Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Cryptic signatures that indicate that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic’

A 1586 visitors book entry by "Arthurus Stratfordus"
A 1586 entry by "Arthurus Stratfordus", thought to be a pseudonym of William Shakespeare, in the visitors' book at the Venerable English College in Rome
Three mysterious signatures on pages of parchment bound in leather and kept under lock and key may prove the theory that William Shakespeare was a secret Catholic who spent his “lost years” in Italy.
An exhibition at the Venerable English College, the seminary in Rome for English Catholic priests, has revealed cryptic names in its guest books for visiting pilgrims, suggesting that the playwright sought refuge there.
“Arthurus Stratfordus Wigomniensis” signed the book in 1585, while “Gulielmus Clerkue Stratfordiensis” arrived in 1589.
According to Father Andrew Headon, vice-rector of the college and organiser of the exhibition, the names can be deciphered as “[King] Arthur’s [compatriot] from Stratford [in the diocese] of Worcester” and “William the Clerk from Stratford”.
A third entry in 1587, “Shfordus Cestriensis”, may stand for “Sh[akespeare from Strat]ford [in the diocese] of Chester”, he said.
The entries fall within the playwright’s “missing years” between 1585, when he left Stratford abruptly, and 1592, when he began his career as playwright in London.
“There are several years which are unaccounted for in Shakespeare’s life,” Father Headon said, adding that it was very likely that the playwright had visited Rome and was a covert Catholic.
The “Shakespeare” entries are being kept in the college’s archive for security reasons but have been reproduced for the exhibition, which illustrates the history of the college from its origins as a medieval pilgrims’ hospice to a refuge for persecuted Catholics during the Reformation.
Set in the college’s extensive 14th-century crypt, the exhibition conveys the clandestine atmosphere of underground Catholicism, with its spies and priests’ bolt holes. It traces the secret journeys made by Catholics to Rome and by Jesuit priests from Rome to England “to defend their faith despite the risk of being caught, tortured and martyred”.
In a recent book, a German biographer of Shakespeare, Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, said that she had “come to the conclusion that Shakespeare was a Catholic and that his religion is the key to understanding his life and work”.
Professor Hammerschmidt-Hummel said that Shakespeare’s parents, friends and teachers were Catholics, as were some of his patrons, including the Earl of Southampton, who concealed Catholic priests at his country seat, Titchfield Abbey, and his London residence.
Further proof was his purchase of the eastern gatehouse at Blackfriars — a secret meeting place for fugitive Catholics — in London in 1613, she said.
Backers of the theory say that plays such as Romeo and Juliet and Measure for Measure are “rich in Catholic thought and rituals”, with positive depictions of priests and monks and invocations of the Virgin Mary.
Five of his 37 plays are set in Italy, another five wholly or partly in Rome and three in Sicily.
The English College exhibition, Non Angli sed Angeli, runs until July 2010.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Russia and Vatican establish diplomatic relations

Filed Under:Russia and the Vatican have agreed to establish full diplomatic relations, ending long-standing tensions, the Kremlin announced Thursday after President Dmitry Medvedev met Pope Benedict XVI.

"President Medvedev told Pope Benedict XVI that he had signed a decree concerning the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the Vatican," Russian presidential spokeswoman Natalia Timakova said.

"He asked the foreign ministry to lead discussions to establish the relations and raise the level of representation to apostolic nuncio and embassy," she added.

Since 1990, the two sides have maintained representation below the rank of ambassador.

The Vatican confirmed in its own statement: "It was decided to establish full diplomatic relations." It welcomed the "cordial ties" between the two.

Relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church have been tense for centuries, and were again strained in recent years by Orthodox accusations of Catholic proselytizing in post-Soviet Russia.

During their meeting, the Russian president presented the Pope with a box decorated with an image of Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow which was pulled down after the Russian Revolution but rebuilt at the end of Soviet rule.

He also offered him 22 new volumes of an Orthodox encyclopedia. Medvedev's predecessor, Vladimir Putin, had presented the Pope with the first volumes at their meeting in 2007.

"I will not be able to read all that," the pope quipped.

"We will help you," replied the Russian president.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in turn presented gifts including a lithograph of St Peter's Cathedral, and a Russian translation of his encyclical called.

The meeting lasted half an hour "and showed the highest level of dialogue between Russia and the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church," Timakova said.

Frosty ties between the two churches have thawed since the new leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, patriarch Kirill, assumed his position in February.

He was previously the Russian Orthodox Church's official in foreign relations and met Pope Benedict XVI several times before he became patriarch.

"Moscow's movements are closely linked to the level of relations between the Vatican and the Orthodox Church," Vatican watcher Marco Tosatti told Agence France-Presse.

"The Russian government cannot offend the patriarch in Moscow, they cannot do anything that could displease him."

Putin was received three times at the Vatican – by Pope Benedict XVI in March 2007 and Pope John Paul II in 2000 and 2003.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met John Paul II 20 years ago on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall