Holy Father Empathizes With Polish Bishop

Independent Online reported that Pope Benedict has communicated with Warsaw Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, telling him he understood he had been serving in a difficult political climate.

The archbishop resigned in January over allegations that he spied for the communist secret police during the Cold War.

“Recently, I shared in your suffering and wish to assure you of my spiritual closeness and brotherly understanding,” the Pope wrote in the letter, made public by the Vatican on Feb. 21. “Regarding the past, I am fully aware of the exceptional circumstances in which you were carrying out your role, when the communist regime in Poland used all means to suffocate the freedom of citizens and especially of clerics.”

Prodi Tries to Smooth Relations With Vatican

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi met Feb. 20 with Cardinal Camillo Ruini, papal vicar of Rome, to discuss the proposed legislation that would grant same-sex couples the same privileges as married couples, reported Bloomberg News. Cardinal Ruini criticized the legislation as the first step toward homosexual “marriage,” and Italy’s Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, an ally of Prodi, has said he would vote against the bill.

Michelangelo Once Lived at the Vatican

A 450-year-old receipt indicates that Michelangelo kept a private room at St. Peter’s Basilica while working as Pope Paul III’s chief architect, the Associated Press reported. The ink-scripted entry for the key was contained in a parchment-covered volume listing the expenditures of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office where the basilica’s archives are kept, for the years 1556-1558.

Vatican-Muslim Relations Get a Boost

Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, one of Sunni Islam’s most senior clerics, has accepted an invitation to visit Pope Benedict, reported Reuters.

In the latest step by Pope Benedict to improve relations with Muslims, the invitation was delivered in person to Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, by the Vatican’s head of interreligious dialogue, Cardinal Paul Poupard.

“The Pope’s invitation to meet in Rome was accepted with satisfaction,” the Vatican said Feb. 20 in a statement. It did not specify when the meeting would take place.