Ex-nuncio accuses Israel of breaking promises
RELATIONSbetween Israel and the Holy See have deteriorated since the two countries established formal diplomatic ties, the former papal envoy to Israel has said. Archbishop Pietro Sambi accused Israel of failing to fulfil promises made in formal agreements with the Holy See. He said: “If I must be frank, the relations between the Catholic Church and the state of Israel were better when there were not diplomatic relations. “The Holy See decided to establish diplomatic relations with Israel as an act of faith, leaving the promises to handle the more concrete aspects of the life of Catholic communities and the Church to be addressed later.” The 1993 Fundamental Agreement between Rome and Israel established diplomatic relations. A later deal, signed in 1997, entailed an economic agreement, which was to address the status of Church property, provide
compensation for Church services and give the Church tax-exempt status. But Archbishop Sambi said that in recent years the Israeli government had failed to address the issue of Church property and restricted multiple-entry visas for Arab Christian priests travelling between Israel and the Palestinian territories. He said: “After 10 years of negotiations the economic agreement has not yet been signed, undercut by delays and the Israeli delegation’s limited power to negotiate, weakened, that is, by a lack of political will. “Every one can see how much faith can be placed in Israel’s promises,” he said. According to Catholic News Service (CNS), roughly 250 Catholic priests have been affected by Israel’s new visa policy. Oded Ben-Hur, Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican, told CNS that he was “really surprised” at the criticisms, “especially coming from our good friend, Archbishop Sambi”.
Archbishop Sambi, centre, on a peace march in Bethlehem in October 2001
He said: “I know where he’scoming from. There have been difficulties, but I see the situation much more positively.” The Israeli ambassador said Vatican and Israeli delegations had met in Jerusalem on November 7 to prepare for a fuller negotiation session in December teams. “Things are going much better,” he said. Mr Ben-Hur said he also understood the concern of Church leaders regarding the impact on priests and other
Church workers of new restrictions on multiple-entry visas. He explained that Church personnel from Europe and other western countries faced new restrictions as a result of the government’s efforts to restrict the number of multientry visa holders. “The Ministry of the Interior has promised to resolve the problem very soon,” he said. The question of multipleentry visas for Church person
nel from Arab countries is different, he added. “That is in the hands of the security services and makes it more difficult to resolve. Visas for personnel originally from countries that are at war with us are a question of security. I am making every effort to facilitate as many visas as possible.” An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said: “Israel is interested in good relations withthe Vatican and Israeli and Vatican officials are work
ing to overcome gaps that exists.” Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that Archbishop Sambi’s remarks were based on “his thoughts and personal experience”. He said: “The Holy See, for its part, reiterates its... desire ... for a rapid conclusion to the important negotiations already in progress.” Archbishop Sambi served as nuncio to Israel between 1998 and 2005 before moving to his current post as papal nuncio to the United States.
Pope pays tribute to Blessed Antonio Rosmini
POPEBENEDICTXVI has praised the life and example of a 19th-century Italian philosopher and religious order founder whose writings were still condemned by the Church only six years ago. Blessed Antonio Rosmini was a great priest and an “illustrious man of culture” who generously dedicated his life to harmonising the relationship between reason and faith, the Pope said on November 18, just a few hours before Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins led Rosmini’s beatification ceremony in the northern Italian city of Novara. In his midday Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square the Pope asked that Blessed Rosmini’s example help the Church, “especially Italian ecclesial communities, [to] grow in the awareness that the light of human
reason and grace, when they walk together, become a source of blessing for the human person and for society”. Blessed Rosmini, who lived from 1797 to 1855, founded the Institute of Charity –also known as the Rosminian Fathers – and the Congregation of the Rosminian Sisters of Providence. The road to his beatification was for a long time impeded by an 1887 Vatican condemnation of 40 proposals selected from works written by the Italian priest. But in 2001 the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, declared that the positions condemned 114 years ago did not accurately reflect Blessed Rosmini’s thinking or beliefs. Historians said the propositions were pulled out of the context in
which they were written. In his homily during the beatification Mass Cardinal Saraiva Martins said that elevating the Italian holy man to blessed status “will certainly help restore the friendship between reason and faith, between religion, ethical behaviour and the public service of Christians”. He said that Blessed Rosmini’s message that reason and faith should be intertwined has “burning relevance” for today’s world where there is “a steady eclipse of God and his providence”. The cardinal also told 30 Giorni, an Italian magazine, he was “truly happy” to see this “great, bright, prophetic thinker” finally elevated to “the glory of the altars”. In an interview published in the magazine’s September issue Cardinal Saraiva Martins said because the 1887 condemnation was issued
posthumously Rosmini was not able to defend himself from allegations that were “pulled out of their context and therefore interpreted arbitrarily”. Two of Rosmini’s books, The Five Wounds of the Churchand The Constitution According to Social Justicewere placed on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1849. But six years later a top-level Vatican review of all of his published works led to a judgment by Pope Pius IX that they were free from heterodoxy. While he was alive Blessed Rosmini’s attempts to find a way to bridge the gap between Catholic philosophy and secular philosophy were seen as a dangerous concession to those who thought reason alone could lead people to truth and ultimate happiness. His popularity with the papal court was not enhanced
by his belief that the unification of Italy was inevitable and the Vatican should loosen its temporal grip on the Papal States, supporting the formation of a confederation of Italian states in order to safeguard the independence of the papacy. Cardinal Saraiva Martins told 30 Giornithat Blessed Rosmini’s ideas and opinions made him “an uncomfortable figure, above all for some circles of political power”. He said The Five Wounds of the Church was “in some ways prophetic, ahead of its time, perhaps too much”. “A prophet’s destiny in the Bible but also, alas, in the history of the Church is often to be misunderstood and persecuted,” he said. Blessed Rosmini is seen by many as having helped inspire some of the reforms made during the Second Vatican Council.
NOVEMBER 23, 2007 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
US bishops choose new conference president
AMERICA’Sbishops have elected Cardinal Francis George of Chicago as president of their conference. Cardinal George was voted into the post on the first ballot with 85 per cent approval. He is completing his three-year term as vicepresident of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the first cardinal to
be elected president or vice president of the conference since 1971. He succeeds Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington, whose three-year term came to an end at the close of the autumn meeting in Baltimore. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, was chosen as the new vicepresident.
Protesters force cathedral to close
THECATHEDRALof Mexico City had to be closed last weekend after more than 100 political protesters disrupted Sunday Mass. The decision to shut the cathedral doors was announced by Armando Martíínez, the president of the College of the Catholic Lawyers of Mexico, who said that the cathedral will not open again until the government can guarantee the security of the faithful and priests. During the midday Mass at the cathedral last Sunday a group from the Leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) members interrupted the liturgy, chanting slogans and shouting their approval of Andréés Manuel Lóópez Obrador, the 2006 presidential candidate who lost by a slim margin to Felipe Calderóón. Mr Lóópez Obrador is contesting the results, claiming that an electoral fraud denied him victory and proclaiming himself the “legitimate president” of Mexico.
Cardinal Bertone visits Argentina
ARGENTINA’Spresident-elect Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has received the Vatican secretary of state. In a move seen as signalling a warming of relations between Buenos Aires and the papacy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone met Mrs Kirchner and her husband, outgoing president Nestor Kirchner, on November 14. After the meeting, Cardinal Bertone said he hoped Mrs Kirchner would “take the country out of purgatory and elevate it to paradise”.
EU: Turkey failing faithful
THEEUhas criticised Turkey for its failure to protect Christian minorities. A commission report published earlier this month documented attacks against clergy and churches, unpunished incitement against Christians and a denial of full property rights.The report also claimed that Turkish authorities regard missionaries as a national threat. Less than one per cent of Turkey’s 70 million population is Christian.
Church aid to Chile quake victims
THECATHOLICCHURCHhas begun collecting funds for more than 15,000 people left homeless after a magnitude 7.7 earthquake rocked the desert and mining region of Antofagasta, 760 miles north of Chile’s capital, Santiago. The Archdiocese of Antofagasta, through its regional Caritas office, is coordinating with local parishes and the national offices of Caritas Chile to mount a nationwide fundraising campaign for victims of the earthquake. Two women died and 161 people were injured while nearly 4,000 homes were severely damaged or lay practically flat on the ground after the quake on November 14. “People have not only lost their homes, but also many of their belongings, from furniture to kitchen utensils. “But to save the costs and complications of transporting donated goods, we are calling on people to donate money that we can convert into bedsheets, chairs, pots and pans,” said Luis Gonzalez Pizarro, director of Caritas Antofagasta. “The problem is that distances are long, and there are isolated areas that can only be reached by helicopter, because roads have been cut off due to landslides.”
Green light for World Youth Day after government pay out to racing industry
Spanish bishop sorry for Church’s war role
Eritrean state expels missionaries
THEAUSTRALIANgovernment has announced a massive payout to the horse racing industry to clear the way for the Pope’s visit to the country next July for World Youth Day. The figure was agreed following a four-month row between the racing industry in Australia, the Church and the government over the use of the Sydney’s Royal Randwick racecourse next year for the six-day World Youth Day event, which will attract an estimated 500,000 people. The event will mean the race track will be closed for roughly 10 weeks, at huge
cost to the racing industry. To compensate, the Australian and New South Wales governments will disburse a £13 million taxpayer-funded package to the affected parties. Under the terms of the agreement an additional £4 million will be set aside in a contingency fund in case the racecourse cannot be used for the 2008 racing carnival, which this year had to be cancelled due to the outbreak of highly contagious equine influenza. During the build up and celebration of World Youth Day the 700 thoroughbred horses and their trainers at Randwick will be relocated
to Warwick Farm and Rosehill racecourses in western Sydney. The payout comes on top of the government’s pledge to cover the £15 million security and visa expenses. Racing New South Wales chief executive Peter Vlandys said: “The NSW Racing industry has always recognised this is a world signature event, but it shouldn’t be subsidised financially by the racing industry.” The Deputy Premier of New South Wales, John Watkins, defended the huge pay out by saying that the event would bring at least £64 million into his state.
The twists and turns of the four-month dispute have included WYD organisers and media being locked out of the course during an inspection and the unfortunate coincidence of an outbreak of equine flu, during which horses were quarantined within the ground. The Randwick location was chosen for the reason that 400,000 people could be within the eye-line of the altar where Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate the final Mass. The evening vigil will take place the day before, on July 19, and will be followed by an invitation to young people to “sleep under the stars”.
THEHEADof the Spanish bishops’ conference has issued an apology for the Church’s role in the Spanish Civil War. Bishop Ricardo Bláázquez of Bilbao surprised Spanish commentators by acknowledging the Church’s failures during the conflict. He said: “On many occasions we have reasons to thank God for what was done and for the people who acted, [but] probably in other moments we should ask for forgiveness and change direction.” The Church has not formally expressed regret for its part in the 1936-39 war, which resulted in victory for dictator Francisco Franco.
Yet Bishop Bláázquez’s apologycomes a month after Pope Benedict XVI beatified the nearly 500 Spanish priests and nuns who were killed in in the civil conflict. The beatifications prompted bitter complaints from the Spanish Left. Critics complained that only priests aligned with Franco’s troops have been honoured by the Church. Bishop Bláázquez, nearing the end of his three-year term as head of the conference, further shocked conservatives by praising the controversial Bishop Enrique y Tarancóón, known as the “red bishop”, for his attempts to distance the Church from Franco.
THEERITREANgovernment has expelled 13 Catholic missionaries. The expulsions have heightened tensions between missionary groups and President Isaias Afewerki’s regime. The move has been seen as part of a bid by the dictatorship to take control of humanitarian work in the country. The official reason for the missionaries being expelled was because of expired residency permits. However, a spokesman for an Italian aid agency said: “The [Eritrean] government of Asmara ... has had a policy of running western humanitarian workers out
of the country. The population will be abandoned. The situation itself is already tragic.” He said that the Eritrean people were not allowed to leave the country and “they don’t realise that another way of life exists”. The 13 missionaries were given two weeks from November 6 to leave the troubled country. Eritrea is reported to have one of the world’s worst records on religious freedom. A 2002 decree that all churches must be officially registered resulted in the closure of all the religious facilities not belonging to the four recognised faiths.