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

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00Monday, September 8, 2008 2:27 AM
Posted earlier today in the preceding page:

A review of Ratzinger professore by Enzo Bianchi of the Bose community; and a brief excerpt from a Gloria T&T interview-book with Cardinal Meisner of Cologne, in which he describes more explicitly how he asked Cardinal Ratzinger to say Yes if the Conclave elected him Pope.

Once again, thanks to Beatrice on her site

for calling attention to this book review.

Kubler is the Religion editor of the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, reviewing a book written by one of his own reporters and co-published by La Croix with Bayard. Kubler himself wrote one of those post-Conclave books about the new Pope entitled Benoit XVI, pape de la contre-reforme(Pope of the Counter-Reformation), which tells us where he is coming from!

Getting to know Benedict XVI
Translated from

Sept. 3, 2008

A review of

Benoît XVI, le pape incompris
(Benedict XVI: The misunderstood Pope)
by Isabelle de Gaulmyn
Bayard- La Croix, 216 pp., 14,50 €

The personality and the work of Pope Benedict XVI have often been the object of partial readings and cliches, if not of caricature. [And whose fault is this? Not his, certainly!]

On the eve of his visit to France, Isabelle de Gaulmyn has dedicated a book that promises to be a reference book about him.

To be a 'journalist covering the Pope', when the Pope is Benedict XVI, will not have the same prestige to everyone that it had under the previous Pope. [And there's a caricatural attitude right there! HOW DARE ANYONE MAKE A STATEMENT LIKE THAT? Even if that is the prevailing thought of condescending newsmen like Kubler, why would they wish to advertise their pettiness in this way? ]

Isabelle de Gaulmyn couldn't care less. Having arrived in Rome to be La Croix's resident correspondent in the days after the election of Joseph Ratzinger keeps her from every temptation to compare what she sees, in following closely, day after day, the totality of this Pontificate, to the previous one.

That allows her, three years later, to open up a panorama without parallel [A rather sweeping claim, don't you think?] on the profile and actions of a Pope who is rather disconcerting. [Disconcerting to whom? To someone like Kubler who perhaps disagrees with the Pope's 'ideology' but who, tough luck, will never be Pope and have Benedict's global influence and authority?]

Is Benedict XVI a 'misunderstood' Pope? Yes, our colleague proclaims right away, if only because his words and gestures are compared ceaselessly to his predecessor - generally in order to come up with a condemnatory comparison.

If, in this book she herself tries to draw any comparison, it is meant, on the contrary, to justify Ratzinger's legitimate differences from his predecessor. In effect, she says, Benedict XVI is showing 'how to be Pope differently', different from what the Polish titan was. [Oh, what a calculated thrust! If one is other than a titan, then what is he? A dwarf? A much lesser entity in any case!]

Benedict XVI does it - being Pope in a different way - without doing so deliberately. Even if he wanted to ape Papa Wojtyla, his age and his temperament would not allow him to. [COLORE]#1216FF[=COLORE][Chop, chop, chop. What an openly nasty 'way' to cut Benedict down! And what does his age have to do with it? God has blessed him so far with reasonably good health, a vigor that men half his age would envy, and a mind that is sharper than ever.]

Above all, De Gaulmyn points out, Benedict XVI himself is deliberately re-framing the function of the Pope in what she calls 'the end of the Superman Pope' - a more modest papacy, less mediatic, but focused on the essentials of his mission as the Successor of Peter: "to strengthen his brothers in the faith".

Therefore, to make the man better understood, but also his function, is what our colleague manages to do in this amazing book.

Besides very lively writing and a wealth of eloquent anecdotes, she puts to use her competence as a great 'Vaticanista' - that species of journalist-entomologist [In what sense entomologist? In terms of 'dissecting' her subject?] that is increasingly rare - one who knows all the personalities and the cogs of the Church's central government [Really? She knows the workings of the Curia after three years in Rome?], but also able to interpret the least tremor in the Curia in the light of the long history of Catholicism.

A Catholicism which she is wise enough not to reduce to the arcaneness of the Vatican. Proof of this is her attention to the Pope's travels, all of which she has joined, and in which Benedict XVI can allow his sensitivity to focus on persons and communities, as well as on the importance, in the Pope's eyes, of relations with other Churches and religions.

Thus, going through all the 'sensitive' issues that the Church has to face, taking on an empathy for the person - because Ratzinger the man can show himself to be quite touching - without losing any of her journalistic freedom (on the weaknesses of this Pontificate, for instance, in the matter of government; or the place of women in the Church), complementing her expertise with a gift for popularization, Isabelle de Gaulmyn succeeds in showing that this Pope is not always what one thinks he is. [What a presumptuous statement! As if everyone thought about the Pope in the way the liberal media do!]

Better still, she is perhaps doing the Church a great service by putting the right proportions to her responsibilities. [Gee, thanks. The Church has not known this, after more than 2000 years!]

"Benedict XVI's Pontificate," she warns at the start, "is certainly not easy to figure out. But it is fascinating because it gathers to itself all the contradictions and questions of a Catholicism, especially, that in Europe, that is in crisis." [As if it had a choice if it is to be the institution that it is and what the Church of Christ is meant to be!]

Let us credit Isabelle de Gaulmyn for offering us with this book, besides this very pertinent interpretative key, a reading experience that is itself fascinating for allowing each reader to do the deciphering.

It's a beautiful work.

Beatrice made a few comments that I share.

First of all, to call Benedict XVI 'misunderstood' is incorrect, because to misunderstand someone, you have first to know enough about him, otherwise what is there to understand? - and that the book should more properly be called "The unknown Pope".

The media certainly have had almost 30 years to make sure the 'real Ratzinger' would and should not get through to the public. (Our humble Benedict is so superior - something he can't help being! - that he threatens a great many smug people who think no one can be as smart as they are, let alone more smart, and more genuinely an intellectual and an original thinker!)

She also fears that De Gaulmyn may be using the ploy of seeming to set out to demolish misconceptions (or to avoid comparisons with John Paul II, for that matter), only to fall back on the same misconceptions and drawing the same invidious comparisons.

She promises to let us know when she has read the book itself

00Monday, September 8, 2008 5:57 AM

Does this sound like a power-hungry man scheming to be pope, as some in the media portrayed him right after he was elected?

From Gloria Thurn und Taxis' new book mentioned on the previous page:

... I [Cardinal Meisner] 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.

00Monday, September 8, 2008 5:32 PM
benefan, 9/8/2008 5:57 AM:

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.

[SM=g27813] [SM=g27813] [SM=g27813] I feel very sorry reading this too! Papa B was being very serious when he said he felt a guillotine was coming down on him. Scheming? Yeah, that's why he tried to retire 3 times. God Bless him for saying yes to the Lord.

00Friday, September 19, 2008 9:05 PM
Very moving.....
This is a very moving account of Cardinal Meisner's conversation with Papa and of how Papa looked. I came to this thread to report on something which is, in a way, linked. I don't know if this has been posted on the News thread, but today's Daily Express, the British tabloid rag, carried a story headlined: "Pope Too Old To Travel To Mexico". Trust one of our tabloids to pick up on this!

I would have been inclined to write instead that Mexico City lies at too high an altitude for most people to tolerate, unless acclimatised. Apparently some athletes - young and fit one assumes! - were affected by the altitude when the Olympic Games was held there [can't remember the year, but I do remember the story]. This article also said that JPII had gone to Mexico City when he was 82. Well, so what! Our Papa's doctor is sensible to advise against his visiting such a place. I know he visited Peru and went to Macchu Picchu [a place notorious for flattening even the hardiest travellers], but that was when he was sixty, I think.

I was, to be honest, worried about Papa going to Australia, but he took it in stages and had a good rest at Kenthurst before going to Sydney. In that case, it was jet lag, which is easy to get over. But altitude is a different matter and affects the heart.

Going back to that conversation with Cardinal Meisner - yes, it's so moving, but the amazing thing is that the former Cardinal Ratzinger has blossomed into a vigorous and enthusiastic Pope. I like to think that our love and prayers have had a lot to do with this.

[SM=x40793] [SM=x40793] [SM=x40793] [SM=x40793] [SM=x40793]
00Friday, September 19, 2008 11:15 PM
Yes, Mary. I posted Cardinal Antonelli's announcement yesterday from the Italian Apcom report in NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT, page 211, as well as the AP report which picked up the Apcom item and headlined it "Pope too old to travel to Mexico" - which is the item most of the Anglophone media have carried, to go by the Yahoo catalog of B16 items today.

00Saturday, September 20, 2008 10:33 AM
Thanks, Teresa!
When you get to 64 you don't always notice these posts! I was amazed, though, that the Daily Express [which I do not take, but a neighbour does, though I confess I used to take the Daily Mail, which is the same sort of paper], should carry anything about Papa. Then, when a secular paper DOES report something, it's negative.

There was ZILCH on our television news about his trip to France! Thank God for EWTN.
00Tuesday, September 23, 2008 5:12 AM

Pope Benedict at Dziwisz film premiere

Created: 22.09.2008 12:12

Pope Benedict XVI will be one of the guests of honour at the premier in the Vatican, October 16, of the film version of the best-selling 2007 memoir by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, retelling his experiences serving John Paul II over many decades.

Testimony tells the true story by JP II's long-time secretary, friend and closest witness to the most important events of his pontificate in documentary form, plus dramatic re-enactments of some of the most important events of his papacy.

The movie reveals details not told in the original memoir, including memories of Karol Wojtyła's childhood and youth. It also depicts previously unknown and poignant moments from the Pope's private life.

The film uses documentary materials and dramatized reconstructions of events to tell its story, including an in-depth interview with Cardinal Dziwisz himself. The whole film is tied together with a narration by British actor Michael York.

Directed by Pawel Pitera and produced by Przemysław Häuser, with an original score composed by Vangelis and Polish popular musician Robert Janson, Testimony will be released in Poland on October 17.

The date of the premiere at the Vatican, October 16, coincides with the 30th anniversary of Karol Wojtyla being elected to lead the Roman Catholic Church. He became Pope John Paul II at 17.17 CET, October 16, 1978.

00Thursday, September 25, 2008 4:22 AM

Okay, I know this article should be on the World Youth Day thread but the part about the elderly nun reminds me so much of something Maryjos would do. I wonder how many nuns are closet Benaddicts (no pun intended). Quite a few, I suspect.

Bishop asks youth to be pontiff’s apostles

The Catholic Leader (Australia)
Sept. 25, 2008

AN elderly nun hid herself in a church cupboard for two days hoping to see Pope Benedict XVI during his World Youth Day visit to Sydney, Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher told a Faith on Tap gathering in Brisbane.

Bishop Fisher, who was WYD08 co-ordinator, told the tale to a crowd of more than 150 people, mainly young, at Kangaroo Point’s Pineapple Hotel on September 8.

The bishop described how the nun had breached security by hiding in a Sydney church she had heard the Pope was to visit.

“The police sniffer dogs found her and she was permitted to view proceedings from the other side of the keyhole,” he said.

A short video slideshow of some of the best photos from WYD08 was presented to the crowd before Bishop Fisher gave his talk, reminding those gathered of what a significant event WYD08 was and the impact it had had on so many.

The bishop spoke of Pope Benedict's description of WYD08 as “a new Pentecost, from which the mission of the young people, called to be apostles to their contemporaries, was relaunched”.

“It is flattering to be invited to be Benedict's WYD Apostles.

“Now be ready to do what apostles do! Be fearless!”

One of the Faith on Tap organisers Justin Lynch said the growing popularity of Faith on Tap events was “ a little overwhelming”.

“While we would love to have the events open to all ages, the 18 to 35-year age restriction means that young people can bring up issues and concerns in an environment of friends and peers.”

Faith on Tap is open to those between 18 and 35 years and is held on the second Monday of the month at the Pineapple Hotel in Main Street, Kangaroo Point.

00Sunday, September 28, 2008 12:35 PM
Angelus di Oggi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I've just watched today's Angelus live from Castel Gandolfo!!!!!! I don't know if it was me, but the crowd in the courtyard seemed to be louder and more supportive than ever. They were cheering for some time before Papa came out and then they WENT WILD !!!!!!!! But they are always quiet when he is talking. His catechesis was about today's Gospel and it's not difficult to follow, because we know the Gospel passage and his Italian is so clear. [SM=g27822] [SM=g27822]
Then, after the Angelus, Papa, as always, gave greetings in several languages. There were school children present from "La Scuola Paolo VI, Castel Gandolfo" and when he greeted them "in particolare" they nearly went into orbit. I think even some of us oldies know how these youngsters felt! [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836]
The Polish contingent was as loud and appreciative as ever, as was the Spanish one.
It was altogether very moving! [SM=x40800] [SM=x40800] [SM=x40800]
Now I can face the rest of the day.

Hope some other forum members were able to watch.
00Sunday, September 28, 2008 1:39 PM

A car hobbyist site has put together this listtle history of modern papal vehicles.


Sept. 26, 2008

Being the living incarnation of two thousand years of religious tradition has got to be rough on a guy. Popes of the modern era have been burdened with the additional task of traveling to tend to the flock, heading out from the confines of the Vatican City to exotic places like Venezuela, Africa and Hamtramck. Look it up.

Anyway, the task would be insurmountable if not for Poppa's trusty and reliable sidekick, the Popemobile. Serving duly as a perch from whence to greet the masses — and as protection from said masses for the Holy See, the Popemobile has gone through many iterations, some of which you'll have a hard time believing.

Popemobiles come in two varieties. The locally made, customized versions, often hewn from the host nation's finest home-grown automobile and turned into a rolling vista fit for a king — or at least the head of a sovereign nation.

Then there are the official Popemobiles, now the only kind after the attempt on John Paul II's life in 1981. Some are made for daily open-air service in St. Peter's Square and others are bullet-proof Popequariums which travel with the high pontiff to locations far and wide.


The 1930 Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460 is the first car acknowledged as a formal Popemobile, built specifically for Pope Pius XI as a gift from Daimler Benz AG. The big Benz was equipped with a central rear-mounted throne and custom interior, which the Pope called “a masterpiece of modern engineering.”

The 300D Landaulet was the first new Popemobile in thirty years, with Mercedes spanning the gap during the tumultuous period. The 300D was stretched some 450 mm, with hard top up front and soft top in the rear layout of the Landaulet body style allowing il Papa to take in the sunshine and wave to the crowds. This car retained the single-throne seat setup in the rear, but added amenities like air conditioning and a two-way radio to the driver.


Everybody knows you have to roll in style when you visit New York City, so a stretched 1964 Lincoln Continental was in order. Also customized in the Landaulet style, in this case the Pope's throne seat was equipped with a hand crank which elevated the Pontiff 12 inches into the air so the crowds could get a better look.

The Landaulet version of the 1965 Mercedes-Benz 600 was delivered to Pope Paul VI. The car was equipped with an enormous folding top as well as a huge set of rear doors and an additional two and three-quarter inches of head room.


In the 1966 Mercedes 300 SEL, the basic concept of the previous car was retained. However, the papal seat was set with a sliding mechanism which allowed the Pope to slide to the side, allowing added seating in the rear for a Papal aide.

The 1977 model was more of a Papal limo than a Popemobile, as it was equipped with occasional seating for up to six, in addition to the longer doors and elevated roof line.


Following his elevation to the Papacy, Karol Józef Wojtyła returned to his native Poland as John Paul II, with an impressive Popemobile in tow. The FCS Star is a Polish-built industrial truck normally outfitted for firefighting duty, but for his home swing, it was converted to the baddest Popemobile ever.

The platform rode atop the chassis and remained open to the crowds. In fact, the design was one developed with the guidance of JPII himself. Seriously, epic Pope win.

JPII was a busy guy, making tours of many points of the globe to greet the flock. When he visited Ireland in 1979, the first time a Pope had set foot On that soil, a Ford Transit, of all things, was converted for Pontiff-toting duties. It was outfitted in the papal colors of yellow and white with a tall cabin with large windows in addition it was fitted witH silk-and-teflon carpet said TO HAVE cost over a thousand dollars a yard.

1980 MERCEDES G230 - 1981 PEUGEOT 504

During a trip to Germany in 1980, Mercedes provided a customized Mercedes G230 which would become the guidepost for Popemobiles to come. With a transparent superstructure and elevated viewing position, the G230 made crowd-surfing with the Pope look good.

Believe it or not, there was a Peugeot 504 converted for holy-rolling. The 504 was used by John Paul II in a visit to Lyon, France, and still exists in a Peugeot Museum in Sochaux. Go make a pilgrimage to see it.

1982 SEAT - 1982 RANGE ROVER

The Spanish Papamóvil in 1982 was an all-open-air Seat designed with a grab handle in front so El Papa could stand and greet the crowds. This may also be the smallest Popemobile ever.

The first bullet-proof Popemobile was built following the first assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981. A Range Rover 230G was adapted, with the cabin enclosed in bulletproof glass for a visit to the UK in 1982.


This most massive of Popemobiles was built by Leyland Truck for the Popes visit to Scotland as well as additional travels around the UK in 1982. The 24-ton monster has a cool glass room at the top of the vehicle and logged 11,000 miles during its services. Our personal favorite of the Popemobiles was donated to the British Commercial Vehicle Museum, in Leyland, Lancashire in 1988, but was sold at auction in 2006 for the bargain price of $70,000.

The Vatican’s fleet of limo-style Popemobiles grew in 1985 with the inclusion of the first fully armored car, a Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL. Just because it was armored doesn't mean it wasn't crowd-friendly. The sunroof opened, a windscreen elevated, and the floor lifted to a platform position below to allow the Pontiff to do his crowd-waving thing. This car is actually still in use and ferries Pope Benedict XVI during official outings.

In 1997, a new papal limousine was a thoroughly updated Landaulet Mercedes S500 LWB, complete with electro-hydraulic top, two rear-facing occasional seats, and a center-mounted throne which can power-elevate half a meter when the top is down.


In a visit to Mexico during 1999, JPII rode in a glassed-up bus through unprecedented crowds of onlookers. Following his death in 2005, this Popemobile was put on permanent display in Mexico City at the Basilica of Guadalupe, where the faithful made pilgrimages to pay respect in lieu of a trip to Vatican City.

the thoroughly modern Mercedes ML 430 Popequarium has been the standard bearer until recently. The fully enclosed, bullet-proof, air-conditioned, platformed car served major duty during the last years of John Paul II.


In his last years, John Paul II used a Fiat open-top SUV for transit within Vatican City, primarily during events at St. Peter's Square, usually accompanied by a phalanx of burly security guards.


That Fiat didn't have a terribly long run, as it was supplanted by a far more stylish Merecedes G500 at the end of 2007. This one is the first that can be converted from open-air duty to enclosed bullet-proof class as well.

In 2007, the Vatican unveiled the open-top Mercedes-Benz G-Class for papal use in St. Peter's Square. It was created over a two-year development period in close consultation with the Vatican for fine-weather use.

It is equipped with a folding windscreen and hand-rails, and like its predecessors it is painted in 'Vaticanmystic white'. The interior is white, and is accessed via steps lined in red at the rear.

Left, another view of the current Popemobile for in-house use; right, the clunky GMC Sierra used for the Corpus Domini processions since 1984. It was first used for John Paul II's travels during a visit to Canada in 1984.

00Sunday, September 28, 2008 7:14 PM

My brother the Pope
(who wanted to be
a house painter)

Translated from

September 28, 2008

REGENSBURG - "From the beginning, my brother has always been not only my companion but also a trusted guide. He has been for me a point of reference, who makes decisions with clarity and determination . he has always shown me the way, even in difficult situations."

With these words, last August 22, Benedict XVI thanked the mayor of Castel Gandolfo for having given honorary citizenship to his brother, Mons. Georg Ratzinger.

The Pope's 'trusted guide', who is the only remaining member of his immediate family, still moves about easily - despite being nearly blind - at his home on Luzengasse street in Regensburg, not far from the Cathedral where for 30 years he directed the famous boys choir Domspatzen, 'the sparrows of the Cathedral'.

Grey clouds have brought a chilly and autumnal downpour on this city, whose name re-echoed around the world in 2006 after Benedict XVI's famous lecture on faith and reason.

On the dot, Mons. Ratzinger, 84, is waiting to welcome us at the door at the appointed time for the interview. The small salon where he receives visitors is laden with pictures, parchments and sacred images. In the center is a smiling photo of his brother the Pope.

His only condition for this interview was for it 'to be brief', but nonetheless, he willingly answered a number of 'last' questions.

What is your first memory of your brother Joseph?
It was Holy Saturday in 1927. Starting before dawn that day, there had been a great to-do in the house and I could not understand what was happening. I wanted to get up, but my father said to go on sleeping because I now had a baby brother. So I did not see him till later - he looked tiny and fragile.

Later that day, he was baptized in the parish church of Marktl am Inn, the little town where we lived. It was raining, snowing hard, and windy, so my parents decided to leave me and my sister home to avoid getting sick.

What was he like as a boy?
He was lively, but not an earthquake. I remember him as always being cheerful. And he always had a great sensitivity for animals, for flowers, for nature. Perhaps that is why he always received toy animals for Christmas. His attention to nature and to living creatures is quite characteristic of him.

Can you tell us something about your family life and your parents?
We had a very close family. Our father was a police officer who came from an ancient family of peasants in Lower Bavaria. My mother was the daughter of artisans, and before marriage, she had worked as a cook.

Whenever possible, we children went to daily Mass. Then we ate breakfast together. The whole family would see each other again at lunch - according to Bavarian custom, we always had a soup first and then the main dish.

In the afternoons, we would do our homework, and then, my brother and I would go take a walk. Then we all dined together. There was no radio or TV then, and at nights, my father would play the zither. We sang a lot. But we all went to bed early.

What did your father think of Nazism?
He was a huge opponent from the very beginning. He understood right away that National Socialism would be a catastrophe - that not only was it a great enemy of the Church, but more generally, of every faith and of every human life.

You and Joseph had to join the Hitler Youth?
The State had decreed that all schoolchildren, depending on their age, should be enrolled in appropriate youth associations. When one reaches the obligatory age, everyone in the same age group becomes enrolled en bloc. One had no choice, and if one failed to present oneself, there would certainly be negative consequences.

My brother did not attend meetings and did not present himself at roll calls. This was a disadvantage for our family because we could no longer be entitled to a discount on school fees.

Is it true that a relative of yours was killed in Aktion T4, the Nazi program of euthanasia?
He was one of our cousins, the son of a sister of my mother. He was a lovable and happy child, but he was mentally retarded. He could not communicate properly or take part in conversations. I do not know anything more precise about his illness. And it was only much later that we learned the Nazis had come to take him from his house and that he ended up being killed in one of their camps.

In 1935, you entered the archdiocesan seminary in Traunstein, Joseph wrote in his autobiography, "I followed in his footsteps". How was his vocation born?
We were both altar boys and served Mass regularly. It soon became clear, first to me, then to him, that our life would be devoted to service to the Church.

But he also expressed the wish early that he wanted to 'be a cardinal'.
In Tittmoning, Joseph had received Confirmation from Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, the great Archbishop of Munich. He was very impressed and so he said that he too wanted to be a cardinal one day.

But just a few days after that meeting, while watching the man who was painting the walls of our house, he also said that he wanted to be a house painter.

In his autobiography, Joseph also calls sports 'a true torture' for him and that he did not like physical activity.
I can certainly say that neither me nor my brother were meant for sports. Perhaps because we were never robust, but rather, we were always among the smallest and weakest boys in our respective classes. We could not keep up with the physical rhythm of our classmates.

What was the impact of the Second World War on the life of your brother and yourself? =
It tried us very deeply, even when we were still at home. We barely had enough food. We had a coupon for monthly rations of sugar, butter, cooking oil and some meat. At night, we had to shut the windows so that the homes would not be visible to Allied airplanes.

I was first called to the labor service and then to military service. My brother was conscripted some time later. Of course, our ideals and objectives were completely the opposite of Hitler's but we were made soldiers against our will, so we could not wait for the war to end.

How did your passion for music get started?
In our family, we all loved music. I already told you my father had a zither that he used to play at night. We sang together. It was always an event for us.

In Marktl, there was a musical band which fascinated me a lot. I always thought that music was one of the most beautiful things God had created. And of course, my brother has always loved music. Perhaps I also 'infected' him in some way.

You were both ordained priests on June 29, 1951 in the Cathedral of Freising. What do you remember of that day?
It was a very joyful day which moved us profoundly. The beautiful weather put us all in good spirits. There were more than 40 of us and we had all prepared together for this consecration. We were all very happy that we had achieved the goal for which we had prepared ourselves for years and that we anticipated so much. And now, it was all coming true.

We entered the Cathedral of Freising whose great bell - named for St. Corbinian - had rung out early in the morning to wake the city up. Its pealing created a festive atmosphere. Our whole family was there - our parents and our older sister. It was simply unforgettable.

Joseph Ratzinger, as cardinal and Pope, has spoken so much of the common links between Judaism and Christianity. Did your family have any Jewish contacts?
It's a theological fact that the Jews were God's chosen people and that from that people would be born Jesus, generated by the Virgin Mary. But I must admit that in those years, we knew about Jews only from religious instruction. There were no Jews in our area so we had neither any contacts nor experiences with them.

Nor did we know about the pogroms against the Jews and of the injustices against them by the Nazis. We were all in the dark about those things.

At the time of the Second Vatican Council, your brother was called 'a teenage theologian', and was considered among the progressive theologians, as an expert consultant for Cardinal Frings. What memories do you have of Vatican-II?
I don't know who came up with the expression 'teenage theologian' about my brother. At that time, of course, I was not in Rome. I only went there once together with Joseph and some German professors who were also providing expert advice at the Council.

It was clear that there was a need for an opening to the world, for theological development. My brother contributed to all this with all his spiritual intensity. I think he was among those who contributed new ideas - ideas which were integral to our convictions of the Catholic faith - and some credit should go to him.

In the immediate period after the Council, Professor Ratzinger came to Tuebingen, to a theological faculty that then became transformed into an 'ideological center' for Marxism. Did your brother change in those years?

No, he did not. The youth of Germany were in a state of turmoil. The impulse for change that marked the Council was manifested quite forcefully among lay Catholics. Young people in Europe at the time lived in an unstable climate, uncontrolled.

The dominant idea was that everything should change, innovations had to be introduced. My brother approved those that were good but not those that are irreconcilable with the faith. The idea that the Council should only bring innovation was wrong, because the goal of the Council was to make the Church able to meet the problems of modern times but with the same faith as it has always been.

Your brother then left Tuebingen to come to teach in Regensburg - and you were all reunited.
I still recall that evening when Joseph and our sister Maria arrived in Regensburg, at the Hotel Karmeliten. After rehearsals with the Domspatzen, I went to their hotel - we were so happy to be together again.

The following Sunday, I visited them again - they had to live in the hotel until their new accommodations were ready. It was a beautiful time. The students were very welcoming to my brother - they considered him someone from whom they would learn a lot.

Who inspired your brother as a professor?
As a student he was very inspired by some French theologians. He considered as models above all the Frenchman Henri de Lubac and the Swiss Hans Urs von Balthasar.

But the center of his studies was always Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church. In his university days, he tried to rediscover this patrimony, to bring it out of near oblivion and revive it.

What does liturgy mean to the Ratzinger brothers?
Liturgy, the Mass, represents the fulcrum of our faith and actions - it is our personal encounter with God. Naturally, this comes first. We cannot imagine a day with Mass, with liturgy - it would be impoverished, devoid of the essential...

Why did Benedict XVI want to liberalize the use of the old Mass with his Motu Proprio?
At the time of the liturgical reform, the changes came too fast, and it was not easy for everyone to accept them. Overnight, the old liturgy was replaced with a new one - which we have now come to love and which we celebrate with joyous participation.

But there were those who could not accept that 'leap' because the loss of the old liturgy deprived them of something that had sustained their faith.

It was, in part, in order not to leave these persons abandoned, to re-integrate them fully into the ecclesial community, that my brother decided to liberalize the pre-conciliar liturgy.

Did you expect Joseph's election in the conclave of April 2005? How did you react?
I must admit I never expected it and that I was rather disappointed...

Disappointed that your brother became Pope?
Let me explain that. In view of the heavy responsibilities of the papacy, I understood right away that our relationship would be appreciably re-dimensioned. But in any case, behind the human decisions of the cardinals, I knew there was the will of God, and to that, we should say Yes.

Has your relationship changed?
In the past, he always spent a few weeks of the year in Germany, in his house in Pentling, which is a few kilometers from here. Now he can no longer do that. But he was able to visit the house for a couple of hours in September 2006 when he came to Bavaria.

On Sundays, I often go to the house in Pentling, go through the rooms, and then I call Joseph to tell him what I am able to see with my limited eyesight, and I assure him that everything is beautiful. But it is a piece of himself that he has had to give up.

May I ask you what was the first thing the new Pope said to you after he was elected?
Forgive me, but I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what it was - my memories of those days are confused. The telephone and the doorbell never stopped ringing. It was a terrible time. I stopped answering the telephone.

So when the new Pope called, it was my housekeeper, Frau Heindl, who took it. My brother wanted to speak with me, but it was Frau Heindl who was able to congratulate him first.

Can you tell us how you spent the holiday in Bressanone this summer? Everyone says you both seemed to enjoy it.
We had both spent so many vacations together in Bressanone and lived in the same seminary where we lived this year. But previously, we could go out freely and take walks and visit churches. And that is no longer possible now that he is Pope.

So we had to stay in and take our walks in the seminary gardens. But it was great to do so, even if I have problems walking now. I have problems with my eyes and with my legs.

Has your brother become accustomed to being the Pope?
Yes, he adapted quite fast to his new condition. All he had to do was say Yes to the new order of things. He lives it as God's will and he puts everything he can into it.

Was there a particular preference in your family for the name Benedict?
For that name, no. But several years ago, my brother said to me, "Benedict would be a good name for the next Pope". He does not remember it now, he says, but I do. [Peter Seewald has also recounted that Cardinal Ratzinger told him the same thing a few weeks before John Paul II's death.]

The words that the Pope most often repeats are joy, love and beauty. They certainly don't go with the image of the Panzerkardinal with which he was described for years.
Of course, that image never corresponded to reality, He has never been brusque - he never intends to offend others. He has always had great respect for the opinion of others. But media often create these wrong images of people.

Which Pope do you think has your brother loved most?
His immediate predecessor, John Paul II, with whom he worked closely. I think he was of great help to him, and with his theological knowledge, he was able to advise him well. They shared a solid purpose, a common orientation. Their vision of the faith makes them call things what they are.

Has your brother ever spoken to you about Papa Luciani?
Yes. Once the future John Paul I visited my brother when we were on vacation in Bressanone after he became Archbishop of Munich. He found Papa Luciani a man of great heart, a very genuine person, and my brother loved his humanity.

Can I ask you how does it feel to the brother of the Pope?
It's something with repercussions, with consequences... When I go out, I always meet people who greet me very kindly. Most of all, Italian tourists. They greet me as the Pope's brother and are very kind... Yet none of this is about me, of course.

Did you ever imagine this?
No. I didn't expect it, and we could never have imagined it! First of all, it would have been most unusual that a German would become Pope - there hasn't been one in centuries. This was an honor that was completely beyond anything we expected.

Apropos, here is a profile of the Pope written on the occasion of the third anniversary of his election last April. I came across it tonight while googling something else - and is obviously one of many articles I must have missed on that occasion, since I was all caught up at the time in the Pope's visit here in the USA.

It's well-meaning but it rehashes many known facts/events rather haphazardly and imprecisely (if not erroneously).

The Pope who would rather think and write

18 Apr 2008

But for a simple twist of fate, Benedict XVI, the first German Pope for 1,000 years, would be pulling on a different white outfit every day.

While religion filled his life from the moment of his birth, as a young boy Joseph Ratzinger's heart was set on becoming a painter and decorator.

"Ideas often change radically," he said. "At some point, a house painter who painted a wall impressed me so much I wanted to emulate him. A child bases himself on what he sees."

Soon, another sight dazzled the five-year-old Bavarian and diverted his path away from paintbrushes and towards becoming the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, in which capacity he is now on his first visit to the United States.

On a sun-dappled spring day in 1932, a black limousine swept into the square of Tittmoning, a small town near the Austrian border where young Joseph's father, a policeman, had been stationed.

Inside the car was the man who would ordain the young German into the priesthood 19 years later, Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, then the Archbishop of Munich.

"He came home and told our father that night, 'I want to be a cardinal'," recalled his elder brother, Father Georg Ratzinger.

"It wasn't so much the car, since we weren't technically minded," he said. "It was the way the cardinal looked, his bearing, and the garments he was wearing that made such an impression."

At the time, the Ratzinger family was living in near poverty, with the Second World War looming.

"The house was very nice, but it was extremely uncomfortable to live in," said the Pope many years later.

"For my mother it was really awful. Every day she had to drag coal up two long flights of stairs."

His cousin, Erika Kopp, said he pursued his dream relentlessly.

"Why not Pope?" she teased him about his ambition.

Now 81, Joseph Ratzinger is a reluctant pope. He has often spoken of how he would prefer to spend his final years thinking and writing in Germany.

Instead, his mission is to lead the Church through one of its most challenging periods, with falling numbers of priests and worshippers.

Almost nothing is known about his private life, except that he loves to play the piano.

Rumour has it that he sneaks out of his papal apartments to visit a cat sanctuary in Rome.

Three years into the job, the side he presents to the public is enigmatic. Compared to his charismatic and media-friendly predecessor, John Paul II, the Pope is almost impossible to pin down.

He has prayed in the Blue Mosque while facing Mecca and yet has offended Muslims.

He baptised a prominent Muslim journalist as a Catholic at the moment of greatest media exposure: Easter.

In the 1960s he was one of the great liberal forces behind the Second Vatican Council, but then went on to slap down independent doctrinal thought at the helm of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the department that used to be known as the Inquisition. [First, he was never liberal, though he had some progressive ideas for the Council. Second, the CDF was known as the Holy Office; the Inquisition was a program carried out under the Holy Office in Rome, distinct from and much milder than the infamous Spanish Inquisition which was completely a Spanish institution.]

His reintroduction of the Latin Tridentine Mass appalled his own Latinist [WHO????], who said the return to the ancient rite would make "all hell break loose".

And although he is seen as a terribly serious theologian, there is often a twinkle in his eyes.

"God wants to prod us into taking things a bit more lightly, to see the funny side and to get down off our pedestal and not forget our sense of humour," he said.

John Allen, who has written a biography of the Pope, said: "Benedict doesn't speak in sound bites but in tersely crafted paragraphs.

"To understand what he's trying to say, you actually have to listen from start to finish, which is very much a challenge to our sound-bite culture.

"That's why there is a tremendous gap between what the Catholic insider knows about him and what the average person knows."

His involvement in controversy included a speech at Regensburg University, where he quoted a critique of Islam as an "evil and inhuman" religion.

His hardline stance against abortion overshadowed his trip to Brazil and he offended indigenous people in Latin America [just some politically motivated groups claiming to represent the indigenous peoples] by suggesting that the conquistadors had purified them with religion.

His quiet, teutonic refusal to curb his tongue or behave politically was forged during his time at the great Catholic teaching universities at Bonn, MuEnster, Tübingen and Regensburg.

Widmar Tanner, a biology professor at Regensburg, remembers him as "very friendly, an exceptional speaker, but very modest. When he made his argument he made it brilliantly, and when we argued, he usually won."

The Pope, who calls himself a "perfectly ordinary Christian", said that there were no lightning bolts of revelation about his future career, and that he contemplated the priesthood for many years, driven by a desire to teach and write.

Joseph Ratzinger was born on April 16, 1927, the second son of Joseph Ratzinger Sr and his wife Maria. "My father was a very religious man," he said.

"On Sundays he went to Mass at six, then to the main liturgy at nine, and again in the afternoon."

His birthplace, Marktl am Inn, was a small town close to Regensburg, where as many as 70 per cent of people are practising Catholics.

"My heart beats Bavarian," the Pope once said.

Both Joseph and his brother went to boarding school.

"It wasn't easy for me," he said. "You learn a different kind of social interaction, and also how to fit in.

"We also had, in homage to the modern idea of education, two hours of sports. It was a true torture."

00Monday, September 29, 2008 7:59 AM


Since the last time I checked (back in April, I believe, shame on me!), the Vatican publishing house has come out
with a number of new titles by or about Benedict XVI.

May 2008

"Vado e vengo da voi"('I am going away and I will come back to you', Jn 14,28) - The homilies of the Holy Father for Holy Week 2008 from Palm Sunday, March 16, to his General Audience on April 30. 100 pp.

La singolare esperienza missionaria - The Pope's trip to the United States, from his pre-visit message to American Catholics, to his account of the trip at the General Audience on April 30. 232 pp.

Pensieri su Paolo(Reflections on Paul) - Taken from the Pope's homilies, messages and discourses along the lines of the series on his Pensieri spirituali and Pensieri mariani. 128 pp.

Deus caritas est: Riflessioni... - Reflections by officials of the Roman Curia and ambassadors to the Holy See on Benedict XVI's first encyclical. 256 pp.

June 2008

I Padri della Chiesa: Da Clemente Romano a Sant'Agostino(The Fathers of the Church: From St. Clement (Pope) to St. Augustine) -
The Holy Father's catecheses as a fascinating gallery of 26 frescoes, each dedicated to a writer in early Christian times. Twenty-two publishers in 11 countries have already requested publication rights. 368 pp.

Celebrazioni della parola per l'Anno Paolino (Celebrations of the word for the Pauline Year) - Reflections of Pope Benedict XVI. 88 pp.

Accogliamo Cristo, nostro Sommo Sacerdote(Let us welcome Christ, our Supreme Priest) - Spiritual exercises with Benedict XVI, prepared by Cardinal Albert VanHoye for the annual Lenten retreat of the Pope and the Roman Curia in 2008. 200 pp.

July 2008

'Abbiamo avuto il coraggio di annunciare il Vangelo di Dio'('We had the courage to announce the Gospel of God;) - Opening of the Pauline Year by Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I. 72 pp.

Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI, 3 - 2007, #2 - The teachings of Benedict XVI. Third of the series, Vol. 2 for 2007. All the Papal texts in the period covered. 1096 pp.

No releases in August.

September 2008

Paolo e i primi discepoli di Cristo(Paul and the first disciples of Christ) - From the Holy Father's catechetical cycle begun in October 2006, from St. Paul to his collaborators and disciples during his missionary years to his final phase in Rome. Artistic edition. 188 pp.

L'attivita della Santa Sede 2007 (Activities of the Holy See 2007) - Text and pictorial report. 1400 pp.

XXIII Giornata Mondiale della Gioventu: Il viaggio in Australia (XXIII World Youth Day: The trip to Australia) - All the papal texts, with pictures. 120 pp.

Pensieri sulla Parola di Dio(Reflections on the Word of God) - The collection shows the Holy Father's continuing attention to Sacred Scriptures and its importance to Christian life. It is another instrument for a deeper look into the theme set by the Pope for the XII General Assembly of the Bishops Synod on October 5-26. 120 pp.

00Tuesday, September 30, 2008 10:18 PM

The photo illustrated the interview below. I find it unusual because it shows the Pope wearing a headphone in a helicopter.

Faith and style:
An interview with Georg Gaenswein

by Wolfgang Büscher
Translated from


As with Andrea Tornielli's interview with Mons. Georg Ratzinger, I decided to post this here rather than in PEOPLE AROUND THE POPE because the interview is ultimately about the Pope.

Rome in September is full of tourists and pilgrims and still quite hot. But from the 200-year-old Via Appia, one can look out towards the south and see the summer palaces of the Roman nobles perched on the hills.

One of these summer residences - that of the Popes in Castel Gandolfo - can be identified from a distance by the dome of the Vatican Observatory which is attached to the Apostolic Palace.

Here the air is clear and pure, definitely cooler than in the sweltering Roman plains. The main door of the Apostolic Palace opens directly into the town piazza of this pretty little city with its baroque ocher and terracotta buildings - all shimmering in the summer sun, as if there were no evil in the world.

Does the Pope wear Prada shoes? What does he really wear? We're here to clear up some Vatican 'myths'.

Castel Gandolfo is an extra-territorial part of Vatican state. So is this afternoon - an hour of relief from the world's cares.

Swiss Guards salute and show the way into the pale-pink Apostolic Palace. One is led into a small reception room - marble floors, a table, a tray with water and plastic cups. And a request to "Please be patient - he will be here soon".

And he comes in. The first impression: a man in his early 50s in the prime of his life. He is all in black today. No frills. Nothing particular about his shoes. But... does Georg Gaenswein really look as good as he does in his photographs?

Though one is familiar with the wonder of media artifice in presenting the heroes of pop culture, this one is different. Yes, he is a good-looking man. Perhaps a little less Hollywoodesque than his photos suggest, but therefore, more lifelike.

The second impression - he is a straightforward man. Not a trace of Vatican marble-like coolness, that punctiliousness earned from decades of living with diplomacy, foresight, intrigue.

The image that Protestants have of Catholic prelates continues to be haunted by Luther's abhorrence, tinted by bigotry and squeamishness at the imagined falsity of papist men.

But the manner, the whole style, of this man who has just come in, is the exact opposite of that stereotype. An energetic stride, a firm handshake, and a way of speaking that has absolutely nothing evasive or circumlocutory about it.

He could very well be a pilot. Or the head of an export company in the Black Forest, where he comes from, or an expert in machine production, which the area is known for.

The Vatican is a highly specialized machine - the center of the one truly global church - as well as a master of global diplomacy. But it can also be a snakepit, rife with envy, ambition, intrigue.

And Gaenswein must have experienced that, as a virtual international star who seemed to come out of nowhere, who was until a few years ago, an anonymous face in Rome. His name certainly is not on any of the Vatican lists of career-minded prelates.

He does not bother with courtly trivialities, not even to break the ice. Only after later questioning does he speak about his 80-year-old father who is ill ("He was a lion!") and what he can do for him. [It sounds like GG's father is seriously ill! God bless...]

But he wants to know exactly what this interview is about. Well, it is about style and form, as they relate to the Church and faith - about the obvious attractiveness of the Pope, and his private secretary, for instance. [There you go - an MSM reporter finally verbalizing what all his colleagues have avoided doing, as though it were unseemly for an 81-year-old human being to be attractive, especially if he also happens to be the Pope!]

An amused expression comes over him. We ask him: As the wave of fame has washed over him, when he reads headlines like 'Sonnyboy in Soutane' or 'the George Clooney of the Vatican', what was his first reaction?

He chuckles. "I did not even know who George Clooney was! Well, OK, I must have heard the name before, that's all. I was very surprised about all the to-do. I have never had to deal with such things before."

And now? "Well, it's all dying down, and it will stop eventually."

What about Donatella Versace's statement that he had inspired her to design a particular line of male clothing? "I wonder what's the point! In any case, I have never had any contact with her, then or now."

Fashions come and go. But in general, there is a certain kernel - a desire for beauty - that is common to the world in general as to the Church. Beauty not as trumpery and glitter but as the reflection of something that we all yearn for.

This Pope has always wanted to highlight the beauty of traditional liturgy. In his General Audience in Rome earlier this week, he said liturgy was a way towards an encounter with God, along with Scriptures and prayer.

That distinguishes him from his predecessor John Paul II, with whom he is closely bound in many other respects. The Polish Pope radiated personal charisma but he did not particularly bother about the fine points of liturgy. [The writer uses a German word 'wuerschtig' which translates to 'He couldn't care less'.]

Among other things, he sometimes stepped on to the stage of his telegenic mass [in terms of crowds] events in garments that seemed more appropriate to popstars than to Popes. [The writer exaggerates, of course!]

And now the Bavarian on Peter's Chair has shown a refined taste for headgear, papal staffs and vestments that we had not seen in the reserved Cardinal Ratzinger who avoided socializing. [But he had no reason nor occasion, to 'preen' anything - a cardinal in the Curia cannot be compared to the Pope at all in terms of the liturgies that he has to perform in public, nor in terms of accessories and attire that only Popes wear.]

As a cardinal, he was a familiar sight in St. Peter's Square walking to work in black cassock and Basque beret, with a worn black portfolio. Sometimes, he was even seen carrying a plastic bag.

And from the day he became Pope, it became known, for instance, that he 'drinks Fanta' which is hardly an aristocratic attribute. Someone who deprives himself of wine, which is one of the finest aspects of the European lifestyle? One need not say more. Actually, the Holy Father prefers orange juice and takes wine only occasionally.

So how does one explain his elegance as Pope - not just the red shoes but the attention-getting headgear, his leisure-time jackets [we've only ever seen one - the quilted jacket he wears in the Alps and when he was in Kenthurst, Australia], and the sunglasses? [Mixing apples and oranges here. The headgear presumably includes the miters and the Saturno and the camauro - which are all papal prerogatives - but also the baseball cap which, like the quilted jacket and the sunglasses, is itself quite down-to-earth and not 'elegant' per se, but which the wearer can make elegant.]

Gaenswein must know because it is he who must lay out his clothes [No, he does not! For his regular wear, the Pope has a valet, as did other Popes before him. And for his liturgical attire, he has the papal MC], and who sometimes has to help him out in public [e.g. straightening the papal capelet} which the Pope wears to the altar and other liturgical services. Him and, of course, Mons. Guido Marini, the Pope's new ceremonial master.

About the red shoes, Gaenswein wants to set it straight: " It's been a tradition for centuries tnat the Popes wear red shoes. Pope Benedict XVI does not want to step out of line with that tradition."

OK, but what about the papal headgear that this Pope has 'rediscovered' - the wide-brimmed Saturno for the summer, and the ermine-lined velvet camauro cap in winter?

These things show personal preference and have no liturgical meaning, although the red shoes may recall that purple was once the color of emperors - and there was a time Popes considered themselves such - and that therefore, red is a color to denote lordship. [Instead of speculating, this reporter - most likely not a Catholic - should have asked Gaenswein directly, who had explained in the German book for children, "Why does the Pope wear red shoes?", that it derives from one of the liturgical colors which happens to stand for the blood of martyrdom, not lordship!]

Even those are accents - and whoever thinks that forms are nothing but empty shells is an iconographic illiterate. That is why we have questions about style.

But Benedict's interventions in the liturgy of the Universal Church are of a different kind - the quiet and gradual but definitely intentional Renaissance of churchly forms and practices that many Catholics have appeared to be 'ashamed of' since the liturgical reform that followed the second Vatican Council.

'Pre-conciliar' is the battle slogan against Church tradition as something to be overcome. It resonates like the word 'pre-modern' used in debates over worldly things - anyone or anything described by either word is considered outdated.

Therefore, it was 'pre-conciliar' - something to get over with - at the very center of the traditional Mass, to have the priest facing God and his back to the assembly. The opposite has become entrenched since the liturgical reform after Vatican-II.

Now Benedict has been rehabilitating, wherever he can, pre-conciliar practices thought to have been completely superseded with the virtual abandonment of the traditional Mass. And it is no longer a question of style. It has to do with everything the Church stands for.

Another big word of the Catholic post-conciliar reform was 'communio', and its kinship with the word 'commune' is deliberate. [Of course - they have the same root word!] The Church, too, had its '1968'. The word hangs like a giant word-balloon over the utopian fantasy world of that era.

When one thinks back to Michelangelo Antonioni's 1970 film Zabriskie Point with naked people at Mass in a desert or images of Woodstock -
and then, videos of World Youth Day celebrations and other great Catholic assemblies, one can understand it. [Only in the superficial sense! As Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI has often pointed out, 'communio' has a religion-specific connotation which goes back to the Greek word for it, koinonia.]

What was for the hippies a libertarian community of 'loving people' is for many Catholics the community of believers, which came to stand at the center of the post-conciliar Mass. [Although it is not the community that is at the center of the Mass, but Christ! And 'Communio' as in 'the communion of saints' that we profess in the Credo, refers not just to our present and actual communities, but to all those who have gone before us and will come after us, insofar as we belong to the one Church of Christ, outside of which that 'communion' means nothing.] In effect: self-salvation through unity [which became the post-conciliar attitude of many, with God as an accessory, a BTW].

Benedict sees it differently. The Crucifix is once again at the center of the altar, with six candles. But how much of a return to tradition does the Pope intend? How far will he push these changes to post-conciliar conventions?

"Those who know him," says Georg Gaenswein, "know that he has been very firm about the continuity of liturgy. But it had become such a 'dogma' that Vatican-II represented a rupture with the past, although a Vatican council could never create any rupture. The Pope has the duty to protect and preserve the continuity of the Church, not to break it. And in this, Pope Benedict also remains true to himself."

But does not the Catholic church, although to a much lesser degree, have the 'Protestant problem' of ignoring 'forms'? It could be observed at the General Audience held at the Aula Paul VI - the hall could have been any secular auditorium - no crucifix, no religious images, two stained-glass windows with abstract design, and behind the Pope, a giant modern sculpture that could have come from the jacket of a 1960s record album. [The sculpture depicts the Resurrection, and if one knows this, then it is sufficiently representational.]

Gaenswein avoids commenting directly on these observations but makes it clear that he is not exactly a big fan of the papal audience hall. "It was designed for large audiences. Before that, there was no indoor venue for audiences as large as 6,000 to 10,000 people."

Moreover, he points out, there could have been more Vatican buildings demolished than those that were torn down to make room for the Aula Paul VI. "There were plans to tear down even the Palazzo Sant'Uffizio, which is one of the most important and historical buildings in the Vatican, and seat of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was spared only because Paul VI respected the wishes of Cardinal Ottaviani who was then the Prefect of the CDF."

Going back to the question of liturgy, Gaenswein comments: "It was clear to anyone in his right mind that many false developments had taken place in the Church within the liturgy and without. But Pope Benedict is not an iconoclast at all, who goes around like a bulldozer. He considers things as they are, and acts accordingly, gently and sometimes gradually, but decisively."

What will happen then? Will Benedict XVI, who continually stresses the continuity of the Church and its rites, stand by the corrections he has made so far, and will others follow?

"Where he has not yet achieved his goal in terms of continuity, yes, he will move ahead. Of course, there are some in the clergy who do not like this, including many who are younger than me." He means, in terms of corrections to the post-conciliar liturgical reform, which some priests as well as lay Catholics resent.

But what was Georg Gaenswein like as a young man? Did his life lead straight to where he now is, or were there breaks along the way?

Referring to the issue we have been discussing, he says that he had considered all the opposing arguments when he was a student.

"During my theology studies in Freiburg, he says, "I had the good fortune to become friends with someone who came late to his vocation - he was 20 years older than me. And I am very grateful to him."

For what? "That he did not allow me to pursue false lights".

He knew you well? "Obviously. There were a number of such older student colleagues who came to study for the priesthood out of genuine calling, and who resisted [progressivist] contamination."

So your way was uninterrupted? "Well, I had not intended to be a secular priest, I wanted to join a strict monastic order, and I was attracted to the Carthusians."

Carthusians, who are probably the strictest of orders! The order of silence. Monks who wake up in the middle of the night to sing together their wonderful songs in praise of the Lord but will otherwise not exchange a word with each other!

So the young man from the Black Forest, who had been a ski teacher and now the Pope's private secretary, had wanted to be a monk! One cannot imagine a greater contrast to the media image of him as a 'George Clooney'.

"I confessed once to an old monk in a Carthusian monastery, and I asked him, 'Father, what should I do?' He said, "First finish your studies. If afterwards, the question still remains, then come back here'. Later, I thought I would become a Benedictine monk ... Then gradually, I moved away from the idea and soon found myself a secular priest." Who lives in the world and not enclosed in a monastery.

Another unfulfilled plan of his betrays that he really wanted a more meditative lifestyle. "I did want to specialize in history and Church history." He has not given up this interest.

And history is all around us, as Georg Gaenswein takes us on a tour through parts of the Apostolic Palace. There is so much to point out, and he does so happily. Even if Castel Gandolfo does not have the typical Vatican mix of rooms that are often rich in art treasures alongside 17th-century furniture that does not always match the quality of the art masterpieces.

The Pope's summer residence was restored and furnished in the 1930s [after decades of disuse] in a consciously restrained style.

But the inlay of the marble floors is impeccable; the tapestries adorning the blue, green and red Reception Rooms are splendid.

We went to the Pope's private chapel which had been originally restored for Pius XI (the Lateran Pacts of 1929 had returned Castel Gandolfo, among other properties, to the Papacy after the confiscation of all Church properties outside the Vatican following Italy's reunification in the mid-19th century).

Then the great Audience Hall. Georg Gaenswein points towards a door at the end of a long corridor. "Behind that, he says, "are the private quarters of the Holy Father."

He quickly adds, seeing the obvious interest in his visitor's look, "It's a double door."

Is he working there now? "Yes, he's probably writing. Here in Castel Gandolfo, he finds the time now and then to work on his new book."

We step onto a balcony. The pale evening light brings the landscape into relief - it looks like a painting. Below us, deep-blue, is Lake Alban, and in the hills on the other shore are other villages and summer palaces. Somewhat blue-silver in the distance is the sea [the Tyrrhenian Sea off the west central coast of Italy].

"And down there in the gardens," he points, "is where we usually take a walk at midday or in the afternoons. But we also go to other places in the park." 'We' means Benedict XVI and himself.

Never has the public been so interested in a Pope's private secretary - and many in the Vatican resent this. Some are even outraged. They should calm down. It is unavoidable. Not only because Don Giorgio is a very good-looking man, but because today, there are cameras everywhere, they are our voracious eyes.

TV cameras, news cameras, are always hungry for images, and so is the world. John Paul II's personality lent itself to feeding this appetite. But Georg Gaenswein's boss is of a different nature. And he has a lightning rod in his private secretary, who can be in the spotlight while he prays, writes and thinks. As he does now, in this peaceful blue hour, behind those double doors.

00Saturday, October 4, 2008 2:41 AM

Does anyone remember reading about a fire in the Pope's private chapel last January, because I don't. Thanks a lot to Lilli (benedetto.fan) for pointing to this article....

Family creche travels from
Regensburg to the Vatican:
It replaces the Pope's creche
that burned down in January

Translated from

Oct. 1, 2008

REGENSBURG - After Candlemas (Feast of the Purification of Mary, Feb. 6), as Regensburg antiquities dealer Eduard Baumann prepared to disassemble the baroque Schwanthaler crèche in Mons. Georg Ratzinger’s salon at his Luzengasse home, the Pope’s older brother announced that the crèche was going to make a big trip this year.

“This crèche is going to Rome”. To the Vatican,that is.

In January the media had reported a fire in the Pope’s private chapel in the Vatican Apostolic Palace. Mons. Georg Gaenswein, it was reported, was able to rescue the image of Our Lady of Mariazell. But a crèche – that had been a gift from a Ratzinger admirer during his time in Munich - fell victim to the flames.

Following Bavarian tradition, Pope Benedict keeps the Christmas tree up till Candlemas. He loves the candles on the tree, which he himself puts out afterwards.

The replacement for the crib cannot have a more personal significance. The crèche, which is expected to arrive at the Vatican on Saturday afternoon (Oct. 4), has the signature of the Ratzinger brothers’ beloved sister Maria.

“Maria Ratzinger was the prime mover for the creche,” says Baumann, the 77-year-old antiquities dealer who has been Georg Ratzinger’s ‘interior decorator’ for over 30 years.

Even in his retirement, he has looked after the crèche for the onetime Cathedral choirmaster (Dom Kapellmeister) and choir director of the Regensburg Domspatzen.

The beginnings of the crèche – a gift idea by Baumann - were laid down by Dr. Wilhelm Gegenfurtner and then suffragan bishop Wilhelm Schraml (now Bishop of Regensburg) who contributed the figurines of the Holy Family. Baumann built a red baroque baldachin to shelter the manger scene.

Piece by piece, Maria Ratzinger then filled out the Nativity scene with hand-carved wooden pieces from the sculptor Anselm Gleichner. Every year, the crèche would be set up on a baroque chest of drawers in Mons. Ratzinger’s salon.

For its new destination the crèche needed to be filled out with some new details. For instance, Baumann added a baroque fountain which recalls fountains in the Vatican. At the fountainhead he installed the St. Corbinian’s bear that is on the Pope’s coat of arms, an idea he is very proud of.

Most of the pieces are screwed to the 85x61 cm baseboard of the crèche. The chest in which it is to be transported was specially built by cabinetmaker Karl Sattler. On the chest, Baumann wrote: “Handle with care! POPE’S CRECHE! Carry upright only! Please do not shake it!”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I thought I read somewhere Mons. Ratzinger saying that some pieces of the family creche that the Ratzingers had started as children were also in the Vatican now with Pope Benedict... The Regensburg is obviously a second 'post-parental' family creche.

00Tuesday, October 7, 2008 7:34 AM

by Marzio Breda
Translated from

Oct. 5, 2008

ROME - "On the principles that the Pope preaches, I always find myself substantially in agreement. And this is not an ideological choice on my part - more by instinct, I would say. So, at the end of the day, I told myself that even if I do not have the illumination of faith, I think I have good hopes in the afterlife".

Clio Napolitano comments with a smile on her meeting earlier in the day with Pope Benedict XVI, a few hours after he left the Quirinale Palace Saturday.

A lady who has always been involved in demanding work (she was a lawyer for the league of Cooperatives) and in politics (she is registered, with her husband, in the Partita Comunista Italiana in its diverse evolutions to the present day), she has kept her free-spirited non-conformist attitudes even as Italy's First lady.

She plays her role in the background, silently, if only to keep a sphere of privacy. This time, while the news agencies have been reporting solemnly and in elevated tones about the Pope's visit with the Italian president, she prefers to to play down her own role.

"It's personal," she says, not wanting to involve her husband in anything she might say nor to superimpose her views on his.

We ask her: "You appeared to be very much at ease when, shortly after the private audience between the President and the Pope, he took you by the arm and exchanged quite a few words with you before proceeding to the public part of the visit. How did it go?"

"It was an affectionate and heartfelt encounter", she says. "A break for some words, simple and direct, despite the protocol and the ceremonials. Thanks to the Pope and his informal approach, those hindrances were quickly and spontaneously overcome. Obviously, this was something that pleased me very much".

The remark highlights the First Lady's proverbial allergy to formalisms. Something she demonstrated when she went with her husband to visit the Pope at the Vatican in November 2006 and refused to wear a veil.

"No one minded at the Vatican," she recalls. "But in this Palace, I believe I became the object of much criticism."

Clio Napolitano showed the same direct immediacy as she sat earlier in the Hall of Celebrations listening to the Pope's speech. Her attentiveness was far from ritual, it was deeply felt and involved, with many signs of assent that were evident on TV.

"I did follow the reflections of the Pope with great interest. I always feel the same interest whenever I hear him speak, and not out of any fideistic adherence. His references to certain principles and values correspond to my own principles and values.

"I don't want to sound banal, but what comes to my mind is his denunciation of consumerism, in which our society is imprisoned. I share his sentiments in full.

"In little ways, I do my part. For instance, whenever possible when I am in Rome, I walk. Or I turn off the lights before leaving any room. Little things, to show my awareness. There is a sane and civil approach to important issues that should be intuitive to everyone."

To believers and non-believers alike, she means. Signora Clio, who was named after the Greek muse of history by her non-conformist parents (who were detained on the island of Ponza by the Fascist regime), reveals that she was secretly baptized later, thanks to her grandparents. But she does not hide her agnosticism.

Still, the wife of the President finds herself in agreement with the Pope, starting from his repeated calls against social inequality and poverty, without renouncing her firm secular identity.

"The Pope raises questions about which it is simply impossible to think differently", she says. [Hmmm...does she think that, too, about his positions on abortion and contraception?]

"I respect him very much. For what he said yesterday and for many other times that I have listened to him. I repeat: Even if I do not enjoy the illumination of faith, certain concordances that I noted again today make me believe that even I have good hopes in the afterlife.

"Let us just say that if Benedict XVI were not the head of the Church, if he were a normal man whom one could get to see normally, we would surely get along very well."

00Thursday, October 16, 2008 5:04 PM

This is not really about Pope Benedict directly, though it is about Summorum Pontificum and one of his 'home towns', so, I'm posting it here.

From Gregor Kollmorgen at

Oct. 16, 2008

Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form will now be said each Sunday in Traunstein, where the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI spent his youth, and to which he famously referred as to "the dreamland of his childhood".

The Mass has been assigned by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, for which personally I am especially glad, since it had been my impression that the German apostolate of this Society of Apostolic Life newly elevated to Pontifical Right did not flourish as much as in other countries.

Mass will be celebrated in the so-called Saline Chapel (Sts. Rupert and Maximilian), an important example of Bavarian early Baroque (built in 1630/31), with a very fine interior including frescoes and pews from the time of building, later Rococo additions, and a first-rate Franz Borgias Maerz organ of 1907 recently restored.

The church, which now belongs to the city parish of St Oswald (the Holy Father celebrated his First Mass in the parish church of St Oswald in 1951, cf this and this post), not only preserves its baroque high altar, but also its communion rail of the late 18th century. An interesting curiosity: the statue of St Rupert carries the actual crosier of the last abbot of famous Seeon Abbey.

I will see if I can find pictures of the Saline Chapel.

Simone, you may notice, I used some of your pictures in the Traunstein-Joseph Ratzinger banner I devised above... In the course of doing so, I realized that it will not be that simple to pick out the pictures to re-post in your travelogues, because there is more than one picture in each frame, so it means cutting and cropping appropriately. But I'll devise a way to do it systematically so I can make some progress, like, at least, finish one episode at a time... I've developed quite a knack for cropping and re-sizing pictures just using Powerpoint!

00Thursday, October 30, 2008 12:57 AM

I know I shouldn't feel this way but I'm kind of happy about how this story turned out. It seems the frog has bitten the hand that feeds him.

Italian museum boss, Corinne Diserens, sacked after leaping to defend a crucified frog

Richard Owen in Rome
The Times Online
Oct. 30, 2008

The director of an Italian museum that defied the Pope by refusing to remove a modern art sculpture portraying a crucified green frog has been dismissed.

Corinne Diserens, the Swiss head of the Museion museum of contemporary art at Bolzano in the Italian Alps, was “released from her duties with immediate effect” by the new provincial government in Alto Adige after local elections. The decision was a result of “the difficult financial situation” caused in part by “unauthorised spending”. Reports said that the museum was running a budget deficit of €500,000 (£390,000).

Supporters of Ms Diserens, including Hans Heiss, the head of the local Green Party, said that the real reason was “the row over the frog”. The wooden sculpture by the late German artist Martin Kippenberger depicts a 4ft frog wearing a green loin cloth. It is nailed to a brown cross with a beer mug in one outstretched hand and an egg in the other. Its tongue hangs out of its mouth.

Ms Diserens maintained that Kippenberger, who died in 1997, considered the work - Feet First - to be “a self-portrait illustrating human angst”. Pope Benedict XVl took offence while on summer holiday in the mountains near Bolzano, describing the work as blasphemous.

The Vatican sent a letter in the Pope's name to Franz Pahl, the president of the Trentino-Alto Adige regional council (who also opposed the sculpture), saying that it “wounds the religious sentiments of so many people who see in the Cross the symbol of God's love”.

Mr Pahl went on a hunger strike to demand the removal of the frog, declaring that it was “a grave offence” to the devoutly Roman Catholic population of the area. The museum agreed only to move the sculpture from the entrance to an upper floor.

Ms Diserens remained defiant, saying that “art is always a provocation, and contemporary art is hardly ever understood immediately”. The number of visitors to the museum had increased, “especially the young”, she said.

She was backed by Fabio Cavallucci, the head of the civic art gallery in Trento, who said: “The relationship between art and politics is never an easy one, but to be sacked because of one work of art is really incredible.”

La Repubblica said the row over the Kippenberg frog had damaged the ruling centrist Südtiroler Volkspartei, which in the recent local elections dropped below the 50 per cent mark for the first time, losing its overall majority. A local far-right party, Die Freiheit-lichen, increased its vote from 5 per cent to more than 14 per cent.

00Thursday, October 30, 2008 6:43 PM

Another great 'bonus' I managed to translate yesterday thanks to a reminder from Beatrice on her site
The article comes from one of the French periodicals that has already given us a number of excellent pre- and post-
visit articles. This was one of those pre-visit articles I had meant to translate but eventually forget all about
in the welter of coverage I soon had to cope with. Beatrice provided the invaluable scans of the article spread.

The intimate Benedict
by Jean Mercier

And what if this man is not at all what the cliches say of him?
For a month, our correspondent carried out this inquiry in Rome and Bavaria, meeting the Pope's friends.
A surprising portrait!

Translated from

September 10, 2009

“The last time he sat in this chair, it was four months before he became Pope.”

With luminous eyes, Reinhard and Margarete Richardi recall the last moment of intimacy they shared with Joseph Ratzinger at their home in Pentling, a Bavarian village in the suburbs of Regensburg. This likable couple in their 70s are among the few people who are close to the Pope.

“It was just before the Feast of the Epiphany in 2005. We had been singing Christmas carols, and he had just surprised us completely by pointing out that a figure in the crèche had been displaced from where it was the year before… He really has a phenomenal memory!” says Reinhard.

The friendship with the Pope goes back to the early 1970s in a professional context. Reinhard was then a young professor of law at the University of Regensburg, and Joseph Ratzinger had just arrived to take the chair of theology.

The relationship soon came to include the whole family. Over the years, Joseph Ratzinger, who became Archbishop of Munich, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, would officiate at their children’s weddings and baptize their grandchildren.

“When I wanted to build a house, Fr. Ratzinger said to me, “Oh, use my architect!’,” recalls Reinhard. The Richardis took his advice. Not content with using the same architect, they also decided to build their house in Pentling where their friend, a few years earlier, had already established his home base.

From 1969 to 1977, Ratzinger lived the most pleasant years of his life with his sister Maria and brother Georg, also a priest who was choirmaster at the cathedral of Regensburg.

“While he lived in Rome later, he came home every summer to Pentling, usually in August, and always between Christmas and Epiphany. And at each visit, he would spend some time with us,” Margarete explains.

“He’s a man of complete simplicity. If our children or grandchildren were around, he would chat or play with them. And at meals, he would never refuse the pleasure of a Tafelspitz (Austrian-style pot-au-feu, a one-dish meal of meats, vegetables and broth).”

The Richardis became so close to Joseph Ratzinger that they also came to share his strong bonds to his older brother and sister.

“The evening of his election, we were very surprised, but also very proud,” Margarete recalls. “And we were also uneasy because for his brother Georg, it was not exactly good news. It would mean that Joseph would no longer be able to retire as he wanted and that he would be apart from him for always. He was in total distress, and we did all we could to comfort him. Since then, I go to see him one afternoon every week to read him some books, because he has become almost blind.”

We were speaking in the charming little cemetery of Ziegetsdorf, a few steps from Pentling, in front of the very simple grave of Maria Ratzinger and her parents, and Margarete is recalling the words she found to comfort her friend Joseph the day they buried his sister.

“That day, we saw him break down for the first time. I took him in my arms and said, 'If she is where we think she is, we must believe that Maria is happy today.’”

Maria, who had gone to live with her younger brother in Rome to keep house for him and attend to his private secretarial needs, had died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

The scene Margarete describes is so unlike the public image of Benedict XVI, celebrating Mass in hieratic manner, or waving his fingers in the air to ‘show’ his enthusiasm during public events like World Youth Day [Hey! What's with the 'show in quotation marks? There is not a bit forced or artificial about his reactions in public. Even in this, he is so lovably childlike] – far from being cold, the Pope is a very emotional person but he does not show it in public.

“Ratzinger is a man who tends to form strong attachments to people, even if he does not always show it,” says Reinhard. “For instance, he was quite unhappy when his longtime secretary, Josef Clemens, was named secretary of the Congregation for the Laity in 2003.”

“And he is very loyal,” adds his wife, who proudly shows a two-page letter she had just received from the Pope on her birthday.

The friendship with the Richardis is so strong that it withstood a severe test. In 1999, John Paul II, through Cardinal Ratzinger, ordered the Church in Germany to withdraw from taking part in a system of pre-abortion counseling, in which Catholic counselors could either provide a certificate that allowed abortion or persuade women to keep their babies. Margarete was among the militants in favor of keeping the system.

“I sent dozens of letters to Cardinal Ratzinger in which women explained how they had changed their minds and decided to keep their babies. It was in vain, because I failed to change his adherence to the decision. But that did not affect our friendship at all.”

“It is absolutely impossible to be a ‘fan’ of Ratzinger.[Obviously, he has not met any Benaddict!] It is against everything that he is deep down. He is absolutely not ‘charismatic’ and does not use any ‘seduction’ in his relationships. His strength lies in that he refuses to use seduction, that he makes it clear he does not care what you think of him. And so that leaves you very free. One cannot be ‘magnetized’.”

The man who speaks with such certainty is Johannes Richardi. With bright blue but kindly eyes, the son of Margarete and Reinhard is one of the rare persons who can say he grew up under the very eyes of the Pope. Now 40, he is one of the chief researchers at the specialist laboratory for nanotechnology at the University of Paris VI.

“My first memory of him is when I was around 6. We had gone to his home for a snack. But I can’t say I was very close to him as a child. He was simply the friend of my parents. In any case, he was not the kind of person that you would just tap on the shoulders. But I remember that he joked a lot with his brother. Or they would recall stories of their own childhood.

“They had this game between them of trying to find the shortest possible way to give a blessing… So, contrary to what people think, he is not at all a ‘serious’ man. He loves to be entertained and is very curious about everything. As I am sure he is interested in the little stories of simple folk.”

The relationship between them developed later, once Johannes had grown and become a brilliant chemistry student.

“It was summer about 12 years ago. He came to my parents’ home but that day, I could not be there, and my parents told him I was disappointed to miss his visit. So when I returned to Pentling, he asked me to his house – and we talked a long time.

“It was a true encounter. I spoke to him about my doubts. I asked him, for instance, why the Church does not ordain women to be priests. He was very open about discussing the subject, but he explained the traditional stand of the Church on this – that Jesus only chose men to be Apostles and so on – and I was not convinced. I also asked him why the Church does not allow living together before marriage.”

The future Pope also took the time to read Johannes’s thesis on the nanostructure of liquids, and “He told me he could hardly understand it!”

In June 2007, the entire Richardi family – parents, children and grandchildren – went to Rome to visit Benedict XVI at the Vatican. With them was Johannes’s Parisian companion, Celine, a consultant on stress management.

She recalls the visit with emotion. “The Pope emits simplicity and calm…. I felt that he knows how to manage his energies.”

Johannes adds, “He has always known how to take a break. I remember that one day he remarked that John Paul II was exerting himself too much. In his case, he says No when he thinks something is beyond him. And I think that is yet another one of his strengths…”

Celine and Johannes plan to marry, but do not dare to think of being married by the Pope.

“That would be too much to ask,” he says. “He performed the wedding for both of my sisters and baptized my nephews, but that was always when he was in Bavaria. This time, it would be too complicated…. But we certainly would want him to bless our marriage by some gesture…”

Who is the true Ratzinger? The delicate and brotherly figure whom his friends praise? Or the redoubtable ‘guardian of the faith’ who has been caricatured as the Panzerkardinal?

That question was first posed the evening of April 19, 2005, when around 7 p.m., the new Pope presented himself from the Loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, saying” “Dear brothers and sisters – After the great John Paul II, the cardinals have chosen me, a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord…”

After their initial surprise, newsmen discovered, from interviewing those in Rome who know the cardinal well, that the newly-elected Pope was indeed a ‘simple and humble’ man. A kind man, one who knows how to listen. In short, far from the image of a Pere Fouettard [figure of speech for a ‘whiplashing priest’] sketched by the media.

And yet, he was the same man who made theologians tremble and who had bluntly condemned those who strayed from the right path. [He never ‘condemned’ – the CDF decisions on errant theologians while he was Prefect was always accompanied by documented reasons, and the penalties were never extreme – except for a Ceylonese priest, Fr. Tissa Balassuriya, who was excommunicated in 1997 for heretical statements in a book , but whose excommunication qas lifted one year later when the priest signed a statement admitting his doctrinal errors and reconciling with the Church. ]

Obviously, this is a complex man. Even his career shows a lot of contrasts. He was one of the most creative theologians at the Second Vatican Council, but as the Prefect of the CDF, he wrote texts like Dominus Iesus, which appears to be the polar opposite of the Council spirit. [But that is the superficial conclusion of those who think that Vatican-II ecumenism meant the Catholic Church had ‘rescinded’ the teaching that Jesus alone is the one Savior of mankind, and the Church he founded on Peter the only true Church of Christ.]

Ultimately, we are left with his ideas, developed and clearly expressed over thousands of pages and lectures, which are as unchanging as they are incisive. They revolve around certain master themes: the defense of truth, the denunciation of relativism, and the irreducible link between faith and reason.

Why does he think as he does? Where does his passion for the truth come from? In this, too, those close to him can clear it up for us.

Like Wolfgang Beinert, who has known him for 42 years, and who also lives in Pentling, a few streets away from the Richardis. He was an assistant to Professor Ratzinger at the university in Regensburg and is part of his Schuelerkreis, the circle of ex-doctorate students who have a yearly reunion with their former professor.

“What’s the difference between God and a German professor? God knows everything, but a German professor always knows better than he... I am telling you this joke to understand what Ratzinger experienced in 1968 with the student revolts,” Beinert begins.

In 1966, Beinert, a young priest, was a student at the theology faculty of the University of Tuebingen, and his thesis adviser was Prof. Ratzinger.

“In 1968, for a professor, to see his authority questioned was a test. But for him, it was cataclysmic. I remember the sense of guilt that he harbored. He asked himself what did his generation do in order to have led to what was happening.”

According to Beinert, Ratzinger saw the challenge to authority – not his alone, but more importantly, that of the Church in general, and the fact that a whole generation was making it the symbol for freedom of conscience – as the consequence of the tyranny of relativism.

To think that the opinion of a student who was barely put of short pants could have the same weight as the teaching of a professor who had gone through arduous maturation of thought backed by 2000 years of history meant placing all opinions on the same level even if clearly there was no equivalence.

For Ratzinger, to fight against what he saw as a perversion of freedom would be the high stake of his entire intellectual and pastoral career.

At the Mass that preceded the Conclave of 2005, he would call on the cardinal electors to resist this relativism: “We are in danger of assisting at a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive, and considers its own ego and desires as the ultimate measure.”

“We closed ranks during this period that followed 1968, when everything was being called to question,” recalls Reinhard Richardi, who, as a professor of law at Regensburg, shared Ratzinger’s mistrust for the new intellectual currents inspired by Marxism.

“We were all uneasy in the face of all this young people fascinated by the revolutionary romanticism. He and I had both undergone the dreadful experience of a people who had allowed themselves to be fascinated by the slogan ‘One people, one Reich, one Fuehrer’. But the aversion for every innovative ideology claiming to save the world was doubtless stronger in him.”

Traumatized by his experience of Nazism, with its pretext of building a new world, Ratzinger has been refractory to various theories – psychoanalysis, deconstruction, new sociologies – used to justify Church reforms in liturgy and catechesis, or to replace spiritual guidance.

On the eve of the conclave that would make him Pope, he did not mince words: “How many winds of doctrine have we known in these past few decades, how many ideological currents, how many fashions of thought!”

He appeared to continue manifesting this trauma when, during his trip last April to the United States, in a speech to young people in New York, he made a surprising analogy between the intellectual and moral conformism to which relativism leads and Nazi totalitarianism.

Ratzinger received this attitude of mistrust for ideological terrorism from his native Bavaria. The Pope has often said that his parents were not among those Bavarians who were seduced by revanchiste German nationalism, but rather among those who were raised imbibing French and Austrian culture.

Reinhard Richardi thinks that Bavarian Catholicism, with its resistance to novelty, was Ratzinger’s salutary shield against Nazi perdition: “His father chose early retirement in order not to continue serving the Third Reich. The faith he received from his parents was an antidote to the Nazi poison. And the Nazi system was built so much on deception and lies that I think Ratzinger’s passion for the truth was born at that time. Nazism was the denial of reason, the triumph of the arbitrary. I know that was also one of the reasons he and his brother became priests – as a No to lies and deception and a Yes to reason. “

As Karol Wojtyla did in his time, the young Ratzinger found in the Church the space for interior freedom. The fundamental equation of his thought – “ faith+reason = the truth which liberates” – dates back to the adolescence of the future Pope. And would remain the fight of his life.

“One cannot understand Ratzinger’s passion for the truth if one forgets who formed his thinking,” says Beinert. “He has always considered St. Augustine his master. On the one hand, Augustine placed the accent on sin and conversion, a vision much less optimistic than that of Thomas Aquinas, which explains a certain pessimism in Ratzinger. But above all, Augustine stands by Plato.”

In effect, Joseph Ratzinger has always considered himself a Platonist. Plato thought of the relationship between the singular and the multiple in postulating that every reality is the translation of an original concept. For example: there are thousands of different chairs, but each one is simply the expression of the unchanging concept of ‘a chair’.

Transposed to Christianity, it postulates that faith is an objective and absolute reality that does not depend on the surrounding culture or historical circumstances.

“Joseph Ratzinger saw the crisis which gripped the Church after Vatican-II as a radical test for the eternal ’idea’ of truth,” says Beinert. His theology – which is a tributary of Platonist idealism – explains Ratzinger’s propensity to minimize historical ‘ruptures’.

Thus, for Benedict XVI, Vatican-II was not the Copernican revolution that some progressives celebrated, but a renewed faithfulness to the origins of the Church.

“That is at the root of Cardinal Ratzinger’s battle to re-establish Christ as the only mediator of salvation, through the declaration Dominus Iesus, the 2000 text which in 2000 hotly contested by those theologians who seek to dis-articulate the Christian faith and advocate religious pluralism".

“But what will he do with his cat?” was the jest of a French bishop when the Pope’s trip to France was announced, imagining what it would cost the master to leave his favorite pet at the Vatican [not that there has been any particular one, by most accounts!], and in general, to break the almost monastic rhythm of his days with a trip that could only be exhausting.

But one might say that, as a mirror of this complex personality, the cat is perhaps the key to the “Benedict XVI enigma’.

Like his favorite animal. the Pope is gentle and firm, a contemplative as well as a combatant who is always vigilant. A heart that listens, but also a sharp critic who does not mince words. The fraternal being known to his Bavarian friends, as well as the man who has been inflexible in his principles, and continues to be.

“He loves to debate,” Beinert remarks, “but contrary to that false stereotype of a Panzer cardinal, he is not a boxer and he does not enjoy receiving blows. He is sensitive, subtle, an aesthete – someone who is easily hurt. I think the role of watchdog of the faith that he had to be during his years at the CDF does not at all correspond to who he really is. He had to be firm, even cutting. That’s not who he is.”

Fr. Bruno Fink, a parish priest in Bavaria who was Ratzinger’s private secretary when he was Archbishop of Munich and for a short time in Rome, says that his former boss has one psychological constant: “I never once saw him angry during the five years that I worked closely with him.”

A man who is both extremely sensitive and capable of great self-control – like a self-regulating cooker under high pressure… So how does he keep himself together? Perhaps we should ask the mythic cat at his feet as the man in white plays his piano….

[Hey, aren’t you forgetting this is a man of God? His communion with God is what keeps him together!]

00Friday, October 31, 2008 1:54 AM

Seminarian serves at synod Mass in Rome with the pope

The Arkansas Catholic
Published: November 1, 2008

After being a deacon for only two weeks, Eddie D'Almeida got one of the top assignments in Rome.

The diocesan seminarian from Vilonia, who will be ordained a priest in July, was chosen to serve as a deacon during the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter Basilica in Rome Sunday, Oct. 26. D'Almeida is in his fourth year studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

In an e-mail interview with Arkansas Catholic, D'Almeida said his seminary was asked to provide two deacons for the Mass.

"I was chosen with another deacon, Deacon Nick Schneider from the Diocese of Bismark from the college through a lottery process," he wrote. "We were two deacons among 10 others from various colleges in Rome. We did not know our roles until the practice the day before the Mass. Deacon Schneider and I were given the task of distributing holy Communion to many of the cardinals, patriarchs and bishops present, around 250 synod fathers."

D'Almeida said the experience was a special honor, especially because his seminary is rarely asked to provide deacons and acolytes for papal Masses.

"I have lived very close to Pope Benedict for three years now, our college only located 10 minutes away from the Vatican City, yet I have only come physically close to him on rare occasions," he said. "For example, I arrived three to four hours early for midnight Mass one Christmas in order to get in position that I might be 10 feet away from him as he processed to the altar."

While D'Almeida, 33, did not get to interact with the pope during Mass, he was able to personally meet him afterwards near Michelangelo's "Pieta."

"Shaking with excitement, I knelt to reverence his ring, kissing it and then I told him, 'Your Holiness, I am from the United States. You are a wonderful pastor and we love you,'" he said. "I was able to tell him one more time 'we love you' before I was whisked away by guards in order to keep the greeting line moving."

D'Almeida said he will treasure a rosary given to him from the pope, and he hopes to get a photograph of the encounter.

"It was an experience of a lifetime serving as a deacon for the papal liturgy and meeting our loving shepherd, whom I consider a genius and a treasure for today," he said.

00Friday, October 31, 2008 8:08 PM
Thank you!!!!
What a beautiful and moving article about Papa and the Richardis family! Es wird immer in meinem Herzen bleiben. Danke!
00Friday, November 7, 2008 1:38 AM

Young New Yorker leaves police force to become priest

Nicolas Fernandez
New York, Nov 6, 2008 / 01:34 pm

(CNA).- At the age of 25, Nicolas Fernandez had all of the qualities needed to be a great policeman and his future in the force looked promising. However, during his daily work he discovered he needed different weapons to help the “troubled souls” he encountered, so he decided to become a priest.

Born on Staten Island of an Irish mother and a Spanish father, Fernandez has begun his six year-long formation at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. He had been serving as a police officer for two years when, inspired by the teachings of John Paul II and the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to New York, he decided to change careers and become a priest.

According to El Nuevo Diario, the young seminarian recalls that when he was a policeman, people went to him with their problems because of the uniform he wore. “Now, they will do so because I’ll be wearing a priest’s cassock,” he said.

Fernandez was a patrolman in Brooklyn and his partner always said he could easily rise to the rank of lieutenant. “But that was the last thing I wanted,” he said.

“My choice for the priesthood was influenced by the discourses and speeches of John Paul II on the culture of death, which includes thousands of murders, suicides, homicides and national situations in which children are being abandoned or are victims of abuse in their homes because of drugs,” Fernandez said.

“For these turbulent souls, I never had an external solution as a policeman. There has to be an interior change, a change of heart and therefore, being a priest is necessary,” he added.

00Tuesday, November 18, 2008 2:21 PM

Video Analytics installed
to protect the Vatican

HERZLIYA, Israel, November 18 /PRNewswire/ -- ioimage, the pioneer of intelligent video appliances designed for simplicity, announced today that it has been selected to protect sensitive areas of the Vatican.

ioimage intelligent video appliances, monitored by an ioiware Command Center, are being used to detect intruders along a 60-kilometer perimeter of sensitive areas, entry and exit gates and the wall surrounding the Vatican.

ioimage was selected from several other video analytics suppliers for this major contract. The first unit was installed in 2005 following a year of intensive testing which demonstrated the system's superior ease of installation, stability and reliability.

Since then, it has proven itself as an effective deterrent against intruders and has optimized the daily tasks of those responsible for surveillance.

Additional ioimage units are currently being installed. These units - composed of ioimage's IP camera with built-in self-sustained video analytics, the ioicam wdc100dn and ioibox video encoders using autonomous PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) tracking - will be centrally monitored and managed by the "Corpo della Gendarmeria", the Vatican's security force from their control room.

Millions of people visit the Vatican's public areas every year. Its library and museum collections, which belong to the extra territorial part of the Vatican state, are of the highest cultural significance, while buildings such as St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel house some of the world's most famous art, including works by Bernini, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raphael.

"As one of the world's most important sites, the Vatican presented unique challenges," said Boaz Harpaz, CEO of Picksec International Group, the system integrator.

"The security system had to be extremely reliable 24/7 in very crowded, surroundings and under varying weather conditions. It also had to be capable of automatically adjusting to frequent changes in public access schedules while ensuring a low incidence of false alarms.

"Last but not least, it needed to be easy to install and maintain. After extensive testing of a number of different video analytics products, we found that ioimage offered the optimal solution for this critical site."

"This project represents a milestone for ioimage and underscores our position as the pioneer and leader in the field of intelligent video," said Zeev Farkash, VP Sales and Customer Support. "Our solution was rigorously tested by the Corpo della Gendarmeria's technical personnel before being selected over those of several competitors to monitor this world-famous site."

About ioimage

ioimage, the pioneer of intelligent video appliances, provides high-performance video encoders and cameras with built-in self sustained video analytics, designed and packaged for simplicity. ioimage offers a new approach to video security by transforming surveillance into a proactive, event-driven process.

Founded in 2000, ioimage uses edge and centralized DSP-based devices for real-time detection, alert and tracking of intruders, vehicles and other threats, leading to enhanced safety and security for government, public and commercial organizations.

Recognized as the world's market leader for intelligent cameras and encoders since 2005 with over 37 percent of the market, ioimage operates in 35 countries through a network of more than 100 partners. For further information, visit www.ioimage.com.
00Tuesday, November 18, 2008 2:59 PM

New LEV bookstore:
'Voice of the Pope
and Catholic culture'

Translated from

Nov. 18, 2008

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone today inaugurated and blessed the third bookstore of the Vatican publishing house called the Libreria Internazionale Benedetto XVI in St. Peter's Square.

[Since 1984, the LEV operated only one bookstore, also on St. Peter's Square, which was formally named the Libreria Internazionale Giovanni Paolo II in February 2005.

But earlier this year, Cardinal Bertone also inaugurated and blessed a second bookstore on the ground floor of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples building in central Rome (via di Propaganda #4), named in honor of Paul VI on the 30th anniversary of his death.]

"In the post-modern global village" Cardinal Bertone said, "where secularization is increasingly separates man from God, and consequently, men from each other, this bookstore is meant to present the always relevant newness of the Christian faith contained in the unchanging Word of God which is at the root of human history".

"This bookstore is also an agora to amplify the Magisterium of the Successor of Peter and of other bishops, as the voice of the Church so that Catholic culture may have more impact in the fabric of society today."

He pointed out that the date of the inauguration - the feast of the dedication of the Roman basilicas honoring Saints Peter and Paul - was chosen "to underscore the link of this bookstore with the Successor of Peter".

"Our fathers, in constructing cathedrals and basilicas, wished to transmit the faith that they had in turn received. Today, it is good that next to places of worship, there should also be places for the dissemination of truth, spaces that allow for a deeper search into the Christian message and how it must be embodied in society so that it spreads and permeates the world."

Like the two other bookstores, the Benedict XVI bookstore is integrated and interacts fully with the Photo service of L'Osservatore Romano, and the Numismatic and Philatelic Services of the Governatorate of Vatican City State.

Saying that St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square are 'the heart of the Catholic world", the Vatican secretary of state expressed the wish that 'they may always be a visible and eloquent sign of the agora of antiquity where men and women gathered in search of the truth".

"Even today," he said, "St. Peter's Square is open to everyone, where where so many who are in search of an 'unknown' God may encounter the truth by listening to a clear and sure voice: the word of the Pope addressed to the man of the third millennium, who is often insecure and uneasy, and even anguished and deprived of hope."

The new bookstore, he said, would be an extension of St. Peter's Square itself, in which "whoever enters may encounter the Lord". He also said it was 'a place of evangelization and authentic human promotion" which offers "texts that respond to the expectations, demands and challenges of contemporary culture".

Present at the ceremony were Cardinal Attilio Nicora, Archbishop Domenico Calcagno and Mons. Massimo Boarotto - president, secretary and delegatem respectively, of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See; Archbishop Felix del Blanco Prieto, Eleemosynary of His Holiness ; Mons. Renato Boccardo, secretary-general of the Vatican Governatorate; Mons. Georg Gänswein; Fr. Federico Lombardi; and the Salesian priests Elio Torrigiani, director general of the OR Printing Press; Giuseppe Costa, director of LEV, teh Vatican publishing house, and Giuseppe Colombara, director of OR's Photo Service; Giovanni Battista Dadda, president of the supervisory council of both the OR and its press; and Giovanni Maria Gian, editor of OR.

00Tuesday, November 18, 2008 3:44 PM

More Security for the Vatican

"ioimage intelligent video appliances, monitored by an ioiware Command Center, are being used to detect intruders along a 60-kilometer perimeter of sensitive areas, entry and exit gates and the wall surrounding the Vatican."

They must have heard that Nan will be in Rome soon.

00Tuesday, November 18, 2008 4:06 PM

Deluxe handwritten edition
of 'Deus caritas est'
presented to Pope Benedict

Translated from
the 11/17-11/18 issue of

To 'dress up' and adorn in a worthily precious manner the handwritten transcription of the Latin version of Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical Deus caritas est was the idea behind the project of the Fondazione Franco Maria Ricci (fmr) inspired by the tradition of the medieval monastic scribes.

Yesterday morning, November 17, Marilena Ferrari, president of fmr, presented the first of only five copies of this unusual publication to the Pope himself.

The deluxe edition is a work of art conceived as a book that will adorn the words of the Pope's first encyclical with all the beauty that art is capable.

Ms. Ferrari was accompanied at the presentation by all the fmr personnel - artists and artisans - who collaborated on the book, which is entirely handmade, using the materials and criteria from
the medieval and Renaissance traditions on illuminated manuscripts.

The object was to make each copy an 'unicum' comparable to the quality of the best examples of manuscript art.

The DCE project comes under the FRM Group's cultural, editorial and artistic program "Civilization of Beauty', intended to promote once again the centrality of beauty as an ethical and aesthetic value.

In her tribute to Pope Benedict XVI, Ms. Ferrari said: "Because I am convinced of the inextricable link between beauty and truth, I decided to dedicate the work of the Foundation and its publishing house to this binomial - that even as the books we publish draw from the words of truth, they are also vehicles of that beauty which has its roots in truth and which 'represent' truth with the signs of art."

In the same context, Adriano Guarnieri, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Bologna, reported to the Pope on a project with fmr and the Bologna institute Veritatis Splendor for an illustrated series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Project editors include Mons. Timothy Verdon, a leading specialist in religious art, and Mons. Walther Ruspi, ex-director of the National Catechetical Office of the Italian Bishops; conference.

A second copy of the DCE deluxe edition will be presented to the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, for display at St. Patrick's Cathedral in the spring of 2009.

A benefit dinner will be held to auction off the work So that it may be acquired for the City of New York. The proceeds will go to the newly-established Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger Foundation, one of whose projects is to grant scholarships to deserving young theologians.

Unfortunately, outside of the silver cover of the book, which illustrates the OR story, I have not yet found any illustrations of the inside pages online.

But the following item gives us some description:

What goes into
a contemporary recreation
of medieval book art

BOLOGNA, Nov. 18 (Translated from AGI) - Inspired in part by the magnificent first edition of the Gutenberg Bible, the decorations on fmr's Deus caritas est deluxe edition features plant and floral designs counterpointing the discreet presence of birds and small imaginary animals.

In blue and red, the magnificent initial letters of the paragraphs in this contemporary totally handmade book are 'illuminated' with gold leaf.

The pages themselves, made of pure silk, were specially created and manually woven by artisans at Cartiere Artem in Fabriano. [All place names in this article refer to places in the Emilia-Romania region, of which Bologna is the capital.]

Woven into each page are a sort of watermark, visible when held against the light, which reads 'PETROS ENI' ['Peter is here' from the inscription found on the tomb of St. Peter when it was excavated at the Vatican], adapted from a metal filigree rendering of that inscription.

The 66 pages that make up the book were hand-stitched together with a silk-cotton-gold thread blend, and bound by the venerable bindery of Riccardo Steri in Corciano.

The inside cover is also specially woven silk velvet dyed with natural colors. The whole volume is encased in an outer cover of silver with a pattern like fine embroidery executed at the art laboratory of Giuseppe Bellotti in Erbusco.

The bas-relief medallion insets on both front and back covers were manually created by a master sculptor working with a wax model. The front medallion shows Benedict XVI in profile; the back medallion, his coat of arms.

The first copy of the exclusive book was finished in Bologna on September 30, and presented to the Pope yesterday.

00Wednesday, November 19, 2008 5:01 PM

Duquesne University students produce documentary on pope's visit

By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Student journalists from Duquesne University have produced a documentary about the April visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the U.S., which they hope will allow viewers to experience the feeling of being there.

"They captured the excitement that surrounded Pope Benedict's visit. What the Holy Father did for the people is realized through their work," said Msgr. Edward Burns, rector of St. Paul Seminary in East Carnegie, who attended many of the papal events. He was among 150 people, including Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, who attended yesterday's campus debut of "Christ our hope -- Pilgrimage of the pope."

The 52-minute film intersperses clips from the pope's talks with on-the-street interviews of people expressing their hopes for his visit.

Among its most moving moments are interviews with survivors of 9/11 at Ground Zero, explaining what it meant to have the pope bless the ground where some bodies will never be recovered.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., adds perspective. He was Pittsburgh's longtime bishop and the person responsible for making the Duquesne crew the only student journalists among 5,000 reporters credentialed for the visit.

Getting in places where they were credentialed was difficult enough -- requiring hours of daily security checks. But for New York they lacked credentials and had to try to crash larger events by blending in with the crowd, said Brad Libis, a senior from Cincinnati, who found logistics the biggest challenge of the project.

There were happy surprises. Stacy Gault, a graduate student from Whitehall, thought she was assigned a terrible camera position in Washington's Nationals Park, only to have the pope walk right by.

"There was so much pressure to get that shot, and people pushing behind you," she said of footage that looks like the pope reaching toward her camera.

The idea for the project came from Mike Clark, an anchor at WTAE-TV and adjunct professor in Duquesne's department of journalism and multimedia arts. The student crews were supervised by Dennis Woytek, an assistant professor.

"There aren't many times that faculty get a chance to accompany students and work side by side with them on a project such as this. They showed themselves as professionals," Mr. Woytek said.

The documentary was produced for the student channel DUQ-TV. DVDs will be sold but details, including price, have not been set. To be put on a contact list for obtaining the DVD, send an e-mail to jma@duq.edu.

00Friday, November 21, 2008 7:23 PM

I've previously posted reports about this in CULTURE & POLITICS as a general illustration of the 'green' trend in Benedict XVI's Vatican. But now that this one is a done deed, I think it belongs here.

Vatican solar panels set
to be activated next week

Left, Aula Paolo VI with its old tile roof; right, computer-generated image with the solar-panel roof.

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2008 (CNA) - As a “concrete and tangible initiative” to promote the protection of the environment, the Vatican has replaced concrete panels on the roof of the Paul VI Hall with photo electric ones, which it will unveil next Wednesday.

The new installation, which is part of the "green culture characterized by ethical values" promoted by Benedict XVI, will protect the building from the elements and convert solar energy into electricity.

The 2,400 components of the installation not only replaced the concrete roof panels, but also matched the dimensions of the original tiles planned by the building's architect, Pier Luigi Nervi. The panels have a dual function: "passively" protecting the building from the elements and "actively" converting solar energy into electricity.

The inauguration ceremony will take place at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and will be attended by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Pier Carlo Cuscianna, director of technical services of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Livio De Santoli of Rome's "La Sapienza" University; Frank Asbeck, president of Solar World AG, and Carlo Rubbia, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics.

In an effort to become the first carbon-neutral state, the Vatican is also growing a 37-acre forest dubbed the “Vatican Climate Forest” in Hungary to offset its annual carbon dioxide emissions.

Not even Thanksgiving yet-
but they're already prepping
for Christmas at St. Peter's Square

by Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, Nov . 21 — Although shops in Italy will not haul out all of their Christmas decorations until Advent begins Nov. 30, the Vatican seems to be on the North American preparation schedule.

Vatican workers, equipped with hard hats and tool belts, already have spent a week putting up the burlap-covered scaffolding that will keep the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square from public view until Christmas Eve.

CNS photos by Cindy Wooden

This morning, while two workers continued putting together the metal and wood scaffold and covering it with brown burlap, six others were building the frame for the scene itself.

So far, the Vatican has not published the floor plan for this year’s presentation, which is populated with larger-than-life-sized statues of the Holy Family. The Vatican scene usually has several different rooms and, keeping with Italian tradition, changes every year.

The Vatican may not start early according to U.S. standards, but its Nativity scene remains in place long after U.S. stores have decked themselves in red hearts for Valentine’s Day.

Vatican workers won’t be back to dismantle the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square until the morning after the Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

00Saturday, November 22, 2008 4:13 PM

LEV, the Vatican publishing house, has come out this month
with two books on the Pope's recent apostolic voyage to France.

The official Vatican account of the trip is:
'La speranza resterà sempre la più forte' :
Viaggio di Papa Benedetto XVI
in Francia, 12-15 settembre 2008

216 pp, 13x18 cm, bookbound, 12 euro

The second volume is in French:
Benoît XVI en France:
du Cardinal André Vingt-Trois

176 pp, 14x21cm, paperback, 5 euro

Both books contain all the papal texts during the visit.

00Friday, November 28, 2008 3:08 PM

Vatican wins award
for rooftop solar-power generator

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 26 (CNS) -- The Vatican won the 2008 Euro Solar Prize for turning the football field-sized roof of its Paul VI audience hall into a giant solar-power generator.

A European association promoting renewable energy presented the award to Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the commission governing Vatican territory, during the inauguration of the new roof Nov. 26.

Cardinal Lajolo said he would make sure the award, a small silver and glass globe, would go to Pope Benedict XVI, who repeatedly has called on humanity to show greater care for creation.

The association's president, Hermann Scheer, said he hoped more governments, businesses and individuals would be inspired by the Vatican's efforts and thereby promote and support renewable energy, too.

A German company, SolarWorld, donated and installed 2,400 solar panels on the top of the Vatican's audience hall after Vatican officials had made public their plans to convert the rooftop into a solar-power generator.

The gift is estimated to be worth about $1.55 million dollars.

Scheer said the only way to inspire more people to tap into solar power was for a well-respected, "worldwide institution, indeed, the Catholic Church with its global importance," to set the stage and show it could be done.

He said he hopes the Vatican's new solar-panel roof, which will produce some 300,000 kilowatt-hours of power each year, will help "overcome the mental block many people have toward new sources of energy."

The solar panels began generation energy for the Vatican's power grid Nov. 26 during the pope's weekly general audience.

A large electronic tally board hangs in the hall to keep count of how many kilowatt hours are being produced and how much oil and carbon dioxide is being saved by using solar energy.

After just a few hours on a partly sunny Nov. 26, 60 kilowatt-hours had been generated and 88 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, or CO2, were avoided.

Pier Carlo Cuscianna, director of technical services for Vatican City, told reporters another solar-panel system was being installed above the Vatican's employee cafeteria to help provide power for heating and cooling the building.

Another project still in the planning stages, he told reporters at the inauguration, is to set up 1.2 acres of solar panels at Vatican Radio's Santa Maria di Galeria transmission center in the countryside outside Rome.

He said they already have a list of potential donors for supplying the solar panels for this and other future projects.

The Vatican has said its aim is to use renewable energy sources for 20 percent of its energy needs by 2020, the target date set by the European Union for its members.

Papal product placement:
Building credibility, boosting sales

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 26 (CNS) -- The Pope is one of the most respected and admired figures in the world, and millions of people watch or attend his many public and televised events throughout the year.

In the eyes of many advertising executives, that kind of exposure makes the Pope and the Vatican heaven for product placement.

In fact, some items Pope Benedict XVI wore publicly the first year of his papacy led to fashion mavens trying to divine his brand preferences. Early headlines screamed -- incorrectly -- "The Pope wears Gucci sunglasses," "Shoes by Prada."

But the scramble to turn the Pope or the Vatican into a giant billboard didn't end there.

One company that makes motion-sensitive surveillance equipment recently sent out a press release saying it clinched a major contract with the Vatican. Installing its high-tech security cameras along a 37-mile perimeter of sensitive areas, entry and exit gates, and the wall surrounding Vatican City marked "a milestone" for the company, it said.

But such big claims sent off alarms bells for some, because the 16th- and 17th-century walls surrounding the tiny city-state are barely two miles long.

A member of the Vatican security force told Catholic News Service this was just the latest example of using the Vatican to build credibility and boost sales.

The security officer, who asked not to be named, said while the security company makes "products of excellent quality," the Vatican only uses its surveillance gear "in a few sensitive areas" and nothing more.

With a world-weary sigh he said, "Since anything can be useful for selling a product, one just has to advertise and promote oneself" whenever a deal is struck with the Vatican.

Preserving a fair balance between receiving products and services the Vatican needs and allowing the supplier to advertise that its brand has the Vatican seal of approval is something the Vatican strives for, said the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

It's natural that in return for receiving goods or services for free or at a discounted price, the Vatican would expect a supplier to try to boost sales by advertising one of its clients is the Vatican, he told CNS in a recent e-mail.

But the Vatican must be careful the goods or services it acquires also agree with "the spirit and ends of the Vatican offices, especially with the ministry of the Pope, whose "spiritual nature and elevated dignity" must be maintained, he wrote.

"The Pope's image is carefully protected from inappropriate commercial exploitation," and Vatican departments also must be careful to not be exploited, wrote Father Lombardi.

A proper balance can be found, but if a supplier abuses this relationship, individual Vatican departments "would have excellent reason for choosing other" more appropriate suppliers, he wrote.

Using the Vatican or the Pope to push a product, in fact, can sometimes backfire.

Right before Pope Benedict visited Washington in April, the city's Metro system introduced a special "Mass Pass" to help shuttle pilgrims to papal events and "avoid unholy traffic," a Metro ad said.

Metro aired commercials featuring a seven-inch bobblehead Pope Benedict riding the Metro trains and demonstrating proper commuter etiquette, such as letting people get off the train before trying to get on.

But the marketing campaign came to a screeching halt after the Washington Archdiocese complained.

Not only was it an inappropriate use of the Pope's image, an archdiocesan spokeswoman said, it also "was a bad bobblehead" wearing the red robe and skullcap of a cardinal, instead of papal white vestments.

Another faux pas occurred last year when a well-known Italian furrier publicized its intention of giving Pope Benedict a new cape made of ermine pelts. That sparked a nationwide petition drive and protests from the Italian Anti-Vivisection League, which called on the Pope to nix the gift and stop wearing fur.

One product that generated an enormous buzz was the stylish white 2-GB iPod nano Vatican Radio employees gave Pope Benedict in 2006.

Here was an unusual example of a company -- in this case Apple -- landing one of the most coveted celebrity endorsements out there without even trying. Given the viral power of the media, which spread news of the gift to every medium imaginable, Apple never needed to step up to the soapbox and toot its own horn.

While the promotional benefits certainly don't hurt, some gifts to the Pope and the Vatican are just part of a company's tradition of charitable activity.

When a German solar company donated more than 2,400 solar modules to the Vatican this year to provide solar power to cool and heat the Paul VI audience hall, it did so to "pay tribute to the German Pope" and support the church's commitment to a responsible use of natural resources, it said in a January press release.

But the Bonn-based company also supports less-glamorous projects in Africa by donating solar panels to pump potable water for schoolchildren in Kenya and refrigerate lifesaving medicines in an AIDS orphanage in Malawi.

While it's impossible to figure out exactly when manufacturers first sought to get papal product placement, it definitely shifted into high gear with the advent of the automobile.

Pope Pius X was presented with the first luxury car in 1909, and subsequent popes received vehicles made by Fiat, Bianchi, Citroen, and the U.S. carmaker Graham-Paige, among others.

But in 1929, an adman in Germany saw no reason the papal fleet couldn't include a Mercedes-Benz.

When his idea of turning a Mercedes-Benz Nurburg limousine into an official, custom-made vehicle for the Pope was approved by the Vatican, the first popemobile -- black and with a hard top -- was born.

00Saturday, November 29, 2008 6:17 PM

I found this by chance just now while Googling something else, and I thought I would post it here for the record, As a schoolchild, we sang this hymn in Catholic school on what I always remember as POPE'S DAY, although it is more properly the Feast of Peter's Chair - We went to Mass, each class had its appointed half hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during the day, and we were given little yellow-and-white flaglets, while class monitors got to wear a yellow-and-white sash. Pius XII was the Pope in my early childhood, soon succeeded by John XXIII...

Long live the Pope!
His praises sound
Again and yet again:
His rule is over space and time:
His throne the heart of men.
All hail! The Shepherd King of Rome,
The theme of loving song:
Let all the earth his glory sing
And heav’n the strain prolong.

Beleaguered by the foes of earth,
Beset by hosts of hell,
He guards the loyal flock of Christ,
A watchful sentinel:
And yet, amid the din and strife,
The clash of mace and sword,
He bears alone the Shepherd Staff,
The champion of the Lord.
His signet is the Fisherman's;
No sceptre does he bear;
In meek and lowly majesty
He rules from Peter's Chair:
And yet from every tribe and tongue,
From every clime and zone,
One thousand million voices sing
The glory of his thone!

So raise the chant with heart and voice,
In Church & school & home:
"Long live the Shepherd of the Flock!
Long live the Pope of Rome!"
Almighty Father bless his work,
Protect him in his ways,
Receive his prayer, fulfill his hopes,
And grant him length of days!

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