Monday, April 27, 2009

Habemus Pub-Date?

With 1 May -- the day most of Europe celebrates its laborers and the church marks the feast of St Joseph the Worker -- close at hand, the latest forecast from behind the walls has tipped the release of Pope Benedict's "social encyclical" for 29 June.

Subject to repeated delays since its intended 2007 publication, the latest hold-ups of Caritas in Veritate reportedly owe their origin to the global economic crisis, which Benedict intends to treat in the text, alongside threads on the environment, globalization and the care of the poor and the marginalized.

Framed as a contemporary answer to Paul VI's 1967 Populorum progressio and John Paul II's 1991 Centesimus annus -- the latter written to mark the 100th anniversary of Leo XIII's Rerum novarum, the foundational text of Catholic social teaching -- Caritas would be the third top-level text of the Ratzinger papacy, following 2006's Deus caritas est and Spe salvi, released in late 2007. Despite the delays, however, the pontiff has frequently teased the document's themes in his public talks over the course of its drafting behind-the-scenes.

Shortly after the Vatican's justice czar Cardinal Renato Martino floated the June date in the Italian press late last week, reports emerged that a secret meeting took place during Easter Week at which four top cardinals were said to have advised Benedict on the section of the draft dealing with the market's downturn.

According to the wires, the red-hats summoned to Castelgandolfo for the Saturday morning summit were Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, the president of the Italian bishops; his now-retired predecessor Camillo Ruini, the former vicar of Rome and a key figure in Italian political life; the patriarch of Venice Angelo Scola and Benedict's "crown prince," Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, seemingly recovered from the arm's-length stance he projected during the twin winter crises that rocked the Vatican and the Austrian church.

The solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the late June date traditionally marks the end of the Vatican year before the Pope and Curia flee Rome for the summer holidays.