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11/21/2008 5:56 PM
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Posted earlier today in the preceding page:
The Pope's day

Liturgical celebrations to be led by the Holy Father from November 29, 2008, to January 25, 2009.

The Pope's newspaper makes 'some noise' - Sandro Magister describes how L'Osservatore Romano has become
a true newspaper of ideas, some of them controversial even within the Church.

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

Awaiting the third encyclical
'Love in Truth': Pope Benedict
hones the idea that charity
is the litmus test of faith

By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY, November 21 (CNS) -- With his first social encyclical still waiting in the wings, Pope Benedict XVI has been honing his argument that the practice of real-world charity is a litmus test of Christian faith.

To three very different audiences in November -- diplomats, health care specialists and the Catholic faithful -- the Pope emphasized the indispensable connection between the Gospel and social justice.

At his general audience Nov. 19, he envisioned God as the judge whose "single criterion is love."

"What he asks is only this: Did you visit me when I was sick? When I was in prison? Did you feed me when I was hungry, and did you clothe me when I was naked? And so, justice is decided by charity," he said.

The Pope began working on his third encyclical, tentatively titled "Love in Truth," in 2007, and a draft has been circulating quietly for months among high-echelon consultants. It was expected to be published sometime in 2008, but informed sources now say next year looks more likely.

Although no one at the Vatican was talking about the encyclical's content, a sneak preview of its basic themes was offered by Ignatius Press, the English-language publisher of the Pope's writings.

Love in Truth applies the teachings of the pope's first two encyclicals (on love and on hope), to the major social issues of today's world, the publisher said.

The first part of the new encyclical examines the contributions of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II to Catholic social teaching, in particular their rejection of simplistic conservative-liberal categories and their insistence on the importance of natural moral law, it said.

The encyclical's second part outlines moral principles needed to confront contemporary social issues, including assaults on human dignity and human life, poverty, war and peace, terrorism, globalization and environmental concerns, it said.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict has aimed to revive the roots of the faith. He has made clear that this is not a theoretical faith built solely on theological arguments, but a faith lived in the real world among those who suffer, and based on the dual commandment to love God and one's neighbor.

Speaking to the new Lithuanian ambassador to the Vatican in early November, the Pope eloquently summarized his essential message in a few quick strokes, and in the process critiqued the consumer society.

"Since love of God leads to participation in the justice and generosity of God toward others, the practice of Christianity leads naturally to solidarity with one's fellow citizens and indeed with the whole of the human family," he said.

"It leads to a determination to serve the common good and to take responsibility for the weaker members of society, and it curbs the desire to amass wealth for oneself alone. Our society needs to rise above the allure of material goods and to focus instead upon values that truly promote the good of the human person," he said.

A few days later, the Pope addressed a Vatican health care conference on the treatment of sick children. He noted that each year 4 million children die in the first 26 days of life, many of them as a result of poverty, drought and hunger.

"The Church does not forget her smallest children," he said. He pointed to the Gospel account of Jesus's concern for the youngest ones and said this must be the model for how today's Christians react when children are suffering.

By providing medical and spiritual care to the neediest children, Catholic health care facilities and associations are following the example of Jesus, the good Samaritan, he said.

But, typically for the German Pope, he broadened the argument beyond Catholic teaching. He cited the Roman poet Juvenal's dictum, "A child is owed the greatest respect," to illustrate that "the ancients already recognized the importance of respecting the child, a precious gift for society."

On the broader economic front, the Pope has forcefully encouraged countries to implement the aid quotas of the Millennium Development Goals, a plan that aims to cut global poverty in half by 2015. He has repeatedly warned that market forces motivated solely by profit-seeking can never lead to justice.

The Pope's interest in economic mechanisms is not new. In an article presented in a symposium in 1985, he criticized the idea that market laws alone represent the best guarantee of progress and justice.

Ethics, sustained by strong religious convictions, must be brought to bear on the market system, he said, and "the decline of such discipline can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse."

Those words have a prophetic ring today. Certainly the current global financial crisis could merit its own chapter in the upcoming encyclical, and some believe that's one reason it remains a work in progress.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/21/2008 6:48 PM]
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11/21/2008 6:42 PM
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Here is a good mind-tickler about the main points that emerged in the recent Bishops' Synod Assembly on the Word of God.

Finding the Word in the word
by Tania Mann

November 2008

When the words upon a page of Scripture transform our hearts, our souls, and our minds, they become the Word made flesh in our world today. This is the message that emerged from the Synod of Bishops on the theme, “The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.”

The synod met from October 5-26 in the Vatican. Gathered together in the Synod Hall—often deemed a modern-day “Upper Room”—Church leaders shared firsthand accounts of the use of Scripture throughout the world and sought to discern concrete ways of renewing the universal Church.

Throughout the three weeks of the synod, Pope Benedict XVI’s words brought the Bible to life, conveying the profound significance and timeliness of this year’s theme to those both inside Vatican City walls and beyond them.

In his contribution to the Synod Hall discussion, Pope Benedict XVI touched on topics from his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth, as he discussed the necessary elements of a correct approach to reading and interpreting Scripture.

Citing heavily from Vatican II’s Dei Verbum, n. 11, the Holy Father outlined what methodologies are necessary for the Scriptures to reveal their true meaning.

This discourse put in more technical terms the message he emphatically conveyed throughout the synod and in the weeks previous, stressing the need to see Christ the Word in both a historical and a spiritual light.

While applauding the high standard of current historical-critical scriptural scholarship, the Pope expressed disappointment in the lack of truly theological exegesis today. Consequently, the Bible is being analyzed as if it were a history book.

On the one hand, its pages do convey historical fact: “The history of salvation is not mythology, but rather true history, and is therefore to be studied alongside serious historical research methods,” the Pope said.

However, Christ was not only human; he was divine, too. And as such, as more than a historical figure, the reality of his identity as God made man must also be taken into account. This involves reading Scripture “in the same spirit in which it was written,” as Dei Verbum declared.

Any one Bible passage must be seen in the context of the whole of Revelation as handed down to us in Scripture and through tradition.

This is no simple task. “Just reading” the Bible does not mean we come to “find the Word in the words,” as Benedict said in his opening address to the Synod of Bishops. We must strive to seek that Word through a multi-dimensional approach.

When the reading of Scripture fails to acknowledge divine action within its pages, God goes absent from human history: secularism and science replace faith and Revelation. We trust only the former two to be objectively true and lose sight of the truth Scripture conveys.

Thus what may first appear as a purely academic issue regarding exegetical methods is reflected in our society’s perspective on life’s priorities, in a skewed concept of reality. And the danger of that view is all too evident with the current financial crisis.

“We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing…. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand,” the Pope said. Continuing, he declared the Word of God as the permanent “foundation of all reality.”

Instead of hungering for success or money, true substance is found in the Word’s meaning for us today. “The Church’s principal task, at the start of this new millennium, is above all to nourish ourselves on the Word of God, in order to make new evangelization more effective,” Benedict said in his homily at the synod’s conclusion.

Evangelization means putting the first and greatest commandment into practice — loving God and neighbor — as the text from Matthew’s Gospel on which the Holy Father’s homily was based clearly teaches (Matt. 22:34-40).

Translating the Word into acts of love is the “only way to make the Gospel announcement credible, despite the human weaknesses that mark individuals.” More than anything, this requires an increasingly intimate knowledge of Christ, sought with humility, Pope Benedict said.

He said that the most important place to take in the Word through Scripture is the Mass. Here we realize that the Bible is “a book of the people and for the people, an inheritance, a testament handed over to readers so that they can put into practice in their own lives the history of salvation witnessed in the text.”

The role of the homily is then extremely important in the way we encounter the Word on a regular basis. Indeed, Pope Benedict pinpointed homilies during his synodal address as another aspect of Church life affected by the current unbalanced state of scriptural study, and their improvement was one of this 12th General Assembly’s main themes. When using “mainstream” historical analyses of the Bible for their preparation, priests come away perplexed, because the soul of Scripture is lost, the Pope said.

The proper formation of priests becomes increasingly crucial within the context of the current movement to encourage Catholics to read the Bible on their own. The Pope has continually recommended prayerful reading of Scripture, or Lectio Divina (Latin for “divine reading”).

The will to explore the Bible’s pages is there, it seems. In a survey conducted by the Catholic Biblical Federation this year, covering 16 countries, the majority of those interviewed think of the Bible with great respect, have a copy in their homes, and consider its words to hold significant meaning for their lives, Italian Bishop Vincenzo Paglia reported to the synodal assembly.

But the majority of survey participants — believers and nonbelievers alike — find the Bible difficult to understand without assistance. (This is without taking into account the fundamental obstacle of language for many, since the same survey found that the Bible has yet to be translated into over 4,000 of the world’s languages.)

It is therefore important that a personal conversation with God through the Scriptures unfold under careful guidance. The responsibility falls to pastors to lead the faithful in this endeavor, and the best methods for doing so were discussed at length by the bishops during these weeks.

Traditionally, the idea of reading Scripture on their own is somewhat novel for Catholics, for whom its communal nature has been emphasized in a coming together as one body in Christ to listen to the Word and hear it broken down in the homily. Individual Bible study, instead, is often considered a predominantly Protestant practice.

Not to be forgotten are the roots of the Lectio Divina that the Pope desires so strongly to renew, which extend deep into ancient monastic tradition.

The difference between the Protestant and Catholic approaches to Scripture is real, however, and it was addressed by Korean Bishop Vincent Ri Pyung-Ho, who spoke of Protestants’ tendency to memorize Bible passages. Protestants quote the Bible, whereas Catholics speak of abstract biblical themes, he said.

But when we read that “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19), we realize that internalizing Scripture can also be considered Catholic in its striving after Mary’s example. Through her intimate relationship with both the Son of God and the Scriptures, “she made her heart into a library of the Word,” said Bishop Ri Pyung-Ho.

Indeed, Pope Benedict, in line with his predecessor John Paul II, consistently steers our eyes toward Mary as our model. During the synod, he demonstrated this clearly with a visit to Pompeii, where he entrusted the assembly to her care. There he continued in his strong encouragement to pray the rosary, led its recitation, and gave a meditation on its meaning.

While it is often prayed communally, the rosary can certainly be a means of incorporating Scripture into personal prayer as well. As the Pope pointed out, the rosary is “completely interwoven with scriptural elements,” as it entails contemplating the Gospel mysteries. The thoughts of those who pray it remain “anchored to Scripture.”

For example, we should ideally use words taken from the Bible when enunciating each mystery. Then there are the prayers themselves: the Our Father comes straight from the Gospel, as does the first half of the Hail Mary. The second half constitutes our own supplications, involving us personally and communally.

“The rosary must always emerge from the silence of the heart as a response to the Word, after the model of Mary’s prayer,” the Pope said during his meditation.

The rosary and Lectio Divina then become integral parts of our dialogue with God, as we use human words to move towards the Word of God. Each is an example of how the Catholic Church can progress into the future while remaining profoundly rooted in tradition.

Since love of God is inextricably linked to love of neighbor, relationship with God then leads naturally to seeking dialogue with others. This was witnessed by those who took in the historic scene of the Holy Father walking side by side with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in the Sistine Chapel.

There, Bartholomew I gave the first address by an Eastern Church leader to the Synod of Bishops. Quoting the Church Fathers extensively and eloquently, he emphasized the fundamental need to take God’s Word beyond the church walls and into every aspect of our lives.

“If we claim to retain the sacrament of the altar, we cannot forgo or forget the sacrament of the neighbor — a fundamental condition for realizing God’s Word in the world within the life and mission of the Church.”

Thoughtful dialogue is therefore necessary among Christ’s followers, transcending political and religious differences “in order to transform the entire visible world for the glory of the invisible God.”

Pope Benedict was deeply moved in his spontaneous response to Bartholomew, deeming the occasion a true experience of “synod,” (a word whose Greek roots signify “walking a path together”), and calling the patriarch’s words “strongly contextualized in our time.”

Days after this encounter, the Holy Father touched again on the theme of dialogue’s essential nature as he brought the synod to a close within St. Peter’s Basilica:

Scripture and liturgy converge, therefore, with the single aim of bringing the people to dialogue with the Lord and to obedience to the will of the Lord. The word issued from the mouth of God and witnessed in the Scriptures returns to him in the form of a prayerful response, a response that is lived, a response that wells up from love.

In this seeking to live our lives in conversation with God, the Pope’s guiding words lead us along the path toward the fullness of truth in the faith handed down to us through the Church. Whether through listening to Scripture and its interpretation as a community or endeavoring to take a guided step toward the Word through individual prayer, our destination remains that same unshakeable truth, found in Christ alone.

Tania Mann, who writes from Rome, is an editor and translator for L’Osservatore Romano, English edition.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/21/2008 6:52 PM]
11/21/2008 10:55 PM
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It's depressing when the MSM pick up something and report it as news simply because they have not been paying attention (although it is the Vatican reporter's business to keep track of what's happening on his beat)! Pope Benedict has already spoken about this possibility on a couple of occasions in public. The way the AP reports it, you'd think it was some 'major' change. I believe the Ambrosian rite has always done the Sign of Peace earlier, and so do the Neo-Catechumenals. So, for the record...

Pope pondering change
to Mass liturgy

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 21 (AP) – A high-ranking Vatican official says Pope Benedict XVI is considering introducing a change to the Mass liturgy.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, who heads the Vatican office for sacraments, says the pope may move the placement of the sign of peace, where congregation members shake hands or hug.

Arinze told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano in an interview published Friday that the pope has asked bishops to express their opinions and will then decide.

Under the change, the sign of peace, which now takes place moments before the reception of communion, would come earlier. Arinze said the change might help create a more solemn atmosphere as the faithful are preparing to receive communion.

I have posted a translation of translate Cardinal Arinze's entire interview in NOTABLES, along with a similar itnerview by Avvenire - to honor him on the Golden Jubilee of his ordination as a priest, and his impending canonical retirement. And if only because, outside of Cardinal Gantin who retired early, he was the first African to be a serious papabile.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/23/2008 6:55 PM]
11/22/2008 2:27 PM
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OR today.

No papal news in this issue except 'Nostre Informazioni'
(yesterday's list of audiences and nominations). Page 1
stories: IMF president warns of global financial catastrophe
if another sector collapses; the United States faces 20 years
of decline, according to a National Intelligence Council report
(more detailed story about this posted in CULTURE & POLITICS);
Asian-Pacific Economic Council (APEC) summit opens in Lima,
Peru, with President Bush and 20 other national leaders;
ceasefire fails in the Congo's North Kivu, and the UN sends in
3000 more troops; and a teaser on an inside-page story about
the Beatles - yes! - on the anniversary of the White Album.


The Holy Father met today with
- Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who presented
the third typical edition of the Roman Missal. It is also the Golden Jubilee of the cardinal's priesthood.

- Pilgrims from the Diocese of Amalfi-Cava di Tirreni. Address in Italian (translated below).


Highlight of the Amalfi pilgrims' audience with the Pope today was his veneration of the relics of St. Andrew which the pilgrims brought with them on their pilgrimage to the Tomb of St. Peter at the Vatican basilica.

The pilgrimage to Peter's tomb is part of Amalfi's celebration of the eighth centenary of the transfer of St. Andrew's relics from Constantinople to Amalfi, the town north of Naples that has given its name to one of the world's most beautiful and famous coastal regions.

Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew I of Constantinople venerated the relics during his visit to Naples for the Inter-Religious Meeting in October 2007.


The Pope arrives at Aula Paolo VI for the audience.

Here is a translation of his address to the pilgrims, which was, in effect, a homily in anticipation of the Solemnity of Christ the King tomorrow.


Dear brothers and sisters!

Welcome to the house of the Successor of Peter - I welcome you all with a heartfelt greeting.

First of all, I greet the Pastor of your ecclesial community, Archbishop Orazio Soricelli, to whom I am grateful for the kind words he said in your behalf.

I greet the priests, deacons and seminarians, the religious and the lay faithful involved in various pastoral activities, the young people, the choirs, and the sick with their volunteer caregivers from UNITALSI.

I greet the civilian authorities, the mayors of the communes in the Diocese, and the confraternities.

Finally, I extend my greeting to the entire Archdiocese of Amalfi-Cava de' Tirreni and those of you who have come to Rome on this pilgrimage to the tomb of Peter with the venerated relics of St. Andrew, your august patron, which have been kept since the fourth century in the crypt of Amalfi Cathedral.

Indeed, this pilgrimage is in the name of St. Andrew, on the occasion of the eighth centenary of the translation of his relics from Constantinople to your city of Amalfi, small in size but great in its civic and religious history, as your Archbishop has recalled.

Before this precious reliquary, I was first able to stop in prayer on the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30, 1996, and I keep happy memories of that visit.

As that annual observance approaches, this Jubilee Year will be concluded with a Holy Mass celebrated in your Cathedral by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of state.

It has been a singular year, with its high point in the solemn commemorative act last May 8 by Cardinal Walter Kasper as my special envoy.

Following the example of St. Andrew, and with his intercession, you wish to give a new impulse to your apostolic and missionary calling, widening your perspective to the expectation of peace among peoples and intensifying prayer for unity among Christians.

Vocation, mission and ecumenism are the three key words which have oriented you in this spiritual and pastoral commitment, which today receives from the Pope an encouragement to proceed with generosity and enthusiasm.

May St. Andrew, who was the first of the Apostles called by Jesus on the banks of the river Jordan (cfr. Jn 1, 35-40), help you to rediscover ever more the importance and the urgency of bearing witness to the Gospel in every area of society.

May your entire diocesan community, emulating the early Church, grow in faith and communicate Christian hope to everyone.

Dear brothers and sisters, our encounter takes place on the eve of the solemnity of Christ the King. Therefore, I invite you to turn your heart to our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the universe.

In the face of the Pantocrator, we recognize, as Paul VI said admirably during the Second Vatican Council, "Christ, our principle! Christ, our way and our guide! Christ, our hope and our end!" (Opening address for the Second Period, 9/29/63)

The Word of God, that we shall hear tomorrow, will repeat to us that his face, revelation of the Father's invisible mystery, is that of the Good Shepherd, ready to take care of his lost sheep, in order to bring them back together and pasture them and then let them rest safely. He goes patiently in search of the lost sheep and tends to those who are sick (cfr Ez 34, 11-12.15-17).

Only in him can we find that peace which he gained at the price of his blood, taking upon himself all the sins of the world and obtaining reconciliation for us.

The Word of God will remind us that the face of Christ, universal king, is also that of the judge, because God is at the same time the good and merciful Shepherd and the just Judge.

In particular, the Gospel page (Mt 25,31-46) presents to us the great picture of the Last Judgment. In this parable, the Son of Man in his glory, surrounded by his angels, acts like the shepherd, who separates the lambs from the goats, and places the just on his right and the reprobates on his left.

He invites the just to enter into the legacy prepared for them always, while he condemns the reprobates to eternal fire that was prepared for the devil and the other rebel angels.

The criterion of the Judge is decisive. That criterion is love, concrete charity to our neighbor, particularly the 'small ones', those in greatest difficulty - the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the person in jail.

The King solemnly declares to everyone that what they have done, or not done, for these needy people, they have done or not done to himself. Christ identifies himself with 'the least of his brothers', and the Last Judgment will be an accounting of what took place in earthly life.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is what is of interest to God. He does not care for historical kingship, but he wants to reign in the hearts of men, and from there, on the world: he is the King of the entire universe, but the critical point, the zone where his kingdom is at risk, is our heart, because it is there that God meets us in our freedom.

We, and only we, can keep him from reigning over us, and so, we can
place an obstacle to his reign over the world: on the family, on society, on history. We men and women have the faculty of choosing whom we want to be allied with - whether it is with Christ and his angels, or with the devil and his adepts, to use the language of the Gospel.

It is for us to decide whether to practise justice or iniquity, whether to embrace love and forgiveness, or revenge and homicidal hatred. Our personal salvation depends on this, but also the salvation of the world.

This is why Jesus wants to associate us with his kingship. This is why he invites us to collaborate in the coming of his Kingdom of love, justice and peace. It is for us to respond, not with words, but with deeds. By choosing the way of actual generous love towards our neighbor, we allow him to extend his lordship in time and space.

May St. Andrew help you to renew with courage your decision to belong to Christ and to place yourselves in the service of his Kingdom of peace, justice and love; and may the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, our King, protect your community always.

On my part, I assure you of remembrance in prayer, and as I thank you once more for your visit, I bless you all from my heart.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/24/2008 7:42 PM]
11/22/2008 11:54 PM
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Pope asked to pick from four names
as Archbishop of Westminster steps down

by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

The Pope is to be asked to consider four top English bishops as successor to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, who at 76 is keen to retire, is to visit Rome for a meeting with the Pope next month at which the succession will be discussed.

The four names understood to be on the list are the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols; the Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Rev Peter Smith; the Bishop of Leeds, the Right Rev Arthur Roche; and the Bishop of Nottingham, the Right Rev Malcolm McMahon.

Although Rome would be happy for the Cardinal to stay on, he is understood to want to use his meeting to agree a departure date – probably in February or March.

Archbishop Faustino Muñoz, the Papal Nuncio, has been taking soundings in England and Wales before drawing up the terna, or list of possible successors. In spite of speculation, no terna has yet been submitted and no names rejected.

The Times understands that the arrival of the terna in Rome is imminent and that it includes the names of four of the most popular bishops in England and Wales. However, the Pope is under no obligation to choose any of these to lead one of the Church’s most important archiepiscopal dioceses.

With the possible exception of Archbishop Nichols, none of those on the list is considered an outstanding candidate and they all have their detractors in Rome, and in particular in the English Church, where there is a strong lobby for a more conservative figure.

After savage criticism from some commentators of the English Church leadership for its liberal mores, many want an Archbishop more in the mould of the Pope himself and who, once given the Cardinal’s hat, could be guaranteed to vote for a like-minded Pope when that succession comes up.

This raises the chances of a bishop now being talked of in Rome as having an outside chance: the Bishop of Paisley, the Right Rev Philip Tartaglia. Former Rector of the Scots College in Rome, Bishop Tartaglia, 57, is considered one of the brightest and most promising bishops on the conservative wing of the Church.

Dr John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews and a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture, said: “This is a tremendously important appointment. The Church here and in Western Europe more generally is having to consider how it addresses its internal questions but also how it orientates itself towards a society that is clearly developing in directions that are yet further removed from Christianity.”

The Pope is not afraid of making an appointment from outside, but might balk at arousing the anger in Scotland that such a move would create. Scottish Catholics are anxious to hang on to Bishop Tartaglia so that he can succeed Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, who is expected to retire soon.

As Ireland’s senior appointments show, promotion has been weighted in favour of international experience. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin spent most of his career as a Vatican diplomat.

Rome is concerned at the lack of English and Welsh bishops with comparable experience. Nevertheless, it would be unusual to choose an Archbishop who was from neither England nor Wales.

It will be in the Pope’s mind that whoever takes over will be a member of the College of Cardinals that elects his successor, and that were a vacancy to be created in England,there is a shortage of conservative candidates in places such as Birmingham and Cardiff. He may therefore look to Scotland.

An insider said: “It is not a secret that Rome is not enthusiastic about the leadership of the English Catholic Church. Liberals with ability are still worthy of respect. I think the view in Rome is that they are not dealing with particularly able men.”

Englishmen in line for top job

Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, 63. Appointed a bishop in 1992, he served under Cardinal Basil Hume, presiding at his Requiem Mass in 1999. On good terms with the Pope and respected for lobbying on issues such as education and adoption, he is has been viewed with caution in the past.

Bishop of Leeds, the Right Rev Arthur Roche, 58. Backed by John Gummer, the MP who converted from the Church of England when it moved to ordain women priests. Former spiritual director of the English College in Rome, he is down to earth, with a solid background in pastoral and administrative work. He is considered by some to be a little young for the job.

The Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Rev Peter Smith, 65. Has made a mark in Rome for his lobbying on euthanasia and human fertilisation. Hugely popular and clubbable, and enjoys socialising with a cigarette in hand, he is a “man of the people”, a characteristic that means he might lack the worldly ambition and eagerness to please that could take him to the top.

The Bishop of Nottingham, the Right Rev Malcolm McMahon, 59. Dominican monk whose support for the Latin Mass made him popular in England and Wales. But did not retract comments that there is no doctrinal reason why Roman Catholic priests should not marry, which might detract from support in Rome.

Whatever happened to the speculation about Benedictine Abbot Edmund Powers, an Englishman, who heads the abbey at St. Paul outside the Walls?

Pope names Korean economist
as general auditor of the Vatican's
Prefecture for Economic Affairs

by Salvatore Izzo

ROME, Nov. 22 (Translated from AGI) - At the recent General Assembly of the Bishops' Synod, he distinguished himself among the auditors - guest participants with no voting rights - by making a strong pitch that the Church 'moralize' itself with respect to the use of money.

Now, Pope Benedict XVI has decided to name him general auditor [this time in its more common, financial sense] of the Vatican's prefecture for Economic Affairs, which oversees the financial status of Vatican City State.

He is Korean economist Thomas Hong-Soon Han, professor of international politics at Seoul's Hankuk University and professor of economics at the College of Business and Economics, also in Seoul, and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

"The heads of the Church", Han said in his October 14 intervention at the assembly in the presence of the Pope, "should make a serious examination of their lifestyle and their personal assets in the light of the Gospel and take every possible measure to promote its social doctrine."

He added: "We need competent educators in the field of social doctrine as well as the study of the Word of God", therefore, "the Church must invest human and financial resources in the formation of such educators."

Han said that the Church, "in entering commercial contracts. should guarantee that these uphold principles of justice, including just wages and good working conditions", pointing out that in the past, "Church precedents have not always lived up to these standards".

He expressed the wish that the Synod would "promote a Biblical lifestyle appropriate for a Church that bears witness to and promote performative formation among the lay faithful".

The words were unusually severe, but apparently, the Pope welcomes such frankness.

A prominent person in South Korea's academic and social community, Prof. Han is an advocate of gradual reunification of the two Koreas, and believes that regular dialog, can lead first to economic relations, and sees the current stage as merely 'a start to the beginning'.

"It's like two people who have divorced and then decide to come back together. It requires some time to work out the new relationship," he has said. "We should work it out among ourselves - with some help from the international community, yes, but it should be mainly a Korean process."

He is also among the most active of Korean Catholics in the defense of life. Writing for AsiaNews, to which he has been a regular contributor, he has denounced that "50 percent of abortions take place in Asia, many of them selective abortions - scientific research on life issues are carried on without ethical regulations."

But he has also denounced that the ultimate problem in Asia is "the phenomenon of corruption at every level" which, he says, is a challenge to Christians, even though they only represent 1.1 percent of the Asian population.

The challenge to Christians, he says, "is not only to bear concrete witness to the Gospel, but to propose concrete solutions and to take part in the public discourse and in alliance with other religions".

He points out that Catholicism and Confucianism share values and ideas that are 'relevant' to the economy in that "both sustain the social responsibility of any business enterprise" and that 'the two ethical systems are complementary".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/23/2008 3:00 PM]
11/23/2008 1:46 PM
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OR today.

Main papal story on Page is is the Pope's address to pilgrims from Amalfi who visited the Tomb of St. Peter as part of the eighth-
centenary Jubilee Year of the transfer of the relics of St.Andrew to Amalfi from Constantinople (below, left, the Pope prays before
the reliquary); and a story on the beatification tomorrow of 188 Japanese martyrs. There's an inside-page story about Cardinal
Arinze's audience with the Pope (below, right).

The banner headline is on Wall Street reaction to the naming of Obama's Treasury Secretary; Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton
for Secretary of State is seen as a continuity in foreign policy; and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace releases a proposal
for renewal of the international financial system.

Angelus today - The Pope's mini-homily on Christ the King.

11/23/2008 2:23 PM
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The Holy Father gave a mini-homily on the Solemnity of Christ the King today, taking off from St. Matthew's Gospel on the Last Judgment, as he did in his address to the pilgrims from Amalfi yesterday.

After the Angelus prayers, he called attention to the beatification of 188 Japanese martyrs in Nagasaki tomorrow, and the beatification next week of Brother Jose Olalio Valdez in Camaguey, Cuba.

This is what he said in English:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus.

In today’s Solemnity of Christ the King we pray that the Lord may reign in our hearts. Sustained by his grace in faith and love, we trust that by bearing witness to him on earth we may be found worthy of his promises in heaven.

I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday!

Let us also rejoice in anticipation with our brothers and sisters in Japan, who celebrate tomorrow in Nagasaki the beatification of the Venerable Servants of God Peter Kibe Kasui and his 187 companion martyrs. May their victory in Christ over sin and death fill us all with hope and courage!

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


Today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

We know from the Gospels that Jesus rejected the title of King when it was intended in the political sense, as 'chief of nations' (cfr Mt 20,24 - the chapter/verse citation must be a misprint!).

Instead, during his passion, he claimed only one kingship in front of Pilate, who asked him explicitly: "Are you a king?", and Jesus answered: "You say I am a king", but shortly before, he had said: "My kingdom is not here" (Jn 18,36).

Christ's kingship is, in fact, the revelation and actualization of that of God the Father, who governs all things with love and justice. The Father entrusted to the Son the mission of giving men eternal life, loving them to the point of supreme sacrifice, but at the same time, he also conferred him with the power to judge them, since he became the Son of man, who is equal in everything to us (cfr Jn 5,21-22.26-27). ["He gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man".]

Today's Gospel stresses the universal kingship of Christ the Judge, with the stunning parable of the Last Judgment, which St. Matthew narrates immediately before his account of the Passion (25,31-46).

The images are simple, the language is popular, but the message is extremely important: it is the truth about our ultimate destiny and the criterion on which we shall be judged.

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me" (Mt 25,35).

Who does not know this page? It is part of our civilization. It has marked the history of the peoples of Christian culture: the hierarchy of values, the institutions, the multiple social and beneficial works.

Indeed, the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but brings to fulfillment all the good that, thanks to God, exists in man and in history.

If we put love for our neighbor into practice, according to the Gospel message, then we make room for God's Lordship, and his Kingdom is realized in our midst. If instead, each of us thinks only of his own interests, then the world can only go to ruin.

Dear friends, the Kingdom of God is not a question of honors and appearances, but as St. Paul writes, it is "jsutice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14,17).

The Lord has our good at heart, that every man may have life, and that especially the 'least' among his children may have access to the banquet that he has prepared for everyone. That is why he did not know what to do with the forms of hypocrisy in those who say "Lord, Lord' and then ignore his commandments (cfr Mt 7,21).

In his eternal kingdom, God welcomes those who try day by day to put his word into practice. For this, the Virgin Mary, the most humble of his creatures, is the greatest in his eyes and sits as Queen at the right of Christ the King.

To her heavenly intercession, let us entrust ourselves once more with filial confidence in order to be able to realize our Christian mission in the world.

After the prayers, he said this:

Tomorrow, in the city of Nagasaki, Japan, the beatification will take place of 188 martyrs, men and women, all Japanese who were killed in the first part of the 17th century.

On this occasion, so significant for the Catholic community and the entire nation of the Rising Sun, I assure my spiritual closeness.

Moreover, next Saturday, Brother Jose Olalio Valdez of the Hospitalier Order of St. John of God will also be proclaimed Blessed.

I entrust the Cuban people to his heavenly protection, especially the sick and health care workers.

He also had a special message for the people of Ukraine:

I address a special greeting to Ukrainian pilgrims. Dear brothers and sisters, these days mark the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor - the great famine - which in the years 1932-1933 caused millions of deaths in the Ukraine and other regions of the Soviet Union druing the Communist regime.

In wishing sincerely that no poltical order can ever again, in the name of an ideology, negate the rights of the human person and his freedom and dignity, I aasure you of my praters for all the innocent victims of that enormous tragedy, and I invoke the Holy Mother of God to aid the nation to proceed along the ways of reconciliation and construct the present and the future in reciprocal respect and in the sincere quest for peace.

Praise be to Jesus Christ!!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/24/2008 9:35 AM]
11/23/2008 7:12 PM
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A Sunday treat from Caterina, from the GA last Wednesday, 11/19.
And thanks to Lella's

for the spadework
on what is a convenient news peg for the picture:

'There would be no liberalism without God'
A review of Marcello Pera's new book

Translated from

November 23, 2008

Dear Senator Pera,

In recent days, I was able to read your new book Perché dobbiamo dirci cristiani [Why we should call ourselves Christians].

It was a fascinating read for me. With a stupendous knowledge of sources and cogent logic, you have analyzed the essence of liberalism starting from its foundations, showing that such essence is rooted in the Christian image of God: man's relationship with God of whom he is the image and from whom we received the gift of freedom.

With irrefutable logic, you show that liberalism loses its very basis and destroys itself if it abandons this foundation.

Not less impressive is your analysis of liberty and of 'multi-culturality', of which you show the internal contradiction of this concept, and therefore, its political and cultural impossibility.

Of fundamental importance is your analysis of what Europe could be, and what a European Constitution could be in which Europe is not transformed into a cosmopolitan reality, but will find, on the basis of its Christian-liberal foundations, her own identity.

And particularly significant for me is your analysis of the concepts of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialog.

You have explained with great clarity that an inter-religious dialog in the strict sense of the word is not possible, and thus, inter-cultural dialog becomes even more urgent in order to explore in depth the cultural consequences of underlying religious decisions.

Whereas a true inter-religious dialog is not possible without placing one's faith 'within parentheses', we must face in public confrontation the cultural consequences of religion-based decisions. In this case, dialog with mutual correction and reciprocal enrichment is possible and necessary.

The significance of all this for our contemporary crisis is evident in what you say about the trajectory of the liberal ethic. You show that liberalism - without ceasing to be liberalism - in order to be faithful to itself, can link to a doctrine for good, particularly, the Christian doctrine, with which it has the same origin, and thus offer an authentic contribution to overcoming this crisis.

With your sober rationality, your wide philosophical knowledge, and the power of your argumentation, this book, in my opinion, is of fundamental importance today to Europe and the world.

I hope it will be widely received and help to give the political debate - beyond a discussion of urgent problems - the depth without which we cannot overcome the crisis in the present historical moment.

Thanking you for your work, from my heart I wish you the blessing of God.

*Thank you, Holiness, for stating so clearly what I have been arguing all along since dialog became an 'in' thing. I have not been able to understand how most commentators, even the serious ones, have blithely ignored the fact that strictly inter-religious dialog, in the sense of theological dialog, is just not possible (nor desirable) and is, in fact, a contradiction in terms!

I shudder to think what construction those invested in 'dialog at any cost' will choose to put on this statement by the Pope. I'm almost willing to bet people like Jeff Israely and John Allen and Marco Politi will once again cry out that Benedict has committed another 'great gaffe' - "Good grief, Your Holiness, don't you ever learn?", or maybe a rap on the knuckles, "Bad boy, Benedict. You did it again!"

A sample of how even someone like John Allen often appears to simply report what reputed Muslim intellectuals have to say uncritically may be seen in his NCR interview done in May 2008 with an Algerian-borm Muslim who lives in London, which I posted in REFLECTIONS ON ISLAM
with a great deal of fisking, because Allen has also been an acolyte for 'theological dialog' between religions.

I have looked in vain online for a photo of the book cover but as usual, the book publicity in the media precedes the actual book promotion online . The book will go on sale shortly, and Mr. Pera obviously obtained the Holy Father's permission to use his letter as a Preface to the book. Here is more about the book:

Christianity as a chance for Europe:
Marcello Pera's new book
has a preface by the Pope

by Maria Antonietta Calabrò
Translated from

November 23, 2008

Marcello Pera at a New York symposium in February 2006 on his book with Cardinal Ratzinger - with from left,
David Schindler, editor of the US edition of Communio, George Weigel, and Italian journalist Marco Bardazzi

"My position is that of a layman and liberal who turns to Christianity to question the reasons for its hope" - possible hope for our society, for politics, for the world of institutions.

Hope especially for old Europe - 'the most de-Christianized place in the West, and which boasts it". Where living as if no God exists "has not given the promised results". Europe which should turn back to Christianity "if it truly wishes to unite itself into something that resembles a nation, a moral community".

In his new book, Perché dobbiamo dirci cristiani [Why we should call ourselves Christians, Mondadori, 2008), Marcello Pera follows the footsteps of Immanuel Kant (who in the Critique of Practical Reason said, "Hope begins only with religion"), and of Benedetto Croce (who wrote Non possiamo non dirci cristiani - We cannot not call ourselves Christians).

But even more, he follows the 'scientific' lesson of English empiricism in John Locke (who wrote The reasonableness of Christianity), of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and of Alexis de Tocqueville.

It is precisely from the study of the dramatic problems of moral, political and religious order posed by contemporary human coexistence (from bioethics to cultural integration) that impels Pera [an agnostic], to go farther - from "we cannot not say we are Christians" to 'we must say we are Christians'

The changes in the last years of the twentieth century demand, according to Pera, through their internal logic, this development, with respect to the times in which Western society was still largely permeated by Christianity and its religious spirit.

That is why he maintains - and demonstrates - that "to raise the Christian standard" is the only chance for, not just the West, but every single human being (since liberalism is, by nature, not ethnocentric but universalist) to still have a positive outlook, a 'chance'.

"It has nothing to do with conversions or illuminations or second thoughts.... (which) are all important, sensitive and respectable, but involve personal conscience only", he notes.

"It has to do with cultivating a faith - there is no other appropriate term - in the values and principles that characterize our civilization and to reaffirm the cornerstones of a tradition of which we are the children.

"The great fathers of classical liberalism saw this problem clearly... Now that liberalism has become anti-Christian, it is without foundations and its freedoms rest on a void."

It can be said that the 'secular equations' of Pera - professor of the philosophy of science at the University of Pisa, an expert on Karl Popper, and co-author with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the best-selling Senza radici(Without roots) - on the level of Kant's 'practical reason' or Aristotle's phronesis (practical wisdom), matches what Goedel's theorem is - which demonstrates the necessity of the existence of God - to metaphysics.

On the one hand: "God must necessarily exist, as has been demonstrated". On the other: "Because of this, and in conclusion, we must call ourselves Christians". Pera writes: "Liberalism and Christianity are congeners [having the same roots]. If you take away from liberalism the faith of Christianity, then the it will disappear. "

The liberal, he points out, is 'Christian by culture'. For him the 'gift of God' that Christians see is merely "a patrimony of virtues, customs and civilization - ours". And that's different from 'the Christian by faith', who has faith in Jesus as someone personally encountered, followed and loved.

But being 'Christian by culture', in this first decade of the 21st century, no longer suffices, according to Pera. "Whoever limits himself or feels limited to being only a Christian by culture" should not rule out the possibility of believing in Christ as well.

"It is necessary that the richness of the human experience not be amputated by the presence in our life of a sense of the divine, the sacred, mystery, the infinite".

Of course, he says, this is "an appeal, motivated and dramatic, which is not yet (if it will ever be) a solution that is already theoretically available".

There are issues that have 'political' consequences that remain wide open. Pera rejects those which in recent years have become veritable taboos in the public discourse, both Italian and international. For instance, that there can be so-called 'inter-religious dialog'.

Benedict XVI himself, in the letter which introduces the book (an exceptional if not unique event) and which we have reproduced in full, openly agrees with him on this, saying one should speak, rather, about a 'dialog between cultures'.

In the same way, Pera shows the self-contradiction intrinsic in the concept of 'multi-culturalism'. In order that what reason recognizes as necessary can take place in the life of anyone and in in the history of nations and peoples, decisions are needed.

"In the end, it is up to us to choose... the Christian choice, to give oneself to God [the Christian by faith], or to behave velut si Christus daretur (Christian by culture), has produced the best results. That choice has great advantages in the field of public ethics... Let us not separate morality from truth; let us not treat individuals - about to be born or about to die - as things; let us not agree that every desire be transformed into a right; let us not confine reason only to scientific limits; let us not feel alone in a society of strangers or more oppressed in a state which appropriates us because we can no longer orient ourselves".

But, he points out, such a decision, which one cannot evade, can only be generated by an encounter with a fact that inspires faith and/or hope. A fact that keeps reason 'open' to the possibility that everything about modern liberalism (relativism, the aggression of religious fundamentalism, the 'thing-ification' of man) calls forth as a 'necessity'.

Of Papa Ratzinger, 'the Pope of Christian hope', Pera writes: "I can only say that notwithstanding all my own interior reflections, this work would not have been possible if Benedict XVI had not written and said - and borne witness to - what he writes and says".

Only hope, that which St. Paul writes about in the Letter to the Hebrews, can fill the gap between reality and the condition perceived by reason as necessary.

That is why Charles Peguy in his Portal of Mystery to the second virtue, makes his God say, "The faith that I love best is hope".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/13/2008 6:31 PM]
11/23/2008 10:42 PM
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The first reactions to the Pope's statement on inter-religious dialog in his letter to Marcello Pera did not take long to come - it helps that Sunday is not a 'day of rest' for either Jews or Muslims.

Italian Jews agree,
the Muslims are doubtful

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 23 (Translated from Apcom) - "An inter-religious dialog in the strict sense of the word is not possible, and thus, inter-cultural dialog becomes even more urgent in order to explore in depth the cultural consequences of underlying religious decisions. "

Pope Benedict XVI wrote this in the letter-Preface to Marcello Pera's new book Perchè dobbiamo dirci cristiani, which will be coming out in the next few days.

The Pope thus returns to a theme particularly dear to him; No to religious syncretism, but Yes to dialog among religious leaders if the subject is universal values, promotion of human rights, the battle against terrorism.

This is a message that has run through the Ratzinger Pontificate, which he first articulated directly at the 2005 Inter-Religious Meeting at Assisi, promoted by the Sant'Egidio Community -in the first year of his Pontificate - when he criticized what he called 'substantial unity among all religious faiths'.

'Whereas a true inter-religious dialog is not possible without placing one's faith 'within parentheses'," the Pope goes on in his letter to Pera, " we must face in public confrontation the cultural consequences of religion-based decisions. In this case, dialog with mutual correction and reciprocal enrichment is possible and necessary."

The Pope's statement on the impossibility of inter-religious dialog in the strict sense was greeted positively by the Jewish community of Rome.

"I think we should be grateful to the Pope for his precision and clarity," Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni told Apcom. "Each faith has certain boundaries which must be respected. But beyond that, then certainly, inter-cultural dialog is the right way to go."

For its part, the UCCOI (Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy) underscored that "it must be clarified what the Pope means by 'inter-religious dialog in the strict sense'." [DUH!]

Izzedin Elzir, UCCOI spokesman said, "Dialog among believers exists. Of course, we don't dialog over our respective faiths, because each side believes what he does, but we dialog on how we can live together, each in his own diversity." [And Sir, that is precisely the point. What's not to understand?]

And which side was it that insisted on devoting the first day of the recent Catholic-Muslim Forum seminar to discussing the theology of 'love of God and love of neighbor'? In this, they have been aided and abetted, of course, by all those hundreds of Christian leaders adn groups who uncritically chimed in with Hosannahs to A COMMON WORD, speaking as earnestly as the Muslims of carrying on theological dialog, for crying out loud!

The theology of love is not at issue here - both sides agree that it is the basic commandment for all believers. What matters is whether and how it is applied to the practical problems in today's world.

And here's the first of the Anglophone MSM reports - apparently only the New York Times had someone on duty at the Vatican today.

Pope questions interfaith dialogue

Published: November 23, 2008

ROME — In comments on Sunday that could have broad implications in a period of intense religious conflict, Pope Benedict XVI cast doubt on the possibility of interfaith dialogue but called for more discussion of the practical consequences of religious differences.

The Pope’s comments came in a letter he wrote to Marcello Pera, an Italian center-right politician and scholar whose forthcoming book, “Why We Must Call Ourselves Christian,” argues that Europe should stay true to its Christian roots. A central theme of Benedict’s papacy has been to focus attention on the Christian roots of an increasingly secular Europe.

In quotations from the letter that appeared on Sunday in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading daily newspaper, the Pope said the book “explained with great clarity” that “an inter-religious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible.” In theological terms, added the Pope, “a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses.”

But Benedict added that “intercultural dialogue which deepens the cultural consequences of basic religious ideas” was important. He called for confronting “in a public forum the cultural consequences of basic religious decisions.”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Pope’s comments seemed [??? Strange choice of a verb!] intended to draw interest to Mr. Pera’s book, not to cast doubt on the Vatican’s many continuing inter-religious dialogues.

“He has a papacy known for religious dialogue; he went to a mosque, he’s been to synagogues,” Father Lombardi said. “This means that he thinks we can meet and talk to the others and have a positive relationship.”

To some scholars, the Pope’s remarks seemed aimed at pushing more theoretical inter-religious conversations into the practical realm.

“He’s trying to get the Catholic-Islamic dialogue out of the clouds of theory and down to brass tacks: how can we know the truth about how we ought to live together justly, despite basic creedal differences?” said George Weigel, a Catholic scholar and biographer of Pope John Paul II. [Thank God this reporter contacted someone sensible! Maybe Fr. Thomas Reese and the rest of the Jesuit Commonweal types were all observing the Sabbath.]

This month, the Vatican held a conference with Muslim religious leaders and scholars aimed at improving ties. The conference participants agreed to condemn terrorism and protect religious freedom, but they did not address issues of conversion and of the rights of Christians in majority Muslim countries to worship.

The Church is also engaged in dialogue with Muslims organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, a country where non-Muslims are forbidden from worshiping in public. [So why doesn't someone say outright that this Saudi initiative appears to be the height of hypocrisy?]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/24/2008 3:41 AM]
11/24/2008 1:52 PM
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No OR today,


The Holy Father met today with
- Bishops of Chile on ad-limina visit
- H.E. Madame Konji Sebati, Ambassador of South Africa, on her farewell visit
- His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians.
The audience was followed by
a joint ecumenical celebration at the Redemptoris Mater chapel. Address in English.

11/24/2008 4:19 PM
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Here's AP's report today on the Pope's letter to Marcello Pera and reactions to it, posted on this page yesterday. AP is surprisingly temperate, starting with the headline.

Pope: Dialogue among religions
should be pursued


ROME, Nov. 24 (AP) - Jewish and Muslim leaders on Monday cautiously praised recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI, who said that dialogue among faiths should be pursued even as it is impossible on strictly religious issues.

The comments in an open letter published Sunday in Italy's leading daily, Corriere della Sera, marked the latest statement by Benedict on the subject.

The Pontiff has often discussed the theme of dialogue among religions and has worked for the improvement of interfaith relations.

But he also angered many Muslims in a 2006 speech about Islam and violence, although relations have improved since then.

In his letter, the Pope was commenting on an upcoming book by a conservative politician and scholar, Marcello Pera, who has long spoken in defense of Europe's Christian roots.

The Pope said the book "explains clearly that an inter-religious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible." The Pope elaborated that "real dialogue" on religious choices is not possible "without putting one's faith in parentheses."

But he said that "it's necessary to face, in a public dialogue, the cultural consequences of fundamental religious choices."

"Here, dialogue, as well as mutual correction and enrichment, are both possible and necessary," Benedict wrote.

Since becoming pope in 2005, Benedict has made improving interfaith relations a theme of his pontificate. He has visited synagogues during trips to Germany and the United States, and a mosque during a visit to Turkey.

Earlier this month, the Vatican hosted a Catholic-Muslim conference intended to help the two faiths find common ground.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Benedict's words do "not put in doubt the Pope's inter-religious commitment."

"(Inter-religious) dialogue does not mean questioning one's own faith," Lombardi said. "It deals with the many other aspects that come from one's personal belief, cultural, historical ... as well as their consequences."

Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, welcomed the Pope's remarks "for their clarity." He said the comments were "opportune and interesting" in that they set the limits of religious dialogue.

"Faiths cannot hold dialogue beyond a certain point because there are insurmountable limits," Di Segni told The Associated Press on Monday. "This is a limit to all religious dialogue: It's not like a political negotiation where I give you this and that and we make peace. It's not like we give up dogmas."

Di Segni, however, urged clarification on certain elements in the pope's remarks, such as where to draw the line between religious dialogue as opposed to cultural dialogue.

"He has set the limits, which were necessary. We must then see where it goes from there," the Jewish leader said.

A spokesman for an Italian Muslim Group, UCOII, also called for further clarification. He told Corriere della Sera that "dialogue among believers exists: We don't hold a dialogue on our faiths ... but we do on how we can coexist, each in our diversity."

Italian Muslim leader defends Pope
on inter-faith dialogue

Rome, Nov. 24 (AKI) - Pope Benedict XVI's praise for a new book which argues Europe should stay true to its Christian roots should not be misinterpreted, the head of the association of Italian Muslims, Ahmad Gianpiero Vincenzo, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

In comments made in the preface to Italian center-right politician Marcello Pera's forthcoming book 'Why We Must Call Ourselves Christian' Benedict XVI appeared to cast doubt on the possibility of inter-religious dialogue.

The Pope also called for more discussion of the practical consequences of religious differences.

In a quotation from the preface which appeared in Italian newspapers on Sunday, Benedict said the book "explained with great clarity" why "an interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible."

"The Pontiff's words in his forward to Marcello Pera's latest book must be correctly interpreted without any manipulation by those who are seeking a clash of civilisations," Vincenzo told AKI.

"For us Muslims, inter-religious dialogue has a fundamental role in today's world, where more than ever before the underlying principles that religions have in common need to be underlined, starting with faith in the same God," he said.

"We totally agree with Benedict that it is not possible to advance dialogue between religions that plays down the specific doctrines and rituals of individual faiths.

"Otherwise, we slide into the relativism of those who believe all religions are the same and that individual religious doctrines and ritual practices are no longer needed," said Vincenzo.

Benedict XVI's potentially controversial comments came only a couple of weeks after the Vatican hosted a landmark inter-faith conference in Rome with Muslims religious leaders and scholars, aimed at improving ties between Islam and Christianity. Members of the association of Italian Muslims attended the conference.

The conference agreed to condemn religious freedom and protect religious freedom, but did not address issues of conversion and the rights of Christians in majority Muslim countries to worship.

Ahmad said the conference had however proposed the creation of a permanent Catholic-Islamic Inter-religious Forum to resolve conflicts - at a time when these are intensifying. [Another instance of a wire-service reporter getting the facts wrong. The Forum was established last March and the 'conference' (the Forum called it a seminar) was its first concrete activity.]

"This would be an exceptional opportunity to counter the actions of fundamentalist extremists and reiterate the basic ethical values shared by the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths - respect for life and religious traditions," Vincenzo concluded.

Would there were more sensible people like Mr. Vincenzo on the matter of inter-religious dialog!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/25/2008 8:33 PM]
11/24/2008 6:14 PM
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Benedict XVI met with His Holiness Aram I, the Lebanese-born Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians, at the Vatican this morning, after which they both presided at an ecumenical celebration held in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

A delegation from the Catholicosate of Cilicia of the Armenians also participated in the event.

Born Pedros Keshishian in Beirut, Lebanon in 1947, the man who would become Aram I was ordained priest in 1968, and was consecrated bishop in Antelias on 22 August 1980.

From 1980 to 1995 he was Primate of Lebanon at the head of the Armenian Prelacy of Lebanon, part of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, a Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

In 1991 he became moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and also serves on the Middle East Council of Churches.

Here is the text of the English address delivered by the Holy Father after the ecumenical service:


Your Holiness,

With heartfelt affection in the Lord, I greet you and the distinguished members of your delegation on the occasion of your visit to the Church of Rome.

Our meeting today stands in continuity with the visit which you made to my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II in January 1997, and with the many other contacts and mutual visits which, by God’s grace, have led in recent years to closer relations between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church.

In this year of Saint Paul, you will visit the tomb of the Apostle of the Nations and pray with the monastic community at the basilica erected to his memory. In that prayer, you will be united to the great host of Armenian saints and martyrs, teachers and theologians, whose legacy of learning, holiness and missionary achievements are part of the patrimony of the whole Church.

We think of Saint Nerses Shnorkhali and Saint Nerses of Lambon who, as Bishop of Tarsus, was known as "the second Paul of Tarsus".

That testimony culminated in the twentieth century, which proved a time of unspeakable suffering for your people. The faith and devotion of the Armenian people have been constantly sustained by the memory of the many martyrs who have borne witness to the Gospel down the centuries.

May the grace of that witness continue to shape the culture of your nation and inspire in Christ’s followers an ever greater trust in the saving and life-giving power of the Cross.

The See of Cilicia has long been involved in encouraging positive ecumenical contacts between the Churches. Indeed, the dialogue between the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church has benefited significantly from the presence of its Armenian delegates.

We must be hopeful that this dialogue will continue to move forward, since it promises to clarify theological issues which have divided us in the past but now appear open to greater consensus.

I am confident that the current work of the International Commission – devoted to the theme: "The Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church" – will enable many of the specific issues of our theological dialogue to find their proper context and resolution.

Surely the growth in understanding, respect and cooperation which has emerged from ecumenical dialogue promises much for the proclamation of the Gospel in our time.

Throughout the world Armenians live side by side with the faithful of the Catholic Church. An increased understanding and appreciation of the apostolic tradition which we share will contribute to an ever more effective common witness to the spiritual and moral values without which a truly just and humane social order cannot exist.

For this reason, I trust that new and practical means will be found to give expression to the common declarations we have already signed.

Your Holiness, I cannot fail to assure you of my daily prayers and deep concern for the people of Lebanon and the Middle East. How can we not be grieved by the tensions and conflicts which continue to frustrate all efforts to foster reconciliation and peace at every level of civil and political life in the region?

Most recently we have all been saddened by the escalation of persecution and violence against Christians in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere. Only when the countries involved can determine their own destiny, and the various ethnic groups and religious communities accept and respect each other fully, will peace be built on the solid foundations of solidarity, justice and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples.

With these sentiments and with affection in the Lord, I thank Your Holiness for your visit, and I express my hope that these days spent in Rome will be a source of many graces for you and for all those entrusted to your pastoral care.

Upon you and to all the faithful of the Armenian Apostolic Church I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord.

I know very little about the Eastern Churches of the Catholic world, and perhaps this background would also be helpful to others on the Forum:

The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the oldest branches of the Christian faith. The earliest authentic accounts of the introduction of Christianity into Armenia date from the apostolic work of St. Gregory the Illuminator, who, in 303, converted King Tiridates III and members of his court.

Christianity was strengthened in Armenia by the translation of the Bible into the Armenian language by the Armenian monk and scholar St. Mesrob. Following the ecclesiastical controversy concerning the twofold nature of Christ, the Armenian Christians refused to accept the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon and formed a separate Church, sometimes referred to as the Gregorian Church.

In 1439 a union with the Roman Catholic church was accepted by some members of the Armenian Church. This was later repudiated, but a group of Armenian Catholics accept papal supremacy and the authority of the Catholic Armenian patriarchate of Sis or Cilicia (in Beirut, Lebanon), which was set up in 1742 [this is distinct from the Orthodox Catholicosate of Cilicia headed by Aram I]. They use an Armenian rite.

The remaining larger portion of the Orthodox Armenian church is headed by its Catholicos, who resides at Etchmiadzin, a monastery near Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

He has nominal authority over the Armenian patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople (Istanbul). The monastery has been the ecclesiastical metropolis of the Armenian nation since the 4th century; it is said to be the oldest monastic foundation in the Christian world.

The Armenian patriarchate was transferred from Armenia to Cilicia in 1058. Although the See at Echmiadzin was restored in 1441, the Cilician catholicosate continued in existence, and continues to exist to the present day. Both Etchmiadzin and Cilicia are considered Orthodox Churches.

Today the see is located in Antelias, Lebanon. His Holiness, the Catholicos of Armenia and All Armenians claims sovereignty over the Catholicos of Cilicia, though the latter operates independently.

Here's an earlier report from Vatican Radio about the Armenian patriarch's visit:

The significance of
Aram I's visit

Translated from
the Italian service of

Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians, arrived in Rome Sunday for a five-day visit, which takes place after many similar visits to Rome by him and by the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin, the main seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the Armenian capital of Yerevan (visited by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone earlier this year).

The program for His Aram's visit provides for two meetings with Pope Benedict XVI. The first is at a Monday morning audience in the Apostolic Place, and the second at the General Audience on Wednesday.

Before meeting the Pope Monday, Aram was to pray at the tomb of John Paul II and then before the statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator found in one of the external niches of the Basilica.

Monday afternoon, he will be at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls where he will celebrate a brief liturgy.

On Tuesday morning, he will deliver a lectio magistralis at the Pontifical Urbanian University on the subject of "Christians in the Middle East".

On Tuesday afternoon, he will participate in Vespers at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Isola Tiberina, at the memorial to the martyrs of the 20th century, and then proceed to a prayer meeting in Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Also on the program are separate meetings with Cardinal Water Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the officials of the dicastery's Oriental section; Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone; and Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialog.

Aram I came to Rome in January 1997 to meet John Paul II. It is significant to remember that the Armenian Apostolic Church is now divided into two 'Catholicosates' - those of Etchmiadzin (Yerevan) and Cilicia (Beirut).

Philippa Hitchen interviewed Cardinal Kasper on the significance of Aram I's visit:

CARDINAL KASPER: It is more than just a courtesy visit, because the Armenian Church of Cilicia is part of the family of Oriental Orthodox Churches and we are in dialog with them. So the visit has an ecumenical significance.

In the second place, Aram I is a highly respected figure in the context of ecumenism. And in the third place, we can discuss with him the situation in Lebanon which was once a Christian nation but where Christians are no longer in the majority.

However, the churches, particularly the Church leaders, have great political importance in Lebanon, and are important in any dialog for peace in the region.

The Catholicos is also here to venerate the martyrs of the so-called Armenian genocide under the Ottoman Turks at the start of the 20th century. What is the position of the Holy See about this tragic but controversial event?
It is certainly a wound in the conscience and heart of all Armenians, and the position of the Holy See was expressed by John Paul II when he visited Armenia. He prayed at the memorial for the victims of genocide, and he used the term, even if Turkey has always objected strongly to it.

But it is not a question of what term is used. It is a fact that there were several hundred thousand victims, and so this is a memory that needs to heal.

I don't know that the Holy See can do anything to improve relations between Armenia and Turkey, but certainly, this is one of those factors affecting peace in the Middle East. However, the Catholic Church must be, above all, on the side of the victims - and that is the principle that determines how we act.

[Pope Benedict did not use the term 'genocide' this morning in his address to Aram I - see text above - when he referred to the 'unspeakable suffering' that the Armenian people had undergone in the last century.]

NB: I cannot explain why ZENIT has come out with the Italian translation of Aram I's prepared remarks to the Pope this morning but has not posted the English original in its English service! I heard part of Aram's speech on Vatican Radio - he speaks
English beautifully!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/26/2008 2:54 AM]
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for this item. Radici Cristiane is one of Italy's most successful new magazines that takes the Catholic orthodox point of view.

The sense of Benedict XVI's Pontificate
Interview with Abbot Michael John Zielinski
by Veronica Rasponi
Translated from

August-September 2008

A man of profound culture and remarkable human gifts, Abbot Michael John Zielinski was called just over a year ago, at the direct wish of the Holy Father, to be the Vice President of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church and Vice President of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology.

American-born, of Polish ancestry, he entered the Olivetan Benedictine order at a very young age and was ordained a priest in Florence in 1977. In December 2003, he was elected abbot of Our Lady of Guadalupe monastery in New Mexico, which he headed till May 2007, when he was called to Rome.

We asked him a few questions about the Pontificate of Benedict XVI.

Excellency, one often hears it said that Benedict XVI is bringing about a profound turning point in the life of the Church - a turning point that is criticized by some while hailed by others. What is your impression?
Yes, many maintain today that Benedict XVI has started a reform in the heart of the Church. His attention is without a doubt turned to what is happening within the Church and its spiritual life. He is convinced that every fallback requires a corresponding conversion, a return to the Lord by the people of God.

The work for justice and peace requires that the hearts of Catholics be educated and formed in the knowledge and practice of the intact faith.

Indeed, to be a Christian today means having a radically new perception of reality. It means considering life as a gift to be repaid by giving oneself to others. Knowledge and true practice of intact faith - realizing our Christian principles of charity and unity - is what makes the people of God 'salt of the earth' and 'light for the world', creating a culture of life and a civilization of love.

The Pope is aware of the problems on the horizon and knows their complexity. Time goes by fast, and that is why he has been exhorting the faithful and all men of goodwill to turn to the Lord, to have Christ as the only priority in their life.

The spiritual reform that Pope Benedict has started is based on the truth that intimate relationship with God is not fulfilled in a love that is exclusively emotional and sentimental, but should be so much more - it should make a new man of us.

Living in the presence of God changes our existence, and true love brings us to fulfill God's will. Our way of seeing the world, seeing day-to-day reality, becomes transformed, becoming - and realizing - the new commandment to love our neighbor as we love our self, a perspective that assists the weakest and most unfortunate, always in the name of the Lord.

It is a perspective of faith that makes us recognize the Son of man in our brother and restores hope in divine Providence. So if we truly want to unite ourselves with Christ, the Holy Spirit will give us that knowledge that surpasses every other knowledge, the grace that only Christ can give the world for mankind to be saved.

The Pope is well aware of the problems which afflict the world today and of the profound crisis in our society and in the homily at his Inaugural Mass, he spoke of the tragedy of the external and internal deserts in which men today lives. Can you draw a balance after three years of the Pontificate?
Benedict XVI's Petrine Ministry takes place at a very complex and difficult time in the history of mankind. From the beginning, he has denounced secularization and the tyranny of relativism.

Even in Christian Europe we have seen secular power become secularist, while it tries to annul the very foundation of the continent's civilization. First, they tried to 'kill' God, which is impossible - and now, they are trying to kill man, and that unfortunately is very possible.

In today's cultural war, there is an attempt to demolish and then rewrite history. The reactions and the distortions of the Regensburg lecture are very significant in this respect.

But perhaps the question must be posed in other terms: man is a problem devoid of human solutions and only God can save him, which also means saving man from himself. The world and mankind need God, they need to hear the truth, to see very clearly the way that leads to the truth.

This inalienable need is given to us by he who is the way, the truth and the life. I don't want to exaggerate by saying the Pope is leading the Church to a post-liberal Catholicism. He is not only aware of - but he himself represents - the radical modernity of Jesus Christ.

His Magisterium is a wide-ranging meditation and a teaching of that great Christologic hymn found in the Letter to the Colossians: "All things were created through him and for him. He is above all things, and everything subsists in him" (Col 1,16-17).

But instead of searching for God, modern man seems inebriated of the progress made by science and believes he can do away with the supernatural dimension of life.

Our era attributes the greatness of man to the scientific discoveries which have led to unprecedented technological developments and thinks that the ultimate end of progress is human well-being. This mode of judging history is evident: God's grandeur and power are placed in shadow, the spiritual salvation of man has no sense, everything is focused on wellbeing, and to get there, God must be shelved. Outside of material things, nothing exists for contemporary man.

Thus, the Church now finds itself having to deal not only with the problems arising from atheism but also with the indifference to the sacred.

The context of the modern world reinforces the desire for autonomy and individualism which ends up becoming not only an obstacle to the encounter with God, but also to the relationship among men. Man pitted against man. The detachment from the sacred, with the illusion that this sets him 'free' and 'autonomous', ends up turning against man himself.

Thus it is necessary to place God once again at the center of the universe and to increase our faithfulness to the one Almighty Lord.

If, on the one hand, the Pope is very firm and intransigent about correcting error, on the other hand, he always recurs to the subject of charity in his discourses. For Benedict XVI, charity as a theological virtue does not simply have to do with the spiritual life of every believer but has a social content. Can you explain to us what the Pope means?

Benedict XVI's teaching on charity often dwells on its social dimension. He teaches that in order to carry out 'social charity', in the world and for the world, one must adopt what he calls 'a form of Eucharistic life".

It means that the love that redeems, that which we encounter in the Eucharist, should transform our thoughts, our words and actions, and should assume a dimension that gives a Christian imprint to the entire social order.

On the part of every member of the Church, lay or ecclesiastic, there should be what the Holy Father calls 'Eucharistic consistency' - a love and understanding that we are called on to embody in our lives.

The adoration that is pleasing to God can never be purely private and subjective, without consequences for our relationships with others. In fact, only Eucharistic consistency can offer that energy and vital lymph which affect the way we live and which have repercussions on social life.

Ultimately, it means turning back to the Lord and making Christ our priority.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/13/2008 6:32 PM]
11/25/2008 3:44 PM
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Through manual labor, culture and briotherhood,
a few men created an entire civilization

Interview by Andrea Beneggi
Translated from

Nov. 19, 2008

The more one reads Benedict XVI's address at the College des Bernardins in Paris last Sept. 12, the more it reveals key aspects and possibilities for further examination in depth.

Il Sussidiario asked Giorgio Picasso, former professor of Medieval History at the Catholic University of Milan and a great scholar on the Benedictine order, to examine some of these aspects with us.

The Pope had cited Western monasticism and its monasteries as the place where a new civilization took shape even as Europe was living through the devastation and confusion following the spread of the barbarian Germanic tribes and the resulting new national orders.

Benedict XVI pointed out that the monks did not set out to 'create' a culture, but that, in the midst of changes against which it seemed nothing of the old could resist, they wanted to do the essential thing: "to commit themselves to finding that which is valid and lasts for always, to find Life itself." Can you help us understand how this was realized and how it had material consequences that were so fundamental for the rebirth of Europe in the Middle Ages?
The Pope said, "I wish to speak of the origins of Western theology and the roots of European culture", i.e., what was the role of monasticism in the origins of Western theology and in the birth of European culture.

The Pope clearly described the problem resulting from the dissolution of the ancient world. The ancient world had a very high cultural level in the field of letters - Greek and Latin. But with the decline of the Roman Empire, even this culture fell into ruins. It was a patrimony that had to be saved, but that the institutions of the classical world, including schools, were no longer able to sustain.

So what did monasticism do - with St. Benedict as the model? it understood the values in that classical culture that had to be revived. That is why even dom Leclercq in his book cited by the Holy Father on that occasion - Humanistic culture and the desire for God - says that the monks evangelized Europe with grammar and the Gospel.

Why grammar? Because a literary revival had to come from that classic culture that had been stripped of its context, without the very institutions that nurtured them but were no longer valid, and now this revival had to come with the Gospel.

But the monks were not really concerned with saving classical culture, rather in the search for God, above all in the Word, the Bible, the Gospel.

However, to access that knowledge, it was necessary to know the language, grammar, the rhetorical structures necessary to understand what God said through Scriptures. And so, the immediate objective was not the content of classical culture itself, but its method - grammar, applied to the Gospel.

And so, the monks, even having chosen to devote their lives to the search for God, quaerere Deum - they had left their families and the world to search for God, not to search for culture - realized that to do that, grammar was a useful tool.

And that is how monasticism saved the philosophic, literary and philologic patrimony of the ancient world. The monks revived, relived and re-proposed that classical culture to people who had come from a world without culture.

Classical culture no longer had the vitality it had under the Roman Empire. But even if the barbarian tribes were not completely alien to some culture - in fact, the Goths had the Bible translated to their language - they obviously were not in a position to take over the classical tradition in its entirety.

But monasticism was able to save this patrimony and to re-propose it with Christian content. The works of these medieval monks are famous - they learned history, they learned to recognize the literary genres, they learned music and a form of singing, etc.

What they saved are the bases of what became European civilization. Without this bases - recognition of which has often remained quite opaque to contemporary culture - we could not have had the development of Western civilization. Yes, it has Christian content, but its expressive forms are those of classical culture, applied to the Gospel.

These forms were then developed in terms and concepts which saved classical culture and became the basis for medieval culture. Obviously, the consequences were great since there is no civilization without culture.

In another part of his address, Benedict XVI pointed out the work of the monks - manual work as a constitutive aspect, he said, of man's likeness with God. Following the example of Christ, who said, "My Father is always at work, and so do I." This idea of a God who works - which was a novelty compared to the Greco-Roman mentality - a God who was 'willing to soil his hands with material creation', enormously influenced the monastic experience.

Without this culture of work, the Pope said, "he development of Europe, its ethos and its formation the world, are unthinkable". How did this work ideal develop in the monastic experience, and how did it influence men in the first centuries of the Middle Ages?

First, we must think of what work meant in the ancient world, because this will help us understand what happened later. In the ancient world, manual work was considered as something negative, something unworthy that was reserved only for slaves.

For us, the word 'ozio' [otium in Latin, meaning leisure, rest, repose, but also idleness] is certainly negative, but in the classic world, it was positive. What was negative was neg-otium - the negation of idleness - to mean busy-ness, or business.

And so, manual labor was something slaves did. The higher classes were meant to contemplate, reflect, think.

Monasticism was confronted with this ancient concept and had to react. In his famous Rule, St. Benedict - and after him, all monks - elevated the concept of labor to the level of prayer.

Initially, labor was thought of as another tool, a way for maintaining intimacy with God. It was said that the monks worked with their hands and then undid what they had done so they could do it again. A myth, obviously. But it is true that little by little, but above all through the Rule of St. Benedict, they understood that work had a positive value - so they devoted a time for work and a time for prayer.

"Monks are genuinely monks when they live from the work of their hands, as our fathers and the apostles did", St. Benedict was most clear about this.

In his address, Benedict XVI refers specifically to the concept of labor that Jesus expresses in the Gospel: "My father works". Certainly. Creation itself is a concept that implies, as the Pope pointed out, a God who works, who can be said to have 'soiled his hands' in a way, to form man his creature, which then became truly his creature when he 'inspired' (breathed into) it with the spiritual principle of the soul.

In monastic rules, this was expressed with the idea that everyone should work, that manual labor was not reserved only for some. Of course, each one also had his specific monastic tasks, but in the monastic tradition, manual labor - as it still is in the great monasteries today - was the lot of every monk. Tilling the soil or draining marshlands is perhaps a too romantic view of monasticism, but in fact, when they had to do work on the land, the monks did.

St. Bernard, to mention the great saint after whom the College des Bernardins was named - said he learned more under the oaks in the dog days of summer, than he did from books. What did he mean? That manual work was ennobled into an instrument useful for one's own spiritual uplift, for the contemplation of God.

This was very important for the construction of Europe because now we had a positive concept of work, which was absent earlier - a concept that was even theological. If we open the Bible, we read that God worked for six days to create the world then rested on the seventh.

What did he do in those six days? According to the Bible account, he separated water from land, he created the stars, he created the plants, animals, men - and he saw that it was good. And on the seventh day, he rested.

He worked. Creation is work. The monks who read the Bible, who learned to live from the work of their own hands, following this example, evidently could only have a very very positive concept of work.

Which later had enormous developments in modern and contemporary culture. It was the monks who first placed work on the binary of civilization. For them, work was not something to be avoided, but something to be sought in order to mature, indeed, to realize oneself truly.

St. Benedict's rule has other criteria, other aspects of manual work that are underscored. For example, it says that such work must be 'profitable', not only meant to occupy one's time. Work whose products could even be sold but, the rule says, below market price, though not so much as to cause unfair competition.

Beyond manual work, the monks also undertook, of course - as the Pope recalled. citing Leclercq again - significant cultural work. What were the characteristics of this work?
In the Paris speech, one sees Benedict XVI's own true culture. He has a vision of monasticism and cites the most 'classic' work that modern culture has produced on medieval monastic civilization.

The title has been translated to Italian as Cultura umanistica e desiderio di Dio, which says what is essential, but it is not as beautiful as the original French title, L'amour des lettres (because the monks loved letters, the classic authors, Virgil) et le desire de Dieu (because they were inspired by their desire for God).

Love of letters and desire of God: this is the essence of Benedictine culture which the Pope certainly assimilated in his native Bavaria, where there are so many famous Benedictine monasteries which he learned to know and to visit frequently.

Here he reveals his own monastic sensibility: through his own study and culture, he learned what medieval monasticism was. And this has also happened to many laymen, as, for instance, Giorgio Falco, a Jew, whose most beautiful chapter in his book Santa Romana Repubblica is that dedicated to Western monasticism.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Pope recurred often to Leclercq's text in his Bernardins speech. And the synthesis of Leclercq's message is this: the monks loved letters as a function of God.

So what was the cultural work that they did?
The work of a monk who copied out an old codex - a work of great cultural value, certainly - was considered very much like that of the monk who cooked the meals or who went out to gather fruits and vegetables. In St. Benedict's Rule, they have the same value.

"In the monastery, we are all equal - " wrote Benedict, "freemen and serfs, Goths and Latins - because we serve the one Lord." To the Gothic monk who had lost his scythe, which Benedict recovered from a lake, he said, "Here, take this, work and don't be sad".

The monks undertook a great cultural labor as part of a plan to 'carry on' God's creation. In the eyes of God, according to the Rule, all work - material or otherwise - is equally meritorious. The characteristics of this work, under the most diverse of circumstances, are precisely the equality of everyone, the need to live from the work of one's hands, and the search for God.

The monk is above all a witness to the faith. The fact itself that there existed monasteries was in the Middle Ages a testimonial that amounted to preaching. The population of the countryside, seeing a monastery where people lived 'in another world', with other values, faced a new kind of preaching. They called it 'mute preaching'.

They considered that the monks, even if they did not speak, were preaching, because they offered the example of a peaceable life, at peace with God, even in times of turmoil, of wars, of conflicts, which marked the Middle Ages.

The monastery was a vision of peace. At the entrance of most - even now - is written the word PAX - a place of silence, in which man finds himself reconciled with God. Not in theory, but in practice.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/25/2008 3:46 PM]
11/25/2008 4:17 PM
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OR for 11/24-11/25/08.

Meeting with Aram I, Benedict XVI again denounces anti-Christian persecution:
'In the Middle East, peace can come from reciprocal respect'
At the Angelus on Sunday, the Pope, recalling the great Ukrainian famine of the 1930s
under the Communists, and says that never again should any idelogy deny human rights.

Other Page 1 stories: Washington announces rescue plan for Citigroup; North Kivu rebels in the Congo opposed to new UN forces being sent; Gaza again suffering under a new Israeli embargo.

No Papal events scheduled today (Tuesday).

The Vatican released the text of the Holy Father's message to the Pontifical Council of Culture
on the occasion of the XIII public session of the Pontifical Academies on the theme
'The universality of beauty: Aesthetics and ethics in confrontation. Text in Italian.

Also this reminder:

On Saturday, Nov. 29, the Holy Father will preside at the celebration of the First Vespers
for the First Sunday of Advent
, at 5 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica.

Superficial beauty is fleeting
and fails to inspire, Pope says

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 25 (CNS) -- Beauty that is only skin deep cannot last, cannot lead people to seek what is really true and good and cannot respond to the human longing for something that inspires genuine awe, Pope Benedict XVI said.

In a message to the joint session of the pontifical academies Nov. 25, Pope Benedict said the lives of individual Christians as well as the work of Christian artists, writers and poets should help people see that authentic truth, beauty and goodness are always intertwined.

The joint session of the pontifical academies, organized this year by the Academy of Fine Arts and Letters, focused on the relationship between "esthetics and ethics."

During the meeting Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, presented the academy's annual prize to Daniele Piccini, a 36-year-old poet and literary critic.

In his message, Pope Benedict said the prize was meant to identify new talent in various fields of scholarship and "encourage the commitment of young scholars, artists and institutions to dedicating their activity to the promotion of Christian humanism."

Pontifical medals were awarded to Giulio Catelli, a young painter, and to the Stauros Italian Foundation, which has opened a museum of contemporary sacred art in San Gabriele, Italy.

Pope Benedict's message said, "The necessity and urgency of a renewed dialogue between esthetics and ethics, among beauty, truth and goodness, comes up not only in contemporary cultural and artistic debates, but also in daily life."

When beauty is understood only as an exterior reality, "as an appearance to be pursued at all costs," then truth and goodness are left behind, he said.

Pope Benedict quoted the Gospel of Matthew, which urges believers to let their lights shine before all so that "they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father."

In the passage, the Pope said, the original Greek term translated as "good deeds" literally means "beautiful and good" at the same time.

"Our witness, therefore, must nourish itself with this beauty; our proclamation of the Gospel must be received as something beautiful and new. For this to happen, it is necessary to know how to communicate with the language of images and symbols," the pope said.

Every Christian action and every Christian work, he said, must allow "the beauty of the love of God" to shine through "in order to reach our contemporaries who often are distracted and absorbed by a cultural climate that does not always accept beauty in full harmony with the truth and goodness, but who always desire and yearn for a beauty that is authentic, not superficial and fleeting."

Pope Benedict calls on society
to reconnect beauty to truth and goodness

Vatican City, Nov 25, 2008 (CNA).- Although the world is immersed in images, it can be empty of beauty, Pope Benedict said today in a message he sent to the Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts and Literature as it explores the relationship between aesthetics and ethics.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, is hosting a public event with the theme "The universality of beauty: a comparison between aesthetics and ethics," and to contribute to the discussion, Pope Benedict has sent the archbishop a message.

The topic chosen by the academy reminds us of the "urgent need for a renewed dialogue between aesthetics and ethics, between beauty, truth and goodness," the Pope writes.

This need to reconnect beauty with truth and goodness is not just limited to the "contemporary cultural and artistic debate," but extends to daily reality, the Holy Father argues.

Today we can see "a dramatically-evident split" between the pursuit of external beauty and the idea of a beauty that is rooted in truth and goodness. Oftentimes, society only understands the search for beauty as an "exterior form, as an appearance to be pursued at all costs," he explains.

"Indeed," the Pope writes, "searching for a beauty that is foreign to or separate from the human search for truth and goodness would become (as unfortunately happens) mere asceticism and, especially for the very young, a path leading to ephemeral values and to banal and superficial appearances, even a flight into an artificial paradise that masks inner emptiness."

Pope Benedict also calls on contemporary reasoning to rediscover the link between beauty, truth and goodness. "And if such a commitment applies to everyone," the Pope asserts, "it applies even more to believers, to the disciples of Christ, who are called by the Lord to 'give reasons' for all the beauty and truth of their faith."

When Christians create works that "render glory unto the Father," the Pope continues, they speak of the "goodness and profound truth" that they are portraying, as well as the integrity and sanctity of the artist or author.

To this end, Benedict XVI encourages believers to learn how to "communicate with the language of images and symbols ... in order effectively to reach our contemporaries."

The Holy Father also mentions how at the Synod on the Bible the bishops noted that knowing how to "read and scrutinize the beauty of works of art inspired by the faith" can lead Christians to discover a "unique path that brings us close to God and His Word."

Finally, Pope Benedict cites John Paul II's Letter to Artists, "which invites us, to reflect upon ... the fruitful dialogue between Holy Scripture and various forms of art, whence countless masterpieces have emerged."

His message closes by appealing to academics and artists "to arouse wonder at and desire for beauty, to form people's sensitivity and to nourish a passion for everything that is a genuine expression of human genius and a reflection of divine beauty."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/26/2008 2:56 AM]
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Appeals court lets Kentucky
sex-abuse case proceed
against the Church


I find this very distressing because the decision basically agrees with the plaintiffs' lawyers that the 1962 directive from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the disposition fo sex-abuse charges against priests, among others, amounted to a cover-up of such offenses! And the Vatican attorney is not reported to have protested it????

The good news about the decision is that it recognizes the immunity of the Vatican (as a foreign state) and its officials against civil actions in the United States.

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Nov. 24 (AP) - A lawsuit can continue against the Vatican alleging that top church officials should have warned the public or authorities of known or suspected sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Louisville, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the go-ahead for the lawsuit filed by three men who claim priests abused them as children. They allege the Vatican orchestrated a decades-long coverup of priests sexually abusing children throughout the U.S.

Louisville attorney William McMurry is seeking class-action status, saying there are thousands of victims nationally in the scandal that haunts the Roman Catholic Church. He is seeking unspecified damages from the Vatican.

"This is an enormously huge moment," McMurry said. "We're finally going to get to the root of the problem."

Jeffrey Lena, a Berkeley, Calif.-based attorney for the Vatican, said the appeals court's decision narrows the plaintiffs' case because the court upheld dismissing several issues.

"It's gratifying to see the hard work the judges put into the opinion*," Lena said.

Lena declined to say if he would appeal the decision. McMurry said he expects the case to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Several lawsuits around the country have sought damages against the Vatican, but many have been bounced around in lower courts. Attorneys for both sides say the Louisville case is unique.

It centers on a 1962 directive from the Vatican telling Church officials to keep under wraps sex-abuse complaints against clergy. The document became public in 2003. McMurry claims that document makes the Vatican liable for the acts of clergy whose crimes were kept secret because of the directive.

[But how could the Vatican attorney not refer to the fact that the so-called 1962 directive was not in any way intended to keep sex-abuse complaints outside the legal process, but only to disposition of them within the Church, under canon law?]

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II ruled in January 2007 that the men may pursue their claim that church officials should have sent out warnings about abusive clergy. But the judge also dismissed a large chunk of the lawsuit.

The appeals court upheld Heyburn's decision to dismiss claims that the Holy See was negligent in failing to provide safe care to the children entrusted to the clergy, along with claims of deceit and misrepresentation by the Vatican.

McMurry also sought to depose Pope Benedict XVI, but Heyburn rejected the request. With Monday's ruling, McMurry said, he would seek documents and possibly renew efforts to depose the Pontiff.

"We will get to the bottom of this," said McMurry, who represented 243 sex abuse victims that settled with the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2003 for $25.3 million.

Appeals Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, who authored the 20-page opinion, rejected part of the lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, which generally gives immunity to foreign countries from most civil actions. McMurry contended that the Vatican as a country and the religious institution were separate, but Gibbons said they are legally the same.

"Consequently, we reject plaintiffs' contention that they are not suing the Holy See that has been recognized by the United States government, but a parallel non-sovereign entity conjured up by the plaintiffs," Gibbons wrote.

The decision makes it tougher for plaintiffs to sue the Vatican as a religious institution without first overcoming the restrictions under the foreign immunity law.

But a Wall Street Journal item today has the opposite - and most alarming - interpretation of the ruling insofar as Vatican immunity is concerned. Even a superficial reading of the pertinent statement in the decision about such immunity shows the WSJ 'interpretation' - which parrots the plaintiff's attorney - is wrong.

U.S. federal court allows
abuse case vs. the Vatican


Nov. 25, 2008

A federal appeals court has permitted a lawsuit over alleged sexual abuse to proceed against the Vatican, creating potential liability for the seat of the Roman Catholic faith for the activities of Catholic clergy in the U.S.

Monday's ruling, issued by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, marks the first time a court at so high a level has recognized that the Vatican could be liable for the negligence in sexual-abuse cases brought in the U.S.

The ruling is seen as a breakthrough by those allegedly abused by priests. Investigators and grand juries have found several instances where the Church failed to report alleged abusers and covered up alleged misdeeds to protect them.

Jeffrey S. Lena, the attorney for the Holy See, said he was not "presently inclined" to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.

It remains to be seen whether the Vatican, which is a sovereign state recognized by the U.S. government, will make further arguments that it is immune from U.S. civil proceeding.

Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have paid out at least $1.5 billion to alleged abuse victims, most of this since the scandal broke open nationwide in 2002.

The appeals court found that the Church government may be held liable for actions taken in the U.S. based on the Vatican's policies or directives.

"What the court has allowed us to do is proceed against the Vatican for the conduct of the U.S. bishops because of the bishops' failure to ... report child abuse," said William F. McMurry, the attorney for three men who claim they were abused as children by priests in the Louisville, Ky., archdiocese. He is seeking class-action status in the district-court case.

The ruling marks the first time that a federal appeals court recognized that the Vatican could be liable under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a 1976 law that governs when a foreign nation or its agents can be sued, said Marci Hamilton, a constitutional-law scholar who is part of the legal team in the Louisville case.

[But as the AP reported it, quoting from the Justice who authored the decision, "Consequently, we reject plaintiffs' contention that they are not suing the Holy See that has been recognized by the United States government, but a parallel non-sovereign entity conjured up by the plaintiffs," Gibbons wrote. In other words, the plaintiffs can proceed with the case but not against the Holy See - i.e., it will have to be against the local Church, as all other similar cases that have been adjudicated in the US so far.

The very fact that the Vatican lawyer is quoted as saying he will not appeal the decision ought to make that evident! I can see he is not making a big fuss about the wrong interpretation of the directive as a 'cover-up order' because that can be argued during the case itself, but he certainly could not have failed to protest if Vatican immunity had been called into question.]

"If someone can crack that barrier of immunity, it opens the door to other claims against the Catholic church," says Jonathan Levy, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents concentration-camp survivors in a suit against numerous parties including the Vatican bank. The Vatican, in that case, prevailed in its claim of sovereign immunity.

Mr. Lena, the lawyer for the Holy See in the Louisville case, said Monday's ruling is a small step and one that is far from establishing whether Vatican policy contributed to thousands of incidents of abuse that have been alleged over several decades.

"We're miles away from liability," he said. The ruling is "very incremental."

One of the central pieces of evidence in the case is a 1962 memo, issued by the Vatican and disclosed by reporters in 2003, which directs Catholic bishops to keep silent about claims of sex abuse. The document was approved by Pope John XXIII.

Monday's ruling will allow the plaintiffs' case to proceed in U.S. District Court in Louisville. ]Among the legal questions yet to be decided in the case is whether U.S. bishops are employees of the Vatican, and whether they acted on the Holy See's orders. [This is the fundamental legal question, not the Vatican's immunity to civil suits in the United States.]
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/25/2008 8:38 PM]
11/25/2008 8:27 PM
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L'Osservatore Romano tomorrow (11/26/08) heralds a novelty which the Vatican is understandably proud of.

General Audience at Aula Paolo VI
will be an ecological milestone

Translated from
the 11/26/08 issue of

It will be the first 'ecological' General Audience at the Vatican today.

Benedict XVI's Wednesday meeting with the faithful, to be held at the Aula Paolo VI (for the duration of fall and winter), also marks the functional start of the photovoltaic solar-panel roof installed over the Vatican's main audience hall.

The solar panels are projected to generate the energy requirements for the normal operations of the audience hall as well as other Vatican buildings around it.

The solar panels - 2400 in all - replace the original tile roof, "in full respect of the volume and aesthetic aspect" of the building design by architect Pier Luigi Nervi.

The solar panels - which convert solar energy into electricity - are guaranteed to generate 300 megawatt hours of 'clean' electricity annually, equivalent to avoiding 225 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and saving 80 tons of petroleum.

This is the first in a program to convert Vatican energy sources from conventional electric plants to renewable sources by 2020, which will account for at least 20 percent of the entire city-state's power requirements.

The program will be formally inaugurated at the Casina Pio IV, seat of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican Gardens, with the presence of Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Vatican City State governatorate; Pier Carlo Cuscianna, director of the governatorate's Technical Services; Livio De Santoli, energy manager of La Sapienza University; and Frank Asbeck, president of SolarWorld AG. The last three were responsible, respectively, for the concept, the development and the realization of the project.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/25/2008 8:28 PM]
11/26/2008 2:46 AM
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More Italian reactions to the Pope's
thoughts on dialog and multi-culturalism

by Marco Burini
Translated from

November 25, 2008

You have explained with great clarity that an inter-religious dialog in the strict sense of the word is not possible, and thus, inter-cultural dialog becomes even more urgent in order to explore in depth the cultural consequences of underlying religious decisions.

Whereas a true inter-religious dialog is not possible without placing one's faith 'within parentheses', we must face in public confrontation the cultural consequences of religion-based decisions. In this case, dialog with mutual correction and reciprocal enrichment is possible and necessary.
Letter to Marcello Pera, 2008
Used as Preface to Pera's book
Perche dobbiamo dirci cristiani

Words that are as concise as they are weighty - those in Pope Benedict's letter which is the preface to Marcello Pera's new book,
Perche dobbiamo dirci cristiani. Il liberalismo, l’Europa, l’etica (Why we should call ourselves Christians: Liberalism, Europe and ethics), Mondadori), which comes out in bookstores today.

Thus the Pope is repudiating [the Italian word is 'sconfessare', literally to dis-confess] inter-religious dialog and promoting inter-cultural dialog, in summarizing and re-launching authoritatively the former Italian Senate President's thesis on the Christian roots of liberalism. [Burini should have qualified the bare phrase 'repudiating inter-religious dialog' which distorts the sense of the Pope's words if the Pope's own qualifier 'in the strict sense' is not added. God help us from incomplete citations - even on a small scale, this is the same fault as reducing the Regensburg lecture to the quotation from Manuel II Paleologue! I'm surprised the desk editor at Il Foglio did not catch this.]

The journalistic synthesis comes easily [and all too misleadingly, as in Burini's case himself!], but the real consequences come later, when one tries to understand the effect of this position within the Catholic world, in which, it is well-known, there is a whole spectrum of sensibilities in this regard.

There is a certain embarrassment in the Vatican, especially among the institutions directly concerned. [That's Burini's conclusion! Why should anyone be embarrassed by the Pope's words? He has never said otherwise. He has always said inter-religious dialog should focus on practical initiatives that can be taken together on the basis of commonly held values - which by nature, are not necessarily faith-based! And Cardinal Tauran has often said the same thing, although not quite as bluntly, because it devolves on him to exercise some measure of 'tact'.]

The Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, when questioned about the Pope's statement by the New York Times, replied: “This is a papacy known for religious dialogue; he [Benedict XVI] went to a mosque, he’s been to synagogues,” Father Lombardi said. “This means that he thinks we can meet and talk to the others and have a positive relationship.” [Which I felt was a tactically wrong because unnecessarily defensive answer to give! In fact, the first part of his answer was that "the Pope’s comments seemed [??? Strange choice of a verb!] intended to draw interest to Mr. Pera’s book, not to cast doubt on the Vatican’s many continuing inter-religious dialogues." All he had to say was, "The Pope clearly wrote 'inter-religious dialog in the strict sense of the word'."]

And yet [Yes, and so what?] Benedict adopted Pera's words in full, thus criticizing personally the multicultural model whose 'internal contradiction' he underscores, along with its "political and cultural impossibility". (The Patriarch of Venice, Angelo Scola, must have his ears red, since he has been investing so much energy on this front).
[The parenthetical is Burini's. First of all, I think Cardinal Scola is intelligent enough to see what the Pope means - and has meant all along - by 'fruitful inter-religious and inter-cultural dialog'. Scola's Oasis project to promote Muslim-Christian dialog is not at all endangered by the Pope's statements, and surely, even he sees the dangers of utopian 'multi-culturalism'.]

Because, the Pope says, by no means must faith be put in parentheses, in promoting any kind of dialog.

Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of AsiaNews, is not surprised. "Ratzinger has always cultivated this position: that it is a waste of time to dialog at the theological level because this will never lead anywhere - and history shows that." [Why even resort to history? Simple common sense says so! That is why I have been so outraged from the beginning that even seemingly intelligent commentators and academic/religious leaders of every stripe (Oxford dons, Harvard and Yale professors included) speak and write as though interfaith theological dialog were possible and desirable! It is different with ecumenical dialog, where the participants are all Christian, and therefore speak from a common basic faith.]

"After Vatican-II," Cervellera continues, "the Church opened so many channels of theological dialog. It has worked in part with the various Christian confessions, but with other religions, it has not served except to identify some very generic things in common: prayer, and a sense of sin. Concepts which every interlocutor continues to interpret according to his own religious context. And in the end, they become exercises in pure relativism. All one achieves is the least common denominator."

"In fact, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger always stressed the importance of inter-religious dialog at the cultural and social level, not the theological. Every religion comes to such a dialog with its own belief sets, but there are concrete situations that can be agreed on - education, the equality of men and women, etc. That is the more fruitful way."

Cervellera cites the recent seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum. "The Muslims wanted to undertake a theological dialog, but it was the Pontifical Council on Inter-Religious Dialog that requested the seminar face concrete questions such as human dignity, the right to religion, the status of women, etc." [And the Muslim pitch is understandable. As scholars and religious leaders who really have no say in their respective governments, they are realistic enough to know they cannot do anything for now about the practical questions of human rights and freedom of religion and the equality of women. Their insistence on 'theological' discourse, already very evident in A COMMON WORD, is their way of avoiding embarrassment on the practical issues.]

In short, the objective of the Catholic hierarchy seems to be to avoid trending to the abstract, towards an idealistic approach which can only lead to indistinction. [More than just leading to indistinction, it leads to nowhere!And 'idealistic' is not the word for such an approach - rather, 'unrealistic and anti-realist'!]

"This does not mean renouncing dialog a priori" [Buruni's wild reading - 'repudiating inter-religious dialog', tout court - at the start of this article], Cervellera emphasizes. But it means dialog can be meaningful only when it starts out from a strong identity on the part of its participants, which stimulates the other side to be curious and to appreciate a diversity in views."

This method seems to work better in places where Christians are a minority, as in Japan. [Another careless statement by Buruni! Christians are decided minorities in the Muslim states. Pray tell in which country dialog is prospering, if at takes place at all, except perhaps some of the small Gulf states, where the influx of foreign workers in the oil and service industries makes the Christians outnumber the locals!

In case you did not know, the rich Muslim states import foreign labor by the tens of thousands to do menial work like janitorial services, street cleaning, and sanitation, which Arabs consider too lowly for them. You cannot imagine the presence of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi in Saudi Arabia, for instance, to do this work; and also from personal experience, the tens of thousands of Filipinos employed in the oil-rich Muslim countries as engineers, teachers, doctors, nurses, technicians of all sorts, and domestic help!]

Just yesterday, 188 Christian martyrs were beatified in Nagasaki. Observes Fr. Cervellera: "Japan has been losing some of the cornerstones of its culture - in the interruption of the generational chain, the loss of social reference points as demonstrated by an alarming wave of homicides. In such a context, Christian testimony takes on the value of a cultural provocation."

Even Vito Mancuso, a famously dissident lay Catholic theologian, shares Benedict XVI's basic position. "At the political-diplomatic level, it is a clarificatory intervention," he says. "So many past 'days' or 'meetings' for so-called inter-religious dialog have simply been time-wasting. It is better to discuss concrete problems - the role of women, justice social development, etc".

At the same time, he notes that the Pope's position also has a metaphysical foundation.

"Once you establish the equation that religion equals 'truth', then the consequences are obvious. Since every religion considers itself to be the depository of truth, it follows that tghe logical expectation is for someone with a different religion to convert. And that is why dialog - that is, confrontation on the same level - is only possible in terms of social and cultural implications, certainly not for theology," Mancuso says, noting that "It is not surprising that the Chief Rabbi of Rome told Corriere della Sera yesterday that he shared the Pope's position on this matter in full."

"Dialog is not possible at the theological level," Rabbi Di Segni had said, "because that can result only in equivocations, with counter-productive rhetoric and new ritualism."

Mancuso adds another critical observation on inter-religious dialog: "Are we sure that the individual believer really knows the doctrine of his own faith and enough of other faiths in order to be able to consider his own dogma 'truth'? The divine mystery is greater than any formula or doctrine. Yes, one can dialog with a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Hindu about doctrine, not to arrive at any compromise or syncretism, but simply for reciprocal enlightenment.

"The Christian doctrinal patrimony has always been evolving - we did not stop with the Fathers of the Church or with Thomism. Progress is constant, and we do not lack for dark zones to be made clear in a confrontation with other faiths". [Very commendable, but it must not be forgotten that Mancuso has been advocating to 'rewrite' Christian doctirne on his terms!]

Thus, not a dialog between religions but between individual believers. "The individual believer does not always have enough knowledge of his own doctrine to survive a theological confrontation with someone from another faith. The Pope certainly could, but you cannot expect it from the simple believer."

With regard to doctrinal foundations, don Gianni Baget Bozzo, who preaches orthodox theology, notes that "the Pope's position is clearly expressed in Dominus Iesus", the 2000 declaration from the Congregation for the Doctrine fof the Faith on the uniqueness and universal saving grace of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church - a document that represents a strong reaffirmation of the Catholic identity.

Just that in this case, he notes, the form is different. "It's a letter-Preface, and therefore much more personal. We might say that it is a statement by the person who is the Pope, and not by the generic Pope."

In any case, Baget Bozzo points out, "The Pope is not repudiating inter-religious dialog, but he is giving a sensible definition of what it ought to be. Let us not forget that in essence, dialog on faith itself is 'excluded' by almost all religions - by Islam, by Hinduism, by Shintoism. So it only makes sense to focus interfaith dialog on concrete problems like religious freedom. The Church has demonstrated itself on this - there is religious freedom in the West - so it is in a position to ask the same of other religions."

The next problem is that on the question of human rights and guaranteed freedoms, such a dialog, in order to lead to actual results, has to pass through states and institutions [in the Muslim world and India, to name the most obvious examples], but "a problem, for instance, is that the Muslims don't have a clear distinction between state and religion," and in this respect, Islam is overdue for its own Age of Enlightenment.

"Unfortunately, I don't believe that is possible," Baget Bozzo concludes.

Paolo Branca, professor of Arabic at the department of religious sciences of Milan's Catholic University, aknowledges that "the term 'dialog' has been debased, laden with so many good intentions but with little to show for those intentions".

[Oh please, someone tell that also to the Sant'Egidio Community, the prime mover of the Assisi-like annual kumbaya encounters, which have always seemed to me as nothing more than mass 'feel-good' exercises in bloviating rhetoric and hot air! Why did Buruni not ask someone from Sant'Egidio to react to the Pope's statements? I know Sant'Egidio has many commendable concrete projects but those annual meetings are definitely not among them.]

"But one cannot deny that after Vatican-II, an ever-deeper confrontation with other religious experiences has helped to enrich Christian thought. I don't think that a single sentence, written moreover in a personal letter, was intended to brush aside serious efforts made by the Church, including the recent seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum promoted by the Pontifical Council precisely called 'for Inter-Religious Dialog'.

"The other significant statement the Pope made was to point out the risks of relativistic multi-culturalism, which exist and are quite serious."

Branca believes that rather than 'multiculturality', it makes more sense to talk of an 'inter-culture' "in which religious traditions play a role that is not just useful but also indispensable. Theological systems are always alternatives which, to a certain extent, are mutually exclusive. But it is not incidental that such systems are elaborated by men. When God spoke to men, he used a completely different style - and there must be a reason for that."

The Times of London's Richard Owen got in on this rather late - and has nothing new to add:

Pope Benedict 'misinterpreted'
on interfaith dialogue:
Inter-religious discussions do not mean
questioning one's own faith

by Richard Owen in Rome

Nov. 25, 2008

The Vatican has said that a statement by Pope Benedict XVI on the "impossibility" of religious dialogue has been misinterpreted, and does "not put in doubt the Pope's inter-religious commitment."

In a preface to a book by Marcello Pera, a centre-Right Italian senator, entitled Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians, the Pope says the book "explains clearly that an inter-religious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible." He adds that "real dialogue" on religious choices is not possible "without putting one's faith in parentheses."

However it is "necessary to face, in a public dialogue, the cultural consequences of fundamental religious choices." Such a cultural dialogue involved "mutual correction and enrichment and was "both possible and necessary," Pope Benedict wrote.

Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said what the Pope meant was that inter-faith dialogue "does not mean questioning one's own faith. It deals with the many other aspects that come from one's personal beliefs, cultural and historical, and their consequences."

He said that far from discouraging or opposing dialogue between faiths the Pope was arguing that it should and must be pursued, "even though it is impossible on strictly religious issues." Father Lombardi noted that since he became Pope three years ago Pope Benedict had visited synagogues in Germany and the United States and a mosque in Turkey.

The chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, said he agreed with the Pope that there were "insurmountable limits" to interfaith dialogue. However it remained unclear where the defining line lay between "religious dialogue" and "cultural dialogue".

Italian Muslim leaders also said they agreed with the Pope that the dialogue between faiths was a dialogue on on "coexistence in diversity", but that the Pope's remarks needed "clarifying". The Vatican recently hosted the first Catholic-Muslim forum, attended by Muslim and Catholic scholars and officials.

However earlier this month Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, said there were now too many initiatives to improve relations between Christians and Muslims, which risked "overlapping and creating confusion".

Four years ago, when Pope Benedict was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he published a study of Europe's identity crisis in collaboration with Senator Pera under the title Without Roots: Europe, Relativism, Christianity, Islam.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/27/2008 12:53 AM]
11/26/2008 1:02 PM
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OR today.

Main Page 1 story is about Barack Obama's choices to lead his economic team -
'The men who will try to revive the US economy'; and a second economic story
on the UN projection that the current crisis could result in 8 million unemployed
worldwide during the next two years. The papal stories are about the first
'ecological' GA today (story translated and posted on this page last night) and
the Holy Father's message to the public session of the Pontifical Academies
yesterday on aesthetics and ethics. Also, an interview with the Secretary-General
of the Bishops' Synod who looks back at the 13th General Assembly last month.

General Audience today - The first one inside Aula Paolo VI for the cold months also inaugurates use
of the audience hall's solar-panel roof for its energy requirements (lights and heating). The Holy Father
continued last week's catechesis on justification in St. Paul's teaching, focusing this time on 'good works'
that must embody the faith of the just man.

Reuters photo of the papal apartment seen from St. Peter's Square last night. Lights are on in both the study and the Pope's bedroom.

Vatican practices green preaching

Vatican City, Nov. 26 (dpa) - The Vatican inaugurated Wednesday its new solar power energy system, which will heat the hall where Pope Benedict XVI holds his weekly general audience - in a move in keeping with the Pontiff's concern for environmental issues.

Benedict, together with the visiting Armenian Apostolic Church Catholicos Aram I, joined hundreds of people gathered in the Paul VI Hall, inside Vatican City, for the ceremony.

Built in 1971, the structure, one of the Vatican's most modern, recently had its 5,000 square-metre roof covered by 2,400 photovoltaic panels.

These - which Vatican officials say are almost invisible from the ground and thus won't impinge on a skyline dominated by St Peter's Basilica - are set to harness enough "clean" energy to generate some 300 kilowatt-hours a year.

That amount is sufficient to provide all the hall's power needs and that of several surrounding buildings, according to SolarWorld, the German company that devised the system.

The system will allow the 108-acre city-state to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by about 225,000 kilograms and save the equivalent of 80 tons of oil each year.

The Vatican is aiming to install enough renewable energy sources to provide 20 per cent of its needs by 2020, broadly in line with a proposal by the European Union, the Holy See's newspaper said Tuesday.

Since his 2005 election, Benedict, in several homilies and in his encyclical writings has stressed the need to safeguard the environment leading some to dub him the "Green Pope".

The Pontiff won praise from environmentalists last year when he urged the human race to listen to "the voice of the earth" or risk destroying the planet.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/26/2008 8:37 PM]
11/26/2008 2:38 PM
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Pope Benedict XVI gave his regular audience today to some 9,000 faithful in the Aula Paolo VI in the presence of Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians and his delegation of bishops and faithful.

The event started with an exchange of greetings in English between the Pope and the Catholicos.

Here is the text of the Pope's greeting:


This morning I greet with great joy His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians, together with the distinguished delegation accompanying him, and the Armenian pilgrims from various countries.

This fraternal visit is a significant occasion for strengthening the bonds of unity already existing between us, as we journey towards that full communion which is both the goal set before all Christ’s followers and a gift to be implored daily from the Lord.

For this reason, Your Holiness, I invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit on your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and I invite all present to pray fervently to the Lord that your visit, and our meetings, will mark a further step along the path towards full unity.

Your Holiness, I wish to express my particular gratitude for your constant personal involvement in the field of ecumenism, especially in the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and in the World Council of Churches.

On the exterior façade of the Vatican Basilica is a statue of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church, whom one of your historians has called "our progenitor and father in the Gospel".

The presence of this statue evokes the sufferings he endured in bringing the Armenian people to Christianity, but it also recalls the many martyrs and confessors of the faith whose witness bore rich fruit in the history of your people.

Armenian culture and spirituality are pervaded by pride in this witness of their forefathers, who suffered with fidelity and courage in communion with the Lamb slain for the salvation of the world.

Welcome, Your Holiness, dear Bishops and dear friends! Together let us invoke the intercession of Saint Gregory the Illuminator and above all the Virgin Mother of God, so that they will enlighten our way and guide it towards the fullness of that unity which we all desire.

In his catechesis, the Holy Father continued last week's lesson on the doctrine of justification in St. Paul's preaching, this time, focusing on 'good works' or charity as the necessary embodiment of faith in the truly just man.

Here is how he synthesized the lesson in English:

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching on faith and works in the process of our justification.

Paul insists that we are justified by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own. Yet he also emphasizes the relationship between faith and those works which are the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence and action within us.

The first gift of the Spirit is love, the love of the Father and the Son poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). Our sharing in the love of Christ leads us to live no longer for ourselves, but for him (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-15); it makes us a new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17) and members of his Body, the Church.

Faith thus works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). Consequently, there is no contradiction between what Saint Paul teaches and what Saint James teaches regarding the relationship between justifying faith and the fruit which it bears in good works. Rather, there is a different emphasis.

Redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, we are called to glorify him in our bodies (cf. 1 Cor 6:20), offering ourselves as a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God. Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are called, as individuals and as a community, to treasure that gift and to let it bear rich fruit in the Spirit.

Here is a translation of the full catechesis:

Catechesis #14
Pauline Year catechetical cycle

Dear brothers and sisters:

In last Wednesday's catechesis, I spoke of how man becomes just before God. Following St. Paul, we saw that man is not capable of making himself 'just' by his own actions alone, but becomes truly 'just' in the eyes of God only because God confers this 'justification' on him by uniting him with Christ, his Son. And this union with Christ is obtained my man through faith.

In this sense, St. Paul tells us: it is not our works but our faith that makes us 'just'. But this faith is not a thought, an opinion or an idea. This faith is communion with Christ, whom the Lord gives us, and thus faith becomes life, it becomes conformity with him.

In other words, faith - if it is real, if it is true - becomes love, it becomes charity, it is expressed in charity. A faith without charity, without this fruit, would not be true faith. It would be a dead faith.

Thus we saw two levels in the last catechesis: that of the non-relevance of our actions, of our works, in order to reach salvation; and that of 'justification' through faith which produces the fruit of the Spirit.

Confusing these two levels has caused, in the course of the centuries, not a few misunderstandings among Christians.

In this context, it is important to note that St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians, stresses quite radically, on the one hand, the gratuitousness of justification not through our own works, but at the same time, also underscores the relationship between faith and charity, between faith and works: "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love" (Gal 5,6).

Consequently, there are, on the one hand, 'the works of the flesh' such as 'fornication, impurity, dissoluteness, idolatry...' (Gal 5,19-21) - all works contrary to faith. On the other hand, there is the action of the Holy Spirit, which nourishes Christian life by inspiring 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5,22) - these are the fruits of the Holy Spirit that blossom from faith.

At the start of this list of virtues is agape, love, and at the end, is self-control. In truth, the Spirit, which is the love of the Father and the Son, pours forth its first gift, agape, into our hearts (cfr Rom 5,5). And agape, love, requires self-control in order to be expressed.

I wrote about the love of the Father and the Son, which reaches and transforms our existence profoundly, in my first encyclical, Deus caritas est. Believers know that the love of God and Christ is embodied in reciprocal love through the Spirit.

Let us return to St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians. In it, St. Paul says that, in bearing one another's burdens, believers fulfill the commandment of love (cfr Gal 6,2).

Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are called to live in Christ's love for our neighbor, because it is by this criterion that we shall be judged at the end of our existence.

Actually, St. Paul only repeats what Jesus himself said, re-proposed to us by the Gospel last Sunday in the parable of the Last Judgment.

In the first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul becomes expansive in a famous eulogy to love. It is the so-called hymn to love.

For convenience, here is the entire 'hymn', in the translation of the New American Bible.
1 Corinthians
Chapter 13

1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
2 And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over
so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous.
(love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,
5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
11 When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
12 At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.
At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
13 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

"If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal... Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests.." (1 Cor 13,1.4-5).

Christian love is demanding because it gushes from the total love of Christ for us: the love that reclaims us, welcomes us, embraces us, supports us - to the point of tormenting us, because it impels each one to live no longer for himself, closed up in his own ego, but 'for him who died and was resurrected for us' (cfr 2 Cor 5,17).

The love of Christ makes us, in him, that new creature (cfr 2 Cor 5,17) who becomes part of his mystical Body which is the Church.

Seen in this perspective, the centrality of justification without works, the primary object of Paul's preaching, is not in contradiction with faith working in love - rather, it demands that our faith itself be expressed in a life according to the Spirit.

Often an unfounded opposition is seen between the theology of St. Paul and that of St. James, who in his Letter, writes: "For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (2,26).

In fact, while Paul is concerned above all to show that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James places the emphasis on the consequential relationship between faith and works (cfr James 2,2-4).

Nonetheless, for Paul as for James, faith working through love attests to the free gift of justification in Christ. The salvation received in Christ needs to be protected and witnessed to "with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or you hold on to the word of life" (cfr Phil 2,12-14.16).

Often we are led to fall into the same misunderstandings that characterized the community of Corinth: those Christians thought that, having been gratuitously 'justified' in Christ by faith, 'everything was allowed to them'.

And they thought - as, it seems, even Christians today think - that it was permissible to create divisions in the Church - the Body of Christ, to celebrate the Eucharist without being brothers to the most needy, to aspire to better charisms without taking into account of being members among others, etc.

The consequences of faith which is not embodied in love are disastrous, because it is reduced to arbitrariness and to a subjectivism that is more harmful to ourselves and to our brothers.

Instead, following St. Paul, we should have a renewed consciousness of the fact that precisely because we are justified in Christ, we no longer belong to ourselves, but we have become a temple of the Spirit, and therefore we are called on to glorify God in our body with all our existence (cfr 1 Cor 6,19).

It would be selling out the inestimable value of justification, bought at the dear cost of the Blood of Christ, if we do not glorify him in ourselves. In fact, it is precisely our worship, which is 'reasonable' as well as 'spiritual', about which Paul exhorts us to "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Rom 12,1).

What would liturgy be reduced to, when it is addressed only to God without becoming, at the same time, service to our brothers? What would faith be that is not expressed in charity?

The apostle himself often places before his communities the image of the Last Judgment, at which "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Cor 5,10; cfr also Rom 2,16). This thought of the Last Judgment should illuminate our life each day.

If the ethic that Paul proposes to believers is not to regress into a form of moralism, and is actual and relevant for us, it is because it always starts off from personal and communitarian relationship with Christ, in order to become real in a life lived according to the Spirit.

This is essential: Christian ethics is not born from a system of commandments, but it is a consequence of our friendship with Christ. This friendship influences life: if it is true, it is embodied and realized in love for our neighbor.

That is why, any decay in ethics is not limited to the individual sphere - it is at the same time a devaluation of personal and communitarian faith: it derives from such faith, and it affects it decisively.

Thus, let us allow ourselves to receive the reconciliation that God has given us in Christ, out of God's 'foolish' love for us: nothing and no one can ever separate us from his love (cfr Rom 78,39).

In that certainty, we live. It is this certainty that gives us the strength to live concretely a faith that works in love.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/27/2008 12:54 AM]
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