It's hard to be a Saint in the (Eternal) city
Andrea Loquenzi Holzer
On that given morning, May 13 1981, Mehmet Ali Aðca shot various rounds toward the Great Polish Man - John Paul II. Afterwards he justified his action by stating the following: "To me the Pope was the incarnation of all that is capitalism;" clearly at the time he had no idea that his effort was to fail.
Agca did not know then that even Padre Pio from Pietralcina foresaw that the young priest from Poland he met in 1948 would have gone on to become Pope. In fact, no one in the 1940s would have bet a penny on such a possibility. Wojtyla himself one stated: " I, John Paul II, have never thought that I would have become the Pope...providence has brought me here and therefore, I shall let providence decide the day it will end". John Paul II died, in fact, exactly when he was supposed to. It was three years ago that God called him. On the third anniversary of his death Pope Benedict XVI held a mass in St. Peter's Square to commemorate Wojtyla's death. His successor had these words to say about his predecessor, "Among [his] many human and supernatural qualities, he had an exceptional spiritual and mystical sensibility".
Mircea Eliade, the famous Romanian religious historian, described his sanctity as "equivalent to a power, and in the last analysis, to reality." We can't say that John Paul II is a saint, but he did have, in fact, a power. He was capable to "immerse himself in God," says Navarro Valls before continuing, "He could pray while asleep, every breath he took was an ode to God itself." But not only: John Paul II also allegedly cured a French nun from Parkinson's disease.
"I am cured. It is the work of God, through the intercession of Pope John Paul II", said the French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre (46) last year. "It's something very strong, very difficult to put into words," she added. "All I can tell you is that I was sick and now I am cured. It is for the Church to say and to recognize whether or not it is a miracle".
Someone else was capable of such miracles, apart from Padre Pio and, of course, the French and English dynasties of the thaumaturgist kings there was Yehoshua, or if you prefer, Jesus of Nazareth. If someone wants to have an idea of what being "immersed in God" means and how to recognize a "perennial prayer" such as John Paul II, he should read the book "Quarantine" by Jim Crace, there isn’t a better description, in my opinion, on how a devoted Christian should pray his God.
The word "miracle" derives from the late Latin mirari which means "to stare at" and its significance in modern English would sound something like this: "An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs." That would fit the story of the French nun of course. Although many non-believers might end up thinking that these are only good stories to tell in front a fireplace during the winter or when it's raining outside because they have no scientific explanation whatsoever.
Apart from miracles, we prefer to think that John Paul II apart from being able to "immerse himself in God" could not only transmit his beliefs to others people, but has also effectively changed the course of the events of the last century. That matches Eliade's description of holiness. But that is not all. He also demolished some crucial stereotypes about the Catholic Church. For example here's what the former Chief Rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, said about him: " [He's] a great man, an honest spirit, loyal and free. A man of God, whose holiness, according to Catholic Church parameters, is crystal clear for the entire world to see". A Rabbi saying that the Pope is "a man of God" may not be a miracle, but is certainly a step towards reconciliation between Judaism and Catholicism.
Here's another "quasi-miracle" from Wojtyla - making someone believe in God. Rita Megliorini , a personal nurse to Pope John Paul II during his last days at Gemelli Hospital said, "He brought me back to my faith. He said to me, 'Do not be afraid, God forgives.' He remembered me and dedicated a caress to me in the most precious moment of his life...when he was going back to the Lord".
We don't even need to know if the French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, allegedly cured from Parkinson's disease thanks to John Paul II, is telling the truth or not. In any case, this Great Man from Poland, who already looked old when he was twelve; who traveled all over the world to spread the faith he believed in; who did not give up the cross even in times of troubles and convinced people to change their minds, deserves canonization. Perhaps, for no other reason, to quote David Bowie, "It's hard to be a Saint in the city."
Ali Agca couldn't known that Pope John Paul II would have survived his bullets. That said, perhaps we should ask him how it feels to be forgiven by the person he wanted to kill. Ask him how it feels to attempt to assassinate a Saint.
Il Romanaccio at 4:57 PM
The Sensational conversion of Magdi Cristiano Allam
By Andrea Loquenzi Holzer
It strange how the entire world is staring at this tiny man. As if he is the new David, fighting Goliath with a piece of paper and a pen. Although he might look tiny on the outside, Magdi Cristiano Allam does not lack of courage. “I want to belong to God”, said the deputy director of Il Corriere della Sera to his religious mentor, father Gabriele Mangiarotti, just before his sensational conversion. Clearly that was not Allah...
The only problem being: Magdi Allam is one of the most authoritative person in Europe when it comes to speak out loud against radical Islam. And, most of all, he was a Muslim himself. Allam is already surrounded by big guys (his personal bodyguards assigned to him by the Italian government on the ground that his life is constantly at risk) so, when he arrives at a conference or in a public place, you won’t immediately notice that he has in fact arrived. Magdi Allam is also the kind of guy you won’t notice because he just does not like to be at the center of attention. He gave a speech against a unintelligent anti-semite cartoon published on the leftist newspaper Il Manifesto which represented Magdi’s friend Fiamma Nirenstein . There were four speakers at the press conference (organized by the Magna Carta Foundation) and Allam spoke for just about five minutes with a calm and low voice. It was almost like he wasn’t invited for the speech. Almost like he begged someone for letting him speak.
When Allam told Mangiarotti that he wanted to become a catholic, the priest got worried. Magdi is already at risk and the move would have caused a wave of treats from the major Islamic association around the world, both moderate (according to Allam, though, there is no such thing) and radical. One would think: “well, Allam certainly knows that the conversion will put him even more at risk and he might get scared”... instead Magdi’s answer to father Mangiarotti’ concerns was: “You should worry about the Pope, not me”.
“I am not afraid of death, I am convinced that we must go ahead. We should go on the road of truth and liberty”, said Cristiano Allam in an interview published by the Italian newspaper Libero . “I don’t want to give up, neither I want to be intimidated in anyway. I know I am right”.
Now, his conversion has in fact caused a wave of protests coming from the Islamic world. The international daily newspaper Al Quds al Arabi wrote: “The pope provokes the indignation of Muslims by baptizing an Egyptian journalist who attacks Islam and defends Israel”. Some others have said that Allam has added more fuel on the fire of the so-called clash of civilizations . But there were answers to this criticism: Michael Leeden wrote on his blog that , “Magdi’s very public conversion, and his baptism by Benedict, is an act of defiance against those who have already forced him to live the life of a recluse”. He also told us that the “the whole point of radical Islam is to silence all other voices”. That involves a personal choice as well.
Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi ,a well known Iranian political activist living in NYC, has an articulated opinion on Allam’s conversion . She points out how Allam’s conversion can be perceived as a loss from another point of view: “I love and respect all those whose faiths makes them better people - says Zand-Bonazzi - ...people who are principled, righteous and truly tolerant, just like Magdi...who is one of the sweetest and almost saintly people I know. But I feel a loss for us secular and liberal Muslims because his voice, fighting from within Islam has a kind of intense impact...first in terms of his stance toward the diabolical Islamo-imperialists, then in terms of those who remain Muslim and are liberal and dare not speak out for fear of reprisal from the diabolical Islamists and finally for those westerners (non-Muslims) who absolutely refuse to believe that Islamo-Imperialists are the biggest threat to modernity and liberal life...So of course speaking from within the faith in order to have an impact...and I'm glad that he stayed till the tender age of 56 but still...his voice has been a darn valuable one and that's what makes it a loss for us liberal Muslims around the world who need pioneering voices such as Magdi's”.
Although certainly the most famous, this is not Magdi’s first conversion. A previous conversion is worth mentioning as well. Allam, in fact, did not start his career writing against radical Islam. He started out by writing on the leftist newspaper La Repubblica about multiculturalism and how this value could have saved the world. He was pro-Muslim at the beginning and not pro-Western. After 9/11, though, he changed his mind. Completely. So, he has been a supporter of Islam and later decided to give up with this beliefs. Therefore, one cannot claim that he doesn’t know about Muslims. That he hasn’t thought about his religion and he is a ignorant. In fact Allam represents everything that radical Islam fights against: the freedom to choose and the ability to change your mind. If a terrorist will hurt Magdi, he would hurt the freedom itself. He would hurt Magdi’s future and past at the same time, not just a person. In this way he will show the world the true nature of radical Islam and the terrorism, namely: the negation of liberty and freedom of choice.
Il Romanaccio at 3:52 PM
Iran: Time for a military action?
According to the much discussed report made last year by the National Intelligence (NIE) on the Iranian nuclear issue: “…in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program”. As pointed out by Henry Kissinger on the Wp, though, it was only the construction of atomic warheads, a secondary aspect of the nuclear program that was stopped: namely the building of missiles that are supposed to contain the highly enriched uranium necessary and sufficient for an atomic bomb.
Not only. The NIE document estimated that Iran should not be regarded as a credible threat, due to the lack of a proper technology for producing enriched uranium, at least until 2015.
The recent experiment/simulation carried on by the Joint Research Committee of the European Union, instead, has toppled the NIE theory with a series of new designed experiments based on the “Theoretical Centrifuge and Cascade Simulator” (TCCS) which is useful for calculating the uranium enrichment capability through gas centrifuges like the ones in the Iranian nuclear plant of Natanz, for example.
As we can read in the document given to us by Berta Duane of the JRC: “The TCCS is being developed to simulate gas centrifuge enrichment plants. The results of these simulations are needed for studying safeguards of such facilities. The TCCS foresees two modules: The first uses engineering data (e.g.: centrifuge diameter, rotor material, …) to determine optimum centrifuge characteristics (e.g. position of the feed point, internal circulation rate, total separation factor, …). The second module then designs an optimum cascade configuration for a given number of available centrifuges”.
The scientists of the JRC – by taking in consideration the nuclear plant in Natanz - were capable to determine that, in the” worst” case scenario, Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear warhead by the end of 2010. Also considering the fact that – according to recent reports -Teheran’s regime could change the current aluminum centrifuges with new ones made in carbon fiber, a switch that could improve Iran’s uranium enrichment capability and save time in the meanwhile.
Andrea Loquenzi Holzer: In the face of the threat represented by Iran the International community is using “scarecrows” such as Un sanctions and the AIEA, is it an appropriate reaction ?
Michael Ledeen: Not nearly good enough. The main threat from Iran is terrorism, of which the mullahs are the leading supporters, and this matter is not being addressed at all. If Iran had a freely elected government it would most likely be pro-Western and "civilized," in the sense of wanting to live in peace with its neighbors. That should be the goal of Western policy.
Danielle Pletka: The international community must do all it can to ensure the effectiveness of the sanctions regime in order to maximize the impact on Iran. If the sanctions regime is weak, or opposed by important nations such as China and Russia, it significantly increases the likelihood that the military option will be the only choice left available to those who will not tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of the Tehran regime.
Paolo Casaca: An international system of sanctions coupled with an active IAEA supervision seem to me to be an important tool for facing the threats of those who want to use nuclear weapons. Anyway, I think that before discussing the strategy to face the problem we should start by characterising the problem.
Iran has consistently worked in a secret nuclear programme whose rationality can be no other than producing a nuclear bomb.
This is indeed a vital element of the problem, but if we do not add three other elements we will not understand why it became so important at the World level.
The first element is the fanatic ideology of the regime and its sponsor and praise for suicidal terror acts. Iran is the only country that boasts publicly about having an army of volunteers ready to commit terror-suicide operations. Iran is the only country that employed thousands - perhaps tens of thousands - of its children as live cannon fodder in its war to "conquer Quods through Karbala". Iran is the only country where its own former President boasted that to suffer the loss of three or four million of its citizens would not mean the annihilation of the country, but it would mean the end of Israel.
The second is the expansionist ideology and policy of the Iranian regime. Iran is active in transforming itself in the ruler of the Middle East, transforming into satellites in the first movement Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and the Gulf countries.
Thirdly, Iran, although grossly mismanaged, is from a variety of points of view a fairly developed country that can make a difference at the World level.
A.L.H. : Does a tangible risk of collaboration between North Korea, Russia, Iran and Syria upon nuclear issues exists? The Knesset recently found evidence regarding the presence of north Korean nuclear experts in Syria, while the cooperation between Putin and Ahmadinejad is common knowledge…
M.L.: Absolutely. I have been writing about the North Korean connection for years, and the "Russian connection" is public knowledge.
D.P. : Historically, rogue nations have worked together and shared technology and material on WMD projects. The AQKhan project is a good example of the network that draws together proliferators. It is well known that North Korea has worked with a variety of nations on missile questions, and has likely also provided nuclear know how. The accusation is a plausible one, though there is considerably less evidence that Russia is helping Iran’s WMD programs.
P.C.: The most difficult thing to put in this puzzle is the Russian policy. As regards China - without the authorisation of whom I believe North Korea would not get involved in the Iranian nuclear plan - it probably thinks that the benefits of disrupting Western interests outweigh the risks of fuelling a fanatic Muslim centre at its borders.
Regarding Russia, probably someone is making the same sort of calculations over there, but it is so suicidal for the immediate Russian interests to do so, that I am not convinced that Russia will consistently cover up Iranian plans.
Regarding Syria, I do not think they have much of room for an independent policy regarding Iran.
Daniel Diker: Israel has been concerned about the Syria North Korea connection with Regards to Nuclear materials. There is heavy suspicion of North Korea shipping nuclear materials to – Syria in order to advance nuclear development. We also Know for a fact in Israel that Syria is the number one address for chemical missiles in the Middle East/ There is a large concern over Russian involvement in Supplying Syria high grade weapons systems, including the anti aircraft systems that were penetrated by the western alliance on September 6th, 2007. Former US Ambassador to UN John Bolton told us when he was recently in Israel that he believes that Iran and North Korea are directly involved in developing Syrian nuclear program.
A.L.H.: Should the role of Israel in all this being more central, in your opinion? Especially considering the reiterated threats aimed at the Jewish State and coming (not only)from Nasrallah and Ahamadinejad?
D. P.: Israel must do what its leaders believe necessary to ensure its national security. Whether it is within the capacities of Israel to neutralize the Iranian nuclear program without considerable negative repercussions is an important question to which there is no satisfactory answer at this moment.
P.C.:The role of Israel has been central, although perhaps a bit too late as an effort. Israel now seems to have understood the message better than anyone else (and with the clear language of Ahmadinejad it would have been difficult not to) and they are doing what they can to explain that the end of Israel would be the beginning of the end for our civilization.
A.L.H.: What should the Us and Europe do to solve the problem? Is a Podhoretz style (The case for bombing Iran) solution desirable?
M.L.:I think military action against Iran is highly undesirable. Regime change, via political support for Iranian pro-democracy organizations and individuals, is much better.
D.P.: Bombing Iran is highly undesirable, and will not be a silver bullet. The only long term answer is the removal of the regime now in power; however, we have made no progress in that direction and will be confronted by the question of what to do about an Iranian bomb before we see a revolution in Tehran. Military strikes may be the only remaining option at a certain moment, but they will not be a perfect or an especially satisfying option in the long term.
P.C.: I do not believe at war as a first hand scenario, although things might be heading that way with unpredictable results. Before one gets there, there are a plethora of other things that should start to be done, namely:
1. Empower the Iranian people in several ways (civil society, cultural and ideological war, firm and clear commitments) namely by taking out of the terrorist list the main organisation of Iranian opposition. If you take out the huge but largely inorganic opposition from the civil society, the minorities opposition - important, but not sufficient in itself - and a plethora of so-called "reformists" that are not a real opposition, the PMOI is the single nation-wide opposition significant organization. Furthermore, I believe that the accusations of "terrorism" are groundless.
This does not mean that the West should allow the PMOI to develop armed actions out of its own soil, or even to use it as a weapon in a war against Iran (although I think this would be smarter than just bombing Iran). To allow an armed group to develop violent activities in other country is the first step to engage in a war.
We just should allow Iranians to do what they think it's best for them to do, and that means withdrawing the terror label out of the PMOI.
2. Isolate Iran in the World and especially in the region. It is unbelievable that the US and its closest allies developed a war in Iraq to install those who are the instruments of Teheran in power. This should not continue.
Iraq is the most obvious example, but a consistent policy of confronting Teheran should be developed in the Greater Middle East, and of course through the rest of the World.
D.D.: I believe that a Podhoretz approach is the correct one if a complete isolation of Iran fails. That means that, the US must lead the Western Alliance in a complete embargo of goods, Services, materials currency to Iran. This means total and complete isolation of Iran. IF that fails then, aggressive military action is unavoidable. US Republican Presidential candidate John McCain said the only worse option that bombing Iran is if Iran gained a nuclear capability. The US must engage Europe in a complete embargo of Iran and only then if that fails, move to the military option. The Islamic world appreciates the US when it uses massive force not when it shows weakness like the NIE.
A.L.H.: Isn’t it time for the head of AIEA ,Mohammed El-Baradei, to leave office, given the results of his activity?
M.L.: It is long past time.
D.P.: It was time for Mohamed ElBaradei to go a long time ago.
P.C.: Mr. Mohammed El-Baradei has really not been very helpful. But then again, the authors of the latest NIE made worse than whatever Mr. El-Baradei has been doing in the last few years. If I would establish some priorities on whom to sack first, I think the US (not to mention the EU and in particular the UK) would be a more fertile ground than the IAEA.
D.D.: Yes he should resign and they should put someone like Berlusconi, Aznar, Merkel, Sarkozy, or the President of Georgia (Mikheil Saakashvili, ndr) in charge of the AIEA
Il Romanaccio at 4:04 PM
Iran Launches Kidney Donation Drive to Raise Cash to Kill Jews
Kamangir was first to report on this very odd kidney drive yesterday.The regime in Iran held a rally today where a price was put on the heads of the top ranking Israeli security officials as revenge for killings in Gaza and the assassination of arch terrorist Imad Mugniyah...
Il Romanaccio at 4:35 PM
ElBaradei's Real Agenda:Why is the IAEA whitewashing Iran's nuclear-weapons program?
Il Romanaccio at 4:13 PM
By DANIELLE PLETKA and MICHAEL RUBIN
February 25, 2008 Wall Street Journal
Is Mohamed ElBaradei really working the way he is supposed to? Read this very interesting article on the Wall Street Journal written by two of the most prominent analysts of the Nuclear issue and find out! (P.s. Subscription to the WSJ Is really worth...)
On Friday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei submitted a report on Iran's nuclear program to the IAEA's Board of Governors. It concluded that, barring "one major remaining issue relevant to the nature of Iran's nuclear programme" -- including a mysterious "green salt project" -- Iran's explanations of its suspicious nuclear activities "are consistent with [the IAEA's] findings [or at least] not inconsistent."...
"...As freedom and justice advance in this part of the world, elections are important, but they're only a start. Free and just societies require strong civic institutions, such as houses of worship, universities, professional associations, local governments and community groups. Free and just societies require habits of self-government that contribute to the rule of law. And free and just societies ultimately depend on the emergence of an engaged public whose citizens feel they have a real stake in their nation's future. All these developments contribute to the bond between government and the governed, between a people and their nation..."
George W. Bush
Il Romanaccio at 4:24 PM
Misreading the Iran Report
Why Spying and Policymaking Don't Mix
By Henry A. Kissinger Thursday, December 13, 2007; Page A35
The extraordinary spectacle of the president's national security adviser obliged to defend the president's Iran policy against a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) raises two core issues: How are we now to judge the nuclear threat posed by Iran? How are we to judge the intelligence community's relationship with the White House and the rest of the government? ...
Il Romanaccio at 5:37 PM
Anatomy of Syrian-Israeli Tensions: A Background Analysis
Jerusalem Center Strategic Affairs Unit The Syrian-Israeli military balance has been characterized by a gross asymmetry in Syria's favor in standing active-service formations along the Syrian-Israeli border. In October 1973, Israel was forced to repel a massive Syrian ground assault with only 177 tanks against a total Syrian force of 1,400 tanks, providing an advantage for Syrian armor of more than eight to one...
This analysis about the Israeli-Siryan crisis is worth reading, go to:
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Il Romanaccio at 3:26 PM
Iran's covert plan in Lebanon
By Amir Taheri, Special to Gulf NewsPublished: September 05, 2007, 00:59
While being squeezed out of the global markets because of sanctions imposed by the UN, Iran's banks have landed new business opportunities in Lebanon.Operating through front men and companies, they are financing land purchases that could, in time, redraw Lebanon's complex ethnic and religious map.The Gulf Times
Il Romanaccio at 4:21 PM
In the name of the law
The popular perception of sharia law is one of brutal punishments carried out by hardline states. But, as Dan Bell discovers, the backstreets of Britain are full of Islamic courts ruling on everything from banking and alcopops to forced marriage and divorce...
Il Romanaccio at 1:11 PM