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Letter from Rome

The past few weeks are probably among those that Pope Francis would rather forget

Letter from Rome

Pope Francis greets a bishop during his weekly general audience at Aula Paolo VI on Feb. 7 at the Vatican. (Photo by Tiziana Fabi/AFP)

Robert Mickens, Rome
Vatican City

February 12, 2018

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The last couple of weeks have not been what anyone in his or her right mind would call the most brightly shining moment in the current pontificate.

First, the cardinal in charge of the Roman Curia's office on the laity blocked Ireland's former president, Mary MacAleese, from speaking at an International Woman's Day event originally scheduled to take place inside the Vatican. In response, the organizers simply moved the venue to the nearby Jesuit headquarters.

Then, a retired Chinese-born cardinal from Hong Kong blasted the cardinal secretary of state — and, by implication, Pope Francis — for being "a man of little faith" and selling out "suffering" Catholics on the communist-ruled Chinese mainland by adopting a "naive" strategy of appeasement in dealing with state authorities. 

Next, a maverick and irascible bishop who oversees two Vatican think-tanks (the pontifical academies for science and the social sciences) overstepped his institutional boundaries and waded into the controversy over the pope's China policy. He spouted the unbelievable and embarrassing claim that the communist nation is the world leader in implementing Catholic social teaching.

The bishop, an Argentine who would have the world believe he's best friends with Francis (he is not), based his assessment on his first and only visit to China six months ago. If it's ever proven that Chinese government officials spiked his egg rolls with brainwashing chemicals, perhaps all will be forgiven. However, great damage has already been done.

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