Dec 212010

I started posting the Catholic Press Photo, “Pope’s Christmas Card,” in 2008. [[ 2008 card, 2009 card ]]

The Rome-based Catholic Press Photo, established over 40 years ago, now led by Alessia Giuliani, the daughter of one of the founders, has been a good friend. This gives me a chance to highlight their excellent work. Enjoy their pictures … especially those of the cardinals.

The picture of the pope that appears on this card was taken on November 29, 2006 during his trip to Turkey (which explains the somewhat oriental look of his miter).

This is the first time, since 2008, that there has been words in addition to the fairly easy to decipher: ‘The Catholic Press Photo wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”.

I am not conversant in Latin or Italian, with even English being my second tongue. So, as ever, I had to rely on the Web to work out what the Latin and Italian denotes. [The top phrase is in Latin and the one below it is in Italian. There might be a ‘typo’ in the Latin! Please refer to the very kind and helpful comment by ‘Andrew.’ Catholic Press Photo has acknowledged that there is indeed a typo! As ‘Andrew’ points out, it should be ‘super’ rather than ‘sper.’ Happens. My middle name is ‘typos,’ BUT this was not my doing.]

As John Paul II (#265), so famously told the Italians on the day he was elected, ‘if I make a mistake you will correct me.’

It appears to say, first in Latin and then in Italian: ‘A light will shine upon us, for the Lord is born for us. Today the light will shine upon us, for the Lord is born for us’.

[Per ‘Andrew,’ the Italian is basically the same but begins with the additional word “today.” See Comments below.]

Thank you Alessia and a Jolly Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you.

I also received the following card from my father’s dear friend (and contemporary), Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis, the glittering predecessors of the new cardinal from Sri Lanka. Archbishop Gomis  has also been a good friend and immediately gave me permission to reprint his card. Merry Christmas to you too Father. It has been a LONG TIME, 1966 to be precise, since I had a Christmas in Ceylon, and boy did I have great Christmases there, with Santa Clause (my Baptist uncle, the lawyer) bringing me presents by the pillowcase full — because stockings were too small for all the toys that he collected over the year for my Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you all. Thanks for all the support and keeping me engaged and happy. It was quite a year. Getting ‘The Next Pope’ out was one of the greatest achievements of my life. I actually worked hard on that. Hoping that we all have a great 2011. Thank you.

Dec 202010

By Anura Guruge

A Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) from 1768

The use of pirated software, in any and all circumstances, sans exception, is a direct violation of  the ‘though shall not steal‘ commandment, and is thus a sin. It is also a prosecutable crime. The Catholic Church, moreover, sees this commandment as an extension of ‘love thy neighbor as yourself’ and pertaining to the respect of private property.

Just because software piracy is a faceless, anonymous crime against a corporation does NOT make it any different to intentionally using a stolen credit card to order goods online from WalMart.

Hence, my disquiet. In the context of the pope’s now famous comment about the applicability of using condoms in some sinful scenarios, at least one contributor to this blog stated: ‘a sin is a sin.’ Bingo. Using pirated software, even for the Lord’s work, is a sin — particularly when, in nearly all instances, perfectly acceptable equivalents are available for free. This is definitely the case in this instance, the pirated software in question being anti-virus software from the Czech Republic (26% Catholic) company Avast! — whose new logo is ‘Avast! be free‘ BECAUSE it offers a very competent FREE version of its software. The ONLY difference between the free version and two paid versions are fairly esoteric features not usually required by ‘professional’ users who not particularly promiscuous in the use of the Web.

Just in case you are thinking that I dredge the Web looking for stories such as this about the Vatican, that is actually far from the case. Though I have had a number of e-mails suggesting that I start covering Vatican related matter that has appeared in Wiki-Leaks, I have refrained (and can even state that I have yet to visit Wiki-Leaks). This story about the Vatican’s use of pirated Avast software popped-up, quite literally, in front of my face, near mid-night on Thursday night [Dec. 16, 2010].

My Avast Dashboard with the words 'Vatican' at the bottom.

Though I have had a few issues with it, I have been a very committed user of Avast for a number of years. Thursday night, before shutting down my PC, I decided to see how Avast was doing on my machine — since I had recently upgraded (for a fee) to the latest version, and I hadn’t really checked Avast since the upgrade … because I trust Avast so much that I rarely bother to check it. So I opened up the Avast Dashboard (i.e., Control Panel). See screen shot >> at right. I thought I was seeing this. But NO, here was a Windows 7 Dashboard that mentioned the word ‘Vatican‘.

I was intrigued and irritated. I read the story … and you should too … by clicking here.

I am well aware that close to 4,000 people, many lay, work at the Vatican at any given time. But, it was somebody connected to the official Vatican ISP — and here again I know that there are multiple ISPs at the Vatican, viz. Holy See, Curia, Radio Vatican etc. But, the Vatican, like corporations, should have stringent policies against the use of illegal pirated software — with the IT department responsible for ferreting out violations. This story has now been on the Web since at least Thursday. The Vatican must know about it. I just did a Google … and yes, as is to be expected, the more inflammatory outlets are trying to rope in the pope. What I do not see is a statement by Cardinal Bertone, S.D.B., denouncing the use of pirated software and assuring that this will not happen again.

I have multiple, unrelated reasons for raising this issue. These being:

  1. To me, this is yet another instance, in what is now becoming a long list, of ‘insensitivity’ by the Vatican, at a time, because of the never ending clergy sex abuse scandal, one would hope to see the Vatican acting in a more mature, responsible manner. Just today, there was news of another priest, this one in New York, being defrocked. And, just in case you can’t remember any ‘insensitivities’ try the topless acrobats, the Vatican Press Office breaking the embargo on the pope’s book, Kasper’s derogatory comments on the UK etc. Again, the key issue is that everything the Vatican does at present, is being played out against the sad, sordid backdrop of the clergy sex abuse mess.
  2. A sin is a sin.
  3. There is nothing accidental about installing and activating pirated software. It require premeditation and explicit, specific execution — particularly when you are entering the ‘stolen’ product code. Those that work for the Vatican should be above such behavior.
  4. It is a crime.
  5. If you really think about this, the Vatican’s absence of guilt when comes to this issue provides another data point, re. ‘permissible’ sins per the Vatican, in the debate about the pope’s comments on condoms.
  6. Yes, I, as the person, in 1978, who came up with the Serial Number-based software validation scheme that eventually morphed into the tedious, Product Code activation scheme that we all hate, am a passionate anti-piracy advocate.
  7. I have two paid Avast licenses, not really because I need the Pro version … BUT because I firmly believe that those that can should pay for software such as Avast so that they can provide FREE versions for those that can’t afford the Pro version.

This is enough. I am just waiting for the Vatican to issue a statement that it will implement a zero-tolerance policy on software piracy. This would be a good start for other zero-tolerance policies by the Vatican.

Thanks & Cheers.

P.S., In my reckoning Avast is either #2 or #1 when it comes to the best anti-virus for PCs. ALL of the really good anti-virus programs for PCs are now developed EAST of what used to be West Germany. The only program that could be better than Avast is developed in Russia. Though I have visited Russia and one of my most memorable moments in life was getting to meet Yuri Gagarin and shake his hand, I still cannot come to terms with having Russian software on my computers. Hence, Avast … having met my first Czech when I was quite young, when a young film director moved into our neighborhood with a young Czech bride … he having gone there to study film making.

Dec 172010

by Anura Guruge

topless performance for the pope

Click for YouTube video on topless performance for the pope

On Wednesday, at his weekly audience, the pope, Benedict XVI (#266), was entertained by four (apparently fairly famous) topless male acrobats calling themselves the Fratelli Pellegrini (Pellegrini Brothers). They were supposedly there as a part of a convention on circuses organized by the curial Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants. Yes, check this from the Vatican Web site itself.

Here is one news link to get you going. Click on the picture for a YouTube video.

Here are the Google results for what you get if you do a search on ‘pope topless acrobat troupe’. If you read through the comments of those that posted the videos, you will see quite a few unflattering words used to describe the pope — in this instance. In this instance, I believe that most of these words are valid.

I, an inveterate hedonist by nature, am far from a prude. I am very much at home on topless beaches (though alas we don’t have any around here), ardently defend breast feeding in public places and was known for my monthly belly dancing soirees in London for business customers.

That said, I have a BIG problem with a topless performance in front of the pope, quite a few cardinals and a group of cheering nuns. [It reminded me of the adage that ‘it is very difficult to stop once you get into the habit’.] If nuns (or for that matter cardinals) in Boston wanted to be entertained in this manner, in public, they would need to go to Chippendales. While, as a ‘European,’ the lingering (hypocritical) Puritanism in the US amuses me, I know that this level of male nudity would not be permitted at a public circus in the US (and I am a connoisseur of circuses, having even seen the Moscow circus multiple times, once, very memorably, in Moscow, Russia).

This is the second time, in less than a month, where the pope has in some way been involved with male-oriented sexuality — his famous comments on condom use specifically referring to male prostitutes.

Here is my issue. The clergy sex abuse was predominantly against boys and young men. [My prior comments.] Male-on-Male. Now we get two instances …

Yes, I will say it. It strikes ME as if the Vatican is thumbing their collective nose at the sex abuse victims.

That is my problem.

This was NOT necessary.

This was intentionally provocative.

If this happened in the Obama White House their would be calls for impeachment.

Watch the pope in the videos … and MSNBC for one … showed a clip for at least a minute this morning. It shows the pope as an old man without sufficient grip on his domain. Whoever organized this, and I gather this person also organized a break dance demonstration (albeit by fully clad boys) for John Paul II (#265) some years ago, did the pope no favors. If anything, as with the ‘leak’ of the condom comments, one has to believe that their are folks in the Vatican hell bent on causing trouble for the pope and the Church. But, as I have said before, the pope is the CEO. He should be in charge.

Just in the last week, in the comment section of this blog, there was discussion as to some allegations about Paul VI (#263). All I can say, over and over again, ‘what are they thinking?’

As a father of three daughters, I am vehemently opposed to any form of female exploitation. But, I am also adult enough to know that there are women, for example famous actresses, who will perform in the nude not because they have to (for financial or other reasons) but because they want to.

Given that, I would really have preferred to see the pope entertained by four topless females than this unsavory, uncalled for display of Vatican insensitivity.

Dec 072010

by Anura Guruge

The next pope is also likely to be over 75, possibly even a non-elector, December 6, 2010 post.

Anura Guruge papabili 75+Yesterday’s post [above], as was to be expected, did not please many. They are far from inspired by the thought of another elderly pope.

But, the more I think about it the more I become convinced that the electors are not going to have much of a choice — unless of course the rules change. This pope could usher in a whole new era by retiring at 85 — a full 10 years later than the retirement age specified for other bishops. That could be a welcome precedent. But, 85 isn’t that young. It would still mean that a pope elected at 70 will rule for 15 years. And, I sincerely doubt that this pope will retire at 85. So …
I face another dilemma. I think the current pope will be around for at least another 4 years (2014). I am even anticipating that he will live to be 93 … thus becoming the oldest pope since 1400. This long term horizon makes picking papabili not only difficult but meaningless. But, people want a list so that they can speculate. So today, I started, mainly out of curiosity, to look at potential papabili who will be 75 to 77 in 2011. I have to confess that there are some very alluring prospects. I nearly whistled out loud, particularly given the number of Italians. One could even say that some of the strongest candidates are in this bracket. So lets just have a look, with the names in no particular order — with the ages shown within parenthesis being their age at their 2011 birthday (though I am still sticking to my guns that the next pope will be ‘white,’ but not from Poland, Germany, USA or Cuba).

A plausible older (transitional) next pope?

Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B. (77), Italian, Cardinal Bishop,
Secretary of State and Camerlengo.
Fortunato Baldelli
(76), Italian, Major Penitentiary.
Francesco Monterisi
(77), Italian, Archpriest,
Papal Basilica of S. Paolo fouri le Mura.
Paolo Sardi
(77), Italian, Patron, Order of Malta.
Giovanni Battista Re
(77), Italian, Cardinal Bishop, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops.
Dionigi Tettamanzi
(77), Italian, Archbishop of Milan.
Ennio Antonelli
(75), Italian, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family [was #2 on my 2008 papabili list].
Cláudio Hummes
, O.F.M. (77), Brazil, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation of the Clergy.
José da Cruz Policarpo
(75), Portugal, Patriarch of Lisbon [was #10 on my 2008 papabili list].
Antonio María Rouco Varela
(75), Spain, Archbishop of Madrid.
Nicolás de Jesús López Rodriguez
(75), Dominican Republic, Archbishop of Santo Domingo.

Dec 062010

by Anura Guruge

Pope Benedict XVI becomes the 7th oldest pope. July 19, 2010 post.
Pope Benedict XVI was the 5th oldest to be elected pope. July 21, 2010 post.
The length of the past papacies, July 28, 2010 post.
The youngest popes. June 24, 2010 post.
Papabili 2009 list, as it appeared in Anura Guruge’s ‘The Next Pope’ book.

Per my self appointed task, I have again been pondering papabili, post the November 20, 2010 cardinal creating consistory. As is my wont, I do this by staring at various tables — all of which, given my my penchant for data, have the ages of the prospective cardinals.

Then it hit me last night. I have been wrong! I had maintained that the next pope, when elected, will not be over 75 … bearing in mind, that the current pope,
Benedict XVI (#266), at 78 years and 3 days, was the 5th oldest pope to be elected since 1400. [Refer to the links at top.]

Thanks to advances in medicines, health care and diagnostic technologies, people, around the world, but particularly so in the developed countries are living longer and longer. The current pope, at 83, has the best medical care ever received by a pope. The pope has an elder brother, a priest, who is still alive at 89. The chances are that the pope will also live to be 89, if not more.
The average age of the eighty non-elector cardinals is 83.3 years.

Pope and cardinal statistics by Next Pope expert Anura Guruge
Today, we have to assume that the next pope, unless he already had serious health problems when elected (and even then, as with Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien who has a pace maker for his heart, modern health care could still do miracles), is likely to live to be at least 85. Look at the statistics.

The cardinal electors, intentionally or otherwise, will have to recalibrate their expectations when thinking about the next pope. Today’s 75 was the 65 around the time of Good Pope John (#262). [And even he was elected at the age of 76.]

A cardinal elected at 70 as the next pope could easily enjoy a 15 year papacy. That is not exceptionally long, but long enough. Popes can change over the course of that time, especially if they are older.

Yes, of course, Canon Law explicitly permits a pope to legitimately retire — and Benedict XVI, in his recent, much publicized ‘book-length’ interview, talked about the possibility popes retiring [i.e., resigning]. But, this is a long shot. For very good reasons, we haven’t had a pope resign in close to 600 years. Yes, there are other means whereby the papal ‘court’ can force a succession — but again today’s far superior medical technology puts a crimp in that too. Plus, there is the whole issue that when a pope ceases to be, his inner circle lose their jobs, status and power. Consequently, those closest to a pope will do their best to prevent a pope from resigning [unless, of course, he has driven them all way beyond distraction]. There are credible accounts that the last two years of John Paul II’s reign was but a ‘puppet regime.’

This could be a dilemma for electors when it comes to the next pope.

This potential for exceptional longevity changes many of the ‘ground rules.’ There is a lot of talk right now that it is time for another Italian pope. That could very well be the case. But, would they want an Italian pope who might reign for 15 years?

This issue of potentially protracted papacies get even more ‘complicated’ when we start thinking of ‘change.’ We have never had a Latin American pope or even a pope from the Americas (and before anybody gets excited, I am thinking Canada, not the USA). Will the electors be willing to make such a big change if they think they will not get a chance to rectify it for over 15 years. When I put together my 2008 papabili list, I excluded Brazil’s highly regarded Cardinal Cláudio Hummes as being too old and went with the considerably younger Scherer. I have had many e-mails and online comments about Cardinal Hummes. The way I am thinking now … he looks GOOD!

And this is where it starts getting ‘scary.’ The next conclave may not happen till 2016 or even later. Cardinal Hummes would be 82 in 2016. That is one year younger than Benedict XVI is today. At 82, assuming he is healthy, he would make an interesting choice. A potential 5 to 7 year ‘transitional’ papacy. It is always worth remembering that you do not need a length papacy to get things done. Good Pope John’s papacy lasted 4 years and 218 days.

So food for thought.

I am going to change my guidelines. I am going to start focusing on cardinals 75 or over!

Dec 032010

by Father Anthony, STL
Sussex, UK

Father Anthony’s pictures from the November 20, 2010 cardinal creating consistory.
Father Anthony’s initial reflections from attending the November 20, 2010 consistory.
Father Anthony’s post consistory notes. November 28, 2010.

The Row about condoms

Pope Benedict is a highly intelligent man and an outstanding theologian. This would be true even if he had never become a bishop or indeed the Pope. There is really no need to interpret his words. They are clear, and the meaning is clear. He is not questioning the teaching on contraception as spelt out by Pope Paul VI in the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae, and repeated on many occasions by Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict is responding to a specific question regarding difficult situations and moral choices.

Pope Paul was concerned with the question of sexuality in marriage. He teaches that there are two essential; aspects to married sexuality. It is at once “love-making” and “life-giving”. To separate these two aspects by the use of “artificial contraception” is to go against the will of God, and is thus wrong. Pope Paul does not discuss at all the question of sex outside marriage in this encyclical because it is not relevant. The Church clearly regards sex outside marriage in any form as wrong, and prohibited by the moral law. His concern is specifically with married sexuality.

Many pastors and moral theologians have given thought to the moral issues involved when people engaging in sexual activity outside marriage choose to make use of condoms or other forms of contraception that do not involve abortion. It has seemed to many that in an already objectively sinful situation the use of condoms would certainly not make the situation worse, and might be sign of some degree of moral responsibility.

As I understand the Holy Father’s words in the interview, this is precisely the point that he is making. It is newsworthy in that it is the first time that a Pope has made this point explicitly, but it does not represent in itself any change in Catholic teaching. Inevitably there will those who would apply a similar reasoning to other situations where the use of condoms could contribute to saving lives. That is an important debate, and there is no uniformity even at the highest levels in the Church on that question. Some will certainly find in the Holy Father’s words encouragement to give further thought to these very difficult situations, but, to my mind, what the Pope has actually said represents no change in teaching, but reveals what we already know; namely that Benedict XVI is a shepherd who knows how to give wise and prudent advice to those in need.

Dec 022010

by Father Anthony, STL
Sussex, UK

Father Anthony’s pictures from the November 20, 2010 cardinal creating consistory.
Father Anthony’s initial reflections from attending the November 20, 2010 consistory.
Father Anthony’s post consistory notes. November 28, 2010.

The copyright of these wonderful pictures belong to Father Anthony, an avid photographer.

Please click on each image to see it in its full size.

Thank you Father on behalf of all of us. These are very good pictures.

"Always Watchful" -- Father Anthony's caption

Father Anthony enjoys Rome's Trevi fountain a couple of Summers back

Another picture of Father Anthony, STL, Sussex, UK.

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