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

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    Post: 3,697
    Registered in: 8/28/2005
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    00 8/15/2006 9:43 AM
    Two German teenagers meet each other at a POW camp among tens of thousands of fellow soldiers rounded up by the Allies at the end of the Second World War. One ends up being Germany's most celebrated postwar writer and 1999 Nobel Prize winner for Literature, and the other becomes Pope.

    Here is the translation of a most interesting story from AGI, an Italian news agency...

    Gunter Grass, Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1999, tells the German newspaper Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung that he was a member of the infamous Waffen-SS as a youth.

    The 78-year-old author of The Tin Drum, an incisive satire of Nazi Germany, indicates in an interview to be published 8/13/06 that he is revealing this fully in his memoir called Peeling Onions [translation of the Italian title given - I am not sure if it is also the original title in German] which will come out next month.

    In the same interview, he remembers being a prisoner of war together with Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Benedict XVI.

    Till now, it had only been known that the writer had been conscripted into Germany's air defense corps during the war. But in the forthcoming autobiography, Grass recalls that at age 15, he tried to enlist in the Navy of the Third Reich because he wanted to be a submarinist, but he was turned down for being too young. The following year, he was enrolled into the Waffen-SS.

    Grass, who would become an active pacifist, was wounded in combat in 1945, then captured by the Americans and kept in a POW camp.

    "Together with other 17-year-olds," he remembers, "I was in the lager of Bad Aibling, where some 100,000 POWs were interned without a roof, and when it rained, some of us crouched together in a hole we had dug in the ground over which we stretched a tarp to protect us from the rain."

    "One of my fellow POWs was named Joseph, he was very Catholic, and often spouted quotations in Latin. We became friends and we played dice together, because I managed to get a dice jar in the lager. To pass the time, we chatted and speculated about the future, as boys often love to do. I wanted to become an artist, while he wanted to enter into the service of the Church. He gave me the impression of being a bit awkward, but he was a most likeable type. This is a beautiful story, don't you think?"

    Corriere della Sera's Luigi Accatoli commented in the 8/13/06 issue of the Italian newspaper. Here is a translation -

    "It's a beautiful story, don't you think?" Gunter Grass says of the acquaintance he made in POW camp with the young Joseph Ratzinger. "He wanted to become an ecclesiastic and I wanted to be an intellectual."

    Grass's account of the POW camp uses words similar to those used by Ratzinger in his autobiography My Life [translation of the Italian title for what appeared as Milestones in the English edition].

    But Ratzinger does not mention meeting Grass during his internment at Bad Aibling, where he was kept a couple of months in 1945, when both were teenagers.

    "Maybe he did not remember the family name and had no way of recognizing in the writer the prisonmate with whom he played dice," hyppthesizes Ludwig Ring-Eifel, editor-in-chief of the Catholic news agency KNA and someone who knows Ratzinger's biography well. [He recently co-produced and wrote a TV documentary on Benedict XVI.]

    The hypothesis is shared by Ingrid Stampa who has been a close associate of Ratzinger as cardinal and Pope for the past 15 years, in his writings for publication.

    "I never once found in his writings any indication that he had any acquaintance with Grass, nor has he ever mentioned it whenever Grass's name came up in conversation," she said.

    There is total coincidence between what the novelist and the cardinal have written about their POW camp, except in the number of POWs.

    Grass says that "under open skies" some 100,000 prisoners were interned." Ratzinger writes that in that "agricultural terrain", some 50,000 prisoners were "quartered."

    One can imagine that neither of them had exact information, and that the novelist - who might tend to color his memories - chose the high figure, while the theologian, trained in rigorous thought, kept to a more cautious estimate.

    But their recollections agree on the problem of being roofless and other discomforts: "We stayed in the open till the end of our imprisonment," writes Ratzinger, noting that "when it started to rain, we formed into groups, each seeking whatever miserable shelter we could from the bad weather." He adds, "Some of the more fortunate had tent material to protect them."

    Grass would have been one of the "fortunate" because he narrates, "When it rained, we crouched together in a hole we had dug in the ground, over which we stretched a tarp to protect us from the rain."

    The author says that his prisonmate Joseph "often spouted Latin quotations." Ratzinger remembers that he was able to bring with him - at the time he was caught by the American dragnet -
    "a notebook and a pencil" with which "I managed to challenge myself by composing Greek hexameters."

    Going through the books written by the cardinal, one finds at least one reference to a book by Gunter Grass. In Fede e Futuro[Faith and the Future, Queriniana 1971), Ratzinger writes that "truth is taken away from man and he seems - to cite the title of Gunter Grass's most recent book - under 'local anesthesia,'" namely, "capable of grasping only deformed pieces of reality." The footnote identifies Grass's novel Local Anesthesia, published in Italian by Einaudi in 1971.


    Not incidentally, will anyone place bets whether the media will take Grass to task for having been an SS member - and one who apparently sought to be one - the way they have been hyperventilating on Ratzi's having been in the Hitler Youth? Watch the 'progressive' and 'liberal' double standard come into play!

    [Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 15/08/2006 10.30]

    Post: 61
    Registered in: 3/13/2006
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    00 8/16/2006 2:52 PM
    During General Audience today Papa reminded that it's been a year since the assasination of Br. Roger Schutz.

    As you may remember he was the founder of the ecumenical community of Taize and was killed during an evening prayer by a mentally ill woman.

    Br. Roger with Pope John (undated) ...

    ... with Pope John Paul (undated) ...

    ... and with (future) Pope Benedict (08-04-2005)

    Post: 3,711
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    Master User
    00 8/16/2006 9:14 PM
    Just to give us an idea of how Italian TV newscasts (the Pope after all resides in Italy, that is to say, in Vatican territories within Italy) covers Papal activities, RAtzi-lella in the main forum gives us her rating of the various nationwide services. [tg is short for tele-giornale, literally 'TV newspaper".]

    To begin with, she informs us however, that, notwithstanding Raiuno (RAI-1, premier channel of Italian state TV) giving short shrift to coverage of Benedict [see below], it does carry the Pope's Angelus live on Sundays and major religious feastdays, and that -


    Here's another one for all those who keep saying that Benedict XVI is not as 'mediatic" as his predecessor -
    The Angelus from Castel Gandolfo yesterday, 8/15/06, had a 33.11% share of the audience at noontime (2,029,000 sets tuned).
    One must tip the hat to the Italians, because it means that one out of 3 Italians who had the TV on at noontime tuned to the Angelus.

    Herewith, Lella's ratings of the various tg -

    skytg24: Excellent, always conscientious, never once misses a papal event or any intervention by the Pope. 10 points, with praises!

    tg2: Tries, within what is possible on the RAI network, to follow the Pope's activities. Often shows images that the other TV channels do not have or choose to ignore. 8 points, on a scale of 0-10.

    tg5: Not much time given, but Vatican correspondent Alessandra Buzzetti tries her best and always grasps the essential aspects of Papal activity. Rating 7.5.

    tg4: The good Fede [I assume it must be a nickname for the newscaster] is very affectionate about Ratzi and often airs excellent reports praising the Pope. Rating 7+.

    tg3: Aldo Maria Valli is an excellent Vaticanista, but his context is generally not favorable for the Pope. Rating 6-.

    tg1: Very brief reports, perfunctory comments, endless comparisons (with JPII), indulges in inconclusive details. Rating 4.

    studio aperto [Open Studio}: When have they ever reported about the Pope? NO RATING


    P.S. Stupor-mundi said in the main forum yesterday that TG-2 reported the Pope's Mass in Castel Gandolfo, and that after the Mass, he walked back to the Papal residence, and greeted pratically each and everyone of the faithful who waited outside the Church. The newscast showed some video of it.

    [Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 16/08/2006 23.06]

    Post: 3,712
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    00 8/16/2006 10:03 PM
    Mona in the German section points us to this story in today's Der Tagesspiegel, a German online newspaper.

    In the Holy Father's garden
    By Philippe Grull

    Pentling, 16 August 2006 (ddp) - For Chico the cat, everything changed after that day in April last year when white smoke came out of the Sistine Chapel chimney. His beloved Joseph Ratzinger became Benedict XVI - and will no longer be able to visit him as he used to do.

    Gone are those hours spent together in the garden of the house in Pentling. Gone are those evenings by Ratzinger's warm stove.

    And the media! Chico has even made headlines in the Italian newspapers. Everyone wants to pet him, photograph him and film him.

    "He has become quite shy," says Chico's owner Rupert Hofbauer, who lives next to the Pope's private residence. "He feels the to-do about him and misses the Pope."

    But the seven-year-old tomcat with the beige and brown stripes may look forward now to one sure visit. On September 13, the Pope will come to Pentling to spend a few hours at home. Maybe Chico will join him. Perhaps everything will be as it was for a few hours.

    Hofbauer and Ratzinger have known each other for decades. "The Pope built his house in 1969, we built in 1970," says the retired firechief of Regensburg.

    He considers Ratzinger "a kind man and an outstanding neighbor - one cannot imagine a better one." Ratzinger always took part in family events for Rupert, his wife Therese and their three children, and "he spoke to us about every possible topic." Except, that is, "I withdraw from any discussion of spiritual matters, and he knows it."

    According to Hofbauer, Chico was "totally attached to the Pope." He would wait for him to come back from Mass, and once he arrived, he would quickly go over to his house. The cat always sensed that Ratzinger was unusually cat-friendly.

    Hofbauer is not only Ratzinger's neigbor, but since 1977, his house custodian. While he is talking to us, a car is driving slowly past the Pope's driveway. Two elderly ladies and a man inside the car are pointing to Hofbauer and teh house. Chico scoots out of the way.

    "A car once almost ran over him," Hofbauer explains. "Since then, he is very careful - when he hears one, he gets out of the way." And he will, too, when the Pope arrives in his convoy.

    "But when he sees the Pope, then he will surely come right out." Hofbauer is sure of this.

    Hofbauer walks through the Pope's front garden, to a beehive which has stood there for years. "He thought that was good, because he knows what bees need, and he likes bees as well."

    According to honey connoisseurs, the honey harvest in this year of the papal visit will be especially good. "We have already gathered 35 pounds. On September 13, much of that will be going to Rome," Hofbauer says. "It's the Pope's honey, after all."

    Hofbauer and his wife have been preparing the Pope's house for the visit for months. They went over details with the Pope during a five-hour meeting with the Pope in December.

    Since then, they have both been busy. Apprentices have rebuilt the fence, repaved the terrace and replanted the garden.

    Hofbauer says the rosebushes have been carefully pruned so that they will bloom by September - roses are the Pope's favorite flowers.

    He points to a fountain in the middle of the garden. "We will put up a Madonna there, but only shortly before the Pope arrives. We don't want it to be stolen."

    Until the beginning of September, a lot remains to be done. To begin with, a general housecleaning. And a new sign at the doorbell must be placed to read "Pope Benedict" instead of "Professor Ratzinger."

    Beside the doorbell is the house number 9. Actually, the house is on Bergstrasse 6. Hofbauer takes the number, turns it upside down and attaches it properly.

    "Now, that's better," he says. "Someone was playing a trick here. Well, once in a while, these things happen."

    [Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 17/08/2006 4.51]

    Post: 3,720
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    00 8/17/2006 5:42 AM
    contributor Robert T. Miller, who teaches law at Villanova University, has this to say

    August 16, 2006
    On August 1, I criticized Pope Benedict XVI’s call for a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Since then, he has granted an interview to some German journalists in anticipation of his upcoming trip to Bavaria.

    Asked about the fighting in the Middle East, he said in part:
    "We do want to appeal to all Christians and to all those who feel touched by the words of the Holy See, to help mobilize all the forces that recognize how war is the worst solution for all sides. It brings no good to anyone, not even to the apparent victors. We understand this very well in Europe, after the two world wars."

    I find it difficult to understand how the pope says this. Along with many others, I often invoke the Second World War as the paradigm example of a just war, of a case where morality not only permitted but required the use of armed force in order to combat evil.

    But here Benedict, expressly mentioning the world wars, says that they brought no good to anyone.

    No good to Elie Wiesel, and all the other prisoners liberated from Buchenwald?

    No good to the peoples of France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and others saved from Nazi domination? No good to the Poles and other Slavs, destined to slavery to support the Third Reich?

    No good to the young Joseph Ratzinger, who, freed from service in the Wehrmacht, was able to enter seminary, study theology, become a priest and a professor, and live to become pope?
    [Teresa's comment: This question is out of place here - The war did not have to happen for Joseph Ratzinger to become a priest!]

    As it stands, this statement from Benedict is unsupportable. All serious people know that war is a terrible reality to be avoided whenever possible, and Benedict should certainly say this. But he is also a great theologian, well able to make moral distinctions. He ought not make statements that can so easily be understood as endorsing a dangerously naive pacifism that is incompatible with the Catholic moral tradition.

    Mark P. Shea in "Catholic and Enjoying It' says -

    I basically agree with Miller...though I'd like more context to what the Holy Father is saying.

    On the other hand, I'm also reminded of something Ross Douthat was pointing the other day: namely, that much of our foreign policy seems to be driven by a curious tendency to view the world through the prism of various years, depending on our ideology. For some people, it's always 1938, for others, 1919, for others, 1948....

    For me, it's 2006 and I'm highly suspicious of all moral calculations that appeal to a clock for legitimacy. I plod along, looking at just war teaching, and find myself increasing puzzled as to how to unscramble the various eggs our Best and Brightest have scrambled for us in recent years.

    On the whole, though I disagree with the Pope's remarks as they stand (since I believe in Just War teaching), I find myself thinking that I'd rather live in a world of people who err as the Pope does, than in a world of War Zealots and Master Planners with big ideas for a New American Century based on "creative destruction" and other Machiavellian schemes.

    In short, I don't have much in the way of solutions, but I have a clearer and clearer idea of who I trust as I try to think things through.

    I hope you will excuse my ruminating aloud. Nothing final here. I'm still feeling my way.

    Then, Shea adds this update:

    Reader M.Z. Forrest notes:
    "For perspective, I think we should take into consideration that he was speaking to German reporters. What grievances did WWI and WWII solve for the Germans? WWI brought them the lost of some of their most productive land in the west and economic collapse. WWII gave them 1/4 of their country put in communist oppression."

    D'oh! Why didn't I think of that? Makes perfect sense. Thanks, M.Z.


    MMMM....I agree that the Pope's statement "Wars bring no good to anyone" was too sweeping. And I was too taken by the charm and novelty of the whole interview that this escaped my critical faculties.

    Wars are bad and must be avoided whenever possible, but although I have read very little of the Catholic concept of a just war, my common sense tells me that there are necessary wars, as World War II was, or the wars Israel has fought to defend its existence. Even the war that toppled the Taliban mullahs in Afghanistan. Or a war to topple the current crazies in Iran, if it came to that.

    And that the achievement of one's goal in a necessary war (or a just war, if the necessary war meets the criteria) - for instance, to defeat Hitler and the Nazi ideology - is certainly to be seen as "good." Even Joseph Ratzinger has said so in many ways! So why would Pope Benedict say something else now?

    I could say he was probably thinking of Iraq and the perpetual intifadah in the Holy Land and assorted civil wars in Africa... but he mentioned the two world wars specifically. World War I probably deserves what Benedict XV called it, 'inutile strage', useless massacres, because no core principles were involved, just conflicting national interests. But World War II? And after Benedict XVI's discourse in Auschwitz-Birkenau?

    Reader Forrest's comment that the Pope's context was what happened to Germany after both world wars may be extenuating, but the Pope clearly said "We understand this very well in Europe..." so he was not referring to Germany alone.

    If he had not added the sentence, "We understand this very well in Europe, after the two world wars," the whole quotation would have been unexceptionable, what one expects the Pope, any Pope to say. Basically, it's the reference to World War-II in that sentence that threw the statement out of kilter.

    I hope the Holy Father clarifies this issue!

    [Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 17/08/2006 14.46]

    Post: 3,721
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    00 8/17/2006 2:53 PM
    Little news snippets seen overnight-

    Pope meets Merkel at CG

    Vatican sources confirm that the Pope will receive German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a private audience in Castel Gandolfo on August 28, preparatory to the Pope's visit to Germany next month.

    The Pope met Merkel in Cologne last year when she was still the leader of the opposition.

    6 million watched Papal interview

    The Papal interview was watched Sunday night by 2.94 million during its 19:15 transmission on AARD, the first Gernam public channel, and by another 3.14 million on its 22:00 broadcast on ZDF, the second German public channel.

    Post: 3,742
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    00 8/18/2006 1:51 PM
    RatziLella in the main forum contributes this item from Il Messaggero of 8/17/06, translated here -

    At parish Mass with Benedict XVI:
    A "Ferragosto' crowd act for the Pope
    who walks to and from the Church

    Crowd act for Benedict XVI. On Ferragosto [as the Italians familiarly refer to the August 15 holiday], the Pope followed a tradition and walked to the parish church of Castel Gandolfo to celebrate a Mass in honor of the Virgin of the Assumption.

    It wasn't more than 300 meters from the Papal residence to the Church but it required awesome security arrangements. And only 200 persons [the little church's capacity], rigorously screened, were admitted into the church.

    After the Mass, the Pope lingered in greeting the people who lined the barriers along Liberty Plaza leading to the Papal residence.

    And yesterday, Wednesday, some 4,500 people showed up for the general audience, causing serious difficulties for the local forces of law and order who were not expecting that size of a crowd.

    At least 400 agents of law and order are on duty at Castel Gandolfo to safeguard the security of the Pope and the pilgrims. This includes the carabineri's canine unit and State police. Sharpshooters were stationed on rooftops to watch every step of the Pope's progress on foot between the residence and church and back.

    Meanwhile, everyone was happy at the Pope's demonstration of affection.

    "Bneedict XVI knows our history and traditions in this city," said Mayor Maurizio Colacchi. "He is doing us great honor with hi s simple and sincere actions."

    The Mass of the Assumption was also attended by CArdinal Angelo Sodano, outgoing Secretary of State, the Bishop of Albano, Mons. Marcello Semeraro, and all the civil and military authorities of the region called Castelli Romani [the towns on the Alban Hills outside Rome, including Castel Gandolfo].

    And although the city of Castel Gandolfo is in 'armored' state for the Pope's security, the screening processes have been discreet, and the people have been able to get within a few meters of the Pope to greet him.

    "In this city," the Pope has said, "the rapport between the people and their Pope is more immediate and direct."

    And how!

    [Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 18/08/2006 13.52]

    Post: 3,754
    Registered in: 8/28/2005
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    00 8/19/2006 1:53 AM
    Oooops! There are a few items in the main forum to the effect that apparently Gunter Grass is saying now that the Joseph he played dice with in POW camp may not have been our Joseph, after all....

    In any case, I had wondered how the German media - generally liberal and admirers of Grass as the embodiment of post-war German pacifism and moral rectitude - would react to his confession that as a teenager, he actively sought to be a uniformed man in the Nazi armed forces and succeded in joining the Waffen-SS...I studiously avoided commenting on the irony of it, but...

    More of media reaction to Grass's confession later...and how, unbelievably, some prominent Italian liberals are trying to turn it around by claiming that Ratzi must have been an SS-man himself if he was in the same camp as Grass, because SS POWs were kept separate from other POWs! (Forget the fact that the East German Stasi in decades of trying to dig anything bad against Ratzi turned up ZIP!)- And one of these calumnists actually won a Nobel Prize for Literature himself (Dario Fo, an Italian playwright who is certainly no Pirandello)...More later, as I have to go out now...

    [Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 19/08/2006 6.38]

    Post: 3,755
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    00 8/19/2006 7:15 AM
    BUT WHY????
    Here is a translation of a genuinely curious item posted by Ratzi-lella from Dagospia, a popular Italian online gossip column:


    There are two weeks left before the Pope's second visit to Germany as Pope...He will be celebrating Mass on September 12 in a vast area outside Regensburg known as Islinger Field. Some 350,000 faithful are expected to attend - among them some women who apparently are determined to deliver during the Mass!

    This was reported today by the Munich newspaper "Tz", promptly picked up by all the German media.

    It was confirmed by Peter Kittel, one of the executives in the organizing comittee for the Pope's visit. "We have received at least five requests so far," he sasid, "from women who are asking permission to be able to deliver during the Papal Mass at Islinger Field."

    The requests, he added, "were a bit unexpected, but on that day, we will have ambulances. helicopters, general doctors and medical specialists on hand anyway, for any eventuality."

    These will almost certainly be the first persons ever to be able to say later, "I was born while the Pope was saying Mass" - and what a beautiful occasion to be born, especially if the Pope is Benedict XVI! But is there some folk superstition out there in Bavaria that is responsible for this un-isolated incidence?

    Are the mothers going to have their obstetricians inject them with a labor-inducing or labor-retarding drug that would allow them to deliver at some point during the three-hour event at Islinger Field? Is this the beginning of a new Ratzinger cult? [Obstetric Benaddiction?]

    Mainstream media may still be oblivious to it, but Papa is certainly generating a popular following that even JP-II did not have this early in his Papacy! Did you see all those rapt and joyous faces at the Angelus in Castel Gandolfo raised up to the white figure on the balcony in obvious awe and affection? It was fantastic!....

    Post: 305
    Registered in: 9/3/2005
    Senior User
    00 8/19/2006 9:39 AM
    Holy Places and Holy children
    I feel uneasy about this. Certainly it's wonderful if women wish their babies to be born the day the Pope says Mass on their home ground, but there are other and better ways of helping one's children to be holy. It cannot be safe to give birth in such a crowded place, infections will be rife, and if something goes wrong then a dash to hospital could take longer from there than from home. Induced labours are more painful, by and large - will there be adequate pain relief available/possible?
    Post: 431
    Registered in: 11/19/2005
    Senior User
    00 8/19/2006 2:25 PM


    It sounds like these women will be attending the mass... how do they plan to actually be in labor BEFORE the mass starts... yeh pain control is a HUGE question... do these women think they're just going to be able to push the baby out IN FRONT OF EVERYONE?! My mind is working overtime hear... the idea fill me with fear for all those women and their babies!!!

  • mona24
    00 8/19/2006 4:44 PM
    Birth at Mass?
    Sorry, but I think these women are completely out of their mind.
    I was at the Marienfeld during World Youth Day and it would never occure to me to (deliberatly!) give birth at such an overcrowded and remote place. They would set their babies and themselves at risk!

    Post: 86
    Registered in: 5/17/2006
    Junior User
    00 8/19/2006 8:35 PM
    RE: Birth at Mass
    I'm sorry but these women seem cuckoo to me. What about the nearby neighbours at this Mass? Do they now have to watch the birth process while the Mass is in full swing?

    Where I live many indigenous women used to deliver in the fields where they worked. It went quickly for most of them and they bundled up the new-born child and continued with their job... No big deal for them! But I just cannot see most Western females succeeding in similar birth givings. Well, what do I know? - never had a child....Just seems to me to be a rather private thing. [SM=g27833] [SM=g27833] [SM=g27833]
    Post: 3,756
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    00 8/20/2006 3:50 AM
    ....While the organizing committee for the Pope's visit to Bavaria did not simply shrug off the presumptuous request by Papa's obstetric fans, neither is there an indication so far that they will be accommodated in any special way, so for now, let us just leave this be as a curiosity and a 15-minute attention-getter in the media - an event that is unlikely to take place unless it was meant to be, i.e., not deliberately 'planned' (as though a natural birth could be planned and timed to the hour!)....

    [Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 20/08/2006 3.59]

    Post: 4,965
    Registered in: 8/9/2005
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    00 8/20/2006 4:42 AM
    oh dear Lord! that would be a really " happening" [SM=g27816] [SM=g27818] [SM=g27816] [SM=g27820]:
    Post: 3,757
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    Master User
    00 8/20/2006 5:35 AM
    Here's the latest development on Gunter Grass's 'story' ... He did end his Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung interview - in which he first spoke of the 'Joseph story' in public, with the sentence "It's a beautiful story, don't you think?". A writer exercising artistic license, perhaps. In any case, not sure now that his Joseph was our Joseph! Here's a translation of an item in Corriere della Sera today:

    The Nobel laureate's turnabout:
    'That Joseph may not have been Ratzinger -
    I am not sure, I can only assume"

    By Giacomella Gabriella

    "All right, hand over heart, Guenter - that boy you met at POW camp, was it really him who is now Benedict XVI?"

    "I can only assume it was."

    In his third interview in three days - following the 2-page interview in Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung which set off a national ruckus preceding the publication of his autobiography - Guenter Grass is stepping back from his original assertions.

    Questioning him this time were two journalists of the German news agency dpa. The question was direct, even urgent: was it or was it not Ratzinger whom he recalls playing dice with and conversing about their plans in life that summer of 1945?

    Answer: "This recollection first came to me while I was writing
    [the autobiography]. What is certain is that at Bad Aibling, this open-air mass detention camp for some 100,000 German POWs, I shared a hole in the ground with a young man of my age - we were both 17. He was Bavarian, intensely Catholic almost to the point of fanaticism, and was able, at age 17, to insert a Latin quotation from time to time in his conversations...He wanted to make it to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church; I wanted to be an artist, a famous one." That was the recollection.

    Then - and this was about a year ago - "while I was writing the manuscript for my memoirs, a German became Pope. And I discovered that he was at Bad Aibling - of course I knew who Cardinal Raztinger was, I was familiar with his conservative views, his background and how he came to the forefront gradually. Suddenly, it seemed to me I knew this Joseph - the way he conducts himself, his shyness, his persistence, his sensitivity - and I could only suppose that the boy I met was him."

    So, this was not a direct denial by Grass of something he previously said. Nor was it a statement from his literary agent to the effect that "Mr. Grass's statements have been misunderstood- we never said that the boy Joseph was to be identified as Ratzinger."

    But it was a reply among many others - almost a reprise of those pages in Peeling the Onion(Sbucciando la Cipolla)*, the chapter called "At table with guests", in which the Nobel laureate recounts his meeting and dialogs with 'the grand inquisitor' Joseph, between games of dice and chewing cumin.

    But in that "I can only assume it was he" one also hears the cackle of laughter from Grass's sister, an ex-nun, to whom he told the story soon after the conclave: "What a liar you are, you bastard!"

    And the only person who can confirm or deny Grass's story is not going to speak up. "It's a question that concerns the private life of the Holy Father," the Vatican Press Office said yesterday, when asked by the dpa.

    But in the narrow circle of Benedict XVI's close associates, no one recalls that he ever once mentioned any acquaintance with his illustrious countrymate.

    The key to the mystery may lie in another passage from yesterday's interview with dpa, which also echoes the introduction to Grass's autobiography, in which he speaks about intermittent recollections, somewhat like "a salad of images."

    To the dpa journalists, he said his new book was "not a classic autobiography, not one of those which set out facts and data in an orderly manner. Rather it is an attempt to rediscover the young man I was, who is unknown to me, and to interrogate him on how he acted in certain circumstances."

    Both in writing and orally, Grass seems to be telling the public: Take me seriously, but not too much! This is a narrative work, not a historical reconstruction. There are holes in the story, jumps in time; and memory, which sometimes betrays, often does not help find answers either. Particularly, not the reason why 'I never asked questions.' [About the Nazis - given that the book discloses Grass actively sought to join the Nazi armed forces and ended up enrolled in the Waffen-SS.]

    A considerable part of the book is impregnated with silences, shame and fear, and German media has concentrated on this aspect.

    Meanwhile, the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, a Cologne newspaper, itself had to retract its story that the imminent declassification of an alleged dossier on Grass from the archives of the Stasi (East German secret police)had occasioned Grass's public revelation of his SS past.

    Two peers of Grass issued statements of support in London and New York.

    "It's a manufactured scandal," said Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. "Grass remains today the same great writer that he was a few days ago."

    John Irving, who wrote The World According to Garp, wmong others, said: "For me, he remains a hero, both as a writer and as a moral compass. His courage is more admirable, rather than diminished, with this revelation."

    In his interview with ARD television, Grass had said that "if the mayor of Danzig [Gdansk, now part of Poland, Grass's hometown and setting of his Nobel-winning novel The Tin Drum] asks me to give up my honorary citizenship in Danzig, I would, but otherwise, I do not see any reason for doing so."

    Meanwhile, the first printing of 150,000 of Peeling the Onion is almost sold out [within a few days], and the newspaper BILD has calculated that Grass has already earned some 1.7 million Euros in royalties.

    His publisher, Steidl Verlag, is already printing a second edition of 100,000 copies, and 12 coutries have already bought publishing rights.

    The intermittences of memory, it seems, are not a disdavantage to commercial success.

    *The German title is Beim Hauten der Zwiebel so the correct translation is Peeling the Onion, not Peeling Onions.

    The more the story progresses, the more doubts arise about Guenter Grass, especially about his POW-camp friendship with a fellow 17-year-old Joseph Ratzinger in Bad Aibling.

    A memory which, in the interview Grass gave to Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung published last Saturday, appeared quite clear, but now reduced by the author himself to a simple supposition that occurred to the writer when Ratzinger was elected Pope.

    Some perplexity was originally raised because Grass, identified as an SS member (even in American documents of the time), should have been interned in an area separate from that of regular German armed forces, as Ratzinger surely was.

    But it may be that Grass's age may have earned him a more gentle treatment by his American captors [and so he was interned with the regular forces].

    Now it turns out that in the book, the pious Joseph with whom Grass played dice is in fact not explicitly identified as Ratzinger.

    Grass's interview with dpa further muddies the waters. One gets the impression of a clever alternation between disclosure and stepping back. But while the doubts may continue to grow, the sales figures tell us that if this was a marketing strategy, it certainly works perfectly!

    Post: 3,761
    Registered in: 8/28/2005
    Master User
    00 8/20/2006 12:54 PM
    So the final program is out for the Bavarian trip. And Papa's 'private day' in Regensburg still includes one public engagement - blessing a new organ. It turns out he will spend about 3 hours at Georg's home and 3 hours in his own home (during which he is supposed to decide what things he would like to take away with him, what things to give away, and what to do with the rest).

    How infinitely poignant this trip will be for him - not knowing when, if ever, he may get to visit 'home' again!

    WEDNESDAY, 9/13/06

    07.30 Mass and breakfast at St. Wolfgang Seminary.

    11.00 BLESSING OF THE NEW ORGAN FOR THE ALTE KAPELLE [OLD CHAPEL] of Regensburg. Prayer and greeting by the Holy Father.

    11.45 Visit at the home of Mons. Georg Ratzinger, lunch and rest.

    15.00 Travel by car from Mons. Ratzinger's home to the cemetery in Ziegetsdorf.


    15.30 Visit to the cemetary and to the old Church of St. Joseph.


    16.30 Private time in the Pope's house. Dinner.

    19.30 Travel by car from Pentling to St. Wolfgang.

    [Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 20/08/2006 20.06]

    Post: 3,763
    Registered in: 8/28/2005
    Master User
    00 8/20/2006 1:08 PM
    From the Vatican bulletin yesterday:

    The Holy Father attended a presentation tonight (8/19/06) of Charles Peguy's 3-act drama "Le mystere de la charite de Jeanne d'Arc" (The mystery of Joan of Arc's charity) at the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo.

    This was a presentation of the Archdiocese of Monaco in collaboration with the Embassy of Monaco to the Holy See.

    The Holy Father deliverd an address in French [I will post a translation in HOMILIES, DICOURSES, MESSAGES as soon as I can.]
    Post: 3,768
    Registered in: 8/28/2005
    Master User
    00 8/20/2006 5:45 PM
    Here is a translation of a brief news item from a German news agency today:

    Frankfurt/Main (ddp)- Pope Benedict XVI has succeeded quite rapidly to project his own individual profile, says Cardinal Karl Lehmann in an interview with the FrankfuerteR Rundschau (issue of 8/19/06).

    The Pope, Lehmann said, "has found his own amazing individual style in dealing with people, which is different from JoHn Paul II's more impulsive style."

    Indeed, "he has stepped out of his great predecessor's shadow very well and very quickly," he added.

    Benedict, who is visiting Germany next month, clearly finds joy in his office and is also more politically minded than people thought originally, according to Lehmann. That is why he has managed to take a stand on topical events, from the Middle East to nuclear issues.

    Lehmann also expressed some relief that "Germans have so far not 'profited' from having a German Pope*, as many had expected from the initial euphoria," but added that, "ultimately, he is the Pope of the universal Church."


    *I thought maybe I was not translating Lehmann's statement correctly, but judging from the perplexed comments of the girls in the German section at RFC, that is what he said - a strange statement to make, and something which I hope his interviewer asked him to clarify! I am trying to check the original news item.

  • mona24
    00 8/20/2006 6:41 PM

    I have posted the whole Interview with Cardinal Lehmann in the German section. It can be found here:

    The passage you're referring to is this:
    Eigentlich haben wir bisher nicht so sehr davon profitiert, wie manche das in der ersten Euphorie heraufbeschworen haben. Aber das sage ich nicht mit Bedauern, denn der Papst ist Papst für die ganze Weltkirche.

    I think "expressing relief" is not, what he actually did. He only said, that he doesn't feel a special regret, because the Pope is the Pope for the universal Church, and not only to be seen as a German.

    There are passages in this interview, I feel much more uneasy about than this one. It is no secret, that he can say very strange things sometimes. Unfortunatly, he is quite popular in Germany.

    [Modificato da mona24 20/08/2006 18.43]