Vatican City, September 19, 2012: Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, as one of the 34 Synod Fathers for the next month’s Bishops Synod in Rome.
Another Indian in the list is Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, prior general of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate congregation.
The 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops scheduled for October 7-28 will address the theme “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”
The Synod Fathers include 10 cardinals, one patriarch, 11 archbishops, eight bishops and four priests.
The other Asian in the list is Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila, Philippines.
The participants in the Synod of Bishops are called the Synod Fathers.
They include patriarchs, major archbishops, metropolitans of the Eastern Catholic Churches, bishops elected by the Eastern Catholic Churches, bishops elected by the Episcopal Conferences, ten representatives of clerical religious institutes, the heads of the departments of the Roman curia, and other representatives appointed by the Pope.
Pope Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops on September 15, 1965 in response to the desire of the participants of the Second Vatican Council to foster the spirit of collegiality they experienced at the council.
The Synod opens with the celebration of Mass and the hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit).
The Synod sessions are closed to the public and the Synod Fathers are bound by secrecy about the proceedings and the votes.
If needed, the Commission for Information on the Synod holds press conferences about specific matters related to the Synod.
The last synod held four years ago addressed the theme, “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”
Lebanon, September 14, 2012: • Such revolutions, “there is always a danger of forgetting a fundamental aspect of liberty: tolerance for others and the fact that human liberty is always a shared liberty.” “We must do everything possible” to encourage tolerance and “reconciliation.”Pope
Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Lebanon on Friday with a message of tolerance that took on wider resonance as protests over an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States spread to about 20 countries.
Soon after the pope’s plane touched down in Beirut for his first visit to the region since 2009, protesters 50 miles away attacked American restaurant chains in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Soldiers opened fire on the protesters, killing one and wounding more than two dozen other people, officials said.
As the pope stepped onto the tarmac, looking tired and using a cane, he was welcomed by cheering crowds and children bearing flowers. Benedict, who has stumbled in the past when speaking of Islam, made no mention of the protests, instead praising Lebanon as an example of cooperation among faiths.
“Like me, you know that this equilibrium, which is presented everywhere as an example, is extremely delicate,” he said. “Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures which are too often partisan.”
He added, “This is where real moderation and great wisdom are tested.”
The Vatican had played down security concerns, saying the pope would be warmly welcomed for his three-day visit to Lebanon, where more than 30 percent of the population is Christian and posters bearing his likeness lined the highway. On his plane en route to Lebanon, Benedict told reporters, “Nobody has advised me to cancel this voyage,” according to an informal transcript provided by the Italian daily La Stampa. “I never thought of it,” he said, “because I know that the more complicated a situation becomes, the more necessary it is to send this signal of fraternity, encouragement and solidarity.”
In keeping with Benedict’s longstanding plan for the trip, the message appeared to be aimed principally to bolster Christians in the region, an ancient community whose numbers have dwindled in recent decades because of wars, occupations and discrimination.
At a meeting with religious leaders at St. Paul’s Basilica outside Beirut on Friday evening, the pope signed a Vatican document on the state of Christians in the region.
“A Middle East without Christians, or with only a few Christians, would no longer be the Middle East,” Benedict said in the document, “The Church in the Middle East,” which is the product of a meeting of bishops at the Vatican in 2010.
Benedict said that Christians in the Middle East should be allowed “full citizenship” and not considered “second-class citizens or believers,” adding that their steady decline in the region was leading to “human, cultural, and religious impoverishment.”
The pope also focused on the war in Syria, a deepening civil conflict that has left thousands of people dead and poses a growing threat to regional stability. Adding emphasis to his previous calls for an end to the violence, he called for a halt to arms imports by both sides in the conflict.
“The importing of arms cannot continue,” the pope said. “Instead of importing arms, which is a grave sin, one should import ideas of peace, creativity, find solutions for accepting everyone in his otherness.”
Those comments, which seemed aimed at the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the growing number of militias fighting to topple him, also served as a sharp rebuke to regional powers, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which continue to funnel arms into Syria.
The pope also spoke for the first time about the wave of uprisings that have transformed the region since his last visit. “I would say it’s a positive thing: it’s the desire for more democracy, more liberty, more cooperation and a renewed Arab identity,” Benedict said.
But he also added that amid such revolutions, “there is always a danger of forgetting a fundamental aspect of liberty: tolerance for others and the fact that human liberty is always a shared liberty.” He added, “We must do everything possible” to encourage tolerance and “reconciliation.”
In a dark moment in his papacy in 2006, Benedict angered Muslims when on a visit to Germany he quoted a Byzantine emperor who called Islam “evil and inhuman.” In response, Muslims demonstrated around the world, and an Italian nun was killed in Somalia. The pope later apologized.
This week, amid the spreading unrest over the anti-Muslim video, the Vatican has walked a fine line to prevent causing similar offense. On Wednesday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement that focused on the video, saying that “unjustified offense and provocations” against Muslims produce “sometimes tragic results” that yield “unacceptable violence.” The statement came after news emerged of the death ofJ. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, but before the United States confirmed it.
On Thursday, Father Lombardi issued a statement denouncing the ambassador’s death, saying that it called “for the firmest possible condemnation on the part of the Holy See.”
“Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organizations and homicidal violence,” the statement said.
But by Friday evening, the spokesman sought to distance the pope from the growing controversy and any comment that could cause distress. “The visit,” Father Lombardi said, “is a message in itself.”
Kareem Fahim reported from Beirut, and Rachel Donadio from Rome and Vatican City. Hania Mourtada and Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.
Egypt, February 29, 2012: International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that an Islamist was elected speaker of Egypt’s upper house of parliament on Tuesday, consolidating the Muslim Brotherhood’s control of the country’s legislature and raising fears among Christians and secularists that new laws heavily influenced by Sharia may soon be enacted.
Ahmed Fahmy, of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), was appointed speaker of the Shura Council during the chamber’s inaugural session on February 28. The appointment follows the selection of FJP Secretary General Mohamed Saad al-Katatni as the speaker of the lower house of parliament, or the People’s Assembly, on January 23, solidifying the Muslim Brotherhood’s control over both legislative bodies.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful Islamic organization, holds 47 percent of the 508-seat People’s Assembly and 59 percent of the Shura Council’s 180 elected seats. The Salafist al-Nour Party, which follows the strict Wahhabi doctrine of Islam, also made strong showings in elections for both chambers, holding 23 percent of the seats in the People’s Assembly and 25 percent of the elected seats in the Shura Council. An additional 90 lawmakers are expected to be appointed to the Shura Council by either the ruling generals or the next president.
Many Coptic Christians and liberals accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of participating in fraudulent elections and using social programs and religion to secure votes. “The Brotherhood had booths in front of polling stations telling people, many who are illiterate, how to vote and who to vote for,” said activist Mary Ibrahim Daniel, whose brother Mina Daniel was killed by the military during protests on October 9. “They are also very well funded and have lots of money to help the poor. If someone is hungry and you give them a loaf of bread, they could care less about politics. What they care about is feeding their children. I don’t think the elections [adequately] represented the voice of the Egyptian people.”
“The political debate focused largely on religion and not on the issues of social justice that we wanted to get across to the electorate,” Khaled El-Sayed, of the Socialist Popular Alliance, told Ahram Online. “And neither the liberals nor the Islamists will be concerned with social justice when sitting in parliament or when drawing up a new constitution.”
The two houses are due to hold a joint session later this week to select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution that will be put to a referendum before the presidential election scheduled for June. Many Christians and secularists fear that an Islamist majority parliament will use its power to base the constitution on Sharia law, which will greatly restrict the rights of non-Muslims.
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “There is grave concern that Egypt’s Islamist-led chambers of parliament will center the new constitution on Islamic law that will prove detrimental to the country’s minorities and liberals. Since Egypt’s uprising a year ago, Salafis – who hold about one-fourth of the seats in each house of parliament – called the appointment of a Christian governor in Upper Egypt ‘anti-Islamic’, protested the killing of Osama bin Laden, and attacked churches, Sufi shrines and mosques, liquor stores, and other institutions or businesses they deem contrary to Islam. Will the Muslim Brotherhood, who has the largest voice in parliament, continue to appear moderate or join Salafis by voting in favor of Sharia? Egypt’s Christians hope and pray for freedom and equality, but fear the worst is yet to come.”
Pope uses Twitter to send Lenten messages
Pope Benedict XVI is using his Twitter account to spread the Good Word during this Lent season.
For the next 40 days, the pope will be sharing messages in various languages, including English, Spanish and German, through the Twitter account @Pope2YouVatican.
The account is managed by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
It is using the Twitter handle in the pope’s name to spread themes from the 2012 Lenten message, speeches and documents.
The account has been in use since before Ash Wednesday this year, featuring messages and photos that date back into last year.
The Pope has been experimenting with technology and social media since he sent his first tweet in June 2011.
In December, the pontiff lit the world’s biggest Christmas tree with an Android-powered Sony tablet computer
Holy See and UK Government, United in the struggle for religious freedom * Islamist violence drives nearly 95% of Christians from Nigerian
Vatican City, February 15, 2012: Given below is the text of an English-language joint communique of the Holy See and the government of the United Kingdom concerning an official ministerial visit marking the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two States. The delegation, led by Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and was received by Pope Benedict XVI.
The communique states that the “Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government agreed on the urgent need for action to strengthen the universal commitment to religious freedom as a fundamental human right, and to its practical application with a view to promoting respect for all religions in all countries. The Holy See and the British government look forward to working together to combat intolerance and discrimination based on religion, wherever it is manifest.
“The Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government reaffirmed the need to promote integral and sustainable global development, based on the centrality of the human person and grounded in the principle of the inherent human dignity and worth of each person. Much progress has been made over the last decade in improving health and well-being for many people. However, there are still significant gaps and challenges in the long and complex path towards ensuring integral human development for everybody. Too many people are still hungry, too many people do not have access to education and to decent work, too many women die in childbirth. In view of these challenges we recognise a shared obligation to achieve a fair international financial and trade framework. And we will strive for a better future for all humanity, taking into particular account care for the poorest people in the world.
“Looking ahead to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development at Rio de Janeiro in June this year and to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change implementation process, we share the conviction that in order to take forward a human-centred and sustainable global development, there is a need to continue to strengthen the integration of its interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars: the economic, the social and the environmental, as well as the connection between combating poverty and tackling climate change.
“The Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government share a commitment to work at the United Nations and other fora to strengthen the international focus on conflict prevention, disarmament, arms control and non proliferation, aimed at protecting human life and building a world more respectful of human dignity. As part of this effort, we look forward to positive outcomes in July to the final negotiations to agree upon a robust Arms Trade Treaty with a wide scope, and to the 2nd Review Conference of the UN Programme on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons.
“With regard to the changes which have occurred in North Africa and the Middle East, the Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government stressed the importance of undertaking real reforms in the political, economic and social realms, in order better to ensure the unity and development of each nation, in responding positively to the legitimate aspirations of many people for peace and stability. In this context, reference was made to the role which Christians can play and to the importance of inter-religious dialogue. The Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government expressed the hope for a resumption of negotiations in good faith between Israelis and Palestinians so as to bring about a lasting peace. They renewed their appeal for an immediate end to violence in Syria and stressed the need for co-operation to overcome the present crisis and work towards a harmonious and united coexistence.
“As the London Conference on Somalia approaches, the Holy See and the British Government encourage the international community to support a coherent strategy on Somalia in order to end the crisis there, placing as a priority the protection and welfare of the people of the Horn of Africa.
“Her Majesty’s Government welcomed His Holiness Pope Benedict’s support for the ongoing process of reconciliation in Northern Ireland, the establishment of stable, inclusive political institutions, and efforts to build a peaceful, stable and prosperous future for all parts of the community. Her Majesty’s Government and the Holy See agreed that the use of violence for political ends is deplorable, and must be set aside in favour of constructive dialogue for the well-being of the whole community.
“As the United Kingdom prepares to host the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, both sides look forward to a year characterised by the spirit of the Olympic Charter and the Olympic Truce: at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
“There was in addition a good exchange of views on a wide range of social, economic, political and cultural issues, including on developing the UK’s collaboration with the Vatican Museums. Both sides recognised in particular the role of faith and education in the development of a culture of social responsibility and the underpinning of a healthy society. In this context, appreciation was expressed for the significant contribution which the Catholic Church, and Christians in general, have made and continue to make to the good of British society. The Holy See emphasised the need to ensure that institutions connected with the Catholic Church can act in accordance with their own principles and convictions and stressed the necessity of safeguarding the family based on marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Both sides look forward to further strengthening their relationship by working together through their respective networks and global partnerships, including the Commonwealth of Nations, to promote the common good”.
Islamist violence drives nearly 95% of Christians from Nigerian
Nigeria, February 15, 2012: One Northern Nigerian state has been almost entirely cleared of Christians; they have been forced to flee the relentless campaign of violence against them by militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
The Rev. Garba Idi, chairman of the Yobe State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said that nearly 95 per cent of the Christians have left Yobe.
He said: The situation in Yobe is terrible. Churches were burnt and attacked while many Christians lost their lives in the course of this mayhem…
We have to leave because the sect is hunting us; that is why we had to flee… Many Christians have left Yobe to save their lives from these attacks.
More than 20 churches have been torched in Yobe since November; homes and vehicles belonging to Christians have also been damaged. Many lives have been lost in the violence; 15 Christians have been killed so far this year.
Following a series of attacks over Christmas, Boko Haram issued an ultimatum on New Year’s Day giving Christians three days to leave the North. They followed up the threat with further killings, which are having the intended effect of driving many Christians out of the North.
Some are going to safer parts of the country while others are crossing the border into Cameroon.
The Church of England’s General Synod last week called on the Government to “do all it can” to support the protection of religious minorities in Nigeria. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, said that the violence in the country had become “pervasive”, and that the Church in Northern Nigeria was “systematically, deliberately and progressively being eliminated”.
The authorities have been criticised for their inadequate response to the violence by Boko Haram, which is fighting to establish an Islamic state in the North. A report to the General Synod warned that the church in the north east of the country in particular had received “little protection, if any”.
On 10 February, a man suspected of masterminding the bombing of a church in Madalla near the capital, Abuja, on Christmas Day that left around 35 people dead was recaptured. Kabiru Sokoto was initially arrested last month but escaped the following day while being escorted by the police. It was an embarrassing episode for the police that led some to criticise their incompetence, while others suggested that there may even have been collusion between security officials and Boko Haram.
- barnabas team
By Elizabeth Lev
Rome, November 17, 2011: The somber skies and short days of November remind Romans that this is the month to pray for the dead. It seems fitting that this month opened with a presentation of new documents regarding one of the most tragic – and virtually unacknowledged – events of the modern age, the Ukrainian Famine.
“The Holy See and the Holodomor: Documents from the Vatican Secret Archives on the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine” by Father Athanasius McVay and Professor Lubomyr Luciuk was released Oct. 26 with a book launch at the Russian Ecumenical Center in Rome. The book is available in English through Kashtan Press and Abe Books.
The Holodomor (literally “killing by hunger”) took place in 1932-33 in the fertile grain-producing region of Ukrainian USSR. While the exact number of deaths is not known due to lack of precise records, an estimated 2.4 to 7.5 million people died. This man-made famine, intended to starve the Ukrainian nationalists out of existence, has been recognized as a genocide by many nations worldwide.
Father Athanasius McVay, a Canadian Greek-Catholic priest of Ukrainian ancestry, was doing doctoral research on diplomatic relations between the papacy and the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic hierarchy during the struggle for Ukrainian independence (1918-1923), when he began to realize how little research was being done on Ukrainian subjects at all.
I had the chance to ask Father McVay a few questions about his book, his research, and the surprisingly little-known Great Famine.
I asked how the Great Famine caught his attention and Father McVay explained that his interest was piqued while “working on a historical biography of the first Ukrainian bishop for Canada, Blessed Nykyta Budka (1877-1949), the centenary of whose appointment we will be celebrating in 2012. In 2008, while researching documents pertaining to Blessed Budka, I accidentally discovered documents concerning the Holodomor.”
The Holodomor is better known in Canada than in the United States, it seems. Canada was the first country to declare the famine a genocide and the first to erect a monument in honor of its victims. Father McVay explained that he “had known about the Holodomor since the early 1980s when Ukrainians across Canada organized various conferences and demonstrations to have this humanitarian tragedy officially recognized by the Canadian government.”
His home town in Winnipeg erected a monument to Holodomor victims in 1984 directly in front of City Hall.
Accounts describing the Holodomor vary from source to source. I asked Father McVay to give an account of the 1932 events in Ukraine for ZENIT readers. “The Soviet economy was a disaster,” he began, “especially due to the ideological economic schemes such as the collective farms. Widespread famine was occurring in Russia and Ukraine at the end of the 1920s and this made the Soviet Union politically weak and fueled the Ukrainian independence movement. Stalin decided to kill two birds with one stone by weakening the Ukrainian ethnic population and also eliminating the prosperous farmer-class known as kulaks.”
I had read that the Soviet government passed a law where private ownership of food was made illegal in 1932 and those who suffered the most from this legislation were the Ukrainians. But that was not all. “Grain was confiscated at gunpoint and shipped to Russian parts of the Soviet Union that were also experiencing food shortages,” continued Father Mcvay. “The politically motivated famine was directed specifically against Ukrainian ethnics.”
I asked if he found anything new while studying the correspondence with the Holy See and the author explained that he discovered not only “many of the details of the famine but especially documents regarding how the Apostolic See sought to intervene to make the tragedy know to the world and to alleviate the people’s suffering.”
Father McVay found “that the Pope learned about the Holodomor from the French Jesuit, Bishop Michel d’Herbigny, who was the president of the Pro Russia Commission. D’Herbigny was receiving letters from the Soviet Union as well as reports from foreign diplomats who had witnessed the situation first hand. D’Herbigny attempted to move mountains in order to convince Pius XI to launch an aid-mission to the Soviet Union, just as he and his predecessor Benedict XV had done in 1921-1923.”
“The emotional Pius XI wept when he received one report,” explained Father McVay, “and he insisted that something must be done. Unfortunately churchmen and diplomats all concurred that no aid would ever reach the people because Soviet authorities were officially denying the existence of a famine that Stalin had deliberately orchestrated. In the end, the Pope was only able to authorize a gift of 10,000 Italian lire to be forwarded to starving Catholics via German charitable organizations that had contacts in Ukraine.”
A light in the Vatican Archives
Father McVay had the coveted experience of doing his research in the Vatican Archives. While portrayed in Dan Brown novels as a high tech vault where all the dirty Vatican secrets lie, the archives are a very different thing to the scholars who actually work there. The Vatican Archives have made great efforts over the past years to dispel the impression of intrigue by putting much of their holdings on line and organizing exhibits from their fascinating collections. In 2012, the archives will put many more documents on display at the Capitoline Museums in Rome.
I asked Father McVay about his time in the archives, and he pointed out that “it is a great privilege to be permitted to perform research in such an important collection of archival funds known collectively as the Vatican Secret Archives.” Correcting the most common mistake about the archives he explained that “the official name is a bit of a misnomer. ‘Secretum’ here would be the equivalent to ‘privy’ in English. They are the Pope’s archives and, as any state archives, are private but not ‘secret.’”
The Archivium Secretum Vaticanum was opened for research to scholars by Pope Leo XIII in 1881. It has been the custom for the Roman Pontiffs to de-classify series of documents dating from not less than 80 years after the end of a pontificate of one or more of their predecessors. For Father McVay’s research, the necessary documents — those from the pontificate of Pius XI (1922-1939), were de-classified in 2006 by Benedict XVI.
I asked how many documents he read for his research, and Father McVay explained that for his doctoral dissertation he “sifted through well over 10,000 folios, mainly from two collections: the Archives of the Sacred Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs (AES) and those of the Apostolic Nunciature of Warsaw. For this particular project, virtually all of the documents are found in the Pro Russia section of the AES. Pro Russia was a Pontifical Commission created by Pius XI to handle all Catholic affairs in the Soviet Union and the Russian émigrés.”
The translating was extensive for the English language book as Father McVay explained that “the lingua franca used in Vatican diplomatic correspondence is Italian. Documents to and from secular diplomatic representatives are invariably in French. Only a very few documents are in Latin, often to or from churchmen who did not speak Italian or French.”
The letters coming from Ukraine however, were written in Russian. Father Mcvay told me that “the AES index lists the themes of all the documents contained in that archive, including famine in Russia. Holodomor is a Ukrainian term coined later. I spent about two months on-and-off translating the documents as I had other work to perform on my biography of Bishop Budka.”
Best-kept Soviet secret
Despite the extraordinary death toll and horrific conditions of a people starving to death, this story seems to have passed under the radar in most history books. Everyone knows of the Holocaust, but few Americans or others would be able to explain the Holodomor. I asked Father Mcvay how this could have happened. “The Soviet Union and its successor the Russian Federation have denied that the famine was directed against Ukraine” he stated.
“Political and diplomatic pressure has been exerted on other countries not to disseminate information about the Holodomor and especially not to give it any kind of official recognition,” he added. “But when I asked him about the question of genocide, Father explained that “the question is complicated. Whatever you want to call the Holodomor, it is vital that it be recognized as a deliberate act directed mainly against the ethnically Ukrainian population of Soviet Ukraine and Russia. Films about the Holodomor have been released. At the time, journalists such as Malcolm Muggeridge and Gareth Jones broke the story after visiting Soviet Ukraine.”
But some journalists deliberately covered up the story of the famine, I had read. New York Times Russian bureau chief Walter Duranty published articles claiming that there was no famine in the Ukraine. He even won a Pulitzer prize for his reporting! Father McVay clarified this story:
“After the publication of government documents proving the existence of the Holodomor, the publication of our documents and contemporary news reports by Muggeridge and Jones, it is obvious that the late Walter Duranty’s reports were inaccurate. I don’t know what was the motivation behind such reports. I understand that some scholars have asked for Duranty’s Pulitzer prize to be posthumously revoked.”
Asked about what he considered the greatest contributions of this book, Father McVay answered, “The Holy See and the Holodomor: Documents from the Vatican Secret Archives on the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine is a specific testimony of the Holodomor from primary and international diplomatic sources. It is also a contribution to scholarship on the inner workings of the Roman Curia during the pontificate of Pius XI.”
Vatican City, November 4, 2011: Given below is the text of a declaration made yesterday by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. in response to a note issued by the Irish Foreign Ministry announcing the decision of the government of Ireland to close, for economic reasons, its embassies in the Holy See and Iran, and its office of representation in East Timor.
“The Holy See takes note of the decision by Ireland to close its embassy in Rome to the Holy See. Of course, any State which has diplomatic relations with the Holy See is free to decide, according to its possibilities and its interests, whether to have an ambassador to the Holy See resident in Rome, or resident in another country. What is important are diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the States, and these are not at issue with regard to Ireland”.
- vatican info service
Ireland cites Economic Reasons for closure of embassy in Rome
Ireland has become the first major Catholic nation to break its ties with the Vatican over the child sex abuse issue after it closed its embassy in the Holy See. The country cited “economic reasons” for closing the embassy, that has infuriated the Holy See as it might lead to other closures now that Dublin has shown the way. In a communique, the Irish Foreign Ministry said the mission was being closed because “it yields no economic return” and that relations would be continued with an ambassador in Dublin.
However, observers said the closure of the embassy at the Holy See, Iran and Timor-Leste would result in economies of a paltry €1.2 million per year. The Irish decision has brought relations between Dublin and the Vatican, considered unbreakable and very close, at an all-time low. Besides economic considerations, there is simmering anger in Dublin over the Vatican’s protracted cover-up of priests who sexually abused children in their care.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has accused Rome of stonewalling, if not obstructing, official enquiries into the abuse which went on as late as 2009. He said the Church was guilty of “dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism.” Ireland has been one of the most faithful daughters of the Catholic Church, banning abortion even today and introducing divorce only in 1995. But the very close relationship enjoyed by the Vatican with successive Irish governments was severely damaged by a series of reports over the Church’s seemingly deliberate obliviousness to child sex abuse by Catholic priests.
Indeed in Ireland, most educational institutions were at one time almost exclusively run by the Church and abuse and harsh, even inhuman, treatment of children flourished. “The decision to close the embassy does not surprise me,” Moira D., an Irish journalist based in Paris, told The Hindu. “For months now, there has been seething anger towards the hypocrisy of Rome and this decision will be welcomed by the people,” she said. While Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore denied the embassy closure was linked to the row over sexual abuse, Rome-based diplomats said they believed it probably played a major role.
Gilmore stressed that the decision to close down the Embassy in the Vatican was unrelated to the Holy See’s recall of Papal Nuncio to Ireland this year. The Irish government, he said, will not sell Villa Spada, a hugely valuable property which serves as the Irish mission to the Vatican. Instead, staff from the Irish embassy to Italy will be moved from rented premises to the Villa Spada. Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, said he was profoundly disappointed by the decision and hoped the government would “revisit” it.
“This decision seems to show little regard for the important role played by the Holy See in international relations and of the historic ties between the Irish people and the Holy See over many centuries,” Cardinal Brady said. An Indian source at the Vatican said this decision “comes at a particularly bad time when the world is going through troubled times, both morally and economically. The Church has solutions to offer but politicians are unwilling to hear them.”
- the hindu