Monday, June 22, 2009

Pope Benedict Roundup!

Perhaps the two most significant events thus far this year for Pope Benedict XVI were his apostolic journey to Cameroon and Angola, Africa.

The pope's visit to Africa was a momentous occasion, but received precious little coverage by the mainstream media, apart from the fact that he might have mentioned something about condoms, and AIDS. As Martyn Drakard of MercatorNet exclaimed: "The international media has a woeful ignorance of Africa," and wonders: "Why don't they listen to someone who knows?":

As he flew from Rome to Cameroon for his first African trip, Benedict XVI held a press conference. He spoke of many things relevant to Africa: the credit crisis, its ethical dimension, its social welfare dimension; solidarity between the developed and developing world; corruption; the vibrancy of the faith and energy of the people; how he hopes to implement Catholic social teaching; and a forthcoming Synod of African Bishops. He even rebutted suggestions that he was “lonely” in the Vatican.

Yet what did the media pick up? That the Pope is opposed to condoms as a solution to Africa’s supposedly overwhelming problem: AIDS. And, in fact, he was right to say that condoms are only making the problem worse.

That pretty much set the tenor for the trip, as far as the [Western] media was concerned. As National Catholic Reporter's John Allen Jr. remarked:
"I don't think I've ever covered a papal trip where the gap between internal and external perceptions has been as vast as over these three days. It's almost as if the pope has made two separate visits to Cameroon: the one reported internationally and the one Africans actually experienced.
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The Pope's visit to the Holy Land (Jordan and Israel, to be precise) received greater attention given its location and current events in the Middle East. On May 20th, during his general audience in St. Peter's Square, the Pope reflected on the various stages and sites of his pilgrimage:

... Throughout my visit I wished to be a pilgrim of peace, reminding Jews, Christians and Muslims alike of our commitment, as believers in the one God, to promote respect, reconciliation and cooperation in the service of peace. In Jerusalem, "the city of peace" sacred to the followers of the three great monotheistic traditions, this was the message I brought to the holy places, and particularly to the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. One of the most solemn moments was the commemoration of the victims of the Shoah at Yad Vashem. My visit to the local Churches culminated in the Masses celebrated in Amman, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. My pilgrimage ended in prayer on Calvary and before the Holy Sepulchre -- the empty tomb -- which continues to radiate a message of hope for individuals and for the whole human family.
For extensive coverage and commentary, do see Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel and the Holy Land.

* * *

On June 21st, Pope Benedict made a pastoral visit to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Graces in San Giovanni Rotondo, where the body of Saint Padre Pio has been on display for 40 years. Teresa Polk (Blog by the Sea) provides a helpful roundup of resources on the Pope's visit, from the Vatican and elsewhere.

Pope Benedict XVI prays in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City May 15, 2009. In the final act of worship of his visit, Benedict preached a message of hope for all mankind at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City. Source: Reuters May 2009

Continuing on with our Roundup

  • In April, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated a low-key [82nd] birthday with his brother at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo. (Catholic News Service):
    The pope, who turned 82 April 16, had a very informal "family celebration" that included a visit by a small group of top Vatican officials, the Vatican's spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters.

    The officials, including the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, visited the pope in the morning to offer their birthday wishes.

    The pope then had a private lunch with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who turned 85 early this year

    From Ignatius Press: The Pope's Childhood, In His Own Words. Excerpt from Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium (Ignatius Press, 1997).

  • The expected publication date of Pope Benedict's third encyclical, "Veritas in Caritate", is June 29, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. For further coverage and commentary, see this roundup by Carl Olson (Insight Scoop).

  • Public Reason and the Truth of Christianity: The Teachings of Pope Benedict XVI - an essay by Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the director of the Cardinal Van Thuân International Observatory, on the teachings of Benedict XVI on the role of reason and Christianity in the public square.

  • The Pope Versus the Vatican Standpoint Magazine April 2009. George Weigel analyzes Benedict's working relationship with "an ineffectual Curia, whose gaffes undercut the papal message and erode its authority." "He dies in tears" Amy Welborn (Via Media) offers some thoughts on Ratzinger's Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, which she has been reading.

  • We are lucky this Pope is 'ecclesiastically incorrect', says Dr. Alcuin Reid (The Catholic Herald UK May 22, 2009).

  • Vian’s Choice Delia Gallagher interviews Gian Maria Vian, director of L’Osservatore Romano -- in which he clarifies the role the Pope takes in influencing the content of the only newspaper of the Holy See:
    GIANI: I decide the editorial line of the paper, which I evaluate together with the heads of the paper’s departments: Vatican, international, cultural, and religious news.

    GALLAGHER: So the pope does not intervene directly?

    VIAN: The first request of the pope was: more room for international news, more attention to the Eastern Christians — Catholics such as the Maronites and the Melkites, but also the Orthodox churches — and more space for women.

    GALLAGHER: What did the pope mean by “more space for women”?

    VIAN: The pope wishes to highlight as much as possible the role of women in the Church and in the Roman Curia. Ssome even said that he had wanted a woman as director of L’Osservatore Romano, which has always been directed by lay people.

    I interpreted his request of more space for women as indicating both a desire to increase the number of women working at the paper — about a quarter of our staff are women — and I hired the first full-time woman journalist in the history of the paper, as well as giving more space to stories and issues about women. On bioethical issues, particularly abortion, I prefer that we have a woman write the story.

  • Off the radar: Pope's teaching ministry finds little echo in media John Thavis (Catholic News Service):
    News coverage of Pope Benedict XVI tends to leap from big event to big event, so perhaps it's no surprise that after his Holy Land pilgrimage last month the German pontiff has fallen off the mainstream media radar. ...

    The pattern of media attention -- or lack of it -- has led some Vatican officials to privately lament what they see as a paradox of Pope Benedict's pontificate: the pope's primary focus and greatest talent is teaching, they say, but it's the kind of teaching that rarely breaks into the news cycle.

Pope Benedict XVI kisses an infant as he leaves his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 10, 2009. Source: Associated Press

On a lighter note

  • Pope on Facebook in attempt to woo young believers, by Phillip Puella (Reuters) May 22, 2009:
    You won’t get an email saying Pope Benedict added you as a friend and you can’t “poke” him or write on his wall, but the Vatican is still keen to use the networking site Facebook to woo young people back to church.

    A new Vatican website,, has gone live, offering an application called “The pope meets you on Facebook,” and another allowing the faithful to see the Pope’s speeches and messages on their iPhones or iPods.

  • The Pope is a fan of Spitfire Ale, according to celebrity priest Father Michael Seed:
    [Brewer] Shepherd Neame pointed out that the Pope’s choice was unexpected as Spitfire’s famous tongue-in-cheek, Dad’s Army-style wartime humour advertising includes slogans such as ‘No Fokker Comes Close’ and ‘Goering, Goering, Gone’.

    Spitfire brand manager Charlie Holland added: "The Pope is not the first German to down a Spitfire but certainly the most famous.

    "We are delighted that His Holiness enjoys the unique taste of Spitfire, and we would encourage him to sample another of our fine Kentish ales – and try a Bishops Finger."

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