Vatican

Oscar Wilde’s Good Friday in Genoa

Friday, 14 April, 2017 0 Comments

The juxtaposition of paganism and Christianity was a constant theme in Oscar Wilde’s poetry. This is nowhere more apparent than in his sonnet, Written in Holy Week at Genoa when Wilde is awakened from a daydream by a “young boy-priest”. His sensuous charms are far more real than the suffering embodied by “The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers and the Spear”, and those “dear Hellenic hours” are preferable to thoughts of the crucified Christ. But the “bitter pain” cannot be ignored.

Written in Holy Week at Genoa

I wandered in Scoglietto’s green retreat,
The oranges on each o’erhanging spray
Burned as bright lamps of gold to shame the day;
Some startled bird with fluttering wings and fleet
Made snow of all the blossoms, at my feet
Like silver moons the pale narcissi lay:
And the curved waves that streaked the sapphire bay
Laughed i’ the sun, and life seemed very sweet.
Outside the young boy-priest passed singing clear,
“Jesus the Son of Mary has been slain,
O come and fill his sepulchre with flowers.”
Ah, God! Ah, God! those dear Hellenic hours
Had drowned all memory of Thy bitter pain,
The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers, and the Spear.

Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

Today, Good Friday, is a special day for those the world over who will meditate on the mystery of The Way of the Cross.

The Cross


All men are fallible, not excepting the Pope — Fowler

Wednesday, 17 June, 2015 0 Comments

Tomorrow, at noon, the Vatican will issue Laudato Si, a major statement by Pope Francis on climate change. On Monday, the Italian magazine L’Espresso broke the publication embargo and leaked the 192-page encyclical in a “heinous act,” according to a Vatican official quoted by Bloomberg News. “We are not God,” Laudato Si proclaims. “The earth precedes us and was given to us,” notes Think Progress in its translation of the leaked document.

Hailed by many as the “Pope of the poor,” Francis is now linking environmental and economic issues in his encyclical in ways that are certain to ignite heated debate. Right on cue, the New York Times is using the leak as part of its campaign against Republican candidates for the presidency: “A Florida archbishop will highlight the pope’s climate change message in the hope that it will resonate in particular with Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush,” is the sub-head on “Pope’s Views on Climate Change Add Pressure to U.S. Candidates”. Jeb Bush, a convert to Catholicism, responded immediately, saying: “I hope I’m not like, going to get castigated for saying this in front of my priest back home but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”

The “green” Francis has a new supporter in the form of the notorious British atheist George Monbiot and we can expect other unbelievers to follow his lead. Some of them may even cite the atheist H. W. Fowler, author of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (published 1926): “excepting as a preposition has one normal use. When a possible exception is to be mentioned as not made, the form used is, instead of not except, either not excepting before the noun or not excepted after it: All men are fallible except the Pope; all men are fallible, not excepting the Pope, or the Pope not excepted.”

Pope Francis will be infallible tomorrow for the climate change movement, but its adherents might not like some of his other pronouncements.


The Pope of Balance

Monday, 29 September, 2014 0 Comments

John L. Allen, the associate editor of the very impressive Crux, ponders the much-pondered political leanings of Pope Francis: “Perhaps the best hypothesis is that what Francis is really after isn’t a turn to the left, but a new balance. He’s said he wants the church to be in dialogue with everyone, and one way to accomplish that is to ensure a mix of points of view in leadership positions.”

At the conclusion of “Maybe Francis isn’t after a lurch to the left, but a new balance“, Allen labels Francis the “Pope of Balance”. That might be a bit too much fence-sitting for some, but Allen is a seasoned observer of the Vatican and his judgement is sound.


Pope Francis: “È una battuta uscita non so da dove”

Monday, 16 December, 2013 1 Comment

“May I ask you if the Church will have women cardinals in the future?” That was the question posed by Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli in a lengthy interview with Pope Francis that appeared in La Stampa on Saturday. “Posso chiederle se avremo donne cardinale?” is how it went in the original Italian. Francis gave the idea a good knock on the head, calling it una battuta — a sound-bite. His complete, translated, answer: “It’s a sound-bite and I don’t know where it came from. Women in the church must be valued, not ‘clericalized’. Whoever is thinking about women cardinals suffers a little bit from clericalism.”

As Freddy Gray pointed out in The Spectator: “It can only be a matter of time before the journalists who now laud Francis turn on him. They will say he has disappointed them when he does not embrace all gay rights, condoms, and women popes.”


What the Time ‘POY’ award tells us about Time

Thursday, 12 December, 2013 0 Comments

Time magazine began its tradition of selecting a “Man of the Year” in 1927, when the honour was conferred on Charles Lindbergh. In 1999, the title was changed to “Person of the Year” and the winner was Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Today, lots of publications copycat the Time idea and just as dog-owners are often said to resemble their pets, the awardees usually mirror the prejudices of those doing the awarding. No wonder, then, that Edward Snowden was voted Guardian person of the year 2013 and no surprise, either, that its German ideological replica, Der Spiegel, followed suit.

Mercifully, Time bypassed the data thief currently residing in Russia, and, instead, it picked Pope Francis. But the award is not quite the occasion for joy that it might appear to be as Freddy Gray points out in The Spectator in a post titled “Why Time’s Person of the Year should be Pope… Benedict”:

“It was telling that, in their blurb about the nominees, Time announced that ‘the first Jesuit Pontiff won hearts and minds with his common touch and rejection of church dogma’. Of course Pope Francis has not rejected Church dogma at all. Time were quick to correct themselves, yet their mistake revealed again the liberal bias against Catholicism: Catholics are only praised if they are seen to rebel against their Church. This attitude makes Catholics distinctly uneasy. It can only be a matter of time before the journalists who now laud Francis turn on him. They will say he has disappointed them when he does not embrace all gay rights, condoms, and women popes.”

We should be grateful that the Time award did not go to Assad, Putin or Snowden, but we should be wary of its dogma. After all, it resembles its owners and they’re no friends of the legacy Francis represents.

Time Person of the Year


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


Leaning in

Friday, 15 March, 2013 0 Comments

For media producers and consumers around the world, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week were marked by long stretches of inactivity (no smoke) followed by brief moments of minimalist action (smoke). What sounds deadly boring was, in fact, ideal material for the Twitter/Facebook masses. The lengthy waiting for the cardinals in Rome to reach a decision allowed amateur and professional Vaticanologists to speculate on things they know little or nothing about, and the hour between the white smoke and the drawing of the curtains could not have been bettered for dramatic impact. This was more thrilling than most action films. Indeed, one of the many surprises of the past week has been the astonishing ability of those ancient rites to reveal themselves as ideal material for sharing, as this Instagram page from NBC News shows.

NBC Instagram


Anticipating @Pope

Monday, 3 December, 2012 0 Comments

Pope Benedict XVI will launch his personal Twitter account later this morning at the Vatican. Among those present for the big moment will be Revered Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office and Claire Díaz-Ortiz, who heads social innovation at Twitter. And the papal Twitter handle? In June last year, the Pope launched the new site www.news.va by sending a tweet from @news_va_en. He wrote, “Dear friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.” That signature has led some to believe that @BenedictusPPXVI will be the name for the 85-year-old Pontiff’s account, although @Pope would be very fitting.

UPDATE: #HabemusPapam…. @Pontifex


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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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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