Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, from a series of Scenes of the New Testament (fresco)
The problem with Francis is that it is almost impossible to decide whether he is stupid or cunning. Of course, he could be both.

The recent intervention about the translation of the Lord’s Prayer is a case in point. It has certainly gained him column inches in the Western press, who are, of course, ignorant of the niceties and given to the broad brush. (The Daily Telegraph seemed to suppose that the alleged problem arose from the translation of the Paternoster into Greek!)

The nub of the matter, however, was the recent (and hotly contested) change to the official French translation. Whatever the merits of this new version – and they are few – it is clear that it is in no way a faithful rendering of the official Latin. The Latin, be it understood, is the norm to which all vernacular translations must adhere.

It is difficult to know what to make of Francis’s own confused theologising The meaning of the phrase in question is dealt with extensively in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [2846-9] (to which the Pope could easily have had recourse – or requested Cardinal Schoenborn to explain it to him, if he had problems of comprehension.)

So what was it all about?

The hermeneutic of suspicion leads one to wonder if Francis’s recent decision that regional conferences of bishops should have greater autonomy in translating liturgical texts lies at the heart of the conundrum.  It is difficult, these days, to change doctrine by Papal fiat. But piecemeal changes in local vernacular translations might do the trick – without unnecessary complications. Lex orandi, lex credendi, after all.

If I were Cardinal Sarah I would watch out.



For those of you who have now read the book ‘The Dictator Pope’, its contents will have come as no surprise.

It has been apparent for some time that Francis is not the benign, jocular reformer portrayed in the secular press.  That he has failed to deliver on reforms of any kind, and that his pontificate is largely characterised by cronyism and indulgence (though hardly news) is here detailed with forensic accuracy.

High-handed, dictatorial and foul-mouthed, this portrait of the Holy Father is, however, shocking in its frankness, and its acknowledgement of the climate of fear which surrounds him.

This is a man who counsels openness and dialogue, but who manipulates synods and refuses to answer straight questions or give audiences to his highest officials.

Eyes turn naturally and inevitably to the next conclave and the next Pope.



Published by SPCK, the most recent offering from the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission breaks new ground theologically and in Inter-faith relations.

‘Jingle Bells!’ is a do-it-yourself theme pack enabling parish liturgy groups to unite with their opposite numbers in the local mosque or madrassa to create a joint celebration of Mawlid al-Nabi and our own familiar Christmas.

How much we have in common!

In this Advent season when we prepare to remember the babe of Bethlehem, we join with our Muslim sisters and brothers as they recall the birth of their Prophet.

And we remember with gratitude that Jesus is a prophet for them, too! So Mawlid/Christmas is a family event for us all!

Jingle Bells!’ includes a special section of activities for use in primary schools, sermon outlines for clergy, imams and church leaders, and suggestions for appropriate theology-neutral hymns and worship songs.

‘In an increasingly secular world,’ says Archbishop Justin Welby, in commending this new resource, ‘we need all the prophets we can get.’




Can this be the author of a searing expose of the wiles, schemes and tantrums of Papa Beroglio?

One author or many, people are asking?

Only readers of Italian can hazard a guess.


But help is at hand – an English translation of  Il Papa Dittatore is promised in a few days.

Keep your eyes on Amazon!

(And don’t you just love the cheerful image on the cover?)


“If you speak to the Catholics of Buenos Aires, they will tell you of the miraculous change that has taken over Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Their dour, unsmiling archbishop was turned overnight into the smiling, jolly Pope Francis, the idol of the people with whom he so fully identifies. If you speak to anyone working in the Vatican, they will tell you about the miracle in reverse. When the publicity cameras are off him, Pope Francis turns into a different figure: arrogant, dismissive of people, prodigal of bad language and notorious for furious outbursts of temper which are known to everyone from the cardinals to the chauffeurs.”