Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bishops & the Public Square, Part One

The bishops of the Church are close to the faithful, and in that unbroken link with the twelve apostles and the founder of the Church, Christ Jesus, the actions they take in the defence of the teaching of the Church is vital for the salvation of souls and the constancy of the Church as the light unto the world.

Chiesa reports on one of those bishops.

“ROME, April 21, 2009 – Florence is a beacon city for the entire world. This is true in its being an artistic capital. But it is also exemplary as a laboratory for significant Christian experiences, both personal and in groups. This was certainly true for much of the twentieth century.

“The new example that Florence offers to the Catholic world today, and not only in Italy, has to do with the role of its archbishop.

His name is Giuseppe Betori. He is 62 years old, originally from Umbria, and studied as a biblicist. He has been archbishop of Florence since September 8, 2008. Before this, he was secretary general of the Italian bishops' conference, CEI, the right-hand man of its president, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, and then of his successor, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.

“Last summer, when his appointment was rumored but not yet officially announced, many of the priests and laypeople of Florence signed an open letter asking the new bishop to be a man of "patience" and "forgiveness," to leave behind "the bitter tones of condemnation," and to establish "a climate of freedom and mutual respect" between the Church and civil society.

“It was easy to guess that this profile of a bishop did not correspond to the one that the signers of the letter polemically attributed to Betori.

“In any case, Benedict XVI sent him to Florence. In his first interview with the newspaper of the diocese, Betori announced that he would work for "a faith capable of contributing to culture." And he added: "nothing that is human is alien to the Church, and therefore the Church will speak about every civil situation. The human can and must be illuminated by the Gospel."….

“This twofold novelty demands to be analyzed and interpreted, in part because of its power as an example. This is what professor Pietro De Marco, a Florentine and an acknowledged expert on Catholicism in his city, does in what follows:

“On the bishop as defender of the city, in the modern barbarian invasions

by Pietro De Marco

“I believe that the current situation of the Florentine Church, directed by Archbishop Giuseppe Betori, is an example that could have international repercussions. What is taking place in Florence is the recovery of an ancient role: that of the bishop as "defensor civitatis," defender of the city, and "consul Dei," consul of God, this latter title having been given to Pope Gregory the Great.

“Naturally, something of this episcopal role emerges at times during wars or revolutions. Cardinal Clemens August von Galen was also called, because of his witness in Hitler's Germany, a "defensor civitatis" and a "consul Dei," like the ancient Fathers of the Church "among the barbarian hordes." Or it emerges in situations of grave social conflict, as happened with Bishop Oscar Romero in Latin America. But the case of Florence is interesting in part because it is taking place outside of the exceptional circumstance of an heroic action, or of the "engagĂ©" style as celebrated in liberationist cultures as it is rarely original, and often with negative doctrinal and pastoral effects.

“At the center of the case of Florence are anthropological, bioethical, and biopolitical questions that have little in common with the usual fields of political and economic dispute. On the questions of life, the Church stands in its full originality and solitude; it is an irreplaceable subject. In this sense, the Florentine case has the status of an example. This could prompt or confirm activity in the same direction, in other dioceses.”