Moscow Might Help Pave Way for Papal Visit

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 7 – The foreign minister of Russia, Igor Ivanov, is willing to help foster executive meetings that could make it possible for Pope John Paul II to visit that country, according to the Associated Press.

Ivanov suggested that preliminary meetings to this end be held between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

John Paul has frequently suggested such a visit, which would be the first by a pope to Russia, where the Orthodox Church looks with deep suspicion on the Roman communion.

Patriarch Alexy has refused to meet with the Pope, even in a foreign country. Berlusconi told newspapers last month that the Holy See had asked him to get involved.

“If the desire of a meeting with Patriarch Alexy II is expressed,” Ivanov said, “then in this case this request will be transmitted to the patriarchate and negotiated through diplomatic channels.”

Spies in St. Peter's House?

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, May 10 – Reviewing Spies in the Vatican: Espionage and Intrigue from Napoleon to the Holocaust, by David Alvarez, the Sydney Morning Herald concluded that the Vatican has been “more spied against than spying.”

Alvarez's book shows that the Holy See once operated a significant intelligence bureau when it still ruled over the papal states, but after 1870, the Vatican lost much of its cloak-and-dagger vigor.

After that, “the Vatican devoted its main energies to fending off efforts to infiltrate it. Exceptions to this rule included the work of Pope Pius X to investigate the heretical modernist movement and a heroic but futile attempt to smuggle priests into the Soviet Union at the height of Stalin's terror.”

According to the paper, the book also notes that Pope Pius XII “acted as a go-between linking the German opposition to Hitler to British authorities and then slipped dangerously into transmitting military information to the British.”

British Writer Snipes and Sniffs at Church

THE TIMES (London), May 10 – In an opinion piece published May 10, British columnist Jonathan Meades criticized the Catholic Church both for its taste and its morals.

In a travel piece ostensibly concerned with the Spanish city of Zaragoza, Meades called it “an epicenter of Catholic superstition and Mariolatrous kitsch,” and celebrated the work of surrealist director Luis Buñuel as “nothing more than an inspired revenge on the Society of Jesus, a heretical raspberry.”

He urged readers to ignore “the Vatican's so far unheeded but nonetheless persistent lobbying for Christian “values” to be somehow enshrined in the EU's revised constitution.”

He said “the Catholic Church is ... once again over-promoting itself from a kitsch sideshow to become a meddlesome danger again.”

Meades, who elswehere in the article mentions his knowledge of medieval architecture, does not say Chartres, Notre Dame and Westminster Abbey are the height of kitsch, but they were what Europe produced though its Catholic faith.