Friday, October 26, 2007

Cardinal Biffi's memoirs

~from Chiesa (thanks to Dan H for the link!)
On the eve of his eightieth birthday, cardinal Giacomo Biffi is sending out to the bookstores an extensive autobiographical volume, entitled "Memorie e digressioni di un italiano cardinale [Memories and Digressions of an Italian Cardinal]."

Biffi is remembered above all as the archbishop of Bologna, from 1984 to 2003. But in the book, he reviews his entire life, from his birth in working-class Milan to when he became a priest, then a professor of theology, a pastor, a bishop, and finally a cardinal.

In the foreword, Biffi quotes these words of saint Ambrose, the great fourth-century bishop of Milan, his beloved "father and teacher":

"A bishop can do nothing more perilous before God, and nothing more shameful before men, than fail to proclaim freely his own thoughts." ...

...For Biffi, a bishop is great when he governs the Church "with the warmth and the certainty of the faith, the concreteness of projects and initiatives, the capacity to respond to the issues of the time, not with surrender and accommodation, but by drawing upon the unalienable patrimony of the faith." Evidently, in Biffi's view, neither Martini nor Tettamanzi fits this profile....

...But the Italian spiritual leader who, in Biffi's judgment, saw with the greatest clarity the mission of the Church in the modern world and the threats that it faces, was Fr. Divo Barsotti, who is repeatedly recalled with admiration in the book.

Cardinal Biffi's memoirs are obligatory reading for those who want to survey the current conditions of the Church from a viewpoint that is outside of the standard interpretations, and at the same time authoritative. But it also makes for a captivating read, gripping the reader from the first pages with the brilliance of its writing, which is always restrained and unembellished.
Read an excerpt from the book (scroll down)

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