Every day, Aleteia offers a selection of articles written by the international press about the Church and the major issues that concern Catholics around the world. The opinions and views expressed in these articles are not those of the editors.
Friday 9 September 2022
1. On Her Majesty’s spiritual service
2. The Power to Serve: Curial authority is rooted in humility
3. In Kazakhstan, the Pope will visit a growing Church
4. Pope Francis’ big gamble: the synod on synodality
5. John Paul I’s charming letters to Dickens, Pinocchio, Chesterton…
On Her Majesty’s spiritual service
Gavin Ashenden, associate editor of the Catholic Herald, has had a longstanding connection with the British royal family, which goes back several generations. Firstly, his ancestor William Ashenden was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in the 1590s after being part of a successful military operation. Gavin Ashenden’s father, Michael Ashenden, then forged a friendship with Prince Philip as a member of the navy during the Second World War. However, most significantly, Gavin Ashenden himself established a direct relationship with Queen Elizabeth II because, as a former priest of the Church of England, he was appointed as one of her Chaplains from 2009 to 2017. Ashenden details some of his memories as Chaplain, such as his encounters with royal family members or his appointments to preach. “Elizabeth II came to the throne two years before I was born, and three-and-a-half centuries after her namesake knighted my wayward ancestor. Throughout my life she has exemplified Christian virtues of duty, selflessness, faith, integrity and sacrifice; it was the crowning honour of my Anglican ministry, such as it was, to serve as one of her chaplains,” he says. Ashenden explains that when the letter arrived asking for him to become one of the Queen’s Chaplains, he consulted his spiritual director who told him “any opportunity to serve Her Majesty must be taken with gratitude and diligently put into practice.”
Catholic Herald, English
“Francis’ curial reforms remind us that true authority is ultimately moral and spiritual,” explains Vatican expert and Pope Francis’ biographer Austen Ivereigh in an article published in Commonweal magazine. Commenting on several events the Argentinian pontiff took part in during the month of August, including the creation of new cardinals, a trip to Celestine V’s tomb, and meetings to discuss the newly implemented Constitution, Ivereigh highlights how Francis wanted to ultimately show “authority as a humble service.” Firstly the Pope’s new “red-hat selections” are bishops who are “unafraid of the center but attentive to the margins” and who reflect that “God’s style” means being “equally at home on a grand, universal level, while at the same time caring for the little things and little ones.” Next, Francis spent time discussing the new Apostolic Constitution Praedicate evangelium with the cardinals, as he tried to emphasize the message that “the power handed to the Church—as Jesus showed by ultimate example—is given not to dominate, nor to exact service, but to serve the needs of others, to seek their salvation.” Despite still having some concerns on certain “hot-button issues,” such as lay people serving in leadership positions in the Curia, the cardinals are mostly supportive of the new Constitution and the reforms it brings, claims Ivereigh. “If authority in the Church is rooted in charism, rather than the privileges of office, then all must be permanently open to moving on to the next mission—even the pope,” the scholar explains and in fact concludes that Pope Francis’ “authority has never been greater than now, when he stands ready to give it away.”
In Kazakhstan, the Pope will visit a growing Church
Kazakhstan, at the heart of Central Asia, is a mosaic of peoples with different ethnicities, languages, and religions, recalls the site Omnes a few days before the arrival of Pope Francis in this immense country counting 19 million people. The first traces of Christianity appeared in the third century, with the commercial and cultural movements brought about by the Silk Road. About 1,000 years later, Franciscan and Dominican missionaries arrived in these lands, spread the Gospel, and built monasteries. During these years the first diplomatic relations were established between the Holy See, Genghis Khan, and the other rulers of the Central Asian states. Certain canonical structures were even created, as the first known bishop in the region dates from 1278. Thereafter, the Christians of the region were persecuted until the Soviet era, but it was paradoxically Stalin who indirectly allowed the local Church to be reborn, as he deported Europeans, often Catholics such as Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, or Lithuanians, to the deserted steppes. Many died, but others settled and made Kazakhstan their homeland. The country gained its independence in 1991 and established diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1992. The Church has been able to develop its structure, and currently has about 182,000 Catholics, amounting to around 1% of the population. In addition to the many Catholics from the diaspora, more and more Kazakhs are asking to be baptized. The Catholic Church is now the second largest Christian minority after the Orthodox Church in a country with a Muslim majority.
Pope Francis’ big gamble: the synod on synodality
The synod on synodality, which is in full swing and will conclude in October 2023, is “the greatest gamble of this papacy,” says Jesuit priest Thomas Reese. This process “may succeed in bringing greater unity to the church, or it could result in greater conflict and division,” says Father Reese. While under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, synods were “stage-managed affairs, where the agenda and debate were carefully controlled” and where bishops were more concerned with showing “their loyalty to the pope and his teaching” rather than “advising” him, Francis has broken with that tradition, argues Reese. For the Argentine pontiff, everyone can express themselves, but should be careful of not “‘politicizing’ the synodal process” by wanting to push certain agendas. The Synod must be “a time of prayer, listening and discernment.” However, Father Reese laments that “conservatives are too fearful and progressives are too impatient for such a process.” The Jesuit is therefore “pessimistic,” while praying that “Francis once again surprises us.”
National Catholic Register, English
John Paul I’s charming letters to Dickens, Pinocchio, Chesterton…
The Catholic World Report focuses on “Illustrissimi,” a collection of 40 letters that Pope John Paul I wrote when he was still a Cardinal to historical, literary, and biblical figures. Mark Twain, Pinocchio, G. K. Chesterton, St. Theresa of Lisieux, Jesus Christ himself, Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the radio, Goethe and the Empress Maria Theresa, were all the “recipients” of Cardinal Luciani’s correspondence. These letters were first published in the early 1970s in the Italian Catholic magazine Il Messaggero di Sant’Antonio, then in book form in Italy in 1976. In each text, Cardinal Luciani emphasized a specific aspect of the life or writings of the recipient, which was then transformed into a discussion on a modern problem. Among the themes addressed were the sanctity of human life and sexuality, adolescence, the existence of the devil, the media… The Catholic World Report sees in his thinking “a shrewd and surprisingly relevant understanding of the increasingly post-Christian West and its social, economic, and political woes.” The collection of letters “is evidence of Pope Blessed John Paul I’s considerable erudition and literary talent,” the article concludes.
Catholic World Report, English