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Rome & the World: Vatican looks to Helsinki

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Helsinki Finland

Finn stock | Shutterstock

I.Media - published on 12/12/22

Also in today's headlines: The Atlantic reviews Notre Dame provost book • And St. Peter's expenses

Every day, Aleteia offers a selection of articles written by the international press about the Church and the major issues that concern Catholics around the world. The opinions and views expressed in these articles are not those of the editors.

Monday 12 December 2022
1. Pope Francis and his diplomatic team have Helsinki on their minds
2. The reinvention of the Catholic Church 
3. The achievements of the current pontificate will be decided by Francis’ successors, says Cardinal Kasper
4. The crazy expenses of the Fabric of Saint Peter
5. Pope Francis and the policy of looking closely

1Pope Francis and his diplomatic team have Helsinki on their minds

During his visit to Kazakhstan in September, Pope Francis called for a “new ‘spirit of Helsinki,’ the determination to strengthen multilateralism, to build a more stable and peaceful world, with an eye to future generations.” These words were not chosen at random, Crux’s John Allennotes. The Finnish capital of Helsinki could occupy a “greater share of the Vatican’s collective intellectual energy right now,” not for pastoral reasons, but for geopolitical ones. Indeed, the Holy See seems to want to bring the world back to the model of the 1975 “Helsinki Accords,” which represent a source of “inspiration for Rome’s current efforts to end the war in Ukraine.” Tomorrow, Tuesday, in Rome, a conference titled “Europe and War: From the Spirit of Helsinki to Prospects for Peace” will be jointly sponsored by the Italian Embassy to the Holy See, L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio, Vatican News, and the Italian journal Limes – with the participation of Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. According to Crux, the Helsinki Accords, which have been criticized but also recognized by history for having prevented an escalation of East/West conflicts, occupy an important place in the diplomatic memory and imagination of the Vatican for three reasons. First, they represented a breakthrough for Ostpolitik, i.e. dialogue with the socialist world, conceived by Cardinal Agostino Casaroli. Second, the Vatican has always considered Italy its most natural ally on the world stage, and the Helsinki Accords are the best modern example of this idea in practice, since, along with Casaroli, another principal architect of the agreement was the then Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro. Finally, Pope Francis and his team believe that the Helsinki agreements justified the same policies of patience and restraint that they have tried to apply to Russia nearly half a century later. “Diplomatically Francis is a dove, not a hawk,” Crux explains, before concluding that it is not only “the spirit of Vatican II” that defines Francis’ papacy. It is also “the spirit of Helsinki.” 

Crux, English

2The reinvention of the Catholic Church

The Atlantic offers a historical reading of how the Church has developed its relationship with the world over the last centuries and become an “assertive presence in public life,” by reviewing a book from the provost of the University of Notre Dame, John T. McGreevy, “Catholicism: A Global History From the French Revolution to Pope Francis,” which came out in September 2022. McGreevy explains that despite shrinking numbers of priests and practicing faithful, there is “rich” evidence that shows that “Catholicism isn’t on the want; it’s just changing.” The author challenges the narrative that the Church has been “an institution dead set against the modern world” over the past two centuries, but rather argues that Catholicism began its dialogue with society much earlier than the Second Vatican Council in 1962. McGreevy believes it actually began in 1789 with the French Revolution. In the decades that followed the Church “dogmatically opposed modernity” and its “certainty about what it was against clouded its sense of what it should support, as it adapted to circumstances in ways that seem glaringly inconsistent today.” With the Second Vatican Council the Church became a pilgrim “providing humble service” to the world and its problems. However, the author of the article highlights that the Church’s “opposition to modernity had given Catholics a common adversary to unite against, and had suppressed the Church’s internal disagreements. Vatican II brought these out into the open.” Thus, the vision of what the Church should offer the world has since fallen on “the popes, who have used the papacy to promote distinct programs for engagement with the world.” However, the author argues that despite the Church’s change in how it engages with the world, consistency on moral or geopolitical issues “has not been the rule since 1965 any more than it was after 1789.” “Once again, it’s hard to tell what the Catholic Church is for, but everybody knows what it is against,” the author concludes. 

The Atlantic, English

3. The achievements of the current pontificate will be decided by Francis’ successors, says Cardinal Kasper

German theologian Walter Kasper, one of the Cardinals who contributed most to Bergoglio’s election in the 2013 conclave, talks about the reforming action that Pope Francis has initiated over the past 10 years, which in practice should be destined to change the relationship between the Church and the Magisterium.

Il Messaggero, Italian

4. The crazy expenses of the Fabric of Saint Peter

Brutal layoffs, lavish spending and cronyism: This is the sad picture that the Italian blog Silere non possum paints of the functioning of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Silere Non possum, Italian

5. Pope Francis and the policy of looking closely 

Pope Francis is particularly fond of personal contact with people. This is true not only during his general audiences, but also when he has to get involved in more demanding conversations. This style is evident in his mode of governance, says Vatican expert Andrea Gagliarducci. 

Monday Vatican, English

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