Nov 242011

  by Father Anthony, STL
  Sussex, UK

The two latest Father Anthony related posts. Do a search for all the others (or follow some of the links):
1/ Nov. 18, 2011 — Pictures of Pope Benedict XVI, Last Week, From Father Anthony, STL.
2/ Oct. 26, 2011 — Father Anthony Visiting Rome Again; and A Few Thoughts On The Pope’s Health.

Papal apartment, at the Papal Palace, by Fr. Anthony from this trip. (Copyright protected)

Dear Anura,
It is very obvious that the Pope has slowed up somewhat.  I had not seen him except on TV since he was with us in London at Westminster Cathedral in September last year. He seems to have aged during these last months and seems rather more frail than he was. They say that he is suffering from a form of arthrosis which involves the degeneration of the joints. I would imagine that it  must be quite painful. On the other hand he is clearly on good form mentally. The talks that he writes himself are thoughtful and show that his mind is as sharp as ever. I heard no talk about the succession. There was no sense of things coming to an end.

At the same time people are realistic about the prospects for a man of 84 who has never been in robust health. Plans are still being made for journeys outside Italy including Mexico and Cuba.

While I was in Rome the focus of the media was on the downfall of Berlusconi. It will be interesting to see how this impacts on the Church and the Vatican. It would be fair to say that under Cardinal Bertone the Curia has become more heavily Italian, and that Italian politics have an effect on what happens at the Vatican. There is certainly no one Italian view among the senior Italian  Cardinals on the role of the Church in Italy and the proper role of the Vatican. I do not think that in the event of a conclave it would be easy to unite the Italian Cardinals around one Italian candidate. Again many outside Italy think that this pontificate has been too “Eurocentric”, and this could lead to a different direction in the next pontificate. However I am better as an observer than a prophet, so we shall have to wait and see.

God bless,
Father Tony

Nov 232011

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

St. Eugene's Cathedral, the 'Mother Church' for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Derry


 by Anura Guruge

On November 4, 2011, Ireland, nominally 85% Catholic, surprised the world and stunned the Vatican by announcing that it was closing its embassy to the Holy See. The roots of this rift, as is to be expected, has to do with the child abuse coverup crimes. Here is a summary of some of what had taken place over the summer, with rogue bishop John Magee, secretary to three popes, responsible for quite a bit of the unbecoming shenanigans.

Today, November 23, 2011, the Vatican announced that the pope had accepted the resignation of the 71-year old Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty — Hegarty having tendered his resignation two weeks prior, citing an unspecified, but drastic, illness. The nominal retirement age for diocesan bishops, per Canon Law, is 75.

At first sight, at face value, this would appear to be an innocuous, regretful retirement of, alas, another ailing bishop. But there appears to be more to this, and again, regretfully, it has to do with the child abuse coverup crimes. Here are some of the other facts that make you realize that this was no ordinary poor health-related retirement:

 †  Magee’s downfall was the infamous Cloyne Report, produced by an Irish government appointed panel,
that found fault with ‘white lies’ Magee. Well there is a similar Child-Abuse Raphoe Report, this time authorized by the church coming out very shortly, and guess what, Raphoe was Hegarty’s previous seat. The current bishop of Raphoe already has the report but as yet to publish it! So, Hegarty’s retirement seems to be timed to occur prior
to the publication of this report. The expectations are that Hegarty will feature prominently, but not favorably, in this report. Not good.

 †  With Hegarty’s departure (albeit with a good pension), 7 of Ireland’s 26 Catholic dioceses, i.e., 27%, are without bishops (per AP)!


  Of the other 6 Irish bishops to ‘retire’ since 2009, only 3 had reached the 75-year retirement age.

 †  Three of the Irish bishops that have ‘retired’ since 2009, Magee being one of these, have been involved in the sex abuse crime spree!

 †  The Vatican, in this case under the curial leadership of my #1 papabile, His Eminence, Lord Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., appears to be Grandstanding the fact that they are in no hurry to fill the vacant bishoprics.

 †  11 of Ireland’s 26 Catholic dioceses, i.e., 42%, have, on paper, less than 100,000 Catholics. Church attendance is at an all time low. A growing belief is that the Vatican plans to reduce the number of Catholic dioceses in Ireland — thus reducing the number of Irish bishops that will have to be closely supervised for transgression! The rift widens and gets deeper.

Nov 222011

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

Thanks to our research here, it is now well known (even reported by Vatican Radio), that on July 19, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI (#266) became the 7th oldest pope since 1400.

We have also pointed out that Pope Benedict XVI was the 5th oldest to be elected pope — again as of 1400.

And our trusty countdown clock (—> see sidebar) tells us that he will be the 6th oldest, overtaking his predecessor John Paul II (#265), in 98 days [i.e., February 29, 2012 — yes, Leap Year Day, a very appropriate day to leap over a still bestriding pope].

But the other morning, on my run, I realized that the pope now has another longevity record — one that he can further improve upon over the next three years.

ten oldest pope by Anura Guruge

This table, of the oldest, since 1400, when elected will make it even clearer.

oldest popes when elected by Anura Guruge

Of those elected pope post their 78th birthday (as of 1400) only Clement XII (#247) has reigned for longer.

Of those elected pope post their 78th birthday (as of 1400), only the two Clements, XII (#247) and X (#240), have lived to be older.

This pope can eclipse the Clements over the next 3 years!

Yes, I will start adding the countdown clocks post February 29, 2012.

Nov 222011

by Anura Guruge

St. Mary Major post Bernard Law with Santos Abril y Castello by Anura Guruge

If you need help, please refer to

Putting all the other horrendously disturbing facets of this ugly issue aside, it had always bothered me as to why the pope picked THIS, the largest and most dear of the Roman Marian churches, as signified by ‘Maggiore’ — given that St. Mary is BEST known as A MOTHER and a VIRGIN.

We know that the pope, before his incapacitated by his ailments, had an impish sense of humor. Was he having a joke on all of us?

Nov 212011

Rejoice: Russian Orthodox Icon "All of Creation Rejoices in Thee"

Refers to today’s post on the unmentionable. The announcement he refers to is the Vatican Information Service (VIS)Other Pontifical ActsIMAGE (with white background) that appears towards the end. The AP article is the link at the very end.

Louis Epstein:

I knew you’d be jumping for joy over the Basilica of St. Mary Major becoming a Law-less place.

Since you reproduce the whole announcement, it’s worth noting that Bishop Pop of the Romanian Church becomes the world’s youngest bishop. (Younger than B XVI by more than any bishop ever appointed by JP II was younger than JP II).

The new Archpriest might be thought to take his place behind those who have been waiting longer for red hats in appropriate positions, or be allowed to move ahead because of his age … he retains the position of Vice-Camerlengo which is as a rule NOT held by a Cardinal, though his predecessor Cardinal Sardi did not give it up until January after being elevated in November 2010. During the next conclave, the Vice-Camerlengo will be administering the temporal affairs of the Church while the Camerlengo is locked away, just as the Vicegerent (if that vacancy were filled) will adminster the Diocese of Rome while the Cardinal Vicar-General is locked away. There is no retirement age for the Vice-Camerlengo, and Ettore Cunial (coincidentally a former Vicegerent) retired as Vice-Camerlengo only the month before his 99th birthday.

Nicole Winfield’s AP article, which you link to, errs in saying Cardinal Law retains his dicastery memberships after his 80th birthday,unless canon law has changed. I’ll drop her a line.

Louis’ interaction with AP:

Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2011 20:47:47 -0000

From: “Winfield, Nicole”

To: Louis Epstein

Subject: RE: Cardinal Law’s Retirement

Dear Mr. Epstein,

Thanks for your note.

That paragraph was based on incorrect information provided by the Vatican press office. It was removed in a subsequent update to the story.



Nicole Winfield
Associated Press
Piazza Grazioli 5
00186 Rome, Italy

 From: Louis Epstein

Sent: Mon 11/21/2011 8:14 PM

To: Winfield, Nicole

Subject: Cardinal Law’s Retirement

What’s your source on Cardinal Law retaining his dicastery memberships?

Pope Paul VI’s decree instituting retirement at age 80 also provided that Curial appointments automatically lapsed on a Cardinal’s 80th birthday unless the Pope explicitly extended them,regardless of whatever other office he might retain…has this changed?

Nov 212011

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge
17-days ago, on November 4, 2011, the Unmentionable turned 80 and ceased to be a cardinal elector (though he for ever sullied the credibility of 2005 conclave by his presence).

Then the Vatican in yet another of those inexplicable lapses in sensitivity, let alone common sense, had the audacity to publicize the gala banquet that was organized for his birthday — with steps even taken to ensure that all of the prelates from Boston just happened to be in Rome that day!

Suffice to say there was outcry. The poor, innocent victims, yet again, asked the pope (way too politely) to end his tenure as a cardinal.

The pope yet again turned a deaf ear — highlighting that even Austrian Hans Hermann Groër died a cardinal. The last time a cardinal was deprived of his rank was in 1927! [See this post.] I, as a father, did what little I could to express my frustration and outrage.

I was out till noon today. When I got back I had two gleeful e-mails, one from Boston, the other a bit south of there. (Thank you.) Both wanted to make sure that I had heard the news.

It is actually funny but telling. The Vatican, at least in this instance, having got it wrong for so long, finally appeared to have seen the light.

Like me, they didn’t mention him by name!

Bravo. Thank you.

Rather than mention that he had been relieved of his post as Archpriest, they announced the new Archpriest — with no mention of what happened to the prior holder. Bravo.

Here is the actual announcement. It is worth seeing in its original form:

Contrary to what some are saying this had NOTHING to do with age.

Canon 401 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law only applies to diocesan bishops and he ceased to be that in December 2002. I checked the Code. There appears to be no retirement age for Archpriests. So this was NOT a retirement. Thank God.

The take from a Boston publication — send to me by the Boston correspondent.

Nov 202011

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

Refer to the ‘ConsistoryTAB (click here) right at the top, above the banner, for all the pertinent links.

The pope’s back from his 3-day trip to Benin.

Today is also the one year anniversary of the last cardinal creating consistory. [See above for all the links]. Though some were expecting another consistory this November, I had always advocated caution given the trip to Benin. There will not be a cardinal consistory this year. That had always been my take.

I think there is a chance that we might see one on or before the end of June — the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul being observed on June 29. But, deep down I think we are in for another November consistory — in 2012.

Here is what has happened to the College since the last consistory when we hit an all time high of 203 cardinals. There has been 10 deaths (and 0 resignations) since then, bringing the College down to 193. The 121 electors post consistory was in hindsight quite paltry. John Paul II (#265) gave us 135 electors, twice. Yes, 15 over the supposed 120 mark.

Nov 192011

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

From MY BBC -- click image to read insightful article of Voodooism in Benin.

by Anura Guruge

Yesterday, Friday, November 18, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI (#266) arrived in Benin, at Cotonou, Benin’s largest city, after a 6 hour flight from Rome. He was greeted by the President, a 21-gun salute and tumultuous crowds — Friday having been declared a public holiday in honor of the pope — in this country which is about 44% Christian, with ~34% supposedly Catholic, and ~23% Islam. Officially, with about 20%, the next largest religion is Vodun (Voodoo).

Benin is actually considered to be the Home of Voodoo — with what is famously practiced today in the Caribbean having its roots with the slaves transported to the New World from West Africa’s Slave Coast, Benin smack-dab in the epicenter of that. In reality, Vodoo in Benin isn’t so much a religion as an innate way of life, with its own cultural substrata. Coming from Ceylon I can fully appreciate that. Though everyone in Ceylon, in my day, without fail, and sans hesitation, claimed to be a Buddhist, a Baptist, a Catholic, a Hindu, a Methodist, a Muslim most believed in and practiced other other superstitions, ‘devil worship’ and ‘witchcraft’. Some of these superstitions even got interwoven into the other religions. If you see any Sri Lankan’s, especially if they have just returned from Ceylon, you should not be surprised to see them wearing white string ‘bracelets’ around their right wrist (‘white’ rather an unfortunate color in that it really highlights the sweat and dirt). That white string is Sri Lankan voodoo — though the person wearing it will probably knock your teeth out for saying as such, because they will maintain that it is to ‘bring them luck’, ‘ward off evil spirits’ and ‘enhance their sex appeal’.

Voodoo in Benin

Click image for an uplifting YouTube video on Voodoo in Benin.

The belief is that about 40% of those in Benin practice Voodoo — though they are also classified as being Christians or Muslims. As with my brethren in Sri Lanka they do not, in any way, see this as incongruous or a contradiction.

Though the Vatican has not highlighted this aspect of the pope’s trip, it appears that he will indeed be meeting with some Voodoo leaders during his time in Benin. One of those that he is meeting is Dah Aligbonon. He has already told the media that he is going to be asking the pope to tell the real hardcore Catholics in Benin to be more tolerant of the native religions of Africa. Good for him. Good for the pope. This meeting, in many ways, could be good for the pope, who in his old age, appears to be even less tolerant of other religions that he used to be — and I present, Q.E.D., the recent day in Assisi. Who knows, maybe a bit of Voodoo might help the pope’s arthrosis and help with his looming legal troubles. If we see the pope running up the flight of stairs to his plane, when he leaves Benin on Sunday, I for one, will start wondering: ‘was that Voodoo‘?

Click image for YouTube video of Pope's arrival in Benin

Nov 182011

by Anura Guruge

The pope, this morning, despite his arthrosis, did a gallant job mounting the steps to the huge, chartered Alitalia Airbus that whisked him to Benin.

The Pope departed from Italy’s main airport, the Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, in Rome, at 9 am (local time), landing at the Cardinal Bernardin Gantin airport in Cotonou at 3 pm (local time). Benin and Rome are in the same time zone; i.e., London GMT+1. So the trip took 6 hours. Hhmmmm. It is possible that 3pm was an ‘good’ time and they took their time getting there. When I eyeballed the map, I thought it looked like a 4-5 hour trip. [When the pope flew to Germany in September, he, as is usually the norm, flew out of Rome’s auxiliary Ciampino airport, as is the norm for chartered flights.]

On arrival he was greeted by Thomas Yayi Boni, President of Benin, Archbishop Antoine Ganye of Cotonou, and other civil and religious authorities.

Here is a good video from YouTube. The pope did well climbing the stairs, though halfway up there is a heart-stopping grab for the rail. They should have had a cardinal close by. Talking of which, my #2 papabile, is shown in all his glory with the pope. He sure looks youthful, energetic and presidential. But, I do not, alas and alack, see him becoming the next pope. I estimate that Benedict XVI (#266) will be around till he hits 96. I just have a feeling that we are currently watching THE POPE destined to be OLDEST documented pope — handily surpassing Leo ‘the eternal pope’ XIII (#257) who lived to see 93. My #2 will be 89 by then. I will be long gone so will not be around to document this.

Click to watch YouTube video. Enjoy.

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