinking on this subject would probably be unpalatable to many Catholics today, he puts his finger on perhaps why, today, public opinion of democratic institutions has reached such a low ebb.

At that time there was a growing belief, and one which holds sway today, that a government’s authority derives from its people, and which the people have the right to revoke. But such a view was condemned by Leo XIII, Pius recalls, who restated that Catholics believe the right of government “derives from God as its natural and necessary principle.”

“If the people remain the holders of power,” Pius says, “what becomes of authority? A shadow, a myth; there is no more law properly so-called, no more obedience.” The result, he argues, is a society that “will have no masters and no servants. All citizens will be free; all comrades, all kings.” But then any precept would eventually be viewed “as an attack upon their freedom”, he says, and subordination to any form of superiority “would be a diminishment of the human person, and obedience a disgrace.”

Presciently, St. Pius says he fears worse is to come. “The end result of this developing promiscuousness, the beneficiary of this cosmopolitan social action, can only be a Democracy which will be neither Catholic, nor Protestant, nor Jewish,” he says. Instead it will “be a religion [more] universal than the Catholic Church, uniting all men to become brothers and comrades at last in the “Kingdom of God”, “We do not work for the Church, we work for mankind.””

With this in mind, Pius X encourages the bishops to “carry on diligently with the work of the Saviour of men by emulating His gentleness and His strength.” He urges them to “preach fearlessly their duties to the powerful and to the lowly” and to “form the conscience of the people and of the public authorities.” He further calls on the bishops to “ take appropriate measures, with prudence but with firmness also” with regards the Sillonists, and ends by calling on the Church to pray that the Lord may cause them to understand the “grave reasons” for any particular sanction placed on them.

Pius X was a prolific writer during his 11 years as Pope, penning 16 encyclicals all of which can be read in English on the Vatican Web site here. While some passages are clearly suited to another era, for many Catholics St. Pius X’s uncompromising style makes welcome reading in a world where the modernist heresy has long taken hold.

(August 22, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.

US Mistaking Islamists for Victims, Egypt’s Christians Say

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This article appeared in LIGNET, August 20, 2013

Security / Middle East and North Africa

SITUATION REPORT

church-(1)Scores of churches and church-run institutions were attacked, looted and destroyed over the past week in violence between supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Egypt’s interim military government. Christian leaders have pledged their full support for the government and security forces, but U.S. and EU policies appear to be disregarding the concerns of Egypt’s Christian minority, putting peace prospects in jeopardy.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of the Egyptian population, and have played a key role in the development of Egyptian culture and civilization. A new government will need their support to gain legitimacy and re-establish peace in the land.

Background

In a frenzy of violence on Aug. 14 and 15, Islamist mobs destroyed and looted 38 churches mainly in the Minya and Assiut provinces of Upper Egypt, according to the Justice and Peace Commission of Egypt’s Catholic patriarchs and bishops.The commission said another 28 churches were partially burned, seven schools were attacked, and property belonging to Coptic Christians was seized including 58 houses, 85 businesses and 16 pharmacies.

Other Egyptian sources say churches and Christian institutions in nearly half of Egypt’s 27 provinces were targeted for attack.In an Aug. 18 statement, the commission said the violence was carried out by “armed terrorist groups” as “collective punishment” for Christian participation in the national movements that led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in January 2011 and the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July of this year.

The military unseated the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Morsi regime in consultation with a council that included Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, president of Al Azhar University. Morsi was deposed after months of fuel shortages and power outages in addition to general discontent with the hard-line Islamist direction the Egyptian government was taking.In a public message posted on Facebook, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said its supporters were behind the torching of churches. “Pope [Tawadros] participated in the toppling of the first elected Islamist President,” the message said. “The Pope is trying to remove the Islamic identity in Egypt … and after all this you ask why Churches are being torched … for every action there is a consequence.”

The past week’s violence, which has cost more than 750 mostly Muslim lives, followed a military crackdown on Egyptians protesting the unseating of Morsi.

Government and church leaders, most notably Pope Tawadros, have singled out members of the Muslim Brotherhood for inciting the violence. Supporters of the Coptics, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, say they have been scapegoated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists since the unseating of Morsi. Some observers have noted they have suffered from poor protection by security forces as well.

But talk of a sectarian conflict is being played down. Addressing international leaders, Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak said on Aug. 19: “what is happening in Egypt now is not a political struggle between different factions, but a war against terrorism.”

Like Pope Tawadros, Sedrak rejected any attempt by outside forces “to interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt, or to influence its sovereign decisions, whatever the direction might be.” Tawadros firmly backs the interim government as does Sedrak, who pledged his “free, strong and conscious support” to the military and security forces. The patriarch also stressed that Muslims also have been victims of attacks by angry mobs and made a point of thanking those who, at the cost of their own lives, protected Christians from harm.

Tawadros and Sedrak condemned some media coverage for misrepresenting facts surrounding attacks on Christians in Egypt, and many there were said to be angered by the perceived pro-Brotherhood response of the United States and European Union to the violence. One Coptic activist, quoted by the Assyrian International News Agency, took issue with the “almost daily” statements coming from Washington and Brussels that threaten to take action against Egypt’s interim government and military.

They portray the Muslim Brotherhood “as victims,” the Coptic activist said, but fail to mention the destruction of churches and Christian institutions by Islamist mobs. The Brotherhood, he said, hoisted the black al-Qaeda flag atop a church in Sohag, Egypt, and three churches in the town of Minya were seized and turned into mosques and Friday prayers were held inside them. These events were not widely reported.

Analysis

Egypt’s Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people, but tens of thousands have fled the country since the end of the Mubarak government. Having faced centuries of marginalization and discrimination, they are now increasingly worried in the face of growing Islamist violence. The perceived unwillingness of the Muslim Brotherhood and other parties to engage in the search for a political solution in Egypt makes Christians understandably pessimistic about prospects for peace.

And yet Christians have long played a key role in developing Egyptian culture and could be important figures in achieving peace and reconciliation there. Such efforts will require the support of the international community, but critics say that by criticizing the interim government, victimizing the Muslim Brotherhood and cutting aid budgets to Egypt, Washington and Brussels are actually reducing the chances for peace. Worse, they may even be increasing the chances of turning the violence in Egypt into a full-fledged sectarian conflict.

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Benedict XVI Makes Brief Trip to Castel Gandolfo

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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI briefly returned to the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo on Sunday, where he spent time in prayer and attended a small concert in his honor.

He was accompanied by four ‘memores domini’, consecrated women belonging to the Communion and Liberation movement. When he was Pope, they looked after him in the apostolic palace, and continue to do so now as Pope Emeritus, in his new residence in the Vatican Gardens.

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Cardinal Angelo Sodano and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at Castel Gandolfo, Aug. 15, 2013.

During his three hour visit, Benedict XVI recited the Rosary while taking a stroll in the villa gardens, just as he used to do when he was Roman Pontiff. He also attended a short piano recital of classical music performed in his honor before returning to the Vatican in the evening.

Benedict XVI spent his first three months in retirement at the papal villas in the town, 20 miles outside Rome. The residence, on a hilltop overlooking a volcanic lake and with its own farm, has always been dear to him. But despite there being a Pope and a Pope Emeritus, neither is living there this summer, the traditional residence for popes from July until October.

Pope Francis is spending all season at the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence at the Vatican, partly to give an example of austerity, but also so that he can take a “working vacation” and prepare his reforms of the Roman Curia and the Vatican Bank. It is the longest time the papal villas have remained vacant over the summer since the papal transitions during the summer months of 1978.

Italian media have been reporting that the absence of Pope Francis and Benedict XVI is taking its toll on businesses in the town. Most traders there make most of their living in the summer months, and are reported to be disappointed and saddened by the lack of the town’s greatest draw. During Benedict XVI’s pontificate, his Sunday and Wednesday addresses would bring thousands to the hilltop town, but this season numbers have dwindled to a trickle. One businessman, quoted by the Italian news agency ANSA, said business was “collapsing” while another said she thought it was “a joke” when she found out Pope Francis would not be staying there.

But when I visited the town on the Feast of the Assumption, traders seemed more upbeat, helped by the influx of a crowd of pilgrims numbering over 10,000. “We have a high regard for Pope Francis,” said Diana, owner of an art shop on the central piazza. “He has chosen not to take a vacation, to keep working and maybe that is a good thing.” But she said “we want him here and hopefully he’ll come next year.”

Carla, owner of a souvenir shop, also seemed hardly perturbed, saying that although the absence of a pope has caused some hardship, she liked Pope Francis’ “austere approach to things”. She was confident he would be staying next year.

Castel Gandolfo’s mayor, Milvia Monachesi, has suggested the town perhaps needs to find a new economic model, one not based solely on religious tourism. She argued the town in itself has a lot to offer on account of its history and beautiful location. Some have proposed asking the Vatican to open up the gardens of the papal villas to the public as a way of attracting more tourists.

Monachesi, however, is confident this is just a short-term problem, and took comfort in the fact that Pope John XXIII also didn’t visit the town during the early years of his pontificate. “I’m sure the Pope will come to Castel Gandolfo in the coming years,” she said.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/benedict-xvi-makes-brief-return-to-castel-gandolfo/#ixzz2cjkNraYh

40 Churches Burned, Looted or Destroyed in Egypt

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The video here (warning: contains some violent images) is CCTV footage showing a mob attacking St. George’s Coptic Orthodox church in Sohag, Upper Egypt, a couple of days ago.

The images haven’t been independently verified, but reports coming out of the country say 64 churches and institutions, including many belonging to the Coptic Catholic Church, were attacked in one day by Islamist mobs opposed to the current government. The website “Protect the Pope” has the full list here.

Fr. Rafiq Greiche, spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic bishops, told Vatican Radio today that “40 churches – 10 Catholic and 30 Orthodox, Protestant and Greek-Orthodox – have been looted or burned, if not totally destroyed.”

Asia News reports that in addition to churches, the “fundamentalists attacked monasteries, schools and many shops and houses inhabited by Christians. Several homes and shops were marked with a cross, and with violent slogans, as if to indicate them as a target for future attacks.”

The attackers turned on Coptic Christians after its leadership supported the unseating of President Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first Islamist president. Morsi’s enforced departure followed mass protests calling for his resignation at the end of June, brought upon by severe fuel shortages and electricity outages. He was formally ousted by the military on 3 July, together with a council that included the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, and Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

This week’s violence was sparked by an army crackdown against Egyptians protesting the ouster of Morsi. As well as churches, mosques have also been attacked. The death toll from the violence is currently reported to be over 600.

Yesterday, Pope Francis called on the faithful to “pray together for peace, dialogue and reconciliation in that dear nation and throughout the world,” and assured all “the victims and their families, the injured and all those who are suffering” of his prayers.

Coptic Christians have been worried about the future since former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011, and those worries intensified after the election in 2012 of Morsi, a former leading figure in the Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The political wing of the organisation has denied being behind this week’s attacks on Christians.

For years, Egypt’s Copts have suffered from marginalisation and discrimination, although violence was generally kept in check during the rule of Mubarak.

Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people, but tens of thousands have fled the country since the end of the Mubarak government.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/40-churches-burned-looted-or-destroyed-in-egypt/#ixzz2c9DZMs2c

Misinterpreting Francis

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality during a press conference on the papal plane back from World Youth Day in Rio were largely misreported by the mainstream press, according to a Vatican official and a Church expert.

pope-francisDuring a surprise and wide-ranging in-flight press conference Sunday that lasted 80 minutes, Pope Francis reportedly said: “If someone is gay, and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” the Holy Father went on. “It says one must not marginalize these persons; they must be integrated into society,” he said, and he reportedly made the distinction between homosexual acts, which are sinful, and tendencies, which are not.

“The problem isn’t this [homosexual] orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying, either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby,” he said. The Pope recently said a “gay lobby” exists in the Vatican, which protects some priests and threatens to blackmail others.

The Catechism states that the number of men and women who have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.” The inclination is “objectively disordered,” it continues, and “constitutes for most of them a trial” (2358).

It adds, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (2358).

The Catechism teaches that homosexual persons “are called to chastity” and that “by the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (2359).

 

Not Changing Doctrine

But large media outlets, such as the BBC, often accused of promoting same-sex rights, were quick to report the story in accordance with their own biases. The BBC splashed this headline across its news site: “Pope Francis: Who am I to judge gay people?” Others followed suit, misleadingly implying that the Holy Father “doesn’t judge gay people.”

“[The Pope] is not saying homosexual acts are not a sin, and he obviously isn’t changing Church doctrine, but he is making a change of emphasis,” one Vatican official close to the Pope told the Register on condition of anonymity.

“The problem is the headlines,” he added, “and confusion over the meaning of the word ‘gay.’”

The Holy Father’s words on homosexuality “don’t represent a Copernican revolution or a subversion,” affirmed Vito Mancuso, professor of theological history at the University of Padua, in comments to the Italian AKI news agency. “But they do have an innovative dimension in the style in which they were delivered and in the general desire for clarity and renewal that the Pope is proposing — a fundamental trait of this early period of his pontificate.”

He added, “If we look closely, these words don’t contain anything that Benedict XVI would not have written,” but he said that Pope Francis has, as John XXIII had, a flair for communicating a “benevolent humanity, humble and witty at the same time, which makes his words immediately seem innovative, revolutionary, different, even when they are not.”

 

Msgr. Ricca

The Vatican official said it was “great that [the Pope] has been placing an emphasis on mercy” — something the Holy Father also reiterated during the press conference — and is showing the Church’s “total compassion” for all.

But some believe there might have been “confusion” over this topic and that of Msgr. Battista Ricca, who was also referenced during the impromptu in-flight interview.

Pope Francis recently appointed Msgr. Ricca as prelate of the Vatican Bank, but, according to recent reports, he was allegedly embroiled in homosexual scandals more than 10 years ago.

During the press conference, the Holy Father stated, “I did what canon law said must be done. I ordered an ‘investigation brevia,’ and this investigation found nothing.”

He also warned against seeking to “out the sins of somebody’s youth and publish them.”

“We’re not talking about crimes, which are something else,” he said. “But one can sin and then convert, and the Lord both forgives and forgets.” This is important, he said, “because those who want the Lord to forget their sins should forget those of others.”

But his comments about forgiving and forgetting past sins have made some question whether they are consistent with a 2005 Vatican document that said men who had deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be ordained as priests.

According to the “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations With Regard to Persons With Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders,” the Church, “while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’”

“Part of the problem is: What does ‘deep-seated’ mean?” commented the Vatican official, adding that the word “gay” — the word the Pope used — often suggests someone who is a practicing homosexual and part of the “gay culture.”

But he stressed the Pope “isn’t reaching out to [active homosexual persons] in the same way. He will confess them, but tell them to sin no more. He’s not saying [homosexual acts] are not a sin.”

 

Women’s Roles and Canonizations

Turning to other topics during the airborne press conference, Pope Francis mentioned the need to delve more deeply into the role of women in the Church, saying they could be placed in more administrative positions.

“The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework. … We don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the Church,” he said, but he reiterated that women priests were not an option and reminded reporters that the possibility was definitively ruled out by Blessed John Paul II.

He also revealed that the date for the canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II will probably not be this coming Dec. 8. The winter weather would make travel from Poland difficult at that time of year, he said. Instead, it could take place sooner, and he explained that Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, had suggested the late November feast of Christ the King. The other possibility, the Pope said, would be next spring’s feast of Divine Mercy.

Another reporter asked him why he did not mention abortion or same-sex “marriage” during his visit to Rio, to which he replied that the Church’s teaching on these issues is already well known.

This was a remarkable press conference, given the frankness of the Pope, his willingness to answer any question that was put to him and the time he spent fielding questions. Even his advisers were surprised that he allowed himself to be exposed to such scrutiny, especially as he said on the plane to Rio that he doesn’t like interviews. Before he became pope, he had only granted a handful of interviews to the press.

 

Vatican Bank

During the Pope’s July 28 press conference, the Holy Father also tackled the thorny issue of reforming the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), loosely known as the “Vatican Bank.”

He said he did not know the fate of the institution, which is more of a facility for administering charitable funds than a bank and which has suffered a series of scandals in recent years.

But Pope Francis told the reporters that “transparency and honesty” were essential to the IOR’s operations. He also said that, while moral failures by clergy cause scandal and pain, it is also important to recognize that sometimes the media and others will go searching for scandal.

Earlier this year, the Holy Father appointed an outside commission to discuss how to “restore it, reformulate it,” the Pope said. He shared with reporters some ideas: one, that the IOR should become a real bank; another, that it should be a “charitable fund,” a kind of “ethical bank”; or, simply, that it should be closed.

“I don’t know,” the Pope said. “I have confidence in the work of the people at IOR, who are working a lot, and in the commission” studying the bank and its role in the universal mission of the Church.

“Whatever it ends up being — whether a bank or a charitable fund — transparency and honesty are essential,” he said.

But Pope Francis described as “a scandal” the case of Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, a now-suspended official from the Vatican investment office, who was arrested in Italy June 28 on charges that he allegedly tried to help smuggle millions of euros into Italy from Switzerland.

“There are saints who work in the Curia — cardinals, bishops, priests, sisters, laity; I’ve met them,” he said, adding that the media only writes about “the sinners and the scandals,” but that’s normal, because “a tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows.”

 

Wider Reform

Regarding wider reform of the Roman Curia, Pope Francis recalled the suggestions made by the College of Cardinals before the conclave in March.

“They wanted a lot of things,” Francis said, “but a key part of it was that the Vatican central offices be more efficient and more clearly at the service of the universal Church.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/misinterpreting-francis#ixzz2b6dd26Mm

Bringing the Liturgy Back to the Real Vatican II

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The abuses of the sacred liturgy that followed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council are “strictly correlated” with a great deal of moral corruption that exists in the world today, says Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.

In an exclusive interview with ZENIT on the sidelines of Sacra Liturgia 2013, a major international conference on the liturgy held in Rome at the end of June, the Vatican’s most senior American says poor liturgies have also led to “a levity in catechesis” that has been “shocking” and left generations of Catholics ill prepared to deal with today’s challenges.

BurkeIn a wide-ranging discussion, Cardinal Burke, who serves as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, also explains the importance of liturgical law, Pope Francis’ approach to the liturgy, and why the sacred liturgy is vital to the New Evangelization.

ZENIT: Your Eminence, what were your hopes for this conference?

Cardinal Burke: My hope for the conference was a return to the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on the sacred liturgy. Indeed, [I was hoping for] a deepening and appreciation of the continuity of the teaching practised with regard to the sacred liturgy throughout the Church’s history, and which is also reflected in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council – something that was obscured after the Council. I believe in large part that has been achieved.

ZENIT: Are we coming out of that period now?

Cardinal Burke: Yes, already Pope Paul VI after the Council in a very intense way, and then John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, laboured diligently to restore the true nature of the sacred liturgy as the gift of worship given to us by God and which we owe to God in the very way He teaches us how to worship. So it’s not man’s invention, it’s God’s gift to us.

ZENIT: How important is a sound understanding of the liturgy in today’s Church. How can it help evangelization?

Cardinal Burke: To me, it’s fundamental. It’s the most important area of catechesis: to understand the worship accorded to God. The first three commandments of the Ten Commandments are to do with this right relationship to God, especially with regards to worship. It’s only when we understand our relationship with God in offering worship that we also understand the right order of all the other relationships we have. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his wonderful magisterium on the sacred liturgy, and which he expressed so often, [it consists of] this connection between worship and right conduct, worship and law, worship and discipline.

ZENIT: Some argue the liturgy is mostly about aesthetics, and not as important as, say, good works done in faith. What is your view of this argument that one often hears?

Cardinal Burke: It’s a common misconception. First of all, the liturgy is about Christ. It’s Christ alive in his Church, the glorious Christ coming into our midst and acting on our behalf through sacramental signs to give us the gift of eternal life to save us. It is the source of any truly charitable works we do, any good works we do. So the person whose heart is filled with charity wants to do good works will, like Mother Teresa, give his first intention to the worship of God so that when he goes to offer charity to a poor person or someone in need, it would be at the level of God Himself, and not some human level.

ZENIT: Some also say that to be concerned with liturgical law is being unduly legalistic, that it’s a stifling of the spirit. How should one respond to that? Why should we be concerned about liturgical law?

Cardinal Burke: Liturgical law disciplines us so that we have the freedom to worship God, otherwise we’re captured – we’re the victims or slaves either of our own individual ideas, relative ideas of this or that, or of the community or whatever else. But the liturgical law safeguards the objectivity of sacred worship and opens up that space within us, that freedom to offer worship to God as He desires, so we can be sure we’re not worshipping ourselves or, at the same time, as Aquinas says, some kind of falsification of divine worship.

ZENIT: It offers a kind of template?

Cardinal Burke: Exactly, it’s what discipline does in every aspect of our lives. Unless we’re disciplined, then we’re not free.

ZENIT: As a diocesan bishop in the United States, how did you find the state of the liturgy in the parishes you’ve been in charge of? What, in your view, are the priorities for liturgical renewal in diocesan life today?

Cardinal Burke: I found, of course, many wonderful aspects – in both dioceses in which I’ve served – a strong sense of participation on the part of the faithful. What I also found were some of the shadows as Pope John Paul II called them, a loss of Eucharistic faith, a loss of Eucharistic devotion and certain liturgical abuses. And as a diocesan bishop I needed to address them and I tried as best I could. But in addressing them you always try to help both the priest and the faithful to understand the deep reasons for the Church’s discipline, the reasons why a certain abuse is not only unhelpful for sacred worship but is in fact blocking it or corrupting it.

ZENIT: It’s said love for the sacred liturgy and being pro-life go together, that those who worship correctly are more likely to want to bring children into the world. Could you explain why this is so?

Cardinal Burke: It’s in the sacred liturgy above all, and particularly in the Holy Eucharist, that we look upon the love which God has for every human life without exception, without boundary, beginning from the very first moment of conception, because Christ poured out his life as he said for all men. And remember he teaches us that whatever we do for the least of our brethren, we do directly for Him. In other words, he identifies himself in the Eucharistic sacrifice with every human life. So on the one hand, the Eucharist inspires a great reverence for human life, respect and care for human life, and at the same time it inspires a joy among those who are married to procreate, to cooperate with God in bringing new human life into this world.

ZENIT: Sacra Liturgia has been about liturgical celebration but also formation. What basis of liturgical formation do we need in our parishes, dioceses and particularly in our seminaries?

Cardinal Burke: The first important lesson that has to be taught is that the sacred liturgy is an expression of God’s right to receive from us the worship that is due to Him, and that flows from who we are. We are God’s creatures and so divine worship, in a very particular way, expresses at the same time the infinite majesty of God and also our dignity as the only earthly creature that can offer him worship, in other words that we can lift up our hearts and minds to him in praise and worship. So that would be the first lesson. Then to study carefully how the liturgical rites have developed down the centuries and not to see the history of the Church as somehow a corruption of those liturgical rites. In the true sense, the Church over time has come to an ever deeper understanding of the sacred liturgy and has expressed that in several ways, whether it be through sacred vestments, sacred vessels, through sacred architecture – even the care for sacred linens which are used in the Holy Mass. All of these are expressions of the liturgical reality and so those things have to be carefully studied, and of course then to study the relationship of liturgy with the other aspects of our lives.

ZENIT: You’re known for celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Why did Pope Benedict make this freely available and what role does it have to play in the Church of the 21st century?

Cardinal Burke: What Pope Benedict XVI saw and experienced, also through those who came to him, who were very attached what we now call the Extraordinary Form – the Traditional Mass – was that in the reforms as they were introduced after the Council, a fundamental misunderstanding took place. Namely, this was that the reforms were undertaken with the idea there had been a rupture, that the way in which the Mass had been celebrated up until the time of the Council was somehow radically defective and there had to be what was really violent change, a reduction of the liturgical rites and even the language used, in every respect. So in order to restore the continuity, the Holy Father gave wide possibility for the celebration of the sacred rites as they were celebrated up until 1962, and then expressed the hope that through these two forms of the same rite – it’s all the same Roman rite, it can’t be different, it’s the same Mass, same Sacrament of Penance and so forth –there would be a mutual enrichment. And that continuity would be more perfectly expressed in what some have called the “reform of the reform”.

ZENIT: Pope Francis is a different person to Benedict XVI in many ways, but it’s hard to believe there are substantial differences between them on the importance of the sacred liturgy. Are there any differences?

Cardinal Burke: I don’t see it at all. The Holy Father clearly hasn’t had the opportunity to teach in a kind of authoritative way about the sacred liturgy, but in the things he has said about the sacred liturgy I see a perfect continuity with Pope Benedict XVI. I see in the Holy Father, too, a great concern for respecting the magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI and his discipline, and that is what Pope Francis is doing.

ZENIT: This conference is reflecting on the 50 years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and 50 years ago this December its constitution on the sacred liturgy was promulgated. You’ve already mentioned how liturgical renewal was not as the Council desired, but how do you see things progressing in the future? What do you envision, especially among young people?

Cardinal Burke: Young people are going back now and studying both the texts of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council with its serious texts on liturgical theology which remain valid also today. They’re studying the rites as they were celebrated, striving to understand the meaning and various elements of the rite and there’s a great enthusiasm for that and a great interest in it. All of it, I believe, is directed to a more intense experience of God’s presence with us through the sacred liturgy. That transcendent element was most sadly lost when the reform after the Council was, so to speak, side-tracked and manipulated for other purposes – that sense of transcendence of Christ’s action through the sacraments.

ZENIT: Does this mirror the loss of the sacred in society as a whole?

Cardinal Burke: It does indeed. There’s no question in my mind that the abuses in the sacred liturgy, reduction of the sacred liturgy to some kind of human activity, is strictly correlated with a lot of moral corruption and with a levity in catechesis that has been shocking and has left generations of Catholics ill prepared to deal with the challenges of our time by addressing the Catholic faith to those challenges. You can see it in the whole gamut of Church life.

ZENIT: Pope Benedict said once that the crises we see in society today can be linked to problems of the liturgy.

Cardinal Burke: Yes he was convinced of that and I would say, so am I. It was, of course, more important that he was convinced of it, but I believe that he was absolutely correct.

(July 25, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.
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