Monday 26 May 2014


I have just watched a recording of the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem. You can watch it here; there is no commentary or translation, though a lot of it is in English, and though the Holy Father spoke in Italian, there is a translation here. You will need to skip over the first part; for a long time there are security men scuttling around doing not a lot.

The Holy Father's homily was very good, but I was very impressed by Patriarch Bartholomew in particular. Unlike the Pope, he always seemed to know what was going on, and shepherded the Pope around; you could see Pope Francis looking out of the corner of his eye to see what he ought to be doing, seeming rather awkward and unsure of himself. But then liturgy isn't really the Jesuits' strong point, I suppose. Bartholomew has an impressive command of languages; his English appears to be completely fluent, and he conversed with the Holy Father easily in Italian, even translating for him at one point.

There were two things I found rather touching; the first was at the very beginning, when the successors of the brothers St Peter and St Andrew were about to descend a short flight of steps. The Pope said; 'I can't go quickly down stairs', so the Patriarch, much spryer, simply gave him a hand.

And, perhaps most touchingly, I noticed early on that the chain of the Holy Father's pectoral cross had somehow slipped up over his collar and was against his skin, rather unsightly and certainly uncomfortable.

The Patriarch had clearly noticed it, too, and decided to do something about it himself:
Much better!

I was reminded of two elderly brothers, the younger carefully looking after the older. Andrew and Peter.

Thursday 22 May 2014

The Church and the Internet

At last! Something sensible from a bishop on the subject of the Internet, blogs and all that. In this case, it is the coadjutor archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, who includes in his talk a sensible list of 'commandments' for Catholics engaging in the e-apostolate.

1. Be positive and joyful. Offer ‘digital smiles’ and have a sense of humour. Remember that it is the ‘ joy of the Gospel’ that we are communicating, so, as Pope Francis says: no ‘funeral faces’ or ‘sourpusses’!
2. Strictly avoid aggression and ‘preachiness’ online; try not to be judgemental or polemical – goodness knows, there is enough of this online already! Instead, try Pope Francis’ approach of ‘tenderness and balm’.
3. Never bear false witness on the internet.
4. Remember ‘Ubi caritas et amor’. Fill the internet with charity and love, always giving rather than taking. Continually seek to broaden and reframe discussions and seek to include a sense of charity and solidarity with the suffering in the world.
5. Have a broad back when criticisms and insults are made – when possible, gently correct.
6. Pray in the digital world! Establish sacred spaces, opportunities for stillness, reflection amd meditation online.
7. Establish connections, relationships and build communion. Church has always been about ‘gathering’. In this, it is worth considering an ecumenical presence for the Christian churches online. The internet tends to be a place of ethical and intellectual relativism, and often of aggressive secularism. The scandal of disunity among Christians can be easily exploited and exaggerated. Therefore we must seek to share resources so that we can have a powerful Gospel witness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people started noticing online: ‘See how these Christians love one another’.
8. Educate our young to keep themselves safe and to use the internet responsibly.
9. Witness to human dignity at all times online. Seek, as Pope Benedict once said, to ‘give a soul to the internet’. We are well aware of the pervasive prevalence of pornography on the internet which can ‘pollute the spirit’, destroy and degrade human sexuality and relationships, reduce persons to objects for gratification, draw millions into the commodification and commercialisation of sex, feed the monster that is human trafficking.
10. Be missionary, be aware that with the help of the internet, a message has the potential to reach the ends of the earth in seconds. In this regard, let us foster and call forth charisms in younger committed people who understand the power and potential of the net to bear witness.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Adopt a priest

The funny thing about this video is that in France, the priest shown would be considered definitively conservative and, well, rather un-French. Traddies in France wear the cassock; soixante-huitards wear a grey suit with a blue polo shirt and, sometimes, a cross on the jacket lapel. But the 'clergyman' dress, so familiar in anglophone countries, in France is a sort of code for someone who isn't exactly a traddie, but definitely distances himself from most of his ageing confreres.