Monday, June 25, 2007

Tauran Around the City

Word of it arrived last week, but in light of the morning's news, now it can be told.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (third in line in this photo, taken earlier today) spent last weekend in the Big Apple to attend and guest-preach the golden priestly jubilee of an old friend: the Anglican cleric Fr John Andrew, rector-emeritus of Fifth Avenue's church of St Thomas.

For veteran watchers of Lambeth-Vatican relations, Andrew is best known from his service as chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury at the time of Michael Ramsey's historic 1966 visit to Pope Paul VI.

At the close of the visit, following a joint prayer service by the two leaders in St Paul's Outside-the-Walls, Paul told Ramsey to remove his ring, which the pontiff replaced on the primate's finger with his own band as a sign of ecumenical cooperation and fraternal goodwill.

Ramsey wept, and Andrew -- who was in on the surprise -- was later given the ring box, which he kept. The esteemed jubilarian, a member of the Order of the British Empire, has been described as a practitioner of "somewhat of a papal unionist form of Anglicanism." He retired from the rectorship of St Thomas in 1996.

Accompanied on his stops by the Holy See Observer to the UN Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the cardinal's Gotham calendar also included a clerical dinner at the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center's GE Building.

To weightier matters, now president-designate of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Tauran's prior statements on Islam and the situation in the Middle East are worth reviewing.

In late 2003, the cardinal -- who had recently been transferred to the Archives -- spoke heavily in favor of reciprocity, Benedict XVI's favored policy toward the Muslim world, telling the French daily La Croix that "there are too many majority Muslim countries where non-Muslims are second-class citizens." He specifically cited "the extreme case" of Saudi Arabia, where he said "freedom of religion is violated absolutely -- no Christian churches and a ban on celebrating Mass, even in a private home.

"Just like Muslims can build their houses of prayer anywhere in the world," Tauran said, "the faithful of other religions should be able to do so as well," adding that Christians and Muslims faced the "enormous task" of learning to coexist.

Asked by the Italian bishops' daily L'Avvenire in 2002 -- while still serving as the Vatican's "foreign minister -- to articulate the Holy See's position on the then-potential conflict in Iraq, the then-archbishop replied as follows:
To always privilege dialogue; to never isolate a country or a government, so that one can better call back to their duties those who have violated the rules of international law. Obviously one cannot combat an evil with another evil, adding evil to evil. If the international community, drawing its inspiration from international law and in particular the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, were to judge that a recourse to force is opportune and proportionate, it should happen within the framework of the United Nations, after having weighed the consequences for the civilian population of Iraq, not to mention the repercussions that it could have for the countries of the region and world stability; if not, it would simply be the law of the strongest that is imposed. One can legitimately ask if the type of operation that is being considered is an adequate means for bringing true peace to maturity.
Finally, several reports from wire services today continue to remark that, in appointing Tauran to head a dicastery whose outgoing head did double-duty for the last 15 months, the Pope has "restored" the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue or, alternatively, that the council was "abolished" in early 2006 on the transfer of Michael Fitzgerald to Cairo.

The use of both terms is a glaring inaccuracy.

When Cardinal Paul Poupard was tapped to head PCID in addition to his duties at the Pontifical Council for Culture, neither office was suppressed, nor downgraded, nor were the two councils ever merged. With the exception of their presidency, the staffs and officials of both dicasteries remained completely separate of each other, their respective competencies untouched. A similar arrangement at the council level was likewise employed in several instances during the pontificate of John Paul II.