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."

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