Last summer, when the turmoil in the Anglican Communion was making headlines (Am., 8/4), Austen Ivereigh suggested on America’s blog In All Things that the archbishop of Canterbury should send his quarreling bishops to Lourdes to help foster a sense of unity. Though Mr. Ivereigh says that he was writing “half-mischievously,” this has come to pass. On Sept. 25, Archbishop Rowan Williams delivered a moving homily at an ecumenical celebration at the Marian shrine, presided over by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Archbishop Williams referred to Mary as the “spotless mother” and reminded listeners that as the apparitions to St. Bernadette surprised those who thought they knew everything about the Mother of God, we too need to be ready for surprises. Using the image of Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth, he suggested that we should be open to times “when life stirs inside, heralding some future with Christ that we can’t get our minds around.”
Surprised to hear that the archbishop of Canterbury was at the Grotto of Massabielle? So were some Anglicans. The Protestant Truth Society was “appalled,” since for them Lourdes represents all that was rejected in the Protestant Reformation, particularly “apparitions, Mariolatry and the veneration of saints.” Those in the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Communion, however, see Mary as a point of unity among Christians. Cardinal Kasper, who called Williams’s visit a “miracle,” seconds that opinion. In his remarks, Cardinal Kasper noted that Lutheran and Catholic churches have made progress in this regard, and that Martin Luther venerated Mary throughout his life. “Mary is not absent but present in ecumenical dialogue,” said the cardinal. “Churches have made progress in their approach on the doctrine of Our Lady. Our Lady no longer divides us, but reconciles and unites us in Christ her Son.”The Crisis and the Campaign
As Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain continue their march toward the day of decision on Nov. 4, they will need to negotiate carefully around the questions connected with the nation’s economic health. The failure of the $700 billion bailout plan crafted by Henry M. Paulson Jr., secretary of the Treasury, to receive Congressional approval compounded the uncertainties affecting consumer confidence as well as global markets. The two candidates will inevitably be questioned on economic issues as the campaign moves forward. Voters need to be reassured that Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama understand our economic challenges and will seek and follow the best counsel available.
The candidates must avoid any appearance of manipulating economic uncertainties for political advantage. Mr. McCain opened himself to this criticism by his abrupt decision to cancel a scheduled debate with Mr. Obama to fly back to Washington, supposedly to offer his counsel on how to deal with the crisis. After a White House meeting with economic advisers and Congressional leaders at which both candidates remained silent, their debate at the University of Mississippi came off as scheduled. The candidates received mixed reviews for the limited comment they offered on economic issues in the debate, which was intended to focus on foreign policy issues.
Economics has always been understood to be an uncertain science. At this stage in the campaign, voters will probably be most reassured if the candidates demonstrate appropriate respect for that uncertainty.Genuine Dialogue
His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I addressed a formal plenary assembly of the European Parliament in Brussels on Sept. 24 to mark the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. Though it was barely noted in the United States, his address was received most warmly by the delegates and the European press. The patriarch outlined the requisites for a fruitful exchange between persons and among peoples. Speaking from a spiritual and humanist perspective, he insisted that for genuine dialogue there must be acceptance of the “other.” He described his own role and that of the ecumenical patriarchate as purely spiritual, with a worldwide focus, but one that does not fail to note the complex issues facing the world. The patriarch especially noted concern for the environment as one of these. He urged the eventual acceptance of Turkey into the European Union, deploring the hesitation that is based on concerns about allowing a Muslim country to join. He said that there were already millions of Muslims in Europe, just as there would still be millions of Jews but for the horrors of World War II. In a delicate reference to his own situation, he noted that Istanbul was once the Christian Constantinople. Respected and revered worldwide, he is subject to petty harassment at home by bureaucrats who even refuse him permission to make repairs to the few buildings left under his control. Turkey would do well to heed Patriarch Bartholomew’s words for the good of all, and for its own European ambitions.