Europe Must Imitate Courageous Witness of St. Agnes
by Edward Pentin
To combat neo-paganism in Europe and guarantee the continent’s future, Catholics must follow the example of St. Agnes of Rome and courageously witness to the faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller has said.
Referring to recent controversies, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also said a politician who “symbolically holds up the Rosary is more to be trusted than one who literally takes down the Cross of Christ.”
Cardinal Müller made the comments during a homily in his titular church of Sant’Agnese in Agone in Rome this evening on the feast day of the third-century saint.
He recalled how Catholics admire the “heroic courage” of St. Agnes, who suffered martyrdom at the age of 12 during the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian, and the fact that in childhood she was able to “distinguish between the unique and true God and the many false gods of the pagans.”
Recalling how other early Christians also sacrificed their lives to bring the faith to ancient pagan Rome, the German cardinal noted how many people today have “forgotten — or consciously cut off — their Christian roots,” and create a “neo-pagan replacement religion” in the form of the “cosmos, our planet, evolution, the internet and technology.”
They act as if such “passing realities” somehow give man the “final foundation and stronghold,” and congratulate themselves for the “purported scientific insight” that man is “merely an animal and that after death everything ends.”
But St. Agnes, he said, “encourages us” to witness to the faith “without fear of men.”
“Only in Christianity does the future of Italy lie” and “neo-paganism is her sure doom,” he continued, adding “it is a vain effort to have dialogues with the old [Eugenio] Scalfari when the atheist concluded from them, and in a confused manner, that the Pope had denied the divinity of Christ.”
The cardinal was referring to Pope Francis’ frequent interviews with the 95-year-old communist atheist founder of the Italian daily La Repubblica newspaper.
In one of the most recently reported encounters, Scalfari alleged the Pope does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ but in the ‘semblance of a spirit.’ The Vatican said Scalfari’s report of the interview, which like others was not recorded, are not a “faithful account” of what was said but rather a “personal and free interpretation.”
Cardinal Müller said such interviews are a “vain effort” because only by “witnessing, with Saint Peter, by day and night: ‘Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God’” does a pope speak as “pope of the entire Catholic Church.”
He went on to urge Catholics to “work together” with those who are “intellectually and morally capable” to bear responsibility for the “economic, political, cultural and religious future of Europe” and added that only the “Christian image of man” will bring a “revival of the Eternal City and all of Italy.”
Cardinal Müller then held up a Rosary and said that a politician who “symbolically holds up the Rosary is more to be trusted than one who literally takes down the Cross of Christ.” His words referred to a controversy last year when Italy’s former deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, often displayed a rosary during public speeches to show his Catholic identity, and proposed making it obligatory for crucifixes to be displayed in public spaces.
Salvini was strongly criticized by papal aide Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, who tweeted that the “cross is a sign of protest against sin, violence, injustice and death” and “never a sign of identity.” Father Spadaro also denounced the use of the Rosary in what he saw as political campaigning.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, also opposed similar proposals to make it mandatory for crucifixes to be displayed in the entrance of all Bavarian public buildings in May 2018, earning Cardinal Marx opprobrium from some Church leaders.
Cardinal Müller has expressed sympathy for Salvini in the past, saying last year it is better to talk with him and noting it was “curious that the Pope has received the most secularist people, and not Salvini.” One must “speak with everyone in a spirit of fraternity,” he said.
In his homily, Cardinal Müller noted that neo-paganism “denies that each man is created in the likeness of God and therefore neo-paganism is hostile toward life.”
He added that the political ideologies of right and left “are not what counts” to a Christian who is not seduced by “neo-pagan natural religions,” or atheistic “neo-liberal and neo-Marxist” ideologies.
“A mature Catholic is not in need of instructions as to which democratic politician he may elect or not,” he explained. “He who believes in God, knows only one Commandment: the love of God and of neighbor.”
The cardinal closed by stressing that Italy and Europe have a future only through a “renewal” of faith in Jesus Christ and “in the Sign of His Cross.”
He called on St. Agnes to pray to the Lord “for your Romans, for Catholic Italy, and for a Christian Europe. Amen”.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Best Deal on a Cultural Event
Many of Rome’s most stunning churches and palazzi are regularly the sites of free or low-price classical music performances. Among the best of these is the concert series in the Borromini Sacristy of the Sant’Agnese in Agone church in the Piazza Navona. There, every Sunday, you can enjoy music by the likes of Haydn, Chopin, Schumann or Mozart….
Brian Wingfield, 23 Aprile 2006
Sant’Agnese in Agone – Swing by Pieranunzi brings poetry to jazz
Enrico Pieranunzi is a pianist who swings with energy and originality, constantly creating musical poetry. Pieranunzi, one of Italy’s most active and eclectic jazz-men, will be in concert for one night only at the Basilica of Sant’Agnese in Piazza Navona as part of the ‘Concerts in the Borromini Sacristy’ series. The evening is dedicated to the themes of his recent album, ‘With Infinite Voices”…
Felice Liperi, 3 December 2006
… The Piazza Navona Music Association launches a new concert series in the sacristy of the splendid Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, designed by Borromini. The location: Piazza Navona, opposite Bernini’s famous fountain. The programme follows on the success of the previous season…
Brodsky’s violin at Sant’Agnese
… Borromini was responsible not only the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, but also its spectacular sacristy. For several seasons, the sacristy has been the site for Sunday concerts. Today the Piazza Navona Music Association launches its new season with the famous Russian violinist, Vadim Brodsky…
Landa Ketoff, 31 October 2004
Sonata for a Baron, signed Beethoven: After the success of its previous concert season, the Piazza Navona Music Association this week launches a new series at the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. The scene for these events is the splendid sacristy by Borromini, on Piazza Navona opposite Bernini’s fountain…
Landa Ketoff, 2 November 2003
A young pianist for a Sunday concert
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Landa Ketoff, 5 March 2003
Baroque to Jazz: Concerts in Piazza Navona
Borromini’s precious sacristy next to the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone is one of Rome’s most beautiful ‘salons’, and certainly the most welcoming for music. Girolamo Rainaldi’s original plans for the church were refined and developed by the genius of Borromini. For the past five years the ‘Borromini sacristy’ has hosted the Music in Piazza Navona concert series, welcomed by both local and visiting enthusiasts. The new season opens on Sunday evening with the Abruzzo Symphonic Orchestra directed by Vittorio Antonellini. On the program is a sampling of Mozart, from the youthful Symphony K129 and the Concert for Flute to the great Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra (K. 364, 320d).
The programme of Sunday concerts (weekly, 5:00 p.m.) continues on 22 October with the North European Voices, singing the harmonies of the Icelandic composers Grieg and Sibelius; a jazz evening with the Gwis-Pirozzi duo on 29 October; a programme with the renowned Caiolo-De Zan duo, ranging from Mozart to Stravinsky (5 November); the pianist Antonio Di Cristofano playing Schumann and Brahms (12 November). The Romabarocca Ensemble arrives on 19 November, with counter-tenor Mario Bassani and Russian soprano Alla Gof (recently in Galuppi’s Didone Abbandonata at the Spoleto Opera) in a 1700s repertoire ranging from Vivaldi to Albinoni, Lotti and Handel. The Trio Parsifal arrives just before the holiday season, on 26 November, followed by the excellent jazz pianist Enrico Pieranunzi on December 3. The season closes out with ‘Opera in Salon’, on December 25, immediately followed by pianist Giuseppe Tabanti and saxophonist Enzo Filippetti on December 26, and finally the New Year’s concert with the Zurletti-Novarino cello and piano duo.
Lorenzo Tozzi, 14 October 2006
… Rome offers enviable settings for great music. Settings so fine that it impossible to decide which is more beautiful: the music or the hall. One of the places that melds perfectly with song is the Borromini Sacristy of the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, where a new current concert series is now starting…
Today’s appointment: Concert in the Sacristy
Sunday 5:30 p.m, as part of the concert series in Borromini’s sacristy at Sant’Agnese in Agone, the 2004 Academy of Santa Cecilia prize-winning violinist, Rodolfo Bonucci…
21 January 2005
Piano duo at Sant’Agnese in Agone
The breath-taking spaces of the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, Piazza Navona, create the ideal setting for a fabulous musical performance by the Brusco-Scolastra piano duo, this evening at 5:30 p.m. The sacristy, designed by Borromini…
2 January 2005
Chamber music in the Borromini sacristy
Along with the architectural marvels of Bernini’s Fountain of the Rivers and Borromini’s Church of Sant’Agnese, Piazza Navona is the scene for magnificent music, set in the Sant’Agnese sacristy, also designed by Borromini. Every Sunday morning, different young musicians ….
Lorenzo Tozzi 23 February 2003
Musical tour among churches, basilicas, piazzas and theatres
The Sunday morning concert series at Sant’Agnese in Agone runs for the rest of May and the entire month of June: matinee performances in the Borromini sacristy, with the flute and harp duo of Pamela Sensi and Katia Catarci, performing Mozart, Dallapiccola, Massenet, Bizet …
18 May 2003
… The series headlines some of Rome’s leading classical musicians – Vadim Brodsky, in a solo violin recital; the violin-piano duo of Felix Ayo and Lya de Barberiis (student of Casella, concerts with Gavazzeni, Maazel…)
Sant’Agnese in Agone: Concerts in the Sacristy
… the delight of visiting one of Italy’s greatest baroque treasures – the sacristy of Sant’Agnese ‒ while listing to superb chamber music. The sacristy is the scene for a series of concerts organised by the Pizza Navona Music Association, Sunday evenings at 6 p.m…
Classics to jazz: musical afternoons
Today’s event is one of the highlights of the ‘Music at Piazza Navona’ concert series, set in the splendour of the Borromini Sacristy of the Church of Sant’Agnese. The artists are the violin-piano duo of Felix Ayo and Lya de Barberiis ‒ two greats of the Roman music scene. Ayo, a member of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, is one of the founders of the prestigious ‘Quartetto Beethoven’, one of Italy’s top piano quartets, and of the famed ‘I Musici’ chamber orchestra; De Barberiis, a student of Casella, has headlined concerts with Italy’s important orchestras and performed with acclaimed conductors such as Giannandrea Gavazzeni and Lorin Maazel. The duo presents two classics from the violin and piano chamber repertory: Beethoven’s Spring Sonata and Cèsar Frank’s Sonata in A major…
Alfredo Gasponi, 1 May 2005
The Piazza Navona Music Association spring series brings us distinguished artists such as Vadim Brodksy, in a solo violin recital, the violinist Felix Ayo and pianist Lya de Barberiis (student of Casella, concerts with Gavazzeni, Maazel…), two greats of the Italian music scene. Ayo and de Barberiis perform as a duo, offering Beethoven’s Spring Sonata and Franck’s Sonata in A major…. Opening night is today, 5:30 p.m., in the splendid setting of the Borromini sacristy of the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. On tap for tonight is the young Avellino pianist Gianluca Di Donato, student of Aldo Ciccolini, playing music from Beethoven.
‘Music at Piazza Navona’ covers genres from the classics of Beethoven and Mahler to Strauss’s lieders, Piazzolla tangos, and Neapolitan romantics scored by Rossini, Leoncavallo and Donizetti…
Alfredo Gasponi, 10 April 2005
Music at Piazza Navona – opening night with Tchaikovsky
The Music at Piazza Navona programme continues to grow, this year adding well-known and accomplished artists while continuing to feature exciting new musicians. As always, the setting is the unique sacristy designed by Borromini next to the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. The season opens this evening at 5:30, with the pairing of the distinguished Russian violinist Vadim Brodsky and young pianist Sebastiano Brusco. Brodksy is the nephew of the original performer of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D, a former student of David Oistrach and winner of the Wienawski Medal…. Other headliners include Elio Pandolfi in an evening of operetta, the pianist Riccardo Gregoratti, the Bernini Quartet,…
Alfredo Gasponi, 30 October 2004