Sunday, August 17, 2014
The Italian Opera
I am glad that our beloved Holy Father has been making a stab at using English on his Korean trip, his native Spanish is at least an international language, though not perhaps in Asia. I don't know if he has attempted much in Korean, or what is becoming increasingly important internationally: Mandarin. Perhaps the most important language is kindness, a smile an embrace, a wave, of which the bishop of Rome is a past master.
What I feel is a little strange is using Italian in Korea, who apart from opera fans and some clergy in Korea speaks Italian? As a young South American sister, who spoke both Spanish and Portuguese, said to me recently, "Italian is the curse of the Church". It certainly marks those who are set for a rising career in the Church, who from their earliest days are marked out for a career n the Church, and we all know what the Holy Father thinks about careerists.
I hope I am not being xenophobic but the Italian language brings with it a certain Italian culture were traditionally efficiency is not a factor. Interestingly Cardinal Pell has attempted to removed from the board of the much troubled and apparently formerly corrupt IOR, there are no Italians running the Vatican Bank, at least at the moment. Indeed breaking from Italian culture seems, at least in theory, to be part of the Pope's strategy for reform, I think he is doomed to failure unless the Holy See starts using a global language and opens the Church up to non-Italian government ad expertise and rids itself of nepotism, still a dominant factor in Italy.
Having more or less done away with Latin the Church's working language is now Italian and with it comes a certain Italian imperialism. A friend, a professor of liturgy in an eastern European was arranging the liturgy for a group of European bishops, there were a number of cardinals in attendance, who in order of precedence presided at the liturgy, the non-Italians happily celebrated Mass either in the local language or in Latin, the Italians however insisted n using Italian although hardly anyone, least of all the laity present, spoke Italian.
I recently had to give evidence to one of the Roman congregations, they came to visit, there was a Polish Monsignor who spoke English, he was accompanied by another priest, an Italian who had no English, a non English speaking stenographer, a man dressed in lay clothes who I was told was a judge, who again spoke no English, as the interview was to be conducted in Italian they brought with them an Indian nun to act as translator, she was accompanied by another sister, the delegation consisted of six people. The Polish Monsignor asked questions in Italian, the sister translated, I answered in English, she translated into Italian, with her English or Italian occasionally corrected by the Pole, a couple of times the Italian would ask for not very ad rem clarifications, whilst the stenographer typed on his lap-top, he too, once or twice, asked for clarification of the Pole's Italian. The process took just under an hour but then the stenographer tried to save what had been typed and lost everything and it all had to be written out by hand, fortunately from memory on a prepared form, when this was done, I was given the form to read and sign, my read Italian is much better than my spoken Italian; although my statement was in Italian, the questions on the form were in the Church's official language, Latin.
The thing is that students or anyone coming to work in Rome has to spend a good year learning Italian before he can begin work. Any bishop without Italian is seriously disadvantaged, it would be impossible for a non-Italian speaking cardinal to operate in the Church, not just Rome, even if he had perfect Latin or any or all of the world languages: English, Mandarin, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Portugese whilst it is quite possible to become Pope with only Italian. It is absurd in the modern world!
Not only is it exclusive, it is expensive, of the six person delegation who came to see me, the two sisters were based in England but the four men from Rome had to be flown over here and paid, presumably at a reasonably professional rate, certainly the laymen. Today, what it took six people to ask could actually be done by e-mail or even telephone at a fraction of the cost. The Holy Father speaks of poverty but there is a baroque ostemtatiom im Italian culture which wants to employ everyone in the village. Go into any Italian bank or have anything to do with officialdom, even buying a up of coffee in a bar practically always involves half an Italian family, someone to take the order, someone to give the order to, someone to make the coffee and someone to clear-up afterwards.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake