Thursday, October 17, 2013


   Upon further review after quoting Eugene Kane of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saying that it is disappointing to realize President Obama is no better than the others because of his willingness to bomb Syria, an out has presented itself with the Russian initiative.  Also the new connection with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has perhaps changed disaster into a possibility of a movement toward peace in the Middle East.  See - The Nation, “For Democracy against War,”p. 3, 9.23.13 
   Also Pope Francis in two interviews with Jesuit magazines has strongly indicated a change in official Roman Catholic Pastoral Theology.  The establishment of a "Benevolent Dictator" is perhaps progress but still not a revolution.


   We traveled to London to visit the London Langes and took a side trip to Vienna and Budapest.  I asked people about the proposal to bomb Syria, and requested opinions about the new Pope Francis.  In England I talked to: 3 native Londoners, 1 person from Ireland, 2 from Sri Lanka, l from Algeria, 1 from India.  Also, I conversed with:  1 from Catalonia, 1 from Poland, l from Italy and, of course, I interviewed the London Langes which include related families with Irish, English and American backgrounds.

   On the flight to Vienna and in Vienna I also looked for opinions on Syria and the new Pope.  Among the people I talked to were, a young man from Kosovo, a young woman from Indonesia, a student from Hungary and a Chinese business man from Hong Kong.  I’ll relate a few of the encounters; I didn’t agree will all, but all were interesting.

   I talked to a man after Mass who was the head of a youth group in London.  In his talk to the congregation he asked for support from the parish of his city-wide group.  He referred to the Young Catholic Workers mantra “See – Judge – and Act” which I was surprised to hear from the pulpit.  I asked him what he thought of Pope Francis.  He was enthusiastically supportive and noted that his own parish, following the suggestion of Pope Francis, had a prayer service for peace. He said that politics are a part of a Christian’s duty along with prayer.  The prayers worked he claimed, “After the Prayer Vigil – we had the Russian initiative - a result of Prayer.”  I came away with the notion that at best non-violent politics and prayer are twisted together as an existential act of freedom to shape history; at worst, a gothic attempt to apply magic to a difficult situation.

   A man who was collecting funds for the homeless told me that he supported the British Parliament in its decision not to go along with the U.S. in an attack on Syria.  I asked why, and he referred me to retired Member of Parliament, Tony Benn.  In his autobiography Benn wrote,

   My hatred for war and passion for peace and justice I first learned at home. But they became stronger as a result of my own experience, living through a world war and witnessing many others since 1945.
   The arguments for just wars, and the supposed merits of globalized Capitalism,  from the basis of a political consensus must be challenged if the human race is to survive.  (Tony Benn, Dare to be Daniel, Hutchinson, London, p. 198.)

   We visited Arundel Castle first established by William the Conqueror just after his successful invasion of England in 1066.  In a discussion with a tour guide I was reminded of Guy Fawkes, a famous Roman Catholic terrorist of the 17th century.  Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament in 1605.

Remember the 5th of November gunpowder treason plot. I see no reason why it should ever be forgot.


   The man next to me on the flight to Vienna was a Chinese business man from Hong Kong.  He was very friendly but with his long face, glasses and scraggly beard, he reminded me of a character on one of my grandson Liam’s video games.  The man from Hong Kong supported Obama, but thought that he should act through the United Nations.

   A Muslim student from Kosovo, who was selling tickets to a concert of Viennese music, talked to us in front of the St. Stephan Cathedral in Vienna.  In his opinion the U.S. should act to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons immediately.  I asked him if he favored the bombing in Kosovo.  He said that if it weren’t for American intervention he would not be here.  He said, “When I hear criticism of America it is to cry.”  There was a demonstration of the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ from Egypt nearby.  The young man said he did not support their demonstration.

   We had lunch with a young Indonesian woman in Budapest.  She had just finished her M.B.A. at Birmingham, England and was traveling through Europe before going home.  She opposed bombing Syria and was very disappointed that President Obama proposed such action.  She thought the cause of the conflict was not oil but religion. “It’s about religion and power.”  I understood her to mean that it was a contest over world dominance between two differing cultures, – Muslim and Christian.  Could that be true?  President Bush II called the Gulf war a Crusade.  Is it that those that promote war to gain financial advantage have to sell it to those of faith?


   Several statues adorn the outside of St. Stephen Cathedral in Vienna.  One of them is of Johannes Capistrano a Franciscan Friar.  The Baroque piece depicts the Saint as triumphant over the Muslim Turks in 1456. The Franciscan is holding a Crusader flag standing on top of a slain Muslim Turk.   Above him is a gold medallion with the initials I.H.S. and a cross.  The   I.H.S. (In this sign you will conquer) symbol is from the vision of Constantine who saw the cross in the sky before his military victory at the Milvian Bridge which was key to his becoming Holy Roman Emperor.   Capistrano looks like a portrait of a triumphant Jesus rising from the dead.  
   There are no records of swallows returning to the statue – that’s only at the mission in California.    
   A second and final Turkish Muslim attack was repelled in Vienna in 1683.  The hero for defending the city was Capuchin Friar Marco D’Aviano who preached a Crusade against the Turkish Muslims and is considered to have ‘saved’ Europe from Muslim control.  Friar Marco celebrated the Christian victory by saying Mass at St. Stephen Cathedral.  There is a story that the Crusaders captured Turkish coffee and found it to be a bit bitter, but with milk they thought it to be a wonderful drink.  They named it Cappuccino in honor of Friar Marco D’Aviano.


   Guy Fawkes, Johannes Capistrano, Marco D’Aviano fought with arms for Roman Catholic political power, but Pope Francis as  benevolent dictator advocated for peace.  Let us consider one reason for this change.
   At the top of the South Tower of St. Stephan Cathedral in Vienna is a double beam cross which symbolizes Church political and religious authority.  The ‘double cross’ was placed in 1433.  Could this be a difference?  Pope Francis was not under pressure for territorial gain or a maintenance or gain of power.  Vatican II was an attempt to be ecumenical – cross cultural.  (Read Vatican II document Nostra Aetate.)  Pope Francis was in a position to advocate for peace and a multicultural world.

   So many of the people who talked to us were willing to state their opinions but felt their views didn’t matter.  Higher powers would do what they wanted to do to serve their own interests.  Joanne and I still feel we have a voice.   It was a wonderful trip for us; we met some wonderful people, we were with family - the grandkids and we learned a lot.

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