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. AsiaNews.it 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 SchallonBenedict.blogspot.com -- 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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