"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
In Cardinal Etchegaray’s, given exclusively to “Avvenire,” the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, after his meeting with Saddam Hussein, there is not a single word that calls to mind – even cautiously – the one realistic solution that can avoid war: Hussein’s departure from the stage and a free, internationally-guaranteed Iraq.
One could suppose that the cardinal is sticking to traditional diplomatic reserve. But in his interview there is also deafening silence on another issue, and this one is incomprehensible: The cardinal does not devote a single word to the horrible sufferings endured for decades by the Iraqi people, not at the hands of external agents, but at those of its tyrant and those who surround him.
And he runs an interview with the Franciscan who showed Tareq Aziz around Assisi:
“[...] They asked me: would you welcome Saddam Hussein’s right-hand man?”
What did you say?
“I answered as Francis would have answered. We extend our hand to everyone. Should I perhaps tell the story of the wolf of Gubbio?”
No, but Aziz is the kind of wolf who, when Saddam Hussein was eliminating the opponents of his regime by hanging them on the lampposts of Baghdad, said ‘The city couldn’t have better decorations.’
“I didn’t know that.”
And, Father, what about the attack on Iran? And the invasion of Kuwait?
“I know. But the point is that we follow the teachings of Francis and don’t make it our business to ask the pilgrim: Who are you?”
[...] So, what’s the schedule?
“The first stop is at the Portiuncula, the church dedicated to St. Mary of the Angels. Aziz, they tell me, is a fervent Chaldean Catholic, and thus has a profound Marian spirituality.”
Father, are you so sure about this profound Marian spirituality?
“Sure, no, but who can be sure of anything? The truth is that there is an intolerably hostile climate growing against this man. And what about Arafat?”
Arafat? What are you talking about?
“Arafat, the Palestinian leader. Didn’t he paint the town red before redeeming himself?”
Let’s get back to the schedule.
“The first stop is at the Portiuncula. Then we’ll go to the lower Basilica. There will be two strongly symbolic moments. We will give Aziz a copy of the lamp that John Paul II left there, to remain lit forever, when we had here the historic moment of prayer with the leaders of all the religions of the world.”
“And then we will show Aziz the horn that Kamil, the sultan of Egypt, gave to Brother Francis in 1219, while a useless and bloody crusade was going on.”
But aren’t you going to talk about Saddam Hussein at all with the Iraqi minister?
“No, this will be a religious meditation, not politics.”