Dear Friends of Istituto Acton,
With Pope Benedict XVI on vacation for July, August and most of September, there is normally not much summertime activity at the Vatican. Considering the scorching Mediterranean sun and the general lack of serious air conditioning here, this is hardly surprising. But just before leaving for his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope made a number of significant appointments that will help define the rest of Benedict’s pontificate, both within the Catholic Church and its relations with other Churches and the world at-large.
The most prominent of these was the naming of Cardinal Marc Ouellet, until the end of June the Archbishop of Quebec City, as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. (Our Acton colleague Fr. Raymond de Souza has detailed Cardinal Ouellet’s meteoritic rise in the Roman Curia and goes so far as to label him a possible pope.) I have met Cardinal Ouellet on a few occasions, both when he was secretary for the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and as Archbishop of Quebec City, and always found him very engaging and personable while also exhibiting intellectual integrity and professionalism – character traits that are not always found in the same person. In his new role he will have the extremely important task of assisting the Pope in the nomination of bishops all over the world. This is certainly quite an honor for the Cardinal as well as for the oft-beleaguered Church in Quebec and Canada.
Of great interest to the ecumenical endeavors of the Acton Institute, Archbishop Kurt Koch was moved from the diocese of Basel, Switzerland to become the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, while long-time Acton friend, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, was appointed to head the newly-created Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. Both men will have the task of rekindling of the Christian faith, especially in rapidly-secularizing Europe, which had been one of the greatest challenges of this pontificate.
And finally I was very proud to see the nomination of a personal friend, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, as the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York. Originally from the same state in India as my family and having worked at the Holy See Mission in the UN just after my two years there, Archbishop Chullikatt has served the last several years as Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, surely one of, if not the, most difficult jobs in the Vatican diplomatic corps. The role of the Holy See at the UN is crucial in many social-economic areas, such as the defense of marriage and the family, the protection of human life from the moment of conception to natural death, and religious liberty, and especially when forces such as the United States and the European Union gang up on smaller, poorer nations seeking to defend their policies on these issues. I’m sure that Archbishop Chullikatt’s rich and varied experiences will benefit the Holy See and the needs of the Church as well as the other States of the world.
As you can see from these nominations, Pope Benedict continues the work of his predecessor with the internationalization of the Catholic Church’s leadership positions, helping to fulfill the Gospel mandate to preach Jesus Christ to all the nations of the earth. Our Acton News and Commentary articles this month show the Acton Institute’s similar regard for international and especially ecumenical and European affairs from the perspective of sound economics. Let’s hope that the new officials will move beyond the exchange of well-intentioned but meaningless platitudes that often pass for discourse when the participants have little or no respect for the truth. (Most UN meetings, and probably most ecumenical ones as well, fall under this category.)
We won’t be publishing our monthly analysis in August, so our next mailing will come at the end of September, just after Pope Benedict’s important trip to Great Britain, including the eagerly-anticipated beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Birmingham. Given the noted anti-Catholic prejudices of much of the British press, there will certainly be much material for comment and argument.
Best wishes for a peaceful and restful summer from the boiling Eternal City.