Voices from Russia

Sunday, 23 April 2017

23 April 2017. Benny Ratz Still Suckin’ Down the Sudz at Age 90


Here’s proof that Benedict XVI Ratzinger isn’t only hale n’ hearty, he still enjoys a good litre of brewski. Here, he greets a delegation from his native Bavaria on his birthday. Ninety-years-old and still goin’ strong… will he reach 100? Will he outlive Franky Bag o’ Donuts? Who knows? Maybe, Fr Guido Sarducci has the inside intel (“Finda the Pope in the Pizza”)…



Saturday, 9 November 2013

Popular Pope, But Same Old Church

00 Pope Francisco meets the Orthodox Grumpy Cat. 08.11.13


It is impossible to ignore the impact of Pope Francisco, a modern-day pope who operates with humility and directness, who lives simply, who prefers to spend his time with the poor and the marginalised, and who sees his role as pastor, compassionate friend, and fellow sinner on the Christian journey. The photos of Pope Francisco embracing a man disfigured by neurofibromatosis and the scene of the little boy on the stage in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican as Francisco addressed pilgrims tell us all we need to know about the humanity and accessibility of our new pope. Some bishops are desperately trying to reassure their followers that nothing’s changing. Nevertheless, that’s a tough sell when the head of the Roman Catholic Church tells his bishops that they’re obsessed with abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage, and when he says he doesn’t judge gays and lesbians. Something’s changing. However, is this change simply one of tone?

Francisco’s comments on the appointment of bishops suggest that his criteria have less to do with loyalty and orthodoxy and more to do with pastoral experience and compassion. All the same, in his first American appointment, one that wasn’t in the pipeline before his papal election, he named Bishop Leonard Blair as the new archbishop of Hartford CT. Blair’s a true believer culture warrior and former Vatican official who led the charge against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious last year and earlier joined in the condemnation of Notre Dame University for having President Barack Obama as a speaker. In light of Francisco closing the door on female priests, many women theologians and lay leaders are wondering about his emphasis on a new role for women in the church.

Jamie Manson, a Yale-trained theologian and a writer for National Catholic Reporter, suggested that we shouldn’t get too excited. For her, the bottom line is that, in spite of the warmth and sincerity of the Pope’s words, he isn’t indicating any change in church teaching. She points up that the pope said that the church doesn’t want to wound gays and lesbians, but “Francisco doesn’t seem to understand that it’s precisely the teaching of the church that’s doing the wounding”. Manson asks a broader question, “What good is a more pastoral church when, ultimately, gays and lesbians are still told their relationships are sinful, women are still barred from answering God’s call to ordained ministry, African-American women and men routinely affected by HIV/AIDS can’t get access to condoms, women in need of lifesaving abortions are forced to die, and starving families in countries like the Philippines are denied access to condoms?” Manson has a point. It’s possible that the most that Francisco’s words would accomplish would be to neutralise those bishops who lean whichever way the papal wind blows. Worse, the pope’s comments would provide protective cover for the more outspoken orthodox bishops. They might tone down their comments, but they’d not change their attitudes or their policies.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York may praise Francisco, but Dolan compared same-sex marriage to incest and declared that gays and lesbians “don’t have the right stuff”. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the American church’s cheerleader against same-sex marriage, hasn’t let Francis’ softer tone slow down his continued negative crusade. Cordileone and others like him are young enough to wait out Francis, organise before the next papal conclave, and put a true believer back in place. Pope Francisco might be a bridge builder, but, for now, no bridge is long enough to span the dichotomy between the church’s expression of love for gays and lesbians and the simultaneous condemnation of them when they act consistent with their nature. I’m a 73-year-old, white, heterosexual male, and I haven’t been on the receiving end of the ignorance, hate, and narrow orthodoxy that religious belief can still stir up. Yet, Jamie Manson and her partner have been. My son and his partner have been… and thousands like them, all made in the image and likeness of God, were on the receiving end of hate and ignorance, and in the context of our church, the maddening, wounding, mixed message of love and condemnation.

Until there’s an openness to new interpretations of Scripture regarding homosexuality, until the new thinking on natural law is accepted that sexual orientation isn’t a choice but part of the nature of the person, and until the growing number of moral theologians who offer compelling arguments that sexual acts should be seen in terms of harm or good to individuals rather than in terms of offending God, there’s no lasting change and the wounds remain open. What’s more, our new pope, unintentionally, might seduce many into thinking that things are getting better and provide cover for the Cordileones of our church to continue their campaign of condemnation and exclusion. On the other hand, I’ve learned from my own recent life experiences that God’s grace can mysteriously arise out of excruciating pain, so I don’t give up hope. Nor would I want to underestimate the potential grace of a modern-day pope who prioritises Jesus’ message of love and inclusiveness over doctrine and orthodoxy.

8 November 2013

Brian Cahill



Brian Cahill is the retired executive director of San Francisco Catholic Charities. He’s a volunteer suicide prevention trainer with the San Francisco Police Department. He writes occasionally for the San Francisco Chronicle and the National Catholic Reporter.

Editor’s Note:

I agree with Mr Cahill:

I’ve learned from my own recent life experiences that God’s grace can mysteriously arise out of excruciating pain, so I don’t give up hope. Nor would I want to underestimate the potential grace of a modern-day pope who prioritises Jesus’ message of love and inclusiveness over doctrine and orthodoxy.

Pope Francisco Bergoglio is a sincere straight human being, with correct impulses as far as social justice and politics go. In fact, he’s in total agreement with HH on such matters. I’ve praised that, I praise it now, and I’ll continue to praise it. On the other hand, Francisco’s the “same old salesman with the same old shop-worn goods”. That is, in terms of Church doctrine and dogma, he’s still “Frankie Bag o’ Donuts” (as one of the Cabinet put it), with no new items to put on the table. In short, there’s no breakthrough in the offing… not now, not soon, not later… no way, no how. No Orthodox Christian wants a Unia… that’s all that Francisco has on offer concerning us.

I wish Francisco well and at least ten more years of active life to put some parts of the Vatican to rights. However, there’s no prospect of any healing of the Great Latin Schism… they haven’t repented of 1054, nor shall they. Ergo, “send us letters of friendship, only”… that’s the only thing graspable by human hands. God willing, we can do that, at least…


Thursday, 14 March 2013

Greetings of His Holiness Kirill Gundyaev, Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, to His Holiness Francisco Burgoglio, the Newly-Elected Archbishop and Pope of Rome, Patriarch of all the West

00 Patriarch Kirill. 19.08.12. Grabarka


His Holiness Francisco, Pope of Rome

Your Holiness!

I congratulate you on your election to the eminent and responsible position of being the First Hierarch of the Roman Catholic Church. Under your predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the relationship between our churches received new momentum and positive dynamism. I sincerely hope that Your Holiness would promote co-operation between our two churches in the spirit of brotherly love and mutual understanding.

At your accession to the papacy, you choose the name Francisco, which brings to mind famous Catholic saints, denoting your example of sacrificial devotion to alleviating people’s suffering and to your zealous preaching of the Gospel. One can see this in your desire to continue to care for the poor and the afflicted, which you showed in compassion and love over the many years of your service in Argentina, carrying the message of Christ crucified and resurrected to the modern world. This same mission is now a priority for our Church, which opens the possibility for co-operation and interaction with Roman Catholics. Today, Orthodox and Catholics should be determined to work together to protect harassed and persecuted Christians in various parts of the world, as these people need our support and aid. We need to labour together for the propagation of traditional moral values ​​in modern secular societies.

Please accept, Your Holiness, my best wishes for peace, spiritual strength, and physical vigour, so that the generous support of God would come to you in the carrying out of your responsible ministry.

With fraternal affection in the Lord,


Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias

 14 March 2013


Official MP Website


Editor’s Note:

Firstly, this is the greeting of one equal to the other. Indeed, Kirill is the senior of the two, having been a First Hierarch for four years longer than Francisco has been. The Pope of Rome isn’t the “head of the church” nor is he some sort of “super-bishop” with special powers over all Christendom. HH offers his greetings in that spirit.

Secondly, the Catholics and we do NOT see eye-to-eye on all moral issues. For instance, we have SERIOUS differences on birth control, marriage, and the role of the church and state in symphonia. Having said that, there are many things that Orthodox and Catholics could do together without engaging in the syncretistic indifferentism that marks all too many Orthodox and Catholic modernists (they do think, act, and sound alike, don’t they? There was no difference between the dynamic duo of Schmemann and Meyendorff and the blowzy pair of Schillebeeckx and Küng. Shitbirds of a feather DO flock together). In short, HH says to Francisco, “We share some of the same opponents… we should watch each other’s backs and help each other out”. It’s nothing more or less than that. It isn’t a capitulation to the papist ideology… no way… on the other hand, nor is it mere wind, “chopped liver” at an empty ecumenical love-feast. It’s a simple, “The neighbours are so nice… you could use a hand… shall you accept ours?”

Shared communion… no, that’s a pipe-dream of bookish ivory-tower gargoyles. Cooperation on this or that… yes, that’s possible; decent grounded people should go for it. In some fields, the enemies of the papists are our enemies, too. We should pool our resources at such points. It’s nothing more than that, but it isn’t a mere piffle, either. All shall depend on Francisco and in what spirit he responds to HH. That remains to be seen…


The First Pope from Argentina: Jesuit, Political Adversary, and San Lorenzo FC Supporter

00 Pope Francisco Bergoglio. 14.03.13


Both secular and Catholic observers in Argentina note that the distinguishing characteristics of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who became on Wednesday the first head of the Roman Catholic Church from South America, are exceptional modesty and consistency in his convictions. At the same time, according to most respondents, in the church itself and in the larger society, the now-former archbishop of Buenos Aires has an unquestioned and well-deserved reputation. In the opinion of those closest to Bergoglio in both church and secular circles, he’s terse in mannerism, but he’s always ready to lend a hand; he’s a stranger to pomp and ostentation of any sort, but he’s austere personally. His associates report that his day begins at 04.30 in the morning, and he usually doesn’t rest from work until 21.00 in the evening. When he became a cardinal became a cardinal, Bergoglio didn’t not order new clothes; instead, he ordered that the tailors alter the ones left over from his predecessor. His intimates note that he cooks his own meals. Before the conclave at which Bergoglio became Pope Francisco, he lived in a small room on the third floor of a building adjacent to the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires.

White Smoke and Jubilation of Believers… The Election of a New Pope of Rome in the Vatican

Bergoglio loves the works of Argentine writers Jorge Luis Borges and Leopoldo Marechal, and Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He’s a passionate opera buff, he’s a die-hard football fan, being a backer of Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro (FC San Lorenzo). Symbolism is very important for him… he revived the tradition according to which at the end of some services, the priests lay their hands on the heads of the congregants who come forward. Dislike of publicity didn’t prevent Bergoglio from creating a very effective press service; he took care to appoint clerics with expertise in dealing with the media to head it. At his direct order, the doors of his cathedral were always open, not only for services, but also for general charitable activities. Bergoglio shows humility and an openness to dialogue combined with a willingness to fight uncompromisingly for positions that he deems important to the church. Thus, over the years, he’s had repeated and very strong clashes with the government; at times, he’s given very explicit opposition to initiatives emanating from the Casa Rosada.

A “Moderate”

Bergoglio was born 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires, into a humble Italian working-class immigrant family (his father was a railwayman). As a teenager, he lost his right lung to a severe case of pneumonia. Before the start of his church career, he graduated from University of Buenos Aires with a master’s degree in chemistry, or, another source said that he studied to be a chemical technician at a technical institute. He decided to become a priest when he was 21-years-old, after. Later, he studied philosophy, then, he went to seminary, becoming a priest in 1969. For six years, he headed the Argentine Jesuits.

More on the Jesuit Order >>

Francisco, the Pope of Rome

During the dictatorship of 1976-83, Bergoglio tried to defend the Jesuit order via a policy of refusing to get involved in politics. In 1986, in Germany, he defended his doctoral thesis, after which he returned to Argentina to resume his pastoral activity. In May 1992, Pope John Paul II Wojtyła appointed Bergoglio Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires as Titular Bishop of Auca, which began his rapid rise in the hierarchy of the church. In July of the same year, he became the Coadjutor Bishop of Buenos Aires; in 1998, he became Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Bergoglio became a cardinal in February 2001. According to the Argentine media, Bergoglio was one of the cardinals that received the most votes in the 2005 papal conclave, which elected Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. Observers consider Bergoglio a “moderate” amongst the Argentine episcopate… he occupies a “middle ground” between conservative prelates and a “progressive” minority.

Opposition to the Authorities

In 2010, Bergoglio strongly opposed the adoption of a law on same-sex marriages… the first such in Latin America. Then, he led a demonstration calling on priests to protect “the integrity of the family” and organised protests in the Argentine National Congress.

Conclave Elected a New Pope

He said, “Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it’s a destructive pretension against the plan of God”. Bergoglio was a staunch opponent of an Argentine law concerning sexual identity that allowed transvestites and transsexuals to alter the sexual designation on their official documents. These stances… along with disagreements on the fight against poverty, corruption, and crime… are major causes of cooler relations between the Argentine church and the presidential administration. Generally, former Argentine President Néstor Carlos Kirchner called Bergoglio an “opposition leader”, and Bergoglio’s relationship with current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is still rockier. However, on another matter, the legalisation of abortion, Bergoglio’s position coincides with that of Kirchner, as both implacably oppose it. At the same time, he managed to maintain cordial relations with Julián Andrés Domínguez, the head of the Chamber of Deputies, an equal and respectful association with Daniel Osvaldo Scioli, the Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, and gets on well with other leading authority figures.

The Shadow of the Dictatorship

In Argentina, the new Pope became a target of criticism from some public figures… they say that he showed insufficient backbone during the 1976-83 military dictatorship; the most radical commentators speak of his “collaboration” with the junta.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio Elected 266th Pope of Rome

In the past, many Argentines repeatedly criticised the Catholic Church for not resisting the dictatorship openly, as the junta killed thousands of its opponents. Last year, Bergoglio apologised for the fact that the Church was unable to protect its flock in the 70’s and 80’s. However, many politicians thought that this statement was “too little, too late”. In their view, Bergoglio cared more about the image of the church than he did to help those investigating the crimes of the junta. Human rights activist Myriam Bregman said that Bergoglio avoided giving direct testimony on these issues.

The first day and the second day of the conclave to elect a new Pope of Rome>>

The Argentine media often talk about two cases in which many assume a certain degree of collusion of Bergoglio with the military junta’s activities. One is a court case regarding the torture of two Jesuit priests kidnapped during the Dirty War in 1976 from poor neighbourhoods. According to some newspapers, one of the priests (the now-deceased Orlando Yorio) allegedly accused Bergoglio that he turned them over to the military authorities, and the second (Franz Jalics) indirectly confirmed this in one of his books. However, all sources agree that junta freed the two priests thanks to the intercession of the higher church hierarchy, including Bergoglio. Bergoglio himself said in turn that he warned the two priests of the danger and even offered sanctuary to one of the Jesuits, but the priest refused that, he said. As one of Bergoglio’s biographies state, during the dictatorship, he did repeatedly shelter opposition figures persecuted by the junta. However, many Argentines still blame Bergoglio that he did so in secret… as the church hierarchy publicly endorsed the junta and urged Catholics to prove their “love of their motherland”, as terror reigned on the streets.

14 March 2013

Oleg Vyazmitinov



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