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We still hope that the Pope will visit us
SIR – I was fortunate to get an early sighting of the Holy See’s first ever contribution to this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale and can strongly recommend it to Herald readers (Arts, June 1).
In the lee of Palladio’s magnificent 16th-century church on the small Venetian island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Holy Mother Church commissioned 10 leading architects to design 10 small chapels.
I’ll admit, however, that it was with fear and trembling that I boarded the vaporetto to cross the lagoon from St Mark’s, buoyed only by the vapours of umpteen spritz.
How would the Church’s Great Commission be embraced by 2018’s taste-makers? How, even, would the wandering, sweaty mass of tourists respond to so much aggiornamento in this old place? Would it, God forbid, reduce me to spontaneous ejaculations of praise to the Almighty, despite the company of hip, agnostic friends?
I needn’t have worried. From proto-caves to pomo adobe, from glam sheds to techno-Gothick, diversity was everywhere; everybody loved it, everything was nice and tidy. And nobody mentioned religion. Deo Gratias!
Lecturer, Glasgow School of Art
SIR – I enjoyed Dr O’Donnell’s brisk review of the 10 exhibits in the Vatican’s contribution to the Venice Biennale, but rather than refer to the late 18th-century ornamental whimsy of Walpole, I would have turned to Rainer Senn’s 1955 chapel for the Companions of Emmaus (one of the Abbé Pierre’s communities of rag-pickers then near Nice).
It was said to have been built by the architect and two assistants in three weeks, and have cost just £50. It was clearly an inspiration, as was Senn’s work in general, to that post-war need, or at least preference, to build transient “tents of meeting” rather than enduring temples.
Paul D Walker
Make a place for Mary
SIR – My thanks to Pastor Iuventus (May 25) for his thoughtful and joyful response to the new Marian feast dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Church. I had given up on finding any.
His pointing out the inaccuracies in the reporting of both bishops and Catholic news agencies on the subject is in keeping with a lazy tendency by clergy and theologians to keep Mary, if not in the kitchen, then in the devotional side chapel, to be visited only on occasion. They seem to have forgotten the “doctrinal progress” (according to St John Paul II), made by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in placing, for the first time, the doctrine on Mary within the
doctrine on the Church, Lumen Gentium. The document made it clear that the One Mediator Christ had chosen not to exercise an exclusive mediation but rather “showed forth its power” in seeking the cooperation of the motherhood of Mary and the Church.
When Christ, from the heart of his Paschal Mystery, gave Mary to “the disciple” John and so to the Church, John “made a place for her in his home”. It is time that the Church took Mary home by accepting her as Mother of the Church, that she may rediscover her own Marian dimension, which precedes her Petrine
dimension, and is so clearly visible to us after Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles.
Who better than a Mother to help free the Church from the modern perception of her as a clergy-dominated, doctrine-bound institution, and to rediscover her as a communion of family in the order of grace by which we love one another “as I have loved you”.
It was not an accident that the emergence of the Church as the People of God during the Council coincided with the rediscovery and promulgation of Mary as Mother of the Church. Come on, bishops and theologians! Respond to Pope Francis’s initiative and to the working of the Holy Spirit whose spouse Mary is, most especially as Mother of the Church.
Fr Freddy Warner SMA
SIR – Many people, including a number of priests, have asked for a clarification of the Church’s teaching regarding transgender people. The traditional response being that the person must be treated with respect and compassion, but that gender reassignment surgery resulting in sterilisation is an intrinsically evil act.
Pastoral consideration might indicate that this surgery corrects a defect caused by the body not matching the self-awareness of the person. This abnormality might reflect the unity of soul and body which is the person; viz the teaching of Pope St John Paul II.
I think the question can be answered from the tradition, but this could be seen as unkind and lacking in compassion for those caught in a rare divergence from the person seen as a unity.
A purely traditional answer would lack the merciful approach characterised by the teaching of Pope Francis, so I think it is unlikely that a clear and unambiguous teaching on this issue will be given.
An analogy can be drawn from the issue of homosexuality. In my time I have seen a transition from rejection to recognition to human rights. In the case of transgender people there are indications that the process has been the same in the secular world.
Fr Simon Peat
St Winefride’s, London SW19
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