Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Leader in the Telegraph

Quite a decent reflection on what Christmas is really about in the Telegraph's lead editorial:
Here perhaps is something in the Nativity scene that speaks to all, whether they share the Christian faith or not. What can a refugee mother and child in Congo, or Eritrea — or the Holy Land — do today, while wars flow about them? Nothing. The rulers of the world don't look for advice from poor parents who must wrap their children in rags. But then, what could the child Jesus do, even when wise men from abroad came to do him worship? Nothing. He could not even raise his hand to touch their glittering gifts.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Zen on the Chinese Ordinations

Strong words from Cardinal Zen reported in the Telegraph:
The leader of Hong Kong's Roman Catholics has called on the Pope to excommunicate China's state-appointed bishops, as relations between Beijing and the Holy See plunge to new lows.
China's state-run Church has ordained bishops in defiance of Rome, despite negotiations since the death of John-Paul II aimed at restoring diplomatic ties after more than half a century.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop of Hong Kong and one of the Church's key voices on Chinese issues, said that the time had come for the Vatican to take an uncompromising stance.
In the most recent case, at the end of November, the ordination went ahead despite a clear warning from the Holy See that it would be in breach of Canon Law.
"I think people in the underground Church and also in the good part of the official Church don't expect the Holy See to ratify this ordination easily, and they don't expect the Holy See to absolve these bishops from sanctions," he said.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I wish I had my camera... (Or, I assure you I was sober...)

Seen in Piazza Venezia tonight at about 10:30pm: several dozen Santas on rollerblades.

Christmas in...

...Bethlehem for the Christians
Sadly this kind of article is an annual feature:
Fifty-year-old Mr al Soos is the third generation of his family to farm and butcher pigs. His grandfather started the business, selling pork to British troops stationed in Palestine during the 1930s, and its current status as the only pork butchery in the territories makes it a valuable place to gauge the plight of the Holy Land's dwindling Christian minority.
The issue will be in the headlines later this week, when Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, lead a joint delegation to Bethlehem to express solidarity with their beleaguered brethren.
No member of the local Muslim majority would dare enter Mr al Soos's shop, allowing him to be candid in his assessment as he thwacked a cleaver into a wooden chopping board covered with gore.
"It's not as if there is a single thing like this cleaver that cuts us Christians down," he said as he bagged up pork chops for a regular Christian customer. "It's more like a slow, steady pressure, which is slowly killing us off." In the run-up to Christmas, the once large Catholic community could have been expected to buy large amounts of pork for meals and celebrations. This year, he estimated, business was down by two thirds compared with a decade ago.
Bernard Bassil, 50, a water engineer and regular customer at the butchery, likened it to a slow, steady suffocation. "With the problems from the economy where Palestinians don't get any money from the government, there are no jobs to go round. And we know that, if a job becomes available, it will go to a Muslim, not a Christian." He said tension between the Christian minority and Muslim majority is a daily feature of life. It rarely flares into violence or spectacular acts of cruelty, but it steadily corrodes the quality of life enjoyed by Christians.

(Picture of prayers in the Grotto in Bethlehem)
The Japanese have their own take on Christmas:
Get yourself a wonderful boyfriend by Christmas; Best Christmas date spots; Christmas for lovers – the magazine headlines tell the story: all a Japanese girl wants for Christmas is the perfect date.
In a country where less than one per cent of the population is Christian, Christmas has been reinvented as the most romantic time of the year.
For many Japanese women being taken to an expensive restaurant on Christmas Eve is a crucial indicator of success, while having to go shopping with female friends marks one as a "loser dog", the Japanese equivalent of a Bridget Jones singleton.
Hymns and Christmas classics are played everywhere from gymnasiums to neighbourhood shopping streets.
Overtly Christian imagery is widespread and people greet each other with "Merry Christmas" rather than the more politically correct "season's greetings".

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Just one link...

Due to bening unseasonably busy...
Richard Dorment on Angels in Art in the Telegraph.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

'Kosher' Electricity

From the Telegraph:
Fifty years after a rabbinical ruling made it sacrilegious for orthodox Jews to use mains power on the Sabbath, Israel's national grid has come up with a bright idea for the observant: kosher electricity.
The £6 million scheme, announced last week, will light up lives in highly religious neighbourhoods across Israel, where families have traditionally relied on meagre generator power or even spirit lamps on the holiest day of the week.
Now the electricity company will also start producing "kosher electricity", using so-called "Sabbath-goys" to do the work. "We will automate some processes but we will also employ 150 non-Jews to work on the Sabbath," said Elad Sasi, from the Israeli infrastructure ministry.
Mr Sasi said that the official production of kosher electricity would save lives, as the alternative homespun generators cause accidents.
"We have wanted to close these generators for years, because the orthodox don't have a licence to run them and they are dangerous," he said. "Instead of doing it by force, we have come up with a peaceful solution instead." But the £6 million price tag has led to complaints that Israel's orthodox Jews, who are spared otherwise obligatory military service, are being pandered to by the government. In recent weeks the religious community, which makes up almost 10 per cent of Israel's seven million population, has forced a string of leading companies to adopt religious business practices.
Egged, the national bus company, has recently begun to segregate buses by gender on certain routes so as not to offend the strict sensibilities of the religious community.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dear Friend...

It's great to hear from you! We don't have any mutual friends, so I don't hear much about you through others, so it's good to receive a letter from you every now and then. I read your Easter letter with much amusement and dropped you a line over the Summer. I can always count on you to drop me a note at Christmas, and even if circumstances decree that we don't keep in touch much, I know that we can rely on each other's prayers.
This is why it is so frustrating that you send me a Christmas card bringing me up to date on all that's happened to you in recent months, including the fact that you've moved home. Indeed, you've moved country but have neglected to tell me your new address. I certainly sent you a Christmas card along with a newsy letter, but as it was sent to your former address, I have my doubts that it will ever reach you. I can't imagine who I know who might be able to tell me where you live now.

Yours frustratedly,


Friday, December 15, 2006

Shiny thiings...

At the exhibition there were many shiny things to divert me...

Conclave Keys - these keys were used to close the outer doors of an 18th Century Conclave. The Prince Chigi held the hereditary duty of Marshall of the Conclave until Paul VI's reforms in the 1970s. This means that the Chigi family have a collection of keys used at various conclaves in recent centuries.

The Mitre of the Three Popes - This mitre, decorated with a vine representing Christ the True Vine, was given as a gift to Paul VI who never wore it. John Paul I did wear it, as did John Paul II early in his ministry.

Tiara of Bl. Pius IX.

Tiara of Pius XI.

The main exit from the museum in the Lateran Palace. At the bottom of the stairs are three sedan chairs used by Bl. Pius IX, Leo XIII and Bl John XXIII.

Conclave 2005

I mentioned earlier that I went to the excellent Habemus Papam exhibition at the Lateran Palace. There was quite an interesting selection of artefacts from the 2005 conclave.

One of the seals used to secure various parts of the Apostolic Palace during the 2005 Conclave.

This captivated me - it's a large board with 120 numbered holes, and a bag of small numbered balls with the names of Cardindals written on them.
For various 'jobs' inside the conclave (scrutineer, etc...) it is necessary that Cardinals be chosen by lot. Thus, the balls with the Cardinals' names on them were used to allocate these jobs by lot.
The balls also fit into the holes of the numbered board, and this was used to keep track of how many cardinals were present for voting in the Sistine Chapel.

A close-up of some of the balls. One presumes that Ratzinger and Sodano were 1 and 2 being Camerlengo and Vice-Camerlengo respectively.

I don't think I need to explain what the stove's for. I got to touch it! :D (Don't tell the curators...)

Maxwell's Silver Hammer?

Nope... Leo's Golden Hammer. I mentioned last week that there's an interesting exhibtion on at the Lateran Palace at the moment called Habemus Papam dealing with the 'election' of Popes from St Peter to Benedict XVI. Well, I was there this afternoon and can't recommend it highly enough. It has some absolutely astonishing artefacts, including the above - the golden hammer used by the Camerlengo to verify that Pope Leo XIII was dead. (The custom is that the Camerlengo taps the forehead of the deceased Pope and calls him by his baptismal name 3 times before verifiying his death.)

In addition to dealing with conclaves, the exhibition also deals with the development of the Petrine ministry during the ages, and the aboriginal Papal Election when Christ gave Peter the keys. There's a fascinating selection of pieces of art which protray Christ and St Peter, including the above late 4th Century relief.

And for Papal history buffs, this is incredibly cool - this is the letter sent by the Cardinal electors of the 1292-1294 Perugia conclave to the pious hermit Pietro di Murrone asking him to become Pope. He accepted, and as Pope St Celestine V has the distinction of being the only Pope to resign his office; ostensibly for the good of his soul, though there is some evidence that great pressure was placed on him by some unscrupulous Cardinals who found it difficult to cope with a saint in the Chair of Peter.

Day of Penance

Amy reports that Fr Cantalamessa has called for a day of fasting and penance in response to the clerical sex abuse scandals in recent times.
He is not the first person to suggest this, and I must confess that the first time I heard that suggestion my reaction was to think, "I've done nothing wrong, it's those horrendous clerics who should be doing penance!" However, I had an insight recently which has changed my thinking on this.

The Fathers of the Church present Jacob as being a prefiguration of Christ, and one of the ways in which he pre-figures Christ is that scene in Genesis (Gen 27) when Jacob secures the birthright of his brother Esau by covering himself in goatskins, and thereby deceiving his blind father Isaac into thinking he is his hirsuite son Esau. Now, we might have some difficulty associating this act of deception with the redeeming work of Christ. But of some of the patristic authors noted the use of goats in the Old Law as sin offerings, and as symbolising sinners in the New Testament. (c.f. Matt 25, for example) Jacob putting on the goatskins is a foreshadowing of Christ taking on the burden of our sins. Christ became sin, although He was sinless. (c.f. 2 Cor 5:21)

And so it seems to me, a willingness to do penance for the sins of another, without regard for the merits of the one who sinned, is a very powerful way of imitating Christ and conforming our minds to His. Obviously, our penance does not have the redemptive value of Christ's sufferings, but as we form members of His Body the Church, it seems to me that such penance is certainly a participation in the redemptive work which only He can truly accomplish. (c.f. Col 1:24)

We must resist this awful temptation to think that by doing penance of this kind we are somehow getting abominable sinners 'off the hook'. What a horrid way to look at things. We seem to have the impression that what we should desire is that the perpetrators of this vile abuse should be cast into he eternal hellfire. It may well be that their sins warrant that. But that is not what we should ultimately desire for them. Should we not rather be praying that they reached a stage of repentance and conversion? We can never allow ourselves to take the place of the elder brother of the prodigal son who begrudges the mercy shown to our fellow sinners, rather than rejoicing that there is no sin which God can not or will not remit for those who repent and turn back to Him. The tears and prayers of St Monica gave us St Augustine. Should we not cry out to heaven and ask that our penance and sacrifices might have a role in bringing the worst of sinners to repentance?

This is not something novel. St John Vianney would give serious sinners light penances in the confessional and make up for it by his own mortifications. I know more than one holy priest who encourages the lesser sinners amongst their penitents to multiply their penances on behalf of those who come to them with extremely grave sins. Devotion to the Sacred Heart has always included an element of offering prayer and sacrifice in reparation for the sins of others. The Divine Praises were initially introduced as an act of reparation for the sin of that sunny against the Holy Name. Prayer for the holy souls necessarily involves taking on some of the burden of another's sin.

We don't really take the unity of the Church as one Body seriously in this age. Penance in reparation for the sins of clerical sex abuse and as a mark of solidarity with those who suffer because of this abuse would be a powerful reminder that the sins of some members of the Church wound the entire Body. If we are Christians, we will drop any pretence of egotistical individualism and realise that we can't form One Body in Christ if we ask the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
I think Fr Cantalamessa has hit the nail on the head - some demons can only be exorcised by prayer and fasting. (c.f. Mark 9:29)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Very cool discovery in St Paul's

From the Telegraph:
Archaeologists digging to reach the tomb of St Paul have stumbled across a life-size "sketch" of the dome of St Peter's produced by one of its architects in the 16th century.
The excavation of St Paul's tomb at the church of St Paul's Outside-the-Walls in Rome is now complete, and the sarcophagus will be on view from the beginning of next year.
However, three feet below the floor of the enormous church, which is the second-largest in the city, the project's team came across a surprise from the Renaissance.
An architectural drawing of the arches and walls of the dome of St Peter's had been carved into 1,726 marble slabs by Giacomo Della Porta, who took over the design and construction work of the dome after the death of Michelangelo. The slabs had formed the floor of the church at the time.
"It was a complete surprise," said Carlo Visconti, one of the engineers. "It is a curious find, and perhaps we shall think about putting it on view to the pilgrims, tourists and students who will come to see St Paul's tomb."
He added that there was a simple explanation for the drawing. When Michelangelo died, he did not leave behind scale drawings of the dome. Consequently, Della Porta decided to sketch out the cupola in life-size and the only covered place large enough for him to work in was the church. "He needed to do the sketch to work out his calculations," said Giorgio Filippi, an architect at the Vatican.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Original Sin vs Ancestral Sin

Those of us in the West who still care about Original Sin will enjoy this article by Ephrem Hugh Bensusan arguing in favour of the compatabiliuty of the Eastern and Western expressions of this dogma. [Biretta doff: Pontificator]

Ukrainian (Ruthenian) College of St Josephat Cassock

I posted recently on the still extant Scots College Cassock and some time ago on the variety of College soutanes which used to exist in the Eternal City... Well, thanks to an anonymous commenter, we now have a picture of the Ukrainian College Cassock which I thought I had seen about the city, but was unable to find a photo of. Note the blue cassock & the orange sash. [Castor corrects me in my comments box - the sash is yellow nowadays, not orange, reflecting the Ukrainian national colours.] The other cleric has a slightly unusual notched collar, which is sometimes, but not necessarily, assocated with Jesuits.
Anyone got any recent photos of Propaganda Fidei seminarians in their red and black cassocks?
A reader sends this picture of a South American College Seminarian wearing the blue sash of his college dress. One can't see whether his cassock has blue piping.

Dear John,

You're going to have to give me a few more clues. It was very nice of you to send me a Christmas card, but how am I supposed to know which John you are? Do you realise how many Johns there are in my long-tailed extended family? Are you my uncle John, my first cousin John, or one of the several second cousins of mine who bear that moniker?
You sent me a very pretty 'Aid to the Church in Need' Christmas card. Perhaps, therefore, you're one of the several clerical friends I have called John - I don't expect you to sign your Christmas card Msgr John, Canon John or Fr John, but maybe if you included even a partial address on the inside of the card, I could figure out which of you sent me this card.
Or perhaps you're a friend that I spent time studying or working with. The card bears the postcard of quite a large metropolitan area where I lived for a number of years. You are a unique individual, of course, but I must have a dozen or so friends and acquaintances from that city called John. Your handwriting is non-descript and I frankly can't decide which of my 'friends called John' is most likely to have sent me a card so promptly as to reach me in such good time.
So John, whoever you are... be assured that I would reciprocate your seasonal sentiments if I could figure out who you are, but I would appreciate it in future if you could provide even the tiniest hint concerning your identity so that I'm not reduced to dusting your card for fingerprints or DNA testing the postage stamp to establish who you might be.

Coridally yours,
(The one and only) Zadok the Roman

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More De Lubac... (On the liturgy...)

Writing in 1956 on the relationship between the Church's communion and the Eucharist
"O sign of unity, O bond of charity." There is indeed something exalting in a mystery of this kind for him who receives this in a spirit of faith and tries hard to carry it on into his personal life and awareness -- or rather, to carry it out there. Hence the lyricism with which someone like Saint Augustine, for example, speaks of it. Yet we should not let ourselves be mistaken as to its nature. As Simone Weil puts it, "Undoubtedly there is a real intoxication in being a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. But today a great many other mystical bodies which have not Christ for their head, produce an intoxication in their members that to my way of thinking is of the same order." Those lines may serve as a warning for us in their very lack of understanding of the mystery of faith. In the present welcome efforts to bring about the celebration of the liturgy that is more "communal" and more alive, nothing would be more regrettable than a preoccupation with the success achieved by some secular festivals by the combined resources of technical skill and the appeal to man at his lower level. To reflect for a moment on the way in which Christ makes real the unity between us is to see at once that it is not by way of anything resembling mass hysteria, or any sort of occult magic. The faithful do not gather for the commemoration of Christ as an assembly of initiates come to partake of a secret that is to set them apart from the common herd. They are not a mob from which a common personality is to be conjured up by the intensifying of its latent properties, resources, values, and predilections (not to mention its powers of self-deception and even its potentialities of the diabolical kind). The Catholic liturgy is luminous in its very mysteries, balanced and reposeful in its very magnificence; everything in it is ordered, and even that which calls most strongly to our being at the level of the senses comes by its meaning only through faith. Its fruit is joy but the lesson it teaches is one of austerity; the sacrifice that is its centre is "a symbol and representation of the Passion of the Lord", and sacrament of his sacrifice, and the memorial of his death. Through the communion that is its consummation it feeds us on his Cross, and it would be of no value if it did not bring about interior sacrifice in all those who take part in it. The "unanimous life of the Church" is not a natural growth; it is lived through faith; our unity is the fruit of Calvary, and results from the Mass' application to us of the merits of the Passion, with a view to our final redemption.
(The Splendor of the Church, 154-5)

This photo is just asking for a humourous caption...

What could he be burning?

Scots Cassocks

Andrew Cusack shows us a picture of 3 Scots Seminarians in their traditionally colourful cassocks.
As I explained last year seminarians in Rome generally wear plain black cassocks (when the event demands that a cassock be worn - please let's not start debating that!) these days. The North American College apparantly maintain a few of their traditionally coloured cassocks for servers at important liturgies. The Seminarians at Propaganda Fide also retain their distinctive red and black cassocks and, as the photo shows, the Scots retain their purple and crimson cassock.
I once heard a Scotsman explain that they still retained their distinctive colours because a former rector (the typical canny Scot) managed to acquire a huge quanitity of purple cloth at an extremely reduced price several decades ago, and they're still using it. Even if that's not true, it's a story that's worth repeating.

Interesting Exhibition

Habemus Papam
There's an exhibition on these days in the Museum which is located in the Lateran Palace. (Main Entrance: Just to the right of the main facade of the Lateran Basilica).
It's called 'Habemus Papam' and covers the election of Popes from St Peter to Benedict XVI. I haven't been myself yet, but hope to visit shortly.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

S.Maria Maggiore, 8th December 2006

The facade of the Basilica.

Mosaic of Christ. Before the construction of the Baroque Facade and Loggia of Benedictions, these mosaics served as an apse when the square in from of the basilica was used for religious functions.

St Paul

St Peter

Interior of Basilica, prior to solemn vespers.

Pauline/Borghese Chapel - home to the Salus Populi Romani painting, traditionally attributed to St Luke. Pope Pius XII, as Fr Eugenio Pacelli, celebatated his first Mass there in 1899 and attributed the safety of Rome during World War II to the intercession of Our Lady, Salus Populi Romani.
After paying homage to the Immaculata at Piazza di Spagna, the Pope comes to venerate this image in S.Maria Maggiore each 8th December.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fulgens Corona - Pius XII

1. The radiant crown of glory with which the most pure brow of the Virgin Mother was encircled by God, seems to Us to shine more brilliantly, as We recall to mind the day, on which, one hundred years ago, Our Predecessor of happy memory Pius IX, surrounded by a vast retinue of Cardinals and Bishops, with infallible apostolic authority defined, pronounced and solemnly sanctioned "that the doctrine, which holds that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary at the first moment of her conception was, by singular grace and privilege of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the Human race, preserved from all stains of original sin, is revealed by God, and therefore to be firmly and resolutely believed by all the faithful." (Dogmatic bull Ineffabilis Deus, of Dec. 8, 1854.)
7. In the first place, the foundation of this doctrine is to be found in Sacred Scripture, where we are taught that God, Creator of all things, after the sad fall of Adam, addressed the serpent, the tempter and corrupter, in these words, which not a few Fathers, Doctors of the Church and many approved interpreters applied to the Virgin Mother of God: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed" (Gen. III-15). Now, if at any time the Blessed Mary were destitute of Divine grace even for the briefest moment, because of contamination in her conception by the hereditary stain of sin, there would not have come between her and the serpent that perpetual enmity spoken of from earliest tradition down to the time of the solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception, but rather a certain subjection.

8. Moreover, since the same holy Virgin is saluted "full of grace" and "blessed among women" (Luke I. 28, 24), by these words, as Catholic tradition has always interpreted, it is plainly indicated that "by this singular and solemn salutation, otherwise never heard of, it is shown that the Mother of God was the abode of all Divine graces, adorned with all the charisms of the Holy Spirit, yea, the treasury well nigh infinite and abyss inexhaustible of these charisms, so that she was never subjected to the one accursed" (Bull Ineffabilis Deus).

9. This doctrine, unanimously received in the early Church, has been handed down clearly enough by the Fathers, who claimed for the Blessed Virgin such titles as Lily Among Thorns; Land Wholly Intact; Immaculate; Always Blessed; Free From All Contagion Of Sin; Unfading Tree; Fountain Ever Clear; The One And Only Daughter Not Of Death But Of Life; Offspring Not Of Wrath But Of Grace; Unimpaired And Ever Unimpaired; Holy And Stranger To All Stain Of Sin; More Comely Than Comeliness Itself; More Holy Than Sanctity; Alone Holy Who, Excepting God, Is Higher Than All; By Nature More Beautiful, More Graceful And More Holy Than The Cherubim And Seraphim Themselves And The Whole Host Of Angels."

Exciting news in the Telegraph

About the tomb of St Paul:
The tomb of St Paul the Apostle has been found under one of Rome's largest churches and the stone coffin will shortly be raised to the surface to allow pilgrims to see it.
The remains of St Paul, one of the Christian Church's most important leaders and the supposed author of much of the New Testament, have been hidden under an altar at St Paul Outside-the-Walls for almost 200 years.
"I have no doubt that this is the tomb of St Paul, as revered by Christians in the fourth century," said Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who made the discovery.
Dr Filippi will present the results of his scientific tests on the remains of the saint on Monday at the Vatican. St Paul's sarcophagus was found after five years of extensive excavations at the church, which is second only in size to St Peter's in Rome. Dr Filippi began looking for the tomb at the request of Archbishop Francesco Gioia, within whose jurisdiction the church falls.
In 2000, the Archbishop was inundated with queries from pilgrims about the whereabouts of the saint. The same requests have persuaded the Vatican that there is enough demand from tourists to warrant raising the sarcophagus to the surface so that it can be viewed properly.
"We wanted to bring it to the light for devotional reasons so it can be venerated," said Dr Filippi.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ordination Pics - The Pontificator...

Pontificator has posted his ordination pictures. Congratulations! There's an interesting contrast between the sobriety of Advent's purple and the joy of ordination.

News of St Paul's tomb?

There's going to be a press conference on Monday, December 11th to announce details of the works done on the sacrophagus of St Paul at St Paul's Outside the Walls.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Churches of Rome Wiki...

A wiki is a type of online reference book which the readers can edit. I've just stumbled across this interesting Churches of Rome Wiki which focuses on the churches of this fair city.

Fascinating archeological discovery...

From the Telegraph:
Archaeologists claimed yesterday to have uncovered one of the world's first churches, built on a site believed to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant.
The site, emerging from the soil in a few acres in the hills of the Israeli occupied West Bank, is richly decorated with brightly coloured mosaics and inscriptions referring to Jesus Christ.
According to the team, led by Yitzhak Magen and Yevgeny Aharonovitch, the church dates to the late 4th century, making it one of Christianity's first formal places of worship.
"I can't say for sure at the moment that it's the very first church," said Mr Aharonovitch, 38, as he oversaw a team carrying out the final excavations before winter yesterday. "But it's certainly one of the first." He said the site contained an extremely unusual inscription which referred to itself, Shiloh, by name.
"That is very rare and shows early Christians treated this as an ancient, holy place," said Mr Aharonovitch. According to the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the two tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, was kept by the Israelites at Shiloh for several hundred years.

But there's a catch:
The team at Shiloh is considering whether to dig under the beautiful mosaics that they have uncovered, in order to find traces of the Ark. "We have to decide whether to fix the mosaics here or take them to a museum," said Mr Aharonovitch.
Jewish residents in the modern settlement of Shiloh, which sits on a hill amidst Palestinian villages, want the team to keep digging.
David Rubin, a former mayor of Shiloh, said: "We believe that if they continue to dig they'll reach back to the time of the Tabernacle," referring to the portable place of worship where the Israelites housed the Ark.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor

Via Antonia, some plain common sense from the Archbishop of Westminster.
ANDREW MARR: OK. Let me turn to what the Prime Minister said, on the subject of condoms. Because World Aids Day coming up and the United Nations have produced some pretty horrific figures about the number of people infected with HIV. Is there any chance that the Catholic Church is going to move its teaching a little bit, at least to the use of condoms inside marriage where, for instance, one of the partners is already HIV positive?

CARDINAL CORMAC: Before I answer that question can I say this, that over a quarter, worldwide, but especially in Africa, over a quarter of healthcare particularly for Aids victims, is given by the Catholic Church and its agencies.

Now that's very important. And let me also say that the way to combat Aids is primarily, as everybody should know, you know, behavioural change, monogamous partnerships between a man and a woman. And...

ANDREW MARR: But out there in the real world as you very well know, that's not how many people behave and condoms do stop people getting Aids.

CARDINAL CORMAC: Well I'll say two things. The Pope has had a vast report on the particular case that you mention within a very restrictive area of marriage. But I have to say, the pouring the Prime Minister has said, you know, in the...

ANDREW MARR: ...face up to reality.

CARDINAL CORMAC: ...he's also saying I've got to give more and more aid including more condoms into Africa. You know, I think what I'd like to say to the Prime Minister, it'd be much better if we used that money to provide more anti-retroviral drugs, medicines, for the millions of children and women who are affected. Now ..

ANDREW MARR: Where are you going to use your money?

CARDINAL CORMAC: I mean I speak to bishops in Africa and they told me, they told me that their dioceses are flooded with condoms and they said, and I asked them, well has it affected, said well, sad to say it's meant more promiscuity, and more Aids.

So I think you've got to look at this I think within the whole context of the African culture.

ANDREW MARR: Any rethinking though going on inside the church on this?

CARDINAL CORMAC: Well, as I've said, in a particular restrictive case, I think Pope Benedict asked for a report. But in general I think that the church stands by what it says.

On Slogans

An interesting report from the Telegraph:
When the German car-maker Audi wanted to promote its vehicles, its "Vorsprung durch Technik" slogan became one of the best-known lines in advertising.
But although overseas admirers of Teutonic engineering grasped the point of the "progress through technology" sales pitch, the English catchphrases deployed to push cars and clothes back at the Germans have merely confused them.
The average German's grasp of English may be competent, but campaigns such as the Jaguar's "Life by Gorgeous" are met with bafflement.
The study, by the Cologne agency Endmark, asked Germans aged 14 to 49 to translate 12 common English slogans that appeared on billboards locally. Around two thirds of those surveyed did not properly understand what was being said.
Bernd Samland, the head of Endmark, said: "Advertising experts sometimes disregard the cultural differences and push for the 'One World, One Brand, One Claim' motto.
"But our study shows that the message often simply does not get across."
Mr Samland quoted a slogan advertising Beck's beer, "Welcome to the Beck's experience", which fewer than one in five understood. Most thought the message meant "Welcome to Beck's experiment". Mr Samland added: "It's not purely a matter of not understanding English, as the age groups chosen were those most likely to have sufficient command of the language."
This demonstrates an interesting linguistic point... If one is not a native speaker of a language, then context becomes very important in understanding the meaning of a text. Advertising slogans of just a few words are therefore surprisingly difficult to translate. I'm a fairly competent reader of Italian, and will happily trawl through pages of theology in Italian. However, pithy advertising slogans cause me much more difficulty because there isn't the same amount of context around them - not understanding a single word or misreading the tense of a verb doesn't make much difference in a theological treatise because the surrounding sentences provide the context that supplies the meaning of the word, or corrects the inital misreading. One doesn't get that with a short slogan of a few words, and not getting the meaning of each and every word leaves one stranded.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

More postively, ordinations-wise...

Best wishes to Pontificator as he prepares for ordination on the 1st Sunday of Advent. Ad multos annos!

On the Chinese Episcopal Ordinations...

There's quite a forthright press release from the Vatican about the latest illegtimate Episcopal Ordinations in China. My rough translation:
Communication Concerning the Illegitimate Episcopal Ordination at Xuzhou (Continental China)
The Holy See feels obliged to make known its position concerning the Episcopal ordination of the priest Giovanni Wang Renlei which took place Thursday 30 November in Xuzhou, in the province of Jiangsu (Continental China).
1. The Holy Father received the news with much sorrow because the said episcopal ordination was conferred without pontifical mandate, that is without respecting the discipline of the Catholic Church regarding the nomination of bishops. (cf CIC 377, 1)
2.This ordination is the latest one of the illegal Episcopal ordinations which have tormented the Catholic Church in China for decades, creating divisions in day as communities and tormenting the consciences of many clerics and laypeople. This series of extremely greve acts, which offends the religious sentiments of every Catholic in China and in the rest of the world, is the fruit and consequence of a vision of the Church which does not correspond to Catholic doctrine and subverts fundamental principles of her hierarchical structure. Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council makes clear, "one is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the Head and members of the body." (Lumen Gentium 22)
3. The Holy See, becoming aware at the last moment of the planned Episcopal ordination, did not neglect to take those steps possible in that brief period of time available to prevent an act which would produce a new laceration of ecclesial communion. Indeed, an illegitimate Episcopal ordination is an act so objectively grave that Canon Law lays down severe sanctions for those who confer and receive it, assuming that the act was completed in conditions of true freedom. (c.f. CIC 1382)
4. It is consoling to note that, despite past and present difficulties, almost the entirety of bishops, priests, religious and lay people in China, aware of being living members of the universal Church, have maintained a deep communion of faith and life with the Successor of Peter and with all the Catholic communities all over the world.
5. The Holy See is aware of the spiritual drama and of the suffering of those ecclesiastics - consecrating bishops and ordinands - will find themselves forced to take an active part in the illegitimate Episcopal ordinations, contravening in this way the Catholic tradition which in their hearts they wish to follow faithfully. It shares in the interior disturbance of those Catholics - priests, religious and laity - who see themselves obliged to welcome a pastor whom they know to be not in full hierarchical communion with neither the Head of the College of Bishops nor with the other bishops throughout the world.
6. Concerning Episcopal ordinations, the Holy See cannot accept being placed before already accomplished facts. Therefore, it deplores the manner in which the ordination of the priest Wang Renlei went ahead in Xuzhou, and hopes that events of this kind will not repeat themselves in the future.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Found in the Sacristy...

I stumbled across the following two posts at the blog of the Roman Sacristan whom I'd not visited before...
First, some nice photos of the Church of SS. John & Paul which (coincidentally) I visited earlier today.
And also this amazing link to an 8.6 GIGApixel image of Ferrari's Life of Christ in the church of S.Maria delle Grazie in Florence. The detail is amazing...
Some of the things that struck me:
The contrast between the Good Thief (his soul being taken to heaven) and the Bad Thief (being tortured by demons) in the Crucifixion scene.
Our Lady's swoon in the same scene. (Birth pangs?)
The angels playing music in the cave in Bethlehem.
The relief of the Laocoon in Pilate's palace - anyone want to expound on the intended symbolism?

Greek Royals & the Family Silver

From the Telegraph:
The Greek royal family in exile, stripped of almost all of its property after a coup in 1967, is to sell silverware and other heirlooms rescued from one of its palaces in the hope of raising at least £2 million.
The treasures will be auctioned in London in January, Christie's announced yesterday.
The property is formally described as coming from the collection of King George I of the Hellenes, modern Greece's first monarch, who reigned from 1863 to 1913. But the vendor, who refuses to be named, is almost certainly the deposed King Constantine II of Greece, who has lived in London in relatively straitened circumstances for more than 30 years.
The sale is the first public auction of Greek royal property since the monarchy was abolished in 1974. It is to comprise 850 lots, mostly silver, but also exquisite Fabergé ornaments, furniture, jade and paintings.
Constantine, a cousin of Prince Philip and godfather to Prince William, was allowed to remove the objects – many of them gifts to George I from inter-related European royal families – from his favourite palace, Tatoi, in 1991 during a brief thaw in his long-running legal battles with successive Greek governments.
onstantine, now 66, left Greece in 1967 with his family and little more than the clothes they were wearing. His counter-coup against a group of republican army colonels who had seized power failed and the royal family fled to Rome, moving to London in the early 1970s. He was stripped of his crown in 1974.
Successive Greek governments have resisted demands to return royal estates and property to him and it has long been a mystery how he supported himself, his wife, the ex-Queen, Anne-Marie of Denmark, and their five children in England. It is not known whether he moved money out of Greece in the run-up to the coup and it has been commonly assumed that he has lived off gifts from Greek monarchists and the English royal family, to whom he is close.
Small items of silver – sauce boats, salt-cellars and entrée dishes – are priced as low as £100. A total of 264 silver plates from the royal banqueting service will be sold in sets of 12 with estimates of £4,000-£6,000.
The most expensive silver is a pair of giant pilgrim flasks (estimate £80,000-£120,000), made by Garrard in London in 1866 and given to Christian IX of Denmark by the British royal family.
The single most expensive item is an early 20th-century gold-mounted Fabergé clock with an estimate up to £250,000. Constantine's collection contains another 100 pieces of Fabergé, including an egg, boxes and miniature animals.