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00Saturday, April 26, 2008 8:30 PM

The man who became Pope
The Sunday Business Post (Ireland)
Sunday, April 24, 2005

I posted this item before the US visit in the thread about April 19, 2005. Since we have not really looked back enough at the double anniversaries for the Holy Father at the time of the visit, I thought I would cross-post this here as well, because what Joseph Ratzinger had to say in 1995 is not only equally relevant today, but perhaps more so, because now he is the Pope.

The striking and perhaps most pleasurable aspect about re-reading Ratzinger is that almost everything he had to say (or write) in the past sounds as though he were saying them today, mutatis mutandis.

The following is a post-Conclave account, in the form of a 1995 interview - 10 years old at the time! But even today, what Cardinal Ratzinger said about sex offenses by priests, why women will never be priests, and the nature of the Magisterium are as valid as ever.

The Post was the first Irish newspaper to interview Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. The interview was first published on December 17, 1995, and was conducted by David Quinn, who met Ratzinger in Rome.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger works in a modest enough building just outside St Peter's Square in Rome. Modest that is, when one considers the power and influence the cardinal exercises over the Catholic Church worldwide.

Depending on how such things are measured, he is arguably the most important man in the Church, apart from the Pope himself.

As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he is the Church's doctrinal watchdog. It is he who ensures that the doctrinal purity of the faith is maintained.

In cooperation with the Pope, it is his responsibility, when it proves necessary, to bring recalcitrant theologians into line. Not surprisingly, he is no hero to liberal Catholics; orthodox Catholics despise him. [????]

Yet despite his fearsome reputation, and the similar reputation of his office - it was formerly called the Holy Office, or the Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition – Cardinal Ratzinger in person is a softly-spoken, attentive, modest and courteous man.

A native of Bavaria, he is an academic by training and inclination, who, word has it, would prefer to be back at his studies instead of performing the often thankless, albeit vital task, which has befallen him.

When we met in Rome last month, it was only four days after the divorce referendum result had been announced.

Was he aware of the situation in Ireland? Was Rome concerned with the decline of Catholicism in what was considered for so long a bastion of the faith?

His view about crises in local Churches:

He seemed rather philosophical about recent developments in Ireland. Surveying the state of the Church and society in this country he pondered:

I cannot speak in the name of Rome. I can only speak in my own name, but it seems to me that Ireland cannot but share the problems of the Western world. Culturally Ireland is not an island, it is in community with the West. It is the task now of the Irish Catholicism, with its great traditions, to find a way of adapting to the modern world without losing sight of those traditions.

It is impossible to foretell the exact outcome of this contest, but we can be confident that the faith will always play an important part in the life of the Irish people. The Irish Church, with the help of her theologians, must find a way of coming to terms with modernity while remaining faithful to the teachings of the Church.

Nevertheless, the impression I have is that the faith is still strong in Ireland even in spite of all the recent social changes and in spite of the various scandals. Ireland's historical identity is rooted in the faith. It will never give this up entirely.

Cardinal Ratzinger's office has no direct input into how the Church, either locally or universally, should deal with the sex scandals which have been rocking the Church in various parts of the world. [This was 1995; the CDF was not entrusted with a direct role in dealing with the scandal till 2003.]
Nonetheless, he does have his own views on the matter.

On the sex scandals in the Church:

Thanks to our dialogue with the Irish and American bishops, we are very aware of the scandals which seem to have hit the Irish and American churches hardest of all.

They present a very grave problem to the overall Church, to the wisdom and resources of the Church, to canon law. We are confronted with this most serious problem and its reality.

It makes it necessary that we look into the whole area of priestly formation, something which is already underway.

Priests must be prepared properly for the challenges of situations of which there is a new awareness. They must be chosen based upon the judgement of the Church that they will be able to be faithful to Christian principle in the face of the inevitable challenges which the modern world poses.”

About how the Vatican was dealing with the crisis:

What about the perception in Ireland that Rome is more interested in stamping out any signs of dissent, than in dealing adequately with the scandals afflicting the Church?

It seems to some in Ireland that Rome is more interested in pursuing bishops who question celibacy than in tackling the problem of clerical sex abuse.

This is not a correct impression. Rome is very concerned about these scandals, but generally does not publicise its dealings with local churches.

It is unfortunate if this has created the perception that Rome does not care. However, the fact that Rome does not publicise its actions should in no way be interpreted to mean it is not taking the situation very seriously indeed.

On relations between Church and state in terms of social legislation:
During the divorce debate, the matter of church/state separation was a dominant theme. He did not agree with the view, held by some in Ireland, that state law should necessarily reflect the teachings of the Church.

Ireland must rediscover an appropriate equilibrium between church and state, never forgetting that the Church has to be allowed to speak on matters of public concern.

Church and state have their own separate realities. State laws cannot be expected to reflect Church morality simply as a matter of course. On the other hand, state laws cannot ignore the moral convictions of the wider society simply because those convictions are Christian in origin.

If the Church is restricted, or restricts itself, to the private sphere, it would be failing in its responsibilities because it has a public message also. We have a message about humanity and about human life as such.”

Was divorce, then, one area where church and state should be separated? Were the Irish bishops correct to have urged a No vote during the divorce campaign?

I cannot comment on the actions of the bishops in this particular instance. There is no fixed formula to be applied in this sort of situation, it all depends. For example, it would be quite redundant for the bishops in say, Germany or America, to try and overturn divorce laws of those countries given the cultural situations which exist there.

However, there can be societies where it is still possible to uphold the indissolubility of marriage in law and where it is appropriate to do so. It is all very dependent upon individual circumstances.

On why the Church does not allow female priests, and the nature of the Magisterium:

At the end of October, Cardinal Ratzinger's office issued a communiqué confirming, as infallible, the teaching that the Church has “no authority whatsoever'‘ to ordain women priests, and declared that this teaching is to be held by all the faithful.

How was the cardinal's response to the charge that this teaching effectively reduces Catholic women to the status of second-class citizens within the Church?

I would simply say that it is erroneous to think that priests are first among Christians and everyone else is second-class. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of priestly service.

You obviously do not have to be a priest to be a good Christian. If you read the New Testament you can see that for the Lord, priestly service entails being in the last place, not the first. This is the opposite of power and privilege.

But surely it could be objected that this is not a convincing reason to deny women this mode of service?

It must be pointed out first of all that we are not building Christianity out of our own ideas. The Church is given out of the will of God, and the will of God is in turn a gift to the Church and it determines our will. We must be in communion with the will of the Lord.

Second, decisions of the Lord can at first seem inexplicable to us. We must follow his way before we can begin to understand. The Pope is obliged to obey the Lord's will.

The Lord's will is visible in the New Testament and in the tradition of the Christian life and he has shown that men and women have different gifts which are shown in different ways but are equal in dignity.

We gave to reflect more on why the Lord decided so, but we cannot simply treat the Church as a sociological construct and change it according to our will.

Yet isn't it true that the Church's magisterium, its teaching authority, is exercised by men and men only? Therefore, isn't the priesthood in reality more about power than about service?

Two things must be said here. The magisterium is not exercised only at the moment when a Pope makes a decision or publishes a text. The proclamations of the Holy See develop out of a long process of Church life involving contemplation, study, and experience. In this process, all members of the Church are present. It would be easy to find the influence of Christian women on vital decisions of the Church throughout its history.

In the end, the Pope can only give definitive form to what is already part of the faith.

The second point is that the promulgation of doctrine is not an exercise of power, it is an exercise in obedience.

There are certain things the Pope cannot do if he is to be obedient to the will of God, and this includes allowing the ordination of women. The magisterium is not like a government which can overturn the decisions of its predecessors.

The cardinal rejected any suggestion that this teaching [on women priests] could someday be reversed.

It is impossible because it is part of the deposit of faith.

On authority in the Church and why it can never be 'democratic':

The question of women priests has focused attention once again on the way in which authority in the Church is exercised, and has strengthened calls for the Church's decision-making process to be more 'open and democratic'.

I think we must reflect more on what democracy in the exercise of authority would mean. Is truth determined by a majority vote, only for a new ‘truth' to be ‘discovered' by a new majority tomorrow? In the fields of science or medicine such a method of arriving at the truth would not be taken seriously. A democratic magisterium in this sense would be a false magisterium.

On unity vs uniformity:

A further charge commonly brought against Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II is that they are intent upon imposing uniformity upon the Church. This is demonstrated by the actions taken against theologians such as Hans Kung or Charles Curran. What was his response to this allegation?

Anyone familiar with the real situation of the Church knows that there is no such uniformity. Our task is to promote the unity of the faith, not impose uniformity. It is very important to distinguish between the two. Unity is a very great ideal not only for the church but for all humanity.

Unity is necessary for peace. Hence the search for unity is also the search for peace. But a unity which is only an ideal disappears into its various interpretations and ceases to be a real unity.

Unity must be in the truth, and that truth cannot be changed. It has an objective content, and it is one of the tasks of the Church to teach what the content is. It is odd that sometimes those who search most ardently for union with the other churches overlook the need for unity within their own church.”

On Vatican-II:

Pope John Paul II is repeatedly accused of betraying the ‘spirit of Vatican II' which ended 30 years ago this month. What was Cardinal Ratzinger's answer to this criticisms, and how would be describe the spirit of Vatican II?

There are certainly radically different perceptions of the Council. In fact, if truth be told, there were two councils in the 1960s, a council of the bishops and a council of the media. Often the presentation of an event in the media overwhelmed the event itself.

The media presentation of the real council shaped and distorted the public perception of it. The presentation created a certain impression of what the ‘spirit' of the council was; that it was about conforming the Church to the modern world, that it was about placing the Church in the service of ‘progress', that it was about promoting individual rights.

I think it is important to correct this perception because it is erroneous, but in correcting this impression, the spirit of the council will not be betrayed, but served.

As for the ‘spirit' of the council, it is hard to define it. Perhaps it would be better to spell out what it intended to achieve, and there is no better way to do this than to observe the actions of this pontificate.

One of the great episodes of this Pope's [John Paul II] life was his involvement with the council. In all of my dialogues with the Holy Father, I see how completely he identifies with the Second Vatican Council.

He sees it as his mission to respect and deepen collegiality among the bishops, to realise a reformed liturgy faithful to the great traditions of the Pope. He seeks to teach the Christian message in a way understandable to modern times.

The essential aim of Vatican II was to create a new presence of the gospel in our time, to present the gospel as an answer to the great problems of our times and as a response to the great opportunities.

On how to make the Gospel relevant today:

The cardinal then turned his attention to the problem of how the Church can persuade people of the relevance of the gospel in the modern world.

This is one of the great questions. All Christians must collaborate to find a way. It is not only an intellectual challenge. The answer must also arise from our practical experience of everyday living.

The search is long-term and will likely only be fruitful in the long-term. It must always be borne in mind that Christ's victory only occurred after the ‘defeat' and humiliation of the Cross.

“The Church should never forget the Cross. Nor should it forget that if we are in communion with Christ we are assured of overcoming all obstacles.”

00Saturday, April 26, 2008 11:51 PM

I'm glad I waited before reporting anything on the uncharitable news item by the French newspaper Le Figaro earlier today which claimed in its online edition that 'The Pope is ailing and they are already thinking of a successor'...The Vatican has responded.

Vatican belies Figaro report
about ailing Pope

By Salvatore Izzo

VATICAN CITY, April 26 (Translated from AGI) - "Benedict XVI is well, and it is paradoxical that doubts should be raised about his health just after he returned from the most demanding trip of his Pontificate, during which the program was not cut down [in fact, unscheduled events were added] and the Pope's joy was evident over the welcome he received."

Thus, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, spoke to refute an item published online by the French newspaper Le Figaro today which some news agencies picked up.

The Figaro item had mentioned a list of events - starting with last Good Friday [when the Pope did not prostrate himself at the morning liturgy, nor take part in the actual procession of the Via Crucis at the Colosseum] to the fact that there was no general audience last Wednesday - to claim that the Pope was obviously cutting down on his public activities.

Fr. Lombardi said that it had been announced two months earlier that there would be no general audience on the Wednesday after the Pope's return from the USA.

"The need for a rest after a trans-Atlantic trip is obvious to anyone who has had to live with the time shifts involved," Fr. ombardi said.

Referring to other circumstances cited by Figaro, Fr. Lombardi said: "Nor is it true that the Pope prefers not to deliver his addresses any more. Last Thursday, he read a long text for the four bishops of the Caucasian region who were on their ad limina visit - on the same day that he was going to meet with President Napolitano and attend the concert in his honor." [After which he delivered remarks.]

As for the assistance given to the Pope by his ceremonial masters during the litrugies celebrated in the USA, Fr. Lombardi said it was only natural "whenever any priest celebrates with long heavy vestments, that he is helped along so as not to stumble on the altar steps."

"It is strange," Fr. Lombardi added, "that doubts about the Pope's health should be expressed at a time when everything demonstrates that there is absolutely no basis for such doubts."

SEPT. 12-15, 2008

Ironically, just as Figaro was disseminating its alarmist story about the Pope's health, the French Catholic daily La Croix released the program for the Pope's visit to France which begins when he arrives in Paris on the morning of Friday, September 12.

After being welcomed at Orly airport by Prime Minister Francois Fillon and by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the Pope will be received at the Elysee presidential palace by President Sarkozy, who met the Pope in the Vatican last December.

The Pope will then proceed to the Apostolic Nunciature where he will be staying. There, he will meet a Jewish delegation.

In the afternoon, he will address an academic crowd (among tyhem, members of the Institut de France's Academy of Political and Moral Sciences, of which the Pope has been a member since 1990) at the Bernadin Diocesan Center, and then celebrate Vespers at the Cathedral of Notre Dame with the priests and religious of the Ile de France region. At the end of the ceremony, he will address a youth rally.

On Saturday morning, Sept. 13, the Pope will celebrate Mass at the open-air space before the Invalides [Paris's military museum complex, which has a Church as well as the tomb of Napoleon and other Bonapartes]. In the afternoon, he will fly to Lourdes where on Saturday evening, he will preside at a Marian vigil.

He will celebrate Mass the following morning with all the bishops of France, and will meet them again in the afternoon to discuss the situation of the Church in France.

The following day, Monday, he will celebrate a special Mass for the sick and afflicted, before flying back to Rome.

Not bad for a man of 81 who, according to Le Figaro, already needs a successor.

The Holy Father arrives at St. Peter's Basilica to perform final funeral rites
and deliver the eulogy for Cardinal Trujillo, Wednesday, April 23

00Sunday, April 27, 2008 5:06 AM
Padre Pio, Pope Benedict: Soul Mates?

By Jeff Israely
TIME Magazine
April 25, 2008

In 1947, a young Polish priest named Karol Wojtyla made the pilgrimage to a small town in Puglia to have his confession heard by Padre Pio, the mysterious Italian monk with the Christ-like stigmata wounds on his hands. It was that encounter — along with Wojtyla's belief that a prayer by the Capuchin monk had cured a friend's cancer in 1962 — that helps explain why Padre Pio was fast-tracked for sainthood once Wojtyla had risen to the papacy as John Paul II. But some may now wonder if the current pope, the cerebral and professorial Benedict XVI, has the same affinity for the popular Italian wonder-worker who died in 1968?

The issue emerges as as tearful pilgrims and television crews flocked this week to the friar-saint's final resting place, San Giovanni Rotondo, a kind of Las Vegas-meets-Bethlehem hilltop pilgrimage destination. They were there to see the exhumed corpse of Padre Pio, which had been put on display in a glass casket, with a special silicon mask — beard, bushy eyebrows and all — created by London-based wax museum artisans. Everyone knows what John Paul II felt about Padre Pio. But how can Benedict, the intellectually rigorous theologian, dubbed "the Pope of Reason," sanction such widespread belief in faith-healing and emotional attachments to icons and relics?

Some may even note a snub of sorts. John Paul visited San Giovanni Rotondo in 1987 to mark 100 years since Padre Pio's birth. But Benedict is making his second papal visit to the Puglia region in June, and has left the town off his itinerary both times

Those who know the current Pope and have worked with the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger cannot recall in his extensive writings anything specific about Padre Pio. The only apparent reference to the miracle-worker in the three-year papacy of Benedict XVI is a rather straightforward 2006 discourse Benedict gave in Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of a hospital founded by the monk. "Emulate him," the Pope told worshipers in St. Peter's Square, "in order to help all to live a profound spiritual experience, centered on contemplation of the Crucified Christ."

The kind of "popular piety" that has built up around Padre Pio, and other Church figures and relics, with its promise of special powers and healing the sick, is seen by some critics as veering toward superstition. Benedict has not condemned it, but he has made a point of slowing the output of his predecessor's so-called "saint factory," which during John Paul's 26-year papacy produced hundreds of canonizations.

Close observers of Benedict, however, argue that his focus on reconciling reason and faith does not favor one over the other. While he may not dwell on the popular Padre Pio, the Pope, explains Raphaela Schmid, a Rome-based German philosopher and student of Ratzinger's writings, recognizes that Catholicism's more popular manifestations and the religion's search for an intellectual basis "both have a place in the Church." Schmid says that Benedict has explained why it is "not irrational" to venerate the saints, or believe in miracles. "What you see in this is the language of the heart," she says of Ratzinger's reasoning. "The miracle is the trust."

The kind of devotion that Padre Pio's followers display is not excluded in the Ratzinger recipe for spreading the gospel. Indeed such open-hearted faith, and saint worship itself, is intrinsic to the Pope's message. He wrote of saints in his last encyclical, Spe Salvi or "Saved by Hope." In his recently completed visit to the United States, the saints were the focus of his talk to young people and seminarians in Yonkers, New York. "Fix your gaze on our saints. The diversity of their experience of God's presence prompts us to discover anew the breadth and depth of Christianity," Benedict said. "Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship. Sometimes we are looked upon as people who speak only of prohibitions. Nothing could be further from the truth! Authentic Christian discipleship is marked by a sense of wonder."

Still, every Pope has his favorite saints. Benedict's leans most of all toward St. Augustine, the fourth century philosopher Father of the Church, who he regularly cites in his homilies. Last year, Benedict made a pilgrimage to Pavia to pray at Augustine's relics there. And he is not excluding other sites of miracles from his future journeys. In September, Benedict is slated to visit Lourdes, the French town where millions of sick and disabled Catholics go each year to seek healing from a spring revealed by the Virgin Mary.


Jeff Israely is obviously not aware that as CardInal Ratzinger, the Pope took an afternoon off during an official appointment in the region in 2002 to visit Padre Pio's places in Pietrelcina - An account of it was posted in ENCOUNTERS WITH THE FUTURE POPE early on in the Forum -
and that shortly after the exhumation of the saint's remains a few weeks ago, it was announced by the parish priest in San Giovanni Rotondo that a visit by Pope Benedict while the saint was on display to the public was very possible. [P.S. He did so again on the day the exposition of Padre Pio's remains opened last week.]

From the article on the 2002 visit, we learn that the Cardinal commented on a lady who recounted to a reporter a miracle attributed to Padre Pio:

It may have been ingenuous or childlike, but her behavior reflected something of the original trustfulness that we had been given as a gift and which is rooted in the awareness that we have friends in the world beyond this, that such friends are near, that they can help us, and that we can call on them with trust.

In the guest book at Pietrelcina, this what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

May Saint Padre Pio always help his brothers and all pilgrims to love the suffering Christ and make a commitment to charity that springs from the open heart of the Lord.


00Sunday, April 27, 2008 1:28 PM

A full translation of the Holy Father's homily at the Ordination Mass has been posted in HOMILIES, DISCOURSES, MESSAGES.

This morning, the Holy Father presided at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at which he conferred priestly orders on 29 deacons - 28 from the Diocese of Rome and one from the Pontifical Urban
College of Propaganda Fide [the Vatican's missionary arm].

Among those ordained was an Iraqi, Robert S. Jarjis, of the Chaldean Patriarchate of Baghdad, who completed his seminary studies at the Major Seminary of Rome.

The Pope later made his noonday appearance at his study window overlooking St. Peter's Square to lead the Regina Caeli prayers and delivered his usual mini-homily.

The Pope lays hands on Fr. Jarjis of Iraq at the ordination rite.

00Sunday, April 27, 2008 2:14 PM


A full translation of the Holy Father's words has been posted in AUDIENCE AND ANGELUS TEXTS.

Before the recitation of the Regina caeli today, the Holy Father spoke about the ordination of 29 new priests that he had just performed at St. Peter's.

He also referred briefly to his recent trip to the United States, saying he would speak more amply about it at the General Audience on Wednesday.

After the prayer, he had these special messages:

The news which comes from some African countries continues to be cause for profound suffering and great concern. I ask you not to ignore these tragic events and our brothers and sisters who are involved in them. I ask you to pray for them and to be their voice!

In Somalia, especially in Mogadishu, bitter armed encounters are bringing increasing tragedy in the humanitarian crisis of those dear people who have been oppressed so many years by the weight of brutality and poverty.

Darfur, despite momentary glimmers of hope, remains an endless tragedy for hundreds of thousands of defenseless people who have been left to themselves.

Finally Burundi. After the bombardment in the past few days which have struck and terrorized the residents of the capital Bujumbara and which struck even the Apostolic Nunciature there, and in the face of the risk of a new civil war, I invite all parties in the dispute to resume without delay the way of dialog and reconciliation.

I trust that the local political authorities, responsible officials in the international community and every person of good will will not neglect any effort to put an end to the violence, and to honor commitments that have been undertaken to place a solid basis for peace and development.

Let us entrust our intentions to Mary, Queen of Africa.

In English, he said:

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Regina Caeli.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord speaks to us of the mystery of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May we always remain faithful to this divine communion by living the commandments that he has given us.

00Sunday, April 27, 2008 2:51 PM
John Allen of NCR
Also did a post on the "ailing" Pope and described speculation (on his successor) as "fun." I can only describe Allen as an unrepentant Ratzinger-basher and I wonder why they allow him a seat on the Papal plane.


Well, I disagree that speculating about the Papal succession at any time other than after a Pope has died is any 'fun' - it is tasteless, vulgar and inconsiderate, as was Herve Yannou's article for Le Figaro. Here is Allen's piece. TERESA

Le Figaro declares papal primary season open
April 27, 2008

During the early phases of planning for Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the United States, some voices advised against visiting America in the middle of the 2008 election, given the inevitable risk of being drawn into partisan politics.

One senior Vatican official dismissed those fears with the quip: “When is it not campaign season in the United States these days?”

Apparently, it’s pretty much always campaign season in the Vatican these days too.

That, at least, is the conclusion one might draw from an April 25 article in Le Figaro by Hervé Yannou, the Rome correspondent of the leading French newsmagazine.

Sounding an alarm about papal health, Yannou claimed that Benedict appeared weary during his American swing, particularly during his Saturday morning Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

Moreover, Yannou observed, Benedict skipped his regular Wednesday audience after his return from the States, and allowed a funeral Mass for Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo to be celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Going further back in time, Yannou also recalled that Benedict XVI did not walk the traditional Good Friday route in Rome’s Colosseum, but rather sat through most of it.

“And,” Yannou wrote ominously, “it’s no secret to anyone that the Pope’s heart is fragile.”

Having made a case for declining papal vigor, Yannou suggested that it’s time to begin thinking about the post- Benedict XVI succession. Specifically, he pointed to two cardinals as occupying the pole position to become the next pope: the Italian Tarcisio Bertone, 74, currently Benedict’s top aide as the Secretary of State, and the Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, 72, who in effect was the runner-up to Benedict XVI in the conclave of April 2005.

Yannou also tossed in the name of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, 65, who is quoted in a new book-length interview in France as describing the desirability of a future pope coming from outside Europe. (In French, the book is titled G]De la difficulté d'évoquer Dieu dans un monde qui pense ne pas en avoir besoin: Entretiens avec Éric Valmir, or "On the difficulty of talking about God in a world that doesn't think it needs him: Conversations with Eric Valmir.")

Reaction to the Le Figaro piece in the Vatican so far has not been the traditional pique when the Pope’s health is questioned, but rather amusement.

After all, Benedict XVI has just completed the longest and most challenging foreign trip of his papacy, and by all accounts showed remarkable stamina. Of all the moments in which to launch an alarm about the Pope’s physical condition, officials have suggested, this seems to be among the least well-chosen.

“Certainly, the Pope is 81 years old,” said Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press Office. “But on live television, before the eyes of the whole world, anyone can see that he’s fine and is performing all of his duties.”

Lombardi noted, for example, that it’s traditional for the Pope to skip the General Audience after he returns from a long trip, and that last Wednesday’s edition was taken off the calendar more than two months ago – not, therefore, in response to any particular health concern. Lombardi also noted that today, April 27, the Pope will preside over a lengthy ordination ceremony for new deacons.

Of course, unlike presidents of the United States, the Pope does not have an annual physical with the results released to the public, so to some extent armchair diagnoses about his health are inevitable.

The Vatican also has a history of denying and minimizing reports of papal illness; even amid the long twilight of John Paul II, it really wasn’t until the last 48 hours that Vatican spokespersons began to speak openly about the gravity of his condition.

In reality, however, those who have followed Benedict XVI closely over the first three years of his papacy generally don’t see any particular signs of decline. These days in Rome, comparisons with Pope Leo XIII are very much in the air – elected at 68, Leo reigned until he was 93, the third-longest pontificate in church history.

The paring back of Benedict’s public schedule to which Yannou refers, including the decision to sit out the Good Friday procession, seems less like a reaction to fatigue than a precautionary measure to prevent that fatigue in the first place.

If Benedict continues to pace himself carefully, there’s no reason to suspect that he couldn’t continue for some time to come.

If the Le Figaro doesn’t tell us much about the actual state of Benedict’s health, however, it does illustrate an iron-clad rule of Vatican coverage: However thin the pretext may be, speculation about the next Pope is always guaranteed to generate an audience.

In that sense, one could suggest that Yannou’s piece marks the informal opening of the papal primary season. With John Paul II, that season lasted the better part of 20 years, with recurrent flurries of speculation about his imminent demise followed by new bursts of papal energy and activity.

How long it may last in this case is anyone’s guess, but there’s no reason to think the cycle won’t repeat itself. Though it may be ill-timed or groundless, speculation about the essentially unknowable is simply too much fun.

00Sunday, April 27, 2008 4:41 PM

'The Holy Father is very well,
thank you' - Mons. Gaenswein

Translated from La Repubblica
April 27, 2008

VATICAN CITY - "False news, devoid of any basis. The Holy Father is very well, thank you. He has no health problems, and that was obvious during his recent visit to the USA. Sinee he returned to the Vatican, he has not cancelled any appointments. He carries on his ministry every day with the same tireless dedication. There has been no change."

Mons. Georg Gaenswein, personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, almost never grants interviews or makes any statements. But this time, he broke his traditional reserve to refute what he calls 'plain falsities printed in the French newspaper Le Figaro."

Mons. Gaenswein, Le Figaro is one of the most authoritative itnernational newspapers. Is it possible that they could have committed such a blunder about the health of the Holy Father?
I'm not interested why they wrote what they did. What I would like to say with absolute certainty is that the report is completely false and devoid of any basis. I do not understand why they published it and to what purpose, all the more because it came just after the whole world saw the Holy Father undertake a series of important pastoral activities on the international level.

You are referring to the trip made to the USA and the United Nations...
Exactly. The Holy Father, as he usually does, even in this pastoral visit to America and the UN gave of himself with passion and love, he spoke, he prayed, he faced all the commitments scheduled - and added a few. Everyone saw him.

I do not uderstand how stories like this begin and how they take flesh! But it is all false. He works everyday, whether in public or in private. And he usually works till late at night.

But it is true that the Pope has reduced his public commitments. As Le Figaro points out, last Wednesday, he did not hold a general audience, and he did not celebrate the funeral Mass for Cardinal Trujillo. At the concert on Thursday in Aula Paolo VI, he had limited contact with the public. [But he does not mingle with 'the public' after such events. He goes to greet the performers, delivers his remarks, and leaves!]
Plain coincidence. The Holy Father has his own pastoral style. Whoever speculates about his health, like that newspaper and those who would give it credence, are simply indulging in cheap ‘dietrologia’ [Italian neologism for ‘trying to fhind out what’s behind the scenes’ for those who never take anything at face value].

No one should be concerned. The Pope is not cutting down on his pastoral acitivity and the government of the universal Church is in good hands.

Repubblica, 27 aprile 2008

00Monday, April 28, 2008 2:13 PM
Message to Le Figaro
Age is just a number!!!!! [What I wanted to write is unprintable!]

Also, as Federico Lombardi so sensibly pointed out, the time differences between Eastern USA and Rome are considerable. Anyone of any age would need several days, probably a week, to get over that.
00Monday, April 28, 2008 6:42 PM
Chronicle of an announced lie
By Giacomo Galeazzi
Translated from La Stampa
April 28, 2008

The Italian media generally took little notice - i.e., no one picked it up to amplify it - of the Le Figaro canard by Herve Yannou this weekend claiming that the Pope's health is failing and starting to speculate about the succession. Obviously, one of the reasons for ignoring it is that they do not agree with it. But why not say so?

The Vatican correspondent for La Stampa has done just that - and analyzes what could prompt such a blatant falsehood.

VATICAN CITY - A chronicle of a lie announced. The false alarm over the health of Benedict XVI last Saturday in the French newspaper Le Figaro - and immediately refuted by the Holy See - is not simply a blatant journalistic error.

It is something worse, which comes from the frenzied quest for anything that could call attention, ring the bells, even at the risk of ridicule.

To us Vaticanistas who followed the seemingly endless calendar of activities during his historic visit to the United States, the Pope appeared to be in dazzling form.

In every meeting, every immersion in the crowd, through thousands of hands shaken, speeches, celebrations and conversations held in a language foreign to him - never once cutting back, never a sign of fatigue.

That is why I asked my newspaper not to make me go on a pointless chase for indications (none whatsoever) over the presumed bad state(inexistent) of the Pope's health!

My colleagues in the other newspapers did the same thing, and that is why the Le Figaro story was not echoed in the Italian press at all.

The truth is that Benedict XVI, in preaching the Gospel, 'disturbs'. The reason for this 'allergic reaction' to Catholicism is expressed very well by the spokesman of Opus Dei, Giuseppe Corigliano, in a series of reflections that represent for me, a fundamental orientation. This is what Corigliano argues:

The Protestant Reformation sowed mistrust against CAtholicism among many peoples of northern Europe. That is a seed which has been very much weakened but has not disappeared.

Another anti-Catholic seed was the philosophy that led to the French Revolution. In particular, thinking like Rousseau's, which sees the 'wild savage' as the ideal for every goodness, and sees Catholic morals as the oppressive yoke that poisons society - making Catholicism the reality that must be fought and opposed for the good of mankind.

That is the reason behind the missionary zeal with which the Church continues to be attacked, to the point where it has become the only entity that one can savage with impunity, but rather earning merit for doing so.

Therefore, its opponents must discredit and calumniate it in a Rossinian crescendo [This refers to a famour aria on 'Calumny' in Rossini's opera 'Barber of Seville'] - until the little breezes of calumny are gathered together to become a thunderous cannonshot.

This does not mean seeing the dominant culture in the West today as 'evil' but simply as a product of its history, a legacy from the 16th and 17th centuries that has been uncritically carried on.

Of course, Corigliano points out, there is nothing new under the sun. Jesus himself, in the Gospel of Luke, said: "Beware when men say nothing but good about you." Whoever follows Jesus may please many but not everyone.

So the 'annoyance' or 'disturbance' raised by the missionary zeal of Benedict XVI is also at the origin of this pradoxical journalistic slip by Le Figaro. It is an indication of secular unease as millions of people around the world appear to have a new thirst for God and are increasingly disillusioned with the false idols of this world.

The idolatry of sexuality which promises the joys of Paradise but which is promptly disappointing. The idolatry of money - you may well go to your grave with millions without ever having tasted a life of love. The idolatry of celebrity which brings nothing but emptiness. The idolatry of power which comes to nought when you are by yourself.

Corigliano loves to say that the mystery which surrounds us is great, and a verse by the Italian poet Giuseppe Carducci reflects the secular unease which pervades the cultural air today and which finds absurd concretizations in the pages of the newspapers. “Meglio, oprando, obliar senza indagarlo questo grande mister dell’universo” (Better to act, forgetting, without investigation, this great mystery of the universe). That is, better to get into action without questioning the sense of the reality which surrounds us.

"But why not allow the possibility to listen to a God who wants to reveal himself?" Corigliano asks. Should the God who speaks through his chosen people [believers, not just Jews] and to all mankind be ignored?

The apostolate of Benedict XVI is the providnential response to these questions.

That is why he causes great disturbance among those who do not have the courage to ask these questions.


Galeazzi's references to Corigliano in the above article come from a recent talk he had with Corigliano on the occasion of the third anniversary of Benedict XVI's Pontificate. Here is a translation of the interview on that subject:

'This Pontificate will leave
an indelible mark in history'

di Giacomo Galeazzi*

VATICAN CITY - "The Pontificate of Benedict XVI will leave an indelible mark in history," says Giuseppe Corigliano, spokesman for Opus Dei, director of its Office for Communications, a man who is always very measured in his words.

As an 'apostle of ommunications', he is convinced that we are at the dawn of a Christian rebirth which will eventually leave its mark even in the mass media.

Ninety-nine percent of world television programming today does not allow any space for God, he notes. The ideal of life that it proposes is to live as though there is no God. But when John Paul II died, hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, found themselves glued to television.

The God who chose the way of suffering out of love for mankind, as Benedict XVI points out, teaches us that "To serve is the best way to govern", has so much to say to man today. The world of communications could proclaim the 'good news' of Christ to the global village. And Benedict XVI is lighting the way.

In this interview, Corigliano also speaks for the first time about the Joseph Ratzinger he knew.

We recently marked the third anniversary of the election of Benedict XVI and the Church has entered the fourth year of the Ratzinger Pontificate. It seems like a good moment to analyze the goals and guidelines of a tirnennial which has been extraordinary for the Catholic world. What does Opus Dei think of this Papacy?
It is not for the information director of Opus Dei to 'evaluate' the Holy Father. The members of Opus Dei cannot be 'represented' in tottality, iont he sense that everyone thinks as he pleases. And in this case, one might say, everyone loves the Pope as he wishes. What is certain is that we in the Opus Dei love the Pope, otherwise, we would not be worthy sons of St. Josemaria (Escriva de Balaguer, foundr of Opus Dei].

April 19, 2005- April 19, 2008. A triennial that has been incredibly dense and rich with events, during which Benedict XVI has met more than 10 million pilgrims in St. Peter's alone, he has made eight foreign trips and eight pastoral visits in Italy, he has written two encyclicals and the book JESUS OF NAZARETH, he has created 38 new cardinals in two consistories, he has written a historic letter to the Catholics of China. Can one speak of a 'Benedict effet' on the Church and a 'surprising Pontificate', as many newspapers call it?
We might. But for me, it is not surprising. In the early 70s, the spiritual director of the Italian regional commission (Opus Dei's governing body in Italy), Fr. Ermanno Tubini, told me: "I am reading Introduction to Christianity by Ratzinger - what a wonderful book!" But I did not get to read it myself until the early 1980s, and I was so enthusiastic that I thought it my duty to do something so that it could be read by as many people as possible - as an exposition of the message of Jesus in a way that is so particularly adapted to the 'hearing' of contemporary man.

And what did you decide to do about it?
I thought shoudl make a documentary that would be an introduction to the book, that would stimulate an itnerest in reading it. No one would listen to me at RAI or at Mediaset [the two major TV establishments in Italy], so I decided to do it on my own. I found someone to finance it and I set out to work.

I produced an hour-long documentary in which I tried to use the same plain and simple language as the author himself. I asked Lux for permission to use some scenes from their TV productions on the Bible and I used paintings by Giotto and Fra Angelico for furhter illustration.

I made the documentary available to Catholic schools and placed it at the disposal of Opus Dei in its activities of formation and training, and for all those who wished to have a closer look at Christianity.

Then, when the Internet became routine, I finally put the documentary online. It can be seen on, video section, and I am nowthinking of placing it on YouTube.

Among your meetings with Joseph Ratzinger, which one would you recall particularly?
I came to know the Cardinal up close in our Pontifical University of Santa Croce at a meeting reserved for professors. The professors expressed their doubts to him and asked questions. He responded to everyone with amiable calm and a surprising profundity.

His concepts were so clear and elevated - like treetops of towering stature above a forest - and the whole exchange seemed like a pleasant stroll in the shadow of those trees.

A short while later, I had the pleasure of presenting him with a book on Opus Dei that had been published by San Paolo. Again, he showed himself to be both a very good-humored man as well as someone who could speak very well of the 'work of God', which is the spirit and inspiration for Opus Dei. He said without hesitation that indded, holiness is accessible to everyone.

And after the death of John Paul II?
During the Conclave, I prayed - as the Prelate of Opus Dei had asked us to do on such occasions - opening myself to the will of Providence. I have seen enough Conclaves and know that the solutions offered by the Holy Spirit can be disconcerting.

On the second day, after the fourth balloting, the smoke from the chimney had an ambiguous color...But by the time I reached St. Peter's Square on my motorcycle - even as the entire city seemed to be converging towards it - the word 'Josephum' pronounced during the Habemus papam announcement made me jump up the highest I have ever done so in my life!

As for these three years of the Pontificate so far, I can only say this: This Pope will continue to be read and heard. The fruit of his teachings will last for centuries to the benefit of the Church.


And the Catholic Church should be very proud that in the past 30 years, it has given the world two great figures capable of commanding the world stage like John Paul II and Benedict XVI - without intending any slight to the previous Popes, equally great in their own ways, who simply did not have the global communications platform that has since become available.

P.S. I see that Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli, ever reliable and loyal, did write an article responding to the Figaro canard in the Sunday issue of his paper:

So the Pope is 'ailing'!
Did anyone notice that at all
during the US trip and since?

by Andrea Tornielli
Translated from Il Giornale
April 27, 2008

The French newspaper Le Figaro, in an article about the first three years of the current Pontificate, 'reveals' that Benedict XVI is old, he is 81 years old, that his arteries have the same age and that his heart is weak, hoping to set off in this way an alarm over his state of health.

And while they're at it, why not start considering the possible successors - it refers to Cardinals Bertone, Bergoglio and Maradiaga.

"Everyone knows," says Herve Yannou in Figaro, "that his (Benedict's) health is fragile. He goes up and down stairs and still walks briskly but he has the age of his arteries. Besides, it is no secret to anyone that this Pope has a weak heart."

He notes that during the trip to the United States, the Pope at times looked 'exhausted' and that he has reduced his public commitments at the Vatican.

Now, whoever followed Papa Ratzinger's American visit knows how well the Pope tolerated the change in time zones and how well he carried out all his scheduled commitments, many of them gruelling.

Upon returning from the trip (and a day's rest), he presided at the final rites and eulogy for the late Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo from Colombia, and will preside today at a long oridination ceremony. In a few weeks he will be visiting Savona and Geona, then Brindisi, then Australia. And in Spetember, he will go to Sardinia, then to Paris and Lourdes.

This newspaper has verified that there is no reason for any alarm and that indeed, the Pope has rested very well following the US visit.

Vatican press director Fr. Federico Lombardi said it was 'absoltuely paradoxical' that Le Figaro should make the claims it does just when the Pope has "just returned from a very demanding, long and exhausting visit aboroad, during which he brilliantly carried out all his commitments without having to change or lighten the program in the least bit."

"Of course, the Pope is 81," he added, "but during direct and delayrd telecasts, the whole world saw how well he was during the trip and how well he carried out all the things he did."


Benedict XVI is an intelligent person. One has to think he would not only follow his physician's instructions about what he can and cannot do, but that he himself 'listens' to what his body tells him. I felt, for instance, last Good Friday that he omitted the prostration because he perhaps felt that he was not up to such an action, at that moment.

In contrast, it was announced earlier that he was not going to walk the entire Via Crucis procession at the Colosseum - and I saw it as part of his effort to conserve as much as he could of his strength for the coming US trip - especially since it was a rainy, chilly night and forecast to be so. Or it could still be due to the fact that it was an 'off' day for him for physical exertion - and when you are on the eve of an important and demanding trip, you do not take any unnecessary chances.

In any case, we can all trust his judgment to be as prudent as he can about his activities without being unduly cautious in any way that would detract from his pastoral duties. Meanwhile, we go on praying for him and sustaining him with our love and prayers.

One should never discount the salutary effects - which can be phsyical as well as pscyhological - of massive public affection on anyone. And this was so evident in the timeless, ageless look of joy and spiritual radiance - that ineffable beauty - on Benedict's face, when he acknowledged public acclamation during his US visit. It was certainly the most breathtaking impression I had of the two occasions that I managed to see him closest without obstruction.

00Tuesday, April 29, 2008 2:44 AM

Thanks to Beatrice and her site, whose banner for the Pope's coming visit to France I am using for now...The French bishops have confirmed the program for the Holy Father's visit to France in the fall as reported by La Croix last Saturday and posted on this thread earlier, but in less detailed form.

Pope to visit France Sept. 12-15

PARIS, APRIL 28, 2008 ( The French episcopal conference confirmed today the dates for Benedict XVI's trip to France marking the 150th anniversary of the Lourdes apparitions.

The Pope will arrive in Paris on Sept. 12. He is scheduled to meet with civil leaders, including President Nicolas Sarkozy. Later on, he will give a discourse directed to the world of culture.

That evening in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Holy Father will celebrate vespers with priests, deacons, religious and seminarians. Afterward, he will give an address to youth.

On Saturday, Sept. 13, the Pontiff will celebrate a public Mass. Also during his time in the capital city, Benedict XVI will meet with representatives of other Christian confessions, as well as Jewish and Muslim leaders, the French bishops reported.

Saturday afternoon, the Holy Father will travel to Lourdes, where he will give an address to the pilgrims.

Sunday, Sept. 14, the Pope will preside over a solemn Mass with the pilgrims. That afternoon, he will meet with French bishops and participate in a Eucharistic procession.

The next day, the Holy Father will administer the anointing of the sick during a Mass. He will return to Rome that Monday afternoon.


Following God's call
never brings disappointment

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2008 ( A "yes" to God opens the font of happiness, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this in a letter made public Saturday, addressed to Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris. The papal message marked the 100th anniversary of an annual youth pilgrimage from the province of Paris.

This year's 6-day pilgrimage, destined for Lourdes, ended Sunday.

In his letter to the cardinal, who is also president of the French bishops' conference, the Holy Father mentioned that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous.

Benedict XVI called on young people to imitate Mary's response when she was "invited to follow an amazing yet disconcerting journey. Her readiness led her to experience a joy of which all previous generations had sung."

"Our 'yes' to God makes the font of true happiness gush forth," the Pope affirmed. "It frees the 'I' from everything that closes it in on itself. It brings the poverty of our lives into the richness and power of God's plan, without restricting our freedom and our responsibility. [...] It conforms our lives to Christ's own life."

The Holy Father encouraged the young "to celebrate with enthusiasm the joy of loving Christ and of believing and hoping in him, and to follow with trust the path of initiation you have before you."

"I particularly invite you to take up the witness of your ancestors in the faith, and to learn to welcome the word of God -- in silence and meditation -- so that it can mould your hearts and produce generous fruits in you," he added.

This pilgrimage, the Pontiff concluded, "is also a good time to allow yourselves to be asked by Christ: 'What do you want to do with your lives?' May those among you who feel the call to follow him in the priesthood or in consecrated life -- as have so many young participants in these pilgrimages -- reply to the Lord's call and put yourselves totally at the service of the Church, with a life completely dedicated to the Kingdom of heaven. You will never be disappointed."

00Tuesday, April 29, 2008 3:00 AM

Archbishop Migliore recounts
his three days hosting the Pope

By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2008 ( In this interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Migliore recounts his personal experience of the papal trip, and comments on the message Benedict XVI delivered to the United Nations.

What was the moment of the Pope's visit that you will never forget?
There are many, as you can imagine. Americans were waiting to see and experience for themselves Benedict XVI’s spirituality, intellect and humanity that they were already seeing by way of the media.

Upon his arrival they saw the Pope happy to be in the United States, happy and eager to meet Americans of all levels. All the events that he participated in were marked by festivity, warmth and mutual understanding.

And then, the profound empathy of the Pope with what remains the most vivid symbol for Americans, Ground Zero. The ceremony, expressed almost without words, spoken heart-to-heart, made the Pope seem like one of them, and at the same time invested with such authority to communicate his own message.

By the same token, on two evenings the Pope went out of the residence in New York to greet the hundreds of people convened to sing and wish him a happy birthday.

On Saturday evening there were 50 children in the first row visibly affected from various types of cancer. The affection and the sense of profound dignity expressed by the Pope revealed his highest moral authority that can offer hope and confidence.

Could you tell us what the Holy Father told you?
I had the privilege and great pleasure of spending three days with the Holy Father in the residence of his representative at the United Nations. During the meals we shared our sentiments, impressions and exchanges of information about the unfolding of the Papal visit and the warm welcome and reception he was receiving.

On the occasion of his third anniversary of his pontificate, it was Pope Benedict who offered us a wonderful gift: He wished to have all my collaborators at the table for dinner. This was the highlight for all of us who had an opportunity to share with the Holy Father the joys and burdens, as well as the funny moments, of our activity at the United Nations.

Do you have any reactions from the national delegations in the United Nations to the Pope's speech?
This is a time of difficulty and tension also for the United Nations. The Pope uplifted spirits.

Knowing that the United Nations is not a bed of roses even for the Pope, I had the impression that many diplomats who heard him stress the most beautiful potential of the United Nations, felt comforted and encouraged to work for a United Nations which delivers.

No doubt it was the meeting with the staff that accounted for the most enthusiastic response throughout the United Nations. At many points in his address the Pope smiled and looked at the crowd. His warmth and comfort was echoed by the crowd’s response, in its excitement and cheers, and in the standing ovations they gave him. This festive reaction by the staff was not just stadium frenzy, but it was motivated also by the message he delivered to them.

The Pope said he and the Church believe in the United Nations, and urged the institution to go back to the original principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How was his message received by members of the United Nations?
In particular, they had the impression that the Pope was reading their heart, their personal desire for justice and freedom. From what I hear from diplomats and officials at the United Nations, the words of the Pope will have an echo and a profound and studied following, especially with regard to the role of the United Nations and international law.

How is the "responsibility to protect," mentioned by the Holy Father, a new principle for the international community? How would this differ from the international community's response to oppressive governments in the past?
He stated that the moral basis for a government’s claim to authority, to sovereignty, is its responsibility for, its willingness to, and effectiveness in protecting its populations from any kind of violation of human rights.

While borrowing this expression from the Outcome Document adopted by Heads of State and Government in 2005, Pope Benedict outlined a broader concept: Responsibility to protect covers not only the so-called humanitarian -- military -- interventions, rather, it could be used as the new name for sovereignty, which is not only a right, but above all a responsibility to protect and promote the populations in their daily lives.

Fr. Lombardi comments
on the Pope's UN speech

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2008 ( XVI offered the United Nations a valuable service when he offered the international organization a principled foundation for human rights, according to a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, speaking on the most recent episode of the weekly Vatican Television program “Octava Dies,” commented on the Pope's April 18 address to the U.N. General Assembly

“There were some who expected the Pope on his visit to the United Nations to denounce one or another of the dramatic situations of injustice and conflict in the world today," began the spokesman.

"No. The Pope has done that and continues to do it often, in his address to the diplomatic corps at the beginning of the year, in his Christmas and Easter messages, in numerous appeals on different occasions.

“There were those who expected that the Pope would engage in polemics against the tendencies of various U.N. agencies to favor abortion and contraception. No.

"On this occasion the Pope chose to give a speech of a different nature, a speech on the foundations and the principles, a speech that will last through time, because this was the more urgent and more positive contribution to make in that place.”

“It was a speech that was very consistent with the specific moral authority of the Catholic Church and the general style of the magisterium of Benedict XVI,” Father Lombardi noted.

The Vatican spokesman continued: “There are universally valid principles, for men and women of every time and under every sky. In man’s nature, in the dignity of the person one can recognize and read the basis of the order to respect and upon which to reflect in social and political relationships and regimes, even if in forms that are always in need of improvement and perfecting.

“Forcefully asserting this, Benedict XVI offered the most precious service to the United Nations, defending the permanent value of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and he found the conviction and the determination to do this from the perspective of the Christian and religious vision of the world.”

The spokesman concluded, “Once again the Church has offered to the nations, with a fraternal attitude of service, its ‘experience of humanity,’ on behalf of justice and peace.”

00Tuesday, April 29, 2008 5:00 PM

China Philharmonic Orchestra
to perform Mozart Requiem
at the Vatican for Benedict XVI

Translated from the
Italian service of

On May 7, the China Philharmonic Orchestra of Beijing and the Shanghai Opera House Chorus will perofrm Mozart's Requiem in honor of the Holy Father at the Aula Paolo VI.

The orchestra is on a European tour and will offer the concert at the Vatican during a stopover in Italy.

It is considered China's premier orchestra, established in 2000 in place of its antecedent China Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Yong Lu. Adviser tot eh orchestra is DengRong, daughter of the late President Deng Xiao-Ping.

The orchestra first performed in Italy in 2004, at a Christmas concert for the Italian Senate, which was broadcast iternationally.

It has performed around the world, particularly in Europe, North America and Asia.

The orchestra first performed the Mozart Requiem, in collaboration with Milan's La Scala, at the 9th International Festival of Music in Beijing in 2006, to mark the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. The concert was held at the Wang Fujing Catholic Church of Beijing.

The coming performance at the Vatican of a great classic work of European music with religious inspiration confirms music as a most valuable language and means of dialog among peoples and cultures.


It also appears to be another sign of the slow rapprochement between the Vatican and Beijing. The inside story of how this concert came to be arranged obviously remains to be told.

Reuters picked up the story later:

Beijing orchestra
to play for Pope,
easing tension

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The China Philharmonic Orchestra will perform for Pope Benedict next week in an unprecedented gesture that Vatican sources said could signal a thaw in often icy relations between the Vatican and Beijing.

Vatican Radio said on Tuesday the concert will take place on May 7 in the Vatican's vast audience hall. The orchestra will perform Mozart's "Requiem" along with the Shanghai Opera House Chorus.

The radio called the concert, which will take place during the orchestra's European tour, "important" and added:

"With the performance in the Vatican of a great classic opera of European music and religious inspiration, music is confirming its role as a language and most precious medium for dialogue among peoples and cultures."

Benedict has made improving relations with Beijing a major goal of his pontificate and issued a 55-page open letter in June saying he sought to restore full diplomatic ties with Beijing that were severed two years after the 1949 Communist takeover.

"This could not have happened without the government approving it," said one diplomatic source.

Catholics in China are split between those who belong to a state-backed Church and an underground Church whose members are loyal to the Vatican.

Relations between the Vatican and Beijing have hit low points several times in recent years as the Vatican criticised China for appointing bishops without papal approval.

Benedict accused China of "grave violations of religious freedom" in 2006.

Relations warmed significantly last September when the Vatican approved the installation of a new state-approved Catholic bishop of Beijing.

Last month Benedict called for dialogue to end the "suffering" of the people in Tibet and a Chinese crackdown but used extremely diplomatic language.

Beijing wants the Vatican to sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China considers and renegade province.

In 2007, the Vatican did an about face over a meeting between the pope and the Dalai Lama.

A Vatican official told reporters in late October the Pope had scheduled a meeting with the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism on Dec. 13.

Beijing responded by saying such a meeting would "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" and urged the Pontiff to show he "is sincere in improving relations".

Later that month, the Vatican said the Pope had no plans to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to Rome, saying they had met the previous year.



From the Holy Father's meetings on Monday, April 28, which included one with Cuban bishops on ad-limina visit, the Vatican released this picture of the Holy Father with Cuban Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega.

00Tuesday, April 29, 2008 7:17 PM

I have seriously been inattentive to the Holy Father's coming pastoral trips in Italy, and the first of three scheduled this year is coming up soon.

On May 17-18, the Holy Father will visit Savona and Genoa, both in the Italian region of Liguria,
northwestern Italy. Genoa is the capital of Liguria.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

15:30 The Pope leaves Ciampino airport (Rome) for Genoa.

16:20 The papal flight lands at Genoa's Cristoforo Colombo international airport. This is considered a technical stop.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian bishops' conference, will join
the papal entourage, which will transfer to a helicopter for the flight to Savona.

16:45 Arrival in Savona.
The Pope will be welcomed by Mons. Vittorio Lupi, Bishop of Savona-Noli; Mons. Giuseppe Bertello, Apostolic Nuncio in Italy;
Antonio Zanardi Landi, Italian ambassador to the Holy See; Claudio Burlando, regional president of Liguria; Nicoletta Frediani,
prefect of Savona; Mayor Federico Berruti, and the president of Savona province, Marco Bertolotto.

16:50 The Pope arrives by Popemobile at the Sanctuary for a brief private prayer.

17:00 The Pope travels by Popemobile to the Piazza del Popolo, where he will pass through the various sectors
of the assembly before proceeding to the altar.

17:45 After a welcome from Mayor Berruti, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass.

18:45 After the Mass, the Pope will take the Popemobile to the Bishop's Palace, passing through Corso Italia,
in front of City Hall, then Via Sta. Maria Maggiore and Piazza Chabrol.
- The Pope will visit the three rooms in which Pope Pius VII was held prisoner for almost three years by Napoleon
Bonaparte in the early 1800s.
- The Popemobile will leave the Bishops's Palace, pass before the Cathedral and will head towards the port area,
to the Palacrociere, where the Holy Father will board a helicopter to proceed to Genoa.

Saturday-Sunday, May 17-18, 2008

20:45 The Holy Father arrives by helicopter at the Shrine of Nostra Signora della Guardia, Patroness of Genoa,
where he will be welcomed by local authorities and the rector of the Shrine. He will then proceed to the Shrine's
Hospitality House for dinner and overnight rest.

SUNDAY, May 18
09:00 The Holy Father will make a private visit to the Shrine of Nostra Signora della Guardia.
- He will then proceed to the city center where he will first visit the Giannina Gaslini Pediatric Hospital.

11:20 The Pope arrives at Piazza Matteotti for an encounter with young people.
- He will then be welcomed at the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, for a meeting with the canonical chapter
of the Cathedral and members of religious orders, after which he will lead the Angelus.
- He will proceed to the Seminario Maggiore for lunch with the bishops of Liguria.

16:30 The Holy Father will preside at a Eucharistic Concelebration in Piazza della Vittoria.

After the Mass, the Pope will proceed to Cristoforo Colombo International Airport to return to Rome.

The Archdiocese of Genoa's handout brochure for the visit is available only on PDF:

00Tuesday, April 29, 2008 8:10 PM


VATICAN CITY , April 29 (Translated from Apcom) - Eight delegates from the Islamic Cultural Relations Organization of Tehran will meet Pope Benedict XV tomorrow, according to L'Osservatore Romano.

The delegates have been meeting with the leadres of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialog (CIRD) since Monday, April 28. Their audience with the Pope tomorrow will conclude the meeting, which will be held in a salon of the Aula Paolo VI after tomorrow's general audience.

The theme of the meetings with the CIRD was "Faith and reason in Christianity and in Islam", which took place 'in the context of Vatican relations with various Muslim institutions," the newspaper notes.

"The Pope's desire for dialog with Muslim institutions and representatives is being actualized through the Pontifical CIRD, presided by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran." It cites Libya, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, as the countries where initiatives have been concretized so far.

It is within the same context that representatives of the signatories to A COMMON WORD, the open letter to the Pope and other Christian leaders sent by Muslim religious leaders in October last year, will meet the Pope in November during a Catholic-Muslim seminar that will take place on November 4-6.

00Tuesday, April 29, 2008 8:46 PM

Pope Benedict on marriage:
A key to world peace

MANASSAS, Va., April 27 (AP) — A new analysis titled “Pope Benedict XVI on Marriage: A Compendium” and published by the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy just before Benedict’s historic U.S. visit, finds that in the first three years of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken publicly about marriage on 111 occasions, connecting marriage to such overarching themes as human rights, world peace, and the conversation between faith and reason.

“Over and over again he has made it clear that the marriage and family debate is central - not peripheral - to understanding the human person, and defending our human dignity,” says Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

For example, when receiving the credentials of the new U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation for America’s recognition of the importance of a dialogue of faith and faiths in the public square and linked this to respect not only for religious freedom but for marriage as the union of husband and wife:

I cannot fail to note with gratitude the importance which the United States has attributed to interreligious and intercultural dialogue as a positive force for peacemaking. . . .

The American people’s historic appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse and in shedding light on the inherent moral dimension of social issues - a role at times contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life and public discourse - is reflected in the efforts of so many of your fellow-citizens and government leaders to ensure legal protection for God’s gift of life from conception to natural death, and the safeguarding of the institution of marriage, acknowledged as a stable union between a man and a woman, and that of the family.

Pope Benedict devoted about half of his message for the January 1 World Day of Peace to the significance of marriage in developing a culture of peace:

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

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

Marriage essential to world peace? This may strike American ears as an oddity. If so, Benedict has made clear it is not an unintentional one. On September 21, 2007, in an address to participants in a conference of the Executive Committee of Centrist Democratic International, Pope Benedict prefigured the same theme:

There are those who maintain that human reason is incapable of grasping the truth, and therefore of pursuing the good that corresponds to personal dignity.

There are some who believe that it is legitimate to destroy human life in its earliest or final stages. Equally troubling is the growing crisis of the family, which is the fundamental nucleus of society based on the indissoluble bond of marriage between a man and a woman.

Experience has shown that when the truth about man is subverted or the foundation of the family undermined, peace itself is threatened and the rule of law is compromised, leading inevitably to forms of injustice and violence.

“The short pontificate of Benedict XVI is already a standing rebuke to those voices of our time who seek to make us ashamed or embarrassed of caring about marriage and sexual issues, who try to get us to view the contemporary marriage debate as merely a distraction from more important issues,” notes Gallagher, “Pope Benedict clearly connects life and marriage, the human person in the human family, with the most fundamental international issues of peace and human rights facing our times.”

00Wednesday, April 30, 2008 1:51 AM

Three months since
a shameful episode

Translated from
the 4/25/08 issue of

What is a university and what is its mission?

What is truth and how do we recognize it?

What is reasonable? How can reason demonstrate truth?

These are the radical questions that professor Ratzinger - who knows universities well, having been a university professor for 25 years - wished to propose to his 'colleagues' at La Sapienza University when he was invited to attend the opening of the academic year last January.

But it was not to give his own answers ex cathedra, as presumed by the 67 professors who prejudicially opposed his presence, but to re-state the questions that are the foundation of all study and research activities. But things happened otherwise, as we know.

The protest by the 67 professors and their mobilization of a tiny minority of students more inclined to putting up barricades than to exercise their brains led the Pope to decide not to come to the University at all.

But the lecture he had prepared for the occasion was sent over, read at the University and applauded. Not only at La Sapienza but in many other universities throughout Italy, where its contents became the subject for academic debate over the next several weeks.

Thus, out of a complex heterogenesis, the lecture that was never delivered caused far more widespread ripples and multipled its effects accordingly.

A few days after that fateful January 17, 2008, a group of university professors promoted an appeal which gathered 500 signatures overnight asking for further reflection on widening the scope of reason and the ultimate goals of university activity and learning.

In the next two months, thousands participated in some 20 encounters to discuss the issue, in which Catholic and lay professors took part.

At the Catholic University in Milan, an overflow crowd at the Aula Magna listened to a discussion of the issues raised by the La Sapienza episode by the Jewish mathematician Giorgio israel (who teaches at la Sapienza), Russian scholar Serena Vitale and philsopher Salvatore Vaca.

Vaca pointed out that Papa Ratzinger had "indicated that which should nourish university activity: the desire for knowledge, the thirst for truth."

There are different ways of arriving at the truth, but one should have the courage to persevere in the quest, he said, but on two conditions: consciousness of one's own identity, and an openness to the other - a respect for reciprocal differences. As Confucius said, one must be faithful to oneself and attentive to others.

If the university cannot be a place of public confrontation between different positions, then what purpose does it serve? This was the topic at another well-attended gathering at Milan's Polytechnic University, moderated by Giancarlo Cesena, professor of general and applied hygiene at the Bicocca of Milan, and Carlo Bottani, professor of Chemistry.

Cesana pointed out that "The Pope does not define what truth is but indicates the attitude one must have to seek it - an attitude illumined by the words with which he concludes the lecgture for La Sapeinza: to always invite reason to be in the service of the quest for truth."

But "one cannot perceive a particular truth if one does not start from the principle of an ultimate truth," Cesena observed.

Bottani condemned the "sectarian thinking of those who think there is only one method to reach the truth. In this way, they can only resolve small problems without ever understanding anything larger."

Stefano Zecchi, professor of esthetics and protagonist at a debate held in the State University of Milan, paid tribtue to Benedict XVI "for relaunching a question that is as fundamental as it is repressed: what is the real purpose of university activity?"

If study and research activities are not continually nourished by the desire for truth, then our work is reduced to bureaucratic practice, Zecchi said, as it now in so many universities - with harmful consequences to the youth, both in their fundamental cultural formation as well as for their professional training.

"The decline in the level of university learning," Zecchi said, "has its origins in the loss of that sense of purpose referred to by the Pope."

In Catania, Sicly, philosophr Pietro Barcellona expressed a similarly severe judgment: "Universities no longer seem to constitute an authentic space for the confrontation of ideas, which is the principal event in the quest for the truth."

The Roman campus of the Catholic University hosted a discussion moderated by rector Lorenzo Ornaghi, between journalist Giulianio Ferrara and Mons. Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontiifical Council for Culture.

Ferrara described Ratzinger's lecture for La Sapienza as "a tribute to the secular university, to its founding concept of being linked exclusively to the authority of truth."

And with respect to the reasonablenes of faith: "There is a source which emanates a special light and which acts on history: Christ. I can say that reasonably even if I am outside the Church, because he lives in history not only for those who have Christian hope, but even fro those who do not have it."

Ravasi cited St. Augustine: «Intellectum valde amat - love the intellect strongly."

"The dissolution of the fog of mythological reason gave way to that God who is creative reason and love: the two paths are both oriented towards the light before us and which we must continue to pursue," he said.

After three months of debate, one can legitimately speak of 'the Sapienza effect', even if in a direction quite opposite that desired by those who opposed the intervention of Professor Ratzinger.

Astrophysicist Marco Bersanelli, one of the promoters of the appeal by the pro-reason professors and the 'campaign for reason and freedom' that resulted from it, observed, "The debates brought out many different and even divergent opinions, but it never came to polemics or clashes. The confrontations were civil and mutually enriching, which was edifying for the hundreds of professors adn thousands of students who took part."

He goes on, "The preemptive opposition carried out by our colleagues at La Sapienza and the handful of students they influenced made news for weeks in the newspapers and on TV. But what did they accomplish? On the other hand, the encoutners we have promoted in many other universities were hardly reported in the media, but we believe they have contributed to put the focus on the necessity to widen the scope of reason."

"The Pope is not advancing clerical claims, as some falsely maintain: what he's doing is to put contemporary man on guard against the danger of yielding on the question of truth - precisely in the face of progress that has been achieved in science and technology. With the risk that reason may yield to the pressure of interest groups and utilitarianism, which ends up becoming the ultimate criterion."

In short, fortunately, there is the Pope's wisdom ('sapienza'). A few days after the cancelled appointment at La Sapienza, he told 200,000 persons gathered in St. Peter's Square in his support: "I encourage you, dear universitarians, to always be respectful of the opinions of others, and to search for the true and the good, in a free and responsible spirit."

And they accuse him of obscurantism!

4 university rectors and 500 professors
sign up 'for reason and freedom
in the university'

It is entitled "Appeal for reason and freedom in the university" initially signed by professors and researchers in the sciences, and quickly joined by colleagues from other discplines, gaining 500 signatures overnight.

The four university rectors who signed originally were Lorenzo Ornaghi (Catholic Unviersity, Milan and Rome), Giu­seppe Dalla Torre (LUMSA, the University of Mary of the Assumption, Rome), Roberto Sani (University of Macerata, southern Italy), and Paolo Scarafoni (European University of Rome).

The document, found on, condemns what happened at La Sapienza and underscores how much the statements made by Benedict XVI "are profoundly pertinent to the university experience"

"We see in his statements the prospect of a more conscious and vigorous defense of that amplitude and vastness of reason, of that freedom of research and confrontation, which we consider essential to the exercise of our responsibility as professors, for the present and future of the university, and therefore, of our coexistence and civilization."

00Wednesday, April 30, 2008 4:50 AM

Benedict’s own five issues
BY The Editors

May 4-10, 2008 Issue
Posted 4/29/08

Before Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States, we identified five key issues in his Pontificate that we should watch for. The list was a good guess — but the man we once called the “Pope of Surprises” didn’t stick to our script.

With the benefit of a little hindsight, here is a more accurate list of the key issues that were on Benedict’s mind when he came to America.


When Pope Benedict himself declared (at Nationals Park) the purpose for his coming, he used this formal language: “In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the apostles.”

He hammered home the same point in his address to Catholic universities, reminding them that the Church is mater et magistra (mother and teacher) and reiterating Church teaching on their relationship to the magisterium.

He told the bishops on April 16: “It cannot be assumed that all Catholic citizens think in harmony with the Church’s teaching on today’s key ethical questions. Once again, it falls to you to ensure that the moral formation provided at every level of ecclesial life reflects the authentic teaching of the Gospel of life.”

In most analysis after the visit, the Pope’s comments on abuse have been called the true story of his trip. But Benedict put even the abuse question in the context of a larger doctrinal crisis.

When he talked about the abuse crisis, he called its “among the countersigns to the Gospel of life.”

Abuse crisis

When, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he spoke of the scandal — decrying the “filth” in the Church — his words were well-chosen and direct.

So were Pope Benedict’s in America. On the airplane coming to the United States, he spoke of his “deep shame,” and said, “we will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry.”

To the bishops he spoke of the Church’s “enormous pain,” and said the scandal was “sometimes very badly handled.”

To the congregation at Nationals Park, he said “No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse.”

When he spoke to the bishops, he put the abuse in the larger catechetical crisis.

“The policies and programs you have adopted need to be placed in a wider context,” he said. “Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person.”

But perhaps his most stinging remark was the one he directed at the culture at large in the 21st century, and at all who participate in it: “What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?”

World unity

Pope Benedict didn’t speak about peace to the extent we expected. But he did speak about a concept that’s very much connected with it: world unity.

Americans have always had a certain suspicion of the United Nations — and of world unity. With good reason. It’s right to fear for the loss of sovereignty and to be watchful that worldwide anti-life policies aren’t foisted on entire nations.

The Holy Father’s remarks to the United Nations raised those issues pointedly. But they also almost eagerly anticipated a globalized world that would function on new models of international relationships and national sovereignty.

He repeatedly drew out the analogy of the United Nations as at the center of a “family of nations.”

He was spelling out a vision he told the Nationals Park congregation about the world Catholics must influence. “It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent.”


It’s only natural that he would focus so much on inter-religious and ecumenical dialog, given this larger theme of global unity. It’s as if Pope Benedict were calling people to understand each other despite their differences, and providing an example in himself by demonstrating how a Pope interacts with leaders in other major religions.

And how does a Pope interact with other major religions? In a way that shows deep respect, by allotting time to them in a busy schedule — but also by seeing the truth in them and spelling out exactly what the Church’s beliefs are.


The over-arching theme of the Holy Father’s visit, though, was renewal. He called the Church in America to return to the faith, reconcile with the past and build the Kingdom of Christ in the future. And to do so, Pope Benedict used language we haven’t heard for years.

He declared “a great jubilee of the Church in America.” He told the bishops to prepare for “the new springtime of the faith.” He spoke of “the New Evangelization” and prayed for “a new Pentecost” for America’s Church. And he summed it all up with his “Thy Kingdom Come” message at Yankee Stadium, about the apostolate.

Was the visit a success? That will depend on how well it fulfills the hopes — and directives — of the Holy Father.

In particular, its success will depend on whether or not:
- Bishops (and colleges) follow his instructions to guard the faith; families make headway against a culture of sexual excess;
- Catholics engage in the battle for hearts and minds in an interconnected world; and
- We all take up his call to the new evangelization.


I think that fundamental to three of the five issues identified by the Register above - to doctrine, dialogue, and renewal - is the issue of affirming and asserting Catholic identity. Hugh McNichol devoted a commentary to this earlier.

The global imperative of
of regaining our Catholic identity

By Hugh McNichol
April 27, 2008

In an interview last year, Cardinal Avery Dulles alluded to what he considered the greatest difficulty the Catholic Church will face in the 21st century…that is the growing trend towards the lack of Catholic identity within our own Catholic Church. Pope Benedict also spoke of it during his recent apostolic visit to the United States.

The reason for this malaise and loss of Catholic identity: Four decades of neutering Catholic traditions. What I mean by this is that in the 1960s and the 1970s, there was a large movement to replace traditional Catholic modes of worship and celebration with somewhat "ecumenical" expressions of universal faith and global brotherhood, as opposed to Catholic Sacraments of richly imbued moments of theological signs and symbols of the Catholic Church's anciently rooted ceremonies.

It seemed that no matter where one went to Mass, there was an attempt to subtly "neutralize" Catholic ritual and traditions in not only the Sacraments, but also in Catholic art and architecture as well. The result was often a bland cornucopia of ritual symbolism that often one had a hard time comprehending the sacredness of the actions, let alone the Catholicity of the celebration.

Perhaps, the worst fear of the Catholic Church had been realized, even after great strides to avoid it. Modernism in its most revolutionary sense invaded and permeated our Catholic Sacraments and Liturgies.

The modernization of the Roman Church as foreseen by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council was compromised with institutional and sacramental barbarism that equaled the "sacking" of Rome centuries before.

Catholic institutional strength and universal conformity since the Council of Trent were compromised, and all of the forces of the liberal left took equal opportunities to dismantle the visible manifestations of Catholic traditional signs and symbols, actions and responses that made our faith uniquely independent from the generic celebrations of other faiths and denominations.

The fascination with liturgical space and its "renewal" according to the norms of the Second Vatican Council was instant. Within a few years after the Council; parishes replaced their Altars, removed their Communion rails, silenced great organs and replaced them with strumming guitars and tambourines.

Gregorian chant was replaced with refrains from Peter, Paul and Mary's latest hits, the priest celebrant became the "presider," and the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass became commonly referred to as a "communal meal!"

No wonder the threat of losing our Catholic identity is so large a problem in the 21st century, we spent over 40 years dismantling our historically rooted notion of Church, only to replace it with Modernist examples of generic art and architecture that reflected the generic chaos of the contemporized period and neglected to appreciate the transcendent nature of all of our Catholic signs and symbols.

The growing awakening to and awareness of our Catholic history and ritual traditions is, in this author's mind, a great rebirth of the Catholic Church's awareness of its need to uniquely herald the Gospel message through our sacred and transcendent signs and symbols, our eschatological mission to sanctify a temporal world that deeply needs and desires the inclusion of sacred rituals into global daily life.

The modern Catholic in my estimation needs to boldly proclaim in sacramental words and ritual actions the presence of Jesus Christ in the world…and be visibly identified through our visibly Catholic sacraments and actions.

One of the greatest dilemmas for the modern world is the conflict that is rising between Catholics and Moslems. This conflict is nothing new, but rather the resurgence of Islamic desire for theological dominance in the Western world.

The Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from 711-1492, the rise of the Spanish Inquisition and the spread of European colonialism all stem from the perpetual struggle that exists between the theological nuances of East versus West.

Islamic radicalism that threatens to engulf Europe, the Middle East and even the Western hemisphere, now more than ever requires a strong Catholic restoration of its sacramental identity and social purposes.

Our Catholic Church is awakening from a slumber imposed by Modernism in the 20th century, and the need for Catholic resurgence of identity is perhaps the best cure for our global Catholic Church in the 21st century.

The need to restore Catholic identity goes far beyond just the institutional signs and symbols of our ancient faith. There is need for a rekindling of internal evangelization within Catholicism that hopefully will result in not only a global evangelization of the non-Catholic world, but will provide an apologetical platform from which Catholic sacramental, social and ethical moral teachings will prevail in an increasing world of secularism and cultural homogeneity.

Benedict XVI understands the need for internal evangelization within the Catholic Church. His outreaching messages to youth in the Church make it plainly clear that the future of theological conversion within Catholicism is rooted deeply in a historically rooted appreciation of the radical call that the Gospel message and Catholic sacraments signify for the global development of the Western world.

I agree wholeheartedly with the diagnosis that the constant threat of losing our Catholic identity is perhaps the greatest difficulty that the Church of the 21st century will encounter.

Thankfully, the direction we are taking as an institution now permits Catholics worldwide to experience Catholicism for not only its historically significant contributions to the life and education of the world in the past, but the continuing contemporary message of Catholic moral, social and ethical teachings that will guide an ever needing society towards strong Catholic principles of moral certitude in a world that increasingly needs a strong Catholic expression of identity in an increasingly nihilistic world and society.

00Wednesday, April 30, 2008 3:21 PM
Cardinal Dulles
Cardinal Dulles is somewhat responsible for the attenuation of Catholic identity, with his constant fuzzy, ecumenical outreach. Just check some of the statements he has made over the years, particularly in the context of "Evangelicals and Catholics Together." He has found resemblances where none exist, sympathies that are not there, and, at times, his doctrinal exegesis leaves a lot to be desired.
00Wednesday, April 30, 2008 3:29 PM

The General Audience was held today at St. Peter's Square, with some 30,000 faithful present.

Before the 10:30 audience, the Holy Father went to Via della Fondamenta to bless the statue of San Giovanni Loenardi (1541-1609), founder of the Chierici della Madre di Dio.

As he announced earlier, the Holy Father used the occasion to report on his recent trip to the United States and visit to United Nations headquarters. Here is a translation of his report.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Although several days have elapsed since my return, I wish to dedicate today's catechesis, as is usual, to the apostolic voyage that I made to the United Nations Organization and the United States of America on April 15-21.

First of all, I renew my most heartfelt acknowledgment to the United States Catholic bishops conference and to President Bush for having invited me and for the warm welcome that I was accorded.

My 'thank you' extends to all those who, in Washington and New York, came to greet me and to show their love for the Pope, or who accompanied and sustained me with prayer and offering their sacrifices.

As you know, the occasion for the visit was the bicentennnial of the elevation to a metropolitan see of the country'[s first diocese, Baltimore, and the foundation of the dioceses of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville.

On such an ecclesial occasion, I had the joy of coming, for the first time as the Successor of Peter, to visit the beloved people of the United States of America, to confirm Catholics in their faith, to renew and increase fraternity with all Christians, and to announce to all the message of 'Christ our Hope', which was the theme of the visit.

In the meeting with the President at his residence, I paid tribute to that great nation which, from its beginnings, was founded on the basis of a happy conjunction between religious, eethical and political principles, and which still constitutes a valid example of healthy secularity, where the religious dimension, in the diversity of its expressions, is not only tolerated but valued as the 'spirit' of the nation and the fundamental guarantee of human rights and responsibilities.

In such context, the Church can develop with freedom and commitment its mission of evangelization and human promotion, and even of being a 'critical conscience', contributing to the construction of a society worthy of the human being, and at the same time, stimulating a nation like the United States - which everyone looks to as one of the principal actors on the international scene - towards global solidarity, which is ever more necessry and urgent, and towards the patient exercise of dialog in international relations.

Naturally, the mission and the role of the church community were at the center of my encounter with the bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. In the liturgical context of Vespers, we praised the Lord for the path taken by the People of God in the United States, for the zeal of its pastors, and the fervor and generosity of its faithful, manifested in their high and open regard for the faith, and in innumerable charitable and humanitarian initiatives within the country and abroad.

At the same time, I sustained my brother bishops in their not-easy task of sowing the Gospel in a society marked by not a few contradictions which threatens the coherence of Catholics and even the clergy themselves.

I encouraged them to make their voices heard on actual moral and social questions and to form faithful lay persons in such a way that they may be good 'yeast' for the civilian community, starting with the fundamental cell of society which is the family.

In this sense, I exhorted them to re-propose the sacrmament of Matrimony as a gift and an indissoluble commitment between a man and a woman, the natural environment for nurturing and educating children.

The Church and the family, together with schools - especially those of Christian inspiration - should cooperate to offer young people a solid moral education. But in this task, those who work in communications and entertainment also have a great responsibility.

Thinking of the sorrowful events of sexual abuses committes by ordained ministers against minors, I wished to express to the bishops my closeness, encouraging them in the committment to bind up the wounds and to strengthen their relationship with their priests.

Responding to some questions posed by the bishops, I was able to underline some important aspects: the intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and 'natural law'; a sane concept of freedom with includes love and is realized in love; the ecclesial dimension of the Christian experience; the exigency of announcing in a new way, especially to young people, 'salvation' as the fullness of living, and to educate them in prayer, from which generous responses to the call of the Lord may germinate.

In the great festive Eucharistic celebration at the Nationals Park Stadium of Washington, we invoked the Holy Spirit on the entire Church in the United States of America, so that, firmly rooted in the faith transmitted by their fathers, profoundly united and renewed, it may face present and future challenges with courage and hope - that hope which "does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rm 5,5).

One such challenge is certainly that of education, and therefore, at the Catholic University of America, I met the rectors of Catholic universities and colleges, the diocesan officials responsible for teaching, professors and student rerpresenatives.

The educational task is an integral part of the mission of the Church, and the ecclesial community in the United States has always been very engaged in it, rendering at the same time a great social and cultural service to the entire nation. It is important that this goes on.

It is equally important to look after the quality of Catholic institutions, so that they may truly be able to form students according to 'the full stature' of Christ (cfr Eph 4,13), uniting faith and reason, freedom and truth. It was with joy that I confirmed the educators in this, their precious task of intellectual charity.

In a multicultural country like the United States of America, my meetings with the representatives of other religions were especially important: in Washington at the John Paul II Cultural Center, with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains; in New York, the visit to a synagogue.

These were very heartfelt moments, especially the latter, which confirmed a common commitment to dialog and to the promotion of peace and spiritual and moral values.

In that nation which may be called the homeland of religious freedom, I wished to underscore that this must always be defended with united efforts to avoid any form of discrimination or prejudice. And I pointed to the great responsibility of religious leaders, both in teaching respect and non-violence as well as in keeping alive the most profound questions of the human mind.

The ecumenical celebration in the parish church of St. Joseph was likewise characterized by great cordiality. Together we prayed to the Lord so that he may increase in Christians the capacity to give reason - especially with increasing unity - for the great hope that is in us (cfr 1 Pt 3,15) through our common faith in Jesus Christ.

Another principal objective for my trip was the visit to the central headquarters of the Untied Nations Organization - the fourth by a Pope, after that of Paul VI in 1965 and John Paul II's two visits in 1979 and in 1995.

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Providence gave me the opportunity to confirm, in the widest and most authoritative [forum for] universal consensus, the value of that declaration, recalling its universal basis, namely, the dignity of the human being, created by God in his image and likeness, in order to cooperate on earth with his great design of life and peace.

Like peace, even respect for human rights is rooted in 'justice' - that is to say, an ethical order that is valid for all times and for all peoples, that can be summarized in the famous maxim, "Do not do to others what you do not wish done to you", or expressed positively in the words of Jesus: "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you." (Mt 7,12).

On this basis, which constitutes the typical contribution of the Holy See to the United Nations, I renewed - and even today, I renew - the concrete commitment of the Catholic Church to contribute to the strengthening of international relations that are imprinted with the principles of responsibility and solidarity.

Also firmly impressed in my spirit are other moments of my stay in New York.

At St. Patrick's Cathedral, in the heart of Manhattan - truly a 'house of prayer for all people' - I celebrated the Holy Mass for priests and consecrated persons who came from every part of the counhtry.

I will never forget the warmth with which they wished me well on the third anniversary of my election to Peter's Chair. It was a moving moment, during which I directly experienced - in sensory form - the support of the entire Church for my ministry.

I can say the same for my meeting with the young people and seminarians which took place in the diocesan seminary, preceded by a very significant visit among handicapped children and youths, along with their families.

To the young people, by nature thirsting for truth and love, I proposed the example of some men and women who testified in exemplary manner on Amerian soil to the Gospel of truth which gives us freedom to love and to serve in a life spent for others.

Facing the shadows which threaten their lives today, the youth may find in the saints the light which disperses these shadows: the light of Christ, hope for every man!

This hope, stronger than sin or death, also inspired the emotion-charged moments which I spent in silence at the vortex of Ground Zero, where I lit a candle and prayed for all the victims of that terrible tragedy.

Finally, my visit culminated in the Eucharistic celebration at New York's Yankee Stadium. I still carry in my heart that feast of faith and fraternity with which we celebrated the bicentennials of North America's oldest dioceses.

The small flock from those beginnnings has developed enormously, enriching itself in faith and with the traditions of successive immigrant waves. To that Church, which is facing the challenges of today, I had the joy of announcing once more "Christ our Hope" -yesterday, today and always.

Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to join me in giving thanks for the comforting success of this apostolic voyage and in asking God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that it may produce abundant fruits for the Church in America and in all parts of the world.

In English, he said:

My recent Apostolic Journey to the United Nations and the United States of America was inspired by the theme, "Christ our Hope". I am most grateful to all who helped in any way to make the Journey a success.

My visit was meant to encourage the Catholic community in America, especially our young people, to bear consistent witness to the faith, and to carry on the Church’s mission, especially with regard to education and concern for the poor.

American society traditionally values religious freedom and the need for faith to play its part in building a sound civic life. In my meetings with President Bush, and with Christian leaders and representatives of other religions, I reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to cooperation in the service of understanding, peace and spiritual values.

My address to the United Nations stressed the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grounds respect for human dignity in a universally valid ethical order.

In a particular way, my visit to Ground Zero, charged with sober silence and prayer, was a moving testimony to the hope which is stronger than evil and death.

I ask all of you to join me in praying that this Visit will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the growth of the faith in America and for the unity and peace of the whole human family.

I offer a warm welcome to the participants in the third Christian-Buddhist Symposium, meeting in Castel Gandolfo during these days. Upon all of you and upon the English-speaking pilgrims from England, Ireland, Scandinavia, Malta, South Africa, Korea, Thailand, Canada and the United States, I cordially invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Christ.

Later, in his greeting to Italian-speaking pilgrims, he said:

Today, the liturgy commemorates the Holy Pontiff Pius V who, moved by profound love for the Church, promoted with tireless ardor the propagation of the faith and the reform of liturgical worship.

May his example and intercession ecnourage you, dear young people, to realize in an authentic and consistent way your Christian vocations; support you, dear people with afflictions, to persevere in hope and offer your sufferings in union with those of Christ for the salvation of mankind; and make you grow, dear newlyweds, in a reciprocal commitment of faithfulness and love.


Pope meets Iranian delegation

Vatican City, April 30 (dpa) - Pope Benedict XVI met Wednesday a high-level Iranian Shiite Muslim delegation visiting the Vatican for bi-lateral talks on the theme "Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam".

Benedict was "particularly satisfied with the choice of the theme and the venue of the meeting," both sides said in a joint statement issued afterwards.

The Vatican and the eight-man delegation from Iran's Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, said in the statement that in talks that preceded the meeting with the Pontiff, they had "agreed" on several issues.

Some of these are apparently related to recent controversies between Catholics and Muslims, including remarks made in 2006 by Benedict in Regensburg, Germany, when he appeared to associate Islam to irrational thought and violence.

"Faith and reason do not contradict each other, but faith might in some cases be above reason, but never against it," the statement said.

Both sides also agreed that "faith and reason are intrinsically non-violent".

"Neither reason nor faith should be used by violence; unfortunately, both of them have been sometimes misused to perpetrate violence," the statement said.

Another point appeared to touch on the Vatican's demands that Muslim-majority nations allow followers of other faiths religious freedom, as well as a row over satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in the West.

"Christians and Muslims should go beyond tolerance, accepting differences, while remaining aware of commonalities and thanking God for them. They are called for mutual respect, thereby condemning derision of religious beliefs," the statement said.

The two sides also agreed that religions should not be judged on selective interpretations of texts taken from their holy books, but that they should be interpreted according to a "holistic view".

During the talks which began in Rome on Monday the Vatican delegation was led by the Holy See's top inter-faith dialogue official, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, while the Iranian delegation was headed by Mahdi Mostafavi, president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization.

"Both Iran and the Vatican have religious governments, so there are many issues the two states have in common, such as morality," M. Anvarian, spokesman for Iran's Embassy to Vatican, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, earlier Wednesday.

The visit marks the sixth round of such talks between the Islamic Republic and the Holy See on religious issues since 1996, the embassy spokesman said.

The next round of bilateral talks between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic would be held in 2010 in Tehran.



VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2008 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter, written in Latin and dated 4 April, in which Benedict XVI appoints Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as his special envoy to celebrations on May 8 to mark the eighth centenary of the translation of the relics of the Apostle Andrew to Amalfi, Italy, ON mAY 8.

The delegation accompanying the cardinal will be made up of Msgr. Carlo Papa, vicar general of the archdiocese of Amalfi - Cava de' Tirreni, and Msgr. Riccardo Arpino, president of the cathedral chapter and chancellor of the Curia.

00Wednesday, April 30, 2008 3:42 PM

Agence France Presse (AFP) Press has just filed a report claiming that the Vatican has announced the Holy Father's visit to Australia from July 12-21.

It is, of course, in error, as the dates for the visit have always been July 17-21, and that the World Youth Day celebration itself does not start till July 15 (July 15-20), and we know the Holy Fahter will not be there for its opening. I expect AFP will soon correct itself.

The error comes from the fact that the AFP picked up the 'announcement' from the calendar of May-August liturgical celebrations with the Holy Father released today, in which the only entries for July are, as follows

12 Sabato

21 Lunedì

Viaggio Apostolico in Australia per la Giornata Mondiale della Gioventù a Sidney

Pope's trip to Australia
set for July 12-21

VATICAN CITY, April 30 (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI will be in Australia from July 12 to 21 on the occasion of the Roman Catholic Church's World Youth Day in Sydney, the Vatican announced on Wednesday.

The 81-year-old pontiff will make his first visit to Australia as pontiff to take part in the July 15-20 event designed to bring young people from around the world together to learn about the Catholic faith.

The Vatican gave no further details of the trip.

Organisers in Sydney say they expect 125,000 international visitors to come to Australia's largest city.

The Pope will cruise Sydney's famous harbour as part of his official welcome, they said last month.

The planned visit has sparked complaints over the costs involved after it was revealed that taxpayers would contribute 86 million Australian dollars (51.7 million euros, 80.4 million US dollars) towards the event.

New South Wales Premier Morris Lemma defended spending taxpayer money, saying it would showcase Sydney to a global audience while generating 150 million dollars in revenue.

Catholics make up about a quarter of Australia's population of 21 million.

The first World Youth Day was held in Rome in 1986 and is now held in an international host city every two to three years. The last was in Cologne, Germany in 2005, a few months after Benedict's election as Pope.




- Saturday, May 3
18:00 Recitation of the Rosary
Basilica of Sta. Maria Maggiore

- Sunday, May 11, Pentecost Sunday
10:00 Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.

- Saturday, May 17, and Sunday, May 18
Pastoral visit to Savona and Genoa, Italy.

- Thursday, May 22: Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
19:00 Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, followed by
Procession to the Basilica of Sta. Maria Maggiore
for Eucharistic blessing.


- Saturday, June 14,and Sunday, June 15
Pastoral visit to Santa Maria di Leuca and Brindisi, Italy.

- Saturday, June 28
18:00 First Vespers at Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls,
for the solemn opening of the Pauline Year

- Sunday 29: Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.
09:30 Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.
Blessing and imposition of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops


- Saturday, July 12* to Monday, July 21
Apostolic trip to Australia for World Youth Day in Sydney.

*The Holy Father will participate in the WYD events from July 17-20 only. Before that, he will spend three days in an undisclosed vacation spot near Sydney to allow him to adjust from a 20-hour intercontinental flight and the radical change in time zone between Italy and Australia. He will be officially welcomed in Sydney in a 'boat-a-cade' on July 17.


- Friday, Aug. 15: Solemnity of the Assumption
08:00 Mass in the parish church of St. Thomas of Villanova in Castelgandolfo.

00Wednesday, April 30, 2008 4:24 PM

Posted today in the preceding page:

The General Audience today - Full translation of the Holy Father's report on his recent US/UN trip,
and photos from Yahoo. But above photo is from Osservatore Romano.

The Pope meets Iranian Muslims - Vatican issues communique about it afterwards.

AFP files erroneous report about Pope's visit to Australia, giving the wrong dates 'July 12-21' -
the correct dates are July 17-21.

The Liturgies to be presided by the Holy Father in May-August 2008


For some reason, this two-part interview by ZENIT with American theologian Michael Novak got tucked away in the Documents section of the site's index rather than in the news part. Hence, the delay in posting it - I did not know it was there until I checked through the Documents section for any translations of Papal texts I had not done and could pick up to post on the Forum.

Michael Novak on Pope's U.S. Visit
By Carrie Gress

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 22-23, 2008 ( The United States gave a warm welcome to Benedict XVI when he arrived to the nation, and it must have been a little bit of a surprise for the Pope, says Michael Novak.

Novak is a theologian, former ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and author of nearly 30 books, including the forthcoming "No One Sees God."

In part 1 of this interview with ZENIT, Novak discusses the Pope's reception in the United States, his comments on the sexual abuse crisis, and his address to Catholic educators.

What were your general impressions about the Pope's reception to the United States?
It must have surprised the Pope and his secretary and others what a tremendously warm welcome Washington and New York gave him.

You can know the Church in America abstractly, but when you compare it with other industrial nations, the people here are so religious that the churches are still full and the loyalty to the Holy See is very, very strong.

80% of Catholics in a Pew poll taken before Pope Benedict arrived said he was doing a good or a very good job. They approved him, they like him. I don't think it is like that in most of Europe.

I was at the arrival ceremony at the White House. The warmth of feeling for the Pope was tangible, and so was the good chemistry between the Pope and President George Bush. The warm feeling was very powerful. Both President and Pope looked very happy.

I thought the Pope probably had never met an evangelical Protestant from Texas before, and I think he was getting a big kick out of it--the brashness, straightforwardness, and directness. [He, of course, had already met the same brash Texan last June 9 at the Vatican!]

And then there is the manifest respect and love that President Bush has for the Pope. They are palpable.

President Bush has been grateful for the support of prayers from Catholics. He has done his best to soak up Catholic wisdom and Catholic ways of thinking about things. I don't think we are ever going to get a more Catholic president. Even the Washington Post said the other day that he is the "first Catholic president."

It seemed to me, though I don't see him everyday, that the Pope was overjoyed by the reception of the crowds. I wonder if Europeans expected this outpouring of love and affection from the people of America.

People around the world portray Americans to be more secular, more detached, more modern, and perhaps more decadent. To the European mind, 'Modern' means 'secular.' But in the American case, that's false. Here, modern means religious, not secular.

What did you think about the Pope's repeated mentioning of the abuse crisis that has plagued the Church in America?
The headline of the Washington Times on Monday, April 21, was "Pope visit soothes abuse crisis." Journalists are full of praise for the deft and serious way in which Benedict XVI expressed his shame, repentance and love regarding this issue.

At first, like many others, I was surprised that Benedict brought up the abuse crisis on the airplane. Then he brought it up in practically every venue thereafter.

The title of the Pope's pilgrimage was titled "Christ Our Hope," and he was calling us to renewal. For renewal to take effect, the right thing to do is begin with the confession of sin. I think it is true that we were all ashamed. I can't think of anything in my lifetime that shamed me more than the behavior of priests, almost always with young men.

The Holy Father, with the heart of a teacher, addressed Catholic college and university presidents. What did you think of his address to them?
A Catholic college president judged the Pope's talk to be a very good mixture of the encouragement, "You are doing a lot of good," and of quiet, indirect accusation: "Look, you have to take the faith seriously."

The Pope seemed to be saying: If you are a Catholic school, then your first task is to provide for all who live and study there an experience of the living God. You have to live up to what "Catholic" means.

The Pope has a quite wonderful teaching method. He speaks the harsh truth, and then turns you in a hopeful direction. Which really is the whole meaning of Christianity, to take evil and transform it into good.

The Pope used this method with the university presidents, saying roughly: "There are some bad things to call attention to, and we have to do better than that. Meanwhile, I want to encourage you and strengthen you because what you are doing -- in your more than 200 Catholic universities -- is unparalleled in the world, and you do so many things well. Be encouraged, be hopeful."

In Part 2 of the interview, Novak discusses the Pope's address at the United Nations and his relationship with youth.

What was your reaction to the Pope's address to the United Nations?
Part of his statement was standard, and repetitive of past statements, but part was very original and penetrating. The Pope emphasized that what is crucial for the United Nations and the world of the future is the protection of religious liberty.

Religious liberty is the most basic of all liberties because it protects the precious conscience of every person. He spoke of the need to protect religious minorities.

Implicitly, he defended the concept of equality before the law, and his comments relied on the establishment of the rule of law -- and probably also, of pluralistic democracies, of the sort that respect human rights.

But he did not stop at religious liberty. The United Nations, he said, must work to create room for religious people to speak of their faith and to argue from their faith in the public square. The public square does not belong only to secular people.

These passages brought to mind his exchange of letters with then president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera, in a volume called in English Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam.

There, the Pope pointed out that in America the separation of church and state is not negative, but positive. For example, the state does not try to control the public square, but it allows room for religious people to fully express themselves in the religious sphere.

While church and state are separate in their functions, in actual life there can be no separation of religion and the political dimension of life. Each human person is at the same time a religious and a political being.

In those essays, he also distinguished the American idea of the separation of church and state from the European idea, which is very negative. What the Europeans do is give the state all the power and try to drive religion out, limiting it to the domain of private conscience.

It has been rare for Europeans to see the difference between Europe and America so clearly, and at least in this one respect, to command the American side of the argument. That was the spirit that seemed to animate many of his remarks in America.

At one point at the White House, the President quoted St. Augustine and Pope Benedict. And for his part, the Holy Father quoted George Washington. It was rather nice. I don't remember a Pope analyzing an American text in such a scholarly but easily understandable way. One hasn't often heard the Vatican make such distinctions.

John Paul II was very pro-American. He loved America. He didn't mind chastising us when he thought we were wrong, but he really appreciated "the phenomenology of America." He really appreciated the sense of the whole, as well as some of the details.

But Benedict has asked more carefully the question -- with the famous German capacity for analytic work -- "What is it that makes this country different? What is it that makes liberty work better here? What is it that creates a public square in which both religion and politics live fully together, and in which the faith of billions still thrives?"

In the White House, among journalists, and in many other places, Benedict XVI must have seen how many Catholics are present in important positions in the public square.

He must also have seen how vital certain Catholic ideas such as "the culture of life," "subsidiarity," "the common good," an awareness of "human weakness and sin," and opposition to abortion have become.

Twice at the Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York the crowd erupted in powerful applause during his sermon when the Pope spoke directly against abortion; pro-life sentiment is unusually powerful in America.

At the United Nations, one point Pope Benedict made is that it is not enough to mean by religious liberty the right of individuals to worship as they please, or to follow their conscience. Religious liberty also means a public space for religious activities.

In other places, the Pope praised all the public good that Catholics in America serve. There are some 220 Catholic universities, and those are public. He pointed to the huge Catholic hospital system, and the many Catholic missionaries working with the poor in Latin America and Africa. These are all public services. A good state has to allow scope for religious people to supply all these goods.

The youth were always so loyal to John Paul II -- even known as the "JPII Generation." How do you think they have received Benedict XVI? [The journalist has not heard of the GENERATION BENEDIKT 'born' in Cologne!]
Peggy Noonan wrote the other day in the Wall Street Journal that Pope John Paul was the perfect Pope for the television age, because he was so dramatic and had such a winning face, gestures, wit, he was so quick on his feet. He radiated affection the way a good actor should.

But, she said, Benedict is the best Pope for the Internet age. The blogs go on and on about what he meant by this, and what he meant by that. The discussion goes on for months. [Of course, any Benaddict's take on this is that Benedict's intellectual challenge for people does not mean he does not also have a personal attraction that is as warm and magnetic as John Paul's was. The two attractions are not mutually exclusive! Benedict himself has said that the legacy JPII left in his writing will take a long time to digest and assimilate!]

The argument about what Benedict XVI said and did at Regensburg, for example, is still not finished; it is still being plumbed and argued over.

I think the Holy Father has claimed the "JPII generation" as his own. It is now the JPII/Benedict generation. There is not a break between them.

Benedict used to meet every Friday for an hour or two of discussion with John Paul II. They were on the same track philosophically and theologically, and they basically strengthened one another. Looked at wryly, this is the 29th year of John Paul II's pontificate.

Benedict XVI is a different man with a different style, with a different set of priorities and a different manner of acting, but in him, all this is perfectly becoming.

Many commentators in America praised his sincerity and authenticity. He seems content to be who he is, and not to try to be someone else. One tough-guy journalist said to Peggy Noonan, as after a few days he nodded toward the Pope: "He's a good guy!"

Americans admire authenticity. Benedict XVI has a right to be different from John Paul while continuing in the same line of renewal and re-evangelization. I think we are enjoying the best of both worlds, two in one. [AMEN!]

00Wednesday, April 30, 2008 6:15 PM

On April 28, this editorial in the Wahshington Times was written by John Magee, identified as the founder and pastor of Cornertone Church in San Antonio, Texas. I will 'google' him further later.

Thank you, Pope Benedict

April 28, 2008

During his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI not only conducted Mass and met with the Catholic faithful, but he made a series of public statements about the role that our Judeo-Christian faith can play during these challenging times.

As an evangelical Protestant I happen to disagree with Pope Benedict on many issues of Christian doctrine and ritual. But when it comes to his moral vision for America and the world I have one thing to say in response to the Pope's visit: Amen.

I and many other evangelical leaders believe that our faith must not be confined to our churches on Sunday mornings. We maintain that our Christian values and compassion can be powerful tools for helping build a more just and humane nation.

Pope Benedict thus spoke for all of us when he said that "Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted" and called for Christian participation "in the exchange of ideas in the public square."

The Pope was recalling the history we all cherish when he cited George Washington's Farewell Address to note that, "religion and morality represent 'indispensable supports' of political prosperity." The Pope likewise voiced all of our concerns when he recognized the threats posed by secularism and materialism not only to our morality but to our happiness.

As people of faith, our concerns go well beyond the borders of our country. After the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, we joined our Jewish brothers in saying "Never Again!"

For me, this commitment means never again allowing the Jewish people to be massacred or persecuted and thus helps to motivate my strong support for the State of Israel.

But we also take from the Holocaust a universal "Never Again," which means that we must never again allow genocide to be perpetrated against any of God's children anywhere in the world.

Thus all of our hearts cheered when Pope Benedict stood before the United Nations and stated so forcefully that when states fail to protect the basic human rights of their citizens, "the international community must intervene."

Likewise, all people of faith applauded his comment in the same speech that it is religion's "recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman" which provides the powerful source of our commitment to resist genocide and terrorism.

My reaction to Pope Benedict"s visit may surprise some who have come to accept certain caricatures of my views of the Catholic Church. But as I have noted from the start, my critics have ignored the real point and strong emphasis of my words.

I have indeed been quite zealous about condemning the past anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church. But I have been equally zealous in condemning Protestant anti-Semitism.

Furthermore, as I noted in my 2006 book Jerusalem Countdown, I have long viewed Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI as partners in this "righteous work" of overcoming our shared legacy of Christian anti-Semitism.

For decades I have taught that we Christians need to recognize that our roots are Jewish. As Christians we can only understand ourselves if we understand the Judaism from which we sprang.

Pope Benedict made this very important point when he visited the Park East Synagogue in New York and shared that: "I find it moving to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in a place such as this." [Nor it the first time that Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI has referred in such immediate terms to Judaism as the religion which Jesus, Mary and the Apostles grew in and practised.]

With visits and words such as these, Pope Benedict is continuing the important work of recognizing our enormous Christian debt of gratitude to the Jewish people.

The world in which we live faces many difficult challenges. In recent days, we read in our paper of increased starvation due to higher food prices; of alienated youth planning to bomb their fellow students; of Islamic militants actually bombing innocents in Iraq and Israel; and about people so devoid of hope that they end their own lives.

I believe that the message of the Bible and of Judeo-Christian faith offers us timely answers to these problems.

We were all inspired by Pope Benedict's visit. It is my prayer that we will now follow his example and look beyond our differences to see that when it comes to the great challenges of our times, people of faith have much in common.


Carl Olson at Ignatius Insight i apparently quite familiar with Pastor Hagee's work, and takes him to task in this entry, which I will post in 8 pts, because the argument is not about Benedict at all.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008
by Carl Olson

Perhaps you've already seen this column in The Washington Times, written by John Hagee, pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio and author of several "end times" books based in premillennial dispensationalism. Hagee has been accused of being anti-Catholic, but he takes pains to counter those accusations:

During his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI not only conducted mass and met with the Catholic faithful, but he made a series of public statements about the role that our Judeo-Christian faith can play during these challenging times. As an evangelical Protestant I happen to disagree with Pope Benedict on many issues of Christian doctrine and ritual. But when it comes to his moral vision for America and the world I have one thing to say in response to the Pope's visit: Amen.

My reaction to Pope Benedict"s visit may surprise some who have come to accept certain caricatures of my views of the Catholic Church. But as I have noted from the start, my critics have ignored the real point and strong emphasis of my words. I have indeed been quite zealous about condemning the past anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church. But I have been equally zealous in condemning Protestant anti-Semitism. Furthermore, as I noted in my 2006 book "Jerusalem Countdown," I have long viewed Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI as partners in this "righteous work" of overcoming our shared legacy of Christian anti-Semitism.

For decades I have taught that we Christians need to recognize that our roots are Jewish. As Christians we can only understand ourselves if we understand the Judaism from which we sprang. Pope Benedict made this very important point when he visited the Park East Synagogue in New York and shared that: "I find it moving to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in a place such as this." With visits and words such as these, Pope Benedict is continuing the important work of recognizing our enormous Christian debt of gratitude to the Jewish people.

Fair enough. I have no interest in questioning Hagee's sincerity, and his ecumenical attitude here is a pleasant surprise; after all, it's not something you'll likely find in the writings of, say, Tim LaHaye or Hal Lindsey. But a couple of things should be kept in mind:

• Hagee's beliefs, which flow from what might be called a "traditional" form of premillennial dispensationalism (as opposed to "progressive dispensationalism"), lead to the conclusion that the Jewish people have no need of the New Covenant because they already have a sufficient and equally valid covenant.

Which means, strangely enough, that Hagee has more in common with Abraham Foxman than he does with many or most Evangelicals when it comes to the issue of evangelization and Jews.

But Hagee's position is rooted in a rather logical take on John Nelson Darby's teachings, which were based on a heavenly-earthly dualism that insisted on a radical distinction between Christians (the heavenly people, according to Darby) and the Jews (who he called the earthly people of God).

• Hagee has stated that Jesus was not the Messiah. This is apparently one of the key positions he defends in his recent book, In Defense of Israel. I've not read that book, but I suspect that his argument is simply a continuation of the first point: namely, (according to Hagee) since Christians and Jews have radically different covenants with God, it is wrong to say that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews — that is, until they accept Him as such after the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the Second Coming.

Other dispensationalists have adopted similar views. For example, Charles Ryrie, author of the very influential work, Dispensationalism Today (first ed., 1965), wrote this in his 1986 book, Basic Theology:

Gabriel announced to Mary that her Baby would have the throne of David and reign over the house of Jacob (Luke 1:32-33). Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus’ Davidic kingship was offered to Israel (Matt. 2:2; 27:11; John 12:13), but He was rejected. . . . Because the King was rejected, the messianic, Davidic kingdom was (from a human viewpoint) postponed. Though He never ceases to be King and, of course, is King today as always, Christ is never designated as King of the Church . . . Though Christ is a King today, He does not rule as King. This awaits His second coming. Then the Davidic kingdom will be realized (Matt. 25:31; Rev 19:15; 20) [Basic Theology, 259].

Ryrie's position is both confusing and untenable, but it is made necessary by the presuppositions of the dispensationalist system, at least in its older forms.

• Finally, the dispensationalist system is not only contrary to many key Catholic doctrines, it has often understood the Catholic Church as either being a system of anti-Christ, or at least being the sort of global institution/religion that will facilitate the rule of antiChrist and a false, "one world religion."

This perspective is not understood by those who hold it — as I once did — as being "anti-Catholic," but as simply being realistic about "Bible prophecy" and the world we live in. For Hagee and like-minded folks, salvation is about having a "personal relationship with Christ," which they believe has little or nothing to do with being a visible member of this or that church.

There is another, closely related radical dichotomy at work here, which is that between the spiritual and the material realms — itself based on the heavenly-earthly distinction noted above (I examine this at length and in detail in my book, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?).

For the typical dispensationalist (and most fundamentalists), the "Church" consists of all those who are spiritually united in saving faith in Jesus Christ (here's a good example of what I'm referring to). The church you attend is a secondary issue. And so there exists the notion that one can be perfectly saved and yet belong to an imperfect, local church.

Thus, from this perspective, a Catholic can be "saved," (by the skin of his teeth!) even if the Catholic Church is not just flawed, but even apostate and blasphemous.

Hagee is absolutely right to denounce anti-Semitism. But there are some serious problems with his theological ideas, especially how he understands the relationship between the Old and the New Covenants, the person of Jesus Christ, and the nature of the Church.

For me, frankly, the key issue is not if John Hagee is anti-Catholic. Rather, it's whether or not some of his core beliefs are actually Christian, even in the most general, "mere Christianity" sense of the word.

00Wednesday, April 30, 2008 11:36 PM
Papal liturgies etc. for May to August
Details of Papal liturgies and journeys for May to August are now on the Holy See website.
The duration of Papa's apostolic trip to Sydney is July 12th to 21st, giving him several days to get over jet lag before the WYD actually starts on July 15th.
00Thursday, May 1, 2008 6:04 PM

Here is how Iran's official news agency reported the Pope's meeting yesterday with an Iranian Muslim delegation:

Iran's cultural official presents
copy of holy Quran to Pope

Vatican, May 1 (IRNA) - Pope Benedict XVI received visiting head of Iran's Islamic Culture and Relations Organization Mehdi Mostafavi on Thursday who presented a precious copy of Muslims holy book, the Quran, to the 81-year-old pontiff.

Mostafavi is currently in Italy heading a high-ranking delegation to attend an inter-faith dialogue with the Catholic Church in Vatican.

Appreciating Mostafavi for the valuable gift, the Pope said that the holy Quran was so dear to him.

He stressed that the contemporary world was in dire need of faith and wisdom as the two major factors that could help people face their challenges.

The Pope also expressed hope that bilateral relations and cooperation be further promoted between Iran and Vatican.

Mostafavi, for his part, voiced Tehran's readiness to promote bilateral cooperation with Vatican in the fields of cultural and religious activities.


Besides the Vatican communique yesterday about the meeting with the Pope (report posted in preceding page of thie thread, , a joint statement was also issued by the Pontificakl Council for Inter-Religious Dialog and the visiting delegation, as follows:

The Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue (Vatican) and the Centre for Inter-Religious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation (Tehran, Iran) held their sixth Colloquium in Rome from 28 - 30 April 2008 under the joint presidency of His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Louis TAURAN, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and His Excellency Dr. Mahdi MOSTAFAVI, President of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation.

The delegation of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was composed as follows:

- His Excellency Archbishop Pier Luigi CELATA

- His Excellency Archbishop Ramzi GARMOU

- Reverend Monsignor Khaled AKASHEH

- Reverend Monsignor Prof. Piero CODA

- Reverend Father Prof. Michel FÉDOU, S.J.

- Prof. Vittorio POSSENTI

- Dr. Ilaria MORALI

The delegation of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation was composed as follows:

- Hojjat al-Islam Dr. Mohammad Jafar ELMI

- Hojjat al-Islam Dr. Mohammad MASJEDJAMEI

- Dr. Abdolrahim GAVAHI

- Hojjat al-Islam Dr. Seyyed Mahdi KHAMOUSHI

- Hojjat al-Islam Dr. Hamid PARSANIA



The participants, with the help of six papers presented by three scholars from each side, examined the theme Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam, which was developed through three sub-themes from the point of view of Catholics and Shi’a Muslims: 1) Faith and reason: Which relation? 2) Theology/Kalam as inquiry into the rationality of faith; 3) Faith and reason confronted with the phenomenon of violence.

And the end of the meeting the participants agreed upon the following:

1. Faith and reason are both gifts of God to mankind.

2. Faith and reason do not contradict each other, but faith might in some cases be above reason, but never against it.

3. Faith and reason are intrinsically non-violent. Neither reason nor faith should be used for violence; unfortunately, both of them have been sometimes misused to perpetrate violence. In any case, these events cannot question either reason or faith.

4. Both sides agreed to further co-operate in order to promote genuine religiosity, in particular spirituality, to encourage respect for symbols considered to be sacred and to promote moral values.

5. Christians and Muslims should go beyond tolerance, accepting differences, while remaining aware of commonalities and thanking God for them. They are called to mutual respect, thereby condemning derision of religious beliefs.

6. Generalization should be avoided when speaking of religions. Differences of confessions within Christianity and Islam, diversity of historical contexts are important factors to be considered.

7. Religious traditions cannot be judged on the basis of a single verse or a passage present in their respective holy Books. A holistic vision as well as an adequate hermeneutical method is necessary for a fair understanding of them.

The participants expressed their satisfaction with the level of the presentations and the debates as well as the open and friendly atmosphere during the colloquium.

The participants were honoured and pleased to be received at the end of the colloquium by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who was particularly satisfied with the choice of the theme and the venue of the meeting.

The next colloquium will be held in Tehran within two years, preceded by a preparatory meeting.

Vatican and Iran announce cultural collaboration

Rome, 30 April (AKI) - The sixth biannual meeting between representatives of the Vatican and Iran concluded on Wednesday with an agreement to boost cultural collaboration and strengthen dialogue between Islam and Christianity.

The Iranian delegation was led by Mehdi Mostafavi, an advisor to hardline Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the director of the Centre for Islamic Culture and Communication.

At the end of the three-day conference, Mostafavi met Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture - in effect, the Vatican's culture minister.

At the end of the meeting, Mostafavi told the Iranian news agency IRNA that the two sides had reached an agreement on a series of initiatives to strengthen dialogue between Islam and Christianity.

Among the suggestions listed by Mostafavi was the organisation of a meetings dedicated to theatre and cinema with religious content.

"Promoting common values through the appreciation of art could considerably contribute to the promotion of those values that are today ignored or underestimated in the West," said Mostafavi.

Ravasi and Mostafavi also discussed collaboration between scientific institutes linked to the Catholic church and the universities and Shia research centres in Iran.

Iran has about 300,000 Christians, less than one person of the population. However there are three Christian representatives in the Majlis - the Iranian parliament.

There are 362 churches in Iran and 60 schools run by the Christian community. Catholics and Orthodox Christians in Iran also manage 70 cultural centres and more than 100 newspapers including dailies, weeklies and monthlies.
00Thursday, May 1, 2008 6:09 PM

Beijing making concert effort
towards Vatican

The China Philharmonic Orchestra is to perform for the Pope, who has sought to improve ties with China to aid Catholics there.

By Don Lee

SHANGHAI, May 1 -- When the China Philharmonic Orchestra performs for Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican next week, it will start with Mozart's religiously inspired Requiem and end with a popular Chinese folk song called "Jasmine Flower."

The concert Wednesday is a historic gesture that may help improve relations between the Vatican and Beijing, a major goal for this Pope as he seeks to expand freedoms for Roman Catholics in China.

The Beijing-based orchestra, along with the Shanghai Opera House Chorus, will perform for the Pope at Paul VI Audience Hall, the Vatican's principal auditorium. Although the orchestra played in Rome in 2004, this will be its first appearance at the Vatican.

"I certainly feel very excited," China Philharmonic's music director, Long Yu, said in a telephone interview from Beijing.

Vatican Radio, which first reported the concert, said, "Music is confirming its role as a language and most precious medium for dialogue among peoples and cultures."

Vatican sources said the initiative for the concert came from the Chinese.

In February, the New York Philharmonic gave an unprecedented performance in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, though the reclusive nation's leader, Kim Jong Il, did not attend.

It wasn't clear how much next week's concert would help the Vatican and Beijing move toward reconciliation.

At the very least, the China Philharmonic's debut at the Vatican, part of a three-city European tour that begins Sunday, would carry significant symbolism for the millions of Catholics in China, who are split between official and underground churches.

Chinese Catholics are allowed to worship only at state-backed churches, and many worshiping at clandestine sites and professing loyalty to the Pope have been persecuted.

The Chinese orchestra is under the control of the officially atheist central government, which has had icy relations with the Vatican since the breakdown of diplomatic ties two years after the 1949 communist takeover in China.

Although Beijing has recognized the Pope as the Catholic Church's spiritual leader, it has repeatedly clashed with Rome over the authority to appoint priests and bishops in China, as well as the Vatican's diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Since his election as Pope three years ago, Benedict has sought "constructive" dialogue with Beijing aimed at normalizing relations and has urged unity among all Catholics in China.

Yet he has also taken steps that undoubtedly rankled the Chinese government. The first batch of bishops that Benedict elevated to cardinal included the outspoken archbishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen.

The Pope invited Zen to pen the meditations for this year's Easter celebrations, where "living martyrs" were honored, and he has condemned the "suffering" of the people of Tibet.

At the same time, the Vatican and Beijing have quietly agreed on the appointment of some Chinese bishops.

"If it's true that the China Philharmonic is performing at the Vatican, it is a great example that the two sides are moving forward through an exchange of culture and arts," said Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Assn., which represents more than 6,000 official churches and 5.6 million Catholics.

Plans for the performance apparently came together fairly quickly.

"Like the pingpong diplomacy, it's very short notice," said Yu, 44, the orchestra's Shanghai-born and German-trained director. He was alluding to the cultural exchange of table tennis players between the U.S. and China in the 1970s that helped lead to restoration of relations between the two countries.

He said that what helped pave the way was a performance of the Requiem on April 8 at St. Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai. More than 1,000 people, including some high-level Beijing officials, were said to have attended that event.

"That opened up this kind of territory," Yu said, adding that such a concert provides a common vehicle for promoting dialogue and peace.

And besides, the Pope is a big Mozart fan.

00Thursday, May 1, 2008 9:58 PM

Pope wins friends
on first U.S. trip

Washington/New York/Rome

Published: May 2, 2008

After specific memories of public events during Pope Benedict XVI’s April 15-20 visit to Washington and New York fade -- the huge public Masses in Nationals Park and Yankee Stadium, the elaborate reception on the White House lawn, the address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, the somber visit to Ground Zero -- it is just two words, kindness and candor, that capture impressions likely to linger in America’s collective consciousness.

The man deplaning at Andrews Air Force Base April 15 was something of an enigma for most Americans. A Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey on the eve of his arrival found that 80 percent of Americans, including two-thirds of the country’s almost 70 million Catholics, knew “just a little or nothing at all” about Benedict, despite his having been their Pope a full three years.

If nothing else, Benedict’s six-day trip afforded him a massive opportunity to introduce himself. The trip drew near-saturation coverage, with most events carried live on national networks and accompanied by extensive commentary in newspapers, on TV and in cyberspace. Though ratings are still being compiled, it’s safe to assume that tens of millions of Americans caught at least some of the Pope’s act.

By and large, what people saw was a figure who came off as gracious and surprisingly humble.

For example, the Pope celebrated Mass inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral April 19, the first time a Pope had done so. This event, occurring within the walls of America’s most storied Catholic church, had the effect of cutting the papacy down to size, creating a more intimate feel for the roughly 3,000 priests and religious gathered there. The Mass took place inside St. Patrick’s because, as Benedict himself explained it, a proper liturgical space puts the focus where it belongs -- on God rather than the person of the Pope.

On at least two occasions, Benedict set aside the persona of a global celebrity to become a simple, caring pastor. Those were his unprecedented April 17 meeting with five victims of sexual abuse, and his April 20 visit to Ground Zero, where he met 24 first responders, survivors, and family members of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Benedict reached out in other ways, such as his moving visit to Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue on April 18, the eve of Passover.

At the level of content, Benedict offered a welter of messages over the six days, including some of his classic themes. He expressed appreciation for the vital public role of religion in the United States. He strongly endorsed multilateralism in foreign affairs and human rights. And he insisted on the necessary bonds between reason and faith, truth and freedom.

Pope speaks of hope, joy

More than Benedict’s words, it was his tone that left the deepest impression. During 16 occasions when he made public remarks, totaling almost 30,000 words, the word “hope” appears 101 times, the word “joy” 34.

Meanwhile, two words commonly associated with images of this Pope in his former role as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the doctrinal enforcer -- “error” and “discipline” -- are conspicuous by their absence.

One striking note of the visit is that at least three times pro-choice Catholic politicians received Communion during a papal Mass, although not directly from the Pope. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. John Kerry, both Democrats, took Communion at the April 17 Mass at Nationals Park in Washington, while former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani did so at the April 19 Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

It’s not that Benedict shrank from laying down challenges. His opposition both to abortion and to Catholics who support abortion rights were made unmistakably clear. But he apparently preferred to leave his visit unmarred by the spectacle of people turned away from the sacrament.

In his address to America’s bishops April 16, he lamented “the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion” and insisted that the Gospel be preached “integrally” against what he has termed a “dictatorship of relativism”; in an April 17 session with Catholic educators, the Pope demanded consistency about “the essential moral categories of right and wrong”; in perhaps his toughest speech of the trip, he told a group of other Christian leaders April 18 that an ecumenism not based on “the purity of normative doctrine” would be a sham.

The Pope’s inattention to gay and lesbian Catholics was disappointing to some. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an organization that works for justice and equality for lesbian and gay Catholics within the church, said he thought the Pope, in his strong defense of heterosexual marriage in his talk to bishops, and by linking human rights and natural law in his talk at the United Nations, had indirectly targeted homosexuals, and missed an opportunity to make a welcoming gesture to lesbian and gay Catholics.

In most settings, though, the Pope won points for graciousness and breadth of vision. In that speech to educators, for example, the Pope did not lay down any new rules or regulations, and he acknowledged that a school’s Catholic identity cannot be reduced to such crude measures as statistics or the “orthodoxy of course content.” Contrary to some speculation before the fact, the speech came off as anything but a scold.

On the whole, Benedict seemed determined to strike a positive tone -- a kinder, gentler image of the papacy and, by extension, of the Church.

“Sometimes we are looked upon as people who speak only of prohibitions,” he told a massive youth rally in New York. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Authentic Christian discipleship is marked by a sense of wonder. We stand before the God we know and love as a friend, the vastness of his creation, and the beauty of the Christian faith.”

No ducking the question

As for candor, in some ways the $64,000 question coming into the trip was whether the Pope would openly engage the sexual-abuse crisis that has rocked the American Catholic Church -- and not just since 2002, when it burst into full public view in Boston, but since at least the early 1980s when the National Catholic Reporter and other media outlets first began to report the story.

Early signals did not seem promising; Benedict declined to visit Boston, the epicenter of the recent crisis, and had no session with victims on his public itinerary.

From the opening moments of the trip, however, it was clear that Benedict had no intention of ducking the question.

“We are deeply ashamed, and we will do all that is possible that this cannot happen in the future,” the Pope said in a session with reporters aboard the papal plane April 15 in response to a question from NCR.

Benedict argued that efforts to address the crisis have to unfold on three levels: the legal and juridical, the pastoral, and programs of prevention to ensure that future priests are “sound.” Pointedly, the Pope said, “It’s more important to have good priests than to have many.”

In his address to American bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday evening, April 16, he returned to the theme. The Pope devoted five full paragraphs to sexual abuse of children, referring to it as “evil” and a “sin.”

In perhaps his most dramatic phrase, quoting Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. bishops, the Pope conceded that the crisis was “sometimes very badly handled.” He pledged the Church to pursue healing and reconciliation with those “so seriously wronged.”

Again during his Mass Thursday morning at Washington’s Nationals Park, Benedict offered strong language about the crisis.

“I acknowledge the pain which the church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors,” he said. “No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse.” He went on to urge all American Catholics to “do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt.”

On Thursday afternoon came the most dramatic papal gesture, and the biggest news flash, of the entire trip -- an unannounced and unprecedented meeting with five victims of sexual abuse. Most were from the Boston area, and they were accompanied by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. The meeting took place in the Vatican embassy in Washington and lasted roughly a half-hour.

‘It was spiritual abuse’

Three of the five victims spoke to NCR and other media about the experience. All three appeared to feel a corner had been turned.

“I basically told him that I was an altar boy in the sacristy, a young boy praying to God, at the time that I was abused, and it wasn’t just sexual abuse. It was spiritual abuse,” said Bernie McDaid, who was 11 years old when molested for the first time by Fr. Joseph Birmingham at St. James Parish in Salem, Mass. “I told [the Pope] that he has a cancer growing in his ministry, and needs to do something about it,” McDaid said.

“I think there are already changes happening. And there’s definitely so much hope right now,” said Faith Johnston, whose priest abuser was convicted of raping her when she was 15 and working Saturdays in a Catholic rectory. She said in a televised interview after the meeting that she had been unable to speak about her abuse in the presence of the Pope, and was able to offer him only her tears.

All told, Benedict made five public references to the crisis during his six days in the United States, in addition to this April 17 meeting with victims.

Without any doubt, legitimate questions surround the high-profile fashion in which the Pope addressed the scandals. For one, some critics wonder where this candor has been for the last quarter-century, a span of time in which Church officials certainly were aware of the “cancer” to which McDaid referred. For another, it’s still not clear whether any new policy or structural changes will result from Benedict’s blunt speech.

One indication of the sticky matters ahead came in a front-page story in The New York Times April 19, quoting Cardinal William Levada, an American and head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to the effect that the statute of limitations in canon law for bringing charges of abuse might be lifted. (Canon law states that an abuse victim has to make the charge within 10 years of his or her 18th birthday.)

The story seemed odd, since insiders were aware that this statute of limitations had already been set aside as part of special American norms for sex-abuse cases approved by the Vatican. A Vatican spokesperson promptly issued a denial, saying that Levada had been misunderstood. If nothing else, the episode illustrates that questions about “what comes now” are sure to abound.

In an April 17 interview with CNN, David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, said that the Pope’s rhetoric would ring hollow until it was backed by action. Specifically, Clohessy called for Benedict to extend the “zero tolerance” policy of the American bishops to the universal Church, and for at least a couple of American bishops associated with the crisis to be fired.

Some critics point out that Boston’s former archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law -- conspicuous by his absence as the only American cardinal who did not accompany the Pope on his trip -- remains in Rome as archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. To some, Law’s new assignment, distancing him from accusers, symbolizes the Church’s failure to hold senior leadership accountable for the crisis.

[Forgive me for being dogged about this, but I believe it's only fair that when Cardinal Law's case is brought up, whoever is writing the story should point out that it was John Paul the Great who decided what to do about him after he resigned as Archbishop of Boston. Who are we to gainsay that decision? What do we know what private agreements the Pope and Law could have talked about for Law to make what amends he can in private towards the victims or in some indirect way? And perhapsAllen should have included a line in this story abou the explanation he gave in another story that the Church does not consider bishops 'officials' in the common sense, but rather as 'fathers' to their flock? We may disagree with that 'escape clause', but if that is the way it is, then we ought to know clearly.]

Nevertheless, even skeptics were inclined to give the Pope high marks for understanding the crisis is still an open chapter. SNAP, for example, called the meeting with victims “a long-overdue step forward on a very long road,” while also cautioning Catholics to “stay vigilant.”

More broadly, it will take time to assess whether Benedict XVI’s triumphant American swing has any measurable impact on the church in the United States.

Russell Shaw, a noted Catholic writer, cautioned that we’ve seen all this before, seven times under Pope John Paul II -- huge, adoring American crowds, massive media coverage, and talk of corners turned.

“Looking back 20 or 25 years later in terms of anything you can quantify in American Catholicism,” Shaw said soberly, speaking to The Associated Press, “it’s all been downhill.”

That said, Popes do inevitably set a tone for the Catholic church at all levels, for good or for ill.

If the basic tone struck by Benedict over time pushes both the leadership and the grass roots of the American church in the direction of greater kindness and candor, then perhaps Catholics will come to regard the time and expense of the trip as an investment in a different future, one well worth the cost.

And the NCR editorial in the same issue:

Pope's American visit: What now?
By NCR Staff

May 2, 2008

In the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, as his image, words and gestures fade from the media, it is time to ask: What now? As we digest the texts of his speeches and homilies, will there be any

accompanying shift in attitude or policy in the American Church? Already disappointment is being voiced by some who wanted an explicit rejection of the Iraq war or full and immediate accountability for the sex-abuse scandal, and by others eager for more papal clout applied to politicians who support abortion rights, or to strengthening Catholic identity or assuring doctrinal clarity.

In one sense, the Pope’s general remarks on a wide range of topics transcended partisan needs, offering instead bedrock Catholic principles such as protection of human rights and dignity. These he applied to each area he addressed, calling for a balance of freedom and truth for academia, family preservation in immigration policy, multilateralism and the common good in international affairs, and unity amid great diversity within the church.

But in another sense, because the Pope came as the exemplar of the Church’s commitment to human dignity, some of his gestures and words were a direct challenge to the American Church.

His repeated mention of the sexual-abuse scandal and his personal meeting with a small group representing some 13,000 known victims were prominent among these challenges. It revealed what was closest to the pope’s heart, and it set a new benchmark for the American hierarchy, whose response to the crisis, in the Pope’s own words, has often been “badly handled.”

How did this Pope, who dismissed the crisis in 2002 as an American problem, and as statistically insignificant, come to this crucial emphasis for his first American visit?

[As this accusation is always thrown back, it might help to point out that Cardinal Ratzinger made the comment at the time the abuses were just hitting the headlines in the United States, and he was asked about it at a news conference during a visit to Spain for a Christological conference. If I recall, he answered that to his knowledge, the offenses involved a tiny minority of the American clergy (true) and that it appeared the media were generating much of the issue by their coverage of it (also true, but under the circumstances, it was widely interpreted as a 'dismissal' of the charges and/or 'denial' that is was an issue at all).]

Some say it was his struggle as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to get at the truth in the high-profile case of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, accused of abusing his own seminarians.

A personal friend of Pope John Paul II, who essentially ignored the abuse crisis for the better part of 20 years, Maciel denied the accusations, but in 2005 was censured and removed from active ministry under Pope Benedict XVI.

Some say it was the 2004 visit to then-Cardinal Ratzinger by Judge Anne Burke and other members of the National Review Board appointed by the American bishops after their 2002 Dallas meeting. Burke reportedly made the call out of concern that U.S. bishops were not conveying the depth of the scandal to the Vatican.

What clearly has had a deep effect on Pope Benedict was what he once referred to as “our Friday penance,” time he spent every Friday morning reading from the thousands of abuse files sent to him as head of the doctrinal congregation. The files and the record of the official handling of cases disturbed Ratzinger deeply. (Anyone wishing to replicate the Pope’s “Friday penance” is forewarned that the files and court records available at are shocking.)

His determination to get the Church through and past this scandal reflects both his intellectual consistency and apparent willingness to let this issue be the keynote of his visit. How otherwise could he dare speak to those outside the Church about human dignity?

In the end, Benedict chose from among the many personas his long career has assigned to him -- professor, enforcer, Supreme Pontiff -- to come to America as a humble pastor who sought out those who were suffering, not to preach to them, but to listen, to let their tears touch him. It made his visit successful in ways that can be measured only by what happens now.

Will other bishops likewise act as pastors? In his meeting with victims, the Pope offered a credible sign of compassion and accountability that can move this protracted and destructive scandal beyond outrage and intransigence toward truth and reconciliation. The Pope has shown his brother bishops the next step toward healing.


First, I thank the NCR staff for the editorial, despite the point I took issue with.

But, of course, it is not the first to point out that the Holy Father came through during this visit as a pastor - though with varying degrees of surprise that he was pastoral at all, and very effective doing so.

But isn't that the first role of the Successor of Peter? Universal Pastor? "Feed my flock", Jesus told Peter. Certainly no one alive can be more acutely and constantly aware of this pastoral role as the man who is on Peter's Chair.

All his discourses, homilies, messages and extemporaneous remarks as Pope have been overwhelmingly, principally pastoral, in that he conveys his Magisterium - whether it is dogma, theology, philosophy, liturgy - in a pastoral manner such that even the simplest of us can grasp what he is telling us. And from what he has told us about the life of St. Augustine, he has been following the saint's own example in this respect.

That he came across so effectively as a pastor during this trip is perhaps the true 'revelation' to many pundits and media observers, and even many within the Church itself - people who never really paid attention to what he has been doing and saying as Pope, or who were always effectively blocked by their prejudices from seeing him as he really is.

The greatest achievement of this trip in terms of media is not so much the unexpected saturation coverage that it got, but the fact that such wall-to-wall coverage in print and broadcast made it impossible for anyone in media to paint the Pope with the tired and false stereotypes they had built up over years about him, because clearly, those had nothing to do at all with the flesh-and-blood Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI who, for six days, was under 24/7 scrutiny by the eyes of America. Resulting in what George Weigel called 'the end of the caricature'.

Of course, he remains 'conservative', as every Pope by definition should be. But now he is seen as a conservative who has a genuinely pastoral and paternal heart that complements his formidable intellect. A Pope no less worthy of affection and esteem as his great and saintly predecessor.

00Thursday, May 1, 2008 11:06 PM

Japanese bishops appeal to Pope
in clash with Neocatechumenals

By Gerard O'Connell
Special Correspondent in Rome

ROME, April 30(UCAN) -- In an extraordinary move, the Japanese Bishops' Conference sent a delegation last week to discuss with Pope Benedict XVI "the serious problem" they are having with the Neocatechumenal Way and its seminary in Takamatsu diocese.

The four prelates went to the Vatican to seek the Pope's understanding and intervention to help resolve the situation.

It was the third time Japanese bishops visited and brought up the matter in five months.

"We hate to come so often but we had to given the serious nature of the problem that needs to be resolved", Archbishop Okada of Tokyo, president of the bishops' conference, told UCA News in Rome.

During their ad limina visits in December, they raised their concerns not only with the Pope but also with officials at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias heads the congregation.

A delegation of Japanese bishops returned in early April 2008 and discussed the matter a second time with congregation officials, who they sensed were somewhat supportive of the Neocatechumenal movement, Archbishop Okada recalled.

They then decided to speak again with Pope Benedict. Archbishop Okada, when he addressed the Pope on behalf of the bishops on Dec. 15, had said:

"Another matter would be The Neocatechumenal Way (the Way) and the International Takamatsu Diocesan Seminary known as Redemptoris Mater. We have here a serious problem. In the small Catholic Church of Japan, the powerful sect-like activity of Way members is divisive and confrontational. It has caused sharp painful division and strife within the Church. We are struggling with all our strength to overcome the problem but feel that if a solution is to be found, the consideration of Your Holiness for the Church in Japan will be of the utmost importance and direly needed."

The Neocatechumenal Way, founded in Spain in 1964, today claims around 20,000 communities with 1 million members in 105 countries.

The Takamatsu seminary is one of the movement's 73 missionary seminaries worldwide, all called Redemptoris Mater and each under a diocesan bishop. The six in Asia are in Hong Kong, India, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Bishop Francis Xavier Osamu Mizobe of Takamatsu has confirmed he also spoke about the problem in his diocese during his private ad limina audience with Pope Benedict.

The Pope, however, made no reference to the matter when he addressed the Japanese bishops as a group on Dec. 15, at the end of their visit.

Four months later, on April 25, he talked about it in depth with Archbishop Okada, Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga of Osaka, Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki and Bishop Mizobe.

The small diocese of Takamatsu, based 520 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, has about 5,000 Catholics.

Bishop Mizobe's predecessor agreed to host the seminary there. But as serious problems emerged and tensions mounted, Bishop Mizobe, a Salesian, decided to close it. The bishops' conference supported him, its president confirmed.

Keen to maintain a base in Japan, the Neocatechumenal movement sought to gain another bishop's backing. At first one agreed to host the seminary, but after discussing the matter with brother bishops he decided against this and informed the evangelization congregation and the movement accordingly.

On April 25, Archbishop Ikenaga, vice president of the bishops' conference, submitted a detailed brief on the situation to the Pope.

According to Archbishop Okada, the bishops talked with Pope Benedict for almost an hour. "He listened to us very attentively. He is trying to understand us. He is very serious," the prelate told UCA News.

"The diocesan seminary is to be ended. The Holy See has agreed that it be closed as a diocesan seminary this year," he said.

The bishops, he explained, continue to have "serious and deep" problems with the movement that relate to its "way of thinking" and its "attitude" to Japanese culture, liturgy and other issues.

Asked whether the Vatican understands this, Archbishop Okada said he feels "there is still a gap between us," but the situation "is improving." He added that the way Pope Benedict listened greatly encouraged him.

Archbishop Okada revealed they also discussed with the Pope the scheduled Nov. 24 beatification in Nagasaki of the 188 Japanese Martyrs.


A few months ago, the Catholic priests in the Holy Land made the same complaints about the NeoCatechumenals working in their area. Quite apart from their insistence on Eucharistic liturgy that is not in consonance with Catholic practice, it appears the NeoCatechumenals
are equally over-aggressive in their 'missionary outreach'.

Surely there must be a reason that the Vatican has held up approving the movement's statutes. Some time in 2005, Pope Benedict warned them against continuing with liturgical practices that do not meet Church criteria. My impression is that the Neoatechumenals are very much acting like a sect within the Church - a sect that will not conform with the Body of the Church, however. Are they not being as 'schismatic' as the Lefebvrians and other radical traditionalists, if not more so - because where the dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists carry on the pre-Conciliar liturgy, the neo-Catechumenals appear to be designing their own liturgy?

I don't think that the church movements encouraged by Vatican-II were meant to design their own liturgy! Imagine if each of them did that! And we do not read of the Comunione e Liberazione, or the Focolari, or the Sant'Egidio Community, for instance, doing that, nor arousing antipathy and hostility from the regular clergy!

Recently, some in the Italian media noted how the Neo-Catechumenal founder, Kiko Arguelles, received Communion from the Pope at the Ordination Mass last Sunday on the tongue, but with his arms crossed and held against his body, rather than with hands clasped. Was that an act of defiance?

Arguelles may be well-meaning, and his NeoCatechumenal Way may have done great things for its followers, etc. - I have no way of knowing - but my impression of him in the past three years is that he seems to be someone who seeks to have himself pictured with the Pope at every chance he gets, as though such 'proof' of proximity would sanction anything that his movement does. One tends to mistrust such pushiness

00Thursday, May 1, 2008 11:59 PM

Editorial, May 2008

Speaking to the US bishops on April 16, Pope Benedict XVI made the arresting comment that an “almost complete eclipse of an eschatological sense” marks “many of our traditionally Christian societies.”

America, he didn’t need to add, is one of them, but the very warmth of the welcome the Holy Father received in the US and the intensity of attention during his visit suggested a growing exhaustion with the eclipse of religion under secularism and a hunger for God’s revelation of man’s ultimate purpose.

Burdened by the yoke of an ideology that treats God as irrelevant to the ordering of society — an ideology which has at once destabilized public life, eroded the foundations of culture, and corrupted US Catholicism — Americans were ready for the Holy Father’s theme of “Christ Our Hope,” open to his arguments about the harmony of reason and revelation, and moved by his humility and piety.

Media pundits, stunned by this reaction, speculated on the papacy’s enduring significance. They offered various superficial reasons for it without arriving at the real one: it remains Christ’s way of staying present throughout history.

Into the darkness of godless voids — whether comforting the victims of priestly abuse near the beginning of the trip or kneeling in prayer at the pit of Ground Zero near the end of it — Christ’s vicar brought forth his light.

In a false age, Pope Benedict offers truth; to the weary and enslaved, he represents grace. As the eye naturally turns to light, so people of good will turn toward holiness.

Often dismissed as a mere academic, the Holy Father showed characteristic honesty and courage in confronting pastorally the concrete effects of the crises he addressed intellectually.

He delivered a talk one day to the bishops on the importance of fidelity to the doctrines and discipline of the Church, then the next day comforted those victims who suffered at the hands of a dissenting and lax clerical culture.

He gave a speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the dangers of amoral power ideology, then two days later visited the “Ground Zero” site of its most extreme manifestation.

Some reporters regarded his treatment of the relationship between faith and reason — the theme of the Catholic “vision of reality” to which he repeatedly returned — as nothing more than feckless theological abstraction.

But what they failed to see was that the crises he came to address, both the one inside the Church and the one outside of it, resulted from ideological novelties they indulge, relativistic theories that shattered the relationship between faith and reason and drove Jesus Christ and his Church to the margins of society.

The profound and the pastoral are intrinsically linked, and the Pope’s call for a renewal of an “intellectual culture” that rests on a sound and comprehensive account of nature, man, and God, an account in which revelation reinforces and purifies reason while building upon it, is central to “charity.”

As the grim chapters of history illustrate, false philosophy and theology have real, not abstract, consequences; errors about man’s ultimate destiny, while they may at first seem like harmless differences of “opinion,” show up immediately and destructively in politics and culture.

Deliberating on the good of man without consulting the God who determined it — in other words, the mode of public life that has held sway for decades — produces not human utopias but civilizational chaos, spiritual torpor and poisonous conceits: a concept of “freedom” that enslaves, “rights” that devour each other, and a rhetoric of “human dignity” that degrades.

Reporters and commentators, of course, focused little on the import of the Holy Father’s speeches, directing most of their attention to his reaction to the abuse scandal, even as they showed no interest in the skeptical, secularized Catholicism that advanced it.

Doubts about the seriousness of sin — doubts stimulated by uncertainty about the existence of God and the natural moral law —created the deepest conditions for it.

Hence, the Pope’s speech to Catholic educators, in which he exhorted them to recover the Catholic intellectual tradition in its integrity, was not separate from his call for a “holier” episcopate and priesthood in light of the scandal, but was very much connected to it.

As Pope Benedict departed from America, he left many riches behind: he leaves American Catholics with sermons and speeches to ponder and an example of holiness to follow; he leaves American bishops with a calm exercise of authority to emulate; to the American public he leaves an invitation to consider Christ as the answer to hopelessness, and to their leaders he leaves an opportunity for wiser public discourse.

Let us hope that his historic visit marks a turning point in the life of the Church in America — a moment for American Catholics to undertake a “new Pentecost,” as he put it, and transform the scandals of recent years into an occasion for “purification.”

George Neumayr is editor of Catholic World Report.
00Friday, May 2, 2008 4:05 AM

Spe Salvi and Vatican II

In Spe Salvi the Pope has given the world a profound encyclical
that may well stand as a signpost
when the history of the post-conciliar Church is written.

by Brian A. Graebe

March 2008

What an excellent commentary this is on Spe salvi! It confronts head-on Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's problems with Gaudium et Spes, a subject previously touched on by such writers as Cardinal Avery Dulles and Fr. Schall, but much more explicitly exposed here, and in the clear context of Benedict's view of Vatican-II as a continuity with the tradition of the Church, even as he offers modern man a refreshingly new vision of Christian hope that has nothing to do with utopian optimism.

Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI’s eloquent encyclical on Christian hope, provides a reflection on man’s place in the modern world that alternately comforts, cautions and encourages.

Animating the entire work is what might be termed an eschatological immanence: Christians have a future beyond this world, and that “distinguishing mark” shapes and permeates the present. Hope in the future, then, becomes not mere wishful thinking, but a lived reality.

Pope Benedict uses a favorite line when he writes that “the Christian message was not only ‘informative’ but ‘performative’” (2). Faith, the substance of hope, allows us confidently to live in the “already-not yet,” partaking here and now in the divine life whose fullness has been promised to us.

That “great hope”— a constant refrain — alone makes life worth living. Rising above the demands and expectations of this world, the hope-filled Christian radiates an interior freedom.

In a particularly moving passage, Benedict extols the life of St. Josephine Bakhita as one who, in the face of slavery’s enormous cruelty, ascended the heights of hope and lived as a free child of God.

And yet when God is denied, or ignored, hope’s future promise becomes disfigured.

“Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive….To continue living for ever — endlessly — appears more like a curse than a gift” (10).

Benedict answers this concern with a stirring vision of the extra-temporality of heaven as “plunging into the ocean of infinite love…plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy” (12). Such a hope allows the Christian to have abundant joy in this life, aware of that which awaits him in the next.

Even in the most harrowing of trials, the Christian never lives alone. Quoting the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, Benedict recalls the transformative power of suffering: “In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone — Christ is with me…” (37).

In the words of Bernard of Clairvaux, “Impassibilis est Deus, sed non incompassibilis” — God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with. This is true com-passion, a co-suffering. Although an assent to love always produces suffering in the diminishment of self, God shares our burdens and offers consolation.

In this divine communion, “the capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity” (39). Those who paid the ultimate price for truth, the martyrs, stand as necessary witnesses to the greatest love and the embodiment of the greatest hope.

Ultimately, the martyrs offer witness that justice is not to be found in this world.

In a paramount theme of Spe Salvi, Benedict writes that, “In the modern era, the idea of the Last Judgment had faded into the background: Christian faith has been individualized and primarily oriented towards the salvation of the believer’s own soul, while reflection on world history is largely dominated by the idea of progress” (42).

For Benedict, the Last Judgment forms the essential context of all hope. Whatever the injustices of this world, God will set all things right.

Here, Spe Salvi furthers the early reflections on heaven with a clear and unqualified examination of purgatory and hell. After a remarkably ecumenical look at the Eastern Church’s theology of purgatory, Benedict describes hell as the place for those who “have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love…who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought” (45).

The Pope’s candor is at once surprising and refreshing; in putting forth the Church’s teaching he minces no words, yet writes with a deep trust in the goodness of God’s justice and love.

In the end, the burden is on each man to live a good life — our actions determine who we are, and resonate eternally. If we are willing to take up the cross and follow Christ, then the moment of judgment will be welcomed rather than dreaded.

“We welcome and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy….The judgment of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace” (47).

Our full communion with the Body of Christ finds its beginnings here and now, as hope instructs and informs us on that journey. And it is Mary, Star of the Sea, who will always “shine upon us and guide us on our way” (50).

For all of Spe Salvi’s theological depth, however, it is what the encyclical does not say that has engendered no small amount of controversy. As numerous commentators quickly recognized, Spe Salvi contains not a single reference to any of the documents from the Second Vatican Council.

Moreover, for one of the four major constitutions of the council, the very title of which contains the word hope (Gaudium et Spes), to be entirely absent from an encyclical devoted to hope begs consideration.

Indeed, the omission is glaring: since the close of Vatican II, the four encyclicals of Pope Paul VI and all fourteen encyclicals of Pope John Paul II cite the conciliar documents in abundance. A brief look at the statistical compilation underscores the uniqueness of this omission.

Pope Paul’s four post-conciliar encyclicals cite Vatican II an average of seventeen times; Gaudium et Spes specifically an average of seven times.

Those numbers skyrocket in John Paul’s oeuvre: Vatican II documents are referenced an average of forty times in his encyclicals; in Redemptoris Mater alone, there are no fewer than one hundred and three footnotes citing council documents.

Gaudium et Spes appears an average of twelve times in each of John Paul’s encyclicals; Veritatis Splendor sets the high-water mark with thirty-five references. With the exception of Paul’s first post-conciliar encyclical, the brief Christi Matri, and John Paul’s fourth encyclical, Slavorum Apostoli, Gaudium et Spes.has appeared in every single papal encyclical for the past forty-two years.

It even makes an appearance in Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (along with two other conciliar citations). And yet in Spe Salvi, nary a mention. From a peritus of the council, the failure to refer at all to the most theologically significant event in the past century — not to mention in the life of Joseph Ratzinger — is nothing short of startling. But what does it all mean?

Reactions to Spe Salvi’s conciliar silence have ranged from dismissive to alarmed. The Italian press especially has read quite dramatically a seismic shift in Benedict’s ecclesiology: only two days after the release of Spe Salvi, Rome’s La Repubblica, the largest-circulating newspaper in Italy, carried the sensational headline, “The pope who renounces the modern world.”

Writing with an enormous oversimplification of both the council and the thought of Pope Benedict, the article concludes that “Benedict XVI has turned his back on the Vatican Council.”

Another journal proclaimed, “Benedict XVI: A pope who ignores the Second Vatican Council.” The commentator Antonio Socci, offering a balanced analysis, goes so far as to dub Spe Salvi “a bomb.”

Are these conclusions much ado about nothing? Only through an exploration of Ratzinger’s view of Vatican II, and specifically Gaudium et Spes, can we fully and properly understand the genesis of Spe Salvi and how Pope Benedict intends for it to be read.

Even before the conclusion of the council, Ratzinger saw ominous signs on the horizon. What specifically troubled him was the final document, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes).

Suspicious of its heavily Chardinian influences, Ratzinger believed that the document spoke of the Church’s encounter with the modern world in overly optimistic tones. Lacking a balanced discussion of sin and the divide between the Church and the world (cf. John 15:18), Gaudium et Spes offered a focus on progress that he would later term (specifically in reference to article 17) “downright Pelagian.”

While Ratzinger contends that the document could, and should, be read properly, and that certain articles are quite laudable (e.g., 22), he nonetheless looks warily upon an unfounded rapprochement between Christian man and modernism.

Ratzinger’s suspicions would deepen and solidify in the post-conciliar years. Specifically, he was greatly disappointed to see Gaudium et Spes, which he regarded as the least of the four major constitutions, come to be viewed as the crowning work of the entire council. For Ratzinger, it was just the opposite.

Magisterial pronouncements should be deeply rooted in the ancient creeds, not in a superficial dialogue with non-believers.

While Gaudium et Spes presented, in Ratzinger’s view, a curious project with which to close the council, it was never meant to define the entire spirit of the council itself. These suspicions saw rather immediate realizations: a “can-do” spirit soon enveloped the Church, an optimism that had little grounding in the historical reality of the Pilgrim People of God.

Such a progressive outlook found its way into the pews, as tradition was largely cast off, to be replaced with self-affirming exhortations to “build the city of God.”

If the world is really not so bad after all, many began to ask, why do we need Christ? A renewed focus on the present, no longer grounded ecclesiologically or historically, served drastically to undermine the Church and her authority.

The flood-gates had been opened by a misplaced emphasis, and, as Ratzinger foresaw, people soon began wondering where things had gone so terribly awry. In short, the misreading of Gaudium et Spes resulted in a divorce between the council’s twin goals of aggiornamento and ressourcement; without the latter, the former becomes woefully inept and even detrimental.

To counter this prevailing tide, Joseph Ratzinger would devote much of his intellectual output over the next few decades to a “re-grounding” of the authentic aims of the council’s renewal.

The greatest error in the Church, one committed by both traditionalists and liberals alike, was to view the council as a fundamental break with the Church’s past.

For traditionalists, this was unimaginable treachery, and resulted most infamously in the Lefebvre schism of 1988. For liberals, the council un-tethered the Church and allowed for untold numbers and types of innovation, experimentation and reinterpretation. Ratzinger saw all of this as terribly wrong.

Throughout his writings, interviews and memoirs, Joseph Ratzinger clearly sees the legacy of Vatican II as having been hijacked, and needing to be restored to its proper place in the heritage of the Church. This means neither turning the clock backwards, nor jumping ahead, but re-evaluating the present situation of the Church.

The council must be authentically interpreted and implemented, not as a break from the past, but as a legitimate development of the Church’s magisterium.

The key to this goal, for the Pope, undoubtedly lies first and foremost in liturgical restoration. (For a fuller treatment of this topic, one would do well to refer to Eamon Duffy’s fine lecture, “Benedict XVI and the Eucharist,” published in the March 2007 New Blackfriars.)

In this vein, Ratzinger balks at the subtle but too-pervasive mindset that the Catholic Church began in 1965. The council must be viewed in the wider context of the Church’s history and living Tradition. That history comprises twenty-one ecumenical councils, of which Vatican II is but the most recent.

The lack of references to that particular council in Spe Salvi seems to possess a dual significance. Benedict is firstly, in Robert Moynihan’s fine phrase, “re-weighting” the council, placing it in the fullness of Church teaching.

Interestingly, although Benedict cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church eight times, not one of the paragraphs cited contains in itself a footnote to Vatican II. Benedict is making a strong statement, affirming the council implicitly and only through the authoritative lens of the entire magisterium.

At the same time, the Pope seems to be signaling (as Socci and others point out) that the Church has moved past the Vatican II era, one that has been unfortunately marked by deep-seated division and misunderstanding.

Ratzinger sees it as irrefutable that the great expectations of the council, and its promises of renewal, have been frustrated. Taking a candid look at the fruits of the past forty years, Benedict finds them largely rotten. The sunny optimism with which many read Gaudium et Spes, looked at from today’s vantage point, rings hollow.

Entering the third year of his papacy, then, Benedict evidences a clear “back-to-basics” approach. Foregoing overtures to the secular world, Pope Benedict, like his namesake, appears intent on shoring up the faith among its adherents.

His ecumenical overtures — to the Orthodox, to the Anglicans, to the Lefebvrists — all bear the urgent stamp of this need for unity. It is noteworthy that, unlike John Paul’s encyclicals, which were addressed “to all men and women of good will,” Benedict directs his to “all the lay faithful.”

The difference is subtle but underscores a clear shift in focus and priority. Benedict has spoken often of a smaller Church in the future, one composed, as it were, of a remnant faithful. Such language contrasts sharply with John Paul’s “new springtime”; Benedict may well foresee a new springtime, but only after a deep winter.

Much of this divergence finds its nexus in the term “Kingdom of God.” When Gaudium et Spes was misread in a secular and progressive way, talk of the Kingdom envisioned a world where universal peace and harmony reigned. If only we could eliminate war, poverty and injustice, heaven would become a place on earth. Without discounting the noble aspirations of these goals, Benedict nevertheless views them with a skeptical eye.

Looking at the modern world, the Pope sees a widening gulf between the secular project and the Church. In place of mutual cooperation and shared values, a spirit of marked hostility characterizes modern man’s view of Christianity.

Nowhere was this more recently crystallized than in the bitter debate over the European constitution. A mere mention of Europe’s Christian patrimony met with furious opposition by the architects of their new continental order.

Benedict stands unafraid, then, in calling the enemies of the Church by their name. Spe Salvi offers a penetrating look at the evils of Communism, both in theory and in practice.

Moreover, Benedict speaks frankly of the Antichrist, albeit through the writings of Kant, as a real threat to the faith of Christians in the end times.

Benedict here picks up an ancient theme of the Church —the continual struggle and ultimate incompatibility between the Church and the world. This conflict was given voice in 1976 by then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla: “We are today before the final struggle between the Church and the Anti-Church, between the Gospel and the Anti-Gospel.”

One can find this theme throughout Benedict’s writings, often through the work of Vladimir Soloviev, Russian philosopher, poet and religious thinker.

In one of Soloviev’s books, The Open Way to World Peace and Welfare, the Antichrist ushers in an age of pure rationalism and earthly well-being. In his short work, The Antichrist, Soloviev portrays the title character as a scripture scholar whose exegetical work denies the divinity of the Christ of the Gospels. Reducing Jesus to a mere social worker and non-violent resister, the Antichrist destroys the faith of Christians.

Joseph Ratzinger explored these themes at length in an address at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church during his 1988 visit to New York; he employed them again in his recent book Jesus of Nazareth.

Both Marx and Soloviev’s character fall into the same trap: trying to establish the Kingdom of God without God. It has been the project of man ever since the fall — in Eden, in Babel, in the modern world. And all such projects, uninformed by man’s ultimate destiny, are doomed to fail.

“There is no doubt, therefore, that a ‘ Kingdom of God’ accomplished without God — a kingdom therefore of man alone — inevitably ends up as the ‘perverse end’ of all things…” (23).

No earthly paradise, if such a thing were possible, would ever satisfy man, whose restless heart yearns for the infinite, for the great beyond.

Spe Salvi thus stands as a powerful corrective to this misguided optimism. Its lengthy middle section, dealing with the way in which hope can — indeed, must — inform the present, offers a true and sobering vision of the Kingdom of God.

Suffering and death do not disappear, but they are never the same. Hope, rooted in love, has transformative ability. Once man is freed by love, truly free for his own excellence, this love spreads outward and becomes manifestly present in the communion of saints here on earth. This foretaste, this longing, foreshadows the authentic Kingdom of God.

Such an assessment of the world is far from optimism. Indeed, when The Ratzinger Report appeared in 1985, it was widely deemed a pessimistic book.

But Pope Benedict has little use for such caricatures, which only represent subjective evaluations or wishful thinking. Instead, he revisits Christian hope as a little-remembered and less-understood virtue, but one that has the power here and now to shape the world for the better.

“Certainly we cannot ‘build’ the Kingdom of God by our own efforts….The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope” (35).

And so, Pope Benedict’s remarkable encyclical deserves to be read carefully. It shares an undeniable and, at times, uncomfortable link to the Second Vatican Council.

But rather than rejecting or minimizing the council, Pope Benedict restores its teachings to a rightful place and perspective within the Church.

Seeking to free the truth of the council’s documents, most notably Gaudium et Spes, from decades of misinterpretation and wrong emphases, Pope Benedict hopes that the fruits of the council can slowly and surely begin to blossom.

One can see in this young pontificate a steady mission, unashamedly reinforcing and renewing areas of the Church — theological, ecumenical, liturgical — that he believes have stagnated for too long.

In many ways, he continues the work of his great predecessor, although with a directness that can be seen variously as refreshing, startling or jarring.

One has every reason to believe that this pope has much more he wishes to accomplish; for now, he has given the world a profound encyclical that may well stand as a signpost when the history of the post-conciliar Church is written.

For as cautiously as Benedict reads the signs of the times, this demure Bavarian smiles and forges ahead with a sure grounding in hope —the very hope by which alone we are saved.

Brian A. Graebe is a seminarian of the Archdiocese of New York, studying at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie. After completing undergraduate studies at New York University in 2002 (philosophy, summa cum laude), he did graduate work in classics at the American Academy in Rome. Last summer he was chosen to participate in the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society in Kracow, Poland, where he studied Catholic social doctrine through the lens of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus. This is his third article for HPR.

00Friday, May 2, 2008 12:51 PM

Pope to holiday at secret location
in Australia before WYD

So the AFP did get it right the other day! Very unprecedented - but how are they going to keep the Pope's arrival secret anywhere?

SYDNEY, May 2 (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI will holiday at a secret location in Australia before World Youth Day in Sydney in July, event organisers said Friday.

Sydney Archbishop George Pell said the Pope would arrive in Australia on July 13 and leave on July 21, taking three days vacation before attending World Youth Day.

Event organisers said the 81-year-old pontiff "has decided to spend several days preparing for his encounter with young people" following the lengthy flight to Australia from Rome.

"The trip to Australia will be the longest journey the Holy Father has ever undertaken," World Youth Day coordinator Anthony Fisher said, adding organisers had selected a holiday destination for the Pope that was "beautiful and suitable for the leader of the world's Catholics."

"He will have the opportunity to see some of Australia's beautiful flora and fauna," Fisher said.

"We cannot, of course, disclose the location; he is a head of state seeking private time and has asked that that privacy be respected."

The Pope will be officially welcomed to Sydney in a harbourside ceremony on July 17.

Organisers have said they expect World Youth Day to attract some 125,000 international visitors to Australia's largest city.

The trip has sparked complaints over the costs involved after it was revealed that taxpayers would contribute 86 million Australian dollars (80.4 million US dollars) towards the event.

New South Wales state Premier Morris Iemma defended spending taxpayers' money, saying it would showcase Sydney to a global audience while generating 150 million dollars in revenue.

Catholics make up about a quarter of Australia's population of some 21 million people.

The first World Youth Day was held in Rome in 1986 and is now held in an international host city every two to three years. The last was in Cologne, Germany, in 2005.

Pope to rest at 'secret Sydney site'
before World Youth Day

of Sydney
May 02, 2008

THE Pope will holiday at a secret location in or around Sydney as part of his visit to Australia for World Youth Day, it has been revealed.

The three days will be spent resting from his longest flight as p\Pontiff.

Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, today announced Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Sydney on Sunday, July 13, ahead of the official start of WYD activities on July 15.

The 81-year-old Pope will spend three days without engagements, recovering from the long flight from Italy and preparing for his gruelling WYD schedule.

"This will be the longest journey Pope Benedict has undertaken," Cardinal Pell said.

"He will rest up for three days ... in an undisclosed location."

WYD organiser Bishop Anthony Fisher said the Catholic Church was delighted the Pope was coming early.

He declined to reveal where he would be staying, but said it would be in a location which would show Australia in its best light.

"We want to make sure we find a place for him that is serene and beautiful, gives him a real Aussie experience and gives him privacy during that time," Bishop Fisher said.

The Catholic Church will underwrite the cost of the Pope's extended stay, which he is taking from his annual leave.

Pope Benedict will be officially welcomed to Sydney in a harbourside ceremony on July 17 and will take part in WYD events until July 20.

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