New rows deepen old ruts in Catholic-Jewish relations


Rip Van Winkle famously went to sleep for twenty years and missed the American Revolution. Had he been a modern expert in Catholic-Jewish relations, however, Van Winkle could have awoken from two decades of slumber this week and felt right at home, as long-standing tensions over both Pope Pius XII and the conversion of Jews once again roiled the inter-faith waters.

Taken together, these episodes suggest that for all the progress in Catholic-Jewish ties over the last half-century, the relationship is nonetheless stuck in a couple of ruts that just seem to get deeper over time.

Current events also illustrate another point: Sometimes matters that look like divisions between Jews and Catholics are fueled at least as much by intramural Catholic tensions, with Jews sometimes caught in the crossfire.

Pius XII

Pope Benedict to meet President Obama July 10


tVATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI will welcome U.S. President Barack Obama to the Vatican July 10 for an audience scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

tObama will visit Italy July 8-10 to participate in the Group of Eight summit, a meeting of leaders of the world's wealthiest nations. The meeting will be held in L'Aquila, site of a devastating earthquake in April.

tAfter the G-8 summit, the president and his wife, Michelle, are scheduled to fly to Ghana, arriving late July 10.

tAlthough Pope Benedict usually meets heads of state and government in the morning, the Vatican agreed to host Obama's first visit to the papal palace the evening before he flies to Africa.

tIt is not clear whether Miguel Diaz, a theology professor tapped by Obama to be the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, will be present for the meeting. As of June 23, the Senate hearing for the new ambassador's confirmation was not on the public schedule of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Off radar: Pope's teaching ministry has little media echo



News coverage of Pope Benedict XVI tends to leap from big event to big event, so perhaps it's no surprise that after his Holy Land pilgrimage last month the German pontiff has fallen off the mainstream media radar.

To cite a single but typical example, in the month following the Holy Land trip the New York Times did not report about any of the pope's activities at the Vatican. Even in Italy, coverage of Pope Benedict has fallen off markedly.

The pope is likely to step back into the spotlight when he meets with President Barack Obama and when he issues his encyclical on social justice -- two major events expected in the first half of July.

But then the pope goes on vacation outside of Rome, and re-emerges only at the end of September with a visit to the Czech Republic. He doesn't completely disappear, of course; he continues to give talks and meet with individuals and groups. But the press will take little notice.

Debate continues over publication of JPII's letters

WARSAW, Poland -- A Polish archbishop has urged people with letters from John Paul II not to publish them out of respect for the late pontiff.

t"If such letters are somewhere in the family, let's keep them as a great sacredness, a kind of souvenir. Let's not put them in print," Archbishop Jozef Zycinski of Lublin said.

Commentary: DÌazís theology bodes well for diplomacy


There is a popular Spanish saying that observes, “Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are.” President Obama’s nomination of Miguel Díaz as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See raises key questions about the company the nominee keeps. This interest is piqued by the relatively unknown status of Díaz in political circles, the groundbreaking nomination of the first Hispanic to hold the position and the curious selection of a Catholic theologian. To some the Díaz nomination appears baffling and to others he is the dark horse candidate that no one saw coming.

A new face of Catholicism


National churches don’t have delegates in Rome, so officially nobody’s there to speak for American Catholicism. Informally, however, high-profile Americans in and around the Vatican present faces of the Catholic community in the States, both to Rome and to the wider Catholic world.

In that light, President Barack Obama’s May 27 appointment of Cuban-American theologian Miguel Díaz as ambassador to the Holy See is especially intriguing, because Díaz embodies two currents in American Catholicism heretofore not terribly visible in the Eternal City: its burgeoning Hispanic wing, and its center-left theological guild.

In part because Díaz is not well known outside theological circles, and in part because he doesn’t have a clear record on the hot-button issue of abortion, reaction to the appointment has been fairly muted. As time goes on, however, two baseline readings seem plausible:

  • Díaz could be seen as a deft nod to the diversity of the American church, as well as a potential bridge between Catholicism’s traditional centers in Europe and North America and its emerging voices in the global South.

Tax dispute in Israel may fuel Catholic-Jewish tensions


Relations between the Vatican and Israel experienced yet another hiccup today, with a short-lived attempt by the country's tax authority to seize assets of some church-run institutions. That move, an apparent end-run around long-running negotiations with the Vatican over the tax and legal status of church properties in Israel, was quickly rolled back in the wake of international media attention.

Vicissitudes in Israeli-Vatican relations are closely followed around the world, in large part because of their potential for affecting broader currents in Jewish-Catholic ties.

The aborted seizure of church funds came in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's recent visit to Israel, where the pontiff drew mixed reviews. Some local commentators criticized his May 11 speech at Yad Vashem, the country's main Holocaust memorial, while others were left cold by the pontiff's strong endorsement of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his criticism of Israel's security wall in the West Bank.

Congregation can more easily laicize priests


VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has granted the Congregation for Clergy new powers to dismiss from the priesthood and release from the obligation of celibacy priests who are living with women, who have abandoned their ministry for more than five years or who have engaged in seriously scandalous behavior.

The new powers do not apply to cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by a priest; those cases continue to be subject to special rules and procedures overseen by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity


Editor's note: The following profession of faith and oath of fidelity are to be taken upon assuming an office to be exercised in the name of the church, according to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The following conforms to Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Ad Tuendam Fidem and supercedes the Profession and Oath of 1989.

I, N., with firm faith believe and profess everything that is contained in the Symbol of faith: namely:

John Paul II's beatification reported delayed


VATICAN CITY -- The beatification of Pope John Paul II may be delayed as the Vatican seeks more documentation regarding his almost 27 years as pope, Italian newspapers reported in late May.

According to the newspaper La Stampa, the chief holdup regards hundreds of letters he wrote before and after his election to Wanda Poltawska, a longtime friend and adviser to the pope.

Meanwhile, the newspaper Il Giornale, reported that a commission of theologians meeting in mid-May decided the information contained in the official "positio," or position paper, was not complete enough. In particular, the newspaper cited the fact that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state under Pope John Paul, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, his deputy at the time, had not given testimony in the case.

Neither newspaper quoted any of the commission members by name nor included comments from current officials of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, said June 1 there would be no official comment from the Vatican while the process was under way.



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March 24-April 6, 2017