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In reply to a number of messages from new users (as well as a few veteran users but non-members) about the 'difficulty' of navigating within the Forum, I hope this helps:

FOR NEW VISITORS TO THE FORUM: To navigate within the page you are now on, scroll up or down as needed.
To see preceding entries in NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT, Click on 'Previous page', above right.
To get to other topic threads of the English section, click on the 'envelop' above right, tagged 'Fans speaking English' -
it will get you to the board with all the topic threads available in the section.
On that board, to get to the latest page containing the most recent entries on the topic you choose,
click on 'Last' in the parentheses indicating page numbers right after the subject title,
Once you get to that page, proceed as above.




One fallout of the current FSSPX controversy is that more Catholics - and journalists, one hopes - may get to learn the basics about excommunication.

And in the process, I hope something sinks in about the significance of the Pope's act of generosity. He granted a request that the bishops wanted very badly - their insistence on it as a pre-condition to further talks towards reunification shows they do not think it is a mere formality - to remove a pretext that could keep the talks from moving on.

Of course, one reason why few of us really know the basic about excommunications is that it is something very unlikely to happen to ordinary Catholics - in fact, it can only happen in exceptional cases.

And thanks to Father Z
for pointing out this blog on the subject, by the Archbishop of Toronto:

Explaining excommunication
to the faithful

by Mons. Thomas Collins
Archbishop of Toronto
January 31, 2009


There is a dramatic scene in a movie about one of the English kings of the middle ages. The Catholic Church is excommunicating him: hooded monks solemnly enter the cathedral, while denunciations of the offender ring out, and large candles are smashed into the floor.

On the basis of Hollywood scenes like that, many people take it for granted that they know perfectly well what the Catholic Church is doing when it excommunicates someone, and what it is doing when it lifts an excommunication: the former is a spectacular official
Catholic condemnation of a person, while the latter is a restored approval of the one who was once condemned. Once rejected, now he is embraced.

As Mark Twain noted, in life the real problem is not with what we don't know, but with what we know that isn't so.

It should not be surprising that when it comes to excommunication, the Pope himself deals with what it is, not with what people imagine it to be.

Excommunication is, in fact, a very limited and narrow response in Church law to certain specific problems. It is quite possible, for example, for a Catholic to break every one of the ten Commandments, and commit every one of the seven deadly sins, and hold every bizarre and evil opinion imaginable, and not incur excommunication, though he or she may well be guilty of grievous moral wrong and face eternal damnation.

If, however, a Bishop ordains someone as a Bishop, in defiance of the Pope, thus destroying the unity of the Catholic community of faith, and setting up his own private Church, he and the one he ordains are excommunicated.

They may not receive the sacraments, including confession, until the excommunication is lifted. [S}The excommunication is not some kind of all purpose punishment; it is an instrument designed to bring about a change in the specific situation that led to it.

One important step in an effort to lead excommunicated bishops and especially their followers to end the division and return to the Church is to lift the excommunication that was imposed because of the unlawful ordination, and that has just recently happened as the Pope has made one more attempt to open the pathway for hundreds of thousands of followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to come back to the Church.

The four bishops he ordained when he broke away were automatically excommunicated because they split the Church; now, that excommunication of the four bishops has been lifted in an effort to heal the wound of that division.

This is the most recent of several actions in years of patient work by Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict and others to try to bring home hundreds of thousands of Catholics.

Apart from the fact that Pope Benedict is not known to be a fan of Swedish television interviews, in which one of the four bishops has revealed that he holds bizarre and evil opinions, it should be noted that the lifting of the excommunication is simply an important but limited step to help bring about the reversal of a move made years ago to destroy the unity the Church.

Williamson has clearly revealed himself to be a holocaust denier, but the Pope has not "embraced a Holocaust denier".

Lifting the excommunications of the four bishops ordained by Lefebvre in an effort to repair the damage he caused is not in any way an award, nor a sign of approval, nor a blessing, nor an endorsement of the opinions or behaviour of any of the four Lefebvre bishops.

In any case, they are still suspended from priestly ministry, and it is now up to them and their numerous followers to respond to Pope Benedict's action by taking the initiative to complete the restoration of unity.

A hopeful sign is that the leader of the four bishops and their break-away church has now strongly condemned Williamson.

Pope Benedict's total opposition to anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial has been made clear over the years. As recently as last week he stated: "I hope that the memory of the Holocaust may induce humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man. May the Holocaust be for all an admonition against forgetting, against denial or reductionism, because violence against a single human being is violence against all."

The Vatican's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, last week ran an article denouncing those who deny the Holocaust. To suggest that the Pope in any way approves of those who deny the Holocaust is utterly unjust.

Bishop Sheen once said that there are not ten people in the country who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate the image of the Catholic Church that they have created out of misunderstanding.

Before people jump to conclusions and launch into impassioned condemnations of the actions of the Pope, simple decency and fairness dictate that they understand what they think they are disagreeing with, and not construct great castles of indignation upon the sandy foundations of mistaken information.

Archbishop Thomas Collins
January 30, 2009


I hope more bishops and priests would use the occasion, after clarifying to the faithful what excommunication means, to show that it is one of the primary duties of the Pope to keep the Church united - not that everyone will necessarily think alike and agree about everything - but so that no community that considers itself Catholic lives apart from the rest of the Church.

Therrre's a similar statement in the next story by Cardinal Vingt-Trois of Paris, seeking to explain what the Pope's gesture really means, even as he expresses himself forcefully against Bishop Williamson's views on teh Holocaust.

Paris cardinal denounces Williamson's negationism
and reiterates Church unity is the Pope's mission



PARIS, FEB. 2, 2009 ( The archbishop of Paris says the denial of the Holocaust by a Lefebvrist bishop is a cause of horror, but that the issue at hand is not his successive apology but the facts of the Shoah.

Cardinal André Vingt-Trois was quoted by the French daily Le Parisien on Sunday, referring to the media flurry caused by Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson.

The Lefebvrist bishop denied that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust during an interview taped in November for Swedish television. He claimed that historical evidence denies the gassing of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. He also alleged that no more than 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II.

Bishop Williamson is one of the four Lefebvrist bishops who had his excommunication lifted Jan. 21 by the Congregation for Bishops acting under a papal directive.

The lifting of his excommunication -- which happened shortly after the interview was aired [What a misleading statement! As I've pointed out before, the decree has June 21 as the signing date, and if it was indeed signed on that day - chances are it was actually signed earlier - then it was unlikely the signing was done at night when the TV documentary aired!] - was called an affront to Jewish-Catholic relations, though the Holy Father made clear that his motive in removing the excommunication was the advancement of Church unity.

In papal commentaries and in statements from the Vatican spokesman, it has been reiterated that the Church does not share the bishop's views.

The prelate has since asked forgiveness from Benedict XVI for what he said in the interview. His apology came through a letter dated Jan. 28 and sent to Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

The Ecclesia Dei commission was established to facilitate communion in the Church for people associated with Bishop Williamson's group, the Society of St. Pius X.

The prelate said in his letter: "Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems."

"For me," the prelate continued, "all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of his one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God."

While entirely rejecting Bishops Wililamson's position on the Holocaust, Paris' Cardinal Vingt-Trois said that it is not his place to "judge consciences to know if his repentance is sincere or not."

"On the other hand," he continued, "the question is not about sincerity but about the historical truth. It is expected of him, and of people like him, that they recognize the historical reality of the extermination camps and that they say this."

The Paris cardinal went on to explain Benedict XVI's "outstretched hand" toward the traditionalist bishops.

"The schism is not a political option," he said. "It is a religious attitude. The decision of the Pope is not an outstretched hand toward political options, and much less their approval. His mission is to work for the unity of the Church."

The cardinal said the lifting of the excommunications tore down a wall and makes it possible to work in-depth. "Now it is up to the interested parties to say if they are decided to re-encounter their place in the Church," he contended.

Regarding the Pope's adherence to the Second Vatican Council -- a council contested in part by the Society of St. Pius X -- Cardinal Vingt-Trois said there is no question whatsoever.

"I don't need to say that for the Pope, Vatican II is non-negotiable," he said. "He is more than convinced [of it] himself, and has said so again this Wednesday."

Finally, Cardinal Vingt-Trois offered a message to the Jewish community: "The negationist propositions of Williamson and of others hardly reflect the position of nearly all Catholics unanimously, and certainly do not reflect the position of the Church. They cause us horror. What wounds Jews wounds today Christians as well."

"I would like to ask the Jewish community not to condemn the Catholic Church on the basis of extremely minority propositions of someone who does not have any post or any mission in our Church," the cardinal added. "The path that we have walked together and that opens before us is too important to allow us to be manipulated by extremists."

NB: We have normal line lengths now, as we begin this page. I hope nothing happens to skew it like the previous page.

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03/02/2009 06.34
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The Pope and the Fraternity of St. Pius X
by Peter Seewald

MUNICH, Feb. 2 ( - Once again, a statement from Rome has unleashed an almost Biblical tempest.

Is Benedict XVI the 'puzzling Pope', as the Sueddeutsche Zeitung would have its readers believe? Or the 'Retrograde' as Der Spiegel calls him, who is disgracing the Catholic Church to the bones? Has he really, as the headlines suggest, "re-instated a Holocaust denier in the Church"?

Sometimes reactions to a decision say more than the decision itself.

George Orwell once wrote about 'Falsespeak'. When War Ministers are instead called peace Ministers. As it is when journalists, who will not leave a hair untouched when it comes to the Catholic Church, tend to this calling.

The Pope is not a politician. One should see that right away. But can he not allow himself to act as Jesus advised in the parable of the prodigal son? May he not apply the saying "love your enemy' in order to cut short the spiral of exclusion and hatred [towards a sizable group of estranged Catholics]

It is said that the Pope must build bridges [Pontifex=bridgebuilder] and 'cross over' to those who believer differently. But which bridges to build and which 'others' he must approach - well, the super-Popes in editorial rooms think that is for them to decide.

The fact is, for now, neither the unspeakable Bishop Williamson nor the entire Fraternity of St. Pius X have been readmitted into the Catholic Church - not with the revocation of the excommunications - and the bishops remain suspended from their priestly ministry, as far as Rome is concerned.

Lifting the excommunication was nothing more than the Pope's outstretched hand to not a handful of persons but a worldwide community of at least 600,000 [to as many as a million and a half] around the world, with 500 priests, who have broken off with Rome for more than two decades now.

It is the same hand that was held out to the Chinese bishops illicitly ordained by the Patriotic Association, and whose ecommunications were either pre-empted under special dispensation or revoked as soon as the Vatican recognized them as bishops.

It is also the same hand held out to Hans Kueng when shortly after Benedict XVI became Pope, he was one of the first private persons to be invited to see him.

That it also happens to be held out to someone unworthy like Williamson is a different issue altogether.

The drooling eagerness with which these days newsmen are pouncing on the Pope is reminiscent of a pack of famished wolves. And they are famished in this sense.

For four years now, they cannot bear the thought that Joseph Ratzinger has not fit the image they built of him. And for four years, they have been practically silent when he speaks out against torture, when he castigates turbo-capitalism or denounces wars everywhere, when he calls for a just distribution of the world's resources. And not a word either when he pursues, in word and actions, dialog with the other Christian churches, with the Muslims, and above all, with the 'beloved brothers' of the Jewish faith.

In Germany, the media have been all that. No other nation has been capable of such ignorance and coldheartedness to one of its greatest sons, the first German in 500 years that the international Catholic community decided worthy to lead the largest Church in the world through these difficult times.

But now is the opportunity to wield the club against him again - and swing it till it breaks. Now is the time to get even. If there really is no munition, something must be called into service. Is there perhaps a new auxiliary bishop somewhere in Austria? In fact there is, and it is enough to tag him as a 'ultra-conservative', since we already have a precedent, a voucher, for our thesis, namely, that this Pope is only too happy to put on his 'old hat' [i.e., as their idea of 'arch-conservative'].

What a perfect fit! Now the instant analysis: "Reactionary change of course in the Vatican'.

But no mention that this same Pope had just a few days earlier created in Wuerzburg an auxiliary bishop who, as a parish priest, had rung his church bells to drown out neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic demonstrations. Sorry, that doesn't fit our picture.

Neither does it fit their picture to recall that this Benedict, on his first visit to Germany as Pope, chose to visit a Jewish synagogue in Cologne. And the extremely personal reflections he made about the Holocaust on his pilgrimage to Auschwitz in May 2006.

Nor the fact that he has been tireless in denouncing every form of anti-Semitism. Or that just a few months back, he became the first Pope ever to invite a Jewish rabbi to address the Bishops' Synod of the Catholic Church.

The President of the Jewish Central Council in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, now says that dialog with the Catholic Church is over. Can she cite a word by Benedict ZVI in which he has failed to express his respect, his affection eve, for the 'older brothers' of the Jewish faith?

Must one remind the Jews that tens of thousands of priests, religious and humble Christians were also put to death in Hitler's concentration camps? That both of Joseph Ratzinger's immediate predecessors as parish priest in his first Munich assignment were killed by the Nazis?

There is, in the happenings these days, a parallel to what followed the Regensburg lecture. Great was the outrage by all the conventional commentators that the Pope had done something he should not have done. And yet, it led to con5tacts and a dialog with the Muslim world that might never have happened otherwise.

The smoke of battle around Benedict this time will also dissipate. In the case of the FSSPX, it is clear that only their 'dissolution' can bring them back to the womb of the Church. As a community, it has no business being in the Catholic Church anyway, if it does not first clean its leadership ranks of people who are neo-Nazis or anti-Semitic.

Perhaps the crisis could also serve as a test for the attitude of the German bishops - whether they will continue to split up among themselves driven by the fear that one might be the next to be bitten [???]; whether they can urge solidarity in their Sunday sermons, and do they themselves have the same solidarity with the Pope or with their fellow priests who, in the meantime, are treated like unprotected game animals? [I have not looked into the state of the German Church and its internal quarrels, so I have no context for these statements of Seewald.]

And perhaps one could even use this crisis to test how far the anti-Church campaign in the media has in fact taken on the character of a public execution as they do in Iran! At the very least, the reader might be spared in the future from the same old and grizzled copycats who will not let any opportunity slip by to dump pitch-black oil into the fire.

For them, whoever manipulates, whoever withholds anything, whoever will only serve his own prejudices, will no longer be taken seriously, and must then ultimately have to 0muster some humility to stop trying to be being the Pope's tutor!

It may be that V=Benedict XVI was ill-advised in how the lifting of the excommunications was handled. But one must get used to the idea that there will never the 'peace of the graveyard' during his Pontificate; no 'being at home' in the usual, in comfort nor in faintheartedness.

The reproaches now hurled at him were, moreover, exactly those that for over two decades, one Karol Wojtyla had to shield himself against. In the eyes of the tolerant' liberals, he became a good Pope once he died. Nefore that, they called him 'hardliner', patron of conservative causes, a 'divider' in the Church.

If we look at it that way, then his successor is off to a good start.

Here is a related item from the German press in a readymade translation from a Catholic blog I have just 'disccvered', thanks to Fr. Z:

Holocaust denier Williamson
threatened with consequences

Translated by
Feb. 2, 2009

Bishop Fellay is to announce possible sanctions against Richard Williamson in the coming days.

"Yes. I'm already working on this," he said on Sunday outside of the chapel where Mass was being said in Zaitzkofen (Regensburg area), where the Society of St Pius maintains a seminar for priests.

There the Lefebvre Bishop Richard Williamson apparently also gave the controversial television interview in which he denied the Holocaust of six million Jews. The Regensburg prosecutor is investigating whether a case of race hatred can be brought.

Fellay on Sunday gave no concrete indications of the implications of the Holocaust denial will have for Williamson in the Society of St Pius. Fellay would not confirm a possible resignation or an official withdrawal.

"This is perhaps too much to say, but I do not see how Bishop Williamson now can exercise his office of bishop in many countries." Apparently, however, in any case, a strong reduction of the work of Williamson is being considered.

Lefebvre Bishop Fellay was disappointed that Williamson last Friday, in the midst of worldwide uproar, apologized for his statements, but had withdrawn nothing substantive.

"You see the situation in which we are. From this you can see that we are disappointed, " he said. Before the interview, he had known nothing of the anti-Semitic attitude of the British bishop. "He has never spoken as he did now." [That is perhaps too 'disingenuous' of Fellay, considering that Williamson has stirred up quite a lot in the past with his outrageous statements, duly reported widely in the French media and blogosphere.]

He had been aware that Williamson was given to "extravagant thought" on various topics. "I had, so to speak, to attribute that “to the fact that he is British."

Anti-Semitism was always an isolated case in the Society, Fellay said. "In each group there are always people on the fringes."

But wounds were torn open again with Williamson’s statement. "I apologise to those who have been hurt by this and especially the Jewish people."

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 07/02/2009 23.20]
03/02/2009 14.20
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February 3
St. Blaise
Bishop and Martyr

OR today,
Addressing the Bishops of Turkey on ad limina visit,
the Holy Father denounces violence against Christians
and asks for freedom of religion and worship:
'The distinction between civil and religious spheres must be protected'
Other Page 1 stories: The Pope's letter to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, on his enthronement Sunday (photo below, right);
his meeting with the new ambassador from Hungary (above, left); his Angelus message last Sunday; and
a commentary on the Presentation of Jesus in the temple.


No scheduled events today for the Holy Father.

The Vatican released his message for Lent 2009.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 03/02/2009 17.09]
03/02/2009 14.31
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This is the official English ttanslation:


Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the beginning of Lent, which constitutes an itinerary of more intense spiritual training, the Liturgy sets before us again three penitential practices that are very dear to the biblical and Christian tradition – prayer, almsgiving, fasting – to prepare us to better celebrate Easter and thus experience God’s power that, as we shall hear in the Paschal Vigil, "dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride" (Paschal Præconium).

For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to focus my reflections especially on the value and meaning of fasting. Indeed, Lent recalls the forty days of our Lord’s fasting in the desert, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry.

We read in the Gospel: "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry" (Mt 4,1-2).

Like Moses, who fasted before receiving the tablets of the Law (cf. Ex 34,28) and Elijah’s fast before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb (cf. 1 Kings 19,8), Jesus, too, through prayer and fasting, prepared Himself for the mission that lay before Him, marked at the start by a serious battle with the tempter.

We might wonder what value and meaning there is for us Christians in depriving ourselves of something that in itself is good and useful for our bodily sustenance.

The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting.

In the very first pages of Sacred Scripture, the Lord commands man to abstain from partaking of the prohibited fruit: "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die" (Gn 2, 16-17).

Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that "fasting was ordained in Paradise," and "the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam." He thus concludes: " ‘You shall not eat’ is a law of fasting and abstinence" (cf. Sermo de jejunio: PG 31, 163, 98).

Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God. Such was the case with Ezra, who, in preparation for the journey from exile back to the Promised Land, calls upon the assembled people to fast so that "we might humble ourselves before our God" (8,21). The Almighty heard their prayer and assured them of His favor and protection.

In the same way, the people of Nineveh, responding to Jonah’s call to repentance, proclaimed a fast, as a sign of their sincerity, saying: "Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?" (3,9). In this instance, too, God saw their works and spared them.

In the New Testament, Jesus brings to light the profound motive for fasting, condemning the attitude of the Pharisees, who scrupulously observed the prescriptions of the law, but whose hearts were far from God.

True fasting, as the divine Master repeats elsewhere, is rather to do the will of the Heavenly Father, who "sees in secret, and will reward you" (Mt 6,18). He Himself sets the example, answering Satan, at the end of the forty days spent in the desert that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Mt 4,4).

The true fast is thus directed to eating the "true food," which is to do the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4,34). If, therefore, Adam disobeyed the Lord’s command "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat," the believer, through fasting, intends to submit himself humbly to God, trusting in His goodness and mercy.

The practice of fasting is very present in the first Christian community (cf. Acts 13,3; 14,22; 27,21; 2 Cor 6,5). The Church Fathers, too, speak of the force of fasting to bridle sin, especially the lusts of the "old Adam," and open in the heart of the believer a path to God.

Moreover, fasting is a practice that is encountered frequently and recommended by the saints of every age. Saint Peter Chrysologus writes: "Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself" (Sermo 43: PL 52, 320. 322).

In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body.

Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a "therapy" to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God.

In the Apostolic Constitution Pænitemini of 1966, the Servant of God Paul VI saw the need to present fasting within the call of every Christian to "no longer live for himself, but for Him who loves him and gave himself for him … he will also have to live for his brethren" (cf. Ch. I).

Lent could be a propitious time to present again the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution, so that the authentic and perennial significance of this long held practice may be rediscovered, and thus assist us to mortify our egoism and open our heart to love of God and neighbor, the first and greatest Commandment of the new Law and compendium of the entire Gospel (cf. Mt 22, 34-40).

The faithful practice of fasting contributes, moreover, to conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord.

Saint Augustine, who knew all too well his own negative impulses, defining them as "twisted and tangled knottiness" (Confessions, II, 10.18), writes: "I will certainly impose privation, but it is so that he will forgive me, to be pleasing in his eyes, that I may enjoy his delightfulness" (Sermo 400, 3, 3: PL 40, 708).

Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.

At the same time, fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live. In his First Letter, Saint John admonishes: "If anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him – how does the love of God abide in him?" (3,17).

Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering brother (cf. Encyclical Deus caritas est, 15). By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger.

It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brothers and sisters that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving.

From the beginning, this has been the hallmark of the Christian community, in which special collections were taken up (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27), the faithful being invited to give to the poor what had been set aside from their fast (Didascalia Ap., V, 20,18). This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged again in our day, especially during the liturgical season of Lent.

From what I have said thus far, it seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves.

Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person.

Quite opportunely, an ancient hymn of the Lenten liturgy exhorts: "Utamur ergo parcius, / verbis cibis et potibus, / somno, iocis et arctius / perstemus in custodia – Let us use sparingly words, food and drink, sleep and amusements. May we be more alert in the custody of our senses."

Dear brothers and sisters, it is good to see how the ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us, as the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote, to make the complete gift of self to God (cf. Encyclical Veritatis splendor, 21).

May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbor.

I am thinking especially of a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass.

With this interior disposition, let us enter the penitential spirit of Lent. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Causa nostrae laetitiae[Reason for our joy], accompany and support us in the effort to free our heart from slavery to sin, making it evermore a "living tabernacle of God."

With these wishes, while assuring every believer and ecclesial community of my prayer for a fruitful Lenten journey, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican
11 December 2008


03/02/2009 15.23
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It's 'only' a blog post - and in a most unlikely site, even (the far-left Huffington Post, which I never thought I'd ever look at, but a link led me to ti) - but it's nice to see the ideas expressed here verbalized for once by a Jewish rabbi no less. So much common sense, fairness and genuine charity!

I have no idea of Rabbi Kula's politics or background, but obviously he is capable of objectivity and fairness, and 'telling it like it is'. And BTW, the article itself does not carry the words 'Pope welcoming back' and is punctilious in describing what exactly the Pope did!


The official Jewish response to Pope Benedict XVI recent decision to reach out to the St. Pius X Society and to revoke the excommunication (though not yet determining the status) of four bishops says a great deal about the psycho-social state of American Jewish leadership -- or at least the leadership that claims to speak for American Jews.

The admittedly unnerving if not hurtful Holocaust denying views of one of those bishops, British born Richard Williamson -- an obscure, irrelevant, cranky old man - offered on Swedish television, evoked the wrath of no less than the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the B'nai B'rith International, the International Jewish Commission on Inter-Religious Consultations and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

"The decision undermines the strong relationship between Catholics and Jews", they protested. "We are stunned that the Vatican has ignored our concerns", they proclaimed. This will have "serious implications for Catholic-Jewish relations" and there will be a "political cost for the Vatican" they threatened.

And the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, one of the most corrupt religious establishments in Western democracies [????], entered the fray calling into doubt the Pope's impending visit to Israel.

All this hubbub and anxious lashing out about an internal Church matter regarding the sort of crabby, crotchety, trivial, unknown sort of jerk -- the ratty uncle who embarrasses you every time he is in public -- who we all recognize exists in our communities.

As an eighth generation rabbi and someone who lost much family in the Holocaust, it could just be me, but this official Jewish response seems outrageously over the top.

Do millions of American Jews sufficiently care that the Pope revoked the excommunication of this unheard of bishop such that major Jewish organizations should devote so much energy and attention to this and turn it into a cause célèbre worthy of front page attention?

And is this the way we speak to each other after decades of successful inter-faith work on improving our relationship?

How is it that the view of some cranky bishop -- one who has no power -- evokes calls of a crisis in Catholic-Jewish relations, despite the revolutionary changes in Church teachings regarding Jews since Vatican II?

Where is the "proportionality", where is the giving the benefit of the doubt -- a central religious and spiritual imperative -- in response to something that is admittedly upsetting but in the scheme of things is less than trivial especially given this Pope's historic visit to Auschwitz in which he unambiguously recognized the evil perpetrated upon Jews in the Holocaust and in his way "repented" for any contribution distorted Church teachings made to create the ground for such evil to erupt.

Something is off kilter here. Is it possible that the leadership of Jewish defense agencies, people with the best of motivation who have historically done critical work in fighting anti-Semitism, have become so possessed by their roles as monitors of anti-Semitism, so haunted by unresolved fears, guilt, and even shame regarding the Holocaust, and perhaps so unconsciously driven by how these issues literally keep their institutions afloat, that they have become incapable of distinguishing between a bishop's ridiculous, loopy, discredited views about the Holocaust, and a Church, from the Pope down, which has clearly and repeatedly recognized the evil done to Jews in the Holocaust and called for that evil to never be forgotten.

Perhaps, this called for a little understanding of what it must be like to actually run a 1.2 billion person spiritual community (one with which I disagree on many issues) and to be trying to create some sense of unity from right to left, from extreme liberalism to extreme traditionalism -- sort of like the liberal Barack Obama inviting Rick Warren, despite his hurtful views on homosexuality, to give the invocation at the inauguration.

How about cutting a Pope -- who we know along with the previous Pope is probably amongst the most historically sensitive Popes to the issues of anti-Semitism, Holocaust, and the relationship to Judaism and Jews -- a little slack, given how he is trying to heal his own community.

And is it possible that the Pope's desire/hope/need to reintegrate the Church -- (he has also reached out to Liberal theologian Hans Kung) -- may be of more importance both to the Church and actually to religion on this planet than whether we Jews are upset about the lifting of excommunication of one irrelevant bishop.

Would we Jews like to be judged by the crankiest, most outlandish, hurtful, and stupid thing any rabbi in the world said about Catholics or Christians?

We Jews are no longer organized to excommunicate and a rabbi can't be defrocked the way the Church does with its clergy but surely there are individual rabbis who say things so abhorrent about the "other" that though we still call the person rabbi we would not want to be taken to task for doing so.

And isn't it possible that bringing Richard Williamson back inside the Church may actually influence him to see how wrong he is on this issue given how clear the Church is regarding the Holocaust and its commitment to Catholic -Jewish relations?

After all the Pope himself said, "I hope my gesture is followed by the hoped-for commitment on their part to take the further steps necessary to realize full communion with the Church, thus witnessing true fidelity, and true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the pope and of the Second Vatican Council."

There is no way to read this other than to conclude that to be fully reinstated in the Catholic Church, all those who have passed the first test must now clear the big hurdle: either accept what the Catholic Church teaches or remain on the sidelines. And what the Church teaches, among other things, is the necessity of respecting Jews.

Moreover, shouldn't the Jewish defense agency leadership, which to its credit is probably the most effective at its work of any ethnic and religious group in this country, try to understand the inner categories of the other, especially after decades of inter-faith and inter-group work?

In this case, that there is a difference between heresy -- an accusation from which the Pope is trying to heal part of his community- and stupidity. And what is the cost of not seeing the difference between heresy and stupidity?

Finally, when the Pope as well as key Vatican officials said within a day that Williamson's views are "absolutely indefensible" and that in the Pope's own words, the Church feels "full and indispensable solidarity with Jews against any Holocaust denial" where was a little humility in response?

Wouldn't it have been interesting, yet alone ethically compelling, for those who initially lashed out to have acknowledged that perhaps they did overreact and that they do know that the Church and specifically this Pope are very sensitive to these issues.

But that we ask the Pope and church hierarchy to please understand that, whether fully justified or not, we are still very very raw and very vulnerable regarding the Holocaust and so we are sorry if we did over-react and we are deeply grateful for the Pope's unambiguous reiteration of that which we do know is his view and is contemporary Catholic teachings.

Here's another easy shortcut for me. I was preparing to translate the article by Andrea Tornielli [Rodari's is substantially the same - apparently teh two Vaticanistas, who correctly anticipated the news about the announcement of the decree on the FSSPX, share the same source(s)] but as usual, Rorate caeli has been on the job. I have made a few changes in word order to make the text read more easily.

I do think that the petty plotting, if any, that was behind the embarrassment on Williuamson is really peripheral, except that it is important to know who in the Vatican alerted Swedish TV to the timing of the announcement. Might it have been the same people who alerted Tornielli and Rodari, who have now given them the supposed background on the 'plot'? Whoever he is, he's a despicable character - as bad as Williamson, or worse.

BTW, the 'backgrounder' makes clear that although Williamson gave the interview in November, Swedish TV had never used it before January 21!

A Plot against the Pope?
Feb. 3, 2009

Several Italian religious journalists (including Rodari, for Il Riformista, Tornielli, for Il Giornale) are reporting today on a dossier circulating within the Vatican which could reveal that a plot was planned for several months to embarrass the Pope in the "Williamson affair".

We had received the main accusation a few days ago, but had considered that it should be made public by other means. Here is the text received by us:

"Msgr. Williamson was interviewed on Nov. 1st 2008 on religious matters (tradition and Vatican II) in the Bavarian seminary of SSPX (this in order to let Msgr. Williamson be accused for negationism in that country).

Suddenly the journalist Ali Fegan of the program Uppgrad Granskning (Mission Research) asked him about a quote of one speech that took place in Canada some years ago on the gas chamber during the WWII.

We all know the trap in which the bishop put himself in a very ingenuous way, too confident in the opportunity to diffuse his niche ideas on the Holocaust rather than to protect the Church from the evil. This trap was indeed prepared for His Holiness Benedict XVI.

But who told the journalists of the SVT (Swedish Television Broadcast) about this speech of Msgr. Williamson? If you watch the entire program broadcast on January 21st 2009, you will find out that the suggestions came from a French journalist: Fiammetta Venner.

Who is she? She is a very well-known french lesbian activist. She works together with her partner Caroline Fourest (see her profile here:

Together the lesbian couple gave out to the press in Sept. 2008 (during the Pope's visit to France) a book entitled Les Nouveaux Soldats du Pape (The new soldiers of the Pope). You can read more at their web site:

In the interview, the lady accuses the FSSPX of connection with far right parties in France, an opportune preamble to the accusation of Antisemitism.

Now we have 'found' the people that suggested the plot. But who drove it in order to have the program ready [to release] the moment they were sure the decree on the FSSPX had been signed? Certainly [it had to be] someone in the Vatican who wished to strike at the Pope and his entourage and to weaken the ambitions of the FSSPX.

Who is he? We have some ideas... It has to be someone well established in Rome [in the Curia?], with good connections in France and a good relationship with Scandinavian church. The program was prepared in Sweden, a country quite cold for Catholicism, but why there?

One answer can be the FSSPX idea to launch a crusade for the reconversion to Catholicism of Sweden [the Society only has 30 Swedish members]. The program [with Williamson] also has an interview with the Bishop of Sweden Anders Arborelius OCD. He spoke about inclusiveness as a principle of Christianity, rather than racism and intolerance (of which he seems to accuse the FSSPX). ...

So the 'leak' appears to be a progressive high level Vatican official who a few days in advance to the publication of the signed decree [on the FSSPX]... informed the journalist [of Swedish TV] to come out with the program...."

Even if there was a "plot", Bishop Williamson was not forced to say what he said at the interview...

Nonetheless, this falsely inflated media circus is not even the most important of this Pontificate! Or has it been forgotten that oversimplified or distorted reports of the Regensburg address caused actual deaths in areas with Muslim populations? And have the international news agencies apologized for that?

In a couple of weeks, this will be ancient history for the media - this story's news cycle, even in Catholic circles, is about to end. [I wish!]

And almost like a direct rejoinder to my last comment above, here is this item from Berlin, which makes me very disappointed - almost disillusioned about her - that such a statement shoulld come from Angela Merkel. Thanks to Lella on her blog

Merkel: The Pope has not
said enough to denounce
Williamson's negationism

Translazted from the online service of

BERLIN, February 3 - The case is not closed. Not in Germany, and not according to Chnacellor Angela Merkel, who said today that the clarifications of the Vatican on the re-integration [No one has been 're-integrated by the lifting of the excommunication order!] of the Lefebvrian bishop Richard Williamson who denies the Holocaust, are 'insufficient'.

"It is necessary that the Pope and the Vatican clarify in a straightforward way, that there cannot be any negation' of the Holocaust and that there should be 'a positive relation' with the Jewish world, she said at a news conference in Berlin. [If she is quoted correctly - and I have no reason to believe Corriere would make up the quotes - then has she been living on another planet? Or has she been reading wrong translations of teh Pope's words all these years? How much clearer and more straightforward can the Pope be about both things, again and again, long before Williamson's far-out views became known the world voer last week?]

"From my point of view, these clarifications have still not been sufficient", she added.


It's one thing, as Chancellor of Germany, to bend over backwards to show the Jews that you are light years away from the policies of Nazi Germany, but to do so at the expense of Pope Benedict is just insane. inexplicable and unpardonable [thinking secularly] for someone with Merkel's intelligence, and one had thought, sympathy if not friendship with the Pope!

If the secular world expects the Vicar of Christ to express his condemnations ad hominem - i.e., direct the condemnation specifically at Williamson, by name - then they completely misunderstand the role of the Pope and the Christian message itself.

And just for the record, and if you can stand it, Reuters has an almost gleeful compendium in
of all the negative fallout on the Pope so far for his decision, much of it from Europe. It is a grand display of the most finger-wagging SANCTIMONIOUSNESS AND SELF-CANONIZATION you could imagine.

Oh yes, over and above their doubtless sincere outrage at Williamson's statements, everyone cited there also thereby self-imposes a halo to proclaim to the world he/she is holier than the Pope!!! We might not otherwise know!

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Here's another interesting take on the situation.

After the PR disaster, what does the future hold for Pope Benedict?
Posted By: Damian Thompson
Feb 2, 2009 at 18:03:42 [General]

The night before Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications on Richard Williamson and the other SSPX bishops, I emailed a friend in Rome who has close links to the papal household. I said: "You do know how awful this is going to look, don't you?" And he replied: "I know, but it's too late."

Today, Tom Heneghan of Reuters published a round-up of press reaction to the SSPX, and I'm beginning to regret saying that the Pope's design for the reunion of Catholic Christianity was going according to plan. Things hang in the balance.

Benedict has achieved wonders reintegrating the pre-Vatican II liturgy into the life of the Church. The celebration of the Tridentine Mass, while far from the norm, is becoming an everyday event. Moreover, the Lefebvrists are moving back towards the institutional Church – and they are, despite their trademark hauteur, ready to make significant concessions regarding Vatican II. Meanwhile, traditionalist Anglicans are being drawn to Rome by the promise of a personal prelature that would protect them from liberal RC bishops.

But the Williamson fiasco – the utter, utter incompetence of the Vatican communications service in failing to anticipate the outcry, and the sluggish response afterwards - has given Benedict's enemies the opportunity they have been waiting for since the day his name was proclaimed from the balcony of St Peter's.

Make no mistake: far from being deeply offended by the lifting of the excommunications, many liberals are delighted that the entire traditionalist movement has been tainted by the supposed "rehabilitation" of a Holocaust denier. Other, less extreme, liberals are meanwhile quietly content to sit back and watch "the Ratzinger project" unravel.

Given that traditionalist Catholics are prone to paranoia, it's amazing how naive the Pope and his advisers sometimes appear. The SSPX car-crash was an illustration of that naivety; and so, I fear, will be the appointment of the next Archbishop of Westminster.

The Church in England and Wales may not be a priority for the Holy Father, but in terms of marshalling opinion against the Benedictine liturgical and ecclesial reforms it punches above its weight. I hate to admit it, but The Tablet is widely read among English-speaking liberals, and its Rome correspondent, Bobbie Mickens, is an effective propagandist against the policies of this papacy. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has done nothing to implement those policies: he and his bishops offered only the most grudging support for the Pope during this recent crisis, in sharp contrast to the wonderfully illuminating statement by Cardinal O'Malley of Boston.

A leading Australian traditionalist rang me this morning. He was worried that lots of his fellow traddies were behaving as if the SSPX debacle was all got up by the media. It wasn't. Although I think the Pope was right to lift the excommunications, he walked right into a trap - and, as we speak, he is still caught in it. German Pope "rehabilitates" Holocaust denier, then (as we learned this week) promotes an Austrian cleric who thinks Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for immorality in New Orleans. You couldn't make it up; they didn't have to.

Does this leave Pope Benedict like Rowan Williams, powerless to assert his authority over a divided Church, partly by virtue of his own misjudgments? No, because his legal authority over the Roman Catholic Church is in many ways as great as that of a medieval pontiff. Collegiality? Now that the Vatican has seen the consequences of real collegiality in the Anglican Communion, it's in no hurry to devolve power. Nor is the younger generation of Catholics going to push Rome in that direction: on the contrary, years of feeble leadership by European liberal cardinals and bishops has produced an extraordinary grassroots enthusiasm for the Benedictine reformation.

But there's a problem. The Pope is in his 80s; he's easily old enough to be the Archbishop of Canterbury's father. If he dies before the damage to his reputation caused by the SSPX affair has been repaired, and while so many of his opponents still occupy important episcopal sees, then the next conclave may choose a middle-of-the-road mediocrity who regards the "hermeneutic of continuity" as a failed ideal.

So, what should Pope Benedict do? First, he must thoroughly overhaul the Vatican's communications operation, staffing it with fluent and media-savvy English speakers. Then he must ensure that the heads of Roman dicasteries are fully committed to his policies. What is the point of being theoretically infallible if so many senior curial officials are quietly briefing against you?

And then let him press ahead with a programme of renewal which - despite the embarrassments of recent weeks - is rooted in solid theological foundations and enjoys a degree of local support that terrifies the ageing middle-managers who have hijacked diocesan bureaucracies over the past 40 years.

This may be wishful thinking, but what better place to start than England, the only major Western country where not a single Catholic bishop actively promotes the hermeneutic of continuity?


It may well be that the situation is as dire as Thompson paints it for the Pope - because media is very much on the warpath against him.

And in ways and to a degree exponentially far far more vicious than they did when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. Because as influential as he may have been then, there is no comparison between media attention towards a Pope - which is 'blanket' and global - and media attention for a 'mere' cardinal.

They were just as vicious after the Regensburg lecture, and we know they will be just as vicious for anything the Pope says or does that they can seize on as a pretext to jump on him like the pack of slavering carnivorous wolves that they are.

Is someone in the Vatican taking notice and doing something to remedy the communications disaster they have created for the Pope?

Is Cardinal Bertone doing what he should to to pull the Curia team together and in shape to serve the Pope and the Church, instead of dis-serving by sins of omission if not commission?

Are Archbishop Celli and Fr. Lombardi aware now - at last, finally, after so many Chaplinesque pratfalls in which it is the Pope who gets slammed in the face more than anyone else - how pitifully inept and unprofessional their communications operation is?

Do they not pray enough to St. Francis de Sales (patron saint of communications) to intercede for good sense and successful execution of their mission? (His feast day was on January 24, the day that the Vatican had chosen to announce the decree - how is that for irony?)

In a way, the present fallout on the Pope is even more toxic and radioactive than it was after Regensburg.

The backlash is so enormous that even the most sympathetic Anglophone commentators are so focused on the media embarrassment now, that they have failed to give the proper attention to the intrinsic significance of the Pope's action in lifting the excommunication.

There cannot be a more disastrous outcome for any communications effort than when the message gets blown clear out of the picture in the whirlwind of controversy.

The clear dereliction of duty by Vatican communications has been most injurious to public perception of Benedict XVI, in a world where perception is everything and facts are mere inconvenience.

Of course, Benedict XVI remains who he is regardless of public perception. But as a global spiritual and moral leader, he can certainly do with all the positive perception possible in order to better advance the message of Christ. 'Bad image' gets in the way of conveying that message.


Benefan - I put in Damian Thompson's 'logo' because I have it available. I hope you don't mind.

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Here's a French-born initiative we can all support, As the site shows, the campaign is being carried out in several languages. The English petition is awkward in places, but the sentiment is clear. Sign up online at


The sponsoring entities:



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... but it seems his detractors won't be content until, as I remarked earlier, he has his garments stenciled with the words,
"I love the Jews, I condemn the Shoah, I was wrong to revoke Bishop Williamson's excommunication, and I will wear this
in lieu of sackcloth and ashes the rest of my liFe, to say to all that I have offended, MEA MAXIMA CULPA!" We have come
to such absurdity!

Meanwhile, This item deserves a post of its own - a hallowed place, even - because for once, the reaction has been swift from the Vatican Press Office to recent calls from Germany for the Pope to be 'clear' about his denunciation of Holocaust deniers and anti-Semitism.

The latest of these clarion calls have come from Chancellor Angela Merkel (posted two items before this) and from Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Archbishop of Mainz and former 5ive-term president of the German bishops; conference *(will post below).

First, the statement today from Fr. Federico Lombardi:

Translated from

In reply to the new requests for clarification on the positions of the Pope adn the Catholic Church on the subject of the Holocaust, the director of the Vatican Press Office wishes to point out that the thinking of the Pope about this subject was expressed with great clarity
- At the Synagogue of Cologne on August 19, 2005
- At the former concentration camps in Auschwitz-Birkenau on May 28, 2006
- At the following General Audience on May 31, 2006
- And recently, at the end of the General Audience on January 28
in unequivocal words, of which let me recall just the following:

As I renew with affection the expression of my full and indisputable solidarity with our brothers who were the beneficiaries of the First Alliance, I hope that the memory of the Shoah may lead mankind to reflect on the unforeseeable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man.

May the Shoah be for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negation or reductionism

The condemnation of negationist statements about the Holocaust cannot be clearer, and in the circumstances, it is evident that it referred to the positions of Mons. Williamson and all analogous positions.

On the same occasion, the Pope also clearly explained the purpose of remitting the excommunications, which has nothing to do with legitimizing negationist positions on the Holocaust which he clearly condemns.

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Merkel's apparent 'kowtowing' to the Jews may be inexplicable, given her 'friendship' with the Pope (or Benedict's friendship for her, which may be the more appropriate expression) and her obvious intelligence, but the following 'clarion call' from Cardinal Lehmann, a decades-long ideological foe of Joseph Ratzinger, is perhaps very much in character. A chance to score off Benedict, as it were, as in Nya-nya-nya-nya-nya!

Cardinal Lehmann joins
the outcry against the Pope

FRNAKFURT, February 3 (Translated from Apcom) - Even the Archbishop of Mainz and former president of the German bishops conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, has interevened severely in the controversy over the rehabilitation [ONCE AGAIN, AND ALL TOGETHER, PLEASE: REVOKING THE EXCOMMUNICATIONS IS IN NO WAY EQUIVALENT TO REHABILITATION OF ANYONE!] of the negationist bishop Richard Williamson.

Lehmann called it 'a catastrophe for all the survivors of the Shoah'. [The cardinal is a Prince of the Church and a noted theologian. He, elast of all, should publicly equate the Pope's canonical and pastoral action as an affront to the Jews.]

"The Pope should make it clear that to negate the Holocaust is not a 'pardonable offense'," he exhorted. [Has Cardinal Lehmann stopped being a Christian? Does not Christ say all sins are pardonable?

Williamson's views may be the most repulsively offensive to many but that does not make him any less a human being, and therefore, subject to God's forgiveness. How can the Vicar of Christ - or a cardinal, for that matter - state in any way that any offense is 'unpardonable'? An expression we use loosely in ordinary conversation would clearly be wrong when it is said - in public - by a man of the cloth.

Germany has criminal laws to deal with such offenses. Let the criminal justice system do its job. It is not the Pope's job. Does Lehmann think the Pope would object if Williamson were rightly called to answer for a prosecutable offense in Germany?]

In an interview given to the Suedwestrundfunk (SWR) public radio, Lehmann also criticized the Vatican commission that had to do with the excommunication recall given to Williamson.

If it was a case of ignorance or negligence, he said, "there should be appropriate consequences for those who are responsible," he said.

[Did he say a word at all, I wonder, about the reason for the excom recall? Cardinal Vingt-Trois at least tried to draw focus to that aspect, besides merely decrying the communications snafu at the Vatican.]

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And the latest entry in the 'hate' parade, from one of the earliest media agitprop provocateurs after the Regensburg lecture. The article is just marginally less objectionable than the Reuters blog cited earlier.

Rare public criticism
heard at Vatican


VATICAN CITY, Feb. 3 (AP) - Criticism of Pope Benedict XVI has come from various quarters - Muslims, Jews, members of his own flock.

But in the latest papal controversy, even Germany's leader and some top Roman Catholic churchmen are questioning Vatican policy after Benedict last month rehabilitated a Holocaust denier as bishop along with three other ultraconservative clergymen.

Seeking to spare Benedict direct criticism, many Catholic leaders are blaming unidentified aides. However, the furor gives a rare glimpse behind the Vatican's facade of unity and once again raises questions about the pontiff's commitment to interfaith relations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel entered the debate on Tuesday, calling on Benedict to issue a "very clear" rejection of Holocaust denial after he rehabilitated Richard Williamson.

The British-born bishop has apologized to the Pope for stirring controversy but did not repudiate his statement that historical evidence "is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed" during World War II.

His statement came in an interview with Swedish state television filmed in November but broadcast only three days beforeBenedict lifted the excommunications of the bishops on Jan. 24 as a major step to end a schism in the Church. [Again, a misleading presentation - the decree is dated January 21, so it could conceivably have been signed before the Sweedish program was broadcast.

But the way Simpson cavalierly states it, it would seem the Pope went ahead and did what he did even after the program had aired. And as Cardinal Castrillon has pointed out, the signed decree was immediately given to Mons. Fellay, so even if there was strong reason to withhold announcing it, it was too late: the principal beneficiary already had the signed decree in his hands.

Sorry that it is necessary to point this out all the time, but the media constantly commit the same errors, and each time, the error must be pointed out.]

Williamson and the other bishops were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent. The Holy See said that removing the excommunication did not mean the Vatican shared Williamson's views.

Under pressure to explain himself, Benedict told his weekly audience this past Wednesday that he feels "full and indisputable solidarity" with Jews and warned against any denial of the full horror of the Nazi genocide. But Merkel said she does not believe the Pope had gone far enough to reject Holocaust denial.

In unusually frank comments to Vatican Radio's German-language service, Cardinal Walter Kasper said he was following the controversy "with great concern."

Kasper, one of the Vatican's pointmen for relations with Jews, said: "Surely, mistakes have been made in the management of the Curia, too, I want to say this explicitly." The Curia is the body of offices at the Vatican that assist the Pope in management of the Church. [In fairness to Kasper, he made it very clear that his criticism was of the communications snafu, not of the Pope's decision, which he went on to explain for the charitable genwerous act that it was in the name of promoting unity within the Church.]

Criticism from other prelates in the German-speaking world was also tough.

Hamburg Bishop Werner Thissen assailed Williamson's rehabilitation - he had been excommunicated for having been consecrated without papal consent 20 years ago - as "sloppy work" that had caused great damage to relations with Jews.

Bishop Gebhard Fuerst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart said the rehabilitation of Williamson was seen by many as "a loss of credibility for the Roman Catholic Church."

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn told Austrian broadcaster ORF that "Vatican staff members didn't look closely enough" at Williamson's views.

The controversy has tested Benedict's strong record against anti-Semitism, which includes visits to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland and synagogues in Germany and the United States.

The Pope had earlier said he had lifted the excommunication because the bishops had "repeatedly shown their deep suffering" over the split.

The first blow up of Benedict's papacy came in 2006 when the Pope's remarks on Islam and holy war in a speech in his native Germany angered much of the Muslim world, leading him to backtrack and declare himself "deeply sorry." [Excuse me! He did not 'backtrack' at all!]

"I think this Pope consults very little," said Marco Politi, a biographer of Pope John Paul II. "In three years he has succeeded in creating strains with two of the world's leading religions. It raises the question about the governance of the universal Church." [Sure, bring on Politi - always good to deal the final blow! I'd love to smack him in the face for his arrogance and unrelenting prejudice!]

Rome bureau chief Victor L. Simpson has covered the Vatican since 1978.

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Merkel has lost her mind!
Deceiving serpent! [SM=g27826]

Representing the conservative spectrum in Germany (Christian Democratic Union) she has lost her mind!

She has lost her integrity, her loyalty and ability to think for herself. Considering her level of intelligence makes it even worse.

For what? For a complete sell-out to the press and to her campaign advisers (new Bundestag will be elected in September - which will then elect the chancellor)!!

Of course there will always be the bending backwards to Jewish consent. The famous German 'Kollektivschuld' will never go away and will influence politicians, so called intellectuals and the press for ever.

But why sell your soul to the past and to the press when you don't even know the facts, when you have NO idea about the real implications of what the Holy Father did?
And of what you do to him by making this statement!
Why do you want to tell him how to do his job, and what to say, without even any knowledge about Catholic Church matters? Without knowing the whole background, and without knowing what excommunication is actually about!?

I'm so ashamed. I’ve been so deeply ashamed of what has been said and written in this Country in the past days, knowing how much it hurts our Holy Father.
We used to have real leaders with spines. What ever happened to them?
I'm so sorry!

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Dear Heike -

Don't take upon yourself the injustice to the Pope that Merkel and company are committing in Germany over this episode! They alone are responsible for their choice to do the convenient, politically correct and apparently popular thing. Most of the time, we are all deeply sorry for what our national leaders say and do, after all.

Thank you for the perspective on Merkel - playing to the media and public opinion to score political points would seem to be greater motivations for saying what she did, than simply kowtowing to the Jews, which she does, too, because that also scores points for political correctness.


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a weekly magazine in France, has announced it is publishing an interview with Mons. Fellay in its February 7 issue, conducted by two journalists including Gerald LeClerc, editor of
who has only ever written good things about Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI.

LeClerc and Samuel Pruvot, who travelled to Switzerland for the interview have posted their 'diary' leading to and up to the encounter online, with their last entry on the day of the interview, Jan. 31, giving their impressions of Mons. Fellay and some quotations of what he says in the full interview.

It gives a very different picture - in a positive way - of Fellay than the impression I have gathered about him over the past 4 years from his occasional statements and interviews.

I will try to post a translation of the Jan. 31 entry as soon as I can. as well as LeClerc's editorial in France Catholique about the entire FSSPX 'affair' for the same issue.

[Sorry, I got a bit confused earlier over Famille Chretienne and France Catholique.]

Here, then, is the translation of the account about the interview, and I must say that LeClerc's concluding paragraphs confirm the high regard I have for everything I have read so far that he has written.

It's a very welcome and fresh reflection on the concept of internal unity within the Church, especially considering the storm of meaningless words that has been worked up about the Pope's decision, and I am deeply moved by it.

I decided to post it here rather than in NOTABLES, because it is very germane to an appreciation of the Pope's decision. I am convinced Benedict XVI took the measure of Bernard Fellay when he met him in Castel Gandolfo in August 2005, in complete privacy and under no media scrutiny. And that what he saw in the man cpnvinced him there was a good chance of healing the schism with someone like Fellay.

by Gerard LeClerc
Translated from
Posted Feb. 2, 2009

January 31

The appointment was for 9:30. A monk came to pick us up. He would later take us back to the station at Zug.

Abbe Thouvenot allowed us first to make a tour of the property with a photographer from AFP who had joined us. Unfortunately, the fog obscured the greater landscape, but it is a little paradise.

Soon we came to a castle built a century ago by a rich bourgeois. It is now the residence for some teaching nuns who have their mother-house in Menzingen.

Mons. Fellay came into the parlor, smiling, holding our written questionnaire.

Here, I must give my impressions. Necessarily subjective. In short, Samuel and I were very favorably impressed.

We were not in front of a fanatic. Our interlocutor was at peace, he expressed himself in a very reflective manner, and welcomed our objections, answering with care.

I had occasion to speak to him twice before, in Paris. Now I felt that the man had matured, doubtless under the weight of his responsibilities and as someone who feels accountable to God for the weight of the legacy that was left him, and also by the gravity of a situation of exclusion for someone who has always been faithful to the Church he was born into.

He readily agreed when we asked him if he regretted being outside the universal Church. And I understood then that Mons. Bernard Fellay has embarked on reconciliation with Rome, perhaps as an avant-garde with respect to the rest of his troops, but with the certainty that such an exclusion cannot last much longer. Because he would not lay any claims before the perennial Church if he thought the present Church was clothed in illusion.

In the salon, a photograph of Benedict XVI is opposite that of Mons. Lefebvre's.

But make no mistake: the successor to the rebel bishop does not intend to give up any demands for reassurance that the Church will not surrender to the world. Thus, he has his questions and his doubts which he is ready to discuss with Rome.

But these 'dubia', in order to heard, must be carefully rethought. With Benedict XVI, one does not play with words. One must argue one's case.

Bernard Fellay does not share the spirit of some of his priests and faithful who are aggressive because they feel themselves to be under siege or treated like the plague.

One grasps that he has acquired interiorly a contemplative space where he finds the necessary resources for resisting the temptation to be aggressive.

We had the huge intention of revisiting Vatican-II with him in its great themes, but we were obliged to moderate ourselves. Nonetheless, we looked at the most litigious questions.

Our host reiterated his now well-known formulation: With regard to Vatican-II, the Fraternity has reservations but it does not reject the Council totally.

Does he still think that behind the elaboration of the principal texts of Vatican-II, there was a culture uniformly impregnated by 'modernism', thus rejecting the enormous investments made by so many eminent servants of the Church, in exegesis, in Patristics, in liturgy?

No, he says. He is not putting everything in one category, let alone just modernism, but everything must be evaluated with discernment in order to clear away any equivocations.

He said that he adheres completely to Benedict XVI's address on the hermeneutic of Vatican II that the Council should be understood in continuity with Tradition and not as a rupture with the past. (Address to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2005)

He observes with a smile that hardly anyone talks about the partisans of rupture who nonetheless persist in their entrenched opinions.

When we specified some of the 'bloodiest' FSSPX objections to Vatican II, he was equally alert.

Ecumenism? Of course, there are riches to be found among our separated Christian brothers who share the same evangelical heritage, but the Church should not come under the umbrella of a so-called world federation of churches. {Which I don't think the Vatican has ever considered, since even the Reformed Churches themselves are under a variety of federations, and envisions full communion, not syncretism or mere social fellowship.] "We want true unity, which presumes acceptance of one Tradition."

I am not saying there is little to be discussed. But the good will is there, to try and discern the problem areas, to find language which is not open to confusion and misunderstanding.

We had anticipated dealing with questions about the Jews [in the written questionnaire sent earlier] but certainly, not in the polemical climate which was to develop over it.

We wanted to review Nostra aetate and the relationship between the two Alliances (Old and New) and St. Paul's statements in the Letter to the Romans [which was the Scriptural basis for Benedict XVI's reformulation of the Good Friday prayer].

Of course, he insists that in relations with other religions, the announcement of Christ should never be placed within parentheses [as Benedict XVi said in his letter to Marcello Pera], but he also wished to directly confront the current controversy. So we let him express himself.

Once again, I will give my impressions and interpretation, which are my personal views. I had the immediate impression that the controversy has deeply affected him, as it has the entire FSSPX community.

He would tell us, after the interview, how much he was shocked by the reaction, because he had thought that the Pope's action would inaugurate a climate of peace, instead of which he felt he had fallen into a terrifying situation - to be associated with a such a major offense, to be denounced by the entire world as an accomplice to a lie. It has all tested the limits of his tolerance.

The controversy can only constrain Bernard Fellay and his flock to the most serious reflection. The FSSPX has never been tempted, as they have been accused, to 'recover' a political or ideological tradition.

They have since looked back at the pronouncements of the Roman Church before and during the Second World War about anti-Semitism and the persecution of the Jews. And they have cited the statement by the Holy Office condemning anti-Semitism in very precise terms. They have also cited Pius XI's famous statement that "Spiritually we are all Semitic". {In fact, Fellay was a bit inexact in his citation, but his formulation was felicitou: "At heart, we are all Semitic".)

He also confided, but not to be reported, what he plans to do about Bishop Williamson. Parenthetically, one must consider the rather baroque psychology of a man who writes the Vatican to apologize for his 'imprudent remarks' and cites the Book of Job to say that those who have misbehaved must be 'cast into the waters'.

I know quite well that the great suspicion that has always surrounded the FSSPX on the scourge of anti-Semitism will not go away quickly. As for me, I don't see why I should doubt the words of a man who says that killing an innocent person - let alone, killing an entire people - is 'an abomination and a crime that cries out to heaven'.

Other topics were discussed, including inevitably, religious freedom, which was the origin of Mons. Lefebvre's greatest disagreement with Vatican II. We discussed this for several minutes.

Mons. Fellay does not deny that history brings different circumstances, and that there are different ways in which Church and State may relate. But what he rejects with all his strength is any change that would lead the Church to an alien concept that would make it renounce the reign of Christ even over temporal realities. [No danger of that wwith Benedict XVI.]

He has the merit of a certain obstinacy in adhering to the teaching of Pius XI on this matter. Of course, in its concrete application, there are too many complexities which are also principally philosophical in character.

So there, I have described how I experienced this interview. I found the reasons for a certain strangeness that, in fact, subsists about the FSSPX but which must be elucidated well.

I am in no position to say whether Benedict XVI will succeed in the undertaking he has begun. Nor do I know if Bernard Fellay will succeed in his, which is, I think, 'prophetic' with respect to those he leads.

So I will end with a thought that came to me, thanks to [Hans Urs von] Balthasar. In the apostolic foursome which he describes in his book Le complexe anti-romain, Mons. Fellay's Swiss compatriot looks at the figure of James in relation to Peter, Paul and John - and sees that he represents tradition, a rather obstinate tradition.

Of course, with James, a cousin of the Lord, it had to do with Jewish tradition. But there is, with Fellay, a kinship in their faithfulness to the tradition they received. Their references are different, but the paradox may be fecund.

Why can there not be a place for this tradition within the framework of an undivided Church? It would be to recognize all possible charisms - that of the institution with Peter, that of mission with Paul, that of mysticism with John, and that of a certain obstinacy of tradition with James.

That is the grace which we wish for.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 04/02/2009 00.39]
03/02/2009 23.38
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Here's a link to an article of Cardinal Meisner, who's going to defend Papa too:,1518,605099,00.html

Unfortunately in German, maybe...Teresa.....please?!

Wer glaubt, ist nie allein, im Leben nicht und auch im Sterben nicht.
04/02/2009 02.35
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Here you are, Simone! Thanks for the link. I am quite surprised Spiegel ran something favorable to the Pope - at least they quote the few German bishops who have spoken up for the Pope. They are good friends to the Pope, and loyal bishops, who show it is possible to address the Williamson question objectively, without unnecessary servility to the Jews.

Cardinal Meisner and other German bishops
defend the Pope for his FSSPX decision

Translated from

HAMBURG - The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, has openly come out in defense of Benedict XVI in response to protests about his lifting the excommunication from a Holocaust denier. [The impression deliberately given by this statement, of course - to anyone who may be reading about the matter for the first time - is that there was only one person whose excommunication was revoked!]

Other German bishops also defended Benedict XVI against the suggestion that he shares any responsibility for the anti-Holocaust statements of Bishop Williamson.

Statements by the British-born bishop Richard Williamson were 'unbelievably dumb and completely disputable', Meisner said in Kirchenzeitung, even as he pointed out that it is the Pope's task to look after the unity of the Church or to restore it.

"That is what the Pope is doing, no more, no less," he said in a statement made Monday. "The Pope wished to approach the four excommunicated bishops with this step of great mercy."

Benedict XVI's lifting of the excommunication from Williamson and three other Traditionalist bishops unleashed a storm of protest worldwide. [Worldwide? Isn't it mostly from Jewish circles and European liberal bigots who are sworn enemies of the Pope and of anyone 'conservative'? And note that even here, Williamson is given 'primacy' by the reporter, although the lead beneficiary is the FSSPX superior-general himself, who is not even mentioned, as though he were irrelevant!]

Meisner pointed out that with this step, the Pope hopes it will lead the four bishops to move towards full communion with the Church. He also explained that in practical terms, the lifting of excommunication only means the four may now participate in Catholic life fully as other Catholic lay faithful, but not as bishops, and that they may not celebrate Mass nor administer the Sacraments. [DIM]8t[=DIM][They do, of course, and have been doing it since the schism, but the Church does not recognize their sacramental acts as 'licit'.]

The Vatican is not responsible for the schism, Meisner said, "and it is not at all responsible for the shameless lies about the Holocaust stated by Bishop Williamson".

He also said that the Fraternity of St. Pius X must retract its accusations that the Pope has not been 'orthodox' in his teaching.

"Whoever rejects the Magisterium in part or in whole cannot be in full communion with the Church," he said. [Cardinal Meisner is forgetting that there are millions of liberal Catholics who are 'in the Church' even if they reject the Magisterium's positions on many moral and ethical issues.]

To ascribe 'theologically unjust motives' to the Pope for his decision is 'untenable', Meisner said.

To Spiegel, the Bishop of Passau, Wilhelm Schraml, said: "One clearly does the Holy Father an injustice by associating his gesture of holding out a conciliatory hand with lies about the Holocaust," adding that Williamson's 'scandalous statements' were 'a stab in the back' to the Pope.

The Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Reinhard Marx, rejected suggestions that the Catholic Church was on a regressive path.

[The last paragraph gives the background to Williamson's statements about the Holocaust to Swedish TV.]

04/02/2009 07.23
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After failing to visit Beatrice's site
for a couple of days, I find she has quite a few new things to share. First, she started a petition in support of the Pope
as a personal 'counter-action' to the 'La Vie' petition that presumes to tell the Pope what he should do to 'make up' to the Jews (or something as sanctimonious).

Then, she calls attention to the site of the French bishops' conference which is surprisingly rather comprehensive in its presentation of the correct Church position about the Pope's decision on the FSSPX bishops. It has posted the reactions from about a fifth of the 120 or so total number of French bishops. And while most of them are not really all that enthusiastic in their support of the Pope, at least they are supporting him

The site prominently features, in this respect, 1) the statement issued, after the announcement of the decree on the FSSPX, by the Permanent Council of the conference; 2) the statement of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux and a member of the Ecclesia Dei Commission; 3) the full interview given by Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris and president of the French bishops' conference to the newspaper Le Parisien - all of which were previously reported partially in news items posted on this Forum.

But the most unusual is an Open letter 'To all those who want to reflect' on the Pope's action, by Mons. Hippolyte Simon, Archbishop of Clermont, who famously wrote another open letter entitled "Why I obey the Pope' shortly after Summorum Pontificum was issued, with the famous line, "I find it strange when people ask me 'What are you going to do about the Motu Proprio?' I say, 'Obey the Pope, of course!'" God bless him, and may his tribe increase.

The French reactions are of particular interest, given George Weigel's brief and useful exposition earlier this week of why France and the history of the Church there, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries, matters in understanding the roots of the Lefebvrian schism.

Here is a translation of Mons. Simon's Open Letter, which was also published in



Who has an interest in
soiling the Pope's reputation?

I don't know if I am angry or unhappy: the truth perhaps is I am both.

But it is too much, much too much, and I say: Enough! The media explosion against Benedict XVI for having supposedly re-integrated four traditionalist bishops, of whom one is an avowed [Holocaust] negationist, is not criticism but calumny and disinformation.

Because, whatever one may think of the Pope's decisions, it must be said, underscored, and repeated time and again that these four bishops have not been 're-integrated'.

And so, Mons. Williamson whose statements to Swedish television are simply intolerable, has not been taken back into the Catholic Church and is still not under the Pope's authority.

The reports that speak of re-integration are based on a serious confusion between revoking an excommunication and full re-integration with the Church.

I would gladly be indulgent to all the newsmen and commentators who may have, in good faith, confused the two things. The categories used by the Church can lend themselves to misunderstanding by the wider public.

But the truth obliges me to point out that, according to Church law (canon law), they are not at all the same thing. If one confuses them, then one is a victim of simplifications which benefit no one except those who deliberately want to provoke, thus becoming unwitting accomplices to them.

In general, the public has a right to demand that a sportswriter, for example, should know how to distinguish between a 'corner' and an 'attempt'. Why then should the Church not have the right to have its own 'technical' vocabulary, and why must anyone tolerate such serious misrepresentations just because 'it is about religion'?

Let us look at what happened. Following the election of Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005, the bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, founded more than 30 years ago by Mons. Marcel Lefebvre, asked to resume their dialog with Rome on two conditions: first, the liberalization of the 1962 Mass, which was done through the Motu Proprio in July 1977, and second, the lifting of the bishops' excommunication.

What does such a lifting mean? To take a familiar example, I would say this: When Mons. Lefebvre left the Church - that is, when he disobeyed the Pope by ordaining four bishops despite a formal warning from the Pope (John Paul II), it was as if a red barrier fell into place and the red light came on, to indicate he had left the Church.

This meant that if, one day, he would like to come back, he would first have to make honorable amends. Mons. Lefebvre is deceased, God rest his soul! Today, his successors, 20 years later, have said to the Pope: "We are ready to resume the dialog, but you must do something symbolic on your part. Lift the barrier and change the red light to blinking yellow."

And the Pope, in order tostack the cards in favor of dialog, has done that. What remains to be seen is whether those who wish to come back to the Church will do so.

Do they all want to come back? When? Under what conditions? We don't know. As Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, said in the official decree lifting the excommunications: "It remains to establish the conditions for dialog".

Perhaps the Pope, after some time that we are not aware of, will grant the society a canonical status. But for the moment, that is not yet done. The precondition to dialog has been met, but the dialog has not begun. So we cannot judge the outcome until that dialog has taken place.

On top of this, on the eve of the day when Cardinal Re's decree was to be made public, Swedish TV revived clearly negationist statements made by one of the four bishops concerned, Mons. Williamson.

At the time the Pope gave the green light to Cardinal Re to sign the decree, could he have known about Williamson's statements? Honestly, I think I can say No! In a way, that is reassuring. It's a sign that the Vatican does not have the means to place every bishop in the world under surveillance nor to monitor every TV program in the world.

And it is here that one must not err in interpretation: What does the coincidence between the signature of the decree, anticipated to take place January 21, and therefore known to Williamson as one of the interested parties, and the decision to broadcast, on that same day, statements he ha made [in November]?

Let everyone ask himself: Who gained by this? Who gains from the scandal provoked by such obscene statements?

The answer seems clear to me: those who want to torpedo the process opened up by the signature of the decree. Now, from the little one has followed about this question and the various statements made by Williamson in the past, it is clear that he does not wish to reconcile with Rome at any cost.

This bishop who, let me repeat, still has no tie of canonical subordination to Rome, simply used the method of terrorists: he set off a bomb (an 'intellectual' one) in the hope of derailing the entire process of reconciliation. He is doing what 'ultras' in all times have done - they prefer to leave a field of ruins rather than make up with those they consider to be their enemies.

And so I say with sorrow to all those who have so quickly - in glee or in pain - lumped the Pope and Williamson together: you played the game, unwittingly, of a cynical provocateur. If I may say so, you offered him a second target that he can only find ravishing: soiling the Pope's reputation in the worst way. A Pope whom he distrusts more than anyone, because he sees that this Pope can absolutely bring down the entire argumentative scaffolding erected by Mons. Lefebvre.

I cannot develop this point in this letter, I can only refer back to an article which I published in the columns of Le Monde in 2007 when the Motu proprio was issued [on the traditional Mass]:

When I read, almost everywhere, that the Pope is granting everything to the traditionalists without demanding anything in return, I disagree. He has given them what they want about the traditional Mass, but he is totally demolishing their rationale at its very foundation.

The entire argumentation of Mons.Lefebvre rested on an alleged substantial difference between the Mass of St. Pius V and that of Paul VI. Now, Benedict XVI has said. "It makes no sense to speak of two rites!" [i.e., There is one rite, but it has two forms.]

One may legitimize resistance to the Council if one thinks, in conscience, that there is a substantial difference between the two rites. But can one legitimize this resistance, and for more reason, a schism, based on a difference in form?

For a traditionalist, and more so for diehard negationists like Williamson, Benedict XVI is infinitely more redoubtable than all those who advocate that Vatican II introduced 'rupture' in the Church.

Because if there is rupture, then the traditionalistwill take comfort in his opposition to 'modernity' or any 'novelty' for the Church. But this Pope, who peaceably shows that Paul Vi's Mass, religious freedom and ecumenism are an integral part of authentic Catholic tradition, takes away all his justifications.

I am well aware that I need to develop my own argumentation on this issue. But I beg your pardon for suggesting that you go to the Internet sites where all this is visible. I suggest above all that each one guard well against well-staged provocations.

As for those who insist on saying that Joseph Ratzinger served in the Hitler Youth, they should read what he said in Caen on June 6, 2004, at the 60th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy, and that they also ask themselves what they would have done in his place. [He was 14!] When one howls too strongly with the wolves today, that does not show one would have been capable of distinguishing himself from the wolves of another time.

There remains a secondary point which is just as serious: one must also question the communication of initiatives from Rome when it concerns subjects that are quite sensitive. After the controversy over the Regensburg lecture [which by itself deserves to be deconstructed], I hope - with the reservation that this is something I would much rather discuss internally - that responsible officials in the Roman Curia would proceed to a serious 'debriefing' on their communications failures.

To sum it up, here is how I saw the events: On January 21, Italian traditionalist circles who believed they had gained a victory, organized a leak to the Italian newspaper Il Giornale [also to Il Riformista]. Whereupon, the media tom-tom was under way.

But we. members of the bishops' conferences, knew absolutely nothing! And for three days, the rumors - wrong because they spoke about a coming day of 're-integration' - would proliferate everywhere like a brushfire.

Meanwhile, there was Mons. Williamson's bomb. And it was not until three days later, Saturday morning, that we all saw the decree signed by Cardinal Re. How could we then reset the debate on a proper footing?

Cardinal Ricard undertook to do that [with his letter as a member of teh Ecclesia Dei Commission], and he did a very good job, but the fire was by then out of control, and it seemed no one was willing to listen to reason.

Now that the dust has started to settle, let us try to revive our spirits calmly. As my grandmother used to say: God can make something good come out of a bad thing.

The bad thing is that Pope Benedict XVI has once again been dragged in the mud by the majority of mainstream media, except, thank God, La Croiz and a few others in France. Many Catholics, and many persons of good will, have been left to themselves in misunderstanding and even pain.

But the good thing is that the masks have fallen. If the dialog continues despite all this with the FSSPX bishops - provided, that is, they choose to go through the opening given them - then may there be discernment enough so that everyone concerned knows a bit more of what the other side thinks.

In conclusion, I would like to address myself to those Catholic faithful who might feel, not unreasonably that they have been somewhat betrayed, if not mistruste, in this affair: think of the parable of the prodigal son, and beyond it. If the older bother, who had at first refused to join the feasting, says he now wants to join in, would you refuse him?

Have enough confidence in yourselves and in the Spirit who guides the Church and which also guided Vatican-II, that the presence of the older brother who sulked is not going to spoil the feast. Give the latecomer a bit more time to get used to the lights of the assembly where all the rest are gathered.....

+ Hippolyte SIMON,
Archbishop of Clermont
Vice-President of the Conference of the Bishops of France
January 29, 2009

Beatrice also links to the transcript of an excellent but long radio interview given by Cardinal Barbarin, Archbishop of Bordeaux (and I believw, Flo's home bishop), to
which I hope I can translate some time tomorrow - after I translate the Wednesday catechesis!

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04/02/2009 07.50
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While I was off doing my translations today, the president of the United States Bishops' conference issued a statement on the still-playing FSSPX episode. Here is the statement as it appears on the site of the USCCB:

Statement of Cardinal Francis George,
President, USCCB

February 3, 2009


Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the personal penalty of excommunication incurred by four schismatic bishops belonging to the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

This gesture on the part of the Holy Father was an act of mercy and personal concern for the ordained and lay members of this Society and was meant to coincide with the fiftieth commemoration of the convening of the Second Vatican Council.

The Holy Father's lifting of the excommunications is but a first step toward receiving these four bishops, and the priests who serve under them, back into full communion with the Catholic Church.

If these bishops are to exercise their ministry as true teachers and pastors of the Catholic Church, they, like all Catholic bishops, will have to give their assent to all that the Church professes, including the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

As is now widely known, one of the four bishops, Richard Williamson, has recently made some deeply offensive and utterly false statements about the Holocaust of the Second World War. Bishop Williamson has denied historical facts about the Shoah, in which six million Jews were cruelly annihilated, innocent victims of blind racial and religious hatred.

These comments have evoked understandable outrage from within the Jewish community and also from among our own Catholic people. No Catholic, whether lay person, priest or bishop can ever negate the memory of the Shoah, just as no Catholic should ever tolerate expressions of anti-Semitism and religious bigotry.

I make my own the words of the Holy Father spoken at the General Audience on January 28, 2009: "[May] the Shoah show both old and new generations that only the arduous path of listening and dialogue, of love and forgiveness, can lead peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the longed-for goal of fraternity and peace, in truth. May violence never again humiliate man's dignity."

We Catholic bishops in the United States are as committed as ever to building bonds of trust and mutual understanding with our elder brothers and sisters, the Jewish people, so that together with them we may be a blessing to the world.

Francis Cardinal George

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 04/02/2009 15.35]
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Thank you for publicising that petition, Teresa. Guess what! Wulfrune and I got there before you and signed it yesterday. I do hope our Papa receives it and knows we support and love him.
04/02/2009 13.40
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February 4
St. Joseph of Leonissa, Priest

OR today.
In his message for Lent this year, the Pope
urges fasting as a useful Lenten practice:
'To be friends with God and attentive to those in need'
Other Page 1 stories: The Pope's meeting with the religious of Rome on Monday evening (above photos); the concluding message from the winter meeting of teh Italian bishops conference Permanent Council comments on end=-of-life issues; and an editorial commentary on the worldwide business slowdown.


General Audience today - The Holy Father speaks about the martyrdom of St. Paul to conclude his Pauline Year
catechetical cycle on the Apostle of the Gentiles. After the catechesis, he appeals cessation of
new violence in Sri Lanka.

The Holy Father met earlier with
- Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Cor Unum Pontifical Council.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 04/02/2009 13.41]
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I was starting to translate the note today from the Vatican Secretariat of State but AP has filed a report about it, so here it is first.

Finally, the Secretariat of State, which is, after all, the main administrative arm of the Vatican, has shown a sign of life after having been AWOL all this time about this issue. Thank heaven for little things!

Vatican says Holocaust denier
must recant


VATICAN CITY, Feb. 4 (AP) -- The Vatican demanded Wednesday that a bishop who denied the Holocaust recant his positions before being fully admitted into the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican also said in a statement that Pope Benedict XVI didn't know about Bishop Richard Williamson's views when he agreed to lift his excommunication and that of three other ultraconservative bishops Jan. 21.

The statement was issued by the Vatican's Secretariat of State a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the Pope to make a clearer rejection of Holocaust denials, saying there hadn't been adequate clarification from the Vatican.

Williamson was shown on Swedish state television days before his rehabilitation [NOT REHABILITATION - but THIS IS HOW THE MEDIA, BY USING THE SAME WRONG TERM OVER AND OVER, REINFORCE THEIR MESSAGE OF MIS-INFORMATION] was made public saying historical evidence "is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed" during World War II.

Williamson subsequently apologized to the pope for having stirred controversy, but he did not repudiate his comments, in which he also said only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II and none were gassed.

Williamson and three other bishops were excommunicated in 1988 after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent. Lefebvre founded the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X in 1969, opposed to the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, including its outreach to Jews.

The Holy See said when it announced the rehabilitation [NOT!]of the bishops Jan. 24 that removing the excommunication did not mean the Vatican shared Williamson's views. But Jewish groups voiced outrage and demanded that Williamson recant his views.

In the statement Wednesday, the Vatican said that while Williamson's excommunication had been lifted, he still had no canonical function in the church because he was consecrated illegitimately by Lefebvre.

"Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to episcopal functions within the church, will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah, which the Holy Father was not aware of when the excommunication was lifted," the statement said.

In addition, the Vatican said that the society as a whole must fully recognize the teachings of Vatican II and the teachings of all the popes who came during and after it in order to have a legitimate canonical function in the church.

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This was an earlier news agency report I was going to post:
Not the kind of news and commentary one wants to, but we all have to live with this until the next big boo-boo by the wonderful folks at the Vatican who seem to be clueless and inept on the most basic of communications rules and practices.


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The cardinal in charge of relations with Jews has acknowledged that the Vatican handled the rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop very badly and complained that Pope Benedict did not consult him.

"There wasn't enough talking with each other in the Vatican and there are no longer checks to see where problems could arise," said Cardinal Walter Kasper in a blunt interview with Vatican Radio's German program, broadcast on Monday night.

Benedict on January 24 lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including Richard Williamson, a Briton who denies the full extent of the Holocaust, to try to heal a 20-year-old schism in the Church.

Among those who condemned Williamson and the pope's decision were Holocaust survivors, progressive Catholics, members of the U.S. Congress, Israel's Chief Rabbinate, German Jewish leaders and Jewish writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

Vatican sources and officials had said privately the decision was taken without wide consultation. Kasper, who was left in the dark, appeared to be venting his frustration.

"Of course, explaining something after the fact is always much more difficult than if one did it right away. I would have also liked to see more communication in advance," said the cardinal, who like Pope Benedict is German.

"I'm watching this debate with great concern. Nobody can be pleased that misunderstandings have turned up. Mistakes in the management of the curia (Vatican administration) have certainly also been made. I want to say that very clearly," he said.

Leading Catholic commentators have said the Williamson affair shows fundamental flaws in Benedict's governing style.

"This and other controversies point to a fatal systemic flaw in the Benedict papacy that is destroying his effectiveness as pope: He does not consult experts who might challenge his views and inclinations," said Father Tom Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

"He is surrounded by people who are not as smart as he is and who would never think of questioning him."

Father Eberhard von Gemmingen, head of Vatican Radio German service, said: "There are obviously shortcomings in the Vatican's organization and communications ... Such a misunderstanding and debacle must never happen again."

Williamson told Swedish television in an interview broadcast on January 21: "I believe there were no gas chambers." He said no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, rather than the 6 million accepted by mainstream historians.

He later posted on his blog a letter apologizing to the Pope for the "unnecessary distress" he caused him but he did not take back the comments. Jews said the apology was not enough.

The controversy has led many to take a closer look at the traditionalist group, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), its view of Jews and its future place in the Church.

Traditionalists reject most of the teachings of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council. One of its key documents, "Nostra Aetate" (In Our Times) repudiated the concept of collective Jewish guilt for Christ's death and urged dialogue with all major religions.


First about Cardinal Kasper. He is one of the persons Pope Benedict told right after the Conclave that he should continue to address him familiarly, that is, with the familiar 'du' instead of the formal 'Sie'. Could he have not lifted the phone - after the speculation first came out in the Italian press that the decree was coming - to ask his friend, Joseph, "What's this? Can you tell me about it?"

It's not as if anyone in the Curia were unaware - since August 2005, when the Pope met with Mons. Fellay - that the Pope and Ecclesia Dei were working on this matter.

Anyone in the Curia who pleads that is being disingenuous. Especially after the 'ultimatum' letter - made very public last June - stating to Mons. Fellay the Vatican's simple pre-conditions before the next step would be taken.

Between then and January 21, Cardinal Kasper certainly had occasion to meet with the Pope one on one. If he were so concerned about the matter, could he not have asked the Pope directly about it? He is the head of the Council for Promoting Christian Unity, after all, as well as the Commission for Relations with the Jews - so the matter is well within his purview.

And if he was not consulted about it as he says, perhaps it's because the primary dicastery responsible for it is Ecclesia Dei {is he not, perhaps, a member of it?) And what about just asking the Pope politely? Is there a law against that?

And where is it written that one cardinal cannot call another cardinal - in this case, Kasper to Castrillon and/or Re - to ask questions about matters that one finds concerning? Does anyone really think Castrillon or Re would have told Kasper, "It's none of your business. We can't tell you anything at all!?"

The statement by the media guru for finger-wagging at the Pope, Fr. Reese, that the Pope "is surrounded by people who are not as smart as he is and who would never think of questioning him" does not fly. You do disservice to your superior if you don't have the courage to point out - and there are tacful ways of doing this - your concerns about matters that are apparently or obviously damaging to him!

Then, there is Fr. Gemmingen who heads the German service of Vatican Radio, who has joined the chorus, though he is part of the Vatican communications set-up himself. Did he ever address his concerns directly to his superior at Vatican Radio, Fr. Lombardi, or call up the Pope himself through Mons. Gaenswein or someone to express these concerns?

Of course, it is possible that Fr. Gemmingen was constrained to use Vatican Radio itself to air his criticisms openly - and that of Cardinal Kasper - as a sign of frustration that he could not get through to his superiors or to the Pope.

But it still looks to me like putting out the dirty laundry to search out the dead rat after everybody has complained about the stench!

I know Sandro Magister addresses this whole snafu in his L'Espresso article this week - and God knows he has been one of the few supporters of the Pope who has been crusading consistently for more efficiency and efficacy in the Vatican's communications efforts.

Obviously to no avail. It is frustrating - and agonizing for any supporter of the Pope - to realize how difficult it seems to be to get the Pope's responsible lieutenants to acknowledge - much less, do something about this ABSOLUTELY ESSSENTIAL MESSAGE ABOUT THE NEED FOR EFFICIENT, EFFECTIVE AND PROMPT COMMUUNICATIONS

And what has kept anyone - Magister, Tornielli, Rodari, Accattoli, to mention the sympathetic Vaticanistas - from walking up to Fr. Lombardi at these news conferences that the Vatican holds almost once a week on various topics, just to confront him directly (but in private) about the apparent insensibility of his office to communications concerns? I would bug him about it each and every news conference until his media operations came up to par.

It is almost criminal that the Vatican should have these embarrassing and totally unnecessary communications crises! Sure, outsiders may have absolutely no idea of 'how things are done' in the Vatican, but tt cannot be possible that common sense which works everywhere else does not apply to the Vatican.

Pope Benedict may be resilient, and forgiving of his co-workers - and sustained by his faith and the prayers of all those who love him - but how many more body blows like this miserably, shamefully botched whammy will they impose on him by sheer negligence, inattention and inefficiency?

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Sandro Magister has more to say about the Vatican Secretary of State missing in action at the end of this article.

Double Disaster at the Vatican: Of Governance, and of Communication

This is the upshot of the lifting of the excommunication for four Lefebvrist bishops. The isolation of Pope Benedict, the ineptitude of the curia, and the misfires of the secretariat of state

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, February 4, 2009 – A few days after the events, the lifting of excommunication from the four Lefebvrist bishops is increasingly manifesting itself at the Vatican as a double disaster, of governance and of communication.

In the disaster, Pope Benedict XVI found himself to be the one most exposed, and practically alone.

Both within and outside of the curia, many are blaming the pope for everything. In effect, it was his decision to offer the Lefebvrist bishops a gesture of benevolence. The lifting of excommunication followed other previous gestures of openness, also decided personally by the pope, the last of which was the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," dated July 7, 2007, with the liberalization of the ancient rite of the Mass.

As he had done before, this time as well Benedict XVI did not demand in advance anything from the Lefebvrists in return. So far, all of his acts of openness have been unilateral. The pope's critics have seized upon this in order to accuse him of naivety, or appeasement, or even of wanting to take the Church back to before Vatican Council II.

In reality, Benedict XVI has explained his intention absolutely clearly, in one of the key addresses of his pontificate, the one delivered to the Roman curia on December 22, 2005. In that speech, pope Ratzinger maintained that Vatican II did not mark any rupture with the Church's tradition, but in fact it was in continuity with tradition even where it seemed to mark a clear break with the past, for example when it recognized religious freedom as an inalienable right of every person.

In that speech, Benedict XVI was speaking to the entire Catholic universe. But at the same time, he was also addressing the Lefebvrists, to whom he pointed out the direct route for healing the schism and returning to unity with the Church on the points that they oppose most vigorously: not only religious freedom, but also the liturgy, ecumenism, relations with Judaism and the other religions.

On all of these points, after Vatican Council II the Lefebvrists had gradually separated from the Catholic Church. In 1975, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X – their organizational structure – did not obey an order to disband, and formed a parallel Church, with its own bishops, priests, seminaries. In 1976, its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was suspended "a divinis." In 1988, the excommunication of Lefebvre and of four new bishops he had ordained without papal authorization – who were in turn suspended "a divinis" – was the culminating action of a schism that had been underway for years.

The lifting of this excommunication therefore did not by any means heal the schism between Rome and the Lefebvrists, just as the lifting of the excommunications between Rome and patriarchate of Constantinople – agreed on December 7, 1965, by Paul VI and Athenagoras – did not by any means mark a return to unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches of the East. In both cases, the dropping of the excommunication was intended to be simply a first step toward reversing the schism, which remains.

Confirming this is a note from the pontifical council for legislative texts, issued on August 24, 1996. It says that the excommunication issued in 1988 against the Lefebvrist bishops "constituted the consummation of a gradual, overall situation of a schismatic tendency," and that "until there are changes leading to the reestablishment of the necessary 'communio hierarchica', all of the Lefebvrist movement is to be viewed as schismatic."

This was the state of affairs surrounding Benedict XVI's decision to lift the excommunication of the four Lefebvrist bishops.

But little or nothing of this was stated in the decree issued on January 24 by the Holy See.

In the "vulgata" diffused by the media, with this decree the Church of Rome was simply clasping the Lefebvrists to its bosom.

* * *

Then, to make the misunderstanding worse, there came the uproar over an interview with one of the four bishops granted clemency, Richard Williamson of England, in which he supported ideas denying the Holocaust.

The interview was recorded by a Swedish television station on November 1, 2008, but it was broadcast on January 21 – the same day on which, at the Vatican, the decree was signed revoking the excommunication of Williamson, and of the three other Lefebvrist bishops.

In the media all over the world, the news read as follows: the pope clears a Holocaust denier bishop from excommunication, and welcomes him into the Church.

The tempest that erupted was tremendous. The protests from the Jewish world – but not only from this – were too many to be counted. The Vatican went scrambling for cover, with statements and articles in "L'Osservatore Romano." The controversy calmed down only after Benedict XVI intervened in person, with two clarifications read at the end of the general audience on Wednesday, January 28: one about the Lefebvrists and their duty of "recognition of the magisterium and authority of the pope and of Vatican Council II," and the other about the Holocaust.

The question comes naturally: was all of this really inevitable, once the pope had decided to lift the excommunication of the Lefebvrist bishops? Or was the disaster produced by the errors and omissions of the men who are supposed to implement the pope's decisions? The facts point to the second hypothesis.

The decree revoking the excommunication bears the signature of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the congregation for bishops. Another cardinal, Darío Castrillón Hoyos, is the president of the pontifical commission "Ecclesia Dei," which, ever since its creation in 1988, has dealt with the followers of Lefebvre. Both of these cardinals have said that they were taken by surprise, after the fact, by the interview with Bishop Williamson, and that they were never aware that he was a Holocaust denier.

But wasn't it the primary responsibility of these two cardinals to carry out an in-depth examination of Williamson's personal profile, and of the three other bishops? The fact that they did not do so seems inexcusable. Such an examination wasn't even difficult. Williamson has never concealed his distaste for Judaism. He has publicly defended the authenticity of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In 1989, in Canada, he risked being taken to court for praising the books written by Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. After September 11, 2001, he supported conspiracy theories to explain the collapse of the Twin Towers. Just a click on Google would have turned up all of this background material.

Another serious lapse concerned the pontifical council for the promotion of Christian unity. Reversing the schism with the Lefebvrists is logically part of its competencies, which also include relations between the Church and Judaism. But the cardinal who heads the council, Walter Kasper, says that he was kept out of the deliberations: this is all the more surprising in that the issuing of the decree lifting the excommunication took place during the annual week of prayer for Christian unity, and a few days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

That's not all.The media release of the decision also seems to have been entirely negligent. The Vatican press office limited itself, on Saturday, January 24, to distributing the text of the decree, in spite of the fact that the news had already leaked out a few days earlier, and a fiery controversy was already growing around the statements denying the Holocaust made by Williamson.

There is an illuminating comparison to be made. The previous day, on January 23, the same press office had organized, with great pomp, the launching of the Vatican channel on YouTube. And a few days later, on January 29, it announced, again with a great deployment of persons and resources, an international conference on Galileo Galilei, scheduled for the end of May. In each case, the objective was to transmit the authentic meaning of the initiative to the media.

But nothing of the sort was done for the decree concerning the Lefebvrist bishops. And yet all of the elements necessary for an appropriate announcement were there. Even the timing was right. The week of prayer for Christian unity was underway; Holocaust remembrance day was just around the corner; in Italy just a few days earlier, on January 17, there had been the day for dialogue between Catholics and Jews. Cardinal Kasper, the leading curia official in both areas, would have been the ideal person to present the decree, situate it within the persistent situation of schism, explain the purpose of lifting the excommunication, and summarize the points on which the Lefebvrists were being asked to reconsider their positions, from full acceptance of Vatican Council II to the overcoming of their anti-Judaism. As for Williamson, it would not have been difficult to clearly delineate his situation: if he were to remain firm on his aberrant ideas denying the Holocaust, he would exclude himself from the pope's gesture of "mercy."

And yet, if nothing of this was done, it was not the fault of the Vatican press office and its director, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, but of the offices of the curia from which they receive their orders.

These offices of the curia converge in the secretariat of state.

* * *

Since Paul VI on, the secretariat of state has been the apex and the engine of the curia machine. It has direct access to the pope, and governs the implementation of every one of his decisions. It entrusts this to the competent offices, and coordinates their work.

So then, throughout the entire affair of the lifting of the excommunications for the Lefebvrist bishops, the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, despite his highly active and outspoken nature, distinguished himself by his absence.

His first public comment on the question came on January 28, during a conference in Rome at which he was speaking.

But more than words, what were lacking from him were actions equal to the gravity of the situation. Before, during, and after the issuing of the decree.

Benedict XVI was left practically alone, and the curia was abandoned to disorder.

The fact that Benedict XVI has given up on reforming the curia is now before the eyes of all. But it is conjectured that he compensated for this non-decision by entrusting the leadership of the offices to a tough, dynamic secretary of state, Bertone.

Now this conjecture has also been shown to be lacking. With Bertone, the curia seems even more disorganized than before, perhaps in part because he has never completely dedicated himself to fixing its problems. Bertone does most of his work not inside the walls of the Vatican, but on the outside, in an endless round of conferences, celebrations, inaugurations. His visits abroad are as frequents and as packed with meetings and speeches as those of a John Paul II in vigorous health: he was in Mexico from January 15-19, and is now visiting Spain. As a result, all of the work that the offices of the secretariat of state dedicate to his external activities leaves that much less work available for the pope. Or sometimes, it is a wasted double effort: for example, when Bertone gives a speech on the same topic and to the same audience to which the pope will speak a short time later, with journalists on the lookout for differences between the two.

Bertone's personal devotion to Benedict XVI is beyond all doubt. Not so that of the other curia officials, who continue to have free rein. It is possible that some of them deliberately oppose this pontificate. It is certain that most of them simply do not understand it, do not measure up to it.

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The Holy Father today gave the 21st and last lesson of his catechetical cycle on St. Paul on the occasion of the Pauline Year. Here is how he synthesized today's catechesis in English:

Concluding our catechesis on Saint Paul today, we look briefly at the end of his earthly life and his ongoing legacy.

Though there is no account of Paul’s death in the New Testament, a strong tradition holds that he was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero and buried along the Via Ostiense on the site of the present Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

Saint Clement of Rome, in a first-century letter to the Corinthians, extols Paul’s patience in suffering as a model for all Christians to imitate.

Paul himself alluded to his agony in sacrificial terms when he wrote: "for I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Tim 4:6).

Paul’s writings have inspired countless commentaries through the centuries. New studies continue to shed light on his character, the churches he founded and the Gospel he preached.

Paul was a generous apostle and an original thinker,but not the "new founder" of Christianity, as some have claimed.

By listening to his teaching, may we be strengthened in our commitment to Christ, so as to take part joyfully in the Church’s mission of evangelization!

After his final greetings in Italian, the Pope ended today's audience with a special appeal for Sri Lanka:

The situation in Sri Lanka continues to raise concerns.

News of the worsening of the conflict and the growing number of innocent victims lead me to address an urgent appeal to the combattants, to respect humanitarian law and freedom of miovement for the population, that they may do all they can to guarantee assistance to the wounded and the security of civilians, and that they may allow the provision of their urgent food and medical necessities.

May the Virgin Mary of Medhu, so venerated by the Catholics and even the members of other religions, nring the day of peace and reconciliation soon to that beloved country.


Here is a full translation of today's catechesis:

Pauline Year Catechetical Cycle

Dear brothers and sisters,

Our series of catecheses on St. Paul has come to its conclusion. Today, I wish to talk about the end of his earthly life.

Ancient Christian tradition unanimously testifies that Paul's death resulted from martyrdom here in Rome. The writings in the New Testament do not report the fact.

The Acts of the Apostles end their narration describing the conditions of the Apostle's imprisonment, saying he was still able to welcome all those who came to see him (cfr Acts 28,30-31).

It is only in the Second Letter to Timothy that we find these premonitory words: "For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Tim 4,6; cfr Php 2,17).

Two images are used here - the cultic one used for sacrifices, which Paul used earlier in the Letter to the Philippians, interpreting martyrdom as part of the sacrifice of Christ; and the marine image of slipping out of one's mooring. The two images together discreetly allude to the event of death, a bloody death.

The first explicit testimony about the end of St. Paul comes to us from the mid-90s of the first century, therefore, just a little more than three decades after his actual death. It is in the letter which the Church of Rome, through its Bishop Clement I, wrote the Church of Corinth.

That epistolary text was an invitation to keep the example of the Apostles before their eyes, and soon after mentioning the death of Peter, it says: "Through jealousy and discord, Paul was obliged to show us how one achieves the prize of patience. Arrested seven times, exiled, stoned, he was the herald of Christ in the East and in the West, and through his faith, he acquired pure glory. After having preached justice to the whole world, and after having reached the extremity of the West, he sustained martyrdom before the governing authorities. Thus he left this world and reached the holy place, becoming the greatest model of patience" (1 Clem 5,2).

The 'patience' spoken of is an expression of his communion with the passion of Christ, of the generosity and constancy with which he accepted the long road of suffering, such that he could say: "I bear the marks of Jesus on my body" (Gal 2,17).

We read in the text of St. Clement that Paul reached "the extremity of the West". It is disputed whether this referred to a voyage to Spain that Paul was said to have made. There is no certainty about this, but it is true that St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans expresses his intention to go to Spain (cfr Rm 15,24).

A very interesting point about Clement's letter is the succession of the names of Peter and Paul, even if the order would be inverted in the testimony of Eusebius of Caesarea in the 4th century, who, in speaking of the Emperor Nero, would write: "During his reign, Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and Peter was crucified. The story is confirmed by the names of Peter and of Paul that are still conserved on their sepulchres in that city" ((Hist. eccl. 2,25,5).

Eusebius goes on to report the earlier declaration of a Roman presbyter called Gaius, at the start of the second century: "I can show you the trophies of the Apostles: if you go to the Vatican or on the Via Ostiense, you will find the trophies of the founders of the Church" (ibid. 2,25,6-7).

The 'trophies' are the sepulchral monuments - the same burial places of Peter and Paul, that we continue to venerate today in the same places after two millennia: here in the Vatican, for St. Peter, and at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, on the Via Ostiense, for the Apostle of the Gentiles.

It is also interesting to point out that the two great Apostles are mentioned together. Even if there is no ancient source that speaks of their contemporaneous ministry in Rome, the succeeding Christian consciousness, on the basis of their common burial in the capital of the empire, would associate them together as the founders of the Church of Rome.

In fact, that is what we read in Irenaeus of Lyons towards the end of the second century, with regard to the apostolic succession in the different Churches: "Because it would be too long to enumerate the succession in all the Churches, let us take the the greatest and most ancient Church which is known to all - the Church founded and established in Rome by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul" (Adv. haer. 3,3,2).

The dating [of Paul's death] depends very much on the chronology of Paul's arrival in Rome, a discussion which we cannot enter into here. Successive traditions would specify two other elements. One, the more legendary, is that the martyrdom took place at the Acquae Salviae, on Via Laurentina, with his head bounding three times, each time causing water to gush forth, and so the place is called up to now "Tre Fontana' [Three fountains] (Acts of Peter and Paul from the Pseudo-Marcellus, 5th cent.).

The other, in consonance with the aforementioned ancient testimony of the presbyter Gaius, is that he was buried not only 'outside the city... at the second mile on Via Ostiense', but more precisely, 'on the property of Lucina', who was a Christian matron (Passion of Paul by the Pseudo-Abdia, 6th cent.).

And on that place, in the fourth century, Emperor Constantine erected a first church, later grandly enlarged between the fourth and fifth centuries by the emperors Valentinian II, Theodosius and Arcadius. After the fire in the 19th century, the present basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls was built.

In any case, the figure of St. Paul looms far beyond his earthly life and his death. Indeed, he left an extraordinary spiritual legacy. Even he, as a true disciple of Christ, became a sign of contradiction.

Whereas he was considered by the so called 'Ebionites' - a Judaeo-Christian current - as an apostate to Mosaic Law, there already appears in the Acts of the Apostles, a great veneration for the Apostle Paul.

For now, I will leave aside apocryphal literature such as the Acts of Paul and Tecla, and an apocryphal epistolary between the Apostle Paul adn the philosopher Seneca.

What is important is to note above all, that almost immediately, the Letters of St. Paul entered the liturgy, where the structure prophet-apostle-Gospel is determinative for the form of the Liturgy of the Word. Thus, thanks to this 'presence' in the liturgy of the Church, the thinking of the Apostle immediately became spiritual nourishment for the faithful in all times.

It is obvious that the Fathers of the Church, and later, all the theologians, were nourished by the Letters of St. Paul and his spirituality. Thus, he has remained throughout the centuries, to this day, the true teacher and apostle of the Gentiles.

The first patristic comment that has come down to us on a writing in the New testament is that of the great Alexandrian theologian Origen, who commented on the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. Unfortunately his commentary has been conserved only in part.

St. John Chrysostom, beyond commenting on St. Paul's Letters, wrote seven memorable Panegyrics about him. St. Augustine owes to him the decisive step towards his conversion, and he would turn back to Paul during all of his life. This permanent dialog with the Apostle gave rise to his great Catholic theology, as well as Protestant theology in all times.

St. Thomas Aquinas left us a beautiful commentary on the Pauline Letters which represents the most mature fruit of medieval exegesis.

A true turning point took place in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation. The decisive moment in Luther's life was the co-called 'Turmerlebnis" [tower experience) in 1517, when in one instant, he found a new interpretation of the Pauline doctrine of justification. An interpretation that liberated him from the scruples and anxieties of his previous life and gave him a new, radical confidence in the goodness of God who forgives everything unconditionally.

From that moment, Luther identified Judeao-Christian legalism, condemned by the Apostle, with the order of life in the Catholic Church. And so the Church appeared to him as an expression of slavery to the law, which must be opposed by the freedom of the Gospel.

The Council of Trent, from 1545-1563, interpreted the question of justification in a profound way, and found, in the line of the entire Catholic tradition, the synthesis between law and Gospel, in conformity with the message of Sacred Scripture read in its totality and unity.

The 19th century, gathering together the best that could be inherited from the Enlightenment, saw a new revival of Paulinism on the level of scientific work which developed from the historico-critical interpretation of Sacred Scripture.

Let us leave aide here the fact that even in that century, as in the 20th century, there emerged a true and proper denigration of St. Paul. I think above all of Nietzsche who derided St. Paul's theology of humility, opposing to it his theology of the powerful strong man.

But let us leave that aside, and let us look a the essential current of the new scientific interpretation of Sacred Scripture and the new Paulinism in the 19th century. What was underscored above all was that the concept of freedom was central to Pauline thought - they saw in it the heart of Paul's thinking, as Luther had earlier sensed intuitively.

Then, the differentiation between Paul's message and that of Jesus was strongly underscored. And St. Paul was made to appear almost as a new founder of Christianity.

It is true that in St. Paul, the centrality of the Kingdom of God, which was determinative for the teaching of Jesus, was transformed into the centrality of Christology, whose decisive point is the paschal mystery. And this mystery resultx in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, as the permanent presence of this mystery, from which the Body of Christ grows, from which the Church is built.

But without entering into details now, we can say that it is properly in the centrality of Christology and the Paschal mystery that the Kingdom of God is realized, then the authentic message of Jesus becomes concrete, present and operative.

We saw in the previous catecheses that it was precisely this Pauline novelty that is most profoundly faithful to the message of Jesus. In the progress of exegesis, especially in the last 200 years, the convergence between Catholic and Prptestant exegesis has also grown, thus resulting in a remarkable consensus on the very point that had been at the origin of their greatest historical dissent. Thus, a great hope for the cause of ecumenism, which was so central for the Second Vaticna Council.

Briefly, I wish to note at the end the various religious movements which have emerged in modern times within the Catholic Church, around the name of St. Paul. As in the 16th century with the Congregation of St. Paul, known as the Barnabites'; in the 19th century, with the Missionaries of St. Paul (Paulists); and in the 20th century, with the polyform Famiglia Paolina founded by Blessed Giacomo Alberione, as well as the Secular Institute of the Society of St. Paul.

Quite substantially, St. Paul remains luminous before our eyes - an apostle and a Christian thinker who was extremely fecund and profound, from whose nearness everyone can draw something useful.

In one of his pangeyrics, St. John Chrysostom set up an original comparison between Paul adn Noah, saying, Paul "did not put together beams to make an ark; rather, instead of putting together planks of wood, he wrote letters, thus pulling out of the floodwaters not two, three or five members of his own family, but the entire ecumene which was on the point of perishing" (Paneg 1,5). And this is precisely what the apostle Paul can still do and always will.

To draw from him, as much from his apostolic example as from his doctrine, will be a stimulus if not a guarantee for the consolidation of the Christian identity of each of us and for the rejuvenation of the entire Church.


I know it's trivial, but it is so evident in the pictures. How is it that the Pope appears to be wearing red shoes in some pictures and burdgundy in the others?
All the pictures come from the Yahoo newsphoto service which labelled them all from today's aidience.

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Here is a full translation of the long overdue note from the Secretariat of State on the FSSPX case.


Translated from

Following the reactions to the recent Decree of the Congregation for Bishops which revoked the excommunication of four Prelates of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, and related to the negationist or reductionist statements about the Shoah by Bishop Williamson of the same Fraternity, it is thought opportune to clarify some aspects of the affair:

1. Remission of excommunication

As previously published, the Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, dated January 21, 2009, was an act through which the Holy Father kindly met repeated requests from the Superior General of the Fraternity of St. Pius X.

His Holiness wished to take away an impediment which was prejudicial to the opening of a door to dialog. Now he hopes that the four Bishops may express a similar readiness for total adherence to the doctrine and the discipline of the Church.

The very grace penalty of excommunication late sententiae, which the said Bishops incurred on June 30, 1988, declared formally on July 1 of the same year, was a consequence of their illegitimate ordination by Mons. Marcel Lefebvre.

Tire recall of teh excommunication has released the four Bishops from a grave canonical penalty but has not changed the juridical situation of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, which, at present, does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic Church.

Even the four Bishops, although they have been absolved of excommunication, do not have a canonical function in the Church and do not licitly exercise a ministry within the Church.

2. Tradition, doctrine and the Second Vatican Council

Towards a future recognition of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, an indispensable condition is full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul Vi, John paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI himself.

As stated in the Decree of January 21, 2009, the Holy See will not fail, in ways that are considered opportune, to examine more deeply with the interested parties the questions that remain open, in order to arrive at a full and satisfactory solution of the problems which gave rise to this painful break.

3. Declarations about the Shoah

The positions of Mons. Williamson on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself remarked last January 28, when, referring to that brutal genocide, he reiterated his full and indisputable solidarity with our brothers who are the beneficiaries of the First Alliance, and he said that the memory of that terrible genocide should lead "mankind to reflect on the unforeseeable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man", adding the hope that the Shoah may remain "for all a warning against forgetting, against negation or reductionism, because violence done against a single human being is a violence against everyone".

Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted into the Church with episcopal functions, should distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public manner from his positions on the Shoah, which were not known by the Holy Father at the time he remitted the excommunications.

The Holy Father requests the prayers of all the faithful so that the Lord may illumine the road for the Church. May the commitment of Pastors and the faithful grow, in support of the delicate and weighty mission of the Successor of the Apostle Peter as 'the guardian of unity' in the Church.

From the Vatican
February 4, 2009


I do not intend to quibble, but there are some points aboout the Note which do not seem to be trivial:

1. One must remark that the document is not signed by any Vatican official. What? No one wants to take direct or indirect responsibility on anything that has to with this snafu????

2. It makes four references to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (or Society of St. Pius X, in the more common English usage), and not once does it use the full name of the society (in Italian, Fraternita Sacerdotale San Pio X). That may seem trivial, but an unseemly laxity in a formal document. It is a form of discourtesy when you do not call the other party by the right name.

3. The qualification that the Holy Father did not know about Williamson's statements when he revoked the excommunication opens the door to new equivocation.
a. It seems to suggest that the Pope might have acted differently if he had known about it beforehand.
b. But that would contradict the basic fact, expressed earlier by Fr. Lombardi, that the Pope's action on the excommunication have nothing do with Williamson's opinions, because the cause of the excommunication had nothing to do with the personal views of the bishops concerned; and
c. What would the Pope had done differently then if he had known?
i) Exclude Williamson from the remission? That would be unjust for the reason mentioned in (b).
ii) Delay the announcement until the matter was first threshed out behind the scenes? - But Mons. Fellay had already been handed the signed decree before the controversy erupted.

4. The tone of the Note is rather peremptory with respect to the FSSPX, and likely to put them on the defensive, since it makes them bear the brunt for an administrative snafu on the part of the Vatican.

Oh, what a tangled web they weave - these anonymous bureaucrats - in trying to extricate the Pope from the thicket of thorns they landed him in!

In any case, let us continue to pray for all those caught up in this
mess, but most of all, for His Holiness:

The Holy Father requests the prayers of all the faithful so that the Lord may illumine the road for the Church. May the commitment of Pastors and the faithful grow, in support of the delicate and weighty mission of the Successor of the Apostle Peter as 'the guardian of unity' in the Church.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 05/02/2009 03.06]
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