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"Good News" Update

Pope Benedict Moves Against Syncretists at Assisi, Fatima

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Not all the news from Rome is bad. On March 1, 2006 Zenit news reported that Pope Benedict XVI has moved to reign in the out-of-control syncretistic Franciscans at the Basilicas of St. Francis and St. Mary of the Angels at Assisi. Readers will recall that the Basilica of St. Francis was host to the two World Days of Prayer for Peace (in 1986 and 2002). These events were much beloved of Pope Paul II, but which the former Cardinal Ratzinger was said to have opposed them.

At both events "representatives of the world’s great religions" were invited to "pray for peace" to their assorted deities. At the 2002 Assisi event representatives of virtually all the "major religions" from Animism to Zoroastrianism were given rooms for their various rituals in the very monastery where St. Francis himself is buried. Fr. Brian Harrison, a theologian at the Pontifical University in Puerto Rico, has publicly argued (in The Latin Mass magazine) that this gesture by John Paul II amounted to nothing less than material cooperation in the sin of idolatry, and that the late Pope should not be canonized for this reason.

Well, the new Pope has sent a message concerning what he thinks of the interreligious goings on at Assisi. According to Zenit, Pope Benedict has not only placed both basilicas directly under the jurisdiction of the local bishop, thus ending their autonomy since the time of Paul VI, but has also appointed Cardinal Attilio Nicora as papal legate to both basilicas. While the papal legate does not have jurisdiction over the basilicas, the Pope’s personal letter appointing the legate noted that "he will be able to impart the papal blessing in the celebrations over which he will preside on the occasion of major liturgical solemnities." Read: the Pope’s legate will be around to keep the Franciscans in line and report directly to Benedict, should the local bishop fail to do his job.

This welcome news comes on the heels of news from Fatima that the rector of the Fatima Shrine, Fr. Luciano Guerra, will be "retiring" and that a coadjutor bishop has been appointed pending the upcoming retirement of the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, D. Serafim Ferreira e Silva. The appointment of a coadjutor bishop is a classic sign of "no confidence" from the Vatican. These developments confirm earlier reports in the Portuguese press that the Vatican would take over the shrine in the wake of the Hindu ritual performed in the Little Chapel of Apparitions in May of 2004 at the invitation of Guerra (who later tried to deny that he had orchestrated the entire event).

So, while the New Church establishment, led by EWTN, accused Fr. Nicholas Gruner of "fabrications" concerning the sacrilege at Fatima and defended (or tried to explain away) the sacrilege at Assisi, the new Pope appears to be moving against the perpetrators of both scandals. Here we see how the New Church establishment is even more inclined to defend revolution in the Church than the former Cardinal Ratzinger, a liberal theologian who now shoulders the immense burden of the papacy.

Let us hope and pray for more good news from Rome  —  and, above all, the news that Russia will be consecrated, at long last, to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.