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NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT

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14/03/2009 00.56
 
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OREMUS PRO PONTEFICE NOSTRO


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.
- Vatican Note, Feb. 4, 2009


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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.


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See preceding page for earlier 3/13/09 posts.

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My favorite cardinal comes through once more for Benedict XVI. OR should have asked him to write about the issue right after January 21 - when the Pope's own newspaper was virtually mute, without an answer to the onslaught from the bishops of central Europe!


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Benedict XVI's letter:
The sense of the Church

Guest Editorial
by CARDINAL CAMILLO RUINI
Emeritus Vicar-General for Rome
Translated from
the 3/14/09 issue of

[IMG]http://img117.imageshack.us/img117/5888/orlogorednua8.png[/IMG]


An authentic novelty is what I would call the letter that Benedict XVI wrote to his "Brothers in the episcopal ministry" on the remission of excommunication for the four bishops consecrated by Mons. Lefebvre in 1988.

A novelty which is manifested above all in the strongly personal nature of this letter, which is addressed to all the bishops of the Catholic Church, and in fact, having been published in the general media, is also addressed to all the faithful.

It is a personal communication well above and beyond 'officialness' and is offered to the reader in a transparent way, allowing him to enter, so to speak, into the spirit of the Pope, and to take part, from within him, in his pastoral solicitude, in the fundamental motivations which guide his choices, and even in the interior attitude with which he lives his ministry.

In this same key, the letter does not hide the difficulties of the moment and their immediate causes. Indeed, it underscores them to go even deeper, to the spiritual, cultural and ecclesial roots of the obstacles that make the journey of the Church so laborious, and which demands constant conversion and renewal from each of us.

If we wish to find an analogy to this letter, we must think of some letters which, especially in the first centuries of Christianity, the bishops of the great Sees - particularly, the Bishops of Rome - sent to their fellow bishops about the problems that were then most pressing.

Benedict XVI has clarified - with his characteristic precision of thought - the positive sense as well as the limits of the excommunication recall. So it would be useless to go back over what was perfectly clear in his letter.

But it would be useful to reflect - in order to make them intimately ours, as well - on the great priorities of his Pontificate, which he made clear from the very beginning, and which he has re-presented in the letter with what I would call dramatic conviction in this letter.

The first priority is to confirm his brothers in the faith. Concretely, in our day, "the over-riding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God" - to that God who fully manifested himself in Jesus Christ.

Looking at our brothers in humanity, and looking even within the Church, and above all, within ourselves, we must realize that truly, the decisive question, in the concreteness of life and history, is precisely that: God and the way to him.

It is a question that is often ignored or put aside, or considered outmoded, but it is the question on which everything depends, the only key which can open up to man's thought all of its legitimate and necessary room, and to the heart of man, can offer solid hope.

Right behind the supreme priority of God is the priority of love and communion among ourselves. Concretely, the priority of unity among believers in Christ and the priority of peace among all men.

Benedict XVI does not hide his suffering on this point, on the tendency to "bite at each other and to devour each other", unfortunately as much present among us today as it was among the Galatians to whom St. Paul wrote.

Here we touch a live nerve of Catholicism in the last centuries - a point of weakness and suffering which we must be more and better aware of.

I refer to the weakening - sometimes to the point of near-extinction - of the sense of belonging to the Church, of the joy and gratitude at being part of the Catholic Church.

This is not a secondary or accessory matter which we can set aside in the name of our individual freedom, or because our relationship with God is 'personal', and much less because of other 'affiliations' or 'memberships' that we consider more concrete and more gratifying.

But we must reconstruct within us that conviction of faith which characterized Christianity at its beginnings, according to which the sense of Church is an essential part of our belonging to Christ.

This is the root of our acceptance of the Magisterium of the Church and our efforts to conform our lives to that teaching, as well as of the attitude that embraces the sphere of sentiments and translates spontaneously into affection for those who are our fathers and brothers in the faith.

If these sentiments are alive in us, then we shall keep ourselves away from that bitter taste for catching out in some error our presumed enemy, who is really our brother, a preference which unfortunately gets abundantly expressed in words and gestures, as the Pope's letter - in its honesty and suffering - helps us to understand.



Tomorrow's OR (3/14) also carries a wrap-up of the bishops who have responded so far to the Pope's letter.


Bishops express
their closeness and support

Translated from
the 3/14/09 issue of

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The Bishops of Germany*, France, Switzerland*, Belgium*, England* and Wales, Austria* and Italy have expressed their closeness to and solidarity with Benedict XVI, following the publication of the letter sent by the Pope to all Catholic bishops regarding his recall of the excommunication of four bishops illegally consecrated in 1988 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

[I'm sorry, but it has to be pointed out: It is just extremely hypocritical and dishonest of some of these bishops (from the countries I have marked with an asterisk) to claim 'closeness and solidarity' now! Consider what they said in copious interviews and immortalized in their famous 'statements' soon after January 21!]

"I have never read a Pope's writing that is so personal and open - and I like this a lot," said the president of the German bishops' conference, Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg, in an interview with Vatican Radio.

Zollitsch met the Holy Father yesterday, and stressed how extraordinary was the Pope's gesture in writing the letter, which he called "a sign of communication, a sign that the Pope himself wishes to enter into conversation with bishops and to explain to the entire episcopal college the reasons which motivated him [to recall the excommunications] and how he perceived the entire situation".

[And why would Zollitsch have needed a sign of that which has always been so obvious in this Pope? The way he says it implies he thinks that the Pope never had this desire before to communicate with bishops and to explain his actions. Doesn't the Pope spend an inordinate amount of time meeting with bishops on their ad limina visit, adn does not his visit to every country include a session with the local bishops for this purpose?

And why did Zollitsch - or any other Catholic bishop, for that matter, who does not have a closed mind - need the letter to explain the Pope's conciliatory gesture to the FSSPX, which is obvious even to most laymen? What other reason could he have had than to unite the Church?]


For the archbishop, Benedict XVI wrote the letter "because he felt that he had not been sufficiently understood as to the reason for his action".

[DUH! You, Mons. Zollitsch, and your fellow German bishops, were so fearful of the backlash from your liberal congregations and from the Jews that Williamson was all you could think of - not the Pope's motivations. You all made it appear as if he deliberately singled out Williamson to be a beneficiary of a papal dispensation to provoke the Jews. An illogical move which you were all so ready to ascribe to the Pope, as though he were a mindless cretin or a deliberately malicious Jew baiter.]

According to Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris and president of the French bishops conference, "Benedict XVI saw that for some, as he himself said, this was an opportunity to bring to light once again old wounds, old rancours, old displeasures. But it was also an opportunity for a profound attack on the Church itself.
That is why," he told Vatican Radio, "it was necessary that the Pope address such persons directly."

[He was one of the few good guys, who responded promptly and favorably. I felt ti was a great sign of the positive effects of the Pope's visit to France.]

"Judging from the first reactions." he added, "the comments have been very positive and show that the Pope's explanations and reflections have been properly received."

He, too, noted "the truly personal style of this letter".

"I think.. he said, "the Pope was hit hard by the reaction of some Christians. This living relationship between Peter's Chair and the local Churches forms the fabric of the life of the Church, and there should be substantial and rich exchanges between the Pope and the bishops. This is the essence of the relationship".

[And was there a time in recent memory when such exchanges took place that were more substantial and rich than the relationship Benedict XVI has sustained with the bishops of the world?]

"Sincere satisfaction" was the reaction of the Swiss bishops to the Pope's letter. The Bishop of Lugano, Pier Giacomo Grampa, told Vatican Radio, int he name of his fellow bishops, of his "profound commotion for the humility and brotherhood that the Holy
Father showed" in a letter "characterized by extreme sensitivity and a sense of delicacy."

"We renew our solidarity with the Holy Father," he said. "This letter is a reproach to all the unjustified and malicious things attributed to him, but it could also provide a rediscovery of dimensions to Benedict XVI that mostly escapes many people".

The bishops of Belgium, in a letter, described a letter that was "both humble and powerful".

"Its contents," they added, "show clearly that the excommunication recall was a gesture of reconciliation and not a setback to Vatican II".

[And who but the most negative - such as obviously the Belgian bishops were, since they underscore this alien deduction in their letter - would have seen it as a setback to Vatican-II at all?]

The bishops' conference of England and Wales called the letter 'a collegial act' and a 'profoundly humble' letter. They underscored the Pope's 'strong' commitment to "inter-religious dialog, especially with the Jews, and for the ecumenical dialog with other Christians. He shows his passion for reconciliation and, inviting everyone in the Church to give better testimony [of being Christian], he underscores that the fundamental priority is to lead people to God."

The Austrian bishops' conference, meeting in Innsbruck for their spring plenary, received Benedict XVI's letter with 'spiritual joy'.

In a letter to the Pope, they wrote:

"We can tell from the letter the pain that you have borne in this episode, but which has also been experienced by many local Churches and persons outside the Church.

"Once more, you make it clear that the New Testament's 'God is love' is and remains the luminous polar star of your Petrine service."

[I commented extensively earlier on the Austrian bishops' letter, that I find offensive in its make-believe context as though they had never written that offensive letter to the Pope about the nomination of Mons. Wagner, in which they saw fit to denounce as well the excom recall for the FSSPX bishops.]

Also yesterday, the leadership of the Italian bishops conference (CEI) and the Pope's Vicar General in Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, issued two statements thanking the Pope for his clarificatory intervention and reaffirming their affectionate and fraternal closeness to him. {How refreshing to have some sincere voices for a change!]

The CEI statement said: "We wish to express our profound gratitude to the Holy Father for his 'clarificatory words' regarding the controversy that followed the revocation of the excommunication of four bishops consecrated in 1988 without the mandate of the Holy See.

"A few days after the announcement of that recall, the president of the CEI, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, used the occasion of his opening address to the bi-annual meeting of the Permanent Council, to express the appreciation of the entire Italian episcopate for the Pope's act of mercy, and their disappointment for the unfounded and unmotivated statements made by some bishops regarding the Pope's attitude towards the Holocaust.

"What followed was a debate of such vehemence" that displaced attention from Benedict XVI's action in the interest of Church unity.

"The bishops and the ecclesial communities in Italy," the letter concluded, "unite themselves with filial affection to the Successor of Peter, and renew their commitment to 'learn ever anew the correct use of freedom' and especially, 'the supreme priority of love' according to the heartfelt and persuasive words of the Holy Father."

In a letter sent to the Pope, Cardinal Vallini expressed the closeness to Benedict XVI and the support of everyone in the Diocese of Rome.

"Most Holy father," he wrote, "the letter you addressed to the bishops of the Catholic Church... has particularly touched me. I have read it as a great lesson of faith offered to all of us by the Supreme Pastor who places Christ and the good of his flock before any other human consideration - a lesson of love and service to the Church.

"I was reminded of the words of Jesus to St. Peter after the resurrection: 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than they?.... Amen, I say to you... when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.'(Jn 21,15-18).

"The words of the Lord tell us that Peter, yesterday and today, is often called to live his singular ministry in solitude, in incomprehension and in suffering.

"The reasons meditated by Your Holiness at length for your 'discreet gesture of mercy' towards the four bishops, in the paternal expectation that they will respond to it with the necessary steps towards full reconciliation, are welcomed by the Church of Rome, which extends to its Supreme Pastor its support, comfort and participation in the ecclesial communion, even when not everyone may fully understand all the elements of a complex and rather painful episode.

"The letter from Your Holiness makes very clear the disciplinary, doctrinal and pastoral aspects that have led our common Father to this 'humble gesture of holding out a hand'.

"I wish to tell you, Holy Father, that the Church of Rome, your Church, through these thoughts expressed here, once more draws itself around your dear person in order to soothe the pain of these circumstances and to confirm to you our full communion and adherence to your acts of governance.

"Please be assured that the decisions of the Pope are welcomed with faith, that they are understood for their reasons, and are always supported. We extend to you, Holy Father, the expression of our affectionate and filial closeness and the support of our daily prayer: 'Dominus conservet Eum et vivificet Eum'.




The following is Cardinal Bartone's almost three months-too-late statement of support for the Holy Father. Remember it was February 4 when the Secretariat of State was first heard from - and in an unsigned note, at that, on a matter in which it would have been very much in the know, as well as partly responsible for preliminary vetting of any important Vatican announcement.

Also, if you were the Pope's 'Prime Minister' and right-hand man, would you not be the very first to speak up in his defense when the going gets tough? But no, the Cardinal Secretary of State was in Madrid or somewhere else and did not think to come to the defense of the Pope at all. Not till now - after the Pope took on on his own defense!

And yet, Bertone was not alone in this very public and seeming dereliction of duty. None of the Curial cardinals spoke up - except Cardinal Canizares, the newest Curia head, who took part in the Spanish bishops' very prompt and very warm expression of support for the Pope - which he acknowledged publicly at one of his functions before the Lenten retreat.


Benedict XVI is not alone
Translated from
the 3/14/09 issue of

[IMG]http://img117.imageshack.us/img117/5888/orlogorednua8.png[/IMG]


"Benedict XVI is not alone. All his closes co-workers are loyally faithful to the Pope and are profoundly united with him, including the heads of dicasteries".

Words from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Secretary of State, to dissipate shadows and suspicions that continue to be fed exploitatively after the Pope's letter to the bishops of the world.

Bertone spoke yesterday, Friday, March 13, at a seminar in Rome for the bishops in charge of social communications in the various bishops' conferences.

Before offering his reflections on the theme of the seminar, the Secretary of State praised the initiative taken spontaneously by teh bishop participants in sending a letter to the Pope assuring him of their solidarity with him.

The bishops expressed their 'closeness' and assured the Pope that they take comfort from his letter "in carrying out our daily work". The bishops asked Bertone to deliver their letter personally to the Pope, asking him to repeat to the Pope their pledge of unconditional loyalty.

Bertone told them that "at this time, the Pope has also felt communion with many other bishops, in the midst of dissident voices from among the bishops as well as the media".

He then proceeded to speak on the subject for the seminar, "New prospects for ecclesial communications", sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. [Whose present President, Cardinal Celli, has yet to make his presence felt, after more than a year in office, in anything concretely visible, tangible or perceptible, within the Vaticans communications system. In fairness to him, now Cardinal James Harvey, who was a media whiz kid in his Pennsylvania beginning, appeared not to have done anything with the council for the time he was head of it all during John Paul's very long Pontificate.]

"The media," obsderved Bertone, "have now become a ubiquitous reality, sometimes too invasive or carried away, but nonetheless inseparable now from everyday life" and increasingly "the environment withibn which man today lives and interacts with others and with reality".

For this reason, the Church is concerned with keeping abreast with the digital revolution which characterizes the world of communications today.

Initially, the cardinal wished to udnerscore what he did not hesitate to define as a 'renewed season....under an eminently pastoral profile' which the Pontifical Council for Social Communications has produced and which is the occasion for the seminar. [What 'new season'????]

After expressing the Pope's appreciation for this initiative, the cardinal swelt on the role that the mass media have conquered in today's society and the eveyrday life of every human being.

"A sign of their extraordinary importance," he said, "is the fact that they invest every aspect of social life, and that their presence everywhere is now taken for granted."

Using metaphors, he said that just as fish live in water and man lives on air, so the world lives 'in' the media.

He cited "the perennial validity of of the milestones that have marked the journey of the Church... which not even the new and massive stretches of asphalt laid down on the new paths of communication can set aside. These milestones are fixed in the Magisterium of the Church (of the Popes in particular), some of them addressed specifically to the world of communications - especially after Vatican-II - offering wise and significant orientations".

He went on to cite the various documents on communications that have been issued by the Vatican such as Inter mirifica and Aetatis novae 20 years after Communio et Progressio. [Great! Is the reader supposed to know what these documents are about?]

"The 17 years that passed since the publication of Aetatis novae represent a very long parenthesis relative to the ryhthm of development and growth in the media. It was during the same period that a series of small and big revolutions took place which, like a continuous flux, radically transformed, if not completely upset, the pre-existent panorama."

The final message of the last assembly of the Bishops' Synod underlined in particular the urgent need for proper formation, since "the Divine Word should resound through radio, the Internet, the online channels, CD, DVD, podcasts, etc. It should appear on TV and cinema screens, in the press, in cultural and social events."

Bertone said that likewise, proper formation of journalists is as necessary "now that communications is crossing frontiers that require serious ethical foundation".

Doubtless, he said, this new era of communications will continue to move along the Internet and its many derivatives. Pope Benedict XVI, in his message for the 43rd World Day for Social Communications, spoke of a 'digital continent'.

Defining the new information technologies as 'a true gift for mankind', he addressed himself to Catholic youth, exhorting them "to bring to the digiral world the testimony of your faith".

On Friday afternoon, responsible officials for the various Vatican media addressed the seminar participants.


P.S. Thre's an article by Vatianista Marco Tosatti in today's issue (3/14/09) of La Stampa in which he claims that the real target of the bishops of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium in their no-holds-barred criticism of the Pope's action towards the FSSPX was really Cardinal Bertone, and that they intend to petition the Pope directly to replace Bertone.

Be that as it may, why should they take out their dissatisfaction with Bertone at the Pope himself - and in such a disrespectful manner - if they did not also feel hostility towards the Pope himself. Because otherwise, they would have committed a far greater offense against him - by causing him so much pain when it was not really him that they were targetting!

I hold no brief for Bertone - indeed, I cannot imagine why he chose to be silent for so long over the FSSPX issue (unless he felt responsible and guilty for his Secretariat's lapse of duty) - but the 'logic' cited is not very logical and implausible. And that's the reason I'm not rushing to translate the article....


P.S. I went and checked back and found that on 1/29/09, Cardinal Bertone addressed the Club of Rome on "Vatican-II in the magisterium of Benedict XVI" - a most useful lecture - during which he appeared to have spoken of the FSSPX issue only in passing. In the account of L'Osservatore Romano:

Bertone recalled that the Pope called attention at the time to the need to repair the frayed fibers of the net of Christ, which is the Church. It is this that has motivated his interventions for reconciliation in unity, as in his letter to the divided Church of China, in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, and his most recent gesture towards the schismatic Lefebvrians.

If he had expressed more explicit support for the Pope in the speech, surely, OR would have reported it. He had the occasion and the opportunity - why didn't he use it????





[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 15/03/2009 10.34]
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Benedict XVI to the plenary
of the Congregation for Divine Worship:
'The Eucharistic mystery must be presented
without confusion or reductionism'



There should be no confusion between the Mass and Eucharistic adoration, just as the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church should not be under-estimated.

This was among Benedict XVI's exhortations in addressing the participants of the plenary session of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, whom he received in audience yesterday morning.

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here is a translation of the address:

Eminent Cardinals,
Venerated brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear brothers!

With great joy and always with sincere appreciation, I greet you on the occasion of your plenary session.

On this important occasion, I am pleased, first of all, to greet the Prefect, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, whom I thank for his description of the work that you have been doing the past few days and afor expressing your sentiments.

I extend my affectionate greeting and sincere thanks to the members and officials of the dicastery, starting with the Secretary, Mons. Malcolm Ranjith, and his under-secretary, and all the others, who in different functions, offer their services with competence and dedication to "the regulation and promotion of sacred liturgy'
(Pastor Bonus, n. 62).

In the Plenary, you reflected on the Eucharistic Mystery, particularly on the subject of Eucharistic Adoration. I know that after the publication of the Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium on May 26, 1967, and the promulgation on June 21, 1975, of the Document "De sacra communione et cultu mysterii eucharistici extra Missam", the insistence on the Eucharist as the inexhaustible source of sanctity has been a primary concern of the dicastery.

And so I welcomed the proposal that the plenary would occupy itself with the subject of Eucharistic Adoration, trusting that a new collegial reflection on this practice may contribute to make clear, according to the competence of the dicastery, the liturgical and pastoral means with which the Church in our time can promote faith in the real presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, and to assure to the celebration of Holy Mass all the dimensions of adoration.

I underlined this aspect in the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, in which I assembled the fruits of the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Bishops' Synod which took place in October 2005.

In pointing out the importance of the intrinsic relation between the celebration of the Eucharist and Adoration (Cfr No. 66), I cited a teaching of St. Augustine: "Nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; peccemus non adorando" (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 98, 9: ccl 39, 1385) - No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.

The Synodal Fathers did not fail to show their concern for a certain confusion generated after the Second Vatican Council on the relation between the Mass and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (cfr. Sacramentum caritatis, n. 66).

This echoed what my predecessor, John Paul II, had already expressed on the deviance that had somehow infected the post-conciliar liturgical renewal which showed "a rather reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 10).

The Second Vatican Council brought to light the singular role that the Eucharistic mystery has in the life of the faithful (Sacrosanctum Concilium, nn. 48-54, 56).

As Pope Paul VI re-stated several times: "The Eucharist is the supreme mystery: indeed as Sacred Liturgy tells us, it is the mystery of the faith (Mysterium fidei, n. 15).

The Eucharist is at the origins of the Church itself (cfr. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 21) and is the spring of grace, constituting an incomparable occasion for the sanctification of Christ's humanity as for the glorification of God.

In this sense, all the activities of the Church are ordered to the mystery of the Eucharist (cfr. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 10; Lumen gentium, n. 11; Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 5; Sacramentum caritatis, n. 17); while it is due to the Eucharist that "the Church continuously lives and grows" even today (Lumen gentium, n. 26).

Our task is to perceive the most precious treasure that is this ineffable mystery of the faith "in the celebration of the Mass as in the care of the sacred species which are saved after the Mass to extend the grace of the Sacrifice"(Istruz. Eucharisticum mysterium, n. 3, g.).

The doctrine of the trans-substantiation of bread and wine and of the Real Presence are truths of the faith that are evident in Sacred Scriptures itself and later confirmed by the Fathers of the Church.

In this regard, Pope Paul VI recalled that "The Catholic Church has not only taught but has lived the faith, in the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, always adoring this great Sacrament with latreutic cult which pertains only to God" (Mysterium fidei No. 56; cfr. Catechism of the Catholci Church, n. 1378).

It is timely to recall the various accessions that the word 'adoration' has in the Greek and Latin languages. The Greek word proskynesis indicates the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure, whose norm we must accept.

The Latin word adoratio, on the other hand, denotes the physical contact, the kiss, the embrace, which is implicit in the idea of love. The aspect of submission presages a relationship of union, because that to which we submit ourselves is Love.

In fact, in the Eucharist, adoration should become union: a union with the living Lord and with his Mystical Body, As I told the young people on the plain of Marienfeld, in Cologne on the XX World Youth Day, on August 21, 2005: "God is no longer just in front of us, as the Totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic penetrates us, and from us, he wishes to be propagated to others and extend himself all over the world, so that his love may truly become the dominant measure in the world" (Teachings, Viol, 1m oo 467 ss).

In this perspective, I reminded the young people that in the Eucharist, one lives the fundamental transformation of violence to love, of death to life. It then brings with it other transformations. Bread and wine become the Lord's Body and Blood. But the transformation should not stop here, rather, it is here that it should begin in full.

"The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves may be transformed in our turn."

My predecessor, John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Spiritus et
Sponsa
, on the 40th anniversary of the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, urged taking the necessary steps to examine more deeply the experience of renewal.

Such an examination in depth will be possible only through a better knowledge of the mystery, in full loyalty to sacred Tradition, and by
growing the life of liturgy within our own communities (cfr. Spiritus et Sponsa, nn. 6-7).

In this, I fully appreciate the work that the Plenary has done on the subject of the formation of the entire People of God in the faith, with special attention to seminarians in order to favor the growth of a spirit of authentic Eucharistic adoration.

St. Thomas explains: "That in this Sacrament the true Body and true Blood of Christ are present cannot be learned with the senses, but with faith alone, which rests on the authority of God" (Summa theologiae, iii, 75, 1; cfr. Catechismo della Chiesa Cattolica, n. 1381).

We are livign through the days of Lent which constitute not only a journey of more intense spiritual training, but also an effective preparation to better celebrate Easter.

Recalling the three pentitential practices that are very dear to the Biblical and Christian tradition - prayer, alms-giving and fasting - let us encourage each other to rediscover and live with renewed fervor fasting not only as an ascetic practice, but as a preparation for the Eucharist, and as a spiritual weapon to fight any eventual disordered attachment to ourselves.

May this intense period of the liturgical life help us to keep far away all that can distract the spirit and to intensify that which can feed the soul, opening it to the love of God and of our neigbor.

With these sentiments, I now formulate for all my wishes for the coming Paschal celebrations, and as I thank you for the work that you have done in this Plenary Session, as well as for all the work of the Congregation, with affection I impart to all my benediction.



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14/03/2009 13.07
 
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'All Cameroon awaits the Pope
with great enthusiasm'

Translated from
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Yaoundé, Cameroon, March 13 (Agenzia Fides) - "Together with the whole Church and the citizens of Cameroon, I wish to thank God for the honor and privilege of hosting the First Pastor of the Universal Church, Benedict XVI, who is visiting Africa for the first time," says Mons. Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot, Archbishop of Yaoundé, president of the Cameroon bishops' conference, and of the national organizational committee for the papal visit.

Mons. Bakot spoke in an interview with the newspaper Effort Camerounais, from which we report the following excerpts:

How has the Church prepared for the Pope's visit?
The announcement of the Pope's trip to Cameroon aroused great enthusiasm in all sectors of Cameroon society. The Pope will meet the Catholic community, the Muslim community, some 200 Christians representing the non-Catholic denominations, 700 delegates from 25 dioceses and 600 religious representatives at the Basilica of Holy Mother, Queen of Peace, in the Basilica of Santa Maria dagli Angeli. Each group awaits a message from thE Holy Father.

Since January, various groups have been meeting to decide on subjects which they might wish thE Holy Father to dwell upon. For instance, I received a document from the Forum of Christian Universities which lists the following topics of interest: the reality of families in Africa, acculturation of the Christian message, the institution 'Justice and Peace'; the specific role of laymen, and the role of priests according to the Second Vatican Council.


What are the challenges that you face for this visit
They are multiple - in the first place, administrative. We expect the arrival here of 52 presidents of the national bishops' conferences in Africa, the 12 presidents of the African Apostolic Regions, and 12 members of the Bishops' Synod. And of course, the delegates from Cameroon's 30 dioceses.

We have requested all the faithful who will attend teh papal Mass to register in their respective dioceses and to come together in diocesan groups. All this mobilization requires detailed planning.

And we should pay attention to the Holy Father's message in response to the problems brought to his attention regarding Africa and the situation of the Church on the continent and Cameroon in particular.


What has been the preparation in spiritual and pastoral terms?
The Archdiocese of Yaounde started a novena on March 7, and there have been similar initiatives in the other dioceses. The bishops have also sent out pastoral letters in preparation for the Pope's visit. Their letters underscore the role of the Successor of Peter as the Universal Pastor, the Vicar of Christ, whose teaching must be considered as a call to saintliness for everyone.

Every believer must honor his Baptism with a life of faith, in conformity with the Gospel and the will of God. The Christian should live in dignity, with a compass that should guide him through life - this compass is the Gospel of Christ.

We should nOt forget that the Pope arrives in Cameroon in the midst of Lent, and his Lenten message has preceded him. This message is focused on fasting, prayer, sharing.

The Pope has emphasized the practice of fasting to suppress our mistaken desires and to help us comply with the will of God. The best fasting is that which makes us free to listen to the Word of God so we can put it into [practice. In his Lenten message, the Holy Father recommended taking part regularly in Sunday Mass, receiving the Eucharist and confessing with assiduity.

We have also urged the faithful to show acts of solidarity to others, especially to young people as an example.



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A few days ago, I commented on the practical reasons why there is so little pre-trip coverage of the papal visit to Africa. Allen goes into greater detail...


Five reasons the papal trip
to Africa is important

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mARCH 13, 2009


Whenever there’s big papal news in the air, my phone usually rings off the hook from media outlets in various parts of the globe. If the phone isn’t ringing, therefore, it’s a fairly reliable sign that the Oope is currently flying below radar.

On the cusp of Pope Benedict XVI’s maiden voyage to Africa, visiting Cameroon and Angola March 17-23, the silence from my phone is deafening.

While anything’s possible, my sense heading into the trip is that barring some bolt from the blue, most news organizations are likely to settle for brief and generic accounts. If so, it will be both tragic and a journalistic miscalculation, for reasons I’ll develop below.

First, let me outline the motives for the neglect.

In the first place: It’s the economy, stupid. Airfare for the papal plane this time costs $7,000, and when you throw in six nights in overpriced hotels, food, fees for visas and accreditation, Internet time, and so on, news organizations are looking at $10,000 or more to send a correspondent as part of the papal party.

Under any circumstances that’s a hefty investment, but in the midst of a global depression, it’s understandably more than some editors are willing to shell out. (I know of a few reporters who normally travel with the Pope not making the trip for this reason, and I’m flying commercial, not on the papal plane, to hold down costs.)

In part, the Africa swing is the victim of bad timing. Just days ago, dates for Benedict’s trip in May to the Holy Land were announced. Given the drama of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, combined with tumult surrounding the Pope’s decision to lift the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop, the Israel trip looms as a far “sexier” story.

I’ve already had conversations with TV outlets about coverage of Benedict in Israel; several of those producers were actually surprised to learn the Pope is going to Africa.

In part, the lack of interest is simply because it’s Africa. In general, news about Africa doesn’t “sell” unless there’s a calamity -- genocide, mass starvation, and the like.

Paradoxically, the fact that Cameroon has enjoyed decades of peace, and that Angola ended its long-running civil war seven years ago, make them less compelling from a news point of view. If the Pope were going to Darfur, it would be a different story.

Finally, there’s the fact that the protagonist is Benedict himself. Four years into his papacy, most secular media outlets feel they have a read on him as a newsmaker: good for the occasional scandal, but otherwise a non-story. If there’s no hint of controversy, the sheer pull of Benedict’s personality isn’t enough to galvanize interest.

By way of contrast, if this were Barack Obama’s first trip to Africa, you could pretty much guarantee saturation coverage.

That said, here are five reasons why I think the trip is actually a gripping tale to tell:

- Africa is the future: The single most important Catholic story of the 20th century -- more consequential in the long run than the Lateran Pacts, Pius XII, the Second Vatican Council, and even John Paul II – was the shift in the church’s center of gravity from North to South.

In 1900, just 25 percent of the Catholic population lived in the southern hemisphere. Today that figure stands at 66 percent, or two-thirds of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics, and by mid-century the southern share is projected to be 75 percent.

As Auguste Comte reputedly once said, “Demography is destiny.” The tone in the Catholic church increasingly will be set by bishops, theologians, and lay activists from the south, especially from Africa.

During the 20th century, the Catholic population in sub-Saharan Africa exploded from 1.9 million to 130 million, an astonishing growth rate of 6,708 percent. There’s a youthful energy about the church in Africa, as well as a sense that its historical moment has arrived.

For all its travails, Catholicism remains in the realm of religion what the United States is in geopolitics, i.e., a super-power, and to a large extent the destiny of that superpower will be forged in Africa.

For an object lesson in the upheaval this transition is likely to generate, look no further than the current crisis in Anglicanism over gay bishops and homosexuality.

- There are terrific stories to report: While in Cameroon, Benedict XVI will meet a delegation of African Muslims, offering his first comments outside Rome about Christian-Islamic relations since his 2006 trip to Turkey.

In Angola, he’ll meet with movements involved in fighting for women’s rights. The Angola portion of the trip also takes Benedict to the world’s eighth largest oil-producing nation, pumping out 1.9 million barrels per day of high-quality crude. Angola fought a bloody civil war from 1975 to 2002 precisely over control of those resources.

Cameroon, meanwhile, is home to one of the longest-serving strongmen in Africa, President Paul Biya, who through intimidation and pay-offs has managed to stay in power since 1982. The 76-year-old is widely expected to prevail again in faux elections in 2011, despite the fact that he now spends considerable portions of every year abroad in semi-seclusion. (A favorite hangout is apparently the Hotel Intercontinental in Geneva.)

If you can’t make something out of the “clash of civilizations,” women’s issues, oil, and corruption, you don’t belong in the news business. For additional background see my interview with veteran Cameroon journalist, Charly Ndi Chia.

- Benedict and Barack can do business: The Africa trip also offers an intriguing angle on Church-state relations in the Age of Obama, at a moment when the administration’s policies on the “life issues” seem to be setting the stage for protracted cultural war.

When it comes to Africa, the Pope and the President share a common concern for peace, development, and social justice; moreover, they each bring unique resources to making things happen.

Catholicism’s massive 20th century gains across Africa have generated important political and social capital, while Obama’s biography and popularity make him virtually the uncrowned king of Africa.

[I think it might have been fair to mention here that George W. Bush gave more aid to Africa than all previous administrations before him - and that what his administration did to soften the AIDS problem and to virtually wipe out malaria on the Dark Continent was by any measure historic.

Similarly, the success of his program to give aid contingent on good administration in the recipient countries cannot be under-estimated. Not the least of the reasons Benedict XVI felt a strong rapport with Bush was his awareness of what his administration had done in Africa.

And if the media have made little of Bush's achievements in Africa, it's ebcause there was hardly anything negative they could say about him there. They had no choice but to mention it in passing during Bush's last trip to Africa, when the reception for him in all the countries he visited was amazingly triumphant - and they had to explain why!

On the other hand, despite his Kenyan origin, Obama has yet to show or say anything about Africa in the first 50-plus days of his administration.]


Together, the Pope and the President might be able to move the ball in terms of cajoling the international community, as well as African leaders themselves, to get their act together.

- At the level of showbiz, it’s vintage casting against type: All by itself, watching the globe’s most consummate old-world European try to play on the African stage ought to be great theater.

So far, Benedict has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to stretch when the situation demands it; witness his bravura performances during his two World Youth Day outings, experiences crafted to suit the personality of his more exuberant predecessor, John Paul II.

But the challenges awaiting him aren’t simply at level of stagecraft; substantively, the question is whether, despite his European baggage, Benedict will “get” Africa.

Case in point: Will the Pope grasp that his fight against a “dictatorship of relativism” in the West is largely moot in Africa, where the grass-roots reality is not shaped by secular indifference, but rather a highly competitive religious marketplace?

[My goodness! Does Allen think the Pope is such a one-track-mind thinker that he does not appreciate the difference between continents and cultures and nations????? If he, Allen, can 'grasp' it, what makes him think Benedict XVI - with his intellectual gifts and depths of experience - would be unable to???? Why does he often treat Benedict XVI as if he were a schoolboy???? He infuriates me this way!!!!]

In Africa, the main rivals to the faith are repackaged forms of African traditional religion, exotic new cults, mushrooming forms of Christian Pentecostalism, and aggressively proselytizing forms of Islam.

Will this teaching pope be able to craft a lesson that speaks to Africa’s experience, which in many ways is so different from his own?

- It’s the right thing to do [covering the Pope's trip]: Especially in the United States, the media is not a public trust, it’s a for-profit business.

Nonetheless, every now and then we ought to tell a story just because it’s important -- and if ever there were a case for doing so, Africa’s it.

On the United Nations’ list of the world’s 15 most impoverished nations, nine are in Africa. Last year, some 1.5 million Africans died of HIV/AIDS, and 22 million Africans are infected with the disease.

Out of 13 million deaths around the world between 1994 and 2003 due to armed conflicts, the U.N. estimates that more than 9 million occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. The economic crisis is likely to make all this worse, and it’s obscene to allow such suffering to pass in silence.

Yet Africa is also more than its dysfunction; the injustice Africans experience from poverty, disease and bloodshed is often compounded by the injustice that the outside world pays attention only to their bad news, ignoring Africa’s vitality. (Aside from the peaceful regime change in South Africa, what’s the last good news report you remember from Africa?)

Benedict’s trip offers a window of opportunity to tell Africa’s story, both its heartbreak and its heroism; indeed, part of the reason Popes make these trips is to shine a spotlight on forgotten places and peoples.

To editors and producers everywhere, it’s not too late to get into the game.

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14/03/2009 13.12
 
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March 14
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St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)
Priest and Martyr, Poland




OR today.
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The Holy Father to the Plenary of the Congregation for Divine Worship:
The Eucharistic mystery without confusion or reductionism

There is a front-page editorial on the Pope's letter to the bishops of the world by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who was the Pope's Vicar General
for Rome and president of the Italian bishops' conference for 15 years. Two inside-page stories related to this are a wrap-up on
the bishops' reactions so far to the letter, and a statement by Cardinal Bertone. [All three have been translated in a post above.]
The two other Page 1 stories: US-China set to work together to face the current global economic crisis and the US sanctions Iran as
a terorist state for yet another year, as President Obama continues President Bush's initiative.




THE POPE'S DAY

The Holy Father met today with

- H.E. Edward Fenech Adami, President of the Repuublic of Malta, with his wife and delegation
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- Bishops of Argentina (Group 3) on ad limina visit. Address in Spanish.

- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (weekly meeting)


The Vatican also released a message of the Holy Father addressed to Cardinal James Stafford
on the occasion of a course for canon-law priests in the Apostolic Penitentiary.

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Benedict’s Vatican II hermeneutic
By Edward T. Oakes, S.J.
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Friday, March 13, 2009


A March 10 letter to Catholic bishops from Benedict XVI explains why he decided to seek reconciliation with the schismatic Society of St. Pius X. The Vatican lifted the excommunication of four bishops illicitly ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

The letter reveals the pain the ope felt at the controversy unleashed when it was quickly learned, one of the men (for most of his life among the Lefebvrists, it seems) was (among other cretinous opinions) a denier of the Holocaust.

Benedict’s pain shows throughout the entire letter, but especially here: “It has saddened me that even Catholics, who should in fact know better, have seen fit to strike at me with a ready-to-pounce hostility.”

Nevertheless, Benedict finds comfort among his “Jewish friends who have quickly helped to clear away misunderstandings and restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust that had prevailed during the pontificate of John Paul II and, God be thanked, continues to prevail in mine.”

The real pain, though, is the fact of schism, and not so much Benedict’s own hurt feelings, which come out only in that one sentence. But like St. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians (which the pope quotes at the end of his own missive), this letter bleeds.

Divisions in the Church hurt this Pope, as they did Paul in his day. No surprise, then, that Benedict would conclude this personal account of his Petrine ministry to his fellow bishops with these verses from Galatians:

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another in love. For the whole law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love one another as yourself.’ But if you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will end up being devoured by each other.

It was to avoid just this dismal scenario that Benedict decided to lift the excommunications, as he explains. What especially bears emphasizing is this passage from his letter:

To say it once again: As long as the doctrinal issues are not resolved, the Fraternity [of Pius X] has no canonical status in the Church; and its ministers, even if they are free from ecclesiastical censure, do not exercise any legitimate ministry in the Church. . . . [It is] clear that the problems now under discussion are essentially doctrinal in nature, especially those concerning the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar Magisterium of the popes. . . . One cannot freeze the magisterial authority of the Church at the year1962-this must be made quite clear to the Fraternity.

But the Lefebvrists are hardly the only faction in the Roman Church “biting and devouring” the Body of Christ.

Benedict also directs these pointed words at those “ready-to-pounce” Catholics who style themselves professional defenders of Vatican II:

“But to some of those who pose as great defenders of the Council, one must keep in mind that Vatican II contains within itself the whole doctrinal history of the Church. Whoever claims obedience to the Council must accept as well the faith of centuries and not cut down the roots that are the very source of life for the tree.”


Throughout the letter, the Pope subjects himself to a searching examination of conscience: he admits numerous mishaps on his and the Vatican’s part; he implicitly criticizes the dicastery in charge of negotiating with the Fraternity by placing all future dealings with the schismatics in the hands of the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (since now, the Pope says, all remaining issues are doctrinal, not liturgical); and he even wonders aloud if his pastoral solicitude is not drawing attention away from making the Christian faith more credible in an unbelieving world.

I sincerely hope that Benedict’s frank examination will lead to a similar searching on the part of all Catholics, very much including those who began the schism in the first place by letting themselves be ordained illicitly.

But their numbers would never have grown to such an extent were it not for the woes that came in the wake of the Vatican II Council, caused not, I insist, by the Council itself, but by its interpretation.

Legitimate controversy, of course, continues to range over its meaning, and will likely continue to do so. Specifically, did Vatican II represent a rupture with the Church’s past, or was it instead a seamless transition from one era to another? But that way of posing the question to my mind is too pat. Church history is far too complex to fit into these neat binary categories.

As the debate is usually framed, we are confined to but four positions. First, according to the standard schema, there are only two stances on the question of whether Vatican II broke with Catholic tradition (yes or no).

Then, right after that, there are two further subsidiary positions one must take, to affirm or decry the initial conclusion (good or bad).

Thus, one option holds that Vatican II seamlessly continues the Church’s past, and should be praised for keeping the faith. (The late Avery Cardinal Dulles is often taken as the premier defender of this position, although his actual conclusion is more subtle.)

The second position equally concedes Vatican II’s continuity with the Church’s past, but is for that reason to be lamented. (Hans Küng comes close to that view; indeed he wrote his book The Churchwhile the Council was still in session to offer an alternative to Lumen gentium, the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which he thought was too hidebound in its attachment to the past).

A third position holds that Vatican II represents a break with the Church’s past and should be praised for doing so. (John O’Malley’s recent book What Happened at Vatican II likes this posture.)

Finally, a fourth position agrees with the disruption thesis and loudly complains about it. (Such is the basis for the Lefebvrist schism.)

But surely the reality is more complicated than these too-neat options can allow.

Why cannot Vatican II be seen as both continuous with and yet also a departure from the Church’s ancient tradition?

Isn’t that true, after all, of all the major and historic councils?

Doesn’t a more nuanced assessment do less violence to the historical record than the procrustean options outlined above?

Although Benedict is famous in the world press for holding to what he calls the “hermeneutics of continuity,” his own position is actually far subtler than such a tagline would indicate (which is partly why in lifting the excommunications he was so readily misunderstood).

In fact, in the very speech he gave to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2005, that made the “hermeneutics of continuity” so famous as a phrase, he openly admitted that Vatican II represents a rupture of some kind (why else the controversy?).

But for him it was a rupture that paradoxically revealed the Church’s fidelity to her truest identity: A discontinuity was revealed, he said to the Curia, “but [it was one] in which, after the various distinctions between concrete historical situations and their requirements had been made, the continuity of principles proved not to have been abandoned.”

To those stuck in the usual two categories provided by secular journalism, the Pope will sound here like he is trying to have it both ways. But for Benedict, unless we can accurately categorize the various changes brought about by the Council in different terms, we will continue to misinterpret it.

In other words, the issue of continuity vs. discontinuity only gets us to the beginning of the debate, not to its end.

So what category would work better? How best should the Council be understood?

For Benedict the key term is reform: “It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform consists”.

In other words, to refuse to admit any disjunction with the Church’s past would not only distort the historical record (which shows clear instances of both continuity and discontinuity in the conciliar documents), but also would inevitably block reform, which requires not a convoluted combination between continuity and discontinuity but rather, in the pope’s own words, “innovation in continuity.”

Among these undeniable innovations, Benedict above all stressed Vatican II’s Decree on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae). Frankly admitting that Vatican II broke with the “fortress mentality” set in motion by Pius IX’s open hostility to the modern world and by his condemnation of religious liberty in his Syllabus of Errors (1864), Benedict explained the reasons for the Council’s departure from that teaching:

In the 19th century under Pius IX, the clash between the Church’s faith and a radical liberalism . . . had elicited from the Church a bitter and radical condemnation of this spirit of the modern age. . . . In the meantime, however, the modern age had also experienced developments. People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern state that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution.

In other words, circumstances change, and the Church must change with them — but not her identity.

Granted, discerning the difference between the need to change in order to fit changed circumstances, and the simultaneous need to preserve the Church’s perennial identity, is not easy.

The case of religious liberty is ideal for seeing this discernment at work, especially since it is the one that most bothers the Lefebvrist schismatics. But in taking up this issue, the Pope is blunt about the volte-face effected by the Council:

With [its] Decree on Religious Freedom the Second Vatican Council, by recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern state, has recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church.

By so doing she can be conscious of being in full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself, as well as with the Church of the martyrs of all time. The ancient Church naturally prayed for the emperors and political leaders out of duty; but while she prayed for the emperors, she refused to worship them and thereby clearly rejected the religion of the state.

The martyrs of the early Church died for their faith in that God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, and for this very reason they also died for freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own faith-a profession that no state can impose but which, instead, can only be claimed with God’s grace in freedom of conscience.

No one doubts (least of all Benedict) that Vatican II’s embrace of what he calls “the essential principle of the modern state” has led to a resurgence of relativism inside the Church.

But for the Pope, this is not the fault of the Council but of a categorical mistake arising from the fact that the liberal democratic state must be neutral to religious truth claims while the Church cannot be.

Many liberal Catholic theologians, however, took Dignitatis Humanae as a license to attribute equal saving significance to other world religions: If the state must be neutral to religious truth claims, so must we!

Obviously, that was not the intent of Vatican II, which in fact grounded its affirmation of religious liberty by drawing on the resources of its own ecclesial tradition, basing its teaching on revelation itself. Far from rejecting the Council’s teaching, Benedict’s decades-long attack on relativism is rooted in the Council:

Thus, for example, if religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and historical necessity [to be tolerant] is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus is stripped of its true meaning.

Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and - on the basis of the inner dignity of the truth - is bound to [accept] this knowledge.

It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as . . . an intrinsic consequence of the truth that cannot be externally imposed but which the person must adopt only through the process of conviction.

The same principle of innovation-in-continuity applies to the Church’s bond with Judaism. No one disputes that Vatican II brought about a revolution in relations.

Here binary categories (perhaps just this once) can be applied, since the vast majority of Catholics admit that a deep and irrevocable sea-change has occurred in their relationship to Jews, and approve of it.

The lonely Lefebvrist schismatics [Some of them, not all! - and certainly not their present leadership, nor the other leaders who left earlier to set up their own traditionalist orders in full communion with Rome] sulk in notorious dissent — precisely because of their purblind refusal to distinguish rapprochement from relativism.

But for the Pope, changed circumstances forced the bishops at Vatican II to reassess long-held presuppositions. And by drawing on her ancient charters (especially Romans 9-11), the Church was able to distance herself from prior hostility and launch a dialogue of mutual respect unheard of in Church history. This change the Pope explicitly affirms.

In words that I hope will throw a reconciling light on the recent controversy over his attempts to heal the Lefebvrist schism, the Pope says: “In particular, before the recent crimes of the Nazi regime and, in general, with a retrospective look at a long and difficult history, it was necessary to evaluate and define in a new way the relationship between the Church and the faith of Israel.”

During the past few weeks, while the enormous and heated controversy over the Church’s canonical connection to the Lefebvrist schism was playing itself out in the world media, I kept thinking back to this curial address of Benedict, delivered a mere eight months after his election to the papacy which he clearly meant to be his papacy’s manifesto.

Anyone who reads this address will realize that there is no going back for this Pope. [DIM]8pt[=DIM][And it's hard to imagine how anyone who has really read Joseph Ratzinger's writings can even think that at all! It's a warning that is as unnecessary, as the accusations that he is setting back Vatican-II are preopsoterous and clearly unfounded.] The innovations of the Council are real, and they are here to stay.

If either liberal Catholics or revanchist Lefebvrists think Benedict is about to revoke Vatican II in his effort to heal a schism, then they are clearly laboring under a mad delusion — one nearly as demented as the mirage entertained by those loons who are willing to grant more historical authenticity to the czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion than they are to Dignitatis Humanae. Good luck with that.

But I quote the Pope at such length not merely to set forth an accurate account of his own views of Vatican II, and to exonerate him of baseless charges that he wants to return the Church to moribund ways that are impossible to revive.

I also want to wean everyone, and not just journalists and deluded schismatics, from tiresome and jejune binary categories that have too long hampered a proper interpretation and application of Vatican II.

When reading Benedict, time and again, I am reminded of Cardinal Newman. His too was a mind subtle enough to be able to say that his whole life was a struggle against the liberal principle in religion (meaning, that all religions are the same merely because all make equally unverifiable truth-claims), and yet also to say: “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

Holding together these two axioms is admittedly a difficult challenge, but an inevitable one, automatically entailed in the concept of a definitive revelation that is also essentially historical, historical both in content and in consequences for world history.

It was just this very dilemma that led Newman, while still in the Church of England, to see that the very concept of a historical revelation directly entails an infallible interpreter of that revelation.

Otherwise, one will either have a Heraclitean flux and no identity, or a Parmenidean rigidity that can’t meet the challenge of ceaseless change on the historical stage. As he said, with his typically deathless prose, a year before converting to Rome:

The most obvious answer, then, to the question, why we yield to the authority of the Church in the questions and developments of faith, is, that some authority there must be if there is a revelation given, and other authority there is none but she.

A revelation is not given if there be no authority to decide what it is that is given. . . . If Christianity is both social and dogmatic, and intended for all ages, it must humanly speaking have an infallible expounder.

Else you will secure unity of form at the loss of unity of doctrine, or unity of doctrine at the loss of unity of form; you will have to choose between a comprehension of opinions and a resolution into parties, between latitudinarian and sectarian error.

You may be tolerant or intolerant of contrarieties of thought, but contrarieties you will have. By the Church of England a hollow uniformity is preferred to an infallible chair; and by the sects of England an interminable division. Germany and Geneva began with persecution and have ended in scepticism.

The doctrine of infallibility is a less violent hypothesis than this sacrifice either of faith or of charity. It secures the object, while it gives definiteness and force to the matter, of Revelation.



Exactly.

Edward T. Oakes, S.J., teaches theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, the seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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I knew, sooner or later, an authoritative commentator would home in on a major subtext in the Pope's letter to the world's bishops - namely, the right interpretation of Vatican II.

Because, in fact, one of the first impressions I had while reading the letter - which had not occurred to me in such a way before - was that, as I commented earlier, the 'professional defenders of the Council', as the Pope calls them, had long ago replaced Scripture, the Word of God itself, with their interpretation of Vatican-II (which is all they ever quote), and the Holy Spirit. with their so-called 'spirit of Vatican II' - without ever realizing that their ideology has led them to substitute a parody of the faith for the faith itself.




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14/03/2009 17.29
 
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Sometimes, it helps to look again at the various Vatican texts related to the Poep's recall of the FSSPX excommunications:


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REMISSION OF THE EXCOMMUNICATION 'LATAE SENTENTIAE'
OF THE BISHOPS OF THE PRIESTLY FRATERNITY OF ST. PIUS X

Translated from
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COMMUNIQUE OF THE VATICAN PRESS OFFICE

The Holy Father, after a process of dialog between the Apostolic See and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (FSSPX), represented by its Superior General, H.E. Mons. Bernard Fellay, has accepted the request recently presented again by the said prelate in a letter dated December 18, 2008, also writing in behalf of the three other bishops of the Fraternity, Monsignors Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, to lift the excommunication decreed on them 20 years ago.

Because of their episcopal consecration done on June 30 1988 by H.E. Mons Marcel Lefebvre, without pontifical mandate, the aforementioned four prelates incurred excommunication latae sententiae ][automatically penalized after violation of a canonical law], which was also formally decreed on July 1, 1988, by the Congregation for Bishops.

Mons. Fellay, in the letter cited, clearly manifested to the Holy Father that: "We are firmly determined in the desire to remain Catholics and to place all our strength in the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which the Roman Catholic Church. We accept its teachings in a filial spirit. We believe firmly in the primacy of Peter and its prerogatives, and we have suffered from our present situation."

His Holiness Benedict XVI, who has followed the process from the beginning, has always sought to repair the rupture with the Fraternity, even meeting with Mons. Fellay on August 29, 2005.

On that occasion, the Supreme Pontiff indicated his readiness to proceed by degrees and in a reasonable time on this path and now, benignly, with pastoral solicitude and paternal mercy, through a Decree of the Congregation for Bishops dated January 21, 2009, withdraws the excommunication of the said prelates.

The Holy Father was inspired in his decision by the wish that there may be complete reconciliation and full communion as soon as possible.


The text of the decree:

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In a letter of 15 December 2008 addressed to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", Mons. Bernard Fellay writing also in the name of the other three Bishops consecrated on 30 June 1988 requested once again the removal of the excommunication latae sententiae formally declared by a Decree of the Prefect of this Congregation for Bishops on 1 July 1988.

In his letter, Mons. Fellay stated, among other things, that "we continue firmly resolute in our desire to remain Catholics and to put all our strength at the service of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept her teachings in a filial spirit. We firmly believe in the primacy of Peter and in his prerogatives, and for this reason the current situation causes us much suffering".

His Holiness Benedict XVI in his paternal concern for the spiritual distress which the parties concerned have voiced as a result of the excommunication, and trusting in their commitment, expressed in the aforementioned letter, to spare no effort in exploring as yet unresolved questions through requisite discussions with the authorities of the Holy See in order to reach a prompt, full and satisfactory solution to the original problem has decided to reconsider the canonical situation of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, resulting from their episcopal consecration.

This act signifies a desire to strengthen reciprocal relations of trust, and to deepen and stabilize the relationship of the Society of St Pius X with this Apostolic See.

This gift of peace, coming at the end of the Christmas celebrations, is also meant to be a sign which promotes the Universal Church's unity in charity, and removes the scandal of division.

It is hoped that this step will be followed by the prompt attainment of full communion with the Church on the part of the whole Society of St Pius X, which will thus bear witness to its genuine fidelity and genuine recognition of the Magisterium and authority of the Pope by the proof of visible unity.

On the basis of the powers expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, by virtue of the present Decree, I remit the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae incurred by Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, and declared by this Congregation on 1 July 1988.

At the same time I declare that, as of today's date, the Decree issued at that time no longer has juridical effect.

Rome, from the Congregation for Bishops,
21 January 2009

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re
Prefect


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I think to anyone who is not willfully determined to misunderstand or misrepresent the Holy Father, the decree itself was clear enough about his intentions.










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After his catechesis at the General Audience on 1/28/09, the Holy Father said this:


In my homily on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of my Pontificate, I said that the 'call to unity' is the 'explicit' task of the Pastor.

Commenting on the Gospel passage on the miraculous catch of fish, I cited that "although there were so many (fish), the net was not torn” (Jn 21:11), continuing with the words: "Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn! But no – we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised... Do not allow your net to be torn, Lord, help us to be servants of unity!"

In compliance of this service of unity, which qualifies in a specific way my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I decided several days ago to grant the remission of the excommunication incurred by four bishops ordained in 1988 by Mons. Lefebvre without papal mandate.

I carried out this act of paternal mercy, because repeatedly, these prelates have shown their sincere suffering for the situation in which they were.

I hope that my gesture may be followed by their expeditious commitment to comply with further steps necessary to realize their full communion with the Church, by showing their true loyalty and true acknowledgment of the Magisterium and authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council.


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I am omitting his separate statement about the Shoah and Mons. Williamson because they are not relevant at all to the lifting of the excommunications nor to the intended reconciliation with the FSSPX.









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NOTE FROM
THE SECRETARIAT OF STATE

Translated from
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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 latae 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.

The recall of the 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


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14/03/2009 20.06
 
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Joseph Ratzinger has written so much on so many subjects about the faith and the Church that eh is often the best authority one can cite on a given subject. Fathers Bux and Vitielli of Fides do just that in their column for this week:


The service of the Primate of Rome
for the unity of the Church

Translated from
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3/12/2009


Seventy years ago, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, Roman, was elected Pope with the name Pius XII.

At the time, no one could imagine that the College of Cardinals and the Episcopate would never be unanimous in speaking, as the Apostle Paul said - "that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose" (1 Cor 1,10).

Even John XXIII, in his opening speech to the Second Vatican Council, could speak of "renewed, serene and tranquil adherence to all the teachings of the Church in its entirety and precision, such as it has shown forth in the Conciliar acts from Trent to Vatican I".

In fact, can one imagine the Church, mystical Body of Christ, expressing itself in a disorganized way? Can one think of the ecclesiology of communion, forgetting what Vatican II said about the Primacy of Peter (cfr Lumen gentium 13, 22 e 23)?

Thus, it is most necessary that the entire Church - bishops, priests and faithful - reflect on the gentle and well-reasoned words of the Holy Father Benedict XVI at the Major Seminary of Rome and at the Sunday Angelus of February 22, and cease the disputes that "arise where faith degenerates into intellectualism and humility is replaced by arrogance of those who consider themselves superior to others...This is a caricature of the Church which should be of one heart and one spirit".

These words exemplify the exercise of the Primacy of Peter in patience, and it should find its correspondence in the humble obedience of all Catholics.

The Holy Father knows that the Primacy has a 'martyrological structure' because "the Word of God is not chained" (2 Tim 2,9), and this goes for every Pope. The Petrine primacy is - and works - because ecclesial communion cannot be destructive, and indeed, the Creed calls it 'catholic'.

In this respect, one must go to what this Pope wrote as a theologian in his book Introduction to Christianity:

One main idea can be shown to be decisive from the start. This word ('catholic'] refers first to local unity - only the community united with the bishop is the ;Catholic Church;, not the sectional groups that have broken away from her for whatever reasons.

Second, the term describes the unity formed by the combination of the many local Churches, which are re not entitled to encapsulate themselves in isolation. They can only remain the Church by being open to one another, by forming one Church...

The word 'catholic' expresses the episcopal structure of the Church and the necessity for the unity of all bishops with one another..."
[Introduction to Christianity, 2004, Ignatius Press, p. 345]


After observing that it is not to be counted as one of the primary elements in the concept of 'Church', he points out that:

The basic elements of the Church appear as forgiveness, conversion, penance, Eucharistic communion, and hence, plurality and unity: plurality of the local Churches that yet remain 'the Church' only through incorporation in the unity of the one Church...

The episcopal organization appears in the background as a means to this unity... The function of the Bishop of Rome would thus be to form the next stage in the category of means.

One thing is clear: the Church is not to be deduced from her organization: the organization is to be understood from the Church. But at the same time, it is clear that for the visible Church, visible unity is more than 'organization'....

Only if she is 'catholic', that is, visibly one in spite of all her variety, does she correspond to the demand of the Creed. In a world torn apart, she is to be the sign and means of unity; she is to bridge nations, races and classes, and unite them.

How often she has failed in this, we know... Yet even so, one must not forget all the imperatives that have issued from the claim of catholicity; above all, instead of reckoning up the past, we should face the challenge of the present and try not only to profess Catholicity in the Creed but to make it a reality in our torn world" [ibid., pp 345-347].



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14/03/2009 21.56
 
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'FAMILY DAY' AT
THE APOSTOLIC PALACE


Occassionally, the Holy Father gets an unexpected visit from what Europeans call a 'numerous family' -
in this case, that of the President of Malta - and Benedict makes the ideal 'Nonno' (Grandpa) for any child.

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14/03/2009 23.48
 
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I was getting desperate for some material about the visit to Cameroon when I decided to do a French-language search on the web and of course, the first site I came across was the Cameroon bishops' official website for the visit....Oh, what a dumb one I've been - why did I not think of that at all, to begin with?

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However, the first news item I find usable comes from a Cameroon information portal, Camnet:


Nuncio updates Cameroon President
on preparations for Pope's visit

Translated from
CAMNET, 'the window on Cameroon'
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YAOUNDE, March 12 - The Chief of State, President Paul Biya, received the Apostolic Nuncio in Cameroon, Mons. Eliseo Antonio Ariotti, at the Presidential Palace to discuss the state of preparations for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI next week.

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Speaking to newsmen after the meeting which lasted more than an hour, Mons. Ariotti expressed his gratitude for the President's interest and attention.

"We were able to assess the most significant points about this visit, starting with the welcome for the Holy Father to his big encoutner with the faithful and all the people of Cameroon, because he will be meeting both the Church as well as the civilian society of Cameroon."

He also explained the reasons why Cameroon was chosen by Pope Benedict to be the first African country he visits as Pope.

"I would say that Cameroon provides the Holy Father with all the elements for such a visit: Here he will meet a dynamic Church that is in the process of maturation and a civilian society which works with the Church in a productive equilibrium between material life and spiritual life."

He also pointed out that the visit was not simply a pastoral adn apostolic trip, but also an official visit. "Therefore, it concerns all the Cameroonians, its government institutions and all those who are involved in the civil, social, political and economic life of the nation."

He concluded: "It is a diplomatic visit which touches all the aspects of human life in the interest of promoting the human being, which has always been a major concern of Benedict XVI even before he became Pope."



THE COUNTRY AND ITS PEOPLE
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Cameroon is found in central Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea. It is bounded on the north by Chad, on the east by the Central African Republic, on the south by the Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea, and on the west by Nigeria.

It has several large cities, principally YAOUNDE, the political capital, with more than a million inhabitants, and DOUALA, the economic capital, with more than 2 million residents.

Other large cities are GAROUA, BAFOUSSAM, MAROUA, and BAMENDA.


POPULATION
Cameroon has 240 ethnic tribes, divided into three large groups (Bantu, semi-bantu and Sudanese). Each tribe has its own language.

The largest tribes are:
Bantu: Béti, Bassa, Bakundu, Maka, Douala, Pygmies
Semi-Bantu: Bamiléké, Gbaya, Bamoun, Tikar
Soudanese: Foulbé, Mafa, Toupouri, Arabes-Choas, Moundang, Massa, Mousgoum


LANGUAGES
French and English are the official languages, wgich are spoken by 70% and 30%, respectively. Spanish and German are also spoken by many Cameroonians.


RELIGIONS
Cameroon is a secular state. Two mainr eligions are paractised: Christianity and Islam. Animism is practised among many of the local tribes.


HOLIDAYS
Religious holidays:
Godo Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Assumption, Christmas, End of Ramadan, and the feast of sheep.

Legal holidays:
New Year's Day, Youth Holiday (Feb. 11), Labor Day (May 1), National Day (May 20).


TOURIST SEASON
Besides sports hunting practised in the northern part of the country from November to May, it is tourist season the year round, and visitors can come to Cameroon any tiem of the year.

Climate and weather:
The dry season is between November to April.

MINIMUM AND MAXIMUM TEMPERATURES:
23-31°C in January, and 21-35°C in July.

****************************************

Some basic facts about Cameroon and Angola from the CIA Factbook, which is updated to 2007:

CAMEROON
- Population 18.5 million, median age 19.
- Area slightly larger than California.
- 40% Christian, 20% Muslim, 40% indigenous religions.
- 68% literacy
- Generally stable economy based on agriculture (cocoa, coffee) and modest oil production
(proven oil reserves 95 million barrels; daily oil production 8500 barrels).
- GDP $2200 per capita.
- In 2003 (last figures available), 6.9% of the population had AIDS (560,000), with 49,000 deaths that year.



ABOUT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
IN THE REPUBLIC OF CAMEROON


Information as of Dec. 31, 2007 from the Central Statistical Office of the Church.

Republic of Cameroon
Capital City; Yaounde
Population: 18,160,000
Catholics 4.842,000 (26.7%)

24 ecclesiastical circumscriptions
816 parishes
3,630 pastoral centres of other kinds

31 bishops
1,847 priests
2,478 religious
28 lay members of secular institutes
18,722 catechists.
2,249 minor seminarians
1,361 major seminarians

A total of 410,964 students attend
1,530 Catholic schools (from kindergartens to universities)
410,964 students

Institutions owned or operated by priests and religious:
28 hospitals
235 clinics
11 homes for the elderly or disabled
15 orphanages and nurseries
40 family counselling centres and other pro-life centres
23 centres for education and social rehabilitation
32 institutions of other kinds.






Trust the Anglophone news agencies to find something negative to begin reporting with!


Cameroon demolishes street stalls
for Pope's visit

by Tamsa Musa
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YAOUNDE, March 10 (Reuters) – Cameroonian security forces have smashed up the street stalls, where thousands of people earn a living, to give the capital Yaounde a face-lift for a visit by Pope Benedict next week.

Pope Benedict makes his first trip to Africa as pontiff next week, visiting Cameroon before continuing to Angola to mark 500 years of Christian evangelism there.

"My 10 years of investments have been ruined. I don't know now what to do to survive," wailed Mariane Ngoupendji Monday when she found her typing and printing shop reduced to rubble.

"Will the Pope's visit replace what I've lost?" she said.

Ngoupendji, 43, collapsed weeping to the ground as youths pulled pieces of corrugated iron, girders and planks from the ruins, hoping to sell them or use them to build elsewhere.

Many people make their living through informal stalls or boutiques, selling everything from imported electrical goods to local produce in a country where millions of people live in poverty even though it boasts one of Africa's biggest economies.

But authorities say the stalls, ranging from simple wooden shelves to secure lock-ups built with steel and concrete, are an eye-sore and began to tear them down last week. No compensation will be offered, the government said.

"On Monday the authorities of the Yaounde urban municipality continued pulling down illegally erected structures down in the town centre with the support of security forces," state radio reported Monday.

"They vowed that the process will continue as part of efforts to embellish the city and give it a new face-lift."

Yaounde council officials could not be reached for comment.

Security forces have deployed in large numbers to prevent trouble. Previous attempts to clear traders from African cities have triggered widespread violence, including in Senegal before last year's Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit.

Police beat youths and stallholders at the weekend on Yaounde's Avenue Kennedy, where many hawkers sell cell phones and other electrical items imported from Dubai, witnesses said.

"I saw gendarmes and police chasing after fellow Cameroonians, beating them up with such ferocity and smashing their goods," said a Cameroon Telecommunications company worker, who watched from a third storey window as police cleared stalls near Avenue Kennedy Saturday.

"Why not simply ask them to assemble their goods and move away instead of destroying everything. Must the Pope's visit bring so much trouble for the people?" said the worker, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals.

But a senior police officer said stallholders had refused to comply with several previous requests to move on.

"Now, with the Pope coming, the authorities are left with no other choice than to use force to get them out," he told Reuters.

"African traditional hospitality demands that you keep your house clean," he said.


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Angolan bishop considers
Pope's visit incomparable

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Luanda, March 13 – The Angolan Bishop, Filomeno Vieira Dias, on Friday in Luanda, considered the visit of his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Angola as an unmatched and important opportunity for Angolans to strengthen, before the world, their image of special and united people.

Speaking at a press conference, held to assess the activities of the commission tasked with welcoming the Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Filomeno Vieira Dias indicated that it is very important since it is about someone who is responsible for guaranteeing union among Christian communities.

The visit of his Holiness, stressed Bishop Vieira, will provide moments of collective reflection on various issues, particularly in terms of social matters. “The visit of Pope Benedict XVI, for the Catholic Church, signifies that Angola is prepared to host big social projects”, he said.

Expected to arrive in the country on March 20, the Pope will meet on the same day with the head of State José Eduardo dos Santos and with members of civilian society and political parties.



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Every Saturday a group of women gather outside the Church of Our Lady of Nazareth in downtown Luanda dressed in a uniform of brightly-coloured headscarves, sarongs and white T-shirts and armed with traditional brooms made of sticks.

They collect water in large buckets which they carry on their heads before dousing the paving slabs outside the church and scrubbing, their bare feet covered in soap suds.

"The church must be cleaned," one elderly woman told me, stooping wearily as she brushed fiercely at the ground. "It is our duty and we come every Saturday to do this."

Another with a child tied to her back added: "The Church is our life, it gives us strength and it keeps us safe and in peace."

For the women in groups like this one, which number hundreds in Angola where more than 55 per cent of the population is Catholic, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI is an important confirmation of their faith.

Fernanda Amelia da Costa, 51, remembers shaking the hand of the late John Paul II when he visited Angola in 1992, and she spoke excitedly about Benedict's imminent arrival.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," the grandmother of 10 said, "I was working in the hospital and he came to see us there and that is when he took my hand. It made me so happy and I will never forget that moment.

"Knowing that the Pope is coming to see us here in Angola gives us much happiness because we know he will come in peace and bring affection and support to us all."

Angola's relationship with Catholicism dates back more than 500 years and celebrating this anniversary is another reason for Benedict's visit.

A lot has happened to Angola in those 500 years however: centuries of Portuguese colonial rule, a long and cruel slave trade, a bloody liberation struggle and then three decades of bitter civil war which claimed half a million lives and displaced many more.

John Paul visited Angola in 1992, during a brief ceasefire, but fighting resumed soon afterwards and peace only came to the southern African country in 2002.

Since then, however, Angola has seen its fortunes begin to change.

Oil- and diamond-rich, it has been one of the world's fastest-growing economies, and last September the country held a peaceful and credible legislative election (won overwhelmingly by the MPLA - the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola).

The Catholic Church has been with Angola through each twist and turn of its long journey, notably leading the humanitarian aid effort during the war and then playing an active role in the peace movement and encouraging dialogue between the different sides.

Now, in peace time, the Church continues to play a much-needed pastoral role: two-thirds of Angolans lives on less than two dollars a day, 10.5 million have no access to sanitation and one in four children die before their fifth birthday.

While the government is starting to address the country's social needs, much support is still provided at grassroots level by the Church, from orphanages to schools to HIV and Aids programmes.

Sister Amelia Carreira, a member of the Hospitable Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, helps run a centre in a Luanda suburb, giving food, play and lessons to over 100 children between six months and five-years-old who would otherwise be left at home by working mothers.

"The war changed a lot of things here," she said, "And people are still trying to recover from that, the many social problems still need healing."

But while the Church continues this pastoral duty, it has not silenced the critical voice it found in the peace movement and Radio Ecclesia is widely acknowledged as Angola's most credible news source, carrying views from opposition parties and hosting open forum debates on social and human rights issues.

But the station continues to be restricted to transmission only within the capital, Luanda.

David Sogge, an independent development researcher who worked in Angola during the war years, said: "Luanda has a very progressive Catholic network and this has formed some of the most interesting parts of Angola's civil society and the majority of the human rights efforts.

"The fight to extend Ecclesia's transmission has been going on for years and reflects the government wanting to keep the progressive voice in Luanda where it is already strong, but not let it out into the provinces."

Previous attempts to extend the signal have been turned down, but Fr Mauricio Camuto, director of Radio Ecclesia, said Benedict's visit was an opportunity to change the minds of politicians.

"For me today, these attitudes are out of date," he said. "We are no longer in a time of controlled information when people are only able to hear the information the government wants them to hear."

While Radio Ecclesia will be at the forefront of the Church's agenda, the government will perhaps be hoping to use Benedict's visit to show its openness to the Catholic Church ahead of the forthcoming presidential election.

There was a similar display in 1992 for the visit of John Paul when the previously Marxist ruling MPLA used the papal tour as a way of legitimising itself in the eyes of Angolan Catholics.

Perhaps it's no coincidence that 17 years later Benedict's first appointment on his three-day tour is with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, followed by an audience of politicians and diplomats.

Aside from this first day of officialdom, however, Benedict's programme is very much community-based, with Masses in neighbourhoods and football stadiums and meetings with Catholic youth and women's groups.

The Catholic Church, of course, knows how important Benedict's visit is to his dedicated flock, but they are perhaps also mindful of the increasing number of new religious movements springing up across Angola, particularly in urban slum areas, and will want the papal visit to renew interest in Catholicism.

The Brazilian Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, or UCKG) now has more than 200 churches across Angola and also growing in popularity is the Igreja de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo no Mundo (Church of our Jesus Christ in the World).

Aside, however, from these well-established congregations, there has also been a surge in traditional African faiths and some have been linked to child abuse and human sacrifice.

Last year 40 children had to be rescued from the Luanda premises of a group calling itself the Evangelical Church of Traditional Healing.

The youngsters, some just babies, had been made to fast, had their arms burned and perfume poured in their eyes, state media reported. Fatima Viegas, director of INAR (the National Institute for Religious Affairs), said the war and its legacy of poverty were to blame.

"Everybody needs to believe in something," she said, "And these churches appear offering solutions to problems when in fact they are just there to exploit."

Whatever Benedict makes of Angola his visit certainly marks Angola out as an important Catholic nation.

Nicole Walshe, Angola country representative for Trócaire, said: "I think the Pope's visit to Angola will give people confidence that Angola is now turning the corner, coming out of a difficult period into a new one of consolidation of peace, following on from elections last year.

"And more than anything," she added: "The people will appreciate being recognised by Rome and by the Vatican."




Angola prepares for the Pope:
Bishop describes hopes and expectations

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VIANA, Angola, MARCH 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The bishop of Viana, Angola, said that Benedict XVI's scheduled visit to his country this month has inspired a flurry of preparations and hopes for political and personal peace.

Bishop Joaquim Ferreira Lopes affirmed this in an interview published Thursday by the Portuguese news agency Ecclesia, in which he spoke about the Pope's apostolic journey to Cameroon and Angola, planned for March 17-23.

The bishop mentioned that the Pope "will go to Cameroon to give the 'Instrumentum Laboris' for the next synod [on Africa] in October, and it is natural that he should visit another nation."

He continued, "In southern Africa, Angola occupies a privileged historical place, given that the Church started here at the end of the 15th century, and the whole epic of the Church south of the Equator passes through here, as a sign that no other nation has; no one can take this primacy away from Angola."

Bishop Lopes pointed out that, since the announcement of the papal visit last October, "the whole country began to prepare itself to receive the Pope."

The bishop referred especially to the question of security, stating that "these visits are made and prepared very precisely, in a joint endeavor between the country receiving the Pope and the Vatican."

He continued: "Changes have already been made in the Holy Father's program, precisely because some places did not offer total security; I am certain that everything will be all right, because the capability of the Angolan people in this area is very great."

Referring to the expenses of the Pope's visit, the prelate acknowledged that "it implies out of the ordinary expenses." He affirmed that the visit will have the support of the government and "all Christians are determined to contribute, according to their possibilities, from the financial point of view."

He said that the papal visit to the Christian community and the population in general "is of such an order that it justifies these expenses, which will not be exaggerated given that our country, despite being potentially wealthy, is poor in several aspects."

He added: "We believe it is worthwhile to spend the money; we will never regret it, because the good that will come from this papal visit will be extraordinary and will have an effect on the pacification of spirits, which is what we most want in Angola after signing the peace [agreement].

"Political peace is one thing, but social peace, personal peace and peace of hearts must be strengthened."

Angola is still struggling to recover from a 27-year civil war that just ended in 2002.

The occasion for the Pope's visit is the500th anniversary of Angola's evangelization.



THE COUNTRY AND ITS PEOPLE
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Angola is situated on the Western coast of Southern Africa and was a Portuguese colony till 11 Noveeber 1975, when it won independence. It has an area of 1,246,700 km².

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The country is divided into 18 provinces, and its capital city is Luanda. Its periphery comprises 4,837 kilometres, bordering on Congo Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ex-Zaire), Zambia, and Namibia. Its coast, washed by the Atlantic Ocean, has 1,650 kilometres.

Luanda, Lobito and Namibe are its main ports. The countrys highest peak is Monte Moco (2,620 metres), situated in Huambo, with its main rivers being Kwanza, Zaire, Cunene and Cubango. Its currency is Kwanza (Kz).

The estimated number of inhabitants in 1995 was 11 million, with an estimated growth to 16 million by the year 2010. It was also estimated in 1995 that the population was distributed as follows: 49,3% (males) 50,7% (females). Out of that, 32% lived in urban areas and 53% being economically active. The population of Luanda alone was estimated in 1995 at 3 million inhabitants.

Angola's official language is Portuguese, but the country counts with various vernacular languages such as Kikongo, Kimbundo, Umbundu, Chokwe, Mbunda and Oxikwanyama. The population is predominantly Christian, with the Catholic religion being the most expanded one.


Basic facts about Angola from the CIA Factbook, which is updated to 2007:

ANGOLA
- Population 12.5 million, median age 18.
- Area slightly less than twice the size of Texas.
- 47% indigenous religions, 38% Catholic, 15% Protestant
- 67% literacy
- Fast-growing economy based on oil, which accounts for 85% of its Gross Domestic Product).
Member of OPEC, with oil reserves of 25 billion barrels, and daily oil production of 1.7 million barrels a day.
- GDP $7800 per capita.
- Angola is still recovering from the devastating effects of a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002.
- In 2003, 3.9% of the population had AIDS (240,000), with 21,000 deaths that year.



ABOUT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
IN THE REPUBLIC OF ANGOLA


Information as of Dec. 31, 2007 from the Central Statistical Office of the Church.

Republic of Angola
Capital city: Luanda
Population: 15,473,000
Catholics: 8,600,000 (55.6 percent)

18 ecclesiastical circumscriptions
307 parishes
2,976 pastoral centres of other kinds.

27 bishops
794 priests
2,276 religious
5 lay members of secular institutes
30,934 catechists.
1,032 minor seminarians
1,236 major seminarians

481 Catholic schools (from kindergarten to universities)
226,798 students

Other institutions owned or operated by priests or religious:
23 hospitals
269 clinics
16 homes for the elderly or disabled
45 orphanages and nurseries
37 family counselling centres and other pro-life centres
28 centres for education and social rehabilitation
41 institutions of other kinds.




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THE HOLY FATHER ADDRESSES
THE BISHOPS OF ARGENTINA


At 12:30 on Saturday afternoon, the Holy Father Benedict XVI met with the Bishops of Argentina currently on ad-limina visit, whom he met in smaller groups earlier in the week, at the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, where he addressed the following to them in Spanish. Here is a translation:


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Eminence,
Dear brothers in the Episcopate:


1. It is with profound joy that I welcome you to this encounter with the Successor of Peter and Head of the Episcopal College.

I am grateful for the kind words of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires and president of the Argentine bishops' conference, who spoke in your behalf.

Through you I wish to greet all the clergy, the religious communities and lay faithful of your dioceses, expressing to them my appreciation and nearness, as well as my constant encouragement for the task of evangelization which they are carrying out with great dedication and generosity.

2. You have come here to venerate the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and to share with the Bishop of Rome your joys and hopes, the experiences and difficulties of your episcopal ministry.

The ad limina visit is a significant moment in the life of all those to whom pastoral care for a part of the People of God has been entrusted, since here, you demonstrate and reinforce your communion with the Roman Pontiff.

The Lord founded the Church so that it may be "a sacrament or sign and instrument of intimate union with God adn the unity of the entire human race" (Lumen gentium, 1). The Church is herself a mystery of communion, "a people united through the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (ibid., 1).

In effect, God has wanted to bring all peoples to the fullness of salvation, making them participants in the gifts of redemption through Christ, and thus enter into a communion of life with the Trinity.

3. The episcopal ministry is at the service of the unity and communion of the entire mystical Body of Christ. The bishop, who is the principle and visible foundation of unity in his own Church, is called on to promote and defend the integrity of the faith and the common discipline of the whole Church, while teaching the faithful to love all their brothers (cf. ibid.,23).

I wish to acknowledge your determined will to maintain and reinforce unity within your bichops' conference and your respective diocesan communities.

The words of our Lord - "that you may be one" (Jn 27,21) - should be a constant source of inspiration in your pastoral activity, which will undoubtedly redound to better apostolic effectiveness.

This unity, which you must promote with intensity and in a visible manner, will also be a source of comfort in the serious commitment which has been entrusted to you.

Thanks to such affective and effective collegiality, no bishop is alone, because he is always closely united to Christ, the Good Shepherd, and also, through your episcopal ordination and hierarchical communion with your brothers in the episcopate and to him whom the Lord has chosen as Successor of Peter (cf. John Paul II, Pastores gregis, 8).

I wish to show you now, in a special way, that you may count on all my support, my daily prayers and my spiritual nearness in your labors to make the Church "the house and school of communion" (John Paul II, Novo millennio ineunte, 43).

4. This spirit of communion has an exceptional field of application in the relationship of the bishop with his priests. I am very much aware of your desire to pay greater attention to them, and in accordance with Vatican II, I encourage you to care for them as father and brother - "for their spiritual, intellectual and material situation so that they be able to live in a saintly and religious manner and they can realize their ministry faithfully and fruitfully" (Christus Dominus, 16).

Likewise, I call on you to exercise charity and prudence when you have to correct teachings, attitudes or behaviors which are unbecoming of the priesthood among your closest collaborators, which could damage and confuse the faith and Christian living of the faithful.

The fundamental role that priests play should lead you to greater efforts to promote priestly vocations. In this respect, it would be timely to plan a more incisive matrimonial and familial ministry, which takes into account the vocational dimension of the Christian, as well as a more daring ministry for the youth which will help them respond generously to the call of God.

It is also necessary to intensify the formation of seminarians in all their dimensions - human, spiritual, intellectual, emotional and pastoral - while achieving an efficient and demanding effort of discernment among candidates for holy orders.

5. In the perspective of deepening the communion within the Church, it is of the highest importance to recognize, appreciate and stimulate the participation of religious in the diocesan evangelizing activities which they can enrich by contributing their respective charisms.

Likewise, the faithful, by virtue of their baptism, are called on to cooperate in edifying the Body of Christ. For this, you must bring them to a more vivid experience of Jesus Christ and the mystery of his love.

A permanent relationship with the Lord through an intense life of prayer and an adequate spiritual and doctrinal formation will increase in all Christians the joy of believing and celebrating the faith, as well as the joy of belonging to the Church, thus encouraging them to participate actively in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all men.

6. Dear brothers, I assure you once again of my closeness in daily prayer, as well as my firm hope in the progress and spiritual renewal of your communities.

May the Lord grant you the joy of service, leading in his name the flock which has been entrusted to you. May the Virgin Mary, under her title as Our Lady of Lujan, accompany and protect you always along with your diocesan faithful, as I impart to you a special
apostolic Blessing.





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15/03/2009 11.32
 
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March 15
III Sunday of Lent
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St. Louise de Marillac (1591-1660)
Co-founder with St. Vincent de Paul
of the Daughters of Charity, France




OR today.
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Episcopalministry is service to communion in the Church,
Pope Benedict tells Argentine bishops:
'In the Church, bishops are the promoters of unity'
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Other Page 1 stories: The Pope's audience with the President of Malta; and a commentary by Mons.
Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the case of a nine-year-old Brazilian
girl who conceived twins after being repeatedly raped by her stepfather, and on whom doctors
performed a medically necessary abortion. Fisichella deplores the fact that the local bishop unduly
publicized his excommunication of the doctors, without any apparent concern for the welfare of the girl,
and argues that this should have been the priority concern, since any excommunication in this case
would have been automatic but the circumstances would have required a fair investigation before
being formalized].




THE POPE'S DAY

The Sunday noon Angelus


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15/03/2009 12.41
 
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The heart of the Pope's letter
is being overlooked

by Andrea Tornielli
Translated from
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March 15, 2009


Many of the comments and ractions on the pained letter which Benedict XVI sent to all the bishops of the world - to explain his recall of the excommunication of thhe four FSSPX bishops and to douse the polemics raised by the negationist statements of one of them - have dwelt on the Pope's pastoral solicitude, on the problems of the Curia, of the opposition by progressivist bishops and the rigidty of traditionalists, and on the communications errors committed.

And lately, there has been much reaction regarding leaks of information from the Vatican, described as 'wrteched' by the editor of the Osservatore Romano in a March 13 editorial which drew media attention to that part alone of his editorial.

And yet the heart of the unprecedente4d papal message - a courageous and humble letter, in which Benedict XVI assumes responsibility for the entire Curial machinery that went wrong - has risked and continues to be at risk for submergence by side issues.

It is true that Papa Ratzinger does not hide, in the seven-page letetr he sent to his 'brothers in the episcopal ministry', that he was hit extremely hard by the external controversies, by the media exploitation of his act of mercy and reconciliation towards the Lefebvrians, and especially by the harshness and hostility of some reactions from Catholcs themselves and from within the Church hierarcy.

Bishops and cardinals attacked him and accused him of turning back the Church from Vatican-II, in 'an avalanche of protests whose bitterness revealed wounds arising beyond the moment'.

With his well thought out but solitary gesture, the Pope had wished, once more, to call everyone's attention to the need for a different way of viewing things, for the look of faith: "Ever anew we must learn the supreme priority: love".

Not to flatten out the debate nor the itnernal confrontation within the Church. Not to clear the slate of differences and diversity which have always characterized the 'catholic' Church - which is called catholic because it includes and does not exclude - within which the faith can be lived according to very different and divergent experiences, modalities and sensibilities.

Nor did the Pope's disappointment come from the fact that there was opposition to this decision. The pain that is apparent in the letter is due to the fact that the opposition was expressed in a manner that reminded him of the Pauline description of Christians who bite and devour each other, for in the opposition to him, there was no charity.

What prevailed was the logic of competing factions, transforming the Church itself into a sort of talk show, or a congress of political parties, with so many opposing currents and positions aimed solely at asserting power.

This aged Pope - who, at the start of his Pontificate, said that his task was "to show to men dn women today the light of Christ", not his own light but that of Christ - once again asks of the Church and all its members, as well as from his own Curia, a change of perspective and of mentality.

The perspective which one can grasp in the commentary published in today's Osservatore Romano by Bishop Rino Fisichella, on the Brazilian girl who was raped by her stepfather, conceived twins and was medically aborted.

A tragic story in which the bishop of Recife leapt to international headlines for having announced immediately that the doctors who performed the abortion were excommunicated.

"Before thinking of excommunication," Fisichella writes, "it was first necessary and urgent to safeguard the girl's uinnocent life and bring her back to a level of humanity, about which we men of the Church should be expert announcers and teachers."

This is the attitude of mercy to which Benedict XVI bears witness in the and to the Church.

To think that the heart of the problem lies only in the offices of the Secretariat of State - even if there exist undeniable dysfunctions - or the practice of more effective communications strategies, or even the arbitrary divisions following political logic into conservatives and progressivists, simply means, once more, reducing the profundity of the Pope's teaching to the logic of worldly power.

The Pope does not need authorized interpreters - he communicates excellently and is always at his best even when speaking off the cuff.

At a time in history when God 'is disappearing from the horizon of men", it is necessary to rediscover that corporate logic cannot be applied to the Church, which in turn, cannot close in on itself, just contemplating its organizational charts.

The Church lives with its doors wide open to the world. Let us not forget that precisely because of this, the Bishop of Rome leaves this Tuesday, for Africa, the forgotten continent.


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Thank you, Mr. Tornielli, for a much-needed dose of reality. In the impressions I posted upon reading the full letter for the first time, I mentioned this:

So it has come to this: that the Holy Father needs to remind bishops of the Catholic Church of certain basic facts about excommunication, and unity in the Church, and a Church that functions in love and charity, and that the Church has to set an example of such love and charity to a world without God, instead of the bickering and exclusionism that characterized their reaction to the Pope's move towards the FSSPX.

The Pope could not have been clearer - he always is - but I suppose people only see what they want to see.

Even the Austrian bishops, however, took note that the Pope had reminded them that the heart of his Petrine ministry is what it has always been, 'God is love'.

I think what he really reminded them was that 'God is love', which they seem to have forgotten.


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15/03/2009 12.51
 
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Pope to make historic visit
to Britain next year

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones
Religious Affairs Correspondent
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March 14, 2009


Pope Benedict XVI is set to make an historic visit to the UK. The German pontiff will make the first Papal visit to this country in nearly three decades.

It is understood that the historic event is being timed to coincide with the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who is on the path to becoming the first British saint for 40 years.

Details of the visit, which will attract crowds of hundreds of thousands of people, are still under discussion, but cities being considered include London, Birmingham, Oxford, Edinburgh, Armagh and Dublin.

A senior cardinal is due to make a private trip to Britain in the summer to make preparations for the Pope's visit, which could be announced by the end of this year.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales will hope that such an event will capture the imagination of the country's four million Catholics, of whom only a quarter now regularly attend Mass.

It could also provide a boost to Gordon Brown with a general election in the same year.

At the same time, the Government has embarked on a major diplomatic mission in an attempt to change the long-standing law banning Catholics from succeeding to the throne.

Sources close to Gordon Brown said that controversial plans to reform the 1701 Act of Settlement are "very much alive" - despite official statements to the contrary.

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, is overseeing an attempt to secure the backing of all 53 Commonwealth countries, which would be needed before any legislation could be be enacted.

If support can be secured, a plan for change could be agreed at the November meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) in Trinidad and Tobago, to be attended by the Queen, and the pledge could be included in Labour's next general election manifesto.

There has been heightened speculation over the possibility of a Papal visit following extensive lobbying by the Government in recent years.

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have each extended two invitations since 2007.

Prince Charles is expected to add further momentum to Britain's bid to secure what would be only the second visit by a Pope since Henry VIII broke with Rome to establish the Church of England in 1534.

Relations between the Catholic Church and the Government have been strained following clashes over the introduction of laws enforcing homosexual equality and the Embryo Bill, which paved the way for the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos.

However, secret talks began between the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Vatican shortly after Pope Benedict's election in 2005, long before Gordon Brown's private audience last month.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, wrote to the Pope in 2006, suggesting that he should come to Britain in 2007 to mark the 25th anniversary of the visit by the late Pope John Paul II.

He proposed that a tour should include a lecture at Oxford University as well as an address to the Houses of Parliament.

The Cardinal was in Rome last week, where he met with Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, and it is likely they discussed plans for a Papal visit.

It has yet to be decided whether the Pope would travel to Britain solely for a service of beatification for Cardinal Newman or whether it would be turned into a tour of the British Isles.

A senior source in Rome revealed that bishops in England are divided over whether the service would be conducted in Birmingham, where his remains are venerated, or in London at Westminster Cathedral or Wembley stadium.

The Pope has privately expressed an interest in travelling to Oxford, having previously only visited Cambridge, and would also be likely to visit Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In a message released last week, he strongly condemned the attacks in Northern Ireland that left two British soldiers and a policeman dead as "abominable acts of terrorism".

"Apart from desecrating human life, [they] seriously endanger the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland and risk destroying the great hopes generated by this process in the region and throughout the world," he said.

"I ask the Lord that no one will again give in to the horrendous temptation of violence."

The Pope would be likely to visit Dublin as well as Omagh or Belfast, the senior source said, adding that there has been a notable shift in dialogue on the issue.

"There have been a number of invitations before, but the language was different from the past. It is no longer a case of paying lip service, but of looking for a time in the diary that works."

The timing of Pope Benedict's visit is likely to depend on the process to beatify Cardinal Newman – one of Britain's most famous Anglican converts to Catholicism.

While the Vatican department responsible for examining the causes of saints is yet to attribute a miracle to the Cardinal Newman, the Pope is understood to have taken a personal interest in his cause.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the head of the department, has already said that would like the Cardinal's beatification – the step before canonisation – to take place very soon.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has previously said that the British public would be "delighted" if the Pope were to agree to visit.

On John Paul II's tour in 1982, crowds turned out in their thousands to welcome him around the country.

Plans to allow Catholics to succeed to the throne have been backed by senior Labour figures including Jim Murphy, the Scotland Secretary, who has said: "It's wrong to have a settled constitutional position that discriminates."

Any change will be controversial. A petition lodged on the 10 Downing Street website has demanded that the government "keep the monarchy Protestant" rather than allowing Catholics to succeed.

In response a Number 10 spokesman said: "The government has no plans to change the constitutional position of the monarchy, which continues to personify both our national and Commonwealth unity as well as embodying the community cohesion and diversity of which the British people are rightly proud."

This led campaigners against change to conclude they had won a victory. However, a source close to Mr Brown said: "This plan is still very much alive.

"The reason for the [No 10] statement is that that is the current position. The problem in getting a change like this is that you can't just review it and then announce plans to legislate.

"You have to get every Commonwealth country to agree as well. That is obviously an exhaustive process."

A spokesman for the catholic bishops' conference said: "The Catholic community in this country would greatly welcome a visit from the Holy Father.

"There is an awareness that there are a number of invitations that have to be considered and it will depend on the Papal diary."


*******************************************************************
March 14, 2009

Pope to make official UK visit
by Isabel Oakeshott
Deputy Political Editor
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March 15, 2009


THE POPE is preparing to make a historic official visit to Britain.

Sources at the Vatican have indicated that Benedict XVI is ready to accept an invitation from Gordon Brown to come to the UK. It would be the first state visit by a Pope to Britain and could take place as soon as next year; September 2010 is considered the likeliest date.

Unlike John Paul II’s ground-breaking visit in 1982, which was “pastoral” and did not involve going to Downing Street or meeting the Prime Minister, the event would be a full state visit, with the Pontiff addressing both Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

It would include the dramatic spectacle of the Pope addressing MPs and peers in Westminster Hall, where Sir Thomas More was condemned to death in 1535 for opposing the Act of Supremacy.

The act made Henry VIII “supreme head” of the nascent Protestant religious group the Church of England, signalling a split from Rome. Benedict XVI would also meet the Queen on his visit.

The Holy See has yet officially to accept Brown’s invitation, which followed similar invitations by the former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who converted to Catholicism after leaving office.

However, a report published in The Sunday Telegraph today claims he may do so as soon as next month. Last night Downing Street confirmed that the Vatican had given a “very warm” response to Brown’s invitation.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is obviously very keen and has invited the Pope to visit all parts of the UK. The Pope’s spokesman at the Vatican was very positive about the possibility.”



Benedict to follow
John Paul II to Scotland

By Christopher Claire
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March 15, 2009


THE Pope is expected to visit Scotland for the first time in almost 30 years, it was reported last night.

A formal invitation from Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy to incorporate a trip to Scotland into a visit to the UK is understood to have been accepted by Pope Benedict XVI.

The first papal visit to Scotland since 1982 is expected to take place in September next year, although precise details are being kept secret for security reasons.

The Pope's visit to the UK will be timed to coincide with the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, a Roman Catholic priest who died in 1890, who is on the path to becoming a saint.

A team of officials from the Vatican are expected to fly to Britain in the summer to make plans for the historic visit, which is only the Pope's second tour of the country since the Reformation.

The 81-year-old Pope is likely to take in Scotland and Northern Ireland during his visit to the UK, which has been in the pipeline since Tony Blair was Prime Minister.

The Pope's visit will be a major boost to the Catholic Church in Britain, which has around four million members.

The Pope was invited to Scotland by Murphy, who spoke to Prime Minister Gordon Brown about extending an invitation to the Pope to come to the UK, which Brown had made during a meeting at the Vatican.

Plans for a possible visit have been discussed for years between the Vatican and the Catholic Church in Britain.

In the months before the visit, the Prime Minister will press ahead with moves to reform the Act of Settlement, which bans Catholics from succeeding to the throne, in a move which is likely to appeal to Catholic voters.

The last Pope to visit Scotland was Pope John Paul II, who made a six-day trip to the UK in 1982. His appearances included a Mass in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow attended by about 300,000 people.

The current Pope's planned visit to Scotland will be one of his first international tours. He has made just one official visit, when he returned to his native Germany in August for an "apostolic voyage".
[That is wrong. All his foreign trips so far have been official visits as well, in that each time, he was also invited as Head of State by the host country's government.]

The Pontiff is also due to visit Cameroon and Angola later this month, with a trip to Israel scheduled for later in the year.


*********************************************************************


What follows is a curious news item. I don't have time just now to trace other sources. But who is Thomas J Reese and what does 'US Vatican representative' mean?


Benedict-Obama meeting
being arranged for April?

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Rome, March 15 (dpa) - The Vatican and Washington are in the process of organizing a meeting of Pope Benedict XVI with US President Barack Obama, Italian media quoted US Vatican representative Thomas J Reese as saying.

It is possible that the two leaders would meet during Obama's first visit to Europe on the occasion of the G20 summit in London in April, Reese said in an interview on Italian television.

According to the Ansa news agency, the Holy See has unofficially confirmed the proposed meeting.

The Vatican has criticized the new President on his administration's policies on abortion and stem cell research.

[Not that a meeting will change Obama's set views on that, in any event!]


There's something clearer now, and more definite on this:

No request has been received so far
for a meeting with the Pope,
says Fr. Lombardi

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VATICAN CITY, March 15 (Translated from Apcom) - "At the moment, we have not received any request from the President of the United States to meet the Pope," said Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican press director today.

In an interview with Lucia Annunziata on the program 'In mezz'ora' on RAI-3, the Jesuit Thomas Reese hypothesized on a possible meeting at the Vatican, because President Obama willl be in Europe from March 31 to April 5 for a G20 summit.

Fr. Lombardi also pointed out that the new US amdinistration has yet to name a new ambassador to the Vatican to succeed Mary Ann Glendon, who was President Bush's last ambassador.

Another possible occasion for a meeting with the Pope would come in June when Obama will be in Rome for a G10 summit.

*********************************************************************

Well, shame on dpa for reporting a hypothesis made in a TV interview as news - and worse, for identifying the Jesuit Thomas Reese as the 'US Vatican representative'!
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15/03/2009 13.07
 
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ANGELUS TODAY

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Pope Benedict XVI asked the faithful today to pray for him as he embarks on his first tip Africa on Tuesday, visiting Cameroon and Angola.

He quoted from today's Reading from St. Paul about announcing the news of the Crucified Lord to the world, and said he would be going to Africa with only that Good News.

He also recalled that March 19 will be the feast day of St. Joseph, who is his name saint, pointing out that the angel had advised Joseph to bring Mary and the Baby Jesus to Egypt, in Africa, to escape the wrath of Herod.

Here is what he said in English:

As we continue our Lenten journey may our resolve to follow Jesus be strengthened through prayer, forgiveness, fasting and assistance to those in need.

This Tuesday, I leave Rome for my visit to Cameroon and Angola. My presence in the great Continent of Africa forms part of the preparation for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the theme: "The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace".

I ask each of you to join me in praying that my visit will be a time of spiritual renewal for all Africans and an occasion in which civic and religious leaders will strengthen their resolve to walk the path of justice, integrity and compassion. May the lives of African men, women and children be transformed in hope!

Upon all of you gathered and your loved ones, I gladly invoke the strength and peace of Christ the Lord.



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Here is a full translation of the Holy Father's words at the Angelus today:

Dear brothers and sisters!

From Tuesday, March 17, to Monday, March 23, I will be making my first apostolic trip to Africa.

I will be going to Cameroon, in its capital Yaounde, to deliver the 'Working Instrument' of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of teh Bishops' Synod which will take place in October here at the Vatican.

I will then proceed to Luanda, capital of Angola, a nation which after a long civil war, has found peace and is now called to reconstruct itself in justice.

With this visit, I intend to embrace ideally the entire African continent - its thousand differences and its profound religious spirit; its ancient cultures and its laborious path of development adn reconciliation; its serious problems, its serious problems, its painful wounds and its enormous potential and hopes.

I intend to confirm African Catholics in their faith, encourage Christians in the ecumenical commitment, and bring to everyone the announcement of peace entrusted to the Church by the Risen Christ.

While I prepare myself for this missionary voyage, the words of the Apostle Paul resound in my soul, as the liturgy proposes for our meditation on this third Sunday of lent: "We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1,23-24).

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, I leave for Africa, knowing that I have nothing to propose and to give to those I will meet but Christ and the Good News of his Cross, mystery of supreme love, of divine love that conquers every human resistance and makes possible even forgiveness and love for one's enemies.

This is the grace of the Gospel that is capable of transforming the world. This is the grace that can renew even Africa, because it generates an irresistible force of peace and of profound and radical reconciliation.

The Church does not pursue economic, social and political objectives. The Church announces Christ, certain that the Gospel can touch the hearts of everyone and transform them, thus renewing from within the person and society.

On March 19, during my pastoral visit in Africa, we will be celebrating the solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of teh universal Church - as well as mine, as you know.

St. Joseph, advised in a dream by an angel, had to flee with Mary to Egypt, in Africa, to keep the newborn Jesus safe from Herod who wanted to kill him.

And thus the Scriptures came to pass: Jesus followed the footsteps of the ancient Jewish patriarchs, and then, like the people of Israel, returned to the Promised Land after an exile in Egypt.

To the celestial intercession of this great saint, I entrust my coming pilgrimage and the people of all Africa, along with the challenges that mark them and the hopes that animate them.

In particular, I think of the victims of hunger and disease, of injustices, the fratricidal conflicts and every form of violence that, unfortunately, continues to strike at adults and children, and does not spare missionaries, priests, religious and volunteers.

Brothers and sisters, be with me on this trip with your prayers, invoking Mary, Mother and Queen of Africa.


After the prayers, he said this:

This morning the Pauline Jubilee celebrations of university students ended at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.

The students' celebration was promoted by the Congregation for Catholic Education and by the Pontifical Council on Culture, and organized by teh Vicariate of Rome, with the theme "'That which you adore without knowing, I announce to you': Gospel and culture for a new humanism".

UI am very happy for the presence in Rome of distinguished professors and delegates of various university pastoral ministries from all the continents.

This event constitutes an important phase in the always-lively dialog between the Church and the university. I hope that a pastoral ministry for universities may develop in all the local Churches for the formation of the youth and to elaborate a culture inspired by the Gospel.

Dear university students, I encourage you and am with you in prayer.



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15/03/2009 14.56
 
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Here's another belated post. Sorry, I haven't quite recovered my rhythm and pace...


English bishops' summary of Pope's letter
leaves out the bits they don't like

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March 12, 2009

The Bishops of England and Wales today produced a summary of Pope Benedict's letter about the SSPX/Williamson affair that misrepresents the Holy Father by leaving out the bits they don't like. I think that's really shabby and unprofessional.

In his endearingly humble letter, the Pope apologised for the Vatican's mistakes and their consequences.

[I'm sorry, but even Thompson has fallen into the trap of some journalists who say the Pope 'apologized' - he did not, because he has nothing to apologize for. He identifies his letter from the first paragraph as 'a word of clarification'.

Nowhere in the letter does the word 'apology' or 'apologize' appear - the expression he uses, referring to mistkaes made, is 'deeply regret', the same that he used after the deliberate misunderstanding of the passage he cited in his Regensburg lecture.]


He took personal responsibility for those mistakes, which were serious [but procedural and administrative, not substantial!], and reaffirmed his commitment to friendship with the Jewish people. This much is reflected in the England and Welsh bishops' summary, which is as follows:

Statement from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales:

“The Pope’s letter is a collegial act to the Bishops of the Catholic Church.

In a deeply humble letter, the Pope explains his decision to lift the excommunications of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre and offers a heartfelt apology for the mistakes made and the unintended consequences of that decision.

He thanks ‘our Jewish friends’ for quickly helping to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the friendship and trust that has existed throughout his pontificate and that of John-Paul II.

The Pope expresses his strong commitment to inter-religious dialogue, especially with those of the Jewish faith and ecumenical dialogue with other Christians.

He reveals his passion for reconciliation and in a rallying call to all in the Church to give better witness, the Pope emphasises that the fundamental priority of the Church is to lead men and women to God.

Essential to this task is the need for unity and it is the Petrine Office that is the centre and promoter of the unity of the Church and, as such, a prophetic voice as to how individuals and nations across the world should relate.

As part of our Lenten journey the Pope calls on all of us to put our trust in the Lord who protects us and guides our steps along the way to peace.

But Pope Benedict said much, much more than this. He explained why he reached out to the SSPX, while making it clear how difficult he found them. He said the following:

Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful?

Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church? I think for example of the 491 priests. We cannot know how mixed their motives may be. All the same, I do not think that they would have chosen the priesthood if, alongside various distorted and unhealthy elements, they did not have a love for Christ and a desire to proclaim him and, with him, the living God.

Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity? What would then become of them?

The Pope's passionate concern for the Christians of the SSPX lies at the heart of his controversial decision. His statements about the Society are a crucial element in his letter.

Yet the bishops of England and Wales make no reference to it in their summary, which will have guided many journalists in their reporting of the letter.

That is disgusting, because it is deliberate, just as the bishops' dismissive reaction to Summorum Pontificum was deliberate. Please don't tell me otherwise. The Pope also wrote these remarkable words:

At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.

Many Catholics will be delighted that the Pope has defended himself from the vicious attacks on him made by enemies of the Church and Catholic opponents of his reforms. If, that is, they get to hear about it.

For there is no mention of this unprecedented statement by the Holy Father in the Bishops' Conference statement. Why? Let me tell you: because some (not all) bishops thought the Pope deserved the attacks made on him, and one or two were egging on his critics.

I'm sick of these bishops. Yes, I know, I bang on and on about their failings, week after week, but this statement really is the pits: under the guise of loyalty, and through selective editing, it comes perilously close to hanging out the Pope to dry.


*********************************************************************

'Perilously close'? They've already done it before - with their crass disregard of Summorum Pontificum. Nonetheless, it is still shocking that they would persist in their opposition to the Pope in this underhanded manner.

Why they needed to summarize the letter at all is absurd to begin with. It wasn't a lengthy one - and by doing so, they rob the gesture of everything that is personal about it. They are doing what the MSM have been doing all along - filtering what the Pope says to retain only what they want to pass along.

Worse, they continue to be willfully arrogant - as I've said before, they seem to think that as bishops, they are equal to the Successor of Peter himself, when even their ultimate authority, Vatican II, insists on the primacy of Peter. [Or will they interpret those very clear statements found all over the Vatican-II documents as contrary to the 'spirit of Vatican II'?]


Worst of all, they are deliberately missing out on charity, and truth in charity - and therefore, on what it means to be Christian.

Maybe he has done it before, but I sure hope Thompson can list all these recalcitrant, arrogant bishops!
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15/03/2009 16.22
 
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Benedict XVI's letter
challenges dissident bishops
and makes history

by Stefano Fontana
Translated from
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The letter sent by Benedict XVI to all the Catholic bishops of the world to clarify his recall of the FSSPX bishops' excommunication may seem a sign of weakness, and for that reason, disconcerting [Strange premise to start out with, especially since not even the Pope's customary detractors have portrayed it as a 'sign of weakness' although they emphasize it as an 'admission of error' (correct - but procedural error, not doctrinal), and even as an 'apology' which it was not] but also a sign of strength, if one believes that truth and charity constitute real strength.

It had never happened before that a Pope has spoken openly of Catholics "who thought they had to attack me with open hostility' - a hostility occasioned by the recall of the excommunications, but which 'laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment'.

It had never happened before that a Pontiff has publicly denounced having been treated 'hatefully, without misgiving or restraint', and without being shown the tolerance which is normally not denied to anyone.

It is clear that the letter does not speak to the Lefbevrians nor the Jews but to Catholic bishops, about Catholic bishops.

The Pope laments the behavior of 'his own people', not of others. Certainly, he deplores the Williamson case, which overrode 'the remission of the excommunication', just as he also points out that some members of the FSSPX have said 'many unpleasant things (with) arrogance and presumptuousness'.

And he thanks those Jews who understood that the excommunication recall did not mean any step backwards in the process of reconciliation between Jews and Christians that followed Vatican II - steps which, the Pope points out, "my own work as a theologian had sought from the beginning to take part in and support".

If he negates those steps, he would be negating not only the work of his predecessors but also his own personal work as a theologian.

The problem is within the Church, not outside it. Within the Church, too many were waiting for the right moment to vent themselves against him and accuse him to turning back to pre-Vatican II or of concerning himself with marginal things rather than evangelization.

"Biting and devouring' where the words used by St. Paul to describe the situation among the quarreling Galatians whom he stigmatizes in his letter. Benedict XVI confesses, that as an exegete, he had always thought those words were perhaps rhetorical excess, but he knows now that they also describe the present reality within the Church.

For some time, the newspapers have amused themselves by naming prelates who are for or against this Pope's line of thinking. And careful observers have long noted the problems of government with the Curia. All of which exists, true, but they have always existed.

Secretaries and friendly cardinals often form a wall around the Pope, either to protect him or to isolate him. And Ratzinger's character is not that of Wojtyla. But obviously there is much more to the hostility against him, beyond the normal human quarrels that are present in any environment.

It is that this Pope has drawn a very precise line. Even in this letter, he specifies that the Lefebvrians are wrong to think that Church teaching was frozen in 1982, just as they are wrong who think that Vatican II was a new beginning when it 'embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church'.

The point, in the end, comes to only this: whether God should have a place in this world. Whether nature and human reason are self-sufficient orders in themselves, or whether man needs hope and salvation. Whether a life 'without a religious element' becomes, as Guardini says, 'like an engine that is out of gas'.

Benedict XVI has drawn the line that No, the world cannot be on its own, and Christianity should become once again a force that animates history, that is present in the public sphere, and above all, that is conscious of being the 'true' religion. [None of which is 'politically correct', in the eyes of the progrssivists.]

Christianity confronts reason (the world) with the problem of truth, it helps it clarify the idea of what is truth, and therefore makes the world capable of understanding the truth itself of Christianity.

This Pope insists that it is Christianity, and Christianity alone, that can enable the world to take stock of itself and make a full accounting of the truth.

It is not fundamentalism, because it does not flatten out the levels of argument, but neither does it make room for the subtle distinctions made by liberal bishops, progressivist theologians and Catholics who profess charity without truth.

In his letter, with his taste for irony, Benedict XVI implies that his critics think he should concern himself with 'more important and urgent matters'. Mere pretext on their part, because these critics really advocate a 'minimal Church' that 'accompanies' its members but does not announce the truth.

And so he makes it clear in the Letter that he knows full well the priority of the Successor of Peter today: "to make God present in this world".

But that is precisely what many of his critics probably look on with distrust - as being a sign of 'turning back' against the 'spirit of Vatican II'.

Never has a Pope shown so openly his weakness. [He uses the word 'debolezza' - whose various connotations are weakness, powerlessness, feebleness, frailty, infirmity - none of which applies to Benedict XVI; I think the proper word is vulnerability].

But this Letter is disconcerting only at first glance. Then one realizes the strength of truth, the capacity to acknowledge procedural errors, but above all, a reaffirmation of the true strength of Christianity, charity: "Should not the great Church allow herself to be generous in the knowledge of her great breadth?"

The Pope of truth is also the Pope of charity.

The struggle will continue, but victory is already his.


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There is much food for thought in this layman's perspective by the historian-philosopher Galli della Loggia:


Benedict XVI:
Challenged by history

by ERNESTO GALLI DELLA LOGGIA
Translated from
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For its exceptional character and for the words it contains, Benedict XVI's letter to the Catholic bishops of the world says much more than the personal torment of a Pope who has been attacked and besieged even by his own, and who sees in the Church - in the very Curia, according to the editor of the Pope's own newspaper - those who 'bite and devour each other'.

The letter and its contents betray his perplexity and disappointment but also something more important, in truth: a comprehensive difficulty of leadership that weighs down on the very summit of the Church.

Many symptoms seem to show, in fact, that contradictions that have been accumulating in the past half century around the role of the papacy are starting to emerge gradually, indicating it has undergone a historic transformation.

This transformation has had two principal aspects with which the figure of any Pope must now come to terms: the advent of TV and Vatican II.

Worldwide TV meant the virtual transformation of the Pope from spiritual leader of the Church of Rome into a world figure who is subjected daily to planetary public opinion, which is for the most part not Catholic, and worse, not even Christian. Easy prey therefore to the mass media, who are the servant-masters of such public opinion.

John XXIII, who became Pope at the end of the 1950s - around the time that TV started to be a worldwide phenomenon - was the first Pope to enjoy the opportunities offered by the change: He quickly became known as a universal leader of ethical-charismatic character, and in a sense, meta-religious (He quickly became dubbed the 'good Pope', as though his predecessors had been 'bad Popes' - but that was the way they were made to appear by the media, if only by inference, and so they 'became'].

But this involvement in global public opinion and with the mass media represents a chain weight for the Pope. And a chain that has substantially nothing religious about it (nor even spiritual), though it has had quite an influence on the popularity of a Pope in the Catholic world itself- whose internal differences the world media have never left unexploited, almost always defining and emphasizing such internal differences in the most banal ideological ways.

And so the Pope, whoever he is, becomes a virtual prisoner of, on the one hand, a 'duty' to have charisma, to cut a good figure on TV, to have the appropriate theatrical presence, to be a 'sympathetic' figure; and on the other hand, by the obligation of political correctness, on which the consensus of media conformism usually depends.

In short, a Pope is expected to be a sort of Dalai Lama in papal robes - ideologically acceptable to everyone (except the Chinese in the case of teh present Dalai Lama.) [Though he has expressed himself very strongly in recent times against the very idea of homosexuality, let alone gay marriages, but not one liberal has protested his stand!]

The second tension-filled transformation to the institutional role of the Papacy came from Vatican II. In practice, Vatican II made way for partisanship within the Church.

Let us be clear about one thing: Before Vatican II, there had always been 'parties' within the Roman Curia - but only in the Curia, among the men at the top. Not among the faithful, not in the Catholic world in general.

With Vatican II and after it, around its dictates and its so-called 'spirit', the Catholic world split into two camps: the cautious and the radical.

And for 40 years, these two camps have been battling openly and incessantly, each with its own leaders and representatives, more or less authentic and more or less actively interested, parties within he Roman Curia.

But these interested parties, being able to count on an effective back-up of 'followers', have become more combative, and therefore more disorderly and insidious than in the past.

To the point, as we are made to understand, of openly opposing or boycotting, behind the scenes, the authority of the Pope himself whenever his decision may seem to favor the 'other' side.

This is the full configuration of the contradictory situation that history has created for the Church.

The Pope today really has only one weapon ti overcome the hostility of the party that is against him, and to be able to affirm in his own realm his indisputable authority as an absolute monarch: and that is, to have a charismatic-mediatic appeal that can gain the meta-religious consensus of the global audience, a mastery of gesture and words capable of erupting from the screens of CNN or landing on Page 1 of the New York Times.

To do this, he risks losing an essential trait of his historical role: spiritual independence.

It is an independence that is no guarantee, certainly, against errors, but which always ;eaves him the possibility of giving voice to something other than the media's marching orders of the day.

One thing is sure: in the search for a difficult way that could conserve the freedom of an absolute monarch among the opposing sides of the Catholic world, on the one hand, and media-generated world public opinion, on the other, Benedict XVI is sadly, irrevocably alone.

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And he well may be, because he alone is Pope. One thing we can be sure of: He will never play the game as it has come to be imposed by the rules of the dominant culture, even on a world figure as unique as the Pope.

He will go on doing and saying what he thinks is right, knowing his risks where media and public opinion are concerned. And he will be disputed again and again, and subjected each time to the same ordeal, perhaps escalating in intensity, because the sharks have tasted blood.

The media will be even more quick to 'catch him out' in some perceived 'blunder' or 'gaffe', since even people like John Allen have made up their mind he is as 'gaffe-prone' in more serious ways than the George W. Bush they endlessly mocked for his misadventures in the English language....

But I have always maintained that no one more than he could have been acutely aware, upon becoming Pope, that media and the public opinion it generates would be his major challenge outside the Church.

And I have tried to consider it in perspective by thinking that perhaps that is the cross God means for him to bear, in place of physical challenges as it was for John Paul II [between the assassination attempt on him and its long-term effects on his system, plus the Parkinson's of his final years].

What he did not expect, obviously, was the degree of the hostility shown to him by the dissident bishops and cardinals. When was the last time so many purple and red hats openly defied a Pope?

In our own recent memory, perhaps the only precedent was the opposition to Paul VI's Humanae Vitae. But there was no Internet at the time, and the dynamic was certainly far different - because there was no saturation 24/7 coverage.

Say what they will, his ability to rebound with a surprise - and historic at that - is just as much fodder for the media.

Did any of them think that barely two months after the Regensburg lecture, he would score such an overwhelming triumph in Turkey by simply being himself?

Did any of them expect his words and actions to deal the way he did with the pain of the priest scandals in the US and Australia?

Did any of them expect that he would respond to the outcry against him this time with a letter that has rightly been called by some a mini-encyclical despite its very personal nature?

And did any of them expect that he could turn out and galvanize huge crowds during his travels as much as John Paul did though with a very different 'non-mediatic' style?

Has any Pope in recent memory - even the great John Paul II - produced as many great surprises as Benedict XVI has done in less than 4 years?

Everyone seems to forget all those things in the heat of any current controversy.

And it is just depressing to think that in an earlier, more civil and civilized era - say, two generations ago - the very fact of Benedict's age alone would have been a deterrent to such savagery as we have recently witnessed against him. The opposition might have been expressed properly in respectful ways.

But the West appears to have lost that value among so many others. In Asia (and perhaps in the tribal cultures of Africa), age still deserves and gets special respect.

Meanwile, I am looking forward to new surprises next week in Cameroon and Angola.

As long as we the simple faithful and all right-thinking priests and religious continue praying for the Pope and for our Church, their detractors will not prevail.




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Pope hopes to inspire peace on Africa trip

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON
March 15, 2009

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI leaves this week on his first trip to Africa — the fastest-growing region for the Roman Catholic church — saying Sunday that he wants to bring a message of hope to a continent suffering from poverty, disease and armed conflict.

The German-born pope, who has mainly visited the affluent West during his nearly four-year papacy, departs Tuesday on a seven-day pilgrimage that will take him to Cameroon and Angola.

"With this visit I aim to ideally embrace the entire African continent," he told pilgrims and tourists during his weekly blessing in St. Peter's Square.

The Catholic Church experienced extraordinary growth in Africa over the past century — it now counts nearly 20 percent of the continent's population — helped by Pope John Paul II's visits to 42 countries.

For Benedict, whose only previous stop in Africa was in Kinshasa in 1987 as a cardinal, the continent presents major challenges and opportunities.

He is expected to address them in meetings with Muslim representatives, bishops, health workers and women's advocacy groups.

He also will meet with political leaders in the two countries, both accused of corrupt use of oil revenues that enrich a small elite while most of their people are impoverished.

Africa produces priests at a higher rate than anywhere in the world but finds itself in competition with Islam in Cameroon, Nigeria and elsewhere, while evangelical churches are winning over young people much as they are doing in Latin America, once a bastion of Catholicism.

Some priests and nuns working with victims of the AIDS pandemic ravaging the continent are questioning the church's opposition to condoms. Celibacy required of Roman Catholic priests is a challenge on a continent where many cultures consider men boys until they have fathered children.

In his remarks Sunday, Benedict cited Africa's "thousand differences and deep religious soul, its ancient cultures and its difficult path of development and reconciliation, its grave problems, painful wounds and enormous potential and hopes."

Benedict said he wants to invigorate the growing church in Africa.

"I intend to confirm Catholics in their faith," he said, and "proclaim the peace entrusted to the Church" by Jesus.

Benedict said that as he sets out for Africa, he has in mind "the victims of hunger, disease, injustice, fratricidal conflicts and every form of violence which unfortunately continue to afflict adults and children, without sparing missionaries" and volunteers working on the continent.

The Rev. Rodney Moss, the head of St. Augustine College, South Africa's only Catholic university, said the pope would spend most of his time listening, not preaching "then offer words of encouragement, perhaps offer some suggestions."

"I understand he may also address certain issues, including corruption ... but he would speak in generalities, not address specific charges."

"In Africa, where there is so much want, so much deprivation, the faith is strong because people know that they need the grace of God. ... Our need for God is very, very essential, and I think our need becomes greater when we have very little," Moss said.

Benedict has never spoken explicitly on condom use, but in a 2005 address to African bishops he said the church was in the forefront in efforts to treat the victims of AIDS. The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight spread of the disease.

The issue could come up during one of the major events of the trip, an open-air Mass for young people in a soccer stadium in Angola on the second leg of the trip.

The trip will be Benedict's 11th foreign pilgrimage as pope. He also is planning to visit Jordan and Israel in May.

AP correspondent Michelle Faul in South Africa contributed to this report.

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In Africa, Pope will urge world
not to forget the neediest

By Philip Pullella
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VATICAN CITY, March 15 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict this week makes his first trip to Africa where he will urge developed nations grappling with the economic crisis not to forget the continent where survival is a daily struggle for millions.

The March 17-23 visit to Cameroon and Angola will give the Pope, who has sometimes been called "Eurocentric," a chance to speak out on other issues facing the continent -- war, corruption and sometimes tense relations between Christians and Muslims.

Although he is visiting only two countries, the message will be continent-wide, particularly as the Pope will be holding several meetings with bishops from every African country.

"I intend to ideally embrace the entire continent, its thousand differences, its deep religious soul, its ancient cultures, its weary path of development and reconciliation, its grave problems, its painful wounds and its enormous potential and hope," he said on Sunday.

"In particular, I am thinking of the victims of hunger, sickness, injustices, fratricidal conflicts and every form of violence that unfortunately continues," he told pilgrims and tourists in St Peter's Square.

In the 20th century Africa's Catholic population shot up from about 2 million in 1900 to about 140 million in 2000, making the continent ever more important to the Vatican as the number of practicing Catholics in the developed world declines.

The Pope goes to Africa at a time when charity groups, U.N. organisations and non-governmental organisations have warned of "sympathy fatigue" by donor nations as the world grapples with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

So far, no African country is on track to reach all of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals on poverty eradication, human rights, equality, the environment, health and education.

"Even though the crisis has been slow in reaching Africa's shores, we all know it is coming and its impact will be severe," IMF Managing Director Dominque Strauss-Kahn said last week.

The United Nations has projected that the number of Africans living in extreme poverty, defined as making less than a dollar a day, will rise to 404 million by 2015.

Some 800 million Africans suffer chronic hunger and the crisis is already affecting remittances from Africans abroad who lose their jobs.

The Pope will spend about three and a half days in each country, starting in the Cameroon capital of Yaounde, where he will deliver a working document for a Catholic Church synod on Africa due to take place at the Vatican in October.

In Yaounde, he will visit a hospice where he will likely talk of AIDS. [I think I see now where and what the first media 'flash point' will be: anything the Pope says about fighting AIDS without condoms!]

The disease has killed more than 25 million people since the early 1980s, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Some 22.5 million people are living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Church teaches that fidelity within heterosexual marriage, chastity and abstinence are the best ways to stop AIDS. It does not approve condoms but some Church leaders have been calling for allowing their use in rare cases between married heterosexual couples where one partner has the disease.

In Angola, a former Portuguese colony living with a fragile political stability since a 27-year civil war that killed 1.5 million people ended in 2002, he is expected to push for negotiations to solve conflicts in other countries.

More than 20 African nations have been involved in armed conflict since 1990 and the Pope is expected to appeal to the international community to stop arms trafficking.

In Cameroon he meets Muslim leaders. Although Christian-Muslim relations in both countries are good, his message will likely have a continent-wide significance.

Christian-Muslim tensions have exploded into violence in a number of African countries, notably Nigeria and Sudan.


Pope says trip to Africa will focus
on continent's hopes, challenges

By John Thavis
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VATICAN CITY, March 15 (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said his trip to Africa would be a missionary journey highlighting the continent's challenges, its enormous potential and its "profound religious soul."

The Pope, speaking two days before his departure for Cameroon and Angola, said he was not bringing a political or social program to Africa, but simply the Gospel message of love that is "capable of transforming the world."

"This is the grace that can also renew Africa, because it generates an irresistible power of peace and a deep and radical reconciliation," the Pope told pilgrims at his noon blessing March 15.

"With this visit, I intend to embrace the entire African continent: its thousands of differences and its profound religious soul; its ancient cultures and its difficult path of development and reconciliation; its serious problems, its painful wounds and its enormous potential and hopes," he said.

The Pope dedicated the trip to St. Joseph, whose feast is March 19, and entrusted to the saint the challenges and hopes of all segments of the African population.

"In particular, I am thinking of the victims of hunger, of disease, of injustice, of fratricidal conflicts and every form of violence that unfortunately continues to strike adults and children, as well as missionaries, priests, men and women religious, and volunteers," he said.

The Pope said that among the main purposes of his weeklong visit was to confirm the faith of Catholics and encourage all Christians in ecumenical cooperation. He said the trip, his first to the African continent, was inspired in part by the evangelizing efforts of St. Paul.

"I depart for Africa with the awareness that I have nothing to propose and to give to those I will meet except Christ and the good news of his cross, a mystery of supreme love, of divine love that overcomes every human resistance and makes possible even forgiveness and love for one's enemies," he said.

The Pope was to spend March 17-20 in Cameroon, where he was scheduled to meet with African bishops and hand-deliver the working document for the Synod of Bishops for Africa, to be held in Rome next October.

The Pope was to visit Angola March 20-23, celebrating Masses, meeting with civil and religious leaders and meeting with young people in a soccer stadium.

It is his 11th foreign trip since his election as Pope in 2005.



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16/03/2009 02.50
 
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A psychiatrist considers
the Pope's letter:
Benedict is the face
of kindly paternity

by ANDREA GALLI
Translated from
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A best-selling author, theologian and psychiatrist Manfred Lutz is one of the most authoritative Catholic lay voices in Germany.

He took part in recent discussions, on TV and in writing, on the FSSPX case and on Benedict XVI's recent letter to the bishops of the world about the matter.

He is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and of the Pontifical Academy for Life.


Doctor Lutz, everyone has been professing their closeness to the Pope after his letter - even those bishops who up till three days ago had been attacking him relentlessly. Is this an action of the Holy Spirit or hypocrisy?
One should not rule out the action of the Holy Spirit - conversion is a very useful Christian category. I think the Pope's letter really did make a great impression.

It was not the letter of a functionary, but of a man who said with great directness, among other things, that he had been hurt. And this is always quite striking.


A gentle man, who has felt in his own skin the intolerance of self-proclaimed tolerant persons. Is that not paradoxical?
As a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, I know very well what the intolerance of the so-called tolerant persons is. They consider themselves tolerant and do not see their own intolerance, which is excluded from their very manner of conceiving things.

This psychology is very well demonstrated in this case. Even when the clarifications made are quite unequivocally directed at them.

For instance, many have pointed out that the Pope has acted in the same way, lifting the excommunications from Chinese bishops who had been illegally consecrated, exactly as he has done with the Lefebvrian bishops.

And that is quite understandable because that is among the Pope's primary tasks - to serve and guarantee the unity of the Church, and to heal divisions, especially those that have lasted for some time.


The resistances from some bishops were already evident with their application - or failure thereof - of Summorum Pontificum - as though there was widespread refusal to support any act that shows Church Tradition earlier than the Second Vatican Council.
The radical progressivists and the FSSPX use the same paradigm in interpreting the Council. Both consider it as a rupture, in a positive and negative sense, respectively. But that is a non-Catholic paradigm. The Catholic paradigm recognizes simply that a tradition cannot just be cast off - because it is alive, it is renewable.

Benedict XVI sought to reaffirm that view of tradition and touched an open nerve, arousing aggressive reactions from the most radical among the traditionalists and the progressivists.


Biting and devouring each other, Benedict XVV writes in his letter...
In Germany, at one time, there was tension between Catholics and Protestants, Today, there is a good climate. But the aggressiveness there was between them has passed into the Catholic Church itself. among conservatives and progressivists. So too, within the reformed churches, something similar happened with the evangelicals splitting off.

This has resulted in strange alliances: Catholic progressivists and Protestants have been disputing the Pope's action, whereas the decisive defenses of Benedict XVI have come from Idea, the most important magazine in the evangelical world. [????????]


Sometimes one thinks that there are always some persons who show intolerance or even hatred of the Pope every time he exercises his own Petrine authority.
That's true. If one uses a key to psychological reading, in our fatherless society - as Alexander Mitscherich has defined it - the Catholic Church (which happens to be governed by a Holy Father) is practically the only institution against which one can protest. It attracts to herself all the aggressiveness of those who do not have fathers or father figures to rail against.


But Benedict XVI's paternity is everything but authoritarian...
Obviously, with his very amiable and merciful ways, this Pope is the exact opposite of a Panzerkardinal, as they used to call him - the very same ones who enjoy seeing other Christians excommunicated.


Is the Pope alone, as many like to say? [Who know nothing of what he does out of the public eye!]
I think that like anyone who has been hurt, he could have felt alone. But a man who reacts as he did with his letter - and I refer even to the care he took to thank all who had supported him - shows that he knows very well he is not alone.

And once and for all, they must stop with this idea that Benedict XVI is alien to the world today. He is a theologian who has spent his life analyzing this very world, this society, contemporary culture, with an impressive sensitivity. [Thank you, Dr. Lutz. I have pointed out that obvious fact in my most vehement bout of frustration at the Politi-Allen types who insist on calling him isolated!]


Some have asked why has he not been as open to the liberation theologians, say, as he seems to be with the FSSPX?
Well, this is when one comes up against the ignorance of the lay press who seem to know everything about fatwas but nothing about excommunications.

As for the liberation theologians, the Church has taken certain positions of a doctrinal and disciplinary character against individual theologians, none of whom was excommunicated.

The four Lefebvrian bishops have been released from excommunication but they still have doctrinal and disciplinary problems to resolve.

The Progressivists who want to use excommunication as a punishment for holding different theological or historico-political ideas are going back to the Middle Ages.

We have a famous example of the ill-omened political use of excommunication and the need for Pope who is conscious of his spiritual mandate to revoke it from a penitent who asks to be released: Gregory VIII in Canossa, who, against his own personal and political advantage, decided to pardon the penitent Henry IV.

To Henry's question, "Are you a monarch or a priest?", both Gregory VII adn Benedict XVI gave the same answer. The Pope is, above everything, a priest. [YES! It's one of the things I like best about Joseph Ratzinger - that he is first and foremost a priest All good Popes are, of course, but he happens to be the only one I have followed closely, and the first priest who ever made me appreciate what the ministry really means.]


What will happen now, after this letter?
I am A psychotherapist and therefore I am used to asking what good can be drawn from bad. In this case, I would say that in Germany, Vatican II has never been so much discussed as in the psat few weeks. Nor have we ever spoken so much about the Christian-Jewish dialog and Nostra Aetate.

The role of the Pope is now perceived as pastoral but discreet, though even this is irritating to some. And as far as the FSSPX, which has been rather arrogant until recently, I am sure they have been struck by the fact that the Williamson case has visibly made the Pope suffer, and that is clear from the reactions of Mons. Fellay and FSSPX leaders in various countries. This has led them to an unusual moderation of tone.

So, we see, for Christians, suffering can have saving graces.


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