Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Archbishop Departs

Within the hour, the archbishop of Canterbury concluded his six-day Roman visit with a "Festival Eucharist" of Christ the King celebrated at the high altar of the Dominican Basilica of S. Sabina.

(Our traditionalist friends will be happy to know that the chalice was consecrated "for you and for the many." And, according to an op in attendance, "Santa Sabina's never had music as good" as it was today.)

Held at the traditional site of papal Ash Wednesday, Rowan Williams' Sunday liturgy was the only public event of his swing through the Eternal City not attended by Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's ecumenism czar. Representing the Holy See was Kasper's #2, Bishop Brian Farrell, LC, vested in choir dress. Canadian Fr Donald Bolen, an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity with responsibility for the Reformed churches, proclaimed the Gospel at the Mass after having received the archbishop's blessing.

The liturgy caps a successful six-day swing for the Anglican primate, who marked his first visit to Pope Benedict on Thursday. As he flies back to London, Williams will return to a statement of support from his predecessor, issued in response to recent backgrounded assertions to the contrary,

Writing in today's Telegraph, Lord Carey of Clifton, archbishop of Canterbury from 1990 to 2002, says that it is "completely untrue to claim that I am undermining or working against my successor.

Williams "has my support and my prayers during a very difficult period in the life of the Anglican Church," Carey said, chalking up media speculation to an incomprehension of how "just as Anglican leadership is different from that of the Roman Catholic Church, all Christian ministry is distinct from political leadership."

On-the-ground at the Dominican mothership earlier today but not taking part in the liturgy was the order's master-general, Fr Carlos Azpiroz Costa. Tipped in recent weeks as a front-runner for the vacant top post of the influential Union of Superiors-General -- the umbrella group of men's orders -- the USG instead signaled its deference to the Vatican trend.

Bypassing marquee names such as Azpiroz and the Benedictine abbot-primate Nokter Wolf, the superiors chose the rector major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Fr Pascual Chavez Villanueva, as their new frontman at the election earlier this week. Detroit native Fr Joseph Tobin, superior-general of the Redemptorists, was elected to his second term as USG vice president.

Elected head of his community in April 2002, the ascent of Chavez to the USG's helm fulfills yet another prophecy of Robert Mickens. Predicting the Mexican-born cleric's election in the "Letter from Rome" of this week's edition of The Tablet, Mickens observed in advance of the balloting that the letters "SDB" have become something of a magic word in the new pontificate, as two of Benedict XVI's most trusted lieutenants -- new Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and CDF #2 Archbishop Angelo Amato -- bear the Salesian initials.

Among the confreres, however, the USG head remains eclipsed in clout and prominence by the the successor of Ignatius of Loyola, the father-general of the Society of Jesus. With just over 13 months until the opening of the 35th General Congregation and the provincial councils underway, all approaching the first seamless transition of governance in the Jesuits' long and vaunted history, things on the Black Popewatch are beginning to heat up.

Daniele Colarieti/Catholic Press Photo