Reuters blog archive
As readers of this blog will have noticed, I posted a note yesterday about calls by Italian intellectuals for Pope Benedict to break his supposed silence over Tibet. On Wednesday he did so at his weekly general audience, making a carefully worded appeal (here in Italian) for an end to the suffering of the people there.
Given the delicate nature of relations between the Vatican and China, the appeal seemed to strike a balance between his concern for the people and Vatican diplomacy. He mentioned the violence without mentioning China.
In fairness to the Pope, the accusations of "silence" made by some in Italy were perhaps, as was noted by his defenders in yesterday's blog, a bit premature. Unless he is saying a Mass on a Church holy day or a similar occasion, the Pope only has set days in which he can make a public appeal that the Vatican believes is most effective -- Sunday at the Angelus prayer from his window and Wednesday at the general audience.
The unrest in Tibet began last Friday. He did not mention the troubles on Palm Sunday. So the wait for the "silence" to be broken lasted only five days.
Pope Benedict is just about the only world leader not to have said anything about the events in Tibet. This hasn't gone unnoticed in Italy, where some commentators have been urging him to speak out -- and others have been defending him for not doing so.
A story in the March 18 edition of Corriere della Sera quoted Antonio Socci, a Catholic writer and intellectual, as calling the Pope's silence "the latest error by the Secretariat of State headed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone". In the same article, Giorgio Tonini, a member of the centre-left Democratic Party, said he was at first surprised that the Pope had not spoken out against the violence in Tibet during his Palm Sunday Mass. He said he later remembered reading a book by the the late Cardianl Agostino Casaroli, who was secretary of state for much of the reign of the late Pope John Paul. In the book, Casaroli spoke of the "martyrdom of patience" he had to go through when dealing with the communist countries of the former Soviet Bloc.
Posting vacation photos is not what this blog is about, but this one has a religion angle. I just spent a week in India and attended the ordination of the new Roman Catholic bishop of Nashik, a city near Mumbai in an area where Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) is a potent political force.
Archbishop Felix Machado (standing at top of stairs) was under-secretary of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in Rome before his appointment. So he invited leaders of all the religions in the city to join him and give a novel touch to his episcopal ordination. In the picture, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist leaders stand behind him as Acharya Swami Sanvindanand Saraswati, who heads a Hindu monastery in the city known across India as a Hindu pilgrimage centre, welcomes him to Nashik.
In the "one picture worth 1,000 words" category, check out Sulastri Osman's feature on a Singapore festival of body-piercing in honour of the Hindu god Shiva's youngest son, Lord Murugan. "They believe the piercings will leave no scars and they will feel no pain, .protected from bodily harm by the strict regime of abstinence, piety and vegetarianism they follow for a month before the festival," she writes.
Melvin Ho (right), a first-time participant in the Thaipusam festival, said the motivation for the piercing is simple. "I believe in gods," the 49-year-old man of Chinese origin said, minutes before a friend inserted a meter-long metal skewer through his cheeks.
Returning to news reporting after two weeks off feels like you've been away for two weeks. Returning to blogging after a holiday break feels like you've been away for an eternity. So much going on! My colleague Ed Stoddard in Dallas was minding the shop, but he was unexpectedly sent off to report the news from the campaign trail. That gave FaithWorld a very American accent, which was a timely twist given the role of religion in the Iowa vote. It's back to the view from Paris now -- here are some inital comments on recent events concerning religion around the world:
Benazir Bhutto -- The assassinated Pakistani leader will speak from beyond the grave next month when her book Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West is published. HarperCollins has announced it has brought forward to Feb. 12 the release of the book that Bhutto worked on before returning to Pakistan in October. In a statement, it called the book "a bold, uncompromising vision of hope for the future of not only Pakistan but the Islamic world. Bhutto presents a powerful argument for a reconciliation of Islam with democratic principles, in the face of opposition from Islamic extremists and Western skeptics."
The leading role monks played in the September protests against Myanmar's military rulers has put the spotlight on the politically active side of Buddhism.
Next door in Thailand, this activism takes a quite different form. Buddhist groups there tried in vain earlier this year to have Buddhism declared the country's official religion in its new post-coup constitution.