Rome

Thankfully remembered

Thursday, 27 November, 2014 0 Comments

“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Marcus Aurelius


Francis redefines the Popemobile

Wednesday, 18 June, 2014 0 Comments

When he greets crowds at the Vatican, his custom Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is completely open. So writes Alex Nunez in a Road & Track piece titled “Pope Francis on why he eschews a bulletproof Popemobile“. The Pontiff in trading security for intimacy and is quoted as telling Barcelona’s La Vanguardia: “It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose.”

There might be more to that fatalistic quip than meets the eye because on Monday the Vatican’s news service announced that that Francis is drastically curtailing his schedule by suspending his popular Wednesday audiences in July and skipping his daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, where he lives.

He’s had a busy year so maybe it’s just a well-earned break.


The epic of a digital relic of a saint-to-be

Sunday, 27 April, 2014 0 Comments

Tutto il mondo a San Pietro. That’s the way it will be today in Rome for the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII. Back on 6 April 2005, we joined the crowds in Rome intending to pay their respects to one to the saints-to-be, Pope John Paul II, who was lying in state […]

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#nota notandi

Tuesday, 15 April, 2014 0 Comments

The Latin Letters Office in the Vatican Curia is said to be the only modern workplace where the language of Cicero is still the lingua franca. Part of the day job is tweeting. Since Pope Benedict XVI started the Pontifex Latin Twitter account in January last year, it has gained 235,000 followers and Chicago native Monsignor Daniel Gallagher, who’s tasked with keeping pontifical reflections within the 140-character limit, told USA Today of the challenges facing him when he has to turn this…

… into this …

Gallagher’s approach: “The word ‘taboo’ comes from a Tongan/Fijian word that means ‘forbidden, prohibited.’ The Romans had a similar, even stronger, concept in Latin with nefandae, which comes from nefas, which comes from ne-fari, which means ‘not to be mentioned.'”


Economics according to Pope Francis

Tuesday, 3 December, 2013 1 Comment

Argentina is a remarkable country. It’s rightly famed for its football, tango, populism, asado, wine, landscapes and polo players, but when it comes to the really heavy lifting that marks a civil society, Argentina has been found wanting. It tried barbaric military rule in the 1970s and its weakness for kleptocracy seems to be incurable. All these factors, and more, have to be taken into account when attempting to understand how Jorge Mario Bergoglio views the world. And his views on the world are important because the 76-year-old Jesuit, who was born in Buenos Aires, is now the leader of the world’s largest Christian church and some 1.2 billion people pay close attention to what he says.

What Pope Francis thinks and says was revealed last week when the Vatican released a 224-page document, titled Evangelii Gaudium, which has been described as his vision statement of the kind of community he wants Catholicism to be. He demands an end to business-as-usual and dreams of “a missionary impulse” that can be channelled “for the evangelization of today’s world”, but he balances this radicalism by ruling out the ordination of women to the priesthood, and he stresses that the church’s position on unborn life “cannot be expected to change” because it is “closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right.”

For a change, however, his thoughts on gender or abortion did not capture the headlines. What made the news was the section of the apostolic exhortation in which he condemned what he calls a “crude and naïve trust” in the free market, saying that left to its own devices the market fosters a “throw-away culture” in which some categories of people are seen as disposable. Furthermore, he rejects what he describes as an “invisible and almost virtual” economic “tyranny.”

Really? And what about the tyranny and horror in places such as North Korea, Cuba, Russia and Venezuela — countries where the free market does not rule? Feudalism and Communism have been swept into the dustbin of history and the last man standing is an economic system in which the private possession of the means of production, driven by the profit motive, responds to the needs of the marketplace by balancing supply, demand and price. The well-governed state takes its share through taxation and what it gets from rich Peter it gives to poor Paul. In between, it enacts a never-ending stream of laws to regulate everything from working hours, minimum wages and corporate responsibility.

In poorly-governed, corrupt countries like Argentina, the system does not work very well and maybe it’s his experience of such market mismanagement that has influenced the economics of Pope Francis. His views would have been perfectly accurate 150 years ago, when Dickens was describing the excesses of capitalism, but today’s reality is rather different. Just because Lionel Messi earns €16 million a year, while nurses struggle to survive, does not mean that we should abandon the greatest engine of economic growth in the history of the world. Yes, it needs to be fine-tuned constantly and repairs are sometimes necessary, but when Socrates was asked what he thought of his nagging wife, Xanthippe, he replied, “Compared to whom?”

Pope Francis


Mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam

Tuesday, 29 October, 2013 0 Comments

Beginning on 8 November and offering the Marc’Aurelio Award for best entry, The Rome Film Festival presents some intriguing titles: Marc Turtletaub’s star-filled directorial debut Gods Behaving Badly — a tale of Greek gods living in present-day New York; Her by Spike Jonze, Seventh Code from Japan’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Blue Sky Bones from China’s Jian Cui, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club and Out of the Furnace by Scott Cooper.

The Latin saying, Mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam (“A thousand roads lead men forever to Rome”) became the proverb: “All roads lead to Rome.” In this clip, Tom Mckie reveals the eternal beauty of the city once known universally as caput mundi.


The community Pope

Friday, 20 September, 2013 1 Comment

In a lengthy and fascinating interview for 16 Jesuit publications around the world, Pope Francis says Catholic leaders must find a “new balance” between their spiritual mission and their involvement in political questions, warning that if they don’t, the church’s foundation will “fall like a house of cards.” And as befits our socially mediated times, Francis goes large on “community”. Despite the many subjects covered in the interview, the liberal media reduces everything he has said to sexuality. Typical is the Irish Times: “Pope seeks ‘new balance’ on abortion, women and gays“. We need a new journalism.

“Community. I was always looking for a community. I did not see myself as a priest on my own. I need a community. And you can tell this by the fact that I am here in Santa Marta. At the time of the conclave I lived in Room 207. (The rooms were assigned by drawing lots.) This room where we are now was a guest room. I chose to live here, in Room 201, because when I took possession of the papal apartment, inside myself I distinctly heard a ‘no.’ The papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace is not luxurious. It is old, tastefully decorated and large, but not luxurious. But in the end it is like an inverted funnel. It is big and spacious, but the entrance is really tight. People can come only in dribs and drabs, and I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others.”


From Nero to Macbeth

Wednesday, 26 June, 2013 0 Comments

Been reading the poems of Constantine P. Cavafy recently and they’re filled with ideas and images that make you want to keep coming back for more. One of the things about Nero’s Deadline is that it evokes thoughts of Macbeth and how power-obsessed leaders (mis)interpret forecasts and predictions. Because forests cannot move and all men are born of women, Macbeth dismisses the prophecies of the Three Witches, and the young Nero scoffs at the idea that he should “Beware the age of seventy-three.”

Nero’s Deadline

Nero wasn’t worried at all when he heard
the utterance of the Delphic Oracle:
“Beware the age of seventy-three.”
Plenty of time to enjoy himself still.
He’s thirty. The deadline
the god has given him is quite enough
to cope with future dangers.

Now, a little tired, he’ll return to Rome —
but wonderfully tired from that journey
devoted entirely to pleasure:
theatres, garden-parties, stadiums…
evenings in the cities of Achaia…
and, above all, the sensual delight of naked bodies…

So much for Nero. And in Spain Galba
secretly musters and drills his army —
Galba, the old man in his seventy-third year.

Constantine P. Cavafy (29 April 1863 — 29 April 1933)

Romans


Joey’s jug will be refilled

Sunday, 19 May, 2013 0 Comments

Diners at Baffetto on Via del governo vecchio near Piazza Navona in central Rome, where the guests know that they’re playing a role in an enterprise that’s designed to line the pockets of the proprietor, his family and the employees. But most enjoy the brazenness of the experience. There’s something so authentically unabashed about it […]

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To visit the sick

Thursday, 14 March, 2013 0 Comments

Along with feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, ransoming the captive and burying the dead, Francis I believes that visiting the sick is one of his most important duties.

Francis I

When we look at the ideologies that are now in the dustbin of history, we are forced to ask: Why, of all institutions and beliefs, has that of Francis I outlasted them. G. K. Chesterton found the answer in the flawed character of Peter, the predecessor of Francis:

“All the empires and the kingdoms have failed because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by a strong man upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.”


The BBC wants white smoke — now!

Wednesday, 13 March, 2013 0 Comments

The black smoke was barely visible when the BBC headlined the result thus: “Cardinals deadlocked over next Pope.” The use of “deadlocked” there shows how absurd the media coverage of the conclave has become. How quickly people forget that the conclave of 1740, which ended with the election of Pope Benedict XIV, lasted from February 18 until August 17, a total of 181 days. In case the BBC does not understand what’s going on in Rome, this morning’s black smoke indicates that there have been three ballots so far without anyone getting the required 77 votes.

Along with impatience, the other hallmark of mainstream media coverage of the conclave has been the tireless output of stories about Vatican scandals and political intrigue. This has to be done to fill the industry’s maw, but it distracts from the bigger picture, namely that the Catholic Church is the world’s largest non-governmental organization, and its work in promoting international understanding, working for peace, and caring for the poorest of the poor is vital to global well-being. Sure, it is not always perfect in the pursuit of its aims, but it is fully engaged in parts of the world where states have failed.

The constant coverage of scandal and intrigue in the Vatican has become a staple of journalism today, but the Catholic Church cannot be reduced human weakness and power politics. For believers, the church is a divine as well as a human institution, one that is devoted to bringing peace and justice to the world. That’s why the election of a new Pope matters to non-Catholics as well as to Catholics. Given the importance of their task, the BBC should allow the Cardinals to take their time in making their choice. The confident prediction here is that we will have a new Pope tomorrow.

BBC News