POPE-POURRI: 'Light' news items, anecdotes about Pope Benedict now

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@Andrea M.@
00Wednesday, January 9, 2008 10:38 AM
It would seem that this holiday season saw a lot of musical performances inside the Apostolic Palace. This is a translation of an interview that was published in German regional newspaper in the city of Mainz:

09 January 2008

"O du fröhliche" in the Pope's Apartment

The Domchor (choir) of the Cathedral in Mainz serenated in the presence of Benedict XVI and his brother

By Monika Paul

The Domchor (choir) did not only sing during the Papal Mass on the Feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Basilica, but also after the Angelus prayer a delegation from Mainz had the chance to visit the pope in his Apartment. The following is an interview with Domkapellmeister (choir master) Prof. Mathias Breitschaft.

How did this meeting with the Holy Father Benedict XVI come about?

Breitschaft: I used my contacts to the pope's brother, the former Regensburg Domkapellmeister (choir master) Georg Ratzinger. He is spending some time in Rome after Christmas and therefore I called him and asked him, if there was a possibility that we could serenate - his [your] brother could also be present then, I said... Georg Ratzinger laughed and said: "I will ask him." From that point on I knew that it would turn out fine.

Can you give us some details on the performance?

Breitschaft: We were lead to the pope's private rooms - into the sitting room, as we were told. But that is, of course, all relative - it turned out to be a representative reception hall, in which we were all well accomodated. We were allowed to come with a delegation of the choir comprising 30 people, also the dean of the Cathedral was present. The secretary to the Pope [Father] Gänswein told us where to wait for the Holy Father.

When Pope Benedict finally came, he greeted us in a very joyful and straight forward fashion. "Grüß Gott beisammen" (Good day, everybody) he said. Domdekan (dean) Heckwolf held a short speech and referred to the Regensburg tradition of church music in Mainz. Since not only I come from Regensburg but also the organ player of the Dom in Mainz, Mr. Albert Schönberger, is from Regensburg. The pope was perplexed when hearing that a total of 330 singers are part of the different Ensembles of the Musica Sacra in Mainz. "There are that many!", he shouted.

He was concerned and asked about Cardinal Lehmann's health situation and was relieved to hear that our bishop had already said Mass last Sunday. And he talked to many of the boys in a personal way, asked them how old they were and what it was that they like most about singing.

And after that you performed for the Holy Father?

Breitschaft: We sang a selection of German Christmas songs - and at the end Georg Ratzinger's version of "O du fröhliche" - then both man were smiling ear-to-ear: the Holy Father and his brother.

How did you become acquainted with Georg Ratzinger?

Breitschaft: I myself once sang with the "Regensburger Domspatzen". It was then a great honor for me to that in 1969 Georg Ratzinger had me as a young man [conduct] the concert choir in the night preceeding Easter. This was my motivation for starting my own musical career.

00Wednesday, January 9, 2008 11:26 AM
German firm donates
solar panel system
for Aula Paul VI

By Carol Glatz
CNS News Hub
Jan. 8, 2008

The German solar company SolarWorld gave Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican a brilliant gift for Christmas.

Thanks to the Bonn-based company’s generosity, a $1.5 million solar power system will be donated and installed for free on the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall this year — fulfilling Vatican engineer Pier Carlo Cuscianna’s dream of making the Vatican greener and going solar.

After writing the story, which you can read here, I was able to talk with the company’s CEO, Frank Asbeck.

He was very happy to be offering the Vatican this gift and told me about the time he met Pope John Paul II in Rome just a few years ago.

Asbeck said he was at one of the general audiences in “prima fila,” that is, the front row where attendees get to shake the pope’s hand as he goes down the line.

When the pope got to him, Asbeck showed him a small solar panel and said “Look, Holy Father, at what we can do, making electricity from sunlight.”

Asbeck told me Pope John Paul looked at him with a smile and said “My son, God can do everything.” And then the pope asked that ”God bless your activities.”

Asbeck said there is a commercial somewhere showing a nun wearing sunglasses saying solar energy “is power from the boss himself.” Solar energy, Asbeck said, is a free gift from God that belongs to everyone. And the German CEO is doing a lot to make sure the capability of capturing power from the sun is shared.

He established an “Ethics Council” at SolarWorld just last year. According to the SolarWorld Web site, the council’s mission ”is to support not only the economic growth of the company but also the ecological and social dimensions of solar energy for a fair and sustainable worldwide development. ”

Through their Solar2World project, the company gives solar technology for free to poor communities. In one case cited on its Web site, the company donated a photovoltaic system for an AIDS orphanage in Malawi in Africa.

Asbeck told me a project is more likely to be a success when “a priest or good teacher takes responsibility” for the donated solar technology.

“People need a shepherd and if someone takes responsibility then the project is a success; people feel responsible,” he said, and it is less likely the solar-power system will be stolen, damaged or neglected.

@Andrea M.@
00Wednesday, January 9, 2008 11:59 AM
Here is the original article on the story, Teresa, that you posted above and that has made the news also in the regional newspaper from Bonn this past week-end:


German company gives pope gift of solar panels for audience hall

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A German solar company has given Pope Benedict XVI something special for Christmas: an electricity-generating solar rooftop for the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall.

The Bonn-based SolarWorld is donating approximately 2,000 solar modules to be installed on the audience hall roof to provide "the very first solar power ever generated in the Vatican," said a company press release.

The solar system will produce some 315,500 kilowatt-hours of power a year, offsetting some 315 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, it said. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that trap heat in the earth's atmosphere and is seen as a major cause of global warming.

DGAP News, an online German financial media outlet, distributed the press release Jan. 4. A SolarWorld press officer confirmed the statement with Catholic News Service.

The press release said executives at SolarWorld had read reports over the summer that the Vatican was planning to cool and heat its large Paul VI audience hall with solar panels.

The company's CEO, Frank Asbeck, contacted the Vatican and offered to provide the solar project as a gift, according to the Jan. 4 statement.

"With our gift we are paying tribute to the German pope. We support the commitment of the Catholic Church to a responsible use of the resources of creation," Asbeck said in the statement.

The company says the Vatican recently accepted the gift on behalf of the pope.

Asbeck said making the donation was "an obvious thing to do because Pope Benedict had lived in our Bad Godesberg Rhine quarter during his time in Bonn. We therefore feel very closely attached to him."

Just a few years after Pope Benedict, then-Father Joseph Ratzinger, received a doctorate and a licentiate in theology from the University of Munich, he lectured at the University of Bonn from 1959 to 1969.

The SolarWorld press release said the solar modules will be installed this summer by the company's engineers. Construction is due to start soon, it said, and should be finished in 2008.

The project's installation and completion will also be filmed, it added.

The gift was made to coincide with the Jan. 6 feast of the Epiphany. In many European countries, people celebrate the day by exchanging gifts.

Asbeck said: "If the three Wise Men from the East came to Bethlehem today, they would in all probability bring a solar cell in addition to gold, frankincense and myrrh. It is the symbol for the preservation of creation and for the energy supply of the future."

00Wednesday, January 9, 2008 12:03 PM

Remember the Los Angeles Times editorial entitled 'Teaching the Pope' shortly after the Papal visit to the USA was announced? Outrage at the LA Times's gall might have been attenuated because whoever wrote the editorial was apparently a layman who did not know better - and did not bother apparently - to read up on Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger before going up on his high horse of smug ignorance.

But a recent column in a New Jersey newspaper is unforgivable because it was written by someone who should know better but obviously prefers to play dumb, deaf and blind, but seeing who he is, no wonder! His biodata reads

Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., professor of humanities at Saint Peter's College, comes from a Trenton family of journalists, teachers and lawyers. He has taught or served as dean at five Jesuit colleges and universities, plus New York University graduate school and Brooklyn College.

Schroth's eight books include a biography of Eric Sevareid, a history of Fordham, and "The American Jesuits: A History," to appear in October. He is also the media columnist for the National Catholic Reporter. He writes on religion issues.

I won't post the article, but Carl Olson's fisking of it:

Jan. 8, 2008

In a piece titled, "Can the Church learn to listen?", columnist Ray Schroth sings the praises of the infallible, ex cathedra, magisterial pronouncements of self-described "Commonweal Catholic" and philosopher George Dennis O'Brien and his new encycl— er, book, Finding the Voice of the Church (Notre Dame University Press).

There's a plenitude of head-scratching material in the column, but I'll limit myself to two or fifty items. First:

I first encountered Dennis O'Brien, philosopher and president emeritus of the University of Rochester, in the 1970s when he wrote in Commonweal magazine that philosophy should be taught not by philosophers but by English teachers.

And I, for my part, have long thought that physical education should be taught by chemists, math should be taught by custodial engineers, and Britney Spears should be taught how to disappear by David Copperfield. But I suppose Schroth's anecdote makes sense, because it appears O'Brien thinks that Commonweal Catholics and non-Catholics should teach the Holy Father how to be a better Catholic:

Even though American Mass attendance surpasses that of de-Christianized Europe, here the younger generation is falling away from Christian belief. One reason is that once the Vatican Council closed, "the spirit of dialogue evaporated." John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, conducted a teaching papacy, not a learning papacy, as if they feared open discussion.

What is a "learning papacy"? I suspect (and my suspicions are confirmed by remarks later in the column) that it involves the pope essentially taking orders from academics and self-proclaimed experts, not from Jesus, who happened to play an essential role in the founding of this whole Church enterprise.

The comment about fearing open discussion is sheer nonsense and simply reveals that Schroth needs to spend a little time actually reading the various writings of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, whose works are filled with interaction with other viewpoints.

Again, it's not hard to figure out that the issue isn't that the popes won't engage in open discussion (since they do, constantly), but that they won't, say, allow the ordination of women, sing the praises of contraceptives, turn the Church into a democracy, etc., etc.

Thanks to modern communication techniques, the Pope has become the public "voice" of the church.

And 1950 years before "modern communication techniques," the Pope was the public voice of the Church because, well, Jesus gave him the keys to the Kingdom. Just thought I'd mention it...

The trouble with this, suggests O'Brien, is that of the many "voices" the Pope could use he has chosen those that cannot be heard effectively in the modern world. We have become accustomed to the Pope as "super-professor" or "judge." He writes long encyclicals and delivers homilies in which he tells us definitively - sometimes infallibly - what to think. At one time he said the issue of women's ordination was settled, and not to be discussed.

This sounds quite a bit like my three-year-old son at 8:00 a.m.: "I want a cookie!" "No, you cannot have a cookie right now," I reply. "Why?! I want a cookie!!" he demands. "You cannot have a cookie because you need to eat some proper food and not have any sugar at the moment," my wife says. "Whhhhhhyyyyyyyy!! Whhhaaaaa!" And so forth. My son thinks I'm being mean, unfair, authoritarian. I think I'm attempting to be a decent, caring father.

Likewise, when someone says the Pope, by virtue of articulating and explaining Church doctrine (which, we know, he cannot revoke or remake), is acting like a "judge" or is not speaking a way that modern people like, be assured that the issue is not the method, but the content.

And the Holy Father can issue short and clear explanations of why, for example, women cannot be ordained priests, but length and clarity are not impediments; the problem is a rejection of Church teaching. Period.

But our experience of the professor and judge model is that they are not infallible.

Keep in mind that John Paul and Benedict, combined, have issued —arguably — one ex cathedra statement. One. Uno. And that, of course, was on a matter that the Church has consistently said, "No can do. If you have a problem with it, take it up with Jesus."

Historians, for example, admit there is much they don't know and invite colleagues to correct them. O'Brien suggests that the Pope play the role of "patriarch," a "father" who has authority in his family based on his love for them, even though good fathers are sometimes wrong.

Have these guys read anything by Ratzinger/Benedict? Anything at all? Here, for example, is a short excerpt from Ratzinger's Called To Communion, on the nature of the papacy:

For with the same realism with which we declare today the sins of the popes and their disproportion to the magnitude of their commission, we must also acknowledge that Peter has repeatedly stood as the rock against ideologies, against the dissolution of the word into the plausibilities of a given time, against subjection to the powers of this world.

When we see this in the facts of history, we are not celebrating men but praising the Lord, who does not abandon the Church and who desired to manifest that he is the rock through Peter, the little stumbling stone: "flesh and blood" do not save, but the Lord saves through those who are of flesh and blood. To deny this truth is not a plus of faith, not a plus of humility, but is to shrink from the humility that recognizes God as he is. Therefore the Petrine promise and its historical embodiment in Rome remain at the deepest level an ever-renewed motive for joy: the powers of hell will not prevail against it . . .

Speaking of St. Peter, Schroth writes:

O'Brien beautifully contrasts the Peter in Matthew's Gospel, who receives the "keys of the kingdom," which is interpreted as papal authority, and the post-resurrection Peter, who has experienced forgiveness, in John. Jesus tells Peter to "Feed my sheep."

This, frankly, makes little to no sense. What contrast?

In Matthew 16 Peter is given authority by Christ. (Shortly thereafter he is harshly rebuffed by Christ: "Get behind me, Satan!") In John 21 that authority is reiterated and restored in the aftermath of Peter's denial. Jesus tells Peter: "Feed my lambs" and "Tend my sheep" and "Feed my sheep."

In other words, Peter is told by the Good Shepherd that he will participate in Jesus's shepherding of those who need feeding and guidance. Nowhere does Jesus say, "Make certain to establish a learning papacy that takes its cue from Commonweal Catholics."

Yes, Peter is a flawed, sinful, and weak man. As are his successors. As are, dare it be noted, philosophers, theologians, and newspaper columnists.

But, then, the Vicar of Christ, by virtue of his office, is given a unique task and the grace to perform that task, despite his weaknesses and imperfections. He is guided by the Holy Spirit and follows the example of the Lord. But Commonweal Catholics, we learn, have better ideas:

O'Brien suggests that the Pope learn from the psychotherapy of Carl Rogers, become the father who listens skillfully, and then teaches by offering forgiveness as a central Christian appostolic [sic] approach. He should teach more through prophetic action than through words.

So much for Peter preaching at Pentecost! Or making a definitive declaration at the Council of Jerusalem. Or preaching to Cornelius and his household. How is it that Peter and his successors ever got along without the teachings of Carl Rogers? It boggles my mind. Regardless, I conclude with these thoughts from Cardinal Ratzinger, found in the book/interview, Salt of the Earth (Ignatius, 1997):

There is an ideology that fundamentally traces all existing institutions back to power politics. And this ideology corrupts humanity and also destroys the Church. Here is a very concrete example: If I see the Church only under the aspect of power, then it follows that everyone who doesn't hold an office is ipso facto oppressed.

And then the question of, for example, women's ordination, as an issue of power, becomes imperative, for everyone has to be able to have power.

I think that this ideology, which suspects that everywhere and always what's at stake is basically power, destroys the feeling of solidarity not only in the Church but also in human life as such.

It also produces a totally false point of view, as if power in the Church were an ultimate goal. As if power were the only category for explaining the world and the communion present in it. After all, we are not in the Church to exercise power as if we were in some kind of association.

If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life, hence, real life, true life as such. Everything else is secondary.

If that isn't true, then all "power" in the Church - which then sinks to the level of a mere association - is nothing more than an absurd "spectacle".

I think we have to escape from this theology of power and this reduction that derives from Marxist suspicion.

Schroth's article is on

00Thursday, January 10, 2008 3:04 AM
Pope backs the 'Beautiful Game'
By Richard Owen in Rome
The Times of London
Jan. 9, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI, not normally thought of as a football fan, has said that the Beautiful Game can teach young people important lessons for life.

Speaking to Giancarlo Abete, head of the Italian football league, and a delegation from Serie D clubs, the Pope said at his weekly audience that despite corruption scandals and hooliganism, football could "increasingly be the vehicle of the values of honesty, solidarity and fraternity''.

William Punghellini, spokesman for the 162 Serie D clubs, said the league's work with youth teams helped to foster the values praised by the Pope. The clubs donated to the Vatican money they had saved by a decision not to buy Christmas presents. Vatican officials said it would go to help Bangladeshi flood victims.

The late Pope John Paul II was an ardent football fan who as a young man played in goal in his native Poland. Pope Benedict is not known to have played the game, but has encouraged a Vatican football tournament called the Clericus Cup and is said to support Bayern Munich, the leading team in his native Bavaria.

00Thursday, January 10, 2008 8:54 AM

Rizzoli came out in Italy today with a new book by Joseph Ratzinger, and Corriere della Sera had a couple of pieces about it yesterday, translated here.

[Why we are still in the Church]
by Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI
306 pp., Euro: 19.00

The title comes from a lecture given by Joseph Ratzinger in 1970, when he was professor of dogmatics and the history of dogma at the University of Regensburg - Why I am still in the Church - a response to the 'scandal' which it was seen at the time to belong to the church of Christ.

The book gathers together for the first time the various interventions of the future Pope - theologian, then bishop, finally Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - at the Catholic Academy of Bavaria over a period of 40 years.

In lectures, seminars and debates, he discussed his vision of the faith, of morals, of politics and of the church as an institution -
themes which have been frequently confronted in Benedict's Pontificate, from the concept of mission to the roots of Europe and dialogue with rationalistic thought.

These texts appear today as an extraordinary recapitulation of the basis for the actions of the theologian and bishop who became Pope in April 2005.

Just look at the first section, dedicated to the theme of the Petrine ministry, in which the future Benedict XVI reflects on the primacy of the Pope and the unity of the people of God: the argumentation he develops here shows us the guidelines of his Pontificate, and are like the skeleton of his first homily after becoming Pope.

Each of these discourses are illuminations of the thought and personality of one of the major protagonists of our time. Those on Europe analyze its roots, giving ample relief to its various 'elegacies' (Greek,Christian, Latin, modern) which formed us.

The text on the 'pre-political moral foundations of a liberal state' is the opening statement of his celebrated dialog with one of the major representatives of modern rationalist thought, Juergen Habermas, and testifies to the readiness and availabuility of Joseph Ratzinger to confront the most diverse cultural traditions.

Finally, no one can be indifferent to the lecture of June 4, 1970, with the almost provocative title from which the book's title comes - 'Why I am still in the Church' . It is the future Pope's calm response to what continues to be a 'scandal' to many - belonging to the Church of Christ.


And here is one early review of the book, from Gazzetta del Sud today:

The centrality of Christianity
in the writings of the Pope

By Diego Minuti

It is not a book 'by the Pope', but certainly Perche siamo ancora nella Chiesa, a collection of writings by Joseph Ratzinger before he was elected to the throne of Peter - is a book 'of this Pope', because it provides prompt confirmation of the thinking that unequivocally marks the Pontificate of Benedict XVI.

Rizzoli has a first printing of 20,000 only, which is a fraction of the 1.5 million that marked the first Italian edition of JESUS OF NAZARETH last year. But according to Rizzoli, 20,k000 is the usual first printing for books of this type, and that even Cardinal Stanislaw Dsiwisz's memoir of John Paul II had a similar first printing.

The texts gathered in the volume were from lectures and confernces organized by the Catholic Academy of Bavaria over the past 40 years.

Florian Schuller, one of the Academy directors during that period, said Ratzinger's itnerventions were always in perfect line with the statutory function of the academy, which is 'to clarify and promote the relationship between the Church and the world."

This is the perspective for thsse seventeen texts by the future Pope Benedict, delivered during the time that he was a professor in Bonn, Munster, Tuebingen adn Regensburg, then Archbishop of Munich and Freising, and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctirne of the Faith.

These texts, read today at a distance of many years from when they were delivered, are surprising for their 'enduring relevance' as 'discourses on principles that demonstrate the vastness and the focus of the theological thinking of Pope Benedict XVI'.

The themes are those which have always characterized Ratzinger the theologian, and not by chance, certainly, the first theme treated in the book is the Petrine ministry, as well as, significantly, 'collegiality as an expression of the structrue of communion in the faith' and 'the internal foundation of the papacy'.

Gazzetta del sud, 10 gennaio 2008

00Thursday, January 10, 2008 11:57 AM


PERTH, Australia, JAN. 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Legal tender in Australia now includes two coins bearing the face of Benedict XVI - commemorative gold and silver coins marking the July World Youth Day event.

Sydney will host the 23rd World Youth Day from July 15 to July 20. The Perth Mint last week released the coins commemorating the event.

The 1-ounce gold proof coin and 1-ounce silver proof coin depict the Pope and the World Youth Day logo and inscription. The design appears in color on the silver coin.

The obverse side of the coin is Queen Elizabeth II
who appears on Commonwealth coins as the Sovereign.

WYD'08 Chief Operating Officer Danny Casey said he believes the limited mintage coins will be popular among both Australians and international visitors. With a mintage limited to no more than 1,000 gold coins and 25,000 silver coins, they are expected to be sold out quickly.

Recommended retail price for the 1-ounce gold proof coin is $1,750 Australian dollars (US$1,545). The silver coin is priced at $89.50 Australian dollars (US$79).

"For many pilgrims and proud Australian hosts, WYD08 will be one of the most significant events in their lives," Casey said.

Both commemorative coins are available worldwide and issued as legal tender under the Australian Currency Act 1965. They can be purchased from the Perth Mint Web site.

Racetrack deal done
for Papal Mass in Sydney

Sydney, Jan. 11 (DPA) - It's taken a year, but Australian officials have finally agreed to terms with organizers of the Catholic Church's World Youth Day for the use of a Sydney racecourse for the event, which would bring Pope Benedict XVI to Australia for the first time.

The Australian Jockey Club is to vacate the Royal Randwick Racecourse for 10 weeks, leaving enough time to ready the venue for the July 15-20 event and to repair the track when it's all over.

More than 700 horses would have to be moved to temporary stables.

"They have signed off, they have agreed, and we'll now get on in a very cooperative fashion to ensure this event goes really well," New South Wales state government spokesman John Watkins said Friday.

"World Youth Day coordinating officials and the racing people at Randwick, the Australian Jockey Club, are happy with the deal," he said.

The cost to taxpayers of hosting Australia's biggest public event since the 2000 Olympic Games is now close to 100 million Australian dollars (87 million US dollars).

The highlight of Benedict's visit is to be an overnight vigil Mass for up to 500,000 people.

World Youth Day is held every three years, the most recent host being Cologne, Germany, in 2005.

00Saturday, January 12, 2008 12:50 AM
It's that book again!!!!!
Just received my new CTS catalogue. "Joseph e Chico" will be published in English on March 1st - and I'm going to be the first in line. The cover picture is slightly different from the Italian version - Saint Peter's with a sitting cat gazing at it.
You can buy it from the Catholic Truth Society, London - but I'm sure it'll be available from many other sources.
Mary xxxxx

Here's the cover! Sorry the picture is rather small.
00Saturday, January 12, 2008 1:58 AM

That Book Again!

Joseph and Chico will be published in the U.S. by Ignatius Press on Feb. 25. It has the same cover as the Italian edition. Here are the details:

Joseph And Chico

Availability: On Back Order
ISBN: 1586172522
Author: Jeanne Perego

Length: 44 pages
Edition: Hardcover
Code: JC-H
Your Price: $17.95
00Saturday, January 12, 2008 4:40 PM
Re: The faith according to Joseph Ratzinger / That Book Again
Two more books added to my wish list! [SM=x40799] [SM=x40799] [SM=x40799]
00Sunday, January 13, 2008 8:49 PM
Whoops - nearly lost: One Precious Ring
At the end of this morning's beautiful Mass in the Sistine Chapel, Papa lost his precious Fisherman's Ring. [SM=g27813] I saw him feel for it as he was moving away from the altar and I was terrified - actually, terrified for him, because I care so much - that it had been dropped somewhere and would be difficult to find. He turned at once and went back to the altar and there it was - on the altar. Phew! That was a nasty moment, for him and for me! [SM=g27829]

During The Mass for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Papa baptised thirteen babies, all offspring of members of the Vatican staff. I loved the return to traditional ceremonial and the use of the main altar [Papa facing the same way as the congregation], instead of a smaller wooden one which was used last year.

Luff und choy, Mary xxx
00Sunday, January 13, 2008 9:34 PM
I believe this is the fourth in a series of vignettes written by Paolo Mosca for Il Messaggero about tradesmen who dealt with Pope Benedict XVI in the years he lived in the Borgo Pio. Previous stories were about an electrician, his opticians, and a family of restaurant owners. The vignettes have usually been more about the interviewee and not all that 'informative' about the Pope himself, since they are indeed characterized by discretion both on the part of the journalist and the people he has interviewed - a virtue one must praise these days.

'A cassock must be
elegant as a flower'

By Paolo Mosca

A boy who was rather rebellious, he did not want to remain a country bumpkin in Camerino, Macerata province (southwestern Italy). In place of his parents' rake and hoe, he preferred working with needle and thread in a local tailor's shop in town.

"I dreamed of recreating the elegance of flowers in the garments we made for the customers," Rosario Mancinelli, 71, now says.

Quite the budding artist, then?
"Rather unconsciously," says the man who has been Joseph Ratzinger's personal tailor for more than 20 years, at his shop on Borgo Pio 90. "I convinced my mother to take me on a trip to Rome, especially to St. Peter's Square. And as soon as she let go of my hand, I ran off and started running through the columns, and went off on my own, sending her into panic. At three a.m., I arrived at the house of my uncles, who asked me, 'What are you doing here?' Anyway, two days later, I was a shop assistant at a tailor's shop on Piazza Mazzini."

So Jesus must have blessed you!
Yes. because a few days later, my mother forgave me, and that was like the spring that unleashed my fantasies of being a tailor myself. I found a new master in via dei Cestari, and he introduced me to Cardinal Noe, who brought me to work in the Vatican itself, working under the supervision of two cardinals - Guerri and Caprio - who would not tolerate even a wrongly placed button. They then introduced me to Cardinal Benelli who told me I should always keep in mind as a model the elegance of Pius XII's cassocks."

And when did you get married?
Giovanna was an elementary schoolteacher in my hometown of Camerino. She earned very little but she had an iron will. I married her and she became my principal assistant. She has made me very happy and given me three children, Laura, Nadia and Paolo; and now I have become a grandfather ten times".

Then you had a shop in via del Mascherino, and since 1984, here in the Borgo - a tailor's shop which also sells sacred objects.
Yes. But the miracle in my life arrived one morning with a little old lady who asked me if I could make clergyman suits for her brother Joseph Ratzinger.

Thus began a fabulous story for myself and my family. Ratzinger had a rare sweetness. He was quite fastidious about trying on the garments made for him and always had a kind word for myself, my wife and children. He first bought his famous beret from me. And I have it here.

Mancinelli opens a drawer and takes out the famous black beret.
"It is Italian-made, and he wears a size 58... [Now why does he have this beret? Did the Pope give it to him as a keepsake?/C]] Just think. For the Masses he said in his Piazza della Citta Leonina home, I gave him Sicilian wine from Mazara del Vallo and brought him hosts prepared by the Neapolitan sisters on via Aurelia, which he blessed." And he takes out bottles and a plastic baggie with hosts. [This man apparently knew how to collect souvenirs early!]

"I've never said it before, but a few months after he became Pope, he invited my wife and myself to morning Mass in his private chapel. And he smilingly remarked to my wife, "See how life changes!'"

Do you continue to make the Pope's cassocks?
Yes. I confess, though, that whenever I see him on TV, I check to see if his cassock is my work or not. Mine have a small pleat on the right shoulder and the sleeves are a particular cut."

Does anyone else work on the Pope's cassocks?
It's something I have not been able to share with anyone. But once, my daughter Laura attached a button....You know, he deserves it - a cassock should have the elegance of a flower.

00Tuesday, January 15, 2008 12:44 AM

Translated from Luigi Accattoli's blog yesterday:

"From your dress, I see you come from a different century. The variety of languages favored differences among peoples and wars. Now the world has gone back to Latin."

Thus speaks a man of the future in one of Jorge Luis Borges's fables in his "Book of Sand" (originally published in Italy in 1975).

I dedicate the epigram on the return to Latin (or of Latin) to my readers on the day that Benedict XVI for the first time says Mass facing the altar at the Sistine Chapel.

I write as I watch the ceremonies on TV and am listing down the small liturgical innovations introduced so far by the theologian Pope, which are always updated restorations of tradition.

The Cross back at the center of the altar, with seven candlesticks.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament before or after Mass.

The decision to return to the expression "For you and for many" in place of the interpretative adaptation "For you and for everyone".

Today, the celebrant reading the Canon facing the altar, not the people.

And the return of the question-and-answer formula to the baptismal rite, e.g., Q: "What do you expect of Baptism?" A: "Eternal life"., which was in the old Baptism rite but not in the Novus ordo.

I imagine that someday soon we will see Baptism occasionally administered using the extraordinary form, that is, with the 1962 Missal as updated by John XXIII and John Paul II.

I personally do not expect such 'restorations' but I take them very well and even find I like them.

To the 'warriors' of liturgical battles, I say that whoever resents these 'restorations' is taking the same attitude as those who in their time found fault with the Novus Ordo - and that both sides are guilty of paying more attention to the visible signs rather than what they mean.

00Tuesday, January 15, 2008 2:24 AM

I hope one of you has online access to the current issue of FIRST THINGS, which now requires subscription to access so you can share the full article. Apparently, Fr. Neuhaus writes on Spe salvi, in the February issue, from which the following excerpt was drawn. Knowing Fr. Neuhaus's insight and way with words, the entire article is obviously a must-read.

Meanwhile, this brief excerpt in itself is already quite tantalizing! With a concluding sentence that brings on the tears, because it captures the ineffable essence of this extraordinary man of God whom we are blessed and so fortunate to have as our dearly beloved Pope.

We do not know the eternal life for which we hope, says Benedict. “All we know is that it is not this.”

Then this from Augustine: “There is therefore in us a certain learned ignorance (docta ignorantia), so to speak.”

We do not know this true life, this ultimate happiness, writes Benedict, “and yet we know that there must be something we do not know toward which we feel driven.”

“The term ‘eternal life’ is intended to give a name to this known ‘unknown.’”

He takes a poetic stab at description: “It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time–the before and after–no longer exists.”

Such a moment is “a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed by joy.” Such a hope is responsive to the words of Jesus, “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). . . .

In night hours and in times snatched between the myriad appointments of the day, Benedict sits alone at his desk, writing and writing. He is ever the teacher, a “scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven . . . who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matt. 13:52).

Hence the first two encyclicals; hence the compellingly erudite lectures at public audiences; hence the first and promised second volume of Jesus of Nazareth.

It is said that this pontificate represents a return to the basics of Christian faith and life, and there is truth in that. More strikingly, it represents an appeal for the modern world to recognize that its achievements cannot be sustained apart from the authentic humanism of Christian faith.

To date, and with few exceptions, those who control the commanding heights of culture have not engaged, or even deigned to notice, his efforts.

Undaunted, he returns to the task again and again, writing and speaking in most intimate communion with St. Paul and St. Augustine, proposing to the world “a more excellent way
” (1 Cor. 12:31).

00Thursday, January 17, 2008 2:04 PM
By Francesco Antonio Grana

Here's a rare gem of a vignette translated from PETRUS today:

In his first encyclical, Redemptor hominis, John Paul II revealed, one year after his election as Pope, the answer he gave when he accepted his election in the sealed Sistine Chapel.

Benedict XVI has not done so, but Cardinal Michele Giordano, emeritus Archbishop of Naples, recounted how Cardinal Ratzinger accepted his election, at the recent presentation of my book Compromettiti con Dio. La rivoluzione di Benedetto XVI (Commit yourself to God: the revilution of Benedict XVI, L’Orientale Editrice.

"Before he was elected, Giordano recalled, "since I already thought he would be the next Pope, I approached him and said, full of confidence, even though like me, he was already past 75, and told him, 'If something happens for you, I hope you don't surprise us!' His face showed disturbance and he answered, 'Eminence, I cannot, I could not accept. Please, don't think of me, don't think of me!"

"Then, after he was elected, he answered, 'Propter voluntatem Dei accepto' [Because it is the will of God, I accept], with the serenity that came with knowing that God had now chosen him."

The two cardinals were linked by a long friendship. Every time Cardinal Ratzinger came to Naples or passed through on his way to Capri or Ischia, he never failed to visit his brother cardinal, of whom he has been a house guest many times.

Similarly, Benedict XVI has high esteem for two bishops who were auxiliaries to Cardinal Giordano in Naples: Mons. Vincenzo Pelvi, whom he recently named Military Archbishop Chaplain for Italy (his predecessor was Cardinal Bagnasco), and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Segnatura, who is said to be most likely to be named the Pope's Vicar in Rome, to succeed Cardinal Camillo Ruini when he retires in February or March.

00Friday, January 18, 2008 12:12 AM
Oh how beautiful!
I just popped into the forum before going to bed and read this beautiful little story. I shall treasure those words always.

And so will all of us here, I am sure!
00Wednesday, January 23, 2008 1:24 PM

Father Finigan, on his blog the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.com/
had this heartwarming entry yesterday from one of his readers:

My wife and I were there yesterday. Fantastic atmosphere, people started coming in from early morning.

We went to St Anne's for 10 am Mass then just about managed to squeeze into a spot in St Peter's Square from where we could see the window from which Papa Bendict would appear.

Nearly an hour later and the cheers went up as our Holy Father appeared at the window with arms raised up and a big smile on his face. Wonderful!

The cheers, hoots and whistles amid 'Viva Papa Benedetto' were almost deafening. Estimates in the region of 100,000 to 200,000 people plus in the square. Well, from where we were standing, right in the thick of it I knew how a sardine would feel!

Then silence for the Angelus and wild applause later as the Pope spoke of freedom of speech in the quest for Truth - especially on University Campus where freedom of speech must be free from political shennanigans and free from 'pin-head' professors with their own agendas and axes to grind. Students are not stupid however, and these charlatans are soon uncovered.

Greetings followed in several languages - not too many English speaking people there, but Italians and especially Romans turned out in their thousands.

Hundreds of Priests and Religious Sisters both young and old were everywhere to be seen - just so uplifting for us simple folk in the pews to see such a richness of youth among so many of our religious.

Hurrah for our Pope and for our Glorious Catholic Faith! It is alive and well - of that there is no doubt!

00Friday, January 25, 2008 5:41 PM

Fr. Joseph Ratzinger's thesis to obtain his 'Habilitation' license to be a professor at a German university was published in 1957, and an Italian publisher is marking the golden jubilee of publication by re-issuing an Italian edition. Theologian Elio Guerrero, who was also co-translator with Ingrid Stampa of the Italian edition of JESUS OF NAZARETH, wrote this brief introduction to the book for Avvenire.

Ratzinger reads St. Bonaventure
Translated from the
1/25/08 issue of

Back in the bookstores after decades is San Bonaventura. La teologia della storia (Edizioni Porziuncola, 256 pp, euro 28.00), one of the fundamental works of Joseph Ratzinger-Benedetto XVI.

The young scholar came to study the Franciscan doctor of the Church at the suggestion of his adviser Gottlieb Soehngen, with the aim of making a clarificatory contribution to the lively debate on theology in Bonaventure's time.

In the encounter between the 'reformed' thought of the first half of the 20th century and the scholastic thought that was prevalent in Catholic circles, there emerged what seemed to be an insurmountable difficulty.

Where the reformers, particularly Karl Barth, underlined the character of revelation as an event which places the believer every time in a position of deciding to adhere, Catholic tradition had become identified with metaphysical thought, which was static and well-defined, and seemed not to require going repeatedly through an act of faith that was increasingly becoming personal.

The solution towards which some scholars, including Catholic theologians, tended was to abandon metaphysics, a dehellenization that seemed antithetical to the original Semitic character of the faith.

In the preface to the Italian edition, Ratzinger - by then a cardinal - continued to underline the actuality of the issue. At the time, he still had notes for a new preface that I expected to find in this re-issue. But obviously, that was not possible.

Ratzinger's starting point was the work Hexameron, on the six days of the creation of the world, one of Bonaventure's last works, in which the saint, one year before his death, confronted the conflicting spiritual currents within the order, indirectly through Joachim of Fiore.

Enthusiastic over the teachings of the Cistercian monk which allowed the Franciscans to see in their founder Francis of Assisi as the one who started a new age of love as against an age of law, the more radical Franciscans - which included even Bonaventure's predecessor as Franciscan superior-general - risked bringing the order out of the Church.

Bonaventure, who had been elected superior precisely to face such a delicate problem, immersed himself in the spirit of Francis during the first few years of his mandate. He wrote a new biography of
Francis and meditated on the significance of his life. Comparing Francis to Joachim - whose theological vision of history he appreciated - he introduced a distinction which would eliminate any equivocation: the monk from Calabria, like Francis, did not start eschatological time, but announced it.

Compared to the simple folk in which Jesus rejoiced, Francis had received the gift of a superior spiritual intelligence from Scriptures. Together with revelatio, however, Francis also received the gift of humilitas which allowed him to establish an essential link between these two gifts of the Spirit.

For Bonaventure, this meant that the Magisterium should not be considered a weight by the individual, but as a guarantee that assures communion with the people of God in the Church. Those who do receive revelations - Bonaventure used the plural - have intimate familiarity with the mystery of God and are in communion with the hierarchical Church as well as the people of God.

Ratzinger's conclusion responded fully to the hypothesis of his research: even in the Catholic Church, the concept of revelation carried in itself a character of personal adhesion and urgency.

This was a fundamental insight that Ratzinger, along with Henri de Lubac, were advocating at the time of framing the Conciliar Constitution on Divine Revelation [Verbum Dei], which has remained present in his theology and writings.

Another detail gained from his encounter with Bonaventure - which became, since then, a distinctive feature of the thought and work of the man who is now the Pope - was the centrality and familiarity with Christ, to which his book JESUS OF NAZARETH, invites the faithful.

Avvenire, 25 gennaio 2008

For today's issue, Fr. Guerriero also wrote the ff. sidebars about St. Bonaventure and Blessed Joachim of Fiore:


He was born in Bagnoregio near Viterbo i 1217. His father was probably a doctor. As a baby, he was healed of a grave illness thanks to the intercession of Francis of Assisi, from which arose his great veneration for the saint and his decision to join the order founded by Francis.

A passionate scholar, he went to Paris in 1238 to complete his education. He obtained his license in theology and after 1250, he was named a professor at the University of Paris, where he became close friends with Thomas Aquinas.

In 1257, he left Paris when he was elected superior-general of the Franciscans, a position he held till 1273 when ope Gregory X named him a cardinal. He participated as such in the Council of Lyons where he played a leading role in attempts to unify with the Greek church. He died in Lyons on July 15, 1274.

At the peak of the Middle Ages, along with Thomas Aquinas, he elaborated his thought characterized by faith in tradition. Devoted to St. Augustine, he shared with him a belief in the primacy of love and the Trinitarian image reflected in the Spirit of Creation. The line of Greek thought opened by Dionysus the Areopagite also influenced him.

Among his other influences were St. Anselm and his ontological proof, and even more, the spiritual theology of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Nevertheless, this cultural and spiritual legacy revolved around Franciscan life and thought, which was the source that irradiates Bonaventure's theology and conception of Christian life.


Born to a rich family in Celico around 1130, Joachim received a classical education in nearby Cosenza before entering the seminary and becoming a Cistercian monk. In 1188, he founded the convent of St. John in Fiore and the order of the Florentines, which received the approval of Pope Celestine III in August 1196.

In his writings, Joachim - taking off from the dogma of the Trinity - divided human history into three fundamental ages: that of the Fathers, corresponding to the narration of the Old Testament; that of the Son, represented by the Gospel, from the coming of Jesus up to 1260; and that of the Holy Spirit, from 1260 onward, that period during which mankind, through a climate of freedom and purity, would have achieved direct contact with God.

His followers, the Joachimites, carried his eschatological propositions to an extreme, such that the Fourth Lateran Council declared some texts about the Trinity falsely attributed to the Blessed Joachim after he had died in 1202.

00Friday, January 25, 2008 9:11 PM

On 1/21/08, I posted this note in NEWS ABOUT BENEDTCT.

Just a note here to say that yesterday's L'Osservatore Romano (1/20/08) carried a virtual mini-special on Joseph Ratzinger and his 'Habilitation' thesis, Die Geschichtstheologie des heiligen Bonaventura (St. Bonaventure's theology of history), first published in German in 1959, and to be published in Italian this month. [It appears it was published in English in 1969].

It consists of four articles. The first and lengthiest is drawn from Chapters 2 and 3 of the book, giving an overview of Bonaventure's life and the significance of his work fort he Church (he offered the first complete study of how the New Testament played out what the Old Testament pre-announced about Jesus Christ).

The other three articles are from Fr. Ratzinger's Preface to the 1969 American edition; a review of the book as Ratzinger's attempt to show the evolution of Christian thought between Augustine and Bonaventure, passing through the mystic Joachim of Fiore; and a brief backgrounder on how Fr. Ratzinger came to decide to undertake a study of St. Bonaventure.[/
QUOTE] Here is a translation of the part of Fr. Ratzinger's Preface that was excerpted:


BY Joseph Ratzinger
From the Preface to the American edition, 1969

When, in the autumn of 1953, I started preparing for this study, one of the questions that occupied first place within Catholic theological circles in the German-speaking nations was the question of the relation between the story of salvation and metaphysics.

It was a problem that came above all from contacts with Protestant theology which, since Luther's time, tended to see in metaphysical thought a distancing from the specific circumstance of Christian faith, which showed man not only the way to eternity but towards the God who functions in time and in history.

In this respect, questions of a different character and of a different order also emerged. How can something that has already happened become historically present? How can something unique and irrepetible have universal validity?

On the other hand, did the 'hellenization' of Christianity, which sought to overcome the phenomenon of the particular through a mixture of faith and metaphysics, perhaps lead to development in the wrong direction? Had it not created a static way of thinking that was not capable of doing justice to the dynamism of Biblical style?

These questions exerted a strong influence on me and I intended to make my contribution to answering them. In the light of the tradition that was commonly accepted then in German theology, it seemed obvious to me that I would not be able to do this a priori. On the contrary, I would be able to do it only and properly in dialog with that theological tradition which was being questioned. A systematic formulation would be possible only with such a comparative study.

I tried to give a provisional image of such a formulation in my book, Introduction to Christianity, which was published shortly after the Second Vatican Council (1968). Having decicated my first study to Augustine and having thus acquired a certain familiarity with the world of the Church Fathers, it seemed natural to tackle the Middle Ages next.

In relation to the questions which preoccupied me, Bonaventure was a subject who was more appropriate for my study than Thomas Aquinas. In doing so, I had a dialog 'partner'. The questions I wished to pose to this partner could be summarized in general terms in the concepts of revelation-history-metaphysics.

First of all, I studied the nature of revelation, along with the terminology used to express it. On the basis of this material, I attepted to describe the relationship between history and metaphsics as Bonaventure understood it. Even today, it has been possible to publish only some fragments of the conspicuous material that came from this research.

Besides the external reasons implied, there was also an internal reason: it derived from the fact that, in formulating the questions, we are already approaching Bonaventure from our concept of history, where it would be more important to read Bonaventure within his own structure and context, even if, doing so, we could discover a perspective which is completely alien to us and which could appear devoid of any significance to our actual problem.

Thus I cocentrated my attention increasingly on the theology of history such as Bonaventure himself developed during the spiritual battles of his time. That is how this book took its origin.

The results were rather surprising. It became evident that Bonaventure's theology of history represented the struggle to reach a true understanding of eschatology. In this way, it was still anchored to the central circumstance of the New Testament itself. It became clear that the discussion which Bonaventure undertook with Joachim of
Fiore - the extraordinary prophet of that time - led to a change in the concept of eschatology which is still operative today.

Finally, it became obvious that the theology of history did not represent just an isolated area in the thought of Bonaventure. On the contrary, it was linked to the basic philosophical and theological choices that constituted the premises for his participation in the harsh controversies of the 60s and 70s of the 13th century.

It was in these controversies that the problems of philosophy and theology, as well as those of hellenism and dehellenization, not to mention the merits of whether faith could be transformed to understanding, were enmeshed.

It was clear to me that Bonaventure could not keep silent about Joachim, being the superior general of an order that had bween brought to a point of rupture by the Joachimite question.

Bonaventure's Hexameron was the answer he gave to the problem, in his capacity as superior general: it is a critical discussion with the Calabrian monk and his followers. Without Joachim, this work would be imcomprehensible.

But the discussion is carried on such that Joachim is interepreted as being within tradition, whereas his followers interpreted him against tradition. Bonaventure does not totally reject Joachim (as Thomas Aquinas did); rather, he interprets him in an ecclesial manner, thus creating an alternative to the radical Joachimites.

On the basis of this alternative, he sought to preserve the unity of the order.

Tübingen, 15 August 1969

00Saturday, January 26, 2008 12:54 PM
Cardinal Schönborn recalls days
as student of the Pope

ROME, Jan 25, 2008 (CNA).- The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Cristoph Schönborn, gave a DVD to Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday containing a summary by Austrian National Radio of his visit to Austria last September and recalling the years the cardinal spent as a student of then Professor Ratzinger.

“Listening to Benedict XVI is always a great opportunity, because he always gives us hope,” the cardinal said. “Everybody in Austria was amazed at how the Pope faced any issue, how he teaches with his testimony, with clarity and humility, arguing for the beauty of the faith,” the cardinal added.

“I was a student of the university professor Joseph Ratzinger, and I remember that he was not afraid to address any question, any issue, not even during the difficult years,” Cardinal Schönborn recalled.

“When I think of my professor, who is now Pope, I wonder what was so fascinating about him to us students. Why did people come from all over the world to study with him? Joseph Ratzinger always had this unique way of diving deep into things without leaving out the existential aspect,” he said.

“The students were fascinated with this calm and rigorous man, always capable of indicating the path from doctrine to experience,” the cardinal said in conclusion.


Sorry, I saw an item about this in PETRUS last Wednesday, but since it required translation and I had to translate the catechesis and other other articles first, it slipped my mind. Nevertheless, here is the translation now

A student and his teacher:
Schoenborn on Prof. Ratzinger

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 23 - "The students were fascinated by this professor who was rigorous but gentle, always ready to show the passage from doctrine to experience and to research," said Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Archishop of Vienna, recalling his days as a student of the future Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg.

"What do I remember? There was not a single question or demand which he was afraid of, even in the difficult years," Schoenborn told L'Osservatore Romano, and his personal recollections have taken on a new meaning in the light of the La Sapienza episode.

"When I think of my professor who is now Pope, " he added, "I ask myself what was it that fascinated us students so much about him. Why did they come from all over the world to study with him? Joseph Ratzinger always had this unique way of treating questions in depth without ever leaving aside the existential aspect."

The Cardinal had just taken part in the general audience with the Pope, after which he presented him with a DVD produced by the Austrian national radio ORF on the Pope's apostolic voyage to Austria last September.

"To listen to Benedict XVI is always a great opportunity," Schoenborn said. "It means to be encouraged in hope. In Austria, last September, the Pope encouraged both the Church and society - it is something all Austrians agree upon."

He concluded: "Everyone in Austria was fascinated at how the Pope faced every issue, how he teaches, as a witness [of Christ], with clarity and humility, arguing for the beauty of the faith."

00Sunday, January 27, 2008 9:05 PM

Once again, Beatrice on her site benoit-et-moi.fr
provides us with an article from the Italian magazine DIVA E DONNE, this time with a 5-page spread on Mons. Georg Ratzinger, who was interviewed shortly before he left Regensburg last month to come to Rome for his annual holiday visit with his brother the Pope.

Since the article is entitled MY BROTHER, THE POPE, I decided to post this here rather than in PEOPLE AROUND THE POPE, even if much of the interview is about the Monsignor.

Georg Ratzinger:

By Franco Bucarelli
An exceptional meeting with Mons. Georg
shortly before his 84th birthday

REGENSBURG - "I thank the Lord for letting me reach this age, even with my eyesight problem which no longer allows me to read, especially music sheets. Music always lightened our family life. Our father loved to play the zither and to sing. It was he who gave us the love for music. Even for my brother, it was fundamental to make music together in the family. For us, it represented a dimension of harmony, which seemed to us to come from a divine source.

"Even today, the Pope continues to play Beethoven and Mozart at the piano, whenever he has a moment to spare. As for me, whenever I can, I love to hear the choir of 'white voices' at the Regensburg Cathedral. I directed them for many years and they have become famous throughout the world.

"But above all, I thank the Lord for having given me the incommensurable joy of seeing my brother called to guide the destiny of the Catholic church."

Monsignor, is there anything else for us to discover about this extraordinary Pope?

"I cannot tell you very much because he has written his own biography. Then there has been a vast amount written about him which has illustrated every aspect of his life and his work, especially after he was elected Pope. Believe me, I wouldn’t know what else to add to what has been said and written about him."

We are in the salon of Mons. Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Benedict XVI, who lives in this Gothic house painted with vivid colors in the heart of old Regensburg, at the end of a narrow street now familiar to everyone since the election of the German Pope.

The street is Luzerngasse, and the number 2 on the iron gate has a bell that is labeled in tiny characters with the famous surname RATZINGER.

Mons. Georg would be celebrating his 84th birthday soon and was preparing to leave for Rome and the Vatican, where there is a small mansard apartment right above the papal apartment ready to welcome him.

Old friends of his from Bavaria, including cardinals, many of whom practically grew up with the prelate, his brother and their late sister Maria, will be coming to greet him on his birthday. It will be an occasion to reminisce about old times in that most Catholic of regions, Bavaria, but mainly to celebrate with Mons. Georg, the Pope’s beloved brother, who is three years older.

“We were always profoundly bound together,” he says of the Pope. “He has always lived his sentiments profoundly, and now he must make important decisions every day. But he has great interior courage, which is no always apparent externally, but which has always accompanied him in his vocation.

“His great desire since he was a child was to serve the Lord. At school, he was excellent, but he always found time to play with me and our sister Maria. He held up our morale during the years when the situation in our country was not happy because of the war. In those dark days, music always kept us company.”

Mons. Georg grew up with an extraordinary passion for music. At 11, he already played the organ in church, and that was perhaps the time when his vocation as a priest also started to firm up.

In this rare interview, he evoked his boyhood, referring often to his sister Maria, who now rests in the cemetery of Ziegetsdorf.

The walls of the monsignor's house are full of memories; there are various photos of him with his brother who would become the Pope, and whose coat of arms is painted in bright colors at the entrance to his room, reminding the visitor of the symbols of Bavaria, which for centuries, was a cradle of Christianity.

Meanwhile, like a discreet shadow, Frau Agnes Heindl – who has taken care of the Pope’s brother and his house for many years – is in the kitchen, from which comes the aroma of Kartoffelnsuppe (potato soup) which Mons. Georg adores, as much as the unequalled apple strudel that is one of his housekeeper’s specialities. It is she who welcomes privileged visitors of the house with honey tarts and reviving brews.

The telephone rings all the time. They are friends who want to wish the Monsignor 'Happy birthday' before he lives for Rome, where he was to spend his 84th birthday on January 15 with his brother.

The two are still closely bound, despite the distance that separates them physically for most of the year. The monsignor has been a guest several times at the Vatican and at Castel Gandolfo since his brother became Pope.

In 1946, they entered the Seminary in Munich together, and came out five years later as priests with different destinies. While Joseph set out to become the great theologian that we know today, Georg was first named choirmaster at Traunstein, a precious gem of a Bavarian town, eventually to become Choirmaster in Regensburg.

The two brothers talk to each other by phone at least once a week. Besides asking his brother how he is, the Pope also wants to know about their other friends and about his house in Pentling, a suburb of Regensburg.

“For many years,” the monsignor says, “that house was also visited by many cats. My brother and I loved to see them ambling around the garden. Now, the trees have grown, and have covered some of the walls. The neighbors have set up a few beehives, and send honey to the Vatican, which the Pope appreciates very much.”

“During my visits to the Vatican.” he continues, “I have seen how exhausting his days are, but he trusts completely in the Lord to help him in his difficult mission. And he is also much sustained by the faithful with their prayers, including our own fellow Bavarians, who since he became Pope, have seemed to increase their attendance at religious services. Every important liturgical feast is a manifestation of the triumph of faith."

For sure, since his brother became Pope, the life of this priest and choirmaster has changed, perhaps even upset. He receives so many letters and postcards from people who ask him for any object associated with his brother, or to seek prayers for a particular favor.

There are even some who ask for a letter of recommendation for someone who needs work, and patiently, he answers them that all he can do is include them in his prayers.

Monsignor, would you consider transferring and living in the Vatican?
"I am too old to do that. Besides, here, I have my roots, my home, people who share our traditions, our friends with whom we have shared our joys and concerns.”

In the early days, shortly after Benedict’s election, Mons. Georg would refer to him in conversation as “my brother’ or even “Joseph”. Now, he is more likely to refer to him as ‘the Pope’.

These days, before he leaves for Rome, the old but sprightly prelate has been kept home by the cold Bavarian winter. But when the weather is good, he likes to take a walk to the nearby Regensburg Cathedral, to meet friends, or to listen to the Regensburg Domspatzen, the boys who have succeeded to those whom he trained and led for 30 years to great success at home and abroad.

“To see how these young artists were applauded wherever we went was the greatest satisfaction in my life,” he says. “They put their hearts into song, as much as they did their voices. Here is a collection of their best interpretations. It is a gift to you, who have come here to Bavaria to bring me birthday greetings, from yourself and in behalf of your readers.”

Mons. Georg opens an antique bureau and takes out a CD of the Regensburg Domspatzen. I thank him for the double treat: the exclusive interview for DIVA E DONNE, and this most welcome gift.

Monsignor, what will your birthday cake be like at the Vatican?“I don’t know, but I am sure it will be a beautiful surprise.”

00Tuesday, January 29, 2008 4:23 AM

Interview with George Ratzinger

What a lovely interview and what a lovely person Msgr. George is. It is wonderful that he can still make the trip to the Vatican for his birthday and on other occasions so the brothers can still spend time together. It is also wonderful that their friends in Regensburg can be counted on to visit and help Msgr. George. Thanks for translating the article, Teresa. Sadly, we never hear about George in the English press.

00Tuesday, January 29, 2008 4:53 PM

It's almost like a new book on or by Benedict XVI is out every week in Italy. Here's the latest.

Effetto Benedetto:
Papa Ratzinger in 40 parole

192 pp • € 12,00
Effata Editrice

A Pope to listen to, more than to see, has become a cliche about Pope Benedict XVI [which, of course, any Benaddict will hotly dispute, as this is a man who must be experienced in all his public dimensions].

We prefer to add: A Pope to read, as another way to get the 'Benedict effect' which he has impressed on the world by his exceptional personality and style.

The book presents the Magisterium of Benedict through 40 reflections on themes in a 'glossary' that goes from Amore to Papa, from Eucharist to Matrimony.

Some are 'words' particularly dear to him, in the sense that he uses them often - friendship, beauty, happiness, freedom, relativism, truth. He has offered many of these 'thoughts', spoken or written, from when he was Cardinal Ratzinger - reflections of intellectual and theological density about Europe, secularity, reason, theology. And the great themes of his Pontificate - ecumenism, youth, Islam, peace.

And how can a Pope not talk about the Bible, social doctrine, liturgy, Mary, mission, the priesthood, vocation? But he also has a passion for Music, and even has something to say about Sport...

The book was put together by Paulo Fuci, a 36-year-old journalist who has been in charge of Vatican and church news for SAT 2000, the TV channel of the Italian bishops conference, and by Leonardo Possati, 35, who also works for SAT 2000 in its national news section.
00Tuesday, January 29, 2008 5:16 PM

The Benedict Effect

Hmm. Obviously the authors of the new book above don't read our forum posts or they would know what the real meaning of "the Benedict effect" is.

00Tuesday, January 29, 2008 6:27 PM

This story is really much more than that, but the Guardian chose to lead off with it.

Sentamu stands the Pope a beer
By Riazat Butt
The Guardian
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

When meeting the Pope it is customary to offer him a gift, and Benedict XVI has amassed many tokens of esteem. Tony Blair gave him a painting of the Catholic convert Cardinal Newman and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah presented him with a jewelled scimitar.

When the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, met the pontiff he gave him the Holy Grail, a beer brewed in Masham, North Yorkshire.

It was the highlight of the archbishop's first trip to Rome to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and to cement cordial relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

Following their 15-minute chat in the Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura, believed to be the burial place of St Paul, Sentamu said: "I told the brewery I was meeting the Pope and they made a special brew for him. I heard he'd been given some Black Sheep ale and liked it. So I brought that and the Holy Grail."

The gifts pleased the Pope, who is Bavarian by birth and prefers beer to wine and water. That the tipple was a one-off would have also suited a pontiff with designer flourishes. During a two-hour service, which was peppered with incense, chanting, coughing and ringtones, his ruby-red Prada loafers peeped out from under his ivory robes. [ROLLING MY EYES IN USUAL DISMAY! And what on earth are 'ringtones'? He must mean the sound of handbells, something usual in traditional Catholic liturgy, the use of which has apparently disappeared with the Novus Ordo.]

"I was very impressed by the Pope," Sentamu said. "He cares about human beings. He is such a deep theologian, it drives him to compassion. He is not a starchy person, but people look at his writings, they are very precise, and think he is like that ... but he is very warm."

Squabbles over the ordination of gay bishops have alarmed the Vatican, which fears that there could be no further dialogue until the communion's future is secure. During a session with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the York delegation reassured Vatican officials that the Anglican communion remained healthy. They cited the forthcoming Lambeth conference, which will bring the world's Anglican bishops together, as an example.

The Rev Canon Robert Paterson, Sentamu's chaplain, said: "We said, 'Nothing is broken. Lambeth is going ahead, Rowan [the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams] is fine and it's steady as she goes'."

Vatican insiders said Williams and the Pope bonded immediately when they met in 2006. Both academics, they had read each other's books before their private audience and the Pope was delighted that Williams addressed him in German.

"They had a three-hour lunch," said one source. "The Pope never has a three-hour lunch with anyone."

Sentamu observed that while Williams may not be loved in the Anglican communion, he was held in high regard by the Vatican. "The Roman Catholic Church has tremendous respect for Rowan. It's a bit sad when a son is loved by his neighbours but not by his father.

"Anglicans always carry out their quarrels in public. The danger is we look more divided than we are. The joy is we talk about everything. I'm amazed people call Britain a secular country when 70% of people identify themselves as Christian and 90% believe in God.

"Christianity has become part of the furniture ... like a grand piano nobody plays any longer. I want the dust to be taken off and people to play music. The Anglican church will survive, but not for its own sake. Africa, Aids and bad governance are rampant. If the church concentrates on doctrine we will be in the minority. If Jesus were around he'd say to the church, 'Look after the poor.'"

He praised the charitable work of the Sant'Egidio community, a lay group helping Rome's destitute and homeless. More than 20,000 people, mostly immigrants, have registered to use its facilities, including a soup kitchen and language school.

"They give them education and understanding. I heard at least nine languages in that dining hall ... but we have a common tongue - humanity.

"Italy is the starting point for asylum seekers but the UK is their final destination. We're seen as a caring island. Britain should be proud that it can contain everyone. I never thought I would think this way because I have always criticised the government on its immigration policies. Now I know where the battle is. We have to bring other EU nations up to our standards."

00Thursday, January 31, 2008 1:28 PM

Not a very good likeness but at least, not irreverent!

MAINZ, GERMANY - A man works on a float featuring Pope Benedict XVI lighting a candle on January 30, 2008. The float will be part of the Canival Monday's parade on February 4, 2008 in the streets of the western city. (Photo by Martin Oeser/AFP/Getty Images)
00Thursday, January 31, 2008 3:13 PM

Thanks to Beatrice, who 'caught' this excerpt from an interview by ZENIT's French service with Cardinal Paul Cordes of Cor Unum, in which he is asked about Pope Benedict. The Pope made Cordes a cardinal in the November 2007 consistory. Here is a translation:

ZENIT:... In Rome, you had the opportunity to get to know Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now our Pope, but perhaps you knew him earlier...

CARDINAL CORDES: I first met him when he was still a professor, at the start of Vatican-II, probably 1963, I don't remember exactly. He gave a lecture and I was surprised at his responses to the students' questions.

His answers were always exhaustive, almost a mini-lecture on the specific topic. If one of us seminarians asked him a question, he would have six or eight answers, and I thought, "But he must have known the question beforehand? How else could he find such wide-ranging answers at all levels?" so that was my first impression. After that, I met him many times more.

When he was Prefect of the CDF, we saw each other frequently because I was a consultant to the congregation. Later on, when I got an apartment in the CDF building, he would be leaving the office at the time I was going home, so we met often. When I had a problem about certain questions, I would ask his advice. Our relations were very friendly. He sent me his books with a dedication. It was certainly a very beautiful friendship for me. And evidently, when he was elected Pope, I was very happy.

But in a way, there can no longer be the same proximity as before, and you must regret that a bit...

People often tell me, "Say hello to the Pope for me!" Of course, that is not easy now, so I say hello to his guardian angel.

On he one hand, the relationship is more complicated now. I see he has such a burden to bear, to the point that initially, he rejected the idea of becoming Pope. So he has to keep himself well, make good use of his time. And that is why contact has become difficult.

But I think of him often, especially through prayer, because he himself is not ashamed to ask for our prayers. This way, the relationship continues, even if not at the 'human level' that was possible before.


And for those who know German, Beatrice has posted a You-Tube clip of a 2006 audience when the Pope talks to a delegation from Tittmoning and reminisces about his boyhood memories of Christmas in Tittmoning. A translation of what the Pope said then was posted on this thread at the time.


00Friday, February 1, 2008 6:46 PM

I detached this sidebar from John Allen's post today on an extensive news conference by a Jesuit spokesman, which I have posted in NEWS ABOUT THE CHURCH.

As is well known, the Jesuit constitutions specify that the order is free to choose its own leader – the Jesuits do not need the approval of the Pope for the man they select.

Nonetheless, the Jesuit practice is to inform the Pope immediately after the election, so that he is the first person to hear the result. In fact, the delegates remain in the grand Aula of the Jesuit Curia until the Pope has been informed.

I’ve been wondering, however, what exactly it means to say that the Pope has been “informed.” Does that mean, for example, that a fax was sent over to the papal apartment with the name of the new Father General? Did someone actually scuttle across St. Peter’s Square to bring the news? How, exactly, did this work, and are we really sure that the Pope himself knew the name before the news made its way around the world?

Having put that question to several people over the course of this week, I’m finally in a position to reconstruct the event.

Once the date of the vote had been set for January 19, the Jesuit leadership asked Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson and a member himself of the General Congregation, to look into the best way to get the news to the Pope.

Lombardi in turn contacted Monsignor Georg Gänswein, the private secretary of the Pope, to ask how best to reach Benedict on Saturday morning. Gänswein explained that the Pope would be in his apartment until mid-morning, and then would be in the Apostolic Palace holding audiences for the rest of the morning. In any event, Gänswein said, Lombardi should call Gänswein on his cell phone, so he could relay the news to the Pope.

(As a footnote, anyone who has ever been in the Apostolic Palace knows that its thick stone walls mean that cell phone reception can sometimes be spotty. Apparently, Gänswein advised Lombardi that if he was unable to get through, he should call the main Vatican switchboard and ask to be transferred to Gänswein’s desk.)

Shortly after the election of Nicolás, Lombardi reached Gänswein's cell phone with the news that a new Father General of the Society of Jesus had been elected. Benedict XVI was at that moment in the middle of an audience, but Gänswein asked Lombardi to wait, and then passed his cell phone to the Pope.

Lombardi was thus able to inform Benedict directly of the name of the new “black pope.”

In summary, thanks in part to the miracle of cellular communications, the process worked exactly the way it’s supposed to: Benedict personally learned the name of the new Jesuit general before the rest of the world.

(One final footnote: Ever the gracious figure, Benedict XVI apparently apologized to Lombardi that he wasn’t able to speak at length, but stayed on the phone long enough to learn not just Nicolás’s name but also a brief summary of his background.)

00Sunday, February 3, 2008 12:46 AM

The B&W photo is one of those Palma posted today, and it happens to be
a picture of Camillo Ruini and Joseph Ratzinger taken in Canossa in 1971.
Both were simply theologians at the time - Ruini was headmaster of
the theological school in his home region of Reggio Emilia, and Ratzinger
a professor at Regensburg University.

This picture was taken in Canossa, an episode Ruini has recounted before.
Canossa is a castle town in Emilia-Romagna, famous as the site where
the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV did penance in 1077, standing three days
bare-headed in the snow, in order to reverse his excommunication by Pope Gregory VII.

The two friends 36 years later - one is Pope, the other his Cardinal Vicar in Rome.

00Sunday, February 3, 2008 1:58 AM

Caterina managed this trick seamlessly!

And Monica/Pandora's video-caps captured this undeniable record
of the 'pancino papale'....All that strudel, Papi dearest!
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