Vatican spokesman: encyclical 'Spe Salvi' cannot be ruled out

Vatican City, Dec.03, 2007 (CINS /CNS) - After Pope Benedict XVI's encyclicals on love and hope, could one on faith be next?

"We're all asking ourselves whether there will be a third encyclical on faith. It cannot be excluded, but it's not yet on the agenda," Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Nov. 30.

The three theological virtues -- faith, hope and love -- are considered the foundation of Christian moral activity. Pope Benedict 's first encyclical was "Deus Caritas Est" ("God Is Love"), and his second was titled "Spe Salvi," which means "saved in hope."

Father Lombardi, speaking at a press conference to present "Spe Salvi," said the pope had surprised his aides earlier in the year when he told them he was writing an encyclical on Christian hope.

The pope was already working on a separate encyclical on social justice issues, but he finished the one on hope first, Father Lombardi said. He worked on the text last spring and summer, doing most of the writing at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome.

"One can see by the style and the writing that this is absolutely and personally his own text," Father Lombardi said.

The encyclical on social justice is expected to come out sometime next year.

At the press conference, Cardinal Georges Cottier, retired papal theologian, said the encyclical posed an important challenge when it asked for a "self-critique of the modern age" and a "self-critique of modern Christianity" on the question of hope.

"In this dialogue Christians, too, in the context of their knowledge and experience, must learn anew in what their hope truly consists, what they have to offer to the world and what they cannot offer," the pope wrote.

Cardinal Cottier said this section zeroed in on the pastoral and cultural purpose of the encyclical, because it examined the essential relationship between Christian hope and the wider society.

Giovanni Maria Vian as the new director of Vatican newspaper - L’Osservatore Romano

The recent naming of Catholic intellectual Giovanni Maria Vian as the new director of L’Osservatore Romano, means the opening of a new era for the Vatican publication, which will include its complete publication online.

L’Osservatore Romano was founded in 1861 at the request of Pope Pius IX in order to give a public voice to the Vatican, just months after the Pontifical states were lost in the wake of Italian unification.

The Vatican daily, which is currently published daily in Italian, has a limited circulation of around 3,000, with only about 1,000 actually sold. The actual impact of the paper is much larger though because it reflects the position of the Vatican on critical issues.

Although the Vatican daily will never be profitable, as it rarely prints ads, Vian has proposed not only creating greater interest in the newspaper but also expanding its readership.

The day after becoming director, Vian instituted a significant change in the format and content of the newspaper: pages two and three, usually full of Italian news, have become international pages, with Italy covered as just another country.

More importantly, the new director has begun providing space for extensive opinion articles by renowned experts addressing such sensitive subjects as the future of the liturgy, the dialogue between faith and culture and the reform of the curia.

One such article by Valentin Miserach Grau, current president of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, criticized the state of liturgical music at the Vatican.

Vian has also allowed international analysts of L’Osservatore Romano to sign their own articles, a decision that has pleased the paper’s editors and motivated them to work harder.

According to Vatican sources, the refurbished newspaper has the support of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

In addition, while editors prepare to publish the complete newspaper online, Vian has begun sending articles out via email to subscribers and to the editors of the principal Italian news agencies in Rome.

Although there are currently no plans to make changes to the weekly editions in other languages, sources at L’Osservatore Romano are looking into the possibility of translating these opinion columns into English and Spanish. The idea of publishing some of the articles online that are not normally featured in the weekly editions has also been floated.

Vatican representative in Jerusalem frustrated at Israeli government's behaviour

Rome, Italy, Nov.22, 2007 (CINS/AsiaNews) – And after Msgr. Pietro Sambi’s voicing of  his “disappointment” and “frustration” at the Israeli government’s polices regarding the Holy See and the Catholic Church, its the turn of Msgr. Antonio Franco. The two men are linked by the title of papal representative in Israel, the former holding the post to 2005 the latter the current envoy.  Therefore it has become increasingly difficult to dampen the conviction that this is opinion of Vatican officials, a conviction further supported a recent reference to Msgr. Sambi’s “experience” made by Vatican press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi. Sambi, moreover, was promoted to Washington from Tel Aviv, in short, a key position in international diplomacy.

The two nuncio’s evaluation of Israeli policies appears similar, if somewhat diverse in tone: in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, maser. Franco spoke of “some kind of frustration” at “so long a time to reach [an] agreement”, adding that “feelings of disappointment are natural”. “It’s plain to everyone how much one can trust in Israeli promises!”: Msgr. Sambi, had commented five days ago in reference to the same problem. And he had added “relations between the Holy See and Israel were far better when there was no diplomatic relationship”.

Both nuncio’s are referring to the time spent vainly trying to see commitments upheld.  “December 30 1993 – explained Msgr. Sambi – the Fundamental Accord was signed, beyond the establishment of diplomatic ties, it also set out a juridical accord, signed in 1997 which has never been enacted on Israeli territory, as well as an economic Accord which touched on three key issues: Church property unjustly expropriated or unjustly subjected to misuse; the services the Church provides to the Israeli people, be they Jewish or Palestinian:  fair compensation for a fair service, as is the case with state institutions; the issue of taxes”.

That same day in a declaration regarding the interview with Msgr Sambi on a, Fr. Lombardi affirmed that it “reflects his thoughts and personal experience as a result of years spent in service of the apostolic delegation to Jerusalem and as the Nuncio to Israel. The Holy See – he continued – repeats its hope – already expressed during President Peres’ recent visit to the Holy Father – ‘for a rapid conclusion to the important negotiations which are still ongoing and for a solution of common accord to existing problems”.

The main objective of these three positions, expressed by Vatican officials appears to be focused on obtaining a concrete step forward in the next meeting of the mixed Commission due on December 12th.

The Israeli daily also published the opinion of Rabbi David Rosen on the issue, who is said to have been involved in negotiations on the Accord 14 years ago and is in charge of interfaith relations at the American Jewish Committee. “The Vatican is showing remarkable patience and understanding regarding commitments made by the State of Israel in the Fundamental Agreement, which were to be resolved within two years but which have still not been resolved”. Rosen adds that this “patience” is a sign of the Vatican’s commitment to good relations with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

New Vatican document surveys Catholic schools

Vatican City, Nov. 21, 2007 (CINS/CWN) - At a November 20 press conference introducing a new Vatican document on Catholic schools, the prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education said that "a profound malady is affecting the educational world, especially in the West."

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski said that the indications of this malady include rising violence in schools and the breakdown in family life-- pointing out that the latter problem is critical because families "have the prime responsibility for the education of their children."

The Polish cardinal appeared at the November 20 press briefing along with Msgr. Angelo Zani, the undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, to introduce a document on Catholic schools. The 26-page document-- published in Italian, English, French, and Spanish-- is divided into three sections, which address the mission of education, the task of intellectual and spiritual formation of students, and the preparation of young people for commitment to Christian action in the world.

Providing a rundown of the world's Catholic schools, Msgr. Zani told reporters that there are 2.5 million Catholic schools in the world today, with 3.5 million teachers instructing 42 million students.

In some cases, the Vatican official reported, the Catholic schools educate many non-Catholic students, and their mission has an important inter-religious focus. He cited the case of Lebanon, where "the program of Catholic schools has as its principal aim that of leading young people to dialogue and collaboration between Muslims and Christians." Of 210,000 Catholic-school students in Lebanon, 24% are non-Christian.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Msgr. Zani continued, the Sarajevo archdiocese founded 3 inter-religious schools-- welcoming Serbs, Croats, and Muslims without prejudice-- during the height of the ethnic violence in that region. In Morocco, he continued, there are 17 Catholic schools with entirely Muslim student bodies. In Nepal there are 2 such schools.

In the US, Catholic schools have taken on a large share of responsibility for educating ethnic minority groups. About 27% of the students in America's Catholic schools are non-white, while 14% are non-Catholic. 

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, meets Argentina’s political leaders

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov.19,2007 (CINS/totalcatholic) - Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, met with Argentina’s political leaders at the end of his recent trip which saw him beatify the Argentine Mapuche Indian, Ceferino Namuncura.

Argentine President-elect Cristina Fernandez received the Vatican secretary of state alongside her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, in Buenos Aires.

After the meeting, Cardinal Bertone said he hoped Fernandez, who was elected at the end of October with 45 per cent of the votes, would be able to “take the country out of purgatory and elevate it to paradise”.

“The president always says he took his people out of hell and into purgatory. I hope that the future president will be able to take the country even higher, with everyone’s collaboration,” said the cardinal, referring to Kirchner’s well-known claim of having rescued Argentina after the catastrophic economic crisis in 2001.

Fernandez, who will be sworn in December 10 for a four-year term, has suggested she will attempt to mend government-Church relations, which deteriorated dramatically during her husband’s administration.

A few days before being elected, Fernandez spoke out against abortion.

At the meeting with Cardinal Bertone, she also invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit in 2008 to mark the 30th anniversary of the resolution of a territorial dispute between Chile and Argentina over the Beagle Channel on the most southern tip of the continent. The Vatican is credited with averting armed conflict between the neighboring nations by mediating a resolution.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, president of the Argentine bishops' conference, is expected to request a meeting with Fernandez to congratulate her on her election victory, a strong sign of a potential rapprochement.

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