Tag: Vatican

Film of the Year 2018

Saturday, 29 December, 2018

The award goes to L’Apparition, Xavier Giannoli’s story of a journalist (Vincent Lindon) investigating a young woman (Galatea Bellugi) who claims to have seen the Virgin Mary. The film is divided into several chapters, which follow the war-worn hack Jacques as he travels back to France from the Middle East, where a a combat photographer friend died at his side, leaving Jacques with a constant pain in his ears. Out of the blue, he’s summoned to the Vatican and in a beautifully-shot sequence set in its archives, Jacques learns that an 18-year-old girl named Anna claims to have seen an apparition outside her village in the mountains of southern France. Since then, the place has become a pilgrimage destination where believers travel from around the world to witness the visionary that is Anna. The Vatican wants Jacques to find out whether the apparition occurred, or whether she made it all up.

If Dan Brown were in charge of the script, Jacques would quickly uncover a conspiracy involving Satan, the Illuminati, Donald Trump, demons and an evil Latin-speaking cardinal. Xavier Giannoli, however, takes a different path, but he tips his hat to fans of Catholic corruption with the role of Father Borrodine (Patrick d’Assumcao), whose parish has benefitted from Anna’s “vision”, and Anton (Anatole Taubman), a networked Christian guru who hopes to turn the apparition into global marketing gold. Giannoli should have made L’Apparition into a statement about religion in our era, but he opted for a thriller that ends being resolved like a whodunnit. That’s disappointing, but in a year that offered an excess of cinematic rubbish, L’Apparition was a winner.


New Year’s reading: Gill

Monday, 1 January, 2018 0 Comments

It’s time to spend some time with the books that were the presents of Christmas past and we’re starting with The Best of A.A. Gill, a gift from the famously generous and well-read Noel Donnelly of Dublin via Leitrim.

A.A. Gill was a journalist who died of cancer in London on the morning of 10 December 2016, at the age of 62. Adrian Anthony Gill was also an alcoholic who stopped drinking at 29. He followed an Alcoholics Anonymous “12-step plan” to recovery and, in tribute to the fellowship, began using the name ‘A. A.’ Gill professionally. However, he continued to smoke some 60 cigarettes a day until the age of 48.

Gill was notorious for his brilliant, sometimes bitter, invariably witty and always humane observations on food, television and life in general. Here’s a snippet from a column titled “Sex and the City”, which was published in The Sunday Times in January 2009. The scene is a Sex and the City bus tour around New York City:

“We crawl into the Meatpacking District. Our conspiratorial and cosily gossipy stand-up tour guide tells us that this is where the girls did a lot of their shopping, and that it’s a sort of secret place only really savvy New Yorkers know about. She reels off a list of shops and what each character bought in them. We’re chucked off for 20-mintute retail reruns. I hide in Diane von Furstenberg’s changing room. And just in case you’re from Alaska, the Meatpacking District is New York’s secret like the Vatican is Rome’s.

We’re taken to the Magnolia Bakery, where queues of weirdly excited and messianic women wait impatiently to eat the teeth-meltingly sweet, infantile cupcakes like a votive Communion promising a blessed afterwork life of copious, cool sex, witty friendships, miraculously available taxis, Manolos, Cosmos, and happy-ending aphorisms. We don’t have to line up. Our cakes come with the ticket. Massive trays of cupcakes appear and are offered to us in a tramp’s pissoir alley on slimy benches beside a children’s recreational park. Feeding cake to yearningly single women beside a playground with happy West Village moms and their gilded tots was an act of sadistic patronage. We guiltily stuff our faces, begging the refined calories to transport us into closer connection with the fabled story arc.”

A.A. Gill had the gift, no doubt, and the best of his writing is an ideal gift.

A. A. Gill


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


Havana Moon

Saturday, 24 September, 2016 0 Comments

Good Friday, 25 March 2016: The Rolling Stones play a huge, free outdoor concert in Havana. The show was filmed by Paul Dugdale and the result, HAVANA MOON, was premiered on cinema screens around the world for one night only, last night. It was a mighty concert and the film captures the essence of the history it represented. Standout songs: Midnight Rambler, with Mick Jagger at his balletic best; Gimme Shelter, with Sasha Allen providing backing vocals and sexy interaction, and a stunning version of Satisfaction that will forever be remembered by those who have had the good fortune to see and hear the greatest rock band, ever.


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.


Francesco in fiction and in fact

Tuesday, 5 May, 2015 0 Comments

The Vicar of Christ A novel called The Vicar of Christ spent 13 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list In 1979. It was written by Walter F. Murphy, a Princeton legal scholar, and its protagonist was an unusual man named Declan Walsh — an American war hero, a United States Supreme Court justice, and then, following an affair and the untimely death of his wife, a monk — who is elected Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church by a deadlocked papal conclave in Rome.

The new broom sweeps famously clean and the new pope loses no time in dusting down the the Vatican. He launches a global campaign against hunger, paid for by the sale of Church treasures. He intervenes in global conflicts, flying to Tel Aviv at one point during an Arab terror campaign. He proclaims a plan to reverse Church teachings on celibacy and contraception, and banishes conservative cardinals to monastic exile when they plot against him. He toys with the Arian heresy, which casts doubt on the divinity of Jesus, and he embraces a Quaker-like religious pacifism, arguing that the just-war theory is out of date in an age of nuclear weapons. It is this last move that gets him assassinated.

In Walter F. Murphy’s novel, Declan Walsh takes the name Francesco, which is the name Jorge Mario Bergoglio took on 13 March 2013, when he was elected pope. The non-fiction Francesco is quite the reformer, too.


Lee Kuan Yew combined the Vatican with Confucius

Monday, 23 March, 2015 0 Comments

“He modelled Singapore’s democracy after what he saw in the Vatican, where only cardinals nominated by a Pope could elect the next Pope… As Prime Minister he bankrupted or imprisoned individuals in the political opposition… He spoke in disparaging and politically incorrect ways of women, the disadvantaged, and both the downtrodden and the powerful — but worked harder than anyone else in Southeast Asia to build a harmonious, peaceful state, where all races felt welcomed in an incorruptible, transparent meritocracy.” Danny Quah writing about Lee Kuan Yew, who died yesterday aged 91.

In his 31 years as Prime Minister, from 1959 to 1990, Lee transformed Singapore into a globalized economy and his template has brought vast wealth to Asia. But despite what Danny Quah implies, Lee was not a democrat. Rather, he was a Confucian leader and this is what made him a role model for the rulers of modern China. They, too, have seen their nation rise from rags to riches and they, too, are frightened that open debate will undermine the fragile stability that underpins the edifice.

“Supposing Catherine Lim was writing about me and not the prime minister… She would not dare, right? Because my posture, my response has been such that nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul de sac… Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern a Chinese society.” — Lee Kuan Yew

The Straits Times has a tribute blog about reaction to the death of the man who created the modern miracle of Singapore. It is also printing a special 24-page tabloid edition devoted to his life and work.

Singapore mourns


#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.'”


Transfer window: Boston Globe signs John L Allen

Friday, 10 January, 2014 0 Comments

Background: The transfer window is a period during the year in which a football club can purchase players from other teams to strengthen their lineup. With the January window is now open, all kinds of fascinating questions have been raised: Will struggling Manchester United sign the workhorse Diego Costa or the workshy Fabio Coentrão? Can Arsène Wenger find suitable subs for the injury-plagued Arsenal bench? Is the flamboyant Chelsea star David Luiz heading to Barcelona? Was it arrogance or indigence that led Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti to say that he won’t be signing any new players?

The transfer window is not confined to soccer, however. There’s a permanent media version and the Boston Globe made news this week when it signed the superb John L Allen from the National Catholic Reporter. “Allen, widely hailed as the best-sourced and most knowledgeable English-speaking reporter on the Vatican, will help lead coverage of Catholicism and the Vatican as an associate editor of The Globe,” declared the press release. And then comes the really interesting bit: “He will also help us explore the very real possibility of launching a free-standing publication devoted to Catholicism, drawing in other correspondents and leading voices from near and far,” said Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory.

The Globe would be placing a big bet on Pope Francis if this were to happen, but it might pay off nicely. The whirlwind pontiff has set the media industry alight and more headlines are sure to come as he attempts to fill the “God-shaped void”, as Blaise Pascal put it some 300 years ago. While core doctrine is not going to change, Catholic theology is set to become more dynamic and millions of people will want to read all about it. Secular fads like the Occupy craze and the global warming cult offer little of substance to those in need of spiritual comfort so it falls to Francis to curate his global, 2,000-year-old movement in a way that makes it relevant to both sides of the digital divide. There’s no better person to interpret the coming Church changes than John L Allen. Game on!

Francis


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.”


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