Italian Magazine Says NSA Listened into Vatican and Pope


The National Security Agency has been listening into telephone calls of the Pope and senior Vatican officials, an Italian magazine has claimed.

In an article in Panorama which will appear on newsstands tomorrow, the NSA is reported to have tapped the phonecalls of Vatican officials and senior prelates before and during the Conclave, as well as incoming and outgoing calls from the Domus Internationalis residence where the Pope was living before the election.

Panorama also says there are suspicions that the conversations of the Pope were even monitored long before he was elected. The magazine refers to the Wikileaks files which, it says, revealed that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been under surveillance since 2005.

According to the Italian weekly, incoming and outgoing calls from the Vatican were classified into four categories: “leadership intentions”, “threats to the financial system”, “foreign policy objectives”, and “human rights”.

There are also suspicions that calls surrounding the election earlier this year of the new President of the IOR (Vatican Bank), Ernst von Freyberg, have also been monitored. The IOR has been implementing a number of transparency measures over the past few years, one of which is aimed at eliminating the possibility of terrorist organisations using the Vatican Bank to launder money.

Panorama says that an annex of the U.S. Embassy to Italy has a section dedicated to spying made up of NSA and the CIA agents. These findings, Panorama says, are backed up by the archives leaked by former intelligence officer Edward Snowden that reportedly confirm the presence of an elite spying unit in Rome – part of a network found in 79 locations, including 19 in Europe.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has played down the claims, saying: “We don’t know anything about this, and in any case we don’t have any concerns about it.”

The U.S. embassies to Italy and the Holy See have so far not publicly commented on the allegations.

Today a delegation from the German secret service will be received at the White House to discuss alleged NSA tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.

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Pope Francis the Mentor, Minister to the Poor


VATICAN CITY — An Argentinian priest, sent as a missionary to Japan, remembers fondly the spiritual direction he received from Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio and the way in which the future Pope Francis transformed a local neighborhood.

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, published Oct. 26, Jesuit Father Renzo De Luca recounted his experiences as a seminarian at the Maximo College of San Miguel in Argentina in the early 1980s. At the time, Father Bergoglio was rector of the seminary, which is located just outside Buenos Aires.

Seminarians studied Monday through Friday, Father De Luca remembered, but instead of free time on Saturday or Sunday, Father Bergoglio had them enter poor neighborhoods.

“It was part of our formation,” Father De Luca said. “An education is not only theoretical, but also practical.” As far as he is aware, no other institution at that time had such an initiative.

He remembered how, at the time in Argentina, local people were usually expected to present themselves in church, and no one went out to look for them; but Father Bergoglio had other ideas.

“It was a Copernican revolution,” Father De Luca said. “We had to go and really knock on the doors and say: ‘Look, here’s the Catechism. Send us your young people.’ It was also a way of keeping them off the streets.”

He remembered how he and his fellow seminarians had to knock on the doors of people “who hadn’t even got clothes on their backs.”

“You had to have a lot of nerve to invite them to church while it was obvious that they had the bare minimum to eat,” he said. “Yet people responded to our call.”

He remembered how, in one particular neighborhood, the locals did not even have a church. But, in a short time, one was built, and “hundreds of people began to take part in the Mass every Sunday.” In a few years, he observed, “what was once a center of degradation, without social cohesion, became vibrant and solid.”


A Lesson Learned

Looking back on his time spent discerning his vocation within the Society of Jesus, Father De Luca recalled how Father Bergoglio would “always get me to ask myself the reason for my decisions,” and it was one of the “most important lessons” the rector would teach.

He recounted an exchange after he returned to the seminary after spending two months in the United States to learn English. Father De Luca had missed two months of lessons, and he had a highly anticipated retreat coming up. “I went to [Father] Bergoglio to ask for advice,” he said. “It seemed natural to me that I had to choose one of the two: either the lessons or the retreat. He just said: ‘Think of resolving this problem yourself.’”

“Initially, I didn’t know what he meant, whether to skip the retreat and study or skip the classes and make the retreat,” Father De Luca continued. “I went back to him with the question and asked him explicitly: ‘So I can skip the retreat?’”

“I never said that,” Father Bergoglio replied. “I only said that you yourself must think about it.”

Father De Luca realized that Father Bergoglio meant that he had to find a way to meet both commitments which, at the time, seemed to the young seminarian to be “quite absurd.”

“I felt it was justified to skip the retreat on one occasion,” he said. “But In the end, thanks to his direction, I found a way of doing both things. And I knew that I had to start taking responsibility for my actions.”

Later, when he expressed his wish to go to Japan, he recalled how Father Bergoglio would get him to question his desires in order to never take decisions lightly. “Renzo, did you ask to go to Japan?” the future pope asked him. “Yes,” seminarian De Luca replied, to which Father Bergoglio answered: “Do you know what to expect?”

The young seminarian said he thought his spiritual director did not agree with his wish, but it wasn’t so. “It was a sort of test,” Father De Luca explained, “a sort of exercise to never take things superficially.”

Once in Japan, he said Father Bergoglio’s guidance and words helped him to carry out the great challenges of his mission. He was also struck by the fact that Father Bergoglio once said that his own generation never had the chance to go on a mission abroad and so the seminarian should be happy to have the opportunity.

“The words seem trivial but I still remember them,” Father De Luca said. “They gave me a lot of strength to meet the challenges of a busy mission.” He was also deeply struck to find out, after he’d been elected pope, that Francis had himself wanted to be a missionary in Japan.


Pope Francis and St. Francis Xavier

Today, Father De Luca is the director of a museum commemorating the 26 martyrs of Nagasaki. Containing letters from St. Francis Xavier, it is also reputed to be the most important Christian museum in Japan.

The attraction is also located on the periphery of Japanese society and close to Fukuoka, the most populous city on Kyushu Island and a place that has the highest crime rate in the country. Father De Luca said that it is thanks to Father Bergoglio’s emphasis on going out to the periphery of society that brought him there.

“[Father] Bergoglio inspired me,” he said, adding that he saw a “perfect bond” between Pope Francis and the first Jesuit missionary to Japan, St. Francis Xavier.

“Francis Xavier went against the conventions of the Society of Jesus at the time,” Father De Luca said. “In the same way, Bergoglio can bring unexpected changes to the Church.”

Father De Luca said Father Bergoglio once visited him in Japan, in 1987. “I hope to see him again, maybe right here,” he said.

That may not be as unlikely as it may seem: Pope Francis has already said a visit to Asia is a priority of his pontificate. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi reiterated the Pope’s wish on Oct. 28, after the Holy Father received Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in private audience.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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German Bishop Takes Leave While Diocesan Audit Is Conducted


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has asked a German bishop to take a temporary leave of absence while a commission looks into allegations of excessive spending in his diocese.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, of the Diocese of Limburg near Frankfurt, has been at the focus of allegations of approving an expensive remodeling and building project that included the bishop’s residence. According to some estimates, the total amount could be as much as $40 million.

Der Spiegel magazine described the new building as a “monstrous luxury complex,” but the publication erroneously reported that it was built “according to the wishes” of Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, when, in fact, his predecessor, Bishop Franz Kamphaus, who retired in 2007, ordered the project.

A Vatican statement issued Oct. 23 said that Pope Francis, who received the bishop in private audience on Oct. 21, has been “continually informed in detail and objectively on the situation.” It added that “a situation has arisen” in which the bishop “cannot, at the present moment, continue to exercise his episcopal ministry.”

In September, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, sent Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, a former apostolic nuncio to Germany, on a “fraternal visit” (as opposed to an apostolic visitation, which would indicate the problems were more serious). The cardinal, diocesan leaders and Germany’s bishops’ conference agreed to the creation of a commission to carry out a detailed examination of the building project.

“Pending the results of this examination and of an analysis of responsibility for the matter, the Holy See considers it appropriate to authorize a period of stay outside the diocese” for the bishop, the Oct. 23 statement said.


Administrator Appointed

The statement confirmed that a new vicar general, Msgr. Wolfgang Rosch, would administer the diocese. The Vatican said he will undertake these duties “during the absence of the diocesan bishop, within the sphere of competence associated with this office.”

The Church in Germany is one of the wealthiest in the world, deriving much of its income from a statutory Church tax. During his visit to Germany in 2011, Benedict XVI called for a purification of the Church from its “excesses” and wealth and power in general. He questioned whether, behind the “superbly organized” structures, there was also “a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in the living God.”

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, 53, has long been the focus of secular media attention, most notably soon after his appointment in 2008, when he criticized Islam and dismissed a local priest for blessing a same-sex union. Some local priests have criticized his leadership in homilies and public statements and drawn up a petition.

By contrast, his predecessor, Bishop Kamphaus, who served as bishop of Limburg from 1982 to 2007, sparked controversy in the early 2000s by refusing to comply with several request from Pope John Paul II to stop issuing certificates that opened the way for women to have abortions.

Under German law, a woman may have a legal abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, provided that she can present proof that she has first attended a counseling center, many of which are run by the Church.


Pastoral Letter

In a pastoral letter dated Aug. 31, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst appealed to the diocese to examine the allegations themselves and invited all parish members to visit the diocesan center in Limburg and to meet him personally.

But he also admitted in general terms to harboring regrets. “Some of what has been said and written in the past few weeks has hurt me,” he wrote. “Other things have also caused me to think and have contributed to me seeing some decisions in a different light. Looking back, I would have done some things differently. It is true; even a bishop is not immune to doubts and must be able to bear criticism.”

Reports in the mainstream media appear to already convict the bishop, but that is clearly not how the Vatican or certain figures close to the case view it. Some observers have pointed out that the Vatican statement leaves room for interpretation and noted that Pope Francis has not explicitly barred the bishop from exercising his episcopal ministry.

“It’s clear that [Bishop] Tebartz-van Elst continues to be in office as bishop of Limburg,” Georg Bier, a canon lawyer, told the German Catholic news agency KNA Oct. 24. “[The Vatican statement] doesn’t say that he is currently not allowed to act as a bishop, just that he cannot currently exercise his episcopal ministry.” The Pope, Bier observed, could have ordered the bishop not to exercise his office until further notice or signified he would be keeping a close eye on him, but he did neither.


Withholding Judgment

Meanwhile, a leading German theologian has expressed doubt about the allegations made against the bishop.

Speaking to the German channel WDR 2 Oct. 23, Manfred Lütz said the bathtub of the new residence cost 3,000 euros, not the reported 15,000 euros. He also said it was “unclear” whether a hanging Advent wreath cost 100,000 euros or who had originally ordered it, and he doubted the $40 million estimated total.

But whether the allegations are true or not, Lütz said one should withhold judgment until the results of the investigation are known.

The theologian, who is a consultant and member of two Vatican dicasteries, believes it is conceivable that the bishop has been cleared of wrongdoing but has not returned to the diocese because of the heated atmosphere there.

Lütz expressed regret that many had made a definite judgment about Bishop Tebartz-van Elst without being fully informed.

Commented Lütz, “We know too little.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Secretary Recalls Final Months of Benedict XVI’s Pontificate


VATICAN CITY — In a revealing new interview, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein has recalled the final tumultuous months of Benedict XVI’s pontificate and shared his views on the new style of papacy under Pope Francis.

In the interview, published in the Italian daily Il Messaggero Oct. 22, the German archbishop said that working as prefect of the pontifical household, as well as continuing to assist Benedict XVI, is “quite a challenge, regardless of the amount of things to do.”

“I would seek the advice of my predecessor, except there isn’t one, because no one before me has ever had this double task,” he said. “But using common sense, I do my best.”

Archbishop Gänswein, 57, served as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s private secretary from 2003, a role he maintained until Benedict XVI promoted him to prefect of the pontifical household last year. He continues to assist the pope emeritus and lives with him in a converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens. As prefect, he takes care of the internal organization of Francis’ papal household and supervises the conduct and service of all who make up the papal chapel and family.

The German prelate, who has previously described his role as being a “bridge” between the two popes, said he puts into practice “the words of Pope Francis: Never turn in on oneself, and do not be afraid; that way, I pursue a serene path every day.” In the end, he added, “the service is done for the Lord and for the Church.”

He said he initially had some struggles taking up the position. “I confess to having some difficulty, some unpleasant experiences regarding misunderstandings and envy, but these ripples have since calmed down.”

Reporting on Benedict XVI, the archbishop said: “He’s fine; he prays, reads, listens to music. He devotes himself to correspondence which is immense, and there are also visits.” He added that he and the former pope also take daily walks in the grove behind the monastery and pray the Rosary. “The day is well planned,” he said.

Recalling the final days of Benedict XVI’s papacy, he said his resignation was “not entirely” a surprise. “I had known of his decision for some time, but I never spoke with anyone about it. The moment of the announcement, on Feb. 11, remains indelible.”

“Difficult days” followed Benedict’s departure on Feb. 28, he said. “I will never forget when I turned off the lights of the papal apartments with tears in my eyes,” he said. “Then the car ride to the heliport, the flight to Castel Gandolfo, the arrival, the final farewell of Pope Benedict XVI on the balcony. Finally, the closing of the door of the palazzo.”

He said the whole of March was difficult due to the uncertainty of who would be elected. “Fortunately, with the new pope, there was a relationship of affection and esteem, even if Benedict and Francis are people with different styles and personalities,” the archbishop said. “Some have wanted to interpret such differences as being opposite directions, but it is not so.”

Going back farther, Archbishop Gänswein also recalled the nadir of the “Vatileaks” affair, when Benedict XVI’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested for leaking documents from the papal apartments, and the then-president of the IOR (Vatican Bank) Ettore Gotti Tedeschi resigned.

“I remember that moment well,” he recalled, but added that, “contrary to what many people think, there is no connection between the two events; it was, rather, just an unfortunate coincidence, even diabolical.”

Gotti Tedeschi was ousted by the board of the IOR on grounds of alleged negligence. Some speculated he was involved in leaking papal documents to the press, but this has always been denied, a view backed up by Archbishop Gänswein.

“Benedict XVI, who appointed Gotti as head of the IOR to continue the [Vatican’s] transparency policy, was surprised, very surprised at the no-confidence vote against the professor,” he said. “The Pope held him in high esteem and was fond of him, but he chose not to interfere at the time, out of respect for those who were responsible for dealing with such matters. After the no-confidence vote, even though he was not able to meet with Gotti, the Pope kept in touch with him in a discreet and appropriate way.”

Regarding Pope Francis, Archbishop Gänswein said he was “trying to understand more and more what [the poor Church of Francis] means,” stressing it is a “common thread” in the Petrine ministry of Pope Francis. “It is not a sociological, but a theological, expression,” he said. “At the center is the poor Christ, and from there, everything follows.”

He said the Pope’s approach is consistent with the one he pursued in Buenos Aires. His personal example is a pastoral one, he said, and “a precious witness.”

But he was skeptical about the term “revolution,” saying it seems “a facile slogan” put about in some of the mass media. “Sure, some gestures and initiatives of Papa Francesco surprised and still surprise,” he said. “But it is normal that a change of pontificate brings with it changes on different levels.” The Pope, he said, must build a team of trustworthy people, “but this is not a revolution; it is simply an act of governance and accountability.”

He said the establishment of a commission of eight cardinals to advise the Pope on Curial reform was a “big surprise,” adding that it was too early to predict definitive results but that he was “curious” what those will be.

Archbishop Gänswein also firmly rejected the possibility of having a “pope and anti-pope.”

“There is a reigning pope and a pope emeritus,” he said. “Whoever knows Benedict XVI knows that this danger does not exist. He has never interfered and does not interfere in the governance of the Church; it is not part of his style. The theologian Ratzinger also knows that his every word could attract the public’s attention and whatever he said would be read as being for or against his successor.”

“So he will not intervene publicly,” he added. “Luckily, between him and Francis, there is a relationship of sincere esteem and brotherly affection.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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From the Archive: Interview with Filmscore Composer Ennio Morricone




For National Catholic Register

Edward Pentin


Ennio Morricone is considered by many to be one of Hollywood’s finest film score composers. In a career spanning nearly 50 years, he has written around 450 unique, stirring and atmospheric soundtracks for some of the world’s most memorable films. They include the Clint Eastwood ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ of the 1960s such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and A Fistful of Dollars; the memorable score for The Mission, a 1986 picture centered on Jesuit missionaries in 18th century South America; and the gangster films The Untouchables and Once Upon a Time in America. And at 80, he is still going strong, writing soundtracks for new films and conducting more of his own music than ever before – he’ll be performing his next concert October 25th 2009 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. In a rare recent interview, he spoke with Register Correspondent Edward Pentin at his home in Rome about his faith, his music, his concern for the liturgy, and his high opinion of Pope Benedict XVI.



Photo I took of the great maestro in his Rome home.

Maestro Morricone, how much does your faith inspire your music?

I am a man of faith, but faith doesn’t inspire me. I do not think about my faith when I write a piece of music. I think of the music that I have to write – music is an abstract art. But of course, when I have to write a religious piece, certainly my faith contributes to it. I recently wrote a secular cantata on the Gospel, the Bible, and the Koran for baritone and orchestra. I don’t have to think of God and, in general, if the text isn’t religious, there’s no reason to apply religious music to it and so there’s no reason to think about religion. Of course, I have inside of me a spirituality that I always retain in my writing. But I keep it there not because I want it, so to speak, but because I feel it.

Was there a special spiritual component to your film score for The Mission?

In The Mission, they called me to do the music for a film where the protagonists were Jesuits, the Jesuits who went on a mission to South America to be among the Indians, to make the Indians become Christians. What they brought with them was the Renaissance experience of the progress of instrumental music. This is the first thing you see in the opening scenes of the movie when Father Gabriel teaches the violin to the two boys. Then they brought with them a post-Council of Trent experience – the reform of the music at the Council of Trent in the 15th century. They brought this music not only because they were the central characters, but also because, if they were to serve as religious, they had to offer the music that came out of the Council of Trent. Third, after these [scenes], I was obliged to present the music of the Indians. What was the music of the Indians? I didn’t know so I had to invent it.

The miracle of the music of this movie was the influence of the oboe. So I wrote a theme for the oboe. The post-conciliar motet was very important because when Cardinal Altamirano came to the mission, the Indians welcomed him with this Occidental, European song. And, of course, writing all of this into the film, you hear the first theme of the film, that of the oboe, then the second musical theme, the post-conciliar music, and then the third, ethnic music. So you hear these three themes – one, two, and three. The great thing about this movie is its technical and spiritual effect: that the first and second theme go together, the first and third can go together, and the second and third go together. At the very end, all three themes are contemporary. That was my technical miracle which I believe had been a great blessing.

What other elements inspire your music?

As I explained before, if I have to do something religious, certainly my faith inspires me. If I work on a romantic film, I don’t think of religious things. When I have to write an historical piece, or a political film, I do not think religion or God. Of course, as a believer, this faith is probably always there, but it’s for others to study, musicologists and those that analyze not only the pieces of music but also understand my nature, and the sacred and mystical. But when I write about religious things, I don’t think about God. I think God helps me write a good composition, but that’s another story.

So you don’t pray before starting to write a composition?

No. That’s for other problems.

Some movies that you have composed music for have been quite violent. Is this ever a problem for you?

The music is at the service of the film. I am called to serve the film. If the film is violent, then I compose music for a violent film. If a film is about love, I work for a film of love. Perhaps there can be violent films in which there is sacredness, or there is mystical elements to the violence, but I don’t willingly look for these films. I try to strike a balance with the spirituality of the film, but the director doesn’t always think the same way.

You’ve probably often been asked this question, but what makes a great film score?

I don’t know. If I knew, I would always write more music like this. I don’t have a formula for the music, I just write at any given moment and therefore it depends on a happy or less happy moment. In any case, when I’m less happy, I’m always saved by professionalism and technique.

Which is your most favourite piece?

I never answer this question. Neither do I say what my favourite movie is because I love them all, because all have given me some kind of torment and suffering when working on them, but I mustn’t and won’t make a distinction.

What is your opinion of Pope Benedict XVI, a Pope who is also very musical? 

I have a very good opinion of Pope Benedict XVI. He seems to me to be a very high minded Pope who has a great culture and also great strength. He has a great wish to correct [liturgical] errors that have existed and continue to exist, and he tried to fix them just a few days after being elected. Today the Church has made a big mistake, turning the clock back 500 years with guitars and popular songs.  I don’t like it at all. Gregorian Chant is a vital and important tradition of the Church and to waste this by having guys mix religious words with profane, Western songs is hugely grave, hugely grave. The same thing happened before the Council of Trent when singers sang profane songs with sacred melodies and sacred words. He [the Pope] is doing well to correct it. He should correct it with much more firmness. Some churches have taken heed [of his corrections], but others haven’t.

Do you prefer the Mass in Latin?

I understand that Mass in Italian and in a national language is very useful and very important because people can follow it very well. But I also understand the tradition of the Church to set aside a language like Latin which is so important and serious for the Church itself. This was also a decision of the Second Vatican Council. So I support either Mass in Latin or in a country’s national language, but I don’t agree with, and feel very strongly about, mixing profane, secular music with religious words in Church, or mixing religious music with a profane and secular text. After the Second Vatican Council I was asked to be a consulter to the Vicariate for two pieces of sung Church music and I refused.  The Church and Christians have Gregorian chant and they said we had to now have this other music, so I refused. All the musicians in Rome also refused to work with it. All those who know Gregorian chant understand that it’s something very high brow.

Do plan to compose something for the Church in the future?

My wife always asks me to write a Mass but I haven’t done it. But two years ago I wrote a cantata which was commissioned for the millennial anniversary of Cathedral Sarsina, a village in Emilia Romagna. They commissioned this cantata with a very beautiful text and I wrote a religious-secular cantata because its title was ‘Vuoto D’anima Piena [Emptiness of a Full Soul].’ It’s a contradiction – an empty soul that is full means that the fullness is like the emptiness. Infinity is full but it’s also empty, right? So this text was very beautiful, combined with texts by mystics from all over the world, not only of Catholics. There was “John of the Cross” and other world mystics, it was excellent. It’s a collection of texts by philosophers, theologians and spiritualists from all around the world, not just Catholics but people of all religions.

Why have not you written a Mass?

I do not feel the need to write a Mass.

Maybe in the future?

No, I do not feel the need.

What are your plans for the future?

I have a film for television based on the diary of Anne Frank, titled “Remember Anne Frank”. Then I go to Venice September 2nd because the film festival there will open with ‘Baaria’, a movie by Giuseppe Tornatore which covers two thirds of a century in his city, Bagheria in Sicily. It’s an extraordinarily beautiful film, a film of great beauty. Also Anne Frank is very nice, but Baaria comes close to the limits of perfection, of beauty. There is Italy, there is political struggle, there are the lives of families, there is the life of a family, there is the life of the main character. It’s a completely beautiful movie, a sort of epic.

What is your favourite music in general, pieces composed by Mozart, for instance, or Beethoven?

I prefer good music written by professionals and by good composers – when one senses at once whether they are good or not. So I prefer this sort of music and not others. I don’t say I like this style or that style. If it’s written well, I don’t discriminate.

You’re famous among other things for the work you did for Spaghetti Westerns. Are you a fan of these movies?

I have made some of 450 films, and of those 8% are Westerns.  Not that I like them, I was asked to make these films and so I made them. I turned down at least 100 Westerns during that period. Everyone asks me to make Westerns, but I tend not to do them because I prefer variety.

Did you turn down writing the score for Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie, Inglourious Basterds?

I didn’t turn it down, I would have done it but he had to go to Cannes and finished shooting in February. At the time I was working with Giuseppe Tornatore on Baaria and so it was impossible for me to work with him. But he took pieces from my other films, paid for them, and put them in the film.

Do you see a film before you write the music for it?

If I say yes, and I do the film, then there’s no need to go and see it beforehand. It’s about professionalism and the esteem I hold for the director. It would be wrong if I went to see the film, and then refused to write for it because I didn’t like it. Also because when I see a movie, I don’t have to like it, or see the complete version.  What I see is a rough cut, with provisional sounds and one doesn’t understand very much. You can’t give a critical assessment, and I don’t have to give a critical assessment when I’m called upon to help such a film. It’s not right for me to refuse a film having seen it. I can refuse it early on. I can say: ‘I cannot make this film because I have other things to do.’ It happened once that I went to see a movie and decided not to do it because it was really disgusting, but that was many years ago.

What are your views on Clint Eastwood? Is he a great friend of yours?

He’s not a great friend. I met him twice, once when he was with [Sergio] Leone, and another time for the Oscar. So he’s not a friend, but he’s a lovely person and very kind. Above all, he’s a great director. He’s become not only a good actor but above all a great director.

Does the quality of your work depend on a good director?

It’s important that the director is good and has made a good film, but the film should be good after I’ve written the music, not before. Before that, I can’t say anything.


Interview in Italian, translated by Edward Pentin. 

New Documentary Reveals the Real Pope


Pope Francis has delighted millions across the globe since his election, at the same time perplexing many others.

Seven months into his pontificate, after confusing interviews, impulsive actions, and contradictory statements, he remains quite an enigma. But a new hour-long documentary, to be broadcast on the Fox Business Network this coming Sunday, aims to cut away some of that mystery by delving into the life history of the Pope — Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

“Francis: The Pope From the New World” features interviews from close friends, fellow priests, co-workers, his biographer, the poor of Buenos Aires, and cardinals and bishops. A trailer on the fascinating movie provides a snapshot of what will be covered.

Most of the interviews, and much of the film, was shot on location in Argentina. It contains extensive unseen footage of Bergoglio, from his early childhood and his tenure as head of Argentina’s Jesuits, to his time as rector of a seminary in Buenos Aires and his years of service as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

“What remain largely unknown to the public are many details of Pope Francis’ life, the work he has done, and the ways in which he has defended the voiceless and Catholic principles,” says Carl Anderson, one of the executive producers. “This documentary delves into those stories.”

Anderson heads the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternity and the main backer of the program.

Andrew Walther, another executive producer, told me: “We wanted to make a documentary that interviewed people he was close to in Argentina. We also took some of the extensive television coverage of his time there and felt it would be a very useful way to introduce people to the man who had become Francis.”

Bergoglio is revealed to be a sensitive pontiff. The film shows him to be a man of great humanity, though not an intellectual; someone passionate about social action, devoted to witnessing to Christ by going out to meet people, and always willing to help and serve others.

One interviewee after another defines him as a compassionate man with a special love for those marginalized in society. The program brings to light Bergoglio’s frequent trips to hospitals, nursing homes, and slums when he was archbishop, striking up deep and lasting relationships with many of his flock.

“He knew how to help people and which doors to knock on to find them help,” said one friend, who mentions his unlimited capacity to forgive, his ability to be “real friends” with people and to stand with them in times of trouble. “I’d never define him as an intellectual,” said another. “He was a man of action, his priority was social action.”

He liked being with the poor, he said, “because the poor would offer him their hearts.”

Another person interviewed shared the interesting insight that Bergoglio had “intuitive intelligence” that “read people immediately.” He could “see through you; you couldn’t hide things,” the interviewee said, “but that would allow him to help you.” Bergoglio is perhaps more clever and more astute than some people take him for.

One notable inconsistency between Bergoglio as cardinal and Bergoglio as Pope: He has admitted to purposely shying away from discussing publicly the church’s teaching on abortion and same-sex marriage because, he says, the world already knows where the church stands on these issues.

His approach, and many of his other actions, are aimed at not scaring away those who might disagree with the church’s position. His critics, however, wonder if his absence on these critical issues is due to a desire to be loved.

And yet as archbishop, the documentary reveals him to have been courageous in standing up for truth, life, and marriage in the face of opposition from the state. So much so, that Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, and now his successor, his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, regarded him as “the opposition.” The program reveals she denied him an audience 14 times.

The documentary features a clip of Liliana Negra de Alonso, a Catholic senator closely allied with Bergoglio on these hot-button issues, paying an emotional tribute to the newly elected Pope.

So why the change of tone as Pope? The program doesn’t say, leaving the matter for another documentary on Francis as pontiff.

The program nevertheless achieves what it sets out to do: help the viewer become better acquainted with Francis’s background and history. And in so doing, it succeeds in lifting some, though not all, of the Bergoglio enigma.

“Francis: The Pope From the New World” will air on the Fox Business Network on Sunday, Oct. 20, at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, 2 p.m. Pacific.

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Pope Francis’ Consecrating the World to Mary Culminates Fatima Celebration


VATICAN CITY –– Tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world gathered under unseasonably warm and sunny weather in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to witness Pope Francis consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The Holy Father performed the consecration before the image of Our Lady of Fatima, asking Mary’s help to “revive and grow faith.”

Oct. 13 marked the 96th anniversary since the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to shepherd children Jacinta Marto, her younger brother Francisco and Lúcia dos Santos at Fatima. It also took place as the Year of Faith draws to a close on the Feast of Christ the King, Nov. 24.

In front of an estimated 150,000 pilgrims, the Pope asked Mary to welcome the consecration “with the benevolence of a mother.”

“Guard our lives in your arms,” he said. “Bless and strengthen every desire for goodness; revive and grow faith; sustain and illuminate hope; arouse and enliven charity; guide all of us on the path of holiness.”

He also asked Our Lady to teach mankind her “special love” for children and the poor, for the excluded and suffering and for sinners.

The original statue of Our Lady of Fatima had been transferred from its home at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal to St. Peter’s Square especially for the consecration. The act marked the culmination of a weekend of Marian prayer and devotion.

The events began on Oct. 12, when Pope Francis led a Marian prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square, followed by a worldwide televised vigil at various Marian sites all over the world.


Untier of ‘All Knotted Hearts’

In his address, the Holy Father stressed that the Virgin Mary leads Christians to the mercy of God, who can untie “all knotted hearts” caused by sin. “These knots take away our peace and serenity,” he said, and he urged the faithful not to give up hope that God can untie these knots. Mary, he said, “takes us with the hand of a mother to the embrace of the Father, to the Father of mercy.”

Repeatedly over the weekend, the Holy Father explained how Mary, through her witness of faith, is the paradigm for all believers. Drawing on her example, he challenged the faithful to consider their own faith more profoundly, following her example of fidelity, which was shown all the way to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Her faith at that moment, he said, was “like a little flame burning in the night”; and at the empty tomb, her heart was filled with the joy of faith.

During his Sunday homily, Pope Francis reflected on the importance of Mary’s faithfulness even in moments of difficulty. “Her Yes to God was a Yes that threw her simple life in Nazareth into turmoil. Many times,” he said, “she had to utter a heartfelt Yes at moments of joy and sorrow, culminating in the Yes she spoke at the foot of the cross.”


Importance of Gratitude

He also preached about the importance of gratitude, especially for the Christian community and for family life. “If families can say these three things, they will be fine: ‘sorry,’ ‘excuse me,’ ‘thank you,’” he said, adding that, “all too often, we take everything for granted.”

Reflecting on Mary’s example of Christian gratitude, he recalled the Magnificat, saying it is “a song of praise and thanksgiving to God not only for what he did for her, but for what he had done throughout the history of salvation.”

He added that God reveals himself in poverty, weakness and humility and stressed that the journey to salvation also entails commitment.

“I ask myself: Am I a Christian by fits and starts or am I a Christian full time?” the Pope said. “Our culture of the ephemeral, the relative, also takes its toll on the way we live our faith. God asks us to be faithful to him, daily, in our everyday life.”

But he stressed that the Christian knows God cannot be unfaithful even if the believer is himself, and he “never tires of stretching out his hand” to help and encourage us. “This is the real journey: to walk with the Lord always, even at moments of weakness, even in our sins,” he said.

Many attending the consecration and weekend of events dedicated to Mary warmly welcomed the Holy Father’s initiative and said it was much needed.

David Carollo, executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima in the United States, told the Register that, unlike in the struggle against Soviet communism, “the whole world is in trouble today.”

Russia spread its errors, he said, and that’s been particularly clear in the U.S. and the West. “We’re rotting, culturally,” he said, and exporting a culture that is “disgusting.”

Secularism, he added, has evolved from the “mandated atheism” of communism, but is more subtle. The consecration, he said, is a way of combating this and helping the world convert to Christ. “The Pope is saying to the faithful: ‘Be simple like Mary, because the whole pontificate has that theme.’”

Timothy Tindal-Robertson, president of the World Apostolate of Fatima in England and Wales, stressed that Sunday’s ceremony was “a giving of the world into the Immaculate Heart of Mary to save it.”

“That is her whole mission,” he said. “Mary is again at the foot of the cross to bring salvation, and this is what the world needs.” He was especially struck by Pope Francis kissing the feet of the statue of Mary. “It is the Holy Father saying [to Mary] that we, the Church, welcome you; we embrace you; we love you,” he said. “That’s the message that needs to get right out into the Church.”


Consecration Must Continue

But those present were eager to stress that the consecration doesn’t end there if the world is to be converted.

“We’ve all got to play our part,” said Donal Foley, also a member of the World Apostolate of Fatima of England and Wales. “We must pray the Rosary on the first five Saturdays to make it happen in the West. It’s not meant to be a magic thing that happens and then we relax.”

Mike Daley, a founding member of the England and Wales branch of the apostolate, stressed that the consecration is meant for all people. “We mustn’t lose sight that Our Lady is our universal Mother, and that means everyone,” he said. “It’s very important just to consider it’s not an exclusive consecration.”

They also underlined the power of prayer and recalled the effectiveness of Pope Francis’ vigil for peace in Syria and the world –– a vigil at which the Salus Populi Romani, the most important Marian icon in Rome, was processed up to the altar.

“What does that tell you? Prayer moves mountains, and I think no one knows this more than Pope Francis,” said Carollo.

Carollo, Daley, Foley and Tindal-Robertson all uphold Sister Lúcia’s testimony that John Paul II consecrated Soviet Russia to the Immaculate Heart –– an explicit instruction of Our Lady of Fatima –– in 1984, along with all nations of the world. As opposed to some who still contend the pope must explicitly consecrate Russia, they believe it has been done, as proven by Soviet communism’s fall.

The real crisis, Tindal-Robertson believes, is and always has been the abandonment of belief in God. “That’s what Our Lady said; because if you address that, you’re on the path to salvation again,” he said. He also sees the consecration as a means to heal the Church and the continuing crisis that followed the Second Vatican Council.

“It’s very important to show the whole Church and the people of God Mary’s position in the Church in this Year of Faith,” said Tindal-Robertson. “We need the presence of Our Lady in the Church, and this is what Francis is proclaiming.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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The Global War on Christians


Christians are currently the most vulnerable minority on earth and massive outside intervention will be needed to stem the rising tide of persecution against them.

This is the view of John Allen Jr., the highly regarded Vaticanista, whose new book, “The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution” has just been published.

Speaking with ZENIT in Rome last week, Allen painted a stark picture of Christians being targeted by violence across the world. As a group, he puts them in the same category as dissident Jews in Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s and black victims of apartheid in the 1980s.

“You didn’t have to be Jewish or black, and you don’t have to be Christian today, to recognize this is the most vulnerable minority population on earth that deserves our concern,” he argues.

It is, he says, “the towering human rights priority of the day,” and he provides statistics to prove it. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out at 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour.

Allen undertakes a thorough analysis of persecuted Christians in the book, debunking the myths surrounding the violence – that it is all about Islam, that it’s usually political, and that Christians only face risks where they are a minority. He offers a helpful overview, from Africa to Asia, the Middle East to Latin America, discussing the social and political fallout of the violence and looking at the spiritual fruit of this widespread war.

Strange silence

While working on the project, one question he asked himself was: “Why is this story not being told?” The main reason, he believes, came up in a conversation he had with Cardinal Timothy Dolan. The archbishop of New York said Christians “don’t have their own Holocaust literature,” a genre of accounts of anti-Christian violence. These don’t exist, unlike those of the Jews and the Shoah. Allen, therefore, “almost felt a kind of moral obligation to do it.”

But I ask him why Christians are the most vulnerable minority? Part of the reason, he says, is the rapid rise of the Christian population across the world. In 1900, Catholics numbered 244 million; now the figure is 1.1 billion, and most of the expansion has occurred in the developing world where Christians are not always a welcome minority.

He also says Christians tend be caught in the firing line because they don’t fire back; there’s no “analogous phenomenon” of Christian extremism in the mould of Islamists or Hindu extremists willing to do violence to their enemies.

“Christians are soft targets in some ways,” he says, and suffer from “an ineradicable tendency” to associate Christianity with the largely post-Christian West.

Still, isn’t the natural environment of Christians to live under some form of persecution, and doesn’t the faith thrive under such circumstances? “That’s entirely true,” Allen says, “but it’s no excuse for inertia in the face of people getting their teeth kicked in.”

Which brings us onto one of his last chapters: the spiritual fruits of martyrdom. Allen says he tries to “create a consciousness” in the Church “of the need to come to the defense of martyrs.”

“It is not just going to be good for people who are at risk, but also for the rest of us,” he says. “The best of Christian tradition is in stories of the martyrs and there’s a sort of ‘spiritual tonic’ that comes from contact with those stories.” He also believes it’s “good for ecumenism” as all the other Christian churches have this in common.

But how much of the persecution is really down to the hatred of the faith? “At one level you can say they’re not being killed in ‘odium fidei,’ in hatred of the faith,” Allen explains. “But my argument is that it is mistaken to concentrate on the motives of the persecutor, and not those of the persecutee.” He says it’s better to ask the question: “Why are certain Christians staying in a particular area?”

“In many cases, if you drill down, it’s because of their faith,” Allen says. “They feel called as a matter of fidelity to the Gospel, to be witnesses of Jesus Christ, to stand with forgotten and marginalized people and defend the interests of justice.”

Allen says he is not really interested “whether the guy pulling the trigger had in his head: ‘I want to kill a Christian today.’ My question is, what was in the heart of the person getting shot?”

Islamic myth

One of the myths Allen tries to scotch in the book is that anti-Christian persecution is all about Islam. The most anti-Christian pogrom in recent history, he says, happened not in the Islamic world but in the Indian state of Orissa, in 2008.

“That said, if you want to look at those places on the map where Christians are arguably most at risk today, it does tend to be in the Middle East,” he says. He points out that Iraq had 1.5 million to 2 million Christians in 1990, but today they number between 250,000 and 400,000.

“This is a church with two millennia of history which has basically been gutted in the arc of two decades,” he points out, adding that Christian leaders in Syria and Egypt fear they will be the next Iraqis. “I do think that if there’s a single spot on the map where Christian conscience needs to be most focused about Christians being at risk, it’s probably there,” he says.

More than once, Allen advocates some kind of outside intervention to prevent further persecution. “Without playing the prophet, if present trajectories continue, it seems to me abundantly obvious that things are going to get worse, and it’s going to require massive intervention on behalf of outside parties to try to change the calculus,” he says. “I don’t think you can put all the eggs in the basket and say: ‘Well it’s the United States army that has to put boots on the ground.’ It may come to that at some point, but what I would hope to see is that there would be a grassroots mobilization of the Christian consciousness so you would have, in the Christian world, something analogous to what happens in the Jewish world every time there’s an anti-Semitic attack someplace.”

“Any time a swastika is spray painted on a synagogue in the world, the global Jewish community – which, let’s face it, is significantly smaller than the Christian community – nevertheless will organize coherently to bring attention to it and shame the government of that place into doing something about it,” Allen says. “We Christians have not reacted in the same way up to this point and I think we need to. It’s long past time.”

He stresses he is “not talking about picking up RPGs and fighting fire with fire.”

“What I am saying is that the spirit of turning the other cheek does not mean turning a blind eye to our sisters and brothers who are being brutalized. With every nonviolent tool in the toolbox, we need to rise up and say this is simply unacceptable, and I do think we have options for doing that.”


Allen welcomed Pope Francis’ words at his weekly general audience Sept. 25, in which the Holy Father reminding the faithful of the violence by asking them if they pray for Christians who are being persecuted and reminding the faithful that we are members of one family. “Those remarks were right on the money,” Allen says. “I do think there’s a role for prayer in all of this.”

In particular, he hopes for a prayer for the persecuted said during every Mass. Furthermore, he feels it could also become “an ecumenical prayer right across the Christian world.”

The Pope’s vigil and day of prayer and fasting for Syria on Sept. 7 “was profoundly powerful in that regard,” Allen says, “but it cannot just be a one-off deal.”

Some argue that persecution is also taking place in the West, such as the clash between the Church and the Obama administration over the HHS mandate. But Allen says he doesn’t deal with Church-state relations in the book.

The clashes are “related but distinct,” he says. “A threat to religious freedom in the West means you might get sued; in many parts of the world, you might get shot.”

“I hope we can all agree, the latter is the most urgent scenario.”

Pope and EU Parliament President Meet


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis received in private audience today Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament.

schulz_martin_official_portraitThe Holy Father and the Catholic-educated but self-declared atheist German politician spent 30 minutes in private talks, during which Schulz invited the Pope to give an address to the Parliament, which is the legislative body of the European Union.

Unusually for such an audience, the Vatican did not release a statement, but according to Schulz, issues relating to poverty, youth unemployment and immigration were discussed. Particular reference was made to the Oct. 3 tragedy off the Italian island of Lampedusa in which more than 300 refugees, mostly from Eritrea, drowned in a shipwreck.

Oct. 11 was the exact day 25 years ago that Blessed Pope John Paul II addressed the Parliament at its headquarters in Strasbourg, France — a point Schulz noted in an editorial he penned for L’Osservatore Romano Oct. 11. Schulz wrote that he was concerned about Europe’s “slow but inexorable decline,” saying the continent “must again be animated by a renewed sense of dedication to clear objectives.”

Those objectives, he said, must be that Europe is judged “on the basis of how it treats the least,” that the continent “must be a force for dialogue,” and that it needs to be judged “on the basis of the prospects it offers to the youth.”

Lampedusa, he wrote, represented “indelible scars for Europe” and he called for changes to how Europe engages with the countries of origin and the implementation of an improved rescue system. Referring to high levels of youth unemployment, he said Europe is betraying its young citizens.

Despite the Pope’s tendency to make spontaneous gestures, Francis did not accept Schulz’s invitation to address the Parliament immediately, but sources say they would not be surprised if he did. Benedict XVI was similarly invited to Strasbourg, although he never went.

But what is most interesting about this visit – though it is hard to guage without a Vatican communique – is the change of mood, and the fact that an atheist head of the European Parliament was so willing to visit the Pope. One informed source speaking on condition of anonymity told the Register there has so far been “absolutely no backlash” against Schulz for the meeting.

This is in contrast to his Christian predecessors, such as the socially and fiscally conservative German Hans-Gert Pöttering and the Polish Christian Democrat, Jerzy Buzek, who both received fierce criticism from militant anti-clerical secularists in the socialist and politically liberal groups within the European Parliament after meeting Benedict XVI.

The source also observed that “gone are the days when popes used to raise with European leaders issues such ensuring a mention of God appeared in the European Constitution or the contribution of Europe’s Christian heritage.” Time has healed those disputes, he said, and the issues have “moved on.”

Others, however, are not so sure, and fear that political correctness and an unwillingness among Christians to be humiliated again has taken over.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Benjamin Harnwell, founder of the Rome-based Dignitatis Humanae Institute, said: “The only reason that these days are gone is because Christians haven’t recovered yet from the humiliation of the last rejection, and don’t want to leap straight back into another drubbing from the militant secularists.”

Harnwell, who is also a former researcher in the European Parliament, further noted that in 2006 Schulz was so offended at German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s desire for a reference to Christianity in the EU Constitutional Treaty that he led the successful revolt against it.

There is also a strong sense among observers that Christians now lack either the courage or the confidence to promote, and to have fully recognized, Christianity’s historic contribution to European culture at the international treaty level. This has further led to an unwillingness to even broach the most difficult and grave concerns of the day, whether they be abortion, same-sex ‘marriage’ or euthanasia — all on the increase throughout Europe.

Some Vatican watchers contend this was seen in today’s meeting and say it was little more than a superficial attempt to show unity, a presumption of dialogue, but one that cannot refer — even implicitly — to those subjects where there is a significant lack of agreement.

Harnwell believes the EU Parliament chief has his eye on the European elections, which will take place next June. “The socialists don’t expect to do too well,” he said, adding that photographs of Schulz hosting the Pope in Strasbourg “might go down well with an otherwise hostile voter base.”

But on a personal level, Schulz clearly respects Pope Francis and, as an additional sign of his openness to dialogue with the Church, he brought his local parish priest with him as part of his delegation.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent

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Howzat! Vatican to found its first ever cricket club


Since his election, Pope Francis has been on the front foot, hitting a few sixes, bowling a few googlies and playing the odd reverse sweep.

As an Argentine, the Holy Father probably wouldn’t get the metaphors, but he might do soon as the Vatican is about to form its own cricket club.

Officials at the Pontifical Council for Culture, which has a section dedicated to sport, is setting up the first ever Vatican club and tournament in Rome. The initiative is the idea of Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, an avid cricket fan.

Already one match has been played between two Vatican universities – the Maria Mater Ecclesiae International Pontifical College and the Pontifical Urbaniana University – on a pitch near Rome’s Ciampino airport.

“It was an interesting match,” says Xavarian Father Theodore Mascarenhas, an Indian official at the Pontifical Council for Culture who will chair the new Vatican cricket board. “They played a Twenty-Twenty and Ubaniana won by just one run.”

The plan is to extend other twenty over matches to more Rome colleges and even further afield. “We hope to have at least six teams,” says Father Mascarenhas. The underlying aim of the initiative, he says, is to start “a kind of inter-cultural dialogue”.

Players will be drawn from the many seminaries and pontifical universities in Rome, as well as Vatican officials. Father Mascarenhas believes around 400 cricket fans reside in the Eternal City. They include seminarians from the Venerable English College of course, but also many others, often missionaries, from the Indian sub-continent and Africa, as well as Australia, the West Indies and New Zealand.

The Vatican also has a star player of its own. Father Tony Currer, an official in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, played club cricket for Durham until he moved to Rome last month to oversee dialogue with the Anglican Communion. “I came to Rome thinking I probably wouldn’t play much cricket anymore,” he says, “but it looks like there’s going to be a very good standard.”

Since 2009, Rome colleges have played in a football tournament called the Clericus Cup comprising 16 teams, 15 international seminaries and split into two divisions, A and B. The championship has been a success, attracting widespread media coverage.

But the new “St Peter’s Cricket Club”, run under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture, promises to be even larger. Father Mascarenhas says the plan is to start modestly between Rome colleges. But the Vatican and Ambassador McCarthy are especially keen to organise a Holy See versus Church of England match, possibly at Lord’s.

In a novel attempt to bridge religious divides, a further goal is to organise a tournament between the Vatican club and teams from Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu seminaries in such countries as Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Myanmar.

The Australian Cricketers’ Association and the Australian government are supportive, as is Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker. Senior prelates from India and Australia have also given it their backing, most notably Cardinal George Pell of Sydney. Father Mascarenhas also hopes to establish ties with “Cricket Italy”, a successful cricket federation run by a Sri Lankan which plays against “second level” national sides such as South Korea and Argentina.

“We have a lot of a support,” says Father Mascarenhas. “Things are getting off the block.”

The Pontifical Council will officially launch the initiative at a press conference Oct. 15, along with a Festive Day of Sport to be held on Oct. 20. The day, which aims to underline the educational, cultural and spiritual values of sport, is expected to attract 5000 people who will take part in a 100m run on a track stretching from the end of the Via della Conciliazione to St Peter’s Square.

The Vatican cricket tournament is expected to get underway in the next month or two.

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