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.
Italians have a wonderful phrase they use when things don’t work out as they had hoped: “It was better when it was worse.”
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.”
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.
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.
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: