Yes, I know, everyone wants to read the news of the conflict in the Church, but this post is about peace in the Church, among those who share a common confession in Jesus Christ. That is the more important part of my trip here. The greatest blessing of these European book tours has been to meet other Christians who, even if they don’t share all my beliefs about the Benedict Option, do share a common faith in God.
Above is Eduard Habsburg, the Hungarian ambassador to the Holy See, and a Twitter friend. “Next time you’re in Rome, look me up,” he once said. So, I did. We spent a wonderful long morning yesterday in the embassy, talking about the Benedict Option, and, believe it or not, our families. Of all the things he is — an ambassador, a Habsburg, and so forth — it’s clear that the identity that is most important to Eduard Habsburg is “Catholic father.” It was a joy to see him with his kids, and to see the clear love that passes among that family. A happy family is a blessing to everyone. Eduard said at one point that he believes the future of the Church in Europe will be very hard, but that it will depend heavily on happy Catholic families.
Here is Archbishop Zuppi of Bologna, with whom I had a public discussion last night in Bologna. He was kind enough not to point out that I had a piece of escarole on my teeth:
Mons. Zuppi was every bit as gentle as they said he would be. I was told in advance that Zuppi, who is a theological progressive, faced heavy criticism from some progressive Catholics for agreeing to meet me. But he did it anyway, saying he had nothing to fear from dialogue. I was very grateful to him for that, and though I am sure we have significant disagreements, it was good to spend time with this Christian brother.
This is Gabriella, whose last name I don’t know. She was my translator in Bologna. She is a superhero. The event was very difficult for me, but she made it as seamless as possible. Difficult, because I had a clip in my ear in which she was doing simultaneous translation for me of Mons. Zuppi’s Italian comments into English, and — get this — when I spoke, she translated me simultaneously into Italian for the audience, over the loudspeaker. For me, that was really hard, trying to filter out the voice of the Italian woman booming over the loudspeaker, and focus on my words. If I sounded distracted at times, this is why. But Gabriella helped me through this exercise with great gusto and kindness. I am in her debt.
Several kind people came up to me afterward and asked me to sign their copies of L’Opzione Benedetto. One young man, a teacher, said, “When I read this, I knew that I wasn’t alone.” Here are the Ferraresis, from Modena, the parents of the US-based Italian journalist Mattia Ferraresi. They brought me a bottle of authentic balsamic vinegar of Modena that they made themselves. Can you believe? This is so precious to me, given how much I love to cook. I told the Ferraresis that their son, who is a friend of mine, is a good man.
“Thank you,” said Mr. Ferraresi, with a twinkle in his eye, “but we hope he is a good Christian.” Perfetto!
What a country, Italy! What a people! Glory to God for them all. I am about to go to Comacchio, to meet with the Tipi Loschi and friends. I’ll report back.