FaithWorld

Pope’s secretary victim of Facebook hoax

It had to happen sooner or later.

Someone pretending to be Pope Benedict’s personal secretary Monsignor Georg Gänswein, a German priest whose good looks have made him a celebrity in his own right, has set up a false Facebook account in his name. Several journalists in Rome have received an invitation from someone claiming to be him and asking them to be his Facebook friend.

But the journalists noted something strange in the dialogue with the purported monsignor. He sprinkles his Italian with German words like gut (good)  — something the real one doesn’t  do since he speaks perfect Italian. The bogus monsignor also posted a video clip of the real Gänswein walking with the pope during the Benedict’s summer holidays last year in the northern Italian mountains. The video — shot by Vatican television — is readily available. (Photo: Monsignor Georg Gänswein and Pope Benedict at the Vatican, 7 June 2006/Max Rossi)

But the real Gänswein, dubbed “gorgeous George,” doesn’t really need Facebook to make friends. There already are at least four Facebook fan clubs started by swooning admirers. One of the fan clubs uses an Italian play on words that can mean both that he should leave the priesthood or take off his priestly clothes.

Another fan club, writing in English, says “The papal secretary is a very attractive older man.” Gänswein may have some problems with that. He is only 52 and looks much younger.

Gänswein has played a much more marginal role in Benedict’s pontificate compared to his predecessor Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was Pope John Paul’s private secretary for all 27 years of his papacy and had served him when Karol Wojtyla was archbishop of Krakow (where Dziwisz is now cardinal). Dziwisz was a mover and shaker who enjoyed being the gatekeeper. He kept up contacts between the pope and journalists, politicians, commentators, authors and artists.

Bishop sorry for stinging “idolatry” attack on banker

Of all the denunciations of greed coming from the pulpits in this financial crisis, few have had as much sting as the attack that Bishop Wolfgang Huber of Berlin delivered just before Christmas. Huber, who as council chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) is the country’s top Protestant prelate, singled out the head of the biggest German bank when he lambasted top financiers for their rush for profits. (Photo: Bishop Wolfgang Huber, 5 Nov 2006/Alex Grimm)

Referring to Josef Ackermann, he told the Berliner Zeitung that he hoped “a Deutsche Bank chief executive should never again set a profit goal of 25 per cent.” Such goals fuelled excessive profit expectations and amounted to a form of idolatry, he said. “In these circumstances, money has become a god.”

The bank angrily rejected his criticism as inappropriate.”

Now comes the news that Huber has apologised to Ackermann. “Since many have suspected I was personally attacking Mr Ackermann, I have apologised to him,” he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. “The issue now is not to criticise a single person, it must be to discuss at length what led to this financial crisis. And what we must avoid, so as not to fall into equally destructive mechanisms again.”

Berlin fights to save work of anti-Nazi theologian

Germany is launching an appeal to save thousands of valuable letters and manuscripts which had belonged to Protestant theologian and Nazi resistance fighter Dietrich Bonhoeffer by digitalising them. (Photo: 1995 German stamp honouring Bonhoeffer)

The Berlin state library says it needs 40,000 euros to save the documents which it counts as one of its most prized collections. It wants to put about 6,200 pages of his work on the Internet to make them more widely available.

The papers include the farewell letter Bonhoeffer wrote to his parents before his execution in a concentration camp in 1945, just days before the end of World War Two, for opposing Hitler. He was 39.

Holier than thou? Rio’s Christ statue has rival

A little-known Brazilian farming town with sugar cane wealth is set to upstage Rio de Janeiro by erecting a statue of Christ this year that will eclipse its famous equivalent atop Rio’s Corcovado mountain.

The Christ statue in Sertaozinho, northwest of Sao Paulo city, will be 187 feet (57 meters) tall when perched on its 128 foot (39-metre) pedestal. (Photo: Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, 5 June 2005/Bruno Domingos)

Here’s our story about it and the full Folha de Sao Paulo report on the statue (in Portuguese).

“In retrospect, I wish Pius XII hadn’t been so diplomatic”

The role of Pope Pius XII during World War Two is a subject of endless dispute, part of which we’ve tracked on FaithWorld over the past year. This has gained in interest because of Vatican plans to put him on the path to sainthood, which may be held up now because of protests from Jewish groups. We’re all waiting for the secret archives of his papacy (1939-1958) to be opened to finally see what the documents say about his relations with Nazi Germany. While we’re waiting, one of the key questions that could be assessed on the basis of files already available is what Pius thought about dealing with the Nazis before he became pope. There is a long paper trail there, because Pius was the Vatican Secretary of State — effectively, the prime minister of the Vatican — from 1930 until his election as pope. But a lot of people argue for or against Pius without having read this material. (Photo: Pope Pius XII/Vatican photo)

Gerard Fogarty S.J., a University of Virginia historian and Jesuit priest, has worked through much of this material and come up with a fascinating article in the U.S. Jesuit magazine America. He’s examined much of the paper trail the future pope left in the 1930s but many of the documents are in a language that the leading commentators on Pius don’t speak. We’re not talking about that dead language Latin, but Italian — a lively regional tongue in Europe that happens to be an international language within the world’s largest church, Roman Catholicism.

“This is one of the problems even now,” Fogarty recounted in an informative podcast for America. “Scholars come to me and ask, do you use a translator? No scholar is going to do that. You’ve got to learn the language yourself. So people have not looked at what was published.”

from Environment Forum:

Germany’s ‘Sun King’ Asbeck explains solar power for Vatican

Every once in a while you run into someone with so much energy that you find yourself wishing you could plug something into them to tap a bit of that excess power. On a dark, cloudy December afternoon, I spoke to Frank Asbeck, the chairman of SolarWorld and dubbed the "Sonnenkoenig" (Sun King) by a leading newspaper in his native Germany for turning an idea (mass use of photovoltaic) into a multi-billion euro corporation with 2,500 employees -- in little over a decade.

Asbeck, 49, easily the most entertaining chief executive I've met in Germany, lit up the room with a 90-minute surge of ideas, witty comments and untempered optimism about solar power -- a delightful respite from the economic doom and gloom of the current era.

But what especially interested me about him was his trip a day earlier to the Vatican, where he donated 2,400 photovoltaic panels worth 1.2 million euros that will produce enough electricity for the equivalent of 100 households (300 Megawatt hours) each year. So I asked: "Did you donate the solar panels to the Vatican because:

Germany still fighting anti-Semitism

To mark the 70th anniversary of ”Kristallnacht”, when Nazis ransacked Jewish shops and homes and set synagogues ablaze, the German parliament this week passed a resolution on anti-Semitism.

It says anti-Semitism is still a problem that Germany needs to take seriously and calls for a team of experts to report regularly on anti-Semitic activity in Germany and to recommend steps to combat it.

A row with the Left party over the resolution sparked criticism from the Central Council of Jews and overshadowed a wider debate in Germany on the subject.

Financial crisis hits German rabbinical college

Berlin’s new Synagogue, 10 Oct 2005/Amanda AndersenThe revival of Jewish life in post-unification Berlin could suffer a setback if the current financial crisis forces the closing of the first rabbinical college opened in central Europe since the Holocaust. As Berlin reporter Josie Cox writes, the Abraham Geiger College is falling short of funds because its donors in Europe and the United States are getting short of cash themselves. Read the full story here.

The college opened at the University of Potsdam in 1999 and graduated its first rabbis — a German, a Czech and a South African — in September 2006.

“We need many, many more rabbis in Germany. We have a great hunger for rabbis,” Dieter Graumann, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said at the time.

Could pro-choice Obama reduce the U.S. abortion rate?

Matthew 25 Network logoFinancial fears and campaign-trail mud-slinging have so dominated the U.S. presidential race in recent weeks that several issues worth serious debate have mostly drifted off the public radar screen. Judging by the latest presidential debate, one of them off on the sidelines now is abortion. This has hit my radar screen, though, because some Barack Obama supporters have made what seems to be an incredible claim — that the most pro-choice candidate in the running could actually lower the overall number of abortions in the United States. Huh?

The Matthew 25 Network, which calls itself “pro-life pro-Obama,” says “an Obama administration will do more than a McCain administration for the cause of life, by drastically reducing abortions through giving women and families the support and the tools they need to choose life.”

Over at Beliefnet, editor-in-chief Steve Waldman has two very interesting posts about this. The first one says that Obama supports Medicaid funding for abortion, which obviously would make getting one easier. The Democratic candidate also supports the Freedom of Choice Act, which “would wipe out state laws, including moderate ones that merely require parental notification for teens seeking abortion.” So it looks like total abortions would rise during an Obama administration.

Pius XII biographer raps rabbi for recalling Holocaust role

Cover of Tornielli’s book Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli, A Man on the Throne of PeterA leading Italian biographer of Pope Pius XII has sharply criticised Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen for recalling the controversy about the pope’s role in the Holocaust during an unprecedented address to a synod of Roman Catholic bishops at the Vatican. Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican correspondent of the newspaper Il Giornale who has written four books defending the wartime pope, said no cardinal could have ever spoken that way at a major Jewish forum in Jerusalem.

Cohen, the chief rabbi of Haifa in Israel, was the first Jew to address such a synod. In unscripted remarks, he told the bishops that Jews “cannot forget the sad and painful fact of how many, including great religious leaders, didn’t raise their voice in the effort to save our brethren but chose to keep silent and helped secretly.” Defenders of Pius, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, say he did he did his utmost to help Jews during the Holocaust; Pope Benedict repeated this recently in his first public statement on his predecessor. But his critics fault Pius for not publicly challenging the Nazis by denouncing the Holocaust.

Tornielli focused special attention on Cohen’s statement in a Reuters interview prior to his Andrea Torniellisynod speech. The 80-year old rabbi told our Vatican correspondent Phil Pullella that he might not have attended the synod if he had known in advance that Pius would be honoured there. The synod will mark the 50th anniversary of his death in 1958 with a special mass on Thursday at which Benedict may announce that Pius will soon be beatified. Tornielli wrote on his blog Sacri Palazzi (Sacred Palaces):