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It could be that Rome has finally worked out what kind of nuncio we need

But we really don’t know; maybe I’m being guilty of wishful thinking

By on Monday, 20 December 2010

Archbishop Antonio Mennini has firmly defended the place of the Orthodox Church in Russian society (Photo: CNS)

Archbishop Antonio Mennini has firmly defended the place of the Orthodox Church in Russian society (Photo: CNS)

What do we know about the new papal nuncio to the United Kingdom, Archbishop Antonio Mennini? We know that most of his experience has been with the Orthodox: he has been nuncio in Bulgaria, the Russian Federation and Uzbekistan. He is a Roman: the question for us is, does he have true romanitas? Or will he simply go native, falling in with the culture of the English and Welsh and Scottish bishops’ conferences, as so many nuncios have done before him? In other words, will he send in ternas made up of, on the one hand, the names of the kind of orthodox priests the Pope wants to appoint or, on the other, the kind of priests who will get on well with the rest of the existing episcopal establishment?
It’s difficult to find out anything about his personal inclinations: he is, after all, a professional diplomat. But that doesn’t mean that he has none. So, after all, was one of his predecessors as nuncio to Bulgaria, Blessed John XXIII. I wonder, though, if I’m guilty of wishful thinking in interpreting an interview he gave in Russia as indicating that he is firmly behind the Pope’s agenda on the fight against secularisation, and might, therefore, be onside when it comes to the appointment of bishops here who would similarly be of the papal mind on this and other key elements in the Ratzingerian analysis of where the Church needs to go?
There has been in Russia, it seems, a secularist backlash against the renewal of the participation of the Orthodox Church in the Russian education system, and the reintroduction of theology as a recognised academic discipline in its universities. Members of the Russian Academy of Sciences some time ago sent an open letter to the then Russian president, Vladimir Putin, urging him to stop what they called “clericalisation” in Russia. They are obviously pretty rattled by the fact that the Orthodox are now making their presence felt, with the co-operation of the authorities: “The Church,” complains the open letter “has already infiltrated the army and now the media broadcast the blessings of new military equipment (battleships and submarines are now required to be blessed – which, alas! does not always help). Religious ceremonies attended by high government officials are also widely covered. These are all examples of the clericalisation of this country.”
In his interview, our new nuncio firmly defended this process: “The Russian Orthodox Church,” he said, “as well as other religions in Russia, [is regaining] her place in the Russian society. This [is happening] after decades of atheism and repression when believers in their millions were denied much opportunity to come to the spiritual fountains of the Gospel and the moral values the Good News brings…. [Just as] it was the Roman Catholic Church that represented Christianity [in Italy] throughout history”, so “The same may and should be applied to the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in relation to this great country’s history and culture as well as to the faith of most Russian people.”
It’s all fairly good and hopeful stuff, which encourages one to hope that he will be using his obvious capacity to work out what’s going on in a particular secularised culture to help the Church here to begin the fightback in the most effective way open to him – that is, by helping the Pope to appoint bishops who will do everything they can to implement rather than to undermine the Holy Father’s agenda.
All this may be wishful thinking. But maybe not. It could be that Rome has worked out, at last, what kind of nuncio we need, and is duly sending him. Fingers crossed. And keep Archbishop Antonio Mennini in your prayers. He has important work ahead.

  • adam george

    This is a purely speculative post by Oddie. What he fails to mention is the fact that the new Nuncio to Britain has sent terna to Rome on probably less than 4 occasions in 7 years. So no experience in the past decade of that procedure and certainly living in Moscow for 7 years does not give any great insights into the operations of the Chuch in the United Kingdom. Here the Church is less influential than the Russian Orthodox and besides the Catholics in Russia are a small sect so you have to wonder what he was doing all that time in Russia.
    No I think Oddie is just throwing out speculation and has no real substance.
    The UK is not Russia and it will take time for another non-Brit Nuncio to know the scene here. Isn't it about time an English-speaking Nuncio from the UK or USA or Australia or NZ were appointed? Perhaps there are just not enough in the vatican diplomatic gene pool.

  • SS1

    If he is above all a good, prayerful and humble man then all will be well.

  • W Oddie

    I said i didn't actually know: of course it's just speculation. It doesn't sound as if you know either. What I'd like is a comment from someone with a useful contribution to make.

  • FrHeythrop

    “…to help the Church here to begin the fightback..” I'm mystified as to what is involved in this “fightback” and what it is supposed to achieve…..presumably the restoration of Christendom…..

  • W Oddie

    What is supposed to be achieved is the extirpation of the disloyalty to the papacy and the magisterium which has over the last 30 to 40 years characterised too many of our bishops and clergy, devotees of the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II” (but not its reality), in the post-conciliar period. You'll know it when you see it “FrHeythrop”: and you're probably not going to like it. Pope Benedict calls this renewed vision of the Church “the hermeneutic of continuity and reform”.

  • FrHeythrop

    Dear Bill, the days of “extirpation” are over.The cultural superstructure that once supported such actions has gone and it will never return. Extirpation failed in the 19 Cen (e.g. the almost comic Syllabus of Errors) and it failed in the first half of the last century.
    p.s. You refer to disloyalty on the part of our bishops, in a spirit of openess and as part of a contribution to meaningful dialogue in the Church perhaps you could identify which of our current bishops have displayed this disloyalty.

  • W Oddie

    You know perfectly well who I'm talking about “Fr Heythrop”. And I said “bishops and clergy”: the clergy includes most English Jesuits: maybe including you?

  • W Oddie

    And DON'T call me Bill.

  • foreigner_in_london

    A very good choice. The Catholic Church in Britain could and should learn from the Russian Orthodox Church.

  • EditorCT

    Got it, although to be precise, the restoration of authentic Christendom, FrHeythrop – i.e. Catholicism. Specifically, replacing our bad bishops with fully believing Catholic bishops, who will insist on the restoration of authentic Catholic teaching in all Catholic institutions, including the teaching of Latin and the Traditional Latin Mass in those seminaries that have survived after the Second Vatican Catastrophe (as one of our top Scots political writers calls the VII experiment) – we don't have ANY seminaries in Scotland now, thanks to the liberal experiment. And, of course, getting rid of dissenters. All dissenting clerics and nuns given the boot. Don't care whether they are sent to a monastery for a time of reflection and repentance (first choice, have to be fair) or defrocked – whatever it takes we want rid of them.

    That's the fightback, FrHeythrop – chiefly, against bad bishops, an horrendous hierarchy that includes Archbishop Bernard Longley and Archbishop Vincent Nichols (so bad that, according to the latest edition of Christian Order, his name was removed from the red hat list virtually at the last minute.) As for the Scots Bishops – don't ask, we won't tell. Once we have sound bishops in place who know that their first duty is to protect the faith with all that goes with that duty (discipling bad clerics and religious, removing them if necessary) – once good bishops are in place, the rest will follows.

    Next question please?

  • EditorCT

    Vatican II will go the way of Constantinople II – written off as an aberration. Even the chaos caused by that disastrous Council pales into insignificance in the light of the destruction caused by the Second Vatican Catastrophe.

  • EditorCT

    Well, W Oddie, your wish is my command…

    I think we can take it as read, that if this new nuncio had been objectionable to the current UK hierarchy, we'd never have heard his name mentioned. That's our first clue.

    Trust me, it'll be business as usual.

  • tpr

    i can..his grace Crispen Hollis was asked by some joker at a parish meeting in Abingdon “when will we get woman priests” his reply, “lets get married priests first,then we will get woman priests later” thats what i call being disloyal to the Holy Father.

  • Cquail

    Actually, I was at that meeting and Bishop Crispian said nothing of the sort. The questioner asked him what his thoughts were on how the Church should address the crisis in vocations. He did say that he thought the Church should consider the possibility of permitting married male priests. He said absolutely nothing to support the ordination of women.

  • W Oddie

    The fact that the pope is willing to go against the wishes of the present uk hierarchies is clearly indicated by the way in which the ordinariate was set up: i.e, without consulting them and directly contrary to anything they would have agreed to if they had been.

    I think (hope at least) that you have got this wrong. But we shall see.