Prodding the Pope; Iraq, the U.S. and Rome

A Gentle Nudging by Don Stanislaw

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By Delia Gallagher

ROME, APRIL 29, 2004 ( The week before Easter, the Pope was seated in St. Peter’s Square giving an address to a crowd of young people from parishes around Rome.

At a certain point while talking, the Pope paused to catch his breath and the crowd, as they are wont to do, began chanting, “John Paul II, we love you,” “Viva il Papa!”

The Pope looked up and let them continue.

Cheering and chanting, they waved their banners in the evening twilight.

The Pope continued to watch them, without speaking; the text of his speech was in his hands.

A minute went by, two minutes; still no word from the Pope.

He had not yet finished his talk, and the relaxed faces of the priests seated behind him began to look nervous. They could not see the Pope and did not understand why he was not continuing his speech.

Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope’s private secretary who is always close by, was also seated behind, with a copy of the Holy Father’s speech in his hands.

Don Stanislaw is a man who never interferes with the Pope during his public appearances. But as three minutes turned to four, the concern on the dais was palpable — though not to the crowd, who continued chanting, nor to the Pope who continued watching them.

Finally, Don Stanislaw came forward toward the Pope.

He walked up to the side of his chair and said something; the Pope continued looking straight ahead. Don Stanislaw began to walk away.

“Hmmph!” said the Pope loudly into the microphone. Then a pause.

“They’re telling me I must get on with it!” he said in Italian, to the delight and relief of those watching.

The crowd continued cheering and the Pope continued his speech.

* * *

Staying the Course

The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See sponsored a conference entitled, “Revitalizing International Law to Meet the Challenge of Terrorism,” at the Gregorian University last week.

A few days after the conference I sat down with U.S. Ambassador Jim Nicholson to discuss the conference and the new edition of his book, “USA and the Holy See, The Long Road,” which contains prefaces written by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the former Vatican secretary for relations with states.

I asked Ambassador Nicholson what effect he thinks the conference will have at the Vatican.

“A conference like this plants seeds,” he said, “and transfers information among key people.”

“You have a group of diplomats listening to the dichotomy that was presented: that terrorists are a threat to civil society … one speaker likening them to pirates; that pirates were a common enemy which justified any country that was being victimized by them to take appropriate action against them.

“You heard the French diplomat exercising a great deal of cautionary talk, saying we have to be careful resorting to force against terrorism. We could make things worse; we need to try to do this with dialogue, caution and reason. And the Italian took a middle ground.”

“What seems to us so palpably obvious,” Nicholson said, “some thinkers and change-agents in these allied countries don’t see it that way, even yet.”

I suggested that the Pope himself might be one of those who does not see eye-to-eye with the American administration.

“The first conversation I ever had with the Pope was 9/13/01,” said Ambassador Nicholson, “when he said to me emphatically, ‘This wasn’t just an attack on you,’ meaning the United States, ‘this was an attack on humanity.’ He implied that humanity was going to have to take steps against these people and has been supportive of our efforts against terrorism ever since.”

And his “No to war”?

“That ‘no’ came from the Pope. The Pope did not want this to happen. The Pope grew up in Poland under the Soviet regime and saw that rectified short of violence. So I think he’s reinforced in his view to try to get man to bring about these goals of freedom, justice and dignity, short of having to kill each other to do it.

“If you read the transcript, there is a comma after that ‘no.’ It says ‘war is not always inevitable,’ meaning that sometimes war has to be the option.”

Why, then, did the overwhelming message from the Vatican seem to be against American intervention?

“The media immediately took off down the wrong road. There were members of the Curia that did as well. In fact, there was one member who, when asked if there were any conditions, albeit hypothetical, under which the United States would be justified in going into Iraq and he said, ‘Absolutely not.’ That’s the voice of a pacifist, and the Pope is not a pacifist.”

The ambassador cited Cardinal Tauran, the former Vatican secretary for relations with states, who stated at the presentation of the book that regarding Iraq, the United States and the Holy See agreed on the ends, though not the means.

I suggested that that is a big disagreement, considering that the means was war.

“When we have a problem as Americans, we set about to solve it,” Nicholson responded.

By invading Iraq, did we solve the problems of 9/11? I asked.

“What 9/11 did was wake up a sleeping giant about our vulnerabilities writ large and our vulnerabilities to terrorists with the means to destabilize civil society such as ours,” the ambassador said.

“All the training and bases that have been going on for years that we knew about but there wasn’t much action being taken,” he added. “The action being taken was juridical, legal not military. So the validity and linkage of all this and Iraq is still being unfolded. We don’t know all the answers yet.”

Regarding the continuing violence in Iraq, Ambassador Nicholson said:

“What we’re seeing in Iraq is what you might expect to see in a country that was so ruthlessly controlled for so long and you begin to reattach people to freedom in a country that has real sharp intra-Islamic dichotomy: Shiite and Sunni, and the external terrorists who do not want to see in the Middle East a new country emerge with new freedoms for people and self-government and they’re fighting mightily to prevent that.”

The ambassador summed up the support for American intervention in Iraq with two anecdotes.

“When the Chaldean patriarch in Iraq came to Rome in January, he came to see me at our invitation,” Nicholson said. “The first thing he said to me coming up the steps of our residence was ‘Thanks for coming to my country and freeing my people.’

“And when Vice President Cheney was here in January and went to see the Pope and Cardinal Sodano, Cardinal Sodano expressed the sympathy of the Holy See to him and to the American people for the then 500 men and women who had been killed in Iraq and said, ‘We consider them to have been workers for peace.'”

* * *

Cardinal Ratzinger on the Liturgy

At the same time as “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” the Vatican’s new document on the liturgy, has been released, a new book on the liturgy with an introduction by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is being published.

The book is the English translation of a German-language book by Oratorian Uwe Michael Lang, entitled “Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer” (Ignatius Press).

The cardinal’s introduction (written in 2003 for the German-language edition) deals mainly with the orientation of the priest toward the people during the Mass, which is the book’s topic.

He quotes a 2000 clarification from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, regarding whether there is an obligation that a priest celebrate Mass facing the people (there is not).

In referring to this debate, however, the cardinal makes some points that might assist in the reception of “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” which should not, according to Archbishop Angelo Amato, the secretary of th
e Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “remain as immediate news that communicates and informs, but become an ecclesial event of communion and formation.”

Below is a short excerpt from Cardinal Ratzinger’s introduction, the full content of which can also be found in the March issue of 30 Days magazine.

“The physical orientation, the Congregation [of Divine Worship] says, must be distinguished from the spiritual,” Cardinal Ratzinger writes. “Even if a priest celebrates ‘versus populum,’ he should always be oriented ‘versus Deum per Iesum Christum’ [toward God through Jesus Christ].

“Rites, signs, symbols and words can never exhaust the inner reality of the mystery of salvation. For this reason the Congregation [of Divine Worship] warns against one-sided and rigid positions in this debate.

“This is an important clarification. It sheds light on what is relative in the external symbolic forms of the liturgy and resists the fanaticisms that, unfortunately, have not been uncommon in the controversies of the last forty years. At the same time it highlights the internal direction of liturgical action, which can never be expressed in its totality by external forms. This internal direction is the same for priest and people, towards the Lord — towards the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

“The Congregation’s response should thus make for a new, more relaxed discussion, in which we can search for the best ways of putting into practice the mystery of salvation. The quest is to be achieved not by condemning one another, but by carefully listening to each other and, even more importantly, listening to the internal guidance of the liturgy itself. The labeling of positions as ‘preconciliar,’ ‘reactionary’ and ‘conservative’ or as ‘progressive’ and ‘alien to the faith’ achieves nothing; what is needed is a new mutual openness in the search for the best realization of the memorial of Christ.”

* * *

Readers may contact Delia Gallagher at

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