Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Prima dell'Esodo: The Wednesday Mash-Up

As you've seen, the majority of this week's news has been of the Roman flavor... and with good reason.

Even though the heat's already well-surged past the 100 degree mark, Friday's solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul marks the customary beginning of Roman summer and, with it, the exodus of Vatican officials to their summer holidays. A record 51 archbishops will receive the pallium on Friday, 45 of whom will concelebrate Mass with Pope Benedict on the pontiff's 56th anniversary of priestly ordination. Of the group, there are five new metropolitans each from Canada, Mexico, India and Brazil.

As for the rest -- the news, not the archbishops -- here goes:

  • Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley flew to Rome on Monday, where he was reportedly "summoned" for a final review of the impending motu proprio permitting a wider celebration of the Tridentine Mass. Aside from quoting O'Malley's most recent blog post -- in which the prelate wrote of spending this week "attend[ing] some meetings at the Holy See" -- Boston archdiocesan spokesman Terry Donilon declined further comment on his boss's activities. Alongside Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis, the Capuchin cardinal, elevated by Benedict last year, is believed to have been among a group of some 30 visiting bishops given advance copies of the signed final version of the highly-awaited text earlier this afternoon by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB. At long last, "Tridentine Independence Day" is at hand. This Saturday, meanwhile, several reports are that the also long-awaited papal letter to Chinese Catholics will see the light of day. The Pope's own vacation, which won't see him back in Rome until late September, begins on 9 July.
  • Archbishop John Foley's appointment this morning as Pro-Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre is but the tip of the iceberg in the goings-on of the vertici Vaticani -- the "Vatican's heights." Marco Tossati of Turin's La Stampa, who earlier this week echoed these pages' original report of Foley's impending appointment, had the first scoop in late April on the transfer of Archbishop Michael Miller to Vancouver from the #2 job at the Congregation for Catholic Education, which wasn't formally announced until nearly six weeks later. More provocatively, the April report was headlined by murmurs of a bombshell: the potential transfer of Cardinal William Levada from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith back to the States as archbishop of New York. While CDF staffers and others said in its wake that the ink was merely scurrilous scuttlebutt (courtesy of Levada's enemies), the panning-out of the Miller appointment increased the distinct potential of its occurrence, a set of odds abetted by other recent developments. In his pages yesterday, saying that the Grand Inquisitor's trans-Atlantic return was "desired" by both Benedict and his Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Tossati returned to the story, even mentioning a slate of possible successors to lead the former Holy Office: either its current secretary Archbishop Angelo Amato (a Salesian confrere of Bertone, his predecessor in the post), and Cardinals Angelo Scola of Venice or Antonio CaƱizares Llovera of Toledo, the latter of whom is, like Levada, a onetime staffer under the now-Pope... but the only one known in the circles as the "Ratzingerino" -- the "Little Ratzinger." Others tipped to be in contention for Curial posts include Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, with sources rumoring the Canadian primate for the presidency of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Said to be a member of Benedict's "kitchen cabinet," Ouellet led last week's triennial retreat for the US bishops in Albuquerque. As of this minute, the chit-chat also has Amato going to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints -- the final destination of an earlier CDF secretary, Cardinal Alberto Bovone. While that would seem less likely, these days, everything (and anything) is possible. As my Tablet colleague Robert Mickens quoted from an unnamed official's assessment of the state of the buzzmill and its batting average, "I'll believe it when I see it printed in the Bollettino."
  • Last weekend, the British press made much grist over the Holy See's statement that the Pope and now-former Prime Minister Tony Blair had a "franco confronto" on some issues in their private meeting. The loaded term -- which can be rendered as either "frank exchange" or "frank confrontation" -- appeared at first glance to be underscored by a public moment when, as Blair asked about the progress of John Henry Newman's cause for canonization, B16 replied that it seemed "difficult to make miracles in England." (In yet another sign of the times, the quote -- reportedly a papal rehash of a line from Westminster's Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor -- was captured on video and promptly YouTubed by the BBC.) In reaction to the coverage, the Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi SJ took the extraordinary step of penning a letter to the editor, published in today's Times (of London). Saying that the "certain articles" painted "a negative picture of the atmosphere of the meetings that took place," Lombardi wrote that said image "does not reflect what really happened." Accusing the press of "mistranslation of the Italian words 'franco confronto' used in the press release issued by the Vatican press office," the director of the aforementioned Press Office sought to emphasize that, "in reality, the intention was simply to state that it had been an 'open and sincere discussion,' without any acrimonious or hostile overtones." It's been noted that, unlike the Vatican visit of President Bush to Pope Benedict earlier this month, the Holy See issued its formal Blair-Benedict statement only in Italian. Lombardi -- whose year in the job has already encountered its share of rough moments -- might have noted that UK-Vatican relations remain "both healthy and positive," but this latest incident is but further proof that the old adage "an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure" is as true in the world of media as it is in the realm of medicine.
  • And, lastly for now, look for the States to reap yet another share of appointment goodness in the morning..... So they're sayin'. always, stay tuned.