Monday, October 29, 2007

From Cardinal Biffi’s Memoirs

The most tiring days for the cardinals are the ones immediately before a conclave. The Sacred College gathers each day from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., in an assembly where each of those present is free to speak his mind.

But one intuits that public attention cannot be given to the question closest to the hearts of the electors of the future bishop of Rome: whom should we choose?

And so the result is that every cardinal is tempted to cite, more than anything else, his own problems and difficulties: or better, the problems and difficulties of his local church, his country, his continent, the whole world. And without a doubt, there is great value in this general, spontaneous, unvarnished presentation of information and assessments. But also without a doubt, the picture that emerges is not designed to give encouragement.

My state of mind and the dominant tone of may reflection emerges from the statement that, after great perplexity, I decided to make on Friday, April 15, 2005. Here is the text:

1. After hearing all of the statements — correct, opportune, impassioned — that have been made here, I would like to express to the future pope (who is listening to me now) my complete solidarity, concord, understanding, and even a bit of my fraternal compassion. But I would also like to suggest to him that he not be too worried about what he has heard here, and that he not be too frightened. The Lord Jesus will not ask him to resolve all the world’s problems. He will ask him to love him with extraordinary love: “Do you love me more than these?” (cf. John 21:15). A number of years ago, I came across a phrase in the “Mafalda” comic strip from Argentina that has often come back into my mind in these days: “I’ve got it,” said that feisty and perceptive little girl, “the world is full of problemologists, but short on solutionologists”.

2. I would like to tell the future pope to pay attention to all problems. But first and most of all, he should take into account the state of confusion, disorientation, and aimlessness that afflicts the people of God in these years, and above all the “little ones”.

3. A few days ago, I saw on television an elderly, devout religious sister who responded to the interviewer this way: “This pope, who has died, was great above all because he taught us that all religions are equal”. I don't know whether John Paul II would have been very pleased by this sort of elegy.

4. Finally, I would like to point out to the new pope the incredible phenomenon of Dominus Iesus: a document explicitly endorsed and publicly approved by John Paul II; a document for which I am pleased to express my vibrant gratitude to Cardinal Ratzinger. That Jesus is the only necessary Savior of all is a truth that for over twenty centuries — beginning with Peter's discourse after Pentecost — it was never felt necessity to restate. This truth is, so to speak, the minimum threshold of the faith; it is the primordial certitude, it is among believers the simple and most essential fact. In two thousand years this has never been brought into doubt, not even during the crisis of Arianism, and not even during the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation. The fact of needing to issue a reminder of this in our time tells us the extent of the gravity of the current situation. And yet this document, which recalls the most basic, most simple, most essential certitude, has been called into question. It has been contested at all levels: at all levels of pastoral action, of theological instruction, of the hierarchy.

5. A good Catholic told me about asking his pastor to let him make a presentation of Dominus Iesus to the parish community. The pastor (an otherwise excellent and well-intentioned priest) replied to him: “'Let it go. That's a document that divides.” What a discovery! Jesus himself said: “I have come to bring division” (Luke 12:51). But too many of Jesus’ words are today censured among Christians; or at least among the most vocal of them.

— Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Memorie e digressioni di un italiano cardinale [Memories and Digressions of an Italian Cardinal], quoted in Sandro Magister, “Before the Last Conclave: ‘What I Told the Future Pope’”.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Thursday, October 4, 2007


He that is not faithful to his wife, whom he seeth, how can he be faithful to God, whom he seeth not?