Vatican Media Watch

Tony Blair Invites Holy Father to Visit England

GUARDIAN UNLIMITED, May 29 — England’s Prime Minister Tony Blair invited Pope Benedict XVI to make the first papal visit to the UK since that of John Paul II in 1982, the English website reported.

Blair, an Anglican, met with the Holy Father at the Vatican in early June at the close of a week’s vacation in Italy at the Tuscan estate of an Italian prince.

Blair’s audience with Pope Benedict was expected to include discussions about reconciling the Muslim and Christian faiths in the light of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, and the current war with Iraq.

He met Pope John Paul II in Rome in 2003. His wife, Cherie, a Catholic, met Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience after attending a Vatican conference on children and young people in April.

The Pope has already been invited to Britain by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, but no date has yet been set.

Pope Benedict Calls for End of Violence in East Timor

PRAVDA, May 31 — Pope Benedict XVI appealed for an end to the violence shaking mainly Roman Catholic East Timor, the Russian news service reported.

“My thoughts now go to the dear nation of East Timor, in these days in the grip of tensions and violence, which have caused death and destruction,” the Holy Father told his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square.

The violence triggered by the March dismissal of 600 soldiers from the 1,400-member army is the worst East Timor has seen since its bloody break from Indonesia in 1999, which paved the way for full independence in 2002 after years of U.N. administration.

The Pope said, “While I encourage the local Church and the Catholic organizations to continue together with other international organizations in the service of assistance to the homeless, I invite you to pray to the Holy Virgin so that she might, with her maternal protection, support the efforts of those who are contributing to the pacifying of souls and a return to normalcy.”

Italy’s PM reprimands 3 ministers

INDEPENDENT ONLINE, May 23 — Three Italian ministers were publicly reprimanded by Prime Minister Romano Prodi for their positions favoring abortion and same-sex “marriage,” Independent Online reported.

“Ministers cannot express their opinions. They must speak about decisions, their consequences and their implementation,” Prodi said in the wake of comments by Health Minister Livia Turco, who said she favored nationwide distribution of the abortion pill. Prior to that, ministers Rosy Bindi and Emma Bonino made statements favoring homosexual unions and dismissing Europe’s Christian roots.

The prime minister said he would call a meeting of his 25 ministers in early June to define “our priorities” in government.

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano deplored each of the ministers’ statements, calling them “indefensible … from a Catholic point of view.”

Eternal Flame Honors Pope John Paul II

CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY, May 30 — An eternal flame in honor of Pope John Paul II was lit June 2 at the Vatican grottos in a ceremony led by the vicar general of Vatican City, Archbishop Angelo Comastri.

The event was attended by Olympic cross-country skiing champion Manuela Di Centa, who carried a lighted torch from the Monastery of St. Vincent in Bassano Romano to the Vatican to light the flame.

On its way to the monastery, the torch was carried throughout Italy by several athletes. The ceremony was capped by Fabrizio Venturi, a singer who authored a song dedicated to John Paul II.

The John Paul II International Foundation has organized the ceremony as one part of series of social and religious events.