Thursday, March 02, 2006

Zen and the Art of Papal Announcements

The Chair of St. PeterSay “February 22nd” to an American and he’ll reply, “George Washington’s birthday.” Give the same date to someone in Vatican City and he’ll answer “The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter.” You can imagine which commemoration is older, no?

Vatican City is like any small town, only more so. There is lots of gossip, — intense, brief, and eternally generated by the hopes and fears of its residents. Since the chief resident at the moment is Pope Benedict XVI, and since he appears to play his cards very close to his vest cassock, the speculation is even more severe than usual. For example, Benedict is known for his dislike of bureaucracies and there is reasonable — if trembling — conjecture that he will begin downsizing, consolidating, and reorganizing the myriad of offices which fall under the aegis of the Roman Curia.

Benedict has sprung two recent surprises on his fellow citizens that will be of interest to those who are concerned with the Global War on Terror:

The first is the appointment of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald as nuncio to Egypt and delegate to the Arab League. Not only was the archbishop the most senior of the British religious in the Vatican, he was also its leading expert on Islam. Does this signify a toughening stance by the Catholic Church — i.e., the Pope — vis-à-vis the Muslim world? It may. The situation certainly bears watching.

The second surprise was the Pope’s announcement, on February 22nd, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, of his choice of fifteen new cardinals. Three of these are honorary appointments since those priests are over the age of eighty and thus not eligible to vote in a Papal election.

Of the twelve remaining choices, there is a world-wide spread from Rome to Asia:

1. Archbishop William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;

2. Archbishop Franc Rodé, C.M., Prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life;

3. Archbishop Agostino Vallini, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura;

4. Archbishop Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino of Caracas, Venezuela;

5. Archbishop Gaudencio B. Rosales of Manila, the Philippines;

6. Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, France;

7. Archbishop Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain;

8. Archbishop Nicholas Cheong-Jin-suk of Seoul, Korea;

9. Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap., of Boston, U.S.A.;

10. Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland.

11. Archbishop Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, Italy;

12. Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, S.D.B., of Hong Kong, China.

Notice that last name: Bishop Zen. As Eamonn Fitzgerald points out:

Most underreported story of the week? Pope Benedict's naming of 15 new cardinals. It's not the fact that 12 of the 15 are under 80 and therefore eligible to vote for the next pope that was newsworthy; it was his choice of Bishop Joseph Zen of Hong Kong that deserved headlines. Adherents of conventional diplomatic wisdom would have regarded the promotion as impossible because Zen's outspoken opinions on Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong, democracy, human rights and religious freedom have angered the communist Chinese authorities. You see, conventional diplomatic wisdom says that the Vatican's desire for better relations with Beijing is so strong that nothing will be allowed to derail the train. So much for that theory.

And then he quotes The Telegraph approvingly:

The choice will hardly please Beijing but the Pope has rightly decided that the Church's mission should not be sacrificed to a dialogue whose successful conclusion is far from sure, particularly as far as a Vatican say in the appointment of Chinese bishops is concerned. Hong Kong can take renewed pride in its courageous pastor. And Benedict's stature has been enhanced.

I think this Pope is a keeper. How about you?

If you want to read more on Zen’s background and career in the Church in China, go here.

Meanwhile, keep your eye on Benedict XVI. For example, why do you think he chose Australia for his Youth Pilgrimage to be held on Palm Sunday this year? Go ahead, pretend you're from Vatican City and speculate, gossip, theorize...


John Sobieski said...

Of the Western nations, only Australia and the US have a strong Christian influence. Canda does too but it has become so mulicultural and influenced by a beligerent Muslim population I can't include it. Europe, I heard church attendance is down to single digits among those identifying themselves as 'Christian.'

I was pleased that he had a meeting with Orianna Fallaci. You could send the Pope a gift, a copy of The Legacy of Jihad by Andrew Bostom praising his new direction regarding the relationship of Christianity and Islam. I bet he would get it too.

Anonymous said...

This Pope is the right man at the right time.
He's working quietly but steadily in favour of all we hold dear.


Baron Bodissey said...

Crimsonfisted --

Please use the hot-link template (at the top of this comments section) to make links, because those long URLs mess up the post width.


Crimsonfisted said...
I think this Pope is strong and committed to the WOT. This article, though, confuses me. What was the point of having a terrorist over to the house? I would be very interested to hear the Gates of Vienna commentary: Link.

Sissy Willis said...

How bad can a Pope be who not only loves cats and Mozart but is in total agreement -- or vice versa -- with atheist Oriana Fallaci? As I posted recently in "Sisu=sissypants?":

We've loved Benedetto with all our heart and soul from day one when we learned of his passion for Mozart and cats. He inhabits an intellectually rigorous and emotionally rich world of faith and ritual we will never know. Even so, as we wrote here recently:

We agree with Oriana Fallaci -- the renowned Italian Journalist indicted last year in her native country for vilifying, as the law says, a "religion admitted by the state," in this case Islam -- that "You cannot survive if you do not know the past." In an Opinion Journal interview with Tunku Varadarajan last June -- blogged here -- she said "I am an atheist, and if an atheist and a pope think the same things, there must be something true. It's that simple! There must be some human truth here that is beyond religion."

This pope is a keeper, big time.

Papa Ray said...

Well, I think 150,000 plus of the Pope's kids on the beaches might send a message to those Islamic punks that have been causing problems there.

And maybe it will give some backbone to the local government officals.

Papa Ray

Ivan Lenin said...

I think the Pope shows more support for our secular values than [almost all of] our secular governments do.

Dymphna said...

Papa Ray--

If you and I were in Vatican City we'd be whispering the same thing. I think he chose Australia because of its record of support for Western values and because of its proximity to some of the bloodier borders...

In addition to being a gifted systematic theologian, Benedict is a thoroughly grounded historian. That's why he doesn't have much optimism about Europe.

The interesting thing about Christianity, as it developed in the west, was its on-going interest in history, an interest rooted in its theology and kerygma.

And, of course, in its hard-learned lessons about being the only kid on the block. When the fault lines finally fissured and then cracked wide open, the Catholic Church panicked in teh earthquake its hubris had brought about. Now, having survived and even transcended that need for security, it is much more open and freer than ever it was...

...which is not to say it jettisoned orthodoxy.

But read his first encyclical. Intriguing.