Sunday, 21 December 2014

Second Franciscan Consistory

It has been announced that a second Franciscan consistory for the creation of new cardinals will be held on Friday/Saturday, February 14/15. If Pope Francis follows the same sort of time scale he employed last time — announced December 11 that a consistory was to be held; January 12, list of new cardinals released (16 electors, 3 honoured but over the age limit); February 22, consistory held — then it seems likely that the list of new cardinals will be published at the traditional Angelus held on the Feast of the Epiphany, Tuesday, January 6, 2015.

Since it is anybody’s guess as to who will be on the list, the sensible thing would seem to be to address first of all the question of what do we actually know?

Today, December 20, His Eminence Julius Riyadi Cardinal Darmaatmadja SJ, Metropolitan Archbishop Emeritus of Jakarta, Indonesia, celebrates his 80th birthday and so loses his status as a cardinal elector. Therefore, currently there are 111 cardinal electors, 9 short of the maximum 120 prescribed by the laws of the Church. Between now and the consistory another cardinal will celebrate his 80th birthday and so cease to be a member of the College of Cardinal Electors. This is Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo (January 3), President Emeritus of the Governatorate of Vatican City State. So, barring the intervention of the Grim Reaper, as the consistory opens there will be 10 red zucchetti available for distribution.

However, it may well be that Pope Francis may allow himself a little leeway, as did Pope Benedict latterly. But also, again as with his illustrious predecessor, it is unlikely that he will play fast and loose with the limit (as St Pope John Paul II was wont to do). As the day of his first consistory dawned, there were 14 vacancies in the College of Cardinal Electors. Pope Francis in fact created 16 new cardinals that day.Those two additional cardinal electors are most easily explained by noting that in the month following that first Franciscan consistory two cardinals attained their 80th birthdays. These were Jean-Baptiste Cardinal Pham Minh Mân, Archbishop Emeritus of Hô Chí Minh City, Vietnam (March 5), and Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop Emeritus of Milan, Italy,  (March 14).

There is no reason to suppose that Pope Francis will do anything wildly different this time. Thus it is highly likely that he will take cognisance of the fact that His Beatitude Antonios Cardinal Naguib, Patriarch Emeritus of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt, will be 80 less than a month after the consistory, on March 7. In addition, Justin Francis Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia is 80 on April 19. Taking these two into account would allow him to create 12 new cardinals. Crucially, from my way of thinking, in the latter case, that of Cardinal Rigali, this would allow the elevation of his successor, Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput OFM Cap (70). Not only would this be most apposite as Archbishop Chaput will host next year’s World Meeting of the Families (September 22-27), it would also create an important and symbolic historical fact: the good Archbishop would become the first ever Native American cardinal — from any part of the continent!

On January 13, 2012, in the run-up to the fourth Benedictine consistory, I noted that the Pope Emeritus had allowed himself a little leeway by taking into account the fact that “five cardinals were due to celebrate their 80th birthdays during the five calendar months following the consistory” (and by so doing neatly allowed himself to exclude the then Archbishop Vincent Nichols without appearing too brutal about it!). However, I suggested a better, more straightforward rule: The maximum number of 120 cardinal electors can be temporarily exceeded by the Pope taking into account those cardinals who will attain their 80th birthday in the six calendar months following the month in which a consistory is held.

However, on this occasion this would not make much difference as it would only bring into play the two prelates already adverted to above, Cardinals Naguib and Rigali. If he stretched the point and gave himself one month more then he would have another two zucchetti to go round. Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, President Emeritus of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, is 80 on September 19 and Santos Cardinal Abril y Castelló, Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, follows suit two days later, on September 21.
Putting this all together, we can expect a minimum of 10 new cardinal electors but there may well be 14. This is roughly in line with last time. The upper limit of 120 is exceeded, but it is not flaunted.

We can pass over any venerably aged priests or prelates whom Pope Francis may wish to honour. It is impossible to predict that.

But who will be on the list of new cardinal electors?

As I said, anybody’s guess. The exclusions from the last consistory of Patriarch Francesco Moraglia (61) of Venice and Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia (70) of Turin were, I suppose, understandable. We have a new Pope who, albeit ethnic Italian himself, was elected to shake up the Curia and the old guard and order. But why refuse to elevate these two widely respected prelates ostensibly in an effort to de-Italianise the Sacred College and then elevate another Italian? This was Gualtiero Cardinal Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve? (Where? I here you ask. This is where Pope Leo XIII was bishop.)

This was an unnecessary but studied insult, not to the prelates, but to the Italian Sees concerned. And especially in the case of the Patriarchate of Venice, it was a slap in the face to an arguably unequalled, apart from Rome itself, part of the Catholic heritage of both Italy and the world. I trust, but with little confidence, that this mistake will be corrected.

Many don’t expect that any cardinals in curia will be created. However, there are two curialists who SHOULD be. Many, including yer man here, thought that the exclusion from the first Franciscan consistory for the creation of new cardinals of the Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church, the French Dominican Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, was a disgrace. Sadly, it was not unexpected.

His Excellency had incurred pre-Papal displeasure when, as the then Secretary to the Congregation for Education, he had heeded complaints from other Argentinian prelates over the then Cardinal Bergoglio’s proposal that Fr Víctor Manuel Fernández, his protégé and friend, be appointed Rector of the Catholic University of Buenos Aires. It may be recalled that the Cardinal got his way, belatedly, and that no sooner was he elected Pope than Fr Fernández became Archbishop Fernández. For Archbishop Bruguès, the writing was on the wall.

Going back to 1700, there were 20 Archivists before Mgr Bruguès. It was not until Fr Alfons Maria Stickler SDB was appointed pro-Archivist and pro-Vatican Librarian (there is also a Prefect of the Libraries, which is a different thing) on September 8, 1983, that a non-cardinal was appointed to the post. He was named an archbishop upon appointment and created cardinal at the first opportunity, on May 25, 1985. Interestingly, Cardinal Stickler retired on May 27, 1985 and a month later his friend and fellow Salesian Bishop Antonio María Javierre Ortas, Secretary of the Congregation for Education, was created cardinal, on June 28. Three days later, on July 1, he was named Archivist and Librarian.

On April 9, 1992, a distinguished Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Luigi Poggi, upon his retiral as Apostolic Nuncio to Italy was named pro- Archivist and Librarian. He, too, was created cardinal at the first opportunity, on November 26, 1994. The same happened with his successor, Jorge María Cardinal Mejía (appointed March 7, 1998, created cardinal February 21, 2001). And with Raffaele Cardinal Farina, yet another Salesian (June 25, 2007, and made Archbishop; November 24, 2007).

Then there is Archbishop Dominique François Joseph Mamberti (62), recently appointed Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. It had been known for some time that Pope Francis intended to replace Mgr Mamberti as Secretary for Relations with States (2006-14), in effect the Holy See’s Foreign Minister, as his (new) Cardinal Secretary of State, His Eminence Pietro Parolin, wanted his own man. As in effect the Holy See’s Foreign Minister, Mgr Mamberti was an exception to the rule being one of only three non-Italians ever to have held that post. [The others were: Jean-Louis Pierre Cardinal Tauran, also a Frenchman, now President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the newly appointed Camerlengo (as of Saturday, December 20), and; the Pole Wlodzimierz Czacki at the end of the nineteenth century.]

One would trust that Pope Francis would not now make Archbishop Mamberti an exception to two other long-standing rules: (1) on demitting office the Secretary for Relations with States is honoured with the Sacred Roman Purple, and; (2) the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura is a cardinal.

In this latter case, the earliest Prefect I am aware of is Maffeo Cardinal Barberini appointed on January 8, 1610. He was elected as Pope Urban VIII on August 6, 1623. Since that time, there have been 31 Prefects of the Apostolic Signatura (that we can be sure of) and it was not until April 7, 1967 (ten days your esteemed but humble scrivener here celebrated his fifteenth birthday) that a non-cardinal was appointed to the post. This was Archbishop Dino Staffa, then Secretary to the Congregation for Education.  He was created cardinal at the next consistory, on June 26 of that year.

Since then there have been, until now, five appointees who were also not cardinals but who were elevated at the next consistory. These were Archbishops: Aurelio Cardinal Sabattani (Secretary of the Signatura, May 17, 1982; February 2, 1983); Zenon Grocholewski (Secretary of the Signatura, October 5, 1998; appointed Prefect of Education November 15, 1999; February 21, 2001); Mario Francesco Pompedda (Dean of the Scared Roman Rota, November 16, 1999; February 21, 2001); Agostino Vallini (Bishop of Albano, May 27, 2004; March 24, 2006) Raymond Leo Burke (Archbishop of Saint Louis, Missouri, June 27, 2008; November 20, 2010).

As for any other suggestions? If I were to be entirely honest, I’ll just as likely win the Lotto as get them right.

(1) Curia heads of department who might under normal circumstances reasonably hope for elevation:

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (69, Italian), President of the Pontifical Council for the Family (appointed June 26, 2012)
Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski (65), President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers (April 18, 2009)
Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella (63, Italian), President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization (June 30, 2010)

NB: It is entirely possible that all three of these dicasteries will be merged into one Congregation.

NOTE: Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli (73, Italian) is President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (June 27, 2007) but this is not nowadays considered a red hat office. Cardinal Foley was promoted OUT of it.

(2) Curia cardinals at or about or over the age limit:
Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski (was 75 on October 11), Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education (for Institutes of Study)
Angelo Cardinal Amato, S.D.B. (was 76 on June 8), Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio (was 76 on March 6), President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
Antonio Maria Cardinal Vegliò (was 76 on February 3), President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

NB: It is entirely possible that the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts will be merged into a Congregation for Justice, along with the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Sacred Roman Rota.

(3) Other problems related to the Curia and Sacred College:
Angelo Cardinal Sodano is now 87 and remains Dean of the College of Cardinals.
Roger Marie Élie Cardinal Etchegaray is now 92 and remains Vice-Dean (Sub-Dean) of the College of Cardinals
Tarcisio Pietro Evasio Cardinal Bertone SDB is 80 but remains Camerlengo. (This note was drafted earlier, so see above.)

Monday, 13 October 2014

Hate Speech Proponents Hate Free Speech

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
(Evelyn Beatrice Hall, 1906, in Friends of Voltaire; NB: NOT a quote from Voltaire himself.)

But when all people are allowed to express their views and ideas, the principles of democracy and liberty are enhanced. This extends even to that speech which is most hateful and offensive.”
(Oliver Wendall Holmes, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.)

“Over my dead body!
(David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Alex Salmond jointly, severally and together with leaders of all developed countries as they held hands with “Gay Rights”.)

When debating or discussing Free Speech, invariably the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America is cited. There being no obvious reason to depart from this rhetorical tradition, it reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

(For those unfamiliar with American politics and government, the Congress is the Senate and the House of Representatives together forming the Legislature; and this is akin to the House of Commons and the House of Lords acting together as our Legislature in the UK.)

One of the great defenders of Free Speech in the USA in the 20th century, specifically but not exclusively as the discussion pertains to the Press, was HL Mencken, the legendary “Bad Boy of Baltimore”. One of the guiding principles I like to think I live by is Harry Mencken’s dictum: “To every complex problem there is a solution which is simple, neat and wrong!” So I was pleasantly surprised when I recently came across an example of a slightly altered form of this sage advice employed in a High Holy Day Message of the distinguished Jewish Theological Seminary of America which appeared as an advert in the September 23, 1982, issue of The New York Times. It read:


Two men are crossing a desert. They are three days from the nearest water hole. One of the men is carrying a canteen. The canteen holds three days’ supply of water — for one man. Should they divide it? Then both will die. Then what is the obligation of the owner of the canteen? One opinion says: a man must not stand by and watch his fellow man die. He should share the water with his companion. Another says: preservation of one’s own life takes precedence. The owner of the water must drink it and live.

Not so simple, is it? If you don’t see a simple, obvious solution, you’re in good company, because the discussion is nearly 1900 years old. It is recorded in the Talmud, and here is the interesting thing: both opinions are presented in the Talmud, the prevailing and the dissent.

Why both? Because Judaism recognizes life’s dilemmas and the difficulty of knowing how to handle them. The truth is, for most significant issues there is NO simple solution. Euthanasia? Abortion? Freedom of expression? Pornography? Skokie? In most cases, it just isn’t clear what God wants us to do.

When I read this, my first reaction was that I disagreed with these learned Jewish scholars: I think that more often than not it IS perfectly clear what God wants us to do. However, more or less simultaneously a question also sprung to mind: who, what or where is Skokie? And, why should it matter to these good men? The answer to the former, I found out, is that Skokie is a small suburb of Chicago, Illinois, which came to both national and international notice because, and this is the answer to the latter, of a highly unusual and seriously controversial case brought before the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the late 1970s.

I had recourse, of course, to the internet where I first read a review of a book, “When the Nazis Came to Skokie: Freedom for Speech We Hate”, by Philippa Strum (Landmark Law Cases and American Society: Series Editors Peter Charles Hoffer and N. E. H. Hull; University Press of Kansas). The review outlined the background:

In the Chicago suburb of Skokie, one out of every six Jewish citizens in the late 1970s was a survivor — or was directly related to a survivor — of the Holocaust. These victims of terror had resettled in America expecting to lead peaceful lives free from persecution. But their safe haven was shattered when a neo-Nazi group announced its intention to parade there in 1977. Philippa Strum’s dramatic retelling of the events in Skokie (and in the courts) shows why the case ignited such enormous controversy and challenged our understanding of and commitment to First Amendment values.

It should be noted that the neo-Nazi group in question had intended to hold their parade on April 20, Hitler’s birthday.

Clearly, differing legal rights were engaged here. On the one hand, the desire of the National Socialist Party of America, under its then leader Frank Collin, to parade through the streets of any community, anywhere in the United States, was supported by their First Amendment rights. On the other hand, the people of the town had every right to live in peace, free from any assault on their sensibilities — there was a village ordinance prohibiting the display of Nazi uniforms and the distribution of material deemed offensive — and free from violence, or the threat of violence, on their streets, and to their persons. (A couple of years later, it transpired that Frank Collin had been born Francis Joseph Cohen, the son of Max Simon Cohen, a survivor of Dachau Concentration Camp. Arrested for serious sexual offences against several children, a psychiatric report concluded that he was “consumed with hatred for his father”. This, it seems, was supposed to explain his name change, political activity and sexual abuse of the children.)

Nobody could doubt that the good people of Skokie had every reason to fearfully apprehend that, in what would inevitably be a volatile climate, either the neo-Nazi marchers, or the counter-demonstrators — Sol Goldstein, a Holocaust survivor and local community leader, on hearing of the proposed parade had immediately announced his plans for a counter-demonstration — or both, would resort to violence. And so Albert Smith, Mayor of Skokie, a devout Catholic and graduate of Notre Dame University, sought and obtained an injunction prohibiting the parade.

Incredibly, the American Civil Liberties Union then took up the case in behalf of the Nazis and for their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. Their case was fought by attorney David Goldberger: a Jew defended before the Supreme Court the rights of neo-Nazis against the rights of fellow Jews. And won! No wonder this mattered to the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

One can hardly say ironically, but the ACLU both won AND lost — 30,000 of its members left the organization as a direct consequence of their taking up the neo-Nazis’ case. Doubtless, the ACLU decision-makers later rued the fact that subsequently the march never did in fact take place, but that is another story. The main story here is that in her book the point that Philippa Strum makes, and forcefully makes, is that freedom of speech MUST be defended — even when the beneficiaries of that defence are far from admirable individuals!

So what if those who some would silence are not far from admirable individuals, but are, on the contrary, perfectly ordinary, sane and sensible people? People just like you and me, for instance, the normally silent majority? Surely, no-one would ever dream of denying us our rights to Free Speech?
After all did not Oliver Wendall Holmes (1841-1935), that great American jurist (Associate Justice USA Supreme Court 1902-32; Acting Chief Justice January/February 1930), if we set aside Buck-v-Bell, not once say: “The First Amendment protects free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought we hate. If the past two centuries of struggle to preserve freedom of expression have taught us anything, it is that the first target of government suppression is never the last. Whenever government gains the power to decide who can speak and what they can say, the First Amendment rights of all of us are in danger of violation. But when all people are allowed to express their views and ideas, the principles of democracy and liberty are enhanced. This extends even to that speech which is most hateful and offensive.”

But, of course, this is not the USA and their Supreme Court’s writ does not run here. However, the legal and moral issues are just the same and the legal frameworks in which they must be dealt with are strictly analogous. In Rome, on November 4, 1950, the High Contracting Parties, the Governments of those countries who were then full members of the European Council, signed the European Convention on Human Rights. Section 1, Article 10 states:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

(2) The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

But both in the USA and in the UK, Free Speech is no longer respected as a Civil Right IF you happen to disagree with a tiny fraction of one of the smallest minorities in either land: the professional proselytes, many, if not most, paid through the public purse in one way or another, within the less than 1½% of the population who are homosexuals of one sort or another (which statistic seemingly holds good more or less else- and every-where in the developed world).

This miniscule minority has decided that mainstream Christians and their beliefs about marriage, the family and society, and; their Bible and patristic writings, and; their ethics, morals, philosophy, theology, tradition and history (which history IN Europe is consubstantial with the history OF Europe), each and all are “most hateful and offensive” to them and, therefore, according to them, to each and every other homosexual, of whatever sort, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding for the good and simple reason that evidence to the contrary is not admitted and nor will it ever be if these people get their evil, anti-democratic way. Indeed, evidence, any evidence, in the matter from within the homosexual community has never been sought by them. So in that respect at least the overwhelming majority of the homosexual community are most definitely just like the overwhelming majority that is the rest of us.

For this miniscule minority, there can be no question of respecting the civil right to Freedom of Speech for we Christians, we perfectly ordinary, sane and sensible people. Nor for those, including many homosexuals, who though not sharing our religious perspective and background nevertheless concur with our views on marriage, the family and society. And they ARE getting their evil, anti-democratic way. And, just like Oliver, they want more. But unlike Oliver, they are likely to get it. But how can this be so?

These homosexual proselytes, thinly disguised as “equal rights activists”, and their fellow travellers, mainly of the political left but naturally including both trendy liberals and libertine Tories, have assiduously applied the principle enunciated by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900): “I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar” (Walter Kaufmann, editor, The Portable Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols”, Penguin, 1982, p. 483). They have totally subverted the honest use of language, aided and abetted by those three greatest users, and abusers, of language: the print and broadcast media (aka MSM); the politicians, and; the judiciary.

PS: In his letter to Pinocchio, the then Cardinal Patriarch of Venice Albino Luciani, later Pope John Paul, quoted an anecdote from “Pitigrilli” (Dino Segre, 1893-1975) the noted Italian aphorist (whose novel Cocaine was placed on the Index) in which he recounted that a preacher was addressing the crowd gathered at Hyde Park Corner in London when he was heckled by a dirty and dishevelled individual who shouted out: “The Church has existed for two thousand years and the world is still full of thieves, adulterers and murderers.”

“You are right,” replied the preacher “but for two million centuries water has existed in the world and your neck has still not been washed.” (Illustrissimi: Letters from the Patriarch of Venice, Albino Luciani.)

Among Pitigrilli’s well-known sayings is this: “Grammar: a complicated structure that teaches language but impedes speaking.” 

Carthusian thoughts

The Cross Stands Steady Whilst the World Turns

When His Eminence Franc Cardinal Rodé was appointed Archbishop of Lubljana on March 5, 1997, he chose as his episcopal motto “Stati inu obstati”. This is a phrase in Old Slovene taken from the Catechism of Primož Trubar. It translates as To Exist and Persevere”, or, To Stand and Withstand”. (It is inscribed on the Slovenian 1 euro coin.) Clearly, it is in some way related to the Carthusian motto. And, indeed, His Eminence has written a book with that Carthusian title.


Friday, 10 October 2014

The Herald (Glasgow) again stifles debate

You didn't read this in yesterday's Herald; and I doubt it will be in today's:

Dear Sir
Siobhan Reardon (Letters, October 9) states that the UK government “has numerous obligations to fulfil regarding abortion” and then waffles on attempting to link them to something she calls “gender discrimination”. Under International Law the UK has no obligations in relation to abortion on demand, request if you like. And neither does any other country. Could Ms Reardon point to any of the many and various treaty obligations the UK holds in consequence of its membership of the UN which impose such an obligation? No, because the UN, despite the best (but I regard as worst) efforts of NGOs such as Amnesty does not recognise any right to abortion. Any abortion, for any reason, at any time, under any circumstances. NGOs and compliant UN committees kid on that they do and threaten dire consequences for any — invariably poor, developing — country in Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Caribbean or Latin America who won’t go along with them. And they get off with it because the General Secretary and his immediate underlings let them. I wonder why?
Perhaps there are obligations arising out of the UK being a State Party signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, then? No, with a limited caveat.
The European Court of Human Rights through its various rulings has explicitly declared that abortion is not a right under the Convention. I am not a lawyer, let alone a legal tutor, but it may be helpful for readers to know that in Silva Monteiro Martins Ribeiro v. Portugal, the Court ruled that here is no right to have an abortion and that therefore the prohibition per se of abortion by a State does not violate the Convention (No 16471/02, Dec., 26 October 2004). Nor is there a right to practice abortion, see Jean Jacques Amy v. Belgium (No 11684/85, Com., Dec. 5 October 1988). However, it must be conceded that in the case of the first two applicants in A., B., and C. v. Ireland (No 25579/05, 16 December 2010) the Court ruled that States signatory can allow abortion taking into account other, competing, rights guaranteed by the Convention, for example if it is held that the life and the health of the pregnant woman are threatened. In other words, the jurisprudence of the Court countenances toleration of abortion in presence of a sufficient, proportionate motivating principle relating to a right protected by the Convention. The Court, it must be said, was not responsible for Enda Kenny’s government’s hysterical overreaction to this ruling. It was NOT required to introduce an abortion free for all.
In short, under International Law there is no such thing as that which Ms Reardon peddles as “reproductive rights”. Gender theory/ideology we will leave for another day.
Yours etc


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hello Again: Vatican Diplomacy

I have been locked out of my Blogger account for several weeks now — I gather I'm far from being alone — but a computer literate nephew has got me back in.

But you find me not as I left you. It's Sober in October in memory of my darling niece, Paula, who died from cancer three years ago, on September 23, 2011.

Saturday, October 11: An apology.

I had intended to add a dedication to my niece Paula and then write a bit about the recent meeting of the Middle East war zone Nuncios in Rome but, distracted, I accidentally posted the thing after inserting the photograph below and closed the tab and then couldn't get back into the Blog — from which, as I said above, I have been blocked for some weeks. After several hours of intemperate language this evening, I am back. But since it is now past midnight and I am tired and sober, I'm off to bed. Sober? Me? Vice-President of the Scottish Catholic Drouth Society sober on a Friday night?

Well that is what I was going to say about Paula. A couple of weeks ago somebody mentioned this Go Sober in October thingy for Macmillan Nurses and it just so happened that it was just days after the third anniversary of Paula's death. It just occurred to me that the thought of her uncle Hughie trying to stay sober for a whole month would have had her in stitches. So, I thought, why not?

If any passers-by would like to sponsor me they can do so online at:

PS: Did you know that Coca Cola dissolves the cement that is supposed to keep your wallie teeth in place? To my great embarrassment, I found that to be the case on Tuesday afternoon in the Gates Bar, Bellshill (they had run out of Ginger Beer; which had never happened before!).

Paula, right, with her mum, May, who died in 2010 at 10 am Sunday morning Mass in Our Lady of Good Aid Cathedral, Motherwell, on the day before Paula was supposed to go into hospital for extensive surgery.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

WWI: In Memoriam; Prof Tom Kettle and The Green Fields of France

The War to End Wars didn’t!

To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God
(Professor Lt Tom Kettle, 1880-1916)

IN wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your mother’s prime,
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To dice with death. And oh! they'll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

Thomas Michael Kettle (1880-1916) Irish nationalist poet, politician and soldier was born in Co. Dublin the son of one of the founders of the Land-League, Andrew J Kettle (1833-1916), and his wife Margaret McCourt. Tom was the seventh of 12 children. Andrew Kettle was a member of the Tenant Right League (founded by Charles Gavan Duffy and Frederick Lucas) in the 1850s and became a constitutional Irish Home Ruler in 1866 following the publication of Isaac Butt’s “Plea for the Celtic Race”. Later as a close associate of Michael Davitt — the “One Armed Fenian” who renounced his Irish Republican Brotherhood oath, took a seat in the House of Commons at Westminster and totally renounced violence as a means of advancing Irish Home Rule —was instrumental in persuading Charles Stewart Parnell to support the land agitation of the late 1870s. Kettle chaired the first meeting of the Land League in October of 1879. He was elected Secretary and Parnell was elected Presdient. Kettle was later imprisoned for his leading the opposition to the Coercion Laws.

Tom attended, as did his brothers, O’Connell School, Richmond Street, Dublin run by the Christian Brothers. A gifted pupil, he then went on to the Jesuit-run Clongowes Wood College, Co Kildare. A prominent debater, with a greatly admired razor sharp wit, he excelled in both sports (especially athletics, cricket and cycling) and studies (especially English and French).

Going up to University College Dublin in 1897 much was expected of him. And he did not disappoint, although disappointingly his studies were interrupted by ill-health. A contemporary of Francis Sheehy- Skeffington, Oliver St John Gogarty and James Joyce, he became “auditor” of the Literary and Historical Society. This is a position essentially equivalent to Convener of Debates at a Scottish university — I held this position at Glasgow University Union in the early 1970s and my friend, Mgr Patrick Burke, held it at Saint Andrews in the 1980s — or President of Oxford, Cambridge or Durham University Unions.

Graduating BA in Mental and Moral Science (don’t ask, I don’t know!) in 1902, he then studied Law and was admitted to the Honorable (sic) Society of King’s Inns in 1903 before being called to the Bar in 1905. Of course, his interest in debating and politics did not falter and in 1904 he founded the Cui Bono Club within UCD as a debating forum for recent graduates and became editor of the College newspaper. In that same year he also co-founded and was elected President of the Young Ireland Branch of the United Irish League. Offered a parliamentary seat by John Redmond, he declined becoming editor of a weekly, “The Nationalist”, instead. However, in 1906 he became a Member of the Imperial Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for East Tyrone at a bye-election caused by the death of Patrick Doogan.He remained an MP until the second election in 1910, in December, when he did not defend his seat due to pressure of other work.

In 1908 he had been appointed Professor of National Economics at his alma mater, UCD, now part of the new University of Ireland. He quickly became one of the most popular members of the faculty and was in geat demand as both lecturer and public speaker. In the year following, 1909, he married Mary Sheehy. Mary was a sister of the suffragette and member of the Irish Women Workers’ Union, Hanna (christened Johanna Mary) Sheehy who after marriage became Sheehy-Skeffington. Another sister, Kathleen, married Joseph O’Brien and became mother of the apostate nationalist Conor Cruise O’Brien (known hereabouts as Conor Full o’B*****it).

In the 1913 lockout he supported the strikers and helped form the peace committee to negotiate a just settlement. Having supported the Home Rule Bill of 1912 and seen the Unionists' successful attempts to wreck it, in 1913 he also joined the Irish Volunteers. In Europe in 1914 to try to raise arms (he spoke fluent French and German) he witnessed the outbreak of war and, because of the atrocities he had witnessed committed by the Germans against civilians in France and Belgium, abandoning his original mission became war correspondent for London’s Daily News.

In “The Ways of War: Why Ireland Fought”, he wrote (@p72): “The outbreak of war caught me in Belgium, where I was running arms for the Irish Volunteers, and on the 6th of August 1914, I wrote from Brussels in the Daily News that it was a war of ‘civilisation against barbarians’. I assisted for many weeks in the agony of the valiant Belgian nation.”

Returning to Dublin, he joined Redmond’s National Volunteers. Repeatedly refused a commission into any Irish regiment because of his health status, at last he was commissioned into the 9th battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, part of the 16th (Irish) Division. Conditions in the trenches seriously affected his health and he was returned to Dublin for recuperation. Before leaving once more for the front on July 16, 1916, almost in despair at the brutal, merciless treatment of the leaders of the Easter Uprising, he said that they would be remembered as heroes while men like himself would be despised as traitors. And so it came to pass.

On September 9, 1916, at Guinchy, during the Battle of the Somme, leading his company of men, Lientenant Professor Tom Kettle died, victim of a sniper’s bullet to the upper chest “above a protective steel waistcoat”. Following behind,18 years old Lt Emmet Dalton, the “boy hero of Guinchy”, “was horrified to see him fall… (and) paused to press a crucifix into his hand… Kettle was obviously dying.”  Fr Felix Burke, Catholic Chaplain to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, wrote: “We all looked up to him as a towering genius and as a storehouse of information.”

Kettle had written to his brother: “I am calm and happy… but desperately anxious to live.” He was planning a book on the 16th (Irish) Division and looked forward after the war to dedicating himself to work in the interests of “perpetual peace.” The writer Tim Cross said that Kettle had a vision of “Ireland at parity with Britain as a free European nation” and quotes him as saying: “My only counsel to Ireland is that in order to become deeply Irish, she must become European.”

This deeply thinking, deeply religious Irish Catholic intellectual had got there long before that group of young intellectual Italians who, as students, had gathered around Don Battista Montini (the future Pope Paul VI) when he was Chaplain to the student section of Italian Catholic Action in the late 1920s and early 1930s (his formal title was Chaplain to the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students, FUCI), and even after he had been forced out, and were instrumental in creating the European Christian Democracy movement along with their German and French co-religionists. These were men such as Alcide De Gasperi and Aldo Moro (President of FUCI in the late 193os) whose vision was the European Union, but not as we know it, as a bureaucratic nightmare.

What a loss to Ireland. What a loss to Europe. What a loss to the Church.

Although it only appeared belatedly and begrudgingly and has never been formally unveiled by the Irish government, a memorial to Kettle by Francis W. Doyle-Jones stands in St. Stephen’s Green in  Dublin. It quotes the last four lines from the sonnet he penned to his daughter shortly before his death (To My Daughter Betty, see above):

“Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.”

Session in the Forge Bar Dromore

This is a typical weekend evening in my friend Oliver West's local pub in Dromore, Co Tyrone. I must get over to see him soon!,

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Holy Mass with the imposition of the Pallium

The Sunday Times ducks the issue

On Sunday, June 29, The Sunday Times published a Letter to the Editor from one Neil Barber who asserts that he represents "The Secular Society". Mr Barber attempted to disparage both Archbishop Cushley and religious faith. My reply to him was not published by The Sunday Times and so I post it here.

Dear Sir

The tenor and, indeed, the language used by Neil Barber (“Faith in its place”, Letters last week) are all to reminiscent of something I read recently.

“When they attempt by other means — writings, encyclicals etc —  to assume rights which belong to the State, we will push them back into their proper spiritual activity.” Thus spake Adolf Hitler as quoted by EC Helmreich in “The German Churches under Hitler” (at page 280) (Detriot, 1979).

What does Barber mean by “minority religious beliefs”? True, the Church of Scotland has on paper more members than the Catholic Church in Scotland. But it is also probably true that there are more Catholic bums on pews of a Sunday. So the Catholic Church in Scotland is far from being a “minority” in terms of numbers.

Is he trying to suggest that the Catholic Church’s objections to so-called “same sex marriage”, gay adoption, abortion on demand and the other matters that we consider to be anti-life and/or anti-family are in a minority? In 2000 a life-long friend said to me at the height of the Section 2a (Clause 28) controversy: “I never thought I’d ever see the day that I would ever agree with everything your Fr Winning said.” My friend was also a life-long fervent member of the Orange Lodge and many of his fellow Orangemen and other Presbyterians were similarly minded. Ours wasn’t a minority viewpoint then and it isn’t now. Despite the campaign of distortions, half-truths and outright lies waged by the gay lobby and so enthusiastically promoted in the mainstream media.

And Barber is wrong. Schools are not State institutions. They are run by the local authorities for and on behalf of parents. And those parents have rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. I would refer him to Protocol No.1, March 20, 1952, Article (2): “No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”

Mgr Cushley has made no attempt to force anybody to do anything. But he might persuade them to. And why not

Yours etc

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Archbishop Leo Cushley and the Pallium Mass 2014

On Sunday, June 29, 2014, Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis will celebrate the Pallium Mass in St Peter’s Square. As is now traditional, there will be present a delegation representing His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The delegation will be in Rome over the whole of the weekend and consists of His Eminence Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of Pergamo, co-President of the International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, accompanied by Archbishop Job de Telmissos and Patriarchal Archdeacon John Chryssavgis. On Saturday, the delegation will be received by Pope Francis and will then meet with Cardinal Kirk Koch and the members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Cardinal Koch on the right and Metropolitan Ioannis centre (screen grab from Vatican TV)

In 2012 a change was introduced to the rite for imposing the pallium the most important point of which is that it now takes place BEFORE the Eucharistic celebration. Thus, there can be no confusing this rite with a Sacramental rite. Normally the rites which take place during a Eucharistic celebration following the homily are all Sacramental rites: Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick.

Now, the list of new metropolitan archbishops is read out immediately before the entry of the opening procession and the singing of “Tu es Petrus”. Thus it will not be part of the celebration proper. The rite of the imposition of the pallium takes place as soon as the Holy Father reaches the altar. As yet the Vatican Press Office has not issued the list of all those to receive the pallium. However, I am fairly confident that the following list will be fairly complete, if not totally so. I have compiled it bearing in mind the provisions laid down by Pope Paul VI who decreed “…for the whole of the Latin Church…from now on the sacred Pallium be given only to metropolitans and to the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latin rite. We abrogate all privileges and customs which certain particular Churches and some prelates enjoy as a special favour at present.” (Apostolic Letter of the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI given “Motu Proprio” on  the Conferring of  the Sacred Pallium in the Church, May 11, 1978.)

(Now, ONLY Metropolitan Archbishops may receive the pallium. In former times the Pope could impose the pallium on a non-Metropolitan Archbishop or on a Bishop as a mark of especial favour. Thus were Peter Amigo, Archbishop.Bishop of Southwark and Archbishop Charles Peter Eyre of Glasgow honoured.)

Metropolitan Archbishops appointed since last June:

(1)  Victor Henry Thakur (60, on July 1), Raipur, India
(2)  Tarcisius Gervazio Ziyaye (65), Lilongwe, Malawi
(3)  José Rafael Quirós Quirós (59), San José de Costa Rica
(4)  Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, O.M. (68), Reggio Calabria-Bova, Italy
(5)  Leo William Cushley (53), Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland
(6)  Jaime Spengler, O.F.M. (63), Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
(7)  Jean-Luc Marie Maurice Louis Bouilleret (60), Besançon, France
(8)  Richard Joseph Gagnon, Winnipeg, Canada
(9) Gabriel ’Leke Abegunrin(67) Ibadan, Nigeria
(10) Leonard Paul Blair (65), Hartford, Connecticut, USA
(11) Sebastian Francis Shaw, O.F.M. (56), Lahore Pakistan
(12) Franz Lackner, O.F.M. (58, on July 14), Salzburg, Austria
(13) Thomas Luke Msusa, S.M.M. (52), Blantyre, Malawi
(14) Benjamin Marc Balthason Ramaroson, C.M. (59), Antsiranana, Madagascar
(15) René Osvaldo Rebolledo Salinas (55), La Serena, Chile
(16) Marlo Mendoza Peralta (64, on July 13), Nueva Segovia, Philippines
(17) Emmanuel Obbo (61), Tororo, Uganda
(18) Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, S.D.B. (55, on July 4), Montevideo, Uruguay
(19) Marco Arnolfo (61), Vercelli, Italy
(20) Damian Denis Dallu (59), Songea, Tanzania
(21) Romulo Tolentino de la Cruz (67), Zamboanga, Philippines
(22) Malcolm Patrick McMahon, O.P. (65), Liverpool, England
(23) Paul Bùi Văn Ðoc (69) (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) SUCCEEDED
(24) Nicholas Mang Thang (71), Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) SUCCEEDED (25) Wojciech Polak (49), Gniezno, Poland
(26) José Luiz Majella Delgado, C.SS.R. (60) Pouso Alegre, Minas Gerais, Brazil
(27) Agustinus Agus (64), Pontianak, Indonesia

[UPDATE: There are two mistakes in the above list, one of omission. I should not have included Archbishop Gagnon of Winnipeg as this is not a Metropolitan See but is, rather, directly subject to the Holy See. I failed to include Msgr Stephan Burger (52) who was confirmed as Metropolitan Archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany on May 29, 2014.

Three prelates were not present in Rome for the Mass: Tarcisius Gervazio Ziyaye (No 2 above), Nicholas Mang Thang (No 24 aove) and the aforementioned Archbishop Burger who was being ordained bishop and installed on the same day as it had already been chosen as the date of the "diocesan day". All volunteers active in the churches had already been invited to gather in the square in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady and so it made perfect sense that Msgr Burger should be at home rather than in Rome. update ends]  

The following Eastern Rite Metropolitan Archbishop have also been appointed but as far as I can make out they are not presented with the pallium by the Pope:

Nicolas Antiba, B.A. (68), Bosra e Haūrān (Melkite Greek), Syria (B.A. Ordre Basilien Alépin (Melkite Greek)
Hormuz Al-Naufali (54), Archbishop of Basra of the Chaldeans
Yousif Thomas Mirkis (65) O.P., Archbishop of Kirkuk of the Chaldeans
Valdomiro Koubetch, O.S.B.M. (Order of St. Basil the Great) (61), São João Batista em Curitiba (Ukrainian), Brazil

The following is an article written by my good self and published, slightly edited if I recall, in The Scottish Catholic Observer in 2006. Obviously it is somewhat out of date. Since then Msgr Leo has served in South Africa, and neighbouring countries, and has spent four years in the Vatican as Head of the English Language Section of the Secretariat of State. In addition he served for a year as a Prelate of the Antecamera, glad-handing guests of the Pope before they could be received and putting them at their ease. Famously, at least here in the Diocese of Motherwell, it was Msgr Leo who accompanied the newly elected Pope Francis when he received the College of Cardinals in audience a couple of days fter his election.

Msgr Leo Cushley 2006

Leo Cushley is the older son of the late Bill and Eileen Cushley, parishioners of St John’s, Uddingston. Although Leo was brought up in Uddingston from the age of five, he was born in June of 1961 at Wester Moffat as his parents spent the early years of their marriage living in Coatdyke. Bill Cushley owned and ran a baker’s business in Coatbridge.

Msgr Leo has a brother Kenneth and a sister Carey. Carey has a young son and daughter over whom Leo, according to his mother, “absolutely dotes”; and in turn they adore him and take up much of his time whenever he manages to get a break at home.

His first six months of primary schooling were spent at All Saints before his parents’ move to Uddingston. Leo then transferred to St John’s, Uddingston, before going up to the big school, Holy Cross High, Hamilton.

Mrs Cushley recalled that it was when Leo went on a school trip with Holy Cross to Rome that he became certain that he wanted to try for the priesthood. She remarked: “It wasn’t just that he was enchanted with Rome, with the Scots College, the Vatican, the beautiful churches, the whole thing. He was, but he was also quite certain that the priesthood was what he wanted to do.”

And so he left Holy Cross, and home, after S2 and headed north to Blairs. After four years there, he spent the next six completing the normal course of studies at the Pontifical Scots College, Rome, and the Gregorian University. He was ordained priest in St John’s, Uddingston, in 1985 by Bishop Joseph Devine and then returned to Rome to complete, or so he thought at the time, his education.

By 1987, the Rev Fr Leo W Cushley was equipped with both a Bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology and a Licentiate in Sacred Liturgy. He then returned home to work happily in the Diocese of Motherwell, but for only the next six years. He served first in Motherwell Cathedral and then transferred to St Serf’s, Airdrie. To parish duties was added school chaplaincy work.

Speaking of this period, Msgr Leo recalled: “It was good to be home among family and friends after twelve years away. The parish work and the chaplaincy work were new and challenging and, when I wasn’t doing that, I spent many a free day with priest friends bagging the odd Monroe in order to reacquaint myself with Scotland.”

In December 1992, he was serving as chaplain at St Aidan’s High School, Wishaw ― your esteemed but humble correspondent was a member of the Science staff at the time ― when out of the blue he was summoned to an interview with Bishop Joe Devine. He had no idea what Bishop Joe wanted with him, but it transpired that the Vatican authorities had written to His Lordship to ask if he would release Fr Leo for work in the Holy See’s diplomatic service.

Msgr Leo recalled: “The summons to Rome is always a bit mysterious: a letter arrives from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and it’s not addressed to you but to your bishop. If he is agreeable to letting you go, he then asks you if you would like to take up the new call.  So, after some thought about it, I agreed.  But what exactly was I letting myself in for?”

Monsignor’s mother said: “Leo had told us that the bishop wanted to see him, but he didn’t know what about. When he arrived home after the interview he was in a state of shock.”

Although the Vatican wanted him from the outset for the diplomatic service, he was to start for the time being in the Secretariat of State offices in the Apostolic Palace, having first negotiated the small matter of an interview in Rome. That done, August of 1993 saw him depart once more from Scotland bound for life in the Eternal City, but not this time as a student; at least not at first. At first, he was put to work as agreed in the English Language section of the Secretariat of State.

What is the Secretariat of State? Msgr Leo put it this way: “The Secretariat of State is the Vatican body which helps the Holy Father exercise his ministry in all the Church’s and the Holy See’s affairs. It is a little like the British government’s Home Office and Foreign Office rolled into one.

“The Secretariat of State also assists the Holy Father in the day to day running of the Roman Curia and by extension helps him to function as the focal point of communion throughout the Catholic world.”

The offices of the Secretariat of State are situated on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace, an address it shares with the Pope’s private apartments. Indeed, should you ever get the chance, when you emerge from the lift turn right and you get to the bit where Msgr Leo worked; turn left and a couple of rather large Swiss Guards will stop you going any further! Unless, of course, you have a rather special invite.

The Section of the Secretariat where Msgr Leo worked helps the Holy Father with all his work in the English language. As he put it: “You can well imagine the amount of things the Pope must be ready to communicate in English both to Church and to world leaders, and, to both Bishops’ conferences and to governments around the world.

“Moreover, there is all the correspondence that he receives in English, from all sorts of people; from the child who asks simply for the Pope’s blessing to the Head of State who wants to enlist the Holy See’s support on some international question. Then, once this correspondence has been presented to the Holy Father, the English Section deals with it according to his instructions.”
Serving in this Section are about eight English-speaking priests from all over the world. So important is their work that they have to take it in turns to man the office, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They have to deal with any and all matters as and when they arise.

Msgr Leo recalls this as “a busy and happy time in my life, extremely rewarding but very hard work.” But like his busy and happy time back home in the Diocese of Motherwell, it wasn’t to last.

As indicated above, the Secretariat authorities had from the outset wanted Msgr Leo for the Diplomatic Service. And that meant becoming a student again, but this time at one of the most select, if not in fact THE most select, academies in the world: the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (PEA). Msgr Leo enrolled in the academia in October 1994.

The PEA was established in 1701 by Pope Clement XI and was originally called Pontificia Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici (the Pontifical Academy for Noble Ecclesiastics). To gain admission, post-graduate clerical students not only had to be smart ― a doctorate in canon law was a given, you either had to have one or you had to get one while you were there, but students also had to have other formal qualifications of a very high standard as well as an aptitude for languages ― they had also to be of noble birth.

Obviously, since Leo got in, this is no longer the case!

Of his time at the PEA, Msgr Leo said: “The normal course of studies in the accademia includes in-house courses on the diplomacy of the Holy See, our manner of writing reports and dispatches, a detailed study of the history of the papacy (taught to us by a distinguished Scot, Msgr Charles Burns!), and the study of languages, with an emphasis on Italian, English, French and Spanish.

“We also study political science and international and diplomatic law. Everyone must complete a doctorate and, with a view to future duties, most students naturally choose canon law or international law.  Finally, there is an exam after which the young priest attachés receive Vatican citizenship, a diplomatic passport and a good medical before being appointed to their first embassy, or Nunciature, as they are known.”

That diplomatic passport not only allows Msgr Leo to travel rather more freely than you or I around the world, it also marks him out as a very rare bird indeed: a citizen of Vatican City State! He is in good company, for the citizenry are restricted to: the Pope, his Cardinals, the members of the diplomatic service, and a few lay people, perhaps totalling only a thousand persons in all. Moreover, the electoral franchise is restricted to those cardinals who have not celebrated their 80th birthday on the day the Head of State, the Pope, dies.

As a Vatican diplomat, Msgr Leo is expected to promote the policy of the Holy See. So what is that policy? He summed it up thus: “The Holy See employs its unique international position to promote peace, development and human rights, with a particular care for the freedom to practise one’s faith, no matter the religion in question.

“At the international level, the Holy See promotes policies that will allow the world’s peoples to live in peace and dignity, with adequate food, water, shelter and decent work. The Holy See’s independence and freedom to act on the world’s political stage is, of course, utilised for the good of the Church, but it also means that it is free to speak and act on behalf of others, especially those who, through poverty or oppression, have no voice.”

Msgr Leo’s “own adventure in this unusual world” began with a brief spell in the Nunciature in Cairo in 1996. Thereafter, his first real posting was to the Nunciature in Burundi, a landlocked country about the size of Belgium in the very heart of Africa, were he was able to perfect his French.

Msgr Leo recalled: “When I went there in 1997, Burundi was in the midst of a civil war, from which it is only now emerging. It is a country of some 6 million people, of whom about 67% is Catholic and for me it was a wonderful experience. I was especially impressed by the White Fathers, who have been there since the country first heard the gospel in the late nineteenth century, and whose presence has made the lives of the people so much better in every sphere.”

It was in Burundi, on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, that Stanley famously said: “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”

Msgr Leo pointed out that the spot where Stanley met Livingstone is not far from where Archbishop Michael Courtney, the Nuncio to Burundi, was assassinated while carrying out his duties at Christmas time in December 2003. He added: “This tragedy was only one of many in a forgotten conflict which claimed perhaps 300,000 lives.  Burundi is now on the way to peace, but its situation remains very fragile.”

It was also in Burundi that Msgr Leo said rather less famously than Stanley: “Big Tag, I presume?”

The occasion was when he went to the airport to meet off the plane his great friend Fr Gerard Tartaglia, now PP of the joint charge of St Margaret’s and Our Holy Redeemer’s, Clydebank, but then on the staff of the Scottish National Tribunal. (Fr Gerry is the brother of Archbishop Philip Tartaglia.)

Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, would not be many people’s idea of a holiday destination, even if there wasn’t a civil war going on, but Fr Tartaglia explained: “I knew there was a civil war going on, but I wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t think it was relatively safe, that we wouldn’t be able to move about safely. Obviously, if I thought there was a fair chance that I was going to be killed I wouldn’t have gone. But given that the Holy See had sent Leo and the French, American and Russian and other governments all had their diplomats still in the country, it was reasonable to assume that it was going to be safe.”

And despite what later happened to Archbishop Courtney, he has no regrets about having gone. Far from it. “It was incredibly impressive, mind-bogglingly impressive, how the activity of the Church was having a beneficial effect in the country. The Church was and is doing an amazing amount in Burundi.”

Fr Tartaglia joined Msgr Leo on a visit with the Missionary Sisters of Charity to an orphanage run by the ICIM Sisters of Belgium. During Fr Tartaglia’s remaining time at the Tribunal, each Christmas his staff sold cards made by the children of the orphanage. Over a period of about three or four years they raised about £5,000 or £6,000.

He was tremendously impressed by the reception Msgr Leo received wherever they went: “As a member of the Nuncio’s staff he was seen by those such as the White Fathers as a bridge between the Church workers on the ground and the outside world. But the ordinary people of Burundi clearly understood that Leo was someone who cared about them, was someone who could and would act as an advocate for them. They were aware that he would report back to the authorities in Rome on what was being done and what else needed to be done. They knew that through him the outside world would be better informed about what was going on in Burundi. There was a real sense of solidarity.”

Fr Tartaglia recalled that it had proven much easier to enter Burundi than to leave. He was supposed to fly out on the First of November. However, his flight was cancelled as the airport was closed. But not because of the civil war, but because it was All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation!

Msgr Leo’s own leave-taking of Burundi was occasioned by his being next posted to the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, where there has been a papal embassy since the sixteenth century. Indeed, Lisbon was one of the first permanent papal embassies established in modern times.

It will come as no surprise to learn that Msgr Leo (he received that title while based in Portugal) found that life in Lisbon was a lot quieter and much more peaceful than Bujumbura. Or, as he put it: “You could actually go for a walk in the street with a fair hope of coming home alive afterwards!” He added: “Portugal is a beautiful country with very kind people.  Lisbon is only an hour’s drive from Fátima, and it was an added blessing to be able to join the people in prayer there on a regular basis.”

But as had happened to him so often before, no matter that he was quite happy where he was, after three years he had to move on, this time to New York and the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations in New York. Msgr Leo said: “Every one of the 191 UN Member States has an embassy in New York, known technically as a ‘permanent mission’. The only other state to have enjoyed Permanent Observer status since the inception of the UN was Switzerland.”

However, Switzerland finally joined as a full member in 2002. Msgr Leo explained: “At that time there was discussion about whether or not the Holy See should also go down the road of full membership. But, having considered its options, it was decided instead to have its Observer status clarified. In this way, we remain active in every sphere of the UN’s activities, from the Security Council to the General Assembly, while staying above the fray, at least to an extent.”

The current Vatican team at the UN includes three diplomats, headed by the Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Celestino Migliore, a diplomat of over twenty years’ experience and who was the Holy See’s former Under-secretary for Relations with States, the equivalent of a deputy foreign minister. His Excellency is assisted by Msgr Ruben Dimaculangan, a diplomatic Counsellor from the Philippines, and Msgr Leo as First Secretary.

In the mission there are in total 18 permanent members of staff. In addition, there are nearly 30 other men and women of several nationalities whom His Excellency can call upon to attend meetings and to advise him on a whole range of issues. These are all experts in various fields, many of them lawyers or professors.

The Holy See helps along with the 191 member states and Palestine to elaborate the resolutions and decisions taken by all the UN’s main bodies, as appropriate.

Msgr Leo summarised the Holy See’s particular interests thus: “Our especial concerns naturally include the Catholic Church’s interest in fields such as human rights, the rights of women and children, life and health issues, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the eradication of poverty and promotion of development, fair trade, the law of the sea, the peaceful use of outer space, and so on.”

He added: “There are very many meetings, subjects and bodies, and the personnel of the Holy See’s Mission does its best to attend them and to participate actively and constructively.”