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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pope Benedict in Brazil - Coverage by John Allen Jr. & 'American Papist'

Roundup and commentary of the Pope's visit to Brazil is forthcoming over at the Benedict Blog, but I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the excellent work already accomplished by Thomas N. Peters aka. American Papist for providing daily coverage of his own, well worth a visit:

Likewise to National Catholic Reporter's John Allen Jr., with daily coverage and insightful commentary:

  • Day Five: Benedict's critique of capitalism no surprise May 13, 2007:
    Benedict XVI’s stinging criticism of both Marxism and capitalism this afternoon may have caught some off-guard used to thinking of him as a consumate conservative, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows Joseph Ratzinger’s history. . . .
  • Day Five: Pope raps Capitalism, Marxism as 'blind alleys'' in a world without God May 13, 2007.

  • Day Five: Christ, not ideology, creates a ‘continent of hope,’ pope says May 13, 2007:
    Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), many Catholic theologians, priests, bishops and lay activists in Latin America have sought to mobilize the church to respond to the continent’s pressing social and political crises, above all the disparities between rich and poor – a gap which, according to United Nations statistics, is more dramatic in Latin America than anywhere else in the world.

    The pope acknowledged that focusing on the spiritual dimension of the church’s life “must not serve as an excuse for avoiding the historical reality in which the church lives as she shares the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor and afflicted.”

    Yet Benedict has insisted that this social solidarity must not dislodge proclamation of Christ, participation in the sacraments, and the promotion of holiness as the heart of Catholic identity. It is not the role of the church to provide specific political solutions to Latin America’s problems, the pope has said, but rather to provide the evangelical “motor fuel” for a commitment to finding those solutions.

  • Day Four: Facing dramatic losses, Benedict says: ‘It’s worth it to stay Catholic!’ May 12, 2007.

  • Day Four: Benedict issues dramatic warning to drug dealers, but his real message is Christ May 12, 2007:
    Citing Jesus’ promise in the Gospel of John that whoever follows him “will have the light of life,” Benedict said that his mission is to “renew in people’s hearts this light that never goes out, so that it will shine in the most intimate corners of the souls of all those who seek true goodness and peace, which the world cannot give.”

    “God does not compel, does not oppress individual liberty,” the pope said. “He only asks the openness of that sacred place of our conscience, though which all the noblest aspirations pass, but also the disordered feelings and passions that obscure the message of the Most High.”

    Benedict told the Poor Clares that, “It is the risen Christ who heals the wounds and saves the sons and daughters of God, saves humanity from death, from sin and from slavery to passions.”

    The bottom line for Benedict XVI in Brazil thus seems to be this: If you want to give life to the suffering peoples of Latin America, give them Christ. Downplaying the specifically “religious” dimension of the church’s message not only betrays its mission, he believes, but in the end it fails to produce the desired social results.

  • Day Three: Pope calls Brazil's bishops to order May 11, 2007:
    While Benedict XVI is too genteel a figure to engage in what political writers call “taking someone to the woodshed,” his speech this afternoon to some 430 Brazilian bishops came about as close as he’s likely to get.

    Wrapped in gratitude for the bishops’ service, and for the warm welcome he’s received in Brazil, Benedict’s message was nonetheless an unambiguous call to order. . . .

    “Wherever God and his will are unknown, wherever faith in Jesus Christ and in his sacramental presence is lacking, the essential element for the solution of pressing social and political problems is also missing," he said.

    For that reason, the pope said, it’s important to teach the faith “without interpretations motivated by a rationalistic ideology.” The bishops, he said, must take care that this doesn’t happen.

    In terms of pastoral programs, Benedict analyzed the problem of Catholic defections to Pentecostal churches, which he called a source of “just concern,” as the result of a lack of evangelization and catechesis which places “Christ and his church at the center of every explanation.” He therefore urged an urgent program of missionary outreach, stressing “personal and communal adhesion to Christ.”

  • Day Three: Benedict holds up a model of authentic liberation theology May 11, 2007:
    Though Benedict did not put it this way, Frei Galvão is an icon of what the pope considers an authentic form of liberation theology: one that puts God and the life of the spirit first, direct charitable care of others second, and only then draws consequences for a just social order.
  • Day Two: Benedict strikes softer tone May 10, 2007:
    If Benedict XVI’s tough comments about excommunication for pro-choice Catholic politicians marked day one of his May 9-13 trip to Brazil, day two had a softer tone, focusing on pastoral moments and issues where church and state in Brazil are in broad agreement.

    In their meeting in a government palace in São Paulo, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Pope Benedict steered clear of potential flash-points such as abortion and contraception, focusing instead on efforts to support families, education, and environmental concerns. . . .

    After lunch with the officers of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, Benedict XVI also held a brief, but highly symbolic, meeting with the emeritus Archbishop of São Paulo, Cardinal Paulo Arns. During the battles over liberation theology in the 1970s and 1980s, Arns and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger often locked horns. When four new dioceses were split off from São Paulo in 1988, in a fashion that Arns himself had opposed, it was widely taken as a sign of Vatican disapproval.

    In that light, Benedict’s choice to put an encounter with Arns on his schedule was seen as a gesture of reconciliation.

  • Day Two: Hopelessness, not Pentecostalism, as Brazil's mega-trend in religion May 10, 2007: Although much conversation surrounding Benedict XVI’s trip to Brazil has focused on defections from the Catholic church to Pentecostalism, Fr. Jose Oscar Beozzo says the more important, albeit less discussed, phenomenon is the striking rise in the percentage of Brazilians with no religious faith at all.

  • Day One: Confusion on communion for pro-choice politicians nothing new May 9, 2007. "Confusion created today on the papal plane – after Pope Benedict XVI appeared to say that politicians who vote in favor of abortion rights should be considered excommunicated, only to have Vatican officials back away from that interpretation – is nothing new. Attempts to discern the mind of Joseph Ratzinger on this question have long been complicated."

  • Day One: The Love/Hate Relationship between Benedict and Liberation Theology May 9, 2007:
    In terms of church politics, Ratzinger’s involvement with debates over liberation theology began even before he arrived in the Vatican. While still the Archbishop of Munich-Freising, Pope John Paul I dispatched him as a papal legate to a Marian congress in Ecuador in September 1978, where Ratzinger cautioned against Marxist ideologies and the theology of liberation. Upon arriving at the Vatican, his struggles with the liberationists quickly became the stuff of ecclesiastical legend.

    Ratzinger always insisted that the problem was not with the motive of liberation theologians, but with efforts to reshape or even bowdlerize the church’s traditional doctrine to make it more “relevant” for desired social outcomes. When one does that, Ratzinger argued, not only is the faith distorted, but the desired social outcomes are never reached. . . .

  • Day One: Transcript of News Conference aboard the Papal Plane May 9, 2007.

  • Day One: Benedict’s ‘now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t’ hard line on pro-choice politicians May 9, 2007:
    During a news conference aboard the papal plane from Rome to São Paulo today, Benedict XVI appeared to significantly tighten the screws on pro-choice Catholic politicians, saying, in effect, that legislators who support pro-abortion measures should be considered excommunicated under church law.

    It was the first time a pope directly asserted that by virtue of voting in favor of a measure expanding abortion rights, a politician excommunicates him or herself.

    Vatican efforts to soften this hard line, however, were quick in coming.

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