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00Friday, October 19, 2007 11:06 PM

The Holy Father met with
- H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the Republic of Tanzania, with his wife and delegation.
Communique issued.
- Cardinal Ricardo María Carles Gordó, Emeritus Archbishop of Barcelona
- Delegation from the Mennonite World Conference. Address in English.
- Bishops of the Republic of Congo on ad-limina visit. Address in French.
- Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
(weekly meeting).


VATICAN CITY, OCT 19, 2007 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy See Press Office released the following communique:

"This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, president of the United Republic of Tanzania.

"Immediately afterwards, the illustrious guest met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B.; also present at the meeting were Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, Bernard Kamillius Membe, Tanzanian minister for foreign affairs, and Ali Siwa, ad interim charge d'affaires at the Tanzanian embassy to the Holy See.

"In the course of the discussions, having recalled the role that for many years Tanzania has played in the pacification of the Great Lakes region of Africa, attention turned to relations between State and Church, ever marked by mutual respect and esteem, and to the contribution Catholics make to the progress of the Tanzanian people, especially in the fields of education, healthcare and other forms of social work.

"Other areas of common interest were examined, such as the importance of peaceful coexistence and collaboration between believers in all religions, in particular between Christians and Muslims, For its part, the Holy See reiterated the commitment of the Catholic Church and her institutions to work for an integral and harmonious development of all the Tanzanian people."


VATICAN CITY, OCT 19, 2007 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father received eight prelates from the Episcopal Conference of the Congo who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

In his address to them the Holy Father highlighted "the specific and concrete contribution of bishops in establishing peace and reconciliation in the country," and made a call "to Christians and to the population entire to open the way to reconciliation so that ethnic and social differences, experienced with mutual respect and love, become a shared wealth and not a cause for division."

Referring then to the bishops' reports in which they identify "the urgent need to create real dynamism in the local Churches," Benedict XVI pointed out how evangelizing activity depends upon "living ecclesial communities. Places in which the Gospel is lived and charity (especially with the poor) is practiced, demonstrate a form of pastoral care based on the idea of proximity, and also constitute a strong bulwark against the sects," he said.

The Pope invited the prelates to concern themselves "with the initial and permanent Christian formation of the faithful, ensuring they understand the Christian mystery, and base themselves on the reading of Scripture and sacramental life." In this context, he thanked the people involved in the formation of the laity, in particular catechists and their families.

The Holy Father asked the bishops to support and help priests to lead "an ever more dignified and holy existence, rooted in a profound spiritual life and an emotional maturity lived in celibacy."

"By remaining close to priests," he continued, "you will be for them models of priestly life and help them to a greater awareness of the sacramental fraternity that comes into being with ordination. I call upon the many Congolese priests who live outside their country to give serious consideration to the pastoral needs of their dioceses, and to take the necessary decisions in response to the urgent appeals of their diocesan Churches."

Benedict XVI warned that "the noticeable reduction in the number of canonical marriages is a real challenge facing the family. ... Civil legislation, the weakening of the family structure, and the weight of certain traditional practices, especially the exorbitant cost of dowries, are a real brake on young people's commitment to marriage."

"What is needed," the Holy Father concluded, "is a profound pastoral reflection in order to promote the dignity of Christian marriage, the reflection and realization of Christ's love for His Church. It is important to help couples to achieve the human and spiritual maturity necessary to undertake ... their mission as Christian spouses and parents, reminding them that their love is unique, indissoluble, and that marriage contributes to the full realization of their human and Christian vocation."


Vatican City, Oct 19, 2007 (CNA).- The Vatican witnessed an unprecedented event today as the Pope received the first delegation to ever come from the Mennonite World Conference.

Benedict XVI welcomed the group which split from the Catholic Church in the 16th century and noted that they are to be commended for their longstanding witness to peace.

"The Mennonites are part of the Anabaptist tradition of the Reformation," explains a communique issued by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. "To use a modern term, the Mennonites could be described today as pacifists.”

“For their views on Baptism which, they feel, should be administered only to people capable of making autonomous decisions, they were subject ... to persecution in both Protestant and Catholic countries." In 1986 and 2002, the leaders of the Mennonite World Conference accepted John Paul II's invitation to participate in the meetings for peace in Assisi.

"In the ecumenical spirit of recent times, we have begun to have contacts with each other after centuries of isolation," the Pope told the Mennonite leaders in his English-language talk. "Since it is Christ Himself who calls us to seek Christian unity, it is entirely right and fitting that Mennonites and Catholics have entered into dialogue in order to understand the reasons for the conflict that arose between us in the sixteenth century. To understand is to take the first step towards healing."

"Mennonites are well known for their strong Christian witness to peace in the name of the Gospel, and here, despite centuries of division, the dialogue report 'Called Together to be Peacemakers' has shown that we hold many convictions in common. We both emphasize that our work for peace is rooted in Jesus Christ," said the Pope.

Catholics and Mennonites "both understand that 'reconciliation, non violence, and active peacemaking belong to the heart of the Gospel.' Our continuing search for the unity of the Lord's disciples is of the utmost importance. Our witness will remain impaired as long as the world sees our divisions,” Benedict remarked.

The Pope concluded his address by expressing the hope that the visit "will be another step towards mutual understanding and reconciliation."


VATICAN CITY, OCT 19, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Pope received a delegation from the Mennonite World Conference, a group which has recently expressed the desire to meet the Pope and to visit some of the dicasteries of the Holy See. This is the Mennonite Conference's first visit to Rome.

"The Mennonites are part of the Anabaptist tradition of the Reformation," explains a communique issued by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. "To use a modern term, the Mennonites could be described today as pacifists. For their views on Baptism which, they feel, should be administered only to people capable of making autonomous decisions, they were subject ... to persecution in both Protestant and Catholic countries." In 1986 and 2002, the leaders of the Mennonite World Conference accepted John Paul II's invitation to participate in the meetings for peace in Assisi.

"In the ecumenical spirit of recent times, we have begun to have contacts with each other after centuries of isolation," the Pope told the Mennonite leaders in his English-language talk. "Since it is Christ Himself who calls us to seek Christian unity, it is entirely right and fitting that Mennonites and Catholics have entered into dialogue in order to understand the reasons for the conflict that arose between us in the sixteenth century. To understand is to take the first step towards healing."

"Mennonites are well known for their strong Christian witness to peace in the name of the Gospel, and here, despite centuries of division, the dialogue report 'Called Together to be Peacemakers' has shown that we hold many convictions in common. We both emphasize that our work for peace is rooted in Jesus Christ."

Catholics and Mennonites "both understand that 'reconciliation, non violence, and active peacemaking belong to the heart of the Gospel.' Our continuing search for the unity of the Lord's disciples is of the utmost importance. Our witness will remain impaired as long as the world sees our divisions."

The Pope concluded his address by expressing the hope that the visit "will be another step towards mutual understanding and reconciliation."

00Saturday, October 20, 2007 1:41 AM



At the first anniversary today of the fourth National Convention of the Italian Church in Verona, Mons. Rino Fisichella, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, spoke to Vatican Radio about its significance.

He said Pope Benedict XVI challenged the Church in Italy to "give concrete and practicable substance to Christian testimony", examining how "it can act and develop within each of the broad fields in which the human experience is played out."

Alessandro Gisotti asked Mons. Fisichella to draw up a balance sheet of what has happened since then.

Mons, Fisichella: I think it was an event that is still bringing vitality to our local Churches. I think that Verona - as the Pope wished - has allowed us to widen our field of reason and therefore realize how many arguments the Church can bring to the public debate in this country, against those who wish to confront us or at least want to know what we think.

Today, at a distance of one year, we can express a further sign of this, namely the social commitment of a Church which is once more and always aimed at the good of all and the dignity of every individual.

In Verona, the Pope called on the Church in Italy to make visible the great YES that God said to man and his life through Jesus Christ. How does one convince those who continue to think that the Church means a series of NO's instead of this great YES?

I think that most of them just don't want to recognize what the Church is proposing. But the moment faith and reason coincide, then the message can only be highly positive. And the moment we are in the public debate with our true identity - without watering it down, without wishing to hide it - it will be evident that we bring a message of love. But when will this message be understood? Only when it is so strong that it will be very evident it is a big YES. Love, we all know, means great dedication to the loved one. In order to say YES, one has to believe that it is practicable, that it can be done. So when one says YES to love, anyone who lives in that reality not only understands what love is, but also recognizes that it calls for some renunciation if necessary.

In Italy, as it seems to be in much of the West, there is a tendency to try to limit religion to the private sphere. Does the Church risk being marginalized in the public debate?

I think there is such a danger on two counts. First, by creating conditions in which its words are presented as not in conformity with progress in science, with the progress of culture and of humanity. Nothing can be more false. If there is one condition of Christian thought, it is to encounter all cultures and allow culture, progress and science to develop those principles, the signs of truth that they carry inherently.

The second danger is from ourselves - if we don't have the strong conviction of truth that we profess. Any doubt on our part will evidently water down our own practical commitment.

To review the Pope's landmark speech in Verona, which someone called an 'encyclical for Italy', go to
Post 8832 at the bottom of the page.

00Saturday, October 20, 2007 3:33 AM

The Italian papers today all reported a message by Pope Benedict which was read by CEI president Mons. Angelo Bagnasco at the opening yesterday of the Italian bishops' Social Week in Pistoia (a city near Florence), in which the Pope said 'precarious' work [referring to uncertain hand-to-mouth employment] seriously compromises society because it does not allow young people to plan and build families.

Immediately, all leftist elements in Italian politics, including Communist Party leaders, took his words out of context to say it meant the Pope was supporting a planned anti-government demonstration this weekend regarding welfare policies.

[A full translation of the Pope's message has been posted in HOMILIES, DISCOURSES, MESSAGES.]

Most reports and commentaries pointed out that the left has never had one thing good to say about the Pope, but were now quick to exploit him to promote their cause by using his words out of context to suit their ends.

This prompted Joaquin Navarro-Valls to write one of his rare editorials for La Repubblica in which he points out that the Pope said nothing he has not already said before about labor and Catholic social doctrine.

Very apropos, Social Consciousness Week opened on the first anniversary of the Verona convention at whichthe Pope spelled out how he expected Italy to take the lead in active lay Catholic inovlement in the public debate and activites regarding social issues.

This editorial in Il Timone, translated here, summarizes best the outcry against leftist opportunism with the Pope:

OK, so when the Pope speaks about the right to work, or the environment, then everyone not only lines up with him, but calls on others to listen to him, follow his words, and woe to him who ignores him. Yesterday, they all but asked him to keynote the next Congress of the Communist Rifondazione!

But when he speaks of human life, family, and the right to religious education, then he is guilty of unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the State, of stepping brazenly into politics, etc.

This oscillation by secular politicians has now reached embarrassing levels. But beyond the exploitation, one thing must be noted: Even when the Pope seems to agree with some secular positions, we find that the secularists take his words out of context, bend them to suit their ends, and in the end, attribute things to him that he never said.

A flagrant example is the Pope's statement yesterday on the right to stable employment on the part of the youth. As reported by newspapers and TV, the radical left has made it appear that the Pope is supporting them in their fight against proposed labor laws by the Prodi government, subject of a planned demonstration this weekend.

But the Pope's message was addressed to participants in the Italian Church's annual Social Consciousness Week, and was not referring at all to the labor legislation being debated in Parliament.

He was speaking of anthropological considerations by the Church at the center of which is "respect for human life and attention to the demands of a family founded on matrimony between a man and a woman."

The Pope said, as he has often done before, that these are not only Catholic but universal human values. In this context, and speaking of attention to family needs, he observed: "When the precariousness of employment does not allow young people to start families, then the authentic and full development of society is seriously compromised."

Strong words, but clearly said in support of reinforcing the family as an institution. That is a totally different concept from what is being attributed to him by the very persons who are working for PACS, DICO, CUS or other means of undermining the very concept of family.

Il Timone, 19 ottobre 2007


CNS had this report on the Pope's message for Pistoia:

Pope says political field
is for laypeople,
but church must guide

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY. Oct. 19 (CNS) - Involvement in politics is a role reserved to laypeople, but Catholic Church leaders must explain and promote the moral principles that will contribute to the common good, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"The church, while recognizing that it is not a political agent, cannot abstain from taking an interest in the good of the whole civil community in which it lives and works," the pope said in a message published Oct. 18.

The papal message marked the 100th annual celebration of a week dedicated to studying Catholic social teaching sponsored by the Italian bishops' conference.

Working for a just social order is a task that belongs to laypeople, the pope said.

"As citizens of the state it is up to them to participate personally in public life," and to dedicate themselves "with generosity and courage, enlightened by faith and the teaching of the church, and animated by the love of Christ," he said.

The role of church leaders is to provide guidance, he said, particularly when modern society is facing "multiple ethical and social emergencies that threaten its stability and seriously compromise its future."

Pope Benedict said the most pressing issues include "respect for human life and the attention that must be paid to the needs of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman."

"As has been said many times, these are not only Catholic values and principles, but common values to be defended and protected, like those of justice, peace and the safeguarding of creation," the pope said.

The particular contribution of the church, he said, lies in educating the faithful, political and business leaders in "a genuine spirit of truth and honesty aimed at the search for the common good and not personal profit."

00Saturday, October 20, 2007 2:52 PM
THE POPE'S DAY, 10/20/07

The Holy Father met today with
- General François Bozizé, President of the Central African Republic, with his wife and delegation
- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (weekly meeting)
- Mons. Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, Archbishop of Managua (Nicaragua)


00Saturday, October 20, 2007 3:58 PM


Cardinal Sepe says
'It will be a meeting
of faith and hope'


NAPLES - "The Pope's visit is not an event of folklore, it will not be a spectacle, but it will be a meeting of faith and hope."

Cardinal Cresencio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, opened a news conference yesterday with those words.

"We will follow the example of the Jubilee celebrations of 2000," Sepe said, "which were days to be lived in a Christian manner and in prayerful spirit."

The cardinal also brought up a historical connection: "The first bishop of Naples, Aspreus, was ordained by St. Peter himself, so there is a profound link between Naples and Rome."

Speaking about the preparations made by the diocese, he said: "The Church of Naples has been preparing scrupulously. Since the summer, the parishes have been on alert, and every Thursday since then, the parish youth have been holding a prayer meeting for the Holy Father and his intentions. the whole region of Campania has pitched in, and the visit of the Holy Father should be a cause for rebirth and hope."

The Cardinal believes that Pope Benedict XVI will pay special attention to 'the poor, the marginalized and the children' of Naples.
He showed off an album of letters written by Naples schoolchildren to the Pope, which he himself will present to Benedict tomorrow.

He said that when the Pope visits the Cathedral of Naples in the last event on his program tomorrow, he will venerate an open urn containing the remains of San Gennaro, the patron saint of the city.

"The Pope told me that he looks forward to rendering a tribute of love and devotion," Sepe added.

The cardinal confirmed that Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Justice Minister Clemente Mastella will welcome the Pope in the name of the Italian government when he arrives at the Stazione Maritima in the Port of Naples. [In case the weather will not allow a helicopter flight for the Pope, he will be travelling to Naples by train instead.]

Il Mattino event map shows the Pope's day tomorrow.

The Mass at Piazza del Plebiscito will have 15 cardinals, 60 bishops, 700 priests, 200 deacons, 200 seminarians, and a 400-voice choir. Some 600 journalists have been accredited to cover the visit, 70 of them from outside Italy.

Sepe noted that it will be the last Papal liturgy with Archbishop Piero Marini as ceremonial master. After Naples, Mons. Guido Marini will completely assume the post.

The cardinal said the Archdiocese will present the Pope with a Crucifix made of rose coral and commemorative medals of the visit.

He even revealed the luncheon menu for the Pope and leaders of the delegations to the XXXI World Inter-Religious Encounter for Peace: eggplant rolls, vegetable kebab with Vesuvius tomatoes, veal medallions au gratin, and a Bavarian dessert made with ricotta and pears.

On other mattes, the cardinal said that the Archdiocese has placed the Church of Santa Maria del Belmorire at the disposition of the Russian Orthodox church for a service with Metropolitan Kirill of Moscow, representing Patriarch Alexei II at the world meeting.

The Archdiocese is also joining in the conferment of an honorary doctorate by the historic University of Naples on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

The three-day inter-religious encounter sponsored by the Sant'Egidio Community starts Sunday evening, but Pope Benedict will meet with the delegations after the Mass and Angelus at Piazza del Plebiscito, and with the heads of delegations at the Archdiocesan Seminary where they will also be his luncheon guests.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, heads the Catholic delegation to the encounter, which has the theme "For a world without violence."

Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community, sad at the news conference that "The spirit of Assisi carries on in Naples. I think it will be a great success. We have 17,000 already registered for the closing ceremonies alone."

He added: "Today, international politics is not able to guarantee peace. The chiefs of the various religions should concern themselves with it."

17,000 orchids will decorate
papal routes in Naples

Electronic eyes to monitor the Papal motorcade through the city and 17,000 orchids to decorate the streets the Pope will pass through.

The city's workers will stay up all night tonight if need be, to make sure that Naples is at its most beautiful and safest for Pope Benedict's day tomorrow.

The city said yesterday it had invested 450,000 euro for the videomonitoring security system, which consist of 38 cameras with adjustable action and 16 fixed cameras.

Other preparatory details disclosed:

The regional agricultural council took charge of providing the orchids and other flowers that will be used to decorate the altar for the Mass in Piazza del Plebiscito.

Work crews in shifts have been making sure that the roads taken but he papal motorcade are all smoothly paved by tomorrow.

A detailed 'meter-by-meter' security check of the four kilometers comprising the papal routes will be carried out.

At Piazza del Plebiscito, 8,000 seats haev been installed, barriers to designate the various ticket sectors set up, and 20,000 free disposable raincoats are ready to be given away in view of the weather forecast for rain, wind and cold.

After the Pope leaves in the afternoon, then the World Inter-Religious Meeting will formally open at Teatro San Carlo.

In the evening, the city will honor the delegations with a dinner held in the historic Castel dell'Ovo built over the site of the 7th-century Greek city that eventually led to the city of Naples as it is today.

Il Mattino, 20 ottobre 2007

00Saturday, October 20, 2007 4:44 PM
Benedict XVI:
"After the Council, I was 'too timid'
in challenging liberals

New York
Oct 20, 2007

I was going to translate Andrea Tornielli's story in Il Giornale today about this, but Allen has already translated the Corriere della Sera story, so here it is.

In a new interview, Pope Benedict XVI says that he was “too timid” in the period immediately after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) in challenging avant-garde theological positions, in a time that he described as “extremely confused and restless.”

The comments came in an interview conducted last November, and published in a new book dedicated to the works of the late Cardinal Leo Scheffczyk, a personal friend of the pope’s who died in December 2005.

Among other things, Benedict’s admission may shed light on what has long been a much-debated biographical point about the pope: Did Joseph Ratzinger, the man who would become Benedict XVI, abandon what was seen as a relatively liberal position at Vatican II for a more conservative stance later in his career?

Ratzinger has always denied there was any such reversal, telling Time magazine in 1993, “I see no change in my theological positions over the years.” The new interview, however, suggests that if there was no change in the substance of Ratzinger’s theological positions, there was at least a shift in the candor and force with which he was willing to articulate them.

An extract from that interview was published today in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading daily newspaper.

As a young German priest and theologian, Joseph Ratzinger served as a theological expert at Vatican II, where he was seen as part of the broad conciliar majority in favor of a reform position. In the post-conciliar period, however, Ratzinger became increasingly alarmed at what he saw as steadily more progressive theological positions that, in his view, could not be reconciled with the church’s traditional faith.

In the interview about Scheffczyk, the pope described the two men’s budding friendship when both served as advisors to the doctrinal commission of the German bishops’ conference right after the council.

“At that time, the situation was extremely confused and restless, and the doctrinal position of the church was not always clear,” the pope said. “In fact, claims were circulated that seemed to have become suddenly possible, even though in reality they were not consistent with dogma. In that context, the discussions within the doctrinal commission were full of strong positions, and extremely difficult.”

“I myself, in that context, was almost too timid with respect to what I should have dared to do in order to get directly to the point,” the pope said.

Benedict said that Scheffczyk was the figure inside the commission who served as the real “ice breaker” in these discussions.

Scheffczyk, born in Poland but a fixture in German-language theology, was long seen as a staunch defender of traditional Catholic positions. In June 1995, for example, Scheffczyk published an article in which he expressed regret that Pope John Paul II had failed to pronounce the ban on women’s ordination as an infallible dogma in formal, ex cathedra fashion.

The friendship between Ratzinger and Scheffczyk flowered over the years. Both men served as friends and patrons of the Gustav Siewerth Haus, a Catholic school in Germany’s Black Forest devoted to traditional Catholic thought.

In the new interview, Benedict reveals that while he was still the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, John Paul II asked him to recommend a German theologian over the age of 80 who might be honored as a cardinal. Ratzinger pointed to Scheffczyk.

Pope Benedict says that he honor gave Scheffczyk’s theology more visibility in the church, especially in Germany.

"It was very important that Leo Scheffczyk became a ‘public figure of the church,’ because in that way he was able to take part, with a notable influence, in the great disputes of the present, and could not be ignored or set aside as just another professor," Benedict said.

The interview was Benedict XVI was conducted by Fr. Johannes Nebel, a member of a new religious order called The Spiritual Family ‘The Work,’ to which Scheffczyk was especially close

Allen also posted his translation of the excerpt provided in Corriere della Sera:

Extract from interview with Benedict XVI
on Cardinal Leo Scheffczyk

This extract from an interview with Pope Benedict XVI that took place last November is part of a new book on the work of the late Cardinal Leo Scheffczyk, a Pole who spent his career in Germany, and who was a personal friend of Joseph Ratzinger. Scheffczyk died in December 2005.

The extract was published in the Oct 20 issue of Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading daily newspaper. The translation from Italian is by NCR. The interview with Benedict XVI was conducted by Fr. Johannes Nebel, a member of a new religious order called "The Spiritual Family 'The Work'", to which Scheffczyk was especially close.

Holy Father, do you have any memory of Leo Scheffczyk from the seminary period in the city of Freising?

Certainly. I arrived in the seminary of Freising on January 3, 1946, and Leo Scheffczyk was also there as a war refugee. I can still see him, very clearly, standing before me as a man of silence, and, so to speak, extremely sensitive.

Naturally, there was a great distance between our courses; while we were just beginning, he was finishing his theological studies – in fact, he had already done the major part of his theological studies at Breslau – and therefore the personal contacts between us were not numerous. His reserve notwithstanding – maybe I should say, his timidity – and his great humility, he was known to all of us.

In December 1946 he and his fellow students were consecrated as deacons, and as deacons, they had to preach in the cathedral. In that way, through listening, the whole course to which that year was dedicated entered us, so to speak, in our ears and in our hearts.

You met Scheffczyk repeatedly in your professorial activity, as the Archbishop of Munich-Freising, and as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. What do you remember of these meetings?

After his priestly ordination, which happened in 1947, Leo Scheffczyk became chaplain in Grafing and Traunwalchen, in a place very close to where I was born; but at that time, we travelled very little. I only knew that he was occupied in that region, without really meeting him.

Fairly soon he was relieved so he could study, earning his doctorate under the guidance of his teacher from Breslau, Franz Xaver Seppelt, whose courses on church history I also had the opportunity to follow. Afterwards, he went into dogmatic theology; not long afterwards, we learned that he was teaching this discipline at Königstein.

Then we both became professors – I believe it was more or less at the same time – he at Tübingen, and me in Bonn – so that from then on, we began to follow one another’s publications.

At that time he was writing essays on the Middle Ages that I read, especially one of his publications dedicated to John Scotus Erugena. Already in that essay, I noticed his extraordinary level of culture. I also found especially significant another one of his important publications, which was a pamphlet he edited on ‘creation’ as part of a manual on the history of dogma, in which his notable erudition in both the history of dogma as well as theology was evident.

Soon I also began to notice his capacity to take positions on current events: begining from the theme of creation, for example, he found himself in a discussion of the claims of Teilhard de Chardin. His theology was always pervaded by a notable richness of understanding and spirituality.

Concretely, we met again only when, after the Council, the Doctrinal Commission of the German Episcopal Conference was instituted, which we both participated in as theologians.

At that time, the situation was extremely confused and restless, and the doctrinal position of the church was not always clear. In fact, claims were circulated that seemed to have become suddenly possible, even though in reality they were not consistent with dogma. In that context, the discussions within the doctrinal commission were full of strong positions, and extremely difficult. It was here that I was able to notice how Leo Schezzczyk – this man of silence, even timid – was always the first to take a very clear position.

I myself, in that context, was almost too timid with respect to what I should have dared to do in order to get directly to the point. He, on the other hand, always said immediately and with great clarity, and, at the same time, with punctilious theological justification, what made sense and what didn’t.

Leo Scheffczyk was, in this way, the true ‘ice-breaker’ in these discussions. If before this we knew one another only from a distance, from that time forward we became closer. We realized that we were fighting together for the vitality of the faith in our epoch, for its expression and intelligibility for the people of this time, in fidelity, in the end, to its deepest identity.

For these reasons, our common work in the Doctrinal Commission of the German Episcopal Conference is the strongest personal memory I have of Leo Scheffczyk, a memory that, at the same time, is truly full of gratitude for the depth of his thought, for his culture, as well as for his courage and his clarity.

Later, we were both invited in 1975 to be part of a rather large group from the Catholic Academy of Munich to take part in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In this way, we found ourselves together once again. On that occasion, obviously, it wasn’t a matter of taking part in theological discussions; rather, each of us was invited to deliver a homily. While we were on the bus, Leo Scheffczyk and I often sat together, and that gave us the chance, so to speak, to confirm and deepen our theological ‘brotherhood,’ if I can put it that way.

When I was the Archbishop of Munich-Freising, Leo Scheffczyk was for me a guarantee that – holding the chair in dogmatics in Munich – the discipline would be taught correctly in my diocese. Every now and then, we would see one another during meetings with the entire theological faculty, in the course of which, however, we didn’t have the chance for talks that were especially deep.

I have to add that Leo Sceffczyk was, in a certain sense, the pillar of the priestly association of Linz; the cornerstone to look to in a particularly confused theological situation. [Note: The “Priests’ Association of Linz,” or Linzer Priesterkreis, is considered a leading forum for traditional Catholic thought. It sponsors an annual Summer Academy in the small Austrian town of Aigen.] He participated every year in the summer theological academy, enriching the meetings with his presentations: in this sense, Leo Scheffczyk did a great deal for Austria.

During my activity as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, we often asked Scheffczyk to elaborate a votum. [Note: the term refers to a formal theological judgment.] We were aware that, from the moment he was asked to do something, he would not only do the work efficiently, but very well. This was the fruit of a common path we had taken over many years, and thus Leo Scheffczyk was a great help to me.

At one point, the Holy Father asked me if there was a theologian in Germany who was over 80 years old, who might be worthy of being made a cardinal. I had already spoken of Leo Scheffczyk to Pope John Paul II several times, and the pope too knew him personally. In fact, it was John Paul who told me that the name ‘Scheffczyk’ is a Polish name that means ‘little shoemaker.’ We all know how good it was that Scheffczyk was created a cardinal. In this period, we got to know one another again.

What was the significance of making Leo Scheffczyk a cardinal?

I think its significance was that of making his theology better known publicly, acnowledging it in this way by the church, the pope and the magisterium as truly Catholic and contemporary.

In fact, the books written by Scheffczyk had already found an audience, but in a relatively restricted circle. Only when he became a cardinal did his theology really become ‘public’ in Germany at the level of the whole church, and it was thus able to play a role in the great debates with the weight that’s due to a member of the Sacred College.

In this sense, Cardinal Scheffczyk always moved with great style in his public role, making the force of his culture and his spiritual depth newly fruitful, as well as the clarity of his judgment which came from faith. It was very important that Leo Scheffczyk became a ‘public figure of the church,’ because in that way he was able to take part, with a notable influence, in the great disputes of the present, and could not be ignored or set aside as just another professor.”


Here is a translation of Andrea Tornielli's article:

'I was too timid
with the progressivists'

By Andrea Tornielli

Papa Ratzinger indulged in self-criticism and confessed in a November 2006 interview that he had been 'almost too timid' in the face of certain daring theological theses which were in vogue within the German Church after the Second Vatican Council.

Benedict XVI said these somewhat surprising words in an interview with Fr. Johannes Nebel. The transcript of the interview appears in a book entitled Il mondo della fede cattolica [The world of the Catholic faith], the Italian edition to be issued next week of a work by Cardinal Leo Scheffczyck, the late German theologian who was a friend of Joseph Ratzinger.

Ratzinger recounts his first meeting with Scheffczyk (born 1920, became cardinal in 2001, died in 2005)at the seminary in Freising, describing the older man's great lucidity and clarity of thought.

After having been professors together, their paths crossed next when they were both members of the doctrinal commission of the German bishops conference after the Second Vatican Council.

Of the turbulent post-Council years, the Pope recalls, "At that time, the situation was extremely confusing and disquieting. The doctrinal position of the Church itself was not always clear."

Various theses - 'suddenly becoming possible'- were circulating even though "they did not, in fact, coincide with established doctrine." In such circusmtances, he says, Scheffczyk was always the first to take clear and unequivocal positions.

"I myself, in that context, was perhaps too timid regarding what I could dare to say, so directly and to the point."

The Pope implies that what he said and published at the time was too cautious in confronting and opposing some theological ideas which were too forward, while his older colleague - who would not become a cardinal until he was past 80 - was the real 'icebreaker' for controversial discussion.

Once more, then, the myth of the Panzerkardinal is belied, as he himself admits that he would have wanted to 'dare' more at the time.

It is well known that during Vatican-II, Ratzinger was not part of the conservative minority. But before the Council concluded, the young and brilliant theologian had started to take note of doctrinal tendencies that were too forward and open.

In his autobiography, La mia vita (Milestones, in the English edition), Ratzinger wrote: "Every time I returned to Rome, I found an increasing state of agitation. The impression seemed to grow that there was nothing stable in the Church, that everything could be the object of revision. More and more the Council came to resemble a huge ecclesiastical Parliament which could change everything and revolutionize anything as it saw fit. Most evident was growing resentment against Rome and the Curia, which came to be seen as the true enemy of novelty and progress."

In the immediate post-conciliar years, and 1968, in particular, when a veritable storm broke over the Church, and everything became subject to question, the future Pope - while defending freedom of research, did not follow in any way any of his former 'travelling companions' as progressives in the early stages of Vatican-II.

He experienced the full force of 1968 at Tuebingen, where the theological faculties themselves became the ideological center for Marxist messianism.

In a 1985 interview with the New York Times, Ratzinger said of that experience: "I learned that it is impossible to discuss with terror...I think those years taught me at what point dialog should be interrupted before it can change to lies, and when to start resisting in order to protect freedom."

Ratzinger left turbulent Tuebingen for quieter Regensburg, where he relocated with his sister Maria, and where his older brother already lived for yaars.

It was there, at a time when he thought that teaching and study would constitute the rest of his life, that he was suddenly compelled to change stride in March 1977.

About to turn 50, he was chosen by Paul VI to be the new Archbishop of Munich and Freising and made a cardinal several weeks later. In 1981, John Paul II called him to Rome to head the Congregation for the doctrine of the faith. To promote and defend the Catholic faith.

And as custodian of Catholic orthodoxy, surely no one could say Joseph Ratzinger was 'too timid'. Not then. And not as Benedict XVI.

Il Giornale, 20 ottobre 2007

00Sunday, October 21, 2007 11:48 AM

00Sunday, October 21, 2007 11:18 PM

Here is a translation of the first of two reaction articles in Corriere della Sera today:


By Gian Guido Vecchi

It's somewhat like Aristotle's mesotes [doctrine of the mean): the 'correct middle' which is not simply 'the way' to go, but also connotes the art of the kybernetes, the steersman who 'governs' the ship and succeeds in keeping it straight and firm during a storm.

It can be a bad experience, especially if the ship is the Church tossed here and there 'in the years around 1968' by the revolutionary enthusiasms that followed the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Everyone more or less was caught up in that storm and "I myself was, in that context, almost too timorous with regard to what I should have dared," Benedict XVI said in a November 2006 interview with Fr. Johannes Nebel which opens the book Il mondo della fede cattolica by the late Cardinal Leo Sheffczyck.

"Of course, there was a storm," says Prof. Lorenzo Ornaghi, rector of the Catholic University of Milan, "and perhaps, we are still not rid of the confusion."

He notes that the Pope praised the 'clarity' that Sheffczyck knew how to keep then.

That is the point, Ornaghi says. "The Pope's interview contains an important reaffirmation of the identity of the faith, and above all, its comprehensibility. The element of confusion that perhaps we still under-estimate, arose from what, in 1968, was meant to be a cultural revolution [even within the Church], with a break from all preceding ideas - and that was reflected even in the contamination of language: words became opaque, not helpful to understanding, because they were no longer able to go to the essence of problems. Whereas the vitality of faith depends on being able to speak to men of our time and to be understood by them."

In December 2005, on the 40th anniversary of the closing of Vatican-II, Benedict XVI said that in the years following Vatican II, "two opposing hermeneutics fought each other" and it was one of those, the 1968 hermeneutics which interpreted the Council as 'discontinuity and rupture...created confusion."

The other which 'bore fruit and continues to do so' is the hermeneutic of reform, of 'renewal in continuity.'

It is not true, Benedict says, that there was a break between the pre-conciliar church and the post-Conciliar Church, nor is it true that nothing changed. The 'correct middle', therefore.

"But no, if that were so, then there should be three interpretations," says Paolo Prodi, professor of modern history in Bologna, where Giuseppe Alberigo's Institute of Religious Sciences became the center and reference point of the 'progressivists.'

Prodi is not convinced about opposing hermeneutics. [But what's to deny? And why 3? The 'middle way' in this case is precisely the so-called hermeneutics of continuity that the Pope champions - 'renewal within continuity'. The only third way is a non-acceptance of Vatican-II altogether, as the most extreme Lefebvrians and the sedevacantists do - and that way is no interpretation at all of Vatican-II, since they don't even recognize its legitimacy.]

"That there was a strong enough tension, yes, and I myself broke away from the Institute, but my way of thinking rejects the idea that there were two interpretations. Reality is more complex than a dilemma. Revolutions in history only scratch the surface, I've never believed in them, so even I see continuity. But I think that the announced reforms, the 'updating' intended by John XXIII, has been diluted over the years."

But Prodi says that is not the point now. "Look, I tend to historicize Vatican-II: the Church faced and settled its accounts with the modern age, well and good. The problem is the modern age has been over for some time now."

In short, he thinks it is time that Vatican-II becomes simply an issue for historians.

That seems to be the thinking as well of Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community: "I always keep in mind what was said by Fr. Yves Congar, a great theologian and cardinal: When one speaks of Vatican-II, he said, it must always be in the context of its intersection with 'the spirit of 1968'. Vatican-II was reported in the media - and the public experienced it 'directly' in a way. But public opinion derived an image that was mediated through the simplification of the media. And it has been four decades since 1968. Vatican-II remains an epochal event, but it is time to look at it historically, with serenity."

Historian Lucetta Scaraffia would go beyond that. "Today, there is a tendency to think that Vatican-II meant a succession of dogmas. Whereas, the betrayal of the Council was really in seeing new dogmas where there were none. This has been a subject of discussion within the Church."

"The Pope, being an intellectual," she says, "sees clearly that the Church is itself a laboratory for culture, that interpreting tradition means discussing it, and that, and this continuous discussion gives vitality to the Church - honest confrontation, not conflict motivated by power."

"In an age that tends to reject the Catholic vision, the Pope re-proposes it in a cultural context. He does not enunciate dogma but instead places weight on reason. It is a big challenge - one must be able to sustain a rational argument. Outside the Church, it is not understood much, and for Catholics themselves, it is not easy to live up to. But in a world of conflict, when people don't speak to each other, it is our good fortune to have one of the greatest intellects of our time as Pope."

Corriere della Sera, 21 ottobre 2007


I must take issue with Scaraffia's assertion that many Catholics may not be equal to the Pope's appeal to reason as a basis for faith.

I want to believe that the majority of Catholics - those who are Catholic by birth, as well as those who are converts as a result of missionary work - believe mainly on the basis of genuine faith, which is faith by grace, faith that that does not require rational arguments to define, articulate or explain. That Catholicism is also rational is all very well, but for people like us (I count myself among them), we have not felt it necessary to be reasoned out to us.

Whereas the Pope's appeal to reason, I believe, is directed mainly at the doubters, the waverers, the nominal Catholics - those who do not have faith by grace alone but need rational arguments to confirm them in their faith, or not....And to the faithful who may be called on to explain their faith to others, as in a St. Peter quotaton that the Pope often cites, we must be ready to explain to others 'the reason for our hope.'


At the roots of
the Pope's self-criticism

By Alberto Melloni

I think Mr. Melloni sees the interview as a Gotcha! moment!

The interview with Benedict XVI about the late Cardinal Scheffczyck says something about his theologian colleague, who was elevated to cardinal rank by John Paul II at the suggestion of Joseph Ratzinger (something noteworthy even to understand the functioning of the Wojtylian Curia).

And it says something on how Papa Ratzinger reads the post-conciliar years, of which he was and is a leading player, and his own role in it.

By calling and by choice, Ratzinger has taken a position repeatedly about the years that followed Vatican-II. Even towards the end of his four volumes that chronicled the Council, he already expressed his concerns about the event in which he had played a role, in his work on collegiality, which he and Karl Rahner signed together, and other key points.

Theologians - who since the anti-modernist repression at the start of the 20th century to the persecution of nouvelle theologie in the 1950s - suffered much every time they tried to face new or difficult themes, had three intense years of unprecedented experience working side by side with bishops, with the council committees, with other Church authorities, and in a certain way, even with the Pope.

The objective goal at the time was to place new challenges that would not be reduced to a simple 'application' of Vatican-II but a true 'reception'.

It is well known that Ratzinger lived through those years, initially, sharing the effort of the journal Concilium which meant to furnish, on an international scale, points as well as tools for reflection and analysis.

But his academic experience in Tuebingen - which he speaks about extensively in the autobiography he wrote when he was a cardinal - progressively disillusioned him, pushing him towards an ever darker analysis of what was happening under Pope Paul VI. In a crescendo of severity, the difficulties and turbulences became successively, between 1965 and 1985, problems, confusions, dangers. [But isn't it the historical consensus that Paul VI's Pontificate after 1965 was increasingly darkened by the chaos that followed the Council? From all accounts, he was to be trhoubled by it to the end of his days.

Paul VI must have shared enough of Ratzinger's views for him to name him in 1977 not just Archbishop of Munich but cardinal after a few weeks. And he named him cardinal on the basis of his contributions to theology.

I have not read any accounts anywhere of any particular link or even contacts between Paul VI and Joseph Ratzinger before he named him Archbishop. So if Paul VI thought that Ratzinger's views were in any way counter-productive to the Church and to his Pontificate, he did not have to name him anything and could have left him in comparative oblivion as the college professor that he was. But he didn't.

There had to be a reason, and no one has ever said Paul VI was stupid. Unwise perhaps in giving in to the 'protestantization' of the Mass, but not stupid. So, Mr. Melloni, let us not make a post-facto extrapolation of Ratzinger's views to make them appear anti-Paul VI!

These were theses and issues which Ratzinger did not limit to confidences, but to public discussion and which have remained a leitmotiv of his preaching as Pope.

The interview about Cardinal Scheffczyk reaffirms and adds some details of some importance, starting with his collaboration with Scheffzyck. The Pope today, speaking of the work of the doctrinal commission of the German bishops conference, says not only that the work of some theologians was not only 'confused and volatile' but that "the doctrinal position of the Church itself was no longer always clear."

He does not limit himself to criticizing the Church of Paul VI in the years of the German bishops' Wuerzburg synod, but also reproaches an excessive prudence in grasping the point of conflict between too audacious theses and 'dogma'.

This conservative self-criticism would merit a more timely examination in depth of the archives because many passages are known of those German discussions, including the less elegant after-effects (such as the heavy accusations appearing in the second volume of Hans Kueng's memoirs).

But, in my opinion, the most interesting statement in the interview, even for today, is the interpretation that the Pope gives to his commitment, or rather his 'combat': "for the vitality of the faith in our epoch, for its expression and comprehensibility by men of our time, for being faithful to the profound identity of that faith."

It is a statement that could raise many questions: Vatican-II would appear to be simply a 'pre-event', instead of having been the way through which the Church - not a group of theologians - was able to conjoin vitality, communicability and faithfulness to Catholic identity. But perhaps, it would an interpretative excess to deduce this from an argumentum ex silentio. [But that's turning the Pope's words and position upside down! His point is clearly that the 'revolutionary enthusiasm' of progressivist theologians caused so much confusion in the post-Conciliar years that this militated against the 'vitality, communicability and faithfulness to Catholic identity' that Vatican-II intended! And he has never ever treated Vatican-II was merely a 'pre-event' but for the historic event that it was.]

Just as one could compare the attenuation of a certain polemical verve over the Council and its aftermath compared to other interviews given in the 1980s and 1990s. [Why not? He's the Pope now. A Pope is not supposed to be combative!]

Certainly that triad - vitality, communicability, faithfulness to Catholic identity - offers a key to reading this phase of Ratzinger's Pontificate, its latest oscillations [What oscillations?], its most recent choices.

Corriere della Sera, 21 ottobre 2007

And what has Benedict XVI done all these 30 months, Mr. Melloni, but to reaffirm compliance with the genuine spirit as well as the letter of Vatican-II?]

00Monday, October 22, 2007 8:59 PM

Perhaps the only new detail revealed in the Italian papers today about the Pope's visit to Naples yesterday besides the fact that the unseasonable cold even brought snowfall to the peak of Mt. Vesuvius was this one. I have chosen Luigi Accattoli's account from Corriere della Sera to translate:

Squabble between Muslim and Jew
over lunch with the Pope
who calms them down


NAPLES - There were nine guests seated with Pope Benedict XVI at lunch yesterday in the Archdiocesan Seminary of Naples in Capodimonte.

They represented the major Christian churches, as well as Muslims and Jews, participating in the current World Inter-Religious Encounter for Peace which opened yesterday in Naples, undewr the auspices of the Sant'Egidio Community.

But there was a sensitive moment promptly resolved by the Pope to calm down a potential dispute among a rabbi, a Lebanese Christian and a Muslim from the United Arab Emirates [who happens to be one of the 138 signatories in the recent open letter sent to the Pope and other Christian leaders].

Once again, the theologian Pope, 80, showed himself not only physically agile and brisk as he moves from one event to another, but also in his mental reflexes.

Protagonists of the squabble were the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger; the Muslim Ezzedin Ibrahim, whose formal title is cultural adviser to the president of the UAR; and the Lebanese Aram I, Catholikos of Cilicia of the Armenians.

In short, representatives of the three monotheisms involved in the masters of war and peace in the Middle East.

The dispute apparently started from a remark Ezzedin, a Sufi Muslim [a mystical sect] and veteran of previous Sant'Egidio meetings, that they were at 'the table of smiles' at which the various faiths could vie to proclaim 'words of peace' from their respective religious patrimonies.

And that peaceful coexistence on the planet - conforming to the visionary genius of John Paul II - was a dream that was daily becoming more concrete and near realization.

Aram I agreed, saying he himself was inspired by the most sublime ideals of peace, but he could not fail to point out the 'grave danger' that his 'brothers in the faith' continue to live daily in Lebanon, especially because of military incursions from Israel.

Which caused Rabbi Metzger to spring up - so to speak, because everyone, of course, remained seated and conversing with each other respectfully in English.

Metzger addressed his 'brother' Aram to say that he too 'could not keep silent' about the daily danger that Israel faced from a bellicose Iran, whose president has repeatedly threatened to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth.

[An ANSA report quotes Metzger as saying: "Even in my land, my peoople are at risk daily. But if fear should make us keep silent in the face of states like Iran who want to destroy other states, then that is not good. We should have the courage to oppose."]

Metzger tempered his remarks by observing that "Yes, fortunately, we are at the table of smiles," as 'our Muslim brother' has said, but beyond this table, there is little to smile about in the world situation, with 'problems heaped on problems', among which was 'the violence of so many Muslims.'

He continued that even in Lebanon, there were "Muslim combatants who will do anything" including suicide bombings to attack Israel.

Both the Muslim and the Lebanese appeared ready to dispute him, but the Pope spoke up before they could to remark, "Well, this is all work for Sant'Egidio."

The rest of the table took the cue and shifted the conversation to praising the Sant'Egidio Community for its peace mission. Ezzedin said yes, indeed, the community was 'a true angel of peace' and the rabbi agreed with him.

The other guests at the table were Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople (attending his first World Encounter for Peace; the secretary-general of the Geneva-based Ecumenical Council of Churches, Samuel Kobia; Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams; Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community; and Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples.

Because the luncheon was in honor of the religious leaders, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi was seated at another table which was presided vover by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Corriere della sera, 22 ottobre 2007


By Sandro Magister
Settimo Cielo (blog)

In what I would call the hidden perils of a Kumbaya interpretation of the 'spirit of Assisi', Magister's blog today adds a distressing sequel to the lunch incident, which prompts him to make this remark that I found very striking:

But what these encounters [Assisi and its successor meetings] have produced in 21 years is nothing compared to what Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture managed in such a short time so far - the letter of the 38 Muslim scholars in October 2006 and the second one from 138 Muslim leaders earlier this month.

...Benedict XVI managed to nip a threatened lunch dispute in the bud. But it came up after the Pope had left Naples, at the opening session, no less, of the World Inter-Religious Encounter for Peace.

When it was Rabbi Metzger's turn to speak, he departed from his prepared text to say that it was futile to speak about peace while keeping silent about the threat of Iran to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth.

Ezzedin answered in his turn, telling Metzger that the peaceful and spiritual nature of the encounter demands that political differences between nations should not be a subject for discussion.

[Which shows the quixoticism - i.e, lack of practical consequences - of such encounters, commendable as they are for calling world attention to the problem at least once a year, and for bringing people together in inter-personal relationship that have a potential for bringing about fruitful results,although on a necessarily limited basis .

But going back to his prepared text, Ezzedin did turn political, assailing the United States for its Middle East policies, and in describing the situation between Israel and Iran, he called Israel 'a puppet state...regurgitating weapons of mass destruction' whereas Iran was 'a peaceful state' whom the West would deny 'legitimate and justified access to nuclear research for peaceful development.'

Yet Ibrahim is a veteran of the Sant'Egidio meetings. But what these encounters [Assisi and its successor meetings] have produced in 21 years is nothing compared to what Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture managed in such a short time so far - the letter of the 38 Muslim scholars in October 2006 and the second one from 138 Muslim leaders earlier this month.

But at the same time, one should not over-estimate the progress in Muslim-Christian dialog represented by these two letters. Ibrahim, like many of his 137 co-signatories of the second letter, is one of those who has never stated publicly a clear and unequivocal denunciation of Islamist terrorism.

The letter from the 138 was released on October 11 coinciding with the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Two facts bear point out in this connection.

First, that the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialog in September sent a message of greeting to all Muslims for the end of Ramadan. This has been done every year for some time now.

But this time, great care was given to its contents and its dissemination. It was issued in 22 languages and uses forceful language about the need to assure religious freedom and to condemn terrorism without any reservations. [Yes, but who is it reaching? Do we really expect the imam of every mosque in Islam - or most of them, at any rate - to read the message to their people during their Fraiday service? How are we even sure that every major newspaper in Muslim states has reported it?]

It was the first end-of-Ramadan message signed by the new Inter-Religious Council president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

And remarkably, an answer came from Aref Ali Nayed, the Libyan scholar and Cambridge professor who is signatory to both the October 2005 and October 2006 letters.

Prof. Nayed is familiar to readers of www.chiesa, which has posted his writings in the past. His response to the Ramadan message, “A Muslim’s Message of Thanks for the Vatican’s Message“, is published today in www.chiesa.[I have posted it in full in REFLECTIONS ON ISLAM, along with the English text of the Vatican message.]

Nayed writes in an important passage of his reply:

Indeed, we are all called upon to retrieve, rehabilitate, and rearticulate the true compassionate teachings of our traditions regarding the divinely ordained value of human personhood and its associated rights, duties, and freedoms. We need to work on these issues with not only religious colleagues, but also with philosophers and jurists who invoke ‘natural’ grounds for personhood and rights. Islam does have notions of a primordial covenant and an original make-up (fitra) that can engage such discourses as those of natural law and liberalism.

Apropos a planetary dialog based on natural law, one should refer to Benedict XVI's address on October 5 to the International Theological Commission. [Full translation in English available in HOMILIES, DISCOURSES, MESSAGES].


Thanks to Lella who has now posted Il Mattino's sidelights reporting of the papal visit - with dozens of interesting details - here is the newspaper's account of the lunch, with a seating diagram, no less, so I will include it in this post:

The Pope sips a limoncello
offered by Cardinal Sepe

By Salvo Sapio

Peace, dialog, sharing. The ingredients of the inter-religious encounter were the 'salt and pepper' at the official luncheon in the glassed-in courtyard of the Archdiocesan Seminary of Naples yesterday.

Twenty-five tables for 10 were set up within the outsize 'gazebo' with seating assigned for so many digniataries according to the most rigid rules of protocol.

Seated with Benedict XVI were Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I; the founder fo the Sant'Egidio Community; the founder of the University of the United Arab Emirates, Ibrahim Ezzedin; the secretary-gneeral of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, Samuel Kobia; the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II; the Archbishop of Naples, CArdinal Crescenzio Sepe; the founder of Sant'Egidio Community, Anderea Riccardi; the Catholicos of the Armenians of Lebanon, Aram I; the Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger; and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

In the next table, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinak Tarcisio bertone; the Prime Minister of Italy, Romano Prodi; ex-President of Italy Oscar Luigi Scalfaro; and the President of Campania region, Antonio Bassalino, among others.

At the table presided by Cardinal Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the ranking Italian official was appropriately Justice Minister Clemente Mastella.

The guests had an hour and a quarter to enjoy the meal, which the Pope had occasion to appreciate in his after-luncheon words. He expressed thanks for the 'fine and tasty meal' and his 'acknowledgment of the wonderful welcome with the immutable characteristic warmth of the Neapolitans."

The meal itself was not quite Neapolitan since it did not feature the usual seafood dishes. Antipasto was eggplant rolls with cream cheese and mozzarella balls from Aversa; the first dish was stringoli (thick, short twisted spaghetti) with Vesuvian tomatoes and Parmesan cheese wafers; the entree, medallions of veal au gratin. Dessert was a Bavarian cream concoction with ricotta and pears, served with Neapolitan lemon tarts.

The wines were Neapolitan (Casavecchia and Pallagrello) but the Pope, as usual, had orange juice and non-carbonated water. He did not drink coffee afterwards, but did sip the limoncello urged on him by Cardinal Sepe. [Limoncello is a very sweet lemon-based liqueur for which nearby Sorrento and its hillside lemon groves are famous.]

"The whole meal went very well, in what I would dsscribe as almost a family atmosphere," said Fr. Antonio Serra, rector of the seminary.

The meal was catered by a firm in San Prisco in Caserta province. "We prepared enough for 800 persons with special dishes for Jewish guests," said the owner Giuseppe Esposito.

The Pope, after unveiling a plaque to mark the occasion, thanked the catering staff personally and had pictures taken with 36 waiters, 16 'hostess-usherettes', the sommelier, the 3 maitres de table and the chef.

One of the master waiters, Gaetano Arellano, said, "To serve the Pope is a unique and indescribable experience."

In true Neapolitan style, despite the rain and cold, the catering staff sang 'O sole mio' for the Pope, who responded with amused smiles.

Il Mattino, 22 ottobre 2007

00Monday, October 22, 2007 10:10 PM
Thanks for posting and translating the story on the squabble at lunch. Interesting to hear that Papa was a mediator, that's very much like him. I'm very curious to hear what else they talked about and how the rest of the lunch was like. I'll check the PASTORAL thread [SM=g27828]


Dear Lori - As you can see, I've added a sidebar from Il Mattino about the lunch. No other table talk has been reported except that between Cardinal Bertone and Prime Minister Prodi, which had to with Prodi's problems in the Italian government...But the other Il Mattino sidebars have lots of interesting details. I just don't know when I can get around to translating everything, especially since I'd like to give priority to the serious commentary - which I don't think we will get in the Anglophone media. Naples interested them only because of the World Inter-Religious Encounter.

And now, I must translate a Messori commentary on the Benedict interview with Fr. Nebel.

00Tuesday, October 23, 2007 4:14 AM
Page change in mindstream. Posted today in the preceding page:

The Pope stops a lunch dispute between a Muslim and a Jew - Story from Corriere della Sera.
But they take it into the open anyway at the opening of the World Inter-Religious Encounter
for Peace in Naples, according to Sandro Magister on his blog...And Il Mattino has a sidebar on the lunch.




Messori with Cardinal Ratzinger in 1984

What other journalist - who is a Biblical and Church scholar in his own right, author of international best-selling books on religion, and co-author of a 1984 interview book with Joseph Ratzinger - than Vittorio Messori is better qualified to comment on Pope Benedict's interview with Fr. Johannes Nebel? Here is a translation of his commentary today in Corriere della Sera:

A medal of recognition should be conferred on those few theologians who resisted the Zeitgeist then, the spirit of 1968 - in a way that was gentle and tough at the same time - and thus allowed Catholic tradition not to lose its bimillenial continuity and settle itself into a new equilibrium.

Such gratitude explains the interview given by Benedict XVI published in this newspaper two days ago, which became the preface for Il mondo della fede cattolica by Leo Scheffczyk, who died two years ago not long after he was named a cardinal by John Paul II at the recommendat4ion of the then Prefect of the ex Holy Office.

Joseph Ratzinger affirms how much he owes to that prestigious professor of theology, who welcomed the reforms of Vatican II but who, unlike most of his colleagues, kept the Catholic sensus fidei and did not allow himself to be carried away by those 'years of folly'.

Those were the years of clerical agitation during and after Vatican-II, which had been intended by Papa Roncalli as a pastoral updating of the Church's immutable doctrine, but which was transformed, to his bitter surprise, into a sort of 'estates general' [the turbulent assemblies of various class representatives whose actions led to the French Revolution], or a constituent assembly for a utopian new Church, divorced from a past that was condemned as nothing more than errors and shameful deeds.

Among those who was part - at least at the beginning - of that revolutionary drive was 35-year-old Professor Ratzinger, theological consultant for Cardinal Frings of Cologne. He was among those who drafted the document that became an alternative for the agenda that John XXIII and Cardinal Ottaviani had intended for the Council.

Those who have created the improbable hagiography of a 'progressive' John XXIII do not tell us that, in fact, he was held hostage by an alignment of the so-called progressive Council Fathers and their theologians, who saw the Pope as the guarantee of 'archaic Roman theology.'

In that alignment, the young Ratzinger shone with his intelligence and culture, alongside contemporaries like Kueng and Schillebeeckx, and older theologians like Chenu, Congar, Rahner, and others who together set up a foundation in 1965 to publish Concilium, a journal to present Vatican-II as the 'start of something new.'

But it was his increasing awareness that his iconoclastic colleagues really intended a complete rupture with the past that made Ratzinger break away [along with like-minded colleagues such as Hans Urs von Balthasar and Congar himself, to set up the rival journal Communio, which presents Vatican-II as 'renewal in continuity'].

In August 1984, when we worked together in Bressanone on what became Rapporto sulla fede [published in English as The Ratzinger Report], I availed of his affability and transparency to ask him about his militancy alongside those who would become mocking and implacable adversaries of the ex Holy Office which he had been heading for three years. What changed?

His response was clearcut: "I didn't change. They did."

He added: "From the very first meetings of Concilium, I set two limits beyond which we should not go. First, no sectarianism or arrogance, as though we - theologians open to the new - were the true Church, a sort of alternative Magisterium. Second, to consider only the authentic texts of Vatican-II and not those of an imaginary Vatican-III; to analyze the letter of the texts and not a phantom 'spirit of Vatican-II'. At the time, my colleagues accepted the limits I suggested but subsequently strayed off. That is when I broke away."

This separation eventually led him, among other reasons, to leave Tuebingen, with its star system of theology professors lionized by the media, for the quieter Regensburg.

Gianni Valente, a specialized journalist, will soon publish a book about the Ratzinger of those years. His investigation will further explain a statement like the one the Pope makes in the interview with Fr. Nebel: "I myself, in that context, was perhaps too timorous with respect to what I could have dared to say, directly and to the point."

The point in this case was the radical and often rancorous questioning of the Magisterium and the Tradition of the Church by the progressivists.

If the professor who would become Pope followed the lead, with gratitude and relief, of his 'icebreaker' colleague Scheffzyck, without daring himself to open an argument, it was because of his gentle temperament, more inclined to conciliate than to divide, to an innate timidity and a desire not to stir up the traditional tranquility of scholarship with heated discussion and academic brawling.

That also explains why he joined his colleagues in the theology faculty at Tuebingen in signing a document that demanded a fixed term of office for bishops - including the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope - limited to eight years, after which the bishop should give way to someone else.

To his most loyal students at the time, who were shocked by his action, he explained that he did it to avoid other academic impositions, and then commissioned them to write and publish an article which contested the very document he signed.

In fact, no one can doubt the essential continuity of thought of this Bavarian priest who reached the summit of the Church to his genuine surprise, who has always practised and taught, not the aut-aut of the revolutionary or heretic, but the Catholic et-et [the Latin terms meaning 'either-or' and 'and-and', respectively, stand for exclusionary or inclusive thinking), who knows that accepting the new does not always mean renouncing the old, and that the ecclesiastical tree cannot be cut off from its roots.

Nor can one doubt his loyalty to Vatican-II, but to the authentic Council, not the imagined or invented one. From patristics, which he knows and loves well, he has adopted with conviction one of its famous formulations: Ecclesia ante et retro oculata est - the Church goes forward but at the same time, does not forget nor renounce what came before.

Corriere della sera, 22 ottobre 2007

00Tuesday, October 23, 2007 6:01 AM

World Youth Day

Fleet of ships to welcome Pope to 2008 WYD in Sydney

Sydney, Oct 22, 2007 / 10:56 am (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI will arrive at World Youth Day 2008 in Australia aboard the “Sydney 2000”, the largest cruiser in the region, which will be met by seventeen other ships in the Sydney Bay as the Pope arrives for the massive youth event.

Steve Lawrence, Director of the Office for Evangelization and Catechesis of the Australian Bishops, and Father Peter Williams, Director of the Department of Liturgy, explained that Pope Benedict XVI will arrive by ship to the Sydney Bay around 2pm local time and will be welcomed by fourteen ships filled with young people, in addition to dozens of small boats and vessels.

The welcoming ceremony will take pace in Barangoroo where, after a welcoming by the Aborigines, the Festival of Youth will take place. At the conclusion of the Festival, the Holy Father will ride through the streets of Sydney in the Pope mobile.

Via Crucis

Regarding the Via Crucis on Friday of WYD week, the fourteen stations will be subdivided into six places symbolic of the city and will be reenacted by some one hundred “actors.” Young people will be able to choose between the six places to participate in the prayers.

The Via Crucis will begin at the Cathedral of St. Mary. The other places chosen for the stations include Domain Park, the Sydney Art Gallery, the Sydney Opera House, Barangoroo Bay and Cockle Bay.

“The selection of various places will allow the greatest number of people and of residents of Sydney to be involved. Evangelization teams have been working for some time to sensitize the people to this moment,” organizers explained.

The key moments of the papal visit will be the vigil and the final Mass at Randwick Race Track. Young people will travel to the track via four different routes, two of which will cover more than 25 kilometers.

Organizers expect more than 300,000 for the Vigil and as many as 500,000 for the final Mass on July 20.

00Tuesday, October 23, 2007 12:04 PM

Two days ago, in Corriere della Sera, its deputy editor, Magdi Allam, wrote the first major criticism [translation posted in REFLECTIONS ON ISLAM] I have yet seen of A COMMON WORD..., the letter from 138 Muslim leaders to the Pope and other Christian leaders for the failure to mention terrorism anywhere in the letter. Today, he extends the criticism to the yearly world inter-religious encounters for peace that have succeeded the first such occasion in Assisi held at the initiative of John Paul II in 1987. Here is a translation:


By Magdi Allam

It so happens that Sheikh Ezzedin Ibrahim, Islamic dignitary and cultural adviser to the president of the United Arab Emirates, is among the 138 signatories to the 'Open Letter' to the Pope recently.

And it so happens that just eight days later, he emerges as a protagonist in a squabble with the chief rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger, and Patriarch Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians, in front of Benedict XVI who had to step in promptly to prevent a violent dispute at table.

This is a story emblematic of the most total equivocation, 'talking the talk but not walking the walk', and it took place during the luncheon Sunday at the Archdiocesan Seminary of Naples, as recounted in this newspaper yesterday by Luigi Accattoli.

It confirms how inter-religious dialog can be reduced to nothing but a wretched stage act if it falsifies the concrete reality of Muslims who are succubi of an ideology of hate, violence and death masked by a demagogic dissimulation impregnated with high-sounding invocations to the God of life, of love and of peace extrapolated arbitrarily and exploItatively from the Koran.

What a breach of behavior to have placed the Pope in a situation that was, to say the least, embarrassing, of having to calm tempers down by reminding them of their hosts, when he said, "All this is work for Sant'Egidio' - thus reminding us, too, that the responsibility for this unpleasant incident falls on the Catholic association which for years has been promoting inter-religious dialog through mega-assemblies attended by hundreds of representatives from dozens of religions and faiths in the world.

This conception of inter-religious dialog, especially where Islam is concerned, has been substantially revolutionized by Benedict XVI who, rather than the ambiguity of sterile and inconclusive confrontations on opinable interpretations of sacred texts, prefers the certainty of respect for the values and rights that are at the basis of our common humanity.

If his thinking is to be correctly understood and followed, then all those militant Islamists who in fact, beyond their deceptive rhetoric, actually do not recognize the sacredness of life, offend human dignity and violate religious freedom and individual choice, should never be accredited as participants in an inter-religious dialog.

And that is the case with the 138 signatories of the open letter who deny the right of Israel to exist, ennoble Palestinian suicide terrorists by elevating them to martyrs, persecute Christian missionaries and condemn Christian converts to death.

It certainly was not by chance that the dispute which began over lunch with the Pope arose from the denunciation by the rabbi of the Islamic strategy aimed at the destruction of Israel and the exodus of Christians from the Middle East.

It is regrettable that at the same time, in Italy, Giuliano Ferrara's Il Foglio - which has always been in the front ranks in defense of Israel and against Islamist terrorism - fell into the trap held out by masters of the art of dissimulation. Accrediting as "A fatwa for reconciliation' that long theological dissertation on the oneness of God and love for one's neighbour, in which the word Israel and its right to existence never once appears, nor does any explicit mention of Islamist terrorism, nuch less a condemnation of it.

And it is surprising that in Il Foglio's reply to my initial criticsm, which they entrusted to the brilliant pen of Giulio Meotti, the word Israel is never mentioned either.

Is it possible that my friend Ferrara does not understand that today, more than ever, Israel is the paradigm for life, and that the definitive parameter for measuring bona fides in respecting the sacredness of life is the recognition of the right of Israel to exist?

Unfortunately, neither is this consciousness present among our friends in Sant'Egidio who, year after year, host and legitimize apologists for Islamist terrorism and preachers of the destruction of Israel.

I will simply cite the case of the rector of the Islamic university of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, who was invited to the 2004 meeting in Milan, shortly after he had decreed that "the solution to Israeli terrorism should be based on proliferating the martyr attacks which terrorize the hearts of the enemies of Allah" and that "Islamic nations - their peoples as well as their governments - should support these martyrdom operations."

Well, even Al-Tayeb is one of the 138 signatories of that letter that was the object of Ferrara's hosannas.

Dear friends of Sant'Egidio and Il Foglio, it's all very well to have inter-religious dialog, but only on condition that one does not carry it on with killers. In the matter of protecting the sacredness of life, ignorance and disingenuousness are not acceptable.

Corriere della sera, 23 ottobre 2007


For some reason, CNS has a different version of the lunch incident than the one reported by the Italian media, although it leads off with the opening session of the inter-religious meeting.

Orthodox leader: Only worthy battle
is against one's own prejudices

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

NAPLES, Italy, Oct. 22 (CNS) -- The only battle worthy of a religious believer is the battle against his or her own passions and prejudices, said Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

"Because violence is an anti-value, it cannot be used to defend values," the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians said Oct. 21 at the opening of an interreligious meeting for dialogue and peace in Naples.

The meeting was sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio and brought together more than 300 Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists and followers of other religions.

Pope Benedict XVI, who was making a pastoral visit to the Archdiocese of Naples, greeted the religious leaders before the meeting began and shared lunch with them.

The pope had encouraged the religious leaders, telling them that violence and evil can never be justified in the name of God.

But at the formal opening of the interreligious meeting, Patriarch Bartholomew said it is obvious that religious differences easily can be turned into motives for war and hatred.

If cultural and racial differences are easy to exploit, he said, religious differences are potentially even more dangerous since religions are "characterized by an absolutism that is difficult to bend" and by a belief that God has given them the truth.

"So even in the field of religions one observes a growing sensitivity (to differences) that sometimes can transform into extremism and violence," the patriarch said.

But, he said, "war in the name of religion is war against religion."

The aim of religion must be union with God and with one's neighbors, he said. A religion that lives in fear of what is different is not worthy of the name, he said.

"Violence will cease when each of us cultivates a holy and blessed vendetta against ourselves and our own passions," and focuses instead on serving and loving God, he said.

Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Yona Metzger, told participants that he had been seated at the pope's table at lunch along with an Orthodox leader from Lebanon who expressed concern about the future of his country because of religious extremism.

"I told him I think we are in the same situation," he said. "We must say something against those who carry the banner of religion, but sow terror. If we do not speak, we are accomplices."

Rabbi Metzger called on the religious leaders present to denounce Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his past remarks about destroying Israel.

As he has done in the past, Rabbi Metzger also told participants it was time to "establish the 'United Nations of Religions,' which would be a mediator between religions."

"If we sit together around a table, we will come to know each other and, certainly, people will be surprised to hear new things, new approaches, and certainly we would be able to find effective solutions" to tensions, he said.

Ezzedine Ibrahim, a Muslim scholar from the United Arab Emirates, spoke after the rabbi and said he, too, had been at the head table with the pope, and he felt that it was not appropriate to discuss the behavior of specific national leaders at a conference dedicated to promoting peace and dialogue.

"We Muslims," he said, "confirm - anew and repeatedly - that we are wholeheartedly for peace with the world religions, nations, races and cultures."

"All religions should respect one another and refrain from (making) unjustified accusations and ridiculous comments" about each other, Ibrahim said.

[Note the Kumbaya-style platitudes of Ezzedin. It is the height of hypocrisy to talk about working for world peace when one does not identify the most egregious and offensive crimes agsinst peace that are taking place in the world today. I expect someone at that conference is bound to beat on the United Sates because of Iraq and Afghanistan, which should be placed into perspective in the light of the global war on terror {of which Muslims are the aggressors), the Sunni-Shia - ie, intra-Muslim - rivalry that is fuelling the Iraq insurgency, the proactive role of both Al-Qaeda (Wahhabi Islam) and Iran (fundamentalist Shia) in the Iraq troubles, and the resurgent Taliban Muslim terrorists in Afghanistan.]

Asked if there had been tension at the pope's luncheon table, the Muslim scholar told Catholic News Service Oct. 22, "There was."

Rabbi Metzger "said a few things - I did not start it - and the cardinal of Naples (Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe) said the questions cannot be resolved in the time we have for lunch so it is better to focus on peace," Ibrahim noted.

"I got the feeling that a conversation of that kind was not welcome at the pope's table and the cardinal was very wise" to ask the other guests to change the subject, he said.

Ibrahim, Cardinal Sepe and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury all told reporters they did not think the pope heard the discussion since there were 10 people at the table and several conversations were going on simultaneously.


It is worth showing the seating plan for the pope's table again:

Metzger was seated directly to the Pope's right - and it was his remark on Lebanon and Iran that set off objections from Aram and Ezzedin. The Pope would have been deaf or completely inattentive and insensitive if he had not heard Metzger's comments, or if he had not paid attention to the initial exchange between Aram and Ezzedin, who were seated at opposite sides of the table and would therefore not have been murmuring to each other! Besides, the Italian media report a direct quotation of the Pope's calming remark which has the dry sardonic brevity that his bon mots usually have.
00Tuesday, October 23, 2007 5:23 PM
Muslim scholars send a new letter
urging Benedict to back dialogue appeal

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Muslim scholars pressing Christian churches for a high-level dialogue to improve inter-faith relations have urged Pope Benedict to publicly back their appeal already supported by several non-Catholic leaders.

One of the 138 signatories to the unprecedented appeal told Benedict at a religious gathering in Naples on Sunday that the group was disappointed with what it saw as the Vatican's relatively slow response, another signatory said on Monday.

The group has also sent the Vatican a letter criticising remarks by its top official for inter-faith relations, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, in which he said that serious theological dialogue with Muslims was not possible, signatory Aref Ali Nayed told Reuters.

The novel appeal, representing a broad spectrum of Sunni and Shi'ite groups, urged Christian leaders on Oct. 11 to seek common ground with Islam to help preserve world peace.

"Muslims are still awaiting a proper response from His Holiness Pope Benedict," said the new letter.

"We call upon him to embrace the initiative that our scholars made with the same good will that has already marked its reception by so many Christians."

Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Lutheran World Federation head Bishop Mark Hanson, World Council of Churches head Rev. Samuel Kobia, U.S. Presbyterian Church head Clifton Kirkpatrick and several leading theologians have praised the appeal as a positive basis for a possible dialogue.

While several Catholic experts have reacted favourably, Benedict has not mentioned the appeal publicly. Tauran at first praised it as "very interesting" but in remarks last Friday raised other issues that could complicate any talks.

The cardinal said Christians could not discuss theology seriously with Muslims because they did not question the Koran. He also said any talks should discuss why some Muslim states limit church building while Muslims can build mosques in Europe.

"This attitude, it seems to Muslims, misses the very point of dialogue," the new letter said. "Dialogue is by definition between people of different views, not people of the same view.

"Dialogue is not about imposing one's views on the other side, nor deciding oneself what the other side is and is not capable of, nor even of what the other side believes."

[See? They bristle at the very idea of reciprocity - which should certainly be one of the immediate practical applications of a constructive dialog!]

Nayed, a senior advisor to the Cambridge Interfaith Program in Britain, said signatory Izzeldine Ibrahim personally urged Benedict to support the appeal. The two sat at the same table for lunch at the Naples inter-faith meeting on Sunday.

Ibrahim is a cultural adviser to the United Arab Emirates government.

The new letter also said the Vatican's annual message to Muslims for Eid el-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan "had been made polemical of late". [To denounce terrorism and violence and call for religions to oppose these in common is polemical? There is no bona fides on the other side of this 'dialog'!]

Once devoted mostly to religious themes, the messages last year and this year included calls for different religions to fight against terrorism and violence. [Opposing terrorism and violence is not a religious theme? When they violate everything that God and faith stand for?]


It took them one year to come up with A COMMON WORD... and now they expect the Pope to answer them when two weeks have not passed since their letter!

Dialog is not about scoring brownie points in the media, but that's what media-savvy Ezzedin seems to be trying for.

And what is wrong with Cardinal Tauran saying things as they are - that theological dialog between Islam and Christianity is not possible - not because no one can question the Koran, as Tauran points ut, but IMHO, even more basic is because Islam's non-recognition of the divinity of Jesus is the most fundamental theological difference between the two faiths that can never be bridged or changed, if faith is what it is supposed to be, on whichever side you are....But how refreshing to see thaqt Carsinal Tauran seems to be a realist who does not mask his concerns!

I must look up if Spengler at Asia Times has reacted to A COMMON WORD. He was one of the few non-disingenuous commentators of the first letter....

I've looked. Strangely, he does not yet have a column about the second letter, but he did post the CNA report on Cardinal Tauran's thoughts and started a forum about it.

Cardinal Tauran outlines difficulties
of dialogue with Muslims

Paris, Oct 22, 2007 (CNA)- The president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, warned this week of the difficulties posed by inter-religious dialogue with Muslims, since they "do not accept discussions about the Koran, because they say it was written under the dictates of God."

In an interview with the French daily La Croix, Cardinal Tauran said that currently inter-religious dialogue can take place "with some religions, yes. But with Islam, not at this time. Muslims do not accept discussion about the Koran, because they say it was written under the dictates of God. With such an absolutist interpretation, it's difficult to discuss the contents of the faith."

Referring to the recent letter sent by 138 Muslim leaders to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders about inter-religious dialogue, Cardinal Tauran said, "If believers were consistent with their faith, the world could be different. Because wars are not caused by religions, but by men," he said.

The cardinal noted that religions are often attacked because terrorists use them to justify their actions. "Religion inspires fear, therefore, because it is perverted by terrorism," as in the case of Muslim extremists.

Catholics should not hide what they stand for, but should rather "clearly manifest what we believe." The cardinal also said that Catholics should be able to find common ground with Muslims in the areas of respect for human life, the family and the value of religion in education."

The French cardinal also explained that it is important that "in dialogue between believers, it is stated that what is good for one is good for the other. It should be explained to Muslims, for example, that if they are allowed to have Mosques in Europe, it is normal for churches to be allowed to be built in their countries."

Cardinal Tauran noted that Benedict XVI "has explained that we share with Muslims and Jews a common treasure which is the Ten Commandments. In addition, the Pope generally explains how our dialogue should be: we should be ready to give an account for the hope that is in us; and on the basis of our common values, we should consider every believer as our neighbor and not as an adversary or competitor."

00Wednesday, October 24, 2007 1:48 PM
Due to my inability to do work on the Forum yesterday after my initial posts, I am reserving two slots here for some papal news from yesterday which I need to translate. The first is significant post-Naples commentaries, and the other is about a roundtable discussion held at one of the pontifical universities to discuss Pope Benedict and the mass media.

The first post-Naples item yesterday that I must post is this one, translated from PETRUS:


NAPLES - The Archbishop of Maples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, told newsmen Tuesday that he received a telephone call from Pope Benedict XVI during which the Pope expressed how 'very happy' he was with his visit to Naples on Sunday.

"He sounded very very happy, " the cardinal said at the Oriental University of Naples, at the conferment of an honorary degree on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. "He told me he was very satisfied, and that he still sensed the enthusiasm and the warmth of the Neapolitans, despite the cold that day and the snow on Vesuvius. He sounded very very happy indeed."

Cardinal Sepe said the Pope's visit was 'a great gift for Naples."

"Let us hope,' he added, "that the effects of what the Pope said and his actions may continue to be felt and acted on, especially in the climate generated in Naples with the inter-religious meeting sponsored by the Sant'Egidio Commnity. That, too, is impelling a new will to move ahead."

00Wednesday, October 24, 2007 1:49 PM
I didn't get to see this Oct. 19 article in TIME magazine till today, and although I have posted it among the Oct. 19 items on this thread for chronology, I am posting here as well for those who may not have seen it yet, because it is so typical of deliberate journalistic distortion to fit the writer's image of his subject.


About the Pope's presence in Naples on opening day of the XXI World Inter-Religious Encounter for Peace, here is Jeff Israely of TIME with his now-customary snarky attitude towards the Pope, made worse by his explicit and deliberately misleading statements that this event was organized for Benedict, with an implication that he sought it!

When the Pope Comes to the Party
Friday, Oct. 19, 2007

It's hard not to notice when the Pope shows up. [Hey, he was not 'showing up for the party'! It's the other way around. He happened to be making a pastoral visit to Naples on the day the annual religious Kumbaya for peace opens, so the organizers - who have been preparing their Naples event for the past 12 months - simply worked the Papal Mass into their program, or rather their pre-program - because the Encounter was not scheduled to open until early Sunday evening, after the Pope had ended his pastoral visit to Naples. The Mass would have been held, Encounter or not, as was the subsequent luncheon at the Naples Seminary, which was originally scheduled simply as the Pope's get-together with visitng cardinals and the bishops of Campania.]

And you can sometimes say the same when he doesn't. Last fall, Pope Benedict XVI was a notable no-show at a September ceremony to mark 20 years since John Paul II had hosted a groundbreaking gathering of world religious leaders in Assisi, Italy. [How can he be a 'no-show' for an observance that is at best 'ritual' in the figurative sense - to mark the day, to remind people it happened! The Diocese of Assisi asked him for a message, and he sent them a beautiful message, underscoring what the true spirit of Assisi is and should be. I bet he wasn't even invited - even JP-II never came to the annual anniversaries. He only returned the year after 9/11 because of the tremendous significance of 9/11.]

Some viewed the Pope's absence as a slap to those working for inter-faith dialogue, both inside and outside the Catholic Church. [PUH-LEEZE! No one even commented on it at the time, not even Israely himself, for the simple reason that the anniversary was no big deal - the world encounter didn't even take place in Assisi last year! - and he had not been invited because a pastoral visit to Assisi was already being planned.]

On Sunday, however, Benedict will be center stage at the most lavish, and well-attended, inter-religious ceremony of his papacy, organized by the same Sant'Egidio community that helped launch Assisi. [They most certainly did not organize it for him - they organized it as they have done every annual encounter since 1987.]

What has changed? Why is Benedict marking 21 years since "the spirit of Assisi" was uncorked, after skipping out on the 20th anniversary?

First, let's turn back to that October 27, 1986 "prayer for peace" in the birthplace of St. Francis. The gathering in Assisi of monks and imams, rabbis and priests and prelates of all stripe has long been considered the catalyst that turned inter-religious dialogue into something of a worldwide, faith-based movement in its own right. But not all were impressed.

Before becoming the current Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was considered one of the Vatican officials most skeptical about the efforts spawned by Assisi, which risked clashing with the traditionalist theologian's conviction that differences among religions should not be glossed over for the sake of feel-good encounters.

Still, when it came time for the 20th anniversary last year, Benedict was not going to shun Assisi altogether. [But what makes you assume he would? Has he ever 'shunned Assisi altogether'? What is he - a petty and petulant man who will let his personal opinion about some aspects of the 1987 event influence his actions as Pope and as a man of God? How many times, on his own, during this Pontificate, has he referred to St. Francis and the true meaning of that saint's life and mission, at the most unexpected occasions?]

While preparing for a trip a few days later to his native Bavaria, the German Pope sent a letter to the commemorative gathering that called his predecessor's focus on inter-faith dialogue at Assisi "prophetic" in light of the rising violence perpetrated in the name of religion.

Indeed, Benedict was about to live another chapter of that very prophecy. Just days later, during his homecoming trip to Germany, the new Pope delivered his provocative lecture on faith, reason and violence that set off widespread criticism in the Muslim world, punctuated by acts of violence, including the burning of churches and the killing of a nun in Somalia.

Benedict was quick to turn to the "spirit of Assisi" [Excuse me???? You would think the Pope was nothing better than a run-of-the-mill opportunist! I dare Mr. Israely to cite one instance when the Pope ever used the phrase 'spirit of Assisi' in everything he said related to the Regensburg lecture - which, precisely, went beyond the Kumbaya quixotism of Assisi 1987, to something more concrete and genuine because it proposed a reason-based dialog without 'making nice' for the sake of making nice!] in trying to calm the waters after his Regensberg speech, inviting Rome-based Muslim diplomats for a meeting in the Vatican and visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, where he prayed shoulder-to-shoulder with the Turkish imam.

Though tensions remain, a letter earlier this month addressed to the Pope and other Christian leaders, signed by 138 prominent Muslim clerics and scholars, is seen as a potential breakthrough in relations between Islam and Christianity.

Of course, inter-faith dialogue for Catholics is hardly limited to Muslims. Perhaps highest of the priorities is finding unity with other Christian denominations. Benedict has also made clear his desire to reinforce John Paul's good relations with Jews. But in recent months both those dialogues have suffered some nasty hiccups.

First, in July, the Pope allowed for expanded use of the old-rite Latin Mass, which contains a Good Friday prayer that offends some Jews. A few days later, the Vatican's doctrinal office reiterated Benedict's stance — first stated when he was cardinal — that non-Catholic denominations of Christianity, excepting the Orthodox, are not true Churches because they cannot trace their hierachies back to the apostles. (The Orthodox, however, are a reduced Church because they do not recognize the primacy of the Apostle Peter's successor, the Pope.) It is as clear as ever that Benedict will not mince words in laying out his vision of what it means to be Catholic, even if it risks offending both those inside and outside his own Church.

Still, to mark 21 years since the Assisi gathering — to be held in the southern city of Naples — Benedict made sure to offer not only his written words, but his physical presence. Indeed, the Pope's positive RSVP means that some of the most influential leaders of other faiths will arrive as well, including Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, Israel's chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, and the rector of the Al-Azhar University in Egypt, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb.

"It is very encouraging that the Pope has decided to come," says Mario Marazziti, a spokesman for the Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio, the Rome-based group behind both the Assisi and Naples events. [Marazziti is equally being misleading - or else, Israely misquotes him. When the Pope announced he was going to Naples on a pastoral visit, he said he was doing so in response to a long-standing invitation of Cardinal Sepe. He never once mentioned the World Encounter in the entire run-up to the pastoral visit. If he was a true participant, he would have been in the opening session of the Encounter, at least.]

"At the same time we know this is a different Pope than John Paul, who touched so many with the charisma of his person. This is a theologian-Pope, who governs with his word."

But more and more, Benedict also seems to understand that gestures — and even just showing up — are sometimes the best way to be heard.





P.S. Just to place an objective context to the Pope's pastoral visit and the Naples meeting, here is an excerpt from the AFP report on Oct. 21 about the Naples encounter and the Pope's presence:

The Sant'Egidio summits are meant to carry on the "spirit of Assisi" and were launched 21 years ago by John Paul II in the birthplace of Saint Francis.

The first summit, dubbed a World Day of Prayer for Peace, was attended by the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and other religious leaders.

The pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, stayed away, reportedly out of concern that it put all religions on an equal footing.

Thus the timing of his pastoral visit to Naples has been billed as a "happy coincidence" by Sant'Egidio, a lay Catholic organisation that has mediated in several world conflicts.

Got that, Jeff Israely?

00Wednesday, October 24, 2007 1:52 PM

A full translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today has been posted in AUDIENCE AND ANGELUS TEXTS. Here is the Pope's English synthesis of the catechesis :

In our catechesis on the teachers of the ancient Church, we now turn to Saint Ambrose of Milan.

Born into a Christian family in the middle of the fourth century, Ambrose was educated in Rome and sent as governor to Milan, where, although a catechumen, he was soon acclaimed as Bishop. He set about mastering the Scriptures, guided by the writings of Origen and the practice of lectio divina, a form of prayerful meditation on the word of God. It was Ambrose who introduced this practice to the West, and it deeply permeated his life and preaching.

Saint Augustine, who was converted in Milan and baptized by Ambrose, relates the profound impression which Ambrose’s engagement with the word of God left upon him.

Ambrose, contrary to the custom of the time, did not read the Scriptures aloud, which Augustine interpreted as a sign of how deeply the inspired word had penetrated the holy Bishop’s mind and heart.

This image can serve as an "icon" of Ambrose as a catechist: his teaching was inseparable from his prayer and his entire life. For Ambrose, Christ was everything – Omnia Christus est nobis! – and so it must be for every catechist and indeed for every one of the Lord’s disciples.

'Those who teach the faith
cannot behave like clowns'

Vatican City, Oct. 24 (AsiaNews) – Those who teach the faith “cannot run the risk of appearing like a type of clown who is playing a part; rather he must be like the beloved disciple who rested his head on the Master’s heart and learned therein how to think, speak and act”. Because “at the end of it all a true disciple is he who announces the Gospel in a credible and effective way”, a “authentic witness”, as Saint Ambrose was, Pope Benedict XVI said today.

The figure of the bishop and saint from Milan, who lived between 340 and 397, and in particular his influence on Saint Augustine’s conversion, was at the heart of Benedict XVI’s address to the 30 thousand people gathered today for the general audience.

According to the Pope, the Gospel can be effectively announced only where the “witness” of the preacher’s life and the “exemplary conduct of the Christian community” are credible, as was the case with Saint Ambrose and his Church.

St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions that what urged him - a young, sceptical and desperate African - to convert was “Saint Ambrose's witness and that of his Milanese Church, which sang and prayed as one united body, capable of resisting the arrogance of the Emperor and his mother”.

“It is all too clear," the Pope noted, "that the witness of the preacher and the exemplary conduct of the Christian community condition the effectiveness of spreading the faith”.

The Pope receives a gift from Polish Culture Minister Kazimierz
Michal Ujazdowski, center, at the end of today's General Audience

00Thursday, October 25, 2007 3:55 AM

This is the translation of a book review for CITTA NUOVA, the magazine of the Focolare movement, and I thank Lella who shares the original on her blog. It was written by Giovanni Casoli, a literary critic who also teaches at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and the author of a monumental two-volume anthology of 20th century Italian and European literature, in which his primary criterion is beauty, as in the eternal trinity of 'the true, the good and the beautiful'.

I have decided to post it here before double-posting it in the BOOKS... thread, because it is just as much an appreciation of the man who wrote JESUS OF NAZARETH.

I've always had the 'feeling' [he uses the English term] and I've never lost it, even if on non-essential things, I have held different opinions from his. If anything, the 'feeling' has grown with time.

Thirty-two years ago, I read his Introduction to Christianity, and I liked it so much that I made a gift of it to one of my students.

I continued to follow him, reading so many other books of his - until, after his splendid Via Crucis [meditations and prayers for Good Friday] of 2005 - "How much filth ... how much-self-sufficiency there is in the Church!" - with John Paul II nearing the end of his life, I hoped he would be the next Pope, and I considered and consider his election absolutely providential and, to put it even more clearly, God's will.

Benedict XVI, like all men, has his limitations, but what is limitless in him is the drive towards faith and love, grafted with wise auto-didactism [self-education] (to use a term of Guardini) onto the inherent qualities of a finely informed and culturally courageous person - anyone who reads him seriously cannot help but be aware of this.

Nor is it an ideological drive - neither conservative nor progressive, which are misleading and simply inappropriate labels to describe any serious Christian life. It is impelled by faithfulness, the faithfulness of someone enamoured with Christ.

That is why I read with joy this book - which is still incomplete - a 'dialog', so to speak, with the Lord, whose vicar he is on earth.

I find the book very similar to his beautiful photographs as a child - already looking very spiritual at 5 years of age, already 'on the way', as the early Christians would say.

Reading it put me in mind of the extraordinary reply of St. Thomas More, whom family and friends had wanted to declare obedience to King Henry VIII in order to save his life when he had to make a decisive choice, and he chose loyalty to the Church. At the end, More said, it is a question of love.

And that's how it is with Benedict XVI. While exegetes and theologians may engage in heated debates to support their opposing theses, and lose themselves in arguments and quibbling, and while indifferent persons and enemies may mock him for the positions he takes, in the end, it all about love - not blind love, but love guiding and guided by intelligence and culture.

Because the Gospel is clear: there are things revealed to the 'little ones' but hidden from the educated and the wise, that is, those who make of learning and wisdom a mask that is impenetrable even to themselves.

The initiative - fruit of a long interior journey - by the theologian Ratzinger is to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the real Jesus, the historical Jesus in the truest sense, going beyond the limits of recent Christology which has separated the Christ of history from the Christ of the faith.

From the work of some famous exegetes and theologians, we know how such attempts have arrived at impoverished conclusions yet scandalistic successes about which one doesn't know which is more horrifying - the ignorance or the prejudice they show.

Instead, the Pope wishes to present Jesus evangelically, as he should be, in the light of his communion with the Father - because

Unless there had been something extraordinary in what happened, unless the person and the words of Jesus radically surpassed the hopes and expectations of his time, there is no way to explain why he was crucified or why he made such an impact.

Here, as an example of the author's refinement as well as his intellectual honesty, I wish to cite another diamantine passage:

Admittedly, to believe that, as man, he was truly God, and that he communicated his divinity veiled in parables, yet with increasing clarity, exceeds the cope of the historical method.

Yet if instead we take this conviction of faith as our starting point for reading the texts with the help of historical methodology and its intrinsic openness to something greater, they are opened up and they reveal a way and a figure that are worthy of belief.

Those who are familiar with the career of Ratzinger the theologian, which was characterized by unwanted turns and self-renunciations, will see in this book the wise hand behind it - it has kept him from elaborating any systematic or even speculative theology, while allowing ever greater maturation, in this beautiful mind illuminated by faith, of a formidable catechetical ability - therefore, the theology of a pastor which circumstances increasingly and universally demanded of Ratzinger.

What is most fascinating about this book is the clear interpretative thread of Jesus's public life up to the Transfiguration {the second volume will complete the picture):

The Messiah from Nazareth is the new Moses, already [pre-announced in Deuteronomy, a prophet not a warrior, whose intimacy with God is far greater than the already great intimacy that Moses had.

He is the David who will definitively install the Kingdom of God, and as Luke says, son of Adam (son of man) and Son of God, who lived in a historical era that was precisely characterized through both its Roman and Jewish leaders, and inaugurated by the great hinge figure of John the Baptist, whose work opened the way for the Redeemer who is both king and priest .

The author's Occidental-Oriental synthesis of the Trinitarian theology of Jesus's Baptism as an anticipation of the Cross and the Resurrection is very important here: the Anointed One (= Christ the Messiah) and his total mission.

Christ's descent to hell, as the Creed says, did not happen only with his death and after his death, but is always part of his journey. He must take upon himself all of man's history from its very beginning - from Adam - he must experience and suffer it all in order to transform it.

That is why the famous temptation in the desert is not surprising. The true man must be one with sinners, not only in that moment, but all the way to Gethsemane and his abandonment on the Cross.

The temptations then are still those of today: to remove God and do everything on one's own, without any illusions - which is, of course, the greatest illusion of all.

Because such presumptuousness, which would make of God nothing more than an object and impose on him the experimental conditions of a laboratory, will never find God.

Because in fact, it starts with a premise that denies God is God, since man the experimenter places himself above God.

Because scientific man will have nothing to do with love, or inward listening, recognizing as real only that which is capable of experiment, which is under his control.

Whoever thinks this way makes himself 'God' and doing so, he debases not just God but the world as well as his own self.

Jesus chooses, against that logic, not earthly power but the way which presupposes the Cross, scandalizing Peter and the other apostles. That is why he would be pitted in a public 'lottery' with Barabbas, who was not a bandit but a political messiah in the narrow sense, that is, without a Cross. And that is how the two destinies diverged.

Thus, the question that permeates the book: what then has the Crucified Messiah actually brought to the world since he did not bring victory and freedom from material want?

And the great answer is: He brought us God, the true God who does not bring quiet living and welfare, but true peace and true good. It is only our hardness of heart that considers this as minor.

Jesus does not bring the gospels (= good news) of the emperors, but the Gospel of God, not just an announcement of salvation but salvation itself.

The messenger himself is the message. He who announces the Kingdom of God is himself the Kingdom of God come down to men - a kingdom unlike that expected then and now - it is small, poor, hidden and secretly active like yeast, and yet more precious and invaluable than any visible thing.

In Jesus, God works and reigns - he reigns in divine manner, without worldly power, but he reigns with love to the very end, up to death on the Cross.

The Sermon on the Mount - the new Torah - shows that in Jesus, the relationship between Father and Son is always in the context of his message. On the Sinai of his prayer and teaching, he brings to fulfillment- for the crowd that is listening to him - the experience of Elia who heard God not in thunder or fire but in a light and gentle breath - how else can one describe the Beatitudes? - which now invites man to discover the preciousness of suffering, the fire of crucified love. Without dying, without the shipwreck of that which is only ours, there is no communion with God, there is no redemption.

In the Beatitudes shines the new image of the world and of man that Jesus inaugurates, the transformation of values....Through Jesus, joy enters tribulation, as St. Paul magnificently says and lives, and as St. John expresses in the union between the Cross and glory, the Cross and the Resurrection.

They are also a hidden biography of Christ which will be made by the great saints theirs as well, from Francis of Assisi to Therese of Lisieux to Teresa of Calcutta.

The theologian shows the reciprocal compenetration of the Beatitudes, which place in faith the new justice of the relationship with God, realized supremely by Jesus and later by his followers who are persecuted because of him, when announcing him is clearly the center of the story.

From then on, the ascent to God comes precisely through the descent of humble service, the descent of love, which is the essence of God...
God descends - down to death on the Cross... And the ascent to God happens in accompanying him on this descent.

Love is the fire that purifies and unifies reason, will and sentiment; which unifies man within himself because of the unifying action of God, so that he becomes an agent of unification for those who are divided. And so, man enters into the dwelling of God and sees him. That is what it means to be blessed.

That which today, the suffocating crush of materialism and hyper-suggestivity often will not accept, is that Christianity is a joy which requires sacrifice, that the Beatitudes demand conversion.

They demand this even of an observant Jew like Jacob Neusner, with whom Ratzinger has a noble and fruitful dialog, and whose discourse of non-adhesion to Christ is totally spiritual.

The novelty of the Gospel is not in this or that teaching, but Christ himself who incarnates the teachings and relates to god as Son, as God himself.

At this point, I would need many more pages to review with appropriate completeness this beautiful book, always engaging and sometimes unsettling [In Italian 'coinvolgente e sconvolgente'], innovative because in speaking of Christ, he speaks with him - which allows me to recommend it specially to non-believers [as it would also do much good to believers 'at sea') who would like to connect to Jesus of Nazareth guided by something incomparably far more serious than so many stupidities in circulation.

One must and could talk at length of the parts of the book that analyze with exquisite alliance of heart and mind the Lord's Prayer, the parables, the great images in the Gospel of John, Peter's confession of faith, the Transfiguration, Jesus's self-knowledge.

But I will limit myself now to saying that this is a most readable text for every person of good will and average preparation who has a thirst for the spiritual.

Ratzinger-Benedict XVI has, within an intellect of the first order, a faith that is so warm and emotional but is neither dry nor sentimental [the great St. Francis of Sales said that our sentiments are almost always nothing more than jokes played on us by our own ego].

He talks and writes looking you in the eye, even as he continues to 'look at Christ' which also happens to be the title of one of his books.

That is not strabismus but pure Christianity, because in Christ as the center of humanity and history, he sees, as the Master himself teaches us, himself and each of us.

00Thursday, October 25, 2007 3:17 PM
Pope Hails von Hildebrand Project;
Conference Remembers Catholic Philosopher

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, Oct. 25, 2007 ( Benedict XVI, expressing his appreciation and support for the work of the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project, said that it will have fruitful consequences for the evangelization of contemporary culture.

The Pope said this in a letter written to John Henry Crosby, the founder and director of the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project.
Crosby read the letter from the Holy Father during a conference hosted by the legacy project at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, held Oct. 12-13. Some 150 participants from eight countries gathered to honor the philosopher on the 30th anniversary of his death.

Alice von Hildebrand, widow of the German philosopher and keynote speaker at the conference, commented, "I was extremely happy to see that so many new people are discovering the importance of my husband's message."

Dietrich von Hildebrand was born in 1889, the son of a famous German sculptor. He studied philosophy under the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl and was profoundly influenced by his close friend, German philosopher Max Scheler, who aided von Hildebrand's conversion to Catholicism in 1914.

Von Hildebrand openly criticized Nazism from within Germany and Austria, earning him the contempt of Adolf Hitler. He is also known for his religious and spiritual writings, and his passionate defense of truth and beauty.

Distinctive contribution

Benedict XVI said in his letter: "Following my recent meeting with you and Mrs. Alice von Hildebrand, I wish to express my appreciation for the efforts of the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project to promote greater knowledge of and esteem for Professor von Hildebrand's distinctive contribution to Christian philosophical thought.

"Drawing inspiration from the Augustinian tradition and its Thomistic reception in the light of Aristotelian philosophy, von Hildebrand sought to advance that tradition by creatively reinterpreting it in the context of modern thought and its concerns.

"He was far from a 'petrified' vision of the teaching of Thomas, based on a narrow and uncritical devotion to the 'words of the Master,' and could well make his own the classic dictum: 'Amicus mihi Thomas, magis amica veritas!'"

"It is this 'legacy' which has motivated your project," the Pontiff added.

Benedict XVI continued: "Grounded in the rich philosophical movement which stretches from the Pre-Socratic's through Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus, to Augustine, Thomas and the great thinkers of the modern age, and taking up the challenge set forth in the encyclical 'Fides et Ratio,' the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project aims to enter into reasoned dialogue with contemporary currents of philosophy, bringing the full scope of reason to bear on fundamental human questions and contributing to the recovery of the sapiential dimension inherent in the 'philosophia perennis.'

"Without such a commitment to the philosophical enterprise, Christian faith would fall prey to a 'fideism' which would deprive it of its grandeur as man's free submission of intellect and will to the splendor of God's truth, and gravely compromise its missionary dynamism, whereby believers are called to offer to all a reasoned account of the hope that is within them.

"I therefore express my appreciation and support for the work of the Dietrich von Hildebrand Project, and my confidence that this praiseworthy initiative will bear abundant fruit for the evangelization of contemporary culture."

00Thursday, October 25, 2007 3:29 PM
THE POPE'S DAY, 10/25/07

The Holy Father met today with
- H.E. Željko Komšić, President of Bosnia -Erzegovina, and his delegation
- Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
- Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, Emeritus Archbishop of Kampala (Uganda), and delegation
- Bishops of Gabon on ad-limina visit

The Holy Father addressed Rome's university students after a 5:00 p.m. Mass at St. Peter's Basilica
to mark the opening of the new academic year.


VATICAN CITY, OCT 25, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

"This morning the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Zeljko Komsic, president of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The president subsequently went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, for the exchange of the instruments of ratification of the Basic Agreement and the Additional Protocol between the Holy See and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also present was Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Vrhbosna.

"During the cordial discussions consideration was given to questions concerning the implementation of the Agreement itself, and in particular to the Church's commitment in the fields of education, social and charitable activities, and pastoral assistance to the Catholic faithful. The Catholic community's contribution in favor of the peaceful coexistence of the various ethnic and religious groups in the country was also underlined.

"President Komsic invited the Holy Father to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina."


VATICAN CITY, OCT 25, 2007 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Zeljko Komsic, president of the rotating Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, exchanged the instruments of ratification of the Basic Agreement between the Holy See and Bosnia and Herzegovina, signed in Sarajevo on April 19, 2006, and its Additional Protocol, signed on September 29 of the same year. Both documents come into effect today.

According to a communique made public today, among those present at the ceremony were, for the Holy See, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Vrhbosna and president of the Bishops' Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti and Msgr. Pietro Parolin, respectively secretary and under-secretary for Relations with States. For Bosnia and Herzegovina, those present included Sven Alkalaj, minister for foreign affairs, and Miroslav Palameta, ambassador to the Holy See.

In his address, Cardinal Bertone affirmed that with the signing ceremony "the norms approved in the Basic Agreement come into force, ... by which certain provisions of joint interest concerning the life and activity of the Catholic community in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been defined. They particularly refer to the recognition of the juridical status of the Catholic Church and her institutions in ... civil society, of her independence to worship and practice the apostolate, and of the specific contribution she makes in the cultural, educational, pastoral, military, ... and charitable fields, as well as in the country's mass media."

00Thursday, October 25, 2007 9:07 PM

On October 23, Apcom had this item which, unfortunately, I have not seen reported elsewhere. Here is a translation:

ROME, Oct. 23 (APCOM) - The Aula Magna (main hall) of Rome's third state university (referred to as Roma-3) was crowded.

It isn't often that one sees at the same table the director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, and some of the leading Vatican correspondents.

It was a roundtable discussion addressed to students - future journalists and communications workers - on how "difficult, often complicated, but also beautiful' it is to report the Pontificate of Benedict XVI on TV and radio, in the newspapers, magazines and the Internet, to the faithful around the world.

The audience applauds, listens intently, interacts. The debate takes off from a master's thesis in communications theory by Luca Gentili entitled "The figure of Benedict XVI in the daily Italian press".

It discusses the actual impact of Joseph Ratzinger in the mass media; the changes that have taken place since the immediate pre-Conclave period to the present; the communications strategies of the Vatican to translate and convey the figure of the Pope to the world [But there does not seem to be any strategy at all, and the basic communications system of the Vatican continues to be very deficient!]

Media reportage of the Pope was analyzed on the basis of recent events like his trips to Loreto, Austria and Naples.

Here is a summary of what the main speakers said:

First to speak was Ignacio Ingrao of Panorama magazine. He spoke of how Joseph Ratzinger was pictured in the media as a cardinal - 'labelled and pigeonholed' with terms such as 'Panzerkardinal', 'German shepherd (dog", or 'iron cardinal'.

The Pope, he said, was straitjacketed by such terms, and yet "he has continuously shown that he not what he was made out to be." Proof of this, he said are 'the crowds at St. Peter's, his historic gesture at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, his attention to China and Africa, his 360-degree view of inter5national affairs. Therefore, all these contradictory labels dissolve when one looks at the heart of this Pontificate."

[One must really commend Ingrao for all that, but how is it that his own recent articles reinforce the negative
connotations that he claims to disapprove of

Alberto Bobbio, editor-in-chief of FAMIGLIA CRISTIANA, Italy's most widely-circulated magazine, criticizes mainstream media for 'not understanding Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI'.

"Let us just look," he says, "at the way the Regensburg lecture was reported, or the Pope's speech in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where too much was made of the alleged fact that the word 'Shoah' was inserted at the last minute, as if that were the most noteworthy thing about a major speech that was otherwise highly significant in every respect."

Diego Contreras, a Spaniard and professor of communications analysis and practice at the Pontifical University Santa Croce, said: "It is true that the presence of the Pope in the international press is less compared to that of John Paul II, but we must also acknowledge the communicative gains that Benedict XVUI achieves every day in using language that is very clear even if he speaks about complex issues."

Fr. Dario Viganò, president of the Fondazione Ente dello Spettacolo, analyzing the image of Benedict XVI projected by TV in general, [points out that in TV, 'the images themselves are paramount', and that int his sense, "Benedict XVI is not a 'front man', in showbiz terms, but rather, someone behind the scenes."

Therefore, he concludes, "These are not easy times for TV crews because Ratzinger's strength is in words."

[What crap! If TV did its job properly, then Benedict's communicative force even in images would be unbeatable. The still photographs are eloquent evidence of that. The problem is that TV - and the Vatican's own CTV is the most guilty in this respect - has reduced media coverage of the pope to static images of him delivering an address, or unimaginative coverage of a Mass, while completely ignoring individual reactions by people in the crowd, the Pope's reactions to the faithful, the interaction between the Pope and whoever he is meeting one-on-one, because they always cut the coverage after the 'main event'.]

The editor of Tempo, Giuseppe Sanzotta, recalled that "The most beautiful articles I ever wrote were about the assassination attempt on John Paul II and the first inter-religious meeting in Assisi. [What do this have to do with coverage of Benedict XVI?] What I want is a newspaper that says NO to sensational, headline-screaming stories in favor of reporting in depth. But that is going against the current, because today, newspapers look for scandals and headline-making 'scoops' even if the subject matter is the Pope."

Fr. Lombardi closed the discussion by repeating the observation that Pope Benedict always speaks 'clearly even about complex issues' and that 'he always edits and refines his texts even up to the last minute."

He ends by saying "But I challenge anyone to check back and see how much (more) of a communicator John Paul II was in the first two years of his Pontificate." ('Ma sfido ciunque a vedere quanto 'comunicatore' fu Giovanni Paolo II nei primi due anni di Pontificato"].


Unfortunately, the APCOM story is sketchy and raises more questions than the information it provides.

An article in Il Foglio today responds at length to the comments quoted in the APCOM article. Here is a translation:


By Maurizio Crippa

"It is true that the presence of the Pope in the international press is less compared to that of John Paul II, but we must also acknowledge the communicative gains that Benedict XVUI achieves every day in using language that is very clear even if he speaks about complex issues."

Those were words from Diego Contreras, professor of communications, at a roundtable discussion in Roma-3 University deidcated to Pope Benedict and themass media.

The issue of 'how (well or not) the Pope communicates' and in parallel, or at times subordinate, how and how much the Church communicates, is decidedly a polestar in the minds of the Catholic intelligentsia, and perhaps even more, of the hierarchy, to judge from the volumes that have been said about it in Italy and around the world, and the media dedicated to repoting Papal and church events.

In the press and on TV, from traditional news agencies to independent ones and new online services like ZENIT, from traditional media like radio to the new ones [the swekly diocesan newspaper of Taranto has just inaugurated the first experiemn of TV on demand by Internet yet attempted by any Catholic organization], there is a vitality in reporting that is not disputed.

But the question is: what are they reporting? What is the core of this religious reporting which should be addressed towards the lay world, ad extra, rather than to the Churchh itself, ad intra.

Indirectly, a decisive response came from Benedict XVI himself a few days ago, with the interview he gave in November 2006 which constitutes the preface to a book by the German theologian, the late Cardinal Leo Sheffzyck, which was previewed in Corriere della Sera.

Recalling the years of agitation following Vatican-II, Benedict XVI says, "We became aware that we were together fighting for the vitality of the faith in our time, for its expression and comprehensibility by the men of our time, staying faithful to hte profound identity of that faith."

To make understandable the 'profound identity' of the faith - for Joseph Ratzinger, that is the cultural battle that must be waged. And the then 40-year-old Bavarian theologian understood that 40 years ago.

The problem today is the kind of 'reception' - to use a term dear to Vatican-II - by the Catholic information media of the reasons inherent in this cultural battle which the professor-Pope is leading against contemporary secular thinking.

Beyond the conclusions they may draw from it, many opinion makers see that this is the crucial point, one that is no longer understated but rather confronted with all its implications.

Alberto Melloni, church historian and editorialist for Corriere della Sera, graspec it acutely in the commentary that he wrote on Ratzinger's interview.

As did Vincenzo Marras, editor of Jesus, monthly theological journal published by Edizioni Sao Paolo, who cites it literally in an editorial in the current issue of the magazine.

Commenting on the recent congress of thje Italian theological association, Marras wrote: "Without hiding conflictual knots such as those posed by freedom and identity, nor the urgency of reviving the concept of natural law, around which many magisterial pronouncements have been made, Italian theologians - mostly priests, but also lay men and women - are trying to define a grammar and syntax which can offer to the Church and to various cultures a critical space for thought and words."

In this search for an adequate 'grammar and syntax', Jesus published an interview last July with Cardinal Angelo Scola in which the Patriarch of Venice said a rapprochement was timely and appropriate between the teaching of theology and the state university system in Italy.

"One must acknowledge reality - that there is a massive comeback of the 'religious', no longer falsely and merely as a discipline discarded from so-called 'human sciences'," Scola said. "This cultural challenge must be accepted - and it could constitute the sense and even the fascination of a Christian presence in the universities."

Beyond theology, Marras notes that the question of relationship with lay culture is still marked by "an aphasia, that we have often lamented, on the part of Catholic intellectuals."

"But we understand that it depends on us, on our ability to listen or not to the prophetic voices in the Church itself."

Marras says that the cultural confrontation "should come within evangelical logic, about the Church as salt and yeast, which does not mean spreading salt all over the earth. Rather it means that Christians should be among other peoples in sympathy."

But on the part of believrers, this also means having a better knowledge of the Gospel, of scriptures, of the roots of the faith. "It requires full awareness of one's identity, but identity is by nature a dialog with others [affirming one's identity to others who do not have the same identity]."

Marras cites Mons. Gianfranco Ravasi, newly named president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and one of the closest collaborators of teh San Paolo publishing family, who has said "Dialog does not mean duelling."

Marras advocates the 'Ravasi model' of dialog for the Church - a capacity to disseminate information with rigorous adherence to the identity of the faith. At the same time, he says, secular laymen need to pay more attention and be serious, because "all the contemporary talk about religion and God means there is a strong spiritual demand."

This demand and the need for the Church to respond to it clearly has also been articulated by Roberto Righetto, edtior of Avvenire's cultural sectionAgora, as well as coordinator of the Catholic Unicersity of Milan's journal Vita e Pensiero, a major player in the culture wars.

"Today, Europe's clergy are exhausted, they tend to practice a widespread conformism, and are impoverished of projects, ideas and ideals. Consider the 'isolation' of Norberto Bobbio in the last years of his life. [Bobbio (born 1909, died 2004) was an Italian philosopher of law and political sciences and a historian of political thought. He also wrote regularly for La Stampa, as a liberal socialist.] He spoke out loud and clear against religious fundamentalism of any kind, and also against nihilism, as well as expressing strong doubts about technoscience. Now, we have gone from Bobbio to Galimberti."

[Umberto Galimberti (born 1942), Italian philosopher, who says that mankind must adapt to the dominance of technology by maintaining the difference between science - the knowledge of what is possible - and technology - the application of such knowledge to do anything and everything that is shown to be possible. Science, he says, can serve as the ethics for technology, by setting limits to what can be done, so that it is at the service of humanity not at the service of technology. At the same time, he points out that many of today's problems caused by technology - pollution, terrorism and even new forms of poverty - can only be solved by technology itself. He advocates a philosophy of action whereby mankind will at least avoid being dominated by technology, if it cannot altogether dominate technology..]

"This overturns the secular stereotype," Righetto continues. " It is often the secular world that lacks the power of argument using daring thought, as though even secularists who do not fear to search for truth lack any points of reference."

So, what should be the role of an 'aggressive' CAtholic media?

"We should be able to emerge from an inferiority complex which for years Christians have suffered from, with the result that one hardly finds prominent Christian thinkers taking part in the main forum of cultural debate.

"In part, that is due to the arrogance of the dominant secularist culture, but on the part of the Catholics, it is also due to their inability to appreciate the power and the originality of Christian culture. Having a definite cultural identity is not a handicap, not something to be regarded as a condition of inferiority. It is something that should confer strength, given an ability to know how to communicate with others, even those most remote from our identity."

Perhaps, the paradigm of the relationship between Catholics and secularists is changing more profoundly in the world of information and publishing than in academe, in the sense proposed by Righetto.

Identity and a willingness to defend it, to cite Ratzinger, are the new key words in the cultural war.

A few weeks ago, a minor controversy which passed almoset unobserved offered a valuable intepretative key. The magazine Famiglia Cristiana commissioned a study on the Catholic presence on the Internet from Francesco Diani, who has been tracking Catholic sites for the past decade.

Diani says that such presence is not only 'scarce' but also 'low-profile in terms of content and of isues confronted'. He described it as a presence that is little more than 'sentimental devotionalism', padded with 'intrercessory prayers that reek of magic and superstition" and by nagging concern about 'Fatholic fundamentalism'.

But Diani's claims were contradicted by, one of the many independent and dynamic sites that have precisely made waging the cultural war without any sense of inferiority as their reason for being.

Gabriele Mangiarotti, the priest who has been behind since 2001 is hardly a fundamentalist trouble-maker: "Our starting point was a statement by John Paul II: 'A faith that does not become culture will be a faith that is not fully listened to, not thoroughly thought out, not faithfully lived.' On our site - and there are many like us, not to mention the bloggers - we discuss any issue that has to do with man and his truth. And certainly, not only from the confessional point of view, and not addressing Christians only."

These sites, Mangianotti claims, address all men, appealing to reason. On, he says, a discussion on welfare has so far attracted 3000 responses, and in the battle on liberalizing Italian laws on assisted reproduction, discussions reached as many as 360 webpages.

"It's easy to see why," he adds. "Our site is open, ready to dialog with everyone, wthout ever losing sight of the essential - that our raison d'etre is itself a testimony to our faith. The problem is not getting on the Internet or in the traditional media, but to have something to say to contemporary man."

Sites like Don Mangiarotti's are just among the many information media that have accepted the challenge of a cultural paradigm that has profoundly changed in favor of assering the Christian identity.

One outlet that is characterized by a resolve on Christian 'apolegetics' is a small monthly magazine, Il Timone, that has lately attracted much attention even in secular forums.

Editor Giampaolo Barra lucidly summarizes why: "Because we use rational arguments. What does reason tell us, for instance, about the existence of God? This is the challenge that we pose to secularist thought. Our intention - or our pretext, if you wish - is to show that human thought, contrary to any nihilist or weak thinking, is capable of grasping elements of truth about God and the nature of man. The problem is that today, secularist thought fears facing the issue. Howeever, this is a time that is extremely favorable to propose the rationality of faith and to open up a genuine dialog with secularists and non-believers."

Il Foglio, 25 ottobre 2007

00Thursday, October 25, 2007 10:01 PM
Re: "When the Pope Comes to the Party"
[SM=g27812] Mr. Israely obviously passed his exam in "How-to-use-the-Copy-and-Paste-Button". He does not get Papa at all. [SM=g27812]
00Friday, October 26, 2007 1:04 AM

Translated from APCOM:

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 25 (APcom) - The cardinals of the Roman Catholic church have been convened by Pope Benedict XVI for a full meeting on NovembeR 23, the day before the consistory at which 23 new cardinals will be welcomed to the College of Cardinals.

Sources said the Pope intends to consult the cardinals on outstanding issues in The Church today, as he did before his first consistory in March 2006. But they said that the agenda had not yet been communicated to the cardinals.

In 2006, the Pope consulted the cardinals on the question of the Lefebvrians, a possible change in the mandatory retirement age for bishops, reforms in the Curia, and dialog with Islam. There were 193 cardinals who met then.

Today, there are only 175 cardinals, of which 104 are under age 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a Papal Conclave. After the November consistory, there will be 18 new cardinal electors (but Cardinal Angelo Sodano turns 80 then), and 5 new cardinals older than 80.



After the traditional Mass at St. Peter's Basilica to mark the opening of the new academic year, Pope Benedict XVI came to the Basilica this evening to address the university students of Rome.

The Vatican has not posted the text of the Pope's address yet, but PETRUS has a brief report, translated here:

VATICAN CITY - The Pope is calling for a cultural commitment to present the Gospel to "men of our time in a manner adapted to different cultures."

In his opinion, this is "a vast and urgent cultural and spiritual challenge' and 'a task which is even more urgent in the post-modern era, where the need for a new evangelization is evident, and and where we need masters of the faith as well as heralds and witnesses of the Gospel who are appropriately prepared."

The Pope addressed professors and students of the various pontifical universities after a Mass at St. Peter's to celebrate the opening of the new academic year.

"The Church's particular evangelical mission requires in our time not only that the message is propagated everywhere, but that it penetrates the way of thinking, the criteria for judgment and the behavior of persons everywhere. In a word, it is necessary that all of man's contemporary culture be permeated by the Gospel."

He said: "May the simple fact that Rome is the seat of the Successor of Peter and therefore of the Petrine ministry help to strengthen your sense of belonging to the Church and your commitment of loyalty to the universal magisterium of the Pope."

He urged the students to "take maximum advantage of the opportunities" offered by a city that is 'truly in historical memories, masterworks of art and culture, and above all, of eloquent Christian witness."

If you do so, he said, "your experience as students in Rome will become a spiritual experience of communion and brotherhood."


I find it significant that the Holy Father re-stated the message of the cultural 'battle' referred to in the preceding article on the Pope and the media.

And here's the belated VIS report:


VATICAN CITY, OCT 26, 2007 (VIS) - Yesterday evening, following a Eucharistic concelebration presided by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, to mark the beginning of the academic year at Roman Pontifical Universities, the Holy Father entered St. Peter's Basilica to greet the students gathered there.

"Seek to create," the Pope told them, "a climate in which commitment to study and fraternal cooperation enable you to enrich one another, not only as concerns cultural, academic and doctrinal aspects, but also on a human and spiritual level."

The Holy Father also reminded the students that Rome is a city "rich in historical memories, in masterpieces of art and culture, and above all in eloquent Christian testimony.

"Over time," he added, "universities and ecclesiastical faculties came into being, now centuries old. There, entire generations of priests and pastoral workers were formed, including many great saints and illustrious men of the Church."

Referring then to John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution Sapientia christiana, which refers to the need to consider "new problems" in the light of Christian revelation and to present truth "in a manner adapted to various cultures," Benedict XVI reaffirmed that such a commitment "is more pressing than ever in our post-modern age, in which the need is felt for a new evangelization, and which needs masters of faith and appropriately-trained heralds and witnesses of the Gospel."

"The time you spend in Rome can and must serve to prepare you to undertake ... the task that awaits you in the various fields of apostolic activity. In our own time, the Church's evangelizing mission requires, not only that the Gospel message be spread everywhere, but that it penetrate deeply into the way people think, into their criteria of judgement and their behavior. In a word," he concluded, "all the culture of modern man must be permeated by the Gospel."

00Friday, October 26, 2007 3:27 PM

Corriere della Sera today ran this article, translated here, and a front-page editorial commentary on it, which I will translate later.

Tourism and faith:
The Ratzinger effect -
'More pilgrims than with Wojtyla;
Benedict XVI has warmed the hearts of all'

By Elvira Serra

ROME - No one would have bet on him. On April 19, 2005, after he was elected Pope and faced the crwds at St. Peter's Square from the central loggia of the Basilica - with black sweater sleeves showing under his papal vestments, almost emblematic of the man's essence - everyone thought the same thing, "He will never be like John Paul II!" [Of course, I wish to register my objection right away to these condescending statements. They may be typical of most MSM and all those who bovinely allow the media to think for them - but are certainly the polar opposite of what was felt by thousands of persons like most of us Benaddicts who saw, felt and were instantly permeated by the unique charisma of this man. And I use charisma, not just the way media mean it loosely, but in its primary dictionary meaning as 'a special spiritual gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit on a group or an individual for the general good of the Church.']

Instead, Benedict XVI, born Joseph Alois Ratzinger, has won. The man who was pejoratively labelled by the Communist newspaper Il Manifesto "the German shepherd' has been conquering even the most skeptical day after day.

The proof? Since that day, religious tourism to Rome has grown. One example suffices: The 'Roma Cristiana' tours on double-decker buses were 300% more in 2006 than they were in 2005.

Brevivet, one of the leading Catholic tour agencies, estimates an increase in customers this year of 20%. SPI, the secretariat for Italian Catholic tourist agencies, expects an overall increment of at least 15%. Unitalsi expects 18% more. And Opera Romana Pellegrini, the Vatican's own tourist agency, had 4.6 million 'religious tourists' in 2006 compared to 2.2 million in 2004. The Wall Street Journal estimated that 7 million US tourists came to the Vatican in 2006.

Let's look at reporting in the world press. Bitlab, which monitors the image of tourism to Italy, registered 21,202 newspaper reports on tourism published from January 2006 to September 2007 in Australia, Austria, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, the Middle East, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the USA alone. Of these, 17,452 were about tourism to Italy, and 17% was dedicated to 'religious' tourism.

And now, shall we reconsider Benedict XVI? He is far from the Wojtyla who instantly seduced Italians, shocked by the fact of having a non-Italian Pope, by telling them the day of his election "Se mi sbaglio, mi corrigerete" ('If I make a mistake, you will correct me', referring to his spoken Italian). And he, Benedict, will never twirl a baton a la Charlie Chapiln as his predecessor once did before an audience of children in Castel Gandolfo.

But there is undoubtedly a Ratzinger effect if, in the second year of his Pontificate, 3,368,200 pilgrims came to St. Peter's to see him in 2006. Already in 2005, he registered a record number of 3,222,820 visitors, far greater than figures registered even in his peak years by the 'great communicator' John Paul II.

"Definitely, the attendances at the Vatican have increased remarkably, and not only because of devotion to John Paul II, universally considered 'family' by pilgrims," says Fr. Caesare Attuire, administrator of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi. "The phenomenon is more complex. There's the fact that the Pontificate is new [after two years?]. Also, because this Pope will not be travelling very much, Catholics come to see him instead. Benedict XVI is no extrovert, but his teaching is very clear and direct, and that brings him closer to the faithful. If that were not so, then one cannot explain the great influx of faithful to the audiences and to celebrations at St. Peter's, which shows no sign of decreasing."
[My dear Fr. Atuire, instead of these half-hearted 'explanations', why can't even you, who work at the Vatican, simply admit that Pope Benedict has a unique personal appeal - beyond the force of his teaching - that communicates itself to the faithful despite the general indifference, if not outright hostility, with which the media presents him to the public?]

But the 'Ratzinger effect' is noted even in the 'secular' interpretation of tourism figures by Mariapia Garavaglia, vice-mayor of Rome in charge of tourism. "On Sundays, St. Peter's Square always has many more pilgrims than we expect, even in cold weather. The double-decker buses of Roma Cristiani are always full. Roman hotels have registered a 26% increase in guests in the past three years. All tourist indices for Rome have a plus sign. And for us, religious tourism is a criterion of success. We are already looking forward to guests for the Pauline year starting next summer."

Then, it must really be somehow [SOMEHOW????] due to a Pope who plays the piano and wears the camauro. Because if having more German tourists was predictable (18% more, according to Bitlab), no one had thought that a 'German shepherd' could so warm the hearts of the faithful! [Again, that condescension, which is also somewhat racist! If you have never known a German shepherd dog, don't think it is a pejorative label, because I had a German shepherd for years who was the sweetest, most intelligent, heartwarming, affectionate, loyal and disciplined pet anyone could hope for.]

Riccardo Bertoli, director-general of Brevivet recalls: "When John Paul II died, we were afraid we would never see crowds again at St. Peter's. Instead, all it took was Benedict's first tour of the Piazza in the Popemobile to show his human warmth rather than 'Teutonic chill'. One has to be there in the midst of a crowd to understand this!"

Corriere della sera, 26 ottobre 2007

The following front-page editorial in Corriere della Sera comments on the above report and attributes the Pope's popularity to the certainty he offers in the face of contemporary fears. But it still begrudges any suggestion that it may have to do with the Pope's personal charisma - since the media apparently have this one-track idea of charisma (even in the loose sense they use it) as being synonymous only with the 'blazing' star power that John Paul II.

Charisma and fear

To those who are surprised by the remarkable increase in religious tourism to Rome after the election of a Pope who is much less exuberant and charismatic than his predecessor, then I suggest they consider some examples from recent events.

On the occasion of Boris Yeltsin's funeral in Moscow, Vladimir Putin, ex-KGB officer, buried his predecessor with the solemn liturgy of Russian Orthodox tradition in the Cathedral of the Savior.

In Rangoon, capital of a state that has been governed for years by military junta, the protest against the Myanmar regime erupted after thousands of Buddhist monks started to demonstrate silently in the streets of the city.

In Washington last week, during a major gathering of conservatives, potential Republican candidates for President (among them Rudy Giuliani, twice divorced and pro-abortion), addressed the delegates to assure them that they would not be insensitive to the 'values' upheld by as many as an estimated 70 million 'born-again' voters.

In Istanbul and Ankara, even more than the Armenian genocide issue and the Kurdish crisis, the most debated issue was the veil worn by the wife of the newly-elected Turkish president.

And in the very heart of secular Europe, millions of Muslims scrupulously observed the diet and fasting prescribed during the month-long observance of Ramadan.

There is a religious revival which is manifested in different ways but is happening in many contemporary societies. Muslim fundamentalism is simply is most extreme and radical manifestation.

This phenomenon is probably the result of many fears, above all, economic and social. For the young and for many classes, globalization and the crisis of the welfare state have made the future much more uncertain and concerning than it was during times when jobs were stable, and health care and preventive treatment were more or less guaranteed.

The second fear is ecological. Global warming, melting glaciers, tsunamis, catastrophic floods and forest fires, including the current ones in California, have reawakened fears of a new 'millennial curse.'

And the third fear involves man's moral certainties and customs. The ancient laws that, for centuries, governed the fundamental stages of life - birth, procreation and death - have given way to a whole range of options, from articial reproduction to euthanasia, from de facto unions to homosexual marriages.

That which may seem progress represents for many a cause for disorientation and confusion. While politicians live from day to day, seeking mainly to satisfy the topical demands of their voters,
religion offers clear answers and gives disoriented believers an anchor of certainty.

Benedict XVI is very different from John Paul II. The Polish Pope was a modern apostle, a shepherd constantly in search of new flocks. The German Pope is, above all, a Doctor of the Church, a firm seat (cathedra) of irrenunciable principles and solemn silences.

But the firmness with which he defends Catholic orthodoxy and reaffirms the primacy of Catholicism makes him - far more than his predecessor was - the man for our time.

In an interview published in this newspaper on Oct. 20 , he recalled his hesitations and uncertainties in the period that followed Vatican-II. That 'mea culpa' ["I myself was, in that context, almost too timorous with regard to what I should have dared to say..."] has a calming effect on the faithful, the calm they seek in drawing nearer to the Seat of Peter.

And Catholic laymen, if they wish to defend their values, should be ready to do so with the same zeal and rigor as Benedict does.

Corriere della sera, 26 ottobre 2007

10/27 P.S.

I decided to Google Sergio Romano, who, it turns out, is one of those prominent and frequent contributors to the Italian media with a career other than journalism behind him. Born in 1929, he had a prestigious diplomatic career until he retired in 1989, after having been director-general for culture in the Italian foreign ministry, then Italian ambassador to NATO and then to the Soviet Union in the final years of the Cold War. He has written a memoir called Memories of a conservative(2002), After retirement, he has contributed actively to Italian mainstream newspapers.

00Friday, October 26, 2007 4:04 PM

The Holy Father met today with
- H.E. Geir H. Haarde, Prime Minister of Iceland, with his wife and Delegation
- Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi (India);
- Bishops of Gabon, second group, on ad-limina visit.


Leader of Iceland and Pope
Discuss Environment

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2007 ( Benedict XVI is encouraging the international community to favor the protection of the environment.

The Pope said this today when he received in audience Geir Haarde, prime minister of Iceland. The leader then met with the Holy Father's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.

The Vatican press office reported: "In the course of the cordial discussions, the mutual respect and esteem marking relations between Iceland and the Catholic Church were noted, as was the contribution the Church makes to society, especially in the educational and social fields.

"Certain international questions of joint interest were also examined, highlighting the need for an ever greater commitment on the part of the international community to promote peace, fight against poverty, and favor environmental protection."

The audience with Benedict XVI was a first for Haarde, a Protestant, who showed enthusiasm when presenting the Holy Father a cross and a Bible translated to Icelandic. The Holy Father gave the prime minister pontifical metals and rosaries.

Only about 2% of Iceland's 300,000 citizens are Catholic.

VATICAN CITY, OCT 26, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique today:

"This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Geir H. Haarde, prime minister of Iceland. The prime minister subsequently went on to meet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

"In the course of the cordial discussions, the mutual respect and esteem marking relations between Iceland and the Catholic Church were noted, as was the contribution the Church makes to society, especially in the educational and social fields. Certain international questions of joint interest were also examined, highlighting the need for an ever greater commitment on the part of the international community to promote peace, fight against poverty, and favor environmental protection."


VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2007 ( The faithful of the west African country of Gabon need formation so they can found their lives upon Christian principles, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope said this today to bishops from the episcopal conference of Gabon, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

The Holy Father noted that the people of Gabon "sometimes let themselves be attracted by the consumerist permissive society, paying less attention to the poorest people of their country. I encourage them to increase fraternal sentiment and solidarity. Furthermore, a certain relaxation has been noted in the lives of Christians, taken in by the attractions of the world. It is my hope that their conduct become ever more exemplary in terms of spiritual and moral values."

Benedict XVI identified one of the most vital tasks of the Church in Gabon as "transmitting the faith and acquiring a deeper knowledge of the Christian mystery. In order to meet the challenges they face, the faithful need a thorough formation that enables them to found their Christian life upon clear principles."

"Ecclesial communities will be more vibrant and the faithful will draw strength from the liturgy and from individual, family and community prayer, so that, in all fields of social life, they become witnesses of the Good News and workers for reconciliation, justice and peace in this world of ours which needs these things more than ever," he said.

Youthful evangelizers

The Pope emphasized the role of youth in Gabon, expressing the hope that the young may become "the first evangelizers of their peers. Many times, through friendship and sharing, people come to discover the person of Christ and to join themselves to him."

After noting the bishops' concern about the low numbers of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, the Holy Father noted that "the seminary in Libreville must be watched over with particular care because the future of evangelization and of the Church are at stake." This, he said, "will not cease to be a stimulus so that, in each diocese, pastoral care of vocations develops and intensifies."

The Holy Father encouraged priests and religious, and their families, to "mobilize themselves through prayer, attention to the youngest and a concern for transmitting the call of Christ, so that the vocations your country needs may arise and spread."

"Nor can we forget," he continued, "the role of Catholic education, in which teachers and educators have the mission of the integral education of the young. This task requires witness to and transmission of the faith, as well as attention to vocations."

With reference to priests, the Pope stressed that, "living in constant intimacy with Christ, they will have a sharper awareness of the need to remain faithful to the commitments made before God and the Church, especially [...] chastity and celibacy. In this way, they will experience their priestly ministry ever more as a service to the faithful."

"They will find spiritual support in the brotherhood of priests, comforted by you who are father and brother to them," Benedict XVI told the bishops. "Thus, together, you will be able to implement joint pastoral projects that give fresh impetus to the mission. I encourage each priest to seek [...] the good of the Church and not personal advantage, conforming his life and mission to the gesture of the washing of the feet. From such love, lived as disinterested service, profound joy will arise."


VATICAN CITY, OCT 26, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Gabon, who have just completed their five-yearly "ad limina" visit to Rome.

At the beginning of his address to them, the Pope noted how the people of Gabon "sometimes let themselves be attracted by the consumerist permissive society, paying less attention to the poorest people of their country. I encourage them to increase fraternal sentiment and solidarity. Furthermore, a certain relaxation has been noted in the lives of Christians, taken in by the attractions of the world. It is my hope that their conduct become ever more exemplary in terms of spiritual and moral values."

Benedict XVI identified one of the most vital tasks of the Church in Gabon as "transmitting the faith and acquiring a deeper knowledge of the Christian mystery. In order to meet the challenges they face, the faithful need a thorough formation that enables them to found their Christian life upon clear principles."

In this way "ecclesial communities will be more vibrant and the faithful will draw strength from the liturgy and from individual, family and community prayer, so that, in all fields of social life, they become witnesses of the Good News and workers for reconciliation, justice and peace in this world of ours which needs these things more than ever."

The Pope emphasized the need to pay particular attention to the youth of Gabon. In this context, he expressed the hope that the young may become "the first evangelizers of their peers. Many times, through friendship and sharing, people come to discover the person of Christ and to join themselves to Him."

After then dwelling on the bishop's concern over the low numbers of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, the Holy Father noted that "the seminary in Libreville must be watched over with particular care because the future of evangelization and of the Church are at stake." This, he said, " will not cease to be a stimulus so that, in each diocese, pastoral care of vocations develops and intensifies."

The Holy Father encouraged priests and religious, and their families, to "mobilize themselves through prayer, attention to the youngest and a concern for transmitting the call of Christ, so that the vocations your country needs may arise and spread."

Nor can we forget," he continued, "the role of Catholic education, in which teachers and educators have the mission of the integral education of the young. This task requires witness to and transmission of the faith, as well as attention to vocations."

With reference to priests, the Pope stressed that, "living in constant intimacy with Christ, they will have a sharper awareness of the need to remain faithful to the commitments made before God and the Church, especially ... chastity and celibacy. In this way, they will experience their priestly ministry ever more as a service to the faithful."

"They will find spiritual support in the brotherhood of priests, comforted by you who are father and brother to them," he told the bishops. "Thus, together, you will be able to implement joint pastoral projects that give fresh impetus to the mission. I encourage each priest to seek ... the good of the Church and not personal advantage, conforming his life and mission to the gesture of the washing of the feet. From such love, lived as disinterested service, profound joy will arise."

00Friday, October 26, 2007 6:21 PM

In NEWS ABOUT THE CHURCH, I posted earlier today Sandro Magister's brief review of the autobiography of Cardinal Giacomo Biffi which is coming out in Italy next week, with excerpts in which Biffi comments on Vatican-II, John XXIII, John Paul II, his pre-conclave remarks in April 2005 to his fellow cardinals, and Dominus Iesus.

While Magister noted that Biffi's references to Cardinal Ratzinger were rare, here is what Biffi wrote about the Conclave, in an excerpt published by Avvenire today, and translated here:

Giacomo Biffi
Memorie e digressioni di un italiano cardinale
[Memories and Digressions of an Italian Cardinal]
Cantagalli, Siena, 2007, pp. 640, 23.90 euro.


It was an exalting experience of ecclesial communion. We felt as though we were enveloped in the intense and passionate prayer of the multitudes who sincerely love the Church.

The whole conclave was organized and prepared with a view to expeditiousness and absolute guarantees, and so, everything was facilitated for us. The cardinals only had to think and vote.

We went into seclusion on the afternoon of Monday, April 18, and in the first afternoon balloting of Tuesday, April 19, we reached the required quorum for election.

In less than 24 hours, we had a new Pope in the person of Joseph Ratzinger. Our joy was great, as great as the joy of all the 'little people' in the Catholic world.

Later, we derived growing amusement reading the analyses and predictions of the 'wise men' and the 'intelligentsia' who, by virtue of the omniscience conferred on them by their fearless 'ecclesiolalia', 'knew' that we were irreducibly divided and against each other.

Nor would they believe otherwise, not even afterwards, not even the before the indisputable fzct of an election that was so rapid, even with the imposed requirement of going beyond two-thirds of the votes cast, in order to elect a Pope. They would continue to write about the great divisions among the cardinals.

Ideology never gives up, whatever the factual evidence to belie it.

The new Pope, Benedict XVI, conquered believers from his first appearance at the loggia and his first words. And in the succeeding days, the admiration and the affection for him was only amplified by the clarity and the gentle vigor of his evangelical message, the natural kindness that is characteristic of him, the extraordinary ability to make himself understood by every listener. With the rigor and humor that he shares with his beloved Cardinal Newman.

Once more, the Lord had provided appropriately for his Bride - and all of us were comforted.

And to my colleagues, I noted what I picked up from a comic strip: "The world is full of problemologists, but what it needs are solutionologists."

00Saturday, October 27, 2007 2:21 AM

Quick reaction time from Il Timone, Italy's monthly magazine of apologetics, which has posted an answer online to Corriere della Sera's front-page editorial today seeking to analyze the popularity of Pope Benedict XVI. Here is a translation.

The charisma of the Pope,
the fears of Corsera

On Page 1 of Corriere della Sera's issue of Friday, Oct. 26, Sergio Romano inquires in the editorial "Charisma and fears' the reason for the growing popularity of Benedict XVI, which is so much more obvious when one considers that he is, as Romano would have it, 'much less exuberant and charismatic than his predecessor."

Meanwhile, Romano situates Benedict's popularity within a supposed world religious revival, alongside the demonstrating Buddhist monks of Burma, Islamic religiosity, Boris Yeltsin's religious funeral, and the political pressures of American evangelicals.

From this, he explains that modern man is beset by serial fears (economic because of precarious employment, ecological because of climatic catastrophes, ethical because of new moral laws and scientific discoveries directly affecting the human body) - to all of which religions are able to give a clearcut response, unencumbered by doubts.

Benedict XVI, man of doctrine, 'seat of irrenunciable principles and solemn silences', is therefore the man for the times, the dispenser of certainties for disoriented and confused humanity.

Romano concludes by calling attention to a moral for 'his' world, a sort of call to arms: "Catholic laymen, if they wish to defend their values, should be ready to do so with the same zeal and rigor as Benedict does."

We can agree with Romano one point: modern man, Western man, is confused and disoriented. But he is so, because the laity - the better term is the secularists - have defended their values (or lack thereof) so well as to have imposed them on all of Western society. To cite from Romano's list - artificial reproduction, euthanasia, de facto unions and homosexual marriages, environmental doomsaying.

Therefore, the problem of the secularists is not in defending their own values, but rather in the very values that they champion.

When relativism is chosen as the fundamental value, the inevitable outcome is nihilism, doubt, skepticism. Thus sowing confusion, tension, violence and destruction.

People find an increasing interest in the Pope because he has launched the great challenge of reason,making people aware that opening oneself to reason can lead to recognizing the presence of Mystery.

The church does not propose convenient certainties to neutralize personal fears. It does propose a fascinating voyage in open seas for men who are courageous and able to act seriously on their own natural and irrepressible self-drive for fulfillment and happiness.

In this respect, then yes, Benedict XVI is the man for our times, because he understands clearly that man's problem begins with his own proper use of reason.

The Pope launched his challenge to the nihilist West as well as to those who would use religion as a pretext to annihilate other men, as in Islamist fundamentalism.

Romano is wrong to make a soup of all religions and to speak of a global revival. He confuses it with what the TV programs purport to show us of 'international reality'.

There is no global religious revival to speak of these days. If we look at Europe, the situation of the Protestant churches - those highly acclaimed by the secularists - is distressing by the numbers, be it according to frequency of religious observance or in its intensity.

Yeltsin's funeral was more a political sign than religious - since Communism had, for decades, forbidden the public expression of religion.

The influence of Buddhist monks in Burma is not growing - it has always been there as in other Buddhist nations, just that Western TV has not always reported it, though we remember Solidarity in Poland and People's Power in the Philippines.

Muslims who live in Europe (or elsewhere outside their native lands) have always observed Ramadan, and it is questionable that the Muslim population share in Europe has grown - observant Muslims have remained at an estimated 5%, except that now, more notice is taken of them.

Above all, to relate the Burmese protests to the typical fears of Western society (uncertain employment, environmentalism) obviously makes no sense. But it is a way to avoid the challenge that Benedict XVI has posed to every man, offering instead to the reader comforting assurances, as if to say, 'Don't worry - these are all just fleeting weaknesses inherent in those who fear.

The real fear is that of Romano and those who, like him, avoid confronting reality and veiling it instead with illusion.

Il Timone, 26 ottobre 2007

00Saturday, October 27, 2007 10:48 AM

ROME, Oct. 26 (Apcom) - Pope Benedict XVI will deliver a lectio magistralis to inaugurate the academic year 2007-2008 at the La Sapienza University of Rome on November 30, in the 705th year of the university.

The university rector Renato Guarini announced this at the last meeting of the Academic Senate on October 23.

The Pope will be welcomed by the rector and the Italian minister for universities and research Fabio Mussi.
00Saturday, October 27, 2007 6:50 PM

An Avvenire editorial today answers yesterday's Corriere della Sera editorial that sought to interpret Pope Benedict's popularity in terms of a worldwide religious revival arising out of the secular fears of contemporary man.

Secular vagueness
and the question of God


Yesterday, Sergio Romano dedicated an editorial in Corriere della Sera to the phenomenon of markedly increased religious tourism to Rome. One might have expected some praise as well for the government of Mayor Walter Veltroni and for the attractions of our capital.

Instead, Romano goes straight to attributing this phenomenon to the doubts and fears over which he and probably not a few of the intellectuals who edit that newspaper rack their brains daily.

But the root question was: How is it possible that Papa Ratzinger could 'attract'? A Pope, moreover, like this one who is 'a doctor of the Church, a seat of irrenunciable principles and solemn silences', contrasted by Corriere with John Paul II, 'modern apostle'? The conclusion that, as journalist and historian, Romano draws is supposed to be tranquilizing.

Calm down, children, calm your fears - the editorial suggests even from its title - it's nothing new. It's the usual story, which we know well from memory and which we have repeatedly encountered to the point of nausea in the past 300 years: when man is afraid, he latches on to charismatic figures and rediscovers religion. And with increasing fear, persons of various categories put their trust in the charism of people who have certainties.

Romano then cites some events which, in his opinion, are signs of a religious revival, somehow placing on the same plane Yeltsin's Orthodox-rite funeral with the non-violent demonstration of Burmese monks, or the electoral influence of 'born again' Americans with the observance of Ramadan by Europe's Muslims.

He concludes with a bizarre appeal to secularists and laymen: that they should prepare to defend their own values with the same zeal and rigor as the religions do.

Romano's argument is stale. And, if I may be allowed - I will also use a term which may sound odd when coupled with the name of such a poised intellectual as Romano: his argument is dangerous.

To interpret the phenomenon of religion as nothing more than an irrational impulse born out of assorted fears is to repeat a tired cliche. It banalizes a phenomenon that is far more complex and noble, something that is being investigated even in our day by anthropologists and other scholars who are serious and not blinded by neo-Enlightenment prejudices. And to banalize anything, during a time of complex events, is a prelude to further disturbances and even to violence.

When those who call themselves laymen can accept that whoever calls himself religious is not necessarily a maniac or someone cowed by fear of life, then they can move ahead and discover interesting things.

For example, that with authentic secular employment of reason, and secular honesty when confronting reality, the real dispute is not between laymen and religious, but between those who choose to be factional or not, between true lay believers and those who are less than true, and among ideologues.

And they will discover, too, that to classify religious phenomena that are so varied into a single category often makes no sense, beyond their generic relationship at a basic level to human nature as it has always been, which is the search for a sense in life.

Doing so, they will discover that not all faiths are equal, that each has a history with differences and an infinite variety that a secular mind must know how to distinguish.

Fortunately, all this is happening, and precisely under the Papacy of Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope who is challenging the mindset and thinking of everyone, believers in God or otherwise, to the authentic employment of reason.

The Pope's challenge is, in fact, an invitation - with some success, so far - to rediscover that a man who is genuinely rational and open to life can also be religious. Perhaps this is what concerns some secularists.

The arbitrary single ghetto to which secularists would consign diverse religious phenomena (they would do well to use a bit of their reputed analytical gifts!) does not hold. Who would benefit by being more analytical in this sense? To whom must they direct their arguments? And in preparation for what?

Avvenire, 27 ottobre 2007
00Saturday, October 27, 2007 7:51 PM

The Holy Father met with
- H.E. Fausto Cordovez Chiriboga, Ambassador of Ecuador, who presented his credentials. Address in Spanish.
- Günther Beckstein, Minister-President of Bavaria, with his wife and delegation
- Mons. Edward Joseph Adams, titular Archbishop of Scala, new Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines
- Mons. Wilhelm Schraml, Bishop of Passau (Germany)
- H.E. Miroslav Palameta, Ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in a farewell call.

In the early evening, the Holy Father attended a concert in his honor by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
and Choir at Aula Paolo VI in the Vatican. Address in German and Italian.

NB: A full translation of the Pope's address to the Ecuador ambassador and his remarks after the gala concert has been posted in HOMILIES, MESSAGES, DISCOURSES.



VATICAN CITY, OCT 27, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Fausto Cordovez Chiriboga, the new ambassador of the Republic of Ecuador to the Holy See.

At the beginning of his talk, the Pope dwelt upon the heritage which, "handed down over the centuries" through "various forms of popular piety and art, and along with civic and social values, forms part of Ecuador's identity as a nation."

After remarking how "new scenarios of freedom and hope," are "often overturned by unstable political situations and as a consequence of weak social structures," the Holy Father affirmed "the urgent necessity to work towards building an internal and international order that promotes peaceful coexistence, cooperation and respect for human rights, and the recognition, above all, of the central position of the individual and his inviolable dignity."

Faced with the fact that "many Ecuadorians emigrate to other countries in difficult circumstances, seeking a better future for themselves and their families," it must not be forgotten, said the Pope, "that love - caritas - will always be necessary even in the fairest of societies. No State order, however just it may be, can render superfluous the service of love. ... Indeed it is charity, the generous giving of self to others, that has generated and continues to generate those activities of education, assistance, promotion and development which so honor the Church and Ecuadorian society."

"Through her pastoral ministry the Catholic Church ... makes an important contribution to the overall good of the country," said the Holy Father. "Hence the need to promote and strengthen the margin of freedom which she is recognized as having in the law and constitution of Ecuador. Hence also, it is to be hoped that the new constitution will provide ample guarantees for the religious freedom of the Ecuadorian people, so that the nation may have a legal framework which ... conforms to its context and to international agreements."

The Pope emphasized that "the Church's freedom of action, apart from being an alienable right, is a primordial condition for her to carry out her mission among people, sometimes in difficult circumstances. For this reason," he went on quoting his own Encyclical "Deus caritas est," "we do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need.

"There can, indeed, be no other aspiration for a democratic government committed to fomenting a culture of respect and equality before the law, and to the exemplary exercise of an authority which aims to serve all its people. Hence, the government of Ecuador has expressed its firm will to make a priority of tending to the most needy, drawing inspiration from the Church's social doctrine."

The Holy Father concluded by expressing the hope that Ecuador's "citizens may enjoy all their rights, together with their corresponding obligations, achieving better living conditions and easier access to a proper home and to a job, to education and healthcare, in full respect for life from conception to natural end."



By Angela Ambrogetti
for korazym. org

VATICAN CITY - 'This symphony, which belongs to the universal patrimony of mankind," Pope Benedict XVI said tonight, "always inspire me with new wonder", in thanking the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir under conductor Mariss Jansons for their performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in his honor.

The gala concert was held at Aula Paolo VI as a homage to the Pope at the initiative of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, administrator of the Diocese of Munich and Freising, and Prof. Thomas Gruber. [A VIS story afterwards says the concert was in gratitude for the Pope's visit to bavaria in September 2006.]

[An Apcom report says the Pope started his remarks by saying "this sensitive and engaging interpretation of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony will continue to echo in my innermost being and will stay in mymemory as a very special gift."]

In thanking the musicians, the Pope spoke of the genesis of Beethoven's masterpiece in the light of the composer's personal experiences.

"After years of self-isolation and retreat, during which he fought internal and external difficulties which brought him depression and profound bitterness, threatening to suffocate his artistic creativity, the composer - who was by now almost totally deaf - surprised the public in 1824 with a composition that broke with the traditional form of the symphony, and in a collaboration between orchestra, choir and soloists, rises to an extraordinary finale of optimism and joy."

"The overwhelming sense of joy transformed to music is not something light and superficial - it is a sentiment that was won with much effort," said the Pope.

The composer had learned a new way of hearing, he noted. "What comes to my mind is a mysterious statement by the prophet Isaiah who, speaking of the victory of truth and right, said: "On that day the deaf will hear the words of a book [that is, words that are simply written); liberated from darkness and shadows, the eyes of the blind will see" [cfr 29,18024). He is referring tothe perception received as a gift from God by whoever obtains the grace of an internal as well as external liberation."

In conclusion, the Pope recalled something that took place in the memorable year of 1989, when this same Orchestra and Choir, under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall by playing Beethoven's 9th.

He observed that for that occasion, the choir changed the first word of the opening line in the 'Ode to Joy' from "Freude, schoener Goetterfunken" [Joy, beautiful spark of God") to "Freiheit...." (Freedom...), because "true joy is rooted in that freedom which only God can give."

"God," said the Pope, " - often in times of emptiness and internal isolation - wants to make us attentive and capable of sensing his silent presence not only 'under the starry skies' but even in the most intimate part of our soul. It is there that the spark of divine love burns which can liberate us into what we truly are."

Before performing the symphony, the musicians played Palestrina's motet "TU ES PETRUS', reportedly at the special request of the Pope.

The concert was attended by religious and civil authorities. Invited guests filled up the Aula Paolo VI.

[An unexpected presence was the Pope's brother, Mons. Georg Ratzinger. It is not known what the occasion is for his current presence in Rome. He generally visits the Pope at Christmastime and Easter, besides spending a month at Castel Gandolfo during the summer.]

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