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

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00Saturday, January 7, 2006 10:28 PM
Note: Several stories have been posted on this thread between 1/6-1/7, so please
do not fail to visit the previous page for the other "new" items.

Thanks to ZENIT’s German service which published today a news item about the Bishop
of Regensburg’s homily at the Mass of the Epiphany yesterday, and the full text of the
homily delivered by the Archbishop of Cologne on December 31, traditionally observed in
Europe as St. Sylvester’s Day. Both bishops had personal observations to make about
Pope Benedict in their homilies. Since the article and homily are quite lengthy, I am
summarizing herewith what they both had to say about Benedict.


In his Dec. 31 homily, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, urged that “the fire
from World Youth Day be kept alive” and that “we should not forget to pray for our Holy Father.”

Referring to WYD as the biggest and most oustanding event in the long history of the archdiocese,
he paid tribute to the two Popes who had made it possible.“When God takes something from us,
it is never to deprive us, but to give us something more. That is the lesson we took away from
our experience of 2005.”

“I will not forget my last meeting with Pope John Paul II at the Gemelli Clinic three weeks
before he died. One could see that he was suffering greatly. But not a complaint from him,
only a question for me:‘Will you all still wait for me in Cologne?’, looking forward
to WYD. The Pope was doing what the Lord commanded, 'You will strengthen your brothers and
sisters.’ He felt his end was near, but he wanted to strengthen my hopes, that in any case,
he would be in Cologne for WYD….(Then) during the three days that he lay in state at St. Peter’s….
(seeing that) he had given inspiration and orientation to millions from all parts of the world,
(I thought) Look what God gave us when he took him away.

“Then came the Conclave, which gave us a Pope who is also our countryman. …And we can only
be thankful and be amazed at that unexpected gift on April 19. In the past years I had always
wondered with a sad heart who could succeed John Paul. But man proposes and God disposes.
And what has he disposed! During the Conclave, I was positioned next to the Primate of Poland,
Josef Glemp. When it was our turn to render our pledge of loyalty to the new Pope,
he cried for joy, that now we had a German bishop as Pope, just as during John Paul II’s funeral,
I cried with gratitude that we had this Polish bishop for a Pope. That is Catholicity,
which overrides nationalities. I have never lived the workings of the Holy Spirit more intensively
than during the two days of the Conclave. What more will God give this world with this new Pope!

“The Archdiocese of Cologne was well aware what grace God has given the Church, but especially
also our archdiocese, with the new pope. Benedict XVI was for several years a professor at the
Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Bonn. And he was, as we all know,
an adviser to Cardinal Frings at the Vatican Council, and he came to us once a year,
regularly, on a visit. And so, on Saturday, April 30, we celebrated the biggest
Thanksgiving Mass held north of the Alps for the new Pope. Five thousand faithful gathered
in our Cathedral, with 1000 choir members who celebrated the Papal election with Mozart’s
Coronation Mass.

"That Mass will remain unforgettable for me. During my homily, I recalled that after John Paul II’s
election in 1978, the Polish primate told him before going back to Poland: 'When we are back
at home in Poland, we will kneel in prayer for you, Holy Father, until we wear holes
in the stones.' And so I asked the faithful that day: “Will Pope Benedict XVI find
the same solidarity in prayer with us?” At which, everyone in the Cathedral rose and gave
a standing ovation that lasted for minutes. I gave the Holy Father a recording of that Mass,
and told him: 'Holy Father, when things seem particularly hard for you, then listen to this CD
from Cologne, and it will give you courage to face the problems of the Church in the world
with the strength of God’s grace.' So let us not forget our Holy Father in our prayers!”

In the story from Regensburg, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller referred to the coming visit
of Benedict XVI to Regensburg in September as a “once-in-a-century event”. It has been
950 years since a Pope was in Regensburg, he said.

But Benedict XVI is, of course, no stranger to Regensburg, which has known him as
"a fellow Christian, a theology professor and as cardinal," Mueller said.

“He lived and worked here for years and still has his home in Pentling. But now he visits us
as Christ’s Vicar, in order to strengthen us in our Faith, in the name of Christ. Since
Biblical times, one has referred to the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, and most
especially the successor to St. Peter, as 'Vicarius Christi', Christ’s representatives, because,
as St. Paul said, it is God himself who, through them, preaches, admonishes and grants
absolution through the holy Sacraments.”

The Pope’s visit, he said, would be an apostolic visit “for preaching and pastoral care“,
and just as by his visit to Cologne for World Youth’s Day, “this pastoral trip
of the Holy Father should strengthen us in our faith through the experience of the
communal character of our belief.”

Since he became Pope in April, Mueller said, Benedict XVI has attracted and impressed millions
of people through his “humility and human simplicity”. “It would be easy for him,” he said,
“to show himself satisfied because of the favorable worldwide reaction to his personality,
after decades of unfounded attacks on his honor and credibility,” but there is
no better purification rite for a man than to “go through the fire of suffering for the truth”.


[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 08/01/2006 1.10]

00Sunday, January 8, 2006 12:12 AM
Dear Maklara - Thank you for the piece about the papal apartments. Since it mentions
a Corriere della Sera article as its source, here is that article in translation - it was
published 12/23/05 and contains a few more details.


It leaked within the Papal apartments. The masons realized this when, together with
a well-knit together team of hundreds of workers (decorators, electricians, carpenters,
stucco workers, painters and artisans) who worked three months to renovate the living
quarters of the Pope on the third floor [equivalent to the fourth floor in American
terminology; what Americans call the first floor is called “ground floor” in Europe,
where the second floor is called the “first floor”
] of the Apostolic Palace.

They realized about the leaks when they found some old kerosene drums full of water that
had been placed under the eaves to prevent the leaks from infiltrating into the papal
rooms themselves, from the attic rooms for the scretaries and staff. But they did not wish to
investigate who had recourse to such “approximative” methods in the world’s
most famous apartment.

Benedict XVI received the workers this morning (Dec. 23) to thank them for their excellent
work and for the speed with which they finished it.

It turned out that the renovation was absolutely necessary. No one had laid a hand, in more
than a quarter-century, either on the structure itself or on the interiors. The electrical
system was completely sub-standard; outlets were still 125 volts. The plumbing had been
eroded by rust, and the heating, coming from the Vatican’s central heating system, was
badly distributed.

They had to repolish the marble floors to their original gleam. All the rooms were
repainted with light colors, including the Pope’s corner bedroom, which was completely
redone according to his specifications, which, of course, remain top secret.
[He did say the first time he visited the place as Pope that he wanted to bring the traditional
pink and yellow colors of Roman buildings into the rooms

The infirmary, with its medical and dental offices, was renovated and equipped
with new instruments. But the chef d’oeuvre of the renovation is the new kitchen with
ranges, ovens, electrical appliances and recessed lighting, all furnished with donations
from a German firm.

Above the Pope’s quarters, in the attic space, small apartments have been built for
the Pope’s secretary, Mons. Georg Gaenswein, the four lay sisters who do household
and secretarial work, and for the Pope’s brother, when he is in town for a visit. He was
expected to arrive December 28 and occupy his new quarters for the first time.

The attic rooms were first built in 1939, between the third floor and the roof,
by removing the 15th-century wooden loft and creating a new loft with a steel base,
allowing the creation of 12 little apartments, which get external light through
skylights punched into the star-shaped stucco medallions of Fontana’s great roof cornice.

His brother’s arrival may well be the occasion for Papa Ratzinger to play on
the upright piano in his study. The piano is now installed among the bookcases containing
the 20,000 volumes of his private library, along with his old porcelain cat atop his desk,
with a view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and of the Janiculum hill that by itself
is enough to stir poetic and harmonious emotions.

Bruno Bartoloni, Corriere della Sera, 23 Dec 2005
00Sunday, January 8, 2006 1:04 AM
From the Donau-Post, 1/5/06:

Signed photos of Pope Benedict now decorate the Police Administration offices
in Regensburg and the Police Inspeactor’s office in Neutraubling.

Rupert and Therese Hofbauer, next-door neighbors and “trustees” of the Pope’s house
in Pentling, brought back the pictures from their trip to Rome iin early December.

After the Conclave, the lot and house belonging to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became
the object of attention not just of tourist groups but also of the Regensburg police.
They had to coordinate surveillance and security measures for the place. Close relations
necessarily developed between the Hofbauer couple and the police authorities of Regensburg.

Thus, the Hofbauers gladly told the Pope about the policemen’s dearest wish when they
visited him at the Vatican. The Pope said he was glad to grant the wish to his “beloved
police officers in friendship”. He told the Hofbauers that he was thankful not only for
the police efforts to provide security for his house in Pentling but for their
preparations towards his coming visit to Regensburg. And so, the Hofbauers brought back
with them the Pope’s “best wishes and greetings” to the Regensburg Police.

Last Wednesday, the Hofbauers presented the signed and framed portraits to the police
authorities. They were to be displayed at headquarters where they can be seen by the public.
00Sunday, January 8, 2006 10:29 PM
Thank you Teresa for those papal apartment pieces. I just love to read anything about the papal household family and their everyday lives of living and working inside with Papa. This kind of thing always fascinates me. I read elsewhere (in another article some weeks back that you also may have posted) about Cioccio's room being next to some roof terrace gardens. I wonder if he and the rest of the staff ever get to stop and enjoy the garden since they moved in; their daily work keeps them busy all the time. [SM=g27833]
00Monday, January 9, 2006 3:49 AM
In a year-end interview with the Associated Press, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop
of Washington, DC, had this to say about the Pope:

Pope Benedict is wonderful in the way he is very clearly saying, 'I'm not John Paul II.'
He's going to be his own man, happily his own man and powerfully his own man.
He is a man of immense learning...We will find more carefully worded instructions and
teachings. Even though he is known as a brilliant theologian, a very complex teacher,
he comes across as a very humble man, a very shy man, a very gracious man.

00Monday, January 9, 2006 4:44 AM
It has often been said that John Paul II was a philosopher whereas Benedict XVI is a theologian.
In a wide-ranging interview with Ken Masugi of the Claremont Institute posted online in late December,
Father James Schall, S.J., was asked about the significance of having two intellectuals in succession
as Pope.

In his reply, Fr. Schall makes clear that a theologian must necessarily know philosophy as well.
Fr. Schall has written 27 books on theology and political theory. His bibliography and numerous
articles are available on his website


Masugi: With the papacy of Benedict XVI, we have two profound thinkers in a row
as heads of the Catholic Church. What might this mean for the future of not only the Church
but for theology in general?

Schall: Initially, one must say that after the death of Aristotle in 322 B. C., he was
little heard of again till the time of Aquinas in the 13th Century, whereas after the death
of Aquinas, he too was not given too much play for several centuries. One of the problems
with having brilliant or holy men at the helm is that it often takes the brilliant and the holy
to recognize them
. Indeed, ex bono, sequitur et bonum et malum. It is quite possible
in human events that a brilliant man will be rejected by other brilliant men precisely because
he is brilliant. It is called "envy," probably the most devastating of the spiritual vices.
Holiness likewise can be seen as wickedness. Many instances in the New Testament show this
interpretation of Christ's deeds.

Indeed, most of the popes in modern times have been men of superior intellectual and moral
stature. Leo XIII was brilliant, neither Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII, nor John XXIII was
a slouch by any means. The ultimate reason why the popes are or are not accepted is not a function
of their respective IQ's. The phenomenon of John Paul II is probably exceptional by any standard.
And I would doubt if there is a public figure in the world today with more genuine academic
credentials than Benedict XVI

Benedict is quite clear that theology is itself a consequence of revelation so that it can only
be authentic if the theologian first believes or holds what is found in revelation. It is from
this source that all the insight of theology derives. Of course, it must be concerned
with its whole tradition as well as with philosophy itself. If it is true that both theology
and philosophy seek a knowledge of the same whole, as they do, then it is very important that
both remain loyal to their origins. It is only in this way that they can have some legitimate
relation to each other within actual human minds.

I have always held that we do not know the meaning or importance of theology if we do not
first ask questions and consider answers that are given by philosophy. Otherwise, without
the previous philosophical questions, we would not know whether theology or revelation was
intended for anything. Once it is realized that theology can and does present at least
plausible answers to philosophical questions and light on philosophical answers, we can be
in a position to wonder about the coherence of all things. This is the importance of Aquinas's
principle that grace builds on nature, that faith and reason cannot contradict each other.
But we can put it in an opposite way, namely, that grace seeks nature. A view of philosophy
that is not open to all that is, from whatever source, is already something that betrays

I hope the name just happened to be dropped by the typist, but Pope Paul VI - a Pope who was
widely recognized as highly intellectual - is not in the list of Popes that Fr. Schall mentions
00Monday, January 9, 2006 5:22 AM
Benedict "The Timid"?
Rocco Palmo tonight in his "Whispers" lets loose and rips into Benedict's critics with an excellent piece called Benedict "The Timid". To quote an excerpt:

I'll tell ya, people, I really feel for this Pope. If you look around sometimes, you'd think that he can't do anything right.

And it's just terribly sad. The man is coming up on his 79th birthday, he's got a heart condition, he didn't seek the job (unless you believe what's spewing from some anonymous Brazilian cardinal) and was longing to be in Bavaria by now with Bruder Georg, the neighbors' cats, and his self-confessed "old friends": his books.

He's not used to being the center of attention, this is all very new to him, and he's now left to carry an office the weight of which could crush even the strongest of men. There's no time off, no ability to do anything outside of the fishbowl of the papal apartment without the inquiring eyes of the world bearing down, and what little does seep out from behind those closed doors is seen as fair game for slicing-and-dicing, vile bile, and savaging the poor guy.

If you've got a heart to feel with, it's enough to break it.

All this is an advance disclaimer for a piece I came across that I'm not really keen to circulate in the English language. But it's there, it comes from a gentleman who has a pretty good track record on things Vatican (as does your humble narrator, of course), and being as it has appeared in an Italian outlet of record, it is newsworthy, whatever one may think of its contents. ...

BRAVO ROCCO! [SM=g27811]

You can read the rest - whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2006/01/benedict-timid.html
00Monday, January 9, 2006 4:41 PM
Dear Imladris - I debated earlier today whether to run part of the blog from Rocco Palmo
that you cited above [and of course, I am happy that he came out swinging for Papa, and
equally glad you posted his comments here!]. Just that on 12/28/05 I had posted on
NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT a reference to the Panorama article cited by Rocco today, in a post
I entitled "Carping about Benedict" - part of which I cite below:

On the other hand, an article in the Italian magazine Panorama this week rehashes the "charges"
first made against Benedict in a non-story by Vaticanista Marco Politi to mark 6 months of
Benedict's Papacy. So I won"t translate the article in full.

It begins by decrying the Pope’s alleged inaccessibility, quotes at length one of the popstar performers
who have been badmouthing Benedict (and comparing him unflatteringly with the late JPII)
for not appearing at their Concert last December 3, repeats the carping that no one is being invited
to meals with Benedict nor to early morning mass in his private chapel, and claims that many bishops
and nuncios are complaining that they haven't been invited to a private audience with the pope.
(I thought one requested a private audience with the Pope; why should anyone feel entitled
to expect an invitation to an audience if there is no specific reason for the audience?)

Fortunately, the latter part of the article offers a sort of counterbalance: (and I follow
with a translation of what Messori and Zizola said)

By the way, as far as the writer Ignacio Ingrao, I did translate and post in full
a subsequent article by him in which he reports on speculations about upcoming Papal appointments
(post titled "Benedict Bides His Time") posted 12/31/08 in NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/05/2007 4.32]

00Monday, January 9, 2006 7:51 PM

And it's just terribly sad. The man is coming up on his 79th birthday, he's got a heart condition, he didn't seek the job (unless you believe what's spewing from some anonymous Brazilian cardinal) and was longing to be in Bavaria by now with Bruder Georg, the neighbors' cats, and his self-confessed "old friends": his books.

It makes me so sad when I read things like that, I wish I could help Papa to carry his burden. I hope he knows how much we love and adore him. May be that gives him new energy. [SM=x40800]
00Monday, January 9, 2006 9:31 PM

Scritto da: Jil 09/01/2006 19.51

And it's just terribly sad. The man is coming up on his 79th birthday, he's got a heart condition, he didn't seek the job (unless you believe what's spewing from some anonymous Brazilian cardinal) and was longing to be in Bavaria by now with Bruder Georg, the neighbors' cats, and his self-confessed "old friends": his books.

It makes me so sad when I read things like that, I wish I could help Papa to carry his burden. I hope he knows how much we love and adore him. May be that gives him new energy. [SM=x40800]

i know..its sad :( but we love him so much and many may people do...
00Tuesday, January 10, 2006 4:43 AM


Oops, mea culpa Teresa - I do remember now reading your posting of the Panorama article at the time. I didn’t remember it yesterday when I posted Rocco's blog ranting. I should have put it in the News About Benedict string and reference it to your earlier message. I’ll get the hang of this eventually. [SM=g27817]
00Tuesday, January 10, 2006 5:32 AM
I dilly-dallied tonight about which thread to post this on. I did not put it in A VISIT WITH PAPA
because although Sihaya from the main forum briefly references her presence at the General
Audience of January 4, 2006, it was simply to illustrate the point of her beautiful little
meditation on the nature of beauty, more specifically, why we think Papa is beautiful. Sylvie
from the French section wrote a beautiful rejoinder to Sihaya's piece, which forms the second
part of this post. I did not post this in CHATTER because that would imply that the topic was
trivial, which it obviously is not. As POPE-POURRI is a grab-bag for all things Benedict that is
not "straight" news, it seemed the right place to put it in.

First, Sihaya's piece. I must apologize not having seen it right away. She posted it on Jan. 8
under one of the more "polemical" (because the topic invites polemics from "outsiders") topics in
the Forum-proper (ie, discussion) section of the Main forum, namely, "LA BELLEZZA DI PAPA BENEDETTO".
As several people have been posting messages on that thread in 5-6 different sections, I did not notice
when the board changed to show Sihaya had just posted something.


By Sihaya BXVI247 (Posted 1/8/05 in Italian)-

Today I went to mass at the Church of the Capuchin Fathers in Sant’Agnello. In his homily, the monk
said: “Beauty cannot be reduced only to an esthetic question. Beauty is truly beauty when it reflects
the grace of God.”

These words struck me because I had entered the church full of doubts, but his words gave me a
confirmation. Of the beauty of Pope Benedict, that we admire – because we receive through it,
above all,the reflection of Faith, of spirituality, of grace. This spiritual dimension, I repeat,
is absolutely essential, no matter how the tone of some expressions that we use (to express
our love) may lead a to a more “sensual” dimension of feelings; but these “sensual” dimension will
be seen as blasphemous or sick only by whoever has a heavy load of sickness within, of bigotry,
of interior filth.

But then there is the playful and joyous aspect of our affection- “ciuffetto”, “chioma candida”,
“occhino azzuri”,“visino furbetto” – all it takes is a dash of joy and humor to catch the true value
of such comments, which only an obtuse mental closedness (the mirror image of obstinate anti-
clericalism – just look at anti-clerical and radical sites, or malicious defamations, like the
Kaos books) would interpret wrongly.

The comments we make express our affection, our sympathy, a tenderly feminine approach
which adds another caress but does not take anything away from the authentically Christian
dimension of our love for the Holy Father. How can a mother’s caress compromise the value
of her educational principles?

Many among us, who used to be unyielding atheists, have recovered the Faith and rediscovered
the joy in the message of Christ, thanks to Pope Benedict; our lives have changed, have recovered
a dimension of Grace, of sense, of truth – and that is why we are not and cannot be compared to
fans of TV stars.

Regarding sensuality… Some users have directly accused us of “sexuality”, venting and perhaps
projecting onto us their own ill-managed, unaccepted instincts, loaded with sickness and a sense of
guilt towards physical beauty which, if admired, is seen only as a source of sin (not even the
Middle Ages had this attitude!): – “You admire the physical beauty of the Pope, but the body is
sinful, therefore you are sinning.”

Other than sporadic comments that are a bit “explicit” which, however, are promptly tamed, amorous
surges that may sound “passionate” or “sexual”, it is not what it seems to be. OK, so maybe there is
something sensual, but so what? The Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, the Sufi mystics, Taoists,
Hindus, have they not all spoken of Divinity in passionate tones? Have they not lived the love
of God and for God as a love that burns the soul and the body? But this does not mean “cheap
sexuality” such as that which makes a perversion of newspapers and TV, but Eros in its most sacred dimension.

Now, I would like to speak of my own personal experience. Last January 4, the Lord gave me
the immense joy of taking part in a General Audience, to be able to look ito the eyes of
the Holy Father, to be able to shake his hand.

Now I can say, Pope Benedict is NOT beautiful, Yes, you read right: he is not beautiful.
Beauty can be, if we want to see it this way, a concept about esthetic proportions, mathematical,
like that which the Greeks realized in their sculptures. In this sense of the pure harmony
of forms, beauty is simply an earthly concept.

But what I saw and perceived was on a superior level: it is difficult to find a definition
for what I want to express, but the word that comes closest is SPLENDOR. Splendor is beauty,
light, grace… Pope Benedict’s face, incredible as it may seem to say it, radiates light,
it is iridescent, it transmits luminosity through his very clear eyes. His “aura”
is exceptional.

I wish you could have a similar experience, so powerful and magnetic.
I experienced what the painter Ulisse Sartini said : “Pope Benedict is light that moves.”
Sylvie's rejoinder (translated from the French):

..Yes. It’s what I have been saying all along:

He emits, he radiates, he emanates something which I cannot describe because it is felt
rather than seen.

This emission may well be beautiful, but it requires a receiver. If the person in front
of him is resolutely against him or his ideas, he won’t be able to receive this magnetism –
just as someone who does not want to yield to hypnotism will resist it. One must open
the door, be ready to receive the impalpable that may be transmitted.

Is he aware of it? I don’t think so. Those who have this gift?, this power?, are so above
such trivial details that they don’t realize themselves the impact of their presence.
He had this gift before he became Pope. It was not a question of title or office. Evidently,
a Cartesian rationalist would never radiate.

One only has to read the eyewitness accounts about him, and of those who are like him
in this domain!

This account (Sihaya’s) does not surprise me. It is that of a well-tuned receiver, on the same
wavelength as Joseph.

I can only repeat that he has something that is beyond human – something else.
Like bodies which are incorruptible – what do they have, to be such?

Benedict is inhabited by a phenomenon we cannot grasp, but which we sense and describe
as best we can.

Now, please excuse me for posting here something I excerpted from an article about Hans Urs
von Balthasar on the nature of Beauty.

I originally posted this in the Pictures thread of the RFC, where I thought it belonged
(though surprisingly, it got not one single comment!), since it would serve - for us,
primarily, and for people who wish to understand our attraction to the "physical" Benedict - as a
clarification of the transcendent feelings that "genuine beauty" arouses in us. Both Sihaya
and Sylvie have described it from their personal experience.

Reading it confirms and explains the transcendent experience one undergoes when one is
conquered by beauty - whether it be a flower, a sunset, Dante's Divina Commedia, a Mozart symphony,
Michelangelo's Pieta, Benedict the Beautiful...
The excerpt is from "Love Alone is Believable: Hans Urs von Balthasar's Apologetics" by Fr. John R. Cihak.

Hans Urs von Balthasar on Beauty and Rapture

Balthasar argues that the encounter with beauty in the world is analogous to the encounter
with the Triune God. What happens in the "aesthetic encounter"? He sees that beauty is
an indissolvable union of two things: species and lumen. Beauty consists of a specific,
tangible form (species) accessible to human senses with a splendor emanating from
the form (lumen). Beauty has a particular form, is concretely situated in the coordinates of
time and space, and thus has proportion so that it can be perceived. The splendor is
the attractive charm of the Beautiful, the gravitational pull, the tractor beam pulling
the beholder into it. When confronted with the Beautiful, one encounters "the real presence
of the depths, of the whole reality, and . . . a real pointing beyond itself to those depths".

In the perception of beauty, two moments occur: first vision and then rapture, the result
of which is the impression of the form on the beholder. The splendor moves out from within
the form, enraptures the person and transports him into its depths. Thus the visible form
'not only 'points' to an invisible, unfathomable mystery; form is the apparition of this mystery,
and reveals it while, naturally, at the same time "protecting and veiling it". In beauty,
the beholder is drawn out of himself and pulled into the form by the attractive force of
the beautiful thing, thereby encountering the beautiful thing in itself.

A simple example to illustrate the aesthetical encounter can be found in looking up into a clear
night sky at the stars. One is struck by the immensity and order of the universe, by the
arrangement of the constellations. On an especially clear night, one seems engulfed by
the sheer number of stars. Presented with this beautiful form, a sensitive viewer is drawn in
by light breaking forth from the form. This light is not simply the light emanating from each star,
the result of burning gases. It is the light of Being. Transported into the depths of the form,
the viewer ponders foundational questions such as: How did this happen? Where did
these things come from? Why is this form so beautiful? Why am I so moved by it?

The result of the aesthetical encounter is an encounter with the mystery of Being-in-itself.
One has been shown the form and through the form been brought into an encounter with the depth
of Being. Wondering at the mystery of a particular being, one is drawn into that beautiful form,
and touches the mystery of absolute Being. The form and the depths of its being are indissoluble.
In beauty one doesn't "get behind" the form. Rather one touches the depths of Being
in the form itself.

For Balthasar, things that exist don't just lay there in existence; they glow from their
participation in absolute Being. In Beauty, one is taken in and grasped by Being. In order to
perceive a particular being as it is, one must surrender, be receptive, and be willing to be
taken in by the form. Control or manipulation on the part of the beholder derails the aesthetical
encounter. To share in the beauty, the viewer must renounce himself. The result of
the encounter with beauty is the impressing of the form on the person leaving him breathless,
exhilarated, full of awe and infused with joy. He is "seduced" by the beautiful form
whether it is a stunning landscape or one's beloved.
And that's what a great theologian thought about the nature of beauty. It seems to have
been expressly written for Benaddicts

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 10/01/2006 19.30]

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 10/01/2006 19.33]

00Tuesday, January 10, 2006 12:51 PM
Letter from Papa
I found a very nice written letter from Papa at gooogle. I really love the way he writes letters. It sounds so lovely and heart-warming. Sniff ... [SM=g27834]
But it's so huuuge ... any ideas to get it smaller ?

00Tuesday, January 10, 2006 2:08 PM
It is written to a parish priest and is dated 21 January 2005.

Dear Pastor:

Thank you very much for your friendly letter of 25 November 2004 and your Christmas
greetings. Due to my many obligations, I have not been able to answer you until now.

For many young people, school is the only place where they are able to confront more closely
their questions about faith and the Church. Therefore I can only be glad that you have
developed an impressive school ministry at the vocational school of Weiden and offer
a series of events/classes through which young people are reliably prepared in human,
social and religious subjects, and will be encouraged to live a life according to the Gospel.
In our secularized world, in which men often find little orientation and which has become
poor in human values, a courageous testimonial for Christ, showing God’s friendliness to man
and true union with the Church, gains new relevance. As your school ministry shows, the school
can also be a place for the new evangelization.

You will understand that because of my limited strength and the many tasks that are on
my shoulders now as before, regrettably I am unable to accept your kind invitation to
visit Weiden. But I promise you my prayerful thoughts and wish you and the schoolmaster and
student adviser Heribert Mohr, all the religion teachers and pastoral workers God’s blessing
in this important service for young people.

With friendly greetings

In the Lord, your
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

00Tuesday, January 10, 2006 3:06 PM
For some reason, the Vatican site photo gallery did not carry the photo that you will see
at the bottom of Page 1 from the January 6 weekly edition in German of the Osservatore Romano (OR).
The picture shows the Pope looking at a tabletop Creche that was set up in his private quarters
for Christmas. Unfortunately, the OR front-page facsimiles are available only in PDF.

00Tuesday, January 10, 2006 3:20 PM
Kirsty in the German section of RFC alerted me to an item today from the German service
of Radio Vatican:

The Spanish newspaper "El Mundo" has named Benedict XVI as Person of the Year in 2005,
based on a poll of its readers. 34 percent of 48000 readers voted for the Pope as the most
outstanding personality of 2005. The newspaper said the first Pope of the 21st century
"has moved the masses as much as his predecessor Pope John Paul II."

And to think 2005 was the year when Spain's socialist government rammed through
legislation like recognition of gay marriages

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 10/01/2006 15.27]

00Tuesday, January 10, 2006 7:18 PM
From Matthew on the Shrine of the Holy Whapping blog:
Thoughts on the Forthcoming Encyclical
(posted on 1/5/06)

Very little surprises me anymore, for better or worse. I'm used to the monumental weirdness of
the modern world, today's top news stories easily outparodying yesterday's parodies of them. But
his Eminence the Reverend Lord my Lord Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, utterly
floored me, and in the best of ways, when he gave us a possible sneak peak of Papa Benedict's
new encyclical, Deus Caritas Est:

"In a kind of Lutheran fashion, [Anders Nygren in his book Eros and Agape] distinguished between
agape, the love of God in us, which is good; and eros, which is our own erotic life and desire,
which turns us away from God. He said that in English 'love' is ambiguous and you have to
distinguish between these two. And you do.

"What the Pope is going to do [in Deus Caritas Est] is to try to save eros. That is to say
that our own human love, our desires, are good in themselves... The distinction between agape
and eros is not a clean one. In fact, one influences the other and therefore both should be
considered good. But we are sinful creatures, so they can be misused."

This is wild, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. While the core ideas are deeply
embedded in Catholic marital and sacramental theology, they were often overlooked until
John Paul II developed them in epic detail in his catecheses on the Theology of the Body early
in his pontificate. That Benedict has chosen to take up the subject again is a pleasant and
quite gigantic surprise.

It comes as a surprise, to me, anyway, because I've not seen this theme developed in his
pre-pontifical writings as greatly as in JP II's during his Krakow days, where he developed
the ideas of the Theology of the Body in Love and Responsibility. Of course,
Benedict has always been a bit of a polymath--the wide range of topics he comfortably discusses
in his interviews with Peter Seewald spring to mind--and has a curious and understated way of
quietly pulling things out of his hat (or camauro) that nobody expected, things which hint at
a grander design hiding in the wings. So this surprise should come as no surprise.

This strategy has frustrated some, I know, who were expecting a whirlwind reform of the reform
and a dozen other things in the first six months of his papacy. Doing anything that wildly
imprudent would have been disastrous, though, as fun as it would have been as a wish-
fulfilment fantasy. But Papa Benedict knows he's writing and speaking on a much bigger stage
than he's used to and must be prudent, and he also realizes that by working quietly and
gradually, one can accomplish great things--and often more quickly than people realize.
The encyclical is the first big statement of this pontificate and Benedict has chosen its
topic with great care. (It's interesting to note some Vaticanisti are expecting a
major shakeup of the Curia around the same time the encyclical will be issued, which suggests
Benedict's quiet strategy is about to bear significant fruit).

Why eros? Why now? It's self-evident in retrospect. The subject and time are fortuitous.
JP II's groundbreaking Theology of the Body got lost in the shuffle during the '80s,
as we all know, through no fault of his own. Like many other aspects of his pontificate,
it was orthodox and radical--in the sense of radex or root, and getting to the root of the issue--
and it was cutting-edge all at once. And it also bolstered the Church's age-old teachings on
sexual morality, and so nobody wanted to hear about it.

Benedict's theology of eros and Logos will differ in angle and emphasis from JP II's work--
in a good and non-contradictory sense, I mean--and the world he will reveal it to is a different
one from the one JP II spoke to in the early '80s. For one thing, there's a likelihood
the message will be heard this time: orthodox Catholics are already starting to get familiar
with the subject through JP II's works as discussed or popularized by folks like
Christopher West and Janet Smith, and the world has developed a greater willingness to actually
see what Benedict is saying when he gets up there at his papal audiences, perhaps because
they're still trying to figure the man out. So the timing is fortuitous.

What can we expect from such an encyclical? Bear in mind, I'm no theologian, and these
are the idle speculations of an amateur. Early commentary on the coming encyclical suggested
it was a 46-page spiritual meditation focusing in large part on "eros" (love) and "Logos"
(the Word) and their relationship to the person of Christ. [...]In two articles written before
his election and published in a recent issue of the magazine Communio, Pope Benedict wrote
about the unity of the word and love, as personified in Christ. He highlighted the importance
of the personal encounter with Christ, which stirs up love, and said love of God helps define
the correct idea of human autonomy. He also wrote that Christ as "Logos made flesh" implied
reconciliation between supernatural revelation and reason. (Source). This would hint at
something a little less unusual than Cardinal George's commentary were it not for
the very deliberate use of the term eros, rather than agape. As the encyclical is
Deus est Caritas rather than, say, Deus est Amor, Benedict clearly wants to discuss
both types of love, and show the links between them, within the proper rightly-ordered framework.
I imagine he will pull in his interests in the problems of the European "Age of Enlightenment"
(and what it wrought), as well as true and false definitions of reason.

JP II's thoughts on the subject were deeply mystical and pastoral, shaped by his inner
life and his experiences as priest and bishop, and also interrelated to his own interests
in modern philosophy. I imagine Benedict will touch on marriage in his encyclical--it would be
difficult not to--but I also imagine, based on the apparent shortness of the text, he will
cover it in addition to many other issues in broader depth and less detail than in JP II's
mammoth cycle of talks. JP II's work was more focused on the inner life of the Trinity,
and how marital love images God's being; it sounds like Benedict will be focusing
instead on how eros fits into our relationship with Christ. I imagine he will also draw on
his vast knowledge of Patristic theology (so rich with its exploration and definition
of the person of Christ) and liturgy, and perhaps even make the point that liturgy is marital
and marriage is liturgical, as the Byzantine priest Fr. Thomas Loya would put it.

The subject fits perfectly into Benedict's great love of liturgical spirituality.
We live in an essentially disembodied and gnostic age. Despite our prurient fascination with
other people's bodies, we really don't understand them, and are even a little bit prudish--
witness the inevitable sniggering when schoolkids pass a naked statue in an art museum.
The naked body has become solely associated with illicit lust, rather than God-given beauty.
Couple this with our modern sense of Cartesian dualism--that we are only our consciousness,
and the body really doesn't matter that much, hence I can do with it what I like--and
you get a distrust of the physical, the corporeal, and a fashionable postmodern
gnosticism. We treat our bodies with respect because they are the work of God, and God knows
things are important--flesh, blood, water, wine, bread, incense, and the bones of
the martyrs.

I can't get inside Pope Benedict's head, and these are just a few guesses on my own part.
I may well be wrong; and if I am, I look forward to the next surprising and wonderful rabbit
that our pontiff will pull from his mitre later this month.
00Tuesday, January 10, 2006 8:08 PM

Scritto da: TERESA BENEDETTA 07/01/2006 18.20

Levine says that three days after the concert, he received a call from the Vatican conveying
the Pope's request for a DVD of the Cologne concert. Shortly thereafter, Pope Benedict awarded
Levine the silver star of the Order of St. Gregory, which recognizes special service
to the church. Levine already had been made Knight Commander of the order (by JPII).

Pope Benedict is truly devoted to music and plays it himself, Levine says. "Cardinal Meisner,
archbishop of Cologne, told me that every time he's in the new pope's apartment, there's a
different Beethoven piano sonata opened to be played. He begins or ends his day by playing
NB: Beethoven or Mozart?


TO MORIAH - Thank you, too. I'm glad you like the articles.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 07/01/2006 18.21]

That was also my first thought: Isn't it Mozart? But anyway, what a wonderful idea to start/end a day by playing the piano. [SM=x40801]
00Friday, January 13, 2006 3:13 AM
Thanks to Ratzigirl, for running this article from the current issue of the Italian magazine Panorama.
Here is a translation

Music, cats, chocolate - Benedict's passions
From a book on Ratzinger written by a journalist who knows him well

When he was Archbishop of Munich, it was said he only used blue and white handkerchiefs,
the colors of Bavaria. Probably that’s a myth, but certainly his native land has a special
place in the heart of Benedict XVI. And he will be making a trip down memory lane when
he returns to Bavaria on September 10-15. Munich, Regensburg, the Marian shrine of Altoetting
and his birthplace Marktl-am-Inn are on the itinerary.

His brother Georg hopes the Pope can spend some time at his (Georg’s) home in the historic
center of Regensburg, or to visit his own home in Pentling, a southern suburb of Regensburg,
not far from the cemetery of St. Joseph in Ziegelsdorf where their parents and sister are buried.

Bavaria is preparing to re-embrace its most illustrious citizen, and the German press,
after their initial coolness towards the new Pope, has become more indulgent of the
“Panzerkardinal,” thanks to the million youth who acclaimed the Pope in Cologne last August.

In his native country, the stereotype of the severe Prefect of the ex-Holy Office has given way
to the story of the shy theology professor who has been called to the top posiition in the
Catholic Church. The sunny images of the smiling Pope who welcomes thousands of pilgrims
at St. Peter’s every week has struck home in his country, and some of his actions have even
“seduced” the press, such as his visit to the Synagogue in Cologne and the long friendly
meeting with his erstwhile adversary, the theologian Hans Kueng.

And some more details about the private Ratzinger have now come to light – about the women
in his life, his interest in politics, his passion for music, his irresisitible attraction to sweets,
his love of nature, his special liking for cats, his fragile health, his sense of humor
especially with his students, and the incubus of Nazism.

These are biographical aspects gleaned by Panorama during a meeting in Munich with journalist
Peter Seewald, co-author of two famous interview-books with the present Pope: (Salt of the Earth,
1996, and God and the World, 2000). Seewald continued to research on the Pope’s past, speaking
to his old friends and ex-students, gaining the confidence of his brother Georg, and has come out
with a new biography of the Pope, “Benedict XVI: A Close-up Portait.”

The two women who played a key role in Joseph Ratzinger’s life were, of course, his mother and
his sister, both named Maria. His mother, a deeply religious woman, helped the little Joseph
discover and appreciate the beauty of liturgy. His sister left everything to follow him, first
through his various posts in Germany’s leading universities, then to Munich, and finally to Rome,
where she kept house for him until she died in 1991.

“With her death, Ratzinger lost an irreplaceable point of reference. She was the person
who had never left him. And who, through her love and simplicity, always knew how to help
him keep his feet firmly on the ground,” Seewald says.

Benedict XVI, seen up close, is not at all the cold theologian that many claimed he was.
“Ratzinger is a man of marked sensitivity which is manifested in his passion for music and
for nature,” says Seewald. “Mozart remains his favorite composer, ahead of Bach and sacred
music, and he has of course always been accompanied by his piano, now in the papal apartment.
Music, which was a common passion in the Ratzinger household, linked him particularly to his older
brother, with whom he also shares a love for nature and nostalgia for their boyhood in Traunstein,
where they lived at the foot of the Bavarian mountains, to which they continued to make excursions
during their vacations (as adults).”

An amusing corollary to Ratzinger’s love of nature is his liking for cats, which, Seewald says,
Ratzinger has never hidden. “In his house in Pentling, he took care of his neighbors’ cats.
His brother tells me that when Joseph was in Muenster, he took such a liking to one cat whom
he even allowed to follow him to the chapel when he went to say Mass. In Rome, of course,
his friends say that when he walked through the streets near the Vatican, he did not hesitate
to stop and talk to the cats he met.” …

Like common mortals, even the ex-prefect of the CDF is a victim of temptations. Seewald cites
his love of sweets, especially Bavarian marzipans and Baumkuchen, a confection of
chocolate and sugar. These are temptations that his doctors, partiicularly in recent years,
have advised him to resist.

Health appears to have been allways a problem for Ratzinger since he was a baby when he
almost died of diphtheria at age 2. “It was his delicate health that was one of the principal
reasons Ratzinger had opposed – wthout success – being named to be Archbishop of Munich
in 1977,” Seewald says.

His delicate constitution did not save Joseph from being recruited to anti-aircraft service
during World War II along with his fellow seminarians, who recall today how difficult it was
for young Joseph to undergo military exercises and keep the right pace during marches.
Seewald repeats the story that during those difficult years, the young boy amused himself
at night by writing poems in Greek that made fun of his superiors.

His sense of humor is one of the least remarked traits of the new Pope, but many of his
former students remember the irony that he often demonstrated during his lectures.

Nor is his passion for politics well-known. “Ratzinger always followed both Italian and German
politics closely,” Seewald says. “When he was Archbishop of Munich, he even took direct part
in the political debate by openly calling for Germany to welcome refugees from Vietnam.

If he had voted in the last elections, he would certainly have cast his vote for the Christian
Socialists (CDU-CSU), Seewald claims, although politically, he says it would be more correct
to define him as “a Bavarian liberal, very sympathetic to the rationale for federalism.”

00Friday, January 13, 2006 4:41 AM

00Friday, January 13, 2006 5:13 AM

I don't think it's the book cover we are coveting.

00Friday, January 13, 2006 5:15 AM
Oh dear, sometimes looking at Papa Ratzi's old pictures I could not stop to think about how it would have been if he had become Pope just after Paul VI. It's said that Paul VI wanted him as his sucessor......
well, if yo want to compare him with other Popes here is a link to a site with many portraits of Popes:

[Modificato da @Nessuna@ 13/01/2006 5.16]

00Friday, January 13, 2006 3:03 PM
Thanks to Ratzi.Lella in the main forum, who found this blog
by "lo svizzero" on the site opinione.it. Here is a translation

No one expected it, indeed, the contrary was feared, but instead, thousands have been
flocking to the Wednesday general audiences to listen to a Pope who had been considered
“not mediagenic” as Joseph Ratzinger. So there has been a lot of behind-the-scenes discussion
in the Roman Curia of what has become a real if unexplainable* phenomenon.
[*Teresa's comment: What’s to explain? The Pope attracts people!]

Every time a solemn ceremony is announced to take place At St. Peter’s, or even for the
weekly general audiences, a full house – what the Roman dialect calls “er pienone” – is guaranteed.

Pilgrims from all over Italy as well as from around the world, as well as groups of simply curious
Romans have been heading towards the Bernini hemicycles or inside St. Peter’s to see, listen to
and applaud the German Pope who has by now overcome his once inveterate shyness, explaining to
them(at the audiences) the Psalms which he knows by heart. And to make himself understood by all,
he makes two concessions to his very diverse audiences: arm gestures, as well as the brevity
of his prepared texts.

And people continue to come in great numbers, which has produced a series of “shocks” among
many in the Roman curia, who themselves feel embraced by those gestures of the papal arms thrown
wide open. They too have been listening to those papal messages reduced to bare bone, modulated by
a disarming voice with a singular accent.

Before this indubitable and more importantly repetitive - though far from expected - phenomenon
of crowds drawn to the new Pope, some authorities at the Vatican decided to quantify it,
first in absolute numbers and then with comparisons. And so, the statisticians of the Prefecture
of the Pontifical Household came out with a table of participation at various activities
at which the Pope was present. The extraordinary numbers which came forth were astounding to many.

From April to December 2005, Joseph Ratzinger attracted 2,855,500 persons to St. Peter’s,
compared to 17,665,800 who were recorded at St. Peter’s for John Paul II from 1978 to 2005.
[If one took an average over 25 years - not counting 1978, when he was elected in October, and 2005,
when he was too sick most of the time to be present – John Paul II attracted 706,632 persons yearly

So, by the numbers alone, Papa Ratzinger appears to surpass the mediagenic Papa Wojtyla in
popularity – a result absolutely no one had expected. And that is why a number of Curia
veterans are stunned!

00Friday, January 13, 2006 4:57 PM

"So, by the numbers alone, Papa Ratzinger appears to surpass the mediagenic Papa Wojtyla in popularity – a result absolutely no one had expected. And that is why a number of Curia veterans are stunned!"

The popularity isn't a surprise to us Benaddicts. We could have told the Curia if they had just asked us. Papa is a phenomenon, an ecclesial superstar, the pied piper of the faithful and of those (like Oriana Fallaci) still seeking to believe. He will always be mobbed by people wherever he goes. The Curia and the media need to get used to it and learn to appreciate the fact that he is the perfect pope.

[Modificato da benefan 13/01/2006 16.58]

00Friday, January 13, 2006 5:46 PM
Hmmm, well, yes....

But nevertheless, since Ratzi wasn't mobbed during his time at the CDF and in fact lived with an unfair reputation (remember Ratzigirl's negative feeling when she first saw him?), for me it is a surprise that he's become so popular - a very pleasant surprise.

Some pundits have claimed that the large numbers are on account of the people wishing to pray at John Paul 2's tomb. This may have partly explained things a few months ago, but I am not sure that it is very convincing seven months on, now the weather has turned cold.
00Friday, January 13, 2006 6:54 PM
Associated Press in Italy (Apcom) reports two anecdotes from the meeting yesterday between
the Pope and the administrative officials of Rome and the province of Lazio.


Rome Mayor tries out his Bavarian with Benedict

”Give us something to do!” Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said this in Bavarian dialect at the end
of his private audience with the Pope yesterday.

The Pope reportedly said that next time he meets the officials of Rome, he would make sure to
say something in the Roman dialect.

Veltroni then asked the Pope, “Well, Your Holiness? How was my pronunciation?”

“Very good,” the Pope answered. “How did you do it?”

“I had an adviser,” Veltroni replied, pointing to the Pope’s personal secrerary, Mons. Gaenswein.

“But how did you find the right phrase in Bavarian?” the Pope asked.

Veltroni: “It was suggested to me by journalist Piero Schiavazzi of Telepace."[Commercial
channel that broadcasts Vatican events to Europe

Pope asks about his favorite waiter
With another mayor, Angelo Miele, of the town of Valmontone in the province of Lazio,
the Pope exchanged words about a waiter who served him for over 15 years in Rome.

When he was presented to the Pope, Miele told him he represented the town which is
the birthplace of
Roberto Proscio, who was called “the Pope’s waiter” in several stories that came out shortly
after Benedict XVI’s election.

At that time, Proscio ended up in many newspaper stories and TV interviews when he told
reporters what he typically served to the new Pope (a Viennese consomme, slices of Syrian
sausages, sacher torte or strudel for dessert, and two cans of orange juice) for over 15 years
at the Tirolean resturant that then-Cardinal Ratzinger frequented near his home in Rome.

Their friendship continued even after Proscio decided to go back home to Valmontone where
he put up his own restaurant, and which the Cardinal visited a few times.

Miele says that when the Pope heard the words Valmontone and Roberto, his face lit up and
“he asked me how Roberto was, and if the dishes he prepared were as good as ever.”

“It was truly a very pleasant departure from protocol,” Miele said. “I invited the Holy Father
to come back and visit Valmontone and dine once again at his friend’s table.”


00Saturday, January 14, 2006 6:42 AM
"Shock Numbers" & Papal Anecdotes
"So, by the numbers alone, Papa Ratzinger appears to surpass the mediagenic Papa Wojtyla in popularity – a result absolutely no one had expected. And that is why a number of Curia veterans are stunned!"

hmmm...and still in the cold they continue to come [SM=g27828] I don't think this can be attributed to mere curiosity anymore, though it is probably likely that some are curious and that is why they come...and come back for more [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828]. Also, its nice to hear about little things like that, Papa asking about his "favorite waiter"
00Saturday, January 14, 2006 5:17 PM
ZENIT'S Elizabeth Lev gives us a better background of what has become a Roman and papal tradition at Christmastime:

Nativity of the Humble

Jan. 5, on the vigil of Epiphany, Benedict XVI reprised another Roman tradition established by Pope John Paul II. Leaving the grand halls of the Apostolic Palace, he went next door to the little neighborhood around Vatican City to visit the Nativity scene made by Rome's street sweepers.

It is an Italian custom to go from church to church visiting the Nativity scenes during the Christmas season. But why would the Pope select theirs?

I asked the sanitation department office in charge of the area near the Vatican, and officials answered that they had simply asked the Holy Father to visit.

In 1972, a young sanitation worker, Giuseppe Ianni, conceived of the idea of building a Nativity scene for the recreation offices of the local street sweepers. Assisted by dozens of his colleagues, Ianni built the large cavern that today contains some 200 figures, 95 miniature houses and 30 feet of canals, rivers and aqueducts.

The mortar cavern is embedded with more than 1,200 bits of stone, some from faraway countries, others from little Italian villages and many are from great pilgrimage sites such as Santiago de Compostela.

One special piece of wood graces the work. Father Ibrahim Faltas, custodian of the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, donated a piece of olive wood from the place where Jesus was born. The wood was used to make the doors on the replica grotto containing the Holy Family.

Ianni and the sanitation department wrote to Pope Paul VI, asking him to visit their crèche, and in 1974, he came. John Paul II visited the crèche a total of 24 times from 1979 until 2002. In 2003, when he was unable to go over to the offices, the workers brought a miniature model to the Holy Father for his blessing.

Mother Teresa also paid a visit to the scene in 1996, today commemorated by a mural painting with a poetic dedication.

When I went to see it, the room was packed with tourist groups, religious sisters and families all lining up to see the Nativity. Children were delighted by the churning windmills and the running waterfalls, while their parents noted the donkeys carrying foodstuffs and pointed out the laundry hanging on lines, dripping water.

One Italian observed that there was so much activity that the actual Nativity scene seemed to take second place. Indeed the grotto is placed obliquely in the composition, under the houses, hills and waterfalls. Bright light emanating from the cave provides the only indication of its importance.

Perhaps this comment offers a clue to understanding the Pope's faithful visits. The labors of the sanitation worker are humble and rarely appreciated. He passes unseen, cleaning up after the crowds have gone home, collecting trash while the Romans sleep.

Was not the birth of Jesus like this? In the heart of night, as Mary bore Jesus, the rest of the world lay sleeping. While the people of Bethlehem plied their trades and went about their business, the Savior of the world lay in a humble manger, visited by a few shepherds.

Thus a visit to the street sweepers' crèche makes for a fitting tradition to commemorate the birth of Christ.
00Saturday, January 14, 2006 5:30 PM
Just to complete the stories on the various groups the Pope has been receiving for Christmas and New Year greetings, yesterday he met with the former papal seat-bearers.

VATICAN CITY, JAN 13, 2006 (VIS) - Benedict XVI today received the "sediari pontifici" or pontifical seat bearers, the body of men once charged with the duty of bearing the Pope's "sedia gestatoria," and who now carry out functions of protocol in the Pontifical Household.

"Yours is an ancient task," the Pope told them, "which over the course of the centuries has evolved in different ways depending upon the customs and needs of the times," but has always remained "linked with the See of Peter."

"Your work, then, is part of a context wherein everything must speak to the whole world of the Church of Christ, and must do so coherently, imitating Him Who 'came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.' It is in this light that the recent reforms put into effect by my predecessors must be seen, particularly by Pope Paul VI to whom it fell to implement the new requisites of the Council. Ceremonies were simplified, bringing them back to a greater sobriety more in keeping with the Christian message and the needs of the times."

The Pope thanked the "sediari" for their contribution to the smooth functioning of pontifical audiences and celebrations, adding that "diligence, courtesy and discretion must be the characteristics that distinguish you in your work."

"My wish, dear friends," he concluded, "is that you may always be - both in the Vatican and at home, in the parish and in all situations - helpful and attentive to others. This is a precious lesson for your children and grandchildren, who will learn from your example how service to the Holy See means, above all, a Christian mentality and lifestyle."
00Sunday, January 15, 2006 4:09 AM
Here's the original story by Marco Tosatti in La Stampa which set off a flurry of international "intrigue" today. In translation-

To the great mysteries at the Vatican has now been added a small one: What has the Pope been doing at his old apartment at Piazza della Citta Leonina #1, just outside the Vatican walls? He has been reportedly seen at least three times in the past few weeks paying a visit there at night with his private secretary Mons, Georg Gaenswein, and staying a couple of hours. He may be there more frequently but unnoticed.

The same routine was reportedly followed all three times. An agent of the Vatican security service first comes to make sure that the street in front of the apartment building’s main door is free. The Piazza is technically a pedestrian zone, but there is usually always a police car stationed there, either official or unmarked, because the American Embassy to the Holy See is also located nearby.

At night, however, after the tourist crowds are gone, the place is virtually empty, eept for a few priests, Swiss Guard on liberty, or some religious figures hurrying to get home.

Around 9 p.m., a dark-colored car comes out through Porta Angelica from the Vatican, but it is not one of the official limousines generally used by the Pope. The driver goes along Borgo Pio, turns right into via Mascherino and right again to drive straight towards the main door of building #1. It would be easier to just walk straight from Porto Angelica across to the building.

The right passenger door opens and the Pope comes out dressed in black cassock, with black overcoat and a black beret on his head – just as he used to dress before April 19 2005. He takes the key from his coat pocket, opens the front door and walks briskly into the bulding followed by his secretary Georg Gaenswein. The piazza goes back to its usual stillness, and the only thing out of the ordinary is the car parked there with its driver, who once in a while starts the car to warm up.

However fleetingly, the Pope has apparently been seen by one of the cardinals who lives in the building, or a couple of priests surprised to see the Pope in “civvies” returning discreetly to his old home.

The condominuim is owned by the Vatican. Among its cardinal occupants are Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Walter Kasper, Pio Laghi, Carlo Furnoi and Virgilo Noe. But the pope hasn’t been there to visit any of them.

He goes to his old apartment where evidently, he still keeps some things. It is not like he goes in for a few minutes then leaves with a bag or a suitcase or whatever. He reportedly stays for a couple of hours.

So all sorts of speculation are made. Two appear most plausible. As Prefect of the CDF, he used to take home work with him. It is possible that he is still working on some open files for the CDF which he would think improper to take into the Papapl apartments. So he may be working to close those files and sign off on them.

Or, now that his living quarters at the Apostolic Palace have been completely redone, he may be making a final selection of which items he still needs to bring over to the Vatican.

Finally, maybe it’s just nostalgia. He lived a quiet life there for 24 years. Maybe it’s a change from the Vatican. Also. One must not forget that Joseph Ratzinger had expected to retire with the death of John Paul II, and play Mozart, Palestrina, Bach...
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