Friday, 20 February 2009



The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel met yesterday, 18 February, at the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, to continue negotiations on the "Economic Agreement" concerning fiscal and property matters, according to a communique released today.
"The meeting was characterised by great cordiality and a spirit of co-operation. Progress was achieved, and the delegations renewed their joint commitment to conclude the Agreement as soon as possible. The next meeting of this working-level commission will take place on 7 April".


VATICAN CITY, 19 FEB 2009 ( VIS ) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique late this morning:
"This morning His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI received in audience Gordon Brown, prime minister of the United Kingdom who, along with the other members of his entourage, then met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
"The cordial conversations dealt with the present global economic crisis and the duty to pursue initiatives benefiting the less-developed countries, and to foster co-operation on projects of human promotion, respect for the environment and sustainable development. Hope was expressed for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community in settling ongoing conflicts, particularly in the Middle East . Finally, several bilateral themes were brought up, of interest above all for the Catholic community in the United Kingdom ".

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Benedict XVI and Nancy Pelosi

Were They At The Same Meeting?
By George Weigel
February 18, 2009

From the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:

It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, today. In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church's leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father's dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel. I was proud to show His Holiness a photograph of my family's papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren.

From the Press Office of the Holy See:

Following the General Audience, the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage. His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception until natural death, which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists, and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of development.

Were Benedict XVI and Nancy Pelosi in the same meeting, or even in the same city, this morning?

Charity requires that one concede the possibility that genuine piety was a part of Pelosi's (rather boorish, and certainly irregular) insistence on being given a private moment with the pope during her current taxpayer-funded junket to Rome. But her office's statement on today's meeting makes it clear something else was afoot: that Pelosi, who shamelessly trumpets her "ardent" Catholicism while leading congressional Democrats in a continuing assault on what the Catholic Church regards as the inalienable human rights of the unborn, was trying to recruit Benedict XVI ("Joseph Ratzinger, D., Bavaria"?) to Team Nancy.

His Holiness wasn't buying it.

He told Pelosi, politely but unmistakably, that her relentlessly pro-abortion politics put her in serious difficulties as a Catholic, which was his obligation as a pastor. He also underscored -- for Pelosi, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Barbara Mikulski, Rose DeLauro, Kathleen Sebelius, and everyone else -- that the Church's opposition to the taking of innocent human life, at any stage of the human journey, is not some weird Catholic hocus-pocus; it's a first principle of justice than can be known by reason. It is a "requirement of the natural moral law" -- that is, the moral truths we can know by thinking about what is right and what is wrong -- to defend the inviolability of innocent human life. You don't have to believe in papal primacy to know that; you don't have do believe in seven sacraments, or the episcopal structure of the Church, or the divinity of Christ, to know that. You don't even have to believe in God to know that. You only have to be a morally serious human being, willing to work through a moral argument -- which, of course, means being the kind of person who understands that moral truth cannot be reduced to questions of feminist political correctness or partisan political advantage.

As her performance on Meet the Press prior to last year's Democratic national convention made painfully clear, Pelosi is deeply confused about what her church teaches on the morality of abortion, and why. She may have come to her bizarre views on her own; it's far more likely that she has been un-catechized, so to speak, by Catholic intellectuals and clerics who find Catholic teaching on life issues an embarrassment among their high-minded friends and colleagues of the progressive persuasion. Whatever the source of her confusion, Pelosi has now been informed, and by a world-class intellectual who happens to be the universal pastor of the Catholic Church, that she is, in fact, confused, and that both her spiritual life and her public service are in jeopardy because of that.

Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that Pope Benedict did not have only Pelosi in mind when he said what he had to say about the obligations of moral reason and the duties of statesmanship. President Obama is not a Catholic, but he should understand that he will get the same message if, as expected, he meets with His Holiness later this year.

-- George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

VATICAN CITY, 18 FEB 2009 - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

"Following the general audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage.

"His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in co-operation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development".

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

FIAMC Statement on Obama and Life Issues

"Obama Promised to Be a Force for Positive Change"

ROME, FEB. 17, 2009 - Here is the statement released today by the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations about new threats to human life under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

* * *

The election of Barak Obama as President of the United States marked an important watershed in American history and culture. Running for office in a time marked by economic and geo-political turmoil, Obama promised to be a force for positive change, political reconciliation and effective government. Unfortunately, President Obama has begun his term with actions that will undermine respect for human life, human dignity and religions freedom. We call upon Catholic physicians and health care providers, and all people of good will, to spare no effort in convincing President Obama to reverse these decisions.

During the 2008 campaign, some Catholics and self-identified Catholic advocacy groups endorsed Barak Obama for President based in part on his support for economic justice and foreign policy, and in part on his pledge to try to reduce the number of abortions by increased social spending on support for pregnant women. Yet as a legislator and as a candidate, Obama had taken positions utterly opposed to respect for human life. For example:

-- Obama has long been an advocate of abortion on demand, and has touted his 100% approval rating from Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion in the United States;

-- Obama opposed every limitation on abortion, including laws requiring parental notification and consent before minors could obtain abortions;

-- Shockingly, as a state senator, Obama actively opposed any protections for infants born alive after failed abortion procedures and misrepresented his record on this issue during the 2008 campaign;

-- Finally, during the campaign, Obama proudly proclaimed his support for the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA) -- the most radical expansion of abortion license in the world -- and promised to sign the law as President.

In addition to his unqualified support for abortion, Obama has promised to provide federal funding for stem-cell research that destroys human life at the embryonic stage.

Since taking office, President Obama has engaged in a series of actions that indicate that he is prepared to implement his prior support for abortion.

-- Within the first few days of taking office, Obama overturned the “Mexico City Policy,” a U.S. government policy that denies federal funding to international agencies that promote or perform abortion as a means of birth control;

-- More ominously, when overturning this policy, President Obama indicated his willingness to provide financial support to the United Nations Population Fund, an organization that lost U.S. government funding after it collaborated with the Chinese government’s coercive “one child” population policy.

-- President Obama is filling his Cabinet and Administration positions with supporters of abortion, including Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State (who has long been a proponent of abortion “rights” in the United States and around the world); Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff (who had a 100% voting record with the National Abortion Rights Action League as a member of Congress and a reputation as an aggressive pro-choice politician); Dawn Johnsen, nominee for Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (who was the Legal Director for NARAL and part of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project); Eric Holder, Attorney General (who has been a longtime supporter of abortion “rights”); Melody Barnes, Chair of the Domestic Policy Council (who has been a member of the boards of directors for both Planned Parenthood and Emily's List); Ellen Moran, White House Director of Communications (who is the current executive director of Emily's List); and Thomas Perelli, nominee for Associate Attorney General (who collaborated with pro-euthanasia attorney George Felos to successfully starve Terri Shiavo to death).

-- While he has made no move to encourage the passage of FOCA, many are still concerned that the provisions of FOCA will be added piecemeal to other bills and legislative acts.

-- Finally, President Obama has declared his opposition to the new HHS rule that protects the conscience rights of health care providers. The rule was enacted in the last days of the Bush administration in response to many threats to the conscience rights of physicians, pharmacists and health care providers in the United States.

In light of these actions and appointments, we are issuing an urgent appeal to President Obama to reconsider his support for abortion and research that can succeed only by destroying innocent human life. In addition, we offer our prayers, encouragement and appeals to Catholic physicians in the United States to educate the public and to oppose these efforts to promote abortion. Finally, we appeal to all members of FIAMC to be vigilant in opposing the new threats to human life and dignity that could now come from the Obama administration officials in foreign policy positions and at the United Nations.


Doctors Sound Alarm About Obama

Doctors Urge Fellow Professionals to Educate Public

ROME, FEB. 17, 2009 ( The World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations is sounding an alarm about new threats to human life under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

In a statement released today on the Obama presidency and the culture of life, the health care professionals note that the new president "has begun his term with actions that will undermine respect for human life, human dignity and religions freedom."

The statement recalls the ominous message already sent during Obama's political career and campaign, including his 100% approval rating from Planned Parenthood; his opposition to every limitation on abortion; his support for the Freedom of Choice Act; and "shockingly," his opposition as a senator to "any protections for infants born alive after failed abortion procedures."

The health care officials also noted Obama's promise of support for federal funding for stem cell research that destroys human life.

Now that he is president, the federation statement continued, he has already engaged in "a series of actions that indicate that he is prepared to implement his prior support for abortion."

In this regard, they noted his overturning of the Mexico City policy, which denied federal funding to international agencies that promote or perform abortion as a means of birth control; and his willingness to provide financial support to the United Nations Population Fund, an organization that lost U.S. government funding after it collaborated with the Chinese government's "one child" population policy.

Furthermore, the statement pointed to Obama's choice for pro-abortion staff members, including Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Dawn Johnsen, and many others.

And in a move that particularly touches health care officials, the statement noted the president's opposition to a rule that protects the conscience rights of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care workers.

Thus, the World Federation urged the president to change his support for abortion.

They added: "In addition, we offer our prayers, encouragement and appeals to Catholic physicians in the United States to educate the public and to oppose these efforts to promote abortion.

"Finally, we appeal to all members of [the World Federation] to be vigilant in opposing the new threats to human life and dignity that could now come from the Obama administration officials in foreign policy positions and at the United Nations."


Saturday, 7 February 2009

Rabbi Yehuda Levin on Vatican-Jewish relations

Amid the strains and ructions in Catholic-Jewish relations these past few weeks, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi has been at the Vatican, offering a viable, though less trodden, way to lessen the tensions.

Rabbi Yehuda Levin, spokesman for the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, visited senior curial officials last week to lobby the Church's support in opposing a gay pride march to be held in Jerusalem later this year. He hopes the Vatican and the apostolic nuncio to Israel can help him build a coalition of other religions and denominations to block the march.

A straight-talking, no-nonsense New Yorker, Levin has a missionary's zeal for defending the pro-life cause. Speaking at the Rome offices of Human Life International Jan. 29, he says he firmly believes that when it comes to Jewish-Catholic relations, defending life and the family should supersede controversies such as the denial of the extent of the Holocaust by Lefebvrite bishop, Richard Williamson.

"Our children are being given a case of moral AIDS," says Levin, a father of nine. "I'm not saying there isn't a place for that [discussion over Williamson] but we should be asking ourselves 'What can we do together to save babies and save young children's minds so that they know right and wrong on life and family issues?'"

He gives his full backing to Benedict XVI over the recent controversy. "People who are saying that Pope Benedict is anti-Semitic and insensitive -- that's ridiculous," he says. "He [the Pope] has a decades-long track record of anti-Nazism and sympathy for the Jews." Levin also says he understands what the Pope is trying to do in reaching out to traditionalists as they have some "very important things" to contribute to Catholicism.

"I absolutely support him. Why? Because he understands the big picture, which is that the Catholic Church has a problem with a strong left wing that is doing immeasurable harm to the faith." The Left, Levin says, "are helping to destroy and corrupt the values of the Church and that has a trickle-down effect on every religious community in the world." He points out that a Church of 1.25 billion members cannot be easily ignored. "When you [Catholics] sneeze," he warns, "the rest of us get a cold – we are affected by what happens."

Rabbi Levin also apologises for the reaction of some of his fellow Jews. "My guys have not acted with great sophistication," he says. "If he [the Pope] inadvertently includes somebody who's prominent in that movement and who says some strange things, is that a reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater and start to condemn Pope Benedict right away?" he asks. "Absolutely not." He also believes the Vatican should do a "better job" in conveying how far the Church has come in relations with Jews and, on the Pope Pius XII controversy, the Church should stress that "the Jewish community wouldn't want to be told what we should do and who we should venerate."

Rabbi Levin, who every year takes part in the March for Life in Washington, has little time for the new U.S. administration. He warns of the "Obamafication" of society -- meaning President Obama's efforts to try to reach consensus on all sides of the abortion debate.

Obama, he says, "doesn't get it." A woman cannot be "a little bit pregnant," nor is it possible to agree to a "little bit of homosexual marriage" and then argue against homosexual marriage. "You can't be all things to all people," Rabbi Levin says. "He [Obama] is prostituting godly values and, as an American, I'm offended. He thinks we're dumb."


Thursday, 5 February 2009

On Jewish-Catholic Relations: Press "Got It Wrong"

Jewish Leader Considers Future If Schism Isn't Healed

NEW YORK, FEB. 4, 2009 ( The full story about Benedict XVI's reconciliation with excommunicated bishops, contrary to the media's portrayal, can reaffirm Jewish-Catholic relations, stated the president of an interreligious foundation.

Gary Krupp, founder and president of the Pave the Way Foundation, an organization dedicated to bridging gaps between religions, affirmed that "the full story has not been told […]; the media got it wrong."

In a statement today from the foundation, he acknowledged the initial shock of the widely reported news "that Pope Benedict XVI lifted the ban of excommunication with the Society of St. Pius X and its four bishops."

Krupp observed: "The media often focuses on one action without researching the details. This omission has made headlines, fueled a controversy and promoted negativity."

He affirmed that the public Holocaust-denial of Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the reconciled prelates, seemed to imply an affront against Jewish-Catholic relations.

But, the Jewish founder explained that his organization researched the matter "in depth, and inquired with Vatican officials in Rome and knowledgeable experts in canon law, in order to have a clear picture of what was done and why it was done."

Vatican history

Krupp said he found that Vatican actions "typically do not concern themselves with years, but rather with centuries."

He continued: "History has shown that past schisms from excommunications and defections from the Catholic Church have spawned new religious communities and faiths.

"The Pope's lifting the ban of excommunication has effectively only opened a door whereby this radical right wing conservative group -- with an estimated over 1,000,000 devotees in number -- may only just begin to talk to Vatican officials to eventually be brought back to the mainstream Catholic beliefs […].

"This also includes the declaration that anti-Semitism is a sin. If the Pope did not take action to begin to close this schism, our children and grandchildren might one day see a new virulent right wing religion spring up."

Krupp observed that Benedict XVI's action is only the first step toward full communion.

And he said, "It is important to note that Catholic clergy around the world have universally condemned Bishop Richard Williamson's outrageous statements."

Krupp concluded by asking, "Should we allow the bizarre statements and beliefs of this one man, and media omissions, [to] damage Jewish-Catholic dialogue, which has consistently been highlighted as a major focus for the Catholic Church and this papacy?"

He answered, "We say no!"

Pope Benedict: Williamson must retract

The Vatican Secretariat of State has said that Pope Benedict was unaware of Bishop Richard Williamson's Holocaust minimising positions prior to lifting his excommunication and has demanded that the SSPX prelate recant his views prior to full communion.

The statement was issued by the Vatican's Secretariat of State a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the pope to make a clearer rejection of Holocaust denials, saying there hadn't been adequate clarification from the Vatican.

In the statement Wednesday, the Vatican said that while Williamson's excommunication had been lifted, he still had no canonical function in the Church because he was consecrated illegitimately by Lefebvre.

"Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to episcopal functions within the Church, will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah, which the Holy Father was not aware of when the excommunication was lifted," the statement said.

In addition, the Vatican said that the Society of St Pius X as a whole must fully recognise the teachings of Vatican II and the teachings of all the popes who came during and after it in order to have a legitimate canonical function in the Church


Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Rabbi Irwin Kula: Jewish Reaction to Pope Disproportionate

Irwin Kula Rabbi, author, commentator

Rabbi Irwin Kula is the President of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in New York. He has served congregations in St. Louis, New York and Jerusalem.

The official Jewish response to Pope Benedict XVI recent decision to reach out to the St. Pious X Society and to revoke the excommunication (though not yet determining the status) of four bishops says a great deal about the psycho-social state of American Jewish leadership or at least the leadership that claims to speak for American Jews.

The admittedly unnerving if not hurtful Holocaust denying views of one of those bishops, British born Richard Williamson, an obscure, irrelevant, cranky old man, offered on Swedish television, evoked the wrath of no less than the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the B'nai B'rith International, the International Jewish Commission on Interreligious Consultations and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. "The decision undermines the strong relationship between Catholics and Jews", they protested. "We are stunned that the Vatican has ignored our concerns", they proclaimed.

This will have "serious implications for Catholic-Jewish relations" and there will be a "political cost for the Vatican" they threatened. And from Israel, the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, one of the most corrupt religious establishments in Western democracies, entered the fray calling into doubt the Pope's impending visit to Israel. All this hubbub and anxious lashing out about an internal Church matter regarding the sort of crabby, crotchety, trivial, unknown sort of jerk - the ratty uncle who embarrasses you every time he is in public -- who we all recognize exists in our communities.

As an eighth generation rabbi and someone who lost much family in the Holocaust, it could just be me, but this official Jewish response seems outrageously over the top. Do millions of American Jews sufficiently care that the Pope revoked the excommunication of this unheard of bishop such that major Jewish organizations should devote so much energy and attention to this and turn it into a cause célèbre worthy of front page attention? And is this the way we speak to each other after decades of successful interfaith work on improving our relationship?

How is it that the view of some cranky bishop who has no power evokes calls of a crisis in Catholic - Jewish relations despite the revolutionary changes in Church teachings regarding Jews since Vatican II? Where is the "proportionality", where is the giving the benefit of the doubt - a central religious and spiritual imperative - in response to something that is admittedly upsetting but in the scheme of things is less than trivial especially given this Pope's historic visit to Auschwitz in which he unambiguously recognized the evil perpetrated upon Jews in the Holocaust and in his way "repented" for any contribution distorted Church teachings made to create the ground for such evil to erupt.

Something is off-kilter here. Is it possible that the leadership of Jewish defense agencies, people with the best of motivation who have historically done critical work in fighting anti-Semitism, have become so possessed by their roles as monitors of anti-Semitism, so haunted by unresolved fears, guilt, and even shame regarding the Holocaust, and perhaps so unconsciously driven by how these issues literally keep their institutions afloat, that they have become incapable of distinguishing between a bishop's ridiculous, loopy, discredited views about the Holocaust and a Church from the Pope down which has clearly and repeatedly recognized the evil done to Jews in the Holocaust and called for that evil to never be forgotten.

Perhaps, this called for a little understanding of what it must be like to actually run a 1.2 billion person spiritual community (one with which I disagree on many issues) and to be trying to create some sense of unity from right to left, from extreme liberalism to extreme traditionalism - sort of like the liberal Barack Obama inviting Rick Warren, despite his hurtful views on homosexuality, to give the invocation at the inauguration. How about cutting a Pope, who we know along with the previous Pope is probably amongst the most historically sensitive Popes to the issues of anti-Semitism, Holocaust, and the relationship to Judaism and Jews, a little slack given how he is trying to heal his own community. And is it possible that the Pope's desire/hope/need to reintegrate the Church (he has also reached out to Liberal theologian Hans Kung) may be of more importance both to the Church and actually to religion on this planet than whether we Jews are upset about the lifting of excommunication of one irrelevant bishop.

Would we Jews like to be judged by the crankiest, most outlandish, hurtful, and stupid thing any rabbi in the world said about Catholics or Christians? We Jews are no longer organized to excommunicate and a rabbi can't be defrocked the way the Church does with its clergy but surely there are individual rabbi's who say things so abhorrent about the "other" that though we still call the person rabbi we would not want to be taken to task for doing so.

And isn't it possible that bringing Richard Williamson back inside the Church may actually influence him to see how wrong he is on this issue given how clear the Church is regarding the Holocaust and its commitment to Catholic -Jewish relations? After all the Pope himself said, "I hope my gesture is followed by the hoped-for commitment on their part to take the further steps necessary to realize full communion with the Church, thus witnessing true fidelity, and true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the pope and of the Second Vatican Council." There is no way to read this other than to conclude that to be fully reinstated in the Catholic Church, all those who have passed the first test must now clear the big hurdle: either accept what the Catholic Church teaches or remain on the sidelines. And what the Church teaches, among other things, is the necessity of respecting Jews.

Moreover, shouldn't the Jewish defense agency leadership, which to its credit is probably the most effective at its work of any ethnic and religious group in this country, try to understand the inner categories of the other, especially after decades of inter-faith and inter-group work? In this case, that there is a difference between heresy - an accusation from which the Pope is trying to heal part of his community- and stupidity. And what is the cost of not seeing the difference between heresy and stupidity?

Finally, when the Pope as well as key Vatican officials said within a day that Williamson's views are "absolutely indefensible" and that in the Pope's own words, the Church feels "full and indispensable solidarity with Jews against any Holocaust denial" where was a little humility in response? Wouldn't it have been interesting, yet alone ethically compelling, for those who initially lashed out to have acknowledged that perhaps they did overreact and that they do know that the Church and specifically this Pope are very sensitive to these issues. But that we ask the Pope and church hierarchy to please understand that, whether fully justified or not, we are still very very raw and very vulnerable regarding the Holocaust and so we are sorry if we did over react and we are deeply grateful for the Pope's unambiguous reiteration of that which we do know is his view and is contemporary Catholic teachings.