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00Thursday, December 17, 2009 4:06 AM

Other stories posted 12/16/09 in the preceding page, including photos of the General Audience
and the full text of the Pope's catechesis in English translation.

Bertone says the Pope is a good listener,
discusses Benedict XVI's priorities

PARIS, DEC. 16, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is a "man who listens," and who habitually works in a "collegial manner," affirmed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is the Holy Father's secretary of state, and his closest collaborator.

Cardinal Bertone spoke of his own role in the Vatican and the priorities of Benedict XVI's pontificate in an exclusive interview given Monday with the Catholic French television station KTO, on the occasion of the station's 10th anniversary.

In the interview conducted by Philippine de Saint-Pierre, the cardinal described Benedict XVI as a "man who listens," and said the Pope does all he can to "take the pulse of the Church."

He refuted comments made by Vatican observers that the Pope is too isolated, noting that the Holy Father meets regularly with all the heads of all the Vatican dicastries, and during his meetings with bishops making their ad limina visits, he "gives them all the time he can."

In describing the Pope's "style," the cardinal said that he is "the first who loves: The first who loves the Church, who loves the faithful of the universal Church. The first who serves the Church, who gives his life to the Church, day and night, through his work, through his prayer."

"He is also the first who builds unity in the Church," he added.

During the long interview, Cardinal Bertone talked of the "special relationship" Benedict XVI has with the Second Vatican Council, calling him "a great Pope of Vatican II".

"It suffices to see the number of times he cites texts of the Council in his discourses, addresses, his encyclicals."

"He is one of finest connoisseurs of the Council," the cardinal added.

The Salesian cardinal noted that in the wake of Vatican II, where then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was an expert and enjoyed a certain "celebrity," he "saw certain abuses, certain dangers, and he has emphasized above all the interpretation of the Council in terms of continuity, and not in terms of rupture, with Tradition."

"This is an essential point," Cardinal Bertone said, who also discussed the Pope's decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops of the St. Pius X Society earlier this year.

The cardinal noted that Benedict XVI is very much aware of what is at stake with the situation of the St. Pius X Society: "One must remember that in 1998, he maintained the relationship and conducted the dialogue with Archbishop Lefebvre and his team, at the request of John Paul II."

Cardinal Bertone explained one reason why Benedict XVI is reaching out to the traditionally minded society is because "Tradition is part of the Church, it's a patrimony that we should know and value, and not simply leave to one side or in the library."

Another reason, he continued, has to do with one of the Pope's "fundamental concerns," which is unity.

In the interview, Cardinal Bertone addressed other important challenges facing the pontificate of Benedict XVI, such as ecumenical dialogue, in particular with the Orthodox Churches, as well as relations with Jews and with Islam.

Benedict XVI is a "figure very much esteemed as a great theologian" in these conversations, noted Cardinal Bertone.

00Thursday, December 17, 2009 4:55 AM

Crusading priest thanks Pope
for stand on pedophilia,
offers to help Irish bishops

METER's online site is very informative and contains all kinds of links to facilitate reporting of any cases of offenses asgainst children and minors. The slogan below his banner says, "If you are offending a child, be ashamed!" (ONLUS is an Italian acronym for the term that means 'non-profit social organization'.

AVOLA, Italy, DEC. 16, 2009 ( Father Fortunato Di Noto, founder of the Meter Association that helped U.S. and Italian authorities uncover 100 online pedophile communities earlier this year, is thanking Benedict XVI for his strong stand against pedophilia.

The Pope met last week with Cardinal Sean Brady, president of the Irish episcopal conference, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, to discuss the Murphy Commission Report, which details abuse cases in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004.

A Vatican communiqué reported that the Holy Father expressed his "outrage, betrayal and shame" over the scandal of abuse by clergy.

Father Di Noto praised the Holy Father's reaction, and affirmed that his organization is "available to help the Irish bishops."

"All sexual abuse of children is tragic -- it is an enormous sin," he said. In the case of a priest-perpetrators, Father Di Noto said, "It should never have happened."

"To the Pope -- to this Pope -- who is doing so much to fight against pedophilia in the clergy and to defend children, I say: We are with you. Go forth with strength for the little ones."

Father Di Noto, a native of Sicily, has worked over the last 15 years to secure 1,064 charges against pedophiles and worked some 780 cases.

"Meter," he noted, "has undertaken important International investigations and has given hope to many children."
00Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:45 AM

Introd confers honorary citizenship
on their summer visitor, the Pope

Translated from
the 12/17 issue of

Benedict XVI has received honorary citizenship in the Commune of Introd, where Les Combes is located, the village in Val D'Aosta, northwest Italy, where he has spent three summer vacations as Pope.

The ceremony took place Wednesday in a salon of the Aula Paolo VI after the General Audience.

Present were the representatives of the region (Val D'Aosta), the mountain area called Gran Paradis which includes Introd, and the commune itself, along with its parish priest, don Ferruccio Brunod.

Addressing the Holy Father, the president of the region, Augustin Rollandin, said that "the truest and most profound meaning of this symbolic gesture is that it represents the affection and devotion" of the local population.

The presence of the Pope, he said, "has become for us a precious appointment" which has "brought Christian teaching much closer to our people". He said the honorary citizenship was "the dutiful acknowledgment of the most important visitor to our valley".

The mayor of Introd, Osvaldo Naudin, after having invited the Pontiff to return to Val D'Aosta, read the parchment with the official decree of conferment which was decided unanimously by the communal council last July 28.

Naudin expressed to Benedict XVI "the gratitude of a small but prideful mountain community. The presence of the Successor of Peter in Les Combes, a place that loves him as it did his predecessor, the unforgettable John Paul II, honors and gives luster to the Commune of Introd".

The Holy Father replied with these remarks:

Mr. President of the Region,
Mr. Mayor,
Reverend Parish Priest,
Ladies and gentlemen:

It is with great joy that I receive this honorary citizenship from the Commune of Introd, where I have spent unforgettable days of rest surrounded by the splendid Alpine panorama which favors an encounter with the Creator and recharges the spirit.

In addressing each of you with a heartfelt greeting, I wish to thank in particular the president of the Autonomous Region of Val D'Aosta, Augusts Rollandin, and the Mayor of Introd, Osvaldo Naudin, for the courteous words they have spoken in the name of those present and the people they represent.

I consider the decision of the communal council of Introd, who have now counted me among the honorary citizens of their community, as a sign of affection from all the Introleins and other inhabitants of the entire Val D'Aosta who have always given me a warm and cordial welcome, that is at the same time, discreet and respectful of my rest and quiet.

Now I can more rightfully say that I am truly at home in Introd, this delightful Alpine locality to which I am linked by grateful memories and a feeling of special spiritual closeness.

At this moment, so many memories come back to me, above all, the chalet in the middle of the woods: a place of spiritual repose with a splendid panorama, and a sign of the affection of the people, the mayor, and all of you.

So many things I could recount. For now, we have talked of what happens with the chalet in winter, and I am happy to know that it is well cared for and protected.

I am happy to learn from the words of Mr. Mayor that my presence in Val d'Aosta - and before me, that of my beloved predecessor John Paul II - has promoted the growth of faith in that population who are so dear to me, who are so rich in Christian traditions and so many signs of religious vitality.

I also know that in that age-old spiritual patrimony, the Church in Val D'Aosta, under the diligent leadership of its pastor, my dear Mons. Giuseppe Anfossi, has been tireless in announcing the ever fresh 'good news' of Jesus, Word of God, who became man to offer us the joy of living - already on this earth - the exalting experience of being beloved children of God.

This task appears particularly urgent in a society that nourishes, especially in the new generations, illusions and false hopes, but whom the Lord calls upon even today to transform itself into the 'family' of the children of God. who live with 'one heart and one spirit' (Acts 4,12) bearing witness to love of life and love of each other.

Dear friends, in renewing to you my expressions of affection and gratitude, I invoke on you, your families and the entire Val d'Aosta the blessing of God.

May the Lord continue to protect your communities and help you to build a future that, in placing God before everything else, will be ever more just, fraternal and full of hope.

Other events after yesterday's General Audience:

With the inter-religious committee of Kuwait

Freedom of worship, proposals for laws to protect religions, and the search for a common cultural formation are the objectives of a Muslim-Christian committee for inter-religious dialog in Kuwait, that were explained to the Pope after the general audience Wwednesday in Aula Paolo VI.

The secretary of the committee, Zuhair Al-Mahmeed, a Shiite Muslim, presented the Pope with a finely bound volume in Arabic containing the proceedings of a forum on Jesus promoted in 2007 by the Islamic Institute Consensus Movement.

Mons, Camillo Bellin, Apostolic Vicar in Kuwait, called it "a sign of dialog and respect".

Also present was evangelical pastor Amanuil Ghareeb, vice president of the committee, which includes Sunni Muslims, Coptic and Orthodox Christians as well as Catholics.

An encyclopedia of bioethics

The first copy of the first volume of the Enciclopedia di bioetica e scienza giuridica was presented to the Holy Father by Mons. Elio Sgreccia, editor of the bioethics content, and Antonio Tarantino, professor at the Unviersity of lecce, who edited the juridical part.

The encyclopedia will comprise 12 volumes, which will be issued every month in teh next year.

"Today, bioethical questions," Mons. Sgreccia said, "have entered Parliaments which legislate on life and death, on families and chilren. The encyclopedia is an instrument that puts together ethical, anthropological and juridical aspects of these issues."

25 years of Fraternita

A thousand-person delegation "composed of families who have welcomed more than 600 minors as foster children into their families" came to celebrate with the Pope the 25th anniversayr of the association Fraternita, under their president, Mons. Mauro Inzoli,

"Inspired by the educational and charitable charisms of don Giussani [late founder of Comunione e Liberazione who was firned of Joseph Ratzinger], our focus has been on the family, seeking above all to love each of these children one by one, totally and unconditionally".

Accompanying the pilgrims was Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Other guests received yesterday

The Holy Father also met with

- Rumiana Jeleva, Foreign Minister of Bulgaria who later met with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states.

- US astronauts Scott Altman and Massimo Massimino, who have flown the Space Shuttle, and their families

- Dino Meneghin, president of the Basketball Fderation and a former basketball star himself, who presented the Pope with a ball and a T-shirt of the italian national team personalized with the Pope's name.

Before leaving the audience hall, the Pope blessed this year's Christmas creche which is a gift from the State of Mexico, and thanked its governor, Enrique Pena Nieto, and the promoters of the initiative.

00Thursday, December 17, 2009 1:45 PM

Thursday, December 17
The raising of Lazarus from heh dead has been a popular subject for painters through the ages, Top panel, from left - Giotto, 1304; Duccio, 1319, Sebastiano del Piombo, 1517; a Greek icon; a Russian icon.
Bottom panel, from left - Caravaggio, 1609; Rembrandt, 1630; Van Gogh, 1898; Ian Pollock, 2000; and the tomb of Lazarus.

ST. LAZARUS OF BETHANY, Friend of Jesus, Brother of Martha and Mary
The Jews said of him, "See how much he loved him", after Jesus raised him back to life in their sight. Legends abound of what happened to Lazarus after the death and resurrection of Christ. most claiming that he and his sisers ended up in Europe (Cyprus or Gaul) where he served as bishop until he died. Today, the 'tomb of Lazarus'
(extreme right photo, bottom panel) continues to be a pilgrimage place on the West Bank on the site of the historical Bethany.

OR today.

Illustration: 'Boah building the ARk', Stained-glass panel, Chartres Cathedral.
At the General Audience, the Pope on the English medieval theologian
John of Salisbury:
'Equitable laws are those that respect life and promote solidarity'

Other Page 1 stories: An editorial 'Who are we saving the environment for?' commenting
on the ecocentrism of the Copenhagen conference on climate change; and 50,000
evacuated from the vicinity of Mayon Volcano in the Philippines feared to erupt soon.
Sidebars on post-audience events yesterday (bottom photos) in the inside pages.


At 7:30 a.m., the Holy Father celebrated Mass at the Redemptoris Mater Chapel to mark the 90th birthday
of Cardinal Thomas Spidlik, S.J. Homily in Italian.

Later he met with

- New ambasaadorS from Denmark, Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Finland, and Latvia,
who presented their credentials. Address in various languages to each of them, and an address
to all of them in French.

- Bishops of Belarus (Byelorussia) on ad limina visit (Group 2), then all of them together.
Address in Byelorussian.

And at 5:00 p.m.

- Vespers and meeting with the university students of Rome - Traditional pre-Christmas encounter
at St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican also announced that

- the Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Brendan Murray,
one of those named in the recent Irish government report to have covered up incidents of child abuse
by priests.

- the Holy Father has taken away the clerical status of former Archbishop of Lusaka, Emmanuel Milingo.
Full statement posted below.

00Thursday, December 17, 2009 3:22 PM

Pope dismisses Milingo
from the priesthood

The Holy Father, Benedict XVI, has dismissed former Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Lusaka from the clereical state, in accordance with the relevant provision of Canon Law, the Vatican announced today in the following statement:

For a number of years the Church has followed with great concern the difficulties caused by the regrettable conduct of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo.

Many attempts have been made to bring Archbishop Milingo back into communion with the Catholic Church, including the consideration of suitable ways to enable him to exercise the episcopal ministry.

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were directly involved in those efforts and both Popes personally followed the case of Archbishop Milingo in a spirit of paternal solicitude.

In the course of this unhappy series of events, Archbishop Milingo became irregular in 2001 as a result of his attempt to marry Mrs. Maria Sung, and incurred the medicinal penalty of suspension (cf. Canons 1044 § 1, n. 3; 1394 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law).

Thereafter, he headed certain groups calling for the abolition of clerical celibacy and gave numerous interviews to the media in open disobedience to the repeated interventions of the Holy See, creating serious upset and scandal among the faithful.

Then, on 24 September 2006 in Washington, Archbishop Milingo ordained four Bishops without pontifical mandate.

By so doing, he incurred the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae (Canon 1382) which was declared by the Holy See on 26 September 2006 and is still in force today.

Sadly, Archbishop Milingo has shown no sign of the desired repentance with a view to returning to full communion with the Supreme Pontiff and the other members of the College of Bishops.

Rather, he has persisted in the unlawful exercise of acts belonging to the episcopal office, committing new crimes against the unity of Holy Church. Specifically, in recent months Archbishop Milingo has proceeded to several other episcopal ordinations.

The commission of these grave crimes, which has recently been established, is to be considered as proof of the persistent contumacy of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. The Holy See has therefore been obliged to impose upon him the further penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.

According to Canon 292 of the Code of Canon Law, the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state, now added to the grave penalty of excommunication, has the following effects:
- Loss of the rights and duties attached to the clerical state, except for the obligation of celibacy;
- Prohibition of the exercise of any ministry, except as provided for by Canon 976 of the Code of Canon Law in those cases involving danger of death;
- Loss of all offices and functions and of all delegated power, as well
- Prohibition of the use of clerical attire.

Consequently, the participation of the faithful in any future celebrations organized by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo is to be considered unlawful.

It must be pointed out that the dismissal of a Bishop from the clerical state is most extraordinary. The Holy See has felt obliged to act in this way due to the serious consequences for ecclesial communion resulting from repeated episcopal consecrations carried out without pontifical mandate; nevertheless, the Church hopes that Archbishop Milingo will see the error of his ways.

As for those recently ordained by Archbishop Milingo, the Church’s discipline in imposing the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae upon those who receive episcopal consecration without pontifical mandate is well-known.

While expressing hope for their conversion, the Church reaffirms what was declared on 26 September 2006, namely that she does not recognize these ordinations, nor does she intend to recognize them, or any subsequent ordinations based on them, in the future. Hence the canonical status of the supposed bishops remains as it was prior to the ordination conferred by Archbishop Milingo.

At this moment, as the Church experiences profound sorrow for the grave acts perpetrated by Archbishop Milingo, she entrusts to the power of prayer the repentance of the guilty party and of all those who - be they priests or lay faithful - have in any way cooperated with him by acting against the unity of Christ’s Church.

To say that this courageous Pope never ceases to surprise is an understatement. Expect a flood of commentary.....

00Thursday, December 17, 2009 3:36 PM

Pope accepts resignation of
the Bishop of Limerick

by PADDY AGNEW in Rome

Dec. 17, 2009

The Vatican confirmed this morning that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray.

Bishop Murray is one of a number of auxiliary bishops criticised in the Murphy commission report into the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004.

In a brief statement, the Vatican confirmed: “The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral governance of the diocese of Limerick, presented by Monsignor Donal Brendan Murray, in conformity with article 401,2 of Code of Canon Law."

Article 401.2 of Canon Law, as promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1984, reads: “A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly required to present his resignation from office”.

Asked about the “other grave cause” which prompted Bishop Murray’s resignation, senior Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told The Irish Times : “That seems to me obvious, given the situation that had been created by the publication of the (Murphy) Report and given that he was one of the people involved in the events dealt with by the report. For that reason and for the good of the church, for a greater serenity, he spontaneously presented his resignation.”

Asked if Bishop Murray had met with the Pope whilst in Rome last week, Father Lombardi said: “I don’t believe he did, I have no information in regard to that, as far as I know the normal procedure was followed and that would mean that Bishop Murray discussed his situation with Cardinal Re at the Congregation of Bishops. Then the Cardinal will have informed the Holy Father.

Fr Lombardi acknowledged that the resignation had been expected by the Holy See, saying: “This was not a surprise, he was in Rome a number of days ago, and he presented his resignation off his own initiative and his own will. The diocese now remains vacant and a diocesan administrator will now be elected until such time as a successor, a new Bishop is appointed, all in line with normal practice.”

Asked if the resignation of Bishop Murray might be merely the first of several resignations by those mentioned in the Murphy report, Fr Lombardi said: “I have no idea and I have nothing to say about that."

In an address to churchgoers at Mass at St John's Cathedral in Limerick this morning, Bishop Murray said he "humbly" apologised to those who were abused as children. He had heard the views of many survivors, especially in the days following the publication of the Murphy report.

"Some expressed the wish that I should resign; others asked me not to do so. I know full well that my resignation cannot undo the pain that survivors of abuse have suffered in the past and continue to suffer each day. I humbly apologise once again to all who were abused as little children. To all survivors of abuse I repeat that my primary concern is to assist in every way that I can, on their journey towards finding closure and serenity."

The bishop said he had asked the Pope to allow him resign and to appoint a new bishop to the diocese because "I believe that my presence will create difficulties for some of the survivors who must have first place in our thoughts and prayers."

The other bishops named by the official report as taking part in covering up the sex offenses against children and minos by their priests should follow Mons. Murray's lead, if only to give the Church of Ireland a real chance to start a new page.

One can only pray that all the parties guilty one way or the other in this sordid story will spend the rest of their days doing penance appropriately for their misdeeds, preferably in some sort of ongoing apostolic work for the victims and their families.

Pope accepts Irsh bishop's reignation
in the wake of the child abuse report

by Frances D'Emilio

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 17 (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Limerick's bishop, who was heavily criticized in an Irish investigation of clergy sex abuse of children and a church hierarchy cover-up, the Vatican said Thursday.

The one-line announcement that Monsignor Donal Murray had resigned did not mention the scandal.

It said, however, that Murray resigned under a Canon Law provision that allows bishops, younger than the mandatory retirement age of 75, to step down when they become "unsuited" to continue in the post.

Unsuitability can result from illness, or some other circumstance, such as scandal.

Murray, 69, a former assistant bishop in Dublin, had been widely expected to resign, following a devastating report issued last month that alleged that the Church in Ireland shielded more than 100 child-abusing priests from the law.

The Irish government-sanctioned investigation found four other serving bishops and five retired bishops, including Cardinal Desmond Connell, as playing a role in the scandal cover-up lasting for decades.

The report said that Church leaders in the Dublin Archdiocese failed to inform authorities about sexual abuse by priests, while police failed to pursue allegations under the belief that
Church figures were above the law
. [This second element is hardly ever mentioned in the news reports so far about the scandal.]

Two bishops, Martin Drennan of Galway and Eamonn Walsh of Dublin, have said they have no intention of tendering their resignation to the Pope. [Why won't they, if they are named as part of the cover-ups in the report, and what will the Vatican do then, in their case?]

The Vatican has been harshly criticized in Ireland, a nation of staunch Catholic traditions, for failing to answer letters from the Dublin Archdiocese investigators.

But earlier this month, the Vatican described Benedict as being "deeply disturbed" by the sex-abuse scandal and said he will write a letter to Catholics in Ireland with the Holy See's response. It said also the pope shares the "outrage, betrayal and shame" felt by many Irish faithful.

Benedict met at the Vatican this month with senior Irish clergy to discuss a possible response.

The 720-page report found that dozens of church leaders in Ireland's most populous diocese kept secret the record of child abuse by more than 170 clerics since 1940.

Police and social workers charged with stopping child abuse didn't start getting cooperation from the Church until 1995. This opened the floodgates to thousands of abuse complaints expected to cost the Dublin Archdiocese millions of euros.

Irish bishop resigns
over child sex abuse

VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop, Donal Murray, over Ireland's child sex abuse scandal, the Vatican announced.

Murray, the bishop of Limerick, was named in a report last month that concluded that top prelates concealed clerical abuse and failed to inform police of offences over a period of more than three decades.

Other senior church officials, including four archbishops cited in the report, face growing pressure to resign.

One priest admitted to sexually abusing over 100 children, while another confessed that he had abused children on a fortnightly basis over 25 years.

The pope met at his request last week with Ireland's two most senior Roman Catholic churchmen, primate of all-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady and Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the participants did not discuss whether any of those implicated in the scandal should resign.

But Martin told reporters afterward: "We will need a very significant reorganisation of the Church in Ireland."

The Pope apologised for the abuse, saying he "shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland (over) these heinous crimes".

The Vatican statement last Friday said the Church "will continue to follow this grave matter with the closest attention in order to understand better how these shameful events came to pass and how best to develop effective and secure strategies to prevent any recurrence."

00Thursday, December 17, 2009 5:25 PM

The Pope reminds us
that sin is the absence of love:
An antidote to contemporary moralism

Translated from

December 17, 2009

There was a time when the idea of sin would have made people smile as at some vestige of the past. But it's different today.

In the era of private permissiveness which is transformed in public into a witch hunt avid for trials - institutional, popular or mediatic - we realize that the idea of evil is a serious matter.

Even the newspapers took note of the words pronounced by Benedict XVI in his annual discourse on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in which the Pope used a passage from St. Paul as his theme: "Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more (Rom 5.20).

In the Christian concept of sin, evil is not simply the transgression of a rule, but it must be understood in terms of man's relationship to God - it is the absence of love on the part of man.

Contemporary moralism - which has a purely horizontal perspective - has reduced evil to transgression of principles, making respect for rules its ultimate criterion for distinguishing good from bacd.

But for the Christian, sin is not judged by a tribulnal, more or less public, but by God who loves the sinner and is quick to grant him redemption.

This is what gives Papa Ratzinger the strength to look at problems squarely without fear, as he has again shown in recent days regarding the involvement of some Irish priests and bishops in Ireland's child abuse scandals.

To call evil sin is the way Benedict XVI indicates in order to emerge from dissatisfaction with a moralism that is restricted to punishments and condemnation.

To understand sin as an absence or deficiency of love means to be aware of that which can truly heal it.

00Thursday, December 17, 2009 6:43 PM

It is quite fitting that L'Osservatore Romano came out today with this front-page editorial by its 'resident economist', who is now also the president of the Vatican internal bank IOR.

Gotti Tedeschi gives an incisive critique of the fashionably ecocentric and effectively anti-human orientation of all the bleeding hearts gathered in Copenhagen, whose decisions and actions are guided by nihilist ideology, and therefore willfully insensitive to objective reality, and ultimately, counter-productive to the pragmatic common good, for all their breast-beating sanctimony.

It is also a necessary antidote to the liberal MSM who have unthinkingly interpreted the Pope's message for the World Day of Peace as an endorsement of the 'Copenhagen consciousness' when it is anything but!

The uncertainties in Copenhagen:
Who are we saving the environment for?

by Ettore Gotti Tedeschi
Translated from the
12/17/09 issue of

The environment and global climate are subjects that deserve less banal considerations than those that are being disseminated these days, even by scologists.

Nihilist thinking, with its rejection of every objective value and truth, causes the most serious damage when applied to economics. Just think of the disastrous consequences of the Malthusian prejudice according to which it is population growth that causes poverty.

One can also think of the bad results produced by utilitarian doctrines which, by getting rid of ethical values in the economy, have generated the collapse of the economic structure itself.

Think further of the so-called moral autonomy of economics, which, in promoting relativism, has arrived at the criterion that only something tangible can be a value, thus spreading an excessively consumeristic and materialistic attitude.

But nihilist thinking is producing even much graver damages regarding the environment. First, it sought to convince man that he is only an intelligent animal, but that he has the possibility to do everything without any rules, pushing selfishness to the maximum in the exclusive quest for power.

Then it tried to extinguish the belief that human life has a sense that itself gives sense to man's actions.

And now it would presume to resolve global climate problems - about which great confusion reigns - through denatalization [less children] and de-industrialization, rather than through the promotion of values that restore the individual to his original dignity.

The conference on climate change in Copenhagen is confirming this course, provoking more opposition than solutions.

Opposition not only between demonstrators and the police, but between rich nations and poor nations, between scientists and politicians, between different power blocs.

It is thus not only ever more difficult to imagine a solution but even to understand what the real problem is.

In fact, there is no strategic vision of the problem, precisely because of the widespread nihilism that has come to theorize the absence of value in human life compared to the presumed centrality of 'nature' - the ecocentrism denounced by Benedict XVI - which man is only capable of damaging.

But ignoring reality will not resolve environmental questions, just as it will not regulate the global economy.

Thus in Copenhagen, they are seeking vague agreements on noxious gas emissions, without regard to ethical premises and shared scientific considerations.

Nihilist thinking is in danger of transforming the globalization process - which is actually positive for poorer countries - into a disorder cauwsed by homo ecomomicus, who is responsible for all environmental evils and therefore a candidate for self-elimination.

Blaise Pascal wrote: "It is true that there are natural laws, but corrupt reasoning has corrupted everything".

It seems to have corrupted even the capacity to objectively evaluate the value of the global economy, of the technologized market, and of economic freedom.

These are just means. But in the hands of an intelligent but selfish animal, they can generate the effects of abuse, including damage to the environment.

It is well and good that environmentalists call for better and greater attention to nature. But they would do better to read Caritas in veritate.

Then they would understand why - and above all, for whom - the encironment should be respected.

Can't resist tossing in this little item about Copenhagen!

Blizzard dumps snow on Copenhagen
as leaders battle warming

By Christian Wienberg

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- World leaders flying into Copenhagen today to discuss a solution to global warming will first face freezing weather as a blizzard dumped 10 centimeters (4 inches) of snow on the Danish capital overnight.

“Temperatures will stay low at least the next three days,” Henning Gisseloe, an official at Denmark’s Meteorological Institute, said today by telephone, forecasting more snow in coming days. “There’s a good chance of a white Christmas.”

Delegates from 193 countries have been in Copenhagen since Dec. 7 to discuss how to fund global greenhouse gas emission cuts. U.S. President Barack Obama will arrive before the summit is scheduled to end tomorrow.

Denmark has a maritime climate and milder winters than its Scandinavian neighbors. It hasn’t had a white Christmas for 14 years, under the DMI’s definition, and only had seven last century. Temperatures today fell as low as minus 4 Celsius (25 Fahrenheit).

DMI defines a white Christmas as 90 percent of the country being covered by at least 2 centimeters of snow on the afternoon of Dec. 24.

Denmark isn't the only place in th world where there are winter anomalies - snow in Australia even, where summer is about to start! Shouldn't global warming fanatics take these as signs from Providence to remind them to cast a more dispassionate objective eye on facts before insisting on an ideology that it now appears has relied too much on questionable, posssibly manipulated data? At least acknowledge that 'the science is not settled' on the issue, far from it - and therefore, to be less Draconian about measures to be instituted, even at great disequilibrating cost to everyone, rich and poor, that may ultimately prove to be misguided, wasteful expense!

00Thursday, December 17, 2009 8:45 PM

So many addresses by the Holy Father today, many of them requiring translation, so let me start with his first discourse today, a homily at an unusual Mass for an unusual occasion.

Benedict XVI's homilies are the papal texts I most look forward to and find most admirable - and I nurture the hope that someone in the Benedict XVI Foundation is going back over Joseph Ratzinger's enormous literary output to see if they can put together a homily by him for each day of the liturgical year.

Pope says Mass for Cardinal Spidlik
on his 90th birthday

Translated from

December 17, 2009

At 7:30 this morning, the Holy Father Benedict XVI presided at a Eucharistic Celebration with the community of the Centro Aletti in Rome in the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Apostolic Palace, to mark the 90th birthday of Czech Cardinal Thomas Spidlik, S.J.

Here is a translation of the homily delivered by the Pope:

Dear friends,

With the liturgy today, we enter the last stage of the Advent journey, which calls us to intensify our preparation in order to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord with faith and joy, welcoming with intimate wonder God who has come to be with man, with each one of us.

The first reading presents us with the aged Jacob who calls together his sons to give them his blessing: it is an event of great intensity and emotion. This blessing is like a seal of faith on the covenant with God, but is also a prophetic vision that looks ahead and indicates a specific mission.

Jacob is the father who, through the not always linear paths of his personal story, has the joy of gathering his children around him and to trace the future of each of them and their descendancy.

In particular, today we heard the reference to the tribe of Judah, whose regal power is exalted, represented by the lion, as well as to the monarchy of David, represented by the scepter, staff of command, that alludes to the coming of the Messiah.

Thus what comes through in this double image, is the future mystery of the lion who becomes a lamb, the King whose staff of authority is the Cross, sign of true royalty.

Jacob had progressively become conscious of the primacy of God, he understood that his journey was led and sustained by the Lord's faithfulness, and he could only respond with full adherence to the covenant and design of God's salvation, becoming in turn, along with his own descendants, a link in the divine plan.

The Gospel passage from Matthew presents us with "the genealogy of Christ, son of David, son of Abraham" (Mt 1,1), underscoring and ultimately making explicit the faithfulness of God to his promise, which he is carrying out not only through men, but with them, and, as it was with Jacob, sometimes through tortuous and unforeseen ways.

The awaited Messiah, object of promise, is true God but also true man - Son of God, but also a child born of the Virgin, Mary of Nazareth, holy flesh descended from Abraham, in whose seed all the peoples of the earth would be blessed (cfr Gen 22,18).

In this genealogy, besides Mary, four other women are remembered - but not Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, or Rachel, the great women figures of Jewish history.

Paradoxically, they are four pagan women - Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Tamar - who seemingly 'spoil' the purity of the genealogy. But in these pagan women, who appear at decisive points in the history of salvation, the mystery of the church of the pagans emerges, the universality of salvation.

They are pagan women in whom the future appear, the universality of salvation. They are also sinners, and so, they also manifest the mystery of grace - it is not our works that redeem the world but the Lord who gives us true life.

They were sinners, yes, in whom appears the greatness of the grace that we are all in need of. These women nonetheless reveal exemplary responses to the faithfulness of God, by showing their faith in the God of Israel. That is how we see the church of the pagans emerge - mystery of grace, faith as gift and as a journey toward communion with God.

Thus the genealogy given by Matthew is not simply a list of generations: it is history as realized primarily by God but with mankind's response. It is a genealogy of grace and faith. The pursuit of the promise made by God to Israel rests on the absolute faithfulness of God to his promise, and on the solid faith of these women.

The blessing of Jacob comes happily on the 90th birthday today of our dear Cardinal Spidlik. His long life and singular journey of faith bear witness that God leads whoever entrusts himself to him.

But he has also followed a rich itinerary of thought, always communicating with ardor and profound conviction that the center of all Revelation is a Tri-Personal God, and that consequently, man who is created in his image is essentially a mystery of freedom and love realized in communion - which is the very way to' be of God'.

This communion does not exist by itself, but proceeds - as the Christian Orient does not tire of affirming - from the Divine Persons who love each other freely.

Freedom and love, constitutive elements of the person, cannot be grasped by means of rational categories - the person cannot be understood unless in terms of the mystery of Christ, true God and 'divine humanity' even in our own existence.

Faithful to this principle, Cardinal Spidlik has fashioned through the years a lively theological vision that is original in many aspects, in which the Christian East and West flow into each other organically, with a reciprocal exchange of their respective gifts.

His foundation is life in the Spirit; the principle of knowledge - love; study - an initiation into spiritual memory; concrete dialog with man - an indispensable criterion; and his context - the always living Body of Christ which is his Church.

Closely linked to this theological vision is the exercise of spiritual paternity, which Cardinal Spidlik has always carried out and continues to carry out.

Today, we can say that revolving around him in the celebration of the Divine Mysteries is his own 'small' spiritual descendancy, the Centro Aletti, which has accepted his precious teaching and made it fruitful through new institutions and new studies, and even through artistic representation.

In this context, I think it is particularly beautiful to underscore the link between theology and art in his thought. Indeed, it has been ten years since my venerated and beloved predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, dedicated this chapel, Redemptoris Mater, saying that "this work is offered as an expression of that theology with two lungs from which the Church of the Third Millennium may draw vitality".

He went on: "The image of the Redemptoris Mater - Mother of the Redeemer - which dominates the central wall places before our eyes the mystery of God's love who became man to give us, human beings, the capacity to become children of God... [It is] the message of salvation and joy that Christ, born of Mary, brought to mankind" (Insegnamenti XXII, 2 [1999], p. 895).

To you, dear Cardinal Spidlik, I wish from my heart the abundance of graces from the Lord, so you may continue to enlighten with your wisdom the members of the Centro Aletti and all your spiritual children.

Continuing with the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, I entrust each one to the maternal protection of the Mother of the Redeemer, invokingfrom the Divine Word who took on our flesh, the light and peace announced by the angels in Bethlehem. Amen.

Before the Pope's visit to thE Czech Republic last September, I posted two articles about Cardinal Spidlik in this thread and in the CZECH VISIT thread:

Above, left, recent photo of Cardinal Spidlik with Cardinal Vlk, Archbishop of Prague.

One of the outstanding personalities of the Church in the Czech Republic today is Cardinal Thomas Spidlik, botn in Brno 90 years ago. A Jesuit, he was forced to work in the quarries under both the Nazis and the Communists. He became a priest at age 30 despite difficulties of all kinds.

A world-famous theologian who became known for his books on tHE spirituality of thE Oriental Churches, he lives and works at the Centro Aletti in Rome with Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik (artist of the mosaics in the Redemptoris Mater chapel and in the Padre Pio shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo).

For almost 50 years now, he has worked with Vatican Radio, dlivering a meditation every Friday. John Paul II MAde him a cardinal in 2003, when he was 83, uin recognition of his achievements as a theologian [like the late Avery Cardinal Dulles].

More information about Cardinal Spidlik and his work can be found in:

00Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:58 PM

The Pope to 8 new ambassadors:
Binding international agreements
to protect the environment,
and religions as a force
for peace and reconciliation

Translated from
the 12/18/09 issue of

Receiving eight new ambassadors to the Holy See on Thursday, December 17, the Holy Father expressed the hope for binding international agreements to protect the environment, and said governments must recognize that religions can be a force for peace and reconciliation.

The Pope received the credentials of each of the new ambassadors in formal ceremonies at the Sala Clementina. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was also present.

The address that normally the Pope delivers to each ambassador was handed teach of them as documents. The Holy Father then delivered the following address in French to all of them, along with their families and staff members.

Messieurs Ambassadors:

I am happy to welcome you this morning to the Apostolic Palace. You came to present your Letters of Accreditation as ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary of your respective nations: Denmark, Uganda, the Sudan, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Finland and Latvia.

Welcome all, and please present my cordial greetings to your Chiefs of State and my thanks for the courteous words that you each had the goodness to convey on their behalf.

I express my fervent wishes for the high mission you are undertaking in the service of your respective countries. Likewise, I wish to greet through you the civilian and religious authorities in your countries, and your countrymen. Please assure them of my prayers.

My thoughts go naturally to the Catholic communities present in your countries. You know that they wish to join fraternally tin nation building to which they wich to contribute with all their possibilities.

In my last encyclical, Caritas in veritate, I evoked the necessary restoration of a correct relationship between man and the Creation in which he lives and works. Creation is the precious gift that God in his goodness gave man. They are its administrators and must therefore take on all the consequences of this responsibility.

Man can neither refuse nor escape such responsibility by passing it on to the coming generations. It is also evident that this environmental responsibility cannot be opposed to the urgency of putting an end to the scandals of poverty and hunger.

BOn the contrary, it is no longer possible to dissociate the two realities, because the continual degradation of the environment constitutes a direct threat to man's survival and his development. It also directly threatens peace among persons and peoples.

On the individual as well as the political level, it is necessary to make more decisive and more widely shared commitments with respect to Creation. In this sense, I strongly encourage the authorities of your respective countries, and the community of nations, not simply to strengthen their activities to protect the environment, but also - because the problem cannot be approached solely on the specific level of each nation - to provide forceful initiative and encouragement in order to reach binding international agreements that are both useful and just for everyone.

The challenges which mankind faces today certainly call for a mobilization of man's mind and creativity, an intensification of applied research for a more effective and healthy use of available energy and resources. These efforts cannot be carried out without a conversion or a transformation of the present development model for our societies.

The Church proposes that this profound change that has to be defined and carried out, should be oriented to the ideal of the integral development of the human being.

Indeed, the good of man does not reside in increasingly unbridled consumption and unlimited accumulation of assets - a consumption and accumulation that are restricted to very few but offered as a model for the masses.

In this respect, it does not fall only on the different religions to underscore and defend the primacy of man and his spirit, but also on the State. The latter has the duty to do so through an ambitious policy that favors access of all citizens, equally, to spiritual goods - those that value the richness of social relations and encourage man in his spiritual quest.

Last spring, during my apostolic visit to different countries of the Middle East, I proposed on many occasions to consider religions in general as a 'new start' for peace.

It is true that in history, religions have often been a factor for conflicts. But it is equally true that religions lived according to their profound sense have been and are a force for reconciliation adn peace.

In this historical moment, religions themselves, through sincere and frank dialog, should seek the way of purification in order to conform to their true vocation.

Mankind desires peace, and if possible, universal peace. One must work towards this without utopian visions and without manipulation. We all know that in order to be established, peace requires political, economic, cultural and spiritual conditions.

The peaceful coexistence of different religious traditions in each nation is sometimes difficult. More than just a political problem, this coexistence is also a problem that the religions must face within themselves. Every believer is called on to seek God's will with regard to every human situation.

In recognizing God as the only Creator of man - of all men, whatever their religion, social condition or political opinion - each man must also recognize all others, in their own uniqueness and in their differences.

In the eyes of God, there is no category or hierarchy of man, superior or inferior, dominant or subordinate. For him, there is only man whom he created out of love, and whom he wants to live, in the family and in society, in fraternal harmony.

The discovery of God's wise plan for man will lead him to recognize God's love. For the man of faith or the man of good will, the resolution of human conflicts, like the delicate living together of different religions, can be transformed into human coexistence within an order of goodness and wisdom that has its origin and its dynamism in God.

This coexistence, with respect for the nature of things and the inherent wisdom that comes from God - tranquilitas ordinis, an order of tranquility - is called peace.

Inter-religious dialog brings its specific contribution to this slow genesis which defies immediate human interests, political as well as economic. It is sometimes difficult for the political and economic world to give man first place. It is still difficult for this world to consider and acknowledge the importance and the need for religion and to assure religion its true nature and place in the public arena.

Peace, which is so desired, can only be born from the conjoined action of the individual, who discovers his true nature in God, and those who govern civilian and religious societies, and who, respecting the dignity and the faith of each person, shall give religion is noble and authentic role in the completion and perfection of the human being.

This has to do with a global recomposition, both temporal and spiritual, which will allow a new start towards the peace that God desires to be universal.

Messieurs Ambassadors, your mission to the Holy See has begun. Among my co-workers, you will find all the support that you will need for its successful accomplishment.

Once more, I renew my most cordial wishes for the excellent success of your sensitive mission. May the Almighty sustain and accompany you, those dear to you, your co-workers and all your countrymen. May God grant you the abundance of his blessings!

I can't ezplain the OR editor's choice for pictures to accompany this article. They are not just poorly resolved; there is nothing to recommend them in terms of composition, compactness, or adequacy to portray the occasion they are supposed to present.

00Friday, December 18, 2009 5:26 AM

Benedict XVI to Belarus bishops on ad limina visit:
Catholics and Orthodox must bear fraternal witness
together in order to generate peace

Translated from
the 12/18/09 issue of

Renewed unity among bishops, particular attention to the educational emergency, collaboration with the Orthodox to bearcommon witness to that 'fraternity that generates peace', and readiness to work with civilian authorities for the good of all citizens: these were the recommendations of Pope Benedict XVI to the prelates of Belarus on ad limina visit whom he received in audience Thursday morning as one group, after meeting with them in separate groups earlier in the week.

Here is a translation [from the Italian] of the address delivered by the Holy Father in Byelorussian:

Eminence and Venerated Brothers,

I am happy to express to each of you my cordial welcome to the home of the Successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the task of pasturing his flock (cfr Jn 21,15-19), to confirm his brothers in the faith (cfr Lc 22,31), and to protect and promote ecclesial unity (cfr Lumen gentium, 22).

I thank Mons. Alexander Kaskiewicz for the words with with he presented the journey of the Church in Belarus and the challenges that await it.

In the meetings that I have had with you, I appreciated the pastoral zeal with which you carry out your ministry, and the desire and commitment to co-responsibility, communion and sharing of decisions
among you, and may it keep growing so that your service may always be more fruitful.

It is particularly important, in fact, to announce with renewed enthusiasm and incisiveness the perennial message of the Gospel to a society that is not immune to the temptations of secularization, hedonism and relativism: the problems of denatalization, the fragility of the family and the illusion of finding fortune outside one's homeland are its signs.

In the face of such challenges, the urgent task of pastors is to manifest the power of faith, a faith rooted in solid tradition, in order to contribute to preserving the profound Christian identity of your nation, in respectful dialog with other cultures and religions.

In order to reach this objective, it is necessary, in keeping with the invitation of the Psalm, "How good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one!" (Ps 133,1), that you take great care to formulate programs and to promote ever more appropriate pastoral methods while putting into action the decisions of your bishops' conference.

Such renewed unity, besides favoring the announcement of the Gospel, will also promote relations with civilian authorities and, particularly, ecumenical relations.

One other element that I wish to underscore is the special attention in pastoral activity to the educational dimension. As I have said many times, we live today in a kind of 'emergency' in this delicate and essential sector, and it is necessary to multiply efforts to offer a valid formation first of all to the new generations.

Therefore I encourage you to pursue your commitment, taking care that adequate catechesis marks the journey of faith in all the stages of life, in occasions, within and outside the Church, under your leadership, to bring the Message of Christ to every sector of the flock that is entrusted to you.

Of particular importance is your discernment and support for various vocations, especially for the priesthood and religious life, as for programs destined for the human and Christian development of young people.

In this respect, I invite you to be very vigilant that candidates for priesthood receive a solid and rigorous spiritual and theological formation, and are rightly guided in a serious and profound verification of their divine calling. The situation of our society today requires particularly attentive discernment.

Thus, it is important for the future of your Church that in Grozny and Pinsk, you continue to offer to seminarians a complete and well-qualified formative itinerary.

The fact that in both places, candidates for diocesan priesthood and for religious orders share their formation also helps promote unitary pastoral activity. This situation would produce even more promising results if the educational offerings continue to be a product of intense collaboration between the bishop and the various religious superiors, capable of giving life even to initiatives for continuing education of priests.

Be close, with ever increasing solicitude, to your priests, especially those who are just starting their pastoral ministry. The attentive and cordial exercise of the bishop's spiritual paternity constitutes a fundamental element for the success of priestly life.

It is necessary, moreover, to always keep in mind that the Lord calls on you, as Pastors of the Church, to be able to discern every ministry destined for the edification of the ecclesial body - even its secular, cultural and civilian components - so that everyone may contribute to make the Kingdom of God grow in Belarus, in a spirit of true and real communion, in order to recover those Christian values that have contributed decisively to the construction of European civilization.

Dear brothers, know how to value every correct contribution to announcing and spreading the Kingdom of God, testifying with concrete gestures to the fraternity that generates peace; the meekness that accompanies justice; the spirit of communion that avoids personalisms; charity which is "patient and kind, which is not jealous, is not pompous, not inflated, never rude, does not seek its own interests, is not quick-tempered, does not brood over injury, does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" for love of Christ (cfr 1 Cor 13,4-7).

In this context, we must situate, among other things, the fraternal collaboration with the Orthodox Church of Belarus, whose Pastors share with you the quest and commitment for the good of the faithful.

The orthodox Churches, like the Catholic Church, are strongly committed to reflecting on how best to respond to the challenges of our time in order to faithfully transmit the message of Christ.

In accepting the invitation that came from the recent Catholic-Orthodox meeting in Cyprus, we must intensify our common journey in this direction. A significant contribution can be offered by the small but fervent Greek Catholic community in your country, which constitutes an important witness for the Church and a gift from the Lord.

A few months ago, I received in audience the President of the Republic of Belarus. In the meeting which was cordial and respectful, both sides reiterated the desire to stipulate an agreement, which is being elaborated. Moreover, I underscored the particular attention with which the Apostolic See, as well as the Bishops' Conference, has followed the events in your country and the commitment to actual collaboration on issues of common interest in order to promote, within the competence of each side, the good of the citizenry.

Venerated Brothers, in renewing my gratitude, I invoke the Mother of God, who is much loved in your country, to sustain and lead you with her protection. With these wishes and with particular affection, I impart on you, your priests and religious and all the faithful a special Apostolic Blessing, assuring you of remembrance in my prayers for all of the Byelorussian people.

Googling for some information about the Church in Belarus, I came upon the website of the Belarus Catholic Church which appears to be very informative (I deduce, with my rudimentary Russian), and more surprisingly, so up to date it already had the story of the audience with the Pope today, not to mention the following pictures of it:

00Friday, December 18, 2009 6:13 AM


(18 Dec 09 - RV) Pope Benedict XVI prayed Vespers with Roman university students yesterday evening in St. Peter’s Basilica:

Beginning with Vespers for the 17th of December, the Church enters fully into the final stage of preparation for Christmas – the Great and Solemn Feast of the Birth of Our Lord and Saviour.

Vespers are the Church’s official Public Praise of God in the evening, and starting on the evening of December 17th, the Church prays the O Antiphons: seven invocations of the Messiah – the Christ – God’s Chosen One, who will free Israel, break the power of Hell, and restore friendship between Heaven and Earth.

At the conclusion of the Vespers service, a delegation of students from Australia handed over an icon of Mary, Seat of Wisdom to a delegation of students from Africa, for whom the Holy Father especially prayed, as well as for the success of co-operation between Roman and African universities that has been growing since the conclusion of the Special Synod Assembly for Africa.

Pope Benedict’s Homily on Thursday concentrated on the first of the seven O Antiphons: O Wisdom.

The Pope said the Wisdom invoked in the Church’s Thursday Evening Prayer is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity; the Word, who, as we read in the Prologue to John’s Gospel, “was in the beginning with God,” indeed, “He was God,” and with the Father and the Holy Spirit created all things and “became flesh” to reveal to us the God, whom no flesh can see.

“Dear Friends,” said Pope Benedict, “A Christian professor, or a young Christian student, carries within him the passionate love for this Wisdom! We read all in its light: we discover its traces in the elementary particles and in the verses of poets; in the legal codes and the events of history; in works of art and in mathematical expressions.

Without Her, nothing was made of all that exists (cf. Jn 1:3) and thus can we see a reflection of Her in everything created.

All that human intelligence receives may be so received because, in some way and measure, it participates in creative Wisdom – and it is here, finally, that there rests the very possibility of study, of research, of scientific dialogue in every field of knowledge.

The Pope ended: “May this Christmas bring joy and hope to you, your families and the whole university community throughout the world.

Here is a translation of the Pope's Vespers homily:

Eminent Cardinals,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear brothers and sisters:

What wisdom was born in Bethlehem? This is the question I wish to pose to myself and to you at this traditional pre-Christmas encounter with the Roman university world. Today, instead of Holy Mass, we celebrate Vespers together, and the happy coincidence with the start of the Christmas novena will lead us shortly to sing the first of the so-called Major Antiphons:

"O Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care:
Come and show your people the way to salvation".
(Liturgy of the Hours, Vespers for Dec. 17)

This stupendous invocation is addressed to 'Wisdom', the central figure in the Books of the Proverbs - Wisdom and Ecclesiastes - which are therefore called the 'wisdom books' and in which Christian tradition sees a prefiguration of Christ.

Such an invocation becomes truly stimulating and even provocative, when we are in front of the manger, that is, before the paradox of a Wisdom which, having come out "of the mouth of the Most High', lies wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger (cfr Lk 2,7,12,16).

We can already anticipate the answer to our initial question: what was born in Bethlehem is the Wisdom of God. St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, uses this expression: "God's wisdom, mysterious, hidden" (1 Cor 2,7), that is, in a divine plan which remained hidden a long time and which God himself revealed in the story of salvation.

In the fullness of time, this Wisdom took on a human face, the face of Jesus, who - as the Apostolic Creed says - "was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, descended into hell, the third day arose from the dead, ascended into heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead".

The Christian paradox consists precisely in the identification of divine Wisdom, the Eternal Logos, with the man Jesus of Nazareth and his story. There is no solution to this paradox outside of the word 'Love', which in this case must be written with a capital L, because it is a Love that infinitely surpasses human and historical dimensions.

Therefore, the Wisdom that we invoke this evening is the Son of God himself, the second person of the Most Holy Trinity. It is the Word, which, as we read in the Prologue to John's Gospel, "was in the beginning with God", and "was God", who with the Father and the Holy Spirit created all things and who "became flesh" to reveal the God that no one had ever seen (cfr Jn 1,2-3.14.18).

Dear friends, a Christian professor, or a young Christian student, carries in himself passionate love for this Wisdom! Read everything in his light; take hold of him in elementary particles and the verses of poets, in juridical codes and the events of history, in artistic works and in mathematical expressions.

Without him, nothing came to be (cfr Jn 1,3), and therefore in every created reality, one can see his reflection, obviously in different degrees and modalities.

Everything that can be received by the human intelligence is possible because in some way and to some measure, they are part of creative Wisdom. And so, in the ultimate analysis, it is the possibility itself of study, of research, of scientific dialog in every field of knowledge.

At this point, I cannot avoid a reflection that is perhaps rather discomforting, but useful for us who are here and who belong for the most part to the academic field.

Let us ask ourselves: on Christmas night, who were there at the cave in Bethlehem? Who welcomed Wisdom at its birth? Who ran to see him, acknowledged and adored him?

Not doctors of the law, scribes or sages. There were Mary and Joseph, and then the shepherds. What does it mean? Jesus would say one day: "Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will" (Mt 11,26): you have revealed your mystery to the little ones [cfr Mt 11,25).

But does it not serve anything then to study? Is it outright harmful, counter-productive to knowing the truth? The history of 2000 years of Christianity excludes this last hypothesis and suggests to us the right answer: that one must study and deepen one's knowledge while keeping a 'childlike' spirit, a humble and simple spirit, like that of Mary, Seat of Wisdom.

How many times have we feared to approach the cave in Bethlehem because we have been concerned that this would be an obstacle to our critical faculties and our 'modernity'! Instead, if we came near, then each of us can discover the truth about God and that human being: they met in that baby, born of the Virgin Mary. Man's yearning for eternal life had softened the heart of God who did not recoil to take on the human condition.

Dear friends, to help others discover the true face of God is the first form of charity, which for you assumes the form of intellectual charity. I have noted with pleasure that the theme for the diocesan pastoral ministry in the universities this year is "The Eucharist and intellectual charity" - a demanding but appropriate choice.

In fact, in every Eucharistic celebration, God enters history in Jesus Christ, in his Word and his Body, giving us that charity which allows us to serve man in his concrete existence.

The project "A culture for the city" offers a promising proposition of Christ's presence in the cultural field. So while I hope that your pastoral course will be fruitful, I must also invite all the universities to be places of formation for authentic workers in intellectual charity. The future of society will depend largely on them, especially in the elaboration of a new humanistic synthesis and a new capacity to apply it (cfr Enc. Caritas in veritate, 21).

I encourage all the responsible officials in academic institutions to proceed together, collaborating in the construction of communities in which all young people are formed to become mature and responsible men who can realize the 'civilization of love'.

At the end of this celebration, an Australian university delegation will turn over to an African delegation the icon of Mary Sedes Sapientiae (Seat of wisdom). Let us entrust to the Blessed Virgin all the university students on the African continent, along with the commitment for cooperation which in the months following the Special Synodal Assembly for Africa, has been developing between the universities of Rome and Africa.

I renew my encouragement for this new prospect of cooperation and I hope that it may give rise to cultural projects that are able to promote the integral development of man.

Dear friends, may the coming Christmas bring joy and hope to you, your families and the entire university community in Rome and around the world.

00Friday, December 18, 2009 2:14 PM

Friday, December 18

BLESSED ANTHONY GRASSI (Italy, 1591-1671), Priest
Born in Fermo, northeast Italy, near Loreto, he was a devotee of Our Lady of Loreto
from his childhood. He became an Oratorian father [St. Philip Neri's order] known
for his unflappable serenity and his gifts as a father confessor and spiritual
counselor in his hometown. In 1621, he was struck by lightning while praying at
the Loreto shrine and was electrocuted so badly he was paralyzed and was expected
to die. But he survived, and threafter, he made an annual pilgrimage to Loreto. In
1625, he was named superior of the Oratorians in Fermo. His basic rule for everyone
was 'ad litteram', meaning follow orders to the letter. His central passion was the
daily Mass and Adoration in a long life that was otherwise unremarkable. In old age,
as he lost his physical faculties, his Archbishop came to give him Communion every
day. He was beatified in 1900.

OR today.

Benedict XVI tells 8 new ambassadors he hopes for
'Binding international agreements to protect the environment'

Other papal stories on Page 1: The Holy Father's meeting with the bishops of Belarus; the Mass to celebrate
the 90th birthday of Czech Cardinal Thomas Spidlik; and the reduction of Emmanuel Milingo to laical state.
The only international story on Page 1 is that the Copenhagen climate change conference expects at best
a declaration of intentions from participating governments.


At 9 a.m., the Holy Father attended the third and last Advent sermon by the Preacher of the Royal Household
at the Redemptoris Mater chapel.

Later he met with
- Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches

- Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, emeritus Bishop of Hong Kong

- Belgian pilgrims who formally presented this year's Vatican Christmas tree which came from
the Ardennes forest in the Walloon region. Remarks in French.

00Friday, December 18, 2009 3:00 PM

Well, I am glad someone has finally put a stop to all the previous nonsense about the Pope staying at Buckingham Palace when he visits the UK, but I object strenuously to the second part of the Times headline which is obviously wrong and designed to impress a most negative idea about the Pope in the mind of the casual reader who hardly ever gets past the headline, since the story itself says nothing of the sort...

Pope declines UK state pomp
and avoids apology over Ireland abuse

by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

Dec. 18, 2009

The Pope will not stay at Buckingham Palace and has declined an open-carriage procession and palace banquet during his state visit to Britain next year.

Although Pope Benedict XVI will be a guest of the Queen he will stay with his Ambassador to the Court of St James, the Apostolic Nuncio, at his house in Wimbledon, southwest London.

The Pope will spend one day in Scotland during the three-day visit from September 16 to 19. In spite of pleas from lay members of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland for him to visit them and apologise in person for decades of child abuse by members of the clergy exposed in a recent report, he is unlikely to do so before 2012.

[And Gledhill's editors interpret that as 'avoids apology over Ireland abuse'??? Typical liberal poison-pen headline not supported by the story itself!

Ireland is another country, and to visit it this time would mean a whole new set of arrangements to be made. And since when is a Pope compelled to 'apologize in person' onsite for anything? An apology is an apology anywhere it is made, and any apology from the Pope, wherever he makes it, resounds infinitely more than any run-of-the-mill apology because of the global coverage it gets.

Obviously, all our sympathies go to the victims of clerical abuse, but it's hard to be sympathetic to those who not only want a literal pound of flesh hacked off the Pope but also to grind his face in the dirt while doing so. Typically, such victims and their families and advocates are relentlessly unforgiving, and one might say it is understandable, under the circumstances, but it is also most un-Christian.

However, given the ways of the world and persistent bias against the Church and the Pope, even among nominal Catholics. I am sure Benedict XVI realizes that he will always be made the scapegoat for any offenses committed by Roman Catholic clergy, is spiritually prepared for it, and fortified by the Lord's grace.]

Jim Murphy, a Catholic MP who is Secretary of State for Scotland and heads the government team in charge of the visit, said that while it would have the status of a state visit, the Vatican did not want the trappings that accompany such a visit.

“It’s a unique constitutional arrangement as the Pope is head of a faith and the head of state,” Mr Murphy told The Tablet, the Catholic weekly.

“The official title is ‘papal visit with the status of a state visit’. Normally state visits include banquets and gold carriages but the Vatican doesn’t want that.”

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland have drawn up an itinerary that is now with the Holy See and includes public Masses and ecumenical events. The Pope will meet the Queen in Scotland, where she will be at Balmoral.

The organisers will be anxious to avoid embarrassing conflict with Anglicans, as arrangements move forward for new Anglican Ordinariates for traditionalists who wish to convert to Catholicism.

There had been speculation that the papal visit might be downgraded from state to pastoral because of embarrassment over the offer to traditionalists, regarded by some Anglicans as an attempt to poach from their flocks.

One Catholic bishops’ conference has already gone so far as to give traditionalist Anglicans a church for Christmas.

In Scotland, Catholic Anglicans will this year celebrate Christmas in a Catholic chapel in a convent. St Catherine’s convent chapel in Tollcross, Edinburgh, was a gift from Scotland’s Catholic bishops and was made available by the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Canon Len Black, a Scottish Episcopal priest in Inverness, said there were no traditionalist parishes in Edinburgh but up to 50 lay men and women who needed a traditional service.

The Scottish Episcopal Church, one of 38 provinces in the worldwide Anglican Communion, last week shortlisted a woman for an episcopal vacancy, meaning that Scotland could have the UK’s first Anglican woman bishop.

Canon Black welcomed the unprecedented Christmas gift.

“This move has come about because of the rapid drift of the Scottish Episcopal Church away from the traditional faith, morals and practices of the universal Church,” he said.

“When the Scottish Episcopal Church first decided to ordain women as priests some 15 years ago we were assured of a ‘valued and honoured place’ within the Church ‘for all time to come’.

“That promise has not been honoured and today some of our people even find that they are being told they are no longer welcome in the churches in which they were baptised as infants. Now we find that the provision we were hoping for from our own Church is being offered to all disaffected Anglicans by the Catholic Church.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, commented: “I am delighted to help provide a place of worship for these traditionalist Anglicans, taking the lead from Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor Pope John Paul II.”

00Friday, December 18, 2009 3:47 PM

The Italian news agencies carried this news today, which it turns out, was reported yesterday by ROME REPORTS, but I didn't see it. Sorry...

Benedict XVI to declare
John Paul II 'Venerable' tomorrow

December 17, 2009 - The late Pope John Paul II is one step closer to getting a spot on the altars, now that Benedict XVI will name him venerable.

Benedict XVI is expected to sign the decree Saturday December 19th.

When the Pope gives a candidate to the altars, the title "venerable" that means he recognizes that they lived the Christian virtues as heroes.

To beatify a candidate, the commission of cardinals and Vatican theologians must certify that God has performed a miracle through his intercession.

In the case of John Paul II, just two months after his death, several medical teams have classified the cure of a French nun with Parkinson's, as “scientifically inexplicable”. The nun says, with much difficulty, she wrote John Paul II name on a piece of paper and a couple of hours later she was 100% cured.

To name John Paul II 'Venerable', Pope Benedict XVI analyzed the documentation collected during the last 5 years by the postulator of the Cause of beatification, Father Slawomir Oder. Thousands of pages with specific facts and that show what many proclaimed the day of his funeral: that John Paul was a saint.

John Paul II road to sainthood, is perhaps one of the shortest on record. It started just one month after he died. And lasted only 5 years. The traditional road to sainthood usually takes 10 times as long.

An earlier report from Australian news agencies citing sources at the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood anticipate that the major decree to be announced by the Pope before Christmas will the canonization of Mother Mary McKillop, who would become the first Australian saint.

The same reports said that both John Paul II and Pius XII were to be declared 'Venerable'. And an Italian report today says that also to be declared 'Venerable' is a protege of John Paul II, the Polish priest Jerzy Popieluszko, believed martyred by the Communists for his role in rallying the Polish people against the regime at the Solidarity rallies of the 1970s.
00Friday, December 18, 2009 4:17 PM

Inside and outside the Vatican,
2009 was busy year for the Pope

By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 18 (CNS) -- Looking back on 2009, it's difficult to imagine a busier year for 82-year-old Pope Benedict XVI.

The Year of St. Paul. The Year for Priests. A major social encyclical. A Holy Land pilgrimage. A first meeting with President Obama. Ten new saints. An African trip and an African synod. A Facebook debut. A controversial concession to Catholic traditionalists. An unexpected overture to disaffected Anglicans.

And those are just the highlights, of course. Being Pope is a day-in, day-out ministry, and over the course of the past year Pope Benedict met with more than 200 dignitaries and groups, held talks with more than 300 bishops and celebrated more than 50 major liturgies.

The year brought moments of deep personal satisfaction, as when the German pontiff prayed in silence before Christ's empty tomb in Jerusalem, or when he arrived on his first African visit to a tumultuous welcome by hundreds of thousands of Cameroon residents.

But the Pope's disappointment was also evident in 2009, in part because he felt misunderstood by some of his own faithful and the mass media over difficult decisions or statements.

In January, the Pope announced that he was lifting the excommunications of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X to open the way toward reconciliation talks with the traditionalist group -- a move that had been opposed by some bishops in several countries.

Media attention quickly focused on the fact that one of the four, Bishop Richard Williamson, had given interviews denying the extent of the Holocaust. Suddenly the German-born Pope was on the defensive, having to assure Jewish leaders and others that his initiative aimed at Church unity and in no way represented a backtracking on the Church's teachings against anti-Semitism. [Which should have been obvious except to his habitual faultfinders within the Church, the media and militant Jewish circles, who will never pass up the occasion to provoke a major dust-up against the Pope.]

One of the most remarkable documents of 2009, in fact, was the Pope's subsequent letter to the world's bishops expressing his amazement that even some Catholics had misunderstood him and attacked him "with open hostility."

[The March 10, 2009, letter was, for me, the most important papal event of 2009, and perhaps, of Benedict XVI's Papacy so far. I look at it as the most remarkable papal document in modern times, bar none, because of the deep personal emotion that runs through the whole letter (nornally much tempered in papal documents).

But it also happens to be the most cogent analysis and expression of the crisis in the faith today - the absence or marginalization of God in contemporary society - and the Christian mission to make his presence actual in the world by their own testimony of love and unity.

Too bad it would seem that the bishops to whom it was addressed are ignoring it, just as they have mostly ignored Benedict XVI's equally heartfelt letter to them accompanying Summorum Pontificum, even though the scope of that letter was necessarily limited to the continuity of tradition in liturgy, and liturgy as lex credendi.]

The Pope's visit to Africa in March was a weeklong experience of intense liturgies, discussions with bishops and moving encounters with youth, the disabled and even a group of Pygmies.

But the media impact was overshadowed by the Pope's remarks to reporters on the first day of the trip, when he spoke of the Church's strategies against AIDS and said, "One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem." The comment drew widespread criticism, although some experts agreed that over-reliance on condoms was a problem in African countries.

The Synod of Bishops for Africa in October brought the continent back into the Vatican spotlight. The Pope presided over the synod's assemblies and, at the conclusion, received 57 pastoral proposals to elaborate into a future document on the Church in Africa.

In May, Pope Benedict traveled to Jordan, Israel and Palestinian territory. The eight-day trip was a biblical pilgrimage, an interfaith mission and a political balancing act all rolled into one.

The Pontiff visited a mosque in the Jordanian capital, prayed at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and blessed cornerstones for new Christian churches and facilities in the region.

In June, the Pope closed the Year of St. Paul and opened the Year for Priests. In weekly talks and liturgical celebrations focusing on St. Paul, the Pope sketched a detailed portrait of the man considered the model of Christian conversion and the archetypal missionary.

In launching the Year for Priests, the Pope said the church must acknowledge that some priests have done great harm to others, but it also must thank God for the gifts the majority of priests have given to the church and the world.

In July, the Pope issued his long-awaited encyclical on economic and social justice, "Charity in Truth." It called for reform of international economic institutions and practices, and said the global economic crisis stemmed in large part from the moral failures of greedy financiers and investors.

The Pope gave a copy of his encyclical to President Barack Obama when the two leaders met for the first time at the Vatican in July, along with a copy of a recent Vatican document on biomedical ethics.

In their private talks, which the Vatican said took place in an atmosphere of "great serenity and great cordiality," the President "explicitly expressed his commitment to reducing the numbers of abortions and to listen to the Church's concerns on moral issues," the Vatican said. [Which Obama obviously said with his usual facility for saying things he does not mean or are outright lies!]

In September, Pope Benedict welcomed the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, and in a speech outlined wide areas of potential cooperation with the Obama administration. At the same time, echoing concerns by U.S. church leaders, the Pope called for respect for the life of the unborn and protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers.

Among the new saints proclaimed by the Pope in 2009 were two with strong U.S. connections: Father Damien de Veuster, the 19th-century Belgian missionary who ministered to people with leprosy in Hawaii, and Sister Jeanne Jugan, a French nun whose Little Sisters of the Poor continue to assist the elderly in the United States and more than 30 other countries.

In internal church matters, the Pope in May ordered an apostolic visitation of the Legionaries of Christ and their institutions following disclosures of sexual impropriety by the order's late founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado.

In October, the Vatican unveiled Pope Benedict's new plan for welcoming Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while preserving aspects of their Anglican spiritual and liturgical heritage.

As the year wound to a close, the Pope buffed up his "green" credentials [That's not a very nice way of putting it, as though he were any politician seeking to inflate his CV and get on a fashionable bandwagon - I wish journalists occasionally stopped to edit themselves, because I am sure Thavis did not mean what his formulation seems to imply. Also, it's not as if the Pope was expressing his views about 'safeguarding Creation' for the first time! - It would have been good if Thavis had recounted all the times he did so in the past 12 months, starting with his Christmas speech to the Roman Curia last December] in his message for World Peace Day 2010.

The message said degradation of the environment is a pressing moral problem that threatens peace and human life itself, and called for action on a global and personal level.

00Friday, December 18, 2009 8:51 PM

Anticipating the Pope's Christmas, 2009

ROME, Dec. 18 (Translated from Apcom) - Christmas with his household staff (two secretaries and four housekeepers) for Pope Benedict XVI, a simple celebration as usual. Gifts to and from his staff, and a traditional German Christmas lunch coming straight from Germany, on his fifth Christmas as Pope.

His Christmas card this year carries a Latin inscription that says "The light shines on us today because the Savior is born". [I have searched online, and there is no image so far of the card. We never saw the one for 2008 either. The Vatican press Office should have a definite policy about this. In the first three years, it made available images of both the Christmas and Easter cards sent by the Pope. Why have they stopped doing so?]

The German Christmas lunch will reportedly include canederli (dumplings with bacon), white sausages, sweet mustard and lebkuchen (Bavarian cookies).

A novelty this year is the possibility to send Christmas greetings to the Pope through Facebook. The Pontifical Council for Social Communications has opened a channel in Pope2You to facilitate such greetings, to which photos may be attached. Once posted, the Vatican IT system will print them out to be delivered as cards to the Pope himself.

The most beautiful greetings will be displayed on the various Vatican social-networking pages.

As previously announced, the Christmas Eve Mass celebrated by the Pope in St. Peter's Basilica will start at 10 p.m. this year instead of midnight.

The following day, Christmas Day, he will deliver his Christmas message Urbi et Orbi at noon from the central loggia of the Basilica.

On December 26, he will lead the noon Angelus [I don't know why - it's Saturday and not a religious holiday], and on Sunday, Dec. 27, he will have lunch with the indigent at the Sant'Egidio soup kitchen in Trastevere. [I think he will lead the Sunday Angelus before going to the soup kitchen where he is not expected until 1 p.m.]

This afternoon, the Christmas tree on St. Peter's Square will be lit. It is a 90-year-old 90-foot tree from the Belgian resort town of Spa in the Ardennes.

The Nurseries Union of the Ardennes also donated forty smaller trees for the papal apartment, the Sala Clementina and various offices in the Vatican.

Tickets for the Christmas Eve Mass have long been 'sold out'. The Pontifical Household distributed 10,000. Similarly gobbled up were the tickets for the Vespers and Te Deum on December 31 and for the New Year's Day Mass the next day.

[The Apcom report does not say anything about it but for the past four years, the Pope's brother, Mons. Georg Ratzinger, has come to the Vatican around December 28 from his home in Regensburg to spend the New Year and his birthday on January 15 with his brother.]

P.S. I have found the Pope's 2009 Christmas card in BILD, the German tabloid. I rotated and cropped the right photo to try and get the message side clearly, but the picture does not resolve well when enlarged.

The legend at the bottom of the card says the illustration is from a stained-glass panel in the Pope's private chapel at the Apostolic palace, executed in 1964 by Italian artist Silvio Consadori (1909–1994). The Latin inscription „Lux fulgebit hodie super nos; quia natus est nobis Dominus“ is from the Roman Missal.

The following is an item I would normally post in BENADDICTIONS, but I am adding it here for thematic continuity.

The Pope's Christmas courier
from Bavaria began work before Advent

by Barbara Just

MUNICH, Nov. 27 (Translated from KNA) - On a warm spring-like November afternoon in a nursery in West Munich, bank director Thaddaeus Kuehnel drives up with his Mercedes and backs carefully towards the open gate of the greenhouse.

The 62-year-old man is evidently nervous. Although no one could possibly think of Christmas in this warmth, he is - he must load more than 40 festively decorated Advent wreaths into the car. The destination for the precious cargo? The Vatican.

"How will all this fit?" he worries. But his good friend Robert Zwirner calms him down. Every year, he packs in wreath after wreath along with several boxes of pre-wired replacement candles into the trunk of the car and on the back seat.

"We'll manage it this time, as well", Zwirner is certain and unconcerned.

The problem came earlier. The ex-gardener of St. Boniface Abbey, Brother Ansgar Moessmer, 90, had intended to make all the wreaths himself as in previous years. But the Benedictine monk had broken his hip in a fall and was hospitalized.

Thank God, another gardener, Marille Schuster, volunteered to make the wreaths. The largest wreath is at least a meter in diameter. Like all the rest, it is decorated with gold-edged red ribbons, golden floweers and golden bulbs. During Advent, they are to adorn every room in the Apostolic Palace where the Pope's guests are received, as well as the Pope's apartment and private chapel.

The wreaths come with red candles which were chosen because, says Kuehnel, "That is how the Pope remembers them and treasures them from his childhood".

Since 1982 when Joseph Ratzinger moved to Rome to become Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Kuehnel has regularly brought him delicacies and traditional decorations from his Bavarian homeland.

Advent wreaths are not a common tradition in Italy. "South of Trentino, they don't recognize what they are", Kuehnel notes.

Once he packed a couple of wreaths in his suitcase to bring to Rome. A Customs agent had him open his bags in Rome and when he saw the wreaths, he assumed they were for a funeral. "He apologized and expressed his condolences," Kuehnell recalls, amused.

But to bring just a suitcase of goodies on his holiday runs has long become inadequate. Since Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope in 2005, the demand in Rome for Advent decorations and Christmas goodies has soared - more and more, Germans who work and live in the Vatican also want them. Among his earliest 'new' customers were a former Nuncio to Germany and Cardinal Lajolo, governor of Vatican city state [though he is not German).

Obviously, Kuehnel must also think of papal scretary Mons. Georg Gaenswein, the Pope's four housekeepers (all Italian), Cardinal Augustin Mayer and Bendictine primate, Abbot Notker Wolf.

Kuehnel's Mercedes is almost like a long-distance "Bavarian care package' delivery van. He uses even the storage space under the trunk floor for chocolate Santas, cans of white sausage, sweet mustard, horseradish and coffee from a famous Munich coffee roaster.

Six homemade candles of beeswax from the enterpreneur-artist Claus Hipp (who tends beehives in his spare time) are not going on this trip.

Kuehnel says he will take them to Rome on his trip just before Christmas when he undertakes the 11-hour car trip once more to deliver three five-meter Christmas trees from Bavaria to the Pope.

And as always, he expects the ride will end with an invitation to lunch with the Pope.

Top left photo, one of Kuehnel's wreaths provides a suitable foreground for the Pope's group picture with the bishops of Belarus; right and bottom left, Kuehnel with a new wreath, and with Christmas trees to bring to Rome.

I am adding some material from a Guardian article on Kuehnel last Christmas:

When Joseph Ratzinger left Bavaria to become cardinal of the Roman Curia, Thaddaeus Kühnel promised to be his driver during home visits in the German south. Since then, the banker drives to Rome at least three times a year to bring the Pope gifts from the state.

He has already spent some 250,000 kilometres behind the steering wheel of his official car – the equivalent of driving around the world six times for the his holiness.

When the Cardinal became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, Kühnel, 62, offered to be at his beck and call whenever he wished to stock up on German delicacies that are hard to come by in Rome, including sausages, strudel and dumpling mix.

Lebkuchen (honey and spice biscuits), stollen (German Christmas cake), and chocolate were among the treats, Kühnel told German media. Of the trees, which came from the Pope's home town, Marktl am Inn, Kühnel said: "One is for the Pope's living room, and two are for private chapels."

Butchers in Marktl am Inn began selling Ratzinger sausages in his honour when he became Pope in 2005.

Kühnel said he had already clocked up around 250,000km (150,000 miles) in his car, delivering goods to the pope that he had personally requested, along with presents from his old friends, staff and distant relatives.

"I deliver all the things he misses about Bavaria, including fruit nectar, Bavarian sausages from his favourite restaurant, advent wreaths and German sweets. He has a very sweet tooth," Kühnel said.

"The first thing I brought to Rome, in my car, was a paschal candle, as well as some fruit from Adelholzen and mineral water. He likes the Christmas cookies that women from Bavarian parishes bake at home as well as those made at certain monasteries. He also likes the chocolates made in Aachen."

00Saturday, December 19, 2009 10:00 AM

Pope lights Vatican's
'eco-friendly' Christmas tree

Vatican City, Dec. 18 (dpa) - Pope Benedict XVI on Friday triggered a remote switch to light hundreds of golden bulbs on the Vatican's Christmas tree, a 30-metre high spruce from the forests of the Ardennes in Wallonia, Belgium.

The Christmas tree, adorned with gold and silver mirror-glass baubles and strands of tinsel, stood in the centre of St Peter's Square and is part of a tradition begun by Pope John Paul II in 27 years ago.

Benedict followed the ceremony from his Apostolic Palace residence overlooking the square.

A gift from Wallonia's regional government, the tree is around 100-years-old.

Its use has been described as "ecologically-friendly," because, according to the Vatican, it was felled as part of a programme to allow for the reintroduction and growth of other trees and plants that are more native to the Ardennes area.

Also, once Christmas celebrations have ended, wood from the tree, which measures some seven metres in diameter and weighs 14 tons, is to be used to make carved statues which will be sold, with the money going to the poor.

Since his 2005 election, Benedict has frequently urged governments to adopt measures aimed at safeguarding the environment, a call the pontiff repeated this week as world leaders are meeting at a United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Benedict's predecessor, the late Polish-born Pope John Paul II, in 1982 introduced the northern and eastern European custom of Christmas trees to the Vatican.

On Christmas Eve the Vatican, also in St Peter's Square, unveils its creche, or nativity scene, a greater-than-lifesize model depicting the birth of the baby Jesus, traditionally in a manger or cave.

Earlier Friday, the Holy Father met with a group of pilgrims who travelled to Rome from Belgium to present the Christmas tree formally, and to attend the lighting-up ceremony.

'The Lord visited and
ransomed the world'

Translated from
the 12/19/09 issue of

Christians are called on to show with their lives that 'the world has truly been visited and ransomed by the Lord".

Benedict XVI underscored this Friday noon sat the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace when he received a delegation from Belgium who had come to formally present the Christmas tree on St. Peter's Square which came from the Ardennes Forest near the resort town of Spa.

Here, translated, is what the Holy Father said in his remarks delivered in French, with a concluding paragraph in German:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I welcome you all who have come to offer the Christmas tree which, with the Nativity scene, will adorn St. Peter's Square during the Christmas celebrations.

I address a special greeting to the Minister for the Economy of the Walloon region and to Mons. Aloys Jousten, Bishop of Liege, and thank them both for the kind words they addressed to me.

My cordial greetings also go to His Excellency Franck De Coninck, ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See, and to the local political authorities who travelled here.

I greet the choristers and the representatives of the Walloon agency for exports and foreign investments, who initiated the project.

My thanks go to all who gave their collaboration for this gift but who cannot be here today. And I thank those who insured the delicate transport of this imposing tree.

In the forest, trees grow close to each other and each contributes to make the forest a place of shade, sometimes dark. Among the multitude, this majestic fir that you offer us today is lit up and covered with sparkling decorations which are like wonderful fruits.

Giving up its sombre robe for this dazzling splendour, it is transfigured, it becomes the bearer of a light which is not its own but which bears witness to the true Light that comes to the world.

The fate of this tree is like that of the shepherds: watching in the shadows of the night, behold them illuminated by the message of the angels. The fate of this tree is also comparable to ours, we who are called to bear good fruit in order to show that the world has truly been visited and ransomed by the Lord.

Set up beside the creche, this tree manifests in its own way the presence of that great mystery that came to the simple and poor town of Bethlehem. To the residents of Rome, to all the pilgrims, to all who will be at St. Peter's Square through television images seen around the world, it proclaims the coming of the Son of God.

Through this tree, your land and the Christian communities of your region greet the Infant God, he who came to make everything new and to call on all creatures, from the most humble to the most exalted, to enter into the mystery of Redemption and be associated with it.

I pray that the people of your region may remain faithful to the light of the faith. Held high for a long time now by the men who ventured into the valleys and the forests of the Ardennes, the light of the Gospel has been shared among your people and carried forth by the numerous missionaries who left their native land to spread it to the ends of the world.

May the Church in Belgium, particularly the diocese of Liege, continue to be a land that germinates the seed of the Kingdom that Christ came to earth to sow.

May the Lord bless you, your region adn all Belgium!

In German, he said:

We are very happy that a Belgian tree shines forth to the world from St. Peter's Square. I wish for everyone that the light from this tree may bring joy to your hearts and that you may celebrate Christmas with greater inner joy. God bless you all. A blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year!.

00Saturday, December 19, 2009 5:01 PM

Saturday, December 19

BLESSED URBAN V (France, 1310-1370)
Benedictine monk and Pope (1360-1370)
A native of Provence, Guillaume Grimoard was abbot of a monastery in Marseilles when he was elected Pope,
in the century when the Popes reigned from Avignon not Rome (1305-1378). The ascendancy of the French
monarchy and its Frankish empire at the time also meant that French cardinals dominated. Urban V brought
his Benedictine culture to his papacy, setting the example for austere living, initiating reforms in the clergy
and the Church and liberally patronizing institutions of learning and culture. He tried hard to return the
Papacy to Rome but died shortly after returning from Rome where he was received triumphally by the people
and by the imperial court of Charles IV. Fighting among imperial and papal supporters in the papal states
of Italy continued, and the Papacy would not return to Rome till 1377, with Gregory XI, famously urged on
by Catherine of Siena and Bridget of Sweden. Urban's canonization was promised by Gregory XI as early
as 1375 but was stalled by the troubles of the time. His cultus was not officially declared until 1870.

OR today.

Papal stories on Page 1: the Pope's homily at Vespers with the university students of Rome on Thursday evening, and his audience for
the Belgian pilgrims who came to formally present this year's Vatican Christmas tree. Other page 1 stories: A report on the failure
of the Copenhagen climate change conference to arrive at any binding agreement; an agreement between the USA and Russia towards
a new strategic arms reduction treaty; and an assessment by the Congregation for the Clergy halfway through the Year for Priests.


The Holy Father met today with

- Mons. Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

- Mons. Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and Rector Magnificus
of the Pontifical Lateran University

- Gianni Letta, Undersecretary to the Italian Prime Minister and the Cabinet

- Superiors and officials of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, on the occasion of
the dicastery's 40th anniversary. Address in Italian.

- Representatives of the children's arm of Italian Catholic Action. Address in Italian.

And in the afternoon:

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

The Holy Father today promulgated decrees recognizing miracles that will lead to the canonization
of five Blesseds, the beatification of five Venerables and a modern martyr, and the declaration of
heroic virtues for ten others, including Popes Pius XII and John Paul XIII.

The Vatican also issued a declaration 'to protect the figure of the Pope' against the unauthorized use
o the Pope's name and symbol or the adjective 'Pontifical' for any activities that have little or nothing
to do with the Catholic Church.

00Saturday, December 19, 2009 5:36 PM

So the anticipatory Australian news reports had it right about soon-to- be-saints Mary McKillop, their own, and Canadian Brother Andre Bessette of Montreal who initiated the world's major shrine to St. Joseph, and the proclamation of heroic virtue for both Pius XII and John Paul II.

Benedict XVI has once again taken a most courageous move, finally allowing the process of beatification of Pius XII to move forward, and he will most certainly stir up much rancour anew among militant Jews who accuse the late Pope of having done nothing in the face of the Holocaust. Our Holy Father has his holiday 'penance' all cut out for him.

From left, Mary McKillop, Andre Bessette, John Paul II, Pius XII, and Jerzy Popieluszko.


Translated from

Today, December 19,2009, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in private audience Mons. Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which the Holy Father authorized the promulgation of decrees regarding:

- A miracle, attributed to the intercession of Blessed Stanislaus Sołtys, called Kazimierczyk, priest of the order of Canons Regular of the Lateran, born Sept. 27, 1433 in Kazimierz (Poland) where he died on May 3, 1489;

- A miracle, attributed to the intercession of Blessed Andre Bessette (secular name, Alfred), religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, born in Saint-Grégoire d'Iberville (Canada) on Aug. 9, 1845, and died in Montréal on Jan. 6, 1937;

- A miracle, attributed to the intercession of Blessed Mary of the Cross McKillop (secular name, Mary Helen), founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, born Jan. 15, 1842, in Fitzroy (Australia) and died Aug. 8, 1909 in Sydney;

- A miracle, attributed to the intercession of Blessed Giulia Salzano, Founder of the Congregation of the Catechist Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, born Oct. 12, 1846 in Santa Maria Capua Vetere (Italy) and died May 17, 1929, in Casoria;

- A miracle, attributed to the intercession of Blessed Battista da Varano (secular name, Camuilla), nun of the Order of St. Clare and founder of the Monastery of St. Clare in Camerino (Italy), born April 19, 1458, in Camerino, where she died on May 31, 1524;

- A miracle, attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Josep Tous y Soler, priest of the Order of Capuchin Minor Friars and founder of the Congregation of the Capuchin Sisters of the Mother of the Divine Shepherd, born March 31, 1811, in Igualada (Spain), died Feb. 27, 1871, in Barcelona;

- A miracle, attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Leopoldo de Alpandeire Sánchez Márquez (secular name, Francisco), lay member of the Capuchin order, born July 24, 1866 in Alpandeire (Spain), and died Feb. 9, 1956, in Granada.

- A miracle, attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Emanuele Lozano Garrido, layman, born Aug. 9, 1920, in Linares (Spain). where he died on Nov. 3, 1971;

- A miracle, attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Teresa Manganiello, Laywoman, of the Third Franciscan Order, born in Montefusco (Italy) on Jan. 1, 1849, where she died on Nov. 4, 1876;

- A miracle, attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Chiara Badano, laywoman, born in Sassello (Italy) on Oct. 29, 1971, where she died on Oct. 7, 1990;

- The martyrdom of the Servant of God Jerzy Popiełuszko, diocesan priest, born Sept. 14, 1947, in Okopy Suchowola (Poland) and killed in hatred of the faith on Oct. 20, 1984, near Włocławek;

- The heroic virtues of Blessed Giacomo Illirico of Bitetto , lay member of the Franciscan Order; born in 1400 in Zara (Dalmatia), died around 1496 in Bitetto (Italy);

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli), Supreme Pontiff, born in Rome on March 1, 1876, died in Castel Gandolfo on Oct. 11, 1958;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God John Paul II (Karol Wojtyła), Supreme Pontiff, born May 18, 1920, in Wadowice (Poland), died in Rome on April 2, 2005.

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Louis Brisson, priest and founder of the Oblates of St. Frnacis de Sales, born June 23, 1817, in Plancy (France) where he died on Feb. 2, 1908;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Giuseppe Quadrio, prest of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco, born Nov, 28, 1921, in Vervio (Italy), died in Turin on Oct, 23, 1963;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Mary Ward (secular name, Joanne), founder of the Institute of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, now the Congregation of Jesus, born in Mulwith (England) on Jan. 23, 1585, died im Hewarth on Jan. 30, 1645;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Antonia Maria Verna, Founder of the Institute of Sister of Charity of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea, born June 12, 1773, in Pasquaro di Rivarolo (Italy), where she died on Dec. 25, 1838;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Maria Chiara Serafina di Gesù Farolfi (secular name, Francesca), founder of the Poor Clare Francscan Missionaries of the Holy Sacrament, born Oct. 7, 1853, in Tossignano (Italy), died June 19, 1917, in Badia di Bertinoro;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Enrica Alfieri (secular name, Maria Angela), nun of the Congregation of the Susters of Charity of St. Jeanne Thouret, born Feb. 23, 1891, in Borgovercelli (Italy), died in Milan on Nov. 23, 1951;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Giunio Tinarelli, layman, member of the Pia Unione Primaria Silenziosi Workers of the Cross, born in Terni (Italy) on May 27, 1912, where he died on Jan. 14, 1956.

Two Popes move closer to sainthood

December 19, 2009

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI moved two of his predecessors a step closer to sainthood on Saturday, confirming the “heroic virtues” of John Paul II and, in a surprise move, those of Pius XII, the Pope during World War II.

After John Paul’s death in April 2005, Benedict bypassed a traditional waiting period to put the much beloved Pope on a fast-track to sainthood. At John Paul’s funeral, crowds at Saint Peter’s Square chanted “santo subito,” or “sainthood now.”

Pius XII, however, has been a point of contention between the Vatican and some Jewish groups, who say he did not do enough to stop the Holocaust. They have called on the Vatican to open the sealed archives from Pius’s papacy, from 1939 to 1958, for examination by scholars.

On Saturday, the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants called the decision on Pius “profoundly insensitive and thoughtless” and said it would cause “an inevitable blow” to interfaith relations.

“Pairing the announcement on Pius — who remained publicly silent during the Holocaust — with that on John Paul II, himself a victim of the Nazis, is a particularly disturbing and callous act,” the group added. ['Father, forgive them...' - I have resolved not to be provoked any longer by the formulaic and totally predictable Pavlov-dog reactions of militant Jews against Pius XII.]

Benedict has said that Pius worked “secretly and silently” to help save Jews. Although a Vatican committee confirmed his “heroic virtues” in 2007, Benedict had asked for time for reflection, which many saw as a diplomatic effort aimed at calming polemics.

On Saturday, the Pope confirmed the committee’s findings. Before the two Popes can become saints, another Vatican committee must determine that miracles have been attributed to them.

Benedict also confirmed the “heroic virtues” of six other potential saints and miracles for 11. He declared the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, the “Solidarity chaplain” murdered by the Polish secret service in 1984, a martyr.

Vatican insiders speculate that John Paul could be beatified as soon as next fall. [In time for the 32nd anniverary of his election as Pope in October 1978.]

00Saturday, December 19, 2009 7:51 PM

See earlier posts for today, Dec. 19, on the preceding page, including the full list of the decrees
promulgated by Benedict XVI today that will lead to five canonizations and six beatifications, and
proclaiming the heroic virtues of ten men and women, including Popes Pius XII and John Paul II,
opening the way for beatification.

I am glad Sandro Magister has come out to disabuse his readers of any mistaken notion that Benedict XVI's ideas on ecology are a blanket endorsement of the ecocentric catastrophism of those who met in Copenhagen recently, since not a few liberal media articles quickly cited the Pope's Message for the 2010 World Day for Peace as a papal seal of approval for their cause.

Benedict's 'Green Revolution':
Protect and cultivate Creation -
man and nature together

The ecology of man comes before the ecology of nature, says the Pope.
Vatican experts pan the Copenhagen conference on the climate
as a 'false departure' which, even worse,denies the value of human life.

ROME, December 17, 2009 – The prestigious American magazine Foreign Policy has ranked Benedict XVI 17th among the "top 100 global thinkers" of the year - those who with their "big ideas shaped our world in 2009."

Among the achievements of Pope Benedict recognized by Foreign Policy is that he "has positioned the Church prominently and unexpectedly as an advocate for the environment and warned against the perils of climate change."

But what is the "Green Revolution" that Benedict XVI is proposing?

The answer has come in the message that will accompany the upcoming World Day of Peace which the Church celebrates every January 1.

The message for the New Year of 2010 was signed by the Pope on December 8, and made public two days ago, precisely when representatives from all nations had gathered in Copenhagen for a combative and unproductive world conference on the climate.

The message can be read in its entirety in seven languages, on the Vatican website. Its title is an agenda in itself: "If you want to cultivate peace, protect Creation."

Further below, three of the salient passages are reproduced, taken from the sixth, twelfth, and thirteenth paragraphs of the document.

At the center of the message is a biblical image: that of the garden of Creation, entrusted by God to man and woman for them to protect and cultivate.

Nature therefore has no primacy over man, nor is man a tiny part of nature. Nor, in his turn, can man usurp the right to despoil nature instead of taking care of it.

The correct relationship between the human being and the earth is the one marvelously depicted in the masterpiece by Piero della Francesca from 1472,in the detail below.

Piero della Francesca, Detail frm The Duke and Duchess of Urbino, 1465 [inset], Uffizi, Florence.

The landscape in the background is cultivated, orderly and luminous, just as the woman in the foreground, the wife of the landowner, Federico da Montefeltro, is nobly "illuminated" with pearls.

One of the essential concepts of the message of Pope Benedict is precisely this. The ecology of nature and the ecology of man share the same destiny. Care for creation must be one and the same with care for the "inviolability of human life in every one of its phases and every one of its conditions."

It all goes together: care for nature, respect for the dignity of man, and peace among peoples. Wherever hatred and violence break out, nature weeps as well. A devastated landscape and an uninhabitable city are the product of a humanity that has made a desert of its own soul.

Here are the three key paragraphs from the message for the Day of Peace 2010: "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation."


[6] What we call “nature” in a cosmic sense has its origin in “a plan of love and truth.” The world “is not the product of any necessity whatsoever, nor of blind fate or chance. The world proceeds from the free will of God; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, in his intelligence, and in his goodness” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 295).

The Book of Genesis, in its very first pages, points to the wise design of the cosmos: it comes forth from God’s mind and finds its culmination in man and woman, made in the image and likeness of the Creator to “fill the earth” and to “have dominion over” it as “stewards” of God himself (cf. Gen 1:28).

The harmony between the Creator, mankind and the created world, as described by Sacred Scripture, was disrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve, by man and woman, who wanted to take the place of God and refused to acknowledge that they were his creatures.

As a result, the work of “exercising dominion” over the earth, “tilling it and keeping it”, was also disrupted, and conflict arose within and between mankind and the rest of creation (cf. Gen 3:17-19). Human beings let themselves be mastered by selfishness; they misunderstood the meaning of God’s command and exploited creation out of a desire to exercise absolute domination over it.

But the true meaning of God’s original command, as the Book of Genesis clearly shows, was not a simple conferral of authority, but rather a summons to responsibility.

The wisdom of the ancients had recognized that nature is not at our disposal as “a heap of scattered refuse” (Heraclitus, 535-475 B.C.).Biblical Revelation made us see that nature is a gift of the Creator, who gave it an inbuilt order and enabled man to draw from it the principles needed to “till it and keep it” (cf. Gen. 2:15).

Everything that exists belongs to God, who has entrusted it to man, albeit not for his arbitrary use. Once man, instead of acting as God’s co-worker, sets himself up in place of God, he ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, “which is more tyrannized than governed by him”.[12]

Man thus has a duty to exercise responsible stewardship over creation, to care for it and to cultivate it (Caritas in Veritate, 50).


[12] The Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction.

The degradation of nature is closely linked to the cultural models shaping human coexistence: consequently, “when ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits” (Caritas in Veritate, 51).

Young people cannot be asked to respect the environment if they are not helped, within families and society as a whole, to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics (Caritas in Veritate, 15.51).

Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others.

Hence I readily encourage efforts to promote a greater sense of ecological responsibility which, as I indicated in my encyclical Caritas in Veritate, would safeguard an authentic “human ecology” and thus forcefully reaffirm the inviolability of human life at every stage and in every condition, the dignity of the person and the unique mission of the family, where one is trained in love of neighbour and respect for nature (Caritas in Veritate, 28.51.61).

There is a need to safeguard the human patrimony of society. This patrimony of values originates in and is part of the natural moral law, which is the foundation of respect for the human person and creation.


[13] Nor must we forget the very significant fact that many people experience peace and tranquillity, renewal and reinvigoration, when they come into close contact with the beauty and harmony of nature. There exists a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we realize that God, through creation, cares for us.

On the other hand, a correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by absolutizing nature or by considering it more important than the human person.

If the Church’s magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism, it is because such notions eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things.

In the name of a supposedly egalitarian vision of the “dignity” of all living creatures, such notions end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings.

They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms.

The Church, for her part, is concerned that the question be approached in a balanced way, with respect for the “grammar” which the Creator has inscribed in his handiwork by giving man the role of a steward and administrator with responsibility over creation, a role which man must certainly not abuse, but also one which he may not abdicate.

In the same way, the opposite position, which would absolutize technology and human power, results in a grave assault not only on nature, but also on human dignity itself (Caritas in Veritate, 70).

First note:
Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church
has a similar orientation

The message "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation" repeatedly cites the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the most recent product of the Magisterium of the Church of Rome in matters of social doctrine.

An interesting parallel is the document with similar content published by the Patriarchate of Moscow in 2000, with the title "The foundations of the social doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church" [discussed extensively by Archbishop Hilarion in his Introduction to the Patriarchate's 'Europe, spiritual homeland' putting together four major discourses on Europe by Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI in the past 10 years. See full translation of the Introduction in the thread ISSUES

The harmony between this document and the message of Benedict XVI for the World Day of Peace 2010 is very strong. Example, from the Russian document:

Ecological problems have a substantially anthropological character, being generated by man and not by nature.

The anthropogenic basis of ecological problems demonstrates that we tend to change the world around us in keeping with our interior world, and precisely for this reason the transformation of nature must begin with the transformation of the soul.

According to the thought of Maximus the Confessor, man will be able to transform the whole earth only when he has brought paradise within himself.

Second note:
The 'false departure' of Copenhagen

Paragraph 4 of the 2010 World Day for Peace message lists the warning signs of ecological degradation as "climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions."

But the document does not get into specifics. It does not formulate scientific diagnoses or propose solutions.

But this is what was done in a commentary* that appeared on the front page of the December 7-8, 2009 issue of L'Osservatore Romano, written by Professor Franco Prodi, a member of the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate of the Italian National Research Council, as well as being the brother of Romano Prodi, the former Italian prime minister and president of the European Commission.

*[NB: A commentary I was meaning to translate but have not done so - and will do ASAP!]

Professor Prodi shows that he does not at all share the environmentalist mantra according to which the increased emission of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere, on the part of man, is the cause of the warming of the planet and the rising of sea levels.

In Prodi's view, this is not a certainty, but only a probability. And in any case, it would mean a rise of the average air temperature of the entire planet "that since the beginning of the nineteenth century has been only seven tenths of a degree per century."

Much more influential over the climate, according to Prodi, are other phenomena, which to a great extent remain to be studied, such as the flow of heat inside the planet, the release of carbon dioxide by volcanoes, and above all the role of aerosols, airborne particles produced by man, which today equal "20 percent of the amount produced by nature" and modify clouds and rainfall.

But Prodi warns that it will take at least "thirty or forty years" of study before arriving at "complete climate models leading to the explanation of the system and to the certain prediction of its evolution."

And meanwhile? Meanwhile, what has been staged in Copenhagen is a "false departure," entirely based on the "measuring of emissions in the context of a strictly market economy."

According to Professor Prodi, it would be much better for countries more simply to attend to the degradation of nature that is plain for all to see: polluted air, rivers and groundwater mistreated, animal and vegetable species threatened.

Third note:
Strong words from the Vatican's
resident economist and 'Pope's banker'

On December 17, L'Osservatore Romano returned to the Copenhagen Conference with a second front-page commentary [I did translate this in full promptly; it is posted on this thread in the preceding page], this time entrusted to Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the economist and banker who for a few months has also been the president of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, the Vatican bank.

Gotti Tedeschi is even more radically critical than Professor Prodi about the approach of the conference. And he also makes use of the message of Benedict XVI, "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation," published two days earlier.

Here's what he writes:

Nihilistic thought, with its rejection of all objective value and truth, causes extremely serious damage if it is applied to the economy. [...] But nihilistic thought may be causing even more serious damage on the environmental question. [...] It presumes to resolve climatic problems – where great confusion reigns – through population control and de-industrialization, instead of through the promotion of values that can lead the individual back to his original dignity. The climate conference in Copenhagen is confirming this direction, producing more conflict than solutions. [...]

In reality, what is lacking is a strategic vision of the problem, precisely because of the widespread nihilism that goes so far as to theorize the absence value in human life compared with the presumed centrality of nature – the ecocentrism denounced by Benedict XVI – which is only damaged by man. [...]

On the issue of the environment, therefore, vague agreements on harmful emissions are being sought, while ignoring shared ethical premises and scientific considerations.

Nihilistic thought risks turning the process of globalization – which in reality is positive for poor countries – into a disorder due to the economic man, who is also the cause of environmental problems and therefore a candidate for self-elimination. [...]

The environmentalists do well to urge greater attention to nature. But they would do better to read 'Caritas in Veritate' as well. They would understand why – but above all for whose sake – the environment must be respected.

Magister omits citing the front-page editorial by Giovanni Maria Vian, also translated on this thread, the day after the 2010World Day for Peace message was released, in which he unerscores the condemnation of ecocentrism in the dominant culture; and the prompt and incisive commentary by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera in AsiaNews as soon as the Pope's message had been releasaed, as poted on Page 51 of this thread:

Two days ago, I had started a post with the commentary of Fr. Gerald di Souza on the Pope's Message, because I was startled that he - whom I have always considered an excellent commentator on the papacy of Benedict XVI - reads the Message the way the liberals do! Unfortunately, I lost the post when I punched the 'Refresh' button instead of the 'spell-check' button - after having gone to considerable effort commenting to the parts of the commentary that I object to. That was Thursday when the Pope had three major addresses that I had to translate, so I had no time or energy left to do it all over. I will find the time later today.

00Saturday, December 19, 2009 8:27 PM

Carl Olson comments todayon Magister's piece and adds his own relevant citations. I will omit his opening paragraphs which cites excerpts from Magister:

Vatican vs Copenhagen:
By no means of one voice
about the environment

by Carl Olson

Dec. 19, 2009

... Some have attempted, either through misunderstanding or misrepresentation, to portray Benedict as a thoroughgoing environmentalist in the mold of Al Gore and Co.

Now, Benedict and Gore do share the general belief that how man treats the environment is intimately related to spiritual and religious questions and issues. But they take very different paths thereafter. The difference can be located in considering an essential distinction made by G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy:

If you want to treat a tiger reasonably, you must go back to the garden of Eden. For the obstinate reminder continues to recur: only the supernatural has taken a sane view of Nature.

The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother.

The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity.

Nature was a solemn mother to the worshippers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.

Chesterton highlights one of the two basic errors made when it comes to the environment: approaching nature with a subservient attitude, one that often leads to forms of pantheism, or, even worse, to an apocalyptic, anti-human ideology. NRO's Jonah Goldberg noted this in a recent column:

So consider instead Diane Francis, a ballyhooed Canadian pundit. In a recent Financial Post column, Francis wrote that the “‘inconvenient truth’ overhanging the U.N.’s Copenhagen conference is not that the climate is warming or cooling, but that humans are overpopulating the world.”

She insists that “the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate” is to implement a “planetary law, such as China’s one-child policy.”

Population control has always been at the heart of the progressive project, so it’s no surprise that it’s in fashion once again.

Examples of such thinking abound; they dominate the various environmentalist groups and movements. In this ideological paradigm, man is the problem, and he must eliminate or subjugate himself for the sake of "Mother Nature," "the planet," Gaia, etc.

The second error completely avoids forms of neo-pagan mysticism and anthropomorphic sentimentality and instead adopts a cold-blooded utilitarianism; it sees nature as merely a material resource to be used however man wishes, to be plundered with impunity, consequences be damned.

Benedict, of course, sees both approaches as being seriously flawed, reflecting views of man that are, in their own respective ways, inhuman. This is explained in an especially powerful passage from Caritas in Veritate:

The Church has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere. In so doing, she must defend not only earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction.

There is need for what might be called a human ecology, correctly understood. The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when “human ecology” is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits.

Just as human virtues are interrelated, such that the weakening of one places others at risk, so the ecological system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature.

In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society.

If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology.

It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves.

The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development.

Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other.

Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society. (par 51).

That passage echoes an equally strong section from Pope John Paul II's encyclical Centesimus annus (1991):

37. Equally worrying is the ecological question which accompanies the problem of consumerism and which is closely connected to it. In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way.

At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which unfortunately is widespread in our day.

Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are.

Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray.

Instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him.

In all this, one notes first the poverty or narrowness of man's outlook, motivated as he is by a desire to possess things rather than to relate them to the truth, and lacking that disinterested, unselfish and aesthetic attitude that is born of wonder in the presence of being and of the beauty which enables one to see in visible things the message of the invisible God who created them. In this regard, humanity today must be conscious of its duties and obligations towards future generations.

38. In addition to the irrational destruction of the natural environment, we must also mention the more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves.

Although people are rightly worried — though much less than they should be — about preserving the natural habitats of the various animal species threatened with extinction, because they realize that each of these species makes its particular contribution to the balance of nature in general, too little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic "human ecology".

Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man too is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed.

In this context, mention should be made of the serious problems of modern urbanization, of the need for urban planning which is concerned with how people are to live, and of the attention which should be given to a "social ecology" of work.

As I read various accounts of "Climategate" and the summit in Copenhagen, I am struck by the plainly religious fervor and spiritual nature of the environmental movement.

Equally disconcerting are the despotic undertones, the apocalyptic intensity, and not-so-uncommon hysterical language about ice caps disappearing in a few years, oceans rising several feet in decades, polar bears dropping like flies, and so forth — even while these "facts" continue to be challenged by more and more scientists.

Why, if Dan Brown really knew how to research and write, he could put together quite a story of a religion bent on fabrication, manipulation, power, and control through the misuse of sacred texts/data and the coercion of political and cultural powers.

But what is truly unfortunate is that the balanced, pro-human, and pro-environment wisdom of Benedict and John Paul is likely to be ignored by many or most.

00Saturday, December 19, 2009 10:10 PM

From left: To be canonized, Mary McKillop of Australia and Andre Bessette of Canada; John Paul II and Pius XII, proclaimed Venerable today; and Polish Solidarity chaplain and martyr, Jerzy Popieluszki, to be beatified.

It is very surprising that Andrea Tornielli and Paolo Rodari - the two Vaticanistas generally considered to be most 'wired into' the Curia - both write in their blogs today that they were caught entirely by surprise that Benedict XVI decided to promulgate the heroic virtues of Pius XII, and not just of John Paul II.

I am surprised they did not at all look up the Australian media which all this week had been buzzing with understandable excitement that the country was finally going to get its first saint! On Dec. 15, I posted a story from the Sydney Morning Herald in the CHURCH&VATICAN thread
which anticipated not just the approval for canonization of Blessed Mary McKillop, but also of Blessed Andre Bessette, and the heroic virtues of both John Paul II and Pius XII.

The Australian newspapers all reported this, citing authoritative sources from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, whereas the Italian media focused only on John Paul II.

That narrow focus is most unusual in Andrea Tornielli, who has written what is probably the most definitive biography of Pius XII so far, and might have been expected to ask his sources in the Vatican, after all the buzz on John Paul II this week, "Well, what about Pius XII, whose decree of 'heroic virtues' was approved by the Congregation in May 2007?"

Here is what Tornielli says in his blog today:

Papa Wojtyla and Pius XII:
Decrees pave the way for beatification

Translated from

Dec. 19, 2009

Benedict XVI, as expected, promulgated today the decree on the heroic virtues of John Paul II.

But the true surprise, unexpected, was his signing the decree on Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli).

The [beatification] process for Papa Wojtyla, as everyone knows, has developed rapidly. But that for Pius XII, which Paul VI initiated at the end of the Second Vatican Council along with the cause for John XXIII [now Blessed], has been languishing.

The cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for saints voted unanimously on Pius XII's heroic virtues in May 2007. But Benedict XVI decided not to promulgate the decree right away, ordering more investigation [into Pius XII's wartime activities].

This supplementary inquiry, based on documents in the Vatican Archives, was concluded a few months back, with absolutely positive results yet again.

Thus, the decree was approved today along with that on John Paul II and many others.

Here is Rodari:

Benedict XVI's strategy
in advancing Pius XII's cause

Translated from

December 19, 2009

Benedict XVI's strategy to make skeptics (among them, many Jews) better 'digest' the unblocking of the beatification process for Pius XII has come to light most unexpectedly - no Vaticanista was able to anticipate today's announcement.

The Pope, in fact, hiding his intentions from everyone (I doubt that even his own private secretary knew it) has promulgated the heroic virtues of Pius XII, along with those of John Paul II.

About Wojtyla, it was known. About Pacelli, no. [No, Mr. Rodari, even people at the Congregation for saints knew, because they leaked it to the Australian media who were primarily interested in the fate of Mary McKillop's cause for canonization],

At this point, the strategy seems clear to me: to make both processes go forward in order to displace attention somewhat from the controversial (to some) Pius XII to the unanimously beloved Wojtyla. Paul VI had initiated the process for Pius XII at the end of the Second Vatican Council.

The decree on Pius XII's heroic virtues was approved by the Congregation for saints in 2007, but awaited Benedict XVI's signature to be promulgated. And significantly, the promulgation comes one month before his scheduled visit to the Synagogue of Rome.

Two Popes, therefore, will move along hand in hand towards beatification - and being together, the criticisms may be diluted.

With all due respect to Rodari, I object that he calls Benedict XVI's action on Pius XII a 'strategy' because it makes the Pope's decision look calculating.

Benedict XVI delayed promulgating the decree on Pius XII out of 'deference', in form but not in intent, to Jewish detractors of Pius XII. In effect, saying: "OK, I will delay the process and order further inquiry" - bending over backwards, really, to show the Jewish critics that he was not ignoring their sensibilities [something Joseph Ratzinger has never done, in any case]. But he obviously was not going to delay the process indefinitely, and this had to come sooner rather than later.

All the more courageous a step for its closeness in time to the coming visit to the Rome synagogue - though I wouldn't rule it out that the Chief Rabbi of Rome calls it off in yet another fit of pique.

The other defect in Rodari's argument is that the Wojtyla and Pacelli processes are hardly analogous. John Paul II already has the first miracle all but officially confirmed, and is widely expected to be beatified by October next year. Investigation of any post-mortem miracle attributed to Pius XII has yet to start.

And no, John Paul II's cause won't detract or distract the attention of Pius XII's most rabid critics - on the contrary, the Jewish detractors will sing the praises of John Paul II for his openings to the Jews as a 'contrast' to what they call Pius XII's indifference to the Holocaust.

Here's a hastily assembled backgrounder from Apcom, but it will do for now:

Benedict XVI decides to promulgate
Pius XII's heroic virtues after
more than a year of heated polemics

ROME, Dec. 19 (Translated from Apcom) - Benedict XVI's decision to sign the decree on the 'heroid virtues' of Pius XII comes after more than a year of harsh polemics over the role of the late Pope with regard to the Holocaust.

During that time, Benedict XVI spoke out on a few significant occasions in praise of his predecessor.

The latest was last October, at a concert attended by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, when the Pope underscored how Pius XII had raised his voice in 1939 against the war towards which National Socialism was heading, and which "with the tragedy of the Shoah, would harm most of all the Jewish people, who became the object of programmed extermination".

In earlier discoruses during the year, Papa Ratzinger extolled the figure of his predecessor. On November 8, 2008, he paid tribute to Pius XII as a precursor of Vatican-II ("The legacy of his Magisterium was assimilated by Vatican-II to be reproposed to successive Christian generations"). [He also pointed out that next to the Bible, Pius XII was the single most cited reference in the Vatican-II documents.]

Thus, without making any reference to the stalled process of beatification, he focused on the 'precious legacy' of this "priest who was in constant and intimate union with God".

"In recent years," Benedict XVI told a conference on 'The legacy of Pius XII and the Second Vatican Council', "when people speak of Pius XII, attention has been concentrated excessively on one single question, and for the most part, seen unilaterally".

"Quite apart from every other consideration," he continued, without going into detail, "this has prevented an appropriate approach to a figure of such great historical and theological weight as Pius XII."

And yet the "Jewish question' is at the center of a historiographic evaluation of Papa Pacelli. As Pope during the Second World War, his choice not to speak out openly to denounce Nazi persecution of the Jews [the nature and extent of the Nazi 'Final Solution' towards the Jews was known only to a few outside Germany at the time] has been harshly condemned by the Jews starting in the early 1960s [after the anti-Pacelli Soveit propaganda play The Deputy planted the Black Legend of his 'culpability']

In October 2008, the accusations got a fresh start with the condemnation of the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Haifa, Sheer Yasuv Cohen, who used the occasion of his being invited by the Pope to address the Bishops' Synodal Asembly on the Word of God, to condemn Pius XII to the media, and were dragged on by the inflammatory rhetoric of the Israeli Minister Isaac Herzog.

In an audience with the Pope shortly thereafter, Rabbi David Rosen and other Jewish leaders formally asked the Pope to open the Vatican Archives to make all the documents pertaining to Pius XII and the war years accessible to researchers. [The Vatican archivist said it would take 6-7 years before the Archive staff could finish labelling and cataloguing all these documents, so that they can be systematically accessed.]

The controvesy continued to rage in the following months. The postulator for Pius XII's beatification cause, the Jesuit Fr. Peter Gumpel, commented that the delay in the process was due to pressure on Benedict XVI from the Jews, which kept him from signing the decree on Pius XII's heroic virtues that had been unanimously approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in May 2007.

"He has been influenced by the many meetings he has had with Jewish representatives," Gumpel said, "who have told him bluntly that if he takes one more step to further the beatification process for Pius XII, relations between Jews and Catholics would be definitely and peremanently compromised".

The issue became even more touchy in the weeks that preceded and up to the Pope's pikgrimage to the Holy Land last May. Benedict XVI visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, but did not visit the Museum gallery where Pius VII is among the figures in a 'Hall of Shame', and a caption to his pictures denounces that he 'kept silent' against the aggressions of Hitler.

[This account does not mention that some militant Jews nitpicked Benedict XVI's remarks in Yad Vashem as deficient because 1) Benedict did not apologize for the Germans; 2) he did not say 'six million Jews' died in the Shoah; and 3) that he said they were 'killed' not 'murdered'.]

The Holy See maintains that Pius XII's public silence was a choice of prophetic prudence, not cowardice, and that he carried out an underground campaign of assistance and rescue for Italian Jews. It is well documented that in the war years, Catholic churches, monasteries and convents all over Italy sheltered Jews and other persecuted persons.

Also, the Church points out that beatification and canonization are purely internal to the Church. [And that candidates for sainthood are not expected or required to be 'perfect'.]

Likewise, the Vatican points out that the Jewish condemnation of Papa Pacelli started after the staging and publication of the play The Deputy which set out to defame Pius XII, hypothesizing without historical basis about his World War II decisions.

But Benedict XVI waited more than one and half years to sign the decree that would re-start the beatification process. The positio submitted in support of Pius XII's heroic virtues was contained in six volumes with a total of 3,000 pages.

In June 2009, Vatican press director Fr. Fderico Lombardi replied to the statements of Fr. Gumpel, saying: "With regard to the statements reported in the news media about the cause for Pius XII's beatification, the decision on when to sign the decree of heroic virtue rests exclusively with the Holy Father, who must be allowed to make his evaluation and decision freely. If he thinks that the matter requires further study and reflection, his position must be respected without the need for unjustified and inopportune interventions".

In fact, the Pope did ask for further studies beyond that submitted by Fr. Gumpel and his associate Fr. Molinari. It was never officially announced, but the Pope entrusted the review of archival documents on Pius XII to the Dominican Ambrosius Eszer, a German scholar.

Eszer completed his review last summer. Among documents he uncovered were letters of thanks to the Vatican from Jewish communities in Germany, Austria and Bohemia for assistance given to them in the face of Nazi persecution.

The next step in the beatification process is to identify and verify a miracle attributed to Pius XII's intercession after his death. Meanwhile, the question of Pius XII will continue to be a bone of contention between the Jewish world and the Catholic Church.

A rare exception to the Jewish opposition is the American 'Pave the Way' Foundation, which has sponsored seminars and publications upholding the spiritual and material support that the late Pope gave to persecuted Jews in World War II.

00Saturday, December 19, 2009 10:33 PM


No reaction yet from the Chief Rabbi of Rome, usually quite headstrong and hyper-sensitive on anything he considers to be a mis-step by Benedict XVI with regard to the Jews, but two so far from equally prominent Jewish spokesmen:

Rabbi Laras:
'Decision re-ignites
painful considerations'

Rome, Dec. 19 (Translated from AGI) - The decision of Benedict XVI to sign the decree on the heroic virtues of Pius XII is not a question that concerns Judaism and the Jews, according to Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, president of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly.

But, he added, "As we have said in the past, notwithstanding his merits in having saved a certain number of Jews, this Pope did not take an official public position against the Shoah which was the death sentence for all Jews. Because of this, the decision today re-ignites the considerations which are always painful to us".

[Laras's initial reaction is relatively laid back, considering that last year, he initiated a Jewish boycott in Italy of the annual Day for Jewish-Catholic Dialog held in some European countries on January 17 because of some perceived slight over the Gaza Strip conflict in late 2008!

Also, the statement about Pius XII's 'merits in having saved a number of Jews" is something I have not seen before in Jewish statements about Pius XII. More about this later, in comments on Rabbi Rosen's statements below.]

Rabbi David Rosen:
'Decision is insensitive
to the Jews'

ROME, Dec. 19 (Translated from Apcom) - Benedict XVI's decision to sign the decree on Pius XII's heroic virtues "does not show much sensitivity to the concerns of the Jewish community', according to Rabbi David Rosen, adviser for inter-religious dialog to the Grand Rabbinate of Israel.

He added: "I am surprised that this decision was taken just three weeks before the scheduled visit of the Pope to the Synagogue in Rome".

Reached by telephone, Rosen told Apcom, commenting shortly after Sabbath ended, "I hope that today's decision does not mean the Vatican is accelerating the beatification process on Pius XII".

[He misunderstands the process. It can be initiated ahead of schedule, as was done with Mother Teresa and John Paul II, but the process itself cannot be accelerated. It has to take its course, as John Paul II's has done, but it has been rapid for him for the simple reason that almost all the discoverable material about him necessary to be investigated has been readily available for years, if not decades, and that the post-mortem miracle needed for beatification took place rather quickly after his death and was well documented by all concerned.]

He said further: "I also hope that Benedict XVI's position is this: that he cannot abstain from declaring the religious virtues of Pius XII but that no other steps towards beatification may be taken until there is an objective historical analysis of that period in history - which means making the contents of the Vatican Archives open to scholars".

[Rosen is a scholar and should know better. The process goes on, once it is unblocked, because there is a lot to be investigated - not just what he did during the war - those who have any objections at all to his beatification should write the Congregation of saints and ask to be heard during the investigations.

But the Jewish position, as stated by Rosen, does not make sense. If their objection is that Pius XII did not officially condemn the Shoah, then there is nothing that the unopened archives can tell anyone, because the only proof of an omission is the absence of proof - if it wasn't said and done, it wasn't said and done. Do they expect to find a written Vatican document that says, "The Pope knew about the Holocaust but decided not to speak about it"?

And - without going into the more relevant point of why the Jews expected Pius XII to say something definitive about the Shoah during the war, when no other leader, not even Churchill and Roosevelt, ever indicated official knowledge of it - everything significant relating to Pius XII's actions with regard to the Jews and the situation in Germany was reported in the 12-volume Blet documentation based on available archival material that was produced at the instance of Paul VI in the 1960s.

Very simply, the anti-Pius XII Jews are not acting in good faith at all. If eight years from now, after the Pius XII archives are fully open to the public, and Jewish researchers do not find a smoking gun [hard to imagine what that could be], Pius XII's detractors will still conclude he was an unworthy human being, even if he was responsible for saving hundreds, if not thousands, of Jewish lives. Which is a shameless betrayal of their own standard for what constitutes a 'righteous' person - "He who saves one life is as if he saves the whole world". Why is there a different stadnard for Pius XII?]

Rosen continued: "Historical judgments should be formed with humility. Pius XII lived in a time when no one was completely a saint, except for those who died as martyrs for justice. All I am saying is that because of the enormous complexity of emotions and subjective memory, this subject should be treated with the greatest sensitivity and with a historical distance that requires a longer lapse of time".

[Almost seven decades is not long enough or distant enough? ??He is also ignoring completely the contemporaneous praise of Pius XII during the war and shortly after the war from leading Jewish leaders in gratitude for what he did for Italian Jews during the war.

Why does all this positive concrete evidence count for nothing with the Jews, just because Pius XII 'did not speak out' for the Jews - out of understandable prudence that doing so could mean placing Catholics at even greater risk than they already were? He spoke up for Jews in Holland early in the war, and he saw the tragic consequences as the Nazis took it out immediately against Dutch Jews and Catholics alike.

It is not as if the Jews at that time or in the decades before that thought much about the Popes at al, much less that they thought Popes had any influence at all on world affairs! Suddenly, from hindsight, they claim that the Holocaust would have been averted if Pius XII had spoken out?

All their arguments against Pius XII are simply illogical and make no sense.

"Of course," Rosen says, "the decision of who should become a saint or a blessed one is not the business of the Jewish community. But if the Catholic Church says, as it does, that it wishes to have respectful relations with the Jewish world, then it must take into consideration our sensitivities before taking another step in this matter".

[What crap! Respectful relations have to be mutual. What about Catholic sensitivities that, regardless of how Rosen and his ilk put it, they are interfering in a matter that is purely internal to the Church.

Jews don't even believe Jesus is God - so what difference does it make to them whom Catholics venerate as saints? The Church is not asking them to venerate Pius XII or any other Catholic saint or blessed, any more than it asks them to recognize Jesus as the Son of God.]

John Allen obviously wrote his column one day too early - blissfully unaware of the Pope's decision on Pius XII! But as an Anglophone Vaticanista, he has far less of an excuse than Tornielli and Rodari not to have seen the Australian media reports earlier in the week!

The state of Jewish-Catholic relations

Dec. 18, 2009

On Jan. 17, Pope Benedict XVI will hop across the Tiber River to visit the Great Synagogue in Rome, only the second such occasion after John Paul II’s groundbreaking visit in 1986. (That was the first time a modern Pope set foot inside a Jewish place of worship, although John XXIII once stopped his car outside to bless the Jews as they exited.)

Benedict already has two synagogue visits under his belt: Cologne in 2005 during World Youth Day, and the Park East Synagogue in New York in April 2008. [Allen once again uses colloquial language too carelessly - a synagogue visit by a Pope is hardly in the category of an Indian scalp or a championship bout to be put ;under his belt'!]

Benedict’s cross-town journey may not make much of a media splash, which in itself tells us something important: In the span of a quarter-century, a Pope visiting a synagogue has gone from being a sensation to essentially routine.

Naturally enough, there’s a temptation to gauge the state of Jewish-Catholic relations primarily on the basis of events involving the Pope. When he reaches out, things are presumed to be improving; when he does something that stirs controversy, such as his decision earlier this year to lift the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops, including one who’s a Holocaust denier, talk of crisis fills the air.

What such a focus ignores is that inter-faith relations, like politics, are often local. At the grass roots, there are signs of basic health in the relationship between Jews and Catholics, quite apart from whatever the Pope does or doesn’t do.

Last week in New York, I was on hand to witness one such sign: A visit by Archbishop Timothy Dolan to the renowned Temple Emanu-El in order to light the first candle of Hanukkah.

One could make the argument that New York’s Fifth Avenue is among the most evocative pieces of Jewish-Catholic real estate on the planet, home both to Temple Emanu-El and to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Built on the site of the former John Jacob Astor mansion, Temple Emanu-El is billed as the largest Jewish place of worship in the world, with a total capacity of 2,500. Guide books actually claim that the temple is slightly larger than St. Patrick’s, but suffice it to say that both are imposing, and historic, structures.

Among other notables, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a member of the congregation at Temple Emanu-El, which is a Reform synagogue founded in 1845.

The Dec. 11 visit was a last-minute addition to Dolan’s schedule, who was asked to come for the Hanukkah service by the synagogue’s senior rabbi, David M. Posner. The invitation wasn’t a complete surprise, since Dolan said that he gets almost as many requests from synagogues as he does Catholic parishes.

(Last October, Dolan was named the new Moderator of Jewish Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, replacing Baltimore’s retired Cardinal William Keeler.)

The occasion obviously meant a lot to the folks at Temple Emanu-El. While greeting the congregation, Posner called this a “truly historic Hanukkah celebration” because of the archbishop’s presence, and in his sermon Posner said this was “the first time in Jewish history that an archbishop of New York, or anywhere, has kindled the tapers of Hanukkah.”

(Strictly speaking, that claim was a little overblown, as other archbishops in other places have done this before. San Antonio, for example, has a tradition going back to 2001 in which Catholics and Jews come together to light the Hanukkah candles.

The archbishop typically participates, and this year, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston was also on hand. In any event, the practical translation of what Posner said probably ought to be, “This is a big deal.”)

The congregation pulled out all the stops, including something that you definitely don’t see every day: At the end of the service, the choir performed a toe-tapping, doo-wop version of the classic holiday number “I Have a Little Dreidel,” which could easily be the anchor track on a “Hanukkah goes Motown” album.

After the service, Dolan was mobbed by people wanting to thank him for coming, to get their picture taken with him, and to shove pieces of Hanukkah cake into his hands, all of which felt like an affirmation of the bonds between Jews and Catholics.

Such scenes play out wherever Jews and Catholics find themselves cheek by jowl, even if they rarely have the same media resonance as debates over Pius XII or Vatican/Israeli relations.

The moral of the story is that sometimes you have to be in these situations to appreciate how much ordinary people on both sides want the relationship to work -- not necessarily out of any complex theological or political logic, but a simple human desire for friendship.

A synagogue trustee who showed visitors around before the service explained things best: “We want this to be a normal neighborly thing,” he said. “You live just down the street from us, so why shouldn’t we get together?”

Of course, one warm-and-fuzzy photo op in a synagogue hardly cancels out the very real tensions in Jewish-Catholic relations. Last year, for example, the U.S. bishops deleted a reference in their catechism to the eternal validity of God’s covenant with the Jews, a move that still confuses some Jewish leaders. Simply showing up to light a candle on Hanukkah can’t make those questions disappear.

On the other hand, anybody who was at Temple Emanu-El on Dec. 11 could be forgiven for finding talk of a crisis a bit overblown: At least that night, the foundations of the relationship looked pretty strong.

* * *

For anyone who’s ever been curious as to what an archbishop and a senior rabbi might talk about when they have a few minutes to kill, I can supply at least a partial answer: Money.

As Posner and Dolan stood together on the bima (the elevated platform at the front of the synagogue) waiting for the service to begin, they weren’t talking the fine points of theology, but rather comparing notes about approaches to tapping their congregation’s wallets.

Posner explained that as opposed to the Catholic custom of passing the collection plate every week, most synagogues send out bills for dues to registered members once a year. Posner lamented the costs of operating such a cavernous building on Fifth Avenue, a frustration he knew Dolan could appreciate.

I quipped that maybe this is the real future of inter-religious dialogue, but Dolan later said the idea isn’t entirely a joke. Given that Catholics and Jews often face some of the same practical problems -- clustering smaller congregations, for example, or the rise of Jewish analogs of what Christians call “mega-churches” -- he believes they can share experiences and support one another on those fronts.

That may not be exactly what Benedict XVI has in mind when he talks about a shift from inter-religious to inter-cultural dialogue, but it at least suggests that theological differences don’t have to be the death of conversation.

* * *

A footnote on Benedict’s visit to the Rome synagogue: Jan. 17 is a special day for Roman Jews. It’s celebrated as “Mo’ed di Piombo,” commemorating what local tradition recalls as a miraculous rain that doused a fire set during a pogrom in Rome’s Jewish ghetto in 1793.

In recent years, Jan. 17 has also become an important occasion for Jewish-Christian dialogue, including an annual event organized by Italy’s Catholic bishops. In the past, one way Italian rabbis have signaled displeasure with the Vatican, or the Catholic church, is by pulling out of that Jan. 17 event.

The fact that the Pope is coming to the synagogue on Jan. 17 therefore takes on special significance. (Not to mention, of course, that the visit comes almost exactly one year to the day after the cause célèbre involving the Holocaust-denying bishop.) The event will be closely watched for hints of any new direction in which either side wants to take the relationship.

00Sunday, December 20, 2009 12:52 AM

Major changes coming
due to retirements
in the Curial leadership

by Gian Guido Vecchi
Translated from

December 19, 2009

The only Curial official not expected to submit his resignation when reaching the canonical retirement age of 75 is the Vatican Secretary of State, who exercises his office ad nutum Summi Pontificis - at the will of the Supreme Pontiff.

So when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who turned 75 on December 2, presented his letter of ritual resignation to the Pope, Benedict XVI probably simply smiled and said, "There was really no need for this", confirming Bertone to be co-terminous with him.

But for all other officials of the Roman Curia, 75 is mandatory retirement age, although there have been quite a few extensions requested or allowed by the Popes, sometimes for as long as three years. [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is the most notable example; then as Benedict XVI, he kept on both Cardinal Angelo Sodano as Secretary of State and Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos as President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei until they turned 80.]

In the next few months, a few important changes are expected, nonetheless, starting with the powerful Congregation for Bishops, headed by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re since 2000.

Re will be 76 on January 30, marking one year of extension, and Vatican insiders do not think he will be extended further.

The dicastery which "supervises everything that has to do with bishops" has not had a good run lately. Most recently, the scandal of at least five, maybe 10, sitting diocesan bishops in Ireland found to have covered up for sex-offender priests, was yet another indication that something is not right with the supervision of bishops, and changes have to be made.

No decisions have apparently been made, but the most favored name at the moment seems to be Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, 67, the Apostolic Nuncio in Italy. A native of Romano Canavese like Bertone, he is much favored by Bertone who recommended him to be Nuncio in 2007.

Also persistently rumored is Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney. But since the Pope named the Portuguese Mons. Manuel Monteiro de Castro recently as secretary of the Congregation, it is more likely that the new Prefect will be Italian. [That's not necessarily so!]

It is also thought that Pell is more likely to be named Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to succeed Cardinal Ivan Dias, 73, who is expected to retire soon because of health reasons.

Another Curial chief who is well past retirement is Cardinal Walter Kasper, 77, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He is expected to retire by Easter. One of those thought likely to succeed him is Gerhard Mueller, Bishop of Regensburg.

Other Curial heads past 75 are Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, who turns 76 next August; Cardinal Franc Rode, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, 76 next September; and Cardinal Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

Benedict XVI is expected to deal with these changes gradually, in the style of 'gentle reform' that has characterized his governance since 2005.

00Sunday, December 20, 2009 5:52 AM

Intelligence and balance in
seeking proof of saintliness

Translated from
the 12/20/09 issue of

In the 40 years since it was created, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has imposed a more organic and modern form on the activity of discernment by the Church in recognizing saintliness.

Pope Benedict XVI pointed this out in addressing the members of the Congregation whom he received at the Sala Clementina Saturday morning on the occasion of their 40th anniversary.

Here is a translation of the Pope's address, given in Italian:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I wish to express to all my joy at this meeting. I greet all the cardinals, archbishops and bishops present, with a special thought for the Prefect of your dicastery, Archbishop Angelo Amato, whom I thank for the kind and affectionate words which he spoke in your behalf.

With him, I greet the Secretary of the Congregation, the Undersecretary, priests, religious, historical consultants and theologians, postulators, lay officials, medical experts, along with your families and co-workers.

2, The special circumstance that gathers you together around the Successor of Peter is the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the institution of the Congregation, which has conferred a more organic and modern form on the activity of discernment that the Church has used from the beginning to recognize the saintliness of so many of her children.

The creation of your dicastery was prepared by the interventions of my predecessors, especially Sixtus V, Urban VIII and Benedict XVI, and was realized in 1969 by the Servant of God Paul VI. Thanks to them, a complex of experience, scientific contributions and procedural norms has been continually configured into an intelligent and balanced synthesis that led to the creation of a new dicastery.

I am well acquainted with the activity which, in these past four decades, the Congregation has carried out, with competence, in the service of edifying the People of God, offering a significant contribution to the work of evangelization.

Indeed, when the Church venerates a saint, it announces the efficacy of the Gospel and uncovers with joy the presence of Christ in the world, believed and adored in the faith, and capable of transforming the life of man in order to produce fruits of salvation for all mankind.

Moreover, every beatification and canonization is, for Christians, a strong encouragement to live with intensity and enthusiasm the following of Christ, journeying towards the fullness of Christian existence and the perfection of charity (cfr Lumen gentium, 40).

In this light, one understands the role of the dicastery in accompanying every single stage of an event of such singular profundity and beauty, faithfully documenting the manifestation of that sensum fidelium that is an important factor for recognizing saintliness.

3. The saints, sign of that radical novelty that the Son of God, with his incarnation, death and resurrection, has instilled in human nature, and distinguished witnesses to the faith, are not representatives of the past, but constitute the present and the future of the Church and of society.

They have fully realized the caritas in veritate which is the supreme value of Christian existence, and are like the facets of a prism which, with different nuances, reflect the one light who is Christ.

The lives of these extraordinary figures of believers, belonging to all the regions of the earth, present two significant constants that I wish to underscore.

Above all, their relationship with the Lord, even when following traditional ways, is never stale or repetitive, but is always expressed in authentic, vivid and original modalities, which come from an intense and engrossing dialog with the Lord that enhances and enriches even external forms.

Moreover, in the lives of these our brothers and sisters, what stands out is the continuous search for evangelical perfection, the rejection of mediocrity and the impulse towards total belonging to Christ.

"Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Lev 19,2) is the exhortation in Leviticus which God addressed to Moses. It makes us understand that holiness is striving constantly towards the high standard of Christian life, a demanding conquest and continuous quest for communion with God, which makes the committed believer 'correspond' with the maximum generosity possible to the plan of love that the Father has for him and for all mankind.

4. The principal stages of recognizing saintliness on the part of the Church - namely, beatification and canonization - are united by a link of great consistency. To them must be added, as the indispensable preparatory phase, the declaration of heroic virtues or martyrdom of a Servant of God, and ascertainment of an extraordinary gift, the miracle, that the Lord grants through the intercession of his faithful servant.

How much pedagogical wisdom is manifested in such an itinerary! In the first place, the People of God are invited to look at these brothers and sisters who, after careful discernment, are proposed as models of Christian life. Then, the faithful are exhorted to address them with veneration and invocation circumscribed by the jurisdiction of the local Church or religious order [to whom the candidate belongs]. finally, they are called on to exult with the entire community of believers in the certainty that, thanks to a solemn pontifical proclamation, a son or daughter of the Church has reached the glory of God, where he or she will take part in a perennial intercesion to Christ in favor of their brothers and sisters (cfr Heb 7,25).

In this journey, the Church welcomes with joy and wonder the miracles that God, in his infinite goodness, freely gives her in order to confirm the evangelical preaching (cfr Mk 16,20). It also welcomes the testimony of martyrs as the most limpid and intense form of configuration with Christ.

This progressive manifestation of saintliness corresponds to the style chosen by God in revealing himself to man, and at the same time, it is part of the journey through which the People of God grows in faith and in knowledge of the Truth.

The gradual nearing to the 'fullness of light' emerges singularly in the passage from beatification to canonization. In this progress, in fact, events of great religious and cultural vitality take place, in which liturgical invocation, popular devotion, imitation of virtues, historical and theological study, attention to the 'signs from on high' are interwoven and enrich each other reciprocally.

In this circumstance, a promise of Jesus to disciples through all time is realized: "The Spirit of truth... will guide you to all truth" (cfr. Jn 16, 13).

The testimony of the saints, in fact, brings to light and makes us learn ever new aspects of the evangelical message.

As well underscored by the words of the Prefect, in the itinerary for recognition of sainthood, there emerges a spiritual and pastoral richness which involves the entire Christian community.

Saintliness - which is the transformation of persons and human realities to the image of the resurrected Christ, represents the ultimate purpose of the plan of divine salvation, as the Apostle Paul reminds us: "This the will of God: your sanctification" 1 Thess 4,3).

5. Dear brothers and sisters, the Solemnity of the Nativity, for which we are preparing, brings to full splendor the dignity of every man who is called to become a child of God. In the experience of the saints, this dignity is realized in the concreteness of historical circumstances, of personal temperaments, of free and responsible choices, of supernatural charisms.

Comforted by such a great number of witnesses, let us hasten our own steps towards the Lord who comes, raising the splendid invocation that culminates the hymn of Te Deum: "Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari" - in your glorious coming, welcome us, O Word incarnate, to the assembly of your saints.

With such a hope, I gladly wish each one fervent wishes for the imminent Nativity celebrations, and affectionately impart the Apostolic Blessing.

00Sunday, December 20, 2009 7:25 AM

Benedict XVI to the children
of Italian Catholic Action:
Pray to be always in tune with Jesus

Translated from
the 12/20/09 issue of

Pope Benedict XVI addressed an invitation to welcome Christ into their daily lives "amid work and play, in prayer, and when he asks your friendship and generosity" to representatives of Azione Cattolica Ragazzi (ACR), the children's arm of Italian Catholic Action, whom he met at the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, for their traditional pre-Christmas audience with the Pope.

Here is a translation of his address to the children:

Dear children of ACR,

I greet you most affectionately. It is always a beautiful thing for me to meet you in this pre-Christmas appointment, so much awaited and desired by you as well as by me.

I cordially greet the national president of Azione Cattolica Italiana, Franco Miano, and his General Assistant, Mons. Domenico Sigalini. Through them, I wish to thank everyone who have given all they can generously for your religious and human education, dedicating time and personal resources to your well-deserving association.

I know that this year you have been particularly working on the theme 'We are in tune' to place yourself in communication with Jesus and with other persons, having in mind the Biblical image of Zacchaeus, who met the Lord and welcomed him with joy.

You too are small like Zacchaeus who had to climb a tree so he could see Jesus, but the Lord, lifting his eyes, took note of him immediately, amid the crowd.

In the same way, Jesus sees you and hears you even if you are little children, even if sometimes adults do not consider you as you wish to be.

Jesus does not only see you. but he tunes in on your wavelength, he wishes to linger and be with you, to establish a strong friendship with each of you.

He did this by being born in Bethlehem, making himself close to the children and adults of all time, which also means each of us.

My dear friends, with Jesus, always follow the example of Zacchaeus who immediately came down from the tree, welcomed him full of joy to his house, and never ceased to celebrate the Lord afterwards.

Welcome Jesus into your lives every day, between playing and doing your tasks, in prayer, when he asks your friendship and your generosity, when you are happy and when you are afraid.

At Christmas, your friend Jesus comes once more to meet you and calls to you. He is the Son of God, he is the Lord whom you see everyday in the images at Church, on the street, in homes. He always speaks to you of that 'greater love' which is capable of giving without limits, of bringing peace and forgiveness.

Only the presence of Jesus in our life gives full joy, because he is able to make everything ever new and beautiful. He will never forget you. If you tell him everyday that you are in tune with him, then certainly you must expect him to call you to give you a message of friendship and affection.

He does that when you take part in Holy Mass, when you devote yourself to study, in your daily assignments, and whenever you perform acts of sharing, brotherhood, generosity and love for others.

And so, you can tell your friends, your parents, your catechists and teachers that you have been able to be online with Jesus in your prayers, in fulfilling your duties, and when you are able to be with children who suffer, especially those who have come from far lands and are often abandoned, without their parents and without friends.

Dear children, with these sentiments, I wish you all a happy and blessed Christmas. I extend my wishes to your families and to the entire Catholic Action, and entrusting you to the protection of the Mother of God, I bless you all from my heart.

00Sunday, December 20, 2009 3:07 PM

Sunday, December 20

ST. DOMINGO DE SILOS (Dominic of Silos) (Spain, 1000-1073),Benedictine abbot
Son of a peasant, he became a Benedictine monk, and soon prior of a monastery in Navarre,
northeast Spain, but he left the kingdom for neighboring Castile when the King of Navarre
seized church property. He and his monks were given a rundown monastery in Silos which they
built up into one of the great monasteries of the day - a center of monastic reform, liturgy
(Mozarabic rite) and learning, which was also reputed for many miracles. Legend has it that
almost a century later, he appeared in a vision to Blessed Juana of Aza and told her she would
bear a son - whom she named after the saint of Silos and the boy, Domingo de Guzman, grew up
to found the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). The monastery at Silos gained worldwide fame in
the 1980s through the recordings of its monks singing medieval chants, the first in a succession
of worldwide best-selling musical monks. Silos is now part of the great Benedictine abbey in
Solesmes, France.

OR today.

This issue has coverage of the Pope's audience yesterday with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, with a beautiful address on sainthood, which is the subject of a Page 1 editorial; and his traditional pre-Christmas audience for the children's arm of Italian Catholic Action. Also on Page 1 is yet another editorial commentary contrasting the Pope's message on the environment with the sense of the just-ended Copenhagen conference on climate change. The main international news story is about the increasing flight of Somalis and Ethiopians towards Yemen - the UN refugee commission says some 75,000 made the boat trip this year, up from 50,000 the year before.

Sunday Angelus - On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Holy Father's mini-homily was drawn from the reading
from Micah with his prophecy about the special destiny of Bethlehem; but his English message drew from
the Gospel about Mary's visit to Elizabeth.

00Sunday, December 20, 2009 4:55 PM


At the noontime Angelus today, the Holy Father's mini-homily was drawn from the Mass Reading for today - Micah's prophecy on the destiny of Bethlehem. However, he drew his English messgae from the Gospel of the day:

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we are filled with joy because the Lord is at hand.

We heard in today’s Gospel about Mary’s journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Just as Mary travelled through the hill country of Judah, to share with her kinswoman the joyful news of Christ’s coming, so too the Church is called to journey through history, proclaiming the wondrous message of salvation.

As the great feast of Christmas draws near, I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

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

Dear brothers and sisters:

With the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Nativity of the Lord is almost here. The liturgy, with the words of the prophet Micah, invites us to look to Bethlehem, the small town in Judea which was to be the witness to the great event:

"You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times" (Mi 5,1).

A thousand years before Christ, Bethlehem had given birth to the great King David, whom Scriptures agree was to be the ancestor of the Messiah.

The Gospel of Luke narrates that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, because Joseph, spouse of Mary, being of 'the house of David', had to go that little town for the census, and just at that time, she gave birth to Jesus (cfr Lk 2,1-7).

Indeed, Micah's prophecy continues by speaking of a mysterious birth:
"The Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, And the rest of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel" (Mic 5,2).

Thus there is a divibe plan which comprehends and explains the time and place of the coming of the Son of God to the world. It is a plan for peace, as the prophet announces, in speaking of the Messiah: \

"He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, his God; And they shall remain. For now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace" (Mi 5,30.

It is this last part of the prohecy, that of Messianic peace, which brings us naturally to underscore that Bethlehem is also a place-symbol of peace, in the Holy Land and the entire world.

Unfortunately, in our time, it does not represent an accomplished and stable peace, but a peace that is effortfully sought and awaited.

But God never resigns himself to this state of things, and that is why, even this year, in Bethlehem and the whole world, the mystery of the Nativity is renewed in the Church, a prophecy of peace for every man, which demands that Christians immerse themselves in the closures, tragedies, often unknown and hidden, and conflicts of life, with the sentiments of Jesus, in order to be instruments and messengers of peace everywhere - to bring love where there is hatred, pardon where there is injury, joy where there is sorrow, and truth where there is error, according to the beautiful expressions in a famous Franciscan prayer.

Today, as in the time of Jesus, Christmas is not a fable for cbildren, but the response of God to the tragedy of mankind in search of true peace.

"He himself shall be peace", says the prophet, referring to the Messiah. It falls on us to open wide the doors to welcome him. Let us learn from Mary and Joseph: Let us place ourselves, with faith, at the sevice of the Lord.

Even if we do not fully udnerstand, ket us entrust ourselves to Wisdom and Goodness. Let us seek above all the Kingdom of God, and Providence will help us. A merry Christmas to all.

After the prayers he said this:
I address a special greeting to the staff of L'Osservatore Romano who, during the Christmas season, station a mobile kiosk every Sunday and Wednesday in St. Peter's Square where one can buy the newspaper along with a little icon of the Nativity.

I wish this initiative well, which, besides distributing the Vatican newspaper, is intended to raise money for a school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In his plurilingual greetings, he had a special message for Poland:

As of yesterday, the Archbishop of Gniezno is now the Primate of Poland. this honorary title this returns to the most ancient metropolis on Polish territory, linked to the cult of St. Adalbert, Patron of Poland.

I thank Cardinal Jozef Glemp for having carried out his primatial mission in the difficult period of transition [from the Communist era].

I wish abundant graces from God for Archbishop Henryk Muszyński, and, from the heart, I bless the entire Church in Poland.

00Sunday, December 20, 2009 8:58 PM

I call it Benedict XVI's Christmas surprise for Catholics - and the Italian media is all over the story - of both Pius XII and John Paul II being declared Venerable. One of the best commentaries comes from Luigi Accattoli, who writes it for his former newspaper:

On the Pius XII-John Paul II pairing:
Benedict XVI"s resolve in the face
of intimidation also carries on
his predecessors' balanced approach

by Luigi Accattoli
Translated from

Dec. 20, 2009

First, Pope Benedict XVI does not allow himself to be intimidated and will beatify Papa Pacelli despite controversy.

Second: In 'pre-announcing' Pius XII's beatification along with that of Papa Wojtyla, he is affirming in this highly significant way the 'continuity' of the Roman Pontificate beyond the often divergent variety of the individual office holders.

One is the Pope most loved by the Jews, the other, the one they most oppose - and their successor honors them equally.

These are the messages contained in Benedict XVI's decision yesterday: the first has greater public impact, and the second is more subtle as well as more strategic.

Both together tell us that the theologian Pope is proceeding surely along his chosen path - flexible when he has to be, but tenacious in carrying out a program that honors the history and legacy of the contemporary papacy.

He demonstrated his flexibility in waiting two and a half years - which the Vatican had earlier described as a time for 'reflection and deeper analysis' of the cause for Pius XII - before promulgating the decree that had been unanimously approved in May 2007 by the Congregation for Saints on the heroic virtues of Papa Pacelli.

In the meantime, he repeated (last February) Papa Wojtyla's plea of forgiveness for Christian responsibility in anti-Jewish persecutions in the past; he went to Israel in May; and he has committed himself to visiting the Rome Synagogue next month.

Meanwhile, he has reflected, he has asked for further study of the problem and has carried on the dialog of rapprochement with the Jews.

But he intended to get around to Papa Pacelli's beatification process, and here we are. He has been encouraged by the fact that in the meantime, the front of the Jewish opposition appears to have been reduced and fragmented. [Is it??? There will always be a hard core of militants who will never think well of Pius XII, and those who will always be ready to think the worst of Benedict XVI.]

Then there is the coupling of the two papal beatifications: the contemporaneous announcement may even herald a paired proclamation, though it would be premature to say so.

Paul VI showed the way when, at the end of the second Vatican Council, in December 1965, he opened the cause for beatification of both Pius XII and John XXIII. But although both causes started together, they soon took different paths, and only John XXIII reached the first goal - beatification.

Papa Wojtyla, to avoid any risk of polarization, chose to proclaim Papa Roncalli along with Papa Mastai-Ferretti (Pius IX) 'Blessed' together in September 2000.

Benedict XVI's decision announced yesterday shows him to be an heir who continues the balanced approach exercised by his predecessors.

Andrea Tornielli has a similar analysis:

The courage of Benedict XVI
Translated from

Dec. 20, 2009

Benedict XVI's courageous decision was totally unexpected.

There had been those who were convinced that the German Pope, who more than any other Pope has reflected much on the special link that binds Christians and the 'people of Israel', would wait until after the Vatican archives on Pius XII would be fully open to researchers before proclaiming the heroic virtues of the wartime Pope - which would allow the cause for his beatification to proceed. [Some had even written that it was most likely Benedict XVI would leave the 'problem' for the next Pope!]

But now it isn't so.

Joseph Ratzinger took some time, he commissioned a supplementary review of archival material in addition to what had been presented by the postulator for Pius XII, and satisfied that the new results were still positive - confirmed moreover by the most recent historiography which is abandoning the stereotypes of the 'black legend' that had been built around Pius XII - he acted.

He did so, demonstrating remarkable courage, especially considering that his approval of the decree comes lest than a month from his scheduled visit to the Synagogue in Rome, and already, the reactions from Jewish circles are coming down on Benedict XVI's supposed 'insensitivity'.

And he did it, it must be recalled, at the end of a year which opened in a painful way because of the Williamson case, also causing much rancor on the part of the Jews - because one of four Lefebvrian bishops whose excommunication the Pope decided to lift happens to be a Holocaust denier.

And he did it in the year of his visit to Israel, which included a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

But Benedict XVI - who has always been unequivocal and firm against anti-Semitism - is also the Pope who halted the beatification, already scheduled, of the French priest Léon Gustave Dehon, founder of the Dehonian order [whose written works are being reviewed in response to charges of anti-Semitism levied by a number of individuals and organizations, both clerical and secular].

His promulgation of Pius XII's heroic virtues indicates that he obviously does not think there is any anti-Semitism involved at all in Pacelli's case.

With his carefully measured decisions, Papa Ratzinger also probably meant to send another message - because it is not by chance that the decree on Pius XII was promulgated at the same time as that for John Paul II.

When, at the end of the Second Vatican Council, there were those who demanded 'instant sainthood' by acclamation for John XXIII [much as they did for John Paul II at his funeral], his successor, Paul VI, decided that it should follow the regular process, and contextually opened the causes for beatification of both John XXIII and Pius XII.

There was, in such a decision, the clear intention to avoid a reading of the history of the Church as a succession of fractures and sudden leaps that serve to wipe the slate clean of the past.

But the two Pope's causes took on different courses. John XXIII was beatified in September 2000 in the midst of the Jubilee Year. And John Paul II paired his beatification with that of Pius IX.

And now, Papa Ratzinger is doing the same thing by declaring both Pius XII and John Paul II 'Venerable' at the same time.

Of the latter, he is not only the immediate successor but also his faithful and esteemed collaborator for decades. He knew him very well, he helped him in his decisions, and he allowed his beatification process to start without waiting the required five years following the candidate's death.

With his concomitant signing of the decree on Pius XII, Benedict XVI is also underscoring once more that 'hermeneutic' of Vatican II that he has called 'a renewal in continuity' and not 'a rupture with the past'. And in this perspective, the figure of Pius XII is emblematic.

Pacelli, who in the popular mind is identified with the 'pre-conciliar Church', is, in fact, the Pope most cited in the documents of Vatican II, and his Magisterium had contributed greatly to prepare for the Council.

For now, given the time necessary to certify a miracle - Papa Wojtyla's beatification miracle is in the process of certification. and Papa Pacelli's has yet to start - one cannot foresee a simultaneous beatification of two Popes as in 2000. But neither can it be excluded.

The following commentary focuses on the objections to Pius XII's beatification by non-Catholics:

Non-Catholics can have
nothing to say about
the beatification of Pius XII

by Franco Cardini
Translated from

Dec. 20, 2009

It is evident that this is not - and cannot be - an objective article. For the simple reason that for those who question the cause for beatification of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, nothing can be objective. And yet this matter concerns the Church and the Catholic world exclusively.

Canonization is the conclusive formal act, of canonical and liturgical nature, through which the Catholic Church, after careful examination of sources and proofs, at which anyone freely testify [for or against the candidate] - in short, a true and proper, exhaustive investigation - declares that someone is with certainty, 'in the glory of God', and as such, worthy of veneration as a saint.

In declaring sainthood, Catholic teaching says, the Church is assited by the special grace of the Holy Spirit and is therefore infallible in this respect.

Infallibility is an exceptional prerogative that the Church claims in rare cases: when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, when the Sacred College of Cardinals proclaims a dogma, when a saint is canonized, and in general - as Vatican-II puts it - "whenever the episcopal college, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, converges on a definitive decision in matters of faith or morals".

Catholics cannot doubt the infallibility of the Pope and the episcopal college in the few cases when they prescribe dogma, which, like a mathematical postulate, is undemonstrable, indisputable and irrefutable.

One must be very clear about this. Catholics are held to respect dogma. Whoever does not do that cannot call himself Catholic. And whoever is not Catholic cannot be concerned in any way by dogma, since he does not believe it, and therefore it does not concern him in any way.

The Italian Church is often accused of interference in issues of civilian society - which is hard to understand, since prelates, priests and the faithful are all Italians, and entitled - by right and civic duty - to speak about such issues as Italian Citizens.

It is even more difficult to understand how and why non-Catholics -whether they are 'secular' citizens, as they like to say, or adherents of other Christian confessions or religious faiths - could claim the right to be heard about the choice of Catholic saints, which is something that concerns only the Church, and which it carried out according to established principles and methods which pertain exclusively to her.

In 1963, an East German playwright, Rolf Hochhuth, staged a play, The Deputy, which, reiterating charges earliery made by the French writers Albert Camus and Francois Mauriac, accused Pius XII harshly of having done nothing to prevent, or at least to denounce, the genocide committed by the Nazis against the Jews in the Second World War.

Since then, the polemics have not died down. At the time, the charges were strongly sustained by those in Italy who never forgave Pius XII for his firm condemnation of Communist atheism (in line with the encyclical Divini Redemptoris of his predecessor Pius XI).

Today, Hochhuth's play and the old attacks against the Pastor angelicus are being dredged up all over. A theater group in Milan has staged it anew, and Hochhuth himself has surfaced to say that if he had to write the play all over, he would be even more harsh since he is convinced of Pius XII's anti-Semitism.

The Church, Catholic scholars, and public opinion have spoken enough about all this. It serves no use to listen to biased polemics, to voices in bad faith, to instrumental statements.

The words that count can only be from the Church organisms assigned to examine facts and evidence. If they conclude that the opinions are unfounded of those who maintain that Pius XII did not do enough for those who were persecuted, or worse, that he was an accomplice in this persecution, and that he exercised heroic Christian virtues, then they will recommend that he should be raised to the glory of the altar.

And that is the final and exclusive prerogative of the Church. At that point, protests will only be a vain attempt at intimidation and interference. And the protesters would not be from the Church. There is nothing else to say.

What led Benedict XVI
to sign the decree on Pius XII

by Gian Guido Vecchi
Translated from

Dec. 20, 2009

... In December 2007, more than any external objections, what led Benedict XVI to order supplementary documentation about Pius XII's wartime activities was the objection registered by a member of the Congregation for saints, that the postulator had only presented favorable documentation. The Pope entrusted the new task to a German Dominican priest, Fr. Ambrosius Eszeer.

Soem said that Benedict XVI delayed signing the decree on Pius XII because he did not want to irritate the Jews. But the explanation appears to be more internal.

Says Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L'Osservatore Romano: "Paradoxically, the combative attitude of the extremist defenders of Pius XII had greater influence on Benedict XVI's decision."

At the same time, Vian opened the Vatican newspaper to a discussion of the Pius XII question, which later became a book, In difesa di Pio XII, subtitled 'Le ragione della storia' [The reasons of history].

Historians and theologians, Jews and Catholics, names like Paolo Mieli, Saul Israel, Andrea Riccardi, Archbishops Rino Fisichella nd Gianfranco Ravasi - wrote articles based on historical research that advanced the argument beyond the Black Legend that had grown around Pius XII as 'Hitler's Pope'.

The book, said Vian, "indicated a new climate" and "the reactions from the Jewish world appeared to correspond to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's expressed hope: that the outside world should respect a religious act which is internal to the Catholic Church."

"There seemed to be greater calm, even by those who did not share the conclusions, who expressed respect nonetheless, and there were favorable reactions as well"

What about Pius XII"s 'silence'?

"There is no doubt about it. But it was not the silence of someone in fear, or worse, of an accomplice or outright sympathizer of Nazism. It was a considered and sorrowful choice, more religious than political, of someone who wanted to save as many lives as possible. And it was Pius XII who ordered that the Church, its monasteries and convents, give asylum to persecuted Jews.

"Pacelli, the anti-Communist, also convinced American Catholic leaders that the United States needed to ally itself with Stalin against Hitler. Internally, he had made arrangements that the regency of the Church would go to the Archbishop of Palermo, since Sicily was the first to be lievrated by the Allies, in case the Nazis captured and deported him (Pius). His figure is completely part of history. Available documents are numberless, and more will turn up."

But Vian also warns that analogous to the Black Legend, "there is also 'the rosy one', equally insidious, put forth by unconditional apologists".

P.S.It turns out John Allen did comment on the Pius XII news rather promptly, and calls attention to the John XXIII-Pius IX 'pairing' in 200, as the Italian Vaticanistas did. I was half expecting him to lead off by saying yet again that the timing of the Pope's announcement so close to his scheduled visit to the Rome synagogue proves he has 'a tin ear' for certain things...

Thank Heaven for little things... even if his use of the word 'strategy', like Paolo Rodari two days earlier, makes the Pope sound calculating rather than courageous, principled and pure, which was the whole point, I think, of his decision which caught even the most experienced Vatican observers compeltely by surprise!... Likewise, the label 'two-fior-one' is cheapening, and yet another instance of Allen's penchant for inappropriate colloquialism when discussing things papal or ecclesial.

A 'two-for-one' strategy
in declaring Popes as saints

Two instances of something may not constitute a trend, but they can at least suggest a strategy. This morning an apparent Vatican strategy on turning popes into saints came into view: When you’re going to move a Pope along the path whose cause is sure to cause friction in Catholic/Jewish relations, bundle it with a popular Pope also seen as a friend to the Jews.

Call it a “two-for-one” strategy with regard to pope-saints.

This morning, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI has approved decrees of heroic virtue for several figures, including two of his 20th century predecessors: Pope John Paul II, and Pope Pius XII.

A decree of heroic virtue is an official finding that someone lived a saintly life. It allows the candidate to be referred to as “venerable,” and means that the only hurdle left for beatification is a documented miracle, with one more miracle necessary for canonization, the formal act of declaring someone a saint.

The obvious parallel is to September 2000, when Popes Pius IX and John XXIII were beatified in the same ceremony. Among other things, Pius IX was known for corralling the Jews of Rome back into their ghetto and for the famous case of a Jewish child forcibly removed from his family and raised in the Vatican.

John XXIII, on the other hand, was the popular “Good Pope John” of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Among other gestures of outreach to the Jewish community, John XXIII had removed a reference to the “perfidious Jews” from the Church’s Good Friday liturgy. [Leaving the prayer substantially as is, with references to blindness and darkness, for which the Jews rose up in arms against Benedict XVI when he revived John XXIII's Missal in Summorum Pontificum! Double standard, anyone?]

The similarity with today's announcement is striking.

Pius XII, of course, was the Pontiff during the Second World War, whose alleged “silence” on the Holocaust has long been the subject of fierce historical debate.

Whether one regards Pius as a hero or a villain, the progress of his cause will produce new tensions in Jewish/Catholic relations – even if the result has seemed a foregone conclusion for some time, since Benedict XVI has repeatedly insisted that Pius XII did everything possible under the dramatic circumstances of the war to save Jews and other victims of the Nazi regime.

Those tensions were not long in surfacing. Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League told the Associated Press, "We are saddened and disappointed that the pontiff would feel compelled to fast-track Pope Pius at a point where the issue of the record — the history and the coming to a judgment — is still wide open." [Nothing 'fast track' about it! Foxman is being hateful, as usual. Paul VI opened the cause in 1965, the Congrgeation for saints approved rthe decree on heroic virtues in May 2007, and now, Benedict XVI, has allowed the controversy-stalled beatification process to proceed.]

Hence the logic of moving Pius XII along at the same time as John Paul II, since John Paul is credited with revolutionizing ties between Catholic and Jews.

John Paul II is the pope who visited the Great Synagogue in Rome in 1986, the first time any modern Pontiff had entered a Jewish place of worship; he’s the pope who visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2000, leaving behind a note apologizing for centuries of Christian anti-Semitism; and in a thousand other ways large and small, he signaled a new sensitivity to the Jewish world.

Among other things, the timing suggests that bundling John Paul II and Pius XII wasn't entirely an accident. [Ach! this rampant colloquialism really sets my teeth on edge!] The Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved a decree of heroic virtue for Pius XII in May 2007, more than two years ago.

News reports at the time indicated that Benedict XVI had decided to slow things down, not out of doubt about Pius XII's worthiness, but concern for the wider implications of declaring him a saint.

[No, as it turns out, it was to order a review of available documentation regarding the Pope's wartime activities, in response to a Congregation member's objection that only favorable documentation had been presented! Even if the objector misses the point that failure to say anything cannot be directly documented - the absence of any written or recorded statements would have to prove it. And no one has suggested that Pius XII could have, at any time in his life, ever expressed any anti-Semitic sentiments, or approval of Hitler's persecution of the Jews! Benedict XVI simply bent over backwards to show his good faith with respect to objections about Pius XII.]

To be sure, John Paul II's outreach to the Jews is hardly the only aspect of his resume that merits consideration, and the same thing was true with John XXIII. Arguably, even if neither Pope had ever done anything with regard to Judaism, they both still would have been compelling candidates for sainthood.

Yet putting each man into the same sainthood “class,” so to speak, with a fellow Pontiff whose public image on Judaism is more mixed is, at least in part, a way of trying to soften the sting.

Substantively, it sends a signal that the Catholic church is not honoring those pontiffs in order to promote hostility to Jews; in terms of PR, it tries to ensure that whatever negative publicity may surround the controversial popes will be balanced (and, perhaps, outweighed) by positive reaction to the popular ones.

It remains to be seen whether John Paul II and Pius XII, having been declared venerable together, will also be beatified together. Sources say the beatification of John Paul II could come as early as October 2010, while it’s not clear that Pius’s cause will move quite that swiftly.

Yet the two pontiffs are, for the moment, linked, as was the case for Pius IX and John XXIII almost a decade ago. How well that strategy may play out is anyone's guess, especially since Pius IX’s history with Judaism was a sore point only in Italy and among experts, while the debates over Pius XII have a more global [and entirely false and unfounded] resonance.

It is a strategy nonetheless, and for an institution sometimes accused of being tone-deaf with regard to communications, perhaps that alone is worthy of note.

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