Last year, veteran Italian journalist Massimo Franco published a book about what he sees as the Vatican’s declining international relevance. Its opening chapter was titled “The Last Ambassador,” and featured a diplomat from a major Western nation who compared his situation, representing his government to the Vatican today, to that of the final ambassadors to the soon-to-disappear Republic of Venice in 1797.
VATICAN CITY -- The head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X said a "doctrinal preamble" presented by the Vatican needs changes before it can be accepted as the basis for the group's reconciliation.
The statement by Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the society, appeared to hold out hope for further discussions with the Vatican, but it was unclear whether the Vatican would be willing to revisit the text.
"It is true that this doctrinal preamble cannot receive our endorsement, although leeway has been allowed for a 'legitimate discussion' about certain points of the (Second Vatican) Council. What is the extent of this leeway?" Bishop Fellay said in an interview posted on the society's website Nov. 29.
In September, when Bishop Fellay was handed the preamble, the Vatican did not publish the document but said it "states some doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine necessary to guarantee fidelity" to the formal teaching of the church.
BERLIN -- Just because the pope gets to ride in the popemobile doesn't give him license not to wear a seat belt.
So says an unnamed German man who filed charges against Pope Benedict XVI for allegedly failing to use a seat belt while touring Germany on an official visit in September.
Attorney Christian Sundermann confirmed that the complaint was filed with authorities in Freiburg, the southern German city that was Benedict's last stop during his German visit, according to the newspaper Der Westen.
The unnamed plaintiff, from Dortmund, argues that the pope was seen several times during the visit without a seat belt. The complaint offers several eyewitnesses, including the archbishop of Freiburg, the head of the German Conference of Bishops and the premier of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where Freiburg sits.
The complaint refers to a "Mr. Joseph Ratzinger" -- the German-born pope's given name -- and sightings of him on Sept. 24 and 25 riding in a vehicle without a seat belt "for more than an hour."
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI urged international leaders to reach a credible agreement on climate change, keeping in mind the needs of the poor and of future generations.
The pope made the remarks at his noon blessing at the Vatican Nov. 27, the day before officials from 194 countries were to begin meeting in Durban, South Africa, to discuss the next steps in reducing greenhouse gases and stopping global temperatures from rising.
"I hope that all members of the international community can agree on a responsible, credible and supportive response to this worrisome and complex phenomenon, keeping in mind the needs of the poorest populations and of future generations," the pope said.
The meeting, which runs until Dec. 9, is the latest in a series to consider follow-up action to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which obligated industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a specific amount. The Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012, and the Durban encounter is considered crucial in forging an additional commitment period.
VATICAN CITY -- Cardinal Bernard F. Law, former archbishop of Boston, has been replaced as archpriest of the Rome Basilica of St. Mary Major, the Vatican announced.
COTONOU, BENIN -- NCR senior correspondent John L. Allen Jr. traveled with the pope in Benin. Below are a list of stories he filed.
Vatican documents on matters of social justice, unlike their counterparts on sexual matters, generally land at the bottom of news budgets, marginalized as esoteric and idealistic with little hope of achieving relevance in the real world.
So it was good fortune, or misfortune, depending on one’s point of view, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace happened to release its call for reform of the global financial system at a time of intense anxiety over global economics and as the Occupy Wall Street movement was spreading from city to city (see story).
The Vatican, often woefully inept at achieving timeliness and relevance, was, intentionally or not, dead on the mark in this instance. This document had relevance on arrival and a made-to-order news hook. Who could resist a Vatican call for overturning the era’s financial order?
The reactions were immediate, with those disposed to view American capitalism as an adjunct to American Catholicism strongly opposed. In those quarters, the document was dismissed as an insignificant piece from an insignificant Vatican office.
VATICAN CITY -- A Pakistani government official met with Pope Benedict XVI after his general audience to discuss "the expectations and hopes of Christians" in Pakistan, according to Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency.
At the brief meeting Nov. 16, Akram Masih Gill, the minister of state for national harmony, said he asked the pope "to pray for the faithful Pakistanis who, during the difficulties they encounter every day, trust in his support."
Gill, a practicing Catholic, was named in August to head the ministry that deals with interfaith relations and minority affairs in Pakistan. His predecessor, Shahbaz Bhatti, also a Catholic, was assassinated last March.
During his visit to Rome, Gill met with Bishop Enrico Dal Covolo, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, and established a joint project between the university and the Pakistani government agency to promote harmony and dialogues between different faith groups, Fides reported.
The project envisions the exchange of professors, students and books, as well as the joint organization of conferences on issues like dialogue between faiths and religious harmony.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The Springfield Diocese has been informed that the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican's highest tribunal, has upheld the diocese's decision to suppress and close three parishes.
According to a Nov. 10 press release issued by the diocese, the upholding of the parish closings "is a definitive finding which supports the actions of the diocese, thus removing any possibility for their restoration as parishes."
The three parishes in the western Massachusetts diocese involved in the final ruling are: St. Stanislaus Kostka in Adams and St. George and St. Patrick in Chicopee. The decision affirmed merging St. Stanislaus Kostka with Pope John Paul the Great Parish, and St. George and St. Patrick with Holy Name of Jesus.
It also affirms a ruling made earlier this year by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy that upheld the parish mergers.
In the same action, the press release said, the Vatican court indicated the diocese had not yet provided sufficient cause to use the former churches for nonreligious uses, a similar point made by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy in its decision.
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI asked for prayers for his trip to Benin and for those suffering from violence on the African continent.
The pope, addressing pilgrims at his noon blessing Nov. 13, said he was traveling to Benin "in order to strengthen the faith and hope of Christians in Africa."
"I entrust this trip and the inhabitants of this beloved continent to your prayers, especially those who experience insecurity and violence," he said. He prayed that Mary give support to all those working for reconciliation in Africa.
During the Nov. 18-20 visit, the pope planned to unveil a document he wrote as a follow-up to the 2009 Synod of Bishops on Africa. The text synthesizes the synod's conclusions and presents pastoral priorities for the church in Africa.
The pope said the whole point of the synod was to help make Christians "the salt of the earth and the light of the world."
The pope's schedule in Benin included meetings with political authorities and interreligious representatives, an encounter with children, liturgies with Catholics and a Mass to present the post-synodal document.