Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bishop accused of breaking and entering...

Relax... It's not one of ours... This report explains:
On May 21, the neighbors of Caroline Krook, a top official with the Swedish Protestant church, were enjoying the out of doors and turned up the volume on their radio to listen to the tunes from the Eurovision competition, according to Aftonbladet.
Krook knocked on their door asking them to lower the volume a bit, but receiving no answer, she quickly slipped inside -- the door was not locked -- and pulled the plug on the radio.
The neighbors came inside to see what had happened, catching the bishop in the stairwell, and who promptly remonstrated them and said she was the culprit.
I suppose this goes to show the kind of problems which are to be expected when one starts ordaining women. It's also another good reason for Bishops to live in palaces and not noisy apartments. :)

Avignon FAQ

Aren't you trying to bring schism to the Church?
Certainly not - I propose that the legitimate Papacy reassert its claim on the city of Avignon and that the Papcy take up residence there are a nice change of scene.
Didn't St Catherine of Siena argue against an Avignon-based papacy?
Certainly, but her Dominican confere St Vincent Ferrer was supportive of Benedict XIII's Avignon Papacy.

But shouldn't the Papacy be in Rome?
Many Popes have, for various reasons, chosen to live outside of Rome. Avignon is probably the most famous, but at various times the Papacy has been based in other cities. The Pope is always Bishop of Rome, but history provides ample examples of him chosing to live elsewhere.

Some housekeeping & a probable new Cardinal

Today's bulletin from the Holy See's press office brings a couple of interesting pieces of 'house-keeping' on behalf of His Holiness.
The goings-on at St Paul's Outside the Walls have made interesting viewing in recent months. The ball was set rolling back in September 2004 when the monastery was removed from the jurisdiction of the Cassinese Benedictines and placed ('outside a congregation') directly under the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Federation. In the following months, the comminity at St Paul's was beefed up by the introduction of Benedictines from other Abbeys. There was also speculation at the time that the Benedictines were to be dislodged and replaced by the 'Fraternity of Jesus' - a congregation of religious said to be well-regarded by the then Cardinal Ratzinger.
On the 7th of March this year the Abbey was stripped of its Territorial (quasi-diocesan) status and its territory incorporated into the Diocese of Rome. Up to this point, it had been governed by the Abbot and a Papal Delegate who governed the 'Pontifical Administration of the Patriarchal Basilica' - Archbishop Francesco Gioia, Secretary Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. The Abbot, Paolo Lunardon stepped down shortly thereafter.
On the 7th of May, the Holy Father approved the election of Dom Edmund Power (an English Benedictine from Douai Abbey with a strong administrative reputatation) as the new Abbot of San Paolo fuori le Mura.
Finally, today the Holy Father has put in place a new administrative structure for the Abbey and Basilica. In brief, the old 'Pontifical Administration' is being suppressed, and San Paolo will have an Archpriest nominated by the Pope just like the other 3 Major Patriarcal Basilicas. The Abbot of San Paolo will serve as the Archpriest's Vicar with respect to pastoral matters and will exercise an Abbot's role within the Abbey itself. This is quite a reduction in jurisdiction compared to the former situation whereby the Abbot had the authority of a Bishop over an area surrounding the abbey itself.
It's interesting to note who some of the Abbots of San Paolo have been over the last century. Probably the most distinguished was Bl. Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster who became Cardinal and Archbishop of Milan. Decidedly less distinguished was Giovanni Franzoni - he later left the Abbey and married a Japanese psychatrist.
I forgot to mention that the new Archpriest is none other than the blue-blooded Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Titular Archbishop of Tuscany and designer of the Holy Father's coat of arms. It seems we can add his name to that of Levada on the list of those almost certain to be made Cardinals at the next consistory.

Monday, May 30, 2005


Restore the Glory of the Avignon Court!

Benedict XIII at Avignon

A modest proposal...

Okay... it looks like being a repeat of 2 years ago - yesterday and today the Eternal City is just too hot. Yesterday it topped 30 degrees celcius (that's 86 degrees for you American folks) but it felt about 35 degrees (nearly 100 farenheit) because of the humidity. Today's pretty much the same story and it's not even June yet.
This can't be good for the universal church. Setting aside the fact that some of the monsignori come from warmer climates than this, I would be willling to bet that most of the staff over at the Vatican are finding their offices decidedly uncomfortable. Not only is it unseasonably hot, Rome's air quality is atrocious. So, what's the solution - air-conditioning? Italians (unsurprisingly believe it bad for the liver) don't like it, so that's not going to go down well. I have a better idea, one firmly rooted in the traditions of Holy Mother Church. Move the papacy back to Avignon!

Doesn't that look so much nicer than the smelly ol' Tiber?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

In the news...

In the Times - the CoE is going to compromise on the issue of clergy and homosexual partners:
HOMOSEXUAL priests in the Church of England will be allowed to “marry” their boyfriends under a proposal drawn up by senior bishops, led by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The decision ensures that gay and lesbian clergy who wish to register relationships under the new “civil partnerships” law — giving them many of the tax and inheritance advantages of married couples — will not lose their licences to be priests.
They will, however, have to give an assurance to their diocesan bishop that they will abstain from sex. The bishops are trying to uphold the church doctrine of forbidding clergy from sex except in a full marriage. They accept, however, that the new law leaves them little choice but to accept the right of gay clergy to have civil partners.
And the Telegraph tells us about the drive to recruit more religious education teachers in Britain:
The Government hopes to recruit a new generation of RE teachers who have no personal faith and who know next to nothing about the Bible.
So desperate is the national shortage of RE teachers in schools that the Teacher Training Agency has written to humanities graduates to tell them that today's religious instruction "bears little resemblance to the subject taught when you were at school."
As part of a £3 million campaign launched this month, thousands of letters have been sent to graduates considering careers as teachers, saying that RE is no longer just about learning the Bible.
It says: "RE is a subject that encourages lively debate in the classroom. Gone are the days of learning the Bible by rote. Today RE focuses on exploring a diverse world of faiths and examining real issues from an ethical standpoint. Class debates might, for instance, revolve around topical issues of the day, such as genetic engineering or the right to asylum.
"RE is anything but boring. It is a broad, all-encompassing subject with particular relevance for young people growing up in a multi-faith society." It adds: "There is no requirement whatsoever for RE teachers to practise a faith themselves."
To underscore the breadth of modern RE, applicants are also sent a poster which includes 16 pictures of different religious deities. Only two of the images - one of Christ, taken from the Turin shroud, and a picture of a Black Madonna - have any direct connection with the New Testament.
The images are given equal billing with pictures of Chacmool, a Mayan fertility God, and an unnamed deity who demanded human sacrifice from the ancient Olmec civilisation of South America.
The poster also includes pictures of a Monkey God from Japan, in addition to images of Moses, Adam, the Prophet Mohammed and Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.
Could you imagine the quality of education the students are going to get given that their teachers are being recruited on the basis that religious education is 'not boring'? I guess passion for one's subject is no longer a requirement.

Corpus Christi

I wish all my readers a blessed feast of Corpus Christi.

On Cardinal Deacons...

Questions have been posed about the vesture and usage of Cardinal Deacons (you don't know what I'm talking about when I refer to Cardinal Bishops, Cardinal Priests and Cardinal Deacons, click here), so I thought I'd make a few random observations.

Firstly, the new (Paul VI) order of Mass does not allow priests and bishops to vest as deacons for the Mass. This is in contrast to the Mass of Pius V which was frequently celebrated with priests fulfilling the roles of Deacon or Sub-Deacon vested in Dalmatic or Tunicle. To the best of my recollection, in his book 'Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite' the eminently sensible Msgr Peter Eliott sees nothing wrong with a concelebrant fulfilling a quasi-diaconal role (e.g. reading the gospel, dressing the altar, elevating the chalice) provided he is vested as a priest and fulfils a conclebrant's role during the Eucharistic prayer.
(I think one notable exception to this rule was the funeral of Paul VI in August 1978. Apparantly no deacon could be found [this was before the introduction of the permanent diaconate in Rome, I think] and a young priest from the North American College was permitted to be deacon for the funeral Mass vested in a dalmatic. (Can any of my readers confirm this? I think I may have read it in The Church Visible.)
Needless to say, the Pope is Supreme Legislator in liturgical matters and it would just take his say-so for liturgical law to permit a Cardinal Deacon to vest and act as deacon at a Papal Mass. (This would, of course, infuriate all the 'real' deacons who study here in Rome for whom the opportunity of serving as deacon to the Pope is a great honour)
To the best of my knowledge, the only time that the Holy Father is ever flanked by Cardinal Deacons in dalmatics these days is the Vatican Good Friday liturgy.

Good Friday 2004 - The Late Holy Father flanked by MCs and two Cardinal Deacons - note the red skull-caps and dalmatics. The black haired Cardinal Deacon is Cardinal Herranz. The name of the grey-haired Cardinal Decaon escapes me. Note that the actual functions of Deacon for the ceremony were fulfilled by deacons. The Cardinal Deacons merely escorted the Holy Father.
Edited to add:
I knew I'd seen Cardinal Deacons in Dalmatics elsewhere! The Christmas Urbi et Orbi!

The late Holy Father with MCs, and bemitred Cardinal Deacons in dalmatics. Christmas 2003

Points to note about Bari...

I wasn't able to follow the entire liturgy on television, but having spoken to friends who did, read the press reports and read the homily, I note the following interesting points:
1. The Holy Father arrived at Bari this morning and made his way back to the Vatican minutes after the Mass. It seems that this is going to be Benedict's style - a very businesslike approach. I get the impression that despite a genuine concern and care for people he finds the social 'meet and greet' aspect of the Papacy more draining than his predecessor did.
2. Amongst the party of dignitaries welcoming him to Bari was the Honourable Nichi Vendola, president of the region of Puglia. Mr Vendola was surprisingly elected President of Puglia in April, is a philosopher, writer, member of the 'Communist Refoundation' party, is associated with 'Pax Christi', describes himself as a believer, is openly gay and sports two earrings. We await the reaction of the Italian media and fear that Novus Ordo Watch will have a field day.
3. The Swiss Guards were there! This is a novelty - the Corriere della Sera notes that with the exception of the late Holy Father's trip to Switzerland the Swiss Guards don't usually go on Apostolic journeys.
4. At the end of the Mass the Holy Father stayed on a little longer after all the other bishops had left the sanctuary to wave to the crowd. He walked around a little (to the consternation of his security detail) and it was very interesting to see Marini take his orders from Mons. Georg Ganswein (known as Monsignore Georg about the city) the Pope's Private Secretary.

Corpus Domini in Bari...

Today the Holy Father concelebrated Mass with the Italian epsicopate and many priests at the National Eucharistic Congress at Bari. The motto of the Congress was 'Without Sunday We Cannot Live' the cry of the Martyrs of Abitane and it's no surprise that his homily urged the importance of Sunday for a Christian life. He also reaffirmed his commitment to Christian unity in very strong terms:
Proprio qui, a Bari, città che custodisce le ossa di San Nicola, terra di incontro e di dialogo con i fratelli cristiani dell’Oriente, vorrei ribadire la mia volontà di assumere come impegno fondamentale quello di lavorare con tutte le energie alla ricostituzione della piena e visibile unità di tutti i seguaci di Cristo. Sono cosciente che per questo non bastano le manifestazioni di buoni sentimenti. Occorrono gesti concreti che entrino negli animi e smuovano le coscienze, sollecitando ciascuno a quella conversione interiore che è il presupposto di ogni progresso sulla via dell’ecumenismo.

Right here in Bari, the city which keeps the bones of St Nicholas, the land of meeting and dialogue with (our) Eastern Christian Brothers, I wish to drive home my intention to assume as a fundamental duty that of working with all my energy for the reconstitution of full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ. I am aware that for this expressions of good feelings do not suffice. Concrete gestures are demanded which enter souls and move consciences, bringing about in everyone that interior conversion which is the precondition of any progress on the path of ecumenism.
I've already heard the question being asked - will Benedict be able to go where John Paul couldn't? Will he make it to Moscow?

Any captions?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

In the news...

An interesting article in the Telegraph about the possibility of more WWII Japanese soldiers turning up...
Japan was transfixed by claims yesterday that two of its soldiers had emerged from jungle in the Philippines six decades after they were believed to have been killed in the Second World War.
Japanese diplomats travelled to the port of General Santos on the island of Mindanao to meet the men and confirm their identities but the pair failed to show up.
Nonetheless, the Japanese media confidently named them as Tsuzuki Nakauchi, 85, and Yoshio Yamakawa, 87.
Records show that the two were members of the 30th Division of the Japanese Imperial Army, which suffered heavy losses in the war's last months. Both were listed as having been killed. Japanese newspapers yesterday showed pictures of Mr Nakauchi's sister-in-law visiting the grave erected to him.

Friday, May 27, 2005

This makes me really angry!

A friend sends me the following extracts from an article in the (subscription only) Irish Times newspaper.
Catholic theologian tells of pro-choice tradition
Christine Newman
The Catholic Church has a little-known, strong pro-choice tradition on abortion, a leading US theologian said in Dublin yesterday.
Dr Daniel C. Maguire, a Catholic theologian and professor of moral theological ethics at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said the Roman Catholic position on abortion was pluralistic.
He said it had a strong pro-choice tradition and a conservative anti-choice tradition. Neither was official, and neither was more Catholic than the other.
"What would be very good for the US and for Ireland would be to get this abortion bone out of the Catholic throat, and realise that Jesus did not found an organisation to condemn contraception, abortion and stem-cell research."
That was not the definition of the Jesus mission. In fact, those issues were totally unmentioned and were not part of the tradition whatsoever.

He said the Bible did not condemn abortion, and scriptures did not touch it at all.
Abortions were going on since the foundation of the church. St Antoninus was the first Catholic to write extensively on abortion. He was pro-choice for early abortions where necessary to save the woman's life. There was a large acceptance of this. There was no hub-bub, and he was considered a very holy man.
St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinus both held that the early embryo foetus had the moral status of a plant, a vegetative soul, and then as it developed it had an animal soul. They did not know when the soul was there but the common view was when there was quickening.
"The idea of a little cluster of stem cells being a person goes against the longest Christian tradition in existence, and makes no sense at all."
Things began to change to a stricter regime in the 19th century as the Church began to realise that its world view was collapsing around it. There was more communication, other viewpoints and the solidities were disappearing.
Recently the Vatican and conservative Muslims were "buddy-buddy" in the UN on one issue, abortion. "My analysis, fallible as it is, is they're not suddenly worried about foetuses; it's a different threat and that is liberated women. I think the liberation of woman poses a threat to these two patriarchies."
He said fundamentalism in any religion was always misogynistic. It feared mutuality between the genders.
Dr Maguire said women who have had abortions should not feel they were no longer good Catholics. The killers of the species were men and male clerics and administrators who thought they had to control women.
"It's good news. I'm not here to promote irresponsible sex, but to promote respect for women and respect for their choices."
I have bolded most of the most ridiculous statements but quite frankly apart from conceding that there's no direct reference to abortion in the scriptures I can't find anything to agree with in Dr Maguire's statements. I find it hard to believe that anyone (whatever their 'outlook') could in conscience present such an intellectually dishonest argumentation.


In the Times we read of another British WWI veteran passing away:
AT HIS death on May 11 at the age of 108, Alfred Benjamin Finnigan was one of only 14 known British survivors of the First World War.
Although he reached the age of 18 within six weeks of the outbreak of war on August 4, 1914, he encountered some difficulty in joining up. He was only 5ft 3in tall and had a slight weakness in one eye. Nevertheless, he persisted and was accepted as a trainee driver in a six-horse gun-towing team by 2nd Battery the 6th (London) Royal Field Artillery Brigade. This was fortunate, because he was already devoted to horses, having gained some experience of them after emigrating as a boy with his family to Australia.
Despite his lack of height, he was wellbuilt and responded readily to military training. By the time he joined the 5th Infantry Division in France in September 1916 he had become the lead driver of a team of six, or occasionally eight, horses pulling an 18-pounder gun and ammunition limber with A Battery, 15 Brigade Royal Field Artillery.
In reminiscences which cover his period of service in France and Italy, Finnigan recalled — seemingly with amusement — a number of orders from higher headquarters in response to complaints from troops at the front. One warned against disappointment on opening tins marked “pork and beans” and finding no pork apparent, “as the pork had been absorbed into the beans”.
After demobilisation, Finnigan was unable to find civilian employment and decided to return to Australia, but found conditions little better there. After seven years in various forms of short-term employment, he signed on as a deck hand aboard a three-masted sailing ship to work his passage home. While crossing the South Pacific for the Panama Canal, he was swept off the deck during a typhoon but managed to scramble back again by catching one of the lines running the length of the ship. He docked at Ostend on November 27, 1927, having qualified for his seaman’s ticket.

Corpus Domini Procession (Continued...)

The Mass of Corpus Christi was due to start at 7pm, but in order to secure decent seats I arrived at about 5.30pm. There were already quite a number gathered around the Lateran Basilica at that time. It's always interesting to see the sheer variety of groups represented - parish groups and prayer groups, confraternites and the exer-impressive Heralds of the Gospel in their knightly garb and riding boots. One confraternity in particular caught my eye - they wore white robes and a little red cape around their shoulders making them look like the equivalent of a Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club.
I settled into my seat and began to take in the athmosphere. The Roman diocesan choir were practicing under the baton of Mons Marco Frisina accompanied by a little portable pipe-organ. (I kid you not!) I'm not sure quite what to make of Mons Frisina's music - I think it's better than most of the modern church music out there but I'm sometimes dubious about his choice of soloists. The place filled up much more quickly than normal - I think the fact that Corpus Christi was so much earlier than normal this year helped. Those students and priests studying in Rome haven't yet entered into the examination period and the weather was not quite as hot as it has been for previous Corpus Christi celebrations. There was, of course, the novelty of the new Pope too.
The various seats reserved for prelates filled up more slowly. Every now and then a Monsignor or Bishop would arrive whilst the Vatican MCs walked the seminarians from the Seminario Romano through the ceremony. At about 20 to 7 the seats reserved for the curia began to fill. The explaination is simple. A coach service is laid on from the Vatican to the Lateran for those who work in the curia. It amuses me no end to think of all these monsignori, bishops, archbishops and cardinals finishing their day's work, changing into their best cassock and getting aboard a fleet of buses like so many schoolboys on an excursion. I was slightly surprised to see the likes of Cardinal Ruini and Sodano show up in choral dress. 'Aren't they going to concelebrate?' asked a friend. I checked the booklet. Nope, no concelebrants. The Holy Father is going to say the entire Mass himself. This was something new for me - a Papal Mass without concelebrants. I was also surprised at the number of (permanent) deacons around the place in matching dalmatics.
'Is that her?' I asked my friend.
'Stampa, Ingrid Stampa. Ratzinger's secretary.'
This was another novelty. Previously we would have spotted Archbishop Dziwicz, Pope John Paul's right hand man amongst those assisint him. Now Benedict's right hand man is a woman and sits with the other members of the Papal family who take care of the Holy Father's personal arrangements.
At about 7pm the Swiss Guards appeared, the choir began to sing, and the Pope emerged from the Lateran basilica preceded by processional cross, thurible, servers and deacons. Everyone stood up and there was a round of applause. Applause for Benedict is a much more restrained phenomenon than it was for his predecessor. It's not that we respect or love him any the less. However, one simply understands that whilst the ailing JPII seemed to draw strength from the reaction of the crowd, Benedict is much more business-like. He incensed the altar as my friend whispered to me that we'd probably never seen John Paul fit enough to incense the altar.
The Mass proceded as normal. One or two people stood up after the second reading, and fidning themselves alone sat down again. It wasn't quite time for the Gospel acclaimation. First there had to be the wonderful Corpus Christi sequence the Lauda Sion. I think this is my favourite sequence. A friend once told me that the words (thank you St Thomas!) and music came straight from Heaven and it's hard to argue with him. (English tranlsation here)
After the Gospel the Holy Father spoke very powerfully about the Eucharist sanctifying the city. Zenit summarises as follows:
In his homily, Benedict XVI made a comparison between the Holy Thursday procession, in which the Church "accompanies Jesus in his solitude, toward the way of the cross," and the Corpus Christi procession, which "responds symbolically to the Risen One's mandate" to evangelize.
"We take Christ, present in the figure of bread, through the streets of our city," the Holy Father said.
"We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to his goodness," he added. "May our streets be Jesus' streets! May our homes be homes for him and with him! May his presence penetrate our daily life.
"With this gesture, we place before his eyes the sufferings of the sick, the loneliness of young people and the elderly, temptations, fears, our whole life."
It's a very Ratzingarian (is there such a word?) homily. He likes to draw scriptural parallels and is very Christocentric in approach.
At the offertory we were presented with another Benedictine novelty. The bread for consecration was held in ciboria by the dozens of deacons I mentioned previously. This I had not seen before. Normally at the very large Vatican litugies dozens of ciboria are held by the priests and deacons who are to distribute communion (there would not be space enough on the altar). This time, however we had the Bishop of Rome surrounded by the deacons of the city - a very evocative reference back to the history of the Roman Church.
After communion the Holy Father changed out of his chasuble and into a white cope. This is something that John Paul was unable to do in recent years. He knelt on a prie-dieu and incensed the Sacrament as the procession formed up.
(To be continued)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Corpus Domini Procession...

I shall probably 'blog about the procession tomorrow. It was probably the biggest procession in recent years and it was wonderful seeing Pope Benedict able to participate so fully in the ceremonies. In previous years Pope John Paul II gave great testimony as struggled through, but it's nice that our new Pope doesn't have to do that.
Some photos

It was incredible to see Benedict lost in prayer before the Sanctissimum.

The crowd was bigger than I've ever seen it.

This picture doesn't even come close to capturing how many people were present. It doesn't show the huge number of clergy and seminarians who preceded the Blessed Sacrament in ranks of 8 abreast (I would estimate that there was well over 1,000), or the confraternities, the Heralds of the Gospel and other groups whose membership and banners preceded the clergy. As the procession went along the Via Merulana to St Mary Major's its numbers were swelled by the faithful who joined the end of the procession after it passed them. Many private apartments had candles lighting in their windows, convents had banners hanging from their windows and the churches along the way had their doors wide open and their interiors illuminated.

The procession concluded with Benediction.

Liturgical enthusiasts will appreciate the smoke.

Blogging Bishops...

From Zenit:
MANILA, Philippines, MAY 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Philippine bishops are using
every tool at their disposal to reach the faithful, including the Internet and
From the Web site of the bishops' conference, Internet users can access three
blogs -- a kind of hybrid Web site-diary -- managed by three prelates who talk
about a variety of issues such as catechesis, today's society and Christian
Bishop Jose Manguiran of Dipolong manages The Meaning
(bpmanguiran.blogspot.com), whose subtitle is "Life is meaningful only when it
begins and ends with Christ."
For this, he focuses on how one can lead a Christian life in an
ever-faster-paced society. He also develops arguments on various philosophical
issues and lays out his personal thoughts for all to read, reported AsiaNews.
Viewpoints (ovc.blogspot.com) is the diary of Archbishop Oscar Cruz of
In it, the archbishop carries on his personal battles against what he calls
society's cancers, namely gambling and illiteracy -- battles that have earned
him death threats.
Then there is Tidbits (medroso.blogspot.com) by Bishop Leonardo Medroso of
Unlike his fellow prelate bloggers, who focus on discussions and reflections,
Bishop Medroso gives technical advice and spurs his readers to follow the right
path. For instance, in one of the latest updates, he urged young people to go to
Cologne, Germany, for the 2005 World Youth Day.
Readers can also find a ready-made form to request funds from the bishops'
conference that can be printed and filled out by the country's dioceses. Readers
can access other pages within the episcopate's site, www.cbcponline.net.

Double celebration...

Today's another one of those liturgical oddities here in Rome - Italy celebrates Corpus Christi on Sunday, but in the Vatican it falls in the Thursday. So, this morning I have been celebrating the Feast of St Philip Neri and this evening I will be at the Holy Father's Corpus Christi Mass and Procession. The linked site will allow you to watch this wonderful event - after the Mass outside S. Giovanni in Laterano, the Blessed Sacrament will be carried in procession by the Pope along the Via Merulana to the Piazza in from of the basilica of S.Maria Maggiore. There he will perform the beautiful rite of Benediction. Last year I blogged before the procession and linked to photos of previous processions. Last year's Mass and Procession can be seen here.

I also blogged after the procession because the late Holy Father announced the Year of the Eucharist.
St Philip Neri
The Apostle of Rome and one of my favourites. Today is one of the few opportunities to visit his rooms at the Chiesa Nuova.

In the News
RIP Ismail Merchant - one half of the Merchant-Ivory film-making duo. (Times obituary here)
An article about the increasing role of the laity in the parishes of the English Primatial See of Westminster.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bugging Device for Sale...

I'm very reluctant to give publicity to the Marxist hoodlums otherwise known as Sinn Fein (the very anticlerical Irish polical party most closely related to IRA terrorism) but this is too bizarre not to mention.
As a fundraising/publicity activity they are auctioning off part of a bugging device which they found in their office some time ago. It was on eBay, but eBay removed it, so now they're selling it on their own website along with a letter of authenication by their President Gerry Adams:
On September 13th, 2004, at a very sensitive time in the peace process, a sophisticated bugging device was found hidden in Sinn Féin offices in Connolly House, Belfast. This was the second device found in Belfast within ten days. Martin McGuinness and I returned the Connolly House device to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the peace talks in Leeds Castle, England.
When we were leaving that meeting I held on to a section of that device. Since then I have been in correspondence with various elements of the British system to establish who authorised this electronic surveillance operation. In January 2005 Eliza Manningham-Butler, head of MI5, admitted that MI5 bugged Connolly House.
This note is authentication by me that the section of the bugging device which it accompanies is part of the Connolly House device which was returned to Mr. Blair.
Gerry Adams.

Too busy to 'blog...

So here are a couple of pictures from the Web Gallery of Art...

St Jerome by Caravaggio - One of my favorite pictures. It can be seen at the Galleria Borghese here in Rome.

Holbein's The Ambassadors - at the National Gallery in London. The subject of much scholarly speculation regarding the picture's meaning. The distorted skull resolves itself into proper perspective if seen from the correct angle.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Liturgy Wars in the CoE

From the Telegraph:
The Rev Derek Price has replaced traditional services with a more evangelical approach, including gospel-style singing and clapping.
Three months ago, his wife Deborah danced bare-foot around the coffin at a funeral with the bereaved family's approval.
Some worshippers were unhappy that the organ has been replaced by a CD player at St Paul's, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
Mr Price, 53, formerly a development officer with a DIY chain, has also faced criticism over plans to replace pews with flexible seating. He has been accused of failing to support the organist, choir, and youth orchestra at the Victorian Gothic-style church, built from pink sandstone and dedicated in 1871.
Ken Parkinson, 64, a former parishioner, said: "His style is terrible. He is forcing his way. He has caused a lot of heartache. My wife doesn't go any more because she could not put up with it." Sheila Fawcett, a regular worshipper, is also worried about the changes since Mr Price's appointment in 2002. "We used to have an organist, but that has gone. I am unhappy and sad about that. Lots of my friends have left. I can think of 30 off the top of my head."
I am reminded of something I overheard a priest say recently: The rubrics are there to protect the faith of the People of God from the lunacy of the Clergy of God.
In the Times is a piece about the (Anglican) Cathedral in Lincoln being used to film the Da Vinci Code along with a little bit about the Lincoln Elf:
Lincoln has a troubled history, for which many observers blame the Imp, a jaunty carving that was, according to legend, a small devil blown in by the wind and turned to stone by angels.
After a high-profile consistory court in the 1990s, the former Dean, Dr Brandon Jackson, was acquitted of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards Verity Freestone, the former verger. At one point, the Dean said that he wanted to exorcise the cathedral of the evil spirits that he believed resided within. The ceremony was never carried out.
The cathedral was involved in an earlier sex scandal in the 1920s. In 1185 it was partly destroyed by an earthquake and over the centuries the roof has been badly damaged by three fires. The spooky atmosphere, created by irregular angles in the masonry, also makes the building the ideal setting for a conspiracy theory novel.
The Lincoln Imp has also been held responsible by some for the troubled fortunes of Lincoln City Football Club, who are known as the Imps. They were playing Bradford City on the day of the stadium fire at Valley Parade, Bradford, in 1985. Fifty-six people died and more than 260 were injured in the disaster. But, having gone to the brink of extinction, Lincoln City’s future is looking up — the team are in a play-off to decide promotion to League One.

Pope's Former Apartment for Sale
According to this AP Report:
Germany - An apartment building in the western German city of Bonn where Pope Benedict XVI is believed to have lived in 1959-1963 was listed for sale Monday on the German eBay site.
And here's the link to the eBay auction - note that you need to e-mail the owner to bid.
[Edited to add:
Thanks to Papaefidelis for his witty comment.
First, his car, then a piece of his hair, now his apartment building. What's next on the eBay chopping-block--his brother George ("Cute, diminutive frater ponificalis; makes a good companion for children. Sings well. House-trained.")?]

Monday, May 23, 2005

Busy, busy, busy...

... too busy to 'blog.

So, I'm just going to leave you with a picture from the Web Gallery of Art.

The enigmatic Madonna of the Harpies by our friend Andrea del Sarto. (Read the attached article)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cowboy Christianity, etc...

As usual, clippings from the Telegraph -
Firstly, a piece on American churches aimed at cowboys:
"Hallelujah," exclaims a man in the third row. "Praise the Lord," murmurs another. From somewhere further back comes a whinny, a few snorts and a little contented equine snuffling.
It is a typical service at the Carolina Cowboy Church in the rural community of Midland, North Carolina, where worshippers are more at home among hay bales and sawdust than in the pews.
In place of flowing robes or Sunday best there are denim jeans, cowboy boots and Stetsons. Instead of a choir, there is a foot-stomping hillbilly band playing bluegrass and Christian country music.
In England the the Methodists are moving further from their teetotal heritage:
Methodist leaders have infuriated the teetotal among their ranks by applying for a liquor licence for Westminster Central Hall, their Edwardian headquarters in central London.
Ever wondered where the name Methodist came from? According to the Catholic Encylopedia:
On his [John Wesley's] return to Oxford (22 November 1729) he joined the little band of students organized by his brother Charles for the purpose of studying the Scriptures, and practising their religious duties with greater fidelity. John became the leader of this group called in derision by fellow-students "the holy club", "the Methodists". It is to this that Methodism owes its name, but not its existence.

And in honour of the today's feast

Disputation over the Trinity by Andrea Sarto.
As the linked article notes the theme of a theological dispute involving the saints is not at all rare for early 16th Century Italy. What I find surprising however is the choice of saints. With the exception of St. Augustine on the left none of them are noted theologians. The deacon (in a most delighful red dalmatic and holding a grid iron) is St Lawrence, next to him is a Dominican saint (presumably St Dominic) and next to him is St Francis (note the stigmata). (Why not Aquinas and Bonaventure??? Did Sarto's Augustinian patrons want their protector to have no opportunity of losing the debate on Trinitatian theology?) Kneeling in the foreground is St Sebastian (note the arrows) and I thought the kneeling female saint might have been St Catherine of Alexandria (famous for her theological acumen) holding a book. However, closer examination reveals her to be St Mary Magdalene holding a jar of oil. (She's a very restained depiction of the Magdalene - the artist has resisted the tempation of giving her long red hair and a plunging neckline.)
Have a look at the Trinity floating in the sky - we see the Father and the Son in the usual Italian manner. But where is the dove of the Holy Spirit? Is the suggestion of wind or the billowing red fabric meant to indicate the Paraclete's presence?

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity


Firmly I believe and truly
God is three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.

Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love, supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.

Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
Parce mihi, Domine.

And I hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church, as His creation,
And her teachings, as His own.

And I take with joy whatever
Now besets me, pain or fear,
And with a strong will I sever
All the ties which bind me here.

Adoration aye be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
Mortis in discrimine.

From Newman's Dream of Gerontius

Friday, May 20, 2005

Have you seen this bishop?

Mafia Boss disguises himself as a prelate:
It's no wonder Bernardo Provenzano, the Sicilian Mafia's "boss of bosses", has eluded capture for at least four decades.
According to a Mafia godmother-turned-supergrass, the 72-year-old mobster turned up to a summit of Cosa Nostra leaders in 1992 disguised in a bishop's purple vestments.
(I shan't start on how the media misuses the word 'vestments')

More idiocy...

From the Telegraph:
The phrase "shipshape and Bristol fashion" should not be used because it is deemed to be politically incorrect, a group of councillors has been told.
A training firm told them that the phrase originated from the slave trade and described black people being ready for sale.
However Gerry Brooke, a Bristol historian, who edits a supplement in the city's Evening Post newspaper, said it derived from the good reputation Bristol had for constructing ships.
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable agrees: "The expression derives from the port of Bristol's reputation for efficiency in the days of sail."
I'm reminded of the idiocy evident in the 1999 niggardly controversy. Note too that LA County asked computer hardware vendors not to use master/slave terminology.

The Last Cavalryman...

The Daily Telegraph brings the news of the death (aged 108) of Albert "Smiler" Marshall, said to have been the last surviving British Cavalryman to have ridden into battle.
Mr Marshall joined up in 1915, aged 17, after lying about his age. He was nicknamed Smiler after he threw a snowball at a drill sergeant who threatened to "give him something to smile about". He took part in his first major battle the same year, at Loos. In 1916, at Cambrai, his regiment came across advancing Germans.
"They were a bit surprised to see us," he recalled in an interview with Legion magazine. "They were advancing and scattered as we charged. We drew our swords and cut them down. It was cut and thrust at the gallop. They stood no chance."
In the First World War the cavalry were meant to await a breakthrough before exploiting the breach in enemy lines. But the breakthroughs rarely came, and more often the horsemen functioned as mounted infantry. Mr Marshall spent long months in the trenches, until in March 1917 he was shot in the hand and sent back to "Blighty".
I note that the British also used cavalry in Ireland at that time, with the first British casualties in the 1916 Easter Rising being 4 cavalrymen who were part of a troop of Lancers who had the misfortune to charge down Sackville Street after many of the buildings had been occupied by rebels. It's not clear whether the lancers stumbled into this situation or whether British military stupidity extended to deploying cavalry against fortified urban positions.
The Polish famously deployed cavalry against the Germans in WWII.
In related news the Telegraph also reports on continuing bomb finds on WWI battlefields.
Each year, especially during spring ploughing, the mud of Flanders yields up a lethal harvest of unexploded bombs, shells and grenades - and each year these 90-year-old weapons grow more dangerous.
Perhaps a quarter of the one billion projectiles fired during the First World War failed to explode.
Many were faulty, others landed in the deep, soft ooze of the Western Front's battlefields, only to reappear nearly a century later in the shares of a farmer's plough, or against a workman's spade.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


For once, Queen Elizabeth II loses an impressive headwear contest. One wonders whether she's dressing down because she's in Canada - at home she's a little more outrageous. And that's putting it mildly.
Baby Elephant. (*Hums to self*)

More Haste - Less Speed...

One of the tasks which the Council of Trent left in the hands of the Papacy was the production of an authoritative revision of the Vulgate (the Bible in Latin originally translated by St Jerome.) The energetic Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) (who was responsible for an incredible amount of urban devleopment in Rome) grew impatient with the time taken by the commission engaged in preparing the text and decided to take matters into his own hands. Working by night he concluded the work personally despite not being skilled in what would today be called 'textual criticism'. Copies of the Sixtine Vulgate were printed in 1590 to the distress of scholars who saw it as gravely deficient. Sixtus died later that year before managing to promulgate the bull declaring his translation to be the 'authoritative' version demanded by the Council of Trent. Immediately after his death efforts were made to gather all the sold and unsold copies of his Bible with the result that (I understand) in Rome only 2 copies survive to this day. His sucessor Clement VIII arranged for a comission of scholars (including St Robert Bellarmine) to correct the 4,900 or so errors and so in 1592 the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate was printed and was the 'official' Latin version of the Bible until 1979.

Roman Shopping Trolleys

The story of a hoax at the British museum:
Visitors to the British Museum unfamiliar with the date of the wheel's invention may have been puzzled by a primitive painting in the Roman Britain gallery this week, showing a caveman pushing a supermarket trolley.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Mountain Named after JPII

From Reuters:
Pope John Paul, who was an avid mountaineer in his younger years, had a mountain peak named in his honour on Wednesday in Italy's imposing Gran Sasso range.
Previously known as "The Gendarme", the 2,424 metre (7,953 ft) summit was renamed at a ceremony in a medieval chapel on the day that John Paul would have turned 85.

With Apologies to Don Jim Tucker

Today's lyrics






Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Being unblocked...

A couple of things to 'blog about...

Firstly, I see that someone has reached my 'blog with a google search for 'As written in the book of Jasper the sun delayed going down. These miracles as'. Okay... two tips... if you're looking for a sentence you should probably put it in quotation marks and you probably mean the book of Joshua, not Jasper.
Chapter 10
11: And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-hor'on, the LORD threw down great stones from heaven upon them as far as Aze'kah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the men of Israel killed with the sword.
12: Then spoke Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand thou still at Gibeon, and thou Moon in the valley of Ai'jalon."
13: And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
14: There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD hearkened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.
15: Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.

And Lauren has passed me another meme. (I promise I shan't make a habit of answering these things.) It's about books - yay!

1. Total Number of Books I’ve Owned: I shudder to think. I acquire books easily and I very rarely give them away. They're not all in the same place - I probably have at least 300 books here in Rome and more stored elsewhere. I guess that a conservative estimate would put the number at about 750, but if I were to actually count and arrive at a figure of about 1,000 I wouldn't be surprised. (I should be ashamed of myself, right?)
2. Last Book I Bought: I picked this up at at discount and it looks very interesting - Paolo, Agostino, Lutero: alle origini del mondo moderno by Giancarlo Pani. (Paul, Augustine and Luther: at the origins of the modern world). (I've just realised that I'd never apply my book-buying logic to the purchase of anything else!
3. Last Book I read: Hmmmm... I usually read about a dozen books at any given time, so I'm not sure what the last book I finished was... (*goes to check pile of books*) Ah! It was Georges Bernanos' The Diary of a Country Priest. I began it ages ago, put it aside, and was reminded of it by Romy when she was in Rome, so I re-read it from the beginning. A wonderful read, if somewhat heavy. A very profound reflection on the nature of Christian love of others and a portrait of a life of self-sacrifice which is invisible to all but God.
4. 5 Books That Mean A lot to Me:
Okay... Leaving out the Bible... ;)
1. The Breviary: The official prayer of the Church. The fact that one is praying the psalms in communion with the Pope, all the priests, and so many religious and laypeople is wonderful. I love the patristic readings and the 'objectivity' of the breviary means that the prayer moulds the one praying and not vice versa. Praying the breviary is a wonderful discipline and I find it most rewarding.
2. The Confessions of St. Augustine translated by Frank Sheed. This is the first and best of the genre. I think this has a good chance of being the finest work of non-scriptural Christian literature. It's a window into the soul of one of the greatest pastors and theologians ever, it's a hymn of praise to God's love, it's an acute analysis of the nature of sin... I could go on. Those in the know assure me that Frank Sheed's translation is the best. I've not compared it with any others, but I certainly find it excellent. (From a personal point of view, I'm inclined to mention St Therese's Story of a Soul as being my second favourite piece of Spiritual Reading - I reread both books regularly and am sorry that I can't include her on my list.)
3. 'Apologia pro vita sua' by Ven John Henry Cardinal Newman Everyone tells me that one is supposed to start reading the Parochial and Plain Sermons when reading Newman - they're clearly written, very spiritual and an easy introduction to his thought. However, they have told me this after I myself had slogged through the Apologia, the Grammar of Assent and the Essay on Development and I wouldn't have wanted to start any other way. Some commentators put the Apologia as 2nd to the Confessions in the genre of spiritual autobiography. I wouldn't argue. It's a dense read however, I like Newman's prose, but there's a lot of context and background knowledge needed when reading the Apologia. The Penguin edition I link to does a fairly good job of covering that. The Apologia tracks Newman's thought and religious belief from childhood until his eventual conversion to Catholicism. It was originally written as a series of pamphlets directed against Charles Kingley who made a number of allegations regarding Newman's probity as an Anglican. Despite its ad hoc character and the fact that it's not an easy read it's the book where I first got to know Newman and in which much of the recurring themes of his thought may be found.
4. 'A Room with a View' by EM Forster It's not 'great literature', but it's my favorite novel. I like it because it's light, beautifully written and the characters are so well drawn. It's my comfort reading - if I'm sick or annoyed and need something effervescent (with more than a little social satire) then I turn to 'A Room with a View'. (BTW, I also think that the film version is exceptionally cast and an excellent dramatisation of a book - bravo Messrs Merchant and Ivory. I'd also like to quash all those rumours about myself and Helena Bonham Carter. ;) )
5. 'The Quest of the Holy Grail' translated by P.M. Matarasso, a slightly battered 2nd hand copy... A read I enjoyed and found to be more spiritual than I expected, but I really value this volume because it was a gift from a dear bibliophilic friend who didn't quail at parting with a book as a memento of friendship.

5. Tag 5 people and have them do this on their blog.
Okay... I'm tagging Lizzy and Jane at Alle Psalite, Romy (when she has a spare moment - I know she's busy these days!), Meredith and Fr Ethan.

Blogger's Block

I have nothing interesting to post at this time. (What's new?) Leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Warning: Disturbing Image

From the Corriere della Sera: An Indonesian Canine Fashion Show

The Palombella in Orvieto

I've never made it to Orvieto (beautiful town) for the famous Pentecost Palombella. According to the Telegraph, they may be changing the custom in future years:
A 600-year-old Italian religious ritual in which an entrapped dove is subjected to a barrage of fireworks took place for the last time yesterday in its present form after a campaign by animal rights protesters, including the MP Ann Widdecombe, demanded it be reformed.
As the bells chimed noon yesterday in the city of Orvieto, a dove, sealed into a transparent tube, was sent hurtling amid plumes of smoke 1,000ft along a wire from the top of the San Francesco church to the base of the cathedral across the piazza.
BTW, the facade of the Cathedral in Orvieto is simply spectacular.
The Mysterious Pianist
The Times has a story which is akin to something one might read in a novel:
HE WAS found soaking wet in the middle of the night, unable to speak and dressed in an expensive dinner suit.
The only real clue to his identity is an astonishing talent for the piano.
The 6ft musician — dubbed The Piano Man — is believed to have suffered a nervous breakdown which has deprived him of his memory and left him unable to communicate except through drawings and a remarkable ability for music.
After being found by police he was driven to Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, Kent, where he was able to communicate with doctors and nurses only by drawing a Swedish flag and an intricate sketch of a grand piano.
The man was taken to the piano in the hospital chapel, where he performed a two-hour recital of classical music, but medical staff have not been able to make any further progress with his condition.
He has since been transferred to a psychiatric unit, where he has been treating patients and staff to brilliant performances of his favourite works.

Feast of St Brendan the Navigator

If you're interested in the Celtic saints, today's the feast of one of the most important - Brendan the Navigator. More well known in medieval Europe than St Patrick, this 6th Century Irish monastic was intelligent enough to discover America nearly a milennium before Columbus and leave well enough alone.
Amongst the adventures recounted in his Navigatio is the incident when St Brendan and his companions made camp on a small island, celebrated Mass and lit a fire to prepare some food. To their surprise the island began to move - they rushed back to their boat and were amazed to discover that what they thought was an island was in fact the whale Jasconius. (Another depiction can be found in this 15th Century German manuscript.)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

That meme...

The 'blogger over at Catholicland traces the geneology of the Caesar's Bath meme. I don't think I've ever been accused of begetting anyone before.
Episcopal Lineages
The whole thing reminds me of the tracing of Episcopal lineages (isn't the Apostolic Succession great? ;) ) and there's a very interesting page dedicated to this. The ever-useful Catholic Hierarchy page also includes a lot of Episcopal lineage information. It doesn't take too much reading to discover that many of the same names keep cropping up and the 1st referenced page above explains that more than 90% of Roman Catholic Bishops can trace their sucession to Scipione Cardinal Rebiba (ordained 1541) via Pope Benedict XIII. Interestingly, in the period since 1550 there are only 4 Popes about whom we lack information regarding their consecration.
Link to Bust of Benedict XIII
Lineage of Pope Benedict XVI
The Dutch Touch
It doesn't take much searching on the web to find many schismatic bishops who have also compiled Episcopal lineages through ordination by Old Catholic bishops. I shan't link to any, but I recall one chap who claimed to have episcopal lineages linking him a whole collection of Churches and denomincations. (Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, etc...)
Notable however is the case of the Anglican Communion (whom I do not put into the same category as the rent-a-bishops mentioned above), some of whose bishops may well be validly ordained. Leo XIII's 1896 Bull Apostolicae Curae ruled that Anglican Orders were invalid as the Apostolic Succesion had been compromised at the time of the Reformation due to defects in the Anglican ritual. However, since the 1930s Old Catholic bishops have participated in the consecrations of Anglican Bishops and this so-called 'Dutch Touch' opens the door to their orders possibly beinf considered valid. Interestingly, this page claims to track Archbishop George Carey's (now Lord Carey of Clifton, emeritus Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) lineage back to Pope St Nicholas I!

Naples bans motorini

In the Telegraph:
In Naples, however, the distinctive sound of the scooters is to disappear after they were banned from entering the centre of Italy's southern capital.
The problem is not congestion, or even noise pollution, but crime: scooters have become the getaway of choice for bag-snatchers and the favoured vehicle for ride-by attacks by the Mafia.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

In the Corriere - JPII, martyr?

There's some very theologically uninformed commentary in the Corriere della Sera today. The author speculates that the 1981 assasination attempt may allow John Paul II's cause for beatification be simplied by bringing him into the category of martyr:
Senza l’intervento della Madonna, sarebbe morto: questa la convinzione della vittima, suffragata dal parere dei medici, incapaci di spiegare una simile sopravvivenza. Dunque, Karol Wojtyla può, a ben vedere, essere considerato un «martire », cioè un credente ucciso in odium fidei. E’ possibile che questo non sia irrilevante per la causa: è previsto, infatti, che nel caso di martirio le procedure siano semplificate ed accelerate, a cominciare dal miracolo, che non è richiesto.
Without the intervention of the Madonna he would have been dead: that is the conviction of the victim, supported by the opinion of the doctors incapable of explaining such a survival. Therefore, Karol Wojtyla could, it would seem, be considered a 'martyr', that is a believer killed 'in odium fidei'. This might not be irrelevant for the cause - in the case of martyrdom procedures are simplified and accelerated, begining with the (first) miracle which is not required.

I don't buy it.

Can anything good come out of Holland?

Yes... Fr Werenfried van Straaten for one. :) But surprisingly, the Dutch may well deliver something else that'd be good - a no vote to the European Constitution.
Also in the Telegraph, an article about the 200th birthday of the Paris lost property office.
Curiosities among the 70,000 still awaiting to be claimed include a sword made in 1892, a funeral urn that went astray in a metro station and a perfectly preserved black horse's head.
Nobody has yet come forward to ask for a certificate belonging to the Master of one of France's secretive masonic lodges.

A curious story from France in the Times about the Government's botched attempt to cancel the traditional Whitsun holday.
In a fiasco that has dented M Raffarin’s already low credibility, the SNCF state railways have given most of their 120,000 strike-happy workers the day off after the unions threatened to stop work. In return, all SNCF staff will work one minute, 52 seconds more per day throughout the year.
Also an opinion piece in the Times - Is Google God?
I recently stumbled across a copy of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities which I had forgotten I'd had. Alas, my current involvement in the world of money is of an amatur rather than a professional nature, but I do enjoy reading about it. Anyway, those of you looking for some summer reading and find the world of high finance interesting could do much worse than Micheal Lewis's Liar's Poker and (especially) Bryan Burrough & John Helyar's Barbarians at the Gate are well worth reading.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Snake Festival at Cocullo

One of the stranger festivals of Italy is the celebration at Cocullo in honour of their patron St Dominic, Abbot. The saint was said to have made all the local snakes harmless and so every year on the 1st Thursday of May his statue is carried in procession though the village draped in snakes.

Just Announced - Head of CDF

It's Levada.

Pope to Fast-track John Paul II's cause...

Announced this morning in Rome
He announced it to a meeting of the Roman Diocesan clergy at the Lateran this morning.

The Correre della Sera describes it mentioning that he concluded his address to the Roman clergy by saying 'I wish to give you news that will certainly give you great pleasure' and read the document (in Latin) opening the late Holy Father's cause for beatification. It's no coincidence that the announcement was made on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, 24 years to the day after the assasination attempt in St Peter's Square.
The decree reads:
Instante Em.mo ac Rev.mo Domino D. Camillo S.R.E. Cardinali Ruini, Vicario Generali Suae Sanctitatis pro Dioecesi Romana, Summus Pontifex BENEDICTUS XVI, attentis peculiaribus expositis adiunctis, in audentia eidem Cardinali Vicario Generali die 28 mensis Aprilis huius anni 2005 concessa, dispensavit a tempore quinque annorum exspectationis post mortem Servi Dei Ioannis Pauli II (Caroli Wojtyla), Summi Pontificis, ita ut causa Beatificationis et Canonizationis eiusdem Servi Dei statim incipi posset. Contrariis non obstantibus quibuslibet.
Datum Romae, ex aedibus huius Congregationis de Causis Sanctorum, die 9 mensis Maii A.D. 2005.
Iosephus Card. Saraiva Martins
Eduardus Nowak
Archiepiscopus tit. Lunensis
a Secretis


Lace is back!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

In the Telegraph Today...

There's more than the usual quota of interesting stories in the Telegraph today:
Firstly there's the story of a blind mountaineer who has had to abandon his attempt on Everest due to an accident. He said: "My new Sherpa, Pemba, forgot about my blindness which led me to discover a small crevasse. One minute I'm sucking in the oxygen-deprived air and the next minute I'm falling into it."
Scientists have released a reconstruction of Tutankhamun's face.
Archaeologists working with forensic specialists and artists have created reconstructions of the pharaoh's head using information from a computed tomography (CT) scan carried out on his mummified body earlier this year.
The cause of Tutankhamun's death around 1325BC has long been a matter of historical controversy. Speculation about royal intrigue, plots and cold-blooded assassination were bolstered by the discovery of skull fragments in X-rays carried out in 1968 by anatomists from Liverpool University.
However, archaeologists who carried out the scan in January this year recently concluded that there was no evidence of foul play and that the king might have died from infections to a leg wound.
How much did he know? The discussion of Speer's culpability for the holocaust continues with the suggestion that he may have played an active part in converting Auschwitz into a death camp. I have little doubt but that the discussion surrounding the authenticity and import of recently discovered documents will continue.
Finally, a group of 300 French surgeons decamped to a British holiday village as a novel form of protest. But why cross the Channel at all? "We have so many strikes in France that we thought we would get more coverage in the media if we went into exile in England," explained one with disarming frankness.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I've been reading Ezekiel recently and decided to use the image search in Google to see what pictures might be out there related to my reading...

Firstly I found this page which makes God's destruction of Jerusalem look like a flying saucer invasion.
This one I find vaguely disturbing. There's also this unusual Annunciation.
This one I like - a straightforward image of Ezekiel's vocation vision.
And of course Gustav Dore can always be relied upon for a wonderful engraving of the Valley of the Dry Bones.
Ezekiel Chap 37
1: The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones.
2: And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry.
3: And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, thou knowest."
4: Again he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
5: Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.
6: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD."
7: So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
8: And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.
9: Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
10: So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host.
11: Then he said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, `Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.'
12: Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel.
13: And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.
14: And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done it, says the LORD."

Study: Meanness in Girls Can Start at 3

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Meanness in girls can start when they still are toddlers, a Brigham Young University study found. It found that girls as young as 3 or 4 will use manipulation and peer pressure to get what they want.
"It could range from leaving someone out to telling their friends not to play with someone to saying, 'I'm not going to invite you to my birthday party,'" said Craig Hart, study co-author and professor of marriage, family and human development at BYU. "Some kids are really adept at being mean and nasty."
They regularly exclude others and threaten to withdraw friendship when they don't get their way.
The "mean girls" are highly liked by some and strongly disliked by others. They are socially skilled and popular but can be manipulative and subversive if necessary. They are feared as well as respected.
Jesus Christ in Legal Battle in W.Va.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Even Jesus Christ can't circumvent the rules for getting a driver's license in West Virginia.
Attempts to prove his name really is Christ have led the man born as Peter Robert Phillips Jr. through a lengthy legal battle and a recent victory in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
"This all started with him expressing his faith and his respect and love for Jesus Christ," attorney A.P. Pishevar told The Associated Press. "Now he needs to document it for legal reasons."
Described by his attorney as a white-haired businessman in his mid-50s, Christ is moving to West Virginia to enjoy a slower lifestyle. He bought property near Lost River, about 100 miles west of Washington, and has a U.S. passport, Social Security card and Washington driver's license bearing the name Jesus Christ.
But he still falls short of West Virginia title and license transfer requirements because his Florida birth certificate has his original name on it and he has been unable to obtain an official name change in Washington.
[Waits for Lauren to weigh in with some insightful remark about West Virginia.]


An interesting story in the Corriere della Sera
It seems that the (Japanese, obviously...) manufacturers of Bowlingual (a device which translates your dog's barks) have come up with a device to interpret the sounds made by babies. As this English version of the story explains:
"We aim to develop a device to read babies' feelings," says Kazuyuki Shinohara, a neurobiology professor at the state-run Nagasaki University who leads the research team.
The gadget could be a godsend in a country where a growing number of young people find child-rearing too burdensome, although some experts are cautious about an almost science-fiction world where babies are understood with machines before they learn to talk.
Shinohara's group has been conducting experiments involving mothers and their babies by monitoring the infants' cries, facial expressions and body temperature changes in a project backed by the government-subsidized Japan Science and Technology Agency.
I'm particularly amused by the following (not even I'm this clueless with babies):
But Mio Okada, a 21-year-old student, says "it's good" to develop a translator.
"I have taken care of babies of relatives but sometimes got confused about what they wanted. When they cried violently, I asked them 'What? Can you be a bit clearer about what you want -- do you want to change diapers or have milk?'," she says.

On a more sublime level, Zorak's reflection on motherhood is about the finest thing I've read all week.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Buddhist POD

Baby monks
and a wedding.

On Ratzinger the Theologian

Beauty wounds, but just in this way it calls man to his ultimate Destiny. What Plato affirms, and more than 1,500 years later Kabasilas too, has nothing to do with superficial aestheticism and irrationalism, with the flight from clarity and the importance of reason. Beauty is knowledge, to be sure, a higher form of knowledge, since it strikes man with all the grandeur of truth. - The Beautiful is the Good
The Oligarch links to the above mediatation of 'Cardinal Ratzinger' (as was).
What strikes me about our new Holy Father is how lightly he wears his learning - the citations, the references, the quotes, they don't obscure the message or serve as an opportunity for him to show off his learning. Rather, everything he says seems to be rooted in a genuine grasping of the truth, a learning and spirituality which has permeated his bones. This, perhaps, explains why he was able to sit down for long periods with journalists and speak freely over a wide range of topics without the need to go back and revise or correct or retract. He doesn't defend an extrinsic system. He simply shares the truth that he has been privileged enough learn. This also helps explain the oft-noted transition from the young and liberal Ratzinger to the watchdog of the faith. I think it's to his credit that he was able to learn and grow intellectually - he can't be accused of the 'dogmatic' (in the pegorative sense) conservatism. Rather this theologian who was amongst the vanguard of those who inspired so much of the 2nd Vatican Council's was openminded and critical enough to realise that the theological movement which did so much good also had some seeds of destruction and discord within it and was able to change whilst remaining true to those truths which inspired him. [I could draw a comparison with Ven John Henry Newman]
Anyway, I'm rereading one of my favourite Ratzinger books Behold the Pierced One - An Apporach to a Spiritual Theology and thought I might share the following where he reflects on the Dogma of Christ's two wills - Divine and Human and the implications for Christian life:
In the Son's obedience, where both wills become one in a single Yes to the will of the Father, communion takes place between the human and divine being. The "wonderful exchange", the "alchemy of being", is realised here as a liberating and reconciling communication, which becomes a communion between Creator and creature. It is in the pain of this exchange, and only here, that fundamental change takes place in man, the change which alone can redeem him and transform the conditions of the world. Here community is born, here the Church comes into being. The act whereby we participate in the Son's obedience, which involves man's genuine transformation, is also the only really effective contribution toward renewing and transforming society and the world as a whole. Only where this act takes place is there a change for good - in the direction of the kingdom of God. pp93-94

It's not too difficult to see how he then goes on the develop the ecclesiological and eucharistic implications of his Christology.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A few words from His Holiness

Cari romani, adesso sono il vostro vescovo, grazie per la vostra generosità e grazie per la vostra simpatia, grazie per la vostra pazienza. In quanto cattolici, in qualche modo tutti siamo anche romani. In quanto cattolici, in qualche modo siamo tutti nati a Roma (Source - Corriere della Sera)

My dear Romans, now I am your bishop, thank you for your genorosity, thank you for you kindness, thank you for your patience. In as much as we are Catholics, in a way we are all Romans. In as much as we are Catholics, we are all born in Rome. (Private Translation)

That Meme

Thanks to Lauren for passing the baton:
"List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can't really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), 'Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice.'"
Before I get started, I have to nod in Jane's general direction for coming up with a list of things that I could have come up with. (I hate to admit the fact that I've met too many good Jesuits to be too hard on the order.)
Here goes:
The Pre-Raphaelites
I just don't really like them. They're not bad artists in the way that most modern (or postmodern) junk is and they have to be commended for painting pictures that actually look like what they're supposed to be. But too much of it seems to consist of slightly sulky and unattractive women in period costumes scowling at the artist. I'm not sure that I can quite pin my distaste on something about the pre-Raphaelite philosophy of art, but I suspect that they don't quite 'get' the themes they try and tackle and when they turn their hands at something religious... well, in my opinion the results are not pretty.
The Fiction of JRR Tolkien
This will be controversial - EVERYONE I know loves Tolkien. I'm sorry, the fault is mine. I admit he's great, that he's written wonderful and profoundly religious fiction, I quite enjoyed the films, but I simply cannot get into the 'world' of Tolkien's books and find reading his prose like wading through a bog. (Perhaps the genre doesn't agree with me - the only fantasy novels I've ever enjoyed were the Discworld books.)
In my view - just another Italian city but with flooded streets and not as nice. The Basilica of S.Marco is wonderful, but otherwise Venice leaves me unenthusiastic. There are too many tourists, it's smelly, it's difficult to navigate (and not in a charming medieval city way) and once one has gotten over the novelty of the canals there's not too much else striking about the city. The churches are poorly maintained for such a well-visited city, food is expensive and gondolas are the epitome of tourist-trapness. (How come none of the other Italian cities have sedan chairs?) Is it worth a visit? I suppose so, San Marco is worth the trip and I guess one must see Venice at least once, but it's certainly no Rome and it's not worth the repeat visits that Florence, Siena and Orvieto demand. On my list of places to visit in Italy, I'd even put it below Naples.
I don't understand why. Okay... dogs are good companionship, cats are sleek and various other smaller pets are 'cute'. I can appreciate that. Animals are nice - but I honestly think that unless you're using them to keep vermin down, herd sheep or something else that's useful I just don't think that keeping a domestic animal (especially in an urban or suburban context) is worth the hassle of feeding them, keeping them clean, cleaning up after them, etc... I don't hate animals, but are they really worth the bother? (Also, I'm disgusted by people who do gross things like kiss their animals, let themselves be licked, etc... Ewwwwwwwww!)
Hospital/Lawyer/Police Dramas
I don't watch a lot of TV and when I do my tastes tend towards history documentaries and comedy. I have on occasion watched some of the more popular hospital/lawyer/police dramas and whist they're sometimes quite interesting, I don't like it when the focus of the show gets caught up in the personal lives of the characters to the exclusion of medicine/law/crime. Perry Mason was my kind of lawyer show - interesting trials, good plots and some very dramatic acting. And we never got distracted from the legal stuff by Perry's romantic escapades. Now, I'm not saying that these shows should be all 'shop' - but to my mind when a show starts moving the focus away from business to the usual mix of love triangles, blackmail and so-on, to me it's a sign of laziness. If I wanted to spend all my time watching that I'd switch on a soap opera, thank you very much.
Addendum: What nearly made my list of 5
Star Wars, lots of sunshine, personalism, contact lenses
Passing the buck
I'd like to see Enbrethiliel (and Antony), Jamie and the inhabitants of Laodicea do the meme if they'd be so kind.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Pallia and Arms...

I had promised myself that I'd refrain from posting anything further about the Holy Father's Coat of Arms, given the ill-tempered and exaggerated discussions surrounding it. However, everyone seemed puzzled by the addition of the Pallium to the arms and whilst looking through a periodical issued by an Italian archdiocese a number of months ago I discovered that said Archbishop has a Pallium on his arms. That set me searching for a few other examples:

Arms of Mons Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna

Arms of Mons Marra, Archbishop of Messina

Arms of Mons Buoncristiani, Archbishop of Siena

Vote For Yourself Rainbow Dream Ticket

I've been more or less ignoring the elections in the UK, but whilst doing some reading about results coming through in Northern Ireland I came across this report about the Vote For Yourself Rainbow Dream Ticket:
The party political broadcast is a departure from the normal format.
It features musicians in a recording studio jamming to a reggae song with the party leader Rainbow George looking on approvingly.
The chorus of the song, which is aimed at mainstream politicians, goes: We don't want you, we don't need you any more. So we're making you redundant, we're showing you the door."
The party says it stands for fair, peaceful and true policies.
The main points of the its short manifesto are:

Laying foundations upon which model 21st century city states can be created.
Supporting a Lennonesque world free of countries where cities harmonise to provide excellent comfort and entertainment for all to share.
Imagining the beginning of a dreamy rainbow wil be seen to be taking place in Belfast on election day.

That Meme - I agree...

I've not been passed the baton on the latest meme (List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can't really understand the fuss over.), and don't have Lauren's excuse (she's a youngest daughter) stealing it, so rather than do it myself (until it's passed on to me *hint-hint*) I'm confining myself to picking out those things on other people's lists that I'd be inclined to put on my own:
Don Jim Tucker mentions Pop Celebrities. I totally agree - I fail to see the fascination with the private life of 'celebrities' and am very poor at recognising actors. I don't know how many times I've had a conversations like this:
So what do you think of Slye Shady?
Slye Shady, you know Deathcop 5, A Bridge Beyond Yesterday...
-No... I don't think I've seen him in anything.
-Oh, okay... I don't think I've seen her in anything.
You must have - what about Star Jaunt?
Creepfest 13?
*Shakes head*
You must know her - she's dating the Bolivian Polo international Raoul Fernandez. She gave birth to Brad Brannigan's child last year and used to be married to the rapper AK-20.
*Eyes glaze over*
In that vein I don't actually know enough about Micheal Moore to actively dislike him, but like Don Jim I'm puzzled by the whole dancing thing as well - I can waltz just about enough to prevent myself from being a total misfit, but I've never seen the appeal of discoes. Were I Pope, I'd devote my 2nd encylical to declaring most forms of reality television intrinsically evil. Sure, it'd be an abuse of the Magisterium, but...
I'm with Lauren on the whole College Parties/Getting Drunk thing. I'm not a puritan, but I've seen enough people do more than enough stupid/dangerous/nasty/hurtful things whilst under the influence to be sanguine about alcohol abuse. I also hate loud and rowdy parties and large groups of people trying to have 'fun'. I much prefer smaller groups in quiet places (where one doesn't have to shout) making intelligent (or not so intelligent) conversation over a cup of tea/coffee (or something stronger for those who can enjoy in moderation). I also like the fact that Italy offers so many places where one can cheaply and pleasantly dine with friends. I'm not keen on Franciscans either. (I've never seen Pirates of the Carribean and have only the vaguest notion of who Johnny Depp might be.)
The Old Oligarch weighs in against sport and I'm inclined to agree. There are some amateur sports I'd take an interest in and I have a certain (occasionally financial) interest in horse-racing, but otherwise I'm puzzled by their appeal. I also agree with him on the whole Summer issue. Things are just starting to heat up here in Rome and I know that within a couple of weeks I'm going to find the temperature and the sunshine (fair skin!!!) unbearable. It also provokes the worst from a fashion point of view - so many people's choice of clothing ends up crossing the ethical and/or aesthetical line. I find a fresh winter morning bracing, snow is fun, spring and autumn are pleasant, rain clears the air and I'm not averse to a little sunshine. But now that I like in a country where there is a real summer, I've come to the conclusion that I don't like it.