Daily Archives: March 23, 2013
Oh ye who do not live in or near Rome, please arm yourself with Google map and look at the travel directions between Castel Gandolfo and Rome.
On a Saturday morning – that is: without the atrocious Roman traffic, which is also a security risk – you can choose a straight Appian route: Appia Antica, Appia Pignatelli, then Appia Nuova; 28 km (call it 18 miles) and 40 minutes later, and Bob’s your uncle. It’s even a rather scenic route.
Cars seem, though, too much luxury for a Pope accustomed to travel by bus.
Therefore, it must be the helicopter.
Now, I do not have anything against a Pope using the helicopter. Nothing at all. But you see, I do not talk about “Franciscan simplicity”, either. Nor have I ever invited anyone to avoid traveling to Rome, whose tourism industry feeds so many, in order to give the money to the poor instead.
So let me ask this straight question: the Mozzetta was not enough simplicity, and tourism to Rome is money better spent for the poor, but there was the need of a helicopter to bridge the 28km to Castel Gandolfo? On a Saturday? What about giving the money to the poor instead?
“Ah, but there are security concerns”.
Are there? Why, then, drive the security guards mad?
“Ah, but the travel and security is all paid by the Italian Government”.
Not last time I looked, it wasn’t. The Italian government puts security and machinery at disposal, but all is paid by the Stato della Citta’ del Vaticano. Even if it weren’t, the money is spent anyway. When well-to-do Argentinians travel to Rome, it does not cost anything to the Vatican, either.
You see, this thing with the “Franciscan simplicity” is a very dangerous weapon to use. People will, namely, remember it, and “new simplicity” can’t simply consist in calling your newsagent in Argentina.
I would personally suggest that either the helicopter use for gite fuoriporta (Castel Gandolfo is a popular destination for one-day excursions) is toned down and the money given to the poor, or the Franciscan tones are toned down instead and we get to see the Mozzetta, the golden cross, the red shoes and all the rest without all the talk of “simplicity”.
The two simply cannot co-exist.
In short, it is utterly wrong to say the Pope has ever ventilated support for “civil partnerships” (among homosexuals) of whatever description, end of story.
The statement had been (repeatedly) made by Sergio Rubin, an Argentinian journalist waxing lyrical about Pope Francis after his election. It was rubbish, period.
My more attentive readers will remember Kimmy Akin had tried to offer a justification for his alleged behaviour if it had happened in the first place, and I had written a blog post explaining that such a justification could not have been offered anyway.
We can, as Italians say, put a stone over this matter, too.
A rather robust and on the whole not at all disappointing speech from Pope Francis yesterday in front of the diplomatic corps. The text is everywhere.
Whilst we Catholic bloggers are obviously not grading Popes’ speeches, this is the beginning of a Pontificate which might well become rather disquieting. It is, therefore, natural that his public utterances are now watched with particular – actually, anxious – attention.
My take on the speech follows. If you want to read it, fine. If you think Popes’ speeches must not be commented on, click away now. Your comment will be thrashed.
So there we are.
1. No ad libitum additions. This being a speech in front of diplomatic corps, adding them might have been a bit too much spontaneity. Or it might be that the Pontiff prefers to reflect well in advance on all he wants to say. This is probably the wisest course of conduct, as spontaneous language may lack the clarity of a prepared speech.
2. No trace of Liberation Theology. The mention of poverty seems to me perfectly in line with Catholic teaching; the Pope also makes reference to spiritual poverty; he even brilliantly links it to the “tyranny of relativism”. A Pope is, as he is Pope, obviously concerned with poverty. In fact, I don’t think many Popes weren’t: Pope Leo X perhaps, and a handful of others like him. As long as this does not become a criticism of Capitalism qua capitalism, or a programmatic stance to remake the planet and human nature with it, I think every Catholic should be pleased; nay, relieved.
3. “There is no true peace without truth!” A beautiful, beautiful statement, and possibly the main message this speech wanted to send out. Everything is based on Truth, and whoever betrays the Truth in the assumed interest of peace is, in fact, betraying both and achieving none.
4. “Pontiff means bridge builder”. Well, yes and no. Pontiff comes from the Latin Pontifex, the highest religious office among the Romans. The spiritual origin of this word are lost in the night of time – like many Roman religious customs and names: the Romans clung to their religious traditions so stubbornly that names were kept even after their meaning was lost -. At University, we were taught whilst the exact origin of the name is unknown, the most likely explanation is that in the very beginning what we today called “technology”, or “technical knowledge”, had a sacred meaning, as in those societal structures they were linked with higher wisdom. Pons facere might therefore well have referred to the “technology of bridge building”, a wisdom considered sacred and therefore in the hand of the Roman clergy, with their head aptly called the “bridge builder”, the Pontifex. Whilst Pope Peter is obviously free to take this word as an inspiration of what he wants to do, it does not seem correct to say or imply past generations have seen the role of the Pontiff as the one of “bridge builder” in the sense of “facilitator of dialogue”, unless of course we talk here of pure evangelisation work. The “bridges” of past Popes were meant to transmit Truth from one shore to the other. Which leads us nicely to the next point,
5. “Dialogue”. It is not entirely clear to me how the bridge building and the dialogue can be squared with wanting to base everything on Truth. If everything is based on Truth, “dialogue” also is. But then it’s not “dialogue” in the V II sense anymore, but pure, unadulterated, unapologetic evangelisation work. Did the Pontiff mean “dialogue” in this sense? I hope so, and his former extolling that peace must be based on Truth seems to enforce the point. Can the “dialogue” be understood in the (spirit of) V II sense of “I am OK where I am, you are OK where you are”? Methinks, he who wants it will be able to read the reference in this way, too. Still, we must be clear before V II “dialogue” was basically seen as evangelisation work: you talk to everyone because everyone needs the Truth.
6. St. Francis. Last time I looked, St. Francis’ “dialogue” with Islam took the form of Crusade and call to conversion. That’s the thing with the Truth, you see.
7. “Dialogue with Islam”. Dialogue with the Islamic world, surely? That is, with Muslims? What I know of Islam excludes that there may ever be any form of “dialogue” with Islam as religion. Like Catholicism, Islam is based on a set of beliefs that does not admit any negotiation and is, therefore, not a possible subject of any “dialogue”. Richard Lionheart certainly “dialogued” with Saladin, but it was not a dialogue between Christianity and Islam, which is intrinsically impossible. Christianity wants the death of Islam, Islam wants the death of Christianity. It’s as simple as that. Christ didn’t say “I am the way, the Dialogue and the Life”. From the Truth of Christ it necessarily follows that Islam has, qua Islam, no right of existence.
Assuming it was here meant “dialogue with Muslims of good will”, and assuming it is the same dialogue Richard had with Saladin (a practical approach to practical problems, not a negotiation on Truth or an acceptance of Lie) I think the dialogue certainly has its own place. If I want to have a Cathedral built in Kuwait City, I will need to dialogue. If I want to explore Sunday festivities for Christians living in Muslim countries, I will have to dialogue. But again, this “dialogue” can only ever be in the service of evangelisation with peaceful means. Still, this was a speech in front of diplomats, so peace and dialogues were naturally to be stressed.
I am, as already stated, relieved. But I also am a mistrustful guy, and the last fifty years have taught me to mistrust V II Popes, none of whom can be defined as “orthodox” by any pre-V II, that is, correct, standard of the word. Therefore, I will wait to see how seriously this Pope takes the concept of Truth, and how much in his mind “dialogue” is, as it necessarily must be, the servant of Truth.
The touchstone of this will be in the new Pope’s approach to “ecumenism”. If his ecumenism will be of the “Assisi meeting” style, we will know Truth is sacrificed to “dialogue”. If he, on the other hand, will always be attentive to stress that everything, even the modern religion of “peace”, must be based on Truth, then I’d say this Pontificate might well surprise us.
It is important that we keep Francis in our prayers.