Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More from France... and the French

As tributes to Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger continue to flood in from ecumenical, political and every other kind of leader in France and around the world, it's been announced that the papal legate to (and chief celebrant of) the Parisian prelate's Friday funeral will be another of the Curia's French princes: Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Before his ordination as an auxiliary of Paris in 1979, Poupard served a decade as rector of the city's famed Institut Catholique.

Last night's memorial Mass for the cardinal, celebrated by his successor Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois, drew the former President of the Republic Jacques Chirac and the former Polish President Lech Walesa, according to La Croix.

Yet while one French cardinal is being prepared to lie in state, and another to lead his farewell, Rome's remaining two chapeaux rouges are keeping quite an active August.

Technically retired, the Cardinal Vice-Dean Roger Etchegaray continues serving as an informal legate at the Pope's behest. Earlier today, the veteran Vatican hand, who turns 85 next month, came even closer to securing B16 one of the pontiff's A-list wishes -- a meeting with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II:
The sides are progressing towards this goal, and the pace is accelerating, but the Roman Church cannot make it happen quicker, [Etchegaray] said.

The Patriarch and the Pope are thinking about this meeting, but it must be held in truth and sincerity, it should not be populist and should be held when the conditions have been created for it, he said.

Orthodox believers and Catholics should hold a profound dialogue and the meeting between the Pope and Alexy II should express the profoundness of these relations, he said.

Alexy II recognizes that many efforts have been made to improve interaction between the two churches, he said.

The relations between the two churches have become warmer, yet they have never been cold. Personal relations with the Patriarch are a good example for interaction between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, he said.
On a related note, in further token of Moscow's increasing warmth toward Rome, the Russian Orthodox will be holding a symposium in the fall on -- what else? -- Benedict's first encyclical, Deus caritas est.

Meanwhile, as he prepares to take the reins of the church's liaisons with the Muslim world as head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran offered an assessment of the Iraq occupation, touching particularly on the state of Iraqi Christians:
During the buildup to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Tauran... had criticized the U.S. government's plan of preventative war and said a unilateral war against Iraq would be a "crime against peace."

In a recent interview with the Italian magazine 30 Giorni, the cardinal said his early criticisms had been prophetic.

"The facts speak for themselves. Alienating the international community (with the U.S. push for war) was a mistake," he said in the magazine's Aug. 10 issue. A copy of the interview was released in advance to journalists.

He said an "unjust approach" was used to unseat Saddam from power, resulting in the mounting chaos in Iraq today.

"Power is in the hands of the strongest -- the Shiites -- and the country is sinking into a sectarian civil war (between Sunni and Shiite Muslims) in which not even Christians are spared," he said.

Christians, "paradoxically, were more protected under [Saddam's] dictatorship," he said....

Tauran told 30 Giorni, "We have to do everything so that religions spread brotherhood and not hatred."

The Vatican's efforts at bridge-building with Muslims hit a speed bump when the pope's remarks on Islam in a September speech in Regensburg, Germany, prompted negative reactions across the Muslim world.

When asked if the pope's Regensberg address had compromised the Vatican's dialogue efforts with Muslims, the cardinal replied, "At first, yes."

"But later, especially during his subsequent trip to Turkey, the pope explained himself very well," the cardinal said.

He said Pope Benedict has great respect for Muslims.

The controversies that arose after Regensburg only highlighted the importance of having a specific Vatican department dedicated to dialogue with Islam and other religions, he said.

"Thank God the erroneous interpretations of the Regensburg speech did not stop the development of relations -- diplomatic, too -- with Islamic nations," he said, giving the example of the recent establishment of full diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and the Vatican.

Interreligious dialogue should not promote the idea that all religions are equal, he said, but that all religions "which are seeking God must be respected because they have the same dignity."

Archdiocese of Paris