New edition on Knights Templar: No free copies

To a medieval historian, it was a real temptation.

Franco Cardini, one of Italy’s most renowned experts on the Middle Ages, candidly confessed as much during a press conference last week. In front of him on the speaker’s dais stood a copy of “Processus Contra Templarios,” the facsimile collection of Vatican documents with an $8,400 price tag.

History professors generally aren’t rich, Cardini said, and they have a tendency to kleptomania. If the book hadn’t been so imposing and precious, he said, it would have already been in his briefcase.

He was kidding — we think. Certainly there were no free copies floating around at the volume’s unveiling. More than a book, it was an elaborate artifact, with parchment reproductions and cardinals’ seals, all wrapped in a goatskin binding. The centerpiece was the Chinon parchment, which detailed a papal investigation of the Knights Templar in 1308.

Who was buying up the 799 copies of this limited edition? The publisher wouldn’t say (“right to privacy”) but it was a good bet that no one at the Vatican could afford it. Pope Benedict’s copy was a gift.

Cardini was just one of the highlights of the press conference. Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, started it off with a sharply worded criticism of the false claims that have swirled around the documents ahead of the book launch.

That put him at cross purposes with the book’s publicists, who sat impassively on the stage next to him. The word around the Vatican is that Bishop Pagano, a rigorous academic, has no time for pseudo-scholars seeking to hype speculation or move product.

Bishop Pagano had a similar reaction when the Vatican Secret Archives recently opened its files relating to the pre-World War II period. The appetite was high for a “smoking gun” piece of evidence showing that the future Pope Pius XII — then nuncio to Germany — was somehow cooperating with Hitler. But after initial research of the Archives material failed to produce anything dramatic, curiosity gave way to disinterest, the prefect said.

I thought something was odd at the Templars press conference when Cardinal Raffaele Farina, the Vatican archivist, failed to show up on the rostrum as scheduled. Then Bishop Pagano, after slamming the publicity hype, walked out of the room before the presentation was half-over. Too bad he missed Cardini’s call for a less magnificent edition of the documents, one that an average academic could afford.

Vatican press conferences are usually long-winded, tedious, and a bit Politburo-esque: a line-up of church officials reading speeches that say much the same thing. This one was different, and it was a breath of fresh air.

Tributes from the Catholic press for a new cardinal

CNS photo by Bob RollerAll of us in the Catholic press were thrilled when Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop John P. Foley, the longtime president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, a cardinal. Cardinal-designate Foley has been our friend and mentor going back to the days when he was editor of the Philadelphia archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Standard and Times.

So it should be no surprise that many of us are writing tributes to him. One of the best I’ve seen so far is by Joe Ryan, currently the assistant editor at The Dialog, diocesan newspaper of Wilmington, Del.  Joe worked for Cardinal-designate Foley in Philadelphia and learned from him the ideals that all Catholic journalists try to uphold.

“Whether reporting on … a parish’s anniversary, a clothing drive or the tragedy of a victim’s molestation by a priest, Catholic journalism’s duty to report the truth in light of our faith is never detrimental to the church,” Joe wrote.

His tribute starts off with a story that many of us in the Catholic press have already heard (perhaps several times!) about a trip the young priest-editor took with the then-archbishop of Philadelphia:

Philadelphia’s Cardinal John Krol was touring the Holy Land in the early 1970s when he went to Egypt and visited the pyramids at Giza. Like many tourists there, the distinguished prelate was invited by a persistent hawker to ride a camel.

The cardinal asked the editor of his newspaper, The Catholic Standard and Times, if he thought he should get on the camel.

“No, your eminence,” said Msgr. John P. Foley. “I would advise you not to get on that camel.”

Cardinal Krol, caught between a beckoning Bedouin and his dubious priest-editor, decided his opportunities in life to ride a camel would be limited, so up he climbed.

Msgr. Foley promptly took his boss’s picture, which ran in Catholic newspapers around the world. It showed the Archbishop of Philadelphia, ungainly in the camel’s saddle, looking more like the former butcher from Cleveland he had been than Lawrence of Arabia.

“You told me not to get on the camel; why did you take my picture?” the cardinal asked the editor.

“As your loyal priest, your eminence, I gave you my best advice,” Msgr. Foley said. “As the editor of your newspaper, I took your picture.”

That incident at Giza summarizes the essence of Catholic journalism as I learned it 30 years ago from Msgr. Foley, who was named a cardinal Oct. 17 by Pope Benedict XVI; when the word Catholic modifies the word journalism, it doesn’t alter the discipline with bias, it strengthens it with a profound truth — the way, the truth and the life of Jesus Christ.

The entire tribute is worth reading, especially if you’ve ever wondered how we define our roles as Catholic journalists and why we report the “Good News” and the bad news at the same time.  (This link here will take you to a .pdf of the entire current edition of The Dialog. For Joe’s tribute to Cardinal-designate Foley, go to Page 13 of the 26-page .pdf file.)

This week in Origins

Another edition of Origins CNS Documentary Service is online and in the mail. Here’s what’s in the new edition dated Nov. 1:

  • The English-speaking Catholic bishops from Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria call for the opening of “new doors” in dialogue between Catholics and Muslims. “We want to deepen our dialogue so that we can enter in the heart of the matter: the promotion of peace in our West African subregion,” they say. (Subscribers: Click here)
  • Pope Paul VI’s cry from the heart in “Populorum Progressio” that “development is the new name for peace” has only gained new urgency in the 40 years since it was issued, says Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. (Subscribers: Click here)
  • The liturgical celebration of marriage ought to be a vital part of Catholic marriage ministry and a source of theological reflection on the sacrament of marriage, says liturgist Paul Covino. (Subscribers: Click here)

USCCB says ‘Bella’ ’should resonate deeply with Catholic viewers’

Another followup to an earlier post: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting review of “Bella” is now publicly available. Harry Forbes (more about him here) says of the movie: “Above all, the film has an affirmative pro-life message, along with themes of self-forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption that should resonate deeply with Catholic viewers.”

Also, if you’ve heard of “Bella” but are unsure of the plotlines, Harry’s review also gives a good summation without giving everything away. The USCCB classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (And if you’re unfamiliar with our movie review section, you can explore it here.)

Climate change: Al Gore and Pope Benedict

Following up on our post the other day about Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize, we give you a link to an article in Our Sunday Visitor about stewardship of the earth as a moral issue. But as the OSV article by Gerald Korson notes, the church and environmentalists part company on the issue of population control. Says one analyst about environmentalists, “Very often, they seem much more concerned about population in poor countries than about consumption in rich countries.”

The importance of praying for rain

It’s raining here today, finally, after a record number of days without measurable precipitation, but things have been even worse in Georgia, where Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta recently wrote a column in The Georgia Bulletin about the importance of seeking God’s intervention during times of drought as part of the church’s connection to nature.

Seminarian says creating artwork helped him hear the call to priesthood

The journey toward the priesthood takes place in many ways, as shown once again by this story in The Michigan Catholic in Detroit about seminarian Craig Giera. His art gave him time to read and pray and learn about himself. The story also shows examples of some of his work.