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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pope Benedict Roundup!

[I have not blogged a "papal roundup" in quite some time -- January 2008, in fact. What follows is a compilation of news, stories and commentary which caught my eye over the past several months. Enjoy!]
  • Ratzinger's Thesis Seen as Key to Understanding His Papacy: Translation of '57 Work on Bonaventure Published:
    To understand the papacy of Benedict XVI, one should become familiar with his formation as a theologian, affirmed the publishers of Father Joseph Ratzinger's thesis on St. Bonaventure.

    This month in the Antonianum Pontifical University, an Italian translation of young Father Ratzinger's study of St. Bonaventure's theology of history, published in 1957 as part of the priest's preparation for becoming a professor, will be presented by Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.

    Father Pietro Messa, director of the Antonian's faculty of medieval and Franciscan studies, which collaborated in the publication of the translation, explained to ZENIT that current interest in this study is motivated by a desire to understand the thought of the man who is now Pope.

    Cardinal Ratzinger himself discussed his thesis in a Nov. 13, 2000, address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, saying his study of the 13th century theologian uncovered untold aspects about the relationship of the saint "with a new idea of history." ... (Read more).

  • Spe Salvi and Vatican II, by Brian A. Graebe. Homiletic & Pastoral Review March 2008:
    For all of Spe Salvi’s theological depth, however, it is what the encyclical does not say that has engendered no small amount of controversy. As numerous commentators quickly recognized, Spe Salvi contains not a single reference to any of the documents from the Second Vatican Council. Moreover, for one of the four major constitutions of the council, the very title of which contains the word hope (Gaudium et Spes), to be entirely absent from an encyclical devoted to hope begs consideration. Indeed, the omission is glaring: since the close of Vatican II, the four encyclicals of Pope Paul VI and all fourteen encyclicals of Pope John Paul II cite the conciliar documents in abundance. A brief look at the statistical compilation underscores the uniqueness of this omission. ...
  • Exclusive: The Words that Benedict XVI Adds Spontaneously, When He Preaches to the Faithful, by Sandro Magister. www.Chiesa. March 11, 2008. "Textual analyses of five of his most recent Wednesday catechesis, on Saint Augustine. The words that the pope added spontaneously, beyond the written text, are underlined. They're on the themes closest to his heart."

  • "Summorum Pontificum" in the Seminary: Cardinal Rigali on Introducing Seminarians to the 1962 Missal March 14, 2008. Since Benedict XVI has said that the Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII should be available to those who prefer it, seminarians should be taught to say it, says Cardinal Justin Rigali. To learn what some bishops are doing to implement the document in seminaries, ZENIT spoke with Cardinal Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, about his plans to introduce seminarians at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary to the extraordinary form of the Mass.

  • Holy Week: The Hidden Homilies of Pope Benedict www.Chiesa March 26, 2008. Hidden, except for those who were able to listen to them in person: a few thousand out of 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. Here are the complete texts. Required reading for understanding this pontificate.

  • When Your Little Brother Is the Pope Part I of an exclusive interview by Robert Rauhut with Pope Benedict XVI's brother, Georg Ratzinger. National Catholic Register April 15, 2008. "My Brother, The Pope", Part II. May 6, 2008.

  • What do Joseph Ratzinger, Walter Kasper, and Hans Küng have in common?"
    If you said, "They're all German," you'd be wrong: Küng is Swiss. All three, of course, are Catholic theologians and priests. But, to the point: all three also had Dr. Thomas Loome as a student some forty years ago. In an article posted by Press Publications, Dr. Loome—who holds a doctorate in Philosophical Theology from the University of Tübingen, Germany—talks about studying under Fr. Ratzinger ...
    Carl Olson @ Insight Scoop has the story.

  • Pope's Opposition to Euthanasia is Personal: Cousin had Down's and Was Taken by the Nazis LifeSiteNews. April 11, 2008:
    NORTH HAVEN, Connecticut, April 11, 2008 ( - Many people are expecting Pope Benedict XVI to speak out in defense of human life and against abortion during his visit to the United States next week. What few people realize, however, is that the pope knows first-hand what happens when a society refuses to defend the most defenseless of its citizens.

    As a boy of fourteen, Joseph Ratzinger had a cousin who had been born with Down's Syndrome, only a bit younger than himself. In 1941, German state "therapists" came to the boy's house and probably informed the parents of the government regulation that prohibited mentally handicapped children from remaining in their parents' home. In spite of the family's pleas, the representatives of the Nazi state took the child away. The Ratzinger family never saw him again. Later the family learned that he had "died," most likely murdered, for being "undesirable," a blemish in the race and a drain on the productivity of the nation. This was Joseph Ratzinger's first experience of a murderous philosophy that asserts that some people are disposable.

In April (15-20), Pope Benedict XVI made an apostolic visit to the United States of America, visiting Washington D.C. and New York City to commemorate the Bicentennial of the Catholic Church in America.

Several terrific websites were established to provide coverage of the events, including (USCCB), (Tim Drake / National Catholic Register) and Our Sunday Visitor's

The Pope Benedict Fan Club itself devoted an exclusive blog to providing day-by-day coverage of the events:, which is still being updated with post-visit stories and coverage.

  • "Teacher and Witness": Benedict XVI and the United Nations, by John F. Cullinan (National Review April 28, 2008):
    So far most attention has rightly been paid to Benedict’s words and gestures in support of American Catholicsdeeply troubled by the legacy of the sexual abuse crisis and the reality of uncertain episcopal leadership. His pastoral remarks — simple, direct, and accessible — bear his characteristically forthright intellectual and moral imprint. Agree with him or not, there’s no doubt where Benedict stands.

    Benedict’s remarks to the U.N. General Assembly belong to an entirely different genre. His purpose was to explore and develop the first principles that underlie state sovereignty and the international system as a whole. It’s tempting to view these remarks merely as an academic lecture, given Benedict’s long career as a professor and theologian, but it’s more helpful to see his words as a kind of final exam for practitioners of statecraft. For it’s above all an invitation to think through his recommended first principles, apply them to specific cases, and draw appropriate conclusions regarding the proper shape of international order, law, and institutions today. And it’s especially relevant for Americans considering how best to reconcile interests and ideals in U.S. foreign policy.

    In a nutshell, Benedict sketches a familiar natural-law argument that unexpectedly points to some novel and potentiallycontroversial conclusions....READ MORE

  • Deus Caritas Est entrusted to pastors Zenit News. May 1, 2008:
    There is no doubt that "Deus Caritas Est" directs itself to various groups in the Church. Nevertheless, the main burden of responsibility for its implementation in dioceses and parishes is placed squarely on the shoulders of the bishops. It is not only the pastoral realism of the Pope, but also theological reasons that make the ordained pastors the principal target group for the encyclical.
    An excerpt of the April 7 address given by Cardinal Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, to the spring meeting of the bishops' council of England and Wales. The talk titled "'Deus Caritas Est': The Splendor of Charity" is available in its entirety here.

  • Lessons to learn from the papal trip, by John Allen Jr. An address given at the annual World Communications Day luncheon of the Diocese of Brooklyn, hosted by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, in which the veteran Vatican reporter was asked to ruminate on lessons to be learned from the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States:
    At the end of the day, it wasn't stagecraft or slick PR strategies that made the trip a success. It was the gut-level impression of kindness and candor that radiated from the pope. If Catholicism hopes to gain a sympathetic hearing, its capacity to project those two qualities loom as the essential prerequisite.

    Here's the thing, however: It's not enough merely to project kindness and candor. We actually have to be kind and candid -- and that, as any spiritual guide will tell you, is never a "once and for all" deal. It requires daily resolve. Living up to that standard, personally and institutionally, represents perhaps the most lasting challenge left behind by Benedict XVI's six days in America.

  • America magazine reports on Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the ailing Cardinal Avery Dulles ("In All Things" May 16, 2008). The meeting took place in Cardinal Egan's suite in St. Joseph's Seminary, after the Pope's meeting with disabled children. The following account is taken from the New York Jesuits' newsletter, written by Anne Marie Kirmse, O.P., Cardinal Dulles's longtime assistant:
    "The Pope literally bounded into the room with a big smile on his face. He went directly to where Avery was sitting, saying, 'Eminenza, Eminenza, I recall the work you did for the International Theological Committee in the 1990's.' Avery kissed the papal ring and smiled back at the Pope. Then the Pope looked at the people in the room who had accompanied Avery to the Seminary: Fr. Tom Marciniak, who served as Cardinal Dulles's priest-chaplain for the meeting; Sr. Anne-Marie Kirmse, O.P.; and Francine Messiah and Oslyn Fergus of the [Jesuit infirmary's] medical staff. After this warm and friendly exchange of greetings, the Pope sat down next to Avery to hear the remarks that Avery had prepared and which were read for him by Fr. Tom Marciniak. During the presentation, Fr. Tom handed the Pope a copy of Avery's latest book, Church and Society: The Laurence J. McGinley Lectures, 1988-2007, which was published earlier this month by Fordham University Press. The Pope expressed great interest in the book, and even interrupted the reading of the remarks to ask again when the book had been published. He eagerly looked through it, and was touched by Avery's inscription to him. Before leaving, the Pope blessed Avery, assuring him of his prayers, and encouraging him in his sufferings. He then said good-bye in turn to each of the four persons who accompanied Avery."
  • Atheist scholar is ally (with reservations) in Benedict’s fight against relativism National Catholic Reporter May 16, 2008:
    Ever since his famous warning about a “dictatorship of relativism” shortly before his election three years ago, Pope Benedict XVI has been trying to kick-start a global conversation about truth. In particular, Benedict yearns for a new look at truth within the Western secular academy, that exotic region where Jacques Derrida’s relativist maxim “there is nothing outside the text” has, ironically, achieved the status of a near-absolute.

    This weekend, in the enchanting Alpine setting of Lugano, Switzerland, a cross-section of prominent Western intellectuals is taking up the papal challenge. Organized by the Balzan Foundation, which each year awards the Swiss-Italian equivalent of the Nobel Prize, this unique gathering of scientists, philosophers, and eggheads of all stripes, most of them without any specific religious conviction, is titled, simply, “The Truth.”

    I’m in Lugano covering the event. ...

  • The Pope and the Press: Is the Love Affair Here to Stay?" asks Lisa Tomeo (Zenit News May 23, 2008):
    Whether it was HBO’s Bill Maher’s irreverent and downright sacrilegious remarks calling Benedict XVI a Nazi, and referring to the Catholic Church as a cult that houses and protects child molesters -- which he did later apologize for -- or the major broadcast networks of ABC, NBC and CBS referring to the Pope as a conservative, hardliner and traditionalist, the view from the media front did not look good.

    That was, of course, until the Holy Father himself hit the media with a very pro-active one-two punch. Not only was it the Pope who first addressed the fallout from the priest sex abuse scandal here in the United States, but he did it before even landing on American soil. He discussed the sensitive and embarrassing issue during a question-and-answer session with reporters on Shepherd One. And then later in the week he met privately with several victims of the sexual abuse scandal.

    Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, explains it was the Pontiff’s humility and directness concerning the biggest white elephant in the room that may have forced the press to take a closer look at this Pope and make at least some effort to cover him more fairly and at least a bit more gently. ...

  • Ten texts help crack pope's pontificate, mission, ministry, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service:
    The collected talks are now being read and pondered by Catholics across the country who want to delve a little more deeply into the pope's message during his April visit.

    But what about the rest of his pontificate? What about the hundreds of speeches, homilies, encyclicals, messages, prayers and letters that he's produced during the first three years as pope?

    For those unable to keep up with everything Pope Benedict does and says, here is a starting point: a list of 10 fundamental texts that can help people understand the man, his thought and his ministry.

    One caveat: The list makes no claim to be a "top 10," just a useful anthology. And where the works are particularly lengthy, this list indicates specific chapters or passages. ...

  • The Vatican has created an anti-terrorist unit in order to guard the Holy See and the pope from a possible attack, reports the London Telegraph:
    Vatican security forces now include an anti-bomb squad and a rapid response team, according to Domenico Giani, the head of the Holy See's 130-man gendarmerie [in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper].

    "The rapid response team will carry out investigations across the spread of information channels and will be supported by a sophisticated technical team. It will be able to intervene immediately in case of danger," said Mr Gianni.

    "The second group is made up of highly-specialised experts, armed with sophisticated and innovative technology," he added.

    He said the two teams would not be confined to the Vatican, but would also travel with the pope.

    The Swiss Guards have also been given anti-terrorism training, and now carry SIG P75 pistols and Heckler-Koch MP5 sub-machine guns, as well as their traditional halberds.

    An unfortunate "sign of the times." Via A Catholic View).

  • President George W. Bush paid a visit to the Vatican to see Pope Benedict during his European tour. (Video). To demonstrate his appreciation for the birthday party at the White House, the Pope received the President in the medieval Saint John's Tower, followed by a stroll through the Vatican gardens.

    The Pope and President Bush gave each other the same gift: a framed photograph of the Pope's visit to the White House.

    According to the Vatican, the two discussed the Middle East peace process, the food crisis and other international issues, the Vatican said. The pontiff also thanked Bush for his "commitment in defence of fundamental moral values."

World Youth Day 2008

  • A website for international pilgrims has been launched as Sydney nears the 50-day mark in the countdown to World Youth Day:
    The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, has launched the site which will release news in English and Spanish.

    The website is a project of Towards 2008 - the national student and young adult campaign for WYD2008.

    World Youth Day, which will include a visit by Pope Benedict XVI Joseph Ratzinger, will be held from July 15-20.

    Organisers are expecting around 125,000 registered pilgrims from overseas, plus a further 100,000 from all parts of Australia, to converge on Sydney for the six-day Catholic event.

  • XT3 is the official "social networking" site for World Youth Day Sydney and Beyond - Attention Catholic youth! " is a site to help you connect with other young people interested in knowing more about the Catholic faith, to plug in to the Church and get to know what's going on in your area. If you are going to WYD use Xt3 to connect with millions, make new friends, and keep in touch with those you meet there." Kind of like Facebook, only without the trash.

The Pope's Third Encyclical

The tentative title of the Pope's third encyclical is “Caritas in Veritate,” “Love In Truth”, reports La Repubblica. It's focus will be on Catholic social teaching, touching on issues as varied as poverty, peace, wars, international cooperation, energy sources, and globalization.

According to Cardinal Bertone, the Pope will complete his third encyclical over the European summer, with publication scheduled in the fall:

In his encyclical, the cardinal said, "[Pope Benedict] does not want to repeat obvious truths of Catholic social teaching," but will apply Church teachings to contemporary problems.

Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli reported last week that the committee working with the Pope on the encyclical includes the Pope's recently named successor as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Reinhard Marx, a specialist in Catholic social teaching, the top two officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, and Stefano Zamagni, a lay Italian economist.



  • The Lyceum Society of Vermont is set to host a luncheon and symposium on Pope Benedict XVI. On August 16, 2008 the Society will host “The Christian Humanism of Pope Benedict XVI” at the Hoehl Center at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. The event is set to feature Dr. John P. Kenney of Saint Michael’s College, Dr. Thomas Albert Howard of the Jerusalem and Athens Forum at Gordon College, and Dr. Jeffrey O. Nelson, President of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (Dr. Nelson is a son-in-law to the late great traditionalist scholar and social critic Russell Kirk).

On a Lighter Note...

  • Pope loves kosher cake March 26, 2008:
    A famous kosher Italian bakery has an important local patron: Pope Benedict XVI.

    Wilma Limentani, the owner of the Boccione bakery in Rome's ancient ghetto, said she recently received a letter of thanks from the Vatican revealing the pope's love for her biscotti and an almond-and-raisin confection dubbed "Jewish pizza."

    One of the pope's doctors -- a Jew who stopped by the 453-year-old bakery en route to administering a routine checkup of the pontiff -- introduced the pastries to Benedict.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Pope Benedict Roundup!

  • 12/01/07 - In his December 2nd Angelus, Benedict took the opportunity to summarize his second encyclical, Spe Salvi ("Saved in Hope"):
    [In Romans 8:24] . . . the word “hope” is closely connected with the word “faith.” It is a gift that changes the life of those who receive it, as the experience of so many saints demonstrates. In what does this hope consist that is so great and so “trustworthy” as to make us say that “in it” we have “salvation”?

    In substance it consists in the knowledge of God, in the discovery of his heart as a good and merciful Father. Jesus, with his death on the cross and his resurrection, has revealed to us his countenance, the countenance of a God so great in love as to communicate to us an indestructible hope, a hope that not even death can crack, because the life of those who entrust themselves to this Father always opens up to the perspective of eternal beatitude.

    The development of modern science has confined faith and hope more and more to the private and individual sphere, so much so that today it appears in an evident way, and sometimes dramatically, that the world needs God -- the true God! -- otherwise it remains deprived of hope. Science contributes much to the good of humanity -- without a doubt -- but it is not able to redeem humanity.

    Man is redeemed by love, which renders social life good and beautiful. Because of this the great hope, that one that is full and definitive, is guaranteed by God, by God who is love, who has visited us in Jesus and given his life to us, and in Jesus he will return at the end of time.

    It is in Christ that we hope and it is him that we await! With Mary, his Mother, the Church goes out to meet the Bridegroom: She does this with works of charity, because hope, like faith, is demonstrated in love.

  • 12/05/07 - Benedict announced that he will grant the faithful a plenary indulgence for the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes []. At the blog Hermeneutic of Continuity, Fr Tim Finigan discusses the meaning of plenary indulgences and the conditions for meeting them).

  • 12/11/07 - Pope Benedict released his message for the World Day of Peace, to be celebrated Jan. 1, 2008. His theme: "The Human Family, a Community of Peace":
    ... The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman, constitutes “the primary place of ‘humanization' for the person and society”(3), and a “cradle of life and love”. The family is therefore rightly defined as the first natural society, “a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order”.

    Indeed, in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace.

    Zenit News Service interviewed Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, on the environmental aspects of the Holy Father's message:
    In his message for the World Day of Peace, Benedict XVI emphasized that “today humanity fears for future ecological equilibrium.”

    According to Father Lombardi, “the Pope links a powerful moral appeal to solidarity, on the basis of the recognition of a universal destination of the goods of creation, that also takes the poor and future generations into account.”

    The Vatican spokesman says that the Pope “invites dialogue, serious scientific study of the problems without ‘ideological escalation,' wisdom in the research on ‘models of sustainable development’ and -- with significant concreteness -- he proposes an intensified dialogue between nations on the ‘management of the planets energy resources.’”

    Unfortunately, some in the media (true to form) attempted to stir up some controversy; the UK Daily Mail reported the story with headlines screaming "The Pope condemns the climate change prophets of doom!" (see American Papist's analysis: Did the Pope condemn climate change? and John Allen Jr.'s "Benedict paints a Catholic shade of green" (National Catholic Reporter December 11, 2007).

  • 12/12/07 - Pope Benedict receives his official portrait from a Russian Orthodox artist. Zenit News reports:
    Tsarkova is the first woman to be an official Vatican portrait painter. Pope John Paul II was the subject of her first official papal work. She painted him during the Jubilee Year 2000 and that portrait now hangs in the Vatican Museums.

    The private audience, which was supposed to last five minutes, lasted for 20, as Tsarkova explained the "secrets" in the painting -- specifically the angels that adorn the papal throne, which, she said, "come to life."

    Tsarkova said the angels seemed to be the Pope's favorite aspect of the portrait, noting that in his recent discourse on the role of bishops, he compared their work to that of the angels, God's messengers.

    Tsarkova said she wanted the painting to be symbolic. "The Holy Father," she said, "is seated on a throne and surrounded by angels and is symbolically resting upon them, a sign of the support they give him in his ministry."

    "In his hand, the Pope is holding a book of his discourses as a sign of his dialogue with the modern world," the artist continued. "This is a sign of peace because it is through dialogue that we can achieve peace."

    (See also: , by Elizabeth Lev. Zenit News Agency. December 14, 2007; Video of the unveiling; Profile: Natalia Tsarkova [in Italian]).

  • 12/13/07 - Speaking to university students of Rome, Pope Benedict spiritually entrusted his second encyclical to the young people of the world:
    After a Mass celebrated by the Pontiff's vicar for Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Holy Father addressed the young people: "I spiritually entrust [the encyclical] to you, dear university students of Rome, and through you, to the entire world of the university, the school, culture and of education.

    "Is the theme of hope perhaps not particularly suitable for youth?"

    He continued: "I propose to you that you reflect, individually and in groups, on that part of the encyclical which speaks about hope in the modern age.

    Click here for the full text of Benedict's address to the university students of Rome.

  • 12/17/07 - Speaking to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, Pope Benedict admonished them: "All those who work in the causes of saints are called to place themselves at the exclusive service of truth":
    "Through beatifications and canonizations," Benedict XVI added, the Church "gives thanks to God for the gift of those of his children who have responded generously to divine grace, honoring them and invoking them as intercessors." And the Church "presents these shining examples for the imitation of all the faithful, called through baptism to sanctity, which is the aim and goal of every state of life."

    At the same time, he said, "ecclesial communities come to realize the need, even in our own time, of witnesses capable of incarnating the perennial truth of the Gospel in the real circumstances of life, making it an instrument of salvation for the entire world."

    The Holy Father added: "Saints, if correctly presented in their spiritual dynamism and historical reality, contribute to making the word of the Gospel and the mission of the Church more believable and attractive. Contact with them opens the way to true spiritual resurrection, lasting conversion and the flowering of new saints.

  • 12/18/07 - Pope Benedict XVI created a special panel to study the possible sainthood of a predecessor, Pius XII, although the media is divided as to his motives for doing so. According to Agence France-Presse:
    "The pope does not want to sign and intends to keep a close watch over this sensitive issue," a Vatican source told I-media news agency, which specializes in coverage of the Holy See.

    "The best way to postpone a decision is to create a special commission."

    ; Reuters, on the other hand, has a different perspective:
    Il Giornale reported that Benedict has decided to set up a committee in his Secretariat of State, the Vatican's diplomatic section, to review old documents from the World War Two period and study new ones that have come to light. [...]

    Last May, the Vatican's saint-making department voted in favour of a decree recognising Pius's "heroic virtues", a major hurdle in a long process toward sainthood that began in 1967.

    But Benedict has so far not approved the decree, meaning that the process is effectively stalled and that Pius cannot move on to beatification, or the last step before sainthood.

    Il Giornale reporter Andrea Tornielli, who has written four books about Pius, said the Vatican was not questioning his holiness but was concerned about the wider ramifications of making him a saint too soon.

    For more information see Pope Pius XII, the Catholic Church and the Holocaust, an archive of news and commentary.
  • 12/19/07 - Donna Hobson, director of publications at the Catholic University of America, unveiled the logo for Pope Benedict's 2008 papal visit to the United States:
    The theme reflects the Holy Father's new encyclical, "Spe Salvi," an invitation for people to personally encounter Jesus Christ. In the encyclical, the Pontiff said that faith in Christ brings well-founded hope in eternal salvation, the "great hope" that can sustain people through the trials of this world.

    The logo features a full color photograph of Benedict XVI waving both hands. Behind him is a yellow-screened image of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. In black type running at the top and over the cupola of the dome are three lines of type reading "Pope Benedict XVI/Christ Our Hope/Apostolic Journey to the United States 2008."

  • 12/21/07 - Exchanging traditional Christmas greetings with cardinals, bishops and members of the Curia, Pope Benedict recalled some highlights of 2007 -- and with particular fondness his trip to Brazil (Zenit News):
    Referring to his encounter with young people in São Paolo, he observed: "There are mass events which have the single effect of self-affirmation, in which people allow themselves to be carried away by rhythm and sounds, and end up deriving joy merely from themselves.

    "On that occasion [in Brazil], however, [...] the profound communion which spontaneously arose between us caused us, by being with one another, to be for one another. It was not an escape from daily life, but became a source of strength for accepting life in a new way."

    Recalling the May 11 canonization of Brazilian St. Antônio de Santa'Ana Galvão, the Pope said, "Each saint who enters into history represents a small portion of Christ's return, a renewal of his entrance into time, showing us his image in a new light and making us sure of his presence."

    "Jesus Christ does not belong to the past," the Holy Father affirmed, "and he is not confined to a distant future. [...] Together with his saints, he is [...] journeying toward us, toward our today."

    Turning to his meeting with Brazilian bishops, the Pope highlighted how "the experience of 'effective and affectionate collegiality' of fraternal communion in the shared ministry led us to feel the joy of catholicity. Over and above all geographical and cultural confines we are brothers, together with the risen Christ who has called us to his service."

    Pope Benedict also commented on the theme of the General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean ("Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, So That Our Peoples May Have Life in Him"):
    "Those who have recognized a great truth, those who have discovered a great joy," he said, "must pass it on, they cannot keep it to themselves. [...] In order to reach fulfillment, history needs the announcement of the good news to all peoples, to all men and women. How important it is for forces of reconciliation, of peace, of love and of justice to come together in humanity.

    "And this is what happens in the Christian mission. Through the encounter with Jesus Christ and his saints, [humankind] is re-equipped with those forces for good without which none of our plans for social order is realized but, faced with the enormous pressure of other interests contrary to peace and justice, remain as abstract theories."

    (Click here for a roundup of Benedict's May 2007 Apostolic Visit to Brazil).

  • 12/24/07 - Muslim scholars sent Christmas greetings, responding to the Pope's invitation for a major dialogue session at the Vatican in 2008:
    A letter from Jordan's Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, architect of the Muslim scholars' project, said the group planned to send representatives to the Vatican in February or March to work out details of the dialogue.

    The letter, dated Dec. 12 and addressed to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, thanked the pope for inviting the Muslim experts to meet with him and for the pontiff's personal encouragement of the dialogue initiative. [...]

    The prince's letter said that although the Muslim scholars think that complete theological agreement between Christians and Muslims is impossible by definition, they do wish to seek a common stand based on areas of agreement -- "whether we wish to call this kind of dialogue 'theological' or 'spiritual' or something else."

    The Muslim response was the latest in a series of cooperative steps that began in October, when 138 Muslim scholars addressed a letter to the pope and other Christian leaders. [...]

    The message noted the recent close of the Muslim feast of the hajj or pilgrimage, which commemorates the faith of the Prophet Abraham. It said God's refusal of the sacrifice of Abraham's son reminds all followers of the Abrahamic faiths to "do their utmost to save, uphold and treasure every single human life and especially the lives of every single child."

    It pointed out that Muslim scholars recently issued a declaration affirming "the sanctity of human life -- of every human life -- as an essential and foundational teaching in Islam that all Muslim scholars are in unanimous agreement upon."

    The Christmas greeting offered a prayer that the new year may bring "healing and peace to our suffering world" and "mutual forgiveness within and between communities."

    For further details on this story and links to past reporting, see: Pope Benedict Responds to "A Common Word" (Muslim Invitation to Dialogue) November 29, 2007.

    For an appraisal of the state of Muslim-Christian relations and the coming meeting, see Fr. Samir Khalil's Benedict XVI's improbable dialogue with 138 Muslim scholars January 9, 2008 and The Cardinal Writes, the Prince Responds. The Factors that Divide the Pope from the Muslims, by Sandro Magister. www.Chiesa. January 2, 2008.

  • 12/25/07 - On Christmas day Pope Benedict XVI received holiday greetings from . . . Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?:
    "Hereby, I felicitate Christians, monotheists and justice seekers throughout the world on the auspicious birthday of Jesus Christ (PBUH)," an official message sent to the Roman Catholic Leader on Tuesday read.

    Jesus Christ was chosen by God to bring blessing to all human beings. The very essence of his teachings contained monotheism, justice, passion and kindness, the message added.

    "His Holiness is well informed that all divine religions seek to promote the same reality. Their paths all pass through monotheism and the promotion of moral values," the message said.

    Shortly thereafter, the President of Iran returned to his favorite pasttimes of heaping scorn upon the United States and Israel.

Christmas 2007


  • 01/04/08 - In what had to be one of the funniest headlines of the year, Peter Popham of The Independent fumes "Science bows to theology as the Pope dismantles Vatican observatory" -- the brutal fist of the Roman Catholic Church dealing a crushing blow to academic freedom? Well, not quite:
    [The Church is] dismantling of the astronomical observatory that has been part of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, for more than 75 years. The Pope needs more room to receive diplomats so the telescopes have to go.

    The eviction of the astronomers and their instruments, reported by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, and their removal to a disused convent a mile away, marks the end of a period of intimacy between popes and priest-astronomers that has lasted well over a century.

    Father Jose G Funes, the present director of the observatory, known as the Specola Vaticana, insisted that there was no sinister significance in the move. "It is not a downgrading of science in the Vatican," he said. "To remain within the palace would have had only a symbolic significance, whereas where we are going we will be even more comfortable.

  • 01/01/08 - On New Year's Day Pope Benedict greeted more than 2 million participants in a pro-family march in Madrid, urging them to be witnesses "of the beauty of human love". Zenit News reports:
    The event in Madrid was organized by the archdiocese with the support of ecclesial movements as well as pro-life and pro-family organizations.

    Addressing the participants in Spanish, the Holy Father said: "I invite all Christian families to experience the loving presence of the Lord in their lives. I encourage them, inspired by love of Christ for all mankind, to give witness before the world of the beauty of human love, marriage and family.

    "This, founded in the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, constitutes the privileged environment in which human life is welcomed and protected, from its beginning until its natural end."

    The Pontiff underlined the "right and fundamental obligation" of parents "to educate their children, in the faith and in the values that dignify human existence."

    "It is worth it to work for the family and marriage," continued Benedict XVI, "because it is worth it to work for the human being, the most valuable being created by God."

  • 01/04/08 - Pope Benedict visited with nuns at the Missionaries of Charity in Rome, commending them on their work and the witness of their founder:
    "For many years, when I was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I would spend several hours of the day near your praiseworthy institution, desired by my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, and entrusted by him to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta," Benedict XVI said. "Thus, I was able to appreciate the generous service of Gospel charity which the Missionaries of Charity have been carrying out for almost 20 years now with the help and collaboration of many people of good will."

    The Holy Father reflected on Blessed Teresa's desire to call the house Gift of Mary, "hoping, as it were, that it might always be possible to experience in it the love of the Blessed Virgin."

    "For anyone who knocks at the door, it is in fact a gift of Mary to feel welcomed by the loving arms of the sisters and volunteers," he said. "The presence of those who are ready to listen to people in difficulty and serve them with that very attitude which impelled Mary to go straightaway to St. Elizabeth is another gift of Mary.

    "May this style of Gospel love always seal and distinguish your vocation so that, in addition to material aid, you may communicate to all whom you meet daily on your path that same passion for Christ and that shining 'smile of God' which enlivened Mother Teresa's life."

  • 01/07/08 - During his address to ambassadors to the Holy See, Benedict emphasized the need for security and protection from purveyors of weapons of mass destruction:
    . . . I wish to urge the international community to make a global commitment on security. A joint effort on the part of States to implement all the obligations undertaken and to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would undoubtedly strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and make it more effective. I welcome the agreement reached on the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, and I encourage the adoption of suitable measures for the reduction of conventional weapons and for dealing with the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions.
    Taking note of the current crisis with Iran's nuclear program, Benedict urged "for continued and uninterrupted pursuit of the path of diplomacy in order to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear programme, by negotiating in good faith, adopting measures designed to increase transparency and mutual trust, and always taking account of the authentic needs of peoples and the common good of the human family."
  • 01/09/08 - Pope Benedict devoted his January 9th general audience on the life of "the greatest Father of the Latin Church": St. Augustine of Hippo:
    This man of passion and faith, of the highest intelligence and tireless in his pastoral care, a great Saint and Doctor of the Church is often known, at least by hearsay, even by those who ignore Christianity or who are not familiar with it, because he left a very deep mark on the cultural life of the West and on the whole world. Because of his special importance St Augustine's influence was widespread. It could be said on the one hand that all the roads of Latin Christian literature led to Hippo (today Annaba, on the coast of Algeria), the place where he was Bishop from 395 to his death in 430, and, on the other, that from this city of Roman Africa, many other roads of later Christianity and of Western culture itself branched out.

    A civilization has seldom encountered such a great spirit who was able to assimilate Christianity's values and exalt its intrinsic wealth, inventing ideas and forms that were to nourish the future generations, as Paul VI also stressed: "It may be said that all the thought-currents of the past meet in his works and form the source which provides the whole doctrinal tradition of succeeding ages."

  • 01/14/08 - Pope Benedict gave public witness to his teachings on the liturgy when he celebrated mass ad orientem - Catholic News Agency reports:
    Vatican City, Jan 15, 2008 / 04:22 am (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on Sunday in the Sistine Chapel, using the church’s original altar beneath Michelangelo’s depiction of the Last Judgment instead of the removable altar used by Pope John Paul II.

    The Vatican’s office for liturgical celebrations issued a statement saying the decision to use the old altar was used to respect "the beauty and the harmony of this architectural jewel."

    Using the old altar meant that Pope Benedict occasionally celebrated the liturgy with his back to the people, a posture called “ad orientem” or “towards the east” in the traditional phrasing. It was the first time Mass had been celebrated in the Chapel in such a way since the Second Vatican Council, which took place between 1962 and 1965.

    The choice echoes part of the Pope’s reintroduction of traditional liturgical practices, some of which were phased out by the Second Vatican Council.

    Shawn Tribe @ The New Liturgical Movement offers photographs and commentary on this momentous event:
    The liturgy celebrated is that of the Baptism of the Lord. Baptism, of course, is the beginning of new life and the initiation into Christian life and perhaps in a fitting bit of symbolism, the Pope has sent forth a clear message, a re-baptism if you will of the place of common sacred, liturgical direction in the life of the church.

    While the Council itself never abolished this ancient liturgical practice of the Christian East and West, and while liturgical law has always allowed this, as I have said before, the example -- and particularly the public example -- of the Pope does matter for Catholics. This is a teaching moment and it can be reasonably expected that this will send a clear message that ad orientem is conciliar and has a central, normal place in the liturgical life of the Church.

    As Rich Leonardi remarked, a case of "Do as I say and I do".

    Turning to the thought of the Holy Father himself on this matter, from chapter 3 of The Spirit of the Liturgy, here is then-Cardinal Ratzinger on "The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer"; and Pope Benedict's Foreword to U.M. Lang's Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer.


  • Fr. James V. Schall on Pope Benedict and the Defense of Reason - Interview with Ken Masugi for the Claremont Review of Books December 13, 2007. This interview covers the relationship between reason and faith and its political implications. It explores the themes of the Pope's recent encyclical on hope (Spe Salvi) and Fr. Schall's most recent books.

  • "Jesus of Nazareth" Gets a Special Reviewer: The Vicar of the Man Who Wrote It, by Sandro Magister. www.Chiesa December 14, 2007. How cardinal Camillo Ruini explained to the priests of Rome the book by Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI. Including its political applications, which are never sacred and definitive, but always must be "re-elaborated, reformulated, and corrected."

  • 07/07/07: the Church changed forever, by by Damian Thompson. The Telegraph December 26, 2007:
    There is only one candidate for my religious highlight of 2007: that glorious day in July when Pope Benedict XVI healed a disastrous rift in the history of the Western Church by restoring the ancient Latin Mass to its full dignity.

  • The Ratzinger Revolution continues -- in November, the Telegraph announced that the Pope was intending on "purging" the Vatican of modern music:
    The Pope is considering a dramatic overhaul of the Vatican in order to force a return to traditional sacred music.

    After reintroducing the Latin Tridentine Mass, the Pope wants to widen the use of Gregorian chant and baroque sacred music.

    In an address to the bishops and priests of St Peter's Basilica, he said that there needed to be "continuity with tradition" in their prayers and music.

    He referred pointedly to "the time of St Gregory the Great", the pope who gave his name to Gregorian chant.

    Gregorian chant has been reinstituted as the primary form of singing by the new choir director of St Peter's, Father Pierre Paul.

    Related reading: Cardinal Ratzinger on Liturgical Music, by Michael J. Miller. Homiletic & Pastoral Review July 2000; "Music and the Liturgy" excerpt from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's The Spirit of the Liturgy.

  • Pope gets radical and woos the Anglicans, by Damian Thompson. Telegraph November 15, 2007:
    The 80-year-old Pontiff is planning a purification of the Roman liturgy in which decades of trendy innovations will be swept away. This recovery of the sacred is intended to draw Catholics closer to the Orthodox and ultimately to heal the 1,000 year Great Schism. But it is also designed to attract vast numbers of conservative Anglicans, who will be offered the protection of the Holy Father if they covert en masse.

    The liberal cardinals don't like the sound of it at all. . . .

    After discussing the devious tactics some bishops have used in their attmepts to frustrate Benedict XVI's "reform of the reform," Thompson relays this bit of news:
    Last month, the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion, a network of 400,000 breakaway Anglo-Catholics based mainly in America and the Commonwealth, wrote to Rome asking for "full, corporate, sacramental union".

    Their letter was drafted with the help of the Vatican. Benedict is overseeing the negotiations. Unlike John Paul II, he admires the Anglo-Catholic tradition. He is thinking of making special pastoral arrangements for Anglican converts walking away from the car wreck of the Anglican Communion.

    This would mean that they could worship together, free from bullying by local bishops who dislike the newcomers' conservatism and would rather "dialogue" with Anglicans than receive them into the Church.

On a Lighter Note

Special thanks to The Pope Benedict Forum for keeping up with the news of the Holy Father (and for the engaging discussions); and to Thomas Peters (American Papist), Teresa Polk (Blog By The Sea) and Gerald Augustinus (The Cafeteria is Closed) for their devotion to "papal blogging."


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pope Benedict Roundup!

  • In August, Pope Benedict turned down a personal request from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to meet with him en route on her visit of the Middle East, a move which some liberal critics at the time interpreted as a "diplomatic snub". The Vatican, however, quelled such idle gossip and foolish speculation (Catholic News Service, September 20, 2007):
    "The only reason she wasn't received was that she came during a period when the pope doesn't receive anyone. It was a purely technical question of protocol," an informed Vatican source told Catholic News Service Sept. 20.

    The source said it was "absolutely not" the Vatican's intention to rebuff Rice or signal disagreement with U.S. policy on the Middle East.

    Rice was about to travel to the Middle East for diplomatic talks in early August when the request for a papal meeting was made. The pope was vacationing at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome.

    Even as it declined the request, the source said, the Vatican made it clear that top officials of the Vatican's Secretariat of State would be happy to meet with Rice at any time.

  • In September Pope Benedict's brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger attended a Latin Mass in Regensburg. The blog Catholic Church Conservation has the photos and details.

  • On September 1-2, 2007, Pope Benedict visited Loreto, Italy. Here is the official website for the visit in Italian and, from the Vatican, documentation of the Pastoral Visit to Loreto on the occasion of the Agorà of the Italian youth, with links to his homilies and addresses.

    Blog By the Sea provides a comprehensive roundup as well.

  • September 7-9th, of course, was the Holy Father's seventh apostolic journey to Austria, to to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the Marian shrine at Mariazell -- a subject of a separate roundup at our Benedict Blog.

  • On September 9, 2007, Shimon Peres, in his first foreign visit as president of Israel, met with Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo and members of the Vatican curia, to discuss Catholic-Israeli relations and the situation in the Middle East. reports:
    Rome (AsiaNews) – The Israeli President Shimon Peres is “quite optimistic” regarding negotiations between Israel and the Holy See and has declared that “within the years end the most important problems will be resolved”. Answering a question put forward by AsiaNews, during a press conference, he also said that he had invited Benedict XVI to visit Israel. ...

    On the long standing question of the implementation of the Fundamental Agreement, 13 years on from its signing, the Holy See statement urges “a rapid conclusion to the important ongoing negotiations and the beginning of a constant dialogue with Israeli Authorities and local Christian communities, in view of their participation in working for the common good”.

    September 3 last –after a long summer pause – and after years of deadlock, negotiations between the Holy See and Israel recommenced. They aim to lead to an agreement regarding issues of taxation and Church properties, which have been waiting implementation since ’93.

    The Vatican statement makes no reference whatsoever to a possible visit by Benedict XVI to Israel, even if the pope has already expressed a positive opinion in the past. Peres told journalists that he was “moved” by the pope’s reaction to his proposal and defined Benedict XVI as “great spiritual figure”, underlining that “the Spirit” incarnated in the religions can give an important impulse to peace and the elimination of violence, “assassins and killings”.

    For background on this story we refer you to: Israel-Vatican Relations & The Fundamental Agreement Against The Grain February 12, 2007.

  • On September 17, Benedict XVI welcomed the news that the cause for beatification of Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân has opened Zenit News Service:
    The Holy Father said: "I gladly take this occasion to recall, once more, the luminous witness of faith that this heroic pastor left us. Bishop Francis Xavier -- as he liked to introduce himself -- was called to the house of the Father during the autumn of 2002, after a long period of sickness that he faced with total abandonment to God's will."

    The Pontiff called Cardinal Van Thuân a "man of hope" and noted that it was this virtue that enabled him to endure physical and moral difficulties, including 13 years spent in prison.

    Benedict XVI also noted the cardinal's focus on the present moment.

    "Cardinal Van Thuân loved to repeat that the Christian is a man of now, of the present moment, to welcome and live with Christ’s love," the Holy Father said. "In this ability to live the present moment his intimate abandonment in God’s hands shines through as does the evangelical simplicity which we all admired in him.

    "Is it possible -- he would ask -- that he who trusts in the Father would refuse to let himself be embraced in his arms?"

    Here is the full text of Benedict's address on the opening of the cause for Cardinal Van Thuân.

  • On September 19, the Vatican confirmed Pope Benedict's visit to the United States in April 2008 (Catholic World News). Plans for the papal trip were confirmed in November with an announcement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: Pope to visit Ground Zero, Yankee Stadium Newsday November 12, 2007):
    The six-day trip will include an address to the United Nations -- at the invitation of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon -- as well as a visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where Pope Benedict will meet with bishops of the United States. He will visit the White House on April 16.

    The pope will visit Ground Zero on the final day of his trip, Archbishop Pietro Sambi told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday, and say a public Mass at Yankee Stadium on April 20. [Full intinerary and roundup from American Papist]

    Ratzinger last visited the United States in 1988, then at the invitation of Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus -- at that time still a Lutheran pastor -- to deliver a paper on biblical criticism. His stay was met with no small amount of controversy and heckling by gay demonstrators. For details, see: Pope Benedict XVI: Grace Under Fire Against The Grain August 31, 2007.

  • On September 27, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI praised the example of Pope Paul VI. Attending a concert on the 110th anniversary of his birth, Benedict heralded his predecessor:
    The Holy Father said his predecessor was "prudent and courageous in guiding the Church with realism and evangelical optimism, fueled by indomitable faith."

    He said that Paul VI "hoped for the coming of the 'civilization of love,' convinced that evangelical charity constitutes the indispensable element for building an authentic universal brotherhood."

    “Only Christ, true God and true man, can convert the human soul and render it capable of contributing to the realization of a just and supportive society," Benedict XVI added. "Let us pray that his example and his teachings will be an encouragement and stimulus for us to love Christ and the Church more and more, enlivened by that indomitable hope that sustained Paul VI until his death."

  • October 9, 2007 - Catholic News Agency: Five towns in the Italian Alps have sent a 115 foot-tall Italian fir tree to Benedict XVI to be used as the Vatican Christmas Tree, as a sign of the “generosity and religiosity” of the region.

  • October 16, 2007 - Pope completes second encyclical, a meditation on Christian hope, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service:
    Pope Benedict XVI has completed his second encyclical, a meditation on Christian hope, Vatican sources said.

    The text, tentatively titled "Spe Salvi" ("Saved by Hope"), is about 65 pages, sources said Oct. 16. No release date has been set for the document.

    The working title comes from St. Paul's letter to the Romans, in which he wrote: "For in hope we have been saved." The encyclical is said to explore the Christian understanding of hope, with reference to modern philosophy and the challenges of disbelief.

    The pope worked on the encyclical this summer, when he had time to write during his sojourns in northern Italy and at his villa outside Rome. At the same time, he was working on a third encyclical that deals with social themes, Vatican officials said.

  • On October 17, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI announced the creation of 23 new cardinals, including 2 Americans. Thomas Peters (American Papist) provides a comprehensive roundup of coverage and a full list of the designees:
    Among the cardinals-designate are two Americans: Abp. Foley (widely predicted to be nominated) and ... Archbishop Daniel Nicholas DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, in an upset over Washington DC's Archbishop Donald Wuerl.

    Why is the appointment of cardinals a revealing event? John Allen explains: "Whenever a pope names new members to the church’s most exclusive club, he inevitably makes a statement – about his own priorities, about where the church is going, and ultimately about the sort of men in line to take over when he’s gone."

  • October 18, 2007 - A New Musical Season Opens at the Vatican – And Here's the Program, by Sandro Magister (www.chiesa): "In the span of just a few days, a series of events have unfolded at the Vatican which, taken all together, foretell new provisions – at the pope's behest – to foster the rebirth of great sacred music. . . ."

  • October 21, 2007 - Pope Benedict attended the inaugeration of the 21st International Encounter of Peoples and Religions. The meeting, organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio in Naples until Oct. 23, has as its theme "Toward a World Without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue." John Allen, Jr. reported on the Pope's meeting with other religious leaders:
    Addressing leaders of other religions meeting today in Naples, Pope Benedict XVI called upon the world’s religions to be “artisans of the civilization of love.” Never, Benedict said, can religious faith legitimately be invoked to justify hatred or violence.

    The pope vowed that the Catholic church “intends to continue to pursue the path of dialogue,” while “respecting the differences among the various religions.” He spoke at the Capodimonte Seminary in Naples, flanked by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. . . .

    Benedict invoked the memory of Pope John Paul II’s 1986 summit of religious leaders in Assisi – ironically, an event about which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger expressed reservations on the grounds that it could inadvertently promote a form of religious relativism, in which one religion seems as good as another.

    As Benedict XVI spoke, a large picture of John Paul II seated alongside the Dalai Lama and other religious leaders during the Assisi gathering in 1986 was visible over his left shoulder.

    While praising the 1986 event, Benedict XVI did not repeat John Paul II’s moment of silent prayer in the company of other religious leaders.

    While Benedict stressed inter-religious cooperation, he did not enter into details of how these relationships might move forward. Some observers thought the pope might make reference to a recent letter from 138 Muslim leaders, for example, which attempted to lay out the basis for further theological dialogue.

    Instead, Benedict simply expressed a “lively wish” that a spirit of dialogue will spread, “above all where tensions are most strong, where liberty and respect for others are negated, and where men and women suffer the consequences of intolerance and incomprehension.”

    Here is the full text of Pope Benedict XVI's address to religious leaders in Naples.

  • October 29, 2007 - Pope Benedict challenges pharmacists to refuse to dispense abortion pill Catholic News Agency:
    An international gathering of Catholic pharmacists was received by Pope Benedict today at the Vatican. In his talk with them, the Holy Father insisted that health professionals must be allowed the right to exercise conscientious objection when it comes to dispensing drugs that cause abortion or euthanasia— words that are sure to impact the debate about the abortion pill in the U.S.

    The Pope reminded the pharmacists that protecting human life from conception until natural death is part of their job. Benedict also encouraged them "to reflect upon the ever broader functions they are called to undertake, especially as intermediaries between doctor and patient," and upon their role in educating patients "in the correct use of medications" and in informing them of "the ethical implications of the use of particular drugs."

    American Papist provides expanded coverage of this address.

  • On October 29, Pope Benedict participated in the largest mass beatification in history of 498 Spanish Civil War martyrs. Catholic News Service reports:
    ... "This martyrdom in ordinary life is an important witness in today's secularized society," he said.

    The beatified were killed in the years 1934, 1936, and 1937. They include two bishops, 24 priests, 462 members of religious orders, a deacon, a sub-deacon, a seminarian, and seven lay Catholics. The breadth of the persecution was also reflected in the range of their ages with the youngest being 16 and the oldest 71.

    Seven thousand clergy are estimated to have died in the persecutions.

    The violence came from leftist groups who saw the Church as a symbol of wealth, repression, and inequality. Their continual attacks helped provoke General Francisco Franco into rebellion against the elected left-wing government. The civil war lasted from 1936 to 1939, after which the victorious Franco ruled as dictator for forty years.

    According to the Catholic News Service, the ceremony was not without controversy:
    As the Vatican beatification Mass was ending, a group of young Roman leftists, calling themselves the "Militants," marched in front of Rome's Basilica of St. Eugene, a church entrusted to the care of Prelature of Opus Dei, the predominantly lay movement founded in Spain.

    The protesters carried a banner that read, "One who has killed, tortured and exploited cannot be beatified." They also carried a large copy of Pablo Picasso's anti-war painting, "Guernica." [NOTE: See Torture in his history taints Spanish martyr's beatification, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter October 12, 2004].

    The Italian news agency ANSA reported that a scuffle broke out when several parishioners tried to confiscate the banner and painting. Police were called to break up the confrontation.

    The Spanish Bishops' Conference has responded that the beatification of 498 martyrs, victims of religious persecution in the 1930s, is a testament of their virtue and faith, not a political statement (Zenit News Service October 24, 2007).

  • Towards the end of October, Pope Benedict attended a concert held in his honor, during which the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir played Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The event was organized to thank the Pope for his visit to Bavaria in September 2006. After the concert he offered some reflections on the great composition:
    At the end of the concert, the Holy Father recalled that Beethoven composed his final symphony in 1824, after a period of isolation and difficulty "which threatened to suffocate his artistic creativity."

    Yet the composer "surprised the public with a composition that broke with the traditional structure of the symphony," rising at the end "in an extraordinary finale of optimism and joy," the Pontiff said.

    Benedict XVI continued, "This overwhelming sentiment of joy is not something light and superficial; it is a sensation achieved through struggle" because "silent solitude [...] had taught Beethoven a new way of listening that went well beyond a simple capacity to experience in his imagination the sound of notes read or written." This was akin to "the perceptivity given as a gift by God to people who obtain the grace of interior or exterior liberation."

    The Pope recalled how in 1989, when the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir had played Beethoven's Ninth Symphony for the fall of the Berlin Wall, they altered the text from "Ode to Joy" to "Freedom, Spark of God," thus expressing "more than the simple sensation of a historic moment. True joy is rooted in the freedom that only God can give."

    (See also: Pope calls Beethoven's 'Ninth' masterful expression of optimism, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service. October 29, 2007).

Articles on Pope Benedict XVI

  • Has German pope re-Italianized the Roman Curia? - that's the question floating around Rome, in response to " a string of Vatican appointments left Italian prelates in high places." Catholic News Service examines the claim.

  • The members of the mainstream media (and even various Catholics) have often criticized (to the point of ridicule) Pope Benedict's unwavering devotion to proclaiming the truth of the Gospel and the salvific unity of the Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. What a refreshing suprise, then, to read that a Rabbi praises Pope Benedict for his clear teaching. Catholic News Agency reports:
    New York, Sep 4, 2007 / 09:33 am (CNA).- A rabbi from Monsey, New York, has lauded Pope Benedict XVI for reinstating the Latin Mass and affirming that only Catholic Church qualifies as the one, true Church.

    In an article titled The Pope’s Got A Point and published in the July 18 issue of The Jewish Press, Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz says he is “not at all put off by the fact that the leader of another religion sees that religion as primary.”

    “I’ve always found it curious that people of different religions get together in a spirit of harmony to share their common faiths,” he writes. “By definition, these people should have strong opposition to the beliefs of their ‘colleagues’ at the table. The mode of prayer of one group should be an affront to the other group.

    “What the pope is saying – and I agree 100 percent – is that there are irreconcilable differences, and we can’t pretend those differences don’t exist,” he states. “I can respect the pope for making an unambiguous statement of what he believes.”

    While all people, created in God’s image, and their beliefs are worthy of respect, “we don’t need to play games of ‘I’m okay, your okay’ with beliefs we find unacceptable,” he writes.

  • Benedict’s Mozart: What the Pope Learned From His Favorite Composer, by Father Andreas Kramarz, LC. National Catholic Register September 18, 2007:
    Austria’s president honored Pope Benedict on the final day of his visit to the “Alp Republic” Sept. 9 with Mozart music in the Vienna Concert House. After the music, the Holy Father met with Church and civil volunteers in order to honor their service.

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in the Austrian city of Salzburg in 1756, but that’s not why his music was played for the Pope. In fact, there have hardly been any cultural events that Pope Benedict has attended in which a piece of Mozart has not been performed.

    That’s because it is well known that Mozart is the Pope’s favorite composer. . . .

  • From Ignatius Insight: Selections from Benedict's Jesus, The Apostles, and the Early Church, based on Pope Benedict XVI's weekly teaching on the relationship between Christ and the Church, Jesus, The Apostles, and the Early Church tells the drama of Jesus' first disciples--his Apostles and their associates--and how they spread Jesus' message throughout the ancient world.

  • Sandro Magister on The Secret Angelus Messages of Pope Benedict -- on the media's tendency to reproduce the words of the Pope during his Sunday addresses only where they pertain to events in the news and especially political issues, ignoring what is most substantial. ("They're secret in the sense that the media ignore them for what they mainly are: the explanation of the Gospel of that day's Mass. Apart from those present, almost no one knows this").

  • Pope Benedict XVI and the New Ecclesial Movements | Bishop Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Introduction to New Outpourings of the Spirit (Ignatius Press, 2007) -- The volume consists of two fundamental texts by (then) Cardinal Ratzinger on the ecclesial movements and new communities within the Church since the Second Vatican Council.

  • From John Allen Jr., an Extract from interview with Benedict XVI on Cardinal Leo Scheffczyk This extract from an interview with Pope Benedict XVI that took place last November is part of a new book on the work of the late Cardinal Leo Scheffczyk, a Pole who spent his career in Germany, and who was a personal friend of Joseph Ratzinger. Scheffczyk died in December 2005. The extract was published in the Oct 20 issue of Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading daily newspaper. The translation from Italian is by NCR. The interview with Benedict XVI was conducted by Fr. Johannes Nebel, a member of a new religious order called "The Spiritual Family 'The Work'", to which Scheffczyk was especially close.

  • From the prolific Fr. James V. Schall, several features since our last roundup: "No Weighing, No Disputing, No Such Thing": Ratzinger and Europe, with particular attention to Ratzinger's Europe: Today and Tomorrow and Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures (Ignatius Press, 2007); "Where God is, there is the future" | On Benedict XVI in Austria Ignatius Insight October 1, 2007, and Why the Bewilderment? Benedict XVI on Natural Law Ignatius Insight October 27, 2007.

    It is out of our appreciation for Fr. Schall's many commentaries on our Holy Father that we are pleased to announce -- a blog dedicated to chronicling these very articles. Enjoy!

  • Catholic News Service reports that Sales of Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth has hit 2 million copies worldwide:
    The 400-page book has been the number one book on the Catholic Best-Sellers List for the past three months, according to the Catholic Book Publishers Association. It shot to the top slot starting with the association's August list, which reflected June sales.

    "Jesus of Nazareth" also ranked among the top 10 hardcover nonfiction books on the New York Times Best Sellers' list after its English release and stayed on the list for several weeks.

    The pope currently is working on completing his second volume on the life of Jesus, expected to cover Christ's passion, death and resurrection.

    From Carl Olson (Insight Scoop): Further reflections on Jesus of Nazareth, with remarks from authors Roy Schoeman (author of Salvation is from the Jews) and Dr. Regis Martin, professor of Systematic Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

    Also, from Craig Blomberg, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor of New Testament at the Denver [evangelical] Seminary:

    There are plenty of places where one might quibble with this or that minor point of exegesis. But they pale in comparison with the number of pages on end where the reviewer finds himself underlining, agreeing with, and including exclamation points, thank you's, and even smiling faces in the margins of his copy of the book. I am indebted to our graduate, Jon Haley, long-time church worker in Spain, for first calling this book to my attention and suggesting that it was worthy of review. Evangelical readers can derive considerable encouragement from the pope's positions and devotional inspiration from his applications.

    And Rabbi Alan Brill of the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California declares: The optimists win — pope is reaching out to Jews:

    Jesus of Nazareth offers an interpretation of the New Testament — and thereby of Christianity — that is surprisingly favorable to Judaism, one in which “the Jewish people and its faith are the very roots of Christianity.”

    In unequivocal terms, Jesus is presented as a Jew, a follower of true biblical and rabbinical traditions. Jesus’ teachings are presented as an outgrowth and fulfillment of Sinai and Jewish ritual law.

    Traditional Christian approaches treated Jewish interpretation of the Bible as false, rabbinic traditions as perversions of the Bible and painted Jews as blind to the truth and not doing God’s will.

    How does Pope Benedict accomplish this feat of reconciliation? ... READ MORE

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