Vatican Notes & Quotes

Detroit Teens Prefer Pope to Clinton's Scandal

More than 2,000 “[t]eens from throughout [metropolitan] Detroit gathered at a downtown hotel Sunday, expecting to watch a papal mass from Havana's Revolution Square. Instead, they saw network TV coverage of President Clinton's possible infidelity.

“That didn't deter participants at a two-day Catholic Youth Organization conference from discussing whether Pope John Paul II's visit would bring greater faith and freedom to Cuba,” said a report in Detroit News Jan. 26.

The article quoted 17-year-old Meghan McGahey expressing her disapproval of the programming change.

“I really wanted to hear [the Pope]; he is such an inspiration to me and my peers,” she said. “When I first heard him speak four years ago, I understood he knew how to make an impression on us. He put a lot of hope into our lives.”

When it was clear that the telecast of the Mass would not appear, Father Gerry LeBoeuf, a leader of the event, began an impromptu discussion about religious persecution in Cuba, telling the group, “We take our faith for granted … there are some children your own age who haven't had the same opportunity” to worship openly.

He added that the Pope, “was raised in a communist country and had to study to be a priest underground.”

Cecilia Patina, 15, praised the Pope and offered an explanation for why Fidel Castro may be more open to religion. “[H]e is getting awful old,” she is quoted saying.

Castro Confronts the Novus Ordo

Whether Fidel Castro feels comfortable with the New World Order or not, he certainly looked out of place in what was probably the first Vatican II-era Novus Ordo Mass he ever attended. When Castro was in Catholic school, the Mass was still celebrated in the Tridentine Rite.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who concelebrated Sunday Mass with the Pope on his recent visit to Cuba, spoke of Castro's Mass habits when he returned home to a reporter with the Philadelphia Daily News.

Castro was “clueless” according to the reporter. He flipped through his missal and kept looking on the pages of those next to him to find the right place.

Said Cardinal Bevilacqua: “He got caught at the kiss of peace. He was off guard completely. He didn't know what to do.” Though the virulently anti-Catholic dictator did not cross himself or appear to pray during Mass, he was “very respectful,” and “enjoyed it a great deal,” and applauded politely during the homily.

Later, at a reception for about 50 bishops and cardinals from across the Americas, Cardinal Bevilacqua said, “I was very close to him … he just kept talking, but nothing of a substantive nature. He dominated the conversation,” talking about such things as different kinds of wines in Cuba.

After the Mass, said the cardinal, a Cuban he met in a Havana parish said, “‘Today, the revolution has ended.’ And that's what I sensed, too.”

Holy Father Unwelcome in Russia

A Reuters story reported Jan. 27 that “Pope John Paul II, who has just visited communist Cuba, is still not welcome in post-Soviet Russia, a Russian Orthodox Church official said Tuesday, citing continued disagreements with the Vatican.

“‘It's not that [Cuban Leader] Fidel Castro is good and the Russian Orthodox Church is so bad,” said Father Ilarion Alfeyev, who oversees the Church's relations with other Christian faiths.

“‘The Roman Catholic Church did not seize churches in Cuba, there wasn't this violence, this atmosphere that has developed here, and so in some ways it was easier,’ to go to Cuba, Alfeyev told Reuters in an interview,” referring to disputes between Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox.

In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukrainian Greek Catholics, or Uniates began to claim Church property from the pro-Moscow Orthodox Church, according to the article. The Orthodox Church also resents Catholic evangelization in Russia.

The article noted that the Holy Father longs for a reunification of Orthodox and Catholic believers, and a strengthening of relations in the year 2000. Alfeyev, an Oxford-Educated Russian, is quoted saying that, “in human hands” reunification is “not possible.” He added, “But a miracle of God is always possible.”