Benedetto XVI Forum


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01/05/2013 19.49
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Utente Master


See preceding page for earlier posts today, 5/1/13.

'Sacra Liturgia 2013’ inspired by
Benedict XVI’s writings on the Mass

Bishop Dominique Rey of France discusses the significance
of the Pope Emeritus’ work on the liturgy.


April 30, 2013

Key cardinals, bishops and other noted experts in the liturgy from around the world will gather in Rome June 25-28 to discuss the sacred liturgy and its correct celebration in the life and mission of the Church.

Called Sacra Liturgia 2013 and inspired by the liturgical teaching of Benedict XVI, the conference is the idea of Bishop Dominique Rey of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France [who presented it to Benedict XVI in October last year as part of the Year of Faith observance].

On a visit to Rome April 23, the bishop discussed with the Register the conference’s main aims and how it could help heal post-conciliar liturgical disputes, as well as the liturgical significance of Pope Francis’s early morning Masses.

What are the main aims of this conference? What would you most like it to achieve?
The goal of this conference is to show the link between the New Evangelization and the liturgy — how the liturgy can help the Church to enter more into the New Evangelization — because the central thing in the New Evangelization is to meet Jesus Christ, and the central place where we meet Jesus Christ is in the liturgy. The [Church’s] Tradition says that the liturgy is the source and purpose of the mission of the Church.

Is this conference aimed at helping to heal the so-called liturgy wars, divisions between those who want more modern liturgies and those who favor traditional forms of worship?
Yes, communion inside the Church could be achieved by the acceptance of a true form of rites — the extraordinary and ordinary form. The principal teaching of Pope Benedict was to say that true expression is possible through the celebration of the extraordinary rite and the ordinary form of the rite. This congress will help be an expression of this source of mission and communion.

How did the idea for this conference come about?
We live in a secularized society, and we need the expression of the centrality of God. The expression of the centrality of God is given by the liturgy. We live in a superficial world, so, through the liturgy, we discover the presence of God in the Eucharist; it enters in our body and soul. A sense of intimacy, interiority, is given by the liturgy. And in the liturgy we celebrate the fact that the bread becomes the body of Christ; there is a transformation, and so, when I receive the Eucharist, it can transform me, too.

The transformation of the Word begins in the liturgy, in the celebration of the Eucharist, because it’s an expression of the beginning of the transformation of the Word. For all these reasons, we have to restore a real and perfect sense of the liturgy given by the traditional magisterium of the Church given by Vatican II.

Some argue that Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, brought problematic changes to worship. Others, however, believe it began before that time. What is your view, and does this have some impact on conference?
We received Sacrosanctum Concilium as a fruit of the Council, and it belongs to the Tradition of the Church, her teaching about the sense of liturgy, the sacramentality of the Church. But the way this document was received was problematic in some places. We have seen some transformations and adaptations, instrumentalization and subjectivization of this document. This was a source of many difficulties, and so we have to restore the exact interpretation of this document and to advance the mission.

This is one of the aims of the conference?
Yes, to clarify the teaching and go again to the source of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist and the liturgy.

What do you see as Pope Francis’s approach to the ordinary form and extraordinary form of the Mass?
I think the Pope, in his ministry as Successor of Peter, wants to follow the teaching of his predecessors. I don’t think any change is meant. Each day, he celebrates an early morning Mass for Vatican workers and, by doing so, is emphatically showing that the liturgy is the source of his day; that the liturgy is the first service we can give to people, to the world, and it’s the charity of the Church that is expressed by the liturgy. The celebrating of Mass is a teaching; it is a message. There’s an insistence there; it is the same message, but his insistence to celebrate Mass for many people in this way is a teaching.

[One must note that Pope Francis's daily Masses to which selected people are invited is the daily Mass that he offers as a priest. His predecessors celebrated their daily Masses in private, except that John Paul II also invited guests to his daily private Masses, about which, however, the Vatican did not report.]

You have an impressive lineup of speakers for the conference. Do you expect to see some new initiatives to help attract people to the liturgy?
For the different speakers, what is important is that they help us discover new lights, to shed new light, so we can discover things we have forgotten. There won’t be anything new, as such.

The liturgy is a world, a continent, but parts of this continent have been forgotten or placed in some shadows, so we have to rediscover these.

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02/05/2013 03.13
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Utente Master

That unforgettable letter
from Benedict XVI written
amidst a raging media tempest
in which he was left alone

Translated from

April 30, 2013

This Thursday, Benedict XVI returns to 'the paddock of St. Peter' where he has freely decided to stay to the end of his earthly pilgrimage.

It is impossible not to think of the last words he said in public as Pope: "I am not returning to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, lectures, etc. I am not abandoning the Cross but I will continue to be close to the Crucified Lord in a new way. I no longer have the authority of office to govern the Church, but I will remain in her service, so to speak, close to St. Peter".

Those words, said with the crystalline brevity characteristic of him, became the object of misunderstandings and truculent imaginings in some quarters. And we can be sure that they will cause much reflection among canonists and theologians in the immediate future.

"To love the Church also means to have the courage to make difficult decisions, even agonizing ones, always keeping in mind the good of the Church, and not one's own interests".

Difficult decisions... It was not about the well-deserved rest of an old man who has reached the limit of his physical strengths, but a conscious act of sacrifice by one who understands that the Lord will open a new chapter in the history of the Church of which he has always been a simple (and sweatful) vineyard worker.

The truth is that Joseph Ratzinger has always explained, with patience and humility, every important step he has taken without taking refuge behind the symbols and structures of office, and knowing quite well that the office of the Lord''s Fisher of Men has nothing to do with arbitrariness or arrogance.

The form of the calm 'dialog' that he undertook with the faithful at his last General Audience in St. Peter's Square, marked by a realism that nonetheless exuded hope and gratitude, made me think of another dialog, a dramatic one, that was perhaps unique in the history of the Papacy. I refer to the open letter he wrote on March 10, 2010, to all the bishops of the Catholic Church, after he had lifted the excommunication of the four bishops illegally consecrated by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

Perhaps the months of February and March 2009 were the most bitter ones in his Pontificate. [More bitter ones would follow in the spring and summer of 2010, starting with his equally historic pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland.]

After a decision intended to help heal a wound in the body of the Church that had been festering for more than 20 years, and to pave the way for the return to Rome of the Lefebvrians, the Pope experienced in the flesh what is the ultimate solitude of a Pope. It was also the solitude of one who had been left alone by those who ought to have protected him, by their cowardice, by the calumny and calculated nastiness of many within and outside the Church.

"...Even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility". Nor did he hesitate to evoke the reproach St. Paul made to the Galatians when he warned them against biting and devouring each other.

Thus, without any worldly defenses, did the Pastor of the universal Church, nailed to the pillory in those days, accused of betraying the Second Vatican Council, of insulting the Jews and fracturing a Church for whose unity he had always been ready to give his life.

His letter to all the bishops of the world made me think of Blessed John Henry Newman's Apologia pro vita sua, though that genius who converted to Catholicism could hardly be said to be harnessed to the Holy See. The following lines to the bishops express the power of reason as used by Joseph Ratzinger, as well as his passionate love for Christ and the Church.

"Was it and is it really a mistake to go forth and meet a brother who 'has complaints against you' and find reconciliation?...Could it be totally wrong to commit oneself to dissolve all rigidities and restrictions in order to make room for whatever is positive and recoverable for all sides?... Can we simply exclude them, as a radical marginal group, from the search for reconciliation and unity? And what will become of them afterwards?" We know how these brothers (the FSSPX) have responded... But that is another story.

The dramatic tension in those pages written by Benedict XVI in the midst of a raging tempest reflects more than just a legitimate unburdening or a merited admonition.

This unique letter reveals a dimension that mysteriously invests those who receive the responsibility of putting on the shoes of the Fisherman: the dimension of martyrdom. Peter must hold out his hands in order to be bound and led to where he would not have wished to go.

But above all, we find here an urgent warning calling attention to the priorities of the Church at the start of the 21st century, when in vast regions of the world, the faith is in danger of being extinguished and mankind is afflicted by a disorientation whose destructive effects are increasingly made manifest.

There is no priority above that of making God present in the world and opening access to God for man - not just to any god, but the God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ who died and rose again.

It is for this priority that Benedict XVI gave (and consumed) himself. For this priority, he has chosen to remain hidden from the world, bound to the Cross of his Lord in the 'paddock of St. Peter', in the gentle peace of one who knows that "God guides his Church, he sustains it always, even and, above all, in difficult times - that is the only true view of the Church's journey in the world".

As usual, I am grateful to Mr. Restan for bringing up a topic (the March 2009 letter to the bishops) whose relevance is not always immediately apparent to the newspeg for his essay (Benedict XVI's return to the Vatican). The letter is truly unique and unforgettable to any Catholic who can read it - I have come to think of it as Benedict XVI's Pauline epistle. It is never out of place or inopportune to cite it. So here is the full letter, which I would have posted last March 10, on its fourth anniversary, except that then, we were still in the Sede Vacante period.

The two photos used to illustrate the post were of Benedict XVI giving a lectio divina on a passage from St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians on February 29, 2009.

concerning the remission of the excommunication
of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre

Dear Brothers in the Episcopal Ministry!

The remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre without a mandate of the Holy See has for many reasons caused, both within and beyond the Catholic Church, a discussion more heated than any we have seen for a long time.

Many Bishops felt perplexed by an event which came about unexpectedly and was difficult to view positively in the light of the issues and tasks facing the Church today.

Even though many Bishops and members of the faithful were disposed in principle to take a positive view of the Pope’s concern for reconciliation, the question remained whether such a gesture was fitting in view of the genuinely urgent demands of the life of faith in our time.

Some groups, on the other hand, openly accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council: as a result, an avalanche of protests was unleashed, whose bitterness laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment.

I therefore feel obliged to offer you, dear Brothers, a word of clarification, which ought to help you understand the concerns which led me and the competent offices of the Holy See to take this step. In this way I hope to contribute to peace in the Church.

An unforeseen mishap for me was the fact that the Williamson case came on top of the remission of the excommunication. The discreet gesture of mercy towards four Bishops ordained validly but not legitimately suddenly appeared as something completely different: as the repudiation of reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and thus as the reversal of what the Council had laid down in this regard to guide the Church’s path.

A gesture of reconciliation with an ecclesial group engaged in a process of separation thus turned into its very antithesis: an apparent step backwards with regard to all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews taken since the Council – steps which my own work as a theologian had sought from the beginning to take part in and support.

That this overlapping of two opposed processes took place and momentarily upset peace between Christians and Jews, as well as peace within the Church, is something which I can only deeply deplore.

I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.

I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility.

Precisely for this reason I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust which – as in the days of Pope John Paul II – has also existed throughout my pontificate and, thank God, continues to exist.

Another mistake, which I deeply regret, is the fact that the extent and limits of the provision of 21 January 2009 were not clearly and adequately explained at the moment of its publication.

The excommunication affects individuals, not institutions. An episcopal ordination lacking a pontifical mandate raises the danger of a schism, since it jeopardizes the unity of the College of Bishops with the Pope.

Consequently the Church must react by employing her most severe punishment – excommunication – with the aim of calling those thus punished to repent and to return to unity. Twenty years after the ordinations, this goal has sadly not yet been attained.

The remission of the excommunication has the same aim as that of the punishment: namely, to invite the four Bishops once more to return. This gesture was possible once the interested parties had expressed their recognition in principle of the Pope and his authority as Pastor, albeit with some reservations in the area of obedience to his doctrinal authority and to the authority of the Council.

Here I return to the distinction between individuals and institutions. The remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline: the individuals were freed from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties.

This disciplinary level needs to be distinguished from the doctrinal level. The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons.

As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved.

In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

In light of this situation, it is my intention henceforth to join the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" – the body which has been competent since 1988 for those communities and persons who, coming from the Society of Saint Pius X or from similar groups, wish to return to full communion with the Pope – to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar Magisterium of the Popes.

The collegial bodies with which the Congregation studies questions which arise (especially the ordinary Wednesday meeting of Cardinals and the annual or biennial Plenary Session) ensure the involvement of the Prefects of the different Roman Congregations and representatives from the world’s Bishops in the process of decision-making.

The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 – this must be quite clear to the Society. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church.

Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.

I hope, dear Brothers, that this serves to clarify the positive significance and also the limits of the provision of 21 January 2009.

But the question still remains: Was this measure needed? Was it really a priority? Aren’t other things perhaps more important?

Of course there are more important and urgent matters. I believe that I set forth clearly the priorities of my pontificate in the addresses which I gave at its beginning. Everything that I said then continues unchanged as my plan of action.

The first priority for the Successor of Peter was laid down by the Lord in the Upper Room in the clearest of terms: "You… strengthen your brothers" (Lk 22:32). Peter himself formulated this priority anew in his first Letter: "Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15).

In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God.

Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses "to the end"
(cf. Jn 13:1)in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.

Leading men and women to God, to the God who speaks in the Bible: this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and of the Successor of Peter at the present time.

A logical consequence of this is that we must have at heart the unity of all believers. Their disunity, their disagreement among themselves, calls into question the credibility of their talk of God. Hence the effort to promote a common witness by Christians to their faith – ecumenism – is part of the supreme priority.

Added to this is the need for all those who believe in God to join in seeking peace, to attempt to draw closer to one another, and to journey together, even with their differing images of God, towards the source of Light – this is inter-religious dialogue.

Whoever proclaims that God is Love "to the end" has to bear witness to love: in loving devotion to the suffering, in the rejection of hatred and enmity – this is the social dimension of the Christian faith, of which I spoke in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.

So if the arduous task of working for faith, hope and love in the world is presently (and, in various ways, always) the Church’s real priority, then part of this is also made up of acts of reconciliation, small and not so small.

That the quiet gesture of extending a hand gave rise to a huge uproar, and thus became exactly the opposite of a gesture of reconciliation, is a fact which we must accept.

But I ask now: Was it, and is it, truly wrong in this case to meet half-way the brother who "has something against you" (cf. Mt 5:23ff.) and to seek reconciliation?

Should not civil society also try to forestall forms of extremism and to incorporate their eventual adherents – to the extent possible – in the great currents shaping social life, and thus avoid their being segregated, with all its consequences?

Can it be completely mistaken to work to break down obstinacy and narrowness, and to make space for what is positive and retrievable for the whole?

I myself saw, in the years after 1988, how the return of communities which had been separated from Rome changed their interior attitudes; I saw how returning to the bigger and broader Church enabled them to move beyond one-sided positions and broke down rigidity so that positive energies could emerge for the whole.

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

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

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

Certainly, for some time now, and once again on this specific occasion, we have heard from some representatives of that community many unpleasant things – arrogance and presumptuousness, an obsession with one-sided positions, etc.

Yet to tell the truth, I must add that I have also received a number of touching testimonials of gratitude which clearly showed an openness of heart.

But should not the great Church also allow herself to be generous in the knowledge of her great breadth, in the knowledge of the promise made to her?

Should not we, as good educators, also be capable of overlooking various faults and making every effort to open up broader vistas?

And should we not admit that some unpleasant things have also emerged in Church circles?

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

Dear Brothers, during the days when I first had the idea of writing this letter, by chance, during a visit to the Roman Seminary, I had to interpret and comment on Galatians 5:13-15.

I was surprised at the directness with which that passage speaks to us about the present moment: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another."

I am always tempted to see these words as another of the rhetorical excesses which we occasionally find in Saint Paul. To some extent that may also be the case.

But sad to say, this "biting and devouring" also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom.

Should we be surprised that we too are no better than the Galatians? That at the very least we are threatened by the same temptations? That we must always learn anew the proper use of freedom? And that we must always learn anew the supreme priority, which is love?

The day I spoke about this at the Major Seminary, the feast of Our Lady of Trust was being celebrated in Rome. And so it is: Mary teaches us trust. She leads us to her Son, in whom all of us can put our trust. He will be our guide – even in turbulent times.

And so I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many Bishops who have lately offered me touching tokens of trust and affection, and above all assured me of their prayers.

My thanks also go to all the faithful who in these days have given me testimony of their constant fidelity to the Successor of Saint Peter.

May the Lord protect all of us and guide our steps along the way of peace. This is the prayer that rises up instinctively from my heart at the beginning of this Lent, a liturgical season particularly suited to interior purification, one which invites all of us to look with renewed hope to the light which awaits us at Easter.

With a special Apostolic Blessing, I remain

Yours in the Lord,

From the Vatican, 10 March 2009

2013 P.S. You will excuse my self-indulgence in re-posting as well my first impressions after the text of the letter was made public in 2009. Because my original reaction already contains much of what I have been carping about, against the high-and-mighty cardinals and bishops who seemed unanimously to make a full denunciation of Benedict XVI's Pontificate the moment there was a new Pope - making it appear that they had no part at all in that Pontificate, when many of them delighted in obstructing him and flaunting their dissent with him!

March 11, 2009
It would be very instructive to make a point-to-point confrontation between the Pope's letter and the sanctimonious, censorious statements released by the bishops' conferences of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, on this issue.

In tone and substance, and above all, in the fundamental attribute of Christian charity, the contrast could not be greater. How sad for the Pope that it is the bishops of the German-speaking countries that have shown themselves most ignominious in this whole affair, the most disobedient, rebellious and disrespectful of the Successor of Peter. [I think of Cardinal Kasper's old dispute with Cardinal Ratzinger over Kasper's contention that, in effect, the local Church takes precedence over the universal Church. It is interesting to note the perverse paths that German theology - outside Ratzinger- has taken.]

One can better appreciate now the prompt support of Benedict XVI in this brouhaha by the bishops of France, who had, in the past, been among the most acerbic dissenters to the Successor of Peter. And the beautiful letter of support from the Spanish bishops' conference. (I have to check back, but for once, I think Cardinal Bagnasco's CEI was not as up front in this as it has usually been on other matters.)

The fact that only a few bishops' conferences saw fit to send a message of support to the Holy Father (although many individual bishops did) only goes to show their erroneous interpretation of Vatican-II and its ideas on 'collegiality' - which led to the establishment of the national bishops' conferences - fostered this apparently widespread arrogance among the bishops of the Catholic Church who now think themselves the equal of the Successor of Peter and therefore free to defy him openly as they started to do with Summorum Pontificum and demonstrated far more directly in the case of the FSSPX.

Don't bishops have daily examinations of conscience like we simple faithful are taught to do? Don't they go to confession at all? Because if they did, they would see daily where they have gone so dreadfully wrong. What kind of faithful are they breeding if they themselves are so willfully erroneous?

Any layman's reading of Vatican-II documents on the function of bishops and their relationship to the Supreme Pontiff leaves no doubt whatsoever of the supremacy of the Pope over individual bishops (or bishops' conferences for that matter).

But one must believe the defiant bishops have not bothered to check back what Vatican-II really says, probably not since the heady days immediately following Vatican-II and the establishment of the bishops' conferences - they seem to have taken that as the equivalent of Jesus handing over the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter, in which each of them is Peter.

In their eyes, Vatican-II - their ultimate authority, it seems, above anything else in the Magisterium, as it is of all liberal dissidents who want to change the Church to suit their ideas - handed them the Keys of the Kingdom, to which they feel as entitled as the one and only Successor of Peter! How else does one explain their arrogance?

(A review of writings by advocates of the 'spirit of Vatican II' would probably show they cite Vatican-II far more overwhelmingly than they do anything from Scripture, or directly from Jesus himself! 'Spirit of Vatican II' has become their only Magisterium, their 'Sacred Scripture', their 'Holy Spirit', their virtual Lord and master. How can they not see what a parody they have made of their faith?]]

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

The letter is Benedict XVI at his best and most personal, as he is when he takes questions directly, speaking his heart, which is a heart that thinks, and not just speaking his mind as most intellectuals do.

It is the Benedict of that extemporaneous lectio divina to the Roman seminarians on February 29 [less than two weeks before the date on the letter to the bishops) that so struck me with its simplicity and lack of artifice, and of course, his fortuitous choice of the passage from Galatians that he cites anew in the letter, and the spontaneous (and oh-so-timely) commentary it merited from him.

At the time, few commentators even commented on the lectio divina (perhaps because it wasn't widely reported, either). To have him reveal now that his commentary gave him the idea to write the letter is one of the many wonders of this letter which I insist has to be a most historic one.

Thank God we have Benedict XVI for our Pope today.


[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 02/05/2013 07.06]
02/05/2013 06.06
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Utente Master

Thanks to Beatrice and her website for leading me to this item...

Benedict XVI returns
to the Vatican

by ALBERT LINK in Rome
Translated from

April 29, 2013

"The Lord has called me to 'climb the mountain' so that I can dedicate myself more to prayer and meditation".
- Benedict XVI, February 24, 2013
at his last Angelus as Pope

On Thursday, emeritus Pope Benedict XVI begins a new episode in his self-chosen retirement home. Just a stone's throw from St. Peter's Basilica where the Apostle Peter is buried.

On Thursday, May 2, exactly nine weeks after his resignation as Pope, Benedict XVI will leave the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo where he has been living since February 28.

Vatican spokesman Fr, Federico Lombardi said that 'in a discreet way', Benedict XVI will move into the renovated Mater Ecclesiae convent in the Vatican Gardens. As he announced, he will live the rest of his days in prayer, 'hidden from the world'.

"He is very happy about his new home," said a female religious to BILD. Not only because the small convent (total area 450 square meters) has been renovated for his purposes, but because once more, the former Pope will hear the bells of St. Peter and walk in the Vatican Gardens while praying the rosary as he did during his almost eight years as Pope.

He will be surrounded by Nature. The convent has a vegetable garden which grows peppers, cabbage and zucchini. There are rosebeds among the fruit trees, which had provided orange and lemon marmalade for the Pope's breakfast (first John Paul II and then Benedict XVI). Old pines and palm trees tower above the mini=convent.

It is said that a few stray cats roam the Vatican gardens. They will soon learn to count again on some food laid out for them, as Joseph Ratzinger's love of cats is legendary.

'Mater Ecclesiae' is a simple little convent that has been vacant since November 2012. The three-story building, with its two story annex, was built in the early 20th century. Formerly a residence for Vatican gardeners, it was renovated in the early 1980s when John Paul II decided to have a small community of contemplative nuns living in the Vatican to pray for the Church and the Pope.

The main building had 12 monastic cells decorated only with wooden Crucifixes and some religious images on the walls. There is also a sick room, offices, and a communal sitting room for the nuns. The latter has been renovated to serve as Benedict XVI's living quarters. There will be a room for his brother Georg when he comes to visit.

The annex has the chapel where Benedict XVI will be saying his daily Mass. The altar has a Madonna and is always decorated with fresh flowers. The altar cross is by a Sicilian artist, Francesco Messina. Its walls are decorated with icons, and it has stained glass windows.

The ground floor has a large kitchen, a supply room and pantry, and the dining room. There is also a library that was stocked with religious and theological books as well as contemporary literature. But Benedict XVI is moving in with his own considerable book collection which he had earlier moved from his cardinal's apartment to the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace.

No one who knows him will rule out that the best-selling writer Pope will continue to write. In any case, his longtime transcribing secretary Birgit Wansing, a Schoenstatt lay nun, will continue to be at his side.

As will private secretary, Mons. Georg Gaenswein, who is also Prefect of the Pontifical Household. [To provide the emeritus Pope with a male assistant while he, Ganeswein, is carrying out his day job, he has hired a German-speaking Flemish deacon.] He must be happy he will no longer have to commute daily between Castel Gandolfo and the Vatican.

The household will continue to be run by the four Memores Domini who have made up part of Benedict's 'pontifical family' for eight years.

The roof of the main building has a terrace from which there is a breathtaking view of Rome and the dome of St. Peter's. However, that also means that it is within the view of telephoto lenses, so the emeritus Pope will probably avoid going to the terrace in daylight.

Usually, on the first of May, summer in Rome begins with temperatures reaching 30 degrees Centigrade. As Pope, Benedict XVI spent summers in Castel Gandolfo (in earlier years, preceded by a 2-3 week sojourn in the northern Italian Alps) from July to September. In retirement, he may decide to summer somewhere cooler.

Benedict, now a private citizen, is not accountable to anyone. He freely chose to renounce the Pontificate. He is a free man. Which also means that he will get to play the piano as often as he wants.

Pope Francis to welcome
Benedict XVI on his return

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will welcome Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae convent when he arrives Thursday afternoon from Castel Gandolfo.

He was scheduled to leave the papal summer residence at 4:30 and would be welcomed at the Vatican heliport by Cardinals Angelo Sodano, Tarcisio Bertone and Giuseppe Bertello, by Archbishops Angelo Becciu, Dominique Mamberti and Gabriele Caccia, and by Vatican employees.

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Thursday, May 2, Fifth Week of Easter

From left, 2 Greek icons of the saint, followed by 2 Coptic icons, a statue in the Vatican, the Four Doctors at the foot of Peter's Chair (from left, Ambrose, Athanasius, John Chrysostom and Augustine),
and another Greek icon.

ST. ATHANASIUS (Egypt 297-373), Theologian, Patriarch of Alexandria, Champion against Arianism, Patron of the Coptic Church, Doctor of the Church
Benedict XVI dedicated a catechesis on June 20, 2007, to this towering figure of the early Church, who is considered the Doctor of Orthodoxy. He was born in Alexandria, acquired a classical education and became secretary to the Bishop of the city, late being named Bishop himself. He was always a great champion against Arianism which denied the divinity of Jesus and was prevalent at the time. Because of his disputes with the Arians, he was exiled by Emperor Constantine, later restored by his son, but deposed again by Arian bishops. Pope Julius I called a Synod to review his case and returned him to his seat, but five times more in his lifetime, he would be exiled for defending the divinity of Christ. All his life, he was devoted to monastic ideals, and his biography of St. Anthony Abbot became the first universal best-seller in Christianity, inspiring the beginnings of Western monasticism. He argued against the Arians in the first Council of Nicaea. His most famous theological work is De Incarnatione, in which he made the statement "God made himself man so that we may be made God". He died peacefully in Alexandria, but his remains were brought to Italy where it stayed for centuries until Paul VI returned them to the Coptic Pope in 1970. Athanasius's tomb is now in the Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo. Athanasius was one of the four great Doctors of the Eastern Church proclaimed by Pope St. Pius V in 1568, along with Saints Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzene and John Chrysostom.
Readings for today's Mass:


Pope Francis met with

= Mons. Claudio Maria Celli, Pfresident of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
= H.E. Jozef Dravecký, Ambassador from Slovakia, who made his farewell visit.

And in the afternoon with

= Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood

Later, he welcomed emeritus Pope Benedict XVI on his return to the Vatican to take up permanent residence
at the Mater Ecclesiae convent. They prayed together in the chapel of the convent.

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A P.S. that deserves to come ahead...

HURRAY! There is a photo, after all...The bottom one is a cropping to show the two protagonists closer (Mons. Gaenswein in the background, left).

Benedict XVI is back
at the Vatican

Translated from

May 2, 2013

The Vatican issued the following bulletin about the return of Benedict XVI to the Vatican today. [I hope we get photos too.]

This afternoon, emeritus Pope Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican after a two-month stay in Castel Gandolfo.

He arrived by helicopter shortly after 4:45 p.m., accompanied by Mons. Georg Gaenswein, Prefect of the Pontifical Household.

At the Vatican heliport, he was welcomed by Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Pertone, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican Governatorate. deputy Secretary of State Mons. Angelo Becciu, deputy Secretary of State for foreign relations Mons Dominique Mamberti, and the secretary of the Governatorate, Mons. Giuseppe Sciacca.

He then proceed by car to his new residence, the renovated Mater Ecclesiae convent, where Pope Francis welcomed him at the entrance with great and fraternal cordiality.

Together them went to the convent chapel for a brief moment of prayer.

It will be recalled that Benedict XVI left the Vatican for Castel Gandolfo on the afternoon of February 28, and the Sede Vacante began a few hours later, after his resignation s Pope went into effect at 8 p.m.

While awaiting the completion of renovations on Mater Ecclesiae, He remained in Castel Gandolfo for two months, during which on March 23, he was visited by Pope Francis.

Now he is happy to be back in the Vatican, in a place where, as he announced last February 11, he intends to continue his service to the Church by dedicating himself to prayer and meditation.

Mons. Gaenswein and the four Memores Domini who had been running his household when he was Pope will continue to live with him.

I certainly hope that Pope Francis's unfailing graciousness to his predecessor will finally penetrate the consciousness of those in the Church who continue to treat Benedict XVI like a pariah, or as if he were Voldemort (he-who-must-not-be-named). Their attitude has been insane and most un-Christian towards someone who is so infinitely superior to them in every way, not the least in personal virtue and holiness.

I can almost bet that that the hierarchs who greeted Benedict XVI at the heliport today did not volunteer to do so, and did not constitute themselves into a welcoming committee until after they were told that Pope Francis himself would be at Mater Ecclesiae to welcome his predecessor. Fr. Lombardi was careful to tell newsmen yesterday that Benedict would be arriving 'discreetly' and he could not say who be present to welcome him.

The Reuters story resurrects the rotten chestnut about a potential problem because the former Pope is living in close proximity to the current Pope. That's a familiar and detestable journalistic ploy to create conflict where there is none, because at this point, MSM is not going to report anything about Benedict at all unless they can somehow twist it to his disadvantage. And yet, since March 13, 2013, the Vatican as well as the media have been ostentatiously observant about the infinite and unbridgeable difference between a Pope and a no-longer-Pope, especially about the complete lack of prerogatives for the ex-Pope...

Ex-Pope back at the Vatican
to live out his retirement

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, May 2, 2013 (Reuters) - Benedict XVI moved back to the Vatican on Thursday, opening an uncertain era in Catholic Church history where an "emeritus pope" and a ruling pontiff will live as neighbours for the first time.

[It is not an 'uncertain' era - it is simply unprecedented. But it should not create any conflict or confusion. There is only one Pope at a time - no one knows that better than he who is no longer Pope, and because he is who he is, Benedict XVI would never to anything to call attention to himself.]

Benedict, the first pope to abdicate in 600 years, will live out his retirement in a restored convent in the Vatican gardens with a view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and just a short walk from the residence of his successor, Francis.

Benedict, 86, arrived by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence south of Rome, where he had been staying since February 28 while the convent was being restored.

Francis, 76, greeted Benedict in front of the convent, the first time they have met since March 23, when Francis visited Benedict at Castel Gandolfo and Benedict renewed a pledge of "unconditional reverence and obedience" to Francis.

A Vatican statement said the two later prayed together in the chapel of the small building, which also includes a library for the former theology professor, quarters for his aides and a guest room for his older brother, Georg, a monsignor.

"He is happy to be back at the Vatican ... where he intends to dedicate himself to the service of the Church, above all with prayer," it said.

Unlike on the day of his abdication and his March 23 meeting with Francis at Castel Gandolfo, Vatican television decided not to distribute images of Benedict's return. It gave no reason. [The only reason I can think of is to respect Benedict XVI's wish to remain 'hidden'. But selfishly, I still hope the Vatican will at least release one photo of him with the Pope, just so we have an actual image of him as he is today. It's been more than a month since the Pope visited him in Castel Gandolfo. Benedict-deprivation is the worst possible affliction for a Benaddict, and I don't think there's a cure for the ongoing 'withdrawal syndrome'. ]

When the two met in March, Benedict looked exceptionally frail. But the Vatican says he suffers only from normal ailments of old age and has no serious illness.

While the presence of a reigning pope and a former one is a new situation, experts say it would only cause difficulties if Benedict tried to influence Pope Francis's decisions, something he has promised not to do. [What 'experts', and what can they have to say about an unprecedented historical situation anyway? Their attitude (or perhaps it is Pulella's attitude which he has projected on fictitious 'experts') is insulting to both Benedict and Francis, implying that the former would meddle in any way, and that the latter is susceptible to being 'influenced'.]

Shortly before his resignation, Benedict said he would live out his remaining days "hidden from the world".

Still, some Church scholars say that in the event that Francis undoes some of Benedict's policies while he is still alive, the former Pope could become a lightning rod for conservatives and polarise the Church. [In such an unlikely eventuality, we can be sure Benedict XVI will promptly issue a statement to declare it is the duty of all Catholics to be obedient to Pope Francis and to dissociate himself from any dissident movement undertaken in his (Benedict's) name.]

"Benedict almost certainly will be a point of reference for critics of Francis, especially in conservative circles. You can easily imagine them saying, ‘Benedict wouldn't have done it this way,'" said John Allen, author of several books on the Church and correspondent for the National Catholic reporter. [Some traditionalists are already saying that, but they might as well be non-existent for all the attention they will get from the media. Besides, their objections are pro-forma, just what you would expect, the quibbling about the new Pope's personal preferences which are obviously markedly different not just from Benedict XVI but from all his predecessors. The important point is that he has been preaching orthodox doctrine, about which he cannot be faulted.]

"That criticism will circulate on blogs, in journals, and in the pews, no matter where he's physically located, and Benedict himself won't be a party to it. If anything, being behind Vatican walls will make it more difficult for the opposition to reach him and claim some sort of blessing," Allen said. [I doubt that any such criticism will get any airing in the world mainstream media which is in the total grip of self-imposed Francismania as the US media is to Obamamania.]

Vatican officials have said the men, both of whom wear slightly different white vestments, would likely meet occasionally and perhaps confer on Church matters but that Francis is his own man.

"On a human level, it's hard to imagine that Pope Francis would treat the retired pope as some sort of 'untouchable'. I think they can certainly spend time together and exchange views without causing any crisis in the Church," said John Thavis, author of "The Vatican Diaries". [Pope Francis is not the problem here. It's those who have so far refused to follow his example of graciousness towards Benedict XVI. 'Untouchable' is exactly how other Church hierarchs have treated Benedict XVI since March 13, 2005 - as though he were a leper or the very devil himself, that they no longer can afford to be associated with him in any way because his Pontificate was so 'disgraceful' and he had brought the Church to such a terrible state that she needed a SuperPope Fancis to undo all the 'damage' Benedict XVI had caused. As if they had no part at all in that Pontificate, when they were the ones who were supposed to implement all the beneficial measures instituted by Benedict XVI.]

Benedict's two months away have allowed everyone to get used to the idea that he is no longer on the Vatican stage, said Father John Paul Wauck, professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. [It didn't take two months for 'everyone' to get used to the idea. It took place as soon as the new Pope was elected.]

"It was a healthy hiatus during which Francis had the freedom to establish himself as the new successor of St. Peter," Wauck said, adding that he would be surprised if Benedict tried to influence Church decisions.

For a while I thought all we would get today were the shots of the helicopter approaching the Vatican.
In its captions, AP said "a great number of pilgrims and faithful who had wanted to greet the emeritus Pope were in St. Peter's Square and saw him arriving in the helicopter". It does not explain why it posted no photos of the faithful.

And an English-language blog on the Repubblica site noted:
"...the faithful waiting to catch a glimpse of the former leader of the world’s Catholics one last time will have to wait to see him on the evening news: the helicopter was seen flying overhead but then disappeared behind the walls of the Vatican city, and this time there were no giant screens in St. Peter’s Square relaying what was happening inside".

Here is Salvatore Izzo's account of 'the return':

An 'open arms' welcome
from Pope Francis for
the returning pilgrim

by Salvatore Izzo

VATICAN CITY, May 2, 2013 (Translated from AGI) - Even if any video shot by CTV has not been released, the photographs from L'Osservatore Romano are reassuring about the state of Benedict XVI's health.

The emeritus Pope returned to the Vatican Thursday afternoon from Castel Gandolfo where he had spent the two months following his historic resignation on February 28. He was personally welcomed by his successor, Pope Francis, who has used every occasion to express affection and esteem for his 'venerated predecessor'.

And as they did in Castel Gandolfo when the Pope visited Benedict XVI last March 23, this time too, they prayed together in the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae convent, intended to be Benedict XVI's permanent retirement home.

Regarding the spirits of the emeritus Pope, also reassuring was his remark about his new home: "It is very welcoming - one can work well here".

Words that indicate we may hope for new publications from Joseph Ratzinger, theologian, no longer Roman Pontiff. A couple of hours before his resignation took effect on February 28, he had said farewell to the faithful who gathered in Castel Gandolfo to wish him well with their customary affection, he described himself as being "a pilgrim on the last stage of his pilgrimage on earth".

When, this afternoon, the white helicopter that carried him from Castel Gandolfo flew over the Vatican, a great number of faithful who wished to greet him were present in St. Peter's Square and were happy just to see him flying in.

Leaving the welcome formalities to other Vatican officials who welcomed Papa Ratzinger at the heliport - three cardinals and their number-2 men - Pope Francis arrived by car at the Mater Ecclesiae convent before his predecessor, accompanied by the secretary he inherited from him, Mons. Alfred Xuereb, and the regent of the Pontifical Household, Mons. Leonardo Sapienza.

As they waited for the emeritus Pope, Francis thanked Benedict's Memores Domini housekeepers, remarking that they had prepared Benedict's new home very well, attentive to every detail.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told newsmen afterwards that Pope Francis appeared very happy at the return of Benedict XVI.

Thus, Benedict's return to the Vatican was characterized by a serene and cordial atmosphere and a profound communion between Francis and Benedict, which was underscored when they prayed together at the Mater Ecclesiae chapel.

From hereon, the two men will be living within a few hundred meters apart, which makes more frequent but discreet contacts possible. Besides, both like to walk in the Vatican Gardens, and both are devoted to Mary, whose shrine as Our Lady of Lourdes is located halfway between Domus Sancta Marthae, where Francis lives, and the Mater Ecclesiae convent.

But the greatest assistance Benedict is making to his successor is the support of prayer. Indeed, with Benedict XVI, the convent that was vacated last year by the last of a rotating community of contemplative nuns dedicated to praying for the Church and the Pope, will continue to be a certain of spiritual irradiation, and not just for the Vatican.

Far from curious eyes and cameras, however, the dialog will presumably continue between the new Pope and his predecessor - it begun with Francis's telephone call to Benedict XVI after his election on March 13, a few more calls afterwards and the visit to Castel Gandolfo ten days later, when the emeritus Pope handed over a box of documents for his information (presumably including the cardinals' report on Vatileaks and the Curial circumstances that led to that breach of confidence).

One presumes that if he wants it, Francis can count on advice from his great predecessor [Thank you, Mr. Izzo, for using the adjective!] who can always informally express himself directly to the Pope. Just as Francis has been getting the views of the eight cardinals he named as his advisory council.

With respect to Curial reform, everything will be done with maximum discretion, according to the deputy Secretary of State Mons. Angelo Becciu, speaking to Vatican Radio, "so that the decisions made by Pope Francis will not be interpreted as punitive measures against any cardinals or bishops who may not be reappointed, nor against Curial employees in case restructuring the Curia will mean combining certain offices or abolishing some". [It must be added that Becciu also indicated in his interview with L'Osservatore Romano, that no changes are imminent because the Pope will take time to reflect before making his decisions.]

Mater Ecclesiae is a small building with a main four-story structure (including a substantial basement) and only 200 square meters of livable space (much space is taken up by stairways and by the elevator).

Its renovation took some time because it included putting in a new roof, since leaks plagued the last community of nuns which occupied the convent.

Residing with Papa Ratzinger will be Mons. Gaenswein and the four Memores Domini. The emeritus Pope's decades-long transcribing secretary, Birgit Wansing, will report for work every day but will go back to living at the Schoenstatt motherhouse in Rome. And even the Flemish German-speaking deacon hired to assist the emeritus Pope in the daytime, will not be a resident.

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Here's an interesting little sidebar to the big story of yesterday, from John Thavis's blog on CNA...

Feline company in the Vatican
by John Thavis
May 2, 2013

It looks like Pope Benedict will be able to enjoy the company of cats in his retirement home inside the Vatican.

This curious photo, made available by the Vatican newspaper, shows a black-and-white spotted cat ranging through an area next to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, where the retired Pope took up lodgings today.

The Vatican Gardens is said to have a number of stray cats roaming the grounds, and they will find a friend in the former Pope. As a cardinal, he famously fed the stray cats in the Borgo neighborhood where he lived, according to Vatican officials.

As Pope, we were told he never kept a house cat, but from was rumored to have fed the cats in the Vatican Gardens. Maybe this one is an old acquaintance.

In fact, around this time last year,I posted this cat story about one particular stray cat...

The final word on this:
No cats in B16's papal apartment ever

But he does have a new feline friend -
Chico of Pentling, meet Ciccio of the Vatican Gardens

by Paolo Rodari
Translated from

April 29, 2012

Joseph Ratzinger never had a house cat in Rome.

He didn't have one when he was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and lived just outside the Vatican walls at Piazza della Citta Leonina.

Nor does he have one now that he occupies the papal apartments on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace.

That does not mean he does not love cats. His co-workers know his fondness for felines quite well, as do now those responsible for the care of fauna within the Vatican Gardens.

Prof. Klaus Friedrich and Giulia Artizzu, who work under the Secretary of the Vatican Governatorate, Mons. Gabriele Sciacca, have put up a little cat cottage in the Vatican Gardens for the use of a very special cat - Ciccio, formerly known to Vatican enployees as 'the Museum cat'.

Ciccio is a black male cat who is "very sociable and very sure of his own attractiveness", writes Artizzu in All'ombra del cupolone {In the shadow of St. Peter's Dome), the informal organ of the Governatorate's employees.

Ciccio is well-known to all who frequent the Vatican Gardens, including Pope Benedict XVI who walks in the gardens every afternoon with one or both of his private secretaries, up to the grotto dedicated to the Madonna della Guardia (Patroness of Genoa) at the summit of the Gardens, and back to the Apostolic Palace.

Of course, there are other cats the Pope is likely to encounter during this walks in the Vatican's 'green lung' which hosts a variety of natural fauna - from parrots and hummingbirds to frogs, newts and glowworms.

But Ciccio is apparently the only one with the 'individual personality' to catch the attention of Garden habitues including its most famous one.

When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, it was Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then Archbishop of Genoa but before that, #2 man to the future Pope at the CDF, who first spoke to the media about the new Pope's love for cats. He told Famiglia Cristiana in an interview:

"During his years at CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger used to talk to the cats he met along the way. He would stop and say something to them in German, probably in the Bavarian dialect. He always had something with him to feed the cats, and they would follow him to the courtyard of the Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio."

These were the words which fed what has since been shown to be another Roman myth. Just like the stories that Paul VI brought his pet cat with him to the Apostolic Palace when he became Pope, or that Pius XII kept two goldfinches, so Benedict XVI was believed to have brought a beloved cat to the papal apartment.

Now we know for sure: there is no cat in Benedict XVI's papal household, although his great fondness for cats is very real.

Vatican sources say that a few weeks before the 2005 Conclave, Cardinal Ratzinger had given a cat as a gift to a cardinal friend to help him get over a depression.

But shortly after the Conclave, cat stories began proliferating about the new Pope. Chico, a marmalade-colored cat belonging to the Pope's next-door neighbors in Pentling outside Regensburg), caught the fantasy of newspapers around the world and became immortalized as 'the Pope's cat'.

Ingrid Stampa, for years Cardinal Ratzinger's housekeeper (now employed in the Secretariat of State for the translation of papal texts to German), almost immediately told newsmen, "We do have two cats - but both are porcelain". Part of her daily chores as housekeeper had been to descend to Borgo Pio and leave leftovers for the stray cats of the neighborhood.

Recently, one of the Pope's two private secretaries, Mons. Alfred Xuereb, 53, who has worked with the Pope since 2007, was interviewed about his days with Benedict XV, during which he spoke about the cat that the Pope never had.

"It is not true that we have a cat in the papal apartment, even if the Pope loves animals. It has been said that as a cardinal, he would stop on the streets to talk to cats. Someone reportedly asked him, 'Your Eminence, do you talk to the cats in Italian or in German?' And he answered, 'They don't understand languages, but they do understand your tone of voice'..."

In short, there is no cat in the papal apartment. But lately, there has been a privileged cat in the Vatican Gardens - Ciccio, for whom a little home has been built in the world's most exclusive address.

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When I first read the story of Bishop Jin a few years back when he was featured in 30 GIORNI, I felt great admiration for someone who managed to be heroic and genuinely good, even if he had to pay lip service afterwards to the tyrants who had imprisoned him for 18 years and kept in a re-education camp for another 9 years. And he did it in order to keep the Church in Shanghai alive. That he was already 91 at the time of the 30 GIORNI report, and apparently still going strong, made his story even more remarkable. In my mind, he became the viable antithesis to Cardinal Joseph Zen, his fellow Shanghainese who has an unbending hard line against the Beijing government and insists, contrary to Benedict XVI's 1977 letter to Chinese Catholics, that the underground Church must remain underground in China until there is full religious freedom in China. IMHO, it took extraordinary courage to choose the option taken by Bisho, p Jin, who had surely earned the right to take the option (and gamble) that he did, having spent a third of his (very long) life in prison for his faith. Perhaps more Chinese bishops should take a lesson from his life, which seems to have been, at the very least, no less meritorious than the life of Cardinal Van Thuan, also imprisoned by the Communists in Vietnam and who is now a candidate for beatification.

Pray for Aloysius Jin Luxian, 97:
The death of China’s
most famous and powerful bishop

by Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D.

April 30, 2013

China’s most famous — and most powerful — Catholic bishop has died. He was 97. When I last saw him in 2011, I knew then that age was finally catching up with Shanghai’s remarkable and indefatigable prelate.

Jesuits in Shanghai, 1953: Bishop Ignatius Gong Pinmei is wearing a pectoral cross, and Fr. Jin stands to his right.

As we sat together, I handed him a pile of rare photographs of him and his fellow Jesuits, images that dated before his arrest in 1955. Pausing for some time as he looked over the first photograph, he said in a low voice, “Old beloved friends.” He had not seen those faces in more than six long and eventful decades.

He asked me to bring more photographs of “Catholic Shanghai before the Communists”; I do have more images to give him, but now he is perhaps seeing the real faces of his “beloved friends,” and I will file them away for posterity.

Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, SJ (1916-2013), was one of the most gentle and charming people I have met, and he was also among the most enigmatic, and as I thumb through his dossier I vacillate between admiration, disagreement, speculation, and sometimes disappointment.

As I said in my 2010 interview with Bishop Jin for Ignatius Insight, with Jin there are “no easy answers.” I would like to offer a few remarks here about why Bishop Jin’s recent death, at the age of 97, is probably one of the most noteworthy events in the history of Catholicism in China.

Left, Fr. Aloysius as a young Jesuit priest in the 1940s; center, at his birthday celebration in Shanghai (1954); right, Bishop Jin Luxian at the celebration Mass commemorating 400 years of Catholicism in Shanghai in 2008.

Jin Luxian lived through China’s most dramatic changes and growing pains as it transitioned from empire to the largest and most paradoxical Communist country in the history of our world.

He witnessed China’s war with Japan (1930s); the fierce and tragic war between his own countrymen, the Nationalists and Communists (1920s-1949); the rise of Mao Zedong and Maoism in 1949; the turbulent 100 Flowers Movement (1956) and the following Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-1958); the Great Leap Forward and the millions of deaths it caused (1958-1961); the cruel violence of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976); the post-Mao economic boom inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping (1989-present).

This long list of China’s landmark events does not include equally dramatic events in Catholic history, such as the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Because he was a Jesuit priest who had earned his doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Jin was labeled a “dangerous counter-revolutionary” in alliance with an “imperialist power,” the Vatican.

Jin Luxian’s life provides historians extraordinary access to some of the world’s most exceptional moments of transformation, and if you ask China’s Catholics who has been the most influential figure in their Church’s remarkable survival and seemingly-impossible growth through their country’s painful birth as a Communist superpower, they will, to the person, reply, “Bishop Jin.”

On my desk as I write this essay lie two handsome photo-histories of the Diocese of Shanghai, replete with images of Bishop Jin, as well as a massive 750-page collection of his homilies, a French biography of his life (Le Pape Jaune: Mgr. Jin Luxian, Soldat de Dieu en Chine Communiste (The Yellow Pope: Bishop Jin Luxian, Soldier of God in Communist China), countless Chinese liturgical books that he has either written himself or sponsored, and the recently-published copy of his personal memoirs, to which I wrote the introduction.

Books by or about him can fill a bookcase, and anyone who has made a tour of “Catholic Shanghai” cannot but notice that Bishop Jin singlehandedly solicited enough funds from all over the globe to restore Shanghai’s numerous churches, build a new seminary, and commission the construction of many other Catholic facilities, including a busy retreat house for China’s overworked clergy. Catholic Shanghai is Jin’s Shanghai, and his new rectory towers over his cathedral, named after St. Ignatius, the founder of his order.

Many Catholics have asked; how did Bishop Jin manage to build a Catholic empire in Shanghai under the watchful eye of a Communist government that had vowed to “help religion along the natural path of withering away”?

I once asked him how he explained his successful efforts to revitalize the Church in China while also maintaining a cozy relationship with the Communist Party.

He answered: “I am both a serpent and a dove. The government thinks I’m too close to the Vatican, and the Vatican thinks I’m too close to the government. I’m a slippery fish squashed between government control and Vatican demands.”

For better or worse, Bishop Jin Luxian’s priority was the survival of Catholicism in China, and he maintained connections with an enormous array of personalities. He kept a wide range of company; in one photograph he is pictured at Rice University with his friend, the dissident theologian Hans Küng, in another he is seen giving Holy Communion to Mother Teresa, and in yet another photo Jin is shown meeting with President Bill Clinton.

Bishop JIn administers Communion to Mother Teresa, 1993.

While there can be little doubt that he was able to use his connections to preserve and promote the Church in China, Jin’s decisions were not always popular with Rome.

When he accepted his office as bishop of Shanghai in 1988, he did so without the approval of the Holy See. In his “Acceptance of Office and Promise of Fidelity,” Bishop Jin pronounced, “I believe all the teachings on faith in the Holy Church…I will try my best to take care of the spiritual and material needs of the clergy and faithful.” And then he promised to “observe the Constitutions and Laws of the People’s Republic of China,” and offer his life for God and the “independent and autonomous Diocese of Shanghai” (Jesuit Archives of Taipei, Jin Luxian File).

While rendering his obedience to the Constitutions and Laws of the Communist government of China, he was at the same time writing countless letters to foreign bishops, describing the political persecution under which Chinese Catholics suffer, and asking for generous donations to rebuild the Chinese Church.

One of his patent lines in letters to solicit even a small donation was, “Many streams make a large river” (Jesuit Archives, Taipei: letter to Cardinal Jaime L. Sin [1928-2005], January 19, 1997). I cannot help but have mixed feelings knowing that Jin made public concessions to China’s oppressive and anti-religious government, while at the same time I know I am kneeling in prayer in a Shanghai church that was funded and restored through Jin’s efforts.

Even as one considers Jin Luxian’s collaboration with China’s authorities and the Communist-overseen Catholic Patriotic Association, anyone with sympathy for human suffering must acknowledge his herculean resolution to survive decades of sustained Communist imprisonment, bullying, and “re-education.”

In the 1950s, Shanghai’s Party officials launched a merciless attack against the city’s popular bishop, Ignatius Gong Pinmei (1901-2000). On the evening of September 8, 1955, the Shanghai police made a wide sweep through the city’s Catholic residences.

Father Jin was at home reading a book at 9:30 pm, when plain-clothed officers forced themselves into his room and arrested the unsuspecting priest. As he recalled his arrest: “The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was 8 September 1955, which was also the anniversary of my vows” (Memoirs [Hong Kong: 2012], 206).

He was rebuked, as was his fellow prisoner, Bishop Gong Pinmei, as a “stinking old nine intellectual” and a “parasite” of the People. He began his tireless work to restore the Church in China after his release from prison, when he was 66 years old, and he adhered to the Jesuit motto, 'Magis' (more)—until his death a few days ago, at the age of 97.

In the preface of his Memoirs, which he wrote when he was 92 years old, Bishop Jin wrote: “When I close my eyes and think back, those years have truly passed in an instant, but on close examination this instant was full of hardship” (Memoirs, 1).

Whether or not his methods were correct—only God is the rightful judge of souls — his life was not one of comfort and selfishness; Jin Luxian, if anything, lived as a Catholic priest.

There is much about Bishop Jin’s actions that many loyal Catholics may not comfortably condone, but none of us is without sin and complexity. Every time we met, Jin was unselfish with his time, and spoke with warmth and kindness.

As I wrote in my introduction to his Memoirs, “Jin Luxian has been identified as a politician, protector, and prisoner, but he would simply refer to himself as a priest; and in a final word, Jin as always been, and remains, a priest” (Memoirs, xx).

There is little doubt that the Church in China has flourished under his leadership, as priest, bishop, and administrator. One of his favorite sayings of St. Ignatius, the holy founder of the Jesuits, was, “Oportet illum crescere, me autem minui”—“He should grow and I should diminish.”

Bishop Jin has gone, but I suspect that his greatest wish would be for the Church he left behind to continue to grow, even as his memory diminishes into history.

Requiem ætérnam dona eis; et lux perpetua lúceat eis.

The author of the article with Bishop Jin at his private residence in Shanghai, 2011.

Three days after Bishop Jin's death, the Vatican Secretariat of State released this statement (translated by the English service of VatiCan Radio):


On Saturday, April 27, His Excellency Mons. Aloysius Jin Luxian S.J., Coadjutor bishop of Shanghai (continental China), passed away at the age of 96.

The Prelate was born on June 20, 1916 in the Nanshi district in the city of Shanghai. In September 1926 he began his primary school studies at Saint Ignatius College; then, in 1932, he entered Sacred Heart of Jesus seminary, and later attended the Sacred Heart of Mary major seminary.

Attracted to the spirituality and life of the Society of Jesus, in 1938 he began his novitiate, and on September 8, 1940 he made his first vows. Having concluded his studies in philosophy and theology at Xianxian (Hebei), he was ordained to the priesthood on May 19, 1945 in the cathedral of Shanghai.

Between 1947 and 1948 he completed his religious formation in Paris. Then, from 1948 to 1950, he attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he received a degree Theology. He spent his summer vacations in Germany, France, and England in order to learn the respective languages.

With the advent of the People’s Republic of China, he was called to return to his native country in 1950 and, following the political events at that time and the expulsion of foreign Jesuits, he was nominated the temporary rector of the regional seminary of Xuhui (Shanghai) in 1951.

Fr Jin Luxian was arrested the night of September 8, 1955. and was subject to a long interrogation, ending with a trial in 1960: he was sentenced to 18 years in prison, plus 9 years for rehabilitation.

From 1963 to 1967 he was detained at Qincheng prison in Beijing where, by reason of his considerable knowledge of foreign languages, was made part of a group of inmate translators who worked for the State. In 1967 he was transferred to the rehabilitation centre in Fushun and in 1973 to another in Qincheng where he remained until 1975. He was then sent to a labour camp in Henan, and imprisoned again from 1979 to 1982: he was released after 27 years in prison.

In 1982 he received permission to reopen the seminary in Sheshan. In 1985 Fr Jin Luxian agreed to be consecrated bishop for the Diocese of Shanghai, but without papal approval. He obtained approval some 15 years later, becoming the coadjutor bishop of Shanghai, after having shown his fidelity to the Pope and asking pardon for his illegitimate ordination.

The prelate was a key personality in the history of the Catholic Church in China over the last 50 years. He was a man of great culture. His preparation, his studies in Italy, his proficiency in various European languages and his human compassion allowed him to keep in contact with various personalities and enjoy the respect of many.

Under the leadership of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, the diocese of Shanghai developed a great deal. He had a powerful pastoral commitment, modernizing the dioceses in many ways and trying to ensure they remained under the leadership of the pastors, using also to this end the respect which the civil authorities had for him.

He was particularly attentive to the preparation of new priests and religions, launching proper formation facilities, such as the Major Seminary, opened in 1985 in Sheshan (Shanghai), and giving back, at the same time, a greatly appreciated service not only to his dioceses, but also to China.

In one of his final acts as bishop Jin wrote the pastoral letter on the occasion of the Chinese Year of the Dragon (January 23, 2012) with the title “Xu Guangqi: A Man for All Seasons.”

In it the Prelate invited the faithful to follow the example of Paul Xu Guangqi, the first high-ranking Catholic in the empire, friend of Fr. Matteo Ricci, by promoting the cause for his beatification.

There are 150,000 Catholics in the diocese of Shanghai, some one hundred priests, six deacons, 37 parishes, and 140 churches. In its territory is the Marian Shrine of Sheshan, a national pilgrimage site. The most important social institutions include the house for the elderly, a house for spiritual retreats, a soup kitchen, and the Typography of Qibao.

In 2012 Bishop Jin published the first volume of his memoirs, Learning and Re-learning 1916-1982, in which he recounts the most significant times in his life. A life in which he sought to keep the love of Christ and the Church alive, in loyalty to his country and culture.

I must confess I was perplexed that there was not a statement or telegram of condolence from Pope Francis, considering that Bishop Jin was Jesuit like him, and that he was an extraordinary figure in the history of the Church in China, indeed of the Church in the 20th century.

Shanghai bishop's funeral held
as his anointed successor continues
to be detained by the Chinese

BEIJING, May 2, 2013 (AP) - Funeral services were held on Thursday for Shanghai Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, while the whereabouts of his anointed successor remained unclear amid a struggle for control between the Vatican and the ruling Communist Party.

Bishop Jin died on Saturday at age 97, leaving deep uncertainty about the future leadership of one of China's largest and wealthiest dioceses. His successor, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, was placed under house arrest last year immediately after he renounced his role in the Communist Party-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association.

Bishop Ma had been confined to Shanghai's main seminary at Sheshan, but reportedly was moved recently to an undisclosed location.

The officially atheist Communist Party insists on tightly controlling all organised religions. It requires that Catholics worship in churches that belong to the Patriotic Association and demands the right to appoint bishops in defiance of the Vatican.

Despite that, Bishop Ma had been approved by both the Vatican and Beijing, making his public renunciation of the Patriotic Association at his July 7 ordination Mass a grave affront to the party.

Security was tight for Bishop Jin's funeral, with dozens of uniformed and plainclothes police officers on hand. Six officers kept a close eye on those lining up for flowers to place on Bishop Jin's bier, turning away journalists and others on an unofficial blacklist.

Despite that, more than 1,000 people filled a large hall dominated by a big portrait of Bishop Jin, about the same number who attended a funeral mass at the city's St Ignatius Cathedral earlier in the week.
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Another photo from yesterday - one I had thought the Vatican would release right away. Note that the chapel altar is against the wall. i.e., configured for the ad orientem Mass. Of course, the private chapel in the Apostolic Palace was also configured this way, and the one photo sequence we saw from the 2007 RAI documentary of Benedict XVI saying Mass in that chapel was an ad-orientem Mass (though most likely using the Novus Ordo missal).

The photo comes from the May 4 issue of L'Osservatore Romano, since the event took place around 5 p.m. Thursday, May 2, two hours after the May 3 issue of the OR had already been printed. The accompanying story is merely a re=working of the bulletin issued Thursday afternoon by the Vatican Press Office.

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Friday, May 3, Fifth Week of Easter
Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles

Second from right: St. Philip, in El Greco's series on The Apostles; the other paintings are by unidentified painters.
Benedict XVI dedicated a catechesis to him on Sept. 6, 2006, citing him as the model for all Christians who desire to know Christ - 'Come and see, as he told his friend, who later became the apostle Bartholomew. He is always mentioned fifth among the Twelve. Widely accepted tradition says that he was martyred by crucifixion in Phrygia (what is now central Turkey) where he had gone to preach with his sister Marian and Bartholomew, after preaching in Syria and Greece.

Second from right: James the Minor in El Greco's series on The Apostles; extreme right, by Georges de la Tour.
His title distinguishes him from St. James the Major, brother of the Apostle John. Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis on June 24, 2006, to him, pointing out that he was the author of the first catholic epistle in the New Testament (i.e., 'catholic' because it was not addressed to a specific Church, as Paul's letters were). He was important in the early Church for his relations with the Jews. His Epistle is famous for saying that good works are the normal work of faith (a statement that Benedict XVI says complements Paul's words about justification by grace), and for advocating that Christians should abandon themselves to God's will. Legend also says that he died a martyr, being cast off a tower by the Jews and then stoned to death.
Readings for today's Mass:


Pope Francis met with

- H.E. Michel Sleiman, President of the Republic of Lebanon, his spouse and his delegation

- Six bishops from the Marche region of Italy on ad=limina visit

And in the afternoon with

- Mons. Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

- Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
(One presumes Pope Francis is having the weekly meetings Benedict XVI held with the heads of these two dicasteries whose work directly affects the universal Church and local Churches. The other dicastery that requires a weekly meeting with the Pope is, of course, the Congregation for Bishops.)

One year ago...
Benedict XVI visited the Rome campus of the Catholic University of Sacro Cuore to mark the 50th anniversary of its Faculty of Medicine and Surgery named after the university founder Fr. Agostino Gemelli (for whom the faculty's famous teaching hospital is also named). Benedict XVI's address on science and faith was another wonderful gem from his rich treasurebox of reflections.

The Pope to Catholic University:
Science and faith applied
to the task of the university

May 3, 2012

...Welcoming the Holy Father upon his arrival cardinal at the Gemelli Hospital (Policlinico Gemelli) were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope's Vicar-General for the Diocese of Rome, and Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan and president of the Toniolo Institute for Higher Studies, which is the governing body of Sacro Cuore and its various affiliates...

The Pope met the university community in the square fronting the Auditorium of the Faculty of Medicine, with the presence of professors, doctors, personnel and students of the University and the teaching hospital.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address:

I take a special joy in meeting you today to celebrate 50 years since the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery serving the Agostino Gemelli Hospital. I thank the President of the Toniolo Institute, Cardinal Angelo Scola, and the pro-Rector, Prof. Franco Anelli, for their kind words...

On this occasion I would like to offer some reflections. Ours is a time when the experimental sciences have transformed the world view and understanding of man. The many discoveries and innovative technologies that are developing at a rapid pace, are reason for pride, but often are not without troubling implications.

In fact, behind the widespread optimism of scientific knowledge, the shadow of a crisis of thought is spreading. Rich in means, but not in aims, mankind in our time is often influenced by reductionism and relativism which lead to a loss of the meaning of things. As if dazzled by technical efficacy, man forgets the essential horizon to the question of meaning, thus relegating the transcendent dimension to insignificance.

In this context, thought becomes weak and an ethical impoverishment gains ground, which clouds legal references of value. The once fruitful root of European culture and progress seems forgotten. That culture included the search for the absolute - the quaerere Deum - the need to deepen the secular sciences, the entire world of knowledge
(cf. Address to the Collège des Bernardins in Paris, September 12, 2008).

Scientific research and the search for meaning, in fact, even in their specific epistemological and methodological physiognomy, spring from a single source, that Logos that presides over the work of creation and guides the mind of history. A fundamentally techno-practical mentality generates a risky imbalance between what is technically possible and what is morally good, with unpredictable consequences.

It Is important then that the culture rediscover the vigour and dynamism of the meaning of transcendence - in a word, it must open up to the horizon of quaerere Deum. One is reminded of Augustine's famous phrase "You created us for you [Lord], and our heart is restless until it rests in you"
(Confessions, I, 1).

One can say that the same impulse to scientific research stems from the nostalgia for God which lives in the human heart: after all, men of science tend, unconsciously, to reach for truth which can give meaning to life.

But however passionate and tenacious human seeking is, it is not capable of finding a safe harbour by its own means, because "man is not able to fully elucidate the strange shadow that hangs over the question of eternal realities ... God must take the initiative to encounter man and speak to him"
(J. Ratzinger, (Saint) Benedict's Europe in the Crisis of Cultures, Ignatius Press).

To restore to reason its native integral dimension, it is therefore necessary to rediscover the wellspring that scientific research shares with the search for faith - fides quarens intellectum , in St. Anselm's intuition.

Science and faith have a fruitful reciprocity, almost a complementary exigency for intelligence about the real. But paradoxically, it is positivist culture itself, which excludes the question of God from scientific debate, that has brought about the decline of thought and the weakened capacity for knowledge of the real.

But man's quarere Deum would be lost in a maze of paths if it does not find a way of illumination and sure orientation, which is that of God himself who makes himself close to man with immense love: "in Jesus Christ, God not only speaks to man but seeks him out...It is a search that comes from God's intimate self and has its culminating point in the Incarnation of the Word"
](Giovanni Paolo II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 7).

A religion of Logos, Christianity does not relegate faith to the sphere of the irrational, but attributes the origin and sense of reality to Creative Reason, which is manifested as love in the God who is crucified, and which invites us to follow the road of quaerere Deum: "I am the way, the truth and the life".

St. Thomas Aquinas comments: "The point of arrival of this way is in fact the goal itself of human desire. Man desires two things principally: in the first place, that knowledge of truth which is part of his nature. In the second place, the (desire for) permanence of being, a property that is common to all things. In Christ, one and the other are found...So if you are seeking where you should pass through, welcome Christ because he is the way"
(Expositions on John, Chap. 14, Lesson 2),.

The Gospel of life thus illuminates the arduous journey of man, and in the face of the temptation to absolute autonomy, it reminds us that "the life of man comes from God, it is his gift, his image and impression, participation in his vital breath (Giovanni Paolo II, Evangelium vitae, 39).

It is precisely through following the path of faith that man is made able to glimpse into the very realities of suffering and death, which traverse his existence, sd erll sd an authentic possibility of goodness and life. One recognizes the Tree of life in the Cross of Christ, revelation of God's passionate love for man.

Caring for those who suffer is thus a daily encounter with the face of Christ, and the dedication of mind and heart to such caring becomes a sign of God's mercy and his victory over death.

When lived in all its integrity, seeking is illuminated by science and faith, and derives its impulse and thrust from these two 'wings', without ever losing humility, a sense of one's own limitations.

In this way, searching for God becomes fruitful for the intelligence, a ferment for culture, a promoter of true humanism, a search that does not stop at the merely superficial.

Dear friends, let yourselves be guided always by the wisdom that comes fromm on high, by a knowledge illuminated by faith, remembering that wisdom demands the passion and effort of research.

This is the context in which we see the irreplaceable task of the Catholic University - a place where the educational relationship is placed at the service of the person in the construction of qualified scientific competence, rooted in a patrimony of knowledge that generations have distilled into wisdom of life; a place in which the relationship of care is not an occupation but a mission - where the Good Samaritan occupies the first cathedra and the face of suffering man is the Face of Christ himself: "You have done it to me"
(Mt 25,40).

The Catholic University of Sacro Cuore, in its daily work of research, teaching and study, lives in this traditio which expresses its own potential for innovation: No progress, much less on the cultural level, can be nourished by mere repetition, but always demands a new beginning.

It also requires a readiness for confrontation and dialog which opens the intelligence and bears witness to the rich fecundity of the patrimony of the faith. In this way, it gives form to a solid personality structure, where Christian identity penetrates daily living and is expressed in excellent professionalism.

The Catholic University, which has a special relationship with the See of Peter, is called today to be an exemplary institution which does not restrict learning to the functionality of economic ends, but extends the breadth of its projections so that the gift of intelligence investigates and develops the gifts of the created world, transcending a merely productivist and utilitarian view of existence - because the human being is made for giving, which expresses and realizes the dimension of transcendence
(Caritas in veritate, 34).

It is precisely this conjugation of scientific research and unconditional service to life that delineates the Catholic physiognomy of the Agostino Gemelli Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, because the perspective of faith is interior - not superimposed nor juxtaposed - to the acute and tenacious search for knowledge.

A Catholic faculty of medicine is a place where transcendent humanism is not a rhetorical slogan, but a rule lived in daily dedication. When he dreamt of an authentically Catholic faculty of medicine and surgery, Fr. Gemelli - and with him so many others, like Prof. Brasca - brought the human being, in his frailty and greatness, to the center of attention, with the ever new resources of passionate research and in the awareness of the limits and the mystery of life.

That is why you have instituted a new center, a University for Life, which supports other already existing entities like, for instance, the Paul VI International Scientific Institute, and thus, encourages attention to life in all its phases.

I wish to address, in a special way, all the patients who are now at the Gemelli, to assure them of my prayers and my affection, and to tell them that here, they are always followed with love, because the suffering Christ is reflected in their faces.

It is precisely the love of God, which shines forth in Christ, that makes research acute and penetrating, and enables us to grasp that which no study is able to grasp. Blessed Giuseppe Toniolo was well aware of this, in affirming that it is in the nature of man to read the image of God-Love in others, and his imprint in Creation.

Without love, even science loses its nobility. Only love guarantees the humanity of research. Thank you for your attention.

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Joseph Ratzinger, the reformer whose decision
to resign goes back to the origins of the Papacy

Those who criticize Pope Francis for alleged 'discontinuity' with Benedict XVI
forget the historical importance of the latter's renunciation of the Papacy

Translated from the Italian service of

Since yesterday, the Vatican has two Popes who live a few hundred meters apart within the same territory, that of the smallest state in the world. [It is really not responsible for someone like Tornielli to say there are 'two Popes', because only one of them is Pope, and the whole world, especially Catholics, knows that!]

The Bishop of Rome Francis and his predecessor now live aide by side, the first in the fullness of the powers vested upon him after he was elected Pope on March 13, the latter, an emeritus Pope, who will spend the remaining time of his life, praying and meditating, 'hidden from the world'.

For as long as the emeritus Pope was residing in Castel Gandolfo after he left the Vatican on February 28, his last day as Pope, the question was hardly raised. [That's not true. It has been a staple leitmotif of the news reports and commentary that the unprecedented 'coexistence of two Popes' would cause problems regarding the former Pope's possible interference or influence in current affairs of the Church.]

Indeed, the presence of Joseph Ratzinger, discreet as he has always been, was not noticed [More accurate to say, his very existence was virtually ignored, especially after his successor was elected], and only resurfaced on March 23, when his successor visited him in Castel Gandolfo.

But since yesterday, when he returned to the Vatican to reside permanently at the Mater Ecclesiae convent, which was renovated to accommodate him and his small 'family' of assistants, Benedict XVI has once again become a presence, a reference point,
within 'the enclosure of St. Peter'.

It was more than understandable that he did not wish any video of his return to be released, agreeing to a couple of photos that could serve to reassure those who have been fearful about the state of his health (though it must be remembered that it was his increasing physical disability with advancing age that made him decide to give up the Papacy).

But even if he will not be seen or heard, he will continue to be a presence. In addition to the reigning Pope, there is also the emeritus Pope, the title chosen by Benedict XVI himself, choosing the canonical category of 'emeritus' which allows him to retain many of the outward signs of a retired bishop, in this case, the retired Bishop of Rome.

The situation has no precedent in the history of the Church. Nor has any Pope before Benedict XVI retired because of the limitations of advanced age.

But the humility and discretion of Joseph Ratzinger guarantee that he will never be an encumbrance to his successor, and he will not allow himself to be made a reference point, without wanting to be, for those who disapprove of the new Pontificate.

It is known that some 'traditionalist' circles have publicly criticized some personal choices made by Pope Francis, whom they reproach for not following certain papal traditions and for his choice in liturgical vestments.

Worse, some have accused him of undermining the Petrine primacy itself by insisting on being 'Bishop of Rome' - which is, after all, the first and oldest title of the Successor of Peter [a term, moreover, that was punctiliously used by Benedict XVI in announcing his renunciation on February 11, 2013, of "the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on April 19, 2005"], and for having named a group of eight cardinals to advise him on the governance of the Church, and whom he has assigned to study how to reform the Roman Curia.

The critics, underscoring Francis's alleged 'discontinity' with Benedict XVI, claim to fear the diminution of the papacy itself and a reduction in the 'sacredness' of the Pope's figure.

They seem to ignore that far more than the superficial preferences manifested by Pope Francis, the true action that 'de-sacralized' the figure of the Pope was Benedict XVI's renunciation. [Which, however, was not meant to 'desacralize' the figure of the Pope itself, but to underscore that every Pope is also a human being subject to mortal disabilities, and it was in his capacity as an individual human being no longer able to give the Papacy everything it deserves that he was giving it up so that someone more able could take over.]

Benedict's renunciation, which also meant the automatic termination of all Curial appointments (which have since been renewed by the new Pope 'until further provisions are made'), led to the election of a new Pope. And so, we have this unprecedented situation of 'two Popes'.

But it would be wrong to see Benedict XVI's decision, historically unprecedented as it was, as a discontinuity itself. [I don't think anyone considered it a 'discontinuity' at all, since its first implication was that a successor would have to be elected immediately in order to 'continue' the uninterrupted apostolic succession from St. Peter.]

In fact, with his decision, Joseph Ratzinger has contributed to bringing the office of Bishop of Rome closer to its origins and its essential nature: The Pope is the successor of Peter, Pastor of the Church which presides in charity over all the other Churches, and guardian of the 'treasure' which does not belong to him - that 'deposit of faith' which it is his duty to pass on.

He is not an emperor for life nor the Church's super-administrator. [But the latter erroneous concept appeared to have dominated the mindset of the cardinals in electing a new Pope, even if they did elect someone who was, first of all, a holy man, and not just for his presumed administrative abilities.]

Some historical practices that were also historically justified, with a 'sacralizing' effect on the figure of the Pope, went beyond the essence of the origins. But Benedict XVI's decision to detach himself voluntarily from the office, to consider that he was no longer adequate to its enormous responsibility in the current situation, does not undermine the Papacy in any way. [Obviously not. It was a decision applicable specifically to himself, not a rule he was establishing. Even if it has created a precedent, future Popes are not bound to follow it unless they decide to.]

Basically, it does not matter what kind of miter the Pope wears, whether he decides to revive the papal fanon or not, what kind of staff he chooses to use, or whether he uses thronelike chairs from previous Papacies or not. These are all visible signs of the sacredness, the uniqueness and the universality that characterize the Petrine ministry. [Signs which, Tornielli implies, need not be followed uniformly by every Pope, without detracting from the fundamental characteristics of his ministry.]

But with his renunciation, Benedict XVI demonstrated that he was not attached to the prerogatives nor even the 'sacredness' of being the reigning Pope. He retired as other bishops retire normally for reasons of age [Except in their case, an age limit is specified, 75, or if the Pope allows it, they can serve up to age 80 if they are in the Curia. It never made contemporary sense that a bishop can be considered too old to continue active ministry when he reaches 75, or 80, while a Pope - who is Bishop of Rome - is considered to be in office for life. However, the lifetime papal tenure is the result of centuries of tradition, whereas the age limit for bishops is a fairly recent provision in the latest version of the Code of Canon Law. Benedict XVI did what was considered unthinkable in the modern era, especially for someone who was always reviled as a 'traditionalis't = to break an unwritten rule that two of his immediate predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, had considered as an option but decided against. It must be noted, however, that the current Code of Canon Law does have an actual provision for the resignation of a Pope - the article that Benedict XVI cited in his renunciation - so, even as late as the 1980s, it was not unthinkable at all, and the canonists who revised the Code allowed specifically for the possibility of a papal resignation.]

In retiring as he did, Benedict XVI brought the figure of the Pope closer to that of other bishops, without in any way undermining the essence nor the prerogatives of the Petrine primacy.

There is, therefore, an evident continuity, a profound consonance, and a common vision that unites Papa Ratzinger, emeritus, and Papa Bergoglio, gloriously reigning.

It is the outlook of faith and the awareness that it is the Lord who leads the Church, not the Pope.

"The Church is not mine, she is not ours, she belongs to the Lord who will never allow her to sink. It is he who leads her..." Benedict XVI said in his last General Audience on February 27.

That is precisely what is demonstrated by the exceptional 'normality' of a Pope who resigns because of advanced age and who has decided to live 'hidden from the world' but 'in the vicinity of St. Peter' and of his successor.

I think too much has been made, and quite unnecessarily, of the 'continuuity-discontinuity' meme, because the only discontinuity that would matter is if a Pope, any Pope, deviated from the deposit of faith and the universal magisterium. Pope Francis, for all his unorthodox (some perhaps even questionable) external manifestations, has kept to the faith he is dutybound to uphold, preserve and defend.

And I am glad Mr. Tornielli has emerged long enough from his Francis-cocoon to provide a valid perspective on Benedict XVI's renunciation, even if his ulterior motive may have been to defend Pope Francis from accusations of discontinuity (which frankly, have been negligible and also almost absurd).

A second commentary from the Italian media today has a rather misleading title - it is most inconsiderate to Pope Francis and misrepresents the spirit of Benedict XVI's resignation - but is really a tribute to Benedict XVI and an appreciation of his Pontificate...

The era of 'two Popes' begins
by Antonio Sanfrancesco
Translated from

May 3, 2013

Benedict XVI is in the last phase of his earthly journey. He has returned to live within the walls of the Vatican, 'in the enclosure of Peter', to use his own words, when he said his last words as Pope at sunset on a Thursday in Lent on February 28.

He now resides in the Mater Ecclesiae convent which, since 1986, had been the 'praying heart; of the Vatican, where grain and chaff are inextricably mixed as they are in normal life.

"The specific purpose of this community," according to the statutes whereby John Paul II established Mater Ecclesiae, "is the ministry of prayer, of adoration, of praise, and of reparation, in order to be a continuing prayer in silence and solitude to support the Holy Father in his daily solicitude for the entire Church". [And now, that the sisters are gone, their place has been fittingly taken by a former Vicar of Christ who has taken on their service in his decision to dedicate the rest of his life to prayer and meditation for the good of the Church.]

He also begun an unprecedented coexistence of a former Pope with his successor, within this territory built on the blood of Peter and which is the beating heart of that Christianity which for centuries has irradiated the West with her culture and art, her charity and thought, with churches and universities, but which in the past few decades seems to have reached a low point.

Perhaps the two will be seeing each other often but discreetly, to speak to each other intimately and to pray together about the serious task of 'confirming in the faith' those who have been entrusted to the Successor of Peter. Francis through his active Pontificate, and Benedict through prayer. Certainly, precious balsam for believers, and not less useful to heal the wounds of a Church that has lost much of its grip on the hearts of men suffering from 'fatigue of faith'.

At an Easter Vigil during his Pontificate, Papa Ratzinger spoke of how much compassion Jesus must feel about the disorientation of con temporary man. Perhaps, Pope Francis may even finish Benedict's proposed encyclical on faith, which he undertook with the profound conviction that the crisis of the Church and of Christianity today is a crisis of faith and not of structures. [I will never understand the obsession for 'structural reforms' by both progressivist dissidents and Church hierarchs who ought to know better, while seeming to ignore the crisis of the faith itself. What are they reforming structures for, if the underlying foundation is shaky or no longer holds? The 'reform-minded' seem to have no interest at all in strengthening the faithful in the essentials of the faith, because they themselves appear to think the essentials do not matter at all, so concerned are they about 'structures'... Personally I am hoping that Pope Francis undertakes his own encyclical, especially since it will be his very first. ]

To those who were vocal that he should concern himself more with managing the Vatican bureaucracy, Benedict XVI showed by words and actions that his primary task was to announce the message of Christ to the world, to show everyone that the Christian faith has a rational basis which everyone can recognize, beyond personal adherence to God who made himself man in Jesus Christ.

As those around him were involved in internal rivalries and special interests, he set forth as a pilgrim to the various deserts that comprise the contemporary world.

He told his biographer Peter Seewald, "I think that God, since he saw fit to make this professor a Pope, wished to highlight the importance of this element of reflection and speaking out for the unity of faith and reason".

And now that the new Pope is the subject of enthralled sociological analyses. of endless comparisons with his predecessor, of numbers cited every so often to 'quantify' the following for the new Pope - as though faith could be reduced only to statistics - we can better appreciate the battle, often solitary, waged by this man of God who told the world that the faith is for many, and not necessarily for all, and that the Church has never drawn large crowds when she announces the Gospel but rather small committed groups because, as the famed Marxist Ernst Bloch said, "Jesus was a man whose coming turned the values of the world upside down". It is true in the historical present. His criteria are not those of the world.

On the other hand, isn't that the destiny of Christioans? To be yeast in the dough, small mustard eeeds from which the tree of the Church grows.

If natural law can be accepted as the common ground for a dialog to build a new civilization even with non-believers - a point which Benedict XVI has insisted upon, as he virtually took upon himself the role of defensor civitatis - it was also clear that while he decried the decline of Christianity in the West, it was not the decline of Christianity itself and faith in Christ which, in varying degrees, has always renewed itself in every era.

It is a view he had as early as 1969, when he wrote words that are of extraordinary actuality today: "From the crisis today will emerge a Church which will have lost much. She will become smaller and must, more or less, start all over. She may no longer occupy the edifices she built in more prosperous times. And with a lower membership, shje will also lose many of the social privileges she once had. She will start again from small groups, from movements and a minority that places the faith at the center of experience. She will be a more spiritual Church that will not claim any political mandate by flirting now with the left, and now with the right. She will be poor and will the Church of the indigent. And thus, men will see these small flocks of Christians as something totally new: They will discover Christianity as a hope for themselves, the response that they had always secretly sought." (Joseph Ratzinger, December 24, 1969: From the concluding lecture for a radio series on Hessian state broadcasting, republished in the book Faith and the Future, by Ignatius Press)

The sound of the helicopter bringing him back to the Vatican - an iconic scene not previously imagined by any writer or director, and which we first witnessed unforgettably on February 28 - will perhaps serve to remind the Church and the world of the treasure of teachings left to us by this Pontiff, which he sealed with his gesture of renunciation.

They echo the question Christ asked of his disciples reacting to the crowds who turned away because they could not accept what he was preaching, "Would you, too, wish to turn away and leave?"

Those who think that the 'popularity' of a Pope as gauged by the media necessarily translates into a ripple effect in terms of stronger faith or even of gaining new adherents (or regaining those who had fallen away) for the Church forget that, for all of John Paul II's celebrated charisma, his immense worldwide popularity and his greatly praised evangelical globe-trotting over 27 years, the Church continued losing membership in Europe to the dominant secular culture, and in places like Brazil (world's largest Catholic country) to the appeal of evangelical sects (though this trend had stabilized midway through Benedict's Pontificate).

Of course, the Church also added millions of new converts in Africa and Asia, not primarily because the Pope was popular but because of the tireless dedicated work of missionaries) - but these new Catholics too must be assiduously and continually re-evangelized.

In other words, enthusiastic crowds around the Pope, any Pope, are not an indicator of 'success' in the work of evangelization, traditional or new, nor in advancing the mission of the Church. Meaningful change in the Church will not be measured by adulatory crowds in St. Peter's Square.

To begin with, Popes attract crowds of the faithful not primarily because of who they are but because of who they represent - the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, while non-Catholics are drawn to see the Pope perhaps because they admire him as a person (though they may oppose his positions on social issues because his positions are necessarily Catholic) but also because of the celebrity factor.

In the case of Benedict XVI, his popularity with crowds also translated into a continuing demand and excellent sales for his books and writings (even his encyclicals and apostolic exhortations were best-sellers, which was unheard of before him), which means that those who bought these books were seeking out more of what he had to say. But reading him will not necessarily translate to living the message of Christ that he transmits.

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Few people, even in the Church, probably gave any thought to the 13th century Pope, St. Celestine V, until Benedict XVI visited his shrine in the Basilica of Collemaggio near L'Aquila, which had been among the churches severely damaged in the earthquake that hit the region in March 2009. But more people remembered St. Celestine after Benedict XVI announced he was renouncing the Pontificate last February 11. Celestine was the most prominent Pope who had ever resigned before then - moreover, the only one of them to have been canonized.

Pope St Celestine V remains will be returned to
his Basilica in Collemaggio on May 6

The glass urn containing the mortal remains of Pope Celestine V (St. Piero Celestino, ) will be returned to the Basilica of
Collemaggio near L'Aquila on May 6, from the Cathedral of Sulmona where it had temporarily stayed since July 4, 2009, when Benedict XVI visited Sulmona to mark the 800th anniversary of his medieval predecessor's birth.

At a news conference today in the Abbey of Sant'Equizio in Marucci, a city of the L'Aquila region, a diocesan commission named to effect a 'recognitio' (scientific study) of the Celestinian remains announced that the Pope's earlier funeral mask made of wax will be replaced with one in silver, after the study established his facial features. The study commission was based in Marucci.

It appears that the old wax mask bore the features of Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri who was the Bishop of L'Aquila from 1941 to 1950.

The Basilica of Collemaggiore where Celestine was crowned Pope in 1294. [Celestine - Piero de Morrone - was elected in absentia because of his reputation for holiness, to break a two-year Conclave deadlock. At that time he was an 85-year-old Benedictine hermit living in the mountains above Sulmona as a hermit, after having founded 50 years earlier a penitential order of monks who came to be known as the Celestines but who became a branch of the Benedictine order by papal decree in 1273. At the time he was elected Pope, Celestine had founded 65 monastery-hermitages. He was Pope only for five months but realized he was not suited to the politics and intrigue of the medieval papal court, which in his case, was under the thumb of King Charles of Naples, and resigned after issuing a decree enabling Popes to resign. But after returning to his hermit existence, he was captured and imprisoned by his successor Boniface VIII, who feared he might be set up as anti-Pope to him. He sought to escape but was recaptured, and died in prison several months later. He was canonized in 1313, 15 years after his death. It is interesting to read the reasons he gave for his resignation: "The desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his own physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, his longing for the tranquility of his former life."]

Shortly after Benedict XVI announced his renunciation last February, I posted this about the two Popes:

When Benedict XVI paid tribute - twice -
to Celestine V, the Pope of the 'great refusal'

Dante referred to Celestine V in the Divine Comedy as 'il Papa del gran rifiuto', referring to his abdication just five months after the Benedictine hermit was elected Pope in absentia at age 84 (or 79, depending on the date of birth used), arriving to a papal court rife with intrigue and with which he was ill-equipped to cope. He penned the decree about a Pope's resignation and five months later, acted on it. He was imprisoned by his successor and died two years later. Italian blogsites and media are now using the term 'il Papa del gran rifiuto' for Benedict XVI, many of them negatively.

I posted a biography of Celestine V on Page 116 of this Forum in July 2010
to mark the visit of Benedict XVI to Sulmona, which has jurisdiction over the site of Celestine's hermitage in the hill overlooking the city. It is worth revisiting the page for the visit itself, and Benedict's homily and remarks to the young people of Sulmona.

There are those who now wonder whether Benedict XVI was already signalling his thoughts about papal resignation (thoughts that he would articulate in July 2010 when he gave Peter Seewald the interview that became Light of the World) when, on April 28, 2009, on a visit to earthquake victims in the L'Aquila region, he visited the Basilica of Collemaggio which caved in but spared the glass coffin containing the remains of Celestine V. On that visit, Benedict XVI left the pallium with which he had been invested at his inaugural Mass as Pope on his predecessor's coffin.

He then declared August 2009-August 2010 as the Celestinian Jubilee Year to mark the 800th anniversary of the hermit Pope's birth.

And in July 2010, he visited Sulmona to mark that anniversary itself, with the pallium-draped coffin of Celestine sharing the altar on which Benedict XVI said Mass.

In his moving homily that day, he quoted from St. Paul - "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6,14) - saying the line was a perfect spiritual portrait of Celestine V.

Perhaps as well, the spiritual motto for Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI as he embarks on a new phase of his amazing and truly exceptional life. A Pope who is not just 'one in a century' but already, one for the ages. And God willing, ultimately, Doctor of the Church.
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Saturday, May 4, Fifth Week of Easter
Feast of BLESSED MICHAL GIEDROYC (Poland, d 1485)
Augustinian, Hermit
Very little information online (in a language I can read - and Polish is not one of them)
about one of the many sainted figures in Cracow's history: He was born a dwarf and could
only use one foot. He was a skilled metalworker who made liturgical vessels and Church ornaments.
As an Augustinian, he lived the life of a hermit in a cell beside his monastery. John Paul II
referred to him during one of his visits to Cracow, but even a well-illustrated English monograph
online about Cracow's saints and blesseds only tells us of the church where he is venerated
and has no image of the blessed one himself.
Readings for today's Mass:


Pope Francis met with

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (weekly meeting)

- Six more bishops from the Marche region of Italy on ad-limina visit.

In the evening, the Pope went to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to take formal possession of Rome's
fourth papal basilica and lead the Rosary to mark the Marian month of May. Meditation in Italian.
English translation on Vatican Radio:,_give_us_the_grace_to_be_signs_and_tools_of_life!_/en1-689194

One year ago...
Benedict XVI met with a group of bishops from southweatern USA on ad-limina visit and spoke to them about the role of Catholic education in the New Evangelization,

Pope to US bishops:
Catholic schools are essential
to the new evangelization

May 4, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday spoke about the importance of Catholic education when addressing a group of United States bishops in Rome on their ad limina visit.

Calling Catholic schools “an essential resource for the new evangelization,” the Holy Father urged that a Catholic education be within the reach of all families, whatever their financial status.

Turning his attention to higher education, Pope Benedict said colleges and universities “need to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel.”

He said this includes the obligation for theological faculties to receive the mandate from the local bishop laid down in the Code of Canon Law.

“The question of Catholic identity, not least at the university level, entails much more than the teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplaincy on campus,” Pope Benedict told the bishops.

“All too often, it seems, Catholic schools and colleges have failed to challenge students to reappropriate their faith as part of the exciting intellectual discoveries which mark the experience of higher education,” he continued.

“The fact that so many new students find themselves dissociated from the family, school and community support systems that previously facilitated the transmission of the faith should continually spur Catholic institutions of learning to create new and effective networks of support.”

Here is the full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s discourse to the US bishops:

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with affection in the Lord and I offer you my prayerful good wishes for a grace-filled pilgrimage ad limina Apostolorum.

In the course of our meetings I have been reflecting with you and your Brother Bishops on the intellectual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization in the context of contemporary American society. In the present talk, I wish to address the question of religious education and the faith formation of the next generation of Catholics in your country.

Before all else, I would acknowledge the great progress that has been made in recent years in improving catechesis, reviewing texts and bringing them into conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Important efforts are also being made to preserve the great patrimony of America’s Catholic elementary and high schools, which have been deeply affected by changing demographics and increased costs, while at the same time ensuring that the education they provide remains within the reach of all families, whatever their financial status.

As has often been mentioned in our meetings, these schools remain an essential resource for the new evangelization, and the significant contribution that they make to American society as a whole ought to be better appreciated and more generously supported.

On the level of higher education, many of you have pointed to a growing recognition on the part of Catholic colleges and universities of the need to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel.

Yet much remains to be done, especially in such basic areas as compliance with the mandate laid down in Canon 812 for those who teach theological disciplines.

The importance of this canonical norm as a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity in the Church’s educational apostolate becomes all the more evident when we consider the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership: such discord harms the Church’s witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom.

It is no exaggeration to say that providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country.

The deposit of faith is a priceless treasure which each generation must pass on to the next by winning hearts to Jesus Christ and shaping minds in the knowledge, understanding and love of his Church.

It is gratifying to realize that, in our day too, the Christian vision, presented in its breadth and integrity, proves immensely appealing to the imagination, idealism and aspirations of the young, who have a right to encounter the faith in all its beauty, its intellectual richness and its radical demands.

Here I would simply propose several points which I trust will prove helpful for your discernment in meeting this challenge.

First, as we know, the essential task of authentic education at every level is not simply that of passing on knowledge, essential as this is, but also of shaping hearts.

There is a constant need to balance intellectual rigor in communicating effectively, attractively and integrally, the richness of the Church’s faith with forming the young in the love of God, the praxis of the Christian moral and sacramental life and, not least, the cultivation of personal and liturgical prayer.

It follows that the question of Catholic identity, not least at the university level, entails much more than the teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplaincy on campus.

All too often, it seems, Catholic schools and colleges have failed to challenge students to re-appropriate their faith as part of the exciting intellectual discoveries which mark the experience of higher education.

The fact that so many new students find themselves dissociated from the family, school and community support systems that previously facilitated the transmission of the faith should continually spur Catholic institutions of learning to create new and effective networks of support.

In every aspect of their education, students need to be encouraged to articulate a vision of the harmony of faith and reason capable of guiding a life-long pursuit of knowledge and virtue.

As ever, an essential role in this process is played by teachers who inspire others by their evident love of Christ, their witness of sound devotion and their commitment to that sapientia Christiana (Christian wisdom) which integrates faith and life, intellectual passion and reverence for the splendor of truth both human and divine.

In effect, faith by its very nature demands a constant and all-embracing conversion to the fullness of truth revealed in Christ. He is the creative Logos, in whom all things were made and in whom all reality “holds together”
(Col 1:17); he is the new Adam who reveals the ultimate truth about man and the world in which we live.

In a period of great cultural change and societal displacement not unlike our own, Augustine pointed to this intrinsic connection between faith and the human intellectual enterprise by appealing to Plato, who held, he says, that “to love wisdom is to love God”

(cf. De Civitate Dei, VIII, 8).

The Christian commitment to learning, which gave birth to the medieval universities, was based upon this conviction that the one God, as the source of all truth and goodness, is likewise the source of the intellect’s passionate desire to know and the will’s yearning for fulfilment in love.

Only in this light can we appreciate the distinctive contribution of Catholic education, which engages in a “diakonia of truth” inspired by an intellectual charity which knows that leading others to the truth is ultimately an act of love
(cf. Address to Catholic Educators, Washington, 17 April 2008).

Faith’s recognition of the essential unity of all knowledge provides a bulwark against the alienation and fragmentation which occurs when the use of reason is detached from the pursuit of truth and virtue; in this sense, Catholic institutions have a specific role to play in helping to overcome the crisis of universities today.

Firmly grounded in this vision of the intrinsic interplay of faith, reason and the pursuit of human excellence, every Christian intellectual and all the Church's educational institutions must be convinced, and desirous of convincing others, that no aspect of reality remains alien to, or untouched by, the mystery of the redemption and the Risen Lord’s dominion over all creation.

During my Pastoral Visit to the United States, I spoke of the need for the Church in America to cultivate “a mindset, an intellectual culture which is genuinely Catholic”
(cf. Homily at Nationals Stadium, Washington, 17 April 2008).

Taking up this task certainly involves a renewal of apologetics and an emphasis on Catholic distinctiveness; ultimately however it must be aimed at proclaiming the liberating truth of Christ and stimulating greater dialogue and cooperation in building a society ever more solidly grounded in an authentic humanism inspired by the Gospel and faithful to the highest values of America=s civic and cultural heritage.

At the present moment of your nation’s history, this is the challenge and opportunity awaiting the entire Catholic community, and it is one which the Church’s educational institutions should be the first to acknowledge and embrace.

In concluding these brief reflections, I wish to express once more my gratitude, and that of the whole Church, for the generous commitment, often accompanied by personal sacrifice, shown by so many teachers and administrators who work in the vast network of Catholic schools in your country.

To you, dear Brothers, and to all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, joy and peace in the Risen Lord.

US bishops reflect on their role
in the new evangelization

By Cindy Wooden

ROME, May 4, 2012 (CNS) -- Celebrating Mass in Pope Benedict XVI's cathedral, Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran, a group of U.S. bishops prayed for the Pope and reflected on what they need to do to respond to his call for a new evangelization.

Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs was the homilist and principal celebrant of an evening Mass May 3 during the "ad limina" visit of bishops from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming.

On the eve of the bishops' meeting with Pope Benedict, Bishop Sheridan led his fellow bishops in a reflection on the Pope's insistence that strengthening the faith of Catholics, reviving the faith of those who have fallen away and sharing the Gospel with others means they must preach that Jesus is the son of God and continues to live in the Church and the Eucharist.

The bishop said Pope Benedict has noted how "Jesus is often reduced to the status of a wise man and his divinity is diminished, if not denied outright." That type of attitude ignores the radical novelty of Christianity and its message that God entered human history to save humanity, he said.

The Pope "warned us of preaching a Jesus who was not alive in our midst, from entering into some sort of nostalgia in which we lift up Jesus the wise man who lived long ago, but doesn't seem to have any reality now, and it's only his memory that we exalt," the bishop said.

"Our proclamation must be the proclamation of the living Jesus; the one who died -- yes -- for our sins, but who was raised, who lives now never to die again, who is in our midst," he said.

"Let's pray today that the Lord will fire us up with his Holy Spirit so that we may join in this new evangelization in the most effective way," Bishop Sheridan said.

The bishops' visits are formally described as "ad limina apostolorum," which means "to the thresholds of the apostles" Peter and Paul, who were martyred in Rome. As well as concelebrating Masses at Rome's four major basilicas, the bishops meet with Pope Benedict to report on the state of their dioceses, and with Vatican officials to discuss issues of common concern.

Sorry for starting very late today...
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May 5, Sixth Sunday of Easter

ST. HILAIRE D'ARLES [France, 403-449), Bishop and Confessor
Not to be confused with the more famous Hilaire of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church,
this Hilaire followed the example of a relative who became a monk and then bishop
of Arles. He himself became bishop at age 29 and was an exemplary one in most
respects - he did manual labor to help the poor, sold Church vessels to ransom
Christian captives, became a 'magnificent' orator. But having episcopal primacy
over southern Gaul, he made arbitrary decisions about the bishops under him that
he forced Pope Leo the Great to intervene, stripping him of the power to consecrate
bishops and to call synods.
Readings for today's Mass:


Mass for Confraternities - Pope Francis celebrated Mass today in St. Peter's Square on this Sunday designated
as the Day for Confraternities and Popular Piety during the current Year of Faith. He cited Benedict XVI's
previous exhortation to confraternities all over the world never to lose sight of the evangelical spirit and
the ecclesial spirit in their activities, and added a third element, the missionary spirit.
The Vatican's English translation of the homily may be found on
After the Mass, the Pope led the Regina caeli prayers. In remarks before the prayers, he had several messages:
First, to remind the faithful of Mary as our mother and model in the pilgrimage of faith. He greeted the Eastern
Churches following the Julian calendar for the celebration of Easter today. He cited the beatification yesterday
in Brazil of Francisca Paula de Jesus, fondly known to Brazilians as 'Nha Chica' and called 'mother of the poor'.
He greeted all the confraternities who came from around the world to mark the Year of Faith with a pilgrimage
to the tomb of St. Peter. And he praised the Italian association Meter on the Day to Remember Child Victims
of Violence, for their continuing work in advocating the defense and protection of children and minors from
all kinds of violence.
Vatican Radio's Engiish translation of the remarks may be found on

On November 10, 2007, Benedict XVI addressed the diocesan fraternities and confraternities of Italy at a special audience in St. Peter's Square. Here is a translation of his address to them:

I am happy to welcome you and to greet all of you who represent the vast and variegated world of the confraternities present in every region and diocese of Italy...

You, dear friends, have assembled in St. Peter's Square in your typical habits which recall ancient traditions that are well rooted in the People of God.

Thank you for your visit which is a choral manifestation of faith, and at the same time, a gesture of filial attachment to the Successor of Peter.

How can we not recall right now the importance and influence that the confraternities have exercised in the Christian communities of Italy from the first centuries of the second millennium? Many of these, inspired by zealous persons, soon became aggregations of lay faithful dedicated to bringing to light some aspects of popular religiosity linked to the life of Jesus Christ, particularly his Passion, Death and Resurrection, and to popular devotion to the Virgin Mary and the saints, almost always united with concrete works of Mercy and solidarity.

Thus, from the very beginning, your confraternities have been distinguished by their typical forms of popular piety, joined with so many charitable initiatives towards the poor, the sick and the suffering, involving in this race for generous assistance numerous volunteers from every social stratum.

This spirit of brotherly charity can be better understood if one considers that such initiatives began to arise during the Middle Ages, when there were yet no structured forms of public assistance which could guarantee social and health care interventions for the weakest members of the community.

This situation lasted for centuries until our day when, even with the growth of economic wellbeing, pockets of poverty have not disappeared, and therefore, now as in the past, there is still much to do in the field of brotherly assistance.

But the confraternities are not simply mutual aid societies or philanthropic associations, rather, a union of brothers who, wanting to live the Gospel as living parts of the Church, propose to put into practice the commandment of love, to open their hearts to others, especially to those who are in difficulty.

Evangelical love - love for God and for our brothers - is the distinctive sign and the program of life for every disciple of Christ as of every ecclesiastical community. In Sacred Scripture it is clear that love of God is closely linked to love for our neighbor (cf Mt 12,29-31).

"Charity," I wrote in the encyclical Deus caritas est - is not for the Church a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being (n. 25)."

To communicate to our brothers the provident kindness of the heavenly Father, however, it is necessary to draw from the spring, which is God himself, through intervals of prayer, constantly listening to his Word, and to an existence all centered in the Lord and nourished by the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

In the season of great changes which we are going through, the Church in Italy needs you, dear friends, in order to let the Gospel of love reach everyone, through old and new ways. Rooted in the solid foundation of faith in Christ, may your meritorious fraternities, with that singular multiplicity of charisms and the ecclesiastical vitality which distinguishes them, continue to spread the message of salvation among the people, operating on the multiple frontiers of the new evangelization.

You can bring this important mission to fulfillment if you cultivate always a docile obedience to your pastors. In these conditions, keeping firm the requisites of 'evangelicity' and 'eccclesiality', your confraternities can continue to be popular schools of lived faith and a forge of saintliness. They can continue to be a 'ferment' in society and evangelical 'yeast', contributing to inspire the spiritual reawakening which we all hope for.

The field is vast where you must work, dear friends, and I encourage you to multiply the initiatives and activities of each of your fraternities. I ask you above all to take care of your spiritual formation and to strive for saintliness, following the examples of authentic Christian perfection, which are not lacking in the story of your fraternities.

Not a few of your brothers, with courage and great faith, distinguished themselves, in the course of centuries, as sincere and generous workers of the Gospel, sometimes even up to the sacrifice of their life. Follow in their footsteps!

Today it is even more necessary to cultivate a true ascetic and missionary impulse to face the many challenges of the modern age. May the Blessed Virgin protect and guide you, and may your holy patrons help you from heaven.

With these sentiments, I wish for all of you present here and for every confraternity in Italy a fecund apostolate, and as I assure you of remembrance in my prayers, I bless you all with affection.

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Boston's archbishop, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, earned a lot of flak recently from the Catholic media for words he said at the interfaith service held recently for the victims of the Boston marathon bombing, reiterating the increasingly meaningless bromide that the terrorist act by two young Chechen residents of Boston was a 'perversion of their religion'. This post shows opinions and citations that seek to refute that view.

Perhaps, however, 'ambivalence' is the better term than 'ambiguity'. As the articles point out, there are two interpretations possible of the Quran's message - one stressing tolerance, the other advocating violence outright in the name of Islam. There is nothing ambiguous about this either-or, nor about the fact that the Muslim governments of the world today obviously favor the evil interpretation, and that, in this sense, Islam today is predominantly monovalent and monomaniacal about this.

The ambiguity of Islam
by Carl Olson

May 5, 2013

Two recent pieces by William Kilpatrick, "Christianity and Islam: Cooperation or Conflict?" (Apr. 21) and "Of Bishops and Bombers" (Apr. 29), have generated a lot of discussion on the Catholic Wrold Report site.

Some of the comments and premises behind them jump out at me, especially those that talk about "true Islam" being this or that, believing this or that, and being capable (or incapable) of doing this or that. Such remarks bring to mind an important book published by Ignatius Press a few years ago, 111 Questions on Islam (2008), which is a lengthy interview with Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, SJ, the Egyptian scholar of Islam who teaches in Beirut and at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.

In a section headed, "Can Islam Change?", Fr. Samir discusses the problem of authority in Islam, especially the authority to make final, binding interpretations of various suras, especially those that advocate violence toward and subjection of Christians and Jews. Fr. Samir writes:

I speak about the violence expressed in the Qur'an and practiced in Muhammad's life in order to address the idea, widespread in the West, that the violence we see today is a deformation of Islam. We must honestly admit that there are two readings of the Qur'an and the sunna (Islamic traditions connected to Muhammad): one that opts for the verses that encourage tolerance toward other believers, and one that prefers the verses that encourage conflict. Both readings are legitimate...

Today the problem is that, whatever their position, Muslims will not admit that some verses of the Qur'an no longer have relevance for present situations. Therefore, the 'ulima' (qur'anic doctors of the law) are obliged to say that they do not agree with those who choose to adopt the Verse of the Sword as normative, even if they cannot condemn them.

Consequently, in the Qur'an there are two different choices, the aggressive and the peaceful, and both of them are acceptable. There is a need for an authority, unanimously acknowledged by Muslims, that could say: From now on, only this verse is valid. But this does not—and probably will never—happen.

What are the consquences of this serious problem?
This means that when some fanatics kill children, women, and men in the name of pure and authentic Islam, or in the name of the Qur’an or of the Muslim tradition, nobody can tell them: ‘You are not true and authentic Muslims.’ All they can say is: ‘Your reading of Islam is not ours.’

And this is the ambiguity of Islam, from its beginning to our present day: violence is a part of it, although it is also possible to choose tolerance; tolerance is a part of it, but it is also possible to choose violence. (p. 72).

This helps make sense of the fact that very few Muslims or Muslim groups renounce acts of violence committed by those who identify themself as Muslim and as carrying out jihad.

Regarding jihad, Fr. Samir points out that "All the Islamist groups who adopt the word jihad into their organization do not intend it to be understood in its mystical meaning but rather with its violence connotation. ... The term jihad indicates the Muslim war in the name of God to defend Islam" (p. 62).

He also notes that historically, three different ways, or tendencies, have developed within Islam as it seeks worldwide conversion of all people. The most extreme is that which uses military action and violence.

The second is the "mystical-spiritual" approach, which "has as its goal the Muslim return to the lost authentiicty of Islam and the propogation of the message of Qur'an among non-Muslim populations."

The third approach is "socio-political" in nature, and it involves migration and political strategies with a long-term approach to domination, which "is considered an inevitable movement of history" (pp. 139-40).

In 2010, in an interview with National Catholic Register, Fr. Samir again referred to the "ambiguity" inherent to Islam today:

Some would argue that the 9/11 bombers were not real Muslims, but fundamentalist ideologues and terrorists?
Yes but this is the wrong position because radical Muslims are true Muslims. I’m not saying that the true Islam is bin Laden, this is not my opinion. But I would contend that bin Laden is a true Muslim – a true Muslim. Pastor Terry Jones [the evangelical pastor who has threatened to burn the Koran] cannot say he’s truly representing Christianity because you cannot find anything in the Gospel that says that. But all the positions of radical Muslims you’ll find in the Koran and in the tradition. You’ll find other positions, but this is one, and one that is very strongly presented in the Koran and in the Sunnah.

Nine-eleven was a Muslim action even if for apologetic reasons, it’s said that this was a terrorist action and terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, that Islam means peace and so on.

Fr. James Schall, SJ, published this lengthy review of Fr. Samir's book in Homiletic & Pastoral Review in November 2009:

The ambiguity of Islam
A book review
by Fr. James V. Schall SJ

November 1, 2009

“When some fanatics kill children, women, and men in the name of pure and authentic Islam, or in the name of the Qur’an or of the Muslim tradition, nobody can tell them: ‘You are not true and authentic Muslims.’ All they can say is: ‘Your reading of Islam is not ours.’ And this is the ambiguity of Islam, from its beginning to our present day: violence is a part of it, although it is also possible to choose tolerance; tolerance is a part of it, but it is also possible to choose violence.”
—Samir Khalil Samir, S.J., 111 Questions on Islam

“Real problems were raised by the Christian encounter with Islam as a socio-political system, which followed the politicization of religion. Since then there has been a tendency in the Muslim tradition of imposing its domination. This tendency derives from the Muslim conviction that they have a monopoly on the truth and that the Qur’an is the perfect and ultimate revelation.”
—Samir, 111 Questions on Islam

Many books on the meaning and apparently sudden rise of Islam have been published since September 11, 2001. For overall insight, it is still difficult to surpass Belloc’s chapter on “The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed” in his 1938 book Great Heresies.

But books such as Laurent Murawiec’s The Mind of Jihad, Reza Aslan’s No god but God, Roger Scruton’s The West and the Rest, Tawfik Hamid’s Inside Jihad, Matthias Küntzel’s Jihad and Jew-Hatred, and Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia are just a few.

Several books on this pressing topic are especially of interest to Catholics: Jacques Jomier’s The Bible and the Qur’an, Daniel Ali and Robert Spencer’s Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics: 100 Questions and Answers, Thomas Madden’s New Concise History of the Crusades, and, most recently, Samir Khalil Samir, S.J.’s 111 Questions on Islam, a book originally written in Italian. My own essay on Benedict XVI's Regensburg Lecture is also pertinent here.

It is the Samir book about which I wish to comment. Father Samir is an Egyptian Jesuit, an advisor in the Holy See, with roots in Cairo, Beirut and Rome. An essay of his in the Asia News (April 2006) is entitled “When Civilizations Meet: How Joseph Ratzinger Sees Islam.” In it, Samir writes:

Benedict XVI has stated more exactly the vision of John Paul II. For the previous Pope, dialogue with Islam needed to be open to collaboration on everything, even in prayer.

Benedict is aiming at more essential points: theology is not what counts, at least not in this stage of history; what counts is the fact that Islam is the religion that is developing more and is becoming more and more a danger for the West and the world.

The danger is not Islam in general, but in a certain vision of Islam that does never openly renounce violence and generates terrorism, fanaticism.

On the other hand, he does not want to reduce Islam to a social-political phenomenon. The Pope has profoundly understood the ambiguity of Islam, which is both one and the other, which at times plays on one or the other front.”

Samir’s comments on Islam are often the best around.

Samir calls himself “culturally” an Arab, but religiously or theologically a Christian. Samir is learned in the language, literature, folkways and philosophy of Islam. The book contains a glossary of Arabic terms and its own useful bibliography.

This book is a must-read for anyone who sees the need to understand what Islam is about, something to be avoided only at the price of political and theological blindness.

What Islam is about is no longer a kind of romantic reflection on a stagnant culture. Today it is a very aggressive religion whose reaches affect not only who lives next door to you, but the price of gas, the ownership of banks, the need for and size of armies, and the accurate understanding of one’s own faith.

This book is written by a man who is both sympathetic toward and critical of Islam. Samir knows its philosophical and theological backgrounds, as well as its history from its appearance in the seventh century on the Arabian peninsula. The book’s presentation is frank, pulls no punches, but never speaks without accurate knowledge and clear conviction.

The question-and-answer format of the book works well. The questions cover most of the basic issues, from suicide bombing to the status of women to the Muslim understanding of Christianity. Yet, I found the book rather frightening in its honest and direct presentation of what Islam does, holds, and seeks, of what it does when it conquers, and of the intensity of its beliefs, which in so many ways are so ill-founded. Basically, if it could, Islam would convert the world, one way or another, by peace or by war, as precisely the “will” of Allah. It really has little place for anything else, except when Islam cannot prevent its presence.

We really have no idea what we are up against unless we take a careful look at what is held theologically and what has happened historically in the Muslim world and its understanding of the world outside itself, which it calls the sphere of war.

The voluntarism of Islamic thought enables it, apparently, to justify means of advancement that are by any reasonable or democratic standard immoral. Indeed, as Benedict noted in his Regensburg Lecture, this voluntarism and its invalidity stands at the intellectual root of Islam’s self-understanding.

Many western writers on Islam today, especially in explaining its violence, want to interpret this violence as somehow an aspect of Western ideology, as if there were no roots of it in the sources of Islamic revelation itself. It is true that a number of modern Muslim thinkers were influenced by Lenin, Marx, or other revolutionary thinkers. There is a modern component. But there was violence in Islam’s expansion from its beginning.

Islam aggressively conquered large areas of the world, often ones ruled by unprepared Christians. Its methods of rule by tribute, second-class citizenship to the conquered, and isolation of subject groups are grim to contemplate. Much revolutionary Muslim theory and practice would want to rid Muslim lands of all foreigners who do not accept the Qur’an and its law.

To a large extent, this exodus of non-Muslims from Muslim-controlled lands is happening. The Holy See has often sought to stem this tide, but one can hardly blame Christians and others from leaving such hostile environments while there is still time and still someplace to escape to.

The solution to the “problem” of Islamic violence, according to these same contemporary thinkers, is to “westernize” or “modernize” it. That is, make it something other than it conceives itself to be. While there may be some of this secularizing that is feasible —to “democratize” Islam — the drift is now decidedly in the other direction after the independence of Muslim states after both wars. Muslim states are under pressure of their own religious enthusiasm to reject overtures to modernity as contrary to Islam.

The advantage of Samir’s book is that he sticks to Muslim history and practice. He gives the most sympathetic interpretation of Islam that is possible based on the evidence. But this is a man with no illusions. He is not without some hope, but still, no illusions.

He understands that many Muslims do not look at the West as a haven of good living, but as a morally corrupt, decadent society. Hence, to them, the notion of western superiority is absurd. We do not judge Islam by its standards, and it does not judge us by our standards. Islam does not have a tradition of natural law in the ordinary sense that would signify a rationale all men could accept apart from their religion.

Most people today in the West are covert multi-culturalists. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and the rest of the “religions” believe in the “same” God by different expressions. This is fine until we dig a little deeper.

We soon run into Chesterton’s remark that most religions are alike in their rites and external garb, but they differ in what they believe God to be. Here, in fact, they differ vastly. We are used to hearing that we all believe in the same God, but investigation makes this view tenuous.

The French scholar Sylvain Gouguenheim, in pointing out that Aquinas did not get his knowledge of Aristotle solely from Arab texts, says this of the Muslim understanding of Allah:

To proclaim that Christians and Muslims have the same God, and to hold to that, believing thereby that one has brought the debate to its term, denotes only a superficial approach.

Their Gods do not partake in the same discourse, do not put forward the same values, do not propose for humanity the same destiny and do not concern themselves with the same manner of political and legal organization in human society.

The comparative reading the Gospel and the Koran by itself demonstrates that the two universes are unalike. From Christ, who refuses to punish the adulterous woman by stoning, one turns to see Mohammed ordaining, in the same circumstances, the putting to death of the unfaithful woman. One cannot follow Jesus and Mohammed. (Brussels Journal, 01-05-2009)

Samir follows the tenuousness of the thesis that the God Allah and the God of Christ are the same God. The Qur’an specifically denies the two basic elements of the Christian notion of God. Both the Jew and the Muslim agree in rejecting the God who is Trinity and one of whose Persons became man.

For those not prepared to accept its bluntness, the most surprising thing is what the Qur’an says about Christianity. Samir is very good here. He is careful to point out that the Church has never said that Mohammed himself was a “prophet.” Moreover, for the Muslim, Christ is not the Son of God, but a “prophet,” important but by no means superior to Mohammed, whose status as the last prophet enables him to explain Christianity’s unique doctrines simply as heresies or errors.

Both the Trinity and the Incarnation are “scandals” to the Muslim mind. Originally, it is held, everyone was Muslim. The whole of Genesis is rewritten, including the sacrifice of Isaac. Everyone is “naturally” Muslim. The “natural law” of human beings is not some rational understanding after the manner of Aristotle but the Law of the Qur’an. This law, for the true Muslim believer, should eventually replace all existing laws in modern states.

Samir explains just why a Muslim rejects the Trinity. The Muslim thinks the doctrine means the existence of three gods, an error that did not begin with Mohammed. The notion of three Persons in one God seems too subtle. The Muslim rejects the Incarnation because there can be only one God. God cannot “generate,” contrary to the Christian Scriptures and their understanding of generation within the Godhead. Muslim monotheism is absolute. No room is left for a Word made flesh, let alone a Son and Spirit within the Godhead.

The attraction of Islam, it is often said, is its relative simplicity. All that is required is to follow the five obligations: faith in Allah and his prophet, praying five times a day, almsgiving, fasting, and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

[One must note, however, that whereas Muslims in general appear to be outwardly conscientious of fulfilling their 'five obligations', Christians - most especially modern Catholics in the West - are not, and behave as if they have a right to choose which of their religious obligations they wish to fulfill, the very definition of 'cafeteria Catholicism' which has so greatly undermined the faith since the 1960s.]

By comparison, Christianity demands a philosophical thought that does not simply reject the Trinity as three gods or the Incarnation as a degradation of god into matter. Simplicity of practice is not a virtue when it comes to the proper understanding of revelation.

One of the most useful things that Samir does in this book is to explain how the Muslim will understand us. He will see signs of weakness in what we call simple good will or cooperation.

We see the suicide bomber as a kind of blind madness or fanaticism. Samir explains how Muslim theologians have worked around suicide bombing so as to justify it. The suicide bomber even becomes a “martyr.” In this case, suicide bombing becomes a kind of personal sacrifice, even though many others are killed and suicide was generally condemned in Muslim tradition.

Samir is aware that many Muslims just want to live in peace. But others have a much more aggressive concept of what Islam is about. They think that everyone should be Muslim. A Muslim who converts to another religion or philosophy can be subject to death. Muslim countries will vary in how this penalty is carried out, but it is a factor that is not simply imaginary.

The people of the world, to worship Allah properly, should all be subject to the one Law, which should be enforced by what we call the state. Samir recounts that in Islam there is no real distinction between state, religion, and custom. There is absoluteness in this worship that allows no one to be outside.

Jews and Christians, as a sort of compromise, are given a certain second-class status in Muslim countries, provided they pay a tax and do not seek to convert Muslims. Those who are not Jews or Christians technically can be killed. It is difficult to believe that such rules or traditions exist, but they do. And they are not seen as in any way wrong. They are part of a pious effort to subject all things to Allah.

In short, the “111 questions” of the title of this very incisive book are designed to ask every question one may have had since Islam forced itself before our daily attention.

Again, Father Samir is both a hard-headed and sympathetic critic of Islam in all its phases. The book has much force to it precisely because it is written by someone who has been in immediate contact with Islam all his life. He has studied the texts and the history. But he also knows both Christianity and what we call the modern state. The book is often as hard-hitting about the West as it is about Islam.

When one has finished this book, he sees the Muslim with clearer eyes. The whole history of Muslim philosophy is a valiant attempt to make sense of the Qur’an and its practices. It does not think that anything is lacking in the Qur’an, which is said to be divinely transcribed. Efforts to examine the literary and historical sources of this text are much too rare and indeed can be dangerous.

The notion of a modern, progressive, technological society is not particularly in the forefront of the pious Muslim’s mind. The irony, of course, is that it is precisely this modern technology and its relation to oil that has supplied the Muslim world with the cash to become much more aggressive.

Samir’s discussion of why the mosque is not a church and of why the Saudis are involved in spending their oil riches, not to help the poor, but to build mosques all over the world, while at the same time forbidding the presence of Christian churches in Islamic lands, is most sobering.

Considerably more people are converted to Islam each day than are converted from Islam. The great political fact of our time is the increasing presence of Muslims in what were once western lands that managed in previous eras—at Tours and Vienna—to prevent Islam from taking over Europe at a much earlier date.

Over a fifth of the world’s population is Muslim. In many ways, most of the military hot spots in the world today have something to do with Islam. Its nature and presence cannot be ignored.

How does one think of this? Samir’s presentation of Benedict’s view is quite to the point. It is practically impossible to have a theological discussion with Islam. In the first place, there is no Muslim pope. There are many centers and sources of the interpretation of its law. Not all agree with each other on basic points.

Benedict seeks to find a minimum basis of conversation, not so much of high theology, but of ordinary decency. There must be an explicit rejection of the use of violence as an act that has religious sanction.
[But given the Muslim theological justification of suicide bombing, such a rejection is not to be realistically expected from anyone but the few courageous 'moderate' Muslims who are genuinely repulsed by the use of violence under any circumstances.]

This incisive book deserves widespread reading. It is clear, sensible and well-informed. It represents what the service of intelligence to the faith really means. It follows Aquinas’ dictum that we must understand a position urged against the truth. Only in understanding this can we estimate what we are up against and begin to think of how to confront it.

Father Samir’s 111 Questions will do more than start us thinking about these issues. It will lay out the whole scope of what the “ambiguity of Islam” means.

06/05/2013 02.35
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Utente Master

Here is one example of a well-intentioned article which, however, is inaccurate, in that it extrapolates gratuitously from what Pope Francis actually wrote to the bishops of Argentina for the sake, one presumes, of an eye-catching headline.

It reports on something that is never even mentioned in the letter, about a subject on which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was very specific in the letter he wrote in 2002 to then Archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, that prominent persons who have openly advocated support of abortion should be denied communion. The Vatican does not provide a translation of Pope Francis's letter written in Spanish and dated March 23, 2013, which can be found here
But even persons who do not understand Spanish will readily see there is no reference whatsoever to 'pro-abortion Catholics', nor does the letter even mention the word abortion. What it does contain is a general reference in the second paragraph of the letter, where the Pope expressed the wish that "the work of the [Plenary] Assembly [or Argentine bishops] use the Document of Aparecida and Navega mar adentro as reference points... that have all the orientations that we need at this moment in history". The Document of Aparecida is the declaration issued by the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean who met in Aparecida, Brazil, in May 2007, which was drafted by a committee led by then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, and approved by Benedict XVI who closed the conference. Navega mar adentro (Put out to sea) is a 28-page statement issued by the Bishops of Argentina in 2003 spelling out guidelines for the New Evangelization proposed by John Paul II.
The report below does look at the Aparecida document to pick out the appropriate citation.

Pope Francis urges bishops
to deny Communion to
pro-abortion Catholics

by Dr. Susan Berry
May 4, 2013

Pope Francis has directed the bishops of Argentina, his home country, to govern the Church there following a document that makes clear that holy communion should be disallowed for any person who facilitates abortion, including politicians.

“These are the guidelines we need for this time in history,” the Pope wrote to the bishops.

According to LifeSiteNews, Pope Francis emphasized use of the Aparecida Document as a framework in a letter to the Argentine Assembly of Bishops sent in late March. In 2007, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio--now Pope Francis--first presented the document on behalf of the bishops of Latin America.

Cardinal Bergoglio was highly critical of those who promoted the “death sentence” of abortion for unborn children in Argentina. His criticism peaked following a clandestine abortion performed on a mentally disabled woman with the assistance of the nation’s health minister.

In October of 2007, the Latin American bishops presented the final version of the Aparecida Document, which was then approved by Pope Benedict. The text of the document’s paragraph 436 states:

We should commit ourselves to “eucharistic coherence”, that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals.

[Compare the passive general language of this provision with the explicit, proactive and specific language used by Cardinal Ratzinger in his 2002 letter to US bishops, reproduced below.]

Pope Francis’s drive to have the Church practice and share its faith openly is the main premise of the New Evangelization. {It is not just that of Pope Francis but of the two Popes before him who launched the New Evangelization.]

In his letter to the bishops of Argentina, the Pope wrote that if Catholics do not proclaim Jesus with their lives, then the Church becomes “not the mother, but the babysitter.”

Early Christians, the Pope emphasized, had nothing but “the power of baptism,” which “gave them apostolic courage, the strength of the Spirit.”

Pope Francis posed the question, however: Do Christians today really believe in the power of their baptism? “Is it sufficient for evangelization? Or do we rather ‘hope’ that the priest should speak, that the bishop might speak?” he asked.

The Pope urged believers to be “faithful to the Spirit, to proclaim Jesus with our lives, through our witness and our words.”

The following is the English translation posted by Sandro Magister in 2002 of a memorandum sent by the then Prefect of the Congregation for the confidentally circulated among U. S. bishops before the US congressional elections in 2002.

Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion
General Principles

by Joseph Ratzinger

1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgement regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?”

The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” nos. 81, 83).

2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorise or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a “grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. [...] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propoganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it’” (no. 73).

Christians have a “grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. [...] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it” (no. 74).

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.

While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment.

There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

4. Apart from an individuals’s judgement about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).

5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

6. When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4).

This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

[N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia.

When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.]

Unfortunately, of course, many US bishops have chosen to ignore these guidelines and continue to openly give Communion to pro-abortion politicians, most especially to prominent Catholic Democrats such as Vice President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, in turn, apparently do not think they are sinning at all in their open advocacy and defense of abortion as a human right! - the right to klll unwanted babies in the womb (or even outside the womb, such as babies who somehow survive late-term abortions but are then left to die or submerged alive in formalin to make sure they die). This notion of a 'right to kill' has, of course, extended to the idea of euthanasia, killing people who are terminally ill anyway and will never be cured, with the corollary use of pre-implantation or pre-natal genetic tests to get rid of embryos or babies known to carry a disease gene. Where will the liberal notion of 'right to kill' end?

Of course, they don't call it 'right to kill' - they use the euphemism 'pro-choice', meaning the choice to kill other human beings merely for personal convenience! How can Catholics who advocate this right to kill even think of receiving Communion? That's not going to absolve them at all, because they are compounding the blasphemy by not recognizing mortal sin when they are committing it all the time, so it is not even something they are likely to confess.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 07/05/2013 21.11]
06/05/2013 08.58
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One welcomes this commentary by former priest Gianni Gennari, who sought and got laicization in the 1980s, with the help of then Cardinal Ratzinger, in order to marry. Gennari, a theologian, transitioned to a career as journalist and for decades now, has written for Avvenire, where he has a daily column. It is ironic that he wrote this for Vatican Insider, where veteran Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli himself has persisted in the obvious anomaly of referring to 'two Popes' when there can only be one Pope at a time....

About the supposed problem
with having 'two Popes'

There is no problem except that created by some in the media

by Gianni Gennari
Translated from the Italian service of

May 5, 2013

This intervention is intended to safeguard the category of newsmen who write about the Vatican, and Vatican Insider seems to me to be the most appropriate place to do it.

It often happens that in writing about religion, many of us do not even have the minimal competence. Even in the most prestigious media outlets. For example, one recently read in L'Espresso [Italy's largest weekly newsmagazine] that "Papa Bergoglio serves Mass every day"? Now whoever wrote this obviously does not know the difference between a Mass server (usually an altar boy) and a Mass celebrant (a priest, a bishop or the Pope). [And what was his editor doing? Sleeping at the job? Actually, I have been railing for years against AP, for instance, which habitually captions any photo of the Pope making a blessing as "the Pope blesses the faithful at a Mass..." usually during a General Audience, or, alternatively, will caption a photo "The Pope performed Mass..." ('Performed'? They never read anywhere that a Mass is 'said' or 'celebrated' or 'offered', not 'performed') - whether it is, in fact, a Mass, or other liturgy such as Vespers or Adoration, Mass seems to be the only Catholic service they have heard of. As it has become habitual for them, one concludes that they - neither the reporters nor their editors - do not know any better, and they don't care to know any better.

As for editors, it appears contemporary editors have no other function but to determine whether a report or commentary is in line with their particular media outlet's ideology or political position, and have completely dropped the essential functions of an editor to check each item for factual accuracy, for objectivity and fairness, for appropriate tone and language, and for grammar and vocabulary. This is totally unacceptable, but it has become the general practice, and so, anyone who calls himself a journalist has carte blanche to write what he wants and how he wants it without being accountable to anyone - everyone might as well be blogging, so self-indulgent are most news reports these days. At least, the more reputable bloggers seek to be well-informed.]

Then one also gets to read that Pope Francis is "the first non-European Pope in history". Really? Was St. Peter European? Pope St. Anicetus came from Syria, as did John V, Sergius I, Constantine and Sisinius. Pope St. Victor I, Pope St. Melchiades, and Pope St. Gelasius I were African...

But even this is not so serious, in my opinion, because there are even worse things. For some time now, prominent journalists who usually write about other topics, have also been writing about the Church, the Vatican, Popes and cardinals, conclaves and congregations, the Roman Curia, etc., as if they were experts opr specialists. Obviously, they are free to do so.

But what about their readers [especially those who do not know any better, and who still consider what they read in their newspaper or see on TV news as gospel truth]? Some may find the statements not just questionable, but weird or merely speculative, sensationalistic or even downright freaky.

Today (Sunday), with Corriere della Sera leading the charge, there was a commentary by Massimo Franco [whose entire career has been as a political journalist], who recently published a book whose principal thesis was expressed in its very title C'era una volta un Vaticano (There once was a Vatican) - meaning there isn't now?

Of course, the Vatican has not vanished [otherwise, what would Franco write about, now that he seems to find Church politics more interesting than secular politics, to the point of writing a book about it - in which, of course, he passes everything about the Church and the Vatican through his prism of secular politics] But the elements of fatal and irreversible 'crisis' heralded on each page of the book seem to have drastically diminished [in the perception of its 'seriousness' and the extent of 'concern' over this so-called 'crisis'] in the past six weeks! Just read the media reporting around the world or watch the TV news!

There is still a Vatican, which is as it has always been, while different from year to year, at least since the reality of the Papacy has been focused there.

Whoever is old enough to recall the transition from Pius XII to John XXIII may remember great changes in terms of 'continuity. And now? With all due respect for Franco's book, one must smile at the singular hypotheses that underlie it and which now seem to have disappeared overnight.

But the book was not enough, because today, Franco piles on something new: "The Vatican and the difficult management of an anomaly" is the headline, with the subtitle "Snapshots of a co-habitation". A whole page = devoted to the claim that the Catholic world has been upset and placed in turmoil by the renunciation of Benedict XVI and even more by his presence, first in Castel Gandolfo, and now within the Vatican itself. [These critics have to be consistent. If they see Pope Francis as the SuperPope who has made all the presumed Vatican ills of the Benedict Pontificate evaporate into thin air by his very presence (or so it seems, because now, no one talks about them at all!), then he should be SuperPope enough to be able to counteract any malevolent machinations of Lex Luthor-Benedict! He could vaporize him out of existence, too, if he so desired. So what's their problem?]

Franco says outright: "A co-habitation that is difficult to manage even for the top officials in the Church". [One would think Francis and Benedict had moved in together! What are these top officials worried about? They don't have to manage anything, neither Francis or Benedict. And the Church would be better served if they literally minded their own business, instead of seeing a problem where there is none.] And it is implied that the reason for the difficulty is obvious [i.e. Benedict XVI, always the 'inconvenient man'!]. And that is proof?

Franco and the Corriere della Sera, which illustrates this 'co-habitation' with the two photos and bulletin released by the Vatican, also cite Cardinal Camillo Ruini who is quoted as saying, "Joseph Ratzinger has chosen not to explain to anyone the reasons that led to his resignation". [Did he really say that? How my regard for Ruini has plummeted! It still strikes me as extreme perversity for anyone to speculate that there can be any other reason for Benedict XVI's resignation than what he clearly stated - the physical disabilities brought on by advancing age - even aasuming that the physical toll could have been aggravated by the 'problems' besetting 'the Roman Curia' and IOR in the last 12 months of his Pontificate (the Vatileaks episode became public fodder at the end of January 2012)] In fact, the pendulum swung to the other extreme after the video-clip of the March 23 meeting with Pope Francis, when excitable, sensation-mongering journalists like that Spanish female correspondent who was launching a new book about Benedict's Pontificate, claimed on the basis of the same images we all saw that the former Pope was suffering from some terrible terminal disease and 'would not be with us for long'. They were skeptical about the reason he gave for resigning, but now they would have him at death's door!

But as an argument to explain the supposed universal upset over Benedict XVI's actions, Ruini's alleged statement just does not do it. Obviously no one could have predicted that Benedict XVI was going to resign (other than one journalist who thought he would resign when he turned 85, just because!) - the announcement really came like a lightning bolt, like that which struck the dome of St. Peter on that very evening of February 11.

And it is true that our colleague Giovanna Chirri of ANSA underwent a temblor of emotion when she realized what she had just heard Benedict XVI say in Latin [apparently, the first journalist to do so that day]. But why would anyone say that the news 'upset' the Catholic world?

There was surprise, yes, even wonder. But perturbation, turmoil? It was always known - or it should have been - that a papal resignation is possible, and that in the past, it had occurred for different reasons and in various ways.

It is known, for instance, that Paul VI had thought about it seriously, and that John Paul II had considered the possibility. But they both decided to stay until death ended their Pontificate.

So, of course, Benedict XVI's resignation came as a huge surprise.
But did he thereby cause turmoil, and even 'raised doubts' about the faith? [But that was the reflex reaction of those who always were hostile to Benedict XVI - it gave them a pretext to present him once again in a negative light, as if his action was completely disgraceful or unworthy ("Hey, didn't we always say he's a no-goodnik?").]

Yes, there were some traditionalists who said he had dealt a backhanded blow to the Papacy - desacralization, negation of infallibility [even if papal infallibility refers only to the Pope's statements on faith and morals, not to any other statements or actions!], etc.

But whoever knows his faith, Catholicism, had no reason to be 'upset' or 'perturbed'! Perhaps some monsignor would have preferred a different course of events, or a different mode, and said so to Franco, but in reporting it the way he does, Franco has cast a blanket of ambiguity on the entire ecclesiastical world in Rome.

And perhaps there may have been individuals who were truly upset, perhaps among those who think their 'careers' may now be in peril or uncertain, especially with a new Pope who has denounced 'careerists', and who may therefore have made everyone fear for their positions in the pecking order. [Wait! Didn't Benedict XVI denounce careerism everytime he addressed priests, bishops and seminarians in the past eight years? Even Gennari seems to think this attitude only begun with Francis, or that Benedict tolerated careerism in the Curia! I cannot think of a single Curial head or #2 man he has named who was a careerist, other than the execrable Mons. Vigano, who was promptly taken off line. And I won't count Cardinal Bertone because Benedict XVI did gift him with the culmination of his ecclesial career (he was ne er considered papabile, so SecState was as far as he could go), even if he chose to misuse the gift!]

In any case, maximum discretion was observed during Benedict XVI's return to the Vatican on Thursday. Even if Page 1 of both L'Osservatore Romano and Avvenire took note of the event, without fuss or problems, reporting the bare facts and maintaining the privacy it deserved. [It may have deserved far less notice even in those two newspapers if Pope Francis had no part at all in the story. The fact that he chose to welcome his predecessor personally made it inevitable that the 'return' would be covered and reported. I frankly don't think any news outlet would have had any problem suppressing any story about the return if Pope Francis had been out of the picture. It doesn't serve their agenda or their narrative to report about Benedict XVI alone, unless it is something negative or that they can make to appear negative, i.e., ex-Pope in himself and by himself is not newsworthy]

The event was simple and reported simply: Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican from Castel Gandolfo, and was welcomed by Pope Francis. So what problem could there be with that?

Yet there are those other than Franco who have said that Benedict's presence in the Vatican could weigh down Francis - and they don't know whereof they speak. No one who is familiar with the entire life and personal comportment of Joseph Ratzinger can have the least doubt about his discretion and the refined courtesy of all his actions. He, most of all, knows there is only one Pope.

The emeritus Bishop of Rome is no longer Pope by his own free choice, and he has pledged reverence and obedience to his successor, as any cardinal, bishop or priest has done. So where is the problem? There are not 'two Popes'.

And who is upset? Massimo Franco and some prelate(s) he knows and frequents, perhaps who has (have) already been his sources for the anecdotes in his book on the 'end' of whatever he perceives to be the Vatican. In fact, there is only one Vatican, and it's still there.

What theological and paleological problem could there be [about Benedict XVI living in the Vatican] with the People of God who make up the Church, both at the base and at the top? Our current Pope is Francis, who appears to love, esteem and visibly appreciate the emeritus Pope, whom he has taken in as a brother and esteemed friend, whom he loves in the light of the one Lord who is really the one who leads the Church = as both Benedict and Francis have said.

Moreover, and perhaps this is something no one has pointed out to Franco and his ilk, for over 40 years now, the Catholic Church has known the presence of two bishops, one emeritus and the other in actual office, after Paul VI established in the 1970s with his motu proprio Ingravescentem aetatem [On the burden of advanced age) the practice of bishops resigning at a certain age (though the Pope can accept the resignation right away or extend the bishop's active service for a few more years). [Benedict XVI used the phrase 'ingravescente aetate' = because of advanced age - in announcing his resignation.]

So why does anyone speak about disconcertment, perturbation, upset, doubts, anonymous grumblings? Perhaps it would be better all around if newsmen concerned themselves only with material facts and not with presumptions - sometimes just to accommodate some anonymous malcontent venting against the Vatican... Imagine the outcry of protests if Vaticanistas suddenly fancied themselves Quirinalists [those who report about the Italian President, who lives in the Quirinale Palace] and suddenly started writing about the Italian government and political parties - an outcry because they obviously lack the experience to be taken seriously about a topic far afield from their beat.

But everyone seems to think he can write freely - even books - about the Church and the Vatican, Popes and cardinals It's their freedom. Just as we are also free to point out the limitations of their analysis, cordially and sincerely...

Not too long ago, I posted something execrable from the pen of Massimo Franco - he has been a habitual offender in terms of thinking the Church would be far better off if he were Pope, the underlying premise of his presumptions, as they are of La Repubblica's self-crowned Pope of secularism, Eugenio Scalfari, and lately, it seems, of George Weigel, in pushing the recommendations of his book, Evangelical Catholicism.
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Utente Master

On instant amnesia and revisionism
on the part of some media
with regard to Benedict XVI and
their sycophancy of Pope Francis

Obviously, no one could possibly think that after all Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI has done to combat the scourge of sex offender priests and protect children and minors from these predators, anyone who succeeded him as Pope would even think not to carry on his work in this respect.

All of the groundwork has been laid - it now remains for the bishops of the world to do their part, since they remain the primary implementors of everything the CDF has promulgated in this respect since 2001 when it was given the jurisdiction to deal with the scourge.

Since he became Pope, Francis has expressed himself on two occasions about this issue.

The first came in a note from the CDF on April 5 after his first meeting with CDF Prefect Mons. Gerhard Mueller. Here is the entire note:

The Holy Father this morning received in audience H.E. Mons. Gerhard Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During the meeting which dealt with the various areas of competence of the dicastery, the Holy Father recommended particularly that the Congregation, continuing the line laid down by Benedict XVI, act decisively on cases of sexual abuse, promoting above all measures for protecting minors, help to those who have in the past suffered from such violations, the necessary proceedings against those who are culpable, the commitment of the bishops' conferences in the formulation and implementation of directives necessary in this field which is so important for the witness of the Church and her credibility. The Holy Father gave assurances that the victims of sexual abuse are particularly present in his attention and in his prayers.

His second reference came during his remarks preceding the Regina caeli on Sunday, May 5, as the fifth in a series of six pastoral announcements, ranging from a tribute to Mary and greetings for the Orthodox Easter, and a greeting to the gathered confraternities and to those who suffer from pulmonary hypertension:

A special greeting goes today to the “METER” Association on the day for children who are victims of violence. And this gives me the opportunity to turn my thoughts to those who have suffered and are suffering because of abuse. I would like to assure them that they are present in my prayers, but I would also say emphatically that we must all commit ourselves with clarity and courage to every human person, especially children, who are among the most vulnerable, that they might always be defended and protected.

But do these two statements - as clear and unequivocal as they are - merit the opening paragraph of a news item jointly bylined by La Repubblica's two senior Vaticanistas, Marco Ansaldo and Paolo Rodari in the May 6, 2013, issue of the newspaper?

Pope Francis has raised the walls of the Church against pedophilia in the clergy. Benedict XVI already did this in 2010 at the height of the controversies over the accusations of sexual abuses by priests. [EXCUSE ME! One would think that Benedict XVI had acted only in 2010 'at the height of controversy' and had not done anything before that! Or that 2010 marked any increase, much less 'peak', in the incidence of such abuses - but it was the year that reports on abuses committed in previous decades made the news in Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and the most powerful media institutions then capitalized on the fresh uproar to try and provoke Benedict XVI to resign by seeking to link him - with monumental failure - directly and personally to cover-ups of a few selected abuse cases in the United States and one in Germany (which involved a priest who came to Munich in the last year that Joseph Ratzinger was Archbishop there, and who more than 10 years later, long after Ratzinger had gone to Rome as CDF Prefect, committed abuses that earned him a jail sentence.]

Francis did so Sunday, with more conviction and welcomed with even greater approval because he had never been touched by any criticism [regarding sexual abuses] as his predecessor was. And the applause he obtained seem to show he is right... Francis is convinced that a large part of the credibility of the Church rests on the question of pedophilia.

All that on the basis of the two sentences delivered at the Regina caeli, which in the fawning eyes of Ansaldo and Rodari, would seem to far outweigh anything Benedict XVI had ever done. As if Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI had never acted on the premise, among other things, that the Church was to be judged on what she does about this scourge. As if it had not been Joseph Ratzinger who first openly spoke about the 'filth' in the Church brought on by those who profess themselves to be minister of Christ. As if, as early as 1988, Cardinal Ratzinger had not already requested that the Vatican lay down more efficient procedures for dealing with criminal accusations made against priests! Oh no, Benedict XVI only reacted in 2010 because of the height of controversy', judging by what Ansaldo-Rodari affirm.

This is sickening sycophancy that Pope Francis certainly does not need, and a totally unmerited and deliberate diminution of Benedict XVI's universally-ackowledged work in this field.

BTW, did they bother to check whether the Argentine bishops' conference has submitted its proposed national guidelines to the CDF? Papa Bergoglio is so punctilious that the Argentine bishops must have done so, but still, it would be good to have it confirmed and published, since the CDF has said as late as last October, more than a year since the bishops' conferences were asked to do so, that more than half had yet to comply.

Of course, the rest of the Ansaldo-Rodari story does not contain anything more concrete, other than reiterating stories from Scotland that 'the Vatican' had ordered Cardinal Keith O'Brien - who resigned as Archbishop of Edinburgh last March after first denying and then admitting to improper homosexual advances made to other priest(s) more than 30 years ago = to leave the United Kingdom and not retire to a convent he had chosen in Scotland.

The story has not been confirmed by the Vatican - and in any case, why would O'Brien need to leave Scotland? It makes no sense at all. 'The Vatican' under Pope Francis has not asked Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles - about whose sickening cover-up for offending priests we are daily learning new details - to leave the USA. In any case, where then would these disgraced cardinals go? To some sort of Vatican Guantanamo? Surely, not to become arch-priest of some basilica in Rome, not again!

Ansaldo-Rodari also cite the case of the Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who has refused to step down despite repeated calls from the Vatican Congregation for Bishops to do so because he was found to have covered up for sex-offender priests. Benedict XVI in eight years caused some 80 bishops to resign/retire for similar offenses. How will Pope Francis deal with the defiant bishop? Ansaldo-Rodari don't ask the question at all, nor call on him to do something 'decisive'. Imagine what they would be writing if such a situation had occurred under Benedict XVI?

Benedict XVI's crucifixion by the media continues gleefully and gloatingly.
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Utente Master

Monday, May 6, 2013, Sixth Week of Easter
Feast of Saints MARIAN AND JAMES (d North Africa, 259), Martyrs
Little is known about them except that Marian (male) was a lector
and James a deacon, who were both killed for refusing to give up
their faith during the persecutions of the Emperor Valerian.

[Once again, unable to find any images online for the saintS of the day.]
Readings for today's Mass:


Pope Francis met with

- H.E. Ueli Maurer, President of the Helvetic Confederation (Switzerland) and his delegation

- Ten bishops from the Piedmont region of Italy on ad=limina visit

- New members of the Swiss Guard and their families. Address in Italian.

One year ago...
Before the Regina caeli prayers, Benedict XVI reflected on the Gospel for the fifth Sunday of Easter about Jesus being the true vine, of which the faithful are branches who must always be united with him through the Sacraments and charity.

'Christ is the vine,
we are the branches'

May 6, 2012

In his message before the Regina Coeli prayers, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the Gospel for today, the Fifth Sunday of Easter. He recalled the words of Christ, who said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-grower.”

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words - a great example on how he worked to prepare these Sunday remarks which constitute true and proper homilies

Dear brothers and sisters:

The Gospel today, the fifth Sunday of Easter, opens with the image of the vine. "Jesus said to his disciples: 'I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.' (Jn 15.1)

Often, in the Bible, Israel is compared to the fruitful vine when she is faithful to God, but when she grows away from him, becomes sterile, unable to produce that "wine to gladden their hearts", as Psalm 104 sings (v 15).

The true vineyard of God, the true vine, is Jesus, who with his sacrifice of love gives us salvation, he opens for us the way to be part of this vineyard. And Just as Jesus remains in the love of God the Father, so the disciples, wisely empowered by the word of the Master (cfr Jn 2-4), if they were profoundly united to him, become fruitful branches which produce an abundant harvest.

St. Francis de Sales writes: "The branch that is united and conjoined to the trunk bears fruit not by its own virtue, but by virtue of the stock: we are united by charity to our Redeemer, like limbs to the head - and that is why... good works, taking their value from him, merit eternal life"
(Trattato dell’amore di Dio, XI, 6, Roma 2011, 601).

On the day of our Baptism, the Church grafts us like branches to the Paschal mystery of Jesus, into his very Person. From this root, we receive the precious lymph to enable us to take part in divine life.

Like the disciples, we too, with the help of the Pastors of the Church, grow in the vineyard of the Lord bound by his love. "If the fruit that we must bear is love, its premise is precisely this 'remaining' which has to do profoundly with that faith that does not abandon the Lord"
(GESU DI NAZARET, Milan 2007, p 305).

It is indispensable that we always remain united to Jesus, to depend on him, because without him, we can do nothing (cfr Jn 15,5).

In a letter written to John the Prophet, who lived in the desert of Gaza in the fifth century, a faithful follower asks him the following: How is it possible to hold together the freedom of man and the fact that he can do nothing without God?

And the monk responded: If man inclines his heart towards the good and asks God for help, he will receive the necessary strength to fulfill his own work. And that is why the freedom of man and the power of God proceed together. This is possible because good comes from the Lord, but it is fulfilled thanks to the faithful
(cfr Ep. 763, SC 468, Paris 2002, 206).

Truly 'remaining' in Christ guarantees the efficacy of prayer, as the Cistercian Blessed Guerrico d'Igny noted: "Oh Lord Jesus, without you we can do nothing. Indeed you are the true gardener, creator, cultivator and guardian of your garden, who plants with your words, irrigates with your spirit, and makes us grow with your power" (Sermo ad excitandam devotionem in psalmodia, SC 202, 1973, 522).

Dear friends, each of us is like a branch, which lives only if it makes union with the Lord grow daily in prayer, in participation in the Sacraments, in charity.

Whoever loves Jesus, true vine, produces fruits of faith for an abundant spiritual harvest. Let us implore the Mother of God that we may remain firmly grafted to Jesus and that every action of ours can have its beginning and its fulfillment in him.

After the prayers, he said this:
First of all, I wish to remind you that in less than a month, the VII World Encounter of Families will take place in Milan. I thank the Ambrosian diocese and the other Lombard dioceses who are collaborating in preparing for this ecclesial event, promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Family, presided by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli.

I, too, God willing, will have the joy of participating in it, and for this, I will be in Milan from June 1-3.

After his plurilingual greetings to other language groups, he said this to the Italian-speaking faithful:
Finally, I address my heartfelt greeting to Italian-speaking pilgrims, especially the Associazione Meter ['meter' is a Greek word that means 'womb' as well as 'hospitality'], which is committed to the protection of children who are victims of abuse...

My special greeting to the new Swiss Guards and their families, on the annual feast day of this historic corps.

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good month of May. in the spiritual company of Our Lady

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Utente Master

So, on the one hand, there are those in MSM (and Catholic media) who purport to 'fear' Benedict XVI's possible interference in Vatican affairs and influence on the decisions of Pope Francis (a baseless assumption that insults both of them), while at the same time, there are those who would paint him as so afflicted by health problems that he has to be dysfunctional.

Guys, make up your mind - either he's well enough to be scheming behind the scenes, or too sick to function normally, let alone meddle in anything. He can't be both. In fact, he is neither, because that's not just who Joseph Ratzinger is. And God forbid that the more unsavory elements in media have now begun a 'death watch' on him as they did on John Paul II for well over a decade!

Consider this item in the UK press - which, BTW, collectively perpetrated gloatingly the Spanish female reporter's dire 'prognosis' of the emeritus Pope, simply on the basis of the same videoclip we all saw of Benedict in Castel Gandolfo when Pope Francis visited him...

Former Pope Benedict XVI is
'depressed by retirement',
says Vatican insider

By Emily Fox

May 3, 2013

BENEDICT XVI has become depressed since he retired as Pontiff, Vatican insiders have claimed.

The 86-year-old Pope who stepped down to make way for younger Pope Francis= is said to be suffering from a sense of deflation - a similar sense felt by busy working people who suddenly stop work. [He didn't step down 'to make way for younger Pope Francis' specifically, but for someone more able to carry the burden of the Papacy than an 86-year-old with the increasing physical disabilities that are inevitable at his age].

According to an aide [Really? Which aide, since he only has Mons. Gaenswein and the Flemish deacon now as 'aides', neither of whom would be so stupid as to talk indiscreetly about Benedict, whose privacy they are there to serve and preserve!], he has been in a low mood, which has been compounded by failing health.

Whispers in the Loggia, the Catholic gossip blog written by Vatican observer Rocco Palmo claimed Benedict had not been at his best in recent weeks and has been reminiscing of the past.

The former Pope moved back to the Vatican yesterday to take up residence with current Pope Francis. It is the first time in Vatican history that two popes have resided within the walls...

We have come to a pretty pass indeed when one of Europe's largest mass-circulation newspapers peddles this kind of news based on what Is purported in whatit identifies as a 'gossip blog'! I am sure that will not please Rocco Palmo (who must blame it on his own tendency to sound gossipy, especially when he purports to report 'events' within the Vatican based on no more information than is available to most of us who can read what the Vatican posts on its website, as if he were getting the news straight from the flies on the wall next to Benedict XVI and Pope Francis). In this regrettable attempt to sound like the ultimate Vatican insider, he far antedated the aforementioned Spanish reporter. Mr. Palmo has many excellences, especially his contacts within the USCCB and his reporting on major events within the US Church, but being connected to the US bishops does not translate to having an umbilical cord to the Vatican.
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Utente Master

So, in this best of all possible Catholic worlds, as many in the media and in the Church hierarchy would have us believe, have the problems of the Church really disappeared, or at least have they been miraculously minimized now to the point that no one is no longer crying "SOS! We are in mortal crisis and are facing the abyss!" and acting vociferously militant against all the problems they would have us believe were 'generated' singlehandedly by the inconvenient Benedict? ("Was there ever such a good-for-nothing nincompoop in the history of the Church!", if you listened to all the hand-wringing cardinals on the eve of the 2013 Conclave.) Even if the scapegoat Curia and the IOR are still very much as he left it and won't be getting any dramatic changes at the snap of a finger? (Can they have been all that bad, then?)

There were two recent events that have caused great concern to the editors of La Nuova Bussola Quotidiano, which remains a steady watchdog of what is objectively and concretely wrong that impacts on the Church and the faith: first, the screening of an anti-Catholic film on the Salem witch hunt that Italian authorities have rated watchable by minors as young as 14; and the second, a May Day mockery of the Eucharist in the very shadow of the Lateran, in which the condom is 'consecrated' as the true 'way of salvation' by a seminude pop singer. Did we hear of these at all? Hardly.

So the online newspaper asked one of their regular contributors to comment on them - the Archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio, Mons. Luigi Negri, formerly Archbishop of Sam Marino-Montefeltro, who was reassigned to the new position by Benedict XVI before he stepped down as Pope.

Attacks and blasphemy, before which
the Church in Italy cannot remain silent

by Mons. Luigi Negri
Archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio
Translated from

May 4, 2013

In a situation such as that of Italian society today, which is one of the most serious assaults against freedom of conscience and of popular culture, the Church cannot continue in a silence that is incomprehensible to most Christians, but even to many men of goodwill.

Two recent episodes are indicative. First, the screening in Italy of a film called 'The witches of Salem' which is a collection of blasphemies and all the possible expressions of anti-Catholicism during its two-hour length. Black Masses, cursing as the language of normalcy, violent and extreme depictions of homosexuality, and the Church presented only in terms of its sexual deviant priests.

All this in a film rated to be seen even by minors as young as 14, because the State has not seen fit to intervene at the very least to protect this stratum of potential filmgoers from seeing such a film.

In the face of such an assault, I believe the Church should say, "This cannot be - this situation is unacceptable". Because the problem of society is not just that anyone can make a film he considers right to make, which he is legally entitled to make, even if the pruriency of the product is called 'art'.

Society needs to regulate social life and relationships, the responsibility of those in authority, and how they promote such responsibility. But all that is negated today by the dominant mentality according to which any choice is valid, especially when it is expressed in an intense way. And so this film was made and is being shown even to minors, only because there are those who believe it says something significant about contemporary culture that must be disseminated indiscriminately.

Then there's the second episode, which took place in Rome - not 50 meters away from the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the church that is considered the mother of all the Catholic Churches of the world, in the city of the Pope, who is Pope, as Francis reminds us, because he is Bishop of Rome.

There, on May 1, the Eucharist was ridiculed most seriously by a pop singer who mimicked the consecration by elevating a condom as 'a vehicle of salvation' because, she claimed, it 'liberates man from all diseases'. [It is not even failsafe against sexually transmitted diseases - how can it possibly be 'the do-anything panacea'? But that's the way with pop stars who think their celebrity necessarily endows them with brains or minimal knowledge!]

She called on the people to use the condom as the way to intellectual, moral and sexual emancipation! [Who knew? All hail the almighty latex god!] From someone who is prancing about semi-nude in a situation that is offensive even simply from the look of it (aesthetically).

And yet, 50 meters from the Cathedral of Rome, on a day when tens of thousands were gathered at the Vatican to listen to the Bishop of Rome in his weekly catechesis, the Italian labor unions [who sponsored the large May Day rally] carried out this terrible attack not just against Catholic tradition, but against any other tradition or cultural position that does not fall within the purview of a vulgar consumerism which, if carried to the extreme, would reject even the usefulnees of unions, and therefore, the need for unions to exist.

For the first time since John Paul II named me a bishop of the Church in Italy, I have become profoundly uneasy. Who are we, and what do we want? Who are we, the bishops of Italy, and what do we want?

Do we want to educate a Christian people conscious of their identity and are therefore able to be that 'creative minority' that Benedict XVI spoke of? Or are we merely trying to carve out some room within this bestial mass so we can perform the small religious services that are being utilized by less and less people? The people to which we say obvious things such as 'We need an efficient government", etc. Things which are doubtless right, but surely the destiny of the Italian people, their present and their future, does not depend on just that.

I don’t hide my disquiet, but neither will I be silent about my determination to do all I can in this ongong struggle. If the legal minds I have consulted say so, I definitely intend to find legal recourse against all who were responsible for these two absurd but very real attacks against the religious tradition of our people, that still concerns those of them – though no longer the majority – who are an important part and have the right to be recognized, defended and uoheld in their inalienable fundamental rights.

Two thousand years of the Church’s social teachings, wonderfully synthesized in what Benedict XVI called ‘non-negotriable values’, demand going against the current, as both Benedict XVI and Francis have exhorted our young people to do.

But not just young people, but even the older ones and the oldest of the old, who have in the Church an authority which is inexorably vested in sacred ordination and with the responsibility of leading the community.
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 06/05/2013 23.38]
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