Say “February 22nd” to an American and he’ll reply, “George Washington’s birthday.” Give the same date to someone in Vatican City and he’ll answer “The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter.” You can imagine which commemoration is older, no?
Vatican City is like any small town, only more so. There is lots of gossip, — intense, brief, and eternally generated by the hopes and fears of its residents. Since the chief resident at the moment is Pope Benedict XVI, and since he appears to play his cards very close to his
vest cassock, the speculation is even more severe than usual. For example, Benedict is known for his dislike of bureaucracies and there is reasonable — if trembling — conjecture that he will begin downsizing, consolidating, and reorganizing the myriad of offices which fall under the aegis of the Roman Curia.
Benedict has sprung two recent surprises on his fellow citizens that will be of interest to those who are concerned with the Global War on Terror:
The first is the appointment of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald as nuncio to Egypt and delegate to the Arab League. Not only was the archbishop the most senior of the British religious in the Vatican, he was also its leading expert on Islam. Does this signify a toughening stance by the Catholic Church — i.e., the Pope — vis-à-vis the Muslim world? It may. The situation certainly bears watching.
The second surprise was the Pope’s announcement, on February 22nd, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, of his choice of fifteen new cardinals. Three of these are honorary appointments since those priests are over the age of eighty and thus not eligible to vote in a Papal election.
Of the twelve remaining choices, there is a world-wide spread from Rome to Asia:
1. Archbishop William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;
2. Archbishop Franc Rodé, C.M., Prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life;
3. Archbishop Agostino Vallini, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura;
4. Archbishop Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino of Caracas, Venezuela;
5. Archbishop Gaudencio B. Rosales of Manila, the Philippines;
6. Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, France;
7. Archbishop Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain;
8. Archbishop Nicholas Cheong-Jin-suk of Seoul, Korea;
9. Archbishop Sean Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., of Boston, U.S.A.;
10. Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland.
11. Archbishop Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, Italy;
12. Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, S.D.B., of Hong Kong, China.
Notice that last name: Bishop Zen. As Eamonn Fitzgerald points out:
Most underreported story of the week? Pope Benedict’s naming of 15 new cardinals. It’s not the fact that 12 of the 15 are under 80 and therefore eligible to vote for the next pope that was newsworthy; it was his choice of Bishop Joseph Zen of Hong Kong that deserved headlines. Adherents of conventional diplomatic wisdom would have regarded the promotion as impossible because Zen’s outspoken opinions on Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong, democracy, human rights and religious freedom have angered the communist Chinese authorities. You see, conventional diplomatic wisdom says that the Vatican’s desire for better relations with Beijing is so strong that nothing will be allowed to derail the train. So much for that theory.
And then he quotes The Telegraph approvingly:
The choice will hardly please Beijing but the Pope has rightly decided that the Church’s mission should not be sacrificed to a dialogue whose successful conclusion is far from sure, particularly as far as a Vatican say in the appointment of Chinese bishops is concerned. Hong Kong can take renewed pride in its courageous pastor. And Benedict’s stature has been enhanced.
I think this Pope is a keeper. How about you?
If you want to read more on Zen’s background and career in the Church in China, go here.
Meanwhile, keep your eye on Benedict XVI. For example, why do you think he chose Australia for his Youth Pilgrimage to be held on Palm Sunday this year? Go ahead, pretend you’re from Vatican City and speculate, gossip, theorize…