There have been quite a few repercussions around the world following remarks by Cardinal Kevin Farrell who has said in several interviews that priests have “no credibility for marriage preparation.” I have received emails about this and have seen posts on Facebook by priests who have expressed their incredulity at this statement by the head of the Dicastery for Family, Laity and Life.

A particularly eloquent response to the cardinal’s remarks was written by Fr. Roger Landry for the National Catholic Register, and I offer you his thoughts on the subject. I know many priests will thank him.


This week in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider,” I want to pay tribute to the late Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, a man I got to know both during and after the years I worked at the Vatican Information Service. As you probably know, he died on July 5 in the United States after years of struggling with the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease.

What you’ll hear today is my interview with him shortly after Pope Benedict’s 2009 trip to the Holy Land. What most amazed me as I listened to our conversation was how timely the Cardinal’s message still is today. I know you’ll agree as you listen to this most able and astute diplomat as we discuss his work, especially relations with Muslims.

Here are some photos from the day in 2009 that Benedict XVI met with Muslim leaders at the al-Hussein bin Talal Mosque in Amman, Jordan. I covered that event and, as you will see, the women journalists had to be dressed in a certain manner to enter. You’ll see Cardinal Tauran in several of these photos.

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(National Catholic Register) COMMENTARY: Rather than being an insurmountable handicap, my priesthood is actually an asset.
By Father Roger Landry

One of the duties of parish priests is to prepare couples for the sacrament of matrimony. Many priests love this work. Others admit they find parts of it taxing. But almost all parish priests do it, dedicate quite a lot of time to doing it, and, like other aspects of priestly work, try to do it well.

That’s why it came as quite a shock earlier this month when Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect for the Vatican’s Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, which is in charge of the Church’s universal care for the family, declared that priests are basically incompetent to do this work.

In an interview printed in the July/August edition of Intercom magazine, published by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Farrell made headlines when he said, “Priests are not the best people to train others for marriage. They have no credibility. They have never lived the experience. They may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, but to go from there to putting it into practice every day … they don’t have the experience.”

This was not the first time he has alleged universal priestly ineptitude with regard to marriage preparation. Last September, at a conference in Belfast, he emphasized that priests have “no credibility in this area” because they have “no credibility when it comes to living the reality of marriage.” What is needed, he said, is accompaniment by other married couples “who have walked in [married couples’] shoes.”

He implied that his comprehensive assertions might be partly autobiographical extrapolations because, he said, he didn’t “have a clue” when his own nieces and nephews asked him some questions about marital difficulties. “I have no experience of that, and the majority of priests don’t have that experience,” he said.

But in the Intercom interview he also contended that priests’ lack of competence and credibility is matched by a lack of commitment. Basing himself on his previous experience as the bishop of Dallas, he said, priests, with all of their duties, “are not going to be interested in organizing marriage meetings.”

Priests who are in fact interested in organizing meetings with couples to help them get ready for the sacrament of marriage found his comments disheartening and disturbing. Many married couples likewise found them bewildering.

Earlier this month I was in Lubbock, Texas, giving four talks at the “Diocesan Family Camp” on how marital love is free, full, faithful and fruitful. Several of the married couples present, in the wake of Cardinal Farrell’s comments, sent me emails thanking me once again for my work and saying that they found my talks, and Bishop Robert Coerver’s opening keynote, credible, helpful and attuned to the realities of marriage and family life. I similarly got emails from various couples I’ve prepared for marriage over the last 19 years, saying how grateful they were for what they received from the hours we spent together.

It’s one thing to make the obvious point that effective marriage preparation involves not just parish priests but well-trained married couples, something that happens in most parish, diocesan and online marriage-preparation courses in the United States. Cardinal Farrell’s regrettable emphasis, however, was not to encourage lay involvement, but to undermine priests’ involvement and credibility – as if, because they’ve never been married, priests have nothing to contribute. This led Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin humorously to tweet, “It seems fair to ask, then, if a celibate cleric has sufficient ‘credibility’ to lead a dicastery devoted to laity, family and life.”
Cardinal Farrell’s comments made me wonder how familiar he is with St. John Paul II’s works on marriage, which take up his objections and persuasively refute them.

In the opening words of the introduction to his book Love and Responsibility, for example, the future pope took up the objection:
“There exists a view that only married people may speak about marriage, and that only persons who experience love between a man and a woman may speak about such love. This view demands personal and direct experience as the basis for speaking in a given field. Thus, priests, religious and celibate persons cannot have anything to say on matters of love and marriage.”

Then he responded: “A lack of their own personal experience does not hinder them since they possess a very rich indirect experience proceeding from pastoral work … [where] they encounter precisely these problems so often and in such a variety of ways and situations that another experience is created, experience that is undoubtedly more indirect and ‘foreign,’ but at the same time much more extensive.”

Even though priests don’t have firsthand experience of marital life, St. John Paul underlined, they have a far more extensive secondhand experience than almost anyone because of their pastoral work hearing confessions, counseling couples, and sharing the joys and struggles of their married spiritual sons and daughters. They also have their firsthand exposure to the reality of family life from growing up in a family.

His Eminence, however, not only seems to have forgotten John Paul II’s insights, but also seems unaware of what Pope Francis has said about priests and marriage preparation.

Speaking to parish priests in the Vatican Feb. 25, 2017, Pope Francis commented, “In most cases, you are the first people to be approached by young people desiring to form a new family and marry in the sacrament of matrimony. And it is again you to whom married couples turn in crisis as a result of serious relationship problems, with a need to rekindle their faith and rediscover the grace of the sacrament. …No one better than you knows and is in touch with the reality of the social fabric of the territory and experiences the various complexities: unions celebrated in Christ, de facto unions, civil unions, failed unions, happy and unhappy families and young people.”

“With each person and in each situation,” the Pope continued, “you are called to be traveling companions who can offer witness and support. May your primary concern be to bear witness to the grace of the sacrament of matrimony and the primordial good of the family, vital cell of the Church and of society, by announcing that marriage between a man and a woman is a symbol of the spousal union between Christ and the Church. Such witness is put into practice concretely when you prepare engaged couples for marriage, making them aware of the profound meaning of the step which they are about to take, and when you journey with young couples with attentiveness, helping them experience the divine strength and the beauty of their marriage through light and shadow, through joyful and difficult times.”

He went on to say that he wanted marriage preparation to be a “true catechumenate” that could accompany engaged couples similar to the way the Church for months accompanies adults preparing for the sacrament of baptism.

“This catechumenate,” he said, “is principally entrusted to you, parish priests. …I encourage you to implement it despite any difficulties you may encounter.”

Those are not the words of someone with a low estimation of the credibility, competence and commitment of priests with regard to the sacrament of matrimony.

I have had the joy to do clergy workshops on marriage preparation in various dioceses in the U.S. and Canada and to speak throughout the U.S. and beyond on John Paul II’s theology of the body. I have also had the chance to prepare several hundred couples for marriage.

I normally meet with couples cumulatively for about 10 hours because I’m convinced that in a culture that doesn’t support marriage as the lifelong, faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman, this time is indispensable to help them build their marriage on the rock of faith.

In addition to Marriage Encounter or other pre-Cana programs I have them take, I give them 12 short essays to write, so that I can better meet them where they’re at and help bring them to where the Church hopes they’ll be on their wedding day. I give them videos to watch and websites to visit. I administer FOCCUS tests (a pre-marriage inventory) to them and review with them their responses.

Over the course of our conversations, we discuss their family backgrounds, how they met, how they determined the other was the “right one,” how the proposal happened, what marriage means, why Christian marriage is a sacrament, what role God plays in their relationship, what is distinctive about marital love, what they love about the other and how the other has shown love to them, what their desires are for children, how to grow in prayer and faith as a couple, how to forgive, and what marriage experts say are best practices on communication, finances and relations with in-laws.

We go over in depth the necessary intentions for a valid marriage. We cover the what and why of the Church’s teachings about natural family planning, adoption, infertility, cohabitation, contraception, in vitro fertilization and pornography. We even tackle what to do if they happen to fall in love with someone else.

In all of this, rather than being an insurmountable handicap, my priesthood is actually an asset.

My chaste celibacy allows me to be more objective in talking about human sexuality in God’s plan than someone whose experiences are marked too much by personal experience.

My seminary training is likewise a plus. So many generous Catholic couples who volunteer to lead marriage-preparation courses, like my parents, certainly can talk effectively and eloquently about various practical realities of living a Catholic marriage, but, in general, they cannot speak to the theology and sacramentality of marriage the way priests can and couples deserve. Not even most permanent deacons can address the “tough issues” with regard to the Church’s moral teaching with the same clarity and confidence as priests. These priestly contributions are an indispensable service to couples who are often beguiled by our secular age to look at marriage in a desacralized way.

Most helpful of all, however, I think, is simply a priest’s presence and prioritized concern for the couple. Many young people, including Catholics, don’t know priests personally, because they see them only in chasubles. Many come to marriage preparation not practicing the faith, in one way or many, and have lots of unanswered questions and misconceptions that will impact their marriage and spiritual life overall if left unaddressed.

Over the course of the hours we have together, those questions can come up. Trust can build. The practice of the faith can return. Doubts about “credibility” can be overcome. Real evangelization or re-evangelization can take place.

When a priest shows how much he cares in making the time to get to know and form them, and then brings the fruit of that burgeoning friendship to their rehearsal, wedding homily, reception, future baptisms and more, it can have a favorable long-term influence on their relationship with all priests and with the Church.

I hope that the intense reaction that Cardinal Farrell’s unintentionally offensive remarks have provoked among priests and the faithful might lead him to reassess his conclusions.
I also hope that it will help him, and the dicastery he directs, to better support priests in the trenches in their important labor – together with married laypeople – in preparing couples not just for marriage, but for the sacrament of matrimony in its fullness.

The future of the Church depends on that crucial and ongoing work.

Father Roger Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts.


I was honored, albeit sad, to attend the funeral Mass this morning for Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran about whom, as you know, I’ve written in recent days. It was gratifying to see so many members of the diplomatic corps and equally so to see representatives of other religions, including many non-Christians. Many tributes have appeared since his July 5 death and I have been pleased to note how many were indeed from non-Christian leaders, a tribute to Cardinal Tauran’s tireless work in inter-religious dialogue.

How could we not think of the parallel with St. John Paul II, so very ill for so long with Parkinson’s and yet he kept on “fighting the good fight,” knowing the Lord would call him when it was his time.

I suppose it is very human of me to want to imagine a conversation the two are now having about the Church today, about inter-religious dialogue, about peace in the world.
Cardinal Sodano and Cardinal Tauran worked for many years side by side in the Secretariat of State. Sodano was called to serve as Pro-Secretary of State on December 1, 1990. When he became a cardinal on June 28, 1991, he became Secretary of State.

Tauran was named Secretary for Relations with States on the same day, December 1, 1990 and remained there until 2003 when he was named Librarian and Archivist of Holy Roman Church.

I had been working at the Vatican Information Service for only a few months when the press office announced the appointments of Sodano and Tauran on December 1, 1990 – the same day that saw the retirement of Sodano’s predecessor, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, about whom I could write a volume and about whom volumes have been written, most focussing on Casaroli as the architect of the Vatican’s Ostpolitik, its diplomacy with countries of then Communist Eastern Europe.

My superior at VIS, Pedro Brunori decided on the spur of the moment that we should be present in the Secretariat of State where there was a small reception for the outgoing cardinal secretary and to welcome for Sodano and Tauran. He told us to take our Vatican IDs and three of us made our way to the Apostolic Palace, crossing the San Damaso courtyard to elevators that would take us to the Secretariat of State.

I had my doubts about going with Pedro as it was a Saturday and that was the only day of the week I allowed myself to wear slacks or a pantsuit to work. Pedro was nonplussed and said I looked the part as I had black slacks, a white blouse and a red sweater with matching red-white and black scarf.

A fellow American who worked for the Vatican at the time saw me cross the San Damaso courtyard and she said I could not go in slacks. Pedro and my colleague simply nodded, I shrugged my shoulders and we kept walking.

I was awed, as a newcomer in town, so to speak, by the history and beauty of the rooms of the Apostolic Palace and by meeting the outgoing Casaroli, about whom I had written many articles for the Regsiter, and then meeting the new secretary of State Sodano and the new “foreign minister” Tauran.

I will never forget shaking hands with Cardinal Sodano who smiled and said, “Signora, you do us honors today with the colors you are wearing!”

Pedro wanted us to do some PR while we were at the reception. The Vatican Information Service was only a few months old at the time and he wanted everyone to know about this new news service of the Holy See and Vatican.

As I write these lines I think back to the myriad encounters I had during those years I worked for the Vatican. I was present for history-making moments, met the movers and shakers of the Catholic hierarchy on the domestic scene and the international one and have said farewell to the great ones. Like Cardinal Tauran.

And this is why, when people say to me ”God bless you,” my usual reply is “He really has!”


The funeral Mass this morning for Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran was celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Tauran died July 5 in the United States after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

While Pope Francis was scheduled to celebrate the valedictorio at the end of the Mass, he was present throughout the entire Eucharistic celebration. (photos by EWTN/CNA’s Daniel Ibanez)

Scores of bishops, archbishops and cardinals were present as were many members of the diplomatic corps and many representatives of other religions. Diplomats and members of other religions were seated in the front rows. At the time of his death, at the end of a long and remarkable career in service to the Holy See, Cardinal Tauran was the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and camerlengo of Holy Roman Church.

The presence of many diplomats was a testament to Cardinal Tauran’s years in the Church’s diplomatic corps. He had previously served in the Secretariat of State as Secretary for Relations with States, the equivalent of a foreign minister.

In his homily, Cardinal Sodano described his French confrère as “a man who courageously served Christ’s holy Church, despite the burden of his illness.”

He centered his homily on the Beatitudes and said they “always illuminated the life of our dearly departed brother, like bright stars along his journey.”

Cardinal Sodano also quoted the very beautiful words of St. Augustine: “Lord, we do not complain because you have taken him away from us; rather, we thank you for having given him to us.”

Referring to the period when he and Cardinal Tauran were colleagues in the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Sodano said: “For many years I witnessed the great apostolic spirit of the late Cardinal, in the long years of common service to the Holy See, and I will keep a grateful memory of it forever.”

“Cardinal Tauran,” continued the dean of the College of Cardinals, “was a great example of a priest, a Bishop, a Cardinal” who dedicated his whole life to the service of the Church; and more recently especially to “dialogue with all men of good will.”

In this way, Cardinal Tauran lived out the words of Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes: “Since God the Father is the origin and purpose of all men, we are all called to be brothers. Therefore, if we have been summoned to the same destiny, human and divine, we can and we should work together without violence and deceit in order to build up the world in genuine peace.”



The funeral for Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who died July 5 in the United States, will be this Thursday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica and I intend to be there.

I saw a news story from Iran today and thought it worth posting just to give you an idea of Cardinal Tauran’s place on the Vatican’s diplomatic stage and the esteem of the Muslim world for this Prince of the Church. That story follows.

In addition, there was a good piece in April from Il Settimo Cielo blog by Sandro Magister on the cardinal’s trip to Saudi Arabia that same month. I offer you that piece as well.


(From editorial Staff at IFP – Iran Front Page)
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has expressed condolences on the demise of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Roman Curia.

Zarif offered his condolences in a Monday message to his counterpart in the Vatican, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
“News of the passing away of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Roman Curia, filled me with sadness and sorrow,” Zarif said.

“This erudite man, who was regarded as one the Holy See’s renowned scientific and religious figures, made every effort to boost solidarity among followers of all divine faiths and promote dialogue among religions without any religious bias, nescience and extremism,” he added.

“He was one of the far-sighted men who, by holding bilateral and international meetings, managed to establish continuous dialogue among leaders of different faiths, especially Muslim and Christian scholars,” the Iranian top diplomat noted.

Zarif finally expressed condolences to Gallagher and all Catholic Christians as well as the Christian community in Iran on Cardinal Tauran’s demise, and asked God Almighty to bestow peace upon his soul.

Cardinal Tauran, a former foreign minister of the Vatican and expert in interfaith relations, died on Thursday at the age of 75. He was the one who announced the election of Pope Francis to the world in 2013 with the famous phrase “habemus papam (we have a pope)”.

He had been in the United States, seeking treatment for Parkinson’s disease. He had the condition for years, but continued his globe-trotting diplomacy to improve the Vatican’s relations with the Muslim world.

In an unusually personal condolence message sent to Tauran’s sister Friday, Francis praised the cardinal’s “courageous” years of service to the Catholic Church “despite the weight of illness.”


(From Settimo Cielo, blog by Sandro Magister – April 17, 2018)

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has been in the capital of Saudi Arabia since April 13, and will stay there until April 20, thereby repaying the visit made to the Vatican on September 20, 2017, by the secretary general of the Muslim World League, the sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa.

Welcomed by Prince Muhammad bin Abdurrahman bin Abdulaziz, vice-governor of Riyadh, Cardinal Tauran gave at the headquarters of the Muslim League, during his meeting with the sheikh Al-Issa, an address without precedent in the history of relations between Christianity and Islam, not because of the things that were said but because of the place where they were pronounced.

It was in fact the first time that in Saudi Arabia, the homeland of Wahhabism, one of the most radical currents of Islam, a leading representative of the Catholic Church has spoken out in public and with clarity on capital questions like freedom of religion and equal rights for believers of all faiths.

Here is a brief anthology of the things that Cardinal Tauran said in Riyadh, printed in “L’Osservatore Romano” of April 17.

“What is threatening all of us is not the clash of civilizations, but rather the clash of forms of ignorance and radicalism. What is threatening coexistence is first of all ignorance; therefore, to meet together, speak, build something together, are an invitation to encounter the other, and also means discovering ourselves.”

The cardinal recalled how the Christian sacred places, “in the Holy Land, in Rome or elsewhere, together with the numerous shrines in many parts of the world,” are “always open to you, our Muslim brothers and sisters, to believers of other religions, and also to every person of good will who does not profess a religion.”

Besides, he added, “in many countries the mosques are also open to visitors,” and this, he said, “is the kind of spiritual hospitality that helps us to promote mutual understanding and friendship, contrasting prejudice.”

“Religion is the dearest thing a person has. This is why some, when they are called to choose between keeping the faith and remaining alive, prefer to accept paying a high price: they are the martyrs of all religions and of every time.”

“In all religions there are forms of radicalism. Fundamentalists and extremists may be zealous person, but unfortunately they have deviated from a solid and wise understanding of religion. Moreover, they consider those who do not share their vision as unbelievers who must convert or be eliminated, so as to maintain purity. They are misled persons who can easily go on to violence in the name of religion, including terrorism. They become convinced, through brainwashing, that they are serving God. The truth is that they are only hurting themselves, ruining the image of their religion and their coreligionists. This is why they need our prayer and our help.”

After clarifying that “religion can be proposed, never imposed, and then accepted or rejected,” Cardinal Tauran identified as one of the fields in which Christians and Muslims must be in agreement, seeing that “in the past there has been a great deal of competition between the two communities,” that “of common rules for the construction of places of worship.” In fact, all the religions must be treated in the same way, without discrimination, because their followers, together with the citizens who do not profess any religion, must be treated equally,” he remarked in referring to the always relevant theme of “full citizenship” for all. In part because “if we do not eliminate the double standards of our behavior as believers, religious institutions and organizations, we will foster Islamophobia and Christianophobia.”

“Spiritual leaders have a duty: to keep the religions from being at the service of an ideology, and to be able to recognize that some of our coreligionists, like the terrorists, are not behaving correctly. Terrorism is a constant threat, and because of this we must be clear and never justify it. The forms of terrorism want to demonstrate the impossibility of coexistence. We believe the exact opposite. We must avoid aggression and denigration.”

“All authentic interreligious dialogue begins with the proclamation of one’s own faith. We do not say that all religions are equal, but that all believers, those who seek God and all persons of good will devoid of religious affiliation, have equal dignity. Everyone must be left free to embrace the religion that he wishes.” After this came the concluding appeal to join forces “so that God, who created us, may not be a motive of division, but rather of unity.”

POSTSCRIPT – On Wednesday, April 18, Cardinal Tauran also had a conversation with the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz, with whom he again spoke on how the Christian and Muslim religions and cultures can work together in repudiating violence and terrorism and in promoting peace.

In confirmation of the top-level nature of the meeting, the king was accompanied by the interior minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdelaziz Al Saoud, the foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, and the secretary general of the Muslim World League, Sheik Muhammad Abdul Karim Al-Issa. With Cardinal Tauran (see photo) was Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue.
Previously, on Sunday, April 15, the cardinal had met and celebrated Mass with a sizable Catholic community made up mostly of immigrants from Asia.



Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue died on July 5 in the United States where he was being treated for Parkinson’s Disease. I had a number of opportunities to get to know him during his long and productive years of service to the Church and I always felt privileged by those encounters. Every moment I was with him, I knew I was in the presence of a special person, a refined and ever-gracious gentleman, a keen intellect, great historian and a brilliant diplomat. (photo Le Point)

I was one of six journalists invited by Cardinal Tauran (at the time he was archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church) to attend the Qatar Conference on Muslim-Christian Dialogue at the end of May 2004. The then Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who had a great interest in inter-religious dialogue, had expressed the desire in 2003 to open a Center for Muslim-Christian dialogue in Doha.

The emir, host of the conference, told Cardinal Tauran that he had invited six Muslim journalists to cover the 2004 event, and asked the Cardinal to invite six Catholic journalists. I was honored to have been among the six.

Because it is an interesting look back in history – and because some of the cardinal’s statements 14 years ago sound like they were pronounced 14 weeks ago – I’d like to post the interview I did with Cardinal Tauran for the National Catholic Register after the Doha conference ended.

REGISTER: Your Eminence, you were for many years the Secretary for Relations with States of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. What are your thoughts on the May 1, 2004 enlargement of the European Union when 10 new nations joined the EU that day, bringing the total to 25 members?

TAURAN: I would not speak so much of an enlargement as of a return, a return of countries that were excluded for so many years from their natural milieu. It was an exchange of gifts because, by returning to Europe, these new members are bringing with them their great cultural and historical wealth. These are factors that enrich, not disturb. It is surely a very important page in European history.

REGISTER: Several of these countries lived for more than 50 years under a communist regime, a cumbersome legacy that some say is causing Europe to now move forward at different speeds. Do you share that opinion?

TAURAN: “Certainly. It will be a far more complex exercise when you have 25 voices making decisions; thus, formulas will have to be found that allow every member country to feel it is partner with full rights. Until this happens, however, the formulas must be realistic because we are talking about countries with very different experiences. Politics is the art of the possible, therefore, I am confident this will happen.

REGISTER: For more than a year now, as often as he could do so, Pope John Paul II has pointed to the importance of mentioning of Europe’s Christian roots in the new European Constitution. There are many in Europe who do not want this – or any mention of religion – included. Your thoughts?

TAURAN: The writers of the Constitution wished to preface it with a preamble that gave a vision of Europe’s past history. In rereading (this history) no one could deny that Christianity was the only religion that contributed to the formation of European institutions. Let’s not forget that the first school was born at the court of Charlemagne through the efforts of a monk, Alcuino; this is an undisputed fact. A monk founded the first school. The first universities were founded by the Church. And I always think of the fact that the first exercise in direct democracy was the election of abbots in Benedictine monasteries. Paul VI in fact, in a phrase that has been quoted by John Paul II, used to say that Europe was born from a Cross, a book and a plow, a reference to Benedictine spirituality. We must also think of pilgrimages, of the Latin language as cultural factors that have modeled Europe’s physiognomy. History should be read, or read again where necessary. If there is a preamble, at least may it be equanimous.

REGISTER: Having served in the Middle East in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See – especially your years in Lebanon – you know better than most the realities of that area, in particular the problems of the Christians who live there. How do you respond to those who live there and fear that the question of Europe’s Christian roots is overshadowing the problems of Christians in the Holy Land?

TAURAN: No one can deny that there has been a hemorrhage of Christians from this part of the world. Partly because there are situations there which have lasted for many years and no one can ask that people be or become heroes. There are hot spots in the Holy Land and in Lebanon concerning Christians. What we want to avoid is that the Holy Places turn into museums; rather, they must be living realities with Christian communities that actively function and we want Lebanon to continue to be the laboratory of dialogue that it has been up to now, where Christians are equal partners with the faithful of other religions. Christians in the Middle East continue to receive all the necessary attention on the part of the Holy See. We are interested in seeing Christians witness to their faith in the midst of other believers.

REGISTER: It has been proposed that Israel become a member of the Europe Union. Could this serve to alleviate or end the crisis in the Middle East?

TAURAN: By necessity Europe must have boundaries. One could eventually think of a European Union with other countries being “associate members,” that is, countries tied to the EU by more or less close bonds, like a partnership. But a lot of time would be needed to achieve something like this.

REGISTER: What role can the United Nations play in solving the crises in Iraq and in the Holy Land?

TAURAN: I believe that never before in history have actors on the international scene possessed such refined juridical instruments, such as U.N. resolutions, international conventions, and the like. What is missing is the political will to apply these instruments. The U.N. does not exist but what does exist is the will of the 191 members that comprise it. Therefore, a reform of the United Nations is necessary but we must be careful not to destroy it. Decisions must be made according to law and to justice. I would be careful of demonizing the U.N. and of giving it powers it does not have. As far as the Holy Land is concerned, I believe that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is the mother of all crises. When this is settled, all problems will be resolved.


TAURAN: I think that the United Nations is the only institution capable of accompanying the transition of Iraq towards popular sovereignty. Two or three countries by themselves cannot impose order on the world. All we need to do is go back and read the United Nations Charter, a document that no one seems to read or remember. Within the Charter we have all the elements necessary for a solution.”



Join me this weekend for Part II of my conversation with Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation Gregory Polan. Born near Chicago Illinois, Abbot Polan is a linguist, a scripture and theology scholar, a translator and, I have heard, is quite the organist. As abbot primate of the Confederation, he is also the abbot of St. Anselm in Rome and chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm and its Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

The 4th American to occupy this post, Abbot Gregory will tell us about the history of the order, his specific ministry as Abbot primate, what it means to be a monk and he looks at the growth of the order in the world.

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An eloquent, impassioned voice for the Catholic Church, particularly for relations between Catholics and Muslims, was silenced yesterday.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, died in the United States on July 5 where he was being treated for Parkinson’s disease. (photo: vaticannnews)

Born in France, this Prince of the Church was at the Vatican for many years, serving in the Secretariat of State in particular. He was secretary of the nunciatures to the Dominican Republic and Lebanon, came back to Rome and over the years participated in special missions in Haiti, Beirut and Damascus and knew the Middle East especially well.

In 1990 he was appointed Secretary for Relations with States, and in 2003 was named Archivist and Librarian of Holy Roman Church. In 2007 Pope Benedict appointed him to head the Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

Pope Francis on Saturday, December 20, 2014 named French Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran as Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church, replacing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who had turned 80 on December 2.

On March 13, 2013, as camerlengo, Cardinal Tauran announced the election of Cardinal Bergoglio who took the name Pope Francis:

And this is only the tip of a very large iceberg that is the cardinal’s years of service to the Church.

Cardinal Tauran, a true gentleman and a brilliant scholar, was considered one of the most knowledgeable and capable diplomats of generations of papal diplomats.

A reserved personality, he nonetheless always made a remarkable impact when he was a member or head of a Vatican delegation to international conferences. Cardinal Tauran was a terrific listener and yet, when he spoke in his soft voice, he made his audience become the good listeners. You knew you were listening to someone with vast knowledge of the topic he was speaking about, someone of great authority.

I had the wonderful great luck, in my years at the Vatican Information Service, to have interacted with Cardinal Tauran on a number of occasions. When he was Secretary for Relations with States, VIS was constantly writing news stories about his speeches, his interventions on the international stage, his meetings with foreign leaders and so on.

When he was made a cardinal, he was the first one I went to see during the afternoon courtesy visits.

In May 2004 I was one of six journalists chosen by Cardinal Tauran to join him in Doha, Qatar for the Qatar Conference on Muslim-Christian Dialogue.

Those were amazing days, not just the conference but breaking bread with the cardinal or sitting around in the lobby with my journalist colleagues, chatting away and asking questions of him like mad.

There is much more to say about those days and about Cardinal Tauran and his life and work and I’ll do so next week. I published an interview with him in the National Catholic Register, I did three stories for the Vatican Information Service and in later years, June of 2009, I interviewed him for Vatican Insider. I will re-air that conversation.

I admired and respected so very much about Cardinal Tauran – the man, the diplomat, and the humble priest who found time behind the scenes for personal charities and helping people and institutions. My esteem grew with every encounter.

What was most remarkable about Cardinal Tauran, certainly in these later years, was his indefatigable spirit, his endless love for the Church, for diplomacy, for trying to bring peace to a world that so badly needs it. He never stopped working. He was in his 11th year at the council for Inter-religious Dialogue, He seemed to be tireless, when it came to all things Church, notwithstanding the increasingly devastating effects of Parkinson’s.

And today he is resting in the Lord. RIP!



The Joint Committee of Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for inter-Religious Dialogue held a symposium at Al-Azhar University in Cairo on February 22-23 entitled, “The Role of Al Azhar Al-Sharif and the Vatican in Confronting the Phenomena of Fanaticism, Extremism and Violence.”

At the conclusion of the two-day symposium, the conferees issued the following statement:

In the framework of the joint cooperation between Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, the two Councils held a symposium at Al-Azhar Al-Sharif in Cairo in the period between 22th and 23th of February 2017 titled: “The Role of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and of the Vatican in Confronting the Phenomena of Fanaticism, Extremism and Violence.”

Representatives of Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue participated in the symposium. (photo:


The symposium was started by a speech of Professor Abbas Shauman, Deputy Al-Azhar, and Professor Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk, Head of Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and a member of the Authority of Senior Scholars. Also, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran delivered a speech.

The speeches of the symposium were delivered over two days. The participants presented six research papers, in Arabic and English, on the following points:

  1. First point: Fanaticism, its causes and ways to counter it.
  2. Second point: Extremism, its causes and ways to counter it.
  3. Third point: Violence, its causes and ways to counter it.

The symposium concluded with the following recommendations:

  1. The symposium recommends the significance of dialogue between Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and the Pontifical Council for inter-Religious Dialogue and activating the common human values to counter fanaticism, extremism and violence.
  2. The symposium recommends the importance of respecting the religious diversity.
  3. The symposium stresses the necessary of addressing causes of the phenomena of extremism, violence, poverty, ignorance and the political abuse of religion and incorrect understanding of religious texts.
  4. The symposium recommends the necessity of paying attentions to the issues that concern young people, opining dialogue channels with them, explaining correct concepts ordained by religions, training them and developing.
  5. The symposium reaffirms paying attentions to education curriculum that establish the common human values, taking into consideration women and youth issues and bearing the responsibility of caring for children.
  6. The symposium stresses the values of mercy, love and respecting other official values in countering extremism, violence and intolerance.
  7. The symposium stresses the necessary of difference management. Diversity in faith or sect does not mean to negate peaceful coexistence.
  8. The symposium stresses the importance of cooperation between Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for inter-Religious Dialogue in terms of promoting coexistence and communication with the decision makers to cooperate in the areas of security and development.
  9. The symposium confirms the position adopted by Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for inter-Religious Dialogue to consider dialogue as a basis for the relations between peoples, individuals, civilizations and religions in order to establish peace, security and stability. The symposium also rejects all forms of fanaticism, extremism and violence.
  10. We recommend that such symposium and meetings between Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for inter-Religious Dialogue for clearing any misconceptions and confirming the values of tolerance and easiness among the followers of religions.
  11. The symposium recommends all the international governments, organizations and authorities to cooperate with each other in countering extremist and violent groups. These groups have negatively impacted stability and peaceful coexistence among peoples.
  12. Assisting the call to alleviate violence and stress among the followers of religions in many countries of the world and eliminating the phenomenon of developing the spirit of hatred and animosity for religions and defaming religious symbols, since these are some hostile actions.
  13. Establishing serious cooperation to counter, in a realistic and applicable way, terrorism and terroristic organizations; working on drying their resources, stopping giving them supplies of money and weapons, closing the gates to the social communications before them in order to protect young people from its devastating ideologies.      (FROM:



Pope Francis tweeted today: God knows better than we do about what we need. We must have faith, because his ways are different from ours.

And yesterday: If evil is contagious, so is goodness. Let us be infected by goodness and let us spread goodness!


This morning the Holy Father welcomed the participants of an International Forum on Migration and Peace taking place in Rome, and told them the political community, civil society and the Church must offer a shared response to the complexities of the phenomenon of migration today, a response that “may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.” (photo


The two-day forum has been organized by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development in collaboration with the Scalbrini International Migration Network. Its theme is: “Integration and Development: From Reaction to Action.”  Francis said “development and integration were the very reason I wanted to establish the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, with a Section concerned exclusively for migrants, refugees and the victims of human trafficking.”

Pope Francis singled out particularly vulnerable group of migrants, exiles and refugees:  “children and young people who are forced to live far from their homeland and who are separated from their loved ones.”

“The beginning of this third millennium,” he stated, “is very much characterized by migratory movement which, in terms of origin, transit and destination, involves nearly every part of the world.  Unfortunately, in the majority of cases this movement is forced, caused by conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions: The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking. 

To welcome.  “Rejection is an attitude we all share; it makes us see our neighbour not as a brother or sister to be accepted, but as unworthy of our attention, a rival, or someone to be bent to our will” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 12 January 2015).  Faced with this kind of rejection, rooted ultimately in self-centredness and amplified by populist rhetoric, what is needed is a change of attitude, to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors.  For those who flee conflicts and terrible persecutions, often trapped within the grip of criminal organisations who have no scruples, we need to open accessible and secure humanitarian channels.  A responsible and dignified welcome of our brothers and sisters begins by offering them decent and appropriate shelter.  The enormous gathering together of persons seeking asylum and of refugees has not produced positive results.  Instead these gatherings have created new situations of vulnerability and hardship.  More widespread programmes of welcome, already initiated in different places, seem to favour a personal encounter and allow for greater quality of service and increased guarantees of success.

To protect.  My predecessor, Pope Benedict, highlighted the fact that the migratory experience often makes people more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 18 October 2005).  We are speaking about millions of migrant workers, male and female – and among these particularly men and women in irregular situations – of those exiled and seeking asylum, and of those who are victims of trafficking.  Defending their inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedoms and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted.  Protecting these brothers and sisters is a moral imperative which translates into adopting juridical instruments, both international and national, that must be clear and relevant; implementing just and far reaching political choices; prioritising constructive processes, which perhaps are slower, over immediate results of consensus; implementing timely and humane programmes in the fight against “the trafficking of human flesh” which profits off others’ misfortune; coordinating the efforts of all actors, among which, you may be assured will always be the Church.

To promote.  Protecting is not enough.  What is required is the promotion of an integral human development of migrants, exiles and refugees.  This “takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” (Apostolic Letter Humanam Progressionem, 17 August 2016).  Development, according to the social doctrine of the Church (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 373-374), is an undeniable right of every human being.  As such, it must be guaranteed by ensuring the necessary conditions for its exercise, both in the individual and social context, providing fair access to fundamental goods for all people and offering the possibility of choice and growth.  Also here a coordinated effort is needed, one which envisages all the parties involved: from the political community to civil society, from international organisations to religious institutions.  The human promotion of migrants and their families begins with their communities of origin.  That is where such promotion should be guaranteed, joined to the right of being able to emigrate, as well as the right to not be constrained to emigrate.”

To integrate.  Integration, which is neither assimilation nor incorporation, is a two-way process, rooted essentially in the joint recognition of the other’s cultural richness: it is not the superimposing of one culture over another, nor mutual isolation, with the insidious and dangerous risk of creating ghettoes.  Concerning those who arrive and who are duty bound not to close themselves off from the culture and traditions of the receiving country, respecting above all its laws, the family dimension of the process of integration must not be overlooked: for this reason I feel the need to reiterate the necessity, often presented by the Magisterium (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 15 August 1986), of policies directed at favouring and benefiting the reunion of families.  With regard to indigenous populations, they must be supported, by helping them to be sufficiently aware of and open to processes of integration which, though not always simple and immediate, are always essential and, for the future, indispensable.  This requires specific programmes, which foster significant encounters with others.  Furthermore, for the Christian community, the peaceful integration of persons of various cultures is, in some way, a reflection of its catholicity, since unity, which does not nullify ethnic and cultural diversity, constitutes a part of the life of the Church, who in the Spirit of Pentecost is open to all and desires to embrace all (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 5 August 1987).

The Pope closed his lengthy address by highlighting “a duty of solidarity.  In the face of tragedies which take the lives of so many migrants and refugees – conflicts, persecutions, forms of abuse, violence, death – expressions of empathy and compassion cannot help but spontaneously well-up. ‘Where is your brother’? (Gen 4:9): this question which God asks of man since his origins, involves us, especially today with regard to our brothers and sisters who are migrating: “This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us” (Homily at the “Arena” Sports Camp, Salina Quarter, Lampedusa, 8 July 2013).  Solidarity is born precisely from the capacity to understand the needs of our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and to take responsibility for these needs.  Upon this, in short, is based the sacred value of hospitality, present in religious traditions.  For us Christians, hospitality offered to the weary traveller is offered to Jesus Christ himself, through the newcomer: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).  The duty of solidarity is to counter the throwaway culture and give greater attention to those who are weakest, poorest and most vulnerable.  Thus “a change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 5 August 2013).


(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue has announced that council president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, accompanied by Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, secretary, and Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, head of the Office for Islam, will be in Cairo, Egypt, on February 22-23, to participate at a seminar at the University of Al-Azhar, with the theme: “The role of al-Azhar al-Sharif and of the Vatican in countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion.”

The cardinal president will lead the Catholic delegation, which will also include Archbishop Bruno Musarò, apostolic nuncio to Egypt.


After the historic meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Professor Ahmad Al-Tayyib on 23 May 2016, the Secretary of the Dicastery has travelled to Cairo several times, where he participated in many meetings and preliminary preparations for this event.

This meeting will conclude on the vigil of the anniversary of the visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Al-Azhar, which took place on February 24, 2000.