FaithWorld

Does Europe’s new prez really think it’s a Christian club?

rompuy1Europe’s new president, Herman Van Rompuy, is little known outside his native Belgium. One of the few background facts about him circulating since his election is his opposition to Turkish membership in the European Union.  The operative quote, expressed in a 2004 speech when he was an opposition deputy in the Belgian parliament, is:

“Turkey is not a part of Europe and will never be part of Europe. An expansion of the EU to include Turkey cannot be considered as just another expansion as in the past . . . The universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigour with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey.” (Photo: Herman Van Pompuy, 19 Nov 2009/Sebastien Pirlet)

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, said something quite similar In an interview with Le Figaro, also in 2004: “Turkey always represented another continent throughout history, in permanent contrast with Europe,” he said, and joining it to Europe would be a mistake. Europe is united by its “culture which gives it a common identity. The roots which formed … this continent are those of Christianity.”

Both these comments were made in the context of a debate about mentioning Europe’s Christian heritage in the EU constitution planned at the time. Some countries, most notably France, opposed any explicit mention of the traditional majority faith on the continent. The Vatican’s reaction was: “The Holy See cannot but express its distress over the opposition of some governments to the explicit recognition of the Christian roots of Europe. It is a question of disregard of the historical evidence and of the Christian identity of European peoples.”

ratzinger2004Van Rompuy, a Christian Democrat, is a believeing Catholic who has no problem saying so in public. He attended a Jesuit high school in Brussels and the Catholic University Leuven. Back in 1985, he wrote a book entitled Het christendom. Een moderne gedachte (Christendom, a modern idea), which is now out of print.

from UK News:

Pope makes it easier for Anglicans to switch to Rome

ITALYPope Benedict has made it easier for disaffected Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican Church, and Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, stressed dialogue would continue between the two churches.

They were at pains to say it was not a comment on the Anglican Communion, but a response to requests from traditional Anglicans from all over the world.

from Tales from the Trail:

The Pope blessed Ted Kennedy

KENNEDY/As a divorcee who was pro-choice on abortion, the United States's most prominent Catholic politician was not exactly in the Vatican's good books.

Yet Pope Benedict XVI blessed the terminally ill Senator Edward Kennedy, according to correspondence made public at his burial in Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday.

Kennedy, whose political career was marred by scandal, asked for the Pope's prayers in a letter that was handed to the pontiff by President Barack Obama in Rome on July 10.

Honduran Catholic hierarchy opposes Zelaya and Chavez

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, 12 April 2005/Alessandro Bianchi Honduras’ powerful Roman Catholic Church has backed the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, surrendering a chance to be an impartial mediator in order to counter the influence of Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chavez.

Leaders of the Catholic Church, the most respected institution in the country, have backed the ouster and thrown their weight behind the interim government installed by the Honduran Congress.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, often mentioned as a possible future pope, has justified Zelaya’s ouster while opposing his expulsion from the country. “He doesn’t have any authority, moral or legal,” Rodriguez told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

Prominent cardinal backs coup and rule of law in Honduras

ormMen touted as a possible next pope of the Roman Catholic Church rarely get involved in public debates over a coup d’etat or wars of words with heads of state. But that’s what Tegucigalpa Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has done recently in the the political crisis in his country, Honduras. Before the overthrown President Manuel Zelaya made his failed attempt to return home, Rodriguez issued a statement in a televised address declaring his ouster legal and warning Zelaya could spur “a bloodbath” if he came back to Honduras. (Photo: Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, 16 April 2005/Kimimasa Mayama)

The July 3 televised statement, signed by the 11 bishops of Honduras, exhorted Hondurans to seek a peaceful solution to the political crisis and rejected international criticism of Zelaya’s ouster even as it condemned the manner he was kicked out of the country.

Rodriguez, one of the Latin America’s most prominent Catholic leaders, was frequently mentioned as a possible next pontiff in 2005 when he and his fellow cardinals gathered to elect a successor to Pope John Paul. There was much talk at the time that a cardinal from the developing world, where the majority of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics live, took over at the Vatican. When the conclave opted for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the German was called “the last European pope.” The Latin Americans could win the next conclave if they could only rally behind one candidate, the Italian media speculated. Rodriguez, then a young 62, was often mentioned as the man with the best chances.

This time around, Dan Brown hero is Vatican ally

photocall-2After exposing a Church cover-up in “The Da Vinci Code,” symbologist Robert Langdon returns to the big screen as an unlikely Vatican ally in the latest movie adaptation of a novel by author Dan Brown.

“Angels & Demons,” again starring Tom Hanks as Langdon and directed by Ron Howard, premieres in Rome on Monday at a theatre a mile (0.6 kilometer) away from Vatican City. It’s due to open in the United States on May 15. (Photo: Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer and Ron Howard (L-R) at a photocall at CERN near Geneva, 12 Feb 2009/Valentin Flauraud)

In the film, Langdon is recruited by the Vatican after the pope dies and four cardinals tipped  to succeed him are kidnapped. Langdon races through the “Eternal City” deciphering clues linked to a centuries-old secret society, the Illuminati.

NY Archbishop Dolan is a joker

USA/The new Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan lived up to his reputation as an extrovert at his first news conference in New York, cracking a string of jokes at his own expense and telling reporters “You’re going to have to shut me up.” 

Even before he took the podium, while chatting to a monsignor about a visit to a New York food pantry later in the day, he glanced at his own moderate paunch and quipped: “I’m an expert in alleviating hunger.” 

When a reporter asked a question about overworked priests, Dolan said he thought he’d heard “overweight priests.” 

Is a papal visit to Vietnam on the horizon?

Could the Pope make a historic visit to commmunist Vietnam later this year?  A papal envoy hinted at this on Thursday, as Vietnam and the Vatican are seriously discussing establishing diplomatic ties. “This is my wish,” Vatican Undersecretary of State Monsignor Pietro Parolin told reporters when asked if he thought the Pope could visit the Southeast Asian country this year. He added that the question had not been discussed in meetings with the Foreign Ministry and government’s religious affairs committee. (Photo: Priest outside a Hanoi court trying Catholics for illegal protests, 8 Dec 2008/stringer)

The papal envoy has been attending the first meeting of a joint working group on improving ties this week in Hanoi. He said the talks had made progress, but establishing ties was a process that will take time.

Roman Catholicism in Vietnam dates back centuries, even before French colonial rule. Now some 7 percent of mostly-Buddhist Vietnam’s population of 86 million are Catholic, making it one of the biggest Catholic communities in Asia.

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.

Have you thought about the next papal election yet?

You and I may not have, but Anura Gurugé has. He’s even set up two websites on the papacy — one on papal elections — Papam – All About Papal Elections — and another called Popes and the Papcy with his latest list of the next papabili.

This all seems quite early. Pope Benedict seems in good shape despite his years. It’s never too early to speculate, though. Gurugé’s top three for the next head of the Roman Catholic Church are Brazilian Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, Italy’s Ennio Antonelli, President of the Council for the Family (Roman Curia) and Canadian Marc Ouellet of  Quebec.

After Gurugé flagged his website to me, I went to the main  “let’s get in on the speculation early” site, that of the Dublin bookmaker Paddy Power. They don’t agree — their top three are Venice’s Cardinal Angelo Scola, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras and Christoph Schönborn of Vienna.