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"The God who Afflicts and Consoles"

It’s not possible to exaggerate the influence that Eugenio Scalfari has had on the Italian journalistic and political scene for over forty years. He is the founder of La Repubblica, certainly one of the most influential newspapers in Italy, friend of key political figures, such as President Giorgio Napolitano, and recent, enthusiastic admirer of Pope Francis and the “revolution” he sees Francis undertaking in the Church.


He, of course, conducted the famous “interview” with Francis (discussed here) which he later admitted was based on his recollections after the fact and not on notes taken during the session. Indeed, he even went on to confess that he had attributed some statements to the Pope which Francis had not said and probably would not fully endorse.


A week ago Scalfari, clearly fascinated with Francis, offered what I called a “creative interpretation” of Evangelii Gaudium: namely, that the Pope had, in effect, “abolished  sin” – admittedly a first for a Roman Pontiff (discussed here). That assertion drew a swift disavowal from Father Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson. Scalfari responded by giving a somewhat tortuous exegesis of his own words in which he affirmed both his own view and that of the Vatican on the question. I think it’s called having your cannoli and eating it too.


In today’s La Repubblica Scalfari is back at it again (he regularly writes the paper’s Sunday “Editorial”). But I now sense a somewhat different dimension to Scalfari’s concern. He begins by saying that he had never meant to suggest that Francis had abolished sin – the which he had not only suggested, but actually headlined. What he now seems to be saying, however, is that, even if humans sin, God’s mercy will prevail. And this from a self-professed “non-believer.”


The “editorial” is entitled “Il Dio che affanna e che consola:” “The God who distresses and consoles.” The line, quoted by Scalfari in the editorial, comes from a poem by the great Italian novelist, Alessandro Manzoni, also beloved of Pope Francis. Can Francis’ tenderness and mercy be leading Signore Scalfari to a new realization? Speriamo.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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This new development strikes me as the fruit of dialogue.  Pope Francis has let himself become engaged in very public dialogue with Scalfari (weathering lots of objection and concern from onlookers) and now, it has come to this.   Let's see where it goes from here.   Very interesting.

I read yesterday's piece desultorily but it seemed to me that Scalfari is now proclaiming Francesco to be a revolutionary in a new sense -- bringing in the unprecedented innovation of moral relativism!  The fatuous of these commentaries makes me pity the newpaper readers of Rome.

Father O'Leary,

I read Scalfari because I find his analysis of the Italian political scene helpful and astute.I commented right after his "interview" with Pope Francis on Scalfari's "murky metaphysics." And I agree with you that some of his assertions seem to flirt with a "moral relativism," which, I think, his own political commitments belie. His fervent hostility to Berlusconi is more than merely "political."

As I said in the post above, however, I found a new, even a poignant note in this last piece. Perhaps reminiscent of the old "agnostic" Verdi composing "Quattro Pezzi Sacri."

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