To Be Heard

Have we, and the media in general, completely forgotten that one of the last great peace efforts by the dying Pope John Paul II was to send Cardinal Pio Laghi, the former Vatican ambassador to Washington (Signs of the Times, 11/6), to try to talk President Bush and his advisers out of their ill-advised rush to war? I am sure that today, in his deep heart’s core, our president really wishes he had heeded the pope’s voice.

Cardinal Laghi tried in vain to point out to him the difficulty of the language, the serious conflicts among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and that while America’s formidable war machine would make quick work of Hussein’s inferior defenses, unmanageable human problems would certainly follow.


I have come from Rome not only to hear you, Mr. President, but also to be heard, Laghi complained at one point in their conversation. I had the impression that they had already made their decision, Laghi said in a remarkable speech in Camaldoli (Arezzo, Italy) on Oct. 4, 2003.

President Bush had been offered the best intelligence available on Iraq. The bishops in Iraq are in touch with the apostolic nuncio in Baghdad, and he with the Vatican. They speak the people’s language and have their hand on the pulse of the nation. Their knowledge of Iraq was more reliable than that of our highly paid intelligence agencies who cost us billions but whose information has been repeatedly proven embarrassingly wrong and misleading.

It was President Reagan in 1984 who urged the Senate to confirm William A. Wilson, his personal envoy to the pope, as the first U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. His reason was his oft-repeated conviction that the Vatican is the world’s greatest listening post.

I spoke at length with Cardinal Laghi last September in Rome. He recalled his sense of failure when President Bush tried to end their meeting on a positive note: at least they held common positions on the defense of human life and opposition to human cloning. The cardinal replied that those issues were not the purpose of his mission to Washington.

Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.
San Francisco, Calif.

Work Is a Service

I think I need someone to explain the logic of the recent directive to pastors to prevent eucharistic ministers from cleansing the sacred vessels after Communion (Signs of the Times, 11/6).

When I consider the tremendous service the ministers render when they take the ciborium and the chalice into the midst of the people and present the body of Christ and the blood of Christ to them and so handle the sacred species for extended periods of time, I think of the charge bishops make to the priests they ordain, Become what you handle. The ministers do a mighty work and, with God’s help, sanctify themselves by contact with the eucharistic Lord.

Why then, when their service to the people ends, are the ministers dismissed from the last step, the comparatively minor chore of cleansing the vessels? The ministers have just handled the Lord; why can’t they wash the vessels that held him?

One thing I hope is that the suspension of permission to do this is not an attempt to make the laypersons become aware of their status in our hierarchical church. They do not need that kind of put-down; they know their work is a service, just as the presidential role of the celebrant is a service and just as the role of bishop is a service. After all, aren’t we clerics supposed to be servants of the servants of God?

(Rev.) Walter J. Paulits
Pasadena, Md.

Individual Rights

Today I read your editorial All Souls Day, 2006 (10/30). I was happy to get such a recent issue. Our copies of America are usually about six weeks old by the time they arrive.

However, that is not the point. I was extremely pleased to read your position with regard to the administration’s and Congress’s total disregard for individual rights. I have been appalled for years at the way in which this issue is not being addressed at all by the press, at least in the articles I have read.

I have not been able to figure out how the president can suggest that he is promoting democracy and governance by law throughout the world at the same time that he is taking away those same rights from the American people.

Please continue your good work in keeping such ideas in front of the public. The need is extreme. We here at Bethlehem University are very appreciative of your efforts.

Neil Kieffe, F.S.C.

More Movies

I enjoyed reading Saints on the Screen, by James Martin, S.J., (10/30); because of it I have resolved to track down a copy of Joan of Arc, which I have never seen. Though I would not drop any of Martin’s selections, any list of 10 is necessarily limited, so let me call attention to three films that I think best portray saints working with the poor: Monsieur Vincent (1947), Entertaining Angels (1996) and the Petrie Sisters’ documentary on Mother Teresa, Something Beautiful for God (1969).

(Rev.) Robert Lauder
Queens, N.Y.

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