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Did the Pope send a signal?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 22, 2009

 Last Friday, when the papal schedule showed an evening private audience with Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the president of the Italian episcopal conference, I remarked that this might not be just a routine meeting. In light of the continuing controversy between the Italian bishops and the Berlusconi government-- and the unusual open criticism of the Italian bishops' newspaper by Vatican officials-- I suggested that we should watch carefully for "any whiff of a suggestion that the Pope has weighed in on one side or the other."

Well, two days after his meeting with the Pontiff, Cardinal Bagnasco is on the offensive again. We don't know exactly what the Pope told him last Friday night, but unless the Italian cardinal is defying the Pope's wishes-- which seems highly unlikely-- it's fair to assume that the Holy Father didn't tell him to back off. 

Now if the Pope isn't asking Cardinal Bagnasco to tone down his criticism of the government, it would be odd indeed if the Pope's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, continued to suggest that the Italian bishops' conference should tone it down. Let's wait and see.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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