Benedetto XVI Forum


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06/12/2009 05.42
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Earlier entries for 12/5/09 are on the preceding page.


The Holy Father took a surprising tack in his address to the bishops of southern Brazil on ad limina visit whom he addressed Saturday noon at the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, after having met with them in separate groups earlier in the week. Here is how L'Osservatore Romano reports it.

To the bishops of southern Brazil:
Catholic schools serve society
like other educational institutions

Benedict XVI also warns them against
the deceptive principles of liberation theology

Translated from
the 12/6/09 issue of



"The Catholic school cannot be thought nor live separately from other educational institutions", the Pope reiterated Saturday in addressing the Bishops of Brazil's southern ecclesiastical sectors 3 and 4 on ad limina visit.

He addressed them in Portuguese at the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace. Here is a translation:

Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate,

I welcome and greet each and everyone of you as I receive you colegially during your ad-limina visit. I thank Mons. Murilo Krieger for teh words of detion and esteem that he addressed to me in your name and for teh people entrusted to your pastoral care in ecclesiastical sectos 3 and 4.

Listening t you, my heart gives thanks to the Lord for the gift of faith mercifully bestowed on your ecclesial communities where it is zealously conserved and courageously passed on, in obedience fo the mandate that Jesus left us to bring his Good News to every creature, seeking to pervade the present culture with Christian humanism.

With respect to culture, my thought goes to the two classic environments where it is formed and communicated - the university and the school, with particular attention on the academic communities born under the unbrella of Christian humanism, inspired by it, and honored with the name 'Catholic'.

Now, "it is precisely in the explicit reference to the Christian vision that is shared by all the members of the scholastic community, even if in various degrees, that a school is 'Catholic', insofar as the evangelical principles become its educational norms, its interior motivations as wel as its final ends" (Congregation for Catholic Education, 'The Catholic School", No. 34).

May the Catholic school, in synergy with families and with the ecclesial community, promote that unity of faith, culture and life which constitues the fundamental objective of Christian education.

Even public schools, according to their different forms and modes, can be aided in their educational task by the presence of professorts who are believers - especially but not ex clusively professors of the Catholic religion - and of Christianly formed students, as well as the collaboration of families and the Christian community itself.

Indeed, healthy secularity in schools does not imply the negation of transcendence nor even a mere neutrality in the face of those moral requisites and values that are the basis of authentic human formation, including religious instruction.

The CAtholic school cannot be thought of nor live separate from other educational institutions. It is at the ser5vice of society. It carries out a public function, a service of public utility which is not reserved for Catholics, but open to all who desire to avail of its well-qualified educational offering.

The problem of its juridical adn economic equiparation to the public school can be correctly posed only if we start from recognizing the primary role of families and the subsidiary role of other educational institutions.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: "Parents have the right od priority in the choice of the kind of isntruction that they wish to give their children".

The plurisecular task of the Catholic school goes in this direction, impelled by an even more radical force, that which makes Christ the center of the educational process.

This process, which begins in the primary adn elementary schools, is completed in the highest and most specialized way in universities. The Church has always been supportive of the university and its vocation of leading man to the highest levels of knowledge of the truth and of mastery of the world in all its aspects.

I am happy to express my great ecclesial gratitude to the various religious congregations who have established and sustained renowened universities among you, but reminding them nonetheless that the schools are not the property of those who founded them or those who attend them bit an expression of the Church and her patrimony of faith.

In this sense, dear friends, it is worth remembering that, last August, it was 25 years since the Instruction Libertatis nuntius was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on some aspects of the theology of liberation.

It udnerscored the danger that came with the acritical acceptance by some theologians of theses and methodologies derived from Marxism. Itsmore or less visible consequences in the form of rebellion, division, dissent, offensiveness and anarchies are still felt today, creating great suffering and a serious loss of living forces in your diocesan communities.

I beg of those who feel in some way attracted to, involved in or topuched in their own heart by some deceptive principles of liberation theology, to take a look once again at this Instruction and accept the benign light that it holdss out.

It reminds everyone that "the supreme rule of our faith... comes from the unity that the Spirit has imposed among Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of teh Church, in a reciprocity in which none of them can subsit independently" (John Paul II, Fides et ratio, no. 55).

So also it points out that in the case of ecclesial organizations and communities, forgiveness that is offered and accepted in the name and for the love of the Most Holy Trinity, whom we adore in our hearts, may put an end to the suffering of our beloved Church that is a pilgrim on the earth of the Holy Cross.

Venerated brothers in the episcopate, in the union with Christ, we are preceded and led by the Virgin Mary, so loved and venerated in your dioceses and in all Brazil.

In Her, we find, pure and undeformed, the true essence of the Church, and so, through her, let us learn to know and love the mystery of the Church that lives in history let us feel ourselves profoundly part of her, let us become in our turn 'ecclesial spirits', leading to resist that 'internal secularization' that threatens the Church and its teachings.

As I ask the Lord to infunse the abundance of his light on the entire Brazilian world of education, I entrusts her leading players to the protection of the Most Holy Virgin, and I impart on you, your priests, the religious and the committed laity, and all the faithful in your dioceses, a paternal apostolic blessing.

Brazil is so large, both in physical land areas, as well as in population, that a quick review of its Catholic statistics is always helpful:
The blue-shaded area on the map, left, represents South Sector-3&4 from which this week's visiting bishops come from. The map on the right shows the various regions of Brazil, which has a total of 267 dioceses.

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Sunday, December 6
II Sunday in Advent
Fourth photo from left: Fabrizio da Gentile's Pilgrims visiting Nicholas's tomb in Bari, 1415; and next to it, the tomb itself today.
ST. NICHOLAS OF MYRA [Nicholas of Bari] (Asia Minor [in present Turkey], 270-347)
Bishop, Defender of Orthodoxy, Wonderworker, Holy Hierarch
Arguably the most popular saint in the Orthodox world, legend surrounds the life of this 4th century Bishop of Myra, who was also said to be the most popular saint of the medieval world, next only to the Virgin Mary. In 1027, Italian sailors took his remains from his tomb in Myra to Bari, southeastern Italy, to prevent it from desecration by the Muslims who were slowly conquering the once-mighty Byzantine Empire. His legend as a giftgiver arose from his works of charity as a bishop, most of them done anonymously. This gave rise to the custom of gift-giving on his feast day, starting in the Middle Ages, and persisting today in Europe, and how he came to be conflated into the 19th-century figure of Santa Claus. His casket in Bari exudes a mysterious rose-scented oil much prized by pilgrims that has reputed miraculous powers; to this day, priests in charge of the shrine extract a flask of the 'manna' every year. Both Putin and Medvedev have been to Bari in recent years to venerate his remains. St. Nick's image as Santa Claus (from the Dutch 'Sinter Klaes') began with Dutch descendants in New York City who wished to renew Christmas celebrations in the early 19th century. It became fixed in the popular mind when Clement Moore wrote the poem "The Night before Christmas' in 1822.

OR today.
The Pope on the 60th anniversary of the Federal Republic of Germany
and the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall:
'Responsibility to God is decisive in any political action'
Benedict XVI recalls the violence and oppression of Communism
at a concert Friday to mark the double German anniversary
Other Page 1 stories: The Pope's formal audience with President Koehler of Germany who had offered the concert Friday evening in honor of the Holy Father; the Pope's address to Brazilian bishops on the responsibility of Catholic schools and a warning against continuing danger from the consequences of liberation theology; and in international news, an item anticipating the climate change conference in Copenhagen this week.


Angelus today - The Holy Father cited commentary by St. Ambrose, whose feast day is tomorrow, on the Gospel today
in which St. Luke describes John the Baptist bearing the Word of God in preparation for Jesus's public ministry.
On the eve of the Copenhagen conference, he also calls on all men of goodwill to respect the law of God in nature
and the moral dimension of human life in bearing responsibility for safeguarding the environment.

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In his mini-homily today to a festive St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father cited commentary by St. Ambrose, whose feast day is tomorrow, on the Gospel today in which St. Luke describes John the Baptist bearing the Word of God in preparation for Jesus's public ministry.

Here is what he said for English-speaking pilgrims:

In today’s Gospel we hear the voice of John the Baptist calling out in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord!"

May this Advent season be for us a time of repentance so that, when Christ comes, we may welcome Him with joy, share in his wisdom and become one with him. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

On the eve of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, he also called on all men of goodwill to respect the law of God in nature and the moral dimension of human life in bearing responsibility for safeguarding the environment.


Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words:

DDear brothers and sisters!

On this second Sunday of Advent, the Liturgy offerus the Gospel passage in which St. Luke sets the stage, so to speak, on which Jesus is about to begin his public ministry (cfr Lk 2,1-6).

The evangelist shines the spotlight on John the Baptist, who was the precursor of the Messiah, and with great precision, he traces the space-time coordinates of Johm's preaching.

Luke writes: "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert" (Lk 3,1-2).

Two things call our attention. The first is the abundance of references to all the political and religious authorities of Palestine in 27/28 BC. Evidently, the evangelist wished to impress on his reader or listener that the Gospel is not a legend but the account of a true story, that Jesus of Nazareth is a historical figure situated in that precise context.

The second noteworthy element is that after this ample historical introduction, the subject matter becomes 'the Word of God', presented as a power that comes from above and descends on John the Baptist.

Tomorrow we mark the liturgical commemoration of St. Ambrose, the great Bishop of Milan. I take from him a commont on today's Gospel text: "The Son of God," he wrote, "before assembling the Church, acted first of all in her humble servant. That is why St. Luke says well that 'the Word of God came to John, son of Zachary, in the desert', because the Church did not originate from men, but from the Word" (Espos. on St. Luke's Gospel 2,67).

And that is the meaning: that the Word of God is the subject that motivates history, inspires the prophets, prepares the way for the Messiah, and calls the Church together.

Jesus himself is the Divine Word made flesh in the virginal womb of Mary. In him, God reveals himself fully - he has told us and given us everything, opening to us the treasury of his truth and his mercy.

St.Ambrose continues: "May the Word then come down, so that the earth, which was once a desert, may produce its fruits for us" (ibid.).

Dear friends, the most beautiful flower germinated from the Word of God is the Virgin Mary. She is the first fruit of the Church, God's garden on earth.

But while Mary is the Immaculate, whom we shall celebrate as such two days from now, the Church continually needs to purify herself because sin undermines all of her members.

Always underway in the Church is the battle between the desert and the garden, between sin which aridifies the earth and the grace that irrigates in order to produce abundant fruits of holiness.

Let is therefore pray to the Mother of the Lord so that she may aid us, in this season of Advent, to 'set straight' our lives, allowing ourselves to be guided by the Word of God.

After the prayers, he had this special message:

Tomorrow in Copenhagen, the United Nations conference on climate change will open, whereby the international community hopes to counteract the phenomenon of global wamring.

I hope that the work of the conference will help to identify actions that are respectful of creation and promote fraternally supportive development, based on the the dignity of the human person and oriented towards the common good.

Safeguarding creation postulates the adoption of moderate and responsible lifestyles, especially with respect to the poor and to future generations.

In this perspective, in order to guarantee full success to the Conference. I invite all persons of good will to respect the laws inscribed by God in nature and to rediscover the moral dimension of human life.

To the Italian pilgrims, he had this special greeting:

I greet in particular the "Associazione nazionale famiglie numerose" (national association of families with many children) whose motto is "More children, more future'.

Dear friends, I pray that Providence may always be with you in the midst of joys and difficulties, and I hope that effective policies to support families may develop everywhere, especially for those families who have many children.


A note on the AP terminology below: They translate the Italian word 'sobrio' as 'sober', but the more appropriate translation is 'moderate' - which is the primary sense of 'sobrio' in Italian, not the English cognate 'sober' which has other connotations. Even in the context of the Pope's message, the right translation is 'moderate'.

Pope to climate summit:
Adopt 'sober and responsible' lifestyles
to safeguard the environment


VATICAN CITY.Dec. 6 (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI has told world leaders attending the climate summit in Copenhagen that caring for God's creation requires they adopt sober and responsible lifestyles.

Benedict said Sunday he hoped the meeting, which opens Monday, would outline actions that respect creation and promote development while respecting human dignity and the common good.

The Vatican, which has U.N. observer status, is sending a delegation to Copenhagen.

Benedict has spoken out frequently about the need to care for the planet, dedicating a good part of his last encyclical to the issue. Under his pontificate, the Vatican has also installed photovoltaic cells on the roof of its auditorium and begun a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its C02 emissions.


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What Benedict XVI has to say
about immigration - while lawmakers
can propose no acceptable middle way


Immigration hides a much deeper question about simple peaceful coexistence among peoples.

Usually two camps oppose each other on this issue: the sentimentalists, for whom any immigrant is someone needy who must be welcomed without reservations; and the rigorists, for whom the immigrant is always a menace against which one must defend oneself.

The first would open all the frontiers and close their eyes to all the internal problems brought on by immigration, especially if illegal. The second would simply close the doors and wash their hands of the matter.

But both are really avoiding the issue. Even in the supposed nuances of intermediate positions, the debate simply swings between the two poles.

But there is a third way - that indicated by Benedict XVI in Caritas in veritate which he reiterates in his recent address regarding the World Day for Migrants.

This way looks to safeguarding the rights of those who come into a country and those who must host them. It is open to human hospitality, without forgetting that on the international level, this is a phenomenon that has to do with poverty and injustice that require a commitment by everyone in order to resolve.

[But it does not condone illegal immigration, since it emphasizes that immigrants must respect the law. It does imply that host country laws for dealing with illegal immigrants should be charitable while being fair.]

It is ambitious because it goes to the point - that whether migrants or host people, indigent or well-off, we are all human beings.

Immigration is the rock on which the weakness of the dominant culture founders. When there is no single unifying vision about the destiny of man, the alternative is a clash of civilizations that divides, or an emotional confrontation that does not unite.

But Benedict calls for moving forward and beyond the stumbling block. As he said in the Angelus last Sunday, rich or poor, developing nation or economically evolved, "we are all on the same boat, and we should all save ourselves together".

Immigration is a complex issue that is difficult enough with legal immigrants when their culture is very different from that of their new country. But illegal immigrants have become an acute problem, especially in the United States.

The danger with statements made by Vatican officials directly involved with the immigrant problem is that, in defense of illegal aliens, they make it appear that immigration is a right that populations must avail of in order to find a better life. This completely ignores the genuine right of host countries to regulate immigration according to their national interests.

However, this is not the right thread for this discussion, so I will find a news peg to return to it in the ISSUES thread.

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Monday, December 7
Panel shows 2nd, 3rd and 4th from left, St. Ambrose, by Zurbaran; Ambrose and Emperor Theodosius, Van Dyck; and the saint's tomb in the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan.
ST. AMBROSE (AMBROGIO) [b Trier, Germany 340, d Milan 397), Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church
One of the first four Doctors of the Church named by Boniface VIII in 1295 (along with Jerome, Augustine and Gregory the Great), this great influential figure if the 4th century was not even a priest. Born in Germany (his father had been Praetorian Prefect of Gaul), he was educated in Rome for the civil service, distinguishing himself in law. At age 32, he was named governor of Emilia-Liguria, with headquarters in Milan. Two years later, while trying to settle a dispute over who would succeed the Bishop of Milan who just died, he was chosen Bishop by popular acclaim, though he was not even baptized. He accepted only after the emperor said he should. He was baptized, ordained and installed as Bishop in short order. He gave away all his lands and goods to the poor, adopted an ascetic lifestyle, and set about to learn Scriptures and theology, using his knowledge of classic Greek and Hebrew to good use. He was soon plunged into defending the Church against Arianism, the great heresy of the day, and became a great preacher, arousing the admiration of a young Augustine of Hippo whom he mentored and eventually baptized. He successfully pitted his will against emperors of his time, who exalted either Arianism or paganism, telling one of them: "The emperor is in the Church, not against the Church" and refusing to give up two basilicas that the Emperor wished to hand over to Arians. Besides his writings, he also composed hymns (the 'Te Deum' is attributed to him). He championed liturgy as the locals practise it ["When in Rome, do as the Romans do"]. The Ambrosian Rite used to this day by the Archdiocese of Milan is named after him although it came to be established only in the 8th century.

No OR today.


The Holy Father met with

- Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne

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Trust Richard Owen to try and 'sensationalize' this report - which is almost a literal translation of Andrea Tornielli's story in Il Giornale today, but Owen adds the background about the Pope's holiday accidents in 1992 and last July. Also, Tornielli's headline was "Earlier Christmas Mass planned two months ago...So, no alarm over the Pope's health".

(I must thank Owen however for giving very good coverage in the latter part of this item to the Pope's Angelus messages yesterday [more quotations than Tornielli cited). As usual, Owen makes it appear the story is all his own.

And why is everyone suddenly taking undue notice when this has been known for almost two months? It was published in the Calendar for Papal Liturgical Celebrations when it was updated to include the Pope's Christmas season schedule up to the Epiphany. My only reaction at the time was that it was an eminently practical move. Mons. Guido Marini referred to the new schedule again when he spoke to OR the week before Advent on some ritual modifications for Advent and Christmas.

And what is wrong with a Pope, who will soon turn 83, advancing the Midnight Mass by two hours? Is there more merit to a Christmas Mass that begins at midnight than one that begins at 10:00 and ends at midnight? Besides midnight in Rome is already 12 noon of Christmas Day in the Southern hemisphere! The same event is commemorated. And think of all the faithful who go to Mass on Christmas Day and not at midnight. Are they any less observant or meritorious?

Fears for Pope's health as Christmas
Midnight Mass to be held early

by Richard Owen in Rome
Dec. 7, 2009

The Vatican today denied that Pope Benedict XVI had "health problems" after it emerged that he is to hold the traditional Christmas Eve Midnight Mass two hours early.

Father Federico Lombardi said that the decision to hold the Mass at ten in the evening had been taken nearly two months ago. [And duly published online in the Calendar for Liturgical Celebrations when it wsa updated in September. Mons. Marini also reiterated the newschedule in his OR interview the week before Advent.]

The service would end at midnight rather than starting at midnight in order "to tire the Pope a bit less" and enable him to retire to bed earlier to rest before before the rigours of Christmas Day, when he reads his "Urbi et Orbi" message to the city and the world.

"There is no cause for alarm," Father Lombardi said.

Andrea Tornielli, the biographer of Pope Benedict and other modern Popes, said however that Pope John Paul II had never varied the Christmas liturgical calendar and had always held the mass at midnight, even in the final years of his decline. He died in 2005.

[This is misleading. Tornielli does not make the comment himself, but cites that one news agency pointed it out yesterday. He follows the statement by saying "But the Pope's people want to be careful not to burden him in any way that may be excessive".]

The German-born Pontiff, 82, is committed to a busy travel schedule for 2010, including a planned trip to Britain in the autumn during which he will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the celebrated nineteenth century Anglican convert to Roman Catholicism.

The UK visit also comes against the background of Pope Benedict's opening to Anglicans who wish to convert to Rome while retaining their Anglican traditions and practices, seen by some as part of his drive to re-unite the Christian world but by others as a divisive move.

In April the Pope is to visit Malta. In May he will go to Turin to inaugurate a public display of the Holy Shroud of Turin, said to be the burial cloth of Jesus, and the Marian shrine at Fatima in Portugal. In June he is due to visit Cyprus.

Pope Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is known to have repeatedly asked to retire as Head of the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope John Paul's right hand man and devote himself to scholarship. However Pope John Paul refused to let him resign, and four years ago the College of Cardinals elected him as John Paul's successor.

Pope Benedict suffered a mild stroke in 1991, and is believed to have suffered another not long before his election as Pope. He has twice fallen while on holiday in the Italian Alps, the first time in August 1992 and the second time in July this year.

On the first occasion he hit his head on a radiator, and on the second he broke his wrist. The Vatican denied that he had fainted, saying he had slipped during the night.

He has however appeared in good form recently during public appearances, with no sign of fatigue. On Sunday he tackled the issue of climate change in his Angelus address on St Peter's Square, calling for "responsible" action on the environment to give relief to "the poor and future generations" ahead of the UN climate conference in Copenhagen.

"Protecting the natural world calls for restrained and responsible lifestyles, especially in consideration of the poor and future generations," the Pope said. "I call on all people of good will to respect the laws of God on nature and to rediscover the moral dimension in human life".

The Vatican will be represented in Copenhagen by Monsignor Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's permanent observer at the United Nations.

The Pope also said that human history was "moved by the Word of God". He noted that the Gospel text of the day, from St Luke, had "an abundance of references to all the political and religious authorities of Palestine in 27-28 AD. Evidently the evangelist wants to point out to the reader or listener that the Gospel is not a myth, but the account of a true story, that Jesus of Nazareth is a historical personage in a precise context."

He quoted St Ambrose as saying, "So, the Word descended that the Earth, which before had been a desert, would produce its fruits for us."

The Pope added however that "in the Church there is always a struggle taking place between the desert and the garden, between the sin that parches the earth and the grace that waters it so that it produces abundant fruits of holiness ... Let us therefore pray to the Mother of the Lord that she will help us, in this Advent season, to straighten our ways, letting ourselves be guided by the word of God."
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'There is a God':
How the Church in Italy
is preparing for Christmas

As announced last summer, the Italian bishops' Cultural Project under Cardinal Ruini has organized
an international conference on God among philosophers, scientists,
and artists, in a culture denies Him.
Even as the Pope points out that God reveals himself to the 'little ones' not to the intellectuals.


ROME, December 7, 2009 – Halfway through the season of Advent, an international event is being held in Rome that has at its center that God "who has come, who is coming, and who is to come."

The event is organized by the Italian bishops' conference, more precisely by the committee for the cultural project headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini.


The title is: "God today: With him or without him, that changes everything." And it is closely connected to what Benedict XVI, in the memorable letter to bishops on March 10, 2009, indicated as "the overriding priority: to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God."

In concrete terms, from December 10 to 12 a vast audience will hear from bishops and philosophers, theologians and scientists, artists and musicians, poets and scholars, men and women of different perspectives and faiths, close to God or far away.

But all of them will be there to talk about Him, the God of the Bible, the Trinitarian God, the Christian God, the one who has the human face of Jesus. That God who has been exiled from postmodern culture and rejected by science, and yet is ever more present in the reality experienced by so many men and women of this time.

Poster for Day 1 of the conference: Cardinal Bagnasco and Rome Mayor Alemanno give welcome remarks; Andrea Riccardi presides; and Cardinal Ruini and Robert Spaemann will be among the first speakers. The theme on Day 1 is "The God of faith and the God of philosophy'.*

Some of the speakers are famous: Cardinal Ruini, naturally, the originator of the event; Robert Spaemann, the German philosopher who has dedicated his most penetrating essays to the question of God; and also Roger Scruton, Emanuele Severino, Rémi Brague, Aldo Schiavone, Robert Schneider, Antonio Paolucci, Denis Alexander, Giuliano Ferrara, Martin Nowak, Giorgio Israel, Peter van Inwagen, and many more.

They will talk about God under different aspects. About "God in music" and about "God and violence," about "Creation and evolution" and about "God in cinema and television," about "God and the sciences" and about "God in beauty."

It will also be a dialogue without borders in the geographical sense.

"The question of God is not exclusive to the West," Cardinal Ruini said in presenting the event to the media on Friday, December 4, in the Palazzo del Campidoglio. "Scientific language is increasingly more universal, and therefore also universalizes its own negation of God. For this reason, the West has a debt to pay to the whole world: not to remove, but to clarify for itself the reasons for faith in God. Only in this way will it be capable of dialoguing with different cultures, principally those of Asia, instead of closing in on itself."

The gamble of the event about "God today," in short, is to revive a positive encounter between the faith and culture of today, in a sort of modern Areopagus, re-creating the adventure that Raphael depicted five hundred years ago in the marvelous fresco "The School of Athens".


The master philosophers assembled set off, each in his way and by sometimes tortuous paths, towards what they see on the wall in front of them: the mystery of the sacred host, the earthly and heavenly Church, the magnificence of God.

For those who read Italian, the program of the event, the profiles of the speakers, and then little by little the recap and texts of the presentations are available on the web page dedicated to it:

Benedict XVI, naturally, has been informed about this event organized by the Italian Church and taking place a few steps away from the Vatican buildings. He will not speak there. But the harmony between the event and the magisterium of this Pope is so strong that it emerges of its own accord, even in the most unexpected ways and moments.

One striking example of this harmony is the homily that Benedict XVI gave off the cuff on Tuesday, December 1, early in the morning during the Mass he celebrated with the members of the international theological commission, in the Pauline Chapel.

Papa Ratzinger began his homily by commenting on the Gospel of the day, precisely that passage in which Jesus gives praise to his heavenly Father, "for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike."

That mystery of God, ignored and rejected by the dominant culture but alive in the hearts and minds of the "little ones" – as preached by Pope Benedict in this fascinating homily – is the same one that the event in Rome will bring to light in the next few days.

[Magister then posts a translation of the homily to the theologians, translated and posted on this thread on Thursday, Dec. 3]

*P.S.I could not help noticing that the theme for Day 1 of the conference is virtually identical to Prof. Joseph Ratzinger's inaugural lecture as Professor of Theology at Bonn University in 1959. It was published in Italy in January 2007 as 'an important contribution to natural theology':


In looking it up, I also came across a review of it by Andrea Tornielli at the time, which deserves translation.

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Pope Benedict will meet
Irish bishops on Dec. 11

Translated from

ROME, Dec. 7 (SIR) - Cardinal Sean Brady, president of the Irish bishops' conference and Archbishop of Armagh, and Cardinal Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, will meet with Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Dec. 11, according to Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, Vatican press director.

The meeting is for the purpose of "information and evaluation of the painful situation of the Church in Ireland following the recent publication of the Murphy Commission Report" [on abuses committted by Irish clergy and religious in the Archdiocese of Dublin against minors].

"I can confirm", Fr. Lomardi said, "that the Holy Father has invited Cardinal Brady and Cardinal Martin to a meeting in Rome on Friday, December 11" to discuss the Report and its consequences.

Also attending the meeting will be representatives of the various Curial dicasteries that have competence to deal with the specific issues raised by the report.

The report focuses on what Church and State authorities did (and did not do) regarding acccusations made of clerical abuses between 1975-2004.

It can be found on a special website of the Irish Ministry of Justice/

Irish Primates to meet Pope
this weekend on abuse report

by Fiach Kelly
Monday December 07 2009

SEVERAL bishops singled out for criticism in the Murphy report have responded to a letter sent to them by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin asking them to clarify their positions.

Dr Martin said he had received a number of responses from the bishops he had written to last week.

Speaking to the Irish Independent after celebrating a Lourdes reunion Mass in Dublin, Dr Martin said that he had received a reply from the under-fire Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray.

But he would not be drawn on whether he was satisfied with the responses given to him so far.

Cardinals Martin and Brady.

He indicated that the bishops' responses would be central to the discussions he and Cardinal Sean Brady would be having with the Pope this weekend.

Last week, Dr Martin said that he was not satisfied with the response of Bishop Murray and other auxiliary bishops who served in Dublin and who were criticised in the report. At the time, he said that those who were no longer serving in Dublin could not tailor their responses to people in their current diocese.

"He [Bishop Murray] did reply, I wrote a letter to him and he said he'd be replying," Dr Martin said yesterday. "They are beginning to come in."

He said that he would have to read the responses together in order to decide if he was happy with them and added that some of the bishops he wrote to had questioned his request for clarity.

"I think we'll wait until we see what comes in," Dr Martin said.

"We have a meeting of the bishops on Wednesday and Cardinal Brady and I are going to Rome at the weekend so I would hope that by the time we are ready to go Rome, we would have something to say there."

His comments follow those of Cardinal Brady, who called on the bishops named in the report to act soon in light of the findings that cover-ups of clerical abuse had taken place.


Vatican should have replied
to Murphy letters, says cardinal

Dec. 7, 2009


THE CATHOLIC primate Cardinal Seán Brady has criticised the lack of response by the Vatican and papal nunciature to correspondence from the Murphy commission.

Speaking to The Irish Times in Dundal yesterday he said “it was unfortunate that requests from the [Murphy] commission didn’t get the courtesy of a reply” from the Vatican. “They should have,” he said.

Similarly, correspondence by the commission with the papal nunciature in Dublin “should have been acknowledged”, he added.

He repeated his belief that the Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray “will do the right thing” following publication of the Dublin diocesan report, and is awaiting a response from the others named in that report to a letter sent to them by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

The cardinal was speaking at St Joseph’s church in Dundalk after he had ordained three Redemptorist priests.

Asked about an open letter sent to him as president of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference by abuse survivor Marie Collins, seeking a public assurance that no Irish bishop would in future use the stratagem of “mental reservation” to avoid telling the truth, he said he had yet to receive the letter. When he did he would bring it to the attention of the bishops this week, he said.

The Murphy report outlined the concept of “mental reservation”, which some churchmen felt allowed them knowingly to mislead people “without being guilty of lying”.

Cardinal Desmond Connell explained the concept to the commission as follows: “You are not permitted to tell a lie. On the other hand, you may be put in a position where you have to answer, and there may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression, realising that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may be – permitting that to happen, not willing that it happened, that would be lying . . . So mental reservation is, in a sense, a way of answering without lying.”

Cardinal Brady said yesterday he had never employed mental reservation, “not to my knowledge”, and was even unsure about it as a concept.

The bishops’ conference will meet in Maynooth for their winter meeting on Wednesday and Thursday next.

Such quarterly meetings normally take place from Monday to Wednesday but as the feast of the Immaculate Conception falls tomorrow, it was scheduled for later this week.

As to those others also named in the report, he awaited their response to a letter sent them by Archbishop Martin last week.

The men concerned include Bishop Jim Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin; Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway; Dublin auxiliary bishops Éamonn Walsh and Ray Field; and the chancellor of Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese Mgr John Dolan. “In fairness they should be allowed time and space,” the cardinal said.

Yesterday he said he and Archbishop Martin would be travelling to Rome later this week.

Details were still being worked out as to when they would go and who they would meet. In Rome they intended to convey “the anger and dismay among the people” at findings in the Murphy report, he said.

They would do so to Pope Benedict XVI, as well as to the heads of various Vatican congregations.

Last June, following publication of the Ryan report on May 20th, both he and Archbishop Martin met the Pope and most of the Curia in Rome to discuss that report and reaction to it. Arrangements are being worked out so that similar meetings can take place where the Murphy report is concerned for later this week.

Of his personal reaction to the Murphy report, he said: “Surprise is too weak a word to describe it. I was shocked, felt ashamed, dismayed, deeply shocked.”

He had received letters expressing “a lot of intensity of feeling. Very strong. I can understand that.”

People who did not usually write letters had been in contact with him saying they were dismayed by the report. He was “glad people are expressing their anger. Our job is to respond and not in a superficial way. It’s only beginning.” It was “a big test”.

As to whether the bishops had been unprepared for the report and were in disarray since its publication, he responded: “How could anybody be prepared for it? We have tried [to respond]. It came out 10 days ago. I preached on it last Sunday. I met groups. I was abroad meeting the bishops of England, Scotland and Wales. And of course everyone was shocked. It has taken time to deeply ponder the issues raised.”

Again and again he returned to the issue of child protection, where “interaction by church and State is essential”.

There had to be provision “for the future well-being of children, We have to ensure that in every part of the Catholic Church in Ireland children are safe and their parents are satisfied that they are safe,” he said. “No complacency can be justified,” he added.


One Irish bishop flies to Rome:
To resign before the Pope?

by PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Dec. 7, 2009

THE BISHOP of Limerick Dr Donal Murray travelled to Rome yesterday to discuss his future. It is believed Bishop Murray departed from Cork airport in the afternoon and that he intends offering his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. However neither Bishop Murray nor his secretary were available for comment last night.

Earlier yesterday, Bishop Murray told parishioners he was “reflecting on the decision he now has to make”, in a statement read out at Masses across the diocese.

Calls have been made for Bishop Murray’s resignation since the publication of the Dublin diocesan report which criticised his handling of complaints against clergymen who were later found to have been involved in the sexual abuse of children.

The pressure increased on Bishop Murray on Saturday when Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady said he was confident Bishop Murray “would do the right thing”.

He went on to say that he would resign himself if a child had been abused as a result of a failure on his part. “I would remember that child sex abuse is a very serious crime and very grave and if I found myself in a situation where I was aware that my failure to act had allowed or meant that other children were abused, well then, I think I would resign,” he told RTÉ.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Cardinal Brady confirmed yesterday that he and Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin would be travelling to Rome later this week, although the date of their departure had yet to be finalised. They intended conveying “the anger and dismay among the people” at findings in the Dublin diocesan report.

He also criticised the lack of response by the Vatican and the papal nunciature in Ireland to correspondence from the commission.

“It was unfortunate that requests from the commission didn’t get the courtesy of a reply” from the Vatican when it wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in September 2006.

On RTÉ’s The Week in Politics last night, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin expressed his “deep disappointment” at the lack of a response by Pope Benedict to the Dublin diocesan report. “The Pope has not responded yet to the appalling revelations of the Murphy inquiry.”

[If he has not responded, it's because there has been no occasion to do so. Besides, it's not as if he has not spoken out about the situation - he did in very strong words to the Irish bishops in October 2006. He met with Cardinals Martin and Brady at the Vatican after the preliminary Ryan Report was released last June, and there is no question he will make his statement now that the full report has been release - after he meets with the two cardinals this week.]

The papal nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, has been asked to visit the department this week to explain why there had been no response from the nunciature to correspondence from the commission

“I think we will be pointing out that we need such a substantive response,” Mr Martin added, “and it is the view of the Irish Government that there has to be co-operation . . . not just with the investigation into Dublin but also the Cloyne diocese,” which is ongoing.

It was a tactical error on the part of the CDF and the Nuncio in London not to have responded, even if they had valid reasons to do so (i.e., the local bishiops and clergy have direct knowledge of what happened, and the Vatican does not have the files). They at least owed the Commission a written refusal. To have simply ignored the requests made to them, as reports make it appear, is not just inexplicable - it's rude!
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This item appearing in tomorrow's (12/8/09) issue of L'Osservatore Romano must be somewhat embarassing for editor Vian. Vian himself was one f 34 prominent Italian intellectuals asked by the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ora to name what they thought to be the best book of 2009 in their respective fields.


His choice was an Italian novel called 'Diary of a Country Priest' which is apparently a contemporary Italian take-off on Georges Bernanos's 1937 classic novel of the same name.

'Caritas in veritate':
an Italian economist chooses it
as the best book of 2009

by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from
the 12/7-12/8/09 issue of


As usual at this time of year, Il Sole 24 Ore, in its influential Sunday supplement Domenica, focused yesterday on the best book of the year.

It turned to "34 intellectuals, economists and scholars", all Italian except for British historian Simon Schama, and the results included 27 titles in Italian and seven in English (mainly on economic issues).
Obviously, the choices were very diverse as well as interesting.

Among the responses, that of Mario Deaglio stands out. He is one of the most authoritative of Italian economists, professor of economics at the University of Turin, who was the editor of Il Sole 24 Ore [Italy's version of The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal], and is currently an editorialist for La Stampa.

For Deaglio, the best book of 2009 was Benedict XVI's Caritas in veritate because, he underscores, the encyclical "offers a global view of the problems of the planet that no political leader has managed to provide."

He goes on: "The Pontiff, who has been called reactionary by some, has written an innovative work that provides a very effective and original framework for the burning issues of today: the equitable distribution of resources, the need to find ways to reduce the gap between cocial classes, the role of the market, and the question of the environment. It is a complete and ample inventory of the world's problems that is logical and rigorous. It does not propose facile solutions but rather points the way along which such solutions should be sought".

To Deaglio's choice, one might add that recently, the American magazine for economy and finance Forbes - famous for its various lists ranking individuals in terms of power and wealth - had the Pope at #11 in its 2009 list of 'The World's Most Powerful People'.

It calls the Pope "the highest earthly authority for a billion souls, that is, almost one-sixth of the planet's population", while the Catholic Church is described, in economic lingo that is nonetheless quite suggestive, as "the oldest and most vast multinational in the world".

It is in the light of such descriptions that one must understand the application of the category of 'power' - even if it would be much closer to reality to use the word 'influence' instead - to a spiritual leader like Benedict XVI, who is commonly treated as traditionalist and conservative while failing to grasp his anti-conformism.

In any case, one must be glad about these acknowledgments - which are completely secular - of the presence and influence of a kind and gentle man who never fails to unite Christian preaching with an appeal to reason which is common to all men.

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Tuesday, December 8
Some familiar paintings: From left, by Carlo Crivelli; 2 by El Greco; 2 by Esteban Murillo (who painted 4); 2 by Francisco Zurbaran (who had 3); and by Giambattista Tiepolo.
This has been a major Church feast since 1476 when Pope Sixtus IV made it a religious holiday,
but it was not until 1854 when Pope Pius IX formally proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

OR for 12/7-12/8:
At the Angelus, Benedict XVI underscores that the Gospel is not a legend:
'The account of a true story'
He also calls for moderate and responsible lifestyles that respect Creation
on the eve of the Copenhagen conference on climate change.
Illustration: Raphael, John the Baptist preaching, 1505, National Gallery, London.
Other Page 1 stories: A situationer on the Copenhagen meeting; and an editorial commentary that looks into whether the rich nations at Copenhagen will simply aim for market adjustments rather than literal global accord on environmental protection measures. The inside pages contain the Vatican message to the UN against anti-personnel land mines; a story on the Archbishop of Canterbury's alarm at the appointment of an openly lesbian Episcopal bishop in Los Angeles; and an essay on St. Ambrose about 'when reflection becomes prayer'.


As it is a religious holiday, the Holy Father led Angelus prayers at noon today. Homily.

This afternoon, the Holy Father will render the traditional papal homage to the Immaculate Conception
at the pillar with her image in Rome's Piazza Spagna.

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The Holy Father addressed a packed St. Peter's Square today in leading the Angelus on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The 100-foot Vatican Christmas tree, donated by the Walloon region of Belgium, has been decked for the season.

Above, the mosaic of Mary as 'Mater Ecclesiae' on a corner wall of the Apostolic Palace building facing St. Peter's Square.

Here are the words addressed by the Holy Father today to the English-speaking faithful.

Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

As we venerate her life of holiness, full of grace from the beginning of her existence, we praise God and acclaim the power of his gifts.

May all Christians, filled with joyful hope and following the example of Mary, be faithful to God’s grace and seek a life of holiness.

I wish you all a happy feast day and a pleasant stay in Rome!


Here is a translation of the Pope's words today:

Dear brothers and sisters!

On December 8, we celebrate one of the most beautiful feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception.

But what does it mean that Mary is the Immaculate? What does this title say to us? First of all, let us refer to the liturgical texts for today, especially the great 'fresco' from Chapter 3 of Genesis and the account of the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke.

After the Original Sin, God turned to the serpent, who represents Satan, he curses him and adds a promise: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel"(Gn 3,15).

It is the announcement of a rematch: Satan in the dawn of Creation appears to have prevailed, but a son of woman would come who would crush his head. Thus, through the woman's race, God himself would triumph.

That woman is the Virgin Mary, of whom was born Jesus Christ, who with his sacrifice, defeated the old tempter once and for all. That is why, in so many paintings or statues of the Immaculate, she is shown crushing a serpent under her foot.

The evangelist Luke, on the other hand, shows us the Virgin Mary as she receives the announcement of the celestial messenger (cfr Lk 1,26-38). She appearas as the humble authentic daughter of Israel, the true Sion in whom God wishes to make his dwelling.

She is the shoot from which the Messiah would be born, the just and merciful King. In the simplicity of the home in Nazareth, there lived the pure 'remains' of Israel, in whom God wished his people to be reborn, like a new tree that would extend its branches over the whole world, offering the good fruits of salvation to all men.

Unlike Adam and Eve, Mary remains obedient to the will of the Lord, and with all her being she says 'Yes' and places herself fully at the disposition of divine design.

She is the new Eve, the true 'mother of all the living', who, through faith in Christ, will receive eternal life.

Dear friends, what immense joy to have Mary Immaculate for our mother! Everytime we experience our fragility and any hint of evil, we can turn to her, and our hearts will receive light and comfort.

Even in the trials of life, in the tempests that may make our faith and hope waver, let us think that we are her children and that the roots of our existence are anchored in the infinite grace of God.

The Church itself, although it is exposed to the negative influences of the world, always finds in her the star to orient herself and to follow the way indicated by Christ.

Mary is, in fact, the Mother of the Church, as Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council solemnly proclaimed.

Therefore, as we give thanks to God for this stupendous sign of his goodness, let us entrust to the Immaculate Virgin each of us, our families and communities, the whole Church and the whole world.

I will do so this afternoon, following tradition, at the foot of the monument dedicated to her in Piazza di Spagna.

After the prayers, he said this:

This year, once again, on today's occasion, I have the joy of greeting the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate, led by Cardinal Andrea Maria Deskur. Dear Cardinal, dear friends, I affectionately entrust each of you and your activities to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary.

I also address a special thought to Italian Catholic Action which, in so many parishes today, renews its commitment to and in the Church. I particularly encourage the educators of the Catholic Action for Children, who are present today after the conclusion of their annual conference, to be generous and tireless in educating children in the faith and in Christian witness.


I almost missed this item in today's OR which is a backgrounder on the Roman homage to the Immaculate Conception ON her feast day.

The Popes and the 'Immacolata'
Translated from
the 12/7-12/8 issue of


A white stole instead of the traditional red to emphasize the nature of this Marian solemnity.

A Spanish choir to accompany the end of the Pope's prayer at the foot of the Marian pillar.

The floraL homage to be offered by Benedict XVI, prepared this time by the horticulturists of the Vatican Gardens.

These were to be some of the features in the afternoon rites with the Pope at Piazza di Spagna today in honor of the Immaculate Conception, according to Mons. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical celebrations.


The monument to the Immacolata was erected in Piazza di Spagna to commemorate the proclamation by Pius IX on December 8, 1854, of the dogma that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin.

Two hundred Vatican firemen were required to set the brnoze statue of the Virgin atop the marble column (both statue and monument were designed by Luigi Proletti). Every year, a wreath of fresh flowers is placed on the image on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Papa Mastai-Ferretti (Pius IX) himself inaugurated the monument on Dec. 8, 1857 from a tribunal that was mounted in front of the Embassy of Spain that gives its name to the Piazza.

In 1908, the nearby parish of Sant'Andrea della Fratte started to organize annual pilgrimages to the monument by Roman citizens. Since 1938, the Pontifical Academy of the Immacolata has been in charge of the event.

For the occasion, the firemen [honored for the contribution of their 19th century predecessors to the work], the ambassador of Spain, the clergy and religious of the city, and representatives of colleges, seminaries, confraternities and the Catholic laity, are joined by city, pronvicial and regional civilian authorities, labor organizations, and other productive sectors of the Urbe (the city of Rome).

After the demise of the Papal states in the mid-19th century, several years after the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed, it was Pius XII, a Roman by birth, who first came to pay homage to the Immacolata on Dec. 8, 1953, which was the start of the Marian year to mark the first centenary of the dogma.

John XXIII, just over a month from his coronation as Pope, first came to the Immacolata in 1958, returning on her feast day in 1960 and 1961.

After that, Paul VI made it an annual event, coming first as Pope on December 8, 1965, after he had just closed the Second Vatican Council.

During the oil crisis in the 1970s, he came to Piazza di Spagna in a horse-drawn carriage.

John Paul II, who had a particular devotion to Mary, made it an annual pilgrimage. And Benedict XVI has carried on the tradition.


With hindsight, one must remark that the Pope did not wear a white stole today but a golden one. [I think I read somewhere that for purposes of the liturgy, white and gold are 'equivalent' colors.]

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Pope's 2010 pastoral visits in Italy
announced in the host dioceses today:
Turin, Sulmona, Carpineto Romano and Palermo

Translated from
the Italian service of

Dec. 8, 2009

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception today was an occasion for priests in four dioceses of Italy from north to south to announce a pastoral visit from Benedict XVI in 2010.

The cities to be visited by the Holy Father are:
- Turin, in northern Italy, on Sunday, May 2, to venerate the Holy Shroud of Turin which will be on public exposition for the first time in 10 years;
- Sulmona in the Abruzzo region of central Italy, on Sunday, July 4, to mark the 8th centenary of St. Celestine V's birth;
- Carpineto Romano, on Sunday, Sept. 5, about 60 kms southeast of Rome, for the second centenary of Leo XIII's birth; and
- Palermo, capital of Sicily, on Sunday, October 3, for a Regional Encounter of Families and Youth.

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The Holy Father this evening travelled to the tourist heart of Rome to pay the now-traditional homage by the Bishop of Rome to the Immacolata, represented by an image atop a pillar in front of the Spanish Steps on Piazza di Spagna.

Along with Corpus Christi, this annual event is one of the best occasions for the faithful to be able to see the Pontiff at close range outside of events at the Vatican.


Pope keeps Roman tradition
at the Spanish Steps


ROME, Dec. 8 (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday lamented what he described as a steady diet of news about evil in the world, saying it hardens hearts, as he prayed at the Spanish Steps in a Christmas season tradition.

Shoppers who jammed the narrow streets, including Via Condotti with its posh shops, paused from buying Christmas gifts to catch a glimpse of Benedict as he was driven in a glass-sided popemobile to the square below the Spanish Steps.

"Every day, through the newspapers, television, radio, evil is reported, repeated, amplified, making us used to horrible things, making us become insensitive, and, in some way, poisoning us," the pope said after kneeling in prayer before a statue of the Virgin Mary to mark the Dec. 8 Catholic feast day in her honor.

"Hearts harden and thoughts darken," Benedict said.

He also complained that the mass media "tend to make us feel like spectators, as if evil regards only others and certain things could never happen to us."

Instead, Benedict said, "we are all actors, and for better or worse, our behavior has an influence on others."

An aide held a white umbrella over the 82-year-old Pontiff in a drizzle at dusk. Benedict wore an ermine-trimmed, crimson cape to guard against the chill.

Benedict's next major public holiday appointment is Christmas Eve Mass, which he will celebrate at 10 p.m. instead of the traditional starting hour of midnight in St. Peter's Basilica.

The announcement by the Vatican that the Pope had agreed with his aides to move up the appointment by two hours raised some concern about the pontiff's health.

But Vatican officials have insisted his health is fine, and that Benedict had agreed with aides to have more time to rest before a noon appearance to crowds in St. Peter's Square on Christmas Day.

Although Benedict at the start of his papacy ventured that he would travel far less than his globe-trotting predecessor, John Paul II, did in his 26-year-long pontificate, the German-born theologian has been making several international and domestic trips each year.

On Tuesday, Church officials announced that Benedict would make several Italian pilgrimages in 2010, including a visit in October to Sicily, where the local church has been speaking out against organized crime.

Other trips include a visit in May to Turin to see the famed Shroud and a journey in July to the central town of Sulmona, the spiritual home of the 13th-century hermit pope, Celestine V, the only Pontiff to have resigned. [She missed the trip to Leo XII's hometown of Carpineto Romano.]

At least two foreign trips have been announced for next year: separate pilgrimages to the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus. Britain and Fatima, Portugal, are possibilities for other trips. [Portugal has definitely been confirmed.]


Of course, the Vatican has not yet posted the text of the Pope's homily in Piazza Spagna because the event took place after regular office hours, and on a holiday yet! Unusually, AsiaNews promptly posted an English translation of the full address.

Dear brothers and sisters!

In the heart of Christian cities, Mary constitutes a sweet and reassuring presence. In her self-effacing way, she gives everyone peace and hope during the happy and sad moments of life. In churches, chapels or the walls of buildings, a painting, a mosaic or a statue remind us of the Mother’s presence, constantly watching over her children. Here too in Piazza di Spagna, Mary stands high, watching over Rome.

What does Mary tell the city? What does her presence remind us? It reminds us that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more (Rom., 5:20), as the Apostle Paul wrote. She is the Immaculate Mother who reiterates even to people of our time: Do not be afraid, Jesus defeated evil - he uprooted it, to free us from its dominion.

How much we need such good news! But in fact, every day, in newspapers, television and radio, evil is narrated, repeated, amplified, so that we get used to the most horrible things, making us desensitized to evil.

In some way, this poisons us, because the negative is never fully drained out but accumulates day after day. The heart hardens and thoughts become dark.

For this reason, the city needs Mary, whose presence speaks of God, it reminds us of the victory of Grace over sin and makes us hope even in situations that are most humanly difficult.

There are invisible persons who live - or survive - in the city, who every so often, turn up on the front pages or on TV screens, and who are exploited to the limit, for as long as the news and the images can call attention. It is a perverse mechanism, which is unfortunately difficult to resist.

The city first hides and then exposes the individual to the public. Without pity, or with false pity. But there is in every man the desire to be accepted as a person, to be considered as a sacred reality, because every human story is a sacred story that calls for utmost respect.

The city, dear brothers and sisters, is us! Each of us contributes to its life and its moral atmosphere, for good or bad. The boundary between good and bad passes through the heart of each of us, and none of us has the right to judge others. Rather, each of us should feel obliged to make our own selves better.

The mass media tend to make us feel like “spectators” all the time, as though evil only concerns other persons, and that certain things could never happen to us. On the contrary, we are all 'actors', and our behavior, good or bad, has an influence on others.

We often complain about air pollution, that the air is unbreathable in some parts of the city. That is true: it requires the commitment of everyone to make the city cleaner.

However, there is another pollution, less perceptible to the senses but just as dangerous. It is spiritual pollution - it makes us smile less, gives us dark thoughts, makes us ignore each other or avoid looking at each other directly.

The city is made up of human faces, but unfortunately, the collective dynamic can make us lose our perception of the depths in everyone. We see everything superficially. Persons become bodies, bodies without souls, who become things, faceless objects that are exchangeable and consumable.

Mary Immaculate helps to rediscover and defend the depth that there is in persons, because in her, the soul is perfectly transparent in the body. She is purity personified, in the sense that in her, spirit, soul and body are fully consistent with each other and with the will of God.

Our Lady teaches us to be open to God's action, to look at others as God looks at them - which is, from the heart. And to look at them with mercy, with love and infinite tenderness, especially those who are alone, scorned, exploited. “Where there is more sin, grace overflows all the more.”

I wish to pay public tribute to all who, in silence, not in words but in deeds, strive to practice this evangelical law of love, which moves the world forward.

They are many, even here in Rome, and they rarely make the news: men and women of all ages who have understood that it doesn't pay to condemn, to complain, to recriminate, but that it is better to respond to evil with good. This changes things - or better said, it changes persons, and consequently, it improves society.

Dear Roman friends, and all who live in this city! As we face our daily activities, let us lend our ears to Mary's voice. Let us listen to her silent but urgent appeal.

She tells each of us: Wherever sin increases, may grace overflow all the more - starting with your heart and your life! Thus the city will be more beautiful, more Christian, more Roman.

Thank you, Holy Mother, for your message of hope. Thank you for your silent but eloquent presence in the heart of our city. Immaculate Virgin, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!

P.S. I posted the AsiaNews translation yesterday,
but after seeing the original text today from Vatican online, I have modified the translation to be more in keeping with the phraseology employed by the Pope.

There were also a few places in which the sense of the sentence itself was mistranslated. An example: At the start, when the Pope says "Quanto abbiamo bisogno di questa bella notizia!", it was translated as "When do we need such good deeds?", which is very different from the actual translation, which is fairly simple, namely, "How much we need such good news!" - not a question, but a rhetorical exclamation.

While AsiaNews does a terrific job of reporting, the general run of their English stories suggests that none of their translators is an English speaker with command of the idiom;
and I'm sorry to say there has always been some laxity about their translation of papal texts

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Vatican to issue 'strong response'
on abuse report after Pope meets Irish bishops


The Vatican will issue a "strong reponse" to the findings of the Murphy report after the pope meets Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Cardinal Seán Brady on Friday, the papal nuncio to Ireland has said.

The report revealed a catalogue of cover-ups and inaction by senior Church figures in face of serious allegations of abuse. It also revealed Vatican officials refused to deal directly with the commission's investigators, suggesting they should use official diplomatic channels instead.


Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza told reporters after his meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin at Iveagh House today. that communication between the Catholic Church and the Governmment would be improved in the future.

The nuncio had been asked to visit the department to explain why there had been no response from the nunciature to correspondence from the Commission of Investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese.

"We discussed the different aspects and we try to improve communication between the Government and the Church in the future to avoid misunderstandings," he said. "I conveyed to the Minister the shock, the profound shock, the dismay of the Holy See concerning the findings of the commission's report," he said.

"I informed also the Minister that this weekend, takes place in Rome a meeting with the Holy Father and Archbishop Martin and Cardinal Brady and they will discuss this report. Certainly, I think there will be a strong response from the Holy See," Dr Leanza added.

"I suppose the meeting between the Pope and the two Archbishops will be based also on analysis of the report and certainly some response will be given, I think so."

The Holy See was "studying carefully" the report, he continued. "This will need a certain time. The Holy Father certainly condemns strongly [child abuse]. This Murphy report is now under study and the Holy Father will take any action that is necessary."

Asked about his office's failure to repsond to letters from the Murphy commission, he said the office received just one letter during his time and he believed a response had not been demanded.

Asked why the Vatican had not responded to, or condemned, the findings of the Murphy or the Ryan report, he said: "No, because the Bishops have been very clear on this and the Vatican has been very clear. We have always condemned the abuse, absolutely. No-one alive can approve such behaviour.

"As I told you we feel ashamed for what happened. Really I express my shock and dismay and certainly I understand the anger of the people and the suffering, so we certainly condemn this. If there was any mistake from our side we always apologise for this," he said.

"I think this is clear that mistakes were there. So no one would like to cover up . It is much better that what has been wrong emerges."

Mr Martin, who had initiated today's meeting, said he had conveyed strongly to the papal nuncio the "real need to respond comprehensively" to the pain of victims and to the anger of the Irish people.

He had also stresseed the need for a "comprehensive response from the Vatican". He demanded a clear commitment to full co-operation from the Church with the forthcoming Cloyne Inquiry.

"He [Archbishop Leanza] put the point that the Vatican had always wanted to co-operate with the Inquiry. He did indicate that he did regret he didn't acknowledge the letter that he received...He acknowledged that he should have replied formally.

"He said he wanted to make it clear there was absolutely no attempt to ignore the situation, that the Vatican and the Pope were taking their time to study the details of the report and had taken the initiative of inviting Archbishop Martin and Cardinal Brady to Rome for this meeting on Friday which would shape the nature of the response, but that there would be a response. And he was sure that there would be a response."

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Wednesday, December 9
Modern scholars question whether this saint ever existed, pointing to lack of documentation
about him at the time of the Marian apparitions and miracle (1531) that made him a decisive
figure for the mass Christianization of Mexico immediately following the apparitions, in 1532-
1538, at the height of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. Mainly, they claim that the bishop
at the time of the apparitions never mentioned it in his writings. However, there is the fact
(scientifically unexplained) of Juan's tilma (cloak) on which the image of the Virgin was
imprinted, and that photographic enlargements of the Virgin's eyes from the image on the cloak
show a reflection of Juan Diego. The story is that the Virgin appeared to the elderly native Indian
peasant, a devout widower, and told him to ask the bishop to build a church on the spot. In order
to convince the skeptical bishop, the Virgin told Juan to gather roses from the spot (it was
December) and bring them to the bishop. He wrapped the miraculous flowers in his cloak, and
when he opened it in front of the bishop, there was the image of the Virgin on the tilma
[the object now venerated in the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City). Before Juan
Diego was canonized in 2002, the first native American earn this distinction, the Vatican named
a 30-man commission of scholars to research and establish the authenticity of his life and
the events related to the apparitions. The Basilica of Guadalupe is now the world's most
visited religious shrine.

No OR today (because yesterday was a religious holiday).


General Audience - The Holy Father's catechesis was on Rupert of Deutz, a 12th century Benedictine
abbot and theologian who was devoted to espousal of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and
said that the Pope's Magisterium was safe haven for Catholics in any controversies about doctrine.

An addition to the Holy Father's holiday schedule:
Thursday, Dec. 17
17:30, St. Peter's Basilica

with the university students of Rome

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The Holy Father's catechesis today at the Aula Paolo VI was on Rupert of Deutz. Here is how he synthesized it in English:

In our catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, we now turn to Rupert of Deutz, an outstanding theologian of the twelfth century.

Rupert experienced at first hand the conflict between the Empire and the Church linked to the investiture crisis, and he played a significant role in the principal theological debates of his day.

He forcefully defended the reality of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, and insisted that the origin of evil is to be found in man’s mistaken use of freedom, not in the positive will of God.

Rupert also contributed to the medieval discussion of the purpose of the Incarnation, which he set within a vast vision of history centred on Christ.

His teaching on the dignity and privileges of the Virgin Mary, presented within a broad ecclesiological context, would prove influential for later theology and find an echo in the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council.

Rupert’s ability to harmonize the rational study of the mysteries of faith with prayer and contemplation makes him a typical representative of the monastic theology of his time.

His example inspires us to draw near to Christ, present among us in his Word and in the Eucharist, and to rejoice in the knowledge that he remains with us at every moment of our lives and throughout history.


Here is a full translation of today's catechesis:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today we make the acquaintance of another Benedictine monk of teh 12th century. His name is Rupert of Deutz, a city near Cologne and site of a famous monastery.

Rupert speaks of his own life in one of his most important works, entitled The glory and the honor of the Son of man which is a partial commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.

While still a boy, he was welcomed as an 'oblate' to the Benedictine monastery of St. Lawrence in Liege (Belgium), according to a practice of the time in which, as a gift of God, families entrusted one child to the monks to be educated.

Rupert always loved the monastic life. He learned Latin promptly to study the Bible and to enjoy liturgical celebrations better. He distinghuished himself for a most integral moral rectitude and for his strong attachment to the See of St. Peteer.

His era were marked by conflicts between the papacy and the Empire due mainly to the so-called 'battle over invetiture' in which - as I referred to in other catecheses - the Papacy wished to prevent bishops' nominations and the exercise of their jurisdiction from being dependent on civilian authorities, who were largely motivated by political and economic interests, certainly not pastoral.

The Bishop of Liege, Othbert, resisted the Pope's directives and exiled Berengar, abbot of St Lawrence monastery, because of his loyalty to the Pope.

Rupert lived in that monastery, and did not hesitate to follow his abbot into exile, and only when Othbert returned to full communion with the Pope, did Rupert return and became a priest. Until then, he had avoided ordination by a bishop in dissension with the Pope.

Rupert teaches us that when controversies arise in the Church, reference to the Petrine ministry guarantees fidelity to the right doctrine, which gives serenity and interior freedom.

After the dispute with Othbert, Rupert would be constrained to leave his monastery two more times. In 1116, his adversaries wanted him brought to trial. Although he was absolved of every charge, Rupert chose to leave for Siegburg where he remained some time.

But since the controversies had not ended by the time he returned to the monastery in Liege, he decided to settle in Germany. Named abbot of Deutz in 1120, he remained there till his death in 1129. He only left Deutz once to make a pilgrimage to Rome in 1124.

A prolific writer, Rupert left us many works that are still of great interest today, if only because he was active in various important theological discussions of his time.

For example, he intervened with resolve in the eucharistic controversy which had led in 1077 to the condemination of Berengar of Tours. The latter had a reductive interpretation of the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, calling it merely symbolic.

The term 'trans-substantiation' had not yet entered the language of the Church at the time, but Rupert, at times using daring expressions, became a determined supporter of the reality of the eucharistic Presence, and particularly in a work entitled De divinis officiis (The divine offices), he affirmed the continuity between the Body of Christ as the Word incarnate and that present in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine.

Dear brothers and sisters, I believe we should think about this in our time: even today, the danger exists of redefining the Eucharistic reality, namely, to consider the Eucharist almost solely as a rite of communion, of socialization, too easily forgetting that truly present in the Eucharist is the Risen Christ - with his resurrected Body - who places himself in our hands to draw us out of ourselves, incorporate ourselves into his immortal body and thus lead us to the new life.

This great mystery - that the Lord is present in all his reality in the eucharistic species - is a mystery to adore and to love ever anew!

I wish to cite here the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which bears the fruit of 2000 years of meditation and theological reflection on the faith:

In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained. (CCC, 1374)

Even Rupert, with his reflections, contributed to this precise formulation.

Another controversy in which the Abbot of Deutz became involved was the problem of reconciling the goodness and omnipotence of God with the existence of evil. If God is omnipotent and good, how can we explain the reality of evil?

Rupert reacted to the position taken by the teachers of the theological school of Laon (France), who, in a series of philosophical arguments, distinguished 'approval' and 'permission' in the will of God, concluding that God allowed evil without approving it, and therefore, against his will.

Rupert rejected the use of philosophy which he considered inadequate for such a great problem, and remained faithful to the Biblical narration.

He starts from the goodness of God, the truth that God is supremely good and can only wish what is good. And so, Rupert identifies the origin of evil in man himself and his mistaken use of human freedom.

In confronting this issue, Rupert writes pages filled with religious inspiration to praise the infinite mercy of the Father, the patience and the benevolence of God towards man as sinner.

Like other theologians of the Middle Ages, Ruperto himself asked: Why did the Word of God, the Son of God, become man? Some - many - answered by explaining the Incarnation of the Word as the means to repair man's sin.

But Rupert, with a Christocentric view of the history of salvation, broadens the perspective, and in a work entitled The glorifgication of the Trinity, he maintains that the Incarnation, central event of all history, is foreseen in eternity, independent of man's sin, in order that all of Creation could give praise to God the Father and love him as one family gathered around Christ, Son of God.

Thus, he saw in the woman with child mentioned in the Apocalypse the entire history of mankind which is oriented towards Christ, just as conception is oriented towards birth - a concept that would be developed by other thinkers and valued even in contemporary theology, which affirms that the history of the world and mankind is a concept oriented towards the coming (delivery) of Christ.

Christ is always at the center of the exegetical explanations made by Rupert in his commentaries on the books of the Bible, to which he had dedicated himself with great diligence and passion.

Thus he rediscovered the admirable unity in all of the events in the history of salvation, from creation to the final consummation of time: "All Scripture," he wrote, "is one book that leads to the same end [the divine Word], that comes from one God, and that was written by one Spirit" (De glorificatione Trinitatis et processione Sancti Spiritus I,V, PL 169, 18).

In interpreting the Bible, Rupert did not limit himself to repeat the teachings of the Fathers, but showed originality. For example, he was the first writer to identify the Spouse in the Song of Songs with the Blessed Mary.

Thus his commentary on this book of Scripture is a kind of summa Mariologica which presents the privileges and excellent gifts of Mary.

In one of the most inspired passages of his commentary, Rupert writes: "O most beloved among the beloved, Virgin of virgins, what is it about you that your beloved Son praises, and that the entire choir of angels exalts? They praise your simplicity, purity, innocence, doctrine, modesty, humility, integrity in mind and body - that is to say, your uncorrupted virginity" (In Canticum Canticorum 4,1-6, CCL 26, pp. 69-70).

Rupert's Marian interpretation of the Song of Songs is a happy example of the harmony between liturgy and theology. Indeed, various passages of this Biblical book were already used in liturgical celebrations of Marian feasts.

Moreover, Rupert was careful to situate his Mariological doctrine in ecclesiological doctrine. In other words, he saw Mary as the most holy part of the entire Church.

That is why my venerated predecessor, Paul VI, in his address to close the third session of the Second Vatican Council solemnly proclaiming Mary as the Mother of the Church, cited a proposition taken from Rupert's works which defined Mary as the portio maxima, portio optima - the most excellent and the best part - of the Church(cfr In Apocalypsem 1.7, PL 169,1043).

Dear friends, with these quick flashes, we realize that Rupert was a fervent theologian who was gifted with great depth. Like all the representatives of monastic theology, he was able to conjoin the rational study of the mysteries of the faith with prayer and contemplation, which is considered the peak of any knowledge of God.

He himself spoke at times of his mystical experiences, as when he confides the ineffable joy of having perceived the presence of the Lord: "From that brief moment," he states, "I experienced how true it is what he himself said: 'Learn from me who am gentle and humble of heart'" (De gloria et honore Filii hominis. Super Matthaeum 12, PL 168, 1601).

We, too, each in our own way, can meet the Lord Jesus who incessantly accompanies us along our journey, who is present in the Eucharistic bread and in his Word, for our salvation.


One day after his topical and very forceful remarks to the City of Rome - and to the world - at Piazza Spagna yesterday on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Benedict XVI follows up with a catechesis that is just as topical and forceful, this time addressed to priests and theologians, especially. who dilute the faith as a mistaken way to make it more 'attractive' to the faithful.

Today, the Italian media is awash with commentaries on the Piazza Spagna remarks, since it was in part directed at the wrong uses of communications and information media. I eill try to translate the best ones later.

Despite writing about the faith and preaching it all his life, this Pope obviously devotes great thought and effort to crafting his texts, not so much for the content, with which he has had a lifetime of familiarity, but in order to express the message in words that will go to the heart of the issue - and of the faith - while touching the heart and mind of those who get the message.

Surely there are world leaders out there who may occasionally take an active part in crafting the texts they deliver, but I dare say none as regularly and consistently as Benedict XVI, who drafts and writes all his major texts himself.

Perhaps that is why no Pope in recent memory has communicated the faith every day and every way the way Benedict XVI has done - always mindful of the 'little people' whose 'simple faith' needs to be reinforced and safeguarded, and therefore, using language that can be understood by everyone.


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The proposed program for the Pope's visit to Portugal in May 2010 was released Monday by the Portuguese bishops' conference and posted on the site of the Portugal's Catholic news agency
and translated here,


May 11-14, 2010


May 11


11h00 – Arrival at Portela international airport.

12h45 - Welcome ceremony at the Monastery of Jeronimos

13h30 - Courtesy visit to President Aníbal Cavaco Silva, Palacio de Belem

18h15 - Holy Mass (site still to be confirmed)

May 12


10h00 – Meeting with the world of culture, Centro Cultural de Belém
12h00 - Meeting with the Prime Minister, Apostolic Nunciature
16h40 – Depart by helicopter for Fatima.


17h30 - Arrival at the Chapel of Apparitions
18h00 – Vespers wotj priests, religious, seminarians and deacons, Church of the Holy Trinity
21h30 - Rosary and Candlelight Procession presided by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

May 13


10h00 – Holy Mass coemmorating the anniversary of the Marian apparitions in 1917
13h00 - Lunch with the Bishops of Portugal
17h00 - Meeting with members of pastoral social organizations,
Church of the Holy Trinity
18h45 – Meeting with the Bishops of Portugal, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel House

May 14


08h00 – Depart Fatima by helicopter for Porto.


09h30 - Arrival at the Serra do Pilar, Gaia district
10h15 – Holy Mass at Avenida dos Aliados.
13h30 – Departure ceremony, Porto international airport.
14h00 – Departure for Rome on TAP, the Portuguese national airline


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Now it's official:
Vatican and Russia
establish full diplomatic ties

One week since the visit of Russsian President Medvedev to the Holy Father, the Vatican has announced the official establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two states, as agreed upon at that meeting, in this brief communique:


The Holy See and the Russian Federation, desirous to promote their reciprocal friendly relations, have agreed to establish diplomatic relations, at the level of an Apostolic Nunciature on the part of the Holy See, and of an Embassy onteh part of the Russian Fderation.

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'Mary and the city':
The media focuses instead
on the Pope's criticism

by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from
the 12/9-12/10 issue of


The media was struck by the remarks that Benedict XVI delivered in front of the image of the Immacolata in Piazza di Spagna on Tuesday afternoon.

The relationship between the Pope and the information world is not easy. It was never easy, and it is not easy now, to the point that an authoritative French journalist and historian recently wrote a book on this very issue (Bernarde Lecomte, Pourquoi le pape a mauvaise presse. Entretiens avec Marc Leboucher, Desclée de Brouwer, Why the Pope has a bad press).

Thus, even his remarks about Mary and the city of Rome were reported in the media - even if with much agreement - above all for the Pope's criticism that the media dwell on bad news without too many scruples.

Benedict XVI's reflection was not principally focused on this issue, even if it is highly relevant. In fact, the Pope once more, and with simplicity, had gone to the root issue, taking his cue from the Marian images that are found around Rome to remind men of God's presence among them.

Images to remind man that evil was conquered precisely in a human being - a woman - who was preserved from original sin. To remind every creature that hope is possible.

The presence of God can change things, "or better said, it changes persons, and consequently, it makes society better", Benedict XVI said yesterday.

In short, what really matters is that evil was defeated - it can be defeated. This is the 'good news' to keep in mind against evil that can make man gradually insensitive - which leads to a hardening of the heart, a darkening of thought and disposition, reducing human beings to soulless objects.

This is a reality that is not seldom the result of choices made by those who control the media and bring information to the level of spectacle. With the consequence of taking away a sense of responsibility from those whom media has come to consider only as 'spectators'.

Beyond this analysis, which is widely shared, the Pope recalled realistically that every human being, whether he is aware of it or not, is nonetheless an actor in the theater of life, for good or bad, because his daily choices, even if seemingly trivial, always have consequences.

Thus, even in reporting evil, in the pitiless abuse of persons by the media - each person body and soul, realities assumed by Christ himself - especially those who are usually ignored ('invisible') and therefore defenseless, it must be remembered that "every human story is a sacred story".

Benedict XVI said this forcefully in explaining the reason for the dehumanization of contemporary society: if God is removed from the human horizon, from the public scene as well as from the human heart, then the desecration (desacralization) includes the human being, who is the image of God.

Of course, Vian is being unrealistic. The secular media would never have led off with 'Pope says God should be present in the world', partly because, for the Pope, any Pope, it's like reporting 'dog bites man'. Whereas every beginning journalist is taught that 'dog bites man' is not news at all, but 'man bites dog' is. So in this case, the secular media simply reported 'man bites dog' - the Pope is on the warpath against the media.

One of the major Italian newspapers even sought out a Catholic newspaper editor on the subject:

'Too often, we pump up
the news with hormones'

Translated from
dEC. 9, 2009

We spoke to Marco Tarquinio, editor of Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference [which has been the object of brutal attacks from some the secular media in recent months] about Benedict XVI's remarks at piazza di Spagna in Rome on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception yesterday:

Do you share the Pope's harsh criticism of the media?
Harsh? I thought it was very much on target. It should be an effective memorandum for us journalists.

The spectacle often made of the news in newspapers and TV is too often disrespectful of the person [who is the subject of the news story] whether he is the victim, an offender or even just a suspect. Everyone is tried and condemned 'by publicity' these days, except those who write these stories, even when they make a mistake. [The case of Tarquinio's predecessor Dino Boffo is most instructive and very much to the point. See latest development in the CHURCH&VATICAN thread.]

And TV is even more pervasive.

Those are serious accusations. [Yes, but they are also very obvious to anyone who follows the media, especially if one has to do so out of necessity, not for 'pleasure' or even entertainment!]
The fact is none of us should feel entitled to judge others - the point may seem to be banal, but it is not.

Will it help if things are toned down? [DUH1]
The tone, if appropriate, may serve a purpose but it depends how it is used. It would be good if media reports everything including what is positive in society. But first of all, the media should show more respect for persons.

In what sense?
We newsmen always tend to outrun events - there is an obsession to anticipate everything, and thus, there is a tendency to try for the preemptive announcement - even about the culpability of persons.

There is an improper exploitation of persons in the news. And if the person happens to be a celebrity, or is someone attractive, then the news becomes even more pervasive. [And invasive!]

Amanda Knox, for instance? [The 23-year-old American student recently sentenced to 26 years in prison for the stabbing death of her British roommate. She is one of three persons sentenced for the crime.]
If she had been a plain Jane, she would have received far less attention... The problem is that media have too many preconceived narrative schemes.

For instance?
We fill up pages and pages with photographs, though a newspaper reader probably spends only 20 minutes to look through the whole paper. And so all the newspapers today are oversize. To go with this, to build up the spectacle that is being presented, we tend to pump up the news with hormones, so to speak, even as we have really become more lazy.

Yes, too lazy to examine a news report in depth, too lazy to bring out all sides of a story. Of course, that's a more effortful way, but then, laziness also means mistakes are more likely. Even if the mistakes are later corrected, the correction usually goes unnoticed.

Do the newspapers risk being less credible? [Most of the major newspapers in the United States already are - that is why their readership has been falling steadily. Their readers are now able to check their reporting against other information available on the Internet.]
That too. The sad fact is that we often speak about 'the truth', but without exercising responsibility to the truth, our profession becomes meaningless.

On the other hand, there is the risk of self-censorship. [And what is wrong with that? Except the right term is self-editing.]
Yes, we should be more even-tempered - have a calmer attitude towards the news. Instead of simply blowing up some items - without seeking to really examine them or look deeper. Perhaps because in doing so, one might find the story no longer fits the headline or the effect one has imagined for it.

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This is the first commentary I have seen so far to the Holy Fahter's reference to liberation theology last week, in addressing bishops of southern Brazil who were visiting ad limina. Thanks to Lella and her blog
for leading me to it.

For those who have forgotten
what Communism was in practice:
The Pope recalls the 25th anniversary of
CDF Instruction on 'liberation theology'

by Massimo Introvigne
Translated from

The reigning Pontiff pays special attention to anniversaries, which he uses continually as an occasion for a pedagogy that is most mindful of the continuity of the Church and its Magisterium in history.

On December 5, Benedict XVI recalled the 25th anniversary this year of the Instruction Libertatis nuntius signed by him in 1984 as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, condemning aspects of liberation theology and the 'acritical assumption by some theologians of theses and methodologies derived from Marxism".

He told the bishops of southern Brazil last week that "Its consequences are still more or less felt today in terms of "rebellion, division, dissent, offensiveness, and anarchy... causing great suffering..."

It was also significant that he spoke of this to bishops of Brazil, the country in which liberation theology had done the most damage.

The Pope added: "I beg of those who feel in some way attracted to, involved in, or touched in their own heart by some deceptive principles of liberation theology, to take a look once again at this Instruction, and accept the benign light that it holds out. I wish to remind everyone that 'the supreme rule of our faith... comes from the unity that the Spirit has imposed among Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church, in a reciprocity within which none of them can subsist independently'" [quoting from John Paul II's encyclical Fides et ratio).

The Church - as Pius XI (1922-1939) recalls in the 1937 encyclical Divini Redemptoris (n. 4) – had condemned Communism even before the Communist Manifesto was published in 1846, the same year as the encyclical Qui pluribus of Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878).

Pius XI's encyclical - published just five days after the one against National Socialism, Mit brennenden Sorge, to avoid the propaganda use of the papal condemnations by partisans of one or the other of the two ideologies - was the most detailed analysis by the Church till then of the Communist phenomenon.

Since then, similar analyses of Communism and Marxism by the Church number literally in the hundreds, but the Instruction Libertatis nuntius is particularly important.

This document helps to answer the fundamental question: Why did the Church condemn Communiom? The answers "Because it taught and disseminated atheism" pr "because it persecuted the Church" are not wrong in themselves, but are inadequate and incomplete.

Four points emerge from the Instruction on liberation theology - if it is read, as it should be, in the context of the entire Church Magisterium on Communism - that deserve to be recalled and reflected upon.

(1) Communism is an intrinsically perverse system because of its anti-religious and anti-human nature.

It is certainly still fashionable to find in communism - in the face of the vulgarization of the political debate, it must be said - a certain internal consistency and elegance, even in the opinion of many Catholics and men of the Church.

Such an acknowledgment is not all wrong. But it risks forgetting the essential: that Communism is intrinsically perverse (Divini Redemptoris, n. 58), and it is not so by chance, by historical circumstances, or because of personal malice.

The atrocities of Communism are not "a transient phenomenon that usually accompanies any great revolution, nor isolated excesses of provocation common to every war - no, they are natural results of the system" (ibid., n. 21).

Two closely linked elements, "atheism and the negation of the human being, his freedom and his rights, are central to the Marxist concept" (Libertatis nuntius, n. 9).

"Failure to acknowledge the spiritual nature of man leads to subordinating him totally to the collective, and thus to deny him the principles of a social and political life conforming to human dignity" (ibid.).

It will be objected that there exist different kinds of Marxism, that the Marxism of this or that thinker is different because more 'moderate'.

"It is true that Marxist thought from its beginnings - much more marked in recent years - diversified into various currents that differ considerably in one or more aspects. But to the degree that they remain Marxist, these currents continue to converge on a certain number of fundamental theses that are incompatible with the Christian concept of man and society" (ibid., No. 8 ).

(2) Communism is a monolith: historical materialism cannot be separated from dialectical materialism.

Although one of the founders of 'liberation theology', Fr. Clodovis Boff, OSM, [brother of Leonardo] in a self-critical article in 2007 that attracted much comment («Teologia da Libertação e volta ao fundamento» [Liberation theology and a return to fundamentals], Revista Eclesiástica Brasileira, vol. 67, n. 268, ottobre 2007, pp. 1001-1022), maintained that this theology had slowly but inexorably led its most important advocates towards atheism, the majority of Catholic sympathizers of Marxism do not consider themselves atheist.

They claim to reject dialectical materialism - namely, its atheist philosophy, and to accept historical materialism - namely, its economic and social analyses.

They maintain not only that such analysis is useful, but that once it is separated from dialectical materialism, it could bear positive results and avoid the negative consequences manifested in Communist regimes - consequences which they say are based on the philosophical elements of Marxism and not on its social and economic analyses.

In fact, as Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) points out in his 1987 Apostolic Letter Octogesima adveniens (n. 34), it is not possible to separate the two, analysis from ideology: "It would be illusory and dangerous to forget the intimate link between these radically united aspects - to accept the elements of Marxist analysis without seeing their relationship to the ideology".

Libertatis nuntius, explains this in the rigorous philosophical language of Cardinal Ratzinger:

The thought of Marx is such a global vision of reality that all data received form observation and analysis are brought together in a philosophical and ideological structure, which predetermines the significance and importance to be attached to them.

The ideological principles come prior to the study of the social reality and are presupposed in it. Thus no separation of the parts of this epistemologically unique complex is possible.

If one tries to take only one part, say, the analysis, one ends up having to accept the entire ideology. That is why it is not uncommon for the ideological aspects to be predominant among the things which the 'theologians of liberation' borrow from Marxist authors (No. VI)

(3) Even historical materialism, hypothetically separate from dialectical materialism, is intrinsically perverse - it is a prescription not for justice but for oppression and shame.

The answer then is NO to the question, "Is it possible to separate historical materialism from dialectical materialism?". But let us imagine for a moment a parallel reality in which such a separation were possible. Would the judgment of the Magisterium be positive about historical materialism - if it comes with a non-atheistic philosophy, eventually favoring religion or even openly Christian?

Not at all. The Church does not only defend religion against atheism. It also teaches a social doctrine that is integral to her Magisterium, according to which Communism, even if it could be examined independent of its atheism, is, in its social and economic aspects, a prescription for oppression and poverty.

What happened in the Communist countries was not - Benedict XVI says in his 2007 encyclical Spe salvi - the result of wrongly interpreting Marx. On the contrary, it revealed "the fundamental error of Marx",

(who) simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out.

Then everything would be able to proceed by itself along the right path, because everything would belong to everyone and all would desire the best for one another. Thus, having accomplished the revolution, Lenin must have realized that the writings of the master gave no indication as to how to proceed.

True, Marx had spoken of the interim phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessity which in time would automatically become redundant. This “intermediate phase” we know all too well, and we also know how it then developed, not ushering in a perfect world, but leaving behind a trail of appalling destruction. (No. 21)

Thus, destruction, and shame. Libertatis nuntius further says [it came out in 1984 when Communism still had the Soviet Union and all of Eastern Europe in thrall]:

Millions of our contemporaries aspire legitimately to recover their fundamental freedoms of which they have been deprived by some of the totalitarian and atheist regimes who came to power through revolutionary and often violent means, in the name of liberating the people.

We cannot ignore this shame of our times: precisely with the pretext of bringing freedom to them, Communism maintains entire nations in a state of slavery that is unworthy of man. Those who, perhaps out of thoughtlessness, make themselves complicit to similar subjugation, betray the poor whom they claim to serve" (Libertatis nuntius, n. 10).

(4) Communism does not arise out of a noble battle against injustice but from a moral and ideological vice.

It has often been said that communism has something positive, at the very least, in that it had its 'moment of exigency' to fight for justice in the face of poverty and exploitation.

But as we have seen, the Magisterium points out that historically, Communism has not been able to solve the problem of poverty, only to aggravate it. The 'moment of exigency' certainly exists for some ingenuous militants and sympathizers. But it is not at the roots of the ideology which arises from a vice of moral nature: the premises of Marxism call into question the very nature of ethics.

Indeed, the concept of the class struggle "implicitly negates the transcendent character of the distinction between good and evil, which is the principle of morality" (ibid, No. 9). And where morality counts less, then vice installs itself.

And this vice does not arise from the real problems of the poor - it exploits them. This was correctly expressed by the Communist historian, who became an ex-Communist, Arthur Rosenberg (1889-1943): "Marx did not base his doctrine on the proletariat, on their needs and their sufferings, on the need to liberate them, to make them find Revolution as their only salvation. It was the exact opposite: In looking for the possiblity of revolution, Marx discovered the proletariat" (Storia del Bolscevismo, trad. it., Sansoni, Firenze 1969, p. 3).

Thus, the Catholic theologians of liberation - who continue to wreak damage today, as the Pope noted last week - start from totally erroneous ideas about communism. The consequences of their actions in the Church have been and are "rebellion, division, dissent, offensiveness, anarchy", as the Pope said.

Between the lines, one can read a criticism of so many Latin American bishops (but not just them) who are guilty, to say the least, of lack of vigilance.

The Pope concludes with an impressive 'appeal' to those who may still be caught up in the 'deceptive principles' of liberation theology, to look at it again [in the light of the Instruction], stop proposing ideas that had and will have destructive consequences for the Church and for society, and come back to accept the Magisterium obediently and faithfully,

Recent history unfortunately leads us to doubt that the supporters of liberation theology will respond to the hand held out by the Pope to them.

However, Christian hope is stronger than the 'shame of our time'.

An excellent read on the Church's objections to liberation theology are the Preliminary Notes by Cardinal Ratzinger
released before the CDF Instruction which is here
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 10/12/2009 05.28]
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