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12/31/2007 2:15 PM
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Posted today on the preceding page:

Calendar of Papal liturgical events from Dec. 31-Jan. 13- Starting with 6 p.m. Vespers, Te Deum and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament today, eve of tHE Feast of Mary's Maternity.

What the Pope faces in 2008 - A situationer from Apcom. Translated.



Speaking of forms of disobedience or at least open 'defiance', of Pope Benedict XVI, Damian Thompson, editor of the British Catholic weekly newspaper, Catholic Herald ('conservative' compared to the liberal progressivist The Tablet), has compiled a list of, to say the least, questionable actions by the bishops of England and Wales who are not fully in tune with the Pope.

'Unwavering fidelity' of English bishops
Posted by Damian Thompson
Holy Smoke! (blog)
Daily Telegraph (UK)
21 Dec 2007

In the past few months, Holy Smoke has occasionally hinted that the Bishops of England and Wales have been less that totally enthusiastic in their response to recent papal initiatives.

But perhaps I’ve been too harsh. Judge for yourselves. Here is a little review of the year that I’ve drawn up.

March: The Pope releases Sacramentum Caritatis, a historic, 60-page statement on the Eucharist. The English and Welsh bishops ignore it for two days, before finally posting three paragraphs on their website.

June: It is revealed that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor has written to the Vatican arguing against moves to allow Catholics greater freedom to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass.

On June 19, the 99 Names of Allah are sung in Westminster Cathedral.

July: Pope Benedict publishes Summorum Pontificum, his Motu Proprio removing the power of bishops to block celebrations of the Tridentine Mass. From now on it will be known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, or the traditional Latin Mass.

In his accompanying letter, the Pope emphasizes that he has liberated the ancient liturgy for the benefit of young people who have grown to love it. [Well, that was not the only reason, nor the principal one given! Let's be truthful here!]

The Bishops of England and Wales publish a muted response to the document. Unlike other bishops’ conferences, they do not issue a statement explaining its implications.

August: An agency of the Bishops’ Conference publishes Catholic Social Justice, a volume of essays that contains a withering attack on Pope Benedict and refers to the atrocities of 9/11 as “the 'terrorist attacks' ” in inverted commas.

September: The “director of liturgy” of Portsmouth Diocese, a layman called Paul Inwood, announces that most Catholics in the diocese are not even allowed to ask for the old Mass, as only traditionalist communities existing before the Motu Proprio was published are entitled to it. (The Pope’s document says no such thing.)

October: The Bishop of Leeds, Arthur Roche, writes to his priests saying that the underlying purpose of the Motu Proprio is to cater to Catholics who have not accepted “the liturgical reforms and perhaps the teaching of the Second Vatican Council”. Decisions about the Old Mass are still up to him, and that he is “not aware” of extra demand for it. Bishop Roche’s letter arouses outrage among traditionalists, who accuse him of misrepresenting the Motu Proprio.

November: Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor issues a “commentary” on the Motu Proprio that is very similar to Bishop Roche’s. He also says that the local bishop must be consulted about celebrations of the Traditional Mass – a stipulation not contained in the Motu Proprio.

It is revealed that the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Kieran Conry, has dismissed Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio as an “opinion” that is contrary to that of previous popes.

Sir Stephen Wall, former senior policy advisor to Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, writes an article accusing the Church of turning away from the message of Christ and heading towards “aggressive fundamentalism”.

December: The liberal Archbishop Piero Marini, dismissed as director of Vatican ceremonies by Pope Benedict, publishes a history of liturgical reform that contains coded attacks on current papal policies. The book launch is hosted by Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor in the throne room of Archbishop’s House, Westminster.

The Pope brings out his historic second encyclical, Spe Salvi, a stunning exploration of the theology of hope that reformulates the doctrine of Purgatory. There is a great excitement in Rome, but no press release from the Bishops of England and Wales.




And thanks to Gerald Augustinus, there was a sort of follow-up item on another Catholic blog, this one by Fr. Ray Blake in the online magazine of the Parish of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, England, which I will post here just to keep things together:

Cardinal wants to curb journalist
Magdalen, Brighton
Friday, December 28, 2007

I thought you might be interested to know that attempts are being made to shut up a certain Catholic journalist; no it is no-one on the dreadful Tablet, not even the ghastly sneering Bobbie Mickens.

Apparently the Cardinal, and maybe others, the Papal Nuncio's name has mentioned, has made representations to the owner and chairman of the Catholic Herald and the editors of two national newspapers.

They want the scalp of Damian Thompson, or at least they want his fingers broken so he can't criticise the hierarchy, Eccleston Square, inaction on the Motu Proprio, Church bureaucracy, or make suggestions on Cormac's successor, or criticise the dreadful Tablet.

Damian Thompson, once described as "a blood crazed ferret" by the Church Times, is a commentator on the Daily Telegraph, and Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic Herald. He can be outrageous at times, but that in a healthy society, or Church, should be the function of a journalist.

I find it truly worrying if senior clergy are trying to silence the press - not of course The Tablet, that is beyond censure by the hierarchy.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/3/2008 1:49 AM]
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12/31/2007 3:52 PM
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Just to take note that 2008 started a few hours ago on the other side of the world,
in places like New Zealand, Australia and Micronesia.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/2/2008 5:33 PM]
12/31/2007 6:30 PM
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By Fr. Antonello Iapicca

Here is an article that is translated/adapted from, an online site of the Neo-Catechumenal Movement, which was founded and led by Spaniard Kiko Arguelles. The article was inspired by yesterday's Family Day rally in Madrid:

A happy New Year to all!

Hope, the motor of our existence, presents itself to us for 2008 as always, in the face of Christ, through his kind and gentle Vicar on Earth, Benedict XVI, and in such as the 1-2 million Spaniards who took part yesterday in a Family Day rally in Madrid.

Christian hope to whoever the Holy Spirit has blessed with the gift, a charism that comes with the faith...

Hope embodied by Peter and Paul, by Benedict XVI, by the People of God who have drunk of the new wine of Christ's love which is stronger than sin and death. The power of the Spirit - light years removed from the alchemies of the politically correct, declarations which weigh and re-weigh words, commas, even accent stresses...

Hope is in the faces of the rally participants in Madrid who dared to shout out the name of Christ triumphant over death, in a public place overflowing with people who were unmindful of the TV cameras or journalists on the lookout for the slightest, word, statement or gesture that would spoil the pure motives of the occasion...

So the image that fills us with hope as we greet a New Year is this: Peter who confirms the gift of the Spirit incarnated in a new People of God.

The Pope at his study window, who, with clear unequivocal words, sealed the common purpose inspired by the Holy Spirit that brought these people together in the chill of a winter of reason that has gripped the Catholics of Spain...

"It is worthwhile to commit ourselves for the family," the Pope said, as it is worthwhile for each Christian to rediscover Baptism, the spring from which we can receive, day after day, life and love to life fully our heavenly calling, in the family, for the family, and for our fellow men...

The Pope said at Midnight Mass that "In the stable of Bethlehem, heaven and earth came together. Heaven descended to earth. And from there, a light came forth for all time; joy was kindled; and song was born." The same song heard at Madrid's Plaza Colon yesterday....

God may have been chased out by the contemporary world, but even the non-practising Christian will be reminded he came to the world once before to be with us 'to the end of time'...

For the families who gathered in harmonious and joyous assembly yesterday, believing in the announcement of Christ, Plaza Colon itself embodied the Church, mystical Body of Christ, the pilgrim People of God upholding Christian family values in a poisoned age. Somewhat like the families persecuted by Herod's minions, seeking out the Child God-King to be killed...

From his birth in a stable, the Pope told us on Christmas, Jesus built the true palace of David, so different from what people expected. He built the new community about which the angels sang that night in Bethlehem, "Glory to God int he highest, and peace on earth to men of good will" - men, the Pope said, "who place their will in God's hands, becoming men of God, new men for a new world."


And of course, the dissenting political view:

Spanish Socialists:
Church Meddling In Election Campaign

MADRID, Dec. 31 (AFP) - Spain's ruling Socialists accused the Roman Catholic Church Monday of interfering in the campaign for a March general election during a large weekend rally in defense of the traditional family.

Socialist Party Secretary Jose Blanco urged bishops to "rectify" some of the " false statements" which he said they made against the government's liberal social policies at Sunday's rally in Madrid, which included an address by Pope Benedict XVI via a video link from Rome.

"If they want to make politics it is their right to do so, but what they have to do is run in the election," he told radio Onda Cero.

Blanco said the Church hierarchy had the same positions as the conservative Popular Party and "were trying to directly interfere in the election campaign."

The demonstration was attended by hundreds of thousands of people who were bused in from across Spain. Organizers said the event had no political motives.

The Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero sees the promotion of secular values as key to the modernization of Spain, which has undergone a liberal transformation in the three decades since the death of right-wing dictator General Francisco Franco.

It has angered the Church by legalizing gay marriage, making divorce easier and reducing state funding for churches.

Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid told the rally that the government's policies "were a step backwards in terms of human rights".

"The culture of radical secularism is a deception which only leads to abortions and fast-track divorces," said Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia at the event.

Cardinal Antonio Canizares of Toledo meanwhile told the gathering that the government was "shaking the foundations of the family with its unique and unjust laws."

Polls show the Socialists have a slight lead over the Popular Party.


And yet, an item in Corriere della Sera today notes that Prime Minister Zapatero is trying to court the Catholic vote in his own way. Here is a translation:


Touching two issues in the coming Spanish general elections may be fatal for the politicians who dare: euthanasia and abortion.

They are two issues that Jose Luis Zapatero, head of government whose present term is about to expire, has prudently excluded from his electoral platform.

He has even managed to avoid saying the word 'abortion', preferring to say instead 'interruption of pregnancy'.

It was all right, in four years of legislative power, to be the European pacesetter in opening up civil rights that were hitherto unrecognized, but not to be the target of the Church - or perhaps, more properly, of the 'theo-cons' - during the next two months of campaigning.

As Zapatero's direct opponent, Mariano Rajoy, head of the opposition Popular Party, well knows, the majority of socialist voters call themselves Catholic, and any false step on delicate matters of conscience may lose the ruling party the votes that may make all the difference.

Since 1985, abortion has been legal in pain is the pregnancy is due to rape, if the fetus is malformed, or if continued pregnancy would endanger the mother's health.

And although the Catalan courts are now looking into illegitimate abortions in Barcelona, Zapatero has declared "there is no reason whatsoever to change the current abortion law."

Of course, at the same time, he says he is "always ready to rethink it". But not until after the March 9 voting.

Corriere della Sera, Dec. 31, 2007

Meanwhile, Zapatero even has a bylined article in La Repubblica today, declaring his Catholicism and his standing as a family man - excerpted from the book "Madera de Zapatero' by Suso di Torto, and translated here. I wonder whether the Spanish media has used it at all or will use it during this campaign.

'I believe in love and matrimony -
I was married in Church'


Zapatero and his wife meet Pope Benedict XVI in Valencia, Spain, last July 2006.

When I say it, nobody believes me, but everyday I eat breakfast and dinner with my wife and children. Except, of course, when I am travelling.

Breakfast at 7:50 every morning, and dinner at 8:45 in the evening. I imposed it on myself. It doesn't matter if I am invited out to dinner. I keep to my rule.

My family is absolutely traditional. And yes, I am a traditional person, who was married in the Church. This seems curious because all my friends only see me as a leftist politician, so they expect me to 'relativize' the family. Some even laugh at me because they know I have only been with the same woman. Always.

After I came to know Sonsoles, that was it. I knew from the start that I did not need to meet another girl. It may be due to my optimistic character, but when I was first introduced to her and saw the light that she emanated, I told myself: "Oh wow! What a girl! What a girl!"
And that is the way I have continued to feel. And will, as long as I live.

And yes, I believe in matrimony. In stable relations between spouses, which I think are fruitful.

Marriage is humanizing - because you give up part of yourself, you have to renounce something. But the inconvenient parts of marriage, because there are, are more than compensated because it becomes an education in feelings and in character formation.

Marriage is humanizing because it involves dedication. And so matrimony is an act that must be formalized, and it should be formalized once you have decided on it.

Sonsoles's mother is a pious believer, but I had absolutely no problems about committing myself to matrimony.

I believe matrimony is an institution that still has a future, without a doubt. There will always be a tendency towards secular forms of marriage, but matrimony itself will continue because, ultimately, life - even in its sentimental aspects - demands prospects, and there will be always more people who want stability.

La Repubblica, 31 dicembre 2007


This is all very commendable indeed, but why did Mr. Zapatero not have the courage to show his Catholicism by attending the papal Mass in Valencia in July 2006? What would have it cost him to do that then -when he was not even in the middle of a political campaign. As if attending the papal Mass would have weakened his political standing in any way!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/1/2008 1:40 AM]
12/31/2007 8:50 PM
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December 31

As scheduled, the Pope presided at Vespers and other ceremonies today at St. Peter's Basilica that lasted one and a half hours, at which he also delivered a homily. However, the text is not likely to be posted by the Vatican online tonight.

Vespers was followed by a Te Deum to give thanks for the past year, the exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Pope's Eucharistic Benediction.

After the rites in the Basilica, the Pope paid a visit to the Nativity scene on St. Peter's Square.


Rome, Dec. . 31 (DPA) - Pope Benedict XVI offered thanks for the year that has just passed at the evening service in St Peter's Basilica in Rome Monday, but he warned against excessive consumerism and the influence of secularism. "Many people, especially young people, feel drawn by a glorification - or it is better to say profanation - of the body and a banalization of sexuality," Benedict said.

"Also in Rome you can feel a lack of hope and trust in life. This is the 'dark' evil of modern Western society," he said.

The traditional Te Deum hymn, the first line of which translates as "We thank you God," was sung at the New Year's Eve service as a thank you for the year that is ending.

Benedict also says Mass at 10 o'clock on the first morning of the new year in St Peter's.

January 1 marks the Catholic World Day of Peace which has been celebrated for 40 years since Paul VI sent a message of peace to the world's governments in 1967.

Benedict published his message for World Peace Day in the middle of December under the title: The Human Person, The Heart of Peace.

In it he condemns war, nuclear weapons, terrorism and abortion and calls for peace in the war-torn countries of Africa and the Middle East.

Pope Benedict XVI Criticizes
Lack of Hope in Western Society

By VOA News
31 December 2007

Pope Benedict XVI has criticized Western society for what he called its lack of hope, which he said leads many people to seek sexual gratification instead of practicing faith and family values.

The pontiff also deplored poverty and other evils burdening families in Rome and elsewhere. He made his comments in St. Peter's Basilica during a homily at the final evening prayer offered there in 2007.

Pope Benedict then expressed hope that efforts by the faithful to deal with such problems will be successful and bear fruit.

The pope is to begin the New Year Tuesday with Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates January 1 as its World Day of Peace.


The Nativity Scenes
in St. Peter's Square

Translated from
the 12/30/07-1/1/08 issue of

To build a Nativity Scene (Christmas creche) is a simple and effective way of presenting and transmitting the faith, Pope Benedict XVI has said.

And it is with that objective that every year since 1982, a giant Nativity scene is set up in St. Peter's Square, where art and tradition combine to give life to a concrete Christian testimony of faith.

And every year, the tableau gets new pieces, ideas, messages, even interpretations. This year, alongside the greater than lifesize statues dating to 1842 from the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, there are new figures from the Trentino region of northeastern Italy and from Mexico.

All the annual Nativity Scenes to 2006 may now be seen in a book published by the Governatorate of Vatican City State entitled I presepi in piazza San Pietro. Venticinque anni di realizzazioni 1982-2006['The Creches at St. Peter's Square through 25 years, 1982-2006', 280 pp., 68.00 euros].

Cardinal Tarciso Bertone, Vatican Secretary of state, presented a copy to Pope Benedict XVI before Christmas, although it was originally intended by the Governatorate as an 80th birthday gift for the Pope.

The Foreword and the Closing Reflection were written by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo and Mons. Renato Boccardo, president and secretary of the Governatorate, respectively.

Edited by Carlo Cuscianna, director of technical services, the pages show the main features of the creches presented in the past quarter century, with historical notes and ample photographic documentation.

"With Benedict XVI," Cardinal Lajolo writes, "the Nativity scenes have surpassed the dimensions of preceding ones, reaching a figurative level which makes the presentation more attention-getting."

It is a fact that the creche, beside the giant Christmas tree, is the focal point of the Piazza during the Christmas season and becomes both an amplification and a background for the Christmas messages of the Holy Father: from his statements in support of the family to his Christmas Day message Urbi et Orbi.

Work on the creche generally starts in the summer when the designs are finalized. At the beginning of November, artisans and specialists under the direction of the Vatican's technical services department, begin to execute the work. Eventually, carpenters, masons, electricians and landscape gardeners are involved, as well as the Franciscan missionaries of Mary, whose special assignment is to sew the costumes for the figures.

All in all, about a hundred personnel are involved in preparing the creche and the Christmas tree, which must be decorated with at least 2000 Christmas bulbs. While the Nativity scene is being set up, a wall surrounds it, so that it is not seen until the lighting of the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, when the creche is also blessed. Everything is dismantled on February 2, Candlemas Day.

Characteristic of all the creche designs for St. Peter's Square is the 'catholicity' of its components, which come from various Christian traditions.

Cardinal Lajolo writes: "Roman figuration has been fused with that of other peoples, according to that spirit of universality which characterizes 'Roman-ness', because Christianity does not have cultural confines."

Mons. Boccardo writes in his closing meditation: "Who among us has not stopped at length in front of the Nativity Scene in St. Pete''s Square to look at the face of the Baby Jesus? Beyond the tenderness we feel about any birth, what touches us is the the mystery of a much more profound beginning: it is God himself who is showing us his face".


Tomorrow's Papal event:

January 1, 2008

Cappella Papale, Holy Mass
St. Peter's Basilica, 10:00
Concelebrating with the Holy Father will be Cardinals Bertone and Martino;
Mons. Fernando Filoni, deputy secretary of state; Mons. Dominique Mamberti,
secretary for external relations; and Mons. Giampaolo Crepaldi,
secretary-general of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/4/2008 11:14 PM]
1/1/2008 3:33 AM
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The top religion stories of 2007

I will post here, as I find them, what various year-enders say about the Pope and the Church or their choice for top religious stories of the year.

From the Charleston (SC) Post-Courier:
The pope's 'true church'

It wasn't a new idea, but when the Vatican published those words in July, the firestorm came.

"Christ 'established here on earth' only one Church.... This Church, constituted and organized in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him."

Non-Catholics fired back, calling Pope Benedict XVI arrogant and insensitive. Eastern Orthodox adherents had something to gripe about, too. The Catholic Church traces its origins directly to Peter, Jesus' chosen Apostle. In its publications, the Vatican says "apostolic succession" applies only to Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, though the Eastern Orthodox Church is "defective" because of its break with the Catholic Church.

The Rev. Jay Scott Newman, a priest in Greenville, said the main purpose of the document, which reiterated a 1964 pronouncement by Pope Paul VI and a 2000 communique by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was to answer two key questions: What does the word "church" mean? And what does the word "subsist" mean?

As for the former, Newman said, the definition is twofold. The "universal church" is the worldwide universal body of believers; the "particular church" is the local gathering of believers who are part of the worldwide body.

"Petra" is the Latin root for rock. "Petros" is Latin for Peter. Catholics believe Jesus' words to Peter, "on this rock I will build my church," indicated that the Apostle and the new church were one in the same. Protestants, however, believe it refers to Peter's stated confession of faith in Christ.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/1/2008 3:34 AM]
1/1/2008 4:14 PM
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1 JANUARY 2008


1. At the beginning of a New Year, I wish to send my fervent good wishes for peace, together with a heartfelt message of hope to men and women throughout the world. I do so by offering for our common reflection the theme which I have placed at the beginning of this message.

It is one which I consider particularly important: the human family, a community of peace. The first form of communion between persons is that born of the love of a man and a woman who decide to enter a stable union in order to build together a new family.

But the peoples of the earth, too, are called to build relationships of solidarity and cooperation among themselves, as befits members of the one human family: “All peoples” — as the Second Vatican Council declared — “are one community and have one origin, because God caused the whole human race to dwell on the face of the earth (cf. Acts 17:26); they also have one final end, God”(1).

The family, society and peace

2. The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman(2), constitutes “the primary place of ‘humanization' for the person and society”(3), and a “cradle of life and love”(4).

The family is therefore rightly defined as the first natural society, “a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order”(5).

3. Indeed, in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them.

For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace. It is no wonder, therefore, that violence, if perpetrated in the family, is seen as particularly intolerable. Consequently, when it is said that the family is “the primary living cell of society”(6), something essential is being stated.

The family is the foundation of society for this reason too: because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family.

Where can young people gradually learn to savour the genuine “taste” of peace better than in the original “nest” which nature prepares for them?

The language of the family is a language of peace; we must always draw from it, lest we lose the “vocabulary” of peace. In the inflation of its speech, society cannot cease to refer to that “grammar” which all children learn from the looks and the actions of their mothers and fathers, even before they learn from their words.

4. The family, since it has the duty of educating its members, is the subject of specific rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represents a landmark of juridic civilization of truly universal value, states that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”(7).

For its part, the Holy See sought to acknowledge a special juridic dignity proper to the family by publishing the Charter of the Rights of the Family.

In its Preamble we read: “the rights of the person, even if they are expressed as rights of the individual, have a fundamental social dimension which finds an innate and vital expression in the family”(8).

The rights set forth in the Charter are an expression and explicitation of the natural law written on the heart of the human being and made known to him by reason. The denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace.

5. Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace.

This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.

The family needs to have a home, employment and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all.

When society and public policy are not committed to assisting the family in these areas, they deprive themselves of an essential resource in the service of peace.

The social communications media, in particular, because of their educational potential, have a special responsibility for promoting respect for the family, making clear its expectations and rights, and presenting all its beauty.

Humanity is one great family

6. The social community, if it is to live in peace, is also called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based. This is as true for local communities as it is for national communities; it is also true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth.

Here, however, we cannot forget that the family comes into being from the responsible and definitive “yes” of a man and a women, and it continues to live from the conscious “yes” of the children who gradually join it.

The family community, in order to prosper, needs the generous consent of all its members. This realization also needs to become a shared conviction on the part of all those called to form the common human family.

We need to say our own “yes” to this vocation which God has inscribed in our very nature. We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters.

Consequently, it is essential that we should all be committed to living our lives in an attitude of responsibility before God, acknowledging him as the deepest source of our own existence and that of others.

By going back to this supreme principle we are able to perceive the unconditional worth of each human being, and thus to lay the premises for building a humanity at peace. Without this transcendent foundation society is a mere aggregation of neighbours, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family.

The family, the human community
and the environment

7. The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships. For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility.

We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole.

Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves. Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all.

Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.

If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations.

Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.

8. In this regard, it is essential to “sense” that the earth is “our common home” and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions.

Further international agencies may need to be established in order to confront together the stewardship of this “home” of ours; more important, however, is the need for ever greater conviction about the need for responsible cooperation.

The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short. In order to face this situation effectively, there is a need to act in harmony.

One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth's energy resources. The technologically advanced countries are facing two pressing needs in this regard: on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency.

The emerging counties are hungry for energy, but at times this hunger is met in a way harmful to poor countries which, due to their insufficient infrastructures, including their technological infrastructures, are forced to undersell the energy resources they do possess. At times, their very political freedom is compromised by forms of protectorate or, in any case, by forms of conditioning which appear clearly humiliating.

Family, human community and economy

9. An essential condition for peace within individual families is that they should be built upon the solid foundation of shared spiritual and ethical values.

Yet it must be added that the family experiences authentic peace when no one lacks what is needed, and when the family patrimony — the fruit of the labour of some, the savings of others, and the active cooperation of all —i s well-managed in a spirit of solidarity, without extravagance and without waste.

The peace of the family, then, requires an openness to a transcendent patrimony of values, and at the same time a concern for the prudent management of both material goods and inter-personal relationships. The failure of the latter results in the breakdown of reciprocal trust in the face of the uncertainty threatening the future of the nuclear family.

10. Something similar must be said for that other family which is humanity as a whole. The human family, which today is increasingly unified as a result of globalization, also needs, in addition to a foundation of shared values, an economy capable of responding effectively to the requirements of a common good which is now planetary in scope.

Here too, a comparison with the natural family proves helpful. Honest and straightforward relationships need to be promoted between individual persons and between peoples, thus enabling everyone to cooperate on a just and equal footing.

Efforts must also be made to ensure a prudent use of resources and an equitable distribution of wealth. In particular, the aid given to poor countries must be guided by sound economic principles, avoiding forms of waste associated principally with the maintenance of expensive bureaucracies.

Due account must also be taken of the moral obligation to ensure that the economy is not governed solely by the ruthless laws of instant profit, which can prove inhumane.

The family, the human community
and the moral law

11. A family lives in peace if all its members submit to a common standard: this is what prevents selfish individualism and brings individuals together, fostering their harmonious coexistence and giving direction to their work.

This principle, obvious as it is, also holds true for wider communities: from local and national communities to the international community itself. For the sake of peace, a common law is needed, one which would foster true freedom rather than blind caprice, and protect the weak from oppression by the strong.

The family of peoples experiences many cases of arbitrary conduct, both within individual States and in the relations of States among themselves. In many situations the weak must bow not to the demands of justice, but to the naked power of those stronger than themselves. It bears repeating: power must always be disciplined by law, and this applies also to relations between sovereign States.

12. The Church has often spoken on the subject of the nature and function of law: the juridic norm, which regulates relationships between individuals, disciplines external conduct and establishes penalties for offenders, has as its criterion the moral norm grounded in nature itself.

Human reason is capable of discerning this moral norm, at least in its fundamental requirements, and thus ascending to the creative reason of God which is at the origin of all things.

The moral norm must be the rule for decisions of conscience and the guide for all human behaviour.

Do juridic norms exist for relationships between the nations which make up the human family? And if they exist, are they operative? The answer is: yes, such norms exist, but to ensure that they are truly operative it is necessary to go back to the natural moral norm as the basis of the juridic norm; otherwise the latter constantly remains at the mercy of a fragile and provisional consensus.

13. Knowledge of the natural moral norm is not inaccessible to those who, in reflecting on themselves and their destiny, strive to understand the inner logic of the deepest inclinations present in their being.

Albeit not without hesitation and doubt, they are capable of discovering, at least in its essential lines, this common moral law which, over and above cultural differences, enables human beings to come to a common understanding regarding the most important aspects of good and evil, justice and injustice.

It is essential to go back to this fundamental law, committing our finest intellectual energies to this quest, and not letting ourselves be discouraged by mistakes and misunderstandings.

Values grounded in the natural law are indeed present, albeit in a fragmentary and not always consistent way, in international accords, in universally recognized forms of authority, in the principles of humanitarian law incorporated in the legislation of individual States or the statutes of international bodies. Mankind is not “lawless”.

All the same, there is an urgent need to persevere in dialogue about these issues and to encourage the legislation of individual States to converge towards a recognition of fundamental human rights.

The growth of a global juridic culture depends, for that matter, on a constant commitment to strengthen the profound human content of international norms, lest they be reduced to mere procedures, easily subject to manipulation for selfish or ideological reasons.

Overcoming conflicts and disarmament

14. Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future. Vast areas of the world are caught up in situations of increasing tension, while the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension in every responsible person.

Many civil wars are still being fought in Africa, even though a number of countries there have made progress on the road to freedom and democracy. The Middle East is still a theatre of conflict and violence, which also affects neighbouring nations and regions and risks drawing them into the spiral of violence.

On a broader scale, one must acknowledge with regret the growing number of States engaged in the arms race: even some developing nations allot a significant portion of their scant domestic product to the purchase of weapons.

The responsibility for this baneful commerce is not limited: the countries of the industrially developed world profit immensely from the sale of arms, while the ruling oligarchies in many poor countries wish to reinforce their stronghold by acquiring ever more sophisticated weaponry.

In difficult times such as these, it is truly necessary for all persons of good will to come together to reach concrete agreements aimed at an effective demilitarization, especially in the area of nuclear arms.

At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity.

15. Sixty years ago the United Nations Organization solemnly issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948-2008).

With that document the human family reacted against the horrors of the Second World War by acknowledging its own unity, based on the equal dignity of all men and women, and by putting respect for the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples at the centre of human coexistence.

This was a decisive step forward along the difficult and demanding path towards harmony and peace.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's adoption of the Charter of the Rights of the Family (1983-2008) and the 40th anniversary of the celebration of the first World Day of Peace (1968-2008).

Born of a providential intuition of Pope Paul VI and carried forward with great conviction by my beloved and venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, the celebration of this Day of Peace has made it possible for the Church, over the course of the years, to present in these Messages an instructive body of teaching regarding this fundamental human good.

In the light of these significant anniversaries, I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace.

I likewise invite believers to implore tirelessly from God the great gift of peace. Christians, for their part, know that they can trust in the intercession of Mary, who, as the Mother of the Son of God made flesh for the salvation of all humanity, is our common Mother.

To all my best wishes for a joyful New Year!

From the Vatican, 8 December 2007



(1) Declaration Nostra Aetate, 1.
(2) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 48.
(3) John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 40: AAS 81 (1989), 469.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 211.
(6) Second Vatican Council, Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11.
(7) Art. 16/3.
(8) Holy See, Charter of the Rights of the Family, 24 November 1983, Preamble, A.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/1/2008 4:44 PM]
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Pope Benedict XVI opened the New Year by presiding at a concelebrated mass in St. Peter's Basilica at 10 a.m. to mark the Solemnity of the Maternity of Mary.

Concelebrating were Cardinals Bertone and Martino; Mons. Fernando Filoni, deputy secretary of state; Mons. Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for external relations; and Mons. Giampaolo Crepaldi,
secretary-general of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Traditional family
is key to world peace

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 1 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict ushered in the third New Year of his pontificate on Tuesday with a call for the protection of the traditional family, which he said was vital for world peace.

The Pontiff, in an apparent swipe at gay marriage, criticized policies that undermine the traditional family unit based on a union between a man and a woman.

"I wanted to shed light on the direct relationship that exists between the family and peace in the world," the Pope said, in his first public address of 2008.

"The family is the primary agent of peace and the negation or even the restriction of rights of the family ... threatens the very foundations of peace."

Gay marriage is legal in several European countries including predominantly Catholic Spain, where hundreds of thousands of people marched on Sunday in favor of the traditional family.

Unwed couples have sought more rights in staunchly Catholic countries including Italy, something Catholic leaders warn would weaken the traditional family.

Benedict, leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, urged followers to reject challenges to the family "darkening the truth of man."

Quoting from a message he issued in December to mark the Church's World Day of Peace on January 1, Benedict said the family was "the first and non-substitutable educator of peace."

He also said that if the world wanted to live in peace, it would need to recognize those universal values that all people share as part of a single, "human family."

Pope urges peace
on New Year's Day

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 1 (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI opened the New Year on Tuesday with an appeal for world peace, calling it a "divine gift" and stressing the role of family as the foundation for it.

The Catholic Church celebrates January 1 as its World Day of Peace, and during a midmorning Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, the pope called for "the gift of peace: for our families, our cities and the whole world.

"We all aspire to leave in peace, but real peace ... is not the simple conquest of man or the result of political agreements: it is above all a divine gift," Benedict said.

At the same time, the pope added, peace is a "commitment that must be pursued with patience."

Benedict also returned to a theme that has been central to his papacy when he spoke of the importance of the traditional family based on the marriage between man and woman.

Pope stresses importance of family

VATICAN CITY, Italy, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI stressed the importance of family and global community Tuesday, which the Roman Catholic Church celebrates as World Day of Peace.

In his sermon in Vatican City, the pope spoke of a theme "I consider particularly important: the human family, a community of peace."

"The first form of communion between persons is that born of the love of a man and a woman who decide to enter a stable union in order to build together a new family," he said. But humanity also is called upon "to build relationships of solidarity and cooperation among themselves."

In a family life -- based on marriage between a man and a woman -- "we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace," the pope said.

He also spoke of the world community, protecting the environment and "the solid foundation of shared spiritual and ethical values."

Pope appeals for 'gift of peace'
amid 'great division' at New Year

Rome, Jan. 1 (dpa) - Pope Benedict XVI appealed for world peace Tuesday in his New Year message from St Peter's Basilica in Rome, expressing concern about the "great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows" on humanity's future. The pope appealed to the faithful to pray for peace for "our families, nations and for the whole world," the pope said.

True peace was not just a human accomplishment or the fruit of political agreements, but was rather a "spiritual gift" for which "believers must implore God tirelessly," said.

He pinpointed the fact that "civil wars ... are still being fought in Africa, even though a number of countries there have made progress on the road to freedom and democracy."

He also decried the situation in the Middle East which, he said "is still a theatre of conflict and violence, which also affects neighbouring nations and regions and risks drawing them into the spiral of violence."

He also appealed for world environmental protection, solidarity and improved administration of the world's energy resources.

The pope said that responsibility for the increasing number of countries, including developing countries, engaged in the arms trade must also be taken by "the countries of the industrially developed world" which "profit immensely from the sale of arms."

In his speech, the pope highlighted the role of the family on what he said was the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's adoption of the Charter of the Rights of the Family (1983-2008) and the 40th anniversary of the celebration of the first World Day of Peace (1968- 2008).

"I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace."

Rare shot of the Pope showing Michelangelo's Pieta in the background at the end of the recessional after the Mass.
Very appropriate, too, for the Feast of Mary's Maternity.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/4/2008 11:35 PM]
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A translation of the full text of the Holy Father's Angelus message today has been posted in AUDIENCE AND ANGELUS TEXTS.

What the Pope said in English today:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer on New Year’s Day.

On this, the Octave of Christmas, the Church honours Mary, the ever-virgin Mother of God, whose complete openness to God’s saving plan bore fruit in the birth of the Prince of Peace.

May the peace proclaimed by the angels at Bethlehem take ever deeper root in men’s hearts, and inspire the whole human family to live in harmony, justice and fraternal solidarity.

To you and your families I offer cordial good wishes for a happy New Year!

Pope Affirms Family
as Agent of Peace

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2008 ( The family is the principle agent of peace, and whoever disrupts the family, disrupts peace, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today before reciting the midday Angelus together with the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square on the World Day of Peace. "We have begun a new year," he said, "and I wish that it will be for all peaceful and prosperous."

The Holy Father spoke first of solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, which the Church celebrates Jan. 1: "In Bethlehem, in the fullness of time, Jesus was born of Mary: The Son of God was made man for our salvation, and the Virgin truly became Mother of God. This immense gift that Mary received was not reserved only for her, but for us all."

"It is in the name of Mary, Mother of God and of mankind," continued the Holy Father, "that for the past 40 years, on the first day of the year, the Church has celebrated the World Day for Peace."

Benedict reflected on this year's theme for the world day: "The Human Family, Community of Peace."

He said: "The same love that builds and maintains unity in the family, the vital building block of society, favors these relationships of solidarity and of collaboration among the peoples of the earth, that are members of the single human family."

The Pope affirmed that "there is a close relationship, therefore, among family, society and peace." Quoting his message for the World Day of Peace, he added, "Whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family, undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace."

In a prayer to Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace and all mankind, the Pontiff asked the Virgin to help the Church in its service for peace, and aid all nations "to begin on a path of authentic solidarity and of stable peace."


Reuters filed this wrap-up story on the Pope's New Year's Day events the next day:

Pope says family
is key to world peace

ROME, Jan. 2 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict XVI ushered in the New Year by criticising policies that undermine the traditional family, saying they eroded one of the most important foundations for peace in the world.

The Catholic Church celebrates January 1 as World Day of Peace, and the pope used a midmorning Mass and a window appearance before thousands of faithful in St Peter's Square to mark the occasion.

The Pontiff, delivering the traditional New Year prayer for peace, appeared to take a swipe at efforts in several countries to grant legal recognition to gay and unwed couples - although he did not single out any policies by name.

He said the traditional family led by a husband and wife instilled values that promote peace, and added it was an "irreplaceable" institution.

"Those who are hostile, even unknowingly, to the institution of the family ... make peace fragile for the entire national and international community," the Pope told crowds gathered in a sunny St Peter's Square.

The German-born Benedict has made defending the traditional family a priority since being elected Pontiff in 2005 following the death of John Paul II, focusing much of his attention on Europe.

Gay marriage is legal in several European countries including predominantly Catholic Spain, where hundreds of thousands of Catholics rallied on Sunday in favour of the traditional family. The Pontiff had addressed the Spanish rally via a live video-link.

Speaking at St Peter's Basilica, the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics urged followers to reject challenges to the family "eclipsing the truth of man".

"I wanted to shed light on the direct relationship that exists between the family and peace in the world," the Pope said.

"The family is the primary agent of peace and the negation or even the restriction of rights of the family ... threatens the very foundations of peace."

Quoting from a message he issued in December to mark the Church's World Day of Peace on January 1, Benedict said the family was "the first and irreplaceable educator of peace".

He also said that if the world wanted to live in peace, it would need to recognise those universal values that all people share as part of a single, "human family".

After leading the Mass at St Peter's Basilica, the 80-year-old pope, dressed in ornate white and gold vestment, waved and smiled from his studio window to pilgrims gathered in the square.

An annual peace march organised by the Catholic charity Sant'Egidio brought some 20,000 people to the famous square to hear the New Year's Day Angelus.

The charity sponsored similar events were held in at least 65 countries.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/2/2008 10:06 PM]
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At the General Audience today held in Aula Paolo VI, the Holy Father broke into his cycle on the Fathers of the Church to speak about the the Divine Maternity of Mary. A full translation of tHE catechesis has been posted in AUDIENCE AND ANGELUS TEXTS.

Here is what the Pope said in English today:

At the beginning of this New Year, I offer prayerful good wishes to all of you and to your families!

Yesterday, the Church joyfully celebrated the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. This ancient title of Our Lady – Theotokos – reflects the truth that Jesus, her Son, is true God and true man.

The confirmation of this title at the Council of Ephesus in the fifth century led to ever greater devotion to Mary and the dedication of numerous churches in her honour, including the Basilica of Saint Mary Major here in Rome.

During this Christmas season, we can sense the close relationship between the Incarnation and our Lady’s dignity as the Mother of God. Indeed, the title "Mother of God" expresses Mary’s special mission in the history of salvation and her particular role in the mystery of Christ and the Church.

Our Lady’s divine motherhood is in fact the basis of every other title by which the Church honours her. Mother of God and Mother of the Church, Mary was also entrusted by Christ to be the Mother of each of his disciples (cf. Jn 19:27).

In this New Year, may we turn to her with confidence and, through her protection and prayers, be strengthened in our love for Jesus her Son and our service to the coming of his Kingdom.

I greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from Ireland and the United States. I especially greet the various pilgrimages of priests and seminarians, and the many student groups in our midst. I also thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. May the New Year bring God’s richest blessings to you and your families!


Almost 10 p.m. in Rome.... Study lights on, bedroom lights dark....
Papino still at work? Or at least, reading or writing!
Don't stay up too late, Papi....and sleep well!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/2/2008 11:31 PM]
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In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

The Factors that Divide the Pope from the Muslims

The contrast is not only one of faith.
It also concerns the achievements of the Enlightenment:
from religious freedom to equality between men and women.
The Catholic Church has made these its own, but Islam has not.
Will they be able to discuss this, when Benedict XVI and the Muslims meet together?

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, January 2, 2008 – For the Vatican, the new year brings a meeting that Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue (CIRD), has pre-announced as "historic," in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano on December 30. [Translated on this thread the same day]

The meeting is scheduled for the spring. And it will take place between Benedict XVI and a delegation of the 138 Muslim authors of the open letter "A Common Word between Us and You" addressed to the pope and to other Christian leaders last October.

In addition to the pope, the Muslim representatives will also meet with other Vatican authorities, and will hold working sessions at institutes like the PISAI, the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.

What cleared the way for this event was the exchange of letters that took place in November and December, between Benedict XVI – through the cardinal secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone – and an authoritative promoter of the letter of the 138, the prince of Jordan Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal.

As anticipated by the two letters, in February or March three representatives of the 138 will travel to Rome to arrange the meetings.

The three will include the only Italian among the 138, Yahya Sergio Yayhe Pallavicini, imam of the al-Wahid mosque in Milan, and the Libyan theologian Aref Ali Nayed, an author very familiar to the readers of www.chiesa, an instructor at Cambridge University and in the past, a teacher at the PISAI [Italian acronym for Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies].

During that same month of February, Cardinal Tauran will visit Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the most important university of Sunni Islam. He will also meet in 2008 with the World Islamic Call Society of Libya, and with the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman.

In the interview with L'Osservatore Romano, Tauran said he is "very confident" and appreciated the "considerable openness" being demonstrated by important sectors of the Muslim world.

But there are still great difficulties to be overcome. The exchange of letters between Cardinal Bertone and the prince of Jordan emphasizes that the two sides are not at all in agreement on one essential point in particular: on the topics to put at the center of the encounter.

The letter from Cardinal Bertone, dated November 19 and made public about ten days later, proposes three main topics of discussion: "effective respect of the dignity of every human person"; "objective awareness of the other's religion"; "'a common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation."

In commenting on Bertone's letter, the Egyptian Jesuit Samir Khalil Samir – who is one of the scholars of Islam most closely heeded by the pope, together with another Jesuit, Christian W. Troll, of Germany – emphasized that the letter of the 138 is not clear on the first of these topics, and that instead some of its signatories say that they are not at all interested in talking about freedom of conscience, about equality between men and women and between believers and nonbelievers, about the distinction between religious and political power – in short, about the achievements of the Enlightenment that the Catholic Church has made its own, but that Islam is still far from accepting.

For its part, the letter from the Jordanian prince to Cardinal Bertone, dated December 12 and likewise made public about ten days later, insists that the Catholic-Muslim dialogue be primarily "theological" and "spiritual," and that it have as its object – more than aspects defined as "extrinsic," like the commandments of the natural law, religious liberty, and equality between men and women – the "Common Word between Us and You" which is at the center of the letter of the 138, or the unicity of God and the twofold commandment of love of God and neighbor.

There is no lack, in the letter from the prince, of argumentative jabs against the Vatican's position. The first jab is where the letter cites the communiqué of some Muslim delegates at the interreligious meeting in Naples from October 21-23 2007, organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio: a communiqué written in protest against some declarations made in those days by Cardinal Tauran, on the near impossibility of a theological discussion with Islam, and against Benedict XVI's silence, while visiting Naples, over the letter of the 138.

The second comes at the end of the letter, and is aimed against "some recent pronouncements emerging from the Vatican and from Vatican advisors." Here the target is again Cardinal Tauran, together with the Islamologists Samir and Troll.

A critical analysis of the letter of the 138, written by Troll, was published in La Civiltà Cattolica, with the authorization of the secretary of state, during the same days when cardinal Bertone had written to the prince of Jordan, in the name of the pope.

Returning to Benedict XVI, the dialogue he wants with Islam is still as he explained it in a passage of his pre-Christmas address to the Roman curia on December 22, 2006:

In a dialogue to be intensified with Islam, we must bear in mind the fact that the Muslim world today is finding itself faced with an urgent task.

This task is very similar to the one that has been imposed upon Christians since the Enlightenment, and to which the Second Vatican Council, as the fruit of long and difficult research, found real solutions for the Catholic Church.

It is a question of the attitude that the community of the faithful must adopt in the face of the convictions and demands that were strengthened in the Enlightenment.

On the one hand, one must counter a dictatorship of positivist reason that excludes God from the life of the community and from public organizations, thereby depriving man of his specific criteria of judgment.

On the other, one must welcome the true conquests of the Enlightenment, human rights and especially the freedom of faith and its practice, and recognize these also as being essential elements for the authenticity of religion.

As in the Christian community, where there has been a long search to find the correct position of faith in relation to such beliefs – a search that will certainly never be concluded once and for all –, so also the Islamic world with its own tradition faces the immense task of finding the appropriate solutions in this regard.

The content of the dialogue between Christians and Muslims will be at this time especially one of meeting each other in this commitment to find the right solutions.

We Christians feel in solidarity with all those who, precisely on the basis of their religious conviction as Muslims, work to oppose violence and for the synergy between faith and reason, between religion and freedom."

From the exchange of letters between Cardinal Bertone and Prince Ghazi, it can be gathered that the distance between the two sides remains very wide and deep, with respect to this path indicated by Benedict XVI.

Magister then posts the texts of the two letters from Cardinal Bertone and Prince Ghazi - also reproduced on this thread previously, and a translation of a brief commentary on Cardinal Bertone's letter written by Fr. Samir for the magazine Mondo e Missione of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, which I have also previously posted, but makes a useful immediate refrence here:

Commentary on Cardinal Bertone's letter
by Samir Khalil Samir, SJ

To a letter of almost thirty pages, Benedict XVI responded with one of fewer than 400 words. This might seem impolite. Instead, it is a response that goes to the depths.

It begins with "deep appreciation for this gesture, for the positive spirit which inspired the text and for the call for a common commitment to promoting peace in the world." And Pope Benedict has frequently invited all to condemn violence without ambiguity.

He continues: "Without ignoring or downplaying our differences as Christians and Muslims, we can and therefore should look to what unites us."

This is typical of this Pope: a positive vision, never partial. Differences must not conceal what unites us, nor should these obscure differences. A word of truth (qawl al-haqq) as the Qur'an says (sura 19:34) of Christ: "He is the Word of truth."

The Pope enumerates three common elements: the fact of believing in the one God, who is the provident creator and (second aspect) universal judge, who at the end of time will measure each one according to his actions. Finally (third aspect) the fact that we are all called to dedicate ourselves totally to him and to obey his holy will.

But in order to avoid stopping at "pious wishes," he advances a proposal that is the most important feature of his entire letter: an invitation for a working meeting between a group of the signatories selected by the letter's promoter, and a group of specialists selected by the Christian side. It is a matter of making good intentions practical and long-lasting. The Pope lists four topics of discussion.

The first is "effective respect for the dignity of every human person." There is no clear reference to this point In the letter of the 138. Dignity presupposes respect for freedom of conscience, equality between men and women, between believers and non-believers, a distinction between religious and political power.

Some of the Muslim authors of the letter think: "Ethical-social dialogue already takes place each day, through entirely secular institutions. For this reason, many Muslim theologians are not at all interested in a purely ethical dialogue among cultures and civilizations."

Instead, for the Pope – as he said on December 22, 2006, in his address to the cardinals of the Roman curia – "one must welcome the true conquests of the Enlightenment, human rights and especially the freedom of faith and its practice, and recognize these also as being essential elements for the authenticity of religion."

For him, "the content of the dialogue between Christians and Muslims will be at this time especially one of meeting each other in this commitment to find the right solutions." Together with Muslims, to "work to oppose violence and for the synergy between faith and reason, between religion and freedom."

In dialogue, the Church is inspired by the Gospel, but does not set this as the foundation, in order not to exclude anyone. The foundation is "the dignity of every human person," expressed by human rights.

The second point is objective awareness of the other's religion. In reality, Christians do not have serious knowledge of Islam, nor Muslims of Christianity. This implies a revision of all the school books, as also of the addresses given in churches and mosques. It is a vast, long, and essential program.

The third point: the sharing of religious experience. Faith is an experience of God, and not something intellectual, an ideology. Conducting dialogue means sharing the other's deep experience.

The final point is focused on the young. A new generation must be raised that will promote mutual respect and acceptance. It is the young, in fact, who are at risk of being carried away by the ideology of violence. With this response from Benedict XVI to the 138, the step is therefore made from good intentions to a project for the construction of peace, beginning with the young.


Here is the very belated report about all this filed by AP today and which was widely used by MSM around the world, including such as the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, according to Yahoo's tracking:

Vatican, Muslims plan 'historic' meeting

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 2 (AP) - Catholic and Muslim representatives plan to meet in Rome in the spring to start a dialogue between the faiths after relations were damaged by Pope Benedict XVI's 2006 comments about Islam and holy war, Vatican officials have announced.

Benedict proposed the encounter as part of his official response to an open letter sent to him and other Christian leaders in October by 138 Muslim scholars from around the world. The letter urged Christians and Muslims to develop their common ground of belief in one God.

Three representatives of the Muslim scholars will come to Rome in February or March to prepare for the meeting, the head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano last weekend.

He did not give a date for the larger meeting, except to say it would take place in the spring.

The agenda, he said, would cover three main topics: respect for the dignity of each person, inter-religious dialogue based on reciprocal understanding and instruction of tolerance among the young.

"The meeting with a delegation of some of the 138 Muslims, planned for Rome next spring, is in a certain sense historic," Tauran was quoted by L'Osservatore as saying.

[Then, there's the inevitable 'yada...yada' from the Anglophone press about Regensburg:]

Benedict angered Muslims with a speech on faith and reason in September 2006 in Germany in which he cited a Medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

The Pope later said that he was "deeply sorry" over the reactions to his remarks and that they did not reflect his own opinions. The Vatican has been working ever since to improve relations with Islamic representatives.

Thirty-eight Muslim scholars initially wrote to Benedict soon after his 2006 speech, thanking him for his clarifications and his calls for dialogue. But the Vatican never officially responded to that initiative, and a year later the number of signatories of a new letter had swelled to 138.

In the letter, the Muslim scholars, muftis and intellectuals draw parallels between Islam and Christianity and their common focus on love for God and love for one's neighbor. They also note that such a focus is found in Judaism.

"As Muslims and in obedience to the Holy Koran, we ask Christians to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions," the letter says. "Let this common ground be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us."

Noting that Christians and Muslims make up an estimated 55 percent of the world population, the scholars conclude that improving relations is the best way to bring peace to the world.

Church leaders and analysts have praised the initiative, and Benedict met with one of the 138 signatories in late October, when they both attended an interfaith peace meeting in Naples.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/4/2008 10:58 PM]
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Pope to stay above political fray
during U.S. visit, Bertone says

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 2(CNS) - Even though Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting the United States when its 2008 presidential campaign will be in full swing, he will keep himself above the political fray, said the Vatican's secretary of state.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana that "someone has said there's always an electoral campaign under way in the United States" no matter what time of year it is.

"The pope is nonpartisan," the cardinal said in the magazine's Jan. 6 issue.

"One certainly cannot control eventual exploitation" by people who might use the pope's visit to gain political advantage, he added.

The April 15-20 trip, Pope Benedict's first visit as pontiff to the United States and the United Nations, will include visits to the White House to meet outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush and to Ground Zero in New York.

Cardinal Bertone said the pope's address to the United Nations "will reassert the need to focus on the values that underline historic international declarations even amid concerns over the difficulties of holding together one global consensus" among nearly 200 different nation-states.

In his speech, the pope "will confirm the irreplaceable nature of the United Nations," the cardinal also said.

Pope to say Mass at Yankee Stadium
with four US bishops marking
diocesan biocentennials this year

By Peter Smith
The Courier-Journal (Kentucky)
January 2, 2008

Hundreds of Louisville Catholics will celebrate their history with the Pope on April 20 when the House that Ruth Built becomes a house of worship.

Pope Benedict XVI will honor the Archdiocese of Louisville when he celebrates a Yankee Stadium Mass in New York City along with Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and other bishops whose dioceses are celebrating 200th anniversaries.

The archbishops of Boston, New York and Philadelphia -- whose archdioceses are also celebrating bicentennials -- will take part in the Mass, as will the archbishop of Baltimore, the oldest Catholic jurisdiction in the nation.

"It's a great honor" for Kurtz and the archdiocese, said spokeswoman Cecelia Price. "He's obviously very excited."

The Mass will come on the final day of the pope's six-day visit to the United States, the first since the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ascended to the papacy in 2005.

The Pope will also visit Washington, D.C., during his trip.

The archdiocese has asked organizers of the Mass for about 650 tickets to send a local delegation. A limited number of tickets will be available to Louisville-area Catholics through their parishes, Price said.

The stadium is expected to hold about 65,000 people for the Mass, according to the Archdiocese of Louisville.

The papal Mass will come 12 days after the archdiocese holds a series of worship services to celebrate the anniversary of its founding as the Diocese of Bardstown on April 8, 1808.

The diocese was launched as the hub of frontier Catholicism, overseeing a vast territory between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River. The seat of the archdiocese was later moved to the growing city of Louisville, and numerous dioceses were carved out of its original territory.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/3/2008 1:08 PM]
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Consternation among many secularist Italian politicians because President Napolitano has expressed full agreement with the Pope and the church's view of the family and marriage as fundamental units of society. Especially after Spain's pacesetting liberal Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero likewise expressed his personal belief in matrimony and the traditional family, in a book excerpt published in one of the major Italian newspapers this weekend {translated earlier on this thread).

The major newspapers played up the New year's messages by Pope Benedict and President Napolitano today (1/2/08), but I chose to translate the following articles in Il Giornale and Libero because they have a different treatment.

Italian president more sensible
about family issues than some
Catholic politicians

By Francesca Angeli

"President Giorgio Napolitano's references to our Constitution in both his year-end message to the nation and the holiday greetings he sent Pope Benedict XVI - with its most important reference to the family as the primary cell of the natural society shows the President's great openness, and a harmony with Papa Ratzinger that shows the President's healthy secularity. Our chief of state shows more sensitivity and sense many other politicians," according to former Senate President Marcello Pera.

Compared to whom, Senator Pera?
Napolitano has shown himself attentive not so much to relationships of power with the Church but to the social function that religion has always played in this country. Certainly, he has been more about that than the secularists of the center-left and the Catho-communists.

More open too than self-defined 'adult Catholics' like Prime Minister Prodi who has only shown his backwardness - explained perhaps by the fact that he comes from the Bologna region where Communism is still considered as sort of a secularized Christianity.

Therefore, a dialog built on reciprocal respect and a positive exchange between the institutions of the secular state and the highest authorities of the Church. Why do you think that in the Italian Parliament, the secularists and the Catholics do not have anything in common?
Because there are too many Communists and too many 'adult Catholics' there. There is a degraded secularism that is widespread among the elite who, unlike Napolitano, persist obstinately in not understanding (or refusing to) that the Italian citizen has a great consideration for religious values. And this obstinate secularism is having devastating consequences on our society.

What is the difference between a secular state and a secularist state?
Our Constitution is secular but not secularist. The secularity of the State, which is implicit in our Constitution, although it is never spelled out, is a guarantee of religious freedom. Secularity does not mean indifference nor neutrality with respect to religious values - in fact, the Constitution speaks about respect for life and the family. The Constitution refers to the monogamous family.

And finally, secularity does not hold that religious values must be confined only to private and family life - it does [privatize nor nor 'ghetto-ize' religion.

The modern liberal democratic and secular state is autonomous from the church and its hierarchy, but is still based on religious principles, above all, respect for the individual and for life. So I would say that the basis of our secular state in Italy is not secular but religious.

Cardinal Bertone has said that it is anti-historic to oppose secularity to religiosity and that in the days of the Christian Democrats and the Communist Party of Italy, politicians - including Communist leaders - showed more respect for the Church.
President Napolitano's words show Cardinal Bertone is right, because the president shows more sense and respect for religion than the secularist politicians do.

Because this is what has happened: secularity has degenerated to secularism, which is an ideology hostile to religion, particularly against Christianity, and so, without being aware of it are hostile to the very principles of a secular state.

But secularists would subject these principles, which are those famous fundamental non-negotiable rights, to a vote. Which leads to legitimizing abortion, homosexual marriages, euthanasia, eugenics, etc.

Cardinal Ruini has called for a moratorium on abortion similar to the recent UN moratorium on the death penalty.
Several years have passed since the passage of the abortion law in Italy and I believe that it is timely to have a new parliamentary discussion on it, especially about how the law should be applied. But I don't think that it will be possible to reverse the idea of legitimizing abortion in certain circumstances, even if I am ware of the enormous moral problems it presents.

Do you think there are enough numbers in Parliament to reopen the discussion?
Probably not. But I think that in the past few years, the religious conscience about this issue has reawakened, first in the USA, and now in other countries, especially when the West is under attack for the way of life it has chosen, and therefore, for its crisis of identity and turning against its Judaeo-Christian roots. That has opened up the problem of the role of religion in both private and public life.

But is Italy not anisoalted case for instance qwith respect to civil unions? And isn't theere a tendency towards intolerance of Catholics?
No, the reawakening of the religious conscience is also happening in Spain, where Family Day last Sunday was a veyr important signal. And as for France, President Sarkozy made very courageous statements on 'positive secularity' here in Rome recently.

I do not see any danger of a Christian fundamentalism, bur rather the opposite - the loss of our cultural identity and of connection to our cultural roots,which are Christian.

Il Giornale, 2 gennaio 2008


The mutual 'feeling' between
the Pope and the President
irritates the Italian left

The Pope and the President are united with regard to the family. From the Quirinal and the Vatican, the order of the day is identical: the fmaily must be sustained, because otherwise, the firmness of the social structure would be lost. As well as that of constitutional principles.

Thre cannot be a true commitment to peace without first defending and promoting "the natural family founded on matrimony between a man and a woman", as the 'principal agnt for peace': Thus did Pope Benedict XVI reaffirm his Message for the World Day of Peace in his New Year's Day homily.

And in his New Year's greeting to the Pope, President Giorgio Napolitano noted that the family has always been at the center of the Italian people's sensibility, pointing out that the Italian Constitution fully recognizes the value of the family, as the Holy See has always indicated. A message which the Pope thaked the President for at his Angelus message yesterday.

Thus, there was a clear consonance between these interventions which both expressed a major concern for the state of 'health' of the family as an institution.

Even Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema expressed support for the pro-family line, writing Caridnal Tarcisio Bertone that he agreed with the Pope about the family being 'the principal agent for peace'.

Expressing his "profoundly felt adhesion to the Papal message", D'Alema said: "Once again, at a difficult international conjunction and under different aspects marked by conflicts, crises, uncertainties and widespread unease, the words of His Holiness offer a message of strong confidence and hope."

But there are, of course, voices in the coalition government that do not appreciate such an identity of views with the Holy See.

For the Socialist Party's Enrico Boselli, President Napolitano's year-end address was 'an injection of confidence for the nation', but "with all the respect that we have for the President of the Republic, we expected a strong and explicit reaffirmation of the secularity of the state in the face of the fundamentalist counter-offensive by the Church hierarchy".

Indirectly, Radical representative Silvio Viale also went on the attack, saying that Benedict XVI "has mobilized families into a war by establishing an improper link to peace when speaking about family rights."

Libero, 2 gennaio 2008

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/3/2008 5:05 AM]
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A tribute to the 265th Pope today in Italy's largest and most prestigious newspaper, Corriere della Sera, canonizes within MSM the Ratzinger phenomenon which no one had expected or foreseen in April 2005. Here is a translation.

Benedict XVI at the General Audience of 1/2/08. [Photo from Page 1 of Osservavtore Romano today]

Millions come to see him
and his book and encyclicals
sell in the millions

By Bruno Bartoloni

It seemed impossible to imagine a successor to John Paul II who could come near the media enthusiasm that accompanied the long Pontificate of 'Karol the Great', but the impossible has been achieved by the timid and discreet Papa Ratzinger who has aroused and continues to arouse great attention in the Catholic world - attention which has been manifested by the extraordinary influx of pilgrims to the Vatican and translated into a doubling of Peter's Pence, the personal offerings made by the faithful around the world to their spiritual leader to be used for his charities.

In 2005, the year of the Wojtyla-Ratzinger transition, Peter's Pence for the year totalled 59 million dollars; in 2006, it was 102 million. It is a sign of the sense of certainty that the current Pope appears to give the moderate - and usually more affluent - elements of the Catholic world.

Benedict XVI's actions - not excluding his liberalization of the traditional Mass - and his firmness on the great moral issues, starting with defense of life and the family, have certainly weighed much in encouraging the faithful who have been flocking to the Vatican.

More than 2,800,000 faithful took part in the Pope's public events at the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo in 2007, according to figures from the Pontifical Household. The total is lower than in 2006, but this is most likely a 'physiologic' settling down after the unprecedented 'boom' associated with the start of this Pontificate.

In the first five months alone, more than 410,000 pilgrims came to the Vatican to attend Benedict's general audiences, compared to less than 200,000 who had attended Papa Wojtyla's Wednesday audiences in the same time period of the preceding year.

Of course, comparisons cannot be completely analogous. John Paul II had transformed his ministry into a travelling Pontificate to personally go forth and meet the faithful around the world.

Papa Ratzinger has reduced his travelling only to those that he considers obligatory, just as he has reduced almost by half the number of papal speeches, of public events and of private and official audiences. He has given up Papal officiating at beatifications, delegating this to cardinals, as well as systematic visits to the parishes of Rome (in his capacity as Bishop of Rome).

But one must not forget that he began his 'new job' at 78, whereas Wojtyla became Pope at 58.

But if Benedict has reduced public activity, he has certainly increased the doctrinal activity of the Papacy - that which is personally carried out by the Pope.

Even in this respect, the theologian Pope's grip on the Catholic world has been remarkable, as his second encyclical Spe salvi showed. Released on November 30, it had sold at least 1.5 million copies within a month just in the Italian edition sold by the Vatican publishing house (and another half a million through supplements with the magazine FAMIGLIA CRISTIANA and the newspaper Avvenire). [NB: The first encyclical, Deus caritas est, also passed the million-mark in sales within a few weeks , unheard of for an encyclical until then.]

Likewise, his book JESUS OF NAZARETH published in Italy last April 13 has sold 2 million copies in Italy alone and has been translated to 32 languages, with seven more language editions in preparation.

And the publishing success is not limited to his books and encyclicals alone. The Vatican publishing house says that its series of little booklets - 25 so far - that periodically put together the Pope's regular homilies has sold more than 600,000 copies so far.

As Benedict rounds out the third year of his Pontificate, facts and figures show a much more intense activity than his immediate predecessors, relative to their number of years in office and their age: seven foreign trips, a major Motu Proprio, two encyclicals, the historic letter-appeal to Chinese Catholics.

The program for 2008 will not be less intense: two encyclicals are in the works - one on social issues including globalization, and the other on faith to complete his cycle on the theological virtues. Not to mention the second volume of JESUS OF NAZARETH.

His trips in 2008 will include three within Italy and three abroad (Washington, DC, New York City and the United Nations,; World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia; and the 150th anniversary of the Marian Apparitions in Lourdes, France).

For one of the oldest Popes in history, his activity is indeed remarkable and the interest he raises around the world is extraordinary.

Corriere della Sera, 3 gennaio 2008


One can only hope that an article like this means an end - or at least, a marked diminution - to invidious comparisons made by MSM journalists of Benedict and his predecessor.

Of course, as grateful as we are for an article such as this, none of it is news to any Benaddict, who can only say and pray, as we each do every day -



P.S. Corriere today also has two other stories dedicated to Benedict XVI. One is a reconstruction by Luigi Accattoli of 'a day in the life' of the Pope - a quite unusual type of article for Corriere to run, and the other is a feature story on the Italian edition of a book first published in German in 2006, Why the Pope wears red shoes, in which Mons. Georg Gaenswein answered the most interesting questions sent in by German children to a magazine before the Papal trip to Bavaria. I will post translations of both in POPE-POURRI.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/3/2008 10:34 PM]
1/3/2008 1:06 PM
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More stops added to papal trips?

Jan. 2, 2008 ( - Pope Benedict might add a stop in Asia to his planned trip to Australia for World Youth Day in July 2008, according to the KAI news agency.

The Holy Father could visit South Korea, the Philippines, or even Hong Kong during his July trip, the news agency speculates. No plans for any such papal visits have yet been announced, however.

KAI also suggests that the Pope could address the European parliament in Strasbourg, France, as part of his trip to that country for the 150th anniversary celebrations at Lourdes.

Again, no plans have been announced, but last March the head of the European parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering, issued an invitation for the Pope to address the body. Pope John Paul II had delivered a speech to the Strasbourg parliament in 1988.


Wishful thinking, but personally, I've always thought that a brief stop somewhere in Southeast Asia enroute to Sydney (or coming back) makes sense, if only because it would break the 16-hour plane trip between Rome and Sydney.

And much as I would love for Benedict to visit the Philippines for the first time, a visit to Asia's only predominantly Catholic country (which has at least 65 million Catholics) would really entail more than just a daylong stopover.

However, I wish there were some official diplomatic way by which the Pope - provided he is up to it and his doctors approve - could stop over in Hong Kong (which has been back under Chinese authority since 1997) even for a few hours to say a Mass for all the Catholics of China.

Hanoi would be a second alternative, because the number of Catholics in Vietnam does not call for major strenuous efforts as a visit to the Philippines or even South Korea might be (though Seoul is also a consideration).

Of course, the visit to the European Parliament - and Paris - in connection with the Lourdes jubilee is much more likely.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/4/2008 12:00 PM]
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Translated from the
Italian service of


At 11 a.m. tomorrow, Pope Benedict XVI will visit the 'Gift of Mary' House run by the Missionaries of Charity sisters in the Vatican to start a year dedicated to the neediest and those who help them with love and generosity.

The House, a project strongly advocated by Mother Teresa and John Paul II, marks its 20th anniversary this year.

Alessandro Gisotti spoke to Sister Mark Poustani, superior of the nuns' community in charge of the House, who said they feel "joy and gratitude to have the Holy Father here in our house".

What are the activities that you do here, and how does a typical day go?
We are a community of sisters and our primary activity is prayer. There are eight of us now. After prayers, we are ready to negin work at 8 a.m. We have a welcome center for women without fixed homes. We can accommodate 74 women, and right now, we have 50. We also run a soup kitchen for men who can come in to have a hot dinner. Evenings are the heavy work hours in the kitchen because all the women also have their meals.

We don't limit ourselves to those who come here. We go out to the streets and hospitals to find persons in need who are alone. Of course, in doing all this, we also try to spread the Word of God to our guests.

The 'Gift of Mary' House was born thanks to Mother Teresa and John Paul II, and now it is marking 20 years...
Already in 1970, our Mother wanted to have such a house in the heart of the Church itself. It was her great desire. And the Holy Father, when he visited us in Calcutta in 1986, welcomed that wish. And the following year, we had the House!

The Missionaries of Charity sisters have the assistance of a group of volunteers. One of them, Angelo Vignola, of the Saints Peter and Paul Association, has been helping out for 10 years now.

Vignola: Mainly, I stay at the door to welcome all newcomers, but of course, I help with other tasks, such as distributing clothes and food, sandwiches...

Who are all these people who come for help?
Those who seek shelter here are mostly women from Romania and Albania who are recent immigrants here and are looking for jobs in Rome. Generally, they stay for 15, 20 days, and when they find a job, then they leave.

Tell us about the prayer activities.
Every evening, before the meal, we read the Gospel of the day, followed by a little explanation. The reading is done by a volunteer or by a priest if there happens to be one around at the center.


And typical belated reports in the Anglophone press - the first based on the Bertone interview that has been reported and re-reported int he Italian media (and this Forum) for at least a week, and the second is based on the 12/30/07 interview given by Cardinal Tauran to Osservatore Romano (full translation posted 12/31 on this thread in the preceding page).

Vatican clarifying Latin Mass rules

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 3 (AP) - The Vatican has begun drafting a document to elaborate on Pope Benedict's recent liberalization of the old Latin Mass because some bishops are either ignoring his move or misinterpreting it, Vatican officials said.

The Vatican's No. 2, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, said in comments published Thursday that the Vatican would be issuing an "instruction" on how to put the Pope's document into practice, since there had been what he called some "uneven" reactions to it since it went into effect last year.

The document the Roman Catholic pontiff issued in July removed restrictions on celebrating the so-called Tridentine Mass, the rite celebrated in Latin before the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s paved the way for the new mass used widely today in local languages.

Following the 1960s reform, the Tridentine rite could only be celebrated with permission from local bishops - an obstacle that supporters of the old rite said had greatly reduced its availability.

In a gesture to such traditional Catholics, Benedict removed that requirement in his document, saying parish priests could celebrate the Tridentine Mass if a "stable group of faithful" requested it.

Implementation, however, has been uneven, with some bishops issuing rules that "practically annul or twist the intention of the Pope," Msgr. Albert Malcolm Ranjith, secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Divine Cult and Discipline of Sacraments, said recently, according to the Vatican's missionary news agency FIDES.

Such reactions amounted to a "crisis of obedience" toward the pontiff, he was quoted as saying, although he stressed that most bishops and other prelates had accepted the Pope's will "with the required sense of reverence and obedience."

Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, said the forthcoming instruction would lay out criteria for the Pope's document to be correctly applied, according to an interview published Thursday in the Italian religious affairs weekly Famiglia Cristiana. He gave no date for its publication.

He complained that reactions to the pontiff's document had been uneven.

"Some have even gone so far as to accuse the Pope of having reneged on Council teaching," Bertone was quoted as saying. "On the other hand, there are those who have interpreted the (document) as authorization to return exclusively to the pre-Council rite. Both positions are wrong, and are exaggerated episodes that don't correspond to the pope's intention."

Despite such incidents, Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, who runs a blog that has charted implementation of the Pope's document, said he had seen growth in both interest in and celebrations of the older form of the mass.

"In some dioceses in the United States, bishops have been stepping up to the plate and not only learning the older form, but celebrating it themselves," he said in an e-mail. "Younger priests are attending workshops. Several seminaries are offering training for their priesthood candidates."

Even before the Pope's document was released, liberal-minded Catholics had complained that Benedict's move amounted to a negation of Vatican II, and some bishops and cardinals publicly warned that its implementation would create a rupture in the church.

Jewish groups also complained because the old rite contains a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews. Bertone has said the issue could be resolved and that the church in no way intended to go against its spirit of reconciling with Jews.

Benedict's document was also a bid to reach out to the followers of an excommunicated traditionalist, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who split with the Vatican over Council reforms, notably the introduction of the new mass.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Catholic officials, Muslim scholars
to meet in Rome

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 3 (Reuters) - A landmark meeting between Catholic officials and Muslim scholars that aims to spur dialogue between Christianity and Islam is planned to take place in Rome this spring, a senior Vatican official said.

The top Vatican official in charge of relations with Islam, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, said he expected an advanced group of three Muslim representatives in February or March to lay the groundwork for the meeting.

"In a certain sense, (the meeting) can be defined as historic," Tauran told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, in an edition published earlier this week.

Some 138 Muslim scholars wrote to Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders in October, saying "the very survival of the world itself" might depend on dialogue.

The Pope, who as head of the Catholic Church represents more than half the world's two billion Christians, responded in November by welcoming their call and inviting them to Rome.

The German-born Pontiff sparked Muslim protests in 2006 by making a speech hinting that Islam was violent and irrational.

He repeatedly expressed regret for the reaction to the speech but stopped short of the clear apology sought by Muslims.

Tauran raised eyebrows last year by expressing doubt over whether the two faiths could agree on issues such as God, love and how to read sacred scripture.

But he told L'Osservatore Romano that the Muslim scholars' call for dialogue in their October open letter may have marked a turning point.

"It's still true that, for some Muslims, inter-religious dialogue is neither a reality nor a priority. But it's also true that we're perhaps seeing an interesting development in the open letter," Tauran said. "The 138 signatories effectively represent 43 countries."

Among the items on the agenda were respect for an individual's dignity and teaching tolerance to new generations, Tauran said.

Here's a commentary from a South African newspaper about the developing dialog:

Free love, not war
By Riazat Butt
Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
03 January 2008

In a letter addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders 138 prominent Muslim scholars from every sect of Islam urged them “to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions”, spelling out the similarities between passages of the Bible and the Qur’an.

“If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world, with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Our common future is at stake,” the letter said. “The very survival of the world is perhaps at stake.”

Scholars used quotations from the Bible and the Qur’an to illus-trate similarities between the two faiths, such as the requirement to worship one God and to love one’s neighbour.

The letter, A Common Word Between Us and You, also referred to wars in Muslim-majority countries by urging Western governments not to persecute Muslims.

“As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes.”

The letter was issued by Jordan’s Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, following its annual convention last month in Amman. Many signatories are grand muftis who each has tens of millions of followers.

At the United Kingdom launch, Aref Ali Nayed, one of the British signatories, warned people not to get “too hung up” on expecting an answer from the pope.

Nayed, a senior adviser to the interfaith programme at Cambridge University, said: “Every person who extends his hand ... would like something in return, but we’re offering this as free love. It’s not a competition. It’s not about reciprocity.”

It is the second open letter from the institute to the Vatican. The first was sent after the pope’s Regensburg address last year, which angered Muslims by quoting a Byzantine emperor who spoke of the Prophet Muhammad’s “command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.

The authors’ approach can be expected to appeal to Pope Benedict, whose papacy has seen a shift in the Vatican’s attitude to dialogue with the Islamic world. The pPope views contact with Muslims as urgent and essential.

But he also signalled his impatience with the polite exchanges between theologians that have characterised the dialogue. Instead, what he privately suggested is an “ethical dialogue”, the aim of which would be to single out principles both sides share and to try to build on those. [Now, this journalist is one of the few who have really picked up the sense of the Pope's call for inte-religious dialog, i.e., not theological but ethical!]
There are two main items on the pope’s agenda: the use of religion in the Muslim world to justify violence and “reciprocity”, a codeword for granting Christians in Muslim countries the freedoms Muslims enjoy in the West.

The situation in this respect has been getting more critical. Christian Arabs are leaving Palestine, Iraq and other Muslim countries in growing numbers. At the same time, anti-conversion laws are being enforced from Egypt to Pakistan.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has welcomed the commitment to further dialogue between the faiths.

“The theological basis of the letter and its call to respect one another, be fair, just and kind to one another are indicative of the kind of relationship for which we yearn in all parts of the world, especially where Christians and Muslims live together,” Williams said.

“It is particularly important in underlining the need for respect towards minorities in contexts where either Islam or Christianity is the majority presence.”

The common scriptural foundations for Jews, Christians and Muslims would be the basis for justice and peace in the world, he said.

“The call should now be taken up by Christians and Muslims at all levels and in all countries and I shall endeavour ... to do my part in working for the righteousness which this letter proclaims as our common goal.”

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/4/2008 12:44 PM]
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No one really minds the belated posts, as above - as long as they are accurate - because they still inform those who missed the news the first time around. Year-beginning stories have not only meant belated reporting and recycling of old non-stories (as in the Corsera "day in the life' story, alas, but also something like the the following willful distortion of a 15-day-old news item - execrable journalism to say the least.

But then this is not the first time that this journalist has written biased stories about the Pope. Popham is one of those unregenerate, despicable Pope-wears-Prada tabloid-style innuendo masters, who does not hesitate, as he does not in this piece, to portray the Pope falsely as an enemy of science and an advocate of intelligent design!

Science bows to theology
as the Pope dismantles Vatican observatory

By Peter Popham in Rome
The Independent (UK)
Published: 04 January 2008

Science is to make way for diplomacy at the Pope's summer residence, with the dismantling of the astronomical observatory that has been part of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, for more than 75 years. The Pope needs more room to receive diplomats so the telescopes have to go.

The eviction of the astronomers and their instruments, reported by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, and their removal to a disused convent a mile away, marks the end of a period of intimacy between popes and priest-astronomers that has lasted well over a century. [Popham apparently does not follow the Anglophone news agencies, because ADNkronos International reported this on Dec. 20.]

Father Jose G Funes, the present director of the observatory, known as the Specola Vaticana, insisted that there was no sinister significance in the move. "It is not a downgrading of science in the Vatican," he said. "To remain within the palace would have had only a symbolic significance, whereas where we are going we will be even more comfortable. Nearly everybody is in agreement with the move even though I realise that every change produces disquiet."

His predecessor, Father George Coyne, said, "I agree completely with Father Funes. We have discussed the issues many times together and with the rest of our Jesuit staff."

But symbolism is exactly what close watchers of Pope Benedict XVI see in the move: confirmation of the view that he is far less receptive to what scientists – including scientists in dog collars – want to tell him than his recent predecessors. He has, for example, spoken in favour of intelligent design, in flat contradiction of the views of the observatory's former director.

The popes have been conducting a love-hate affair with astronomy ever since Galileo. Of obvious interest to them, for example, are the efforts of astronomers to pin down exactly which wandering star led the three wise men to the stable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.

The latest attempt was published by Grant Matthews, professor of theoretical astrophysicist at America's University of Notre Dame. The "star in the East", he says, could have been Mars, Jupiter and Saturn aligned in the constellation Pisces on 20 February 6BC, or Jupiter, the moon and Saturn aligned in Aries on 17 April of the same year, or Jupiter and Venus closely aligned in Leo 11 years later. The middle possibility is the strongest, he believes.

But it was the more mundane question of the reform of the calendar that first induced the popes to give house room to the star-gazers in the late 16th century.

"Pope Gregory XIII ordered a tower to be erected... and to be fitted out with the greatest and best instruments of the time," Pope Leo XIII wrote in 1891. "There he held the meetings of the learned men to whom the reform of the calendar had been entrusted ... When touched by the rays of the sun that are allowed to enter from above, the designs demonstrate the error of the old reckoning."

Another rapprochement occurred in the 18th century, but the latest phase in the relationship was initiated by Leo XIII himself in 1891. In 1935 the observatory was moved out of Rome to the summer palace to escape the growing atmospheric pollution of the capital.

In 1978, Father Coyne was appointed director of the Specola Vaticana. He held the job throughout the long reign of Pope John Paul II. The theological conservatism of the Polish pope cohabited oddly with an enthusiastic acceptance of the findings of science. In a speech in 1996, for instance, he came close to accepting the theory of evolution.

Father Coyne's tenure did not long outlast the reign of John Paul. When Coyne retired in August 2006, it was rumoured that hostility to intelligent design had been his undoing. Benedict's rejection of the Enlightenment, and the reign of scientific truth which it ushered in, is well established. [What a crock of crap, excuse the language!]

And now Father Coyne's former domain is to be dismantled. The two astronomical domes which crown the roof of the of the lakeside palace are to remain – to be transformed into museums.

Just for reference and for the record, here is the original item reported by AKI and posted by Benefan on 12/22/07 in CULTURE & POLITICS ....

Vatican: Astronomers to move
from Pope's residence

Vatican City, 20 Dec. (AKI) - The Catholic church, which once branded astronomer Galileo Galilei and philosopher Giordano Bruno 'heretics' for their views on astronomy, is set to dismantle and transfer the 1891-built Vatican observatory to a nearby building.

Jesuit astronomers operating in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo, in the Roman countryside, will be moved to a different building, due to lack of space, reported Italian daily Corriere Della Sera.

The space in the observatory is needed by the Vatican to host diplomats and heads of state who visit Pope Benedict XVI.

The entire area of the observatory will be used, while the building's two domes will be museums, open only on request.

A library with over 20,000 rare books, an extensive collection of meteorites and the residences of the scientists will all be transferred to an old convent, located one and a half kilometres away from Castel Gandolfo.

The observatory was built by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 to respond to claims that the church was opposed to scientific progress. It became famous, when in 1969 Pope Paul VI saw, with the help of powerful Vatican telescopes, the landing on the moon of American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin.

"It is in no way a downgrade of science by the Vatican," said Father Jose G. Funes, director of the Vatican observatory.

"To remain in the palace [Castel Gandolfo] was only a symbolic role, and where we will be moving to will be an even more comfortable place for us."

A second Vatican observatory already exists in the US state of Arizona, atop Mount Graham which is also considered a sacred place for native American Indians.

1/4/2008 2:08 PM
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Normally, I would post this in CHATTER, but it is such a great and highly relevant 'editorial commentary' by way of cartooning - one that says it all - so I think it belongs here.

From Curt Jester:

This news [the AP article in the preceding post on this thread] came out earlier this week, but I have been working with my contacts to try to get more information. In a world exclusive I have gotten hold of the new document which is being released in a format that up to now has never been used before by the Vatican. I don't know how it will be received by some bishops, but I think the new format will be helpful for them.

1/4/2008 6:34 PM
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Translated from ASCA and Apcom reports:

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 4 - Pope Benedict XVI this morning visited the "Gift of Mary' House run by the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

It was the Pope's first pastoral visit of 2008 to a charitable institution, which was founded by John Paul II in 1987 to grant a request by Mother Teresa when he visited Calcutta in 1986.

The Pontiff was welcomed on his visit in front of the building, located within the Vatican, by sisters and novices with a red flower garland and an Indian dance of welcome.

"For many years," the Pope told them, "when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I had the occasion to spend many hours at your institution and I was able to appreciate the generous service of evangelical charity practised by your order."

[In fact, the House is located along the left side of the Vatican City walls, opening up to the Via Sant'Uffizio, right next to the CDF building.]

The Pope then shook hands with some of the vagrants and homeless who are beneficiaries of the House, and at the homeless shelter which currently has 70 women, most of them immigrants.

"I am here to show my spiritual nearness to you who, in this house, find welcome, listening ears, understanding and daily materiala s well as spiritual sustenance," the Pope told the wards later in an address he gave at the dining hall of the institute's soup kitchen. "I am here to tell you the the Pope loves you all and is close to you."

Recalling the atmosphere of the Christmas season, the Pope told them, "It is Christmas every time we allow Jesus to love others through us."

Sister Agnes-Marie, who recently took over as Mother Superior of the House, said, "Some of our homeless have mental problems, and others are alcoholics, and we try our best to deal with their specific problems. We share the entire day with them, and they have moments of prayer," she informed the Pope.

Specifically, the nuns and the volunteers have prayers three times a day in the House Chapel, where next to the Crucifix is Blessed
Theresa's signature motto "I thirst".

After visiting the sick ward, where he blessed the sick, and the dining hall for men, the Pope went to the nearby Church of San Salvatore di Ossibus, where he was welcomed by all of the Missionaries of Charity in Rome led by Superior General Fr. Robert Coroy; Sister Maria Pia, regional superior; and Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala, superior-general of the order's contemplative brothers.

Sister Maria Pia read a message from Mother Nirmala, who succeeded Mother Teresa as head of the order. "We are profoundly grateful for your visit to our house," it read, "and for the structure through which we are privileged to serve the needy. Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement and your support. We are praying for you and your intentions."

Pope visits homeless shelter

Rome, Jan. 4, 2008 ( - Pope Benedict XVI visited a Roman shelter for homeless women, run by the Missionaries of Charity, on January 4.

Each year during the Christmas season the Pope visits a charitable institution in Rome. Last year Pope Benedict stopped at a soup kitchen run by Caritas, and the previous year he visited the St. Martha clinic, a pediatric center inside the Vatican walls.

This year the Holy Father chose to tour the Casa Dono di Maria, where 70 women are housed under the care of the religious order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

In his remarks to residents and staff, the Pope recalled that Mother Teresa named the institution the "Gift of Mary" center because she wanted those living there "to be able to experience the love of the Blessed Virgin."

That love would be shown, she said, by "the presence of people who pause to listen to those in difficulty and serve them with the same readiness that caused the mother of the Lord to visit St. Elisabeth."

At Christmas, the Pontiff continued, the world is reminded that Jesus was born into poverty and "experienced the discomforts that many of you experience." The celebration of the Nativity, he said, is a reminder that "God never abandons us."

About 120 members of the Missionaries of Charity, serving in different charitable institutions in Rome, assembled at the Casa Dono di Maria for the papal visit.

The Pontiff told them that the shelter, opened in 1988, was "a sign and an example for other Christian communities to become ever more welcoming and open."

A sidebar in Avvenire recounts what prompted John Paul II to have the House built almost immediately:

After having returned from his visit to Calcutta in 1986, the Pope was being driven through Via della Conciliazione one night, and he noticed dozens of homeless vagrants seeking 'shelter' next to the walls of the buildings along the way. Having promised Mother Teresa a shelter for the needy within Vatican walls, he ordered construction begun right away and the building was completed within a few months.

At present, there are some 50,000 Missionaries of Charity in 95 countries. One of its most important plants today is to open a 'house' in China, where some of them already work in a hospital.

Charity begins at home:
Pope visits Vatican shelter

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 4 (CNS) -- They welcomed him with a red paper garland, smiles and a few whispered words about themselves.

Pope Benedict XVI's 45-minute visit Jan. 4 to the Vatican's shelter for the poor and homeless was distinctly simple and low-key. It began with a song about Jesus, sung by the Missionaries of Charity sisters who run the institution.

In the small, crowded women's dining room, an atmosphere of quiet dignity prevailed. The pope greeted each of the women personally, and they shook his hand or kissed his ring.

This was not a media event, and the pope didn't dish up soup or wait on tables.

"I am here to tell you the pope loves you and is close to you," he said in a brief talk. To the roomful of women who have fallen on hard times, he said he wanted to remind them that "God never abandons us."

The pope paused in the men's dining room just long enough to wish the group "Have a nice lunch!"

Then he visited the quarters for sick women. They told him the names of their native countries: "Poland," "Somalia." Almost all were non-Italians.

"How are you?" said an African woman who could not get up from her bed. As the pope blessed her, she slowly made the sign of the cross.

Authorities estimate Rome has some 3,000 homeless people, and it's been a cold winter for them. Two froze to death Jan. 1. At the Vatican shelter, the pope left practical gifts for the guests: food and blankets.

The 74-bed hostel was opened 20 years ago by Pope John Paul II as a gift to Blessed Mother Teresa, who had lobbied for such an institution at the Vatican. It offers warm meals for men and women and a female dormitory.

Pope Benedict, who stood beneath a picture of Mother Teresa, recalled that when he was a cardinal his office was next door to the shelter, and he became aware of the important work the nuns were doing there.

"How many gestures of sharing, of concrete charity, have been accomplished over the years inside these walls," he said.

Along with material assistance, he said, the staff communicates "that same passion for Christ and that luminous smile of God that animated Mother Teresa."

The visit highlighted one of Pope Benedict's favorite themes: personal charity as the ultimate expression of faith in Jesus Christ.

In Austria last fall, he told Catholic volunteers that love of neighbor is not something that can be delegated to the state or to institutions -- it always demands a personal commitment.

In his 2006 encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" ("God Is Love"), the pope brought it down to the basics: "Christian charity is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for and healing the sick, visiting those in prison."

As pope, however, personal contact with the needy is not always easy. Every public papal event involves planning, security and protocol, and usually takes place under the glare of the mass media.

On his trips to Africa, Pope John Paul sometimes would make unscheduled stops to visit poor families in their huts. These off-screen events were fleeting, however; the papal motorcade was always waiting outside.

One way popes can "do charity" is by allocating money to worthy projects or organizations from Peter's Pence, which is funded by a collection throughout the Catholic world.

In addition, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum distributes several million dollars each year to areas of need, particularly in support of relief efforts to disaster areas.

In 2007, for example, the council financed humanitarian aid to victims of a cyclone in Bangladesh, an earthquake in Peru and flooding in Mexico. In all, the Vatican funded relief programs in 35 countries.

Two other papal charitable agencies fund development projects: the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, which helps North African communities fight drought and desertification, and the Populorum Progressio Foundation, which aids indigenous peoples through hundreds of small projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The oldest existing form of papal charity is the Almoner's Office, established in 1409. It responds to individual requests for assistance with expenses like medical or utility bills and rent.

Spanish Archbishop Felix del Blanco Prieto, who was named papal almoner last year, said Pope Benedict told him to "never let our charity be lacking" and to come to him personally if he needed additional funds.

"Every day we receive pressing requests from people in trouble: from the sick, from those who can't pay the rent or the gas or light bill, from immigrants, from students and from people looking for work," Archbishop del Blanco told the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, in a recent interview.

The archbishop said his office allocates funds after the petitioner's situation is checked with his local pastor. The amount is generally between 100 and 500 euros (about $150-$750), and each year more than $2 million is distributed.

Most of those asking for financial help are individuals, he said.

"We're here to give out a small, concrete assistance, not to finance great projects," he said.

The Almoner's Office is tucked into a courtyard on the north end of Vatican City. The Missionaries of Charity shelter stands behind the Vatican walls on the southern border. For those on the receiving end, these are essential institutions, but most of the thousands of visitors who stream to the Vatican each day don't even know they exist.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/5/2008 12:56 PM]
1/5/2008 12:19 AM
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Bishop of Shanghai has hopeful
pastoral message as Shanghai marks
400 years of Catholicism this year

by Justin Qiang

Shanghai, Jan. 4 (AsiaNews) –In a Christmas pastoral letter, Msgr. Aloysius Jin Luxian officially opened celebrations for the 400th anniversary of Catholicism in Shanghai, inviting the faithful of the diocese to a spiritual renewal and asks them not to “let Benedict XVI down”.

In the Pope's June 30th Letter to Chinese Catholics, he urged them to make May 24th – feast of the sanctuary of Our Lady of Sheshan, within the Shanghai diocese -as a World Day of Prayer for the Church and China.

Mons. Jin's pastoral letter which was published on December 24th last, begins by outlining the history of Catholicism in Shanghai.

It all began with the conversion and baptism of Xu Guangqi, a Shanghai mandarin who worked for the Emperor in Beijing. There he became a friend of the Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci and was baptised.

In 1608 Paul Xu returned to Shanghai for his father's funeral and invited Italian Jesuit Father Lazare Cattaneo to preach to his family. After they all eventually received baptism, the priest, who was based in nearby Nanjing, baptized 200 others, and more Jesuits were sent to Shanghai in eastern China, giving birth to the first nucleus of the Church there.

Mons. Jin recalls that another Italian Jesuit, Father Francesco Brancati, baptized 2,300 people here. He died in southern China but was buried in a Catholic cemetery in Shanghai that would host hundreds of missioners' graves in following centuries. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), these graves were desecrated.

The bishop asks the faithful to “not forget the missionaries” because they have made an enormous contribution to local arts and sciences including astrology and medicine. Thanks to the Jesuits and other missionaries, Shanghai enjoyed advanced education through schools universities libraries, art galleries, astronomic and meteorological observatories, hospitals where modern medicine was practised.

In a departure from the official Communist interpretation – which considers missionaries as agents of western colonialism – Msgr. Jin underlines that, already 400 years ago, those missioners were already using inculturation in their approach to evangelization and were training the laity to manage their churches.

In the second part of his letter, the prelate sets out some guidelines to render evangelisation more dynamic in the diocese.

"Evangelization is the work of all Catholics," he said, urging his flock not to focus merely on the sacraments and charitable works.

Msgr. Jin says that today, there are about 150,000 Shanghai Catholics compared to 100,000 before the Communist takeover of mainland China in 1949, but Protestants have grown from 30,000 to more than 200,000 during the same period.

In a Chinese world where interest in religions and in Christianity has grown, Catholics must use all means at their disposal to witness their faith: churches must be kept open in the daytime for worshippers and visitors [Editor's Note: In China, they are usually opened only for religious services].

Religious personnel should welcome and share their faith with visitors, he urged, lamenting that some priests and nuns would rather spend time watching television or on the Internet.

Concluding, Msgr. Jin referred to Pope Benedict's Letter asking Catholics worldwide to pray for the China Church on May 24, feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan.

“As Shanghai Catholics, we feel honoured. We thank our pope, but feel pressured.”. The prelate said he anticipates many foreign Catholics will visit the Sheshan shrine this year, and he urged local Catholics to show them hospitality.

Bishop Jin also recalled how Archbishop Celso Costantini, the first apostolic delegate to China, summoned the First Catholic Synod of China in Shanghai in 1924 and led the bishops to dedicate the Church in China to Our Lady of Sheshan.

Encouraging his flock to pray to Mary and the foreign missionary-saints, Bishop Jin concluded "We will not let the Holy Father down”.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/5/2008 12:20 AM]
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