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.