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

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00Wednesday, August 20, 2008 4:05 PM

'Papa' is a great-great-granduncle again!
Translated from

I've always wondered why no German journalist has sat down yet - as far as I know - just to account for our Papino's living relatives. One gathers there are quite a few, and we have even posted a couple of items on Mons. Georg attending a couple of family reunions, in which, however, not much information was given about the relatives. Here's one definite account:

Rickering, August 8 - Pope Benedict XVI is a great great granduncle for the second time.

The Passauer Bistumblatt [diocesan newspaper] reports that the child was recently born to Barbara and Anton Messerer of this town and has been christened Benedikt Joseph. His elder brother, the Pope's first great great grand nephew, is three years old.

Messerer says "My great grandfather was a brother of the Pope's father."

I seem to remember that one caption to this picture (of which I have seen 2 or 3 variants) identifies the white-robed man (maybe he is a Dominican) as a Fr. Messerer and cousin to the Pope.

I'm taking the occasion to post a couple of photo-montages I've put together...

00Wednesday, August 20, 2008 5:32 PM


Great new and great collage, Teresa!!!
Yes, the white - dressed man in this photo is Father Alois Messerer, cousin of the Pope, now in the parish of Simbach am Inn (Bavaria).

00Wednesday, August 20, 2008 10:28 PM
Dear Gabriella - Thanks for confirming my recollection and providing us with Fr. Messerer's name!


While checking out the Diocese of Passau's website - which I should do regularly and, definitely, more often - I came upon this picture of Mons. Georg's visit to the house in Marktl last June. As you can see, it led to other pleasant 'discoveries'.

Mons. Georg with Bishop Wilhelm Schraml of Passau, on his first visit to the house in Marktl since it became a Benedict XVI study and encounter center on the Pope's 80th birthday in April 2007. The sign behind them reads "Here I took my first steps in life..."

There was this other picture of the house-museum's ongoing exhibit on the Pope's life:

I tried to generate larger pictures of the toddler Pepperl (I believe he was two years old or less at the time) from the large photo behind the two monsignors and from the 'room ID' photos in the second photo, with mixed results:

The picture of the pre-teen Pepperl cannot be magnified further without all the pixels showing,
and the wider cropping below is fuzzy at best.

00Wednesday, August 20, 2008 11:26 PM
The collages are gorgeous! Thanks Teresa!
Why is it every time I look at a picture of our Papa, be it as kid, young man, handsome cardinal or pope, that the word 'schnuckelig' immediately comes to mind? Anyone has any idea? [SM=g27833] [SM=g27822] [SM=g27824]

Tell me about it! He is quite simply irresistible!!! At any age or stage!!! Even if the Schnukelfaktor is just icing on the cake for the total Gestalt he projects to everyone.

He is the most beautiful creature on earth because as a holy man, he genuinely reflects the beauty of God, and I think people who experience him directly in any way sense this right away. His holiness and spirituality are very human, warm and engaging, so even if we see dozens of new photos of him day after day, it is always a new, welcome and delightful experience.

It is a measure of media prejudice (they are not used to using the word 'attractive' - or more glowing terms - for a priest, much less a Pope, and therefore the thought has not perhaps even entered their mind - even though I imagine everyone saw or read 'Thorn Birds' - and even less for a man who is now is past 80!) that no one has put down that simple fact about Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI in black and white, at least none that I have seen.

I always think of a description by either Gloria or Monica in the early days of this Forum, imagining women falling down like dominoes as the cardinal walked by on his way to work! STUNC...STUNC..STUNC...
and we are all down for the count.


00Thursday, August 21, 2008 1:30 AM
...and here's the pic you were looking for above Teresa, isn't it? Not very big, but still...

[SM=x40800] [SM=x40800] [SM=x40800]

THANK YOU!!!! I have never seen a clean version of it before. It will enlarge very well, thanks a million!


And here we are - Pepperl the pre-teen heart-throb:

By any chance, do you have a clean version of this picture? I hope you do!!!!

I'm afraid not. [SM=g27813]
I'm sure there must be lots of other photo treasures from Papa's early life sleeping in private collections. If only the owners realised that they'd mean the world to us and made them public! E.g. we're still waiting for that photo of baby Joseph aren't we?
00Thursday, August 21, 2008 3:36 AM

Why is it every time I look at a picture of our Papa, be it as kid, young man, handsome cardinal or pope, that the word 'schnuckelig' immediately comes to mind? Anyone has any idea?

He is quite simply irresistible!!! At any age or stage!!! Even if the Schnukelfaktor is just icing on the cake for the total Gestalt he projects to everyone.

Teresa! Those pictures are... ... ... [SM=g27816] [SM=g27816] [SM=g27816] [SM=g27816] [SM=g27816] [SM=g27816] [SM=g27816] [SM=x40798] [SM=x40798] [SM=x40798] [SM=x40798] [SM=x40798] [SM=x40798] [SM=x40798] ummmm...ZOINKS!!! I like the word 'schnuckelig'. But irresistible works for me too [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828]
00Thursday, August 21, 2008 1:55 PM
He's so.........
can't explain it. The Schnuckelfaktor gauge shoots right off the top when I see any photo of ....oh dear, now what's his name???? [SM=g27828]

Everything is put together in such a way as to make my [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836]

Imagine all the little girls in his school who must have wanted to steal a kiss - and probably did! [SM=x40793]
00Thursday, August 21, 2008 4:08 PM

The strange thing about him is, he still looks exactly the same.
The hair (well, somewhat [SM=g27822] ). The thoughtful expression. Amazing.

He really is beautiful. Inside and out.
00Thursday, August 21, 2008 6:35 PM

American Papist posted this picture for a caption call, but I was much more challenged by trying to figure out what it could be. It's from the Flickr site of 'Breff'
who seems to be quite a world traveller - his August 19 postings are from Munich and Dachau, and he was in Beijing recently.

The above picture, which he captioned 'RATZINGER AT THE POINT?' was among those he posted on June 3, 2008, along with some pictures taken in Ireland. So I did a random search for 'THE POINT DUBLIN' and bingo! this is what the Point is:

There is nowhere in Ireland like the Point; Theatre located on the north quay of Dublin's River Liffey, The Point is Ireland's premier music venue with a capacity of up to 8,500 people in a wide variety of seating configurations. It is the indoor venue of choice for all major national and international acts. The Point was an old train depot which was converted into a large international venue and opened in 1988. It has played host to performances by many of the worlds premier entertainers. With a capacity of up to 8,500 it is larger and more flexible than any other fully equipped indoor venue. A combination of staff, equipment, facilities and experience make it the ideal place to run almost any event. The venue has been turned into an ice rink, a boxing arena and a wrestling ring. It's been a theatre, an opera house and a circus. Conferences, seminars and exhibitions for national and multinational firms have been run successfully at the Point theatre.

OK- so that puts the billboard in context.

But who would have put it up and why? It obviously was with good intentions - and a quirky sense of humor. More important, how long was the billboard up? [It would have been very 'appropriate' for WYD-SYD!] Is it still there? Does anyone recall a similar gesture for the original 'rock star Pope' (much as I wince at the MSM term!)? Don't have the time just now to do more online research....

00Friday, August 22, 2008 4:10 AM
Rock God poster
Yes, I saw the photo on americanpapist.com and actually, one of the comments in the Combox pointed out the green mail truck as being from Ireland ... who would put it together?

I'm thinking that since it says "DATE TO BE CONFIRMED" could it possibly be a clever run-up to the next Eucharistic Congress which is to be held in Ireland?  Four years out doesn't seem to be too far to start gearing up interest.  I heard that Quebec spent the four years preparing through programs, celebrations, etc to properly prepare and organize. 

And considering the situation in Ireland, they perhaps ought to use every month they have ... I'm sure they want Papa to come, too.

[SM=g27823] [SM=g27824] [SM=g27823] [SM=g27824] [SM=g27823] [SM=g27824]

00Friday, August 22, 2008 5:31 PM
Vatican Pharmacy and Eucharistic Congress
I read somewhere [can't remember where] that it was possible for hoi polloi to purchase toiletries etc. in the Vatican Pharmacy, providing they showed their passports or some other form of identity. A friend [who needed eye drops] and I tried this in June and the answer, from a Swiss Guard, was emphatically "No". I'd hoped to buy some beautifully perfumed eau de cologne there, but our luck was out.

Papabear: I have a friend in Dublin and we fully intend to be at the next Eucharistic Congress.....and Papa could easily get to Dublin too. It's barely a three hour flight from Rome.
00Friday, August 22, 2008 10:02 PM
Very attractive hypothesis about the IEC in Dublin as a possible explanation for that teaser billboard, Papabear! However, it would have to be someone privy to the fact that Dublin would be the next IEC site, as the photo was posted June 3, and the Holy Father made the announcement on June 15. So could the Archdiocese of Dublin have anything to do with it? [Or maybe it was previously known that Dublin would be the site of the next IEC and I hadn't known.]

In any case, the billboard was/is a great statement! And if the Pope does go to Dublin for the IEC, then Mary, Clare and all the other Benaddicts in the UK can celebrate Benedictsday not Bloomsday by the Liffey!

00Friday, August 22, 2008 10:13 PM

Boyish at 81 [Photo by Spaziani, Oies, 8/5/08].

Pope says
'I face old age calmly'

Earlier, I posted a translation of the Pope's remarks in Castel Gandolfo yesterday in PEOPLE AROUND THE POPE, as part of the story on his brother, but AP has filed this story that focuses on those remarks.

VATICAN CITY, August 22 (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI said he is living out his old age calmly and with courage, thanks to the help of his elder brother, Vatican Radio reported today.

Benedict mused aloud about growing old at a ceremony Thursday to make his brother, Georg Ratzinger, an honorary citizen of Castel Gandolfo, the lakeside town near Rome which hosts the papal summer residence.

Benedict is 81, and Georg, who is a priest in Germany, is 84.

"We have reached the last stage of our life, old age," Vatican Radio quoted the Pope as saying. "The days to live are progressively growing fewer. But even in this stage, my brother helps me to accept the weight of every day with serenity, humility and with courage."

The brothers recently vacationed together in the Italian Alps. Georg Ratzinger is a former choirmaster who is now nearly blind. A piano was set up for the music-loving brothers in the seminary where they stayed in the Alpine town of Bressanone.

At the ceremony, Benedict described Georg as "not only a companion, but also a trustworthy guide, an orientation and a reference point."

"He has always showed me the road to take, even in difficult situations," the pope said, without elaborating.

Benedict has shown strong stamina for his age, flying to Australia on a pilgrimage earlier this summer. In September, his schedule includes a day trip to Sardinia and a four-day pilgrimage to Paris and Lourdes, France.

The Holy Father's words on the occasion are particularly moving, so I will post the full translation here, too.

Eminences, Excellencies, respected officials, dear friends,

It gives me profound joy that my brother now belongs to the illustrious college of honorary citizens of this beautiful city. And so - if it is possible - Castel Gandolfo becomes even more dear and near to my heart. So thank you all for this gesture, even on my part.

From the very beginning of my life, my brother has always been for me not only a companion but also a reliable guide. He has been a point of orientation and reference with the clarity and resolve of his decisions. He has always shown me the road to take, even in difficult situations.

You, Mr. Mayor, with your beautiful words, have made me think back on the years I spent in Regensburg, where truly, the beautiful music that one listens to in the Cathedral, Sunday after Sunday, was for me comfort, consolation, intimate joy, a reflection of God's beauty.

My brother has referred to the fact that meanwhile we have both arrived at the last stage of our life, old age. The days to be lived are progressively less. But even at this stage, my brother helps me to accept the weight of every day with serenity, with humility and with courage. I thank him for this.

And I thank the Commune of Castel Gandolfo for this gesture, which is really gratifying even for me. Let us conclude this beautiful ceremony with the benediction.

00Friday, August 22, 2008 11:14 PM
Very moving
A very moving article. I can't think of Papa as old, or I don't want to. He's just, well, Papino!!

Regarding the Eucharistic Congress, it's possible that the news about Dublin was sneaked out early. I'm sure this happened with WYD - certainly the numerous Spanish youngsters in Sydney seemed to be in the know, though that didn't stop them cheering VERY LOUDLY when Papa made the announcement.
00Saturday, August 23, 2008 2:18 AM

New shoes for Benedict XVI
- and for George W Bush -
from the Pope's cobbler

Adriano Stefanelli makes a personal presentation to the Pope in February 2006.

NOVARA, August 22 (Translated from ADN-Kronos) - "I custom-made two pairs of shoes for the Pope to use during his leisure time. One is red and the other white, as recommended by a cardinal I met in Rome a few months ago," says Adriano Stefanelli, the shoemaker from Novara (northern Italy) who fashions handmade shoes for Benedict XVI as he did for John Paul II and a number of other VIPs.

"The shoe design is always the same," he says, "as well as the leather we use."

But the last two pairs have rubber anti-skid soles, shoelaces and other touches that characterize them as informal and intended for leisure use.

"Now the Pope can wear comfortable handmade shoes even for his free time," Stefanelli says.

The shoes were sent directly to Bressanone in time for the Pope's vacation there.

"Benedict XVI wore the shoes I made during his visits to the United States and Australia. I think it means he finds them comfortable and to his liking. That, for me, is the best satisfaction."

An unexpected bonus: Shortly after the Pope's American trip, Stefanelli received a commission to make shoes identical to the Pope's - but in black - as a gift for President Bush.

"It seems the Pope's shoes made an impression," he notes. But he will not say who made the order, just that it was someone "very important and very well-known".

Stefanelli has lately made shoes also for Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, for Patriarch Alexei II, for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and for Fiat president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.

00Monday, August 25, 2008 6:37 PM


It looks as if the Holy Father and most of the men in the audience are wearing sunglasses, doesn't it?

As anticipated yesterday, the Holy Father was honored with a concert at the Swiss Hall of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo yesterday evening (Sunday).

The 24 Lieder of Franz Schubert's Die Winterreise (The Winter Journey) song cycle were presented in an unusual version - in which the cello, accompanied by the piano, took the place of the human voice.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's unscripted remarks after the concert:


Lord Cardinals,
Venerated brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear friends,

We have had a beautiful evening in which we were able to listen again to some famous musical pieces which inspire in us profound spiritual emotions and fascination.

I address my greeting from the heart to all who have come here and express my sincere gratitude to those who promoted and organized this musical event.

I am certain I speak the common feeling in expressing a grateful and admiring appreciation to Ms. Yvonne Timoianu and Mr. Christoph Cornaro, who played the cello and the piano, respectively, with praiseworthy talent.

Thanks to their masterful execution we have been able to taste the multiform richness of the musical language that characterizes the pieces they offered.

I am happy to recall that mu acquaintance with Mr. Cornaro goes back to when he was the Ambassador of Austria to the Holy See. I am very happy to meet him again today as a pianist.

This concert has given us the opportunity to see the happy marriage of the poetry of Wilhelm Mueller to the music of Franz Schubert in a musical genre that was dear to him. Schubert has left us more than 600 Lieder. The great composer, who was not always understood by his contemporaries, was, as we know, 'the prince of Lied (song)". As his epitaph reads, "he made poetry sing and music speak".

Just now, we were able to savor the masterpiece of Schubertian songwriting: Die Winterreise (The Winter Journey)- 24 Lieder composed to the lyrics of Wilhelm Mueller, in which Schubert expresses an intense atmosphere of sad solitude, which he was experiencing himself, given the state of spiritual prostration caused by long illness and a succession of sentimental and professional disappointments.

It is a totally interior journey which the Austrian composer put to music in 1827, just a year before his early death which took him away at age 31.

When Schubert fits a poetic line into his universe of sound, he interprets it through a melodic weaving that penetrates the soul with sweetness, leading the listener himself to experience the same consuming regret felt by the musician, the same questing for the truths of the heart that go beyond every reasoning.

Thus is born a fresco which speaks of simple everyday, of nostalgia, of introspection, of the future. Everything emerges vividly along the way: the snow, the landscape, objects, persons, events, in a consuming flux of memories.

In particular, it was for me a new and beautiful experience to listen to this work in the version which was offered to us, with the cello taking the place of the human voice. We did not hear the words of the poetry but their reflection and the sentiments they contained were expressed in the almost human 'voice' of the cello.

Presenting Winterreise to his friends, Schubert said: "I will sing you a song cycle which involved me more than I had ever been before. I like these songs best of all, and you will surely like them too."

Those are words that we can agree with, after having heard the songs in the light of our faith's hope. The young Schubert, spontaneous and exuberant, succeeded to communicate to us tonight what he had lived and experienced.

He truly deserved the recognition that has universally been given to this illustrious musical genius, who is an honor to European civilization and to the great culture and spirituality of Christian and Catholic Austria.

Interiorly comforted by the splendid musical experience of tonight, let us reiterate our thanks to those who initiated it and those who realized it so magnificently.

Once again, I extend my best wishes to all who are present, and I impart my blessing to all with affection.

00Wednesday, August 27, 2008 5:40 PM

Informal atmosphere marks stays at papal villa, says longtime staffer

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope John XXIII used to duck out incognito and visit surrounding towns. Pope John Paul II played hide-and-seek with employees' children. And Pope Benedict XVI fills the evening air with notes from his piano.

It's all part of the informal family atmosphere that reigns at the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, said Saverio Petrillo, director of the villa since 1986 and a staff member there for the last 50 years.

Each pope has had a different style, Petrillo told the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, in an interview published Aug. 26.

Pope John Paul was the first to really use the villa as a second home. Especially in the early years, he hosted evening meetings with young people where the youths would light bonfires, sing songs and tell stories about their lives.

Pope John Paul would pay frequent visits to the families of the 50 or so employees who live and work on the villa grounds, accepting a cup of tea and chatting casually with them, Petrillo said.

The employees' children, whenever they would see the pope walking in the gardens, would hide behind the bushes and jump out at him when he passed. The pope loved the game and played along, Petrillo said.

It was Pope John Paul who had a swimming pool built at the villa so that he could exercise, on the advice of doctors, the director said. When some critics objected to the expense, the Polish pope joked: "A new conclave would cost a lot more."

Petrillo said Pope Benedict impresses the villa staff with his extraordinary sensitivity and spirituality. The German pope finds the quiet villa a perfect place to write, and every evening the staff hears the pope at his piano, playing his favorite works of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.

"It makes us happy because it means he really feels at home here," Petrillo said.

The 50-acre villa, built on the grounds of a Roman emperor's country residence, is perched in the Alban Hills south of Rome. Petrillo began working there in 1958, in the waning days of Pope Pius XII.

He learned that during World War II, Pope Pius had not only opened the doors of the villa to thousands of people fleeing the Nazi army, but on many occasions gave up his bedroom to expectant women among the refugees.

"Fifty babies were born in that room," Petrillo said.

Pope John liked the villa in part because he could slip out so easily.

"Every now and then he disappeared. He would go out one of the gates without telling anyone and without an escort," Petrillo said. The pontiff would make his way to nearby towns and just hang out with people.

One Sunday morning the staff received phone calls placing the pope at the sea town of Anzio, then at Nettuno and then at the lake below Castel Gandolfo. As his aides panicked, the pope returned calmly in time to lead the Angelus prayer at noon.

Pope Paul VI came to pray at the villa as a cardinal for a week before the 1963 conclave that elected him pope. When it came time for the cardinal to leave the residence for Rome, the villa's doorman said goodbye with the words, "Best wishes, Holy Father!"

By using the words reserved for addressing a pope, the doorman had, of course, violated the age-old rule of never wishing a cardinal good luck as he went into a conclave. The doorman received a burning glare from the villa's director.

When Pope Paul visited the villa, it was always for spiritual sustenance, Petrillo said.

"He prayed and that's all," he said.

Like Pope Pius, Pope Paul died at Castel Gandolfo, and his body remained there three days for public viewing before a simple funeral procession carried him back to Rome.

When Pope Pius died in 1958, Petrillo said he was surprised and saddened to see how the reduced number of papal aides at the villa made for a lonely death.

"Before I began working there, I thought the pope would always be surrounded by a big crowd of people, ready to respond to his every desire. But when I saw Pius XII dying, I realized how alone he was. No one was there," he said.

00Wednesday, August 27, 2008 7:54 PM
RE: Stays at Papal Villa

benefan, 8/27/2008 5:40 PM:

The employees' children, whenever they would see the pope walking in the gardens, would hide behind the bushes and jump out at him when he passed. The pope loved the game and played along, Petrillo said.

[SM=g27828] Good thinking by the kids. I really like this article that you've posted benefan, it is full of information. What Mr. Petrillo said about the Holy Father is very nice and now we know that Papa plays every night. I wonder if Papa uses the swimming pool that Pope John Paul had built. I know he said in Milestones that he almost drowned in a pond, but I assume he still learned how to swim. The last bit about Pope Pius being alone when he died is sad.

00Thursday, August 28, 2008 12:28 AM

Here is a translation of the full interview in OR on which the CNS item above was based:

The Vatican Observatory (below) is housed in the rear part of the main building complex at Castel Gandolfo.

With five Popes at their summer home:
Interview with the superintendent
of the Pontifical Villas in Castel Gandolfo

By Mario Ponzi
Translated from
the 8/27/08 issue of

"Pius XII died in solitude, I remember the sadness that assailed me when I saw his body in the evening before it lay in state for the public."

"From time to time, John XXII would disappear. Nobody knew where he went" (until later).

"Paul VI always spent the first week (of the summer sojourn at Castel Gandolfo) without ever leaving the building - all he did was pray."

"Papa Luciani was a cause of great regret for the entire family of the Pontifical Villas, because we never got to host him, not even as a cardinal."

"John Paul II often played hide-and-seek with the children of the staff employees. They waited for him along the paths he took when he came out for his afternoon walks."

"Benedict XVI, generally in the evening hours, adds a touch all his own to the peace of this place, playing Bach, Mozart and Beethoven on the piano."

These glimpses come from the faithful custodian of a majestic place, where art and nature are in perfect harmony. But when he lets his memory roam or speaks of his 'large family', Saverio Petrillo, superintendent of the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo, becomes a compelling narrator, who manifests emotions which are impossible to recreate in writing.

For 50 years, he has lived within the walls of one of the most famous 'villas' of antiquity, the Albanum Domitianum, residence of the Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.) in the Alban Hills. The complex was built on an area of 14 square kilometers stretching from the Via Appia and including Lake Alban.

Today, the Pontifical Villas are found in the central part of that ancient complex, particularly the Arx Albana, the hill in Castel Gandolfo on which the the present Pontifical Palace is built.

The history of the place is rich and lengthy, as told in a book by Petrillo (Le Ville Pontificie di Castel Gandolfo, Vatican City, Edizioni Musei Vaticani, 2000, 125 pp.), as an ideal sequel to the classic book of one of his predecessors (Emilio Bonomelli, I papi in campagna (The Popes in the countryside), Rome 1953).

But what the book does not contain are the memories that Petrillo confides to Osservatore Romano in this interview.

When did your adventure begin in this rather unique world?
I entered the Pontifical Villas for the first time 50 years ago in June 1958. I must say that it was not the most auspicious of beginnings.

On October 9, Pius XII died. It was an event that saddened me a great deal and which is still impressed in my mind. Before entering this special world, I had thought that a Pope would always be surrounded by a crowd of persons each ready to fulfill his every desire.

But when I first understood that Pius XII was dying, I realized instead that he was basically alone. There was no one else. There was no Secretary of State, no Papal Chamberlain - who was not chosen until after he died, during the sede vacante.

To my great surprise, I saw how the body of that great Pope was treated sort of in an improvised way. His doctor, Riccardo Galeazzi Lisi, carried out some kind of embalming, using some ointments. Then the body was provisionally laid out in the Swiss Hall. But it was only the next day, before the public viewing, that he was dressed in the right Pontifical vestments. I really felt very bad about that.

I was consoled by the great river of persons who filed past him from the moment the public viewing began. I remember such a splendid popular manifestation of grief and respect. So many came back more than once.

As you know, Pius XII had opened the doors of the Pontifical villas to give refuge to all those who tried to escape the German round-ups after the Allies had landed in Anzio. So many mothers remembered how the Pope had given up even his own bedroom to accommodate those who were pregnant at the time. Fifty babies were born in the papal apartments. Many of them, now older men, were baptized Eugenio [for Pius XII's given name) or Pio.

For two of them, twins, there is a charming anecdote that the woman who took care of them inadvertently took off the bracelets that identified the babies after baptism, so it was impossible to tell who was Eugenio and who was Pio. Their mother had to step in, deciding who should be called what, sort of re-baptizing them.

What do you remember best about John XXIII?
It was a time that I would call innovative! Papa Giovanni would disappear from time to time. He would leave by one of the gates without telling anyone and without an escort. It turns out he liked going out among the townspeople.

One Sunday, we got a telephone call that he was in Anzio! [Which is located quite a few kilometers from Castel Gandolfo]. Imagine our surprise, since all along we thought he was in his apartment in the Palace. Later, we were told he was in Nettuno, and next, that he was at the lakeside. Can you imagine what we had to live through that morning? But he returned calmly in time to lead the noonday Angelus.

Another time, he turned up in Genazzano where he was almost crushed by the crowd when someone recognized him. It might have gotten out of hand except for the happenstance that there was a captain of the carabinieri who was able to bring him back to the Villa in his car. But for the Pope, it was as though nothing was out of the ordinary. He never missed out on contacts with the local folk.

Then came the era of Paul VI.
About Papa Montini, I remember one thing best. The week before the conclave that elected him, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan (which Montini was) was a guest at the Papal villas of one of his old friends, Emilio Bonomelli, who was the superintendent at the time.

He sought refuge here to escape the curiosity of the newsmen who were besieging him because he was widely believed to become the next Pope. I remember perfectly that morning of June 9, 1963, when he left Castel Gandolfo to go to the Opening Mass of the Conclave. We were all lined up by the gate to bid him farewell. The gatesman, who had a certain degree of familiarity with him, said to him: "Holy Father, best wishes!"

Bonomelli glared at him - woe to whoever expresses such a wish to a cardinal about to enter a conclave! You know the saying... But this time, when Montini came back to us next, he was the Pope.

I remember his great reserve. Whenever he came here for the summer, he would spend the first week dedicated to his own very personal spiritual retreat. All he did was pray, that was all. And after a week, he resumed his normal activity.

I remember the feast of the Assumption in 1977 when the Pope inaugurated the Church of the Madonna of the Lake. On that occasion, at the end of his homily, he said extemporaneously, "Who knows if I will have another chance to spend this beautiful feast with you? I take this occasion to embrace you all and to thank you for all you have given me." He became very emotional, and he transmitted that emotion to all of us.

In fact, it was the last Assumption he spent here - he died on August 6 the next year. Then, we thought of what he had said the previous year.

His impending death was evident from the morning of that Sunday. Obviously, he no longer had the strength to get up and lead the Angelus. We were not much surprised. There was much coming and going by doctors and nurses, some carrying oxygen tanks from the nearby hospital. Of course, we were hoping up to the last minute that our fears would be proven wrong. But then, the comings and goings stopped - and we all started to pray aloud. And that is how we accompanied him at his death.

For three days, his body was exposed to public viewing here. There was a continuous flow of people....until finally, a simple hearse of the commune marked with black ribbon brought the body to Rome.

Papa Luciani, on the other hand, never visited here, not even as a cardinal?
No, John Paul I was for us a cause for great regret - that we never had a chance to show him our affection.

Then it was the turn of Papa Wojtyla.
My experience with John Paul II started even before his election. On the Sunday before the conclave that would elect him, I got a telephone call from Mons. Andrzej Deskur. He asked if he could come to the Villas with the Archbishop of Cracow - "a brilliant cardinal, great worker", he said - who wanted to spend a few hours of solitude to pray. And so they arrived together.

They lunched at the trattoria which is right next to the Apostolic Palace - later, in one of his audiences with some local folk, the Pope recognized the trattoria owner and thanked her again for "that exquisite fettucine", recalling the episode - then they spent some time in walking in the gardens, praying.

When his election was first announced, many here thought that the name was African, and I felt proud to inform them who he was actually!

With him, the uses for the residence changed a bit. In the sense that it became truly the Pope's alternate residence. He came at different times of the year, especially after returning from a trip or during holidays. He even came here for brief stays when he had to prepare documents or speeches.

Particularly in the early years, he revitalized this place. In the evenings, he would meet with young people, trying to get to know better the different Catholic youth movements. They were festive times. They had bonfires, they sang, they recounted their lives and their experiences. The young people learned what it was to vivere cum Petro, with the Pope.

Do you remember anything in particular of your experiences with John Paul II?
He was a very lively presence. In the sense that when he was here, he really seemed to go out all the time. Sometimes even in the late evening. In the winter, even when it was cold, he would still go out. He would wrap himself in a black coat, sometimes he wore a hooded cloak, always black.

Then I remember how he enjoyed himself with the children of our staff. When they would see him coming, they would hide behind the shrubs, and when the Pope passed by, they would come out shouting to meet him. It was like playing hide-and-seek with him. He was very pleased with this and he always gladly got into their playful spirit. For the children, it became sort of a regular thing.

For one thing, the Pope also liked to visit the houses of those staff members who live within the walls. They would offer him coffee, tea, some pastry, just as they would a friend who comes to visit. Everyone here cherishes beautiful memories of how he found time to be with them.

Do you remember the controversy that followed his decision to have a swimming pool built here?
It was a made-up controversy. The Pope needed it for health reasons. He was already having problems, and he had been prescribed a number of hours swimming to improve, or at least, control some of his symptoms. Of course he had always been an athletic man, but that had nothing to do with the pool.

For one, it was only 18 meters long - and by the way, it is still functioning. Papa Wojtyla used it a lot. I remember his humorous response to one of the comments about the supposed expense of building the pool. "A new conclave would cost more". He wanted it understood how much physical exercise helped him to better support the demands of his exhausting Pontificate.

He loved to joke about his sports interests. He liked to tell the cardinals that the Polish cardinals were more sports-minded that the Italians, since 50 percent of the Polish cardinals practised at least one sport. Of course, there were only two of them.

It was during his Pontificate, in 1986, that I was named superintendent, at the death of Carlo Ponti, who had managed the place since 1971.

And now, Benedict XVI.
What is most impressive about him is his extraordinarily delicate spirit, his extreme sensitivity to others, his profound spirituality.

He already knew the Villas quite well because as a cardinal, at least once a year - usually on his name day - he gave himself a day off and would come here. So this facilitated his return to this place as Pope - and he took an immediate affection for it.

It made us happy to hear him say from the very beginning, "Castel Gandolfo is my second home". He does a lot of work here, with its quiet atmosphere.

And for us, it is very lovely to hear him play the piano. He's not the first Pope to play a musical instrumen. Pius XII played the violin, but he never played it here, or at least, no one remembers hearing him.

But now, it is our privilege to be able to hear, usually in the evenings, Mozart, Bach or Beethoven performed by the Pope. It fills us with joy because it means that Benedict XVI truly feels at home here.

The Villas not only host the Pope but also provide him with farm products. Can you tell us about the small farm in the complex?
It is an institution. And an old one at that. When the Villa Barberini came into the possession of the Holy See in 1929, Pius XI acquired the adjoining land to use for agricultural purposes. The idea was to underscore the interest of the Church in the rural world.

Since he wanted to do everything the best way possible, he wanted the farm, even if it was small, to have up-to-date equipment. For example, one of the first milking machines was introduced here during his time, as well as the very first chicken incubators.

Now, the farm has grown to some twenty hectares. The nucleus is composed of some 26 milch cows who produce 500-600 liters of milk daily.

What happens to all that milk?
Besides what we provide to the Apostolic household, the rest is sold at the Vatican supermarket. But also to the cafes in town, so the local citizens and visitors can enjoy it. In the past, we also provided milk to the Bambino Gesu hospital, but that has stopped because hospitals now have catering services that provide everything.

You referred to provisioning the Apostolic Palace. Does that mean there is a daily marketing list to satisfy?
The tradition of provisioning the Pope goes back to 1929. Everyday, we get requests for the products that we have and we send them.

Are provisions sent to the Vatican daily?
Yes, every day.

Let me tell you a story. One day during the war, the superintendent became apprehensive that the van which brought the provisions to the Vatican daily would be unable to get there because of the fighting - though that never happened - but to make sure that the Pope would never miss his morning milk, the superintendent sent seven milch cows to the Vatican. They had to set up a cow stall inside the Vatican Gardens for this.

The cows were brought to the Vatican late at night in a truck. When the truck got to the gate, the problem was to convince the Swiss Guards to let it through, since everyone was fearful of an ambush. But then the sound of the cows lowing - because they were tired from the trip and were not exactly comfortable in the truck - that convinced the Guards there was no danger, and they let the truck through. Those cows remained in the Vatican from January 1944 until the liberation of Rome.

What else do you produce at the Villas?
Eggs, about a hundred daily. Olive oil - some 1000-1500 kilos a year; fruits and other agricultural produce. The surplus is sold at the Vatican supermarket.

But our flower production is very important as well. All the plants and flowers in the gardens and rooms of the Villas come from our greenhouses. At Christmastime, we have an exceptional crop of poinsettias - from the profits we make selling them, we are able to cover the cost of heating the greenhouses.

How many persons work here?
All in all, we have a staff of 56. Half of them are for regular maintenance work in every sector, and half work in the farm. It is one big family which, if I must say so myself, work together in full harmony.

A few views of the famous gardens of Castel Gandolfo, one of the most impressive formal gardens in the world:

00Thursday, August 28, 2008 5:36 PM
Papal Recording of the Rosary
OK, not sure where this should go, or even if it's been mentioned earlier; I'm afraid there is so much posted on the forum that I wouldn't know where to look.

Pope Benedict has recorded the Rosary in Latin, all four mysteries and you can have the CD set for 17 Euros (maybe some extra for mailing). Ordering it is a bit complicated, but Fr Z has the news and in the comments box you will find information about ordering.

Pope's Rosary

Looks like you send them an email with you address at promo@vatiradio.va and they understand English. You order the CDs and they post them to you and enclose the IBAN number, which you need to pay them. Very trusting that they will post the CD set before being paid.
00Thursday, August 28, 2008 10:48 PM
Or you can.....
buy the CDs in the Vatican bookshop in Saint Peter's Square [left hand side as you face Saint Peter's and next to the Vatican post office], that is, if you happen to be passing that way!!!!!! [SM=g27824] [SM=g27824]
00Friday, August 29, 2008 2:51 AM
Bolzano museum defies Pope
over 'crucified frog'


The 'frog' sculpture is part of the inaugural exhibit of Bolzano's ultramodern new 'Museion' and was originally displayed prominently at
the museum entrance, but after the protests, the museum moved it to one of the inner rooms.

ROME, August 28 (AP) - An art museum in northern Italy said Thursday it will continue displaying a sculpture portraying a green frog nailed to a cross that has angered Pope Benedict XVI and local officials.

The board of the foundation of the Museion in the city of Bolzano voted to keep the work by the late German artist Martin Kippenberger, the museum said in a statement.

Earlier in August the Pope had written a letter to Franz Pahl, the president of the Trentino-Alto Adige region that includes Bolzano, denouncing the sculpture. [At least AP uses the verb 'denounce'. First stories that came out in the Anglophone media used 'condemn', especially in the headlines - which seems far from the tone of the statement the Pope was quoted to have written.]

It "has offended the religious feelings of many people who consider the cross a symbol of God's love and of our redemption," Pahl quoted the Pope as writing in the letter.

Pahl himself has long opposed the display of "Zuerst die Fuesse" ("First the Feet" in German), even staging a hunger strike this summer and saying he would not seek re-election unless it was removed.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Pahl said he was outraged by the museum's decision to keep the work, which he claims "pokes fun at the Catholic population and offends religion and the Pope."

The 1990 wooden sculpture shows the crucified frog nailed through the feet and hands like Jesus Christ. The frog, eyes popping and tongue sticking out, wears a loincloth and holds a mug of beer and an egg in its hands.

The museum said the 3-foot (1-meter)-tall sculpture has nothing to do with religion, but is an ironic self-portrait of the artist and an expression of his angst.

"With humor and a tragicomic sense, which belongs to art since the times of Greek tragedy, Kippenberger ... faces his condition of suffering, which he expresses in many works, also, for example, in a video in which he crucifies himself," the museum said in a statement.

Born in Dortmund, Kippenberger moved from painting and sculpture to work in all mediums, often combining elements of Neo-expressionism, Pop and Dadaism. His art has been displayed across the world, including Zurich, Paris, Jerusalem, London and New York.

He died in 1997, aged 43.

00Friday, August 29, 2008 5:17 PM
New watchdog for
the Pope's Pentling home

PENTLING, August 28 (Translated from ddp-bayern) - Pope Benedict XVI's private home in Pentling will soon be guarded by a German shepherd.

The Pope's neighbor Rupert Hofbauer, who has been looking after the the Pope's 'orphaned' house, told the ddp news agency on Thursday that the dog, called Leo von Almanach, will replace his golden retriever Ingo who died nine months ago and who had been acting as a watchdog for the house next door.

His wife Christine told Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Radio) that Leo is ready for his duties; "He will bark whenever he sees someone he does not recognize."

Leo has another important qualification. He gets along very well with Chico, widely considered 'the Pope's cat', who wanders freely through the Pope's garden, having enjoyed the Pope's affection for years.

But if the Pope should come back to visit his house in this Regensburg suburb, then, says Rupert Hofbauer, he must mind Leo, because "At first, the dog will bark at him, since he does not know him".

The house in Pentling.

Do dogs recognize pictures? Perhaps a lifesize cutout of the Pope should be set up where Leo can see it all the time.... By the way, he looks ferocious in the picture, but I had a German shepherd for years, and she was as sweet as one could wish for in a pet - if she knew you!

P.S. Here are a few more details about Leo, translated from a local newspaper in the Regensburg area -


After an opening paragraph that recaps the ddp item above, it says:

...Leo is a nine-month-old long-haired German shepherd with a lively look. Leo is also the name of a long line of Popes. Although Pope Benedict XVI has not met 'his' new watchdog, it is reported he has already seen a photo of him.

The dog was raised by the Association for German Shepherds. He is scheduled to undergo tests in the next few weeks as an escort dog.

Leo is not picky about his food. He likes best chicken, rice and carrots, and for variety, some dry bread.

The Regensburg police department said they were happy with having a watchdog for the Pope's house.

The Pope last visited his house in Pentling in September 2006.

00Saturday, August 30, 2008 6:07 PM
Professor Benedict of Rome
BY Michael Novak

May 9, 2007

Another old item I came across today while googling something else. It starts from a too-banal and obvious premise, but it is well-intended.

Thinking solely of the Popes who have held office during my lifetime – Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and now Benedict XVI – I find it amazing how different in personality each of them has been.

The papacy is an office that allows great scope to individuality in mind, heart and temperament, making its essential consistency in doctrine down through history all the more remarkable.

One of the most satisfying features of Pope Benedict XVI is how different he is from Pope John Paul II – even though the two had been so one in spirit and in collaboration for so many years. Karol Wojtyla was a born actor.

Everything he did was done with flair, a touch of drama, sparkling humor, instant rapport with his audience. The role he played on the international scene was one of the greatest ever played by any Pope in preceding history. He was a true shaper of the destiny of his time, far beyond the Catholic Church.

In his love for the universal pastorate of the bishop of Rome, John Paul II was doubtless seen in the flesh in more parts of the world, by more human beings than ever before in human history. Even for his funeral, a larger crowd of human beings converged on a single city, Rome, than had ever been witnessed before on earth.

Benedict XVI is no less loved – his Wednesday audiences regularly draw more attendees even than those of his predecessor, and a quiet but radiating warmth for him can be felt around the world. Yet his manner is not that of an actor, but one of a very gentle, even loving, professor who loves to teach, and to josh with his students as he teaches. His warmth for his subject radiates outwards and pulls his listeners in. He shows his love for his subject, so as to enkindle that love in them.

John Paul II taught with the verve of an accomplished actor and a very brave leader of peoples. Benedict XVI is a Master Teacher whose tone is quiet – as is proper to the classroom. Even more than his much admired limpidity of mind, his keen love for what he tries to teach is most attractive.

Bonaventure (more than Aquinas) has shaped his presence; the Franciscan rather than the Dominican captivates his style. Both traditions have much in common, but each has its distinctive notes. The first favors logos, the second, caritas. [And Benedict beautifully combines logos and caritas!]

I am glad to see how quickly Josef Ratzinger has impressed his own personality upon the papacy, neither imitating John Paul II nor turning away from all that he accomplished. The longer Benedict’s papacy goes on, the more we shall see the distinctive traits of personality that make him an image of God in a way wholly his own, different from that of John Paul II.

The Creator, Thomas Aquinas once wrote, is infinite, hence a virtual infinitude of distinctive human beings is required to mirror back to him God’s own face. The variety of humans that have watched over the See of Peter since its origins is but one example of that general rule.

I wonder if Pope Benedict sometimes imagines that it does the Church good to follow one human type with another, and that it is essential that he just be himself. And that the virtual storm of encyclicals and activities that gushed forth from the fertile soul of John Paul II should be followed by a quieter, more reflective time. [I don't think anyone needs to wonder if Benedict knows 'it is essential that he just be himself'! As for the 'reminder' that John Paul II's flood of writings should be followed by 'a quieter, more reflective time', Benedict himself pointed out these considerations in his pre-visit interivew with Polish TV in May 2006.]

Good seeds recently planted need time to germinate. By a teacher’s careful clarity and patience, lessons so recently learned can be deepened. The style of the church is not one only, but manifold.

Along other lines, it is true, one does hear murmuring. Those hottest for some much-needed restructuring of the church’s bureaucracy in Rome doubt that it will happen under Benedict as they had hoped. This huge task had been neglected by the previous Pope, who kept his brilliant and sparkling eye on so many currents in so many places on this earth.

They may yet be surprised. There is a certain quiet kind of mind, preferring clarity and patience, that slowly contemplates, muses, and acts only when what to do is clear and the time is right. I doubt if Benedict – or any professor – is attracted to the idea of re-structuring a large bureaucratic institution.

But this new Pope is smart, and he is brave. And he might do it anyway.

Most of all, though, the great service the Church needs nowadays is intellectual. It needs guidance on how to cope with murderous jihadism, on the one hand, and with Islam as a religion, on the other.

Here Benedict has taught clearly that Islam is a religion not at all parallel to Judaism and Christianity. Its idea of God is almost wholly other – not that of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus. For Islam, God is pure will and power, able to overturn law and reason at pleasure. The preferred name for God in Judaism and Christianity, Benedict points out, is Truth, Logos, Caregiver.

Islam’s idea of the human person is very different. Its sense of religious liberty is, thus far at least, undeveloped, and its grasp of the laws of the development of doctrine from century to century is almost wholly lacking.

Thus, when Jihadist hotheads scream for the imposition for the Sharia law of the eleventh century, no one has the authority, or the arguments, to ridicule them for their preposterous winding back of the clock.

Manuel II Paleologus, whom Benedict quoted in his controversial but brilliant Regensburg Address, was the second-to-the-last Christian Emperor of Constantinople, at that time the most splendid and largest of Christian capitals. Just decades after his death, the Muslims overran Constantinople, and mosques replaced the churches. My own immediate reaction was that Benedict was giving a sharp warning to Europe – on how rapidly a civilization can be erased.

Pope Benedict’s recent formulation is quite original and brilliant: Dialogue between Islam and Christianity on the plane of religion is next to impossible; but there can and must be dialogue between Islamic and Christian cultures. [It is also quite obvious to anyone who stops to think, instead of simply mouthing the politically correct, since the aim of inter-religious dialog is not at all to arrive at any theological agreements or reconciliations - that would be self-contradictory.]

The Church also needs deft intellectual guidance on the dialogue between western atheism and Jewish/Christian belief. In actual practice, both believers and unbelievers actually experience darkness in the search for God, emptiness, even (as St. John of the Cross puts it) nothingness. As Cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI already explored this territory, in his debate with the philosopher Jürgen Habermas and in his exchange with the estimable Marcello Pera.

We may hope that Benedict will dedicate a whole encyclical to the role that atheist nihilism played in intellectually disarming the democracies during the 1930s, and the mutual respect between atheist and believer that will be necessary in the immense cultural struggle that stares us in the face. What is the role of Christian humanism, in the dialogue with atheistic humanism? What is the fruitful role of atheism and skepticism?

At the time of the Conclave, someone or other remarked that he hoped for the election of Ratzinger, on the ground that Ratzinger was the sharpest pencil in the box.

The Church is much in need of a very sharp pencil, to guide it through the present peril. [Well-meaning attempt to extend the metaphor, but Benedict XVI is far more than a very sharp pencil - and in any case, a pencil does not guide through perils!]

00Saturday, August 30, 2008 10:33 PM

I am always wary of what Alberto Melloni has to say since he can only write, it seems, from an ideologically progressivist perspective. At the same time, he has never hidden his antipathy to Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, arising precisely from the latter's rejection of the view by Melloni and his fellow liberals who channel the so-called 'spirit of Vatican-II' as a rupture with the past and the entire tradition of the Church, as if Vatican-II had established a new Church altogether.

Therefore, not unexpectedly, Melloni uses a purported review of the book Ratzinger professore by Gianni Valente as a vehicle - clumsy and ineffectual - to disparage certain aspects of Joseph Ratzinger as an intellectual, although he cannot question, and in fact acknowledges, his credentials and his stature as such.

When a professor becomes Pope:
A review of Gianni Valente's book
on Ratzinger the professor

by Alberto Melloni
Translated from

August 28, 2008

Prof. Ratzinger in Tuebingen, 1966.
In the absence of a cover photo so far
for Valente's book, I am using this photo
used with the author's article on Ratzinger's
Tuebingen years in the 2006 biographical series
he wrote for 30 Giorni, which may well have
been the origin for the book

It is not consensus that distinguishes one Pontificate from another. There is a consensus on every Pope, and none resembles the other.

That which Benedict XVI enjoys is clearly the consensus about an intellectual who does not set out to project his magnetic field nor to impose the complex and boring constructs of his own theology, but rather confronts with the sensitivity of the seductive professor that he is, certain points which are promptly shown to be of 'unexpected actuality'.

Therefore, Gianni Valente has done well to explain Ratzinger Professore (San Paolo, pp. 200, € 20) in a book in which we hear the voices of former teachers, colleagues and disciples of a theologian who had an itinerant career in the twenty years between being a diocesan professor in Freising and stints at the universities of Munich, Bonn, Muenster, Tuebingen and Regensburg.

Never in Rome, for whose asphyxiating schools of [theological] thought Professor Ratzinger has a series of harsh judgments which did not always soften with time: about the passion for 'abstract definitions', the attempt to 'dissect mystery', 'stifling the Christological aspect' of ecclesiology, the incapacity for grasping the emergence in the 1950s of 'a new paganism which was growing unstopped within the Church', a prisoner of 'shackles' it needed to shake off, with the very survival of Catholicism at risk, the obtuseness in avoiding the 'questions' which the Church needed to face and that the (Second Vatican) Council - 'We can speak of it as a new start' (page 88) - would face with the necessary courage.

[Melloni here blatantly isolates a statement by Ratzinger to sort of gloatingly throw in the face of the Pope who has said time and again that Vatican-II was not a break with the past. A 'new start' for the Church does not mean starting from scratch, obviously, because Christ himself established the Church, much less that Vatican-II had established a new Church, as Melloni and his colleagues like to think. A new start can mean a fresh approach to reform, a rethinking of structural and procedural concepts that had become ossified but not of the Church's basic teachings.

Also, he is factually wrong in saying Prof. Ratzinger never taught in Rome. He taught a semester's course at the Pontifical University in the 1970s - though I have to go back and check previous posts on the particulars. You would have thought a reputed intellectual and author of scholarly books would at least have checked out his facts.]

Even after the crisis of 1968 brought to light the nonchalance of his conservative intuitions and obsessions [Nonchalance? What ever does Melloni mean? He disingenuously uses the word as is - the common form of the word in both French and English, where it means exactly the same thing, without different connotations - when he could have used the Italian equivalent 'noncuranza', which means exactly the same thing: indifference and/or carelessness! But nonchalance is the last attribute one could impute to Joseph Ratzinger in his personal manner and much less in his thought! Also, note the dismissive term 'obsessions' - as though Ratzinger's thoughts were not always filtered rigorously through the criteria of objective reason!], this lack of 'Romanity' raised suspicions about Ratzinger in the world of piranhas that is the academe of theological faculties.

But he evaded difficulties by taking himself off to a 'change in atmosphere' [from Tuebingen to Regensburg]. Which, as Valente notes more than once, explains the manner in which Ratzinger carried on as Curial prefect and eventually as Pope, positions from which one cannot escape because everything becomes 'public'.

[What manner? What could be more public than his life as a university professor whose lectures were wildly popular and who never stopped writing books and articles - the only difference being that before Rome, his audience was more restricted? Was Prof. Ratzinger ever once accused of fleeing from a discussion? He 'fled' an anarchic campus, where reasoned debate had been reduced to irrational ranting.]

Because the style of Professor Ratzinger, who seeks to find in dichotomies those elements that would allow resolution without affronts to the faith, has not really changed. ["It is not I who changed - they changed!" Joseph Ratzinger on ex-colleagues who became his critics]

Nor has his instinct to caricature his adversary of the moment in order to advance the discussion without those prudences that scholars consider frills [????] - whether the adversary was someone like his colleague Walter Kasper, whose 'fault' was to grasp/catch [???] an underlying Platonism in 1969 [I have no idea what Melloni is referring to!] and who was a frequent duelling opponent; or the Latin American theologians for using Marxist language which reminded him of Tuebingen in 1968 [again, Melloni is being disingenuous - it was not the Marxist language that Cardinal Ratzinger and the Church objected to, but the application of Marxist ideas to Christ and the mission of the Church].

But the challenge most enjoyed by Ratzinger is that of discussing with his peers, his students, and with the 'isms' that he sees at work in an inert and grey reality. [The 'reality' of today is far from inert - it is both alarmingly insidious and blatantly overt at the same time - and certainly far from grey!]

That is why the end-of-summer discussions with the 'circle' of his former students - the Schuelerkreis - continue even during his Papacy with this year's three-day session devoted to the Lutheran Reformation and the Church. [Tsk-tsk, Mr. Melloni, have you not been reading the news?]

Things [What things? Melloni uses the indefinite noun 'cose'] which inspire consensus about an intellectual who distinguishes himself from other so-called leaders whom the media lens of the 21st century reveals in all their mediocrity. And which consolidate the professorial style* which has become part of what Ratzinger's Pontificate will mean for the history of the Church.

[*Here, Melloni made this parenthetical observation: "Valente notes at the start that if Benedict XVI had gone to La Sapienza as scheduled last January, he would have visited more universities than parishes in Rome". Whether the observation has any merit or not, it is certainly out of place in the concluding sentence of an essay. He could have said it earlier. Besides, the Pope has only visited the Lateran and Gregorian universities, both by virtue of their being Pontifical universities, and the Catholic University campus in Rome. He certainly has made more parochial visits as Bishop of Rome.]

After all that, I must say I am quite appalled at the literal nonchalance - both careless indifference and indifferent carelessness - with which Melloni tosses off this review. Indirectly, for all that he acknowledges Benedict XVI's intellectual superiority, his cavalier attitude also shows disrespect for his subject. Nonchalance and responsible scholarliness, or at least, conscientiousness, do not go hand in hand.

Corriere della Sera owes the Pope - among so many things that it already does - a proper review of the book!

P.S. I have been 'careless' myself just now. Having been satisfied that Melloni at least acknowledges the Pope's intellectual stature, that still begs the question of whether the 'consensus' about this Pope would simply revolve on his being an intellectual.

Such a consensus would ignore the essential facts of his radiant spirituality and warm humanity which make up his saintliness, in the same way that his intellect would promote him to the level of Doctor of the Church.

00Sunday, August 31, 2008 12:58 AM
Leo looks fierce!!!!
Thanks, Teresa! As usual I got the wrong thread [SM=g27825] [SM=g27825] I'm not sure I like the look of Leo. Certainly MY cat would not, but Chico is used to having a dog around, so it's likely that Chico is already the boss - cats usually are! The story I've just written for our parish magazine could have a little bit added now...mm, I'll have to see. [SM=g27833]
00Sunday, August 31, 2008 10:16 AM
We used to have the most wonderful dog on this planet!!
He was the perfect German shepherd. The most fiercely protective lap dog you could find. Loyal, watchful, very eager to work and ever so gentle with our small boys.
They used to pull on his tale and his ears and took his bone away from him, while he just rolled his eyes and went along with whatever game the wanted to play with him!
He'd jump up on my lap, wanting to curl up on me. Now, I'm not very big. 170 cm, 55 kg. And then you have this huge dog trying to curl up on your lap, wanting to be cuddled. Too funny!!

He was also a very dark shepherd. Not one of the blonde ones that look friendly and sweet.
He was nearly black and huge and very in intimidating in looks.
He was extremely protective over us. Watchfully guarding his herd.

And then we had a cat. Bobby, an orange, huge, half main-coon we brought over from the US. He was very proud and regal (we used to call him King Bobby). He was there before the dog and was in total control. Sometimes, it was as if Bobby only lifted his head, raised one eyebrow and Rocky (the dog) went right back into his place.

Cats rule and dogs drool, eh? [SM=g27823]

Well, sorry about going on about our dog. But, I'm very glad Leo will be in charge of protecting the Hofbauers and, of course, next door.

Fierce?? I think he looks alert and sweet. I've seen fierce shepherds during police dog training. Now, that was really fierce!!

00Wednesday, September 3, 2008 3:47 PM

Ratzinger the Professor,
as recounted by his former students

ROMA, September 3, 2008 – Benedict XVI spent the past weekend in the quiet of Castel Gandolfo, with 40 of his former theology students, members of the Ratzinger Schülerkreis.

It is the fourth time that Professor Joseph Ratzinger, as Pope, has met with the circle of his former students. Some of them have gone places: Christoph Schönborn is the archbishop of Vienna and a cardinal; Hans-Jochen Jaschke is auxiliary bishop of Hamburg. The others are university professors, pastors, religious, sisters, ordinary laypeople.

The meetings are organized by 72-year-old Stephan Horn of Germany, a Salvatorian and Professor Ratzinger's last assistant at the University of Regensburg.

The topic is decided one year in advance. In September of 2005, the topic was Islam, with introductory addresses by two Jesuit scholars of Islam: Samir Khalil Samir, from Egypt, and Christian Troll, from Germany.

As always, the meetings took place behind closed doors, but information revealed by one of the former students, the American Jesuit Joseph Fessio, unleashed a controversy over the Pope's ideas about Islam and democracy.

In order to avoid misunderstandings, it was decided to publish the proceedings of the following meetings. [I don't recall ever reading that this was the reason for publishing the proceedings of the 2006 seminar, which appeared to have been decided because of the topic that was discussed, and the new ground it was breaking. For instance, there has been no talk of publishing the 2007 seminar acts.] The proceedings from September of 2006 are contained in a book entitled Creation and Evolution, published in German, and translated so far into English and Italian.

The meeting last weekend was on the topic of the correspondence between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus "of history," with special attention to the account of the Passion.

The colloquium was introduced by two great exegetes invited ad hoc: Martin Hengel and Peter Stuhlmacher, both German Protestants and professors in Tubingen, and highly respected by Ratzinger. Their addresses will be included in the book that will publish the proceedings of the meeting.[????]

But there is much greater anticipation over another book: the second and concluding volume of the Pope's own Jesus of Nazareth, which is premised on the fact that the Jesus of the Gospels, true God and true man is identical to the 'historical' Jesus.

Meanwhile, a new and interesting biography about the Pope's years as a university professor has just been released in Italy - Ratzinger Professore, written by Gianni Valente and published by Edizioni San Paolo.

The book covers the years between 1946-1977 when Ratzinger studied and taught in his native Bavaria, and then in the universities of Bonn, Munster, Tübingen, and Regensburg. The material comes from previously unpublished testimonies of many of his teachers, classmates, and students.

It was not an easy journey for Professor Ratzinger, in the turbulent German universities of those years between the Council and post-Council. And there were a few missteps. For example, in 1969 he added his own signature to that of the rebel theologians Hans Küng and Herbert Haag, on an article-manifesto proposing that the office of bishop be changed from a lifetime to a temporary post.

But in the face of turbulence, Ratzinger constantly avoided not to throw himself into the mix, but to keep himself apart, hopefully while keeping the respect of friends and enemies, of colleagues and students. If this situation no longer seemed tenable to him, he quickly left the scene and changed universities. [That is a sweeping statement, considering that it only applies to Tuebingen!]

The critics of the current pontificate – like the historian Alberto Melloni of the Bologna school, in Corriere della Sera on August 28 – have seized upon this "nonchalance" of Ratzinger as professor, to throw it in his face as Pope [Oh, that word 'nonchalance'. Why on earth does Magister not take Melloni to task for such an inappropriate and certainly wrong word to apply to Joseph Ratzinger, no matter how much you dislike him? Together with another accusation, of "making a caricature" of his own adversaries at the moment: of liberation theologians, just as of Islam.

[And, by the way, as anyone who read the Melloni piece, posted above, and the two other reviews published so far of the book earlier posted on this Forum, both 'accusations' cited by Magister were from Melloni alone , not from 'critics of the current Pontificate'. It troubles me greatly when an otherwise excellent and conscientious journalist like Magister falls into this generalizing mode because unfounded generalization is another way of distorting truth!]

Actually, Ratzinger Professore confirms the consistency of its subject in his progression, just like the book Introduction to Christianity, published by Ratzinger in 1969, in the midst of the fray, which has been a steady seller over the years and continues to be of immediate relevance.

00Friday, September 5, 2008 7:25 PM


Thanks to Beatrice on her site

When she was in Bressanone recently, Beatrice picked up this German 'comic book' about Benedict,
published before he arrived in Bressanone.

... jetzt kommt Benedikt
(...Here comes Benedict)
Alois Gurndin, Peter Schwienbacher
2008, 64 pp, B&W illustrations

The book's subtitle, 'Ernstzunehmende Gründe und augenzwinkernde Hintergründe' (which translates awkwardly into 'Reasons to take seriously and underlying reasons to wink about', i.e., tongue-in-cheek) sort of tells what it is about. As the blurb says -

From July 28-August 11, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI, we know, will spend his summer vacation in Brixen, to the delight of most of the people who live in the South Tyrol, who are proud of it.

But why exactly is the Holy Father coming to the South Tyrol? The authors of this book have looked for plausible reasons... and have found many.

With great humor and droll carticatures, they offer many reasons, not all to be taken seriously, as many are given with a wink of the eye. But it should all bring on a smile.

Of course, Beatrice has scanned a few of the drawings:

She has also provided this link if you wish to get the book online:

00Sunday, September 7, 2008 11:04 PM

It's so frustrating already. So many reviews have already come out of the book, which supposedly came out in Italian bookstores yesterday, but not one bookseller or agent has yet posted the book cover online.

But it is a great occasion to use the picture benedetto-fan recently treated us to:

When Ratzinger was a professor
Translated from

September 5, 2008

Enzo Bianchi is prior of the Bose ecumenical community.

There still exists a journalism of inquiry capable of not flattening itself out in pursuing 'future news', but to offer a serious informative contribution to students of contemporary history.

It is a journalism which still knows how to patiently examine documents and paper archives, to find witnesses of past events, and above all, who can listen and know how to interconnect different testimonies and memories, without yielding to stereotypes or schematic interpretation.

It is the journalism practised by someone like Gianni Valente - editor of 30 Giorni and contributor to Limes [funny that Bianchi does not mention Avvenire!] - which has brought him to put together a book based on a conscientious inquiry into Ratzinger professore: Gli anni dello studio e dell'insegnamento nel ricordo dei colleghi e degli allievi. 1946-1977 (Ratzinger as professor; The years of study and teaching, recalled by colleagues and students. 1946-1977) (San Paolo, 210 pp).

About a Pope like Benedict XVI who has elaborated theology at the highest level for more than 50 years; who has a personal bibliography consisting of hundreds of works; who has had as professors, colleagues and students some of the most important figures of theology, not limited to Catholics, in the last century - one is tempted to take for granted his character as a 'professor of theology'.

But how was his passion born for study, even more, for teaching, research, confrontation and dialectics? How does one cultivate and refine a natural propensity for intellectual work, and in particular, within the ecclesial dimension of 'thinking around God' (i.e., with God in the center)?

What elements have caused the students of that brilliant German professor not only to develop great esteem and veneration for their teacher, but to have assimilated something of his profound habitual attitude towards work and teaching?

From the well-documented and pleasurable text of Valente emerges a man of faith and intellect who is capable of listening, of generous accessibility, of a desire for clarity, and of pastoral solicitude.

These are pages that also echo the essentials of his theology before and after Vatican II, with the lively discussions that characterized those fruitful years. But what seems to prevail is the Christian virtue of patience which is not irritated resignation but rather a wise assimilation of the gentleness of Jesus - or to echo Professor Ratzinger - 'the daily form of love.'

Perhaps it is precisely thanks to this attention to the day-to-day that a journalist like Valente is able to account for events and thoughts that have universal breadth.

Other book news via Lella's blog

which cites items from two Italian newspapers, citing the German tabloid BILD as their source.

I have therefore checked it out, and the item is taken from a report quoting highlights of a recently published interview book by Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis with Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, entitled Die Fuerstin und der Kardinal (The Princess and the Cardinal).

What Meisner says about the Conclave of 2005 has been reported quite a few times in the past, but it makes the news again because it is cited in the Princes's new book.

Here is a translation of the excerpt on the Conclave as published in

along with a selection of excerpts about Cardinal Meisner himself.

About the Conclave of 2005
Translated from

... I quickly sensed that it would be Joseph Ratzinger. But my biggest concern was, "I hope he takes it on!" ... Therefore I decided to speak with him face to face about it.

It was a very emotional conversation. I told him, "You will no doubt say I am crazy. But out of a sense of responsibility to the Church, I must say, "You must become Pope!"

And he answered, "You're right. You are really out of your mind!"

Then there was a long silence. At some point I went towards the door but not before saying, "If you are elected, you must say Yes!"

He said, "Don't do this to me!"

After I opened the door to leave, I turned back to him and I saw an image that really went to my heart - there sat Cardinal Raztinger, sunk into himself and in his chair, with an expression of despair on his face.

And I thought to myself, "My God, what is this doing to him?" I felt very sorry.

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