Reuters blog archive
Pope Benedict made an interesting comment at the consistory installing 23 new cardinals on Saturday. He warned against "careerism" in the Church and noted that the disciples James and John who asked Jesus to give them seats to the right and left of him in Heaven (Mark 10:37) had "a crude conception of merit." Here's his sermon (in Italian). Now, I don't want to get into a game of "spot the careerist at the Vatican" -- others do that well enough -- and I don't want to cast any doubts about the new cardinals or any Vatican officials. But reading through the biographies of the new cardinals, I had a kind of sociological interest in seeing if any single factor stood out in their pasts.
And yes, one did.
About three-quarters of the new cardinals studied at one or more of the pontifical universities in Rome. There are a dozen of these Catholic universities here specialised in theology, canon law, scripture and philosophy, with students from around the world. They used to teach in Latin, but gave that up in 1967. Most of the students are bright young seminarians sent over to Rome because their superiors spotted their potential. Others are ordained priests doing graduate work, again often sent by bishops with an eye for talent. While they're here, they not only study, they see how the Vatican works, make contacts among professors, Vatican officials and other students and they learn Italian, an advantage for any cleric on his way up the career ladder.
The numbers said a lot. Of the Europeans who got the red hat, 7 had studied in Rome and 5 had not. That's not so surprising, since Catholic universities in Spain or France or Belgium can provide just as good an education (if not better, some say). But among the non-Europeans, there was no contest. Ten had a Roman degree and only one didn't.
So clerics should not be careerists ... but one who wants to start his career the right way might be advised to do it in Rome.
Italians have a wonderful phrase they use when things don't work out as they had hoped: "It was better when it was worse."
That was the thrust of controversial comments about the Catholic Church's relations with Israel by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, currently the Vatican's nuncio (ambassador) to the United States and formerly the papal envoy to the Jewish state.
The Roman Catholic bishop of Arabia has published a letter on the dialogue call by 138 Muslim scholars pointing out possible stumbling blocs for future talks. The article by Bishop Paul Hinder in Oasis , a multilingual Catholic-Muslim dialogue magazine published in Venice, welcomes the appeal and says: "Here are Muslims offering a hand that we should take."
The Swiss-born bishop is based in Abu Dhabi with responsibility for Catholics in the whole Arabian Peninsula. Just before the historic visit by Saudi King Abdullah to the Vatican on Nov. 6, he called in a Reuters interview for more freedom and security for minority Christians in Saudi Arabia and more freedom for foreign priests to enter the country to administer to them. There are about 1.2 million Christians in Saudi Arabia, nearly a million of them Catholics. Most are Filipino migrant workers.
Italy's far-right Northern League has come up with some provocative ways to protest against the construction of mosques. One of its members, Senator Roberto Calderoli, has called for a "Pig Day" to demonstrate against a planned mosque in Bologna. In December 2006, protesters left a severed pig's head outside a mosque being built in Tuscany. Their latest idea was to parade a pig around the site of a planned mosque in Padua last weekend to "desecrate" the property.
Italy's Sky TV has the video here. It's in Italian but you'll get the point.
The woman leading the protesters is former deputy Education Minister Mariella Mazzetto, a Northern League member. She told the journalist: "We have blessed the ground that the city of Padua wants to transfer for the mosque ... It is a question of defending Italian identity." Muslims and non-Muslims joined in denouncing the protest.
The southern German state of Bavaria is one of those areas, like southern Poland, that are known for their fervent folk Catholicism. It was on full display last year when Bavaria's favourite son, Pope Benedict, visited his native state. But Catholicism is changing even in Bavaria, as his successor as archbishop of Munich and Freising has admitted. Cardinal Friedrich Wetter told fellow Bavarian bishops on Thursday that so many candidates for the priesthood have such insufficient knowledge of Catholic teaching that seminaries will have to introduce remedial courses to bring them up to standard.
"Candidates for the priesthood increasingly come from various backgrounds and apply for the admission to the seminary with sometimes quite different prior experiences of faith and the Church," he said in a statement (here in German). "With a propaedeutic course inserted before normal theology studies in the seminary, the Bavarian bishops want to add an educational phase that fosters the seminarians' spiritual growth and personal discernment, ... transmits basic theological knowledge and allows insight into the real situation of the Church through participation in social and pastoral work."
DUBLIN - Celebrating more than one mass a day may push Roman Catholic priests over the alcohol limit if tougher drink driving rules come into effect in Ireland, a leading clergyman said on Friday.
The rest of the world often forgets that there are Christian churches dotted across the Muslim world and some of those communities date back to the earliest years of the faith. Fredrik Dahl and Reza Derakhshi from our Tehran bureau recently visited a remote medieval outpost of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their report says:
The last priest left the Black Church more than half a century ago and now the picture on the wall of a former monk's cell is of the Islamic Republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, not Jesus.