Rome

Papabili infographic

Friday, 8 March, 2013 0 Comments

Papabile (pl. papabili) is a term coined by Vaticanologists to describe a cardinal, who is thought a possible candidate to be elected pope. Our infographic comes courtesy of glimmer.rstudio.com. The excellent John L. Allen Jr. is offering Papabile of the Day feature at the National Catholic Reporter. It’s a must-read for Vaticanologists.

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Has the nimbus been tarnished?

Thursday, 28 February, 2013 1 Comment

There is a nimbus about the Papacy, bound up with the history of the office that makes it unlike anything else on Earth. That being the case, one could view the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to resign as very damaging to the ancient aura he inherited. By doing something as normal as what’s being termed “retiring” he is making the mysterious very mortal. And therein lies a danger. The other-worldliness of the Papacy, its claim to divine selection, has enabled the Catholic Church to act as a bulwark against secularization in all its forms, be it the evil of communism or the sterility of consumerism. And when some new cultish belief system like warmism emerges, the historical example of the Vatican helps puts it in perspective and in its place. If the Papacy is to be “humanized”, will the forces and the fanaticisms that it has traditionally neutralized feel emboldened to stake their claim for legitimacy, now that they feel a mere man stands in their way?


Sede vacante

Thursday, 28 February, 2013 0 Comments

“From a distance, the skullcaps of a knot of cardinals looked like fuchsias,” writes Christopher Howse in the Telegraph. Getting into his stride, he adds: “The people spilt out of the Vatican state, with concentrations like iron filings round screens in the Via della Conciliazione that runs towards the kaolin-grey Tiber. The silence that fell during readings from Scripture was like walking from a noisy pub into an empty street.” One of the finest pieces written about yesterday’s events in Rome is titled “In The world bids farewell to Pope Benedict XVI.”

Christopher Howse brings his readers back to 2005 and the Mass at the opening of the conclave that elected the then-Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope: “Buildings do not last, or books. After a certain time, more or less long, all this disappears,” said the celebrant. And that’s what will happen tonight when Pope Benedict XVI retires from public life. The chair of Peter will be empty. Sede vacante. That, the Latin scholar Howse points out is the Latin ablative absolute for “the chair being empty.” Now is not a moment for grief, however:

“But I think we should not underestimate the hard-bitten ability of Catholics to distinguish between the holiness of the Church and the sinfulness of its members. Jesus Christ, they were taught from childhood, is the head of the Church, not the Pope. There may be crises in the Church, but the Church is not in crisis. It is growing.”

Sede Vacante


Conclave watch: Italian job or Asian pivot

Tuesday, 19 February, 2013 1 Comment

After seeing the last two pontificates going to a Pole and a German, the Italians are said to be eager to see one of their own wearing the Ring of the Fisherman. The Ring of the Fisherman In all discussions, three names dominate: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, and Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan. Of the three, Cardinal Scola, 71, is said to have the most impressive CV. If, however, someone younger is needed, Francesco Moraglia, the Patriarch of Venice, is waiting in the wings, He’ll be 60 in May, but the problem is that he’s not a cardinal. Of course, nothing prohibits the election of someone who is not part of the Sacred College, but tradition is central to the rites of the Catholic Church.

If youth is an issue, and Benedict XVI has certainly put the matter of age into play by way of his renunciation of the Papacy, conclave historians will note that Karol Wojtyla was a mere 58 when he became John Paul II. That being the case, it may well be worth keeping an eye in the coming weeks on a young cardinal who has enhanced his theological credibility by helping to author the huge history of Vatican Council II. As well, his doctrinally correct pastoral work is said to be pleasing to Benedict XVI and his simple lifestyle and outreach to the poor have impressed the faithful. Step forward, archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

Backgrounder: He’s 56 and he’s got 118,000 likes on Facebook. More importantly, he’s from the Philippines, which is the only Asian nation with a Catholic majority. Rome would like to see that state of affairs change in our life time and just as the USA is said to be pivoting towards Asia, the Vatican is aware that the Pacific and not the Atlantic will be the decisive ocean in the 21st century. Cardinal Tagle might just be the person to lead the new wave of evangelization, about which we’ll have more here on Friday.


The Pope’s heart

Wednesday, 13 February, 2013 0 Comments

According to people who know about these things, congestive heart failure leads to serious loss of energy because the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. A knock-on effect is that mental capacity starts to be impacted. Congestive heart failure was one of the ailments that affected Franklin D. Roosevelt and towards the end of his presidency it robbed him of vitality in debate.

The papal heart Yesterday’s revelation that Pope Benedict XVI had been fitted with a pacemaker focused attention on his declining health, and his brother had this to say to the BBC: “When he got to the second half of his 80s, he felt that his age was showing and that he was gradually losing the abilities he may have had and that it takes to fulfil this office properly.” That’s worth pondering because as we now know, many Popes have served the final part of their papacy with some sort of dementia. Benedict XVI will be one of the Popes who will not do that. And by virtue of being alive, compos mentis and in the ‘hood, so to speak, he’ll exert a significant influence over the selection of his successor. In this way, his decision to renounce his office acquires a new dimension of wisdom.


@Pontifex tweets

Wednesday, 12 December, 2012 0 Comments


Ospedale delle bambole

Sunday, 19 August, 2012

Near the Piazza del Popolo in Rome, at via di Ripetta 29, the venerable Squatriti family operates its Restaurici Artistici Squatriti, a kind of A&E (Accident and Emergency) of the Italian doll world, where the old and infirm are repaired and restored or reused for parts. In many ways, it combines some ancient and some […]

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The boy who became the pope

Thursday, 19 April, 2012

On this day in 2005, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger became Benedictus PP. XVI. Fans of the scholarly Bavarian cardinal were thrilled. He was, after all, the draughtsman of the Vatican’s crackdown on liberation theology in Latin America and the perfect intellectual partner during Pope John Paul II‘s courageous challenge to the Soviet empire. And today, seven […]

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Cuba is striving to renew and broaden its horizons

Tuesday, 27 March, 2012

“Dear friends, I am convinced that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future, and thus is striving to renew and broaden its horizons.” Thus spoke Pope Benedict XVI yesterday following his arrival at Antonio Maceo International Airport in Santiago de Cuba. The diplomatic skill that went […]

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The Church of Rome

Sunday, 18 March, 2012

“Small it was, in the large Roman record, and her haunting sense of the continuity of the human lot easily carried her from the less to the greater. She had become deeply, tenderly acquainted with Rome; it interfused and moderated her passion. But she had grown to think of it chiefly as the place where […]

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