Sunday, June 17, 2007

Pope Benedict Roundup

Pope Benedict in the News

During his May 23, 2007 general audience, Pope Benedict reflected on the highlights of his trip to Brazil, recalling especially his "meeting with the young people, hope not only of the future, but a vital force for the Church and society of today," the canonization of Friar Anthony of St Anne Galvãoand, the first native-born Saint of Brazil, and the culmination of the visit, "the inauguration of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences in the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida." In his general audience, Benedict also took the opportunity to correct the record on colonization of Latin America". John Allen, Jr. reports:

In apparent response to criticism of his May 13 speech in Brazil in which the pope asserted Christianity was not an “imposition of a foreign culture” on indigenous peoples of the New World, Benedict XVI today acknowledged “the shadows that accompanied the evangelization of the Latin American continent.”

The pope said “the sufferings and the injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous populations, who often saw their fundamental human rights trampled upon,” cannot be forgotten.

Last Sunday, in an address to the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Aparecida, Brazil, for their Fifth General Conference, Benedict argued that Christianity was not imposed upon native peoples, but rather it was the fulfillment to which their religious experience pointed.

“The Utopia of going back to breathe life into the pre-Columbian religions, separating them from Christ and from the universal Church, would not be a step forward,” Benedict said in Aparecida.”Indeed, it would be a step back. In reality, it would be a retreat towards a stage in history anchored in the past.”

Afterwards, spokespersons for indigenous groups complained that the pope appeared to be denying the troubled history of European colonization. . . .

Benedict clarified his position on the subject as follows:

Certainly, the memory of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompany the work of evangelization of the Latin American Continent: it is not possible, in fact, to forget the suffering and the injustice inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous populations, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled upon.

But the obligation to recall such unjustifiable crimes - crimes, however, already condemned at the time by missionaries like Bartolomé de Las Casas and by theologians like Francisco de Vitoria of the University of Salamanca - must not prevent noting with gratitude the wonderful works accomplished by divine grace among those populations in the course of these centuries.

The Gospel has thus become on the Continent the supporting element of a dynamic synthesis which, with various facets and according to the different nations, nonetheless expresses the identity of the Latin American People.

Today, in the age of globalization, this Catholic identity is still present as the most adequate response, provided that it is animated by a serious spiritual formation and by the principles of the social doctrine of the Church.

  • On April 27, the Vatican confirmed that Pope Benedict will visit the United Nations:
    Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that the Holy Father has accepted the invitation that was extended to him by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, who met with the Pope at the Vatican on April 18.

    For now "there is no date or program" for the Pope's trip, Father Lombardi said.

  • On May 29th, 2007, Pope Benedict stressed the call to evangelization to which all Christians are beckoned, urging that every baptized person must become active in the Church's missionary activity:
    This appeal was made in the Pope's message for the 81st World Mission Day, which will be celebrated on Oct. 21 with the theme: "All the Churches for All the World."

    In the text, the Holy Father "invites local Churches on all continents to a joint awareness of the urgent need to relaunch missionary activity to meet the many grave challenges of our time." [. . .]

    "Faced with an increasingly secularized culture, which seems to be penetrating Western societies more and more, in light of the crisis of the family, the lack of vocations and a progressively aging clergy," the Pope explained, these ancient Churches "run the risk of closing in on themselves, of looking to the future with reduced hope and of lessening their missionary efforts."

    "Yet this is precisely the moment to open trustingly to the providence of God, who never abandons his people and who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, guides them towards the accomplishment of his eternal plan of salvation," the Holy Father said.

  • Continuing his reflections on the early fathers of the Christian Church, Pope Benedict turned his attention to the teachings of Tertullian:
    He started the use of theology in Latin. His work brought decisive benefits which it would be unforgivable to underestimate. His influence covered different areas: linguistically, from the use of language and the recovery of classical culture, to singling out a common "Christian soul" in the world and in the formulation of new proposals of human coexistence. . . .

    His apologetic writings are above all the most famous. They manifest two key intentions: to refute the grave accusations that pagans directed against the new religion; and, more propositional and missionary, to proclaim the Gospel message in dialogue with the culture of the time.

    His writings are important as they also show the practical trends in the Christian community regarding Mary Most Holy, the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Matrimony and Reconciliation, Petrine primacy, prayer.... In a special way, in those times of persecution when Christians seemed to be a lost minority, the Apologist exhorted them to hope, which in his treatises is not simply a virtue in itself, but something that involves every aspect of Christian existence. . . .

    In his famous affirmation according to which our soul "is naturally Christian" (Apologeticus 17: 6), Tertullian evokes the perennial continuity between authentic human values and Christian ones. Also in his other reflection borrowed directly from the Gospel, according to which "the Christian cannot hate, not even his enemies" (cf. Apologeticus 37), is found the unavoidable moral resolve, the choice of faith which proposes "non-violence" as the rule of life. Indeed, no one can escape the dramatic aptness of this teaching, also in light of the heated debate on religions.

  • In an interview with the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, Vatican Secretary of State Cardianal Tarcisio Bertone addressed some controversial issues that occupied the press during Benedict XVI's trip to Brazil Zenit News Service. June 4, 2007:
    Cardinal Bertone: There is nothing scandalous in the fact that the Pontiff's press conference was transcribed in a slightly different version from the original. Even the texts of the Wednesday audiences are sometimes published after an accurate revision.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church, too, in its definitive edition, the "editio typica" of 1997, differs in many points from the first edition published in 1992. Those who read the recent document on limbo of the International Theological Commission can see that the "editio typica" of an encyclical -- in this instance, Pope John Paul II's "Evangelium Vitae" -- presents a different and more precise formulation on a certain point than the version that was originally published.

    Q: What can you say about the excommunication of legislators who have approved abortion?

    Cardinal Bertone: It seems clear to me that the Pope recalled that it is the responsibility of individual bishops to decide whether and when to excommunicate, that it is a penalty foreseen in the Code of Canon Law, and in this case it is a matter of "ferendae sententiae" [a non-automatic excommunication].

    Q: And in regard to the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero? Why does the published text not mention the fact that the Pope said he has no doubts that Archbishop Romero merits beatification?

    Cardinal Bertone: It is evident that the Pope wants to be very respectful of the work of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the prefect of which was also present on the Pope's flight.

    Q: After this experience, do you think it is likely that there will be other press conferences with the Pope?

    Cardinal Bertone: That is for the Pope to decide. But everyone knows that Cardinal Ratzinger never had any fear of the press and he always kindly offered answers to journalists who stopped him on the street.

  • On June 6, 2007, A man leaped over security barricades after the general audience and briefly held on to the popemobile before security guards restrained him.:
    he Pope, in fact, did not seem to notice the activity, as everything happened behind his back as he greeted the people.

    The Vatican later clarified that the 27-year-old man, of German nationality, suffers from a mental disability and was not trying to harm the Holy Father, but just wanted to attract attention.

    The episode lasted only a few seconds, . . .

    The offender was hospitalized at the Vatican's request to "undergo mandatory treatment in a specialized and protected center."

    Liveleak has video footage of the incident, and Father Z has a good post on the new security problems faced by Pope Benedict's popularity (Things are Hopping in Rome What Does Prayer Really Say June 6, 2007). See also Cool under pressure: Papal guards handle many pilgrims discreetly, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service. June 7, 2007, on the variety of papal security from Italian police agents to the Vatican's Swiss Guard to Vatican gendarme corps and even sharpshooters positioned from Vatican rooftops. As one might expect, "the biggest problem facing the pope's 'guardian angels' is distinguishing a real threat from a pilgrim's overexuberance."


Writings and Commentary about Pope Benedict XVI

  • His Own Pope Yet?, by David Gibson. New York Times April 23, 2007:
    By and large, the pontiff’s approach has worked. Liberal Catholics were so relieved that Benedict was not issuing daily bulls of excommunication that they took a kind word as a hopeful omen. Indeed, the loudest complaints about Benedict’s record have come from his erstwhile allies on the right who are miffed that he has not cracked down hard and fast on those they consider dissenters.

    But the Catholic right ought to have more patience, just as the Catholic left — and everyone else — might want to pay closer attention. The reality is that during these two years, even as he has preached the boundless grace of Christian charity, Benedict has also made it clear that divine love does not allow for compromise on matters of truth as the pope sees it, and that he will not brook anything that smacks of change in church teachings or traditions. Nor is he a caretaker pope who is willing to stand pat.

    Commonweal's J. Peter Nixon disputes Gibson's conclusion that "Benedict is a more conservative pope than his public image suggests".

  • Charity and Justice in the Relations among People and Nations: The Encyclical Deus Caritas Est of Pope Benedict XVI, by J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P. Undersecretary, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences / XIII Plenary Session 27 April 2007.

  • The Pope and the Pop Star", by Sean Curnyn. First Things "On The Square" May 10, 2007:
    On Saturday, September 27, 1997, during the Twenty-third Eucharistic Congress and as part of pope John Paul II’s pastoral visit to Bologna, there took place an outdoor event attended by some 300,000 people, featuring musical performances by Bob Dylan, in addition to certain Italian pop-musicians. As recounted in his recent book of memoirs, John Paul II, My Beloved Predecessor, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had serious misgivings about having the pope literally and figuratively share a platform with these popular musicians, and with Bob Dylan in particular. . . .
  • Papal youth appeal is about the message as well as the man, by Colleen Carroll Campbell. May 17, 2007:
    . . . it was the sort of pointed, politically incorrect address that makes many pundits cringe. American and European newspaper journalists covering the event reminded their readers that young people may applaud Benedict, but they do not actually pay attention to what he says. The proof in nearly every report was the same: an obligatory quote from a teenage critic who disagrees with Benedict about condom distribution or pre-marital sex.

    Benedict's critics have plenty of company. But it seems odd that journalists attending papal youth rallies that attract tens of thousands of cheering young people regularly quote only disgruntled teenagers in their reports. If the pope is a bore and young people find his message irrelevant, why do so many of them flock to hear it? . . .

    Benedict has won that admiration not in spite of his message but because of it. While many leaders today regard the young as bundles of hormones incapable of sacrifice or self-restraint, Benedict views them as souls longing for goodness and God. He tells them that the restlessness they feel — the persistent longing that no amount of money, power, or pleasure can seem to satisfy — is not a curse. It is a reminder that they were created for more than the consumption of goods and satisfaction of appetites. You were created for love, Benedict tells them, the kind of love that finds its fulfillment in service to others.

    Benedict's message is as demanding as John Paul's was, and many young people struggle to put it into practice. Yet they are listening.

  • The Pope on Conscience, Reason Washington Times May 20, 2007. A brief review of On Conscience and The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion (with Jurgen Habermas).

  • The Pope's Communications Paradox, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter May 27, 2007:
    This post-Brazil contretemps offers the latest confirmation that as a public figure, Benedict XVI has two qualities which often work at cross-purposes.

    Benedict XVI hadn't even stepped off the papal plane at Rome's Ciampino airport on Monday, ending his May 9-13 Brazilian swing, when controversy from the trip caught up with him. Spokespersons for Brazil's indigenous populations were incensed by comments the pope made in Aparecida late Sunday afternoon, asserting that the arrival of Christianity did not amount to "the imposition of a foreign culture" upon the native peoples of the New World. To the natives, that seemed a nasty bit of historical revisionism.

    On the one hand, Benedict is an exceptionally lucid communicator. He's a gifted logician, so his conclusions flow naturally from his premises. Moreover, he's able to synthesize complex ideas in easy-to-understand formula, so you don't need a degree in theology to get his point. Yet Benedict can also be remarkably tone-deaf to how his pronouncements may sound to people who don't share his intellectual and cultural premises. . . .

  • “The Best Hypothesis”: The Humble Proposal of the Church of Ratzinger and Ruini, by Sandro Magister. www.Chiesa May 21, 2007. "The same day on which, in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Benedict XVI addressed the key discourse of his trip to the bishops of that nation, in Italy his cardinal vicar Camillo Ruini was laying down the guidelines for a positive encounter of Christianity with the dominant traits of contemporary culture. The day was May 11. And the two discourses, by the pope and by his vicar, in spite of their great geographic distance were in reality very close."

  • Papal patience causes chafing among some Vatican bureaucrats, media", by John Thavis. Catholic News Service. June 11, 2007:
    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than two years into his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has proven to be a very patient decision-maker -- so patient that even some of his Vatican bureaucrats are chafing a little.

    "There are all these decisions that you thought were already made, and then nothing happens," one Roman Curia official said in early June.

    The examples abound:

    -- The pope's letter to Chinese Catholics, announced in January, has yet to appear.

    -- The papal document widening use of the Tridentine Mass, reportedly ready since last fall, is still awaiting publication.

    -- A consistory to name new cardinals, expected in June by most Vatican officials, has apparently been put off until the fall.

    -- A slew of key appointments, including the replacement of several Roman Curia heads who are past retirement age, keep getting deferred.

    -- The streamlining of Vatican communications agencies, rumored to have been one of the pope's priorities following his election in 2005, still has not happened.

    Why are things taking so long? The main reason, according to those inside the Curia, is that the pope believes some of these questions call for consultation and fine-tuning, rather than snap decisions.

  • The Courage To Be Imperfect - Excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (A Theological Portrait) Ignatius Insight:
    . . . While at Tubingen, one student asked another to identify the difference between Professor Ratzinger and another equally famous theologian. The reply was: Ratzinger also finds time to play the piano. He is as open to beauty as he is to truth. He lives outside himself. He is not preoccupied with his own self. Put simply, he does not take himself too seriously.

    The other anecdote is personal. Once he asked me gently about the progress of my thesis. It was about time, as I had been working on it for some seven years. I told him that I thought there was still some work to be done. He turned to me with those piercing but kindly eyes, saying with a smile: "Nur Mut zur Lücke" (Have the courage to leave some gaps). In other words, be courageous enough to be imperfect.

    On reflection, this is one of the keys to Ratzinger's character (and also to his theology; in particular his theology of politics): his acceptance that everything we do is imperfect, that all knowledge is limited, no matter how brilliant or well read one may be. It never bothered him that in a course of lectures he rarely covered the actual content of the course. His most famous book, Introduction to Christianity, is incomplete. [8] Ratzinger knows in his heart and soul that God alone is perfect and that all human attempts at perfection (such as political utopias) end in disaster.

    The only perfection open to us is that advocated by Jesus in the Gospel: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48), he who "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Mt 5:45). Love of God and love of neighbor: that is the secret of Pope Benedict XVI, and that will be the core of his universal teaching.

  • Forthcoming: The Apostles (Our Sunday Visitor, August 2007). A compilation of Benedict's general audiences' talks on the apostles.

Scholarly Articles

  • The subject of the Volume 2, 2006 issue of Letter and Spirit is "The Authority of Mystery: The Word of God and the People of God", in which Dr. Scott Hahn has an article on The Authority of Mystery: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI." (See link for ordering info).

  • Via Carl Olson @ Insight Scoop): The May/June 2007 issue of Saint Austin Review (StAR) focuses on "The Spirit of the Liturgy," and features articles by several Ignatius Press authors, including Fr. Thomas M. Kocik, author of The Reform of the Reform?, Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, author of Turning Towards the Lord, Alcuin Reid, author of The Organic Development of the Liturgy, and, of course, Joseph Pearce, who is co-editor of StAR with Robert Asch.

    Two of the articles are available for download, including "A Juggler on a Tightrope: Benedict XVI and the 'Tridentine' Question", by Fr. Kocik. [.pdf format].

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