Spying on the Pope


ZENIT – 31-10-13: The U.S. National Security Agency has denied it targeted the Vatican by tapping the phones of the Pope and senior Vatican officials, saying the allegations, published in the Italian magazine Panorama, were “not true.”

But notwithstanding the NSA’s statement, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that the Vatican has been a target of intercepts or espionage.

The Vatican has long been considered an ideal “listening post,” drawing on a vast network of priests, missionaries, religious, diplomats and laity.

And as recently as 2010, Benedict XVI’s calls were intercepted by the Italian police who admitted to tapping his telephone as part of their investigation into Guido Bertolaso, Italy’s civil protection chief, then accused of corruption.

Benedict XVI was not accused of any wrongdoing; he had simply made four telephone calls to Bertolaso who had led rescue efforts after a devastating earthquake in L’Aquila in 2009.

Vatican officials were said at the time to be furious about the intercepts.


Cardinal Agostino Casaroli

More recently, the Vatican itself carried out its own telephone surveillance. During the 2012 investigation into the leaking of confidential documents from the papal household, the Vatican admitted to authorising “some intercepts and checks” that involved the wiretapping of “two or three” telephone lines.

But none of these incidents comes close to the extent of phone tapping and spying on the Vatican that went on in the 20th century.

Long history

During the Cold War, numerous operatives were able to infiltrate the Vatican and send back valuable information to Moscow.

In his book, “Spies in the Vatican – The Soviet Union’s War Against the Catholic Church,” author John Koehler reveals how, for years, Soviet leaders enjoyed regular access to the inner deliberations of Vatican leaders, thanks to the work of several spy networks. He shows how Communist intelligence chiefs exploited the Vatican’s role as a forum for policy discussions, reporting back sensitive diplomatic strategies laid bare at the Holy See by American and European leaders.

Koehler says the KGB relied heavily upon “bugs” planted in key Vatican offices, and recounts one particularly odious incident when a housekeeper couple presented a ceramic statue of the Virgin Mary to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli. The cardinal was uncle of the housekeeper’s husband.

“What a betrayal by his own nephew!,” Koehler writes. “Inside the revered religious icon was a ‘bug,’ a tiny but powerful transmitter which was monitored from outside the building by the couples’ handler from the Soviet embassy in Rome.” He said another transmitter was hidden in an armoire in the cardinal’s dining room.

Koehler writes that much of the spying on the Vatican during the Cold War was carried out by agents from the East German security service, the Stasi, and Bulgarian and Polish secret services. Their information was quickly shared with the KGB.

How much involved bugs, spies within the Vatican, or phone tapping is not clear, but in 1970 the KGB had full access to a meeting between Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and the then Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Jean Villot, in 1970. The two discussed President Nixon’s intentions regarding Southeast Asia, Middle East tensions and SALT negotiations. Koehler says that Leonid Brezhnev would later receive a word-for-word account of the meeting.


During the Second World War, the Vatican was viewed by the allied powers to be “un covo di spie” – a nest of spies – partly because of the large number of Italian-born officials thought to have sympathies with Mussolini’s fascist regime, but also because of foreign diplomats who had sought refuge in the Vatican.

The extent of the spying is explained in some detail in Owen Chadwick’s “Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War” – an account that includes details of Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, Sir D’Arcy Osborne, and his time spent living inside the Vatican during the German occupation of Rome.

“No one, whether papal or diplomatic, could do anything without the Italian government knowing,” Chadwick writes, adding that what worried the Curia most was that spies would fabricate stories to prove the Vatican was an enemy of Italy and so force the expulsion of foreign diplomats such as Osborne.

He says that the Vatican police largely worked for the Fascists, and that Italians tapped Vatican phones and opened letters and telegrams destined for the Holy See (the Vatican, he adds, also tapped telephones in an attempt at counter-espionage).

The Vatican vigorously protested the interceptions at least five times, Chadwick says, mainly taking issue with tampered mail. The protests were always supported by Italy’s ambassador to the Holy See. But he says Italy’s Ministry of the Interior “was determined not to give way.” Their view, said to themselves but not to the Vatican, was that in a state of war and with the nation in crisis, the clauses of the Lateran Treaty must give way.

“Occasionally to satisfy the Vatican, they would dismiss an employee whose censoring methods were too patent or too clumsy,” Chadwick says. “But they had no intention of ceasing to check on Vatican mail, at least by spot checks. And they were quite successful. Files of ambassadors’ letters can still be found in the archives of the Italian government.”

Chadwick also reveals that the Gestapo had an agent inside the Secretariat of State as early as 1939-40. “The Pope was aware of his existence,” he writes, adding that senior Curial officials also knew of his assigned tasks (primarily to monitor the behaviour of the German bishops and their correspondence) and so he was “largely ineffective.”

The agent was “almost certainly” Alexander Kurtna, Chadwick says, an Estonian seminarian who, because he was found to have had no vocation, remained a layman and did translation work for various Vatican offices. He was found out when Italian intelligence arrested him in 1942 on suspicion of spying for the Russians, and later found “he was also, or instead, a spy for the Gestapo.”

But a more prominent spy was Virgilio Scattolini. Dismissed as a journalist with L’Osservatore Romano in 1939, he started selling information to the Germans in 1941. The material, Chadwick writes, “was sometimes quite lurid, and sometimes had a slim foundation in Vatican gossip.”

Other infiltrators were sought out on the orders of the head of the German Sicherheitsdienst, Reinhard Heydrich. One of the chief architects of the Holocaust, Heydrich wanted to place trustworthy informers into the Vatican system and among German theological students studying in Rome.


Spying was also a feature of World War I. A serious breach occurred when a Bavarian Monsignor, Rudolph Gerlach, “chamberlain and confident” to Pope Benedict XV – probably the closest equivalent to Archbishop Georg Gaenswein today – was discovered to be a spy for the Germans. But Benedict XV was merciful to his long-serving aid, and personally arranged his safe passage to Switzerland in 1917.  His fate after his return, however, is unknown.

No doubt a counter-espionage force would have been helpful during both world wars. The Vatican once had one, but it ceased operating decades before. In his book “Spies In The Vatican:  Espionage & Intrigue From Napoleon to the Holocaust,” David Alvarez explains that efforts to subvert the Vatican’s secular power in the 19thcentury were so prevalent that an unofficial Vatican security service was formed. It was cutback after 1870 when the papacy was forced to give up its territories, and the Vatican relied instead on clergy to solve problems of confidential communications and information gathering.

The Vatican aside, spying on popes is nothing new, also in recent times. Blessed John Paul II was continually monitored by the Communists, both before and after his election. Before he was elected, Benedict XVI was also the focus of surveillance by the East German Stasi, details of which we documented here.

The Vatican is, therefore, no stranger to espionage. Were the allegations of NSA phone tapping true, the U.S. would have joined a list of rogue nations who have been historically hostile to the Catholic Church, something the Obama administration would no doubt have wished to avoid.

Council of Cardinals Recommends Extensive Vatican Shake-Up


Lombardi 015 (523x800)VATICAN CITY — At the end of their first three-day meeting to examine Church governance and reform of the Roman Curia, members of a select “council of cardinals” have recommended that Pope Francis make radical changes to the way the Vatican is run.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters Oct. 3 that the international group of cardinals did not intend to update the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus — Blessed John Paul II’s 1988 instruction on governance of the Roman Curia — “with retouches and marginal modifications.”

Instead, they wished to introduce “a new constitution with significant new aspects,” with the aim of decentralizing the governance of the Church.

“It will be necessary to wait a reasonable amount of time following this council, but this is the idea,” Father Lombardi told reporters in a final briefing on the Oct. 1-3 meeting. “The cardinals have made it clear that they do not intend to make cosmetic retouches or minor modifications to Pastor Bonus.”

The intention of the cardinals is to emphasize “the nature of the service on the part of the Curia and the universal and local Church in terms of subsidiarity, rather than the exercise of centralized power,” Father Lombardi added. “The intended direction would be to put this into practice in the service of the Church in all her dimensions.”

Such a move had been expected after the leader of the eight cardinals on the council, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, said recently that the plan was to go much further that just changing “this and that” with regards that document.


Secretariat of State Changes

Another important theme raised was the nature and functions of the Secretariat of State. This should be viewed as “the secretariat of the Pope,” Father Lombardi said, and “the word ‘state’ should not give rise to doubt.” He also explained that the meeting of the council had been very useful for the Pope in order to offer direction to the new secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who will take up his position on Oct. 15.

To help improve relations between the heads of the dicasteries (Vatican offices) and the Pope, and coordination between the various bodies, the cardinals also examined the role of a ‘moderator Curiae’ (moderator for the Curia) and the functions of such a figure.

“The issue was touched upon, but no decision has been made as to whether it will form part of the new constitution,” Father Lombardi said. “However, it is, in fact, one of the hypotheses suggested by the council.”

Diocesan curias often have a “moderator Curiae,” a kind of “chief operating officer” who coordinates the administrative duties and oversees those who hold positions of authority in diocesan administration. Some of these duties rest with the Vatican’s sostituto, the deputy secretary of state, but these have evidently been judged insufficient.

This may be a response to a criticism aired recently by German Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In June, the cardinal called for monthly meetings between the heads of Curial dicasteries and for direct communication between department heads and the Pope without going through the secretary of state.

“The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” said Cardinal Kasper, who served at the Vatican as a senior official for more than a decade under both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He added that the secretary of state “has become, of late, like a government middleman.”


Synod Reorganization

Also discussed were possible changes to the organization of the Synod of Bishops that the Pope convenes to discuss the specific theme of Church life. Father Lombardi said this was moved to the top of the cardinals’ agenda because the synod council is due to meet at the Vatican Oct. 7-8. He also said the theme of the next synod is expected to be announced “in the coming days.”

The role of the laity and their contribution to the Church also figured highly in the discussions. Pope Francis and the cardinals discussed “how to ensure that this dimension of the Church’s reality is more adequately and effectively recognized and followed in the governance of the Church,” Father Lombardi said. “There is a Pontifical Council for the Laity, but it is still possible to think of ways of strengthening this aspect.”

Vatican finances were also examined, but not in great detail, as the Holy Father has appointed several commissions to deal with financial issues, and their work continues.

The council of cardinals, made up of eight members from six continents, comprises Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Sean O’Malley of Boston; George Pell of Sydney; Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican city state; and Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

At the beginning of the three-day meeting, which took place in a small room in the St. Martha guest residence and followed an intense schedule, Pope Francis emphasized the council’s “juridical status, stability and continuity.” He also specified that the members are not “continental delegates,” but were chosen for their rich pastoral experience and because they come from large dioceses.


‘Open and Constructive Dialogue’

Father Lombardi said the Pope holds the eight cardinals in high regard and values their advice in helping take “the most suitable approach” in governing the Church. “This is not an insignificant task, since confidence and esteem foster the climate of serenity necessary for an open and constructive dialogue,” he said.

The first meeting on Oct. 1 examined the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, not only to give direction to organizational matters, but to help provide “a broader theological and spiritual vision of the Church,” with a view to creating new “structures of governance.” Each of the participants presented a brief summary of the suggestions they had received.

The cardinals also looked at the Synod of Bishops in their discussions. Father Lombardi said a subject of the next synod wasn’t yet known, but added that the Pope had made reference to a “theme of an anthropological nature, the family according to the Gospel, but, in any case, it is not yet precise.”

“The Holy Father also said that prominent themes such as family and matrimonial pastoral (duties) will be the order of the day in the activity of the Church in the near future,” Father Lombardi added. This may include examining the status of divorced and remarried Catholics in the Church — a subject often raised by Francis and Benedict XVI in the recent past.


Next Meeting

The Vatican announced in the evening of Oct. 3 that the next meeting of the council will take place Dec. 3-5, with another one expected in February 2014. “In this way, the work of the council, especially at this early stage, may proceed expeditiously,” a statement said.

Father Lombardi stressed that the Pope and the cardinals “continue to exchange opinions and messages, even in the absence of a plenary meeting of the council.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/council-of-cardinals-recommends-extensive-vatican-shake-up/#ixzz2gqgVNjSD

Pope Francis’ Curial Reform Ramping Up



VATICAN CITY — The past week has seen the first major movements of Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia, a process that is expected to begin in earnest in early October.

The Vatican announced a slew of appointments and confirmations Sept. 21 and Sept. 24, the most significant being the Pope’s confirmation of the prefects of two Vatican congregations.

Archbishop Gerhard Müller remains prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while Cardinal Fernando Filoni stays as the “red pope” — prefect at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Both reappointments are significant, demonstrating the Holy Father’s confidence in both cardinals, as well as continuity with Benedict XVI, who had originally appointed them. Francis also confirmed that the highest-ranking Chinese official in the Curia, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, will remain as secretary for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa will stay as adjunct secretary.


Archbishop Di Noia

Also significant was the return of Bronx-born Dominican Archbishop Augustine Di Noia to the main offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Francis appointed the American archbishop as adjunct secretary to the congregation, creating the position especially for him. Archbishop Di Noia will vacate his current position as vice president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” to which Benedict XVI appointed him only last year.

The commission, also part of the CDF, has led efforts to bring the Society of St. Pius X back into communion with the Church, and Archbishop Di Noia’s departure is seen by some Vatican watchers as probably pointing to a definitive end to any immediate prospect of reconciliation with the traditionalist group.

The archbishop is a veteran Vatican official who served under Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger and William Levada as undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2002 to 2009. Benedict XVI appointed him secretary for the Congregation for Divine Worship before moving him to “Ecclesia Dei.” Archbishop Di Noia told the Register Sept. 24 he is “very happy to be returning to the CDF.”

In a further unexpected move, given that Cardinal Mauro Piacenza is only 69 years of age, Pope Francis also announced Sept. 21 that the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy would be transferred to head the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican tribunal that deals with matters related to the sacrament of penance and spiritual direction.

Some say this points to a demotion, but it’s more likely that the cardinal has been given a less stressful role after undergoing heart surgery earlier this year. He replaces Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, who is stepping down at the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Replacing Cardinal Piacenza as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy is 72-year-old Archbishop Beniamino Stella, former head of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the institute of training for Vatican diplomats. Replacing Archbishop Stella is Bishop Giampiero Gloder, a ranking official of the Secretariat of State.

Pope Francis also appointed Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, up until now secretary of the Congregation for Bishops and secretary of the College of Cardinals, as secretary general of the Synod of Bishops. He replaces Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, who now becomes apostolic nuncio to Germany. The appointment is something of a surprise and is probably linked to Pope Francis’ wish for a more influential Synod of Bishops than in the past.


Continuity and Change

On Sept. 24, the Pope confirmed Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko and Bishop Josef Clemens, president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, respectively, until the end of their five-year terms in the autumn of 2014. The consultative members of the council are also confirmed, but only up until the end of this year.

Cardinal Peter Turkson and Bishop Mario Toso, president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, were similarly confirmed to the end of their five-year terms, as were the consultative members of the pontifical council. This means Cardinal Turkson, 64, and Bishop Toso have only a year left at the Justice and Peace dicastery and will probably be replaced in October 2014.

Pope Francis is clearly seeking both continuity and change in the Vatican with respect to the Curia of Benedict XVI. Notably, he is appointing mostly Italians or Europeans to the top jobs, despite calls to internationalize the Curia coming from some members of the Pope’s eight cardinal advisory committee on Curial reform.

Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile, said in April that the tendency to appoint Europeans to such Curial positions “needs to be revised,” while Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, observed that “quite a few Italians work in the Curia” and that “different perspectives” would be “useful.”

“I think a few English-speaking perspectives won’t hurt,” he said.

The Pope is also filling the bulk of these positions with Vatican diplomats. After seven years of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a non-diplomat, heading the Secretariat of State, Francis clearly believes trained diplomats are best suited to handling administrative matters. Archbishop Pietro Parolin, a respected apostolic nuncio, whom the Pope named secretary of state at the end of August, Cardinal Filoni and Archbishops Baldisseri and Stella are all veteran diplomats.

Archbishops Müller and Di Noia, meanwhile, are both very much “Ratzingerians,” and Pope Francis clearly respects Archbishop Di Noia’s theological expertise, as well as the archbishop’s close relations with the Jewish people, one of Francis’ priorities as archbishop of Buenos Aires.


Pope’s Meeting With Cardinals

The latest Curial appointments come just days before Pope Francis meets with the group of eight cardinals from Oct. 1-3 to advise him on possible changes to the governing structures of the Church. Creation of the group was recommended during the general congregations before the conclave in March.

Along with Cardinals Errazuriz Ossa and Pell, the internationally representative group includes: Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo; Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich; and Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governatorate of the Vatican city state.

Italian media are describing this as a “hot autumn” of change in the Vatican, but Pope Francis is not expected to make tumultuous reforms in a few sudden moves.

In his interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, which took place at the end of August, he explained that many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time, but he is wary of decisions made hastily.

“I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change,” he said. “And this is the time of discernment.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-curial-reform-ramping-up/#ixzz2fppztdXk

Pope’s Plan Adds to International Pressure for Syrian Solution


Pope Francis is leading widespread global opposition to Western military action in Syria, proposing a six-point plan in preparation for peace in the country as well as calling for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting. The pontiff’s popularity and proactive approach, which stands in contrast to his predecessor whose influence in foreign affairs was hobbled by personnel problems in the Vatican, is making it harder for the Obama administration and other pro-intervention governments to win the support of their electorates.

pope4The Pope’s efforts, described as the Vatican’s largest peace initiative in 30 years, have been largely driven by Syria’s bishops, whose flocks were protected by the regime of Bashar al-Assad and now fear the threat of rising Islamist persecution. At least two Catholic priests and two Orthodox bishops are being held captive by rebel forces in Syria, and it is feared that an escalation of the conflict will place their lives in further danger.

In the six months since his election, Pope Francis has mounted a concerted campaign for peace in Syria and the Middle East. His position, promoted by the Holy See on the world stage, has been a persistent call for “encounter and dialogue,” which he sees as the “only option” for Syria.After the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus and the threat of escalation, the Pope stepped up his calls for peace. On Sept. 4, he wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the G-20 leaders meeting in St. Petersburg, urging them “to lay aside the futile pursuit” of a military solution to the conflict and instead renew their commitment to dialogue and negotiation.He also made a veiled criticism of Putin, President Obama and regional leaders accused of arming the two sides in the conflict, saying it was “regrettable that, from the very beginning of the conflict in Syria, one-sided interests have prevailed and in fact hindered the search for a solution that would have avoided the senseless massacre now unfolding.”The following day, the Holy See summoned all the Rome-based ambassadors accredited to the Holy See to a meeting to be fully briefed on the Vatican’s position – one that has been carefully devised in close consultation with the patriarchs and bishops of Syria. In a rare move, the Holy See presented them with a detailed six-point program in preparation for a possible peace plan. The three-page “non paper,” or aide-memoire, obtained by LIGNET through diplomatic sources, focuses on “following general principles.” These include re-launching dialogue and reconciliation, avoiding division of the country into zones, and maintaining its territorial integrity.The Holy See asks that there be a “place for everyone” in a new Syria, in particular for minorities such as Christians. It says Alawites, Assad’s minority ruling sect, must also have guarantees or they may be forced to emigrate or risk their own lives by remaining in the country. “Such a risk would make it more difficult to reach a compromise with them,” the Holy See says, and it argues that all minorities must be involved in preparing any new Syrian constitution or laws.

The document proposes establishment of a ministry dedicated to minorities, insists on the concept of “citizenship with equal dignity,” and emphasizes the importance of respecting human rights and religious freedom. It also stresses that members of the opposition must “distance themselves from extremist groups, isolate them and reject terrorism openly and clearly.”

The last of the six points underlines the importance of ensuring “all necessary cooperation and assistance for the immense task of reconstruction in the country.”

“Absolute priority must be given to ending the violence,” the Holy See says, adding that the “joint effort of the international community is essential.” Furthermore, it stresses the importance of respecting humanitarian law and argues that one “cannot remain passive” in the face of continuing violations of it. “The use of chemical weapons must be stopped and condemned with particular determination,” it says.

The document is particularly strong on humanitarian assistance, saying the situation is “extremely grave” and that it is foreseeable by the end of the year that half of Syria’s population will need assistance. To allow aid to reach all parts of the country, the Vatican plan calls for a ceasefire, even a partial one, and guaranteed safety for aid workers.

Recalling that the Roman Catholic Church is “at the forefront in providing humanitarian aid,” the Holy See also appeals for “solidarity and cooperation” on the part of all governments in the region and nongovernmental organizations.

The document ends by stressing the urgency of the cessation of violence, avoiding a possible “sectarian degeneration” of the conflict. It reiterates the need for dialogue and negotiation and underlines that the focus must be “on the good of the people, not the seeking of positions of power or other unilateral aims.”

On Sept. 7, Muslims and Christians around the world heeded Pope Francis’ call for a day of prayer and fasting which culminated in a peace vigil in Rome.

Francis told the large crowd in St. Peter’s Square that war was “always a defeat for humanity,” that it is caused by “idols, by selfishness, by our own interests,” and that only the cross of Christ will bring “reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue.”

Countless churches across the world took part in the day of prayer, leading the Vatican’s spokesman to describe it as the Roman Catholic Church’s largest peace campaign in at least 30 years.


Diplomats in Rome have been surprised and impressed by the Holy See’s determination in promoting the church’s concerns about the escalating conflict in Syria. Those who attended last week’s briefing of diplomats were also surprised by the detail of the “non paper,” which they saw as an effort by the Holy See to restart the Geneva II negotiations. Those talks, aimed at ending the Syrian conflict and organizing a transition period and post-war reconstruction, stalled earlier this year as the United States was unable to persuade the Syrian opposition to take part.

“The briefing showed us that the Vatican means business; it’s not just rhetoric or platitudes,” one ambassador said. Many noted the high level representation of diplomats attending – 71 countries in all – and see it as a testament to the Holy See’s increasing influence on the world stage under Pope Francis. One diplomat told LIGNET that the Argentine pontiff has such a popular following worldwide that governments in favor of military strikes on Syria “will probably find it very hard to face their electorates if it goes ahead.” 

Despite being the world’s smallest state, the Holy See has the world’s oldest diplomatic service and permanent observer status at the United Nations. And as the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, the Pope continues to be an internationally respected figure on moral issues. 

Under Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican’s relevance on the international stage declined as the former pontiff was forced to focus on internal troubles. He also may have been ill-served in global diplomacy by his deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was a canon law expert and not a Vatican diplomat – unusual for that position.

Francis’ forceful stance on Syria is said to mark an end to that impasse. 


Although it is not rare for a Pope to call for world peace, Pope Francis’ determination to avert an escalation of the conflict in Syria and bring about a lasting peace is being heralded as a new era for the Holy See on the world stage, one in which the church’s contributions on moral and ethical issues are more widely heeded. It marks a return to the kind of global presence Pope John Paul II showed, and which sometimes proved effective, most notably with regard to Soviet communism. 

Although doubts remain about the effectiveness on policy of papal pleas for peace, on this conflict, where global public opinion is mostly opposed to a Western military strike, the Pope’s pronouncements and actions are resonating with many, and governments are beginning to take notice. One can expect the Pope to keep up the pressure until the situation improves. 

Read more: http://www.lignet.com/ArticleAnalysis/LIGNET-Exclusive-Popes-Peace-Push-May-Scuttle-Syri#ixzz2ecwSuHUn
All Rights Reserved LIGNET.com

11 September 2013

Still Learning From Pius X, 100 Years Later


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.

* * *

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.

Vatican Silent on John Paul II’s Cause for Canonization


by EDWARD PENTIN 05/03/2013

Catholic News Agency

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is remaining tight-lipped over recent reports that a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Pope John Paul II has been given approval by a committee of Vatican doctors.

An official refused to be moved to offer comment by the reports, as was the case with the postulator of John Paul’s cause. But if the news is true, the late Pope’s cause will have advanced considerably, possibly paving the way his canonization later this year.

In late April, the veteran Vatican watcher Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa reported that a Vatican panel of doctors had confirmed there was no medical explanation for a healing attributed to the intercession of John Paul II.

Although the process is being carried out in strict secrecy, Tornielli reported that in January the postulator of the cause, Msgr. Slawomir Oder, submitted a medical file containing details of the alleged miracle to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for a preliminary opinion.

Two doctors of the Vatican who had already examined this new case both gave a favorable opinion, according to Tornielli’s article. The file with medical records and testimonies was then officially discussed by a committee of seven doctors in April. The panel, presided over by Dr. Patrizio Polisca, the papal physician, also gave a favorable opinion.

The alleged miracle — which had to have taken place after John Paul II’s beatification in May 2011 — must now be presented to a panel of theologians and cardinals to examine. If they agree with the doctors, the cause of Karol Wojtyla will be presented to Pope Francis to give his stamp of approval.

But if Tornielli’s account is accurate, already the most important hurdle appears to have been overcome, as neither the theologians nor cardinals can make clinical evaluations of the case. This means the canonization may not be far away and could conceivably take place as soon as this autumn, possibly on the closest Sunday to his feast day on Oct. 22. The 35th anniversary of John Paul II’s election also falls on Oct. 16.


WYD Announcement?

Some are even speculating Pope Francis might announce the date of canonization during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July, as the youth festivals were inaugurated during John Paul’s pontificate.

However, it is worth noting that it took some four years from the partial recognition of the first miracle — that of French Sister Marie Simon Pierre who was miraculously healed of Parkinson’s — to John Paul II’s beatification ceremony in 2011.

Msgr. Oder’s office declined to comment when contacted by the Register May 2, simply asking to contact them “at a later date.” A Vatican official, who has in the past voiced concern at the speed at which the cause is progressing, also said he had nothing to add at this stage, saying: “There are lots of things in life that can’t be done and get done.”

Another question mark over an early canonization is whether the significant amount of planning needed could be carried out in such a short space of time.

But the same concerns were flagged ahead of John Paul II’s beatification, and yet all the arrangements were in place within just four months.

With no clear information forthcoming from the Vatican the skeptics will continue to have their say, but this fact remains: Blessed John Paul II’s cause for canonization continues apace.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/vatican-silent-on-john-paul-iis-cause-for-canonization/#ixzz2SV5Eng2N

Consultancy and Educational Services on the
Papacy, the Vatican and the Catholic Church