Archive for the ‘Rome’ Category

Pope Critical of American Culture

April 18, 2008

 By E. J. Dionne, Jr.
The Washington Post
Friday, April 18, 2008; Page A27 
The most jarring word that Pope Benedict XVI is using during his visit to the United States is “countercultural.” The American sense of that term is shaped by the 1960s: free love, drugs, hippies, rock music and rebellion. Needless to say, that’s not what Benedict is preaching.
That word is the key to understanding how Benedict’s message runs crosswise to conventional liberalism and conservatism. Benedict came to the United States as a quiet but forceful critic of “an increasingly secular and materialistic culture,” as he put it during yesterday’s Mass. Almost any American who paid attention to his sermon had to be uncomfortable because all of us are shaped by the very forces he was criticizing.
Benedict directly challenged an assumption so many Americans make about religion: that it is a matter of private devotion with few public implications.
Not true, said the pope. “Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted,” he told the country’s Catholic bishops on Wednesday. “Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”
That is a demanding and unsettling standard for the right and the left alike. Benedict asked a pointed question: “Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death?”
Pope Benedict XVI holds a Mass at Nationals Park in Washington ... 
From REUTERS/Jim Bourg
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Chinese Cardinal At Good Friday Rites

March 22, 2008

By John Phillips
The Washington Times
March 22, 2008

The Vatican yesterday was accused of currying favor with China by “censoring” the Easter reflections for last night’s solemn Good Friday service at the Colosseum that Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong wrote at the request of Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict XVI holds a wooden cross before the faithful during ... 
Pope Benedict XVI holds a wooden cross before the faithful during the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession celebrated by the pontiff, at the ancient Colosseum in Rome, on Friday, March 21, 2008. Pope Benedict XVI recalled the martyrdom of early Christians thrown to hungry lions in the Colosseum as he presided over the Good Friday Way of the Cross procession at the ancient arena in a tradition which this year was dedicated to religious freedom.(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

But many commentators insist the choice of the outspoken Shanghai-born bishop for the task reflects the full support he is getting from the pontiff.

The pope asked Cardinal Zen, 76, to write the reflections, or special prayers, for the Way of the Cross ceremony yesterday, which was beamed on live satellite television to millions of Christians around the world.

Benedict presided over the ceremony but did not carry the cross as planned, the Associated Press reported.

He stood sheltered from pelting rain under a canopy.

At the end of the procession, Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini handed Benedict the lightweight cross. The pope gripped it briefly and then blessed the crowd.

Plans were for the pope to carry the cross for the final minutes of the procession.

But Vatican officials said that because of the storm, it was decided that Benedict, who turns 81 next month, should stay dry under the canopy.

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Vatican wants dialogue with China

March 13, 2008

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican and its high-ranking clergy in China want to have a “respectful and constructive” dialogue with Beijing authorities over the role of the Catholic church there, the Vatican said Thursday.
Pope Benedict XVI looks on during a penitential celebration ... 
Pope Benedict XVI looks on during a penitential celebration in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 13, 2008.REUTERS/Tony Gentile (VATICAN)
The call came this week during a meeting of a special commission on China created by Pope Benedict XVI.
Among the participants at the meeting was Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken champion of religious freedom who at times has drawn the ire of Beijing authorities.
The Vatican said in a statement that participants focused on issues concerning the life of the Catholic Church in China. The pope, who has made improving relations with China a priority, is keen to restore diplomatic relations with Beijing.

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Lindsay Lohan Finds Her Way In A.A., Drinks Life From the Bottle

January 5, 2008

Peace and Freedom Note: We have decided to read more about the “media people” who influence our children and our culture.  Most of them are not worthy of anyone’s attention….

By Allison Moore
HD Diva

Washington, D.C. (January 5, 2008) — Hollywood hottie Lindsay Lohan was caught taking a swig from a champagne bottle on New Year’s Eve during her licentious tour of Capri, Italy.

That would be just fine — hey, do as the Romans do, huh? — but Lohan is supposedly recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. She pled guilty to drunken driving and cocaine possession last year in Los Angeles.

The Associated Press reports that her attorney claims the New Year’s misstep was just a one-time thingy.


“After being handed a champagne bottle while on a dance floor in Italy on New Year’s Eve and drinking from it, the good news is that Lindsay immediately stopped, called her sponsor, and got herself back on track,” said the attorney, the alliterative Blair Berk.

We hear that she didn’t inhale, either.

Lindsay Lohan

Lohan dressed for church.

Berk’s statement might be believable — if Lindsay wasn’t also seen in Italy this week making out with three different men over a 24-our period.

“Unfortunately, Lindsay has to share her ‘one day at a time’ with the entire world,” Berk said.

One day at a time. Or, one man at a time?


Teen Media Idols: Drunk, Naked, Pregnant, Unashamed (We Have Pictures!)

Alcohol, Drugs, Bizarre Behavior: Pop Star Spears In Trouble

Christmas Message: Make Time for “Higher Power”

December 25, 2007

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI urged the faithful to set aside time in their lives for God and the needy, as he ushered in Christmas early Tuesday by celebrating Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Christmas Midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican

Pier Paolo Cito / AP
Pope Benedict XVI receives gifts from children in native costumes as he celebrates the Christmas Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, early Tuesday.
Echoing a theme he has raised about an increasingly secular world, Benedict said that many people act as if there is no room for spiritual matters in their lives.

“Man is so preoccupied with himself, he has such urgent need of all the space and all the time for his own things, that nothing remains for others, for his neighbor, for the poor, for God,” he said.

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Vatican, in shift, says Pope won’t meet Dalai Lama

November 27, 2007

By  Philip Pullella Mon Nov 26, 11:00 AM ET VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict has no plans to meet the Dalai Lama next month, the Vatican said on Monday in an about face from a previous position that irked China.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said “no audience is planned” between Benedict and the Dalai Lama and added there had never been an official, written statement of a meeting.

A Vatican official who spoke on condition of anonymity told reporters in late October that the Pope would meet the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism on December 13.

The meeting during the Dalai Lama’s visit to Italy, which would have been their second since Benedict’s election in 2005, was widely reported in the world media.

Beijing‘s communist government responded early in November by saying such a meeting would “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” and urged the Pontiff to take action showing he “is sincere in improving relations.”

The Dalai Lama has this year met U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House, as well as the leaders of Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

The diplomatic blitz has been met with a stream of vitriol from Chinese officials and state media, calling the 72-year-old a “splittist” bent on independence for Tibet and accusing him of orchestrating anti-Chinese activities in the remote region.

In New Delhi, a Dalai Lama representative said: “His Holiness’s objective is to promote inter-religious harmony and he will not create any inconveniences for anybody.”


Father Bernardo Cervellera, head of AsiaNews, a Catholic news agency that specializes in China and earlier this month also reported on the December 13 meeting, said he was disappointed that the encounter would not take place.

“It was clear from the start that Beijing was not happy about this meeting,” he told Reuters.

Benedict has made improving ties with Beijing a major goal of his pontificate and issued a 55-page open letter in June saying he sought to restore full diplomatic relations with Beijing that were severed two years after the 1949 Communist takeover.

Catholics in China are split between those who belong to a state-backed Church and an underground Church whose members are loyal to the Vatican.

Relations hit low points several times in recent years as the Vatican criticized China for appointing bishops without papal approval. In May 2006, Benedict accused China of “grave violations of religious freedom.”

Relations warmed significantly two months ago when the Vatican approved the installation of a new state-approved Catholic bishop of Beijing.

The Dalai Lama met Benedict last year in a low profile meeting Vatican said was strictly religious in nature.

Benedict’s predecessor John Paul met the Dalai Lama a number of times during his 27-year papacy and the Dalai Lama attended a major inter-religious conference hosted by John Paul in 1986.

Italian politicians are divided over whether the Dalai Lama should be allowed to address parliament during his visit.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Alistair Scrutton)

Forum: Rome had its decline as well

September 23, 2007

Civilization is not automatic. It is fragile, and can wither easily, and even die. There is a decay among us, a failure of civilization, a breakdown of the social structure essential to what we most consider our humanity.

It is not widespread, but neither is it rare. Like a disease it spreads through the social body, infecting and sickening and moving on to taint the healthy.

Civilization can be different things, depending on time and place and people. But any civilization must include certain traits to propagate and protect itself. If it lacks them, it fails. These traits are easily identifiable:

The ability to bear and rear children in a stable family environment.

The ability of individuals to support themselves.
The social ability to establish and sustain order.

The recognition of personal property.

The tendency to promote the general good.

Those things are civilization’s essential components. And for a growing number of Americans, in pockets of microculture, they do not exist.

If we don’t stop the spread of the social pathogen they represent, we will collapse as have other great societies.

Rome stopped being Rome primarily because its civilization frayed and tore, giving way to an anti-civilization, a backward savagery that brought it to its knees. 

American anti-civilization is most common in our inner-cities and rural communities. From there it spreads into the vast American middle-class, happily snoozing in suburbia.

The symptoms? The failure of marriage. Not in individual divorce, but as a social institution of choice. Forty percent of children born in the United States today are born outside marriage. They never have the opportunity to truly belong to a family. 

Most of their situations are flawed and even failed. They are not reared successfully, giving rise to further social pathology and destruction.

Increasingly, a class of people is flourishing which, under other circumstances, would starve to death. The dependent class, unable or unwilling to support itself materially, would naturally be self-limiting. But empowered by responsibility-deadening welfare checks, it is exploding.

The danger to civilization cannot be overstated. People disconnected from their own sustenance have lives built upon a fundamentally false premise. They are, in effect, raiders — a lifestyle that always has tended toward tribalism, not civilization.

Civilization is the subjugation of the individual or group to the interest of the civil entity or imperative. Civilized people belong to a whole, the interests of which they see as somehow both essential to themselves and yet greater than themselves.

We are breeding people in America who see the civil as their enemy, whose lifestyles are predicated upon putting something over on the larger society and its structures.

Many them have an infantile view of property. Whatever they can put their hands on becomes theirs. Thievery is one manifestation, so too is callous disregard for the property of others. Rented apartments are trashed, public places and structures are vandalized, things are broken just for the thrill of breaking them.

Finally, the general good — that which will benefit the most — is not considered. The personal good or desire is paramount in all circumstances.

Civilization in America, in those regards, truly is decaying. The infection will grow geometrically. It must be fought and stopped now.

How? Through the children and through an almost missionary like preaching of a better way.

The specific weaknesses of the growing discivilization must be explained. People must be graciously and respectfully shown the weakness of their lifestyles. Those weaknesses must not be accepted in the mistaken cause of tolerance. Society also must more quickly remove children from situations that will ruin them.

Our civilization is weakening primarily because families are dissolving or never truly forming. Children must be spared that.

Will we as a society do anything about the decay beginning to engulf us? Probably not. And our very civilization is in great jeopardy as a result.


Commentator and talk show host. See

China installs new Beijing bishop

September 21, 2007

BEIJING (AFP) – China‘s official Catholic church began Friday the ordination ceremony of Father Joseph Li Shan as the new bishop of Beijing in a move that has received the blessing of the Vatican.

“The ordination of Father Joseph Li Shan as the bishop of Beijing started at 0845 (0045 GMT),” Sister Yu Shuqin, a spokeswoman at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, told AFP.

Li, 42, will replace Fu Tieshan, who died in April, as head of the country’s highest-profile diocese.

Previous reports have said that while Li was named to the post without formal Vatican consent, the Holy See approved of the choice.

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Saintood for an Asian Hero?

September 16, 2007

September 16, 2007

Word from the Vatican in Rome today is that Cardinal François Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan has been discussed with and by Pope Benedict XVI as a potential candidate for sainthood.

Cardinal Van Thuan was a newly appointed Bishop of Saigon in 1975 when the communists captured the city. Along with tens of thousands of Vietnamese people he was sent to communist re-education. He spent 13 years as a prisoner of the communist prison system; ultimately saying “I needed to stay where God wanted me” and “I have no animosity toward my captors.”

After his imprisonment he was selected by the Pope to serve in the Vatican. He was received by John Paul II into the Vatican, and ran the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, handling issues such as Third World debt.

During the Jubilee Year 2000, the John Paul II invited him to preach the annual retreat for the Pope and the members of the Roman Curia between March 12 and 18, 2000.The Pope asked Archbishop van Thuan to speak of his experience as one who could well be called a living martyr, a witness to the Faith.

The retreat talks were part of the daily e-mail dispatches of an international news agency.

Through this retreat, the world began to know Van Thuan and to hunger for his message of hope.His talks were later published under the title of Testimony of Hope. The title is appropriate, for his talks all speak of joy and hope, even in suffering and beyond the fear of death.


Van Thuan was born on April 17, 1928 at Hue, Viet Nam. Van Thuan came from a family of martyrs. From 1885 to 1888, tens of thousands of Catholics were killed by the van than militia, and among them were Van Thuan’s relatives from the village of Phu Cam. Warned of an imminent attatck, the Catholics of the village fled to their church to pray. Van than surrounded the church and set it ablaze and almost the entire community of Catholics died that night, including the family of Thuan’s grandfather. Among the survivors were Thuan’s great-grandmother, grandfather, who were not in Phu Cam that night, and one great aunt who escaped the inferno.

Cardinal Van Thuan’s mother played an important role in his formation. He said of her, “She taught me stories from the Bible every night, she told me the stories of our martyrs, especially of our ancestors; she taught me love for my country. She was the strong woman who buried her brothers massacred by traitors, whom she sincerely pardoned.”

In 1941, Thuan joined An Ninh Minor Seminary and was ordained on June 11, 1953. After six years of further studies in Rome, he was successively faculty member and rector of the Seminary of Nha Trang between the years 1959-1967.

He was appointed deputy archbishop of Saigon April 24, 1975. Within days of his appointment, Saigon fell to the communist Viet Cong and a few months later, the new bishop of Saigon was targeted for his faith as well as his family connection to Ngo Dinh Diem, the assassinated South Vietnamese president. He was jailed by the Communist government and spent 13 years in a communist ”re-education” camp, nine of them in solitary confinement.

He was never tried or sentenced. Speaking again of his mother, Van Thuan said, “When I was in prison, she was my great comfort. She said to all, ‘Pray that my son will be faithful to the Church and remain where God wants him.’”

During that time in prison, the bishop sought to console his people by smuggling out messages to his people on scraps of paper. These brief reflections, copied by hand and circulated within the Vietnamese community, have been printed in the book The Road of Hope. Another book, Prayers of Hope, contains his prayers written in prison. The bishop fashioned a tiny Bible out of scraps of paper. Sympathetic guards smuggled in a piece of wood and some wire from which he crafted a small crucifix. 

How he survived the horror of that time is described in a little book Five Loaves and Two Fish, made up of talks he gave to young people. He not only survived, but emerged as a man of transparent integrity, calm serenity and joyful hope. In his book The Way of Hope, Thoughts of Light from a Prison Cell, Thuan wrote: ”In our country there is a saying: ‘A day in prison is worth a thousand autumns of freedom.’ I myself experienced this. While in prison, everyone waits for freedom, every day, every minute. We must live each day, each minute of our life as though it is the last.”

Van Thuan was freed on November 21, 1988 and forced into exile. He was received by John Paul II into the Vatican.

Van Thuan was created a cardinal deacon on February 21, 2001 and received the red biretta and deaconry of S. Maria della Scala. Within a week, Viêt Nam’s Foreign Ministry eased restrictions and the Cardinal could enter his native country with only routine immigration procedures and was afforded all the privileges normally given to overseas citizens.

Nguyen Van Thuan died of cancer on September 16, 2002 in a clinic in Rome. He was 74.

Van Thuan had appeared on lists of possible successors to Pope John Paul II, particularly by those believing the next pontiff could come from a poor, non-European country. Vietnam still has the largest Roman Catholic community in Asia after the Philippines.

The funeral took place on September 20, 2002, at 5:30 p.m., in the altar of the Confession of the Vatican basilica. Pope John Paul II presided and preached the homily, the Ultima Commendatio and the Valedictio. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State, concelebrated the mass together with other cardinals.

The first step in the process toward sainthood would be canonization. Canonization is the act by which a Catholic Church declares a deceased person to be a saint, inscribing that person in the canon, or list, of recognized saints.

In the Roman Catholic Church, the act of canonization is now reserved to the Holy See at the vatican and occurs at the conclusion of a long process requiring extensive proof that the person proposed for canonization lived, and died, in such a way that he or she is worthy to be recognized as a saint.

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