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A great weekend for affirmative orthodoxy in Prague


Prague, Czech Republic

Pope Benedict XVI’s Sept. 26-28 trip to the Czech Republic in some ways loomed as a potential minefield, given that it’s one of the most secular societies on earth, as well as a land that harbors a traditional animus against both Germans and the Catholic church.

For a one-sentence summary of how things went, here it is: Affirmative orthodoxy is alive and well, and it had a great weekend in Prague.


Healing the schism with traditionalists


From a strictly demographic point of view, one could argue that the intense interest surrounding relations between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X, popularly known as the "Lefebvrites," is terribly exaggerated. Worldwide, the society has a little under 500 priests, roughly the same number as the Diocese of Buffalo. It claims one million faithful, a number impossible to confirm but which, even if true, would represent less than one-tenth of one percent of the global Catholic population.

Yet for a variety of reasons, the Vatican's effort to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again by reconciling with the Lefebvrites carries a significance way out of proportion to those numbers.

Vatican denies ëreform of reformí


Some Italian media reports to the contrary, Vatican officials have denied that any new “reform of the reform” in Catholic liturgy, such as curbing Communion in the hand or having priests face away from the people during Mass, is pending.

A Vatican source speaking on background told NCR, “Especially in the English-speaking world, [Pope Benedict XVI] knows that now is not the time for more upheaval, since we already have the new Roman Missal on the way.”

New US ambassador to Vatican arrives in Rome


The new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, arrived in Rome and said he was eager to help expand the "special relationship" between the United States and the Holy See.

Diaz, a 45-year-old Catholic theologian, arrived with his wife and four children at Rome's Fiumicino airport Aug. 27, six days after he was sworn in as ambassador in Washington. He was expected to present his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI at a ceremony later this summer.

"I look forward to the coming weeks as my family and I put down new roots in Rome. I will be honored to serve President (Barack) Obama and the American people in my new role, and it will be a unique honor to meet his holiness, Pope Benedict XVI," Diaz said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

"I welcome the opportunity to deepen and expand upon the special relationship that has evolved between the United States and the Vatican over the past 25 years of formal diplomatic ties," he said.

Vatican downplays report of planned liturgical reforms


tVATICAN CITY -- A Vatican spokesman downplayed a report that major liturgical reforms are being considered by Pope Benedict XVI.

t"At the moment, there are no institutional proposals for a modification of the liturgical books currently in use," the spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini, said Aug. 24.

tHe was responding to a report that a document with proposed liturgical modifications, including a curb on the practice of receiving Communion in the hand, had been sent to the pope last April by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

tThe article, published by the newspaper Il Giornale, said the document was a first concrete step toward the "reform of the reform" in liturgy planned by Pope Benedict. It said the congregation proposed to promote a greater sense of the sacred in liturgy, recover the use of the Latin language in celebrations, and reformulate introductive parts of the Roman Missal to end abuses and experimentation.

tThe article said the worship congregation had voted on and approved the recommendations almost unanimously during its plenary session last March.

New US ambassador to Vatican sworn in

WASHINGTON -- With a roomful of theologians, college professors and presidents, political activists, leaders of various church organizations, and family and longtime friends looking on, Catholic theologian Miguel Diaz was sworn in as ambassador to the Vatican Aug. 21.

In a brief, invitation-only ceremony in the ornate Benjamin Franklin room at the State Department, Assistant Secretary of State Phil Gordon administered the standard governmental oath of office and supervised as Diaz signed an assortment of official papers.

The process of stepping into the job as ambassador concludes with Diaz's formal presentation of his diplomatic credentials to the Vatican.

Diaz, a professor at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict, both in Minnesota, is the first Hispanic and the first theologian to represent the U.S. at the Vatican. His predecessors have all come to the job with more extensive backgrounds in political activism or diplomacy.

Diaz was active in President Barack Obama's campaign, serving on his board of Catholic advisers and as a campaign representative at times, particularly with Spanish-language news media.

L'OR: Allied govt's did little to stop Holocaust


VATICAN CITY -- In a lengthy article, the Vatican newspaper said the U.S. and British governments had detailed information about the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jews during World War II, but failed to act for many months and even suppressed reports about the extent of the Holocaust.

The newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, contrasted Allied inaction with the quiet efforts undertaken by Pope Pius XII to save as many Jews as possible through clandestine assistance.

The article, published Aug. 13, reviewed historical information in support of an argument frequently made by Vatican experts: While critics have focused on Pope Pius' supposed "silence" on the Holocaust, little attention has been given to documented evidence that the U.S. and British governments ignored or minimized reports of extermination plans.

The article quotes heavily from the diary of Henry Morgenthau Jr., U.S. secretary of the treasury during the war, who said that as early as August 1942 administration officials "knew that the Nazis were planning to exterminate all the Jews of Europe."

Cuban-American confirmed as Vatican ambassador


Catholic theologian Miguel Diaz was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Aug. 4 as the ninth U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

A professor of theology at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., and St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., Diaz is the first Hispanic to serve in the post.

Diaz issued a statement through St. John's University Aug. 5, saying he was grateful to the Senate for its vote and to President Barack Obama "for the confidence he has invested in me."

"I am honored to be given the responsibility of representing the people of the United States to the Holy See," he said in the statement posted on the Web site of St. John's University. "I very much appreciate the support of all those who have reached out to me and to my family with their prayers and best wishes during this process."

He also said he planned to move his family to Rome and present his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI as soon as possible. His wife, Marian, directs Companions on a Journey and CORAD: Heart Speaks to Heart at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University. The couple have four children.

Insiders see Benedict, Obama meeting as a major success


Days after the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and President Obama at the Vatican, Washington insiders are pretty much in agreement: It was a significant success.

Looking back, it's clear the Holy See wanted the meeting. It had been known for some time that the president would be in Italy for the G-8 meeting and the Vatican wanted to take the opportunity to meet with the president.

Benedict had reached out early to Obama. In an unprecedented early move he congratulated the newly elected president shortly after his election rather than waiting for the more usual congratulatory message on the day of the formal inauguration in January. This was soon followed by another unprecedented contact. The president telephoned the pope.

The Holy See currently has a highly respected veteran Vatican diplomat heading its mission to the United States. Archbishop Pietro Sambi was one of the first diplomatic appointments by the pope. He had an excellent relationship with President George W. Bush and the Bush senior White house staff. Sambi is given credit for having managed the successful 2008 visit of the pope to the United States.



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