Pope to Italian Cardinal: We're a Team

Press Alleges Conflict Between Conference, Holy See

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI today called the president of the Italian episcopal conference as a sign of the unity that characterizes the Holy See and that national group of prelates.

The papal phone call came in the context of a flurry in the Italian press alleging conflict between the Italian bishops and the Vatican.

The supposed conflict is regarding statements from the bishops’ Avvenire news service about Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — both his personal life and the immigration policies he supports. A Monday interview in the Italian newspaper Il Courier della Sera with Gian Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican’s semi-official daily, L’Osservatore Romano, was in contrast to the Avvenire statements.

Vian restated the decision of the Holy See’s newspaper not to write about Berlusconi’s private life considering that the newspaper is international and is not designed to go into controversies on the Italian political scene.
 
Vian further expressed his opinion that some recent editorials in Avvenire were exaggerated when, for example, one article compared the government’s position on immigration to that of the Italian administration prior to the Holocaust.

Personal

The Pope phoned Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, and affirmed his esteem for the service to the Church rendered by the Italian episcopate, the conference press office reported.

During the phone conversation, “the Holy Father asked for news and opinions on the current situation and expressed esteem, gratitude and appreciation for the work of the Italian episcopal conference and its president,” the statement explained.

In the context of the conflict, the Italian daily Il Giornale — operated by people close to Berlusconi — has made personal accusations against the Avvenire director, Dino Boffo.

No surprise

The phone conversation reiterates a Tuesday statement from Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who affirmed that “attempts to oppose the [Vatican] secretariat of state and the [Italian] episcopal conference are baseless.”

Father Lombardi’s communiqué confirmed that the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, had spoken with Boffo, “expressing his closeness and solidarity.”
 
“Clearly, there is agreement between the Holy See and the Church in Italy, in regard to their respective competencies, and there is frequent contact and profound knowledge and esteem on the part of the cardinal secretary of state and the president of the Italian episcopal conference,” the spokesman affirmed.

“There is no reason for surprise,” Father Lombardi added, “if there are different positions among the various means of communication of the Vatican and of the Catholic world when touching upon topics or debates in Italian society and politics, given their different objectives and their different priorities.”

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